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George Conway Calls White House Legal Defense Against Impeachment Inquiry 'Trash'; Death Toll Climbs as Turkish Forces Invade Syria; FOX Poll: 51 Percent Support Impeaching Trump, Removing Him from Office. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- really compelling. 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 advisors. Hear his voice speak out. NEW DAY continues right now.

[07:00:16]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump's frustration over the impeachment inquiry has him calling the Senate majority leader as many as three times a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're seriously trying to impeach the president when you can't even name an impeachable offense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no requirement in the Constitution, the federal law or the House rules that we take a vote such as this. We're seeing the entire House Democratic conference eagerly ripping the country in half right now.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look at the sky. It's thick with black smoke. There have been strikes for the last couple of hours.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Turkey. Syria. Let them take care of it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Kurds are the ground forces that destroyed the caliphate with American air power. We've abandoned them. That breaks my heart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

BERMAN: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. We have new developments in the impeachment investigation of the president. The Democrats' plans. What are they going to do?

They are promising a new wave of subpoenas. They are coming, they say, no matter what the White House does to try to slow them down. The White House has made clear it will not cooperate in any way, shape, or form with this investigation.

There's also a widening debate among the Democrats about whether or not they should hold an official vote in the House to begin an impeachment probe. The Constitution doesn't require it, but the president has said they should. Some Democrats saying they should call his bluff and do it.

The prospect of impeachment seems to be consuming the president. CNN has learned that he is calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell up to three times a day, warning him to keep Republican members in line.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So that could be a tall order. Support for the president appears to be slipping a bit, at least among voters. There's this new FOX News poll, and it shows 51 percent of people now support impeachment and removing the president from office. That's up nine points from July, before the whistle-blower went public.

And listen to these comments from George Conway. He, of course, has been an outspoken Trump critic on Twitter. He's also the husband of White House advisor Kellyanne Conway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY AND HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY (voice-over): This was trash. I mean, this was trash. I mean, basically, the thrust of the -- the thrust of it is that there are some kind of constitutional obligations that the House has failed to meet that, therefore, render its impeachment inquiry illegitimate and unconstitutional, which is complete nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. So for more on all this, let's bring in CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and "New York Times" columnist and CNN contributor Frank Bruni.

Frank, interesting to hear, of course, from George Conway for all of the reasons that you're -- you're thinking of right now.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wouldn't we love to have a nanny cam on that breakfast table, right?

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, I know that they don't like when we talk about their marriage. Of course, they don't. Who would? But it comes up. Because it is the juxtaposition of Kellyanne Conway being one of the president's top advisers and sticking by him and speaking out for him at every turn. And George Conway now speaking out against the president.

But of course, it's also interesting to hear from George Conway, because he's a conservative. He's a legal mind, a respected legal mind. And so to hear him say that that nine-page letter is trash and garbage from the White House counsel is notable.

BRUNI: Well, you said something key that I think people forget about George Conway, which is that he is a long-time respected lawyer who's weighed in on this sort of stuff. So he's not just mouthing off out of hatred for the president. He does have some -- he does have legal erudition here to draw on.

And I think he's saying what legal expert after legal expert is saying. I mean, as this letter has been looked at and looked at again, I'm not hearing anyone of any -- of any significant reputation say the White House is on firm ground to say this is unconstitutional and to say this is a kangaroo court. That's flatly untrue.

This is just about trying to make sure that certain witnesses don't appear in the House and share what they know. It's that simple. And all the legal stuff, it's just sand in the air that's trying to keep people from noticing that.

BERMAN: Like sands through the hourglass. So go --

BRUNI: The days of our lives.

BERMAN: So go the days of our impeachment hearings.

CAMEROTA: As the stomach turns.

BERMAN: Let's hear more.

CAMEROTA: Oh, please.

BERMAN: Let's hear more from George Conway, just because again, we read him constantly. He is prolific on Twitter criticizing the president. But we rarely hear his voice. And Preet asked him some great questions. And one of the things that George Conway talks about a lot is the president's fitness for office. So let's hear a little bit more about that.

(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 that's who he is is because of these personality disorders. And I think that --

[07:05:12]

PREET BHARARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (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 country and is supposed to subordinate his personal interests to those of the nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Look, Abby, George Conway just wrote 12,000 words on the president's mental fitness. I don't think that that's where Democrats are going to focus the impeachment inquiry going forward.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean, I don't think it helps the Democrats to say, well, the president is just a narcissist, and he can't help himself.

But that's actually -- seems to be what George Conway is saying. Is that the reason this fits a pattern is because the president has no ability to put the country first, which makes him unfit for office and makes removal an imperative.

And he's trying to galvanize Republican legal minds around this. There is a new letter out this morning that he helped organize, where a lot of other Republican lawyers are saying very similar things, not just about the White House's legal argument but about the president's conduct being, on its face, evidence that he's not conducting the job the way that the framers envisioned that the president would.

Will Democrats use this? I don't really think so. Because I think that this is a slippery slope. They don't want to be bringing doctors into Congress to testify. They do want to bring lawyers to testify to talk about the president asking a foreign government to interfere in another election.

CAMEROTA: I just thought that was an interesting tack that George Conway is taking. He's saying explain it to the public. Forget about what's happening in Congress. Forget about what politicians are going to do. That is you explain it to the public and say he's incapable of doing anything but what you're seeing. You don't like that tack?

BRUNI: I think he's dead wrong about this. I think -- I think if this sprawls that way, we get further and further away from this phone call. This transcript. I mean, if anything, the transcript is favorable to the president, because it was released by the White House. Right?

This transcript shows the president on a phone call, committing an impeachable offense. And as soon as this transcript got out there, you saw the public opinion polls change. The simpler this is kept, the more focus is kept on that July 25th call, which people can see for exactly what it is, the stronger it is.

People have their own judgements about Trump's mental health. He's tweeting all the time. He's mouthing off all the time. They don't need a bunch of doctors to come in and say there's something a little bit wrong with this guy's head.

And you know what? I don't think we need to care about his insanity when we have his amorality. Let's focus on that.

BERMAN: You brought up the public opinion polls. There's a brand-new one out from FOX News, just so people know what Frank's talking about here, which is that they asked, should the president be impeached and removed from office?

Fifty-one percent in this FOX poll now say yes, impeach and remove. That's up from 42 percent in July. Four percent say impeach but not remove. So you have a total of 55 percent basically approving of the direction that Democrats are taking this now. And there's growth if you break it down. There's growth among every political divide there. Democrats, up 11 points since July. Republicans up five points since July. Independents, up very slightly since July. So it's interesting to see the public opinion move, Frank.

BRUNI: Yes. And that's why I think Democrats -- that's why there should be a vote on this impeachment inquiry. I think there should.

I mean, it's interesting. People are talking about Democrats who don't want to vote from moderate districts or whatever because of what will happen to them.

The vote would also make Republicans who are from districts that may not, you know, be in line with them take a position. And some of those Republicans would end up voting against impeachment. And that -- that might come back to haunt them more than a vote for an impeachment inquiry would come back to haunt a Democrat.

PHILLIP: Democratic leaders want to take their time on this in part because they are seeing the polls actually moving as the -- as their current inquiry is going along.

As more information is revealed, people are being convinced one way or another that the inquiry is either valid or that the president should be removed. And it really just turns up the heat on the whole situation. I don't know that there's anything really wrong with taking more time to see where this all ends up.

CAMEROTA: And the public doesn't have endless patience for this.

PHILLIP: They don't -- they don't have to --

CAMEROTA: There will be a moment, you know? Where they've gone too far or waited too long.

PHILLIP: And I agree. I think, though, that there is still room. We are -- we're kind of at the 50 percent mark in a lot of these polls.

I think a lot of Democrats and Pelosi has made this very clear. She does not -- she thinks that she is on firmer ground if there is much more bipartisan support whether in Congress or in the public for moving forward with impeachment.

BERMAN: And there's new stuff. There's new stuff that keeps popping up.

CAMEROTA: Every hour.

BERMAN: Look, there's this report out of Bloomberg. And I want to read this so I get it exactly right here. It has to do with pressure that President Trump reportedly put on the former secretary of state to stop an investigation.

"President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian Turkish gold trader who was a client of" -- wait for it -- "Rudy Giuliani." That's "according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office."

Now, Rex Tillerson, who was the secretary of state at the time, won't comment -- did not comment, refused to comment to this report. Rudy Giuliani, I'm not sure gave a denial. He said it was possible that it came up.

PHILLIP: He basically confirmed it.

BERMAN: So the bottom line here, though, is if there's another example of Rudy Giuliani working behind the scenes to curry favor, if the president is trying to stop an investigation, does that remind us of something with Michael Flynn, Frank? There's more here.

BRUNI: Well, and there's something else to take away from that that I think is really important. Rex Tillerson is emblematic. There are a lack of refugees, for lack of a better word, from this administration who left under very bitter circumstances who have a lot of information. You've got Rex Tillerson. You have McMaster. You have Mattis, et cetera.

And they have the ability, should they want to, to talk on background or off the record, with reporters. And I think they may be beginning to happen. And that's something I would keep an eye on going forward.

PHILLIP: And they have the ability to testify before Congress and not be stopped by the administration. One of the things about the turnover in this administration is that there are so many people who are not under the thumb of the president or the State Department and can't be forced to not cooperate with Congress.

That's maybe the utility of some of these other incidents, to establish a pattern of behavior on the president's part. What's crazy about this case is that this is someone who was basically accused of violating sanctions against Iran.

And the president seemed to only care that he was a client of his personal lawyers. That's -- that does not have to be a part of the -- of the impeachment inquiry, per se, but it can establish a pattern.

BRUNI: Just remember, Abby, this is the president who's so concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

PHILLIP: Right.

BRUNI: OK.

CAMEROTA: OK. Glad we established that. Abby, Frank, thank you very much.

We do have some breaking news right now. Turkey's president making a new threat to European nations about Turkey's military offensive in Syria. The death toll is rising there. So we have the latest for you in a live report from the region, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:34]

CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news right now, because Turkey's president is speaking to lawmakers at this moment, as the military incursion into northern Syria enters its second day.

Moments ago, Erdogan announced that more than a hundred people have already been killed. And he's issuing a stern warning to European nations if they dare to criticize this operation.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is live for us in northern Syria with all of the breaking details. What's happening at this moment, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Alisyn, we're here in the town of Tell Abyad, which has been getting hit throughout the morning. But what we're seeing is kind of an interesting scene.

At least a hundred people from this town now taking to the streets in an unprecedented act of defiance, protesting, saying, we're not the ones who are afraid. You're the one who's afraid. And they're telling us that they're actually going to take this protest right up to the border, which is just 300 yards away.

And that could get ugly. Because as you've just mentioned, President Erdogan is not mincing his words on this. He has been very decisive and very insistent that he is going to continue this military operation, more than a hundred people killed already.

Kurdish forces here reporting three civilians killed just outside this very town earlier when they were driving along in a convoy.

And now Erdogan really giving a real ultimatum or threat to the international community, which has been condemning this operation, saying if you call this an occupation, we will open the flood gates and allow 3.6 million Syrian refugees into Europe. That, of course, would be a nightmare scenario for Europe.

But clearly, he is making it very, very clear that he is not going to tolerate any criticism from the international community, despite the bloodshed and despite real questions about where this military operation ends and how many more civilians will die -- Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. Wow, Clarissa. Invading and threatening all at the same time. Fascinating statements from the Turkish leader. Thank you so much for being there with us and reporting on the ground.

CAMEROTA: And what's happening behind her. The idea that they are feeling more emboldened, but it could be a very dangerous next move for all of those folks.

BERMAN: Sure. And it's just beginning.

This offensive is sparking a political battle in the United States. Republican lawmakers have been slamming the president's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, abandoning the Kurdish forces who were a key ally in fighting ISIS.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. And this question, Barbara, is we're hearing from the politicians, what are you hearing from people inside the military?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far quite interesting. No public statements from any senior U.S. military commanders from the defense secretary. They have not come out in public so far and either explained or defended the president's action. President Trump now offering a new reason why he wants to be done with the Kurds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: The Kurds didn't help with Normandy. One can only come to their own conclusions about what the president thought the Kurds were doing in June of 1944 during the allied invasion.

The problem now is what does happen next? There are still thousands of ISIS fighters in Kurdish detention inside Syria. But as the Kurds continue to move north to press back against the Turkish action, will those ISIS fighters now simply be able to escape from those jails?

[07:20:11]

The president thinks, in his words, they want to escape to Europe. But ISIS fighters, either in Syria, Iraq, or in Europe, pose a very serious threat and a threat, potentially, to the United States -- John, Alisyn.

BERMAN: Barbara Starr, I'll take it. Look, I'd be shocked to hear anyone from the military using the "they didn't help us in Normandy" standard for support for allies.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

We're getting brand-new sound in from George Conway, the husband of senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway. We rarely hear his voice. Scathing new criticism of the president's legal defense, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:15]

BERMAN: A brand-new poll this morning the president is sure to see, because it comes from FOX News. And a brand-new poll that he's sure to hate, because it shows support for impeachment growing. Our numbers guy, CNN senior politics writer and analyst, Harry Enten.

He's been digging through this. Harry, the FOX News number, consistent trend line, maybe inconsistent top line.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes, I would say so. And I would just want to say, as long as you love me, you can hate the numbers.

OK. Here we go. FOX News. Look, 40 -- 51 percent support impeaching and removing Trump from office. Forty-three percent oppose. That's a pretty big number. That's a clear majority.

But what I want to point out is putting it in some context. We also had these numbers come out in the 24 hours beforehand. The NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, only 43 percent supported impeaching and removing Trump from office.

And the Quinnipiac University, only 45 percent supported impeaching and removing Trump from office. So this is a little bit on the northern end.

But I will say that the numbers overall have not been necessarily great for the president. Because on the impeachment inquiry, which is a little bit less of, say, a serious charge against the president. Look, clear support for the impeachment inquiry. Quinnipiac University, 53 percent. "Washington Post," 58 percent support for the impeachment inquiry.

But this is what I think you are heading at. Look at these trend lines. This is the bad news for the president. It's both on the inquiry and impeachment, impeach and remove.

Take a look at the impeach and remove. Now what we see is 46 percent, on average, support impeach and remove; 44 percent oppose. Back in August, look, we were at a 41 to 47 percent split. So that minority support that we had for impeach and remove, and the average of polls now has a plurality support for it.

BERMAN: And again, we're talking about removal from office.

ENTEN: That's correct.

BERMAN: So close to 50 percent, 46 percent; and more support it that than oppose it.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. And on the lesser question of the inquiry support or oppose, look. Now we have a clear majority, 52 percent to 42 percent. Back in August, this was reversed, 51 -- 41 percent supported, 51 percent opposed.

So a clear majority support on the inquiry and support on impeaching and remove. The most serious step, you have a clear plurality of support there.

CAMEROTA: What do the numbers tell us about how the Democrats are handling all of this? ENTEN: Yes. So I think this is rather important. It was all this

stuff, oh, impeaching would be a disaster for the Democrats. Oh, Trump is looking forward to this. Oh, my goodness gracious.

BERMAN: I wonder who that's intimidating?

ENTEN: I'm imitating myself.

CAMEROTA: Future self.

ENTEN: My future self.

CAMEROTA: Sitting in an armchair at 60-something.

ENTEN: That's me watching the Buffalo Bills game.

Handling the impeachment inquiry. Take a look at this. Approve/disapprove of the job that these different people -- groups of people are doing.

Congressional Democrats, 49 percent approve of how they're handling the impeachment inquiry; 44 percent disapprove.

For the Republicans it's all bad news. Congressional Republicans, just 33 percent support that; 56 percent disapprove of the way that they're handling the impeachment inquiry.

And look at President Trump. Only 34 percent approve of the job he is doing handling the impeachment inquiry. Fifty-seven -- that is a huge number, folks. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of the job of how he's handling the impeachment inquiry.

CAMEROTA: I like emphatic Harry.

ENTEN: You know what? I'm emphatic Harry. And you know what? Let me tell you this. Look at this. Trump's overall standing. Oh, he's going to see a boost in his numbers. Unh-uh, folks. That's not what's happening here.

His overall standing before the inquiry, 44 percent approve of the job he was doing. Forty-three percent do now. That's statistically insignificant. If anything, the movement is down. Not up.

BERMAN: What about support within the party? What's the party split here?

ENTEN: I think that this is important, because this is the number I'll be keeping an eye on, especially if this gets to the Senate, if they do, in fact, impeach him.

Look at this. Republicans on the inquiry, 16 percent. Only 16 percent support. Impeach/remove, only 11 percent. That number could go up, but it needs to go up if this thing is actually going to capture more momentum than just impeaching the president.

CAMEROTA: Harry, thank you. Really interesting to watch the trend lines and all of the numbers. Thanks for the added emphasis.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, George Conway has been speaking out. That is significant, because he has -- while he is very active on Twitter, he doesn't give many interviews. But he has given one to our Preet Bharara. And he is talking about his very strong feelings about the president, including the president's supporters.

So here's another moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY (voice-over): Instead of making all these political calculations, although I think the calculation they should be making is he's going to be gone at some point; and there's going to be a reckoning. And history isn't going to be kind to people who said nothing or stood up for Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. Joining us now to talk about all of this and more is CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary during impeachment. Interesting to hear these moments that have been released from this podcast with George Conway finally speaking.

What do you hear, Joe?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, you know, you've been playing clips through the morning. And he makes very clear that this letter from the White House counsel to the House is a political letter. He calls it garbage and trash.

You know, it reminded me of -

END