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Mixed Messages As Pence Says One Thing After Trump & White House Says Another; Giuliani Splits With Lawyer Helping With Impeachment Matters; First Debate Since Sanders' Heart Attack & Warren's Rise In Polls; Republican Reaction To Trump Behind The Scenes Amid Impeachment Inquiry; U.S. Official: Turkish-Backed Forces Come Close To U.S. Forces. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 14:30   ET



CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: OK, did not give a green light. Let's go to the official White House statement. OK, here we go, statement from the press secretary October 6th. "The United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation. The United States armed forces having defeated the caliphate, will no longer be in the immediate area."

If not directly contradictory, certainly not incoordination.

Now, do another one, Brooke. Here is Mike Pence talking about whether Erdogan, head of Turkey, will be coming to the White House later this fall. Play that.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's been no decision made about a scheduled meeting next month. But --


PENCE: Well, let me say the president could not have been more firm with President Erdogan.


CILLIZZA: Got it. So no decision has been made.

Just want to, for context, Donald Trump, October 8th -- also remember importantly Turkey is in good standing of NATO, "He, Erdogan, is coming to the U.S. as my guest in November 13th. Yes, anyway, Brooke, two examples.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: What about -- since the phone call with Erdogan and the violence that's erupted, what about the messaging there?

CILLIZZA: Right. OK now we have another example of mixed messaging. Again, Pence on one hand, Trump on the other. Go to Pence first.


PENCE: And opportunities for us to bring troops home and to have American forces come out of harm's way has always been a priority for this president. But that didn't mean that this president, in any way, in any way, encourages violence anywhere in the world, let alone along the border between Turkey and Syria.


CILLIZZA: OK. Now, again, Donald Trump tweets October 14th, two this is - "Anyone who wants to assist Syria for protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether Russia, China or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great. We are sitting 7,000 miles away."

Some people want to protect 7,000 miles away border in Syria. Are we protecting Syria? Do we not care? Is it a priority? Is the U.S. border more of a priority? Is Erdogan coming to visit with President Trump? Is Erdogan not?

Again, these sorts of things, Brooke, you would think might happen, might happen, between the president and, let's say, a low-level cabinet person? Not between the president and the vice president who theoretically meet every week and maybe some things they should talk about are getting on the same page.

The answer, quickly, is because Donald Trump changes his mind all the time. Mike Pence says something, Donald Trump undercuts him. Welcome to the Trump presidency.

Brooke, back to you.

BALDWIN: You got it. You hit the nail on the head.

Chris Cillizza, thank you for all of that on the mixed messages coming out of the White House.

Speaking of the White House, we have more news this afternoon on Rudy Giuliani's legal predicament, shall we call it?

CNN's Michael Warren is with me now.

Michael, you have scoop. What is it?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Right, Brooke. CNN reporting Rudy Giuliani is parting ways with his personal attorney shortly, Jon Sale. Rudy Giuliani telling CNN a few moments ago, "Jon was helping me assessing the congressional requests." That subpoena request from Giuliani, the deadline today.

Giuliani continued, "He, Jon Sale, my lawyer, will submit his letter and he will be finished with what I asked him to do."

Sale did not respond to multiple requests for comment here.

But, Brooke, one more thing. We should note, people close to Giuliani are advising him to get a criminal attorney as questions are lingering about these two associates of his, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were indicted last week.

Giuliani did not directly answer a question of whether he's considering getting another attorney, saying, "If they take me to court, I would then have to get another lawyer" --Brooke?

BALDWIN: They're saying lawyer up and specifically get a criminal attorney.

Michael Warren, thank you for your reporting.


Tonight is the first debate. A lot has happened since the last one, the impeachment inquiry, Syrian chaos, and Bernie Sanders's heart attack. What to watch for this evening, next.


BALDWIN: Senator Bernie Sanders is moments away from getting a walk- through of tonight's CNN/"New York Times" debate stage weeks after suffering A heart attack.

And as the Vermont Senator and 11 other Democratic presidential candidates prepare to take to that stage in a few hours, so much has happened since the last debate 33 days ago, from the impeachment inquiry to the White House shifting gears in Syria. We've also witnessed Senator Elizabeth Warren's rise in polls and former Vice President Joe Biden rigorous defense of his son, Hunter.

Let's go to Maeve Reston, live at the debate site in Westerville, Ohio.

And, Maeve, start with Senator Sanders. We wish him well health-wise. Standing on the stage fresh off his heart attack, what message does he need to relay saying I'm ready and fit to serve?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: He has to show he is really back in the game. Obviously, this heart attack was a lot more serious than everyone thought at first, when we first heard he was leaving the campaign trail.


I've been out talking, Brooke, to voters in Ohio over the last couple days. There's a lot of interest just in whether he's up for this. Whether he has the stamina to make it the full way. He's going to have to show that tonight, maybe with some humor. But also with that energy and drive that we always see from him and perhaps some Bernie shouting in the mix, too.

BALDWIN: Bernie shouting, finger waving.


BALDWIN: We'll stand by for all of that. What about Senator Elizabeth Warren? Tonight's a huge night for her.

The pressure is on. This is the first debate since she's become frontrunner in this pack of people. What's her strategy looking into this evening?

RESTON: Well, she's certainly going to have to deliver the kind of smooth performances that we've seen from her in the last couple of debates. But we've also seen Joe Biden roll out this attack line on her that America doesn't need a planner.

She's going to have to show tonight that she can bring more than that to the nomination.

And I think also there's just a lot of questions, particularly in a swing state like Ohio where we are, about whether she can appeal to that middle ground of voters and in the same way that Joe Biden has demonstrated over the years.

You hear a lot out there in Ohio just about her policies being kind of way out there along with Bernie Sanders. And I think she's got to show that, that, more of that middle ground tonight -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Maeve Reston under beautiful blue skies in Westerville, Ohio, in the battleground state.

Thank you very much.

RESTON: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Let me remind all of you, tune in tonight, the CNN/"New York Times" presidential Democratic debate live from the battleground state of Ohio. It starts at 8:00 Eastern here on CNN.


BALDWIN: Also coming up, new reporting on how Republicans are reacting to the president's actions behind the scenes.

And we'll talk to a reporter who had an interesting exchange with Rudy Giuliani, complete with emojis.

We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Two crucial meetings of the minds in the next 24 hours. Tonight, House Democrats convene to discuss the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry and, tomorrow afternoon, CNN is reporting the House Republicans are working to get on the same page with their messaging around impeachment.

My next guest did some interviews that show that may be hard to do. Some Republican aides telling "New York" magazine they're too tired to care. Olivia Nuzzi writes about her conversation, quote, "When we talk about

what it would take for the president's defenders to turn on him, this crucial piece is missing: You can't feel outraged if you can no longer feel anything at all."

Olivia is with me now.

Olivia, I read this and thought, how are they not feeling anything?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, I think, on the left, and even in the media, there have been a lot of conversations about Trump fatigue. I've certainly talked about it. We've covered him for a long time now.

And when there's a fire hose of news every day, you can start to feel like nothing really matters, or it's hard to get outraged or motivated to find out more when there's just more and more and more all the tile.

I think, for those on the right, even those inclined to defend the president, they have their own version of that. And it's kind of leading them to feel nothing, to feel inaction, to not want to, I guess, confront what they might have to confront were they to tap into their emotions.

BALDWIN: And -- a lot of the senior congressional aides you're talking to voicing this fatigue, talking to you on background. But why not do something about it? Why not champion something that will end the fatigue much more publicly or are they fearful of voter backlash or feeling like it won't matter?

NUZZI: Right. And I'm talking to one senior Republican aide who's talking about how he doesn't think anything will change. And I asked about all the reports that, privately, Republicans, like I was doing with that person, feel differently than they've let on publicly, and if anything is going to change, will anyone come out who hasn't already come out --


NUZZI: -- to condemn the president. That person said, it hasn't happened already. They don't think it will but they don't know. And they seem resigned to status quo.

I tried to acknowledge in the piece that we're talking about this, even as I perpetuate this myself, I'm talking to people on background who don't want to come out and say how they really feel publicly. But that's the way Washington works sometimes, unfortunately.


BALDWIN: Another quote from your piece. Senior Republican Senate aide tells you, "The White House just like, oh, Trump will handle everything, which is crazy but seems that's their strategy. It a depressing time." Do you think that the president, Olivia, or his inner circle is aware

the whole "throw your hands up" approach may actually be working in his favor?

NUZZI: I don't know. When you look at the Trump talkers, as the campaign and the White House calls the talking points that they send out for surrogates and for congressional Republicans, it just sounds exactly like what Donald Trump has to say on Twitter, what he said at his rallies. It's just a reflection of his rhetoric.

And I think -- I don't know what would have to change for him to be steered in another direction. I think he's really just dictating how the defense of his behavior goes right now.

BALDWIN: And as we have this conversation, I'd be remiss not to ask, you were tweeting up a storm about a conversation or text exchange with Rudy Giuliani.


NUZZI: Everything, Brooke. I'm always tweeting up a storm.

BALDWIN: Doing the do. And I was saying in commercial break, I don't didn't know there was stop sign emoji until Rudy Giuliani used it with you.


BALDWIN: What did he say to you, whether or not he was still representing the president, and what he said about John Bolton and the in U.S. to come there?

NUZZI: God bless him for teaching us about the stop sign emoji.

BALDWIN: Thank goodness.


NUZZI: But there was confusion the other day. The president wouldn't say whether or not Rudy Giuliani was still representing him. He said he believed he was. Seemed to be clarified for the moment.

But I think like anybody else in Donald Trump's inner circle, the second they become a problem you can never know how long you're going to hang on. Never know who he's going to remain loyal to.

I asked Giuliani if he thought the president might throw him under the bus. He said no. Asked if he would be surprised if that were to happen. And that's when he said, stop, with the stop sign emoji. So -- you know, that's how that conversation ended.

We talked earlier today about John Bolton's reported comment about him calling him a "hand grenade," and he sounded pretty hurt by that. He said he thought it might be projection from Bolton.

BALDWIN: Got it. OK. NUZZI: A therapy term. Republicans are all talking as if they're in

therapy right now, at least to me.

BALDWIN: Well, a lot of us need it these days.

Olivia Nuzzi, thank you very much.

NUZZI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you with all the scoop there from "New York" magazine.

We're getting breaking news. A U.S. official telling CNN Turkish- backed forces came very close to endangering U.S. troops as the chaos and calamity in Syria escalates. We'll take you there live.

And Rudy Giuliani parting ways with his attorney in the impeachment matters as more witnesses come forward calling Giuliani the center of a rogue foreign policy operation.

We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Breaking news. A U.S. official telling CNN Turkish-backed forces came very close to coalition base in Syria that put U.S. forces on the ground directly at risk.

Let's go straight to CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, live in that part of the world.

Nick, what happened?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's startling, Brooke, we are again, in so few days, talking about U.S. forces at risk inside of Syria.

As far as we understand, west of Ain Issa, in Syrian Kurdish-held territory, at a coalition base, Turkish-backed forces, Syrian rebels, backed by Turkey, who a U.S. official says are mostly extremists, former ISIS and al Qaeda, came, quote, "very close" to a coalition base. There are some pretty big U.S. bases on the outskirts of Kobani and maybe associated with that.

So close, in fact, that the U.S. had to show they were prepared to defend themselves and they had call in air support. So possibly helicopters, possibly jets to get these forces to turn away.

Now, this U.S. official is particularly dismayed because there are channels there and an agreement with Turkey, who are backing the Syrian rebels, extremists really, to make sure they don't come close enough to U.S. forces. Clearly, they violated that and the channels were used to deflate the situation. Think about this in the broader picture. These are Syrian rebels,

backed by Turkey, who have been told repeatedly not to go near U.S. forces, who are leaving anyway, and as those U.S. forces are getting ready to leave, the Syrian rebels come for them, it seems, very close to a main base. Almost like trying to chase them out of town.

A startling development. It all leads back to the risks that U.S. troops have been put under since the White House announced they were leaving before they actually managed to get their stuff packed.

It's extraordinary we're talking about this, though. There was in incident in Kabani a few days ago where shelling landed near a base. Yet again, it's happening and these are extremists backed by Turkey getting near a base -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Frightening.

Nick, thank you.

We continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

What do we have today? New drop in revelations in the impeachment inquiry. It's happening on a day with potential for more headlines to drop.

The key developments are as follows. One, members of Congress returned to work today after some faced testy town halls during their recess.

Two, you have Rudy Giuliani and Defense Secretary Mark Esper facing subpoena deadlines to produce documents.


And, three, maybe most critically, another career diplomat is going before the House committees conducting the impeachment investigation.