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President Trump's Adviser on Russia and Ambassador to E.U. to Testify to Congress in Impeachment Inquiry; Kurdish Forces to Make Deal with Bashar al-Assad in Attempt to End Turkish Invasion. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired October 14, 2019 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your New Day. It is Monday, October 14th, 8:00 now in the east. John Berman is off this morning. John Avlon joins me on this Columbus Day. Great to have you here.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. A lot ahead.

CAMEROTA: It's a critical week, as you know. So testimony is beginning this morning in the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill. This morning, the president's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, will appear behind closed doors. Then on Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U. will testify in what could be a pivotal move. "The Washington Post" reports he will tell lawmakers his insistence that the president did not intend for a quid pro quo with Ukraine was related to him by the president himself. And that undercuts the key defense from the president and his allies.

AVLON: Also this morning, a disturbing and extremely violent video showing a fake President Trump opening fire in a, quote, church of fake news, shooting and stabbing critics in the media. "The New York Times" reports it was shown at a conference by a pro-Trump group at President Trump's Miami golf resort last week, and it ends with the fake Trump driving a stake into a person with a CNN logo for a head.

CNN is calling on the president to denounce the video in the strongest possible terms. A spokesman for the president's reelection campaign tells "The Times" he did not know about the video and the campaign does not condone violence. The president is already up and tweeting. Will he say anything?

Joining us now, Abby Phillips, CNN political correspondent, and Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary and CNN political commentator. I want to begin with impeachment this morning, Joe. You played such a critical role during the last impeachment. Looking at what we expect from Ambassador Sondland, from this testimony, the pressure on Rudy Giuliani, do you think the Trump team is in real trouble? Have they been caught in their latest statement not being operative, as some folks might say in Washington?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Again, the big difference between this impeachment and the last impeachment is when Clinton was impeached, all the information was out. Starr had put his report out and people had had time to look through it and make their own judgment. We're learning something new every single day in this impeachment inquiry. The investigative part is going on now. And the White House up until now has been very successful in keeping people from going to tell the Hill what they know. That phase is largely over. You had Yovanovitch, the ambassador going on Friday, you have a series of people who were in the room and are part of the process.

So the president can say all he wants that there's no quid pro quo, but the people who are around him who knew that they were pushing for a quid pro quo, now will tell, will give contemporaneous testimony to what actually happened. So I think the level of peril for the president has gone up significantly, starting last Friday. It is a very dangerous week for him because of that. And it's just not something they seem to be prepared for.

CAMEROTA: Abby, it seems like the most interesting person who will testify could be Gordon Sondland because he was blocked. So his testimony was blocked last week by the State Department. He is the ambassador who is not a career diplomat. He was a supporter of President Trump and he was given this ambassador to the E.U. role. And so is it your impression that the White House and the State Department will no longer block subpoenaed people from testifying? Will he show up on Thursday?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's really the open question. It's not clear if the White House can block a congressional subpoena just simply by putting out the letter that they put out last week, which a lot of legal experts believed did not have much weight. And interestingly, Sondland was blocked last week by the White House before he was set to voluntarily testify, which raised some questions about whether or not the president and the White House were growing concerned about what he might say.

Now, there are some reports that Sondland is pointing the finger, that he is really trying to, in some ways, exonerate himself in his testimony if he does, in fact, testify. And that can be a cause of concern for this White House. That's the dominant dynamic that I think we're facing right now, is all of these various officials decide whether they are willing to comply with the congressional testimony or risk some kind of legal blowback later. Are they trying to protect themselves by simply getting out what they know and trying to not get saddled with the blame for what went down over this summer through Rudy Giuliani and what appears to be at the behest of President Trump.

AVLON: And Joe, speaking of Rudy Giuliani, we've got two Ukrainians in jail, clients who were allegedly used to dig up some of this dirt or act as liaisons. There was an indictment from the southern district on campaign finance charges, and reports that Rudy Giuliani himself, former mayor and the president's own lawyer, may be under investigation. Do you think there's real legal jeopardy here that could bleed over into the president?

[08:05:6] LOCKHART: I think it changes the dynamic for Mayor Giuliani. I think before this he could say, I was just doing the president's bidding. Whatever happened, the president was instructing me. I was his envoy to Ukraine. I was his lawyer, whatever hat he chooses to wear at any given moment.

But this changes it for him, because it appears from the reports that he also was doing some business there, that he was using -- there was the influence game that goes both ways. Which is, I'm the president's man, now I need a couple of deals that enrich me, which is highly ironic, since he was accusing Hunter Biden of all sorts of things that there's no basis for.

So the question then will become, will he try to limit his own liability by being much more cooperative with the impeachment committee on what the president knew, when did the president know it, and what was Rudy instructed to do? So, again, I don't know that Rudy Giuliani, whether they'll find enough to put him in jail for this, but there's a -- it feels like there's enough there that they'll be able to squeeze him to be much more cooperative than he might have been in the impeachment inquiry.

CAMEROTA: Abby, is it your reporting that there is anxiety about that area of the impeachment inquiry that involves Rudy Giuliani?

PHILLIP: Well, there are certainly a lot of White House aides who are deeply uncomfortable with Rudy Giuliani and have been for a long time. They've been concerned that he's been up to things that they don't think are necessarily above board, that he doesn't always help the president when he's out in public talking about all kinds of things on television and to reporters constantly. So that's been a constantly concern for this White House.

But the added layer of this is, you know, the impeachment inquiry is one thing, but there is also a Southern District of New York investigation that Giuliani seems to be at least a subject of. And that is -- that, for Giuliani, is in and of itself a completely different situation, and it's one that can have blowback for President Trump.

So the anxiety inside the White House is there about Giuliani. They've been looking around for some outside help and have been unable to get it. They tried to bring Trey Gowdy in, but he can't start until January at the earliest. So looks like they might be without outside legal help and a kind of outside voice aside from Giuliani. So the White House is just kind of not in a great place in terms of legal representation and in terms of who's going to be out there communicating on the president's behalf on this.

CAMEROTA: Well, it will be an interesting week, as we say every Monday. So Abby, Joe, thank you both very much.

AVLON: All right, President Trump ordering all remaining U.S. troops to withdraw from northern Syria. That's where Turkish forces are stepping up their assault on the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS. Those allies now turning to the Syrian regime and its Russian backers for help. CNN's Clarissa Ward just back from Syria is live in London. Clarissa, what did you see on the ground?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the speed with which this situation is just completely unraveling is staggering. You're literally talking about a matter of hours in which U.S. troops get the order to basically completely withdrawn from northern Syria, Kurdish forces essentially surrender, strike up a deal with the regime of Bashar al Assad, the brutal dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, but who they see as being essentially their only measure of protection against Turkish forces. And then you have Turkish forces who have plunged much deeper into Syria than they had originally anticipated doing so with the help of their Arab-Syrian proxies who have been carrying out atrocities on the ground. They've cut off a highway, plunged the place into chaos.

Meanwhile, all of this is going on, the fate of all of these ISIS prisoners remains unknown. Hundreds potentially abandon in a camp where they were being held in the city of Ain Issa. No clear idea as to who will take ownership or custodianship of them in the future. And so generally you just have a striking picture of chaos and mayhem and no sense of how this all gets resolved going forward, John.

AVLON: Gasoline on the fire. But Clarissa, what do you think this means for the future of the Kurds specifically?

WARD: The Kurds has been absolutely decimated by this. And this is the hardest thing about reporting this story and being on the ground and sleeping in their homes and eating their food and accepting their hospitality at visiting U.S. special forces bases, which are being guarded or were being guarded, by Kurdish forces. They basically have been left to hung out to dry. They now have to form an alliance with Bashar al Assad, which is a marriage of convenience, not a marriage of love. Even that is no guarantee of protection against Turkish forces.


The SDF, which is the largely Kurdish fighting force that beat ISIS on the ground with the help of the U.S. and for the U.S. and European allies, they will essentially have to go underground or be completely disbanded. Some of them will likely flee to Iraq.

But it's important for our viewers to remember, John, this is not the first time that Syrian people feel that the Americans have sold them out. This was the same story under the Obama administration, the protesters in the early days of the uprising who took to the streets to reject Bashar al Assad, who were told by the U.S. that the U.S. had their back, that the U.S. supported them, and then were essentially left while they were bombed, gassed, tortured, exterminated in prison camps, and never did the U.S. intervene to help them.

So this is a recurring theme in Syria. In many ways, Trump's latest decision is just sort of the nail in the coffin, eight years of horrendous Syria policy which has contributed to countless deaths, misery, and to the rise of Bashir al Assad, its Russian backers, and of ISIS, John.

AVLON: Clarissa Ward, thank you very much, as always. CAMEROTA: OK, John, Congress is back today with a full plate. U.S.

troops pulling out of northern Syria and the aftermath there, the impeachment inquiry, and a violent video showing the president on a rampage against journalists and political foes, well, a depiction of the president. So we're going to ask a Republican member of Congress about all of this, next.



CAMEROTA: Okay, it's a very big week, as you know, in Washington, so they're back from their two-week recess and they've been doing things during --

AVLON: Long time.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, they've been doing a lot during the recess in terms of the Impeachment Inquiry. They have been meeting staffers. They have been meeting behind closed doors with, you know, already a litany of people they're interested in, but this week, it ramps up because now Congress is back.

AVLON: Good time.

CAMEROTA: And so Fiona Hill who represented -- who is the connection between the Russia and the U.S., she is today.

AVLON: And then what's striking about Fiona Hill is this, she is someone who is a prominent and very widely respected Putin skeptic who ran Russia at the National Security Council.

For some folks, it was a surprise pick for the Trump administration brought in, I believe, under General McMaster when he was running the National Security Council. She has been on her way out for some time.

But she, of course, the point person on all things Russia, and therefore will have a lot of insight into the President's posture to Russia, and this issue around Ukraine, which is the heart of the Impeachment Inquiry.

CAMEROTA: And then of course, people are very interested in what Ambassador Gordon Sondland has to say on Thursday, because his appearance, his previous scheduled appearance was canceled at the last minute by the State Department.

He was blocked because, you know, he was instrumental in all those texts that you see, between other diplomats about why the aid to Ukraine, the military aid was being held up.

And so, he has now been subpoenaed and his appearance is rescheduled for Thursday and we will see if anyone tries to block it or if he shows up.

AVLON: And that one matters so much because it gets to the heart of the question of quid pro quo because on the text messages we've seen, it's Ambassador Sondland, who apparently spoke to the President and used that phrase - that there's no quid pro quo after apparently conversations with other Ambassadors led to some concern about the background.

CAMEROTA: Also concern from him when he said, call me. He didn't want to put anything else in a text, so I'm sure they'll ask him about that.

AVLON: Call me, maybe.

CAMEROTA: Okay, so more on all of this when NEW DAY comes right back.



AVLON: We've got the fourth Democratic debate tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Right here on CNN. It is the biggest primary in history with 12 candidates on the stage, and the first debate since the Impeachment Inquiry began.

Now Joe Biden says if he is elected, his family is going to stay away from work for foreign companies like the arrangement that brought scrutiny to his son, Hunter.

Joining us now to talk about that and much more, Aisha Moodie-Mills, democratic strategist, CNN political contributor and Mark McKinnon, former senior adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain campaigns and a CNN political commentator. It is great to have you all here.

Aisha, let's start with you. You've got an Elizabeth Warren who seems to be surging. You've got Joe Biden trying to tamp that down at the center of the Impeachment Inquiry whether he likes it or not. What do they need to do to resist the incoming they're going to get from the other 10 folks on stage?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it'll be interesting to see if they get the incoming. I keep saying, at some point we're going to have to stop being as nice and actually start to have real debates.

AVLON: We've been nice?

MOODIE-MILLS: I think that they've been relatively nice. There's been a little bit of conflicts here and there. But I think now is the time to differentiate themselves.

And so I think that what I'm expecting to see is people start to challenge Elizabeth more and more on the economics of the thing. I think that there's a real -- there's a real ideological kind of difference between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, and it really comes down to are we going to be like moderate, kind of stay the course and do what we used to do? Or are we going to be really, really ambitious and kind of look ahead.

And so I think that that's what we're going to see, some bumping of heads. People are going to say, oh, you're too idealistic. Your plans are too bold. Who's going to pay for them? And she's going to have to account for that.

CAMEROTA: Is that what you expect for tonight?

MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's fight week. Let's get it on. You see Bernie Sanders already going after Elizabeth Warren for my god, she's a capitalist. Good God.

So for -- there's two opportunities that candidates have where you can really move the dial. It's when you announce and when you have debates, so for a lot of these second and third tier candidates, it may be their last best chance to break out.

So look for fireworks. The way you breakout in a debate is one of two things. You either throw out kind of a radical different policy idea or you attack. You know, think of Kamala Harris, think of Tulsi Gabbard, think of Julian Castro in the last debates. That's how you break out.

So that's what I expect to see tomorrow night. Because like I said, they're getting closer and closer to that finish line, they've got a break the tape.

MOODIE-MILLS: You know, it'd be interesting to see, though, too, what is sustainable, right? Because we've had several debates so far. And you've seen a pop off moment. Kamala had her first pop off moment. Castro had a pop off moment. But they don't necessarily sustain themselves.

What we are seeing, the one person who is rising continually like this is Elizabeth Warren, and it's more about what's happening outside of the cameras and on the campaign trail than what's happening at those debates.

AVLON: So the obvious thing that's hanging out there is questions of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. On the one hand, it puts him mano-y-mano, so to speak against Donald Trump, but it provides an opportunity -- will Democrats hit Joe Biden over his son, Hunter?

Let's take a look at some of the sound Joe Biden just gave us yesterday, pushing back tough on Trump.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one in my family will have an office in the White House, will sit in meetings as if they're a Cabinet member, or will in fact have any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or a foreign country. Period. Period. End of story.



AVLON: All right, so Mark, that's not only trying to clean up some of his own and Hunter Biden stuff, but implicit diss not so veiled against his daughter and son-in-law in the White House. Should other Democrats try to hit Biden on this on the stage?

MCKINNON: I don't think so, John, but I think it's going to be -- I think it should come up for the moderators. I think it's a reasonable question to ask, to talk about that policy.

And I think it's -- you know, it's counterintuitive, but I'd love for Biden to go even further and kind of have a human moment about that and just go ahead and just pierce that, pierce that bubble on Hunter Biden to say I love my son. And, you know, we talked about this and we think maybe the best thing to do is not to do that going forward. And maybe you know, he didn't do anything illegal, but you know, it's time for new politics and I want to be a part of the new politics.

CAMEROTA: What do you think of that tactic of him saying -- I mean, but he wasn't mentioning the President. I don't know. In that clip he didn't mention President Trump and why not? I mean, why not draw the comparison very clearly?

MOODIE-MILLS: Well, this is what I get a little anxious about is making these, essentially we're drawing these comparisons and it's really not true.

Let's be reminded that Donald Trump tried to find and create and manufacture dirt and created a scandal where there wasn't one.

So I think the best thing for Joe Biden to do is to remind people of that. There's nothing here, number one, right? And then number two, I agree with you, I think he should absolutely say, wait a minute. This is someone who is clearly enriching himself, his family is enriching themselves off of the presidency. Let's talk about that, and how we will never have that again happen in America.

AVLON: So Mark, one thing I should have just mentioned at the top is, there may be some accounting coming for Elizabeth Warren, a lot of promises -- how are you going to pay for it? Let me flip that to you? Is it time for Elizabeth Warren to start playing beyond the base to say, look, I can be a credible general election candidate without alienating her progressive base?

MCKINNON: Well, I think she can. I think actually Bernie Sanders kind of helped her be a general election candidate by calling her a capitalist. But yes, sure, she can jump.

But I think we're kind of in a different era about the paying for plans, I mean, look with Trump got away with? Who is paying for the wall? Still nobody, right?

So I think that people understand we have kind of a divided Congress and that maybe Warren's plans are a little further out there as far as cost goes, but the Republican Senate is going to reel that in, so the question is, how does the Harvard faculty, Elizabeth Warren become Betsy from Oklahoma, as Mike Murphy who would say -- my pal -- in the general election. CAMEROTA: But do you worry, Aisha that they will be, if they go after

each other, that it does end up, you know, shooting within the tent and it does end up leaving whoever the front runner is then more sort of bruised, and that they shouldn't do it, since they all come back to Earth?

Because as you point out, they have this breakout moment that they come back to Earth, is it worth to be going after the front runner?

MOODIE-MILLS: I think that is absolutely worth distinguishing yourself and having real ideas that you debate hence the point of a debate. And I don't think that we play small, and I don't think that we advance any agenda, if we're tepid about that.

So if some of the folks, you know, have big ideas and they believe that they're smarter, and they're more thoughtful on those ideas than some of the front runners, they should stand up and say it. That's the whole point of this forum.

AVLON: So Mark, final question there, four candidates on the stage tomorrow night who haven't yet qualified for the next debate. How would you advise that they conduct themselves to get to the next stage?

MCKINNON: Misconduct. Total misconduct throughout this, just, you know, throw something; break something. Whatever it takes.

AVLON: The McKinnon honesty.

MOODIE-MILLS: That would be good fundraising strategy, I'm sure, right?

CAMEROTA: Well, then we shall see if they take your advice. That will be very interesting.

AVLON: Break things, move fast.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That's great. Mark and Aisha, thank you very much.

AVLON: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: The fourth democratic debate from the battleground State of Ohio, live, tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

All right, so how will Republicans respond to this violent video that we've just seen this morning showing a fake President engaged in a church shooting and killing journalists and his opponents.

We ask a House Republican about that and so much more.

And one person is still missing, two confirmed dead when a crane comes crashing down. CNN is live in New Orleans with the aftermath.