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Mick Mulvaney Confirms Quid Pro Quo with Ukraine; Cease-fire Deal Seems to Give Turkey What It Wants; Syrian Refugees Crossing Into Northern Iraq; U.K. and E.U. Strike Brexit Deal. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 18, 2019 - 04:30   ET



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.


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

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Questions about the cease-fire in Syria. Did the Trump administration hand Turkey's president everything he wanted?

BRIGGS: El Chapo's son at the center of a shoot-out with a Mexican drug cartel.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: Good morning. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:30 Eastern Time. Happy Friday, everyone.

We start in the nation's capital. 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.


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.


BRIGGS: And there's that. Only hours later, Mulvaney was walking back the argument, essentially claiming in a statement that he hadn't said what you just 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. The problem there is this claim that the president who brought up Biden now in his infamous call with the leader of Ukraine.

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


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.


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.


KOSIK: A source close to the president tells CNN, Mulvaney's acknowledgment of a 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 misinterpreting Mulvaney's comments.

But Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, she doesn't see it that way. She says this, "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.


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


BRIGGS: 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 E.U., 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 U.S. election and the Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board.

KOSIK: 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.



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.


KOSIK: The deal appears to meet most of Turkey's military goals. It 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.


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

President Erdogan was a gentleman. He understood it. But without a little tough love -- you know what tough love is, right? Without a little tough love, they wouldn't have made this deal.


KOSIK: For more on how the cease-fire is being perceived in Turkey, let's turn to CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live in the capital of Ankara. Good morning, Jomana. So walk me through this because it was moments

after Vice President Mike Pence said that this was a cease-fire that Turkey came out and said, no, it's not. It's a pause. What are you seeing?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Alison, I think the way Turkey wants this to be perceived is that they have the upper hand here. They don't want to call this a cease-fire because they say a cease-fire is between two legitimate entities. And in this case, they don't see these Kurdish Syrian fighters as a legitimate entity. They see them as a terrorist organization. Some U.S. officials would say it's an issue of semantics here.

But Turkey is really putting this out here, framing this as a great victory militarily and also politically. Turkish officials saying that they got all they wanted out of the meetings yesterday with the U.S. delegation. They're saying that their military offensive achieved its goals. And what they mean by that is that, for months, they've been negotiating with the United States, trying to get the U.S. administration, the Pentagon, to agree to this safe zone, this buffer zone, that Turkey is trying to establish.

And the talks were really rocky. They didn't really agree on everything when it came to that safe zone. So at least now, they feel that they have in principle, really, in writing, they have this commitment from the United States. But the question is, how is this really going to translate on the ground? We've heard from the Syrian Kurdish fighters from the YPG, from the top commander there, saying that they were part of the negotiations with the United States. They agreed to the cease-fire. But there's no mention of them withdrawing.

And then, there's the question of what areas are actually covered. So, it's a very vaguely-worded agreement. And another complicating factor in all of this is that at least publicly we don't know if all the key players are involved in this agreement. We mean in this case the Russians and the Syrian regime. And as we have seen in recent days, of course, the Russians, right now, are the major player, the key player in all of this. And they get to call the shots on the ground.

And that is why President Erdogan is headed -- at the end of this five-day pause in fighting, he's headed to Russia where he will be meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin -- Alison.

KOSIK: Yes, 120 hours in the cease-fire if you want to call it that, or this pause. But it's just enough time for that meeting between Erdogan and Putin to happen.

Jomana Karadsheh, live for us in Ankara, thank you very much.

BRIGGS: Border officials say at least 7,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the Turkish offensive have crossed into Iraq's Kurdistan region.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh live in northern Iraq with the latest.


Hundreds of thousands of people said to be on the move. You see just sort of the tip of those who are lucky enough to get out of Kurdish- held Syria, crossing here into Iraqi Kurdistan. Smaller numbers compared to the bulk we saw ourselves about a week ago, shifting around between towns that are frequently changing control.

This will probably intensify in the next four or five days or so because there is an extraordinary discrepancy in interpretations of this cease-fire deal. If you read U.S. officials trying to explain it, not very well, I have to say, I still don't get what they really think but they seem to suggest that it involves areas that Turkey already controls. Well, Turkey interpret it as involving everywhere that it wants to control.

And that's the key difference here because Turkey perceives there's an onus now on the Syrian Kurds to get out of the areas it wants to control. Rather think there's a U.S. perception that they've managed to get the Syrian Kurds to stop fighting and to get out of areas that they're already out of.

It will be chaotic, frankly, in the days ahead. And there have been suggestions that there's already shelling and gunfire at Ras al-Ain, one of the key border towns possibly on the edge of the American interpretation of where the cease-fire deal should go.


As Jomana said, make no mistake at all, this is all about the meeting in Sochi. The timing of this pause in fighting, kind of a humiliating nod, frankly, to the lack of U.S. traction and diplomacy here. Donald Trump tried to make it sound like a big deal. But really they're kicking the can down the road to some degree until President Erdogan and President Putin sit down and genuinely act as the power brokers delineating territory here.

But many civilians caught in the middle as the sides continue to grab territory ahead of that Sochi meeting. Back to you.

BRIGGS: We're playing into the hands of Putin.

Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in Irbil, Iraq, thanks.

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, quote, "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.


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?


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's even stronger than the one in the Democratic-controlled House that passed. BRIGGS: Next year's G7 Summit of world leaders will be hosted at

President Trump's own Doral Resort in Miami. That decision was made by President Trump. Historians call the move unprecedented, the president using his public office to direct a huge contract to himself. Revenue at Doral has been in sharp decline in recent years with net operating income down 69 percent. The White House says the resort will host the event at cost. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney insists that makes it OK.


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.


BRIGGS: House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler disagrees. He says the plan violates the Constitution. He says, "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: A gun battle on the streets of Mexico. More on the fight over a notorious drug lord's son. That's next.



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: Mark Zuckerberg defended free speech at an address in Georgetown on Thursday, citing Supreme Court cases and historical figures. The Facebook CEO said during times of social upheaval lawmakers have tried to limit free speech.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: We are at another crossroads. We can either continue to stand for free expression, understanding its messiness but believing that the long journey towards greater progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us. Or we can decide that the cost is simply too great.


KOSIK: Facebook has been at the center of the controversy about truth in political ads. It allows politicians to lie in campaign posts on the platform. The company has defended its right to not censor political candidates. But some including Elizabeth Warren have said the company is running a disinformation-for-profit machine.

Zuckerberg pushed back on the criticism in his speech. He said the controversy is not worth the small amount of business it represents.

BRIGGS: Now that the U.K. and the E.U. have struck a Brexit deal, what's next? The agreement faces an uphill battle to get approved in the British Parliament by Saturday. If Prime Minister Boris Johnson can't get that done, he is legally obligated to request a Brexit extension into January of next year. Of course the E.U. not legally obliged to grant an extension.

Melissa Bell live from Brussels with the latest.

Melissa, good morning.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. It had seemed improbable at the very least, impossible to many, that the British prime minister would turn up here yesterday and managed to get that 11th hour deal at the European level. And yet he did. The next step, though, and perhaps an even harder battle, can he get it past the British Parliament?

There are many questions about whether this is possible. Does he have the parliamentary arithmetic on his side? Westminster will sit in an extraordinary session on Saturday. That hasn't happened in decades. It's looking like the votes are going to be extremely tight. But it is looking possible. What will that mean? That an orderly and consensual divorce will have been achieved by the 31st of October and the United Kingdom will leave the E.U. with all sides agreeing on how that divorce should happen.

Just a couple of days ago, that has seemed very unlikely. It's now looking at least possible -- Dave. BRIGGS: Real shocker. Who would have thought Boris would get this


Melissa Bell, live for us in Brussels. Thanks.

KOSIK: I have to say it's not over until it's --

BRIGGS: This is really -- no, it's not over.

KOSIK: It's not over until it's over.

BRIGGS: Parliament is like herding cats but still he's come a long way. Who would have thought?

KOSIK: Oh, yes.

All right. Are you a Barbie fan? Because you suggested this story.

BRIGGS: Of course I am. Love me some Barbie.

KOSIK: All right. Well, you'll soon be able to live out your Dreamhouse fantasy. I'm talking a real fantasy here.

BRIGGS: I'm in. Let's go.

KOSIK: That's in CNN Business, next.



BRIGGS: Former Defense secretary James Mattis breaking his silence after President Trump referred to him as, quote, "the world's most overrated general." Mattis was a featured guest at last night's Alfred E. Smith Dinner hosted by the Archdiocese of New York. And he lobbed a few good jokes at his former boss.


JAMES MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So, I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals.


MATTIS: And frankly, that sounds pretty good to me.


MATTIS: And you do have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we've had some victories. I earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out. And Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.

(LAUGHTER) MATTIS: Not in the least bit put out by it. And I think the only person in the military that Mr. Trump doesn't think is overrated is who you pointed out, Martin, that's Colonel Sanders.


BRIGGS: Wow. KFC jokes coming from Mattis. Hot. Mattis did get serious about the bitter partisan divide in D.C. and the nation. And he quoted a line from Abraham Lincoln's speech to drive home his point.


MATTIS: No, Lincoln went on. It was not the foreign aggressor we must fear. It was corrosion from within, the rot, the viciousness, the lassitude, the ignorance. Anarchy is one potential consequence of all this. Another is the rise of an ambitious leader, unfettered by conscience or precedent or decency, who would make themselves supreme. If destruction be our lot, Lincoln warned, we must, ourselves, be its author and finisher.


BRIGGS: Mattis resigned last December after President Trump indicated he wanted to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

KOSIK: He is getting some criticism for coming out now. He's been so quiet. And now, you know, he's coming out joking instead of being serious.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Taking a look at global markets. Asian stocks closed mostly lower on Friday. Mainland China -- Chinese markets fell, after China released worst- than-expected GDP numbers as the U.S.-China trade conflict drags on.

On Wall Street we saw stocks end in the green. The Dow rose 25 points. It looks like IBM dragged it down, closing 5.5 percent lower after reporting disappointing earnings.

A senator is proposing putting executives in jail if they lie about misusing Americans' data. The Mind Your Own Business Act threatens up to 20 years behind bars and stiff tax penalties. It would also give the Federal Trade Commission broad powers to fine companies for violating the proposed law.

The bill's sponsor, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden has been a vocal critic of the Facebook's $5 billion settlement over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Wyden has said a slap on the wrist from the FTC won't do the job.

Budweiser Brewer, Anheuser-Busch accusing its main rival of stealing a secret beer recipe. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the fight began with the brewer of Miller Lite and Coors Light over a Super Bowl ad. MillerCoors' owner claimed in the lawsuit the ad falsely suggested that its beer contained corn syrup. A judge temporarily stopped Bud Light from running the ads in May. Anheuser-Busch said in a counterclaim Thursday that a MillerCoors employee got its secret recipe from Bud Light and Michelob Ultra from an Anheuser-Busch employee.

Hmm, intrigue.

Barbie fans will soon be able to live out their childhood dreams. Airbnb will soon list a Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse, get this, for just $60 a night. The real house has the iconic pink slide from the balcony. It's got the infinity pool, which I plan to be sitting next to. And it's decked out in Barbie attire. This is going to be the first available to book on October 23rd. If you're wondering, this is in honor of Barbie's 60th anniversary. So mark your calendars.

Dave is interested in this. October 23rd.

BRIGGS: Boys' trip.

KOSIK: Booking opens -- boys' trip.


KOSIK: Booking opens 11:00 a.m. Pacific, 2:00 p.m. Eastern. I know you're going to try to get there. And if you do --

BRIGGS: Let's do this.

KOSIK: Take a bunch of us from CNN.

BRIGGS: Sorry. You're not coming.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest --