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CNN NEWSROOM

Pompeo Silent When Aide Asked Him to Back Diplomat; Interview with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), U.S. Leaving Syria; Russia Moves into Vacuum in Syria; Trump Says Kurds Are No Angels; Democratic Aide on White House Cancellation of Syria Briefing, No Reason Given; Pelosi Holds Off Impeachment Vote While White House Stalls; Ocasio-Cortez, Squad Members Endorse Bernie Sanders; Family Spokesman Says Trump Ambushed Grieving Parents during White House Visit. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: -- to say Michael McKinley testified that he was disturbed by Secretary Pompeo's silence over Yovanovitch's dismissal, McKinley resigned last week. And McKinley is another piece in the whole picture that shows all the action that was happening before the infamous July 25th phone call between President Trump and his counterpart in Ukraine.

Tuesday, diplomat George Kent revealed all the way back to March that he was told to quote/unquote, lay low after he complained about the Yovanovitch situation and the moves by Rudy Giuliani to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Kent also said that that in May he was told by Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that Ukraine policy was now run by the man that he referred to as the three amigos. Those amigos being fellow diplomats Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. And then just two weeks before that phone call sources say that the National Security Adviser at the time, John Bolton, warned that Giuliani was a quote/unquote, hand grenade.

All right. Got all that. Heather Conley once served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush 43 administration. So Heather, a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here. and there's so much to pick apart. Let's start with McKinley. So he's testifying that he left abruptly over his concern that the leadership over at State wasn't supporting the career foreign service. Do you see this as a direct attack on Mike Pompeo?

HEATHER CONLEY, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER BUSH 43: So, so much of this, Brooke, is really leadership and management 101. It is what Secretary Pompeo was drilled into him from his time as a graduate of West Point in the Army. This is about earning the respect of the people who follow you and protecting those that follow you. And so I think what's been very clear is that over the last several months the career foreign service has raised some strong concerns and Secretary Pompeo has not addressed them and defended the foreign service and the civil service that work in the State Department. And that's a real problem for leadership and management. It's something that's very essential. BALDWIN: What about also at State the Deputy Assistant Secretary

George Kent testified that he was told by a supervisor to lay low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine undermining U.S. foreign policy. And I mean, you know how it goes in Washington. But are people usually told to lay low?

CONLEY: So, not usually. Again, the U.S. ambassador, in a country, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of State, those are really the key players as you develop any U.S. foreign policy towards a country. They do coordination. They make sure that one federal agency isn't asking or contradicting another federal agency. It's what makes coordination so very important. Now, there's some information that is so sensitive, so compartmentalized that perhaps a Deputy Assistant Secretary would not be privy to it, but that's a pretty rare circumstance.

Really, these layers are the owners of that relationship. So to be told to lay low or the suggest there isn't a separate or alternative policy that these key individuals either don't know about, are being told not to participate in or it's working against them, that's incredibly unusual. It doesn't serve the United States well when you have parallel policies.

BALDWIN: Yes. Heather Conley, a pleasure. Thank you very much --

CONLEY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: -- for your expertise and perspective on all this.

More on our breaking news that CNN is reporting. The federal investigation involving Rudy Giuliani also involves a counterintelligence probe. Stand by for new details there. And voices against President Trump's actions in Syria are growing louder and louder. Besides the House resolution that was just passed, is there anything more they can do? We'll talk to Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, next.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Moments from now Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to Turkey. The group's mission, to try to get Turkey to stand down in Syria. Russia has now stepped up its role in the Syrian conflict by deploying military police to the country's northern region filling a vacuum left by withdrawal of U.S. troop there's.

And I want to share this piece of video with you. You'll take a look at this. This is a journalist traveling with Russian-backed forces, appears to show off the inside of a now abandoned U.S. base. He says, quote, yesterday morning they were here, and this morning we are here. Let's see how they lived.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin is with me. She serves on both the Armed Services and homeland security committees and also is a former CIA analyst. She has also done three tours in Iraq. So Congresswoman, a pleasure. First question. Just what are U.S. troops thinking right now?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Well, I think a lot of us still have strong communications with a lot of folks who either have served in Syria, are serving in Syria and Iraq, and I think the overwhelming feeling is shame. Mostly because these are the folks who actually held out their hand and said to the folks in northern Syria, you know, if you work with us, we will stay with you. We'll give you overhead cover. And so it's that American handshake that is literally theirs that is now being broken. And so I think a lot of them are feeling ashamed, quite frankly.

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BALDWIN: Listening to the President earlier today sitting alongside the leader of Italy. President Trump said that this has nothing to do with the United States, and he also said that Russia hates ISIS more than the U.S. Congresswoman Slotkin, your reaction to that?

SLOTKIN: Yes, well, I think ISIS having a caliphate that takes up big chunks of the state of Syria and the state of Iraq had a lot to do with us. Them having a capital from which they can project terrorist attacks into our homeland, into our European ally's homelands that has a lot to do with us. And I also think the Russians don't like ISIS, but the idea that somehow, we're going to just be ceding territory, breaking relationships with allies and partners. It's one thing to do it now with the Kurds. But I think the thing that's missing is that it's also about future wars and future conflicts.

We've reached out our hand and we said fight on the front lines with us, for us. And what is going to happen the next time we go to one of these partner groups and we say, hey, you've got an al Qaeda threat in western Africa or in Asia. We want you to help and partner with us because we don't want American soldiers dying on the battlefield. Are they going to be so quick to hold out their hand and shake our hand? And I think that's the thing that's missing from the conversation. It's not just about the Kurds today. It's about how we fight terrorists in the future.

BALDWIN: Sure. So, no, it's an excellent point about potential future allies and at leaves the question, well, what do we do about it? I know that the White House -- we just got a note that the White House canceled and all-House members briefing on Syria. Do you know why?

SLOTKIN: No. I don't. Again, I don't have any special knowledge. But it's not great. It's not great.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me just pivot now to this impeachment inquiry. We know Speaker Pelosi just announced she's not -- or in the last 24 hours she announced that she's not going to be holding a formal vote to authorize impeachment. Do you know why?

SLOTKIN: I mean, I think we had an interesting meeting yesterday with the entire caucus where we had the conversation to make sure, and from my perspective, to make sure that this was process was as objective as possible. To make sure that the Republicans have just as much ability to ask questions and time with these witnesses, and I was assured that they do. That the reason these sessions are going for nine hours is because both sides gets to ask questions until they're exhausted. Until they're done asking questions.

And so I think while a vote may have been necessary back in the '90s, by law it's not needed now and we're living the process. We're doing it now. So I didn't have a strong feeling about it, but that was the explanation yesterday.

BALDWIN: OK. And then just, I know you all are back from recess, And I just wanted to ask you about, you know, a lot of you folks have been talking now. You've been getting an earful, right, from your constituents back home? And I know you've been listening and then you had this standout moment with some of your constituents back home. Let me play this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SLOTKIN: The issue that got to me was this idea that the President, the most powerful man in the world, reached out to a foreigner, a foreign leader, and asked him to dig up dirt on an American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn't ask for that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fake news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I mean, you hear some of what they're shouting at you, but I also heard you say that some of those constituents justified the President's actions by saying that the intelligence agencies couldn't be trusted. And as former CIA, Congresswoman, what do you say to that? How did that make you feel?

SLOTKIN: Yes. That was certainly the toughest moments. And listen, there's going to be people shouting, and frankly on both sides on this issue. And there was. Frankly, what was much more interesting and productive were the people who were more in the middle and saying, like, hey, I need to understand why you chose to make this decision. The hardest moments of my town halls were when people would stand up and say, well, the President had to go to a foreign leader to investigate the Bidens because he can't trust his CIA and FBI.

As a former CIA officer this one got me, because I know what CIA officers are doing every day, in many cases risking their lives to protect the homeland. I know that our FBI, our law enforcement officers who have the best interests of this country at heart and something happens to us as a nation if we stop believing in our institutions. I don't think that represents the majority of people but it was the hardest part of it and for me when my blood pressure really went up.

BALDWIN: Good on you for hosting those town halls and to listening, both for Republicans and Democrats, did that over the last couple of week. And I'm sure it was appreciated. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, good to see you. Thank you.

SLOTKIN: You too, thanks so much.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Big news for Senator Bernie Sanders winning major endorsements from three members of the so-called squad on Capitol Hill. Why did one of those Congresswomen though opt out?

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BALDWIN: Senator Elizabeth Warren may be climbing in the polls to front-runner status, but Senator Bernie Sanders just reeled in a big and important endorsement. It's coming from the three of the four members of the squad. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib today. They threw their support behind the Vermont Senator. And this is key because these group of women is considered to be among the most influential voices with young progressives.

So CNN's Dana Bash is with me. And the one missing in the whole we're in it for Bernie is Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. Why is she not going there?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know where she's from. She's from the state of Massachusetts. There is another progressive in the race by the name of Elizabeth Warren. So it's actually not so surprising that that Congresswoman Pressley decided, you know what, I'm just going to wait and see how this goes. She's not the only one in Congress who has done this who have kind of home state members and conflicting points of view.

Having said that, it really is significant that these three women, three quarters of the so-called squad, have done this. For several reasons. First, just the notion of Bernie needing a win. Senator Sanders needing -- after having a week and a half of people saying is this man who is 77, 78 years old who just had a heart attack, is he in it for the long haul? Well you have three -- as you said -- young woman who are very much in the same lane as him with regard to policies, ideology and people have a lot of influence on social media, have a lot of influence with young people.

And still to this day, Brooke, although maybe he doesn't have as many young people as he had in 2016 when it was just him and Hillary Clinton, he's got a lot. The millennials are still looking at Bernie Sanders. And that is a huge thing, having said that, I talked to a Sanders aide before coming with you to ask about the importance of this. Who said very candidly, as important as these three endorsements are, it is not the full thing. It is Bernie Sanders who has to decide his own fate and one group is important, but he's going to have to continue to do that.

But there is no question that given where Bernie Sanders is right now, given who these three women are and how they relate to the people he's trying to keep in his tent --

BALDWIN: It's significant.

BASH: -- it's big deal for him.

BALDWIN: Got it. Dana B. Thank you.

BASH: Thanks, B.B.

BALDWIN: President Trump also speaking out today about his meeting with the parents of a young British man killed in a car crash involving the wife of a U.S. diplomat. The family said his words made them feel, and I quote, defiled.

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BALDWIN: The British parents of Harry Dunn who was killed in a car crash involving the wife of a U.S. diplomat have made their plea for justice now with President Trump. Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn say they want that diplomat's wife sent back to the U.K. to face charges. 19-year-old Dunn was killed in August. His parents went to the White House for help. But the meeting did not go as expected.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They arrived in America with one objective. Getting Anne Sacoolas, the suspect in the tragic death of their teenage son back on British soil.

Seven weeks ago, Harry Dunn was fatally injured in a road collision near his home in England. This family have had to put grief to one side to seek justice. Sacoolas, the wife of a U.S. diplomat, was interviewed twice by British police. They say she cooperated but then left the U.K. about three weeks following the accident protected under diplomatic immunity.

Police say they are still investigating and expect to submit a case file to prosecutors. This week she broke her silence in a statement via her attorney and she admitted fault. Anne was driving on the wrong side of the road and is terribly, terribly sorry for that tragic mistake.

Harry's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, were invited to the White House Tuesday along with a family spokesperson Radd Seiger, hoping President Trump would intervene. It was a meeting that took an unexpected turn. Sacoolas was in the next-door room. CHARLOTTE CHARLES, MOTHER OF HARRY DUNN: And we are still more than

willing to meet her but we made it very clear that that needs to be on our terms, on U.K. soil, when she has faced our justice system.

STEWART: Next morning reflecting on the White House meeting, Seiger says the family felt ambushed, and given the bank of photographers present, they say it appeared to be a choreographed press pool.

RADD SEIGER, DUNN FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: That did take us by surprise because we had resolved that that's not something we were prepared to do at this moment. This family still is emotionally shut down and that as you could all imagine was a potentially difficult meeting.

STEWART: The President described the meeting differently.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My meeting with the family was really -- it was beautiful in a certain way. They did not want to meet with the person in question. But we had a very good meeting. They're very nice people.

STEWART: He expressed his condolences but also empathized with the position of Sacoolas.

TRUMP: That happens in Europe. You go to Europe and the roads are opposite. And it is very tough if you're from the United States, you do make that decision to make a right turn, where you're supposed to make a left turn, the roads are opposite. And she said that is what happened. That happens to a lot of people by the way.

STEWART: In this case, a 19-year-old has died.

Anna Stewart, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Anna, thank you. And after hearing the President speak today a spokesperson for the Dunns says that they are extremely angry and feel taken advantage of.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for --

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