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Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo to Push Turkey for Syria Ceasefire; Winners and Losers from CNN Democratic Debate; Forth Worth Community Outraged Over Police Shooting. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Later today, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security adviser Robert O'Brien will travel to Turkey to discuss an end to the Turkish military operation in Syria. But Turkish President Erdogan has dismissed calls for a ceasefire, says he is not worried about consequences from the U.S.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Erdogan's comments come as Russian-backed troops in Syria take control of an area that was, until recently, an active U.S. military base.

With us now, our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. She is at the Turkey-Syria border. Also, at the Pentagon, our Barbara Starr joins us.

So, Arwa, let me just begin with you. What is happening now? And what is the situation that Pompeo and Pence are coming to try to move Erdogan's hand in?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in theory, they're here to negotiate or coming here to negotiate some sort of a ceasefire, but Erdogan's already given his answer to that, and it is absolutely not. Turkey is not going to negotiate with terrorists because, remember, they consider the YPG, that Kurdish fighting force that was America's ally on the ground in Syria, to be a terrorist organization.

And there are still at least in some parts of northern Syria pretty intense pitched battles that are still ongoing like in the town of Ras al-Ayn which is a Syrian border town. You can see that thick plume of black smoke and then throughout the course of the day, and we've been here since morning, we've heard gun battles. We've heard explosions. In other parts of the country, though, remember once the Kurds realize they couldn't rely on the Americans, they then turn to Damascus and the Russians for help.

So Bashar al-Assad's regime's troops have moved north. There are parts of northern Syria where they haven't been for years that are now under their control and in other areas, it's actually been the Russians that have conducted patrols to keep the army of the Syrian president and the ^Turks and their Arab rebel allies on the ground away from one another. And experts will tell you that right now, the Russians are the ones

that are the playmaker and the kingmaker inside Syria. America basically sidelined itself. So it's going to be interesting to see how this Pence-led delegation is going to try to pressure Turkey to pull back from this operation that it thinks is critical to its survival.


SCIUTTO: And that it's gaining what it wants. It's getting the territory it wants.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: It's getting to attack the Kurdish forces. I mean, they call them terrorists but Americans served alongside them fighting real terrorists, ISIS. So we should note that.

Arwa -- sorry, Barbara, those U.S. forces, as they were taking part in this very swift withdrawal came under fire from Turkish-backed forces. I mean, you've been hearing reports that the Americans felt they were being bracketed. In other words, intentionally targeted with artillery fire. What do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there have been a couple of incidents. That one a few days back was of concern, enough concern that the U.S. fired flairs to declare their position and those artillery guns did back off. Yesterday, another incident where Turkish-backed opposition apparently came within a couple of miles of U.S. forces and the U.S. sent up an apache helicopter to basically drive them off. And they retreated.

The priority here at the Pentagon right now is the safety of U.S. troops, about 1,000 of them, as they withdraw from northern Syria. There's a lot of players on the battlefield and a lot of concern that they're going to get too close to U.S. troops. The U.S. telling the Turks where all U.S. forces are and warning them to keep away.

We have now seen the first few flights of equipment and troops leave northern Syria. So this withdrawal is fully under way.


It is expected to conclude in the coming days and weeks. People talk about a hasty withdrawal. It is, I think, in the view of the Pentagon, a declared withdrawal. They've been told to get out. They're going to do it. They hope to do it in an orderly fashion in their words.


STARR: But if it comes to it, they do have the authority to blow up their equipment and just pack and go.

SCIUTTO: Orderly for them perhaps, but not for the Kurdish allies left behind. Arwa Damon, Barbara Starr, thanks very much to both of you.

Some new fundraising numbers are out and some Democratic candidates are running surprisingly low on cash. We're going to speak to a senior adviser to the Biden campaign about their fundraising efforts, last night's debate, how they did, and much more.



HARLOW: Welcome back. Former vice president Joe Biden making a clear effort to tout his decades-long resume during the debate last night. But that also opened up the door for his opponents to pounce. Watch this.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to stay something that is probably going to offend some people here, but I'm the only one on this stage that has gotten anything really big done.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You talked about working with Republicans and getting things done. But you know what you also got done, and I say this as a good friend. You got the disastrous war in Iraq done. You got a bankruptcy bill which is hurting middle class families all over this country. You got trade agreements like NAFTA and PNTR with China done which have cost us four million jobs.


HARLOW: All right. Let's discuss that and a lot more. Symone Sanders, senior adviser to the Biden campaign, is here.

Good morning. Thank you for getting up early. I know not a lot of sleep on debate nights. So thank you for being here, Symone.


HARLOW: All right. Obviously, you talked to the candidate, you talked to the former Vice President Joe Biden after the debate. So let me ask you this. What grade does he give himself last night?

SANDERS: We gave -- he gave himself an A, and let me tell you why. He stood on that stage very forcefully and very poignantly, and articulated that he is the only person in this race ready on day one to address the grave foreign policy issues that are facing our world. You know, Vice President Biden has spent thousands of hours in the situation room doing the work.

And, frankly, Poppy, with what's going on in Syria today, what's happening as Turkish forces are advancing on the Syrian army, it is -- and Trump has sold out our Kurdish allies, it is, just frankly, it's not OK to have candidates out there who are not willing or ready to address these grave foreign policy issues. And we'll say that --

HARLOW: Who is not ready?

SANDERS: The last thing I want to note on this, Poppy, is -- well, Poppy, last night, Senator Warren, in a confusing way, frankly, said that she wanted to take all of our forces out of the Middle East. And I wonder what Israel feels about that. I wonder what our Syrian allies and our Kurdish allies feel about that right now as they feel abandoned by the Trump administration, abandoned by our U.S. allies. So, we hope that she'll clarify that comment today.

But, you know, Vice President Biden will give himself an A. This, for the first time, I believe, was a heavy foreign policy debate. And I think we did well on foreign policy.

HARLOW: All right. So I think you just answered my follow-up there, I think, who you guys think isn't ready on the foreign policy front.

Let me get to the fundraising numbers because what we're learning this morning from the FEC numbers doesn't match the performance that you and the vice president think that he gave last night. And I wonder if you're concerned about him. He started October, just under $9 million in your campaign coffers. That is less than the other top three candidates. You see there Sanders at $33 million. Warren, $25 million. Buttigieg, almost $24 million.

All three of them outraised him in the third quarter, and he spent more than he made, than he brought in last quarter. Why are those numbers not aligning with the performance you think he's giving?

SANDERS: Well, Poppy, we'll say that we have the resources to run our race. And so we know that this is a race that we've always said it was going to be a dog fight and we've always said that it was going to be close and that we are going to have to be able to compete well through Super Tuesday and beyond. And we will have the resources to do that. I think when we look at the voters out there in places like New Hampshire and places like Iowa, where Vice President Biden will be this afternoon, to give a speech, or a major speech on foreign policy as it relates to Syria and what's happening in the region right now.

If you look at South Carolina and Nevada, what we're seeing on the ground is actually the voters are responding to our message. He -- Vice President Biden is the only person in this race who demonstrated he can put together the broadest coalition needed to win not only this nomination but in a general election.

HARLOW: Do you think those numbers are going to change, Symone, in the next quarter? Do you have an indication those numbers are going to flip flop and he's going to do better?

SANDERS: Well, we did have a great fundraising week, frankly, when -- at the height of Donald Trump attacking Vice President Biden and his family with these lies and allegations and smears as it relates to Ukraine. And so, you know, frankly, we've been sending out e-mails, and we have been seeing a good response online. But --


SANDERS: We are going to continue to run our race, Poppy.


SANDERS: We're not concerned at all. If the question is, are we concerned?

HARLOW: All right.

SANDERS: We're not. We're seeing a good response on the ground.

HARLOW: OK. So to the issue you just brought up which is Ukraine and the president's unfounded smears against the vice president and his son Hunter Biden, here's a moment from that question that Anderson asked him on the debate stage last night. Let's play it.



BIDEN: I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine. No one has indicated I have.


HARLOW: But, according to the "New Yorker" article, you know, the Adam Entous piece, Hunter Biden indicated they had had discussions about it where Hunter recalled his father discussing Burisma with him and said to Hunter, quote, I hope you know what you're doing, and I said, I do. And then in the ABC News interview this week, Hunter Biden acknowledged that the "New Yorker's" characterization was accurate.

Is the former vice president going to clarify more what he meant on stage last night by saying they never talked at all ever about it?

SANDERS: I don't think he has anything to clarify, Poppy. I think this has been asked and answered. Asked and answered. It was asked and answered last night. And you just asked it today so I'll answer it again. Hunter Biden did nothing wrong. Vice President Biden did nothing wrong, and every single media outlet has said that there is no there, there to these allegations, lies and smears that the Trump campaign, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have injected into this atmosphere.

What Hunter Biden said in that interview around this was that after looking at media reports, seeing that he was on this board.

HARLOW: Right.

SANDERS: The next time that he saw his father, his father said, I hope you know what you're doing.

HARLOW: OK. SANDERS: That is not a conversation. Look, we're not going to play

Donald Trump's game here. This -- Donald Trump is saying this, Poppy, because he is worried about facing Vice President Biden in a general election.

HARLOW: So, Symone --

SANDERS: That's the only reason this came up. That's the only reason we're having this conversation now.

HARLOW: Let me ask you one final question. I know you guys like your polling numbers in terms of how the vice president is doing among African-American voters. Even in the latest Quinnipiac poll this week, they are really strong. He's outperforming all the other candidates by a wide margin. But there was one reading in it that I want you to weigh in on. And that is when black Democratic voters were asked in the Quinnipiac poll this year, which candidate do you think has the policy ideas, that's the one area where Senator Warren is ahead of the vice president at 39 percent to 25 percent. What do you make of that? Why do you think that is?


SANDERS: Well, Poppy, look, I think that it is --

HARLOW: I know that's not the one you wanted me to choose.

SANDERS: Poppy, I think it's great to have a plan, but we need more than plans to beat Donald Trump. We need more than plans. We have to be able to execute. And whether we're talking about health care or -- and I'll just say, you know, there are some people in this race that have a plan for everything and Senator Warren doesn't have a plan for health care. She doesn't have a plan for taking our troops out of the Middle East. A comment she made last night that we hope that she'll clarify.

Vice President Biden, unlike everybody else in this race for the last seven months, has been asking the tough -- answering the tough questions that folks like you, Poppy, have asked. He has taken fire from all sides.

HARLOW: All right.

SANDERS: And he has been very clear about what he believes and what his vision is. And so we think that going into the fall, and into the spring, that other candidates, and we hope the other candidates are going to have to answer these questions. And we're confident on where we stand and we look forward to other people articulating their case.

HARLOW: Symone Sanders, always good to have you. Come back soon. Thanks very much.

SANDERS: Thank you.

HARLOW: You got it. SCIUTTO: We have this just in to CNN. And that is the former top

aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Michael McKinley, has arrived at Capitol Hill for his testimony today. This was just moments ago. McKinley served for 37 years in the State Department, as I said, advising the secretary of State. He resigned, and we're told that in his opening statement today, he's going to get into the reasons for his resignation, specifically his concerns that the department's leadership was not supporting career foreign service officers, including the now-ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

We'll bring you more as we know it. Please stay with us.



SCIUTTO: Events moving quickly on Capitol Hill today. This happening just moments ago, Kurt Volker, he was the special envoy for Ukraine, centrally involved in discussions between the White House and the Ukrainian president, and all the questions that are the subject of this impeachment inquiry, he with a return visit to Capitol Hill today unannounced to this point.

We don't know why he's coming back to testify. Are they follow-up questions for him following his testimony earlier in the week? You may remember the White House attempted to block his testimony, but went ahead and testified as have other witnesses to the impeachment inquiry.

As we learn more about Volker's testimony, of course, we'll share it here.

HARLOW: OK. Also, outraged community members calling for top city officials in Fort Worth, Texas, to be fired. This follows that deadly police shooting over the weekend.

Residents chanting there, you heard them, "We don't feel safe," at an emotional city council meeting last night.

SCIUTTO: A woman shot to death in her own home. The first meeting since that now former police officer shot the woman on the right, in her own home while she was playing video games with her nephew.

Omar Jimenez is following the latest developments from Fort Worth.

Listen, it's an emotional subject. You can understand why people don't feel safe. If you are sitting in your living room at night, and this would have happened to you. Tell us what we expect today.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we expect to see today is the case moving forward potentially towards a grand jury. We spoke to the district attorney's office last night who say once they get the official case filing from the police, they'll have 180 days to put this in front of a grand jury. A spokesman saying it will likely happen much sooner.

Now you saw some of those images from that tense Fort Worth city council meeting. This is an that has gripped not only the police communities and the residents here in Fort Worth but across the country as well, them chanting we don't feel safe. Another community leader I spoke to said that we don't know if we can survive a 911 call. And that is not a place that anyone wants to be in, obviously.

And not just for the case of Atatiana Jefferson. Now, one policy piece of significance that came out of that city council meeting is the mayor is calling for a third party investigation into the overall procedures, use of force policies, and just processes in general when it comes to the Fort Worth Police Department. It's a part of what the Atatiana Jefferson's family has asked from the beginning, saying the police department can't be trusted to investigate themselves -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: It's a real crisis there, and thank you for being there all week to follow what happens and what the city does about this. Thank you, Omar. We appreciate it.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.