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Time is Running Out for Brexit; President Trump Feeling the Heat from Democrats; Turkey Says No Negotiations to Terrorists; Russian Flags Seen Flying in Kabani, Syria; House of Representatives Made a Bipartisan Vote to Oppose Trump's Syria Policy; Hong Kong Police the New Target of Protesters. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 17, 2019 - 03:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

New factions are emerging in the conflict in northern Syria, Russian flags are now flying in the key town where U.S. troops used to be stationed.

A White House meeting about Syria turns into what Democrats say was a presidential meltdown.

And Brexit bargaining. Negotiators are in Brussels trying to reach a new agreement for the U.K. to leave the E.U. with time running out.

Well, with the crucial summit fit to kick off very soon, a crack has appeared in the U.K.'s governing alliances as negotiators scramble to come up with a Brexit deal between the U.K. and the European Union.

A short time ago, the Democratic Unionist Party with has supported Boris Johnson's minority conservative government said it can't support Mr. Johnson's proposal as things stand on customs and consent issues.

CNN's Melissa Bell is standing by in Brussels with more on this. What's the latest information you have?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the expectation had to be here in Brussels this morning, Rosemary, that those details that legal text would be finalized in order that the European leaders who were due to arrive here late today would have a chance to look at it and get to grips with it and then agree or not to what Boris Johnson was suggesting, to what the negotiators between the United Kingdom and Europe had managed to hammer out. But that hammer is in the works.

And it is substantial, Rosemary, is of course that statement tweeted by the Democratic Unionist Party they have long held a crucial position in all of this because they hold such an important position in Boris Johnson's government, because propping up his minority but a substantial part of the numbers that he has in the parliament.

But also, because their position with regards to that fundamental question that has proved such a stumbling block of the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the European Union with the customs union, that has proved such an intractable problem.

Now what that statement says is that even this latest negotiation is not going the right way that that question of consent whether the Stormont would get to the ability to accept or not, give its consent or not to this arrangement regularly that in the end is a sticking point.

The statement makes it clear they will not give their agreement to the proposals that Boris Johnson was planning to bring here today, and that really makes it very difficult to see whether European leaders are going to have anything to look at all since the problem now goes back to London, it is one for Boris Johnson and his proposals and the British negotiators who for the time being and without the agreement of the DUP simply have nothing they can bring to Brussels.

So, those chances of some sort of agreement being hammered out, that could then have been put to Westminster on Saturday have been substantially reduced this morning. And it's very difficult to see what, if anything, the European leaders are going to be able to discuss when they arrive here later today, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. And not sort of take this too far ahead of ourselves but what would happen if a deal can't be reached?

BELL: If it can't be reached then there is always the position the possibility of some delay, either technical one that could be agreed here today so that these things could be hammered out further, or the law that was brought in by M.P.'s at Westminster just very recently that suggests that if no agreement was reached here in Brussels today or tomorrow, then by Saturday Boris Johnson has to write a letter to the European Union requesting an extension that would take us to January.

Now he said over and over again that he would rather be dead in a ditch than ask for an extension. The question is will he abide by the law or find some way around it. So, if nothing is reached here today or tomorrow, again the question is how Boris Johnson tends to carry things forward. For the time being, he appears to be constrained by this law which suggest that he will have to do what he dreaded doing which is writing to Europe and asking for more time, Rosemary.

CHURCH: We will continue to watch this and see where it all goes. Of course, Melissa Bell bringing us the very latest from Brussels, Many thanks.

We turn now to the crisis in northern Syria, And Turkey's offensive against Syrian Kurds who they considered terrorists.


At the White House, Democrats say Donald Trump had a meltdown on Wednesday after the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to oppose his troop withdrawal from Syria. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are

on their way to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr. Erdogan says that he will meet next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

And Russian flags are flying over Kabani, a largely Kurdish city in northern Syria. Russian forces are in the border region to help Syrian government troops and the Kurds fight off the Turkish offensive.

Well, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is live this hour at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, and we begin with her. So, let's -- let's talk, Jomana, if I can just start with you first. Let's look at the consequences here. When we sort of see the situation, we know of course the troops have been withdrawn, we've seen the offensive there and now we're seeing this reaction back in the United States.

And now the House Republicans joining forces with the Democrats and this has put Mr. Trump in a very shaky situation.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And some would say, Rosemary, this is why you are seeing these kinds of reactions that we're seeing from the president when it comes to Turkey. Essentially, a week after he pretty much gave the green light to the Turkish president to go ahead with that operation removing U.S. forces from the way and allowing that operation to go ahead.

Of course, the White House continues to deny this despite the fact that the read out after that call does suggest that he pretty much did give them the green light. And what we have seen since then, Rosemary, after this reaction that he is facing in the United States domestically with this uproar in the Senate and in Congress, is the president trying at least in certain instances, because you see, you know, different kinds of reaction from the president at different times, different statements that he makes.

It seems like it's an attempt to backpedaling, trying to appease those who are opposed to the move. Opposed to this operation. And, you know, this is what some here would tell you. This is why President Trump is coming up with these very strong statements against Turkey. The tweets. This letter that we saw leaked yesterday to his letter to President Erdogan last week. Quite a stunning letter.

You know, some would say very unpresidential and undiplomatic of the president. And so many here would see it as quite an insult to Turkey and its president.

And then dispatching the highest possible level delegation that he could send to the Turkish capital to speak to the government here and President Erdogan, sending Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who are going to meet with President Erdogan today.

So, all these attempts people would tell you here that these are attempts to try and deal with that backlash that he has had domestically. We'll have to wait and see of course what comes out of these meetings. But, you know, analysts that we've been speaking to here are not really holding their breath. They don't expect anything substantial to come out of these meetings especially when you've got both sides really making their positions clear on this issue with the U.S. asking for a ceasefire, and Turkey saying that that is out of the question.

They will not negotiate with terrorists as they describe the Syrian Kurdish fighters and they will not stop this operation until the Syrian Kurdish fighters withdraw from this area that Turkey has designated as a safe zone, about 30 to 35 kilometers into Syria.

We'll have to wait and see what comes out of this especially, Rosemary, with the U.S. not having much leverage other than sanctions at this point.

CHURCH: Indeed. Jomana Karadsheh joining us there.

Let's go now to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, he's in Erbil in northern Iraq. And Nick, give us an idea of what's happening on the ground there militarily and the impact this is having on people in that area particularly the Kurds and their families.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to say we have a breathtaking 24 hours, really. I mean, I thought that the few days before that couldn't be really beating in terms of startling symbolic events.

We are learning that the U.S. military when they left their main base, Lafarge Cement factory outside of Kabani, a place which was threatened by Turkish back Syrian rebels in a matter of days ago, when they left they had to go in such a hurry that they used air strike to blow up unnecessary mechanical armor there and munitions they left behind.


I don't recall the U.S. having to blow up a base as they departed, frankly apart from a besiege person in Afghanistan about 10 years ago. Startling that that occurred. It's all part of really the U.S. military trying to catch up with the announcement that the withdrawal made by President Trump before they had a chance to even pack.

That is presumably still continuing as fast-paced as possible. Donald Trump while he kind of undermined his own negotiators frankly before they even landed in Ankara by reciting Turkish talking points.

He said just yesterday that the PKK, that's part of the Syrian Kurds who fought ISIS but that Turkey considers to be terrorists that the PKK are worst terrorist than ISIS. Essentially making it very hard for the Syrian Kurds to believe the U.S. anyway a good faith mediator.

We also, of course, now know that Russian flags are flying over Kabani, some of the outpost there that the U.S. previously held. The key flashpoint will be that town because Turkey needs it to fulfill its battle zone along the border but the Syrian Kurds now have regime support and Russian support in holding it. Still, many inside Syrian Kurdish areas are attending funerals.


WALSH: There is little light left to Syrians Kurds who must bury their dead and their old allegiances. 'It wasn't time for you to die, my son, why were you killed, she mourns. Your mistake was defending the country against invaders.'

Take a moment to consider their world. They grieved like this before under American direction to fight ISIS then burry 10,000 sons and daughters.

Now America's president in one phone call has unleashed Turkey's NATO standard army and air force on them, and America's military has reluctantly left them. A martyr does not die, she chants, one of many here who do not look like they'll submit to Turkey's new border soon.

At the hospital in Qamishli, the doctors lined up outside to receive the wounded. It is an endless stream.

Despite over a week of a fighting Syrian Kurdish fighters who complained so often that only having old Kalashnikovs to combat ISIS are still holding Turkish forces back.

They had some help, desperate enough to strike a deal with something worse than the devil, the Syrian regime arriving here quite far north in the town of Tal Tamr. The flags maybe so new they've just been unfolded but the moves the show of loyalty is old and practiced.

'Our spirits are high and our wills strong,' he says. 'We are here to defend Syrian land and people, another adds'

While diplomacy stalls at Ankara and soon the Kremlin and the displaced scavenge shelter yet again possibly hundreds of thousands are on the move as the fighting continues.

Turkish President Erdogan wants control of a deep wave of Syria, yet the Kurds are fighting hard for Ras Al-Ayn where the Syrian regime supporting in nearby Tal Tamr. Pro-Turkish forces push towards this road and the American base west but the regime in Russia are now in Manbij setting both sides for a collision in the city of Kabani.

On Wednesday night a video emerged of a deeply symbolic moment. Syrian regime forces entering the city of Kabani where the Syrian Kurds fought for months with American air support to kick ISIS out of the rebel, but were now Russia and the regime are their new protectors from America's NATO ally.


WALSH: I have to tell you I was surprised to learn that the meeting between President Erdogan and President Putin is happening quite so late. A full five days until they get together in Sochi. That provides a large window for the forces on the ground to continue fighting.

This is essentially a land grab because I think most analysts view that meeting in Sochi is where the backers of the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian regime, Russia, and Turkey who back the Syrian rebels fighting on the ground accused of some extraordinary brutality and accused by one U.S. official of being former ISIS and Al Qaeda are mostly extremists.

This, at that meeting in Sochi where the lines between them will essentially be delineated. But that is a big window of five days in which that town of Kabani where there are Russian flags flying. But make no mistake about it. It sits right on the Turkish border, it is integral to President Erdogan and security plan for his southern border.

So that is an absolute focus here. But I have to tell you, it is extraordinary to see how fast this is moving and what a shocking moment it has been for U.S. foreign policy in this area. I can't recall overseeing the U.S. military having to leave at such fast pace simply for its own protection, and how behind them they've left such a geopolitical switch. It's been startling to see so many years of work in the fight against ISIS potentially reversed so fast, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. The international community is watching in amazement as are many people back in the United States. Many thanks Nick Paton Walsh live in Erbil.


Well, President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria is deeply unpopular on Capitol Hill. The House overwhelmingly passed a rare bipartisan rebuke Wednesday and Democrats followed up with a meeting at the White House.

What emerged were traded insults and not much substance.

Boris Sanchez reports.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There now a war of words between Democrats and Republicans over exactly what happened during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the president's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria and then the Turkish military's entrance into that region.

Both sides accusing the other of having a meltdown, with Democrat saying that they walk into that meeting with the president not interested in having a conversation, but rather in insulting them, specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Listen to how Democrats described what took place in that meeting.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We witness on the part on the president was a meltdown, sad to say.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: He called her a third-rate politician. This was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts.


SANCHEZ: The White House is pushing back on this. The press secretary Stephanie Grisham put out a statement that reads, quote, "The president was measured factual and decisive, while Speaker Pelosi's decision to walk out was baffling but not surprising. She had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues, while Democratic leadership chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine, everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on the behalf of this country."

We should point out the president has tweeted multiple times following this meeting of images apparently taken during the meeting at the White House trying to troll Democrats. He has not tweeted about the substance of the meeting quite yet.

He hasn't tweeted about the overwhelmingly bipartisan resolution that was passed in the House on Wednesday, nor about the potential for sanctions to be introduced on Thursday in Congress, a bipartisan package of sanctions that are reportedly much harsher than those sanctions placed on Turkey by the White House.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.

CHURCH: Well, new revelation about the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine. What the latest witness told lawmakers about the former Ukraine ambassador. That's next.

Plus, a speech meant to restore calm in Hong Kong provokes angry outburst in the legislature. The latest on the chaos there and the new threat facing police.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, House Democrats are preparing for more key witnesses to testify about the Trump administration's Ukraine dealings. Now Senate Republicans get briefed on what an impeachment trial would look like for them.


CNN's Lauren Fox has the latest on the impeachment inquiry.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Michael McKinley on Capitol Hill on Wednesday told lawmakers that he left the State Department because he had concerns about the firing of the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. He also said that he had concerns about that phone call transcript between President Trump and Ukraine's president.

And tomorrow we expect that Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union is expected on Capitol Hill where he will have more details for those lawmakers as part of their impeachment inquiry.

Now over in the Senate, Republicans are also preparing for that potential impeachment trial where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell briefed his Republican members today during their private lunch on exactly how that trial would work.

And I'm told by sources in the room that McConnell laid out a very vigorous schedule, basically saying that Senate rules dictate that this would be a six- day a week process that is unless Republicans and Democrats can come together to change those rules, and of course, given the fact that this impeachment inquiry has divided Republicans and Democrats, that's unlikely.

For CNN, Lauren Fox.

CHURCH: A former guard at a Nazi death camp in Northern Poland is due to go on trial today in Germany. The suspect is identified only as Bruno D. He's accused of contributing to the killings of more than 5,000 prisoners during 1944 in 1945 in a concentration camp in Northern Poland.

He was 17 years old at the time. Now 93 years old the accused guard reportedly confessed to being aware of the camp killings at the time. This could be one of the last criminal trials involving the Holocaust.

Well, police in the Netherlands are investigating the strange discovery of a family living on a remote farm, apparently with no one knowing about them. Police found seven people, a father and six adult children living in a small room of the farmhouse. It's believed they've been there nearly a decade but it's not known if they were there voluntarily or being held captive.


NATHALIE SCHUBART, POLICE SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): Part of our investigation is to find out what the people in that house were doing exactly. There were so many questions to which we have no answer, the investigation is still going on.


CHURCH: Police say the family is receiving medical care. A 58-year- old man who rented the home has been arrested but police don't yet know if his connection -- of his connection to the family.

Well, after months of tensed already violent protests, Hong Kong police are now faced with an explosive new threat. Now the details for you when we return.


CHURCH: In Hong Kong, Carrie Lam's annual policy speech to lawmakers were supposed to help restore calm after months of pro-democracy protests. But clearly, it did not. For the second day in a row the chief executive was repeatedly shouted down by pro-democracy lawmakers, forcing the session to be suspended numerous times.

And tensions are incredibly high after a prominent leader of the pro- democracy movement was brutally attacked. The man was set upon by several men with hammers and he is now in hospital with serious head injuries. [03:25:08]

Well, the threat of violence has always been present as police and protesters face off on city streets. Now homemade bombs have become part of this volatile mix.

CNN's Will Ripley has more now from Hong Kong.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of a chaotic Sunday night of protests an explosion so loud. It stood out from the symphony of sirens in this Hong Kong neighborhood. Police standing more than 30 feet away felt the shockwave.


RIPLEY: If this device had gone off in a crowd of people, what could have happened?

ALICK MCWHIRTER, SENIOR SUPERVISOR, EXPLOSIVE ORDINANCE DISPOSAL UNIT: Bombs are indiscriminate, they don't target police officer, wherever that bomb gone off anybody who'd been close proximity to it would have risked or die with serious injury.


RIPLEY: He says the bomb was remote controlled, detonated using a mobile phone.


MCWHIRTER: This is the first incident where it was clearly attempting to target police officers.

RIPLEY: Why is that significant that police were the target in this case?

MCWHIRTER: Well, it's significant as it steps up. We've seen attacks on police, but a bomb is indiscriminate. And a bomb is premeditated.


RIPLEY: On Tuesday, police raided two apartments in Hong Kong, discovering raw materials they say could be used to make bombs. They arrested two males ages 17 and 23, accused of possessing explosives and illegal weapons, as well as unlawful assembly.

Investigators have not linked to the suspects to Sunday's explosion, a blast police say marks a dramatic escalation in the violence now in its fourth month.

At this warehouse in July, Hong Kong police say they found two kilograms of TATP, an explosive used in many terror attacks around the world. Police say it was enough to destroy a building.

The July raid at this warehouse, and a huge amount of explosives found underscores a major challenge for police. Most of the ingredients to make a remote-controlled bomb are common household items like these. All easy to find and legal to buy here in Hong Kong.

We found many of those items in less than two hours visiting three Hong Kong stores. Purchased separately they may not raise red flags. Together, police say, they can be deadly.


LEVI WEST, TERRORISM EXPERT: The other kind of quantities of the explosives and pretest ingredients is very, very concerning.


RIPLEY: Terrorism expert Levi West says this could indicate a new level of extremism in Hong Kong but he says it's likely not part of a larger coordinated ply.


WEST: Each it is related to the protest movement and I think you would be looking at outlies within that movement rather than a decision from the leadership.


RIPLEY: For Hong Kong police facing increasingly violent attacks, including an officer slashed in the neck. These darker days just got even darker.

Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.

CHURCH: And thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Talk Asia is just ahead. But first, I'll be back with the check of the headlines. This is CNN.