Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Calls for Cease Fire in Syria; Pentagon Scrambles Withdraw from Syria; LeBron James on NBA-China Dispute; New Polls for 2020 Race; Hunter Biden Speaks Out. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So breaking overnight, a little more than a week after all but announcing the Turkish invasion of Syria and pulling U.S. troops from the border there, the U.S. is now calling for a ceasefire in northern Syria. Vice President Pence says he's headed to Turkey at some point to negotiate. And then the president, after signaling what some are calling a green light for Turkey to invade in the first place, is now imposing sanctions aimed at stopping the Turkish assault on Kurdish forces.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from neighboring Iraq.

And it seems the U.S., this morning, trying to contain a situation it played a role in creating, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but with very few tools, it seems, that they're willing to deploy to actually fix it. Vice President Mike Pence, along with national security advisers, are on their way to Turkey to begin mediating as Donald Trump suggested days ago might be his preferred option between Turkey and most likely with the Syrian Kurds.

But, remember, Turkey felt it was green lighted to do this originally last Sunday, and the Syrian Kurds, on the other side of the equation, feel deeply betrayed and angry with the United States and are right now allowing Syrian regime forces to sweep through areas that used to be exclusively held by the Syrian Kurds with their American backing. So things are changing incredibly fast on the ground, meaning that U.S. mediation here may not be that effective.

Effective, well, the sanctions put in yesterday, I have to say, they're not the economic obliteration that Donald Trump threatened on Twitter. That is a defense minister and energy minister and their ministries sanctioned by name, steel tariffs going up and a trade deal delayed. So that is not going to necessarily cause President Erdogan to enormously change his mind. He, instead, in "The Wall Street Journal," is talking how Turkey had to act when the rest of the world wouldn't. They think that they are fighting extremism and they call the Syrian Kurds terrorists. But also they believe they need a part of Syria that can resettle the Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.

And, on the ground, things still moving very fast. As I said, the Syrian regime moving to take over the turf where they can. They've always had an ambition to get their hands on more of Syria. We're hearing from a U.S. official that Russian and Syrian forces are moving towards the west of the Euphrates River, that key area demarked (ph), and towards the town of Kabani (ph). Those areas from which the United States is beginning to or has perhaps already withdrawn by now. It's startling, really, to see how fast the geopolitics are changing here.

President Erdogan of Turkey very wide in his ambition, doing things nobody thought he would do or that he tacitly agreed he wasn't going to do with the United States. And we've seen an extraordinary change in who controls what on the ground. Civilians, as always, stuck in between.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And, Nick, as you point out, it's happening at such a breakneck speed.


Nick, thank you very much for all of that context from the ground.

So the situation on the ground in northern Syria is getting more dangerous. Now a top priority for U.S. Defense Department is getting American troops out safely.

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

What's the latest there this morning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: And those developments, Alisyn, are fast moving as well. U.S. troops now out of that city of Manbij, west of the Euphrates. This is the first signal that U.S. troops are beginning to move. They are consolidating their positions. They are grouping into larger areas so they have more ability to secure themselves. That's the first step on the withdraw plan, consolidate their positions.

They are also moving to inform the Turks again where all of their positions are so there are no mistakes, no accidents. They do not get fired on. They have the complete right of self-defense, and we know that they will fire back if the Turks or the regime forces come too close to them and do not back off. They have that right of self- defense.

There will be armed reconnaissance, armed aircraft fighters overhead of every U.S. position in Syria until they all get out. That will be for the protection of U.S. forces.

The first thing to pack and go will be the heavy equipment, the heavy weapons, and then the troops will follow. They will go out by either air or land. So, how did the troops feel about all of this? Well, my colleague,

Ryan Browne, talked to a number of special forces troops stationed in Syria or having served there who are very familiar, have worked with those Syrian Kurds for some time and I want to read you just what one of those troops said to Ryan Browne. And I quote, he says, it's pretty messed up what's happening out here. We want to offer support. We do not want to leave them in this situation.

So, still, a lot of extraordinary emotion from troops on the ground who served alongside those Syrian Kurds.

Alisyn. John.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you. And I'm sure those forces, along with everyone else, amazed by the pace with which it's all happening on the ground there.

Other major news overnight, LeBron James with stunning comments on the NBA Hong Kong controversy. We'll tell you what he said that's raising so many eyebrows, next.



CAMEROTA: LeBron James speaking out for the first time about the pro- Hong Kong tweet by the Rockets GM Daryl Morey that, of course, sparked outrage in China.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

What is this about, Andy?


Well, you know, the whole sports world, really everyone had been waiting for LeBron to weigh in on this controversy. And LeBron says he believes Morey was misinformed about the ramifications his tweet would have and that Morey was just not really educated about the situation.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: We all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you're not thinking about others and you only think about yourself. I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand and he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we -- what we tweet and what we say and what we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.


SCHOLES: Now after those comments, LeBron was heavily criticized on social media. He then took to Twitter to try to clarify what he meant, saying, let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I'm not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that.

All right, the Packers and Lions coming down to the final seconds on Monday night football. Detroit fans not happy with the refs after this one. Tray Flowers called for hands to the face on this play with under two minutes to go. There were no hands to the face. But they get a first down given to the Packers, and they were able to run out the clock and kick a game winning field goal as Green Bay wins 23-22 to improve to 5-1 on the season.

The Washington Nationals, meanwhile, now one win away from their first ever World Series. Steven Strasbourg, he was great again, pitching seven innings, striking out 12. Nationals would win this one 8-1. They are up 3-0 in the series now. The Cardinals just two runs in the first three games of this series. Nationals can punch their ticket to the fall classic tonight on our sister network TBS. That first pitch a little after 8:00 Eastern.

Yankees and Astros play game three at 4:00 Eastern at Yankee Stadium. That should be another good one guys. Go Stros.

BERMAN: All right, Andy Scholes, I'm with you on that for sure.

Andy, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: All right, here to talk about what LeBron James had to say when he broke his silence, in a very surprising way, we have April Ryan, CNN political analyst, Bakari Sellers, CNN political commentator, and Angela Rye, CNN political commentator.

And, Bakari, we'll start with you.

LeBron James said that Daryl Morey was not educated about his statement and about the ramifications of his statement.

Daryl Morey came out in favor of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong there. So that initial comment from LeBron James understandably raising a lot of eyebrows.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think the initial comment from LeBron James was off base and I think he had to take to Twitter to clarify. I think what LeBron was attempting to say. In fact, I'm pretty sure what he's attempting to say was that the tweets should not have been given and did not give consideration to those who were on the ground, in China, playing preseason basketball games.


I still am not sure that's the ledge you want to be on if you're LeBron James.

I want to take a step back for a minute because I think all of these players, what we're seeing is all of these players have to be educated about the injustices that are going on around the world.

We know that the NBA is considered to be more woke than any other sports franchise -- sports entity, but these players also have to understand that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And that it is OK -- it is OK to let your pockets take a small hit to speak out for what is right, which is to be on the side of the Hong Kong protesters. I don't think that that is -- I think that more players, once they understand the issue, will begin to speak out.

CAMEROTA: I don't speak sports, but what I heard him say was the financial ramifications.



CAMEROTA: And he sound -- he led with that, that he was -- he said, I -- talking economically.

RYAN: Money talks.

CAMEROTA: I think that that's what he -- what LeBron was saying, what I heard him talking about.

RYAN: But it came out in artfully. And the problem is, is that his voice is so great, and he's got to clean this up. I mean we are people in this nation who have seen democracy and protests change wrongs. So LeBron -- and LeBron James, for all intents and purposes, stands on that -- that pillar of protest. So he needs to come back and artfully correct his in artful speak. And I can't help but think -- and LeBron James is nowhere near Dennis Rodman, but I keep thinking about Dennis Rodman in this moment and how he -- how he interjected himself in North Korea --

CAMEROTA: In politics.

RYAN: Yes, with Kim Jong-un, little rocket man. We've got to be very careful in what we say as relates to something as serious as Hong Kong. Money is one issue, but protesting and lies is another. And you've got to -- when you have that kind of world stage, you've got to know what you're saying.

RYE: He got hit with a sub tweet right after. There's a player from the Celtics, Enes Kanter --

BERMAN: Enes Kanter, yes.

RYE: And he said, haven't seen or talked to my family in five years. Jail, my dad. My siblings can't find jobs. Revoked my passport. International arrest warrant. My family can't leave the country. Got death threats every day. Got attacked, harassed, tried to kidnap me in Indonesia. Freedom is not free.

And this isn't about Hong Kong, this is about Turkey. But I think that the moral of the story here is where Bakari started, April certainly where you ended, and that is, we have to protect freedom at all costs. And that is a very tough lesson. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

SELLERS: And there's more. I know we -- you talk -- I believe that we know LeBron James better than to just simply be about the dollar. LeBron James is about his brand and his brand being one of implementing some type of change throughout the world. You know, if LeBron James makes $100 million or $500 million, it doesn't matter. LeBron James wants to be remembered for some type -- being some type of change agent.

And I will just say that --

RYE: This conflicts with that certainly.

SELLERS: And I will -- I --

RYAN: And he's a giver. He gives back.

SELLERS: I will say that LeBron James will be somebody who speaks out on the right side of this issue, I do believe.


RYE: I hope so.

CAMEROTA: We will wait to see.

Thank you very much.

Stick around because we've just gotten this. Hunter Biden is speaking out for the first time about President Trump's unfounded allegations about his role with a Ukrainian company. We have what Hunter Biden has just said, next.



BERMAN: All right, you're looking at live pictures of the debate stage where 12 Democratic candidates will face off tonight.

I do want to say, we have breaking news. We're hearing from Hunter Biden for the first time about his role with the Ukrainian company. We'll play you that sound in just a moment.

First, though, we want to look at some brand new polling about where the race stands right now.

Here with us for that, CNN's senior politics writer and analyst and just --


BERMAN: Really nice guy, Harry Enten.

ENTEN: Your neighborhood friendly gentleman. Isn't that nice?

BERMAN: Where's the race?

ENTEN: OK. So here's the race. These are two sort of looks. These are polls that came out over the last week. And what you see here, Fox News has Biden ahead nationally at 32 percent. Warren at 22 percent. Sanders at 17 percent. Harris, Buttigieg, way back, five and four.

Quinnipiac University gives you a slightly different look. Warren is up in the Quinnipiac University poll at 30 percent. Biden right there at 27 percent. Sanders way back at 11.

And I think this is generally what we're seeing now, John, is we're seeing that Biden and Warren are forming a top tier together. Sanders basically stalled out in the mid-teens. And then Buttigieg and Harris way, way back.

BERMAN: All right, you see new numbers on impeachment also.

ENTEN: Well, yes. So this is basically the trend line that I'm just trying to illustrate here, which is --

BERMAN: Before and after impeachment --

ENTEN: Before and after the impeachment inquiry started, right. And I just want to point out, you know, there's been all this talk about Joe Biden perhaps dropping. He's not. He's basically at the same level, right, if you take an -- Harry's average of polls. Twenty-nine percent and 29 percent.

The big thing here that's going on is Warren is continuing this slow, upward trajectory, right? She was at 21 percent before the inquiry started. She's at 25 percent now. And I think that's generally what we've been seeing is that Warren has had this slow climb up while Biden's been steady at around 30 percent.

BERMAN: You've got 72 primaries.

ENTEN: Well, he -- look at this. So basically I'm trying to give you an understanding of where this race is right now and what these numbers actually mean. So what we basically see is that Biden, in the average, is about 29 percent, Warren's at about 25 percent. And what this gives you an understanding of is, if you combine these percentages -- basically I took the national polling and who has won, the percentage of nomination won, and Biden and Warren together, if you were to go back historically speaking, they would win the nomination, one of the two of them, about 70 percent of the time. So it is very much the case that this primary still has a lot of time to go. But if you were a betting man, you would bet heavily that one of these two, either Biden or Warren, would be the Democratic nominee.

BERMAN: So Elizabeth Warren's numbers have been rising. What about her strengths and weaknesses among groups? Because she's had very specific strengths and weaknesses.

ENTEN: Yes. So if you were to pick out Elizabeth Warren's strongest group at this point, it would be very liberals. Remember early on, Biden, Warren and Sanders were kind of tied among that group. Very liberals, though. She's now at 44 percent. She is running away with this group nationally. It's not enough to win, but it's enough to make her competitive.

But if you were looking for a voting bloc where she is not really making any inroads with at all, it's black voters in South Carolina. That's obviously a huge primary that will be coming up on the calendar. She's at only 7 percent in an average of polls among black voters in South Carolina. She's got to improve there.

BERMAN: You know, the advantage she has there is fourth -- South Carolina is the fourth contest.

ENTEN: Right.

BERMAN: She might have time. The first contest --

ENTEN: The first contest is in Iowa, where she's basically in a top tier with bidden, 23-21. She's right there. One gentlemen I keep my eye out on, Pete Buttigieg, who's nowhere in the national polls but is running a very close third place in Iowa.

BERMAN: So who else are you looking for on the stage tonight?

ENTEN: Yes, look, make or break time. Klobuchar, O'Rourke, Castro, Gabbard. If they want to make the next debate, they need three to four more qualifying polls to make the November debate.


ENTEN: And, at this point, they're not there. It doesn't look close. So tonight is make or break for these four.

BERMAN: Wow. OK. Very, finally, we're all rooting for the Astros tonight.

ENTEN: Yes, go Astros. Come on, those Yankees stink. We need these Astros to take a 2-1 ALCS lead today because, if they don't, if they don't, I'm going to be a very sad man, and I know you will be too.

BERMAN: You said it, so I don't have to.

ENTEN: There we go.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Harry scares me.

All right, we do have some breaking news.

Hunter Biden is speaking out for the first time since the Ukraine controversy erupted.

Take a listen.


HUNTER BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S SON: No, in retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part is that I think that was poor judgment because I don't believe now, when I look back on it, I know that there was -- did nothing wrong at all.


However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is a -- it's a -- it's a swamp in many ways? Yes. And so I take -- I take full responsibility for that.

Do I -- did I do anything improper? No. And not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.


CAMEROTA: OK. Back with us, Angela Rye, April Ryan and Bakari Sellers.

Bakari has endorsed Kamala Ryan.

RYAN: Kamala Harris.

CAMEROTA: Harris. Kamala Harris.

RYAN: Wait a minute, Ryan?

CAMEROTA: I know. She was all -- I made -- I made her -- well, your sister.

RYAN: You made her my cousin.


Angela --

RYE: (INAUDIBLE) cousin, yes.

CAMEROTA: What did you think of how Hunter just explained himself and whether or not it will have an impact on Joe Biden?

RYE: This is -- it's so interesting. Like, there was a day and age, just right on -- right before the 2016 election where ethics and transparency mattered. And now it has been replaced by what is perceived as authenticity, but we all know that there are lies in the hundred of -- probably hundreds of thousands now coming out of this White House. And so we're talking about optics and appearance like we used to talk about pre-2016 when it comes to the Bidens, but when it comes time to talk about Trump and his more than 3,000 conflicts and when you include his kids, even more than that, and actual financial benefit from him sitting in the highest office of the land, that, I think, is the real challenge. When are we going to start measuring him at the same standard that we treat everyone else?

BERMAN: It's the morning of a debate, right?

RYE: Yes.

RYAN: That's right.

BERMAN: And we are hearing from the son of one of the candidates who will be on the debate stage.

And, April, he used the word "swamp" to describe where he was doing work there. I have to believe that is language this morning that the Biden campaign headquarters may not be pleased with.

RYAN: Well, that play on words could be deadly. Politically deadly.

This comment from Hunter Biden is going to hang over that debate tonight like an albatross around the debate stage's neck, the Democrats as well, more so for Joe Biden himself.

Look, this comes at a bad time because you have a lot of Americans who are very upset with this nepotism issue when it comes to the president of the United States. And now you have one of the leading candidates, if not the leading candidate for the Democratic side, having issues with his son involved in some -- almost something similar to what possibly is what the president --

CAMEROTA: A foreign conflict of interest -- I mean a conflict of interest if -- when their fathers are in the White House or vice president.

SELLERS: But -- but -- but this is -- but let's -- but Democrats -- but, Democrats, we just have these conniption fits wherever you begin to criticize or critique one of our own because we have flashbacks to 2016.

RYAN: Tell the truth and shame the devil.

SELLERS: The fact is this, this was -- this was optically poor, to say the least, to go and take this job with the Ukrainian gas company was just awful. Joe Biden -- I mean Hunter Biden acknowledged that.

I actually compare it to Hillary Clinton's server, right? I say that it was -- it was wrong. It was something that shouldn't be done. No, it's not illegal. No, it's not really unethical. But, optically, it looks really, really bad. And we should make better decisions than that.

But Democrats, they're going to get on that stage tonight, and the Biden campaign has framed it that no one can bring this up. How dare you bring this up.

RYAN: Oh, it's coming up.

SELLERS: How dare you -- how dare you talk about Hunter Biden. Nobody's talking about Hunter Biden other than to say that he should not have done this, which he acknowledges himself.

And I think that we have to hold ourselves to even a higher standard. And it's OK to say, because what's going to happen is we'll get off and they'll be like, well, what about the Trumps? We can talk about this being a poor decision --

RYE: I said (INAUDIBLE) --

SELLERS: And we can talk about how unethical the Trumps are as well.

You did say that as well.

RYE: Because, I think, it -- we have to have the same set of standards. I'm sick of it.

RYAN: Right.

SELLERS: I agree with that.

RYE: You know, and at first I would -- often I still say like, man, white privilege is real because we know of Barack Obama -- I've said that in speeches where I'm like, can you imagine if Barack Obama would have done 1/100 of the things, right? Like, there's no way that he's --

RYAN: He would have been gone the first day.

RYE: Right. And so that's my issue. It's like I -- I'm happy to have this conversation, but we've been screaming -- some of us, the wiser among us, have been screaming about impeachment for a really, really, really long time because he's unethical, immoral.

SELLERS: Oh. Well, that's -- yes. I didn't know where you were going with it.

RYAN: I know.


BERMAN: Hunter Biden is trying to thread a needle there, and whether he did or not, I'll let you all decide there.

RYE: Yes.

BERMAN: But the needle he's trying to thread is, I didn't break any laws. He goes, I only think what I did was wrong is because of how it is now being used and perceived there.

RYAN: But the optics -- the optics and nepotism. I mean it's the same thing people are screaming about Trump.

And Joe Biden is going into another debate with blood in the water yet again. He's going to be attacked for this.

SELLERS: Like --

RYAN: This is --

CAMEROTA: You do you think that -- you think that his fellow Democrats will bring this up?

SELLERS: A few -- a couple of them, yes.

RYAN: Let me tell you something. If they brought up some other stuff --

RYE: Tulsi.

SELLERS: Tulsi. Tom Steyer.

RYAN: If they -- yes.

SELLERS: Listen, they -- they're --

RYAN: Let me tell you --

SELLERS: The ones on that --

CAMEROTA: They'll go for it.

SELLERS: The ones that Harry just said, the four at the bottom, Castro --


RYAN: This is not a third rail issue. They are going to go in on him. This is yet another debate where Joe Biden is open. He's got a wound and they see the blood.

SELLER: The question -- the question is this. Listen, and I think.