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Mulvaney Struggles to Explain Admission of Ukrainian Quid Pro Quo; Tornado Rips Through Dallas; Source: Trump Increasingly Frustrated with Mulvaney. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Key figures in the impeachment inquiry set to testify this week.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We stand behind the president. This investigation is unfair and partisan.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): I don't think any of us anticipated that the chief of staff would confirm that military aid was being held up in favor of a crackpot theory. It's almost embarrassing.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: My language never said "quid pro quo."

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We can't have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is against the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system that we have now would probably disappoint our founders. Everybody is quaking in fear of being criticized by the president.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, October 21. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. And you smell that?


BERMAN: What you are picking up might be the whiff of desperation. It could be the scent of panic. It is definitely the expanding aroma of chaos. It's also likely my Ice Blue Aqua Velva.

Over the last 72 hours or so, the White House has engaged in a mind- bending display of political retreat and reversal, all while a president loses support from some Republicans and mangles the name of his defense secretary. Now, it could not come at a more precarious time. Bill Taylor, the

acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is set to testify tomorrow in the impeachment inquiry. He raised a red flag in text messages, calling it crazy to withhold aid, military aid for a politically-motivated investigation. This is exactly the type of quid pro quo that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to last week out loud and on TV but is now trying to un-admit. And a source tells CNN President Trump is increasingly frustrated with Mick Mulvaney.

CAMEROTA: So all of this has caused the president to do something unusual. After facing bipartisan criticism, he actually reversed his decision to hold next year's G-7 summit at his Miami golf resort.

According to "The Washington Post," the president backtracked after a series of phone calls revealed impeachment-weary Republicans were growing tired of trying to defend this.

Frustration is also growing within the GOP over President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

So overnight, this stunning video shows rotten potatoes being thrown at a U.S. convoy as they pull out of Syria and head to Iraq. So not home, John, as promised. Troops not coming home. But now to Iraq.

So let's begin our coverage. It's a very busy morning. Let's go to CNN's Joe Johns. He is live for us at the White House -- Joe.


Another busy week in the impeachment inquiry. The high tempo continues as the president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, continues to find himself in the position of trying to walk back comments he made in that less-than-perfect news conference.

The White House continuing to try to figure out its strategy in the impeachment inquiry.


JOHNS (voice-over): A jam-packed week of testimony in the impeachment inquiry kicking off tomorrow with a crucial witness: acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor.

But the White House now in damage control mode as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney attempts to walk back comments he made last week, seemingly admitting there was a quid pro quo for freezing military aid to Ukraine. Mulvaney struggled to clean up the mess again yesterday.

MULVANEY: You again said just a few seconds ago that I said there was a quid pro quo. Never used that language, because there is not a quid pro quo.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You were asked by Jonathan Karl. You described a quid pro quo, and you said that happens all the time. MULVANEY: Again, reporters will use their language all the time. So

my language never said quid pro quo.

JOHNS: Despite saying this Thursday.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: 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 happened, as well.

MULVANEY: 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.

JOHNS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refusing to defend Mulvaney.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'll leave it to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what he intended.

JOHNS: A source familiar with the president's thinking telling CNN that, after watching media coverage, Trump has grown frustrated with Mulvaney. And the president spent the weekend fielding calls from allies, criticizing Mulvaney's presser.

Sources tell CNN that Mulvaney faced internal efforts to oust him prior to Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry. But his proximity to the scandal has afforded him insulation, two sources say, because of how much he knows.

Mulvaney also making this eyebrow-raising comment after Trump's decision to no longer host next year's G-7 summit at his Miami resort.

MULVANEY: At the end of the day, you know, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business. He wanted to put on the absolute best show.

JOHNS: "The Washington Post" reports that Trump backtracked after learning impeachment-weary Republicans were struggling to defend him on so many fronts.

All this as cracks emerge within the GOP support. Retiring Republican Congressman Francis Rooney saying he's open to an impeachment inquiry as Senator Mitt Romney ramps up his criticism.

ROMNEY: We certainly can't have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is, after all, against the law.


JOHNS: Rudy Giuliani's the president's personal attorney continues to be a key figure in the impeachment investigation. He met with a top official at the Department of Justice's criminal division. Now DOJ is saying it would have never taken that meeting, had it known two of Giuliani's associates were under investigation by a Manhattan U.S. attorney's office.


Back to you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Joe. You're right. It's going to be a busy week. Thank you very much.

Also breaking overnight, a tornado ripping through Dallas, Texas, causing miles of destruction. This morning, more than a hundred thousand customers there are without power.

Now, this storm demolishing a Home Depot. The video is pretty intense. Responders were going door to door to check on people. And so far, no reports of death or serious injuries.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas outside of that Home Depot.

So what's happening, Ed?


Well, it is stunning to think that no one was killed in this, no serious injuries, especially when you consider that this tornado touched down in some of the most heavily populated areas of this city on the northern side and cut a path of more than a dozen miles long from north to northeast along the north edge of this town.

This hitting mostly residential neighborhoods and then cutting across some of these business areas as this Home Depot you see behind me, that was demolished in this tornado, as well.

So really stunning to consider that in the dark this tornado wreaking this kind of havoc through some of the most densely-populated areas in the city and that no one was killed is truly a fortunate outcome in all of this.

But as you mentioned, nearly 100,000 people without power this morning. Fire/rescue teams throughout the night have been going through areas where we've seen structural collapses. Huge trees knocked down throughout all of this.

The Dallas Fire Department also says that the work will continue once the sun comes up here and visibility improved, just to make sure that there's no one else trapped in debris and in structures, that we've seen these collapses in throughout many parts of this city.

So it was really an incredibly dramatic night last night here in Dallas as this storm blew through -- Alisyn and John.

BERMAN: All right, Ed. Ed Lavandera in Dallas. Please keep us posted as the light comes up and authorities get a better sense of the damage that was done.

Meanwhile, the verbal gymnastics of chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. But he can't stick the landing. What does that say about the failing and flailing message of the White House at the beginning of crucial testimony in the impeachment inquiry? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: So new questions this morning about acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and his future. A source tells CNN that President Trump's agitation with Mulvaney has been growing as he watches coverage of Mulvaney's quid pro quo confession, then un-confession over the last 72 hours.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. And I have to confess my own confession. I'm less interested if Mick Mulvaney will be the next contestant on "Dancing with the Stars."

I'm more interested in what this last 72 hours of attempted messaging and retreats and reversals means for what the White House is doing, Abby. And to me, the big picture is it's not working. What they're trying to do is not working. Whether it be the G-7 at Doral. Whether it be Mick Mulvaney saying there was a quid pro quo, and there wasn't. It's just not working.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the part where we -- where we explain to people that there is no strategy here. And I think that's what this really reflects.

The White House never came up with a plan to deal with an impeachment inquiry, which has always been a very serious thing. They decided a long time ago that their line was going to be, "Well, the president didn't do anything at all. And so we don't need to prepare. We don't need to plan. We don't need to have a war room. We don't need to even prep the White House chief of staff before he goes into a room of reporters who haven't had a briefing in almost a year to talk about this stuff.

And so this is a reflection of the absence of a strategy inside the White House. And it's also a reflection of a president who has been, by every indication that we have, doing what he wants to do. And there's nobody in the White House to stop him, least of all Mick Mulvaney. This has been the way that Mulvaney has run the White House as acting

chief of staff. It's been let Trump be Trump. Let him do what he wants to do. And -- and we're seeing the results of that.

CAMEROTA: Riddle me this, David Gregory. About Mick Mulvaney, the reporting in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning is that he was surprised by the blowback. He was caught flat-footed and surprised that people would be upset about the announcement that the G-7 would be hosted at one of President Trump's golf clubs. Or that his admission about a quid pro quo would upset people.

So is that disconnectedness? Is that hubris? Because Sean Hannity, of all people, the president's loudest, biggest cheerleader, as we know, said about Mick Mulvaney, quote, "I think he's just dumb."

So what is it? DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know if it's all

of the above. I mean, I think it's another indication that the best and the brightest do not surround this president. And that's by design.

You know, you see in Mulvaney another example of how any internal checks on President Trump have melted away. Because he's not able to be influenced by those who have any kind of experience in Washington or some kind of governor of -- of better judgment than he has within the White House. He's able to do what he wants, announce what he wants, and everybody carries that out, even if they think it's misguided.


Here in the case of Doral, it was universally condemned, having the G- 7 meeting there. And the president is doing what he does, which is to watch TV to see how bad the bloodletting is. And then, realizing that, at a time when he does need to make friends and keep friends on Capitol Hill, Republicans are saying, Look, this is just too much to defend here all the time. This is not the fight worth having. And he backtracks.

But again, I think the bigger point is that there's just nobody around the president that can act as a governor of him right now.

BERMAN: And Abby called it the absence of a strategy. But the other problem here might be the presence of facts, and bad facts for this administration.

Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, testifies tomorrow behind closed doors at the impeachment inquiry. And it was Bill Taylor who memorialized in text messages so the whole world could see -- what did he say?

CAMEROTA: Well, he said, Are you saying -- Oh, here it is. I'll just say it from memory. Are you saying that we are now going to hold up military aid for this sort of arrangement with Ukraine, basically? Oh, here. No, that's not the one.

BERMAN: "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance" --

CAMEROTA: It's the other one.

BERMAN: -- "for help with a political campaign." Are we now saying that security sustains and the White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?"

And Gordon Sondland says, "Call me."

So he testifies this week. It's just the type of bad fact that -- that this White House is faced with, Abby. And when you see the flailing here, it doesn't, you know -- it doesn't counter that.

PHILLIP: Yes, you know, our sources have indicated over the last couple of days that what's been irritating the White House is that they are learning about this, what people are saying in their depositions when it gets leaked to the media.

Which, you know, I mean, in Washington, that is very unusual, because you usually try to find out about what you're going to be facing as you go forward. But this is a White House who's reacting to everything that is coming out of this testimony on Capitol Hill. And -- and it's problematic. They don't know what is coming next. And these facts are not benefitting -- benefitting the president.

And we should note here, Republicans are in these depositions, too. They have the opportunity to sort of -- if Democrats are selectively leaking, they can selectively leak, too. There have been far fewer selective leaks that have been favorable to the president. And it's an indication that what people are saying in -- behind those closed doors are not good for President Trump.

CAMEROTA: All right. Abby, David, stick around, because we have to talk about how Republicans are responding to all of this. So some have become more public, more verbal as of late. So we'll talk about if this signifies growing GOP cracks.

BERMAN: Like Francis Rooney in a coal mine. Right?


BERMAN: Francis --




ROMNEY: Going on TV on the White House lawn and saying, China, will you investigate my political opponent, is wrong. It's a mistake. It was shocking for the -- in my opinion, for the president to do so.

We certainly can't have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is, after all, against the law.


CAMEROTA: That was Senator Mitt Romney, speaking out against President Trump in a new interview, criticizing the president's behavior with Ukraine, as well as his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

And a growing number of Republicans -- well, it's small -- are voicing their disapproval of the president's policies.

Back with us to discuss all this, we have David Gregory and Abby Phillip.

So David, Mitt Romney has really sort of taken on the mantle here of being the person to say things out loud. Apparently, without fear of the president's Twitter tirades. So what's the significance?

GREGORY: Well, I think Mitt Romney is a significant figure in the Senate. He -- he is willing to take on the president, and he's seen the blowback coming from the White House and from the president specifically. And he's willing to withstand it.

But it's still not clear whether Mitt Romney attracts more people to him. He's been criticizing the president ever since the president ran in 2016. So Senator Romney mostly stands alone. That's what we've seen in the past few years.

But it's significant now, because I think there's more fluidity. And I think it's not just the revelations that are coming out about Ukraine. That, as we've been talking about for the past week, are not just about career foreign service figures. Like we'll see again today. But the president's own political appointees who have been critical of what he's done. I think that's so significant.

And the Syria decision is something that could unite Republicans and Democrats, but the uniting of Republicans in condemnation of the White House policy is what I think is so significant. Because it goes to something really large.

The question: is the president corrupt and is the president incompetent? Those are fundamental questions that could start to turn more and more Republicans against this White House. And what we've seen over the past few days with Mulvaney's behavior, I think, brings that question into -- into sharper focus.

BERMAN: I think it is significant that Mitt Romney is speaking out publicly. While he does say these things when asked, it's not often that he sits down for an extended interview the likes of which he did with Mike Allen and Axios. He clearly wants to get that message out and is excited to get it out.

And I also think that it's not just Mitt Romney anymore. It's not this tidal wave of Republicans. But Francis Rooney, a Republican congressman from Florida who was ambassador to the Vatican, a Bush guy, a lifelong Republican, is now out saying, You know what? I'm listening. I'm listening in the impeachment inquiry.


I want you to listen to what he said to Jake over the weekend.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If Speaker Pelosi were to call a vote tomorrow for launching an impeachment inquiry, not impeachment itself but just an inquiry to find out what the facts are, how do you think you'd vote?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): I'm not 100 percent sure right this second. I want to hear what Ambassador Taylor has to say Tuesday, and I'm hoping to have a chance to hear Ambassador Bolton before that would happen. Because what I've heard so far is quite troubling. It's quite troubling that we had a diplomatic outreach of civilians derogating our paid public servant diplomats.


BERMAN: "What I've heard so far is troubling," Abby. He's been behind closed doors, listening to this testimony. And I don't want to overstate the importance of Francis Rooney, but I think we risk understating it, as well. If you have a member of Congress who can vote on impeachment coming out and saying, You know what? I'm troubled.

PHILLIP: Yes. I think it's important. Every time there's another Republican who comes out and speaks out, it's important, because it's so rare. It's still so rare, because many of them are afraid. And you know, I do think the other most important thing that he did was announce that he's not running for re-election.

CAMEROTA: Right. Why did he tie those two together?

PHILLIP: He -- I think he had no choice. I mean, this is the reality of the Republican Party. If you are running for -- for an election in this country as a Republican, you cannot -- it is very difficult for you to come out and oppose Trump.

The reason that Romney can do it is because he is a United States senator. He has a six-year term. And he's running in a state of Utah that has never been particularly warm to President Trump. So it's just the reality of it.

Some Republicans are going to have to put -- put whatever they feel about the situation before their political survival. And I think that's what Rooney is essentially saying here. He's saying, I'm willing to put my political career on the line, because it's not worth it to me, in the face of what I'm seeing that I'm deeply troubled by.

More Republicans are going to have to say that. I think many -- some will, but I doubt it's going to be an avalanche. Because political survival in Washington is really all that many of these lawmakers, unfortunately, care about.

GREGORY: I also think that --

CAMEROTA: Just behind the scenes, we're also hearing reports that Republicans have expressed displeasure about the Doral, for instance, decision. And that's what, in fact, tipped the scales and made the president backtrack on it. Because in a meeting, just, again, off the -- not off the record, but certainly not on camera, they said how troubled they were by that.

GREGORY: Right. And I think the issue is how they're going to defend the president.

You know, the president is sensitive to movement among Republicans. It's interesting what -- what are the levels of criticism that move him. And this was one on Doral that was so obviously inappropriate, only to be compounded by Mulvaney yet again yesterday saying he -- you know, he still believes he's in the hospitality business. That Republicans are saying, look, enough is enough. We can't defend you all day long.

And the president has some sensitivity about that.

BERMAN: And look, and when they do, they get their legs cut out from under them. Marco Rubio went out and defended hosting the G-7 at Doral, only to have, two days later, the president say, never mind there. So how does he feel about this today?

David, Abby, thank you very much.

The U.S. troop withdrawal, most of it, we're seeing it this morning underway in Syria. Hundreds of armored vehicles crossing into Iraq. Not coming home but going to Iraq. A live report from the region, next.