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CNN NEWSROOM

Turkey Intensifies Ground Offensive in Northern Syria; Republicans Struggle to Defend Trump; Several Key Witnesses Scheduled to Appear before Congress; Typhoon Hagibis Makes Landfall in Japan, Leaving at Least One Dead; Climate Crisis' Toll on Scientists. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN.

The battle rages on: Turkey pressing ahead with its deadly offensive in northern Syria. We go live to the Turkey-Syrian border from the latest.

Plus testifying on Capitol Hill the former ambassador to Ukraine points a finger at the U.S. president during her testimony to members of Congress.

And later a typhoon closes in and millions of people evacuate parts of Japan as a typhoon takes aim.

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ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us. Our top story: Turkey refuses to back down from its offensive pounding Kurdish targets with artillery and airstrikes. Just hours ago the Pentagon said U.S. troops came under fire near Kobani.

But Turkey denies firing on the Americans. The U.S. now threatening new sanctions on Turkey as the strikes and counterstrikes intensify and civilians are paying the price for it. The U.N. says at least 100,000 have been displaced.

CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is in Turkey, where funerals just finished for six people killed in attacks on Friday. ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie, and this cemetery was packed with people mourning the dead, the graves are still, as to be expected, fresh. They only have makeshift headstones on them.

The reason why the mourners cleared out so quickly was because they are afraid of more artillery potentially coming in. What you see in the background behind the cemetery is actually Syria. That gives you an idea of how close these two areas are. Eight people were killed when multiple rounds fell yesterday in a

public space. Most of those were outside of their shops or happened to be in the street. And in this particular town as well, the day before, a mother and her two children were killed.

Speaking to those who are here earlier today, they are predominantly Kurdish. This is a predominantly Kurdish area inside Turkey. It's an area that has incidentally been the scene of heavy clashes in the past between the Turkish government and the Kurdish separatist group, the PKK, as recently as 2015.

And the Turkish government views the PKK and the YPG, the Syrian Kurds, as one and the same. But when you talk to the civilians here, they say there are the ones who are constantly paying the price and caught in the middle.

Many of them also have relatives on the other side and say when there are casualties on that side on they feel pain and on this side as well.

ALLEN: As they're fleeing, they're taking their families, anything they have, where exactly are they going?

What is the plan for them?

DAMON: Well, there are two different sets of dynamics happening here. Inside Syria, civilians who are fleeing the Turkish advance there as well as the various bombs and artillery that the Turkish forces, that have a much more superior military power than the YPG has at their disposal, those people are fleeing deeper into Syria.

They are not crossing over into Turkey. And they don't necessarily have anywhere to go. Some might have relatives in other areas and try to reach them. But there's no infrastructure that has been readied inside northern Syria to absorb now.

What we are hearing is more than 100,000 people who have fled the fighting, there is no preparation being made for them and it's worth noting that that particular area in Syria is already stretched thin when it comes to refugee camps, given that many of those who fled the fighting with ISIS fled to northern Syria, the fighting especially when it came to ISIS' last stronghold.

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DAMON: You have the humanitarian crisis happening inside northern Syria where the camps can't absorb those fleeing. There's no preparations made ahead of time. People don't know where they're supposed to go and they don't know what's happening next.

Turkey has large aspirations in this operation and wants to control this huge stretch of border but what happens to the population that is displaced from it?

So there is a lot of fear at this stage on both sides of the border and in this area, there are also a lot of ties. ALLEN: All right, we appreciate that so much, thank you for reporting for us and thank you.

While the U.S. pulls troops from northern Syria, it is sending additional 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials say it is to help Saudi Arabia stop any Iranian aggression. This came the same day Iran's media reported an Iranian oil tanker was hit by two missiles near the Saudi port of Jeddah.

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ALLEN: Now the impeachment inquiry: the U.S. president faces bad news on several fronts. First up, despite the Trump administration's best efforts, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine did testify before Congress Friday.

Marie Yovanovitch outlined for lawmakers how President Trump and his lawyer worked to get her fired. She eventually did lose her job, she said, because of false claims and because she upheld anti-corruption policies.

That prompted nearly 30 former state and national security officials to demand secretary of state Mike Pompeo defend Yovanovitch. However, it was the State Department, which Pompeo heads, which tried to stop the testimony in the first place.

And the acting Homeland Security secretary has now resigned. Kevin McAleenan was on the job for just six months and is leaving, according to a Trump tweet, to spend more time with his family and work in the private sector.

Sources say McAleenan was frustrated at running a department that was becoming more and more political.

As for President Trump he's making his feelings on the impeachment probe quite clear. At a rally Friday in Louisiana, Mr. Trump called B.S. on the U.S. House's impeachment probe.

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TRUMP: The radical Democrats politicians are crazy. Their politicians are corrupt their candidates are terrible and they know they cannot win an election so they are pursuing an illegal invalid and unconstitutional bullshit impeachment.

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ALLEN: "The New York Times" reports Donald Trump's personal attorney Giuliani is under a federal investigation. It is reportedly connected to his dealings in Ukraine.

Does that mean Giuliani's top client should keep him at arm's length?

We are talking about Mr. Trump. As Kaitlan Collins reports, that may be what's happening.

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TRUMP: I don't know. I haven't spoken to Rudy.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump won't say if Rudy Giuliani is still his personal attorney.

TRUMP: Yes, I spoke to him yesterday briefly. He's a very good attorney and he has been my attorney, yes, sure.

COLLINS: The president's refusal to defend his lawyer coming as CNN has learned he's now having doubts about the man who has spent the last two years defending him.

RUDY GIULIANI, ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: Everything I did was to defend my client.

COLLINS: But after two of his associates were arrested on campaign finance charges, there are growing concerns he's a political and potentially legal liability, questions Trump himself has raised privately.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that Rudy Giuliani may be indicted in all of this?

TRUMP: Well, I hope not. Again, I don't know how he knows these people.

QUESTION: They're his clients.

TRUMP: What?

QUESTION: They're his clients.

TRUMP: OK. Well, then, they're clients. I mean, you know, he's got a lot of clients.

COLLINS: Sources say Trump has concerns about Giuliani's involvement in the alleged crime of his two clients. Efforts to replace him as Trump's legal mouthpiece were already under way this week, but hit an unexpected snag.

TRUMP: I just heard Trey Gowdy can't start your sometime after January because of the lobbying rules and regulations.

COLLINS: That announcement prompted a sigh of relief from those inside the West Wing who didn't want the former congressman on team Trump, but not for those forced to defend his actions.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): I have answered your question.

COLLINS: Like Cory Gardner, a vulnerable Republican senator from Colorado, who yesterday refused to answer whether it's appropriate to ask a foreign power to investigate your domestic rival.

[03:10:00] QUESTION: You're not answering the question. We want to hear from you. You're a smart guy. You know the debate.

GARDNER: Look, this is about the politics of the moment.

COLLINS: As Trump's attorney looks to hire more lawyers, the president is serving as his own attack dog.

TRUMP: He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass.

COLLINS: Going after the Biden family in his most personal attacks yet in Minnesota Thursday night, turning the former vice president's son into a campaign prop.

TRUMP: Where's Hunter located?

Get us -- where is Hunter?

I want to see Hunter asked these questions.

Hunter, you know nothing about energy. You know nothing about China. You know nothing about anything, frankly.

Hunter, you're a loser.

COLLINS: Today, Trump faced blows from Congress and the courts, after the former ambassador to Ukraine testified that he personally pushed for her removal.

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TRUMP: Well, she may be a wonderful woman. I don't know her. But she may be very much a wonderful woman.

If you remember the phone call I had with the president, the new president, he didn't speak favorably. But I just don't know her. She may be a wonderful woman.

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COLLINS: On a day of legal setbacks for the president, ranging from his financial records to immigration, Trump brushed it off.

TRUMP: You know how many cases I have lost and then we win?

COLLINS: Now my colleague, Mike Warren, reached out to Rudy Giuliani after the president made those comments, asking him if he is still the president's personal attorney?

Giuliani responded, yes, he is. But, of course, what the president said today really does throw that relationship into question -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

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ALLEN: Let's break this down with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, who is also the senior editor at "The Atlantic."

Are you ready to do this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: What a day.

ALLEN: Yes, the former ambassador saying that Trump forced her from the job over unfounded claims, that he pressured the State Department to remove her based on allegations by associates of Trump's personal lawyer.

How does her testimony fit into the overall impeachment investigation?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's a pattern of behavior because there were indications that she testified before the specific allegation that triggered all of this from the president used this military aid to Ukraine to reopen the investigation.

But what she made clear was that the effort to create pressure on Ukraine did not begin with that phone call. It was not a one off, it was a sustained kind of campaign being waged by Rudy Giuliani, which is further complicated by the financial interests of those he was working with.

I think it helps the investigators maybe not so much nail down the immediate accusation but to show it's part of a larger campaign that has gone on for a while now.

ALLEN: Right, and also "The New York Times" reporting that Giuliani is being investigated for breaking lobbying laws. He could be in trouble here.

How is the president responding?

Let's remember the presidents previous lawyer is already in jail.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, he -- as soon as Michael Cohen came in the crosshairs of the investigation, their relationship notably attenuated in the way that the president described it.

And that is his history really. He is a president who, as a political figure certainly and for all those years in business, viewed loyalty as a one way street. He expected loyalty but did not give very much in return.

And the only strange thing about Giuliani coming here under legal scrutiny is that it has taken so long because what he was doing was so overt, so overtly in seeking to invite a government to meddle in an American election and while dealing with individuals who had financial interests that were running in parallel.

All of this has always seemed enormously unquestionable. The assumption has been that if you do it in public, somehow it's OK. I think we have to find out what exactly is the case.

ALLEN: And in the meantime it seems as though this impeachment inquiry is picking up speed even though President Trump continues to call it a farce. Adam Schiff announcing there will be additional testimony from witnesses in coming days.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, as I think we have discussed before, I think for most Democrats what they have seen in the transcript of the call reinforced by the texts that were released last week in the internal State Department text, that by itself is probably sufficient to vote for an impeachment.

What the investigation is designed to do is, as we said at the beginning, flesh out a fuller story of what was involved here and how multifaceted and extended this campaign was.

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BROWNSTEIN: To pressure Ukraine to either find or manufacture dirt against Joe Biden so in some ways I suspect many of these potential witnesses are supporting witness rather than in the essence of the offense it is alleged.

The ambassador may be an exception to that. And that may be one of the most important people. And we'll see whether or not they can get in front of them.

ALLEN: Ron, thank you so much. Always appreciate your insight. Have a good weekend.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

ALLEN: A powerful typhoon is on its way to Japan. It has already brought rain and wind and more is on the way. We will be live from Tokyo with the latest -- next.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

Japan is bracing for impact as a powerful typhoon is fast approaching the storm is expected to make landfall in the next few hours but it has already caused damage and a man was killed when a tornado overturned his car the storm has grounded more than 1,000 flights, disrupted train service and canceled major sporting events.

Let's go now to Tokyo and to our Paula Hancocks who is out in it.

Paula, what are the conditions now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just in the last hour Japan has issued an emergency weather warning at level five, this is the highest level that there can be and this is regarding Tokyo where we are right now and the surrounding area, greater Tokyo, warning people to stay inside.

There were warnings on Friday, telling everybody to take it seriously, that even though this typhoon has started to weaken as it gets closer to landfall it is still an extremely dangerous typhoon.

There have been warnings for people to stay indoors and for the most part people are heeding that warning it is central Tokyo and it's like a ghost town. Flights are canceled shops are shuttered, trains are being shut down.

And people seriously are taking it seriously. But one concern authorities have among others, the biggest concern, is the rainfall they are expecting many of the rivers are close to full as it is They are flooding; there's a level four warning for flooding from a lot of the rivers that go through Tokyo. That is a higher level than they are flooding.

So that's a real concern the amount of water that authorities are expecting to be falling on Tokyo and the surrounding areas in the next coming hours, Natalie.

ALLEN: People are taking this seriously. Because Japan is talking about how dangerous this could be.

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ALLEN: But we also know the country's hosting major sporting events.

Will they be postponed or washed out?

HANCOCKS: Rugby World Cup at this point, there are matches preemptively canceled today and the authorities within the World Cup are still looking at Sunday. We saw images of Japan's national team earlier this Saturday in downtown Tokyo, wading through water to get to the training ground where they were hoping to do some training and that was several hours ago before this typhoon was getting even closer so the verdict is not in yet whether or not those matches will be played.

The Formula 1 has also been affected. The qualifying ground has been postponed. That will hopefully be held with the race itself.

But this has definitely taken an impact and had an impact on the sporting events.

ALLEN: Understood, all right, thank you so much for being there for us.

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ALLEN: Well, from wildfires to melting ice and dying ecosystems, up next, how studying climate destruction is taking a toll on scientists.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) ALLEN: Whether it is wildfires or typhoon scientists say many natural events are more intense because of the climate crisis. Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Exeter says the bad environmental news is giving scientists a sense of grief.

They are speaking out in the journal, "Science." Professor Tim Gordon tells us how this despair could inhibit the fight against climate change.

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TIM GORDON, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER: I work mainly on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. And I, personally, record the sound.

So when you dive on a healthy coral reef, you can hear the sounds of all sorts of organisms. You can hear shrimps and sea urchins clicking their claws and scraping along bottom. And you can hear fish whooping and grunting and chattering.

When you dive on a degraded reef, it's completely different. You hear this sort of eerie, empty silence and that's because the animals have died and they're not making that noise anymore. That's really heartbreaking to me. And it's tragic because I know that it's not just there.

You see glaciers melting. You see the arctic shrinking as its size melts into the sea. You see forests burning and retreating. As weather envelopes moves and weather patterns change, animals aren't able to respond fast enough, they're not able to either move or able to keep up.

The support networks that exists in other fields, I don't think do exists in science at the moment. The extent of the damage that we're not just seeing but recording and studying is severe and can be very distressing.

What environmental scientists need to be contributing now is to understand what ecosystems can still be saved, what of the damage has been done can be restored. And if people are trapped in cycles of grief, they're not going to be able to make those discoveries, to make those decisions.

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ALLEN: What a depressing story.

We want to leave you with something that is kind of fun and is growing right now, a record-smashing avocado. The enormous fruit weighs about 2.5 kilograms. That's just about five and a half pounds.

Guinness World Records says it is the heaviest known avocado ever, the family in Hawaii that grew it said it took about 10 months for it to get that big and you might imagine they made enough guacamole with it for 20 people.

Thank you for watching. I will be right back with our top stories. [03:30:00]