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U.S. Troops Leave Syria; Warren to Release Plan to Pay for Medicare; Clinton Suggests Gabbard is Russian Asset; Mulvaney Struggles to Explain Admission; U.K. Parliament Could Vote on Brexit Plan Today; Coach Disarms Student with Shotgun. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 21, 2019 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria and crossing the border into Iraq. The troops will be re- deployed in Iraq despite President Trump's claim that he is bringing them home to the United States.

Meanwhile, we have new video -- I want you to see this. This is rotten potatoes being thrown at a U.S. convoy as those troops leave Syria.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in northern Syria with the breaking details.

A lot of movement this morning, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It started yesterday near Hasco (ph). We saw the troops rallying together. They've been moving through Syria fast. In fact, drove pretty much right past us at one point in large numbers in the dark. Interesting scenes simply because of the volume of traffic here shook us awake in the dead of night. But at times, too, they seemed to get an angry reception from locals.

At one roundabout here, in fact, you can see, some of the locals are yelling at one of the American SUVs as it goes past. Remember, this is the scenes you saw there too. Remember, these U.S. troops, many of them don't want to leave as far as I understand, feel their mission isn't finished hear but are ordered and follow those orders. Syrian Kurds simply furious that they feel betrayal here, mostly by these troop leadership in Washington. We've been hearing from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper that this will take weeks if not days. Well, it's clear that this is the largest movement here.

Secretary Esper went on to suggest that there may be a force left around to protect the oil fields, that may be harking back to when President Trump said they have secured the oil. No one knew what he meant, but that might be part of it. We don't know numbers. We don't know durations. But this certainly seems to slightly take the edge off the idea of a total withdrawal. But also, too, is the bizarre fact, frankly, that this mission against ISIS, who may resurge in the vacuum and the chaos here, will continue, but across the border in Iraq. The troops, as you just said, they're not going home, they're just going to have to continue the same task from a much more difficult position, in a neighboring country rather than here in Syria where they have allies doing the fighting for them and they had pretty much freedom to roam wherever they wanted.


That's the substantial tactical problem with the last two weeks, along with the failure, frankly, it shows regionally of U.S. leadership to some degree. Add on top of that, too, the fact the U.S. have left just ahead of a key moment. Tomorrow is a meeting in Sochi between Turkey and Russia, frankly, to decide, as the power brokers here, Russia, it seems, backing the regime behind the Syrian Kurds, who gets what. If it falls apart, it could get nasty for the Americans. They're no longer here to call the shots for the most part.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There's so much that's confusing about the decision. Thank you for laying it out for us, Nick.

Back here, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Hillary Clinton are in a heated public spat. Why and who does this help?



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be putting out a plan that talks specifically about the cost of Medicare for all and how we can pay for it.


But this much I promise to you. I will not sign a bill into law that does not reduce the cost of health care for middle class families.


BERMAN: So that right there, a significant development in the Democratic race for president. Senator Elizabeth Warren committing for the first time to outline her plan, a plan, any plan to pay for Medicare for all. That pledge comes after Warren has come under growing criticism from her 2020 rivals over whether or not she would have to raise taxes on the middle class to fund her health care proposal.

Joining us now, CNN political commentators Mark McKinnon, he's a former senior adviser to the George W. Bush and McCain campaigns, and Karen Finney, she is a former spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

And, Mark, when you hear Elizabeth Warren say I'm going to come out with something, that in and of itself is an admission that, a, she hasn't had anything to this point, and, b, she thinks she needs to. MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No question. You could see

in the last debate that it's the real chink in her armor, the woman who has a plan for everything has not laid out a plan for out how to pay for her program. And she became the focus of a spirited attack from lots of candidates, particularly Buttigieg and Klobuchar, the kind of more centrist candidates.

But this is a big moment for her because it's the one weakness in her campaign so far. And it's a significant question about how you pay for this because, you know, the estimates for the costs of covering this are pretty catastrophic. So it will be interesting to see what she comes up with.

BERMAN: And that's what the Biden campaign and others are leaning into here, Karen. Let me read a statement from the Biden campaign on this. They're say it's mystifying that for someone who has put having a plan for everything at the center of her pitch to voters, Senator Warren has decided to release a health care plan over after enduring immense public pressure for refusing to do so. We hope her plan will be straight with the American people about how much middle class taxes will go up to pay for the 30-plus trillion it will take to fund Medicare for all.

How do you see it?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Welcome to being the frontrunner, Elizabeth Warren, right? I mean, that's what really this is about. It's not that -- these are obviously important questions, but, you know, Bernie Sanders has had some plans out there that he hasn't said how he's going to pay for it. He did in 2016. He does now. And there's not the same pressure. This is part of being the frontrunner and, you know, it is also the weakness in this plan. And it is a place, you know, raising taxes is always a very sensitive issue, as we all know.

What I thought was interesting in what she said, though, is, she said the cost of health care -- and this is kind of where the rub has been, right? It's -- OK, the cost of health care may not go up, but how are you going to -- are you going to really not be able -- have to raise taxes in order to pay for it, right? That's where the rub in this conversation is happening. It's part of why Joe Biden says his plan is better because it gives you more freedom, more options. He can pay for it. Similar with Pete Buttigieg. So that's going to be the thing she's going to have to explain. If there's any hint that taxes go up, granted her argument, I think, is going to be overall costs are down. We'll see if that's enough to satisfy voters, frankly.

BERMAN: All right, you said welcome to being a frontrunner, Elizabeth Warren.


BERMAN: So welcome to being an 11th or 12th place runner. I don't even know what the word for that is when it comes to Tulsi Gabbard. And Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, former Democratic nominee for president, was on a podcast and made direct reference to Tulsi Gabbard.

Listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think they've got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary. She's a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.


BERMAN: And Tulsi Gabbard -- that was Hillary Clinton suggesting that Tulsi Gabbard is essentially a Russians asset there. Tulsi Gabbard responded to this saying something to the effect of, great, thank you, Hillary Clinton. You, queen of the warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, dot, dot, dot and it goes on with very similar language there.


BERMAN: So why elevate Tulsi Gabbard? What is Hillary Clinton doing here and why and who wins?

FINNEY: Well, I'll tell you what I thought was interesting. In all the back and forth, Tulsi did not once deny anything that Hillary had said. She did not -- most importantly, she did not deny whether or not she might be thinking of a third party run. I think there are -- I will tell you that within the party, there are folks who have felt like, you know, Gabbard uses her time on the stage. She's very anti- interventionist. She's never had to answer any tough questions about her relationship with Bashar al Assad, particularly in the context of what we're seeing happen right now. Obviously I think that's partially because she hasn't been a frontrunner, she hasn't faced that kind of scrutiny.

But, at the same time, there have been, you know, there are a lot of different things flying around in terms of looking at some of the bots that have -- that support her and looking at some of the people who support her. So I think Hillary just kind of gave voice to what, you know, some of the rumors have been out there.


And I would not be surprised if we don't see Tulsi actually -- because she's already setting it up by attacking the Democratic Party, to run in a -- as a third party candidate.

BERMAN: She has been asked about that the last week and she continues to say she won't run as a third party candidate there. And there is a difference, Mark, between being an Assad apologist, which some people say that Tulsi Gabbard is. And she -- I mean she basically has come out and defended actions that have been taking place in Syria by Assad and being a Russian asset. And the question is, does Hillary elevate Tulsi Gabbard? MCKINNON: Well, saying somebody's a Russian asset suggests complicity.

And I -- you know, I talked with Tulsi Gabbard last week in Iowa and talked to her about, you know, her meeting with Assad and she said, yes, I met with him and I'd meet with him again because I think that we make progress through diplomacy rather than, you know, extensive foreign wars. And that's a -- we had Nixon to China and, you know, on down the line. You should -- we make progress by meeting with our enemies and trying to understand diplomatic breakthroughs.

But the point of this, there's a back story on this. Tulsi Gabbard was at the DNC, was a vice chair, and quit to endorse Bernie Sanders. So I get a sense that there's some old bruises and old scabs here that are being picked at. And she's punching down. And it's giving Tulsi Gabbard a ton of attention, which is exactly what she needs right now to get in the next debate.

BERMAN: You mentioned Bernie Sanders there. I will only note, as we end this segment, that Bernie Sanders had about 25,000 people in Queens at a rally with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

MCKINNON: Bernie's back.

BERMAN: So, Bernie Sanders, packing it in.

MCKINNON: Bernie's back.

BERMAN: Karen Finney, Mark McKinnon, thank you very much.

FINNEY: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to this incredible story.

A high school coach turned hero. He disarmed a student with a shotgun. Dramatic new video shows how he did it and then what happened next.


CAMEROTA: Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is struggling to repair the damage he did to the president's defense against impeachment when Mulvaney admitted last week to a quid pro quo for sending aid to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt.

Joining us now with the fallout from all of this, CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He's president -- he was President Clinton's press secretary, who ran the White House war room during that impeachment.

So, Joe, it's not surprising that Mick Mulvaney's days may be numbered at -- in the White House. Everybody's days may be numbered in the White House.


What I think is surprising is "The Wall Street Journal" report this morning that he didn't anticipate the blowback that would happen after he left the podium on Thursday where he announced, yes, we're going to have it at Doral, no biggie, and, yes, we do this all the time in terms of an exchange of military aid for political dirt. Get over it.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you know, I don't think candor is his strength. And -- except for the one moment of quid pro quo.

CAMEROTA: Maybe it's too much his strength.

LOCKHART: Well, again, you know, he spent all day yesterday saying he didn't say it when it was on a tape. And I think the entire White House strategy was to put Doral out during a very busy news day and think they could bury it, which was just dumb. You know, that's -- that's a very political jargon word, dumb.

The chief of staff's job there has become almost irrelevant because Trump is his chief of staff. He decides what he's going to do. And, you know, I think Mulvaney is just sort of an inefficient referee.

BERMAN: Part of the issue to me, again, as we look at the picture here, is that some of the key players appear to be turning on each other or turning their backs on each other. I was really interested in what the secretary of state did not say --


BERMAN: Or did not answer to George Stephanopoulos yesterday on "This Week." So let's listen to that.


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

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, "THE WEEK": Would it be appropriate to condition that aid --

POMPEO: George, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and secondary things based on someone -- what someone else has said.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except it's not a hypothetical. We saw the chief of staff, the acting chief of staff right there --

POMPEO: It is, George. You just said, if it -- George, you just said, if this happened. That is by definition a hypothetical.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The chief of staff said it did.

POMPEO: George, you asked me if this happened. It's a hypothetical.


CAMEROTA: That was a pregnant pause if I've ever heard one.

BERMAN: That -- that -- are you kidding, that octuplets. There were octuplets in that pregnant pause right there.

LOCKHART: There's -- yes. You stepped on the pause. BERMAN: Not only was it not a hypothetical there, but he doesn't seem to have ever met Mick Mulvaney ever.

LOCKHART: Yes, I mean it -- it was striking yesterday. In a functional White House, you would have flooded the zone with people defending the chief of staff. And, you know, with whatever talking point you could come up with, he -- they were left to Pompeo, who was there to do foreign policy, who didn't defend them, and Mulvaney to defend himself.

I think the really interesting thing is the balance of power shifting in Washington. You have the Doral decision. You have Syria, the decision with somewhat of a climb back now on redeploying troops. It's because of impeachment and because Republicans in the Senate now have leverage on the president because he now has to depend on those Republicans to stay in office.

So you're finding -- I think you'll find a lot more senators publicly pushing back and getting more of what they want out of the White House. I don't think, without the impeachment inquiry, he would have climbed down on Doral. I think he just would have rode it out and said, this is a great thing and he would have sold it for a year. The dynamic has definitely changed.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting. So they're finding their voice. You're saying, Republicans in the Senate are finding their voice because they disagree with the president on Syria and now he needs them.

And I am curious, Joe, why -- what is happening with the Syria decision? The rationale that the president gave the public was, it's time to bring our troops home. They deserve to be home. And then he sent 2,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia, or announced they would, and then is redirecting the troops, who were protecting our allies, the Kurds, to Iraq? That's not bringing them home.

LOCKHART: No, he's not bringing them home. And I -- I -- listen, I think that the simplest explanation is often the right explanation, which is, the president didn't really understand the dynamic of what our troops were doing there and why they needed to stay. And when he got on the phone with the president of Turkey, the president asked him for a favor and he said, of course, thinking that he'd get something in return. And it was only when the blowback happened that he -- I think he began to understand how many pieces of geopolitics fit with, you know, a very small number of U.S. troops.

But I think -- again, coming back to the dynamic, he's changing his policy here because Republicans in the Senate are saying, if you want our support on impeachment, you better start doing the right -- the things that we want done, which is -- which is very much of a change in the power dynamic there.

BERMAN: Very interesting, Joe.

Stand by. We're going to come back to you later in the broadcast because that's something new to think about for sure. In the meantime, important news coming out of the United Kingdom this morning. The British parliament could vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit plan as soon as today. Johnson failed to get it approved on Saturday, forcing him to request an extension from the EU after saying he would rather be dead in a ditch than ask for one.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live outside parliament in London.

And, Nic, who knows -- who knows where this is headed over the next few hours.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Oh, there's many different directions. You know, this is a bit like trying to watch a super tanker turn when you've got so many hands on the steering wheel. It's a huge beast and trying to make it maneuver is really difficult when so many people are messing with the controls. But that's where we're at.


So Boris Johnson did send that letter to the EU. He didn't sign it. And that triggered this response from a leading figure in the opposition.


JOHN MCDONNELL, LABOUR PARTY: He may well be in contempt of parliament, or the courts themselves, because he's clearly trying to undermine the first letter. And not signing the letter, he's behaving a bit like a spoiled brat. Parliament made a decision. He should abide by it. And this idea that you send another letter contradicting the first, I think it flies in the face of what both parliament and the court have decided.


ROBERTSON: So the EU has said it doesn't matter that he didn't sign it. It is being tested in the courts in Scotland today. So where does it go from here? Will the prime minister get this meaningful vote today? That's a question for the speaker of the House.

He has said on Saturday that this is sort of not something that he would expect to give way to. So there's quite a possibility that the prime minister won't get the chance to see if parliament backs his deal, although the numbers seem to be heading in that direction. But that opens the door to many, many different things. One of them is another test of that vote today when the -- when the government will put forward a program of motions essentially to speed up the debate to put forward the legislation for Brexit. That will be a test of it.

And then there's a possibility of amendments being added. And it is those amendments that will again trip Boris Johnson up. And what will he do from there? Will he collapse it all together and call for a general election? Not clear.

Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Oh, Nic, thank you. There -- it sounds like there are many tests coming up and thank you for explaining all of that to us.

You have to see this new surveillance video. It captures a high school coach in Portland, Oregon, disarming a student who was wielding a shotgun. And then he embraced the teenager.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is here with the story.

So what happened, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a powerful moment, Alisyn. Prosecutors determined that that gun-wielding student actually planned to take his own life on his high school campus. And in May he may have done just that had it not been for a quick thinking coach. And now this newly released video showing exactly how he managed to de- escalate the situation.


SANDOVAL (voice over): Angel Granados-Diaz walked into his northeast Portland, Oregon, high school campus back in May, armed with a shotgun and loaded with a single shell. This newly released surveillance video shows us what happened next. That's campus coach and security guard Keanon Lowe encountering Diaz at the entrance to a classroom. He grabs the gun with one hand and reaches for the crisis-stricken 19-year-old with the other. What follows was a consoling hug and a conversation, allowing police time to respond and take control.

Coach Lowe has kept a relatively low profile for the last five months, only discussing that moment publicly a few times, including this interview with "GMA" after it happened.

KEANON LOWE: I feel like I was put in that -- in that room, in that -- in that very moment for a reason, to protect those kids.

I ended up getting the gun from him, you know, getting the gun with my right hand and holding him off with my left hand and calling for a teacher to -- to come grab the gun from me.

SANDOVAL: The surveillance video confirms accounts from witnesses and likely reassures parents who had feared the worst on that summer day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the grace of God nobody was hurt in this one. So I'm very thankful for that.

SANDOVAL: Earlier this month, Diaz pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years' probation. As part of the deal, he'll get mental health and substance abuse treatment. In a statement, the deputy district attorney confirmed Diaz never intended to hurt anyone other than himself. The DA's office also determined the weapon did not fire when Diaz pulled the trigger, giving a consoling coach time to act.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANDOVAL: You know, this morning, we still don't know exactly what the two discussed during those moments, during that embrace. We actually reached out to both Coach Lowe and Mr. Diaz's attorney. We have not heard back from them, John and Alisyn.

But immediately after that May incident, Coach Lowe told reporters that he was simply feeling compassion for the student. That's when he sprang into action. He didn't want to give him another second chance.

BERMAN: Well, thank goodness he was there.

CAMEROTA: That is so beautiful, Polo. I mean, obviously, sometimes it is that simple. That someone in crisis and distress needs compassion. And, you know, we've heard this from other people. This child was feeling. We've heard from other people that if somebody had hugged them that day or smiled at them, they would have changed their mind. And that's exactly what that coach did for that student.

BERMAN: All right, the stage is set for what could be a very important week in the impeachment inquiry. One of the most anticipated witnesses, he will testify tomorrow.

NEW DAY continues right now.


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

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, that would be very disturbing.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I never said it was a quid pro quo, because there isn't. Did I have the perfect press conference? No. But the facts are on our side.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Mick Mulvaney, how could he possibly have told the truth? That's called a confession.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We were very clear. This was about getting a cease-fire. This, in fact, will save lives.