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EARLY START

Mick Mulvaney Admits to Ukraine Quid Pro Quo; U.S. Announces Cease-Fire in Syria; Trump's Syria Policy and Behavior Alarming GOP. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


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[04:00:19]

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's chief of staff now trying to walk back the moment he admitted a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Questions about the cease-fire in Syria. Did the Trump administration give Turkey exactly what it wanted?

KOSIK: El Chapo's son at the center of a shoot-out you're hearing there with a Mexican drug cartel.

BRIGGS: And the NFL's MVP likely sidelined for several weeks. The latest on the injury to the Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START and I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Friday, October 18th. Happy Friday to you. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York. It's 11:00 a.m. in Ankara, Turkey and 10:00 a.m. in Brussels.

And the acting White House chief of staff brazenly contradicting the administration line and admitting there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Mick Mulvaney telling reporters the president withheld $400 million in U.S. military aid, in part to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democrats.

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JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he -- to withhold funding to Ukraine?

MULVANEY: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about. KARL: To be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is

funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.

MULVANEY: We do -- we do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Only hours later, Mulvaney was walking back the argument, essentially claiming in a statement that he hadn't said just what you heard him say. Quote, "Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and an investigation into the 2016 election."

Mulvaney appeared to be road-testing a new White House argument that aid was withheld to pressure Ukraine to investigate a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. Mulvaney said it had nothing to do with investigating potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.

Here's a problem with this claim, though, is that it was President Trump who brought up Biden in his now infamous call with the leader of Ukraine.

BRIGGS: Mulvaney's comments caught everyone at the White House off- guard. President Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow insists the White House legal team was, quote, "not involved in the acting chief of staff's press briefing." A Justice Department official said of Mulvaney's claims the DOJ was involved, "That's news to us." And it seems the president was left out of the loop as well.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you aware that he suggested that there was some sort of a quid pro quo involved with Ukraine?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't -- I heard it. Somebody said he did a very nice job.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know --

TRUMP: I've been -- you know what I've been focused on today very much? All of this and also if you look, Turkey and the great thing that happened in Syria. I don't know, but Mick is a good man. I don't know. I have not heard anything about it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you still have confidence in him?

TRUMP: I have a lot of confidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: A source close to the president tells CNN, Mulvaney's acknowledgment to the quid pro quo especially angered Mr. Trump later in the day. One White House official says much of the president's anger is now focused on the media. He believes the press is intentionally misrepresenting, misinterpreting Mulvaney's comments.

But Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski doesn't see it that way. She says, quote, "Absolutely that's a concern. You don't hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period."

House Intel chairman Adam Schiff agrees.

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REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Mr. Mulvaney's acknowledgment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse.

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KOSIK: There was even more bad news for the president. A key ally at the center of the Ukraine scandal turned on him in front of Congress. Ambassador to the U.N., Gordon Sondland, telling House investigators President Trump ordered diplomats to go through Rudy Giuliani on all matters involving Ukraine. Sondland said he and other foreign service officers were disappointed by the president's direction. And he testified Giuliani stressed the president wanted a public statement from Ukraine's new president, committing to investigate the 2016 election and the Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board.

BRIGGS: Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both in Turkey Thursday, emerging from hours of negotiations to announce a cease-fire deal in Syria, a deal that seems to give Turkey everything it wants.

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[04:05:10]

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know the president is very grateful for President Erdogan's willingness to step forward to enact this cease-fire.

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BRIGGS: The deal appears to meet most of Turkey's military goals and will force America's allies in the fight against ISIS, the Kurds, to give up a huge swath of territory. Last night, President Trump touted the deal at a rally in Texas, comparing Turkey's military attack on Kurdish forces to a schoolyard brawl.

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TRUMP: Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while. Then people find out how tough the fighting is. These guys know right up here. These guys know.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Right? Sometimes you have to let them fight. Like two kids in a lot. You got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: For more on how the cease-fire is being perceived in Turkey, Jomana Karadsheh live in the capital of Ankara.

Jomana, good morning.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. You know, for Turkey they're seeing this and describing this as a major victory. A win situation for them politically and militarily. Turkish officials are saying they got exactly what they wanted out of this meeting. And they say that this military offensive that they started last week achieved its goals. And that is that they got the United States to agree in principle, in this on paper, basically, to this safe zone that Turkey has been pushing the United States to try and establish in northeastern Syria for months now.

And these negotiations had failed in the past. And now they've gotten this commitment that they would get this ambitious safe zone that goes about 20 miles into Syria and extends from the Euphrates River all the way to the Iraqi border. But, you know, an agreement is one thing and how things are actually going to unfold on the ground, how this is going to play out, it's very complex.

We have heard from the Syrian Kurds, their top military commander saying yes, they agreed to this cease-fire. They were part of the negotiations with the United States. But they're not saying anything about whether they're going to be withdrawing from these areas. And then what areas are they talking about? For them, they're saying that the areas covered in this agreement are the active combat zone right now between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

And another complicating factor in all of this is that we have not heard from, at least publicly, from the other key players here, the Syrian regime and the Russians. So you've got a very fragile cease- fire agreement at this point. What happens in the next five days is going to be critical. And what happens after those five days is this going to move into the next phase of a permanent cease-fire where Turkey says it will stop its offensive if these Kurdish Syrian forces move out.

And the way things are unfolding on the ground, this is not going to be the United States that decides that or plays a big role in this. It is going to be the Russians. At the end of those five days, President Erdogan is headed to Russia where he will be meeting with the Russian president Vladimir Putin -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Once again, all paths lead to Putin. Jomana Karadsheh live for us in Turkey this morning. Thank you.

KOSIK: President Trump's demeanor over his Syria policy and his behavior at Wednesday's White House meeting have privately alarmed members of his own party. A GOP source familiar with that meeting says people there were shaken by what they saw and heard. The source says they describe Mr. Trump as yelling and screaming and, quote, "not in control of himself." The White House press secretary, on the other hand, describing the president as measured and decisive.

Top congressional Republicans, even some of Trump's staunchest defenders, have publicly broken with the president over the past few days over his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and apparent lack of understanding of the consequences.

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SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. The cease-fire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally. Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?

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KOSIK: Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, usually avoids criticizing the president. But on Syria, he wants the Senate to pass a resolution condemning the withdrawal. That is even stronger than the one in the Democratic-controlled House that passed.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, the White House defending the decision to hold the G7 summit at President Trump's own Miami resort. We'll hear that, next.

[04:10:01]

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BRIGGS: 4:14 Eastern Time. And next year's G7 Summit of world leaders will be hosted at President Trump's resort at Doral Resort in Miami. That decision was made by President Trump. The historians call the move unprecedented, the president using his public office to direct a huge contract to himself. Doral has been in sharp decline in recent years. The White House says the resort will host the event at cost. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney insists that makes it's OK.

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[04:15:03]

MULVANEY: He's not making money off of this. Just like he's not making any money from working here. And if you think it's going to help his brand, that's great. But I would suggest that he probably doesn't need much help promoting his brand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler sees it otherwise. He says the plan violates the Constitution saying, "Hosting the G7 Summit at Doral implicates both the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses because it would entail both foreign and U.S. government spending to benefit the president."

KOSIK: With the Ukraine controversy heating up, Rick Perry is stepping down. The embattled Energy secretary informing President Trump he will leave his post later this year. He announced his decision last night in a video posted on YouTube.

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RICK PERRY, ENERGY SECRETARY: With profound emotion and gratitude that I'm announcing my resignation. There's much work to be done in these upcoming weeks. And I remain fully committed to accomplishing the goals that I set out to accomplish at the beginning of my tenure. I'll treasure the memories of what we've accomplished together.

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KOSIK: President Trump says he's already picked Perry's replacement. He had nothing but praise for the outgoing secretary.

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TRUMP: He's done a fantastic job for a long period of time. And we really appreciate it. The Department of Energy has far, far progressed from those days three years ago when you took it over. So, thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Last week, House Democrats subpoenaed Perry for Ukraine- related documents in their impeachment inquiry.

BRIGGS: The son of notorious drug kingpin El Chapo now said to be free after he was detained by Mexican security forces. Ovidio Guzman Lopez was arrested following hours of intense heavy gunfire with cartel members.

A Mexican security official telling Reuters they decided to release Guzman Lopez in order to protect lives. Gunmen believed to be members of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel appeared to overpower security forces who later suspended operations. According to CNN affiliate ADN-40, the clash involved armored vehicles with military-grade machinery and heavy artillery. Many residents fled in panic or locked themselves in their homes. According to ADN-40 officials say schools are closed until further notice.

KOSIK: Five of the many companies facing opioid lawsuits may pay $50 billion to settle those claims. Three pharmaceutical distribution companies, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation, now in talks with more than 2,000 state, local and Native American governments. A source tells CNN, they're prepared to pay a combined $18 billion over 18 years, with Johnson & Johnson contributing another $4 billion. If an agreement is reached, Teva Pharmaceuticals would contribute $29 billion for anti-addiction drugs and their distribution.

BRIGGS: E-cigarette maker Juul has agreed to stop selling many of its flavored products in the United States. Only tobacco, mint and menthol flavors will remain for sale. The company's mango, cream, fruit and cucumber flavors have already been pulled from its online store. The flavored pods will continue to be sold abroad. Juul's new CEO says he hopes the move will build trust in the vaping industry. KOSIK: Chiefs' fans and Dave Briggs, too, holding their breath. Are

you hold your breath?

BRIGGS: Indeed. I was.

KOSIK: How long will Patrick Mahomes be out? We'll have the latest, next.

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[04:23:34]

KOSIK: Welcome back. General Motors workers will remain on strike despite the tentative deal announced Wednesday. The nearly 50,000 workers will stay on the picket line until the deal is ratified, which could take up to eight days. Staying on strike for another week will cost union members $14 million in lost wages.

The United Auto Workers negotiating committee recommended accepting the deal. It includes pay increases and provides a way for temporary workers to become permanent. But the deal does not shift any production back to the U.S. from Mexico. It also did not save three out of four plants GM announced it was closing in November. But the company did save the Hamtramck plant in Detroit and said it will build an electric truck there sometime in the future.

The strike began more than a month ago. It's actually become the longest major strike in the auto industry in more than 20 years. If the strike ends in the coming days, GM will have lost an estimated $1.9 billion in profit.

BRIGGS: NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes sidelined by a potentially serious knee injury. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback helped off the field in the second quarter of last night's 30-6 victory over Denver after keeping the ball on a quarterback sneak. The team's medical staff appeared to be popping Mahomes' knee right back into place while he was on the ground there. He is expected to undergo an MRI today and could be out of action for at least three weeks or a lot longer if there's ligament damage.

[04:25:05]

The Houston Astros are one win away from the World Series showdown with the Washington Nationals. George Springer and Carlos Correia both launched three-run homers and the Astros cruising to an 8-3 win last night at Yankees Stadium. The Yankees committed four errors to go down three games to one of the series. Game five is tonight at Yankees Stadium. Houston will send Cy Young Award candidate Justin Verlander to the mound in the potential clincher.

Been quite a surprise for Yankee fans. Wasted opportunities.

KOSIK: Oh, yes. All right. The White House admits then denies a quid pro quo with Ukraine. You'll hear the White House chief of staff in his own words, next.

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