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President Trump's Former Top Adviser On Russia Testifying Behind Closed Doors On Capitol Hill; Forth Worth Police On Shooting Death Of Woman In Her Home; Kurds Under Attack After President Trump Orders U.S. Forces Out Of Northern Syria Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 14, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And the collapse of this building that hotel there in New Orleans. Rosa, thank you for the report.

That is it for me. NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you very much. Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for joining me on this Monday.

We're keeping an eye out for this news conference at Fort Worth, Texas on the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson. She was shot by a police officer through a window inside of her own home. She was shot and killed. We will bring you that news conference as soon as it happens.

Meantime, right now President Trump's former top adviser on Russia is testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

And while Fiona Hill can avoid reporter questions, she is under subpoena to answer questions from lawmakers in this Impeachment Inquiry. Hill left her job on the National Security Council before the President's infamous call with Ukrainian President back on July 25th and a source says she plans to testify that she didn't know about some aspects of the expanding Ukraine scandal.

Her appearance today kicks off a pivotal week of testimony before three House committees conducting this Impeachment Inquiry. The star witness coming this Thursday that is Trump's Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.

He will talk despite the fact that the White House stopped him from doing so just last week. Texts revealed that Sondland had a key role in Trump's pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Biden's.

So let's go straight to our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju keeping a close eye on that closed door with Fiona Hill.

And so first of all, you know she did come to testify voluntarily. So why the subpoena?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats say this was necessary, Brooke, because the White House has moved to limit testimony from witnesses on a number of other occasions.

They said they're doing this compel her testimony, require her to answer. Republicans it is absolutely not a necessary move saying that she is willing to do so voluntarily.

When I asked for clarity from the House Intelligence Committee whether or not the White House in fact set to block for testimony, they have since referred my question to Hill's lawyer who is also behind closed doors right now. So we have not gotten clarity on that.

But this hearing started off today, a bit of a rocky start when one Republican Congressman, Matt Gaetz, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, appeared behind closed doors to ask questions, but his committee is not one of the three that is interviewing this witness. And he objected to the Democrats' efforts to kick him out.

And ultimately, he did leave after the House parliamentarian told him to do so. When he left, I asked him why he did appear today knowing that he would not be allowed to attend.


RAJU: You know, the rules of Congress. You're not a member of these committees. So why did you think you could participate?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Well, because there are no rules. One of the things that we've asked for as Republicans is a resolution that would establish the rules of impeachment.

So in the absence of any rules that House Democrats have adopted, I found it only reasonable to look at prior precedent on impeachment.

And in the impeachment matters that I've reviewed, there's a lot of involvement from the House Judiciary Committee. The House Judiciary Committee began the Impeachment Inquiry, according to Chairman Nadler, and now his own members on the Judiciary Committee aren't allowed to participate. So that came as a shock to me.


BALDWIN: We're going to come back to that in just a second. But first, let's listen into this news conference on the death of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, Texas.

BETSY PRICE (R), MAYOR OF FORT WORTH, TEXAS: ... But before Chief and City Manager speak, I wanted to say a few things to my city. We are all heartbroken today. Atatiana was a beautiful, smart, amazing young woman by all accounts, who was unjustly taken from her family.

The entire city is in pain. As a mother, a grandmother, a sister and aunt, I can't imagine anything worse and I'm so sorry.

On behalf of the entire city of Fort Worth, I'm sorry. To Atatiana 's family, it's unacceptable. There is nothing that could justify what happened on Saturday morning. Nothing. To Mr. James Smith, I know you're hurting today as well. You call

police as we ask good neighbors to do. You were being that wonderful neighbor, the one that we all want next door to us. The type of person who does what's right in Fort Worth.

Atatiana's death has left you totally shaken and your sense of security and trust in law enforcement jeopardized and I'm sorry.

To Atatiana's nephew who witnessed the unspeakable loss, sorry doesn't cut it. The entire city needs to surround this young man with prayer, support and anything that his family needs.


PRICE: Lastly, the images release showing the gun inside Miss Jefferson's home. The gun is irrelevant. She was in her own home, caring for an eight-year-old nephew. Atatiana was a victim. She was taken from her family in circumstances that are truly unthinkable.

I'm listening and hearing our community, my home. There's heartbreak, but healing and renewal of trust will come. It'll take a significant amount of work from all of us. And it must be done day-by-day, a step at a time, action by action, and it won't stop until we have justice and closure for our Atatiana's family, to rebuild a sense of trust for the community and with our police department.

Mere words are not enough. We are taking immediate action. You will hear from the Chief and City Manager in a few moments. City leadership has set in place motions to bring a third party panel of national experts to review this department.

City Manager Cooke will have more specifics for you in a minute. I would say act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Those words from scriptures are short and poignant on a day like today.

Our community is mourning and hurting. Everyone expects justice no matter how you define justice. This council, this city and this Police Department will live humbly and provide the justice.

Justice is critical here. We know we cannot bring back this young woman who was taken all too soon. But this is a pivotal moment for a city that will and can come together. And we will take actions swiftly and with transparency.

Thank you all for caring. Let's wrap this family in love and prayers. Chief Kraus.

EDWIN KRAUS, INTERIM POLICE CHIEF, FORT WORTH, TEXAS: Thank you, Mayor. Before I provide an update, I'd first like to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family of Atatiana Jefferson.

Her father called this shooting senseless, and I certainly have not been able to make sense of why she had to lose her life.

On behalf of the men and women at the Fort Worth Police Department, I'm so sorry for what occurred. You and Atatiana's family and friends have my apologies, my condolences and my prayers.

We receive many calls from the community expressing their concerns and demands. And I assure you as Chief of this department I share those concerns and I demand a thorough transparent and speedy investigation.

This will not be an opportunity for us to make excuses, but rather to investigate this case to the fullest to provide the justice we all seek for Atatiana.

Our officer involved in shootings are investigated by both our Major Case Unit which investigates the criminal aspect of the case and our Internal Affairs Unit, which investigates administrative policy and training violations.

These investigations can occur concurrently, but separately. I will outline where we are with both investigations at this point.

The Internal Affairs Unit responded to the scene of the shooting. Their role is to observe the on-scene investigation, but they take a backseat to the criminal investigation being conducted by the Major Case Unit.

The officer who shot at Atatiana was served his written administrative complaint on Sunday. At that time, he was also placed on detached duty and stripped of his badge and fire arm.

My intent was to meet with him today to terminate his employment with the Fort Worth Police Department. However, the officer tendered his resignation this morning before we met.

Even though he no longer works for the city, we will continue the administrative investigation as if he did. The case will be completed and reviewed by the chain of command. Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations of several policies including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct.

A statement to that effect will be placed within the investigation to serve as a written record of that determination.

Additionally, the separation paperwork that is sent to the state licensing agency, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement will reflect that he was dishonorably discharged from employment with the Fort Worth Police Department.

Now that the officer has resigned, he is no longer -- he no longer has the protections of State Civil Service Law. Therefore, I can now release his name. Aaron Dean ID 4598 was the officer who responded to the call and fired the shot that killed Atatiana.


KRAUS: He was hired by the department on August 21st, 2017 and commissioned as a licensed peace officer on April 13, 2018.

Despite his resignation, the officer still faces criminal charges from the major case investigation. I personally checked on the progress of that case repeatedly and I anticipate a substantial update to provide you no later than tomorrow.

Additionally, we have also presented a preliminary case to the F.B.I. to review the officer's actions for possible civil rights violations.

None of this information can ease the pain of Atatiana's family. But I hope it shows the community that we take these incidents seriously.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available. Thank you.

DAVID COOKE, FORT WORTH CITY MANAGER: As stated by both Mayor Price and Chief Kraus, my thoughts and prayers go out to Miss Jefferson's family. Atatiana's death should not have happened.

And on behalf of the city of Fort Worth, I am truly sorry.

The community has called for independent review of the police department. I would like to take a minute to provide an update on our process to bring on an independent police monitor, and that was a recommendation by the Race and Culture Task Force and approved by the City Council through the city's recently adopted budget.

We are on track to having candidates for the position in Fort Worth for interviews in November. As part of the process, we were working on having a third party group of national experts come in to review current police policies and training practices to ensure best practices are in place as the monitor begins his or her work.

The City Manager's Office will take the lead in this effort, and of course it will include the participation of the police department.

Currently we are reaching out to experts in the field, and once we finalize our plan and recommendation, we will be presenting that to the City Council in the next few weeks. Thank you.

PRICE: Questions?

QUESTION: Chief, the victim's family here is asking for an outside agency to come in and actually investigate the shooting, not just the policies within this police department. Will that happen? And if it is not, what happened and why?

KRAUS: I have reached out to the Texas Rangers and we discussed that; however, at this point they have not committed to anything.

Bringing them in this late after the investigation started is not ideal for them. We have also, like I said, submitted this for review to the F.B.I. for them to look for civil rights violations.

QUESTION: When is it ever --

BALDWIN: Okay. So we're talking about let's -- her name is a Atatiana. It's Atatiana Jefferson and she was this 28-year-old woman who had moved into her ailing mother's home last month. It was Saturday night. She was sitting in her bedroom with her eight-

year-old nephew playing video games when a concerned neighbor apparently saw some open doors, was worried about her -- Atatiana's house, call this non-emergency number.

Police arrive and according to our reporting, within two seconds, started shooting. One shot into the bedroom window which ultimately is what killed her.

And so you just heard from the Mayor, you heard from the interim police chief and now we have Charles Coleman here who's a Civil Rights attorney who I know really wanted to come on and talk about this.

First and foremost, a bit of news out of that was hearing from the Police Chief saying he was planning today to fire this police officer had this officer not tendered his own resignation, and that he, you know, will be facing criminal charges and potentially Civil Rights violations as well. What do you want to say about all of this?

: So I think what we've heard just now from the police presser is a different tune than what we're used to hearing in these sorts of situations. The police appear to be very aggressive in terms of how they're dealing with this. But I want to make something clear.

One of the reasons why they're being so aggressive is that the conduct in this case was extremely egregious just in terms of just being out of line with respect to what you do in that situation as an officer.

Looking at this case as a prosecutor, right, and then of course, comparing it to a similar circumstance that we just had with respect to Amber Guyger and Jean Botham, another person shot in their home, minding their business, doing nothing wrong.

This situation is extremely different --

BALDWIN: Who by the way, Amber Guyger now going away -- murder, 10 years.

COLEMAN: Ten years, correct. Right. This situation is extremely different, primarily because this officer was acting in the line of duty. They didn't identify themselves as a police officer when they shot through the window of this person.

They said that there was some sort of threat. That was the news that came out early on.


COLEMAN: But this officer would have struggled to be able to identify themselves or identify the threat that it wasn't they thought that they faced.

And so Fort Worth PD is doing everything they can right now to distance themselves from this officer. So they said, listen, we were going to fire him, but then he resigned. Then they said, we're bringing this third party panel of experts

that's going to help us review our policies, and they've already sort of conceded that this needs to be an independent investigation that takes place because Fort Worth police officers, whether they're still in the force or not, cannot investigate themselves.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's why I wanted to hang on to that first question, because I know the family and folks in the community, obviously just feel like it's a conflict of interest --

COLEMAN: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Right? For the city to look into this. And I don't know if it was entirely clear listening to the interim Police Chief whether or not they will do that. But you're saying -- I know you're saying --

COLEMAN: It seems like they will be doing it and they need to. I mean, you know, one of the issues when you have police investigating police, particularly when it relates to activity and behavior and actions that occur within the line of duty, it gets very, very murky.

It was disappointing to see the redacted and the edited footage that they provided from the body cam, and so when I saw that I was very concerned that we were going to see another sort of hide the ball, so to speak, if you will, around what police were doing with the situation.

But the fact that they have now acknowledged that the calls from community have been so strong about needing to have an independent investigator really makes it clear that they understand this situation is not going to be one that they're going to be able to sort of ignore and have an internal investigation to wrap this up.

BALDWIN: WE will follow it so closely. Charles, thank you so much. And again, they named this officer or I should say, now, former police officer, Aaron Dean, and again, her name Atatiana Jefferson and her father just called this all senseless. Thank you.

COLEMAN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Much more ahead. Right now, the Kurds are under attack after President Trump orders U.S. forces out of Northern Syria. We will talk to the man who says Trump followed his gut and created a bloody carnage.

Plus, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter fight back against vicious allegations about his business dealings and personal life. Their big move on the eve of CNN's big debate.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Chaos unfolding in Syria right now even as a senior U.S. defense official says the President is making false and wrong claims about a U.S. ally. That ally, the Syrian Kurds are now turning to Syria's Bashar al-Assad to fight a military offensive by Turkey in Syria's northeast.

We are seeing the Syrian Army now back in towns near the border for the first time in years as the Turkish military and Turkish-backed militias are pushing deeper into northern Syria.

And all of this is coming after President Trump, he announced he is pulling us troops out of Northern Syria and would not stand in the way of Turkey's offensive.

As for the Kurds, they say they have no other choice and that the U.S. is leaving them to be slaughtered even after they helped American forces defeat ISIS.

We are seeing a major power shift underway. Russia backs the Syrian government and there are fears that ISIS will resurge after being defeated just months ago.

The President, meanwhile is lashing back at critics and blaming the Kurds for the escape of hundreds of ISIS prisoners and their supporters.

A senior defensive official telling CNN that the President's claims are false and quote, " ... wrong, because they are the people that defeated ISIS, wrong because they are currently risking their lives to defend our forces and wrong because they are fighting a force that intends to eliminate their people because we green-lighted their operation." End quote.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Arwa Damon is live on the Turkish side of the border with Syria and Arwa, you tell me what is happening there right now? What are some of the stories you're hearing?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, chaos is pretty much the word for it. In fact, the town of Ras al Ain, the Syrian border town just behind us in the last few minutes has gone off with some pretty intense gunfire.

That is one of the towns that Turkish forces with their Syrian-Arab allies on the ground had been trying to capture. Remember, all of this really changed dramatically in the last 24 hours, when the Turkish-backed force captured a key part of what's known as the M4 Highway and that move effectively cut off Kurdish population centers from one another.

And, as the U.S. said, potentially endangered American forces and their ability to safely move around. This caused an announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing its troops from Northern Syria. That understandably sent the Kurds into an even deeper panic who were forced to, as they said, turn to the regime and the Russians for help.

And then they announced that an agreement had been reached and we saw those Syrian forces moving towards the border. Now it is at this stage, something of a race between the regime forces

and the Kurdish-backed troops on the ground for capture of key strategic locations.


DAMON: The big question and all of this though, given that Russia is the chief negotiator between all of these different parties is exactly how is it going to try to mediate this situation.

Experts are saying that Russia will not allow those two armies, the Syrian regime's army and the forces that Turkey is backing on the ground and Turkish troops to clash.

But in all of this, Brooke, there's one thing that has been accomplished and that is that the Russians no longer have to contend with America being on the ground.

BALDWIN: I am going to have to ask David Sanger about precisely that next. Arwa Damon, thank you so much for being there and all of your reporting, keep it up.

Also, let's just all keep this in mind. This all started barely one week ago after the President had that phone call with the Turkish President, and then abruptly announced the U.S. troops would not get in the way of any kind of Turkish offensive.

"New York Times" National Security Correspondent, David singer writes today that, "Trump followed his gut on Syria. Calamity came fast."

And David is with me, calamity, chaos. I mean, can you just put this in perspective for us? What has happened in one week's time that you say historians will be debating for years.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Brooke, they had an uneasy piece that was working out there. The United States had a very minimal force on the ground. When President Erdogan called President Trump, he brilliantly did it on a Sunday when he knew there weren't many around.

He understood that the Pentagon and the State Department were in favor of keeping those troops there and keeping an impediment for the Turks to go into this territory.

But the President made a somewhat impetuous, sort of on the spot decision to say, well, I don't want you to go in, but if you go in, I'm just getting my people out of the way.

From everything we can hear, he did not threaten economic sanctions, which were, of course threatened last Friday by the administration, which Congress will probably take up this week. He did nothing else that we've heard of to discourage this.

And of course, many in his camp had told him exactly what the result would be. I think the only surprise is that it has benefited the Russians. It's benefited ISIS. It has benefited the Iranians, and has benefited Bashar al-Assad so quickly.

BALDWIN: So to your final point there, what -- play this forward for us. Like what kind of power shift would we now see in the region for Russia? For Syria? For Iran? And how does that all impact the United States of America?

SANGER: Well, the United States was lost what little leverage it had by having a force there and by withdrawing the other thousand as the President announced over the weekend or his Secretary of Defense Esper announced over the weekend, there'll be even fewer impediments there.

What does that keep for U.S. leverage? The potential of economic sanctions, but at this point sanctions toward what end?

It's not as if President Erdogan having gone and invaded is going to retreat at this point. There is still the leverage that the United States keeps, 15 nuclear weapons in Turkey as part of the NATO protection of a NATO ally.

But there's a lot of nervousness that I detect among people in the administration, about whether or not those weapons have essentially become hostages to President Erdogan.

BALDWIN: Can we stay on that point? Just for a second, David, because I don't think enough people are making the point you're making about the nuclear weapons at an airbase in Turkey. With all of this going on, what happens to them?

SANGER: That's right. Well, we have kept them there for many years. They are under American control, and so the chances that they would get stolen, I think are very low.

But here we're in the odd situation, Brooke. I've never seen this before, where you had Turkish forces or an Allied Force shooting, at least in the direction of, if not directly at American forces, while we're keeping our nuclear arsenal on their territory, in large part to protect Turkey.

BALDWIN: That's stunning.

SANGER: It is pretty stunning. And it really raises the question, especially because it was just a month ago, that President Erdogan gave a speech in which he raised the question of whether Turkey should have its own nuclear weapons.

And one of the reasons we keep ours there is to keep him from going nuclear.

BALDWIN: Just going to let that point hang. David Sanger, thank you so much, as always.

SANGER: Always great to be with you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. New details today about how Joe Biden and his son are fighting back against President Trump's personal attacks. And a fake video of Trump on a killing spree. It is too violent for

me to even show you today, but it was shown at one of Trump's own properties and we are still waiting to hear the President himself his own words --