Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

New Details About The Federal Investigation Of Giuliani And His Work; Trump Denies Giving Turkey Green Light For Syria Operation; Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) Reacts To Trump Administration's Syria Actions. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:10]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. We have more breaking news this afternoon on the President's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. More witnesses are testifying how Giuliani was really the point man on the President pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Biden's.

And now we have the new details about the Federal investigation of Giuliani and his work. So let's get right to CNN Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez, who is breaking this for us right now. And so you have new details from the Justice Department's Southern District of New York -- SDNY, which is the office, let's remind everyone that prosecuted Michael Cohen. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, what we're learning is that this is an investigation that goes far longer and far back further than we realize, and also that is much broader than we initially thought.

And one of the things we're getting a picture of -- a better picture of is that, you know, this involves not only Giuliani's financial entanglements with allegedly corrupt Ukrainian figures, but also a counterintelligence angle to this and essentially, the idea is that perhaps Rudy Giuliani and some of his business dealings were part of essentially an influence operation, a foreign influence operation with a target being the Trump White House.

Now, there's a lot here to unpack and we also -- we all know about the two charges, the charges that were filed last week, against some of the Rudy Giuliani's associates including two of them based in Florida. They're still here in prison or in jail here in Alexandria, and we're expecting them to appear in court in New York on Thursday.

And so that was the first indication that there was this broader investigation that's looking at whether financial that there was finances from overseas, that were coming into United States to try to influence elections.

And Rudy Giuliani's part of this, obviously, is the fact that he is the President's personal attorney, and he has some influence with the President and with the White House and policy here in the United States.

BALDWIN: OK, a couple of a couple of follow up questions for you. You said first of all, Evan, this investigation goes back. Do we know how far back it goes?

PEREZ: Well, it goes back several months. Kenneth McCallion, is a lawyer in New York who talked to our Sara Murray and he says that the FBI agents came to him in February or March and wanting to ask questions not only about these two men Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, these are two of the guys who were indicted last week, but also about their ties to Rudy Giuliani.

They were interested in whether there were any counterintelligence concerns that arose from those from those ties, those business dealings. And so that's the first indication we have that prosecutors in New York have been digging into this much longer than we all realized.

BALDWIN: Wow. And then who in New York, who at SDNY is investigating it?

PEREZ: Well, we know that not only are these counterintelligence agents and these kind of intelligence people in New York working on this, but we also know that the Public Integrity Unit, the people who do public corruption cases in New York have been at the center of this, essentially running this case.

They're involved with the Parnas and the Fruman case that we now know is public. And we also know these are the same guys that were in charge of the case against Michael Cohen, the President's former personal attorney.

So you see now that not only is the current -- the President's current personal attorney involved in this case, obviously, but these are the same people who did the Michael Cohen case and we all know how that turned out.

BALDWIN: Where is he? That's right.

PEREZ: He is in prison.

BALDWIN: He is in prison. Evan Perez, thank you very much. Let's get some smart analysis with these two brilliant ladies. Asha Rangappa is a former FBI Special Agent, and now a CNN Legal and National Security Analyst and CNN Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel is back with us today.

So, wow. I thought we were talking about A, and then five minutes ago, now, we're talking about B. So let's -- you know, starting with you, just with your legal hat on, the fact that this investigation is now focusing on whether this foreign influence was trying to take advantage of Giuliani's business ties and perhaps influence things over here. How big is that? ASHA RANGAPPA CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's very

big. Because it means that whether or not Rudy Giuliani may have committed a crime, the FBI believes that he may pose a national security threat to the United States.

[14:05:05]

BALDWIN: Let's stop. He may pose a national security threat.

RANGAPPA: He may pose a national security threat to the United States because the counterintelligence investigation is not predicated on a violation of Federal law. It's predicated on whether someone might be wittingly or unwittingly furthering the interest of a foreign power, whether it's a foreign official, a foreign entity.

You know -- and we know that from -- by the way, I want to make clear that this is not mutually exclusive with a criminal investigation. These can be happening on parallel tracks, they're just, you know, going at different goals.

BALDWIN: OK. And would this explain why, you know, we've been reporting in the last 24 hours that Giuliani's friends are like, hey, you may want to hire a criminal attorney. Would that all be then tied into this? And --

RANGAPPA: Yes. I mean, you want the criminal attorney to basically tell Giuliani to stop talking.

BALDWIN: Yes.

RANGAPPA: And not keep sabotaging himself. I mean, again, the counterintelligence piece may not necessarily involve a violation of the law. It can if, for example, he is doing it willingly that could be a violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

I will say the fact that Evan mentioned that the FBI agents were questioning people about this as far back as February or March.

When a criminal intelligence investigation lasts longer than six months - that means it is the highest level of investigation. In other words, it poses the most serious threat; otherwise, it would have to be shut down after six months.

BALDWIN: Got it. Got it. So with all of this swirling, this is my question for you, and I want to play some sound first.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BALDWIN: With all of this swirling and Giuliani's friends saying hey, maybe you should consider getting a criminal attorney. This is how the President still speaks glowingly about his friend, Rudy Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rudy was a great prosecutor. He was the best mayor in the history of the City of New York as far as I can see.

Rudy was seeking out corruption and I think there's nothing wrong with seeking out corruption. Did you have, Steve?

QUESTION: Did Rudy register as a foreign lobbyist?

TRUMP: I don't know what he did. I don't know. That's up to him. That you have to ask -- excuse me, no. You have to ask Rudy those questions. Don't ask me.

But Rudy was not one of many people that was incensed at the corruption that took place during that election, pure corruption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: My question to you is, do you think the loyalty will last?

GANGEL: So what do we know about Trump world? Loyalty tends to be a one way street and just the other day, he was saying that he didn't know if Rudy was even his lawyer.

So I think now that this news has broken, let's wait and see. We're going to see the President later this afternoon.

Just for political context about the fallout of this. There's a new Gallup poll that came out today that showed that -- let me get the numbers right -- that 52 percent of Americans support impeaching and removing Trump from office. Yes, Democrats were 89 percent, Republicans were only six percent.

But here's the critical number, 55 percent of independents supported this. Republicans need those independents. Donald Trump needs those independents. That was bad news this morning.

And when you hear this kind of news about an investigation, that's more bad news.

BALDWIN: And you're also hearing more from Republicans who had this meeting what? Yesterday? Last evening?

GANGEL: So last night, we just found out, there was a meeting by the GOP leadership in the House. It was a whip meeting, but they asked the Defense Secretary Mark Esper to come and address the group.

And it quickly turned into what was described as tense, hostile questioning about what the policy was on Syria and Turkey and they weren't very happy with the answers.

I was told member after member came up, and that one of them said, this is the worst foreign policy decision of my lifetime.

BALDWIN: Wow.

GANGEL: To -- this is a Republican member to the Republican Secretary of Defense. So they have another problem here with the foreign policy on this. They're very upset about it. BALDWIN: So back over to you, what happens now that you know,

obviously House Democrats, we heard Nancy Pelosi say she is holding off on any kind of full vote.

We know they're trying to get all their ducks in order. They're trying to get, you know, subpoena, documents, et cetera. We know certain people ala Rudy Giuliani, ala Vice President Mike Pence are defying those subpoenas.

So for people watching at home, what is Congress's option? If they say no, over and over?

RANGAPPA: Well, first they would say they are getting a lot of people in to talk to them. So you know, they are going to get evidence and what we're seeing is that not only has the whistleblower complaint been corroborated, it has now expanded, you know, and showing a picture, a long term picture of career officials being thwarted in doing their jobs.

[14:10:10]

RANGAPPA: And a shadow foreign policy acting actually against what they believe was in the best interest of the United States.

Now you have Giuliani under this counterintelligence investigation, which suggests that the FBI also thought that this might be against the interests of the United States.

So I think that even if a few of these people decide not to testify that this is still to be --

BALDWIN: They still have this mosaic --

RANGAPPA: They still have this mosaic. They have a prima facie case and that their refusal to comply itself becomes an impeachable act in in the form of obstructing a congressional inquiry, which, as you know, was an Article of Impeachment for Nixon.

BALDWIN: Got it. Asha and Jamie, thank you very much. More breaking news ahead.

The chaos, the bipartisan backlash growing as President Trump continues to slam America's Kurdish allies in Syria. President Trump saying their pain has nothing to do with him.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:15:49]

BALDWIN: We're back with even more breaking news this afternoon as Turkey targets Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria, President Trump is making his stance crystal clear, quote, "That has nothing to do with us."

Moments ago, President Trump was asked if he was surprised by Turkish President Erdogan's decision to move forward with an assault on that region, and this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It didn't surprise me at all. This is -- they've been warring for many years. It's unnatural for us, but it's sort of natural for them. They fight. And they fight long and they fight hard. And they've been fighting Syria for a long time and on the border, that's the border with Syria.

And I say why are we protecting Syria's land? Assad is not a friend of ours. Why are we protecting their land?

And Syria also has a relationship with the Kurds, who by the way, are no angels, okay.

Syria doesn't want Turkey to take its land. I can understand that. But what does that have to do with the United States of America?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And just a reminder that this Turkish offensive began after President Trump surprised his own military when he ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops effectively clearing the way for the Turkish assault on the Kurdish forces there.

President Trump is also denying reports that the Turkish President just dismissed the U.S. calls for a ceasefire. Nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will soon head to Turkey to try and convince Erdogan in person to stop this assault.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live for us in the Pentagon. Also with us, retired Air Force Colonel, Cedric Leighton. He is also a CNN Military Analyst.

So, Barbara, just first to you, you know, listening to President Trump asked about this at several points today and he says, our soldiers, right, our American soldiers are not in harm's way. Is that true?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. And we've talked to several military officials. The actual reality on the ground, the President did withdraw a small number of troops from the very northern most outposts in Syria. They have been pulled back from that situation.

But right now, as we are talking today, there is a significant number of U.S. troops still in Syria and they have consolidated many of them at one position in Northern Syria. They will begin trying to get them out of there, their equipment and their weapons and begin to fly them out over the next several days. Some initial flights have already gone.

But these folks, these military people in Northern Syria, still are very much in harm's way. It's a delicate point to say this, but you will find that every senior official here in the Pentagon will tell you their safety right now is priority number one in the Defense Department until they are all out. Everything else takes a second seat -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it. Got it. And Colonel to you. President Trump also added that this is now about two countries fighting over land. That's the context to the quote, "This has nothing to do with us." How do you see it?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Brooke, I see it that it has everything to do with us. First of all, you know, we were there not because of the Kurdish and Turkish fight. We were there because of ISIS.

But as part of this, we had the allies in the form of the Kurds that helped us defeat ISIS to the extent that we've done so.

And it's really a misreading of history to say that this is something that has nothing to do with us. We are part of this whole mix because we were there to defeat ISIS. We are part of this mix, because we have interest in the Middle East and to leave there is an absolutely cardinal mistake to make at this particular point in time.

BALDWIN: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had a lot to say on Twitter this afternoon. Let me just read Barbara one of his tweets, quote, "However, I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements, this will be a disaster worse than President Obama's decision to leave Iraq."

Do you think that that is an overstatement? Might he be spot on?

STARR: Well, people will tell you and especially President Trump will tell you that Lindsey Graham is an advocate, a very strong advocate for the use of military force and the deployment of U.S. troops overseas. That's pretty much facts that are in evidence.

[14:20:10]

STARR: I think the real issue right now that has people puzzled by the President in saying this other than his personal opinion, perhaps is, is there not a strategic reason to keep a U.S. presence across the Middle East? To fight ISIS? To prevent a resurgence of ISIS? That is actually what U.S. troops were doing in Syria.

They had no involvement in the Kurdish-Turkish fight. They were there to try and continue the effort to defeat ISIS.

The only question in terms of that situation now may well be how fast ISIS comes back. You have an awful lot of shady characters moving around in Syria right now. ISIS, al-Qaeda adherence, Turkish forces are on the move, Russian forces are on the move. Syrian forces are on the move. It remains very dangerous. And ISIS sees that and may be able very quickly to exploit it.

BALDWIN: Colonel, do you agree and how quickly might they exploit it?

LEIGHTON: Oh, I absolutely agree with what Barbara just said, this is the proverbial vacuum that ISIS is looking for. And as far as how quickly they're going to be able to do it, Brooke? They can do it basically within days, if not weeks, and they'll go incrementally to some extent.

But if they can find a way to have a spectacular attack, ISIS will do so. They'll mount a spectacular attack either against our forces or against Syrian forces or against Turkish forces, they will do that.

And then of course, they'll go beyond Syria to do what they've done in the past, and it's a very dangerous situation that we've unleashed here.

BALDWIN: And of course, there's the point about when speaking about Russia, filling the vacuum in northern Syria left by the withdrawal of U.S. forces, that's what President Trump said, I say, welcome it.

Thank you both so much, Barbara and Colonel Leighton. And before we get to break, I just want to clarify something that CNN reported earlier on a different program. We quoted President Trump as saying it's not our problem when referring to Turkey's incursion into Syria.

And that quote, came from the pool reporter who was the lone press representative when the President spoke in the Oval Office this morning, but when the tape released later, we learned that the President actually said quote, "They have a problem at the border. It's not our border." He did not say not our problem. And we just wanted to be clear to point that out.

Just ahead here on CNN, Senator Elizabeth Warren now a 2020 frontrunner faces fire from her rivals at the CNN Presidential Debate. How she responded to those new attacks?

And why, oh why is Kim Jong-un riding on this white horse on a snow covered mountain? The picture of the day. Experts say it could mean something big. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:27:30]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): ... express my gratitude to the Kurds. They were great fighters. We had a terrific alliance with them that put ISIL not totally out of business, but certainly in a very difficult spot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was the Senate Majority Leader just now speaking up on the Hill defending the Kurds, as the President has not. He joins fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is lashing out President Trump for the chaos, the calamity that is really Northern Syria now after the U.S. abandoned its Kurdish allies.

The Kurds are now fighting back against an onslaught by Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He will have American blood on his hands

if he abandons the Kurds because ISIS will come back; and if any American is killed anywhere because of a resurging ISIS, it will fall on Trump administration like it did Obama.

I blame the terrorists. I blame Erdogan for the violence, but I do look to President Trump to fix it. Look what happened when Obama --

QUESTION: Does he not deserve blame as well?

GRAHAM: Yes, he would deserve blame if he allows ISIS to come back and the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey. He absolutely deserves blame.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So Lindsey Graham said he deserves blame he needs to fix it. This is what President Trump says in return.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people's wars. I want to get out of the Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Senator Maggie Hassan serves on the Homeland Security Committee. She also just returned from visiting Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

So Senator Hassan, thank you so much for being with me. And we just played that, you know, back to back, Senator Graham, and then the President exchanging jabs over what's happening in Northern Syria. Who do you agree with? And do you think Senator Graham is right that Trump would have blood on his hands?

SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): Brooke, thank you for having me on. And yes, I did just get back from Afghanistan, where I was able to get on the ground information from our military and our diplomatic corps about the work we're doing with Afghanistan to counterterrorism.

We are seeing a resurgence of ISIS in Afghanistan and I am very concerned and troubled by the President's decision really on a whim to have U.S. forces exit Northern Syria, opening it up, giving the green light to Erdogan and Turkey to come in and invade.

And now we are getting reports that ISIS fighters who were being detained by the Kurds are on the loose.

[14:30:09]