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Conway Calls Legal Defense Trash; Erdogan Threatens Europe with Refugees; Lauer Fights Back against Claim; Sanders Vows Vigorous Campaign. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 06:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:31:52]

GEORGE CONWAY: If there are some kind of constitutional obligations that -- inquiry illegitimate and constitutional, which is complete nonsense because all the Constitution says is that the House has the sole power of impeachment. It completely vests the power of impeachment in the House and the House gets to decide how to go about doing that. All the house has to do, at the end of the day, is, by a majority vote, vote out a bill of impeachment, which is essentially an indictment. And because it's just essentially an indictment, they don't have to conduct -- they don't have to conduct hearings at all. They don't have to hear witnesses at all. And they don't have to give anybody the right to cross examine those witnesses. It's garbage.

PEET BHARARA: Right.

CONWAY: You know --

BHARARA: But it's prudential. Prudentially to bring the county along.

CONWAY: Well, yes, prudentially, you -- you -- you want -- right, you went to --

BHARARA: Yes.

CONWAY: I mean it wouldn't be wise for them not to conduct hearings, but they are under no obligation to allow the president to participate, and there are -- and there are Republicans members of these committees who can -- who can ask questions if they do have witnesses, and there -- there's no question that those Republican members are going to be carrying the president's water. So it's just, you know, it's just an excuse to prevent evidence, damning evidence, from reaching the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that is a voice you almost never hear. It belongs to George Conway, the husband of top White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway. George Conway is a fierce critic of the president on Twitter, but he almost never does interviews. And that was with CNN legal analyst Preet Bharara's in Preet's podcast. Fascinating to hear that.

Joining me now to discuss is CNN legal analyst Ross Garber, who is himself an expert impeachment attorney. I think one of the few in America. So we're lucky to have you here.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Happily, we don't have too many, right?

BERMAN: Well, exactly. Well, you have a corner on the market.

Listen, you heard George Conway's argument there. What do you make of his legal analysis -- legal analysis of the case the White House is making.

GARBER: Yes. So, legal, he's right, there's no constitutional requirement. Zero. None that the House have a vote to announce an impeachment inquiry. He is right about that.

He's also right that the Constitution doesn't provide explicitly for any sort of due process rights. But -- and, you know, George is a very, very smart lawyer. But, as you know, impeachment is a political process. And that's a -- that's a separate matter. And I think that's one of the reasons why in the past there have been votes that have preceded impeachment inquiries and there have been rights afforded the minority and to the president's lawyers of impeachments.

BERMAN: So you're talking about political expediency here, which is a separate question. And -- it is a separate question. And I just want to note, and you're an expert on this, I think the history is interesting, obviously, because the Clinton impeachment, yes, the minority was afforded some rights, but it was vastly different. The investigation was done by Kenneth Starr. The investigation was over by the time the impeachment -- you know, the House impeachment inquiry started. So it was sort of a moot point about what powers the minority had -- or majority had in the House.

[06:35:02]

GARBER: Well, yes and no. It was mostly over, but it didn't have to be over if the president's lawyers and the minority didn't want it to be over. You know, they could have actually called witnesses. They could have presented evidence. They could have done all that stuff. They decided not to, that it wasn't wise to do it.

And it's not just (INAUDIBLE). You know, impeachment is -- it is a big deal and it is true a president isn't removed unless and until he's convicted in the Senate. But that process is -- is a very big deal. It's sort of a -- and you're going to -- you're going to be hearing this from the president's lawyers, I think. It is about sort of undoing an election, which is a --

BERMAN: Uh-uh. I -- see, I think -- I --

GARBER: You don't think so?

BERMAN: I don't think so. I think that phrase in and of itself is misleading. It -- the election chooses the vice president. Definitionally, in the Constitution, they make sure there's continuity of power, as was decided in the election. I think undoing an election is language that the Clintons used in that impeachment and is used now, and that's political.

GARBER: Yes. No, no. Again, this is a --

BERMAN: Yes.

GARBER: This is a very political process. But it's something that you're going to hear.

BERMAN: Sure.

GARBER: And -- and the president and his lawyers are going to make the case that actually it is undoing an election because people don't really vote for a vice president. A lot of people don't even know who the vice president is. They vote for the president and it's sort of, you know, throwing (INAUDIBLE). And that argument's going to appeal to actually a lot of people. And it has some resonance, right?

BERMAN: Right. But you also note, you've been watching the public opinion polls here --

GARBER: Yes.

BERMAN: Which are interesting.

GARBER: Yes, very.

BERMAN: And substantive because they inform, I think, where this is all going in support for the impeachment inquiry you note, as a legal matter, and defense counsel is going up.

GARBER: Yes, and when I do impeachments, it's legal and it's political. And I -- I was struck by those polls. And so when I look at those polls, you know, what I want to know is, is it a blip or is it a trend. But for sure, if I were the president's people, I would be very concerned about sort of that level of support for -- for an impeachment.

BERMAN: Lastly, and you're one of the only people I've heard discussing this, and I think it's fascinating. So just as the Constitution provides no framework or guidance for how the House should conduct impeachment, they can do whatever they want, so, too, is the case with the Senate trial, mostly.

And you bring up a fascinating point here which is that the Republicans could have their way in a Senate trial. If the House (INAUDIBLE) there's nothing to keep this (INAUDIBLE) the Republicans in the Senate from, say, calling (INAUDIBLE) --

GARBER: Oh, yes, not at all. The Republicans set the rules in the Senate, which is one reason why I think, you know, the Democrats, you know, have got to be, you know, sort of careful for what they wish for. You know, they -- they just vote for impeachment. They pass it off to the Senate. That is true.

You know, the Senate can decide if they want to call Hunter Biden, if they want to call Joe Biden, if they want to issue subpoenas for them. And in the Senate, the president's lawyers do get to do the questioning. And that could make things interesting as we head into the primary season.

BERMAN: Ross Garber, we have a lot more to discuss over the next weeks and months. We're so glad you're with us now. Thanks for being here this morning.

GARBER: You bet.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, now to this.

Turkish forces advance in Syria. Our military expert shows us exactly what's happening on the ground and it's potential impact. That's next.

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[06:42:21]

CAMEROTA: Turkey's president is speaking to lawmakers right now. He claims that his country's military has killed 109 Kurdish fighters since his military incursion in Syria began. Erdogan is also threatening to send 3.6 million Syrian refugees from Turkey into Europe if any European country labels his military operation as an occupation.

Let's bring in U.S. Army Retired Major General Spider Marks. He is our CNN military analyst and he's here to walk us through everything.

Spider, just, let's start with that, the headlines, that he's threatening to open the borders and send 3.6 million refugees flooding into Europe.

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes.

CAMEROTA: That sounds like it will get their attention.

MARKS: Well, it will. And, let's be frank, Syria's number one export over the course of the last five to six years has been its people, it's refugees, and they all go north to Turkey and they wait until they can try to find some type of safe passage into Europe. I mean that's how it's always been.

So what he's been doing in Turkey is -- let's be frank, he's been trying to maintain that population as best he can. It doesn't mean it's incredibly humanitarian. But he's doing what he can. What he is saying is, gates are opened up, you don't like what I'm doing, I'm going to send them to Europe.

That quid pro quo is just really kind of ridiculous. I mean that's strong arming diplomacy that does nobody any good at all. CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what is happening there.

MARKS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So, show us. We're on the map. Show us where this is happening.

MARKS: Yes, we're essentially standing right now, Alisyn, where the -- where the invasion is taking place. And the reason it's here is because that's where the Kurds are.

Look, the Kurds have had a population in northern Iraq, Iran, and eastern Syria forever and ever. I mean this's where they've been. So this is where the Kurds are located. This is where Erdogan wants to conduct his operations and create the greatest amount of slaughter.

CAMEROTA: So let's talk about that. That -- what we see there in the green stripe is the safe zone that Turkey says it needs, 18 miles wide.

What does Turkey really want?

MARKS: Yes, running the length of the country. What they're trying to do is get an internationally recognized buffer zone. And what that means is when they have that, Turkey now can call balls and strikes inside that buffer zone and attack the Kurds whenever they don't follow the rules inside that buffer zone.

There would be -- if it's internationally recognized -- there would be an body, international body, probably under the U.N., that says this is what should take place in the zone. Turkey will own it and will be very brutal on the Kurds in that area. They're looking for -- Turkey is looking for protection on that southern border. They've had this problem with the Kurds forever. They want it to go away.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what all this means for ISIS. It may be a window of opportunity for them.

MARKS: Yes.

[06:45:00]

CAMEROTA: And, in fact, there was a battle in Raqqa ISIS fighters launched yesterday, I believe.

MARKS: Right.

CAMEROTA: So what does all of this mean for ISIS?

MARKS: Yes, Raqqa -- Raqqa is where ISIS gained a foothold and really took over a couple of years ago. That now has been eliminated. The Kurds, the YPG, in support of the PKK, those elements within the Kurds -- not trying to get inside baseball -- but the Kurds have had an incredibly successful run against ISIS. ISIS is now isolated far eastern portion of Syria. What we're going to see is Turkey -- or the Kurds have said, look, we,

the Kurds, have been holding on to approximately 10,000 prisoners, ISIS prisoners.

CAMEROTA: Those are the red dots right there. The ISIS prisoner detention centers are the red dots.

MARKS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And what does that mean for those detention centers?

MARKS: We're going to let them go. We're going to simply open the gates and let these guys go.

And we saw what happened when we released terrorists in Iraq. They go back. Recidivous behavior. We end up with a regeneration of ISIS.

Now, the outcome would probably take a little bit of time, but you would see them melt back into the population. They would either going to Europe or they would continue in this ungoverned space.

Remember, Syria has no governance. Assad's in charge of what? I mean he's powerful. Of what? And so ISIS can do what it wants.

CAMEROTA: As you know, there's been a lot of criticism, even from Republicans, vocally against President Trump making this decision to clear out and allow -- basically thereby allowing this action to happen.

And so yesterday, President Trump, I think, tried to explain more of his justification.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, the Kurds are fighting for their land. Just so you understand. They're fighting for their land. And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the Second World War. They didn't help us with Normandy, as an example. They mentioned names of different battles. They were -- but they're there to help us with their land. And that's a different thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Spider, they didn't help us in Normandy? That's why this is happening?

MARKS: This is -- that's a non sequitur. I don't know where this connection came from. It's certainly, I would -- having been a part of this apparatus, I would hope that didn't come from his national security staff. I don't think the talking points in this particular case were either read or were in any way digested by the president. I think he just said what was on his mind.

And I can't get into that. That comment I would just push aside. It just doesn't have anything to do with what's going on.

The United States has relied on the Kurds to do some incredible fighting against ISIS, which we have labeled an existential threat. And it still exists because they can regenerate. This is a threat without borders. It doesn't matter that it happens to be in Syria. It doesn't matter where it is. We've seen that. It's been in Europe. We've seen it in the United States. This is a challenge. We have to get our hands around it. And the Kurds have raised a hand and said, we're here to help and we're walking away from that.

CAMEROTA: Spider Marks, thank you very much for explaining all of this to us.

MARKS: Thank you, Alisyn. Sure.

CAMEROTA: John.

BERMAN: All right, Alisyn, this morning, a new response by Matt Lauer. His shocking defense against a rape allegation while his ex-wife breaks her silence. The latest details, next.

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[06:51:11]

CAMEROTA: Former NBC host Matt Lauer is fighting back in graphic detail, denying a rape allegation, or at least sexual assault allegation, by a former coworker at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In an open letter, Lauer insists she was, quote, a willing partner in the affair. The accuser calls Lauer's letter, quote, a case study in victim blaming.

CNN's Brian Stelter is here with the latest developments.

It's gotten more complicated in the past 24 hours.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Lauer's former colleagues are floored by this open letter. In the two years of the Me Too movement, I have not seen a statement like this from any of the accused men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER (voice over): Matt Lauer breaking his silence, categorically denying rape allegations made by former NBC News producer Brooke Nevils in the new book "Catch and Kill" by Ronan Farrow.

The fired "Today" show host writing a stunning 1,400 word open letter arguing the story Brooke tells is filled with false details intended only to create the impression this was an abusive encounter. Adding, I have never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.

In a statement to NBC, Nevils is calling Lauer's letter a case study in victim blaming. She's adding, I am not afraid of him now, regardless of his threats, bullying, and the shaming and predatory tactics I knew he would and now has tried to use against me. In the book, Nevils alleges the rape happened while covering the 2014

Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, after a night of drinking with Meredith Vieira and Lauer at a hotel bar. Nevils said she had six shots of vodka and Lauer invited her up to his room. But, according to Farrow, she had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.

Nevils then says that once in the room, Lauer forced himself onto her and raped her. Nevils tells Farrow, it was non-consensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent. She says she told him no several times.

In a copy of the book obtained by CNN, Nevils says she told lots of people at NBC, but did not immediately report the alleged attack to NBC Universal human resources. She says she confided in Vieira three years later. Vieira urged her to get a lawyer and report it to HR. Nevils did and Lauer was fired the next day.

Lauer claims there was nothing aggressive about that encounter. Brooke did not do or say anything to object. She certainly did not cry. She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner.

Lauer even admitting to having a sexual encounter with Nevils later in his NBC dressing room and continuing the affair with multiple visits to his New York City apartment. Nevils concedes she kept seeing Lauer after the alleged rape, but described the encounters to Farrow as, quote, completely transactional and not a relationship. She says she suffered PTSD and this one incident, quote, derailed her life.

Lauer, though, defends his actions, writing, at no time did she express in words or actions any discomfort with being there or with our affair.

Now, Lauer's former colleagues left stunned by the allegations.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, HOST, NBC "TODAY": This is shocking and appalling and I honestly don't even know what to say about it.

HODA KOTB, HOST, NBC "TODAY": And we don't know all the facts in all of this, but they are not allegations of an affair, they're allegations of a crime. And I think that's shocking to all of us here who've sat with Matt for many, many years.

STELTER: "The Hollywood Reporter" publishing an interview with Farrow on Wednesday, writing in part that seven other allegations against Lauer seemed to contradict the network's stance that management had no knowledge of his behavior. But NBC maintains that it had no knowledge of Lauer's behavior before he was fired.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Lauer's Vieira -- Lauer and Vieira have not responded to request for comment, further comments about this.

But it is notable that Lauer's ex-wife, Annette, spoke out overnight saying through her lawyer that they have officially divorced. Lauer and his wife no longer together.

[06:55:09]

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Brian. I don't even know what to say. I mean it's just complicated. The fact that -- that he put out this letter. It is so graphic. I've never seen a letter like this. And says that she was a willing participant in the affair. And she did go and see him many times, but it sounds like whatever happened that night was so upsetting to her that once it -- she lived with it and processed it more, she saw it through a very different lens.

STELTER: That's right.

CAMEROTA: A much more aggressive, violent lens.

STELTER: Yes. Having read the entire book at this point, she describes trauma that sinks in over time. She says at one point she thought about suicide. At one point she was even hospitalized as a result of alcohol abuse and other factors.

She eventually left NBC in 2018 with a seven-figure settlement. Said she originally (ph) wanted to stay at the network but it became impossible to stay. She says, as I mentioned in the piece, this derailed her life.

But Lauer is describing it very differently. The entire letter's up on cnn.com for you to read it.

BERMAN: It -- I don't know if you've had a chance to talk to people around Matt Lauer, but is anyone saying that they think this letter, this stunning letter that he put out was a good idea?

STELTER: I think the argument in favor of the letter is that he is trying to take control of the narrative for the first time. A lot of Lauer's former colleagues don't view him as a violent person. They can't imagine him being violent with a woman. Yes, they say, he was having affairs. Yes, he was cheating on his wife. But the notion of him being violent is something that doesn't strike them as possible.

Now, of course, this night in 2014 that Brooke Nevils alleges, this was an alcohol-fueled night. Nobody else was there. This is now five years in the past. But Lauer is saying, essentially, she made it up.

And all of this is relevant in the bigger picture because Ronan Farrow's book portrays a culture at NBC where men like Lauer could get away with it. In fact, he even suggests -- he certainly suspects -- that it was fear about Lauer's secrets coming out that led NBC to let him walk out the door with his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. Remember, Farrow was at NBC investigating Harvey Weinstein in the months leading up to Matt Lauer's firing. He eventually went over to "The New Yorker" and published his Pulitzer Prize winning piece. Ronan suggests maybe NBC wanted to keep its own secrets buried.

CAMEROTA: All right, this is not over, obviously.

STELTER: No. No. More every day. CAMEROTA: There's much more to learn about this.

Brian Stelter, thank you very much.

STELTER: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: And we know that these conversations can bring up some complicated feelings for people. And there is help out there for processing these issues.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

BERMAN: All right, this morning, Bernie Sanders is vowing a vigorous campaign after suffering a heart attack. The Vermont senator had said he would be scaling back campaign events, but now he's angry at the media for reporting, his words.

Ryan Nobles live from Burlington, Vermont, with the very latest on that.

Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning.

No doubt we're getting some mixed signals from Bernie Sanders here in Burlington, just a day after he told us that he was going to change the nature of his campaign, not do as many rallies, not hold as many events and not travel as much. Sanders now telling NBC that he misspoke and he still plans a vigorous campaign once he recovers from his heart attack.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I misspoke the other day. I said a word I should not have said. The word was that I was going to slow down. And, surprise, surprise, that we're not going to, tomorrow, start doing four events a day. But I -- we're going to get back into the groove of a vigorous, very vigorous campaign.

I love doing rallies and I love doing town meetings. We've done some extraordinary town meetings. And we'll get back into that quite soon. But I want to, you know, start off slower and build up and build up and build up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Now, to be clear, when Sanders told us that he was changing the nature of his campaign, we specifically asked what that meant, and his response was that I'm not going to do four rallies a day. That's what he said. Now Sanders changing his tune a little bit. But, still, the expectation here is that he's not going to get back to it immediately, that it's going to be a slow ramp until he gets up to that point that he was prior to the heart attack. Now, what's interesting here is that the ardent supporters of Bernie Sanders, especially those here in Vermont, are telling us that they're with him no matter what. That's not the problem for Sanders. The problem for Sanders is whether or not he can grow that base of support, especially now with this in his background.

As of right now, the first major campaign event that Sanders will participate in is that October 15th CNN debate. As of right now, no plans for him to travel to California tonight for the CNN LGBTQ town hall.

John.

BERMAN: All right, Ryan Nobles for us in Burlington. Ryan, please keep us posted. Great reporting from up there.

CAMEROTA: And, tonight, CNN and the Human Rights Campaign present this groundbreaking town hall event, "Equality in America." Many of the leading Democratic candidates will talk about the issues facing the LGBTQ community in a night of back-to-back town halls. So you can watch that starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: That will be really, really compelling.

[07:00:00]

All right, we have a brand new interview with someone really we never hear from directly. George Conway, the husband of one of the president's top advisers, hear.

END