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Trump Orders All U.S. Troops to Withdraw from Northern Syria; Kurdish Military Commander Blasts Withdrawal; Syria's Kurds Strike Deal with Assad; Biden Steps up Defense of Son; White House Faces GOP Criticism; Astros beat the Yankees. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 14, 2019 - 06:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, on Sunday, ordered the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops from northern Syria. This as Turkish forces continue their assault on the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS. So the Kurds are now turning to the Syrian regime and to Russia for help.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us live from the Turkish/Syrian border.

Tell us what you're seeing, Arwa.


Yes, those were some pretty dramatic developments that unfolded, sparked initially by, of course, the Trump administration deciding to pull U.S. forces back from the areas that Turkey intended to control, but then deciding to fully withdraw from northern Syria altogether because Turkey and its Arab proxies on the ground took hold of a chunk of a highway known as the M-4. And what that did was effectively divide Kurdish strongholds from one another and impact U.S. forces' mobility.

I don't know if you can hear, but there's still a couple of explosions happening in the distance. That is the town of Basalian (ph) that is just behind us. And the Turks and the Kurdish forces have been trading artillery and gunshots for the better part of the last few days since this operation began.

The U.S. troop withdrawal then caused the Kurds to turn to Damascus, saying that if its allies, America, weren't going to protect it, they had to do something to protect themselves. And there are various reports that Bashar al Assad has already begun moving his forces to the north.

The big winner in all of this, Alisyn, that is actually Russia, because without firing a shot, America is no longer in its way in Syria.

CAMEROTA: Arwa, as you know, what the president has said is that he believes American troops have stayed in Syria far too long and at too great a cost. He says that this was a campaign promise that he made, and so he is keeping his campaign promise.

And, I mean, from you, where you stand on the ground there, what's the cost of keeping that campaign promise?

DAMON: Potentially extraordinarily devastating as we have repeatedly heard. The Kurdish forces, who were not only still at the frontlines of the still ongoing battle against ISIS, going after their sleeper cells, still going after smaller pockets of terrain that they controlled, and protecting the ISIS prisons and refugee camps that hold the ISIS wives and widows, they had to pull back their forces from some of those areas to take on the Turks. And they effectively said that they were suspending their operations against ISIS, hence these great concerns that ISIS, an entity that had not yet been entirely defeated, was going to be able to capitalize on the chaos and on the vacuum and begin to regroup once again. As one U.S. official said, this move effectively gave ISIS a second lease.

And then you have the cost, John, to the civilian population, upwards of 150,000 inside Syria displaced. And then, of course, the countless lives that have been lost.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Arwa. Stay safe. Keep reporting.

Now, this morning, CNN also has exclusive details of a meeting in which a Kurdish military commander blasted the Trump troop withdrawal, telling a top U.S. diplomat, quote, you are leaving us to be slaughtered.

CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more.


This meeting happened on Thursday between the top Kurdish general and a top U.S. envoy in Syria. And it really began to lay out and foreshadow exactly what has happened that Arwa just spoke about.

General Moslum (ph), the head of the Syrian Kurds, telling this U.S. envoy in part, we partnered with you in good faith and this is what we get in return.


I need to know if you're going to stand with us. I have been holding myself back for two days from going to the press and saying America abandoned us. Either you stop this bombing on our people now or move aside so we can let in the Russians.

What he's talking about is he wants the U.S. to stay and push back against Turkish bombing. Of course that did not happen.

What we now know is that U.S. forces are pulling out. The security situation deteriorating significantly. It remains to be seen if those U.S. forces will be able to stay the days and weeks to be able to do this in an orderly manner or if they are literally going to have to pack and go. The Kurds now cutting that deal with the Russians and the Assad regime remains to be seen whether those two entities will really provide them with standing security.


CAMEROTA: We've heard so many lawmakers already say how disturbing these developments are.

Barbara, thank you very much.

So, Joe Biden is stepping up his efforts to defend his son against President Trump's attacks. So what will happen on the debate stage tomorrow night? We discuss that, next.



AVLON: In a major shift of key alliances in Syria, Kurdish forces say they've struck a deal with Syrian President Bashar al Assad's army to help fend off the Turkish attack.

So let's bring in Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, former State Department spokesperson.

Admiral Kirby, thank you for joining us at such a critical time.

I want to get your efforts to clarify what the U.S. strategy is here. You'd heard CNN's exclusive reporting that the Kurds are telling the U.S. diplomats that you've left us here to be slaughtered.


AVLON: At the same time, the Secretary of Defense Esper saying, we are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces and U.S. troops remain with them in other parts of Syria.

How can both things be true?

KIRBY: Well, they're not true, John. I mean the -- both things are not true. We are abandoning the Kurds. We are pulling our forces, not only back from the border now, but Esper came out over the weekend to announce that the president had approved the withdrawal from Syria of the 1,000 or so troops that we had. So we are definitely pulling out of there, leaving a void that Russia and Assad will only too gladly fill.

What worries me, aside from the humanitarian crisis, which we're already facing, and we've got 130,000 now people displaced, no plan at all and no ability to deliver humanitarian aid to them, is that you could be very well looking at the potential conflict between Turkey and Russia inside Syria. So this is a NATO ally potentially going up against Russian forces as the Russians now come to assist Bashar al Assad, who has been called in by our former Kurd allies to fight. AVLON: Well, that is actually -- is a perfect segue to the next thing

I want to ask you about because you have been in the room where it happens, where these decisions are made.

Over the weekend, on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, a Republican senator from North Dakota tried to describe what he believes were the decision facing President Trump.

Take a listen.


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): I wish it had been different. I can tell you that. But I'm not sure the president had a lot of choices. I know we like to sort of over-simplify these complicated relationships. But I think the logical question is, were we prepared to stay there and fight the Turks given the fact that the Turks seem to be committed to coming across the border and establishing this militarized zone with or without our staying there.


AVLON: Was that the choice President Trump faced?

KIRBY: No. I mean this -- the administration has been out, you know, that's their talking point now. This was inevitable. There's nothing that Trump could have done to avoid it.

The truth is that those troops up there, while they weren't certainly designed to change the territorial dynamics of northeast Syria, our troops were really there for, you know, fighting counter ISIS, but they were keeping the SDF, the Syrian Kurds, engaged in that fight as well.

In fact, about -- a few months ago, when Trump first said he was going to pull our troops out of Syria and that, of course, led to Jim Mattis resigning, I mean he caught Erdogan by surprise, John. Erdogan actually was not counting on that being Trump's reaction. And asked -- and Turkish officials behind the scenes were sort of getting the Trump administration to sort of back off of that pledge because they saw American troops there as somewhat of a hedge against the PKK attacks, the Turkish -- Kurdish terrorist group against Turkey.

So, no, this was not inevitable. It's not that a thousand troops were going to stop Turkey. That was never the plan. But we were providing some measure of security for Turkish -- their border concerns in northeast Syria.

AVLON: So given all that, given the fact that U.S. allies and military advisers were arguing against this, given that Erdogan was apparently taken by surprise by the offer, why do you believe President Trump followed through on this offer to Turkey, this almost unilateral withdrawal?

KIRBY: I really believe that he believes he got elected because -- to pull troops out of what he calls endless wars. Get us out of entanglements overseas that keep us deployed in a large fashion and in dangerous places. I think he really believes that.

I also think, though, John, that he doesn't fully understand, he doesn't have the curiosity to understand the complications of what we were doing in Syria and how complicated that effort now has become even more. There's like seven different wars going on inside Syria and now we have a eighth or a ninth one about pending. And I just don't think he understands the complexity of this and has no desire, you know, to get involved in any way that could minimize the civil war getting worse.

AVLON: Thank you, Admiral Kirby.

In the meantime, the escalation continues.


CAMEROTA: All right, John, former Vice President Joe Biden pledges that no one in his family will work for foreign-owned companies if he wins the presidency.


Biden pushing back as he and other Democratic candidates get ready to face off in their fourth debate tomorrow night.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live in Westerville, Ohio, with a preview.

So this, no doubt, will come up during the debate, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We expect it to come up if not because Joe Biden himself might be the one to do it, but just in one day those 12 candidates will be behind me on the debate stage here in Westerville, Ohio. Many of them on the outer edges of that debate stage trying to break into the top tier that has been relatively stable between Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

But, Alisyn, as you mentioned, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, really loom large over this debate. Yesterday, Biden told reporters he's going to have a squeaky clean, transparent White House.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can tell you now, if I am your president, next president, I'm going to build on the squeaky clean, transparent environment that we had in the Obama/Biden White House. And no one in my family, or associated with me, will be involved in any foreign operation whatsoever. Period. End of story.


PHILLIP: He also noted that none of his children would ever have an office in the White House. That seemed to be a jab at President Trump, whose daughter, Ivanka Trump, does have an office in the White House and whose son-in-law is also a senior adviser.

But Biden also said that he did not know that his son, Hunter, would announce that he was stepping down from that Chinese board. He was not aware of that announcement, which came yesterday as well.


CAMEROTA: Abby, there is a double standard that must be pointed out and it sounds like Joe Biden has gotten around to pointing that out. The Trump children continue to also make millions of dollars overseas. And it sounds like Joe Biden is going to be mentioning that more often.

Thank you.

PHILLIP: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Abby, very much.

So the fourth Democratic presidential debate airs live on CNN from the battleground state of Ohio tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

AVLON: All right, Simone Biles officially becoming the most decorated gymnast in history. Her record-breaking floor routine is up.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Look at that.



CAMEROTA: Just as President Trump faces an impeachment inquiry in the House, he has also decided to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, thereby abandoning an ally, making some people wonder why a president would do that now. One person with a theory is Gail Collins. She is a columnist for "The New York Times." She is also the author of a new book out tomorrow, "No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History."

Gail, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: OK, so, listen, it's your job to make quippy comments about the president's behavior and foibles and you do that well every week in "The New York Times." but you, I think, are making the case that his behavior is changing. You wrote in your column on Wednesday called "Trump Flies into the Cuckoo's Nest," you wrote, although the way the administration handled the whole turkey thing was wildly inept, we've known for a long time there's no ept in this White House.

But here's the other part. Donald Trump is in the middle of a super impeachment crisis and he's surviving in office only through Senate Republicans' support. And he chose this time to create a foreign affairs uproar guaranteed to outrage and offend the Republican senators.

So, what do you think is going on?

COLLINS: Well, you would let -- the part about it that bothers me is you would like to think that whatever he's plotting, that it's a reasonable plot, that it's going to go in some way. But it just seems as if almost every day he just pops off in one way or the other and somebody gives him a phone call. Nothing is more dangerous in this White House than a phone call. Somebody calls and he agrees to take our troops out of Syria. I mean somebody calls and he agrees to do something else. It's --

CAMEROTA: And do you think that's different? I mean are you making the case that the -- that his behavior is changing, or have you seen that for the past three years?

COLLINS: Well, gee whiz, I've known Donald Trump for a really long time. He's never been -- he -- the first time I ran into him, he objected to a column I had written back in 1992. So he sent it to me with my picture circled with, you are a pig with the face of a dog. I would be mad if I was you too. And too was misspelled. So I -- it's been a while this has been going on. That's what I'll say.

CAMEROTA: That's a classic. I hope you have framed that.

COLLINS: I was going to throw it out and my husband said, oh, no, this is a keeper. And here we are.

CAMEROTA: We just heard -- Joe Biden seems to be changing his strategy. And he is speaking more forcefully about his own son's past, as well as making a promise that if he's elected president, his children will not be in the White House, his children will not make any sort of money from overseas.

Here's what you write about this. The president, whose daughter and son-in-law have both been working for the White House while raking in tens of millions of dollars from their business dealings, some came from the clothing Ivanka manufactured in places like China. Why would he bring up children making money abroad? This isn't a guy who makes stupid decisions. It's a guy who's off his rocker.

You think that the fact that he's gone after Joe Biden for doing the same thing that his children are doing --

COLLINS: His children have been doing --

CAMEROTA: You think that tells us what?

COLLINS: It does seems as if he's a little unhinged, doesn't it? I mean it's not -- there's clearly not a bad plot underway there so much as there is just flopping around in a kind of off the wall whatever happens this moment. I mean when you -- if you're a person by yourself, Donald Trump, who own hotels, that you still own and control and have all foreign guests going there every day, even if they're not really going to stay there, just renting rooms forever to make it look good, he would never -- if he were rational -- talk about business dealings being in conflict of interest with jobs in politics. But he does it all the time. It's -- it's amazing.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about your book. "No Stopping Us Now." You write in there, you quote Jane Adams, who's a Nobel Prize winner, and I think that it's sort of the thesis of the book. She said, one of the most remarkable changes in the lives of women in this country has been the postponement of old age.

So at what age is old age now and how has that changed?

COLLINS: Well, you know what, that was the first thing I started thinking about when -- a book or two ago I ran across this letter that "The Colonist (ph)," the male colonist had written back to England looking for wives -- because there weren't any here -- and saying, what we want really is women who are civil and under 50 years of age. And I thought, wow, that was a very high --


COLLINS: And then we get here and everybody's in the cities. And suddenly if you're 18, you're kind of out of the market if you're not married yet. And it bounces back and forth like -- do you remember the loving care commercials from the '70s and the '80s?


I went back at looked at them and they said, these days, when a woman turns 25, she's getting old.

CAMEROTA: Is that right?


CAMEROTA: In the '70s, 25 was too old.

COLLINS: In the '70s 25 was old. So all this stuff is moving so fast and changing so fast. And my most basic cosmic conclusion is that when women get to be regarded like men when it comes to age, when -- when you age -- I mean everybody ages -- but is -- in the same way, it's when women bring in the amount of money that men do. It's all about women were always respected in age when they were producing wealth. Like colonial housewives were very, very popular, no matter how old they were. But -- so now that women are in the job market, now that women are bringing in money, having careers, doing the same things that men do, the vision of age is changing. Unless -- unless it's in a movie. I mean that's --

CAMEROTA: Then it's the same.

COLLINS: Then if you put all the people together, the ones who are women are going to be the mothers of the ones who are men. It's just, you know, the way (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Well, you may -- you have all of these great case studies of women who, you know, were kicking butt well into their lives. And so it's a great book. "No Stopping Us Now" by Gail Collins.

Gail, great to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming into the studio.

COLLINS: Thank you so much. Great to be here.


CAMEROTA: All right, the Astros are soaring after an extra innings thriller against the Yankees in game two of the American League championship series. Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."



AVLON: Good morning.

MANNO: Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Expectations are being met in this series. This matchup is living up to the hype. Think about this as the baseball version of a heavy weight title fight. It felt like a must win for the Astros despite having the best home record in baseball this year. They went blow for blow last night. The home runs serving as hay makers. And then, in the 11th inning, with the score tied at two, Houston shortstop Carlos Correa delivering the knockout punch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First pitch. And Correa lines it deep to right field. Judge is going back. At the wall! Looking out! See you later! See you later! See you later! See you later! Astros into the series at a game a piece on the walk off home run by Carlos Correa in the bottom of the 11th!


MANNO: See you later, indeed. The best of seven series now shifts to New York for game three on Tuesday night. Tonight, the Nationals look to take a commanding three games to none lead in the NLCS against the Cardinals. First pitch for that one set just after 7:30 Eastern on our sister channel of TBS.

The Cowboys are reeling, handing the Jets their first win of the season on Sunday. After being diagnosed with mono five weeks ago, Jets QB Sam Darnold threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns highlighted by that 92-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Anderson. Dallas fell into a hole. They didn't mount the comeback. The Cowboys lose three straight. They fall back to 0.500 (ph) in the process.

And Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast in world championship history after earning five gold medals in what will very likely be her last world championship. Biles owns a record-setting tally of 25 overall, the most ever for a man or a woman. The 22-year-old is certainly going to be the face of next year's Olympics in Tokyo. And her difficulty level now, John and Alisyn, is actually more difficult than it was in Rio when she picked up four gold medals. So she's going for five. Never been done by a gymnast. But she's got a great shot. CAMEROTA: She's such an inspiration on every level.

AVLON: Unbelievable. Oh.

MANNO: She is -- she is so much more than her medal count.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's right.

MANNO: Yes. Yes.

AVLON: October sports. Love it.

CAMEROTA: Carolyn, thank you so much.

AVLON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, "Saturday Night Live" spoofed CNN's equality town hall and gave a "Sesame Street" favorite the Joker treatment.


CAMEROTA: Here are your "Late Night Laughs."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you respond if someone said to you, I'm old-fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, I'm going to assume it's a guy asking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, snap, the library is open and miss thing is about to get read.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say, sir, tell me your bus stop because I want to know where you get off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you defend your past support of don't ask, don't tell?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad you asked that question. And let me answer by telling you a false memory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sunny (ph) day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From director Todd Phillips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sweeping the clouds away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the writing of "P is for Potty."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my way to where the air is sweet (ph). Can you tell me how to get --

Would you do me one favor? Would you call me the grouch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brought to you by the letter "r."




AVLON: So good.

CAMEROTA: A masterpiece.

AVLON: Oh, really.

CAMEROTA: A masterpiece.

AVLON: That is -- that is -- that's a keeper.

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, this, one of our top stories.