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Donald Trump Levels Unfounded Accusations Against Obama; Donald Trump on Turkey's Invasion Into Syria: "It's Not Our Problem"; Donald Trump: Kurds "Much Safer Now" Despite U.S. Pullout From Syria; Health Care Divide on Display at Democrat Debate; Biden Offers Vague Answers on Ethics of Son's Work While He Was Vice President. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 12:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --United States. Next steps now, the union's top officials have flown in here to Detroit and they will be voting on this tentative agreement here tomorrow. Once that vote happens and they approved then they will take it back to their members across the country people that are standing me behind on this ticket line and around the country who will then make their vote hoping to ratify this agreement and make it final. Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: First very important steps, let's see what happens the next day. Vanessa, thank you so much for your great reporting on this. I really appreciate it. Thank you all so much for joining me today for another wild roller coaster we should rename the show at this point. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Thank you, Kate. Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. President Trump says Turkey's assault on the Kurds in Syria is, "Not our problem". One of his biggest Senate defenders says if one result of this mess is ISIS resurgence, then the President will have blood on his hands.

Plus, word of a tentative deal to end the longest auto labors strike in U.S. history. United Auto Workers and General Motors strike a hand shake deal that could soon get 50,000 union workers back on the job.

And about last night, if you weren't sure who went to the debate as the strongest democratic contender, it was crystal clear very quickly how the candidates themselves see it.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that.

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator, she is being vague on the issue.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a different plan than Elizabeth Warren. And Senator Warren--




KING: Back to the 2020 democrats a bit later, but we begin the hour at the White House where in just moments we'll hear again from President Trump. This is day 1,000 of the Trump Presidency. He is punctuating it with a press conference alongside the Italian President. But the President already making headline this is morning.

He held court with reporters this morning in the Oval Office for 25- plus minutes. Among the topics, the long missing China trade deal, tariffs with the Europeans, NATO, securing nuclear weapons, a very big focus. The President tried to clean his hands of a Middle East mess of his own making.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. The Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight. As I said, they're not angels. If you take a look, you have to go back and take a look.

But they fought with us. We paid a lot of money for them to fight request us with us and that's okay. Our view on the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be for the United States strategically brilliant, our soldiers are out of there. Our soldiers are totally safe. They've got to work it out.


KING: The impeachment inquiry dividing Washington also led the President down a familiar road, leveling accusations without any evidence against his critics, including the Former President Barack Obama.


TRUMP: So 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. I think he's pretty much acknowledged what had he done for crime and everything else. When he saw what was going on with our election of 2016, the election I won but the election that was absolutely corrupted by things that took place in government.

Now, we'll see what happens. The IG report is going to come out soon. You will see things that you don't even believe, the level of corruption, whether it's Comey, where it's Strzok and his lover Page, whether it's so many other people, McCabe, whether it's President Obama himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Important to remember as we go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. The evidence before us is that Russia interfered. The President of the United States invited them to interfere. There's no evidence of any wrongdoing by President Obama but Kaitlan, you at the White House, the President clearly in a mood and very talkative this morning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is, John and he is only going to come out here. We're expecting him to take questions along with the Italian leader. Of course a lot of those questions are going to be about what the President just said in that wide-ranging moment in the Oval Office.

Yes, he was talking about people like President Barack Obama but also what he said about Syria is something that is getting a lot of attention, including where the President said what happens between Turkey and Syria is between Turkey and Syria. That would not explain why he's sending the Vice President Mike Pence there later today and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said it was the President who wanted them to meet face to face with Turkey's leader Erdogan. So they can talk about this.

And of course that comes after the President said he discussed a cease fire with Erdogan, something that Erdogan has since rejected saying there is not going to be a cease fire. That's going to be the question going forward.

But the President there talking about the Kurds saying "They are not angels". That's going to be something that's going to get a lot of Republican attention, John because those Republicans have been incredibly critical about what Turkey has been doing and what you saw the President do was effectively brush off this Turkish invasion into Northern Syria. That's going to be something.

And then also what the President said about those U.S. troops not being in harm's way that is not what we are hearing from the Pentagon. They actually say that's their number one priority right now making sure those troops who are in harm's way who are at high risk essentially are going to be safe and be okay there. That's really interesting there.

Also what the President said about Rudy Giuliani, his Personal Attorney who has come under incredible scrutiny lately by federal investigators about essentially his work that he has been doing come under criticism from Republicans and Democrats for the shadow foreign policy essentially that they say he was conducting.


COLLINS: Today John, the President stood by him.

KING: Rudy Giuliani knows what happened in those controversial weeks and months as they were shaping policy. The President kept hugging him I think for good reason, smart reason, if you get the drift there, CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. The press conference could begin any moment. Now we'll take you there when it does. With me in studio to share the reporting and their insights Laura Barron-Lopez with "POLITICO", Olivier Knox with "SiriusXM" CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Shawna Thomas with "VICE News".

Let's start with the Syria explanation, the President not my problem, not our problem, strategic brilliance. Russia wins here; Syria Assad wins here Iran wins here. The Kurds who are not angles, the President is telling about that but who fought alongside American troops, lost more than 10,000 of their own, lose here. The President says it is strategic brilliance.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: And ISIS can be put in the winner's column as well. This is close to the very first statement coming out of the White House. We've had a succession we've had an actual kind of an ideological gumbo coming out of this White House.

First it was ostensibly a green light and then it was this is a bad idea and then it was I'm going to obliterate Turkey's economy. And then it was okay, I'm going to block you and Security Counsel's action against this invasion. Okay, but we didn't give a green light, but now it's strategically brilliant and it is also not our problem. I mean, if you don't like this White House's position on what's happening in Syria wait ten minutes that will change.

KING: Wait ten minutes - please.

SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: And in Congress and I think both the House and the Senate have said they're going to announce Turkey sanction bills. And then that's going to put President back on this ball because I think those bills will pass. I think something will get to the President that's when it comes to sanctioning Turkey. And he will have to come up with a new response because of that as well.

KING: To that point, John Thune member of the Senate Republican leadership saying I would hope he would reopen and changing his policy based on the input he gets. Then President's going to meet with some leadership late today. We've got some pretty views about what is going on but then he goes on to say and I think this is the issue now, he says the horse is out of the barn. And the horse is out of the barn, the Kurds had to retreat.

They had to ask Assad for help which is a complete flip from where they were just a week ago. But listen to the President of the United States Assad's troops have moved in Putin's troops have moved in, the President of United States says that's fine.


TRUMP: Syria is pulling in. Syria probably will have a partner of Russia. So if Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that's really up to them. They have a problem with Turkey they have a problem in border. It's not out border we shouldn't be losing lives over it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean, just a complete in articulation - as Olivier said, offering several versions of American foreign policy. Take your pick here. He's been back pedaling ever since the first initial withdrawal here. Who knows what the American foreign policy there when you listen to the President there and you'll hear him again if he understands the history or the depth of any of this, he is hearing from a lot of people, Rand Paul certainly one of them who has been deeper player in this but Lindsey Graham was supposed to be the President's close friend on this. He's not listening to him.

KING: To that point, again if you just keep it on the headline, U.S. troops coming home from a mess that this President inherited in the Middle East. That's probably good politics for the President. The question is how does it play out down the road? What are we talking about weeks and months from now?

To your point about Lindsey Graham, the Kurds among other things regarding these prison camps of ISIS prisoners. Word is a good number of them perhaps are now out and roaming free. What do they do? Lindsey Graham says if they reconstitute and if they strike terror attacks, this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, CHAIRMAN OF SENATE COMMITTEE: He will have American blood on his hands if he abandons Kurds, because ISIS will come back. And if any American is killed anywhere because of resurgence ISIS it will fall on Trump Administration.


KING: But this - the president is not listening. He believes he's in the right place on this.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right, the President said the complete opposite this morning, saying that the U.S. has no responsibility which is something given that his decisions alone what led to this sequence of events and which is why Republicans are now placing pressure on him which is why Congress wants to act as quickly as possible.

We are going to hear from probably even more Republicans now that they are back in session. So that was another thing which was - the pressure, I think, will only continue to increase and will become louder because we reporters are able to talk to them and corner them and ask them about this.

KING: Moving to another subject here, "The New York Times", "The Wall Street Journal" reporting the President's Personal Attorney Rudy Giuliani is being investigated by the Trump Justice Department for some of his activities in Ukraine, some of which were carried out with the knowledge of the President. The President may not tell specifics of everything but the President was well aware that Rudy Giuliani was doing business in Ukraine to try to dig up what the President says is dirt even though a lot of it is based on debunks conspiracy theories. [12:10:00]

KING: John Bolton reporting the other day called Rudy Giuliani to one of his top deputy a hand grenade, who is going to blow up on all of us and told his yes, report the conduct you view as inappropriate and perhaps illegal to the White House Counsel's Office. John Bolton now, the Democrats would like to talk to him in their impeachment inquiry. You heard Kaitlan at the top about it the President is still being very kind to Rudy Giuliani, here even though he said big differences with John Bolton, kind as well.


TRUMP: With John Bolton, I get along well with him, some people didn't. Some people didn't like John Bolton. I actually got along with him pretty well. It just didn't work out. I don't know that he got along with Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani was seeking out corruption and what happens mostly in the 2016 election. With Rudy, Rudy was seeking out corruption. I think there's nothing wrong with seeking out corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Rudy register as a foreign lobbyist?

TRUMP: I don't know what he did. That's up to him. You have to ask Rudy those questions. Don't ask me.


KING: Wash your hands of anything that could be - well, he was my lawyer, I knew he was up to stuff but don't really ask me what stuff he was up to.

THOMAS: Well, I mean, if the quote from Bolton is proved to be true, I think the grenade has blown up. It is not good when you are in the Oval Office and you are trying to answer for weird, strange, possibly illegal things, your personal lawyer has done. Those are questions no President wants to answer.

So it is not that surprising, he is trying to wash his hands of it. I think it will be interesting to see how Republicans in Congress, whether they try to shift blame to Rudy kind of like all of this and try to make him the fall guy so as to keep the President politically sort of out of it as much as possible if they use that as an excuse.

ZELENY: Just on John Bolton specifically, I mean, like the record should reflect that the President was not happy with him at all. They were deeply at odds. He said as much in that very room in the Oval Office. Today slightly a friendlier term perhaps because John Bolton is a great communicator and he makes it pretty obvious that he is probably going to give a sense of what's up here. If that hand grenade is not going off, it certainly seems to be close to detonating.

KING: When people are potential witnesses, the President tends to be nice and polite to them. If he finds out they say things he didn't like that's when the Twitter ramps up, that's when the deep state comes out. We will come back later again. The President of United States any moment now to have a press conference with the President of Italy at the White House. We'll take you there live when it happens but up next, 12 candidates facing off in Tuesday night's very crowded Democratic Debate. Most of them find a way to attack Elizabeth Warren.



KING: Welcome back. Quick reminder, we're waiting for a live press conference from the White House President Trump and the Italian President, we'll take you there live when it happens live for the two leaders to discuss. But to the 2020 Democrats now Senator Elizabeth Warren realizing pretty quickly last night at the Democratic Debate that she had figuratively anyway, a target on her back.

Fellow Democrats repeatedly clobbering Senator Warren on everything, from her views on the President's Twitter account to her own health care plan.


HARRIS: Senator Warren, I just wanted to say that I was surprised to hear that you did not agree with me when I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump's account.

BETO O'ROURKE (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A yes or no question that didn't get a yes or no answer, your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything except this.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tell people what it's going to cost.

BIDEN: She's being vague on the issue.

KLOBUCHAR: I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth.

HARRIS: We just have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.


KING: It was incredibly telling. You know, we look at the national polls, Warren, Biden, then Sanders behind. But these are the candidates who are out there in Iowa which is now 109 days away; out in New Hampshire which is a week after that, they understand the dynamic of the race and the places that matter most, the places they vote first. Welcome to being considered the front-runner by your friend, Senator Warren.

ZELENY: No doubt, I mean, you can steal the sense of urgency last night in Ohio. I think probably - talking to adviser. Time is running out for lot of these people but Joe Biden should have been relieved people were not going after him, except he's likely probably not certainly a stand-alone front-runner but not even the strongest candidate in the field.

It was fascinating to watch Elizabeth Warren. She didn't lose her cool. She sort of handled all of those questions but didn't answer the central question that's been pressed again and again that's been asked before. Would her Medicare for all plans, raise middle class taxes? She has made a decision not to answer that question.

We'll see how that plays out for voters. That's something we don't know the answer to right now. But I think if you score the debate - and again, we have to let voters assess this - Amy Klobuchar had her strongest debate yet without question.

Skillfully was raising questions on Medicare for all and the wealth tax. Pete Buttigieg as well. The reason I think this is different than those early attacks from Kamala Harris on Joe Biden et cetera is that this is the central issue of the democratic primary and Pete Buttigieg is spending a lot of money on ads on this very thing.

KING: It's the central policy debate just like we had in 2008, 2007 debate on Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama universal access versus universal coverage. Now you have Medicare for all versus build an Obamacare. It's a specific policy but it's also a vehicle for how far left can you take the party and still win a general election? Where you could add Green New Deal to that, you can add free college to that.

So let's get into some of it. This is Buttigieg versus Warren. Again, Biden was almost an afterthought for most of the night, which probably not great for his campaign although he survives the debate. He had a relatively strong debate.


KING: But Buttigieg and Klobuchar clearly thinking there is going to be a chance for another moderate term urge. I want to it to be me. This is Buttigieg.


BUTTIGIEG: Medicare for all who want it, trusting you to make the right decision for your health care and for your family and it can be delivered without an increase salary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mayor. Senator your response?

WARREN: So let's be clear. Whenever someone hears the term Medicare for all who want it, understand what that really means. It's Medicare for all who can afford it.

BUTTIGIEG: I don't think the American people are wrong when they say that what they want is a choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: So remember where we are. The Mayor from Indiana, South Bend, Indiana, trying to make a play in Iowa where somebody is likely to surprise us. Here is the Senator from Minnesota also going after Warren because she wants to do the same thing.


KLOBUCHAR: You know this isn't a flyover part of the country to me. The heartland is where I live. I want to win those states that we lost last time and I have bold ideas to get us there. I think just because they're different that Elizabeth's doesn't mean they're bold. But we can't get any of this done on climate change or immigration reform unless they win.


KING: We don't know what is going to happen in Iowa. It's fascinating to me that they both seem they wouldn't go after Joe Biden. We've seen in past debates going after him does you no good. Their calculation is to he will just come down naturally or we hope he comes down naturally. But to create who will be the surprise of Iowa, that's how I viewed that competition.

LOPEZ: What will be interesting to see is whether or not this actually does have any impact on polls. So far we've seen debates don't actually have an impact on them. Warren has risen separately from her performance in the debates.

The question I have is how will repeatedly going negative if they continue to go negative, which Buttigieg did as well on CNN this morning against Warren, if that actually has an impact on them. Because right now when you're talking to voters out on the trail, they don't want to see that. They also feel as though they have a lot of information on the health care debate right now. A lot of them heading into this debate wanted other topics to be

discussed that were concerns.

KING: It was also forget me it was also a big test for Bernie Sanders, his first time back on the stage, first time back really on the campaign trail except for some TV interviews since he suffered a heart attack. He looked great. He had energy throughout the three hours and he knew the question was coming here is the answer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now to the issue of candidates and their health. Senator Sanders, I want to start with you. We're moving on Senator I'm sorry.

SANDERS: I'm healthy. I'm feeling great. But I would like to respond to that question. Let me take this moment if I might to thank so many people from all over this country including many of my colleagues up here for their love, for their prayers, for their well wishes. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and I'm so happy to be back here with you this evening.


KING: There was that, the performance which was energetic not a lot of surprises from Bernie Sanders. He is very consistent in his message but it was energetic and he was there. And then he had in his back pocket, he teased it in the debate and we were able to confirm that after the fact that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are joining team Bernie. So you save those, a campaign that wants to prove something. That was the - I just had a spirited debate performance, I'm not going anywhere, I'm getting some juice from important voices in the party.

THOMAS: Yes. The thing that I always think is interesting is if you think of the person somewhere who just tuned into this debate for the first time. They didn't watch the other debates. Those people in America exist despite the fact that we around this table don't--

ZELENY: Normal people, you mean.

THOMAS: Normal people, yes. If they tuned into that, they saw the three things. They say the three front-runners going into the debate were still the front-runners. Joe Biden, the guy they already knew. Elizabeth Warren self-fulfilling prophecy in the fact that like all these people deciding to attack her makes her look even more important than maybe she was.

And then you saw Bernie Sanders who just had a heart attack but also a spirited debate performance. Those are the things you're grappling with if you are a new viewer and you are newly trying to get into this. And it just citified the thing that we already knew there are three front runners for this job.

KING: It's very fine and let's all focus a bit--

THOMAS: The nominations for the jobs.

KING: --for now. Again it used to be that if you were a Democrat leading the race right now, you were nervous. History says Howard Dean, John Edwards, that's not the place to be. This race has been pretty static, though, for a long time. I think the question is because of the party's motivation meaning their focus on President Trump, is this going to stay. That's the challenge for the other candidates.

Joe Biden had one issue that's been in the news the last couple of weeks, the President's attacks on his son Hunter Biden. The President calling the Former Vice President self corrupt. Much of what the President says is reckless, unfalse and unfounded those are facts. But this is an issue for Joe Biden.

Anderson Cooper asked him a direct question. Hunter Biden now says if his dad is elected President, he won't have any international business dealings. Joe Biden says if he's President, he would not allowed such things. Anderson Cooper ask a very simple question.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If it's not okay for a President's family to be involved in foreign businesses, why was it okay for your son when you were Vice President? Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: Look, my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.

COOPER: Did you make a mistake by letting him - you were the point person on Ukraine at the time. You can answer.

BIDEN: Look, my son's statement speaks for itself. I did my job. I never discuss a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine.


KING: It's a legitimate question is it not?

ZELENY: Absolutely, as in he didn't answer there. So at some point he'll be asked it again, maybe a voter will ask the question. That is often more difficult for a candidate to ignore this. How this plays in the mind of the electorate, we don't have an understanding of it yet. If you like Joe Biden, it probably does not affect you at all.

But if you have some concerns - this a little too swampy to borrow a word that's over used. But one thing that I was talking to a lot of Democrats afterward, it looked like he was answering this for the very first time. He's had several weeks to think about this. It was not a passionate defense, this is my son, how dare President Trump, pounding his face to his statements speaks for itself clearly a sign of unease about how Hunter Biden is intersecting with all these.

LOPEZ: Many wondered why he didn't try to pivot more to the Trump family. But we do know that so far the Trump's attacks and repeated bringing up of conspiracy theories surrounding Ukraine and the Bidens has not actually had an impact on Biden in the polls, that he has maintained a pretty steady level in the polling.

KNOX: I don't know how many other people around this table reported on Hunter Biden joining the board of Burisma in real time. I did. What's amazing to me is Biden is giving this answer when in real time it was clear that the Vice President's office felt deeply uncomfortable about what was transpiring.

They punted reporters over. They said Hunter's a private citizen we have nothing to do with this. Talk to his office. His office said he's traveling. When is he coming back? We don't know. Does he was assisted? Yes. Where is that person? They're traveling. When are they coming back? We don't know.

In real time you could see that there was a lot of discomfort over this decision. The fact that the Former Vice President is coming up with this kind of answer at this late date makes you wonder a little bit.

THOMAS: And I think there's an opportunity to say D.C. can be better, this wasn't a great idea. Hunter Biden said in that interview it wasn't a great idea, actually. And Biden is missing this opportunity to, one try to stake a claim on making D.C. better, something that I realized like Donald Trump said he was going to clean up the swamp, but also then being able to attack the President for what his kids are doing.

KING: I think you're making a great point. I think voters give you grace if you look them in the eye and say it was a mistake it won't happen again. But to your point going back in time. When we come back, more from the debate last night and a reminder of waiting for President of United States and the Italian President at the White House the press conference begin any moment. Stay with us.