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More Details Emerging of Trump's Dealings with Foreign Policy; George Conway: White House Legal Defense 'Trash'; Death Toll Climbs as Turkish Forces Advance in Syria. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House is gearing up for an impeachment fight.

[05:59:32]

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We wrote a letter yesterday, and it probably ends up being a big Supreme Court case.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Their request has no basis in law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think that it's time for us to put a vote on the floor.

TRUMP: The Kurds are fighting for their land. They didn't help us in the Second World War. Normandy, as an example.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These people are now fleeing to try to get to safety. But they don't know exactly where safety might be.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If he follows through with this, it will be the biggest mistake of his presidency.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers around the world and in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, October 10, 6 a.m. here in New York. I understand you didn't get a lot of sleep last night.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, here's the thing. It turns out for once, the biggest news in Washington isn't impeachment or investigating the president.

CAMEROTA: What is it?

BERMAN: It was a baseball game. It was game five of the National League division series. And if you went to bed thinking that the Washington Nationals were out

of it, you are waking up with pure glee this morning. After being down 3-0 in the seventh, they came back. They tied it. It went into extra innings. That's a tie homerun --

CAMEROTA: What time did this go until?

BERMAN: I think it's still going on. No, it ended about ten minutes ago?

CAMEROTA: Oh, God.

BERMAN: The Nationals won in the tenth off a grand slam homerun by Howie Kendrick. And there it goes. Oh, my goodness.

CAMEROTA: All right.

BERMAN: So Washington Nationals fans, your 14 years of waiting to advance in the post season is finally over. Congratulations to you.

CAMEROTA: You are welcome.

BERMAN: That was amazing. It was amazing.

CAMEROTA: It looks amazing.

All right. Other amazing news to report right now, we do begin with brand-new reporting about President Trump's growing obsession with the impeachment inquiry.

A source tells CNN the president has been calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell up to three times a day, threatening to intensify his attacks on any Republican who crosses him.

CNN has just gotten a brand-new interview with George Conway, the husband of presidential advisor adviser Kellyanne Conway. Conway believes there is a 100 percent chance that Mr. Trump will be impeached and that the legal defense laid out by the White House in that letter is, quote, "trash."

There is also brand-new reporting from Bloomberg that says President Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017 to persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against one of Rudy Giuliani's clients. Tillerson reportedly refused.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria is having deadly consequences. Turkey is pounding Kurdish positions, killing eight, injuring dozens. CNN reporters on the ground are seeing civilians, including children, fleeing the area on foot.

The president is defending his decision to abandon the Kurds, claiming among other things, they didn't help the United States during World War II.

Republican lawmakers are using words like "sickening" to describe what's happening and "disgusting." We're going to have a live report from the front in just a few minutes.

But we want to start with the new developments on impeachment. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, a Trump ally who recently spoke with the president said that he believes that the impeachment inquiry, in his words, "is a bunch of B.S." and that he is also confident that this is ultimately going to hurt his opponents, the Democrats. And at this point in the battle, he seems to be in good spirits.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): With President Trump's stonewall up, House Democrats are furiously working to break it down, threatening to issue a wave of subpoenas for individuals who may know about Trump's dealings with Ukraine, in response to the White House's refusal to cooperate with their impeachment inquiry.

JEFFRIES: Their request has no basis in law. And so their ability to restrict people who are no longer within the umbrella of the Trump administration is limited. In fact, it's nonexistent.

MALVEAUX: Among them, associates of Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who is scheduled for an interview tomorrow. Democrats are concerned she may be blocked by the Trump administration from talking to congressional investigators.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying his department's taking guidance from the White House moving forward.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I made clear -- I think the White House has made very clear we will ensure that we do everything we're required to do by the law and the Constitution. Every time.

MALVEAUX: While the three House committees negotiate terms to hear from the original whistle-blower, President Trump is ramping up his attacks against them.

TRUMP: What the whistle-blower said bore no relationship to what the call was.

MALVEAUX: CNN has learned that President Trump is reaching out to Republican allies, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he is calling up to three times a day. The president's message: GOP unity, in light of some party members, like Senator Mitt Romney speaking out against him recently.

McConnell's spokesperson says the report is false. CNN stands by our reporting. Many of Trump's allies are still keeping in line.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): A rocket docket impeachment. That's what they're trying to go for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This whole thing stinks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're seeing the entire House Democratic conference eagerly ripping the country in half right now.

MALVEAUX: President Trump is opening the door to cooperating with the impeachment inquiry, but there's a catch.

TRUMP: We would if they'd give us our rights. It depends. If they vote and say you can't have lawyers, you can't ask questions, you can't have anybody present, all of these crazy things. It really is an unfair situation.

[06:05:01]

MALVEAUX: Democrats arguing the process is all part of their oversight duties over the executive branch.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Enough is enough. Congress is going to have to exercise its constitutional responsibility to protect the Constitution, and that leads to impeachment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: A new name, a new witness. Her name is Fiona Hill, and she is Trump's former Russia adviser, who stepped down shortly after Trump's controversial July phone call. She is being called to go before the impeachment committees to testify on Monday -- John.

BERMAN: The keyword there might be "former." So the administration likely won't be able to block that testimony.

MALVEAUX: That's right.

BERMAN: Suzanne Malveaux, Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

So this morning, a brand-new interview with someone you've likely never heard speak. George Conway, the husband of one of President Trump's top advisors. Why he thinks there's a 100 percent chance the president will be impeached. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:10:43]

CAMEROTA: George Conway, the husband of one of President Trump's top advisers, is speaking out this morning and slamming the president for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Conway almost never gives interviews, but he spoke exclusively with CNN's Preet Bharara for this podcast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): Do you think Nancy Pelosi should have a full vote in the House on formally proceeding with an impeachment inquiry? Because people are making a lot of noise about that. GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY AND HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY (voice-over):

Well, I mean, I think as a legal and constitutional matter, it's completely irrelevant and meaningless. I mean, this letter which goes back to the Cipollone letter yesterday. I mean, the absurdity --

BHARARA: Let's go back to that, because you had strong feelings about that.

CONWAY: I mean, what --

BHARARA: It's nine pages.

CONWAY: It's just garbage.

BHARARA: It's one of the worst letters I've seen from the White House counsel's office, and they write very well, and they make good legal arguments when they --

CONWAY: This was trash. I mean, this was trash. I mean, basically, the thrust of -- the thrust of it is that there are some kind of constitutional obligations that the House has failed to meet that -- that therefore render its impeachment inquiry illegitimate and unconstitutional, which is complete nonsense. Because all the Constitution says is that the House has the sole power of impeachment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now to talk about this, we have CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

John, it's just interesting. Before we get to the substance, it's just interesting to hear George Conway speak. He speaks loudly through Twitter.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But it's interesting to hear him sit down for an interview. Because look, it's a complicated situation that he's married to Kellyanne Conway.

AVLON: It's relationship status complicated at the very least. And it's one of the reasons why this has been such a compelling drama. Here you have the president's, one of his prime defenders from within the White House toeing the party line, and her husband has been one of her loudest critics from within the conservative movement.

And you just heard him there with Preet Bharara. Trash, nonsense. I mean, this letter from the White House was absolutely absurd when it came to its alleged constitutional arguments.

BERMAN: I've got to hear more. I'm sorry. Here's the thing. Because -- because you never hear his voice.

AVLON: Yes. BERMAN: You never hear his voice. So that was the first time I'd heard it yet this morning. It's extraordinary to hear it. So let's play a little more. George Conway, among other things, has been talking for months about the president's fitness for office. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY (voice-over): You can point to so many things, areas and ways in which he puts himself before the country. And not all of those things individually would amount to an impeachable offense, but they do fit a pattern. And the reason why they fit a pattern is because that's who he is. And the reason why that's who he is is because of these personality disorders.

BHARARA (voice-over): But do you think they should call doctors? Do you think they should call a psychologist?

CONWAY: I do think so. I think it would help explain to the public the nature of the problem, which is the president is supposed to act on behalf of the nation and is supposed to subordinate his personal interests to those of the nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Abby, here's one interesting question from this. And we're going to play much more of this interview, because just to hear his voice is interesting. I'm wondering if what we are seeing, George Conway hasn't been reluctant to tweet, but he's been reluctant to speak. We haven't heard his voice. I wonder if what's happening now with this impeachment investigation is liberating some of Trump's reticent critics in some ways, or people who have wanted permission to do more. I wonder if we'll see more of that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is also his wheelhouse. Remember, he is a lawyer and not only any lawyer, but he was under consideration for one of the top legal posts in the Trump administration.

BERMAN: He won't get that now.

PHILLIP: At one point. I don't think he's going to get it.

CAMEROTA: That's off.

PHILLIP: But that being said, I mean, I think the two fronts on which he's talking about this, one which is the legal case that he calls trash and that Office of Legal Counsel document.

And then also, you know, he's been arguing, as you said, that the president has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and that that makes him unfit for office. Because Trump, in his view, puts his own interests and his own views before the country's.

In the case of Ukraine, I think what Conway is arguing is that this is all coming together. That in Ukraine, the president was more concerned about his political survival than the national interests of the country. And that's why it becomes relevant at this moment. And for him to say it as a lawyer, I think, gives it a lot more weight.

[06:15:11]

AVLON: And again, for him to say it as the spouse of one of the White -- senior White House people. Remember, he wrote a long time in "The Atlantic," arguing that the president of the United States has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Normally, we have something called the Goldwater rule. You don't try and diagnose someone from afar. And it's notable that someone of his stature, with the relationship he does with one of the key White House staffers, feels so strongly about it that he says it may even rise to removal level.

CAMEROTA: So some of this is apparently having -- making an impression on President Trump. That obviously, impeachment is ramping up. And so we have reporting from CNN that he has been calling Mitch McConnell repeatedly, sometimes three times a day. Here it is.

"In private, Trump is increasingly leaning on the Republican leader in the Senate. In return to the panicked behavior during the height of the Mueller investigation, Trump is calling McConnell as often as three times a day, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Trump has been lashing out at GOP senators he sees as disloyal, according to the person familiar with the conversations, telling McConnell he will amplify attacks on those Republicans who criticize him."

It's interesting. As more -- as some Republicans are coming out, we had --

BERMAN: Rob Portman.

CAMEROTA: We had Gregg --

BERMAN: Nunziata.

CAMEROTA: -- Nunziata on, who was --

BERMAN: Marco Rubio's --

CAMEROTA: -- Marco Rubio's -- John's my brain.

AVLON: I like this game. This is good. It's like Mad Libs.

CAMEROTA: Anyway, it sounds as though President Trump is hearing all of that and, basically, threatening that he's going to ramp up attacks on them.

PHILLIP: It's getting to him, as we can see. This is not a secret. We can see from the president's Twitter account that this is all he is doing all day long. He's responding to Joe Biden's speech in real time at the White House when, presumptively, there are other things that he should be focused on.

But what I think is interesting and important about this is that -- is the part about the return to the president's state of mind during the Mueller investigation, where a lot of White House aides at that point thought that the president was in a kind of spiral of self-defeating behavior. This is the same kind of mind-set that he's in right now.

It's the kind of thing that worries people in the White House. Because that's when he starts to do things like, for example, firing James Comey, that they think actually opened the door to more problems.

Mitch McConnell is doing his best to manage the president. But he's already made it clear there's only so much he can do. If he gets those articles of impeachment, he must have a trial in the Senate.

AVLON: Sure.

BERMAN: All right. There's much more I want to get to, but they're telling me we're out of time. I want to talk about this Bloomberg report, which says the president pressured Rex Tillerson, an investigation about Rudy Giuliani -- we'll wait.

CAMEROTA: We do have 2 hours and 40 more minutes on this program.

BERMAN: We'll get to that. That's what's called a deep tease. A deep tease. Abby, John, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: All right. Now this very important story. The battle between two of America's allies continues this morning. A live report from the front lines inside Syria, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:22:18]

BERMAN: All right. This morning, we're hearing major developments from the front line of the Turkish attack on the Kurds. This is in northern Syria.

The Kurds, of course, a longtime U.S. ally until maybe now. At least eight people have been killed, dozens more injured, as Turkey is pounding the Kurdish forces.

CNN reporters are witnessing a wave of civilians fleeing their homes, fearing for their lives. We have reporters on both sides of the border. CNN's Clarissa Ward is on the ground in northern Syria, close to the front. She joins us live. Clarissa, tell us what you're seeing.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, John, we are in the town of Tell Abyad. And as you can see it behind me, it is basically completely deserted. People have petrified for their lives, have simply packed up their homes and left. And they don't know where they're going to, and they don't know when they'll be coming back.

There have been clashes in some villages to the west of here, with the Turkish military shelling several areas. As we arrived in Tell Abyad, we saw a couple of plumes of smoke to the west.

Then we saw some women who were walking towards a small protest that had been called. One of them was carrying a baby. We heard another shell land in the distance. And one of the Kurdish commanders here went up to the woman with a baby and said, "Please go. Get into your car."

Then we heard another rocket being fired off from a YPG or a Kurdish base here.

So clearly, this is still a kinetic situation. But the question that everyone has is what exactly is going to be the scale and scope of this operation. How long are the Turkish military planning on drawing this out for? And when might we see Turkish ground forces inside to Syria?

We heard last night reports of a Turkish ground operation here in Tell Abyad. That, whether it happened or not, apparently, those Turkish forces have now withdrawn or simply hiding somewhere that we can't see.

But in the meantime, John, as you can well imagine, it's the civilians who are suffering. President Erdogan said the whole purpose of this operation was to resettle Syrian refugees. But what we are seeing are thousands and thousands of people being forced from their home -- John.

CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Clarissa. Thank you very much for that and for being on the ground for us so that you can report what you're seeing with your own eyes. It is so helpful.

Many Republicans are expressing their anger about President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria. That move effectively greenlit the Turkish assault on Kurdish forces. The same forces who fought alongside U.S. troops against ISIS. President Trump is now downplaying that alliance.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live on the Turkish/Syrian border. So Nick, give us the latest context for this.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Alisyn. Just to let you know, we've been hearing from a U.S. official with a pretty good grasp of what's going on here. Their assessment is the Turkish operation will stretch initially from here, Tell Abyad, not far from where Clarissa is, all the way down to Ras el-Ayn, another town where we saw some of the shelling yesterday.

(AUDIO GAP) as much as five miles deep, initially, into that territory. But then it is entirely possible that operation could cover what was referred to as much of the stretch of the Turkish/Syrian border.

Now, that is an extraordinary large operation in terms of its scope. Obviously, that is an assessment. But we've seen President Erdogan holding up a map, which pretty much corroborates that is being part of his ambition a lot deeper in.

That will be an enormous operation. We've seen behind us shelling 20, 30 shells landing so far this morning. The roads around Tell Abyad part of their target. And also Turkish armor personnel carriers moving towards the border from inside Syria. They clearly have been on the ground inside Syria as the Turkish defense ministry has said and pulling out into Turkey proper.

There are some still in their own vantage points overlooking this particular town. The question really is the mood of Syrian Kurds, obviously, is furious. They feel immensely betrayed. We've been with them as they fought ISIS often with old AK-47s, complaining about the lack of armor they were given for that particular vital job.

They were the frontline troops in the fight against ISIS with U.S. Special Forces and air power giving them a little bit extra of a push. But they lost thousands in that particular fight.

And now ISIS are not quite defeated as much as many, certainly, in the White House seem to suggest. They're potentially regrouping. But now the Syrian Kurds entirely distracted and finding themselves on the receiving end of the second largest army in NATO. Turkey moving in here, and the scope of that operation looks like pretty big. We're going to be here months, possibly weeks, if not possibly months -- Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. I'll take it. Nick Paton Walsh for us on the border there. Nick, thank you so much for your reporting. Please keep us posted, because this is moving very quickly this morning.

Also this morning, a voice we've almost never heard before. A brand- new interview. Kellyanne Conway's husband calls the White House argument for not cooperating with the impeachment inquiry, quote, "trash." We're getting new sound just in from this interview. We'll play it for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:30:00]