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Trump Reverses Course on Several Fronts Amid GOP Backlash; Dallas Struck by Tornado; Top U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine to Testify Tomorrow. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2019 - 07:00   ET



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


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We were very clear. This was about getting a ceasefire. This, in fact, will save lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the ceasefire seems to be holding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a phased, deliberate planned withdrawal. This is a very sudden exit.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, and the impeachment inquiry continues to heat up this week.

Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is set to testify tomorrow. He's the diplomat who raised that red flag in text messages, calling it, quote, "crazy" to withhold military aid in exchange for a political investigation.

And a source tells CNN that President Trump is increasingly frustrated with his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching news reports dissect Mulvaney all weekend. Mulvaney is trying to convince the public that he never admitted that there was a quid pro quo when, of course, the videotape tells a very different story.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mick Mulvaney dissected himself. It was self-dissection over the weekend from the acting chief of staff.

Meanwhile, there has been this reversal from the president. He caved. He changed his mind about holding next year's G-7 at his Miami golf resort after growing Republican backlash.

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

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

Overnight, we have this video: U.S. troops withdrawing and being pelted by rotten potatoes. That's as this convoy pulled out of Syria, not going home. They were going to Iraq.

CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now, we have David Gregory, CNN political analyst; Rachael Bade, congressional correspondent for "The Washington Post"; and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Great to have all of you.

Jeffrey, it's harder to say you didn't say something when you said it in front of hundreds of people and millions of people watching on TV, and you have the videotape. And so Mick Mulvaney has -- is -- you know, the reports are that he didn't anticipate the blowback after he left the podium. Came off the podium and went to the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, and said, How did I do?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: How did I do? Not so well, as it turns out.

But you know, the problem is not so much Mulvaney contradicting himself. The problem is that the facts are now emerging from both the original partial transcript, which remains the key piece of evidence in this case. But also all the other evidence that's coming in through the congressional investigation has shown that there was a quid pro quo; that the whole focus of American policy with regard to Ukraine was, get dirt on Democrats, or we will withhold this military aid.

So it's not just, you know, a gaffe at a press conference. It is the whole constellation of facts that have come out that contradict his -- his subsequent efforts to clean up the truth that he said.

BERMAN: And it's also why is he even attempting this absurd cleanup? Why, Rachael, did the president buckle under pressure about holding the G-7 summit in Doral? It's because == and you and your team have been doing reporting on this. There is pressure from within the Republican Party. Republicans are growing restless. Tell us about that.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no. It's interesting. Because we've always sort of been asking, what is the breaking point for Republicans? What is the line? And it looks like Thursday, they really -- the president really bumped up against it when it came to Doral.

I'll tell you, I talked to over half a dozen Republicans on Friday. Some of my colleagues also were talking to somewhere -- something like 20 to 25 Republicans. And we heard over and over again that they felt they couldn't defend this decision. That the president was being very obvious, that he was using his position in the Oval Office to benefit his own company, his own bottom line. And they didn't think they could say anything to help him on this.

And so what we saw was a bunch of Republicans calling the White House on Friday. For instance, I talked to Tom Reed, who is a New York Republican, very close with the president; always defends him on policy and is there -- out there, you know, fighting for him on TV. He said to me, look, he's got serious concerns about this. And I'm taking them up the chain. And he wasn't the only one, from my understanding.

We saw this even on Saturday. There were a bunch of moderate Republicans who were at Camp David meeting with White House officials. These are the people that could potentially break on impeachment. And they said to the White House, look, this is a decision that is indefensible. You've got to reverse it. And Trump listened, in his defense, and backtracked.

CAMEROTA: And then there was Congressman Francis Rooney, as we've been talking about, from -- a Republican from Florida, who came out and criticized the president and then immediately announced that he would be retiring.

Isn't that just interesting, David? That that's the deal. That's the deal you make. If you're going to come out and -- and criticize the president, apparently, you can only do so when you're at the finish line of your political career.


DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Or like Mitt Romney, who's been outspoken for a long time but who has a little bit more room in Utah to do that and is in a different stage of his career. So -- and he's a voice of conscience. Not to dismiss what anyone has done.

But, yes, the impact of it is different. I think that there is a change, and I think more and more, Republicans recognize that the president appears to be facing more and more bad facts, more and more self-imposed damage, and is acting increasingly erratically.

And so they're going to be in a position to judge him, and he understands that they have that kind of leverage and is not going to force them to have to defend everything when the feedback is, look. You're killing us over here. We can't spend all day defending you on all fronts.

And the point about Mulvaney and the gaffe is significant in this respect. When he says, "Get over it," there's foreign influence over politics in the United States and over elections. That means that he's heard that somewhere before. There's a mind meld around that, which is why you have this space for Rudy Giuliani to be running around, running a key aspect of foreign policy that the president cares about.

These all add up to a tough reality for the president. where do Republicans, as well as other critics of the president, start viewing him as incompetent and corrupt. The whole business with Mulvaney, the way he went out there. That's

just sheer incompetence, as well as potential corruption. And not a lot of people rushing to his aid, because who's around at the White House anymore? There's no governors over the president. There's no one who has any influence where he'll listen to them. That's abundantly clear.

BERMAN: It's interesting, because Francis Rooney said you can't Etch- a-Sketch what Mick Mulvaney said. You can't shake it up and unsay what he said for us all to see.

And I want to play a little bit more of what Representative Rooney said to Jake over the weekend. Because Rooney's been part of these depositions. He's listened to the evidence get laid out. So listen to this.


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


BERMAN: Yes, Jeffrey, he's listened to the testimony. And he says, "What I've heard is quite troubling." So troubling that he's going to quit. He's going to leave the Congress, because he doesn't want to have to deal with this mess any more.

TOOBIN: Well, alternatively, you could say he's quitting, because you can't be a Republican today who is critical of Donald Trump. I mean, this is the Jeff Flake, the Bob Corker. The -- you know, that model, that the only -- or you're Mark Sanford, and you're critical of the president, and you lose a Republican primary.

So I think Republicans are, you know, making the decision, do I stay and risk a Republican primary instigated by the president, or do I speak my conscience and leave? I mean, he's making the latter choice.

You know, I think the idea that the Republicans are moving away from the president, if it's happening, it's in very small increments. And it's -- you know, it's not all of them. That's for sure.

CAMEROTA: Well, we just had Joe Lockhart on, who says that he sees an emergent dynamic that has lifted, because now, David Gregory, President Trump needs the Republicans to vote against impeachment, and so that has given them leverage and a bit of power. And that's why you're -- he believes that's why you're starting to hear them speak out about Syria and things like that. Suddenly, they have the upper hand in that way.

GREGORY: Well, and I think the Syria decision was something that could unite Republicans is such bad policy and such an abandonment of American leadership in that part of the world. And something that the Republicans have cared about.

And there's such fluidity. In all the testimony that we're talking about, what's becoming clear out of the congressional investigation, political appointees as well as career service professionals who are diplomats saying that what the president was doing on Ukraine was wrong.

All of this leads Congressman Rooney to say, I'm really troubled by what I've heard. Now, there's a way to go between that and voting, you know, in the Senate by Republicans to remove him from office.

But all that ground can be covered with a lot of bad facts and a lot of bad questions facing the president and his party saying finally, we're listening. Let's see where this goes.

BERMAN: Rachael, I want to give you the last word here.

BADE: Yes. No, I think, increasingly, we're hearing some Republicans at least wonder about legacy, privately. And that's what Francis Rooney was doing, talking about, how do I look my kids in the face, you know, 10, 20 years down the line if I don't speak up right now?


We saw Paul Mitchell, a Republican from Michigan, also hailing from a Trump district. Francis Rooney, Trump won his district by 22 points. Made the same sort of decision where he came out, criticized the president, and then said he's got to retire.

So it just shows you the pressure they're feeling right now. Just one last point on Mulvaney right now as his job is sort of up in the air as somebody who covered him on the -- in the House for several years, half a decade.

You know, he was always this sort of bomb thrower and was -- became very popular for speaking very bluntly about disagreeing with leadership, sticking it to other Republican colleagues. And you know, that's sort of the method he took with this press conference. And we're really seeing the blowback here.

I do find it interesting that Trump wanted a chief of staff who didn't push back on him. That's exactly what he got with Mick Mulvaney, and we're seeing for the first time, there are repercussions to, for instance, Mick Mulvaney not telling him in the first place, don't do Doral. Don't have the G-7 at Doral, because there's going to be blowback. Now he's seeing the consequences of somebody who is not talking frankly with him.

CAMEROTA: That's really helpful context, to know that he's always been a provocateur in that particular way, but now it has other consequences. BERMAN: All right. Other news breaking overnight. A powerful

tornado ripped through Dallas, leaving behind miles of damage there. At this hour, more than a hundred thousand customers are without power.

This storm gutted a Home Depot there. You can see it back there in the dark. It ripped the roof off of a fire station. The good news is so far, no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas outside that pretty much destroyed Home Depot -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, John. And this is not the kind of storm we're used to dealing with in late October here in Texas. This is not tornado season. But it is miraculous that no one was killed. No severe injuries in this storm that cut a path more than a dozen miles long in some of the most densely populated areas and residential neighborhoods of north Dallas.

A truly stunning, wild night as this storm, in the darkness, carved that path of destruction through, as I mentioned, some of the most heavily populated areas in the city. About 100,000 people left without power, structural damage, and massive trees knocked over in this storm.

Rescue teams have been working throughout the night to make sure that there is still nobody trapped inside some of these structures that were toppled in this storm that really wreaked just a great deal of havoc throughout the night.

A number of schools here in the Dallas area will be closed, because they were also in the path of this destruction, as well. And the cleanup process will really begin here in earnest as soon as the sun comes up -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ed. Scary stuff. Thank you very much for all that reporting.

New challenges for President Trump as a key player in the impeachment inquiry is set to testify tomorrow. What Bill Taylor may tell investigators next.



CAMEROTA: Another big week of testimony ahead in the Trump impeachment inquiry with seven current and former officials appearing on Capitol Hill. There are their -- some of their faces. I mean, they're so -- these are folks who are so little known. These are not household names. We can't even find a picture for some of them. But investigators on Congress think that they are vital. Including the top U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine. That's Bill Taylor. He's the one who raised questions about a quid pro quo in those damning text messages.

So joining us now is CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish. He is host of CNN's "SMERCONISH." Just to remind people, Michael, of why Bill Taylor is so important, here was this text message where he said on September 1, "Are we now saying that security assistance to Ukraine and the White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?" Meaning of the Bidens and of Hillary Clinton.

To which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., says, "Call me."

And so -- in other words, Michael, by September 1, Bill Taylor saw the writing on the wall and was trying to get an answer about what was happening. So of course, his testimony is just pivotal.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this is the reason why we're no longer talking about the whistle-blower. Not that long ago, it was who is the whistle-blower, and are there ways in which the whistle-blower's credibility might be impeached? Is it a credible story, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

But Alisyn, to your point, everything that seems to have come out in the interim has been confirmation of what the whistle-blower first put in the complaint and was then evidenced in that quote, unquote, "transcript" of the July 25 telephone call.

My point is everyone seems to be saying the same thing, which is why a few days ago I said to both you and to John, it seems not so much like a factual dispute. I mean, I'd be shocked if -- if we were to learn that Ambassador Taylor came in and said something different than his text.

OK, so then what is the White House defense to all this? And the closest that I can discern is Mick Mulvaney saying, "Get over it."

BERMAN: Right. Right. Nothing that Mick Mulvaney said actually disputed that Bill Taylor text message. Bill Taylor's text message was concerned about investigations. In this case, it could have been investigating the 2016 election and ties to Ukraine, the tin-foil hat stuff about the server. That tie to the meeting between the two presidents.

Bill Taylor was concerned about that. Mick Mulvaney last week said, "Get over it."


Michael, you watched this so closely, and you're starting to watch the clock here. Why?

SMERCONISH: Right. Yes. Well, because we're already now in the latter half of October. And the timing of this is such that I don't know how it is in everybody else's house, but in my house when you hit Thanksgiving, we just speed right through the holidays, and before you know it, it's the new year.

Well, in the new year of this year, folks will be voting in the Iowa caucus and in New Hampshire primary and then onto South Carolina. And I don't think that the president's opponents, the Democrats who want him impeached, want this whole conversation playing out against the backdrop of people actually going and casting their ballot, because then perhaps there will be a mindset of, hey, wait a minute. The election has begun. If you don't like him, vote him out of office.

So my sense of it is that there's some pressure on Nancy Pelosi to get this thing moving and attempt to bring it to some finality before the end of the calendar year. I don't know if that's possible.

CAMEROTA: You know what's interesting, Michael, and I'm struck by when we put up that list of the faces, or at least the in-silhouette outlines of who's going to be appearing this week, is that so much of this, the Democrats actually haven't been doing this with great fanfare.

This is -- these are people -- they're not household names. They're not -- sort of the Democrats are not kind of trumpeting all of these people who are coming to speak. They're doing it, as you know, without a vote. And Republicans keep talking about that, though no vote is legally constitutionally required. They're doing it behind closed doors.

It's sort of the opposite of the grandstanding that we often see with hearings. It seems as though they're just -- they're just gathering information every single day. It's coming out of a firehose. And then, yes, they run to the microphones. Sure. There are leaks, sure. But it's just different than doing it in a big public display.

SMERCONISH: It reminds me and something that I'm familiar with in civil litigation. We're in the discovery phase. They are taking depositions. They are taking testimony behind closed doors.

I think you make a really good observation, Alisyn. I wonder if, when this phase is over, will they then come forward with some form of a report and put in front of the American people what they regard as the basis, the justification for impeachment.

But at some point, I think their cause would be aided if there were sunlight shone on some of these individuals. If, for example, Americans saw Taylor testify and back up what he said in those text messages. I think they need that component to cement the case.

CAMEROTA: I've been wondering about that. About that. I mean, all this is happening behind closed doors. But at some point, if they're going to make the case to the public, it has to happen publicly. But when it happens publicly, the dynamic changes. And it becomes much more dramatic.

BERMAN: It does. But to Smerconish's bigger point about calendar. If you're going to finish the closed-door stuff, you've got to have the public hearings at some point. Then you have to have the House Judiciary Committee vote on articles and you have to have the full Houses vote on impeachment. There's a lot of business to get done in a maybe short period of time.

Michael Smerconish, thank you for helping us understand all of this.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: The president's chief of staff is trying desperately to unsay things that he said. His job, perhaps, is on the line. We know the president, from CNN reporting, wasn't happy with the job he was doing at least a few weeks ago. What does this all mean, and what does this all tell us about where the impeachment investigation is headed? Stick around.



BERMAN: So this morning Senator Mitt Romney is stepping forward as one of the only Senate Republicans to forcefully speak out against President Trump. Well, our next guest wants him to take a step even further. Anthony Scaramucci has launched a website and a line of merchandise aimed at ginning up support for a Mitt Romney presidential run.

Joining us now is Anthony Scaramucci. He was President Trump's White House communications director for 11 full days.

I'm looking at the pictures of these T-shirts: "Commit to Mitt," "Mitt Happens," "Romney: Trumps Trump 2020."

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We've sold about 800 T-shirts, but there's been about 70,000 unique

visitors to that site. And we have data now on about 40,000 people from across the country. So you know, Mitt has been clear that he's not going to do it.

BERMAN: Yes, that's a problem, I think, in your strategy.

SCARAMUCCI: May or may not be. Because you have to understand, Dwight Eisenhower didn't want to run for president either.

And so what ends up happening in a situation like this, as I said to you in August, President Trump will not be the nominee come November. He'll be either out of office, or he'll make a declaration that he's not running for re-election.

And so now you're going to have an open system in terms of who's going to be that nominee. And so I think Governor Romney, who has had a general reluctancy to do it, I thought he looked very comfortable last night on the Axios interview, arguably more comfortable than I've ever seen him look.

He may have the elder statesman in the party that will have to take to mantle of leadership and rebuild this party from the ruins of what Mr. Trump has perpetrated on the party.

BERMAN: I agree. He looked very comfortable interview, and he chose to do it. He chose to do it, which I think is the most significant thing. But I listened to what he said very carefully there. Not only did he not say that I'm running against Donald Trump in a primary. He also said I have very limited ability here to influence what happens in the Senate. Listen to this.


MIKE ALLEN, AXIOS: You singlehandedly could change the dynamics of Republican senators. If you put your shoulder to it, you could convince 19 other Republican senators, which is the minimum that it would take to convict, to go against the president.

POMPEO: Are you smoking something that I don't see? T hat's simply not true. As I point out, the idea that any one --