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Impact of Trump's Turkey Policy; Cartel Gunmen Torch Cars and Buses in Mexican City; Prison for Felicity Huffman; Mattis Roasts Trump. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 18, 2019 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00]

DAVID SINGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Middle East would be like this. He said to Nancy Pelosi, as the speaker said herself yesterday, that he just wanted to get all American troops out of the Middle East.

Now, leave aside for the fact that he just sent 2,000 into Saudi Arabia. And I think that he was thinking about being able to tell his supporters that he had done that without thinking about who the winners were here. And who are the winners, other than Erdogan? It's Russia and Putin, because they backed Assad's forces. It's Bashar al Assad, the dictator of Syria. And, of course, it's the ISIS fighters, who suddenly have discovered that they have a way to break out of jail. And the president's agreement, or the vice president's agreement, calls for a policing of ISIS. But I'm not sure there's going to be much left to police.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And so is it the impression that the Middle East has, just with this in sort of one fell swoop, does have all of these kind of geopolitical realignments right now?

SINGER: There is certainly a part of a realignment here. And the main one is that Russia, which went into Syria first in 2015, and which President Obama sort of said at the time, good luck, you know, you'll get stuck as we have in Middle East wars. They've emerged pretty victorious. They now have a very solid foothold in the Middle East for the first time really since the 1960s. They have a naval base they've long had in Syria. But now they have free run of the country and basically a vassal state.

But, more than that, the United States has given up this protectorate that it had for the Kurds. The Kurds have been abandoned. The U.S. has no more leverage along that border. And the president is praising President Erdogan for being strong and resolving this. Well, he resolved it completely on Erdogan's terms.

CAMEROTA: I mean, and giving up the protectorate, of course, you also give up power. I mean those two go, you know, hand in hand. And the idea that the U.S. is still an influence in that region.

Here is what Jamie Gangel, one of our CNN contributors and correspondents, found from a Republican source. Here's what was going on behind the scenes. Republican members were shaken by what they saw and heard. He is not in control of himself. This is about the meeting with Trump on Wednesday. It is all yelling and screaming. I have never seen anything like it. No one in the room has ever seen anything like it.

And so, David, you heard Senator Mitt Romney speaking out about how distressed he was. So, behind the scenes, it sounds like Republicans are confused and concerned.

SANGER: Well, you know, the Republicans came out pretty unanimously against the president. You saw an overwhelming vote for sanctions on Turkey in the middle of the week. A vote on which all the Democrats and 129 Republicans in the House joined with that. So it was a pretty resounding element.

I think what the president was shocked that he got this much criticism. And that, in the end, the deal was, just get a deal, whatever it is, to get this off the headlines. And I think that, you know, that may well succeed for him over time because the Republicans will be back trying to deal with Ukraine, impeachment, the other issues, and Mike Pence will come home having proclaimed he got a great deal.

Well, the great deal was that the United States created a vacuum and the Russians and Bashar Assad filled it.

CAMEROTA: And, also, how is a five-day cease-fire a victory?

SANGER: It's not. I mean a cease-fire would be a cease-fire. Five days is really just time to go regroup your forces. And there's some evidence that Turkey needed that anyway just because they were somewhat overstretched.

And if there is one piece of silver lining here, it is possible that Turkey has bitten off more than it can chew in this part of Syria and that they won't be able to control the area fully. But if they can't, what that means is that Assad and the Russian-backed forces will all go in and take it. And the U.S. will have lost its leverage, while it lost its allies.

But I think the bigger damage, Alisyn, is the damage done to other allies who look and say, if President Trump was willing to sell out the Kurds this quickly, are we next?

CAMEROTA: David Sanger, we really appreciate your expertise in sharing all of that important context with us.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Can I just say, that was the best discussion on this subject that I think I've heard in a long time.

CAMEROTA: I learned a lot in those six minutes.

BERMAN: The big picture here of why this matters and what's happening and who's benefiting from it, that was terrific.

[08:34:47]

All right, a fierce battle on the streets of Mexico. Federal police coming under fire by a notorious cartel after arresting the son of the drug lord El Chapo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: High drama and danger in Mexico. Officials there have freed the son of drug kingpin Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.

[08:40:02]

This after cartel gunmen turned the city where he was captured into this urban war zone. Look at these pictures. Ovidio Guzman Lopez is wanted on his own behalf in the United States on drug trafficking charges. When word of his capture began to spread, these cartel people began torching cars and buses.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Mexico city with the latest developments.

So now he's walking free?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, John.

What happened when El Chapo Guzman was extradited to the United States a few years ago, the U.S. government says that at least two of his sons, in part, picked up the slack in the family business. And so that is why Ovidio Guzman was a top target for the Mexican and the U.S. authorities.

Now, what happened yesterday, according to the Mexican government, was on a routine patrol, they came under fire from a house in the city of Culiacan. Upon entering that hour, they found and took into custody Ovidio Guzman. That was a major coup for the Mexican government. But after that happened, other cartel members besieged that city to the point, you can see it in these videos, to the point where the government had to admit that they were outmanned and outgunned by incredible firepower. There was firefights in the streets all day long and it eventually ended with the Mexican government actually getting -- taking Ovidio Guzman and letting him go. This is one of Mexico's top criminal suspects wanted in the United States and yet, because of the cartel violence, they were forced to free him.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for that report with that shocking video there.

Meanwhile, back here, Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman is waking up in a federal prison this morning as she begins her jail time for her role in the college admissions scandal. Huffman admitted paying $15,000 to inflate her daughter's test scores.

So what will prison be like for a celebrity? CNN's Alexandra Field is here with the details.

What's the answer, Alex?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Alisyn.

Look, it's federal prison, so no doubt Felicity Huffman is waking up and counting down the days. But this is a woman who has expressed regret. She's expressed remorse. Prosecutors want her to serve an even longer term. The judge says, with this, she will have paid her dues.

So here's a look at what that time will look like.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: Actress Felicity Huffman, now Federal Inmate Number 77806-112, reported this week to prison in Dublin, California. A low security lock-up once dubbed by "Forbes" magazine in 2009 as one of America's ten cushiest prisons.

It's far from the Hollywood star's Hollywood Hills home, but close enough for her husband, actor William H. Macy, to visit. Thirty-five miles outside of San Francisco, Dublin has more than 1,200 female inmates. Like the rest of the prison population, Huffman will wear a khaki uniform and wake up by 5:00 in the morning. She can buy some personal items and food at the commissary and there's a wellness program that includes arts and crafts and team sports.

The small screen star who shot to fame as a desperate housewife isn't the prison's first famous inmate. Patty Hurst was sent there in the '70s. In the '90s, the so-called Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss did time at Dublin. She later described the low security prison as anything but easy.

HEIDI FLEISS, FORMER DUBLIN PRISON INMATE: You're in a very anti- social environment. It's very hostile. You know, there are times when I felt like, oh, my God, I'm going to have to go to the weight pile and kill this girl and I'll be stuck here for the rest of my life. You know, there were some scary situations.

FIELD: Huffman's sentence, just 14 days, was handed down in a Boston courtroom last month. The actress pleaded guilty in May to paying $15,000 to inflate her daughter's SAT scores. In a letter to the court, she wrote, in my desperation to be a good mother, I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I've done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter and failed my family.

Huffman is one of more than 30 mostly high-profile parents facing charges in the nation's largest college admissions scandal. "Operation Varsity Blues." Many have already been sentenced. Others are still fighting the charges, including actress Lori Loughlin, who could face as much as 40 years behind bars.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FIELD: Huffman will, in the end, just serve 13 days of a 14-day sentence. That's because she's getting credit for a day that she was already in federal custody. Beyond that she'll have to perform some 250 hours of community service. She will also be under probation for a year.

But, Alisyn and John, I think one of the really interesting things about Huffman was that she apologized, of course, to the court. Not just to her daughter and to her family, but also to all the other students, to all the other parents who may have been cheated by her attempt to put her child at the front of the line. Certainly something interesting for all the other parents who are embroiled in this to be thinking about right now.

CAMEROTA: Also interesting to hear from Heidi Fleiss, who describes it as grittier than we sometimes think of a celebrity lockup.

[08:45:04]

FIELD: Yes, you say one of the cushiest prisons in America. But, look, this is still federal prison. So it's not going to be easy for anyone.

CAMEROTA: Alexandra, thank you very much.

Join CNN's Fareed Zakaria as he investigates big money and college admission. CNN's special report, "Scheme and Scandal: Inside the College Admissions Crisis" is Sunday night.

BERMAN: One of the biggest scandal is what is fully legal, I will note that.

Here is what else to watch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

10:45 a.m. ET, House GOP press conference.

11:00 a.m. ET, Capitol climate change protest.

11:50 a.m. ET, Pompeo arrives in Brussels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, President Trump called his former defense secretary, James Mattis, the world's most overrated general. Now, Mattis put on a white tie and fired back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL JIM MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: But I'd earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out, and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor. So --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Much more from last night's roast from someone who was there, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:50:27]

BERMAN: So, new this morning, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis cracking a few jokes at President Trump's expense at this charity event in New York after the president called Mattis the world's most overrated general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL JIM MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: It too that 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. And, frankly, that sounds pretty good to me. And you do have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we've had some victories.

Some of you were kind during the reception and asked me, you know, if this bothered me to have been rated this way based on what Donald Trump said. I said, of course not, I'd earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out, and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor. So 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, and that's Colonel Sanders.

It's been a year since I left the administration. The recovery process is going well. The counselor said I'll graduate soon. A year is, according to White House time, about 9,000 hours of executive time or 1,800 holes of golf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So we sent the only person we know who owns a white tie to this event. John Avlon was there.

John --

CAMEROTA: Did you wear long tails?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, and there -- I did -- I do not -- I'm not acquainted with this white tie you speak of, but folks on the dais (ph) did. It's a big annual charity event hosted by the Catholic Diocese here in New York. And folks know -- probably know it from every four years the presidential candidates come and they always give sort of a roast style humorous speech, as Mattis did last night.

But that, of course, could not have been more on the news. He, for the first time, answered the president's criticism from the other day and he's been very silent, very reticent to criticize the president. But here you saw the door open just a little bit.

CAMEROTA: Well, and, I mean, John, you were saying that you thought that he should speak out -- I he's going to make jokes --

BERMAN: I didn't say that. I'm saying -- I'm saying --

CAMEROTA: You were saying people say --

BERMAN: People have been critical overnight.

AVLON: Some people say --

CAMEROTA: Some people say that if he's going to speak out, why crack jokes? Really just own it and speak up. But I think he did, because there was this part that wasn't funny, John, and he said -- he was quoting Lincoln, OK, and Mattis said, it was not the foreign aggressor we must fear, it was corrosion from within. The wrought, the viciousness, the lassitude, the ignorance, the rise of an ambitious leader unfettered by conscience or precedent or decency. I mean how else do we interpret this than him sending a message about President Trump?

AVLON: That's exactly how you interpret it because that's exactly what he did.

CAMEROTA: So he is speaking out. This is his style of speaking out.

AVLON: No. And that was a very serious, historical reference to a speech Lincoln gave in 1827, but directly at, you know, Donald Trump. He also, you know, gave praise to our Kurdish allies to applause in the room. And this is a room full of a lot of Republicans.

Look, you know, it didn't go as far as Admiral McRaven did in his "New York Times" op-ed today saying Donald Trump is destroying the republic. But, through humor, and through historical parallels, he made it totally clear where he stands, that this president, he seems to suggest, is not fit for office.

BERMAN: But he doesn't say that.

AVLON: No.

BERMAN: He doesn't say those words, and that's what some people are asking for here. They've been looking to Mattis as this beacon of hope in this truth-teller.

AVLON: Yes, and, again, he has said, look, I'm a Marine, and I think it's disloyal to go after a sitting president. But you saw the door crack open a little bit. Let's see if it goes wider. The more the president attacks him, the more some folks will say, look, you should -- you should respond in kind. But there's no doubting where he stood last night, even though he used humor and history to tell the truth.

CAMEROTA: I guess that I just think this is his version of speaking out. I think that that's how Mattis is.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: That's his comfort level and that's his bar. Well, we'll see. We'll see if that's as far as he's willing to go.

AVLON: We'll see.

CAMEROTA: John, Thank you. Time will tell.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: You looked good in the white tie.

AVLON: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: All right, now, proof that one man can make a big dent in cleaning our oceans. You know there's 8 million tons of plastic that ends up in our --

BERMAN: You tell me that every day.

CAMEROTA: Because I think you need to recycle more.

It ends up in the world's oceans every year. And this week's CNN Hero took it upon himself to tackle this global problem by first recruiting a neighbor to help him clean his childhood beach and then word spread on social media. Meet Afroz Shah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AFROZ SHAH, CNN HERO: The whole beach was like a carpet of plastic. For the first time in my life, I didn't want to be near the water because the garbage was like five and a half feet.

[08:55:05]

This problem of pollution is created by us. And with this in my mind, I started to clean the beach. And I told myself, it will be difficult for a single man to do it. So I said, why not take this personal journey to others.

If this huge ocean is a problem, we'll have to rise up in huge numbers. When you have a complicated problem, sometimes solutions are simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right, to see how the first beach he began cleaning looks now, go to cnn.com/heroes.

BERMAN: I love him.

CAMEROTA: I love him too.

BERMAN: The pictures of those beaches were extraordinary.

CAMEROTA: Thank God for our CNN heroes and the candidates for CNN heroes. BERMAN: Good for him.

CAMEROTA: OK, the fallout from the chief of staff's quid pro quo admission is still resonating this morning in Washington. We have some new developments, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)