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President Trump Reverses Course On Several Fronts Amid GOP Backlash; Hillary Clinton Suggests Russians Are Grooming Tulsi Gabbard For 2020; U.S. Troops Leaving Syria Cross Into Iraq. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 21, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE ALLEN, CO-FOUNDER, AXIOS, CO-FOUNDER, POLITICO: -- to go against the president.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Are you smoking something that I don't see? I -- that's simply not true. As I point out, the idea that any one senator, even me -- even Mitch McConnell is not going to convince other senators to reach a different conclusion that they would reach on their own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, neither Mike Allen nor Mitt Romney, I think, have ever smoked anything. But that aside --

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well --

BERMAN: -- he's saying that I can't -- I can't convince people.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I mean, we could probably send him a Henry Clay biography at this moment, OK. He can convince people but that's his modesty, that's his gentility, and that's his representation of class, OK, which is obviously diametrically opposed to the current president.

But listen, he likely won't run but I think it's just interesting. I put that out there for a number of different reasons because as an entrepreneur, we have to open up the possibility of what's going on.

And so, I predicted on this show that there would be a full-blown meltdown. We're three months into the meltdown. And so I'll make another prediction.

They're going to start turning on each other. They already have -- the White House staff -- because the president doesn't have anybody's back. He's the most disloyal person that you can come across in civilization.

And so they're going to start turning on each other now and they're going to turn on him. And they're going to admit to the ranking illegality, the rank amorality of the president, OK. And when that happens this thing is going to be over and you're going to need a possible solution.

So when you're an entrepreneur, you look at the future and you're like OK, let's curve the future towards a reality that we see as entrepreneurs. And so that's what I think will happen and we'll see.

So this was a representation and an experiment to show people that there is a tremendous amount of support out there, John, for somebody other than Mr. Trump.

BERMAN: All right. Eight hundred t-shirts sold, so far. Keep us --

SCARAMUCCI: But 70,000 unique visits.

BERMAN: You said -- you said that the --

SCARAMUCCI: If Gov. Romney came out, though, forget it. There would be an explosion.

BERMAN: Right, but he did -- he did. I hear you.

SCARAMUCCI: But I understand why he's not. But there will be somebody that comes out that is a credible person, man or woman --

BERMAN: Yes.

SCARAMUCCI: -- that can take on this situation and help rebuild the Republican Party.

BERMAN: You said they're starting to turn on each other inside the White House. And we did note earlier that Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, did not defend Mick Mulvaney in any form or fashion for that press conference he gave last week.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes.

BERMAN: You actually gave a press conference in your 11 days as White House communications director. How would you assess the performance that Mick Mulvaney gave last week?

SCARAMUCCI: I feel bad for him. He's --

BERMAN: Why?

SCARAMUCCI: I feel -- well, because he's a good guy. I mean, at the end of the day, Mulvaney's a good guy.

He's working for a terrible person. I mean, let's just be honest, you can't work for a guy like that. He's a horrific manager. He's like a porcupine and so every time you go to touch the guy you get caught up some way.

And, Mick Mulvaney was like that teenager in a horror movie that was like scratching help me on the fogged shower door, OK, and that's what he was doing last Thursday.

So if I were giving Mick Mulvaney advice I would resign and I would get myself a really good lawyer because you're going to have to explain a lot of things, right? He's obviously working at the direction of the president but he has to explain a lot of things.

Because here's what happens to the president. The mayor has discovered this -- Mayor Giuliani -- and everybody that spends a lot of time with the president. He will continue to move the goalpost on you to get you to a point where you're disavowing your personal integrity and your personal life story, OK, and so they're there now.

And what I would say to Mick -- you're a good Catholic. Resign, go to confession, OK, and then let's rebuild your career from here. You were trying to help the country by being this guy's chief of staff and it's an impossible thing --

BERMAN: I've got to let --

SCARAMUCCI: -- so resign.

BERMAN: I've got to let you go.

SCARMUCCI: That's what I would tell him.

BERMAN: I've got to let you go.

You said you've made predictions here before. Two months, where are we? Where are we two months from now? You're going to be here saying what?

SCARAMUCCI: Two months from now you'll be -- you know, they'll be an impeachment inquiry. The House will have likely have voted on it within the next two months to impeach him. He'll be the third person to be impeached.

And then you're already seeing a fissure or cracks in the surface of the Republican establishment, which they generally dislike the guy. I mean, they'll say good things around -- about him right now because his supposed approval ratings in the Republican Party are high, but I think those are superficial numbers.

And so, as more of that information comes out they'll be a Goldwater- Howard Baker moment where they're going to go to him and say hey, look, you've got to leave -- or maybe they can negotiate something with Speaker Pelosi where he can stay until the end of his term. But he's either leaving before the end of the term or he's not running for reelection, OK?

The level of illegality, John, is so far and above anything that could be perceived as normal and this is still a country, in my opinion, that's a rule of law country.

BERMAN: Anthony Scaramucci, we will hold you to those predictions. Come back very soon.

SCARAMUCCI: I've been right so far, though, more or less.

BERMAN: Some of what you have said has -- we haven't seen --

SCARAMUCCI: Generally reluctant but, yes.

BERMAN: You've said cabinet officials are going to come out and turn on him publicly and that hasn't happened yet. Don't speak because we're going back to Alisyn right now -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to start taking -- keeping an actual tally, Anthony, all right, so that we have the numbers.

SCARAMUCCI: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is accusing a Democratic presidential candidate of being, quote, "a favorite of the Russians." Now, Hawaii Congressman Tulsi Gabbard is firing back.

[07:35:07]

And a royal rift, somehow, between Prince William and Prince Harry? The revealing comments from the younger prince and the one question that brought Meghan Markle to tears.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: New reaction to Hillary Clinton suggesting that Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is getting help from the Russians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER NEW YORK U.S. SENATOR, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they've got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary. She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her, so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right, let's talk about this.

Let's bring in Wajahat Ali. He's contributing op-ed writer for "The New York Times." And, Krystal Ball, president of the People's House Project. She was also a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Great to see both of you.

[07:40:03]

So, Krystal, why is Hillary Clinton picking this fight with Tulsi Gabbard? Why now?

KRYSTAL BALL, PRESIDENT, THE PEOPLE'S HOUSE PROJECT, AUTHOR, "REVERSING THE APOCALYPSE": Well, I think it's pretty obvious what's going on.

You know, in those same comments, Hillary Clinton blames Jill Stein for her loss, which is ridiculous. I don't know if Jill Stein or the Russians made Hillary not campaign in Michigan and Wisconsin. And here she has sour grapes over Tulsi Gabbard, backing her primary rival, Bernie Sanders.

I mean, it is truly disgusting and absurd to smear an American veteran, a member of Congress, a presidential candidate as a Russian asset and say specifically that they are grooming her, baselessly. To throw out such a wild accusation is pretty disgusting.

CAMEROTA: This is interesting Krystal because I mean, as we said, you were a Hillary Clinton supporter and you're disgusted by what she's doing.

Do you think that Tulsi Gabbard deserves any criticism for some of her positions?

BALL: I mean, in fairness, I was actually a Sanders supporter in the primary, just to be clear for your audience.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you for that.

BALL: Yes.

Look, I'm not here to defend every single thing that Tulsi Gabbard has done or said but I think what this shows is the insanity of seeing Russia around every single corner that has gripped some of the conspiratorial parts of the Democratic Party.

Here's the other thing that's at stake. Whether you like Tulsi Gabbard or not, if you hold unorthodox or antiestablishment or even radical ideas at all, this is a danger because it means you, too, can be dismissed and smeared as a Russian asset. So that's why I think this is so important.

CAMEROTA: Wajahat, is that how you see it? Do you think that Tulsi Gabbard just holds unorthodox comments and that Hillary Clinton has gone way overboard?

WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think Tulsi Gabbard is a terrible candidate based on her positions alone. But, Russian outlets seem to love Tulsi Gabbard. So does MAGA, so does Steve Bannon, so does David Duke, so does alt-right Richard Spencer.

And she supports pro-Assad and pro-Russian talking points, especially when she visited Syria in 2017. It took her forever to criticize Assad, the brutal dictator. I wish she was half as critical against Assad as she was -- as she is against Clinton in her tweets.

Look, Hillary Clinton is aware of the fact that Russia had a disinformation campaign in the 2016 elections to help Donald Trump. They are still actively engaging a disinformation campaign. They will continue this campaign leading up to 2020. As we know, Robert Mueller testified to this point.

Tulsi Gabbard can be a useful idiot. In order to be a Russian asset, Alisyn, you don't have to be a witting or a willing participant.

Jill Stein was promoted by pro-Russian outlets and bots. And also, let's not forget she was there clapping it up with Putin at the RT propaganda dinner along with Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's first national security adviser.

So you have to ask yourself why are pro-Russian outlets, and pro- Russian bots, and MAGA, and Steve Bannon, and Tucker Carlson, by the way, loving Tulsi Gabbard. And it could be because they want to see her as a spoiler candidate.

And in August, on CNN, she said that she is open to considering a run as a third-party candidate. I think she will and I think that might hurt the Democrats.

BALL: No, she's -- OK -- she's -- hold on.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Krystal.

BALL: She's ruled that out. And this was -- I mean, this is guilt by association.

You remember when the right tried to do this to Barack Obama with Rev. Wright, et cetera, et cetera -- and because you've been in a room with these people you must believe their views. They must support you and because they support you that means you're out of bounds. It's a red- baiting smear.

Look, nobody has been more helpful to Russia than all the people who pushed the Iraq war, OK, to include Hillary Clinton. So does that make her a Russian plant? No, of course not.

We can't run around saying oh, because this person supports you, because we don't like your views on this -- which again, I'm not supporting her views, but to say she's being groomed by Russia by Russia -- to accuse her of treason -- an American military veteran --

ALI: That's not -- that's not the case.

BALL: -- who served in Iraq stitching up and mending our brothers and sisters who fell in that war thanks to people like Hillary Clinton, I think that's just wrong.

ALI: And the same veteran promotes Assad talking points. It took her forever to call him a war criminal.

She calls U.S.-backed groups in Syria terrorists. She says it's a regime change. These are all against pro-Assad and pro-Russian talking points.

And by the way, Tulsi Gabbard is not all of a sudden anti-war. She calls herself a war hawk and she says she's against the terrorists. So she has backed Russian bombing of Syrian civilians. She is also a big fan of Sisi.

BALL: She does not back --

ALI: She's also a fan of Modi, a Hindu nationalist and anti-Muslim extremist. So why are you supporting her?

BALL: I'm not here -- I'm not here to be her spokesperson. I'm not here to support her. I'm here to say deal with her specific policy positions. Do not --

ALI: I am.

BALL: -- smear and dismiss her as a Russian asset.

What is your evidence that Russia is grooming her? I mean, that was the specific language here. That's accusing a veteran of treason, a crime that is punishable by death.

CAMEROTA: Well, just one -- just one second.

I just -- let me -- I just want to be clear about one thing because Hillary Clinton's spokesperson, Nick Merrill, said that that first sentence that Hillary Clinton said, and I'll read it to you -- "I think that they've got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary" -- that she was referring to the Republicans.

[07:45:08]

She was asked about the Republicans and she was basically -- I mean, this is according to after the fact -- what Nick Merrill says -- saying that she thinks that the Republicans will somehow use Tulsi Gabbard as a spoiler. So I don't know that Hillary Clinton said that she was being groomed by the Russians, but --

BALL: Yes, but Nick Merrill also said if the nesting doll fits. I mean, come on, this is absurd.

And look, you may not like Tulsi Gabbard -- that's fine. I don't have a problem with that. But you cannot just dismiss people that you don't like as Russian plants.

And you know that this goes so much further than Tulsi Gabbard.

I mean, I've been accused of being a Russian plant just for pointing out some of the problems in America. Anyone who stands against the endless wars get accused of being a Russian plant. Anyone who dares to criticize the national security state --

CAMEROTA: Well, it sort of -- I mean it sort of --

ALI: No.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Krystal, it does go a little further than that. She -- I mean --

BALL: -- is accused of being a Russian plant. ALI: No.

CAMEROTA: Look, sorry to interrupt, Krystal, but she did go --

BALL: Sure.

CAMEROTA: -- to on this so-called secret trip -- at least it wasn't authorized by the government -- in 2017 to meet -- you know, obviously, in Syria to meet with Assad. It was financed by the Lebanese Socialist Nationalist Party. She later had to repay it after criticism.

So it's also actions. I mean, it's not just that she takes, as you said, unorthodox positions.

BALL: But here's my point, Alisyn, right. If we can say OK, Tulsi had this meeting that we don't like and that means she should be smeared as a Russian plant and dismissed from the national conversation.

And yet, we celebrate Ellen being friends with George W. Bush, a man who lied us into war and propagated torture under the American name and was never held accountable for that? I mean, hundreds of thousands of people died in that war and that person is OK in polite society, but Tulsi Gabbard, because she had a meeting, is not.

ALI: I think we should --

BALL: That just doesn't make sense to me.

ALI: I think we should disqualify Tulsi based on her record, based on her positions, based on her associations. And you know who really loves Tulsi Gabbard -- pro-Russian outlets.

CAMEROTA: OK. On that note, Wajahat Ali, Krystal Ball, thank you for the spirited debate. Great to talk to --

BALL: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- both of you -- John.

BERMAN: All right.

The Cowboys snapped a 3-game losing streak in style last night. Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Earlier in the week, Coach Doug Peterson said his Eagles would go down to Dallas and beat the Cowboys -- fuel to fire. Dallas' defense swarming Carson Wentz from the start. Fumbles on each of their first two possessions led to Cowboys scores.

Offensively, the Boys ran right over the Philly like Zeke Elliott over fellow Ohio State grad Malcolm Jenkins, will imposed. Elliott with 111 yards on the ground. Dallas dominates their division rival 37 to 10. They're first place in the NFC East at four and three.

Now, through his league MVP seasons and Super Bowl MVP run, Aaron Rodgers had never had a game with a perfect pass or rating until yesterday in Green Bay. Rodgers threw 429 yards, five touchdowns -- absolutely phenomenal. He even ran one into the end zone, himself, for another score. That's six in total.

Packers roll the Raiders 42-24. Green Bay looking like a legit Super Bowl contender now and they have a top 10 defense.

Now, those Niners -- they stayed unbeaten by beating Washington yesterday, John. They're the only unbeaten team other than your Patriots, who will stay perfect tonight when they beat -- excuse me, can stay perfect if they beat the Jets tonight.

BERMAN: You were right the first time -- will, not can.

Coy Wire, thank you very much. Great having you on this morning.

CAMEROTA: Oh, you have a crystal ball. That's nice.

Meanwhile --

BERMAN: You just had Krystal Ball on.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Meanwhile, you have to see this video. This -- these are American forces being pelted with rotten food as they leave Syria. And this comes as we learn that some U.S. troops will remain in the country despite the president's claims. A live report from the war zone, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:51]

CAMEROTA: Breaking news overnight. Defense Sec. Mike Esper confirming that a number of U.S. troops will remain in northeastern Syria despite President Trump's promise that they were all coming home.

Also, we have this new video that shows potatoes being thrown at a U.S. convoy as hundreds of troops leave Syria, but not to come home -- for redeployment in Iraq.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in northern Syria with all of these breaking developments -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to say we were shaken awake here by the departure of this enormous American convoy. Hundreds of vehicles coming through here at one of the main towns in northeastern Syria.

An enormous convoy, frankly, and one in which, at one point, seemed to be stopped by angry protesters or certainly Syrian Kurds in the street. You can see in our video, in fact, a moment in which some of the locals here approached one of the armored American SUVs.

There's a lot of anger here about the speed and nature of the American departure and also what Syrian Kurds feel is, quote, "the betrayal of them," given Donald Trump's order for not only Americans to pull back from frontline positions but also eventually to leave as well.

[07:55:01]

Are they leaving in full, though? This is a baffling moment here because we know for a fact the thousand or so here are supposed to reposition into Iraq to continue the fight against ISIS from a much more complicated position outside of Syria -- with no longer an ally in the country the Syrian Kurds to do that fighting for them.

But we're also hearing -- I heard from a U.S. official that an option is being presented to the president to possibly keep up to several hundred troops in the country to protect the oil fields and to continue the fight against ISIS.

Remember, Donald Trump said they'd protect and secure the oil. Nobody really knew what he meant at that point. This could be part of that as well.

Mark Esper, the secretary of Defense, refers to this as part of the withdrawal strategy. Well, this seems, from my understanding, to be a little bit longer term possibly than that.

But still, this withdrawal comes at a delicate time here -- 24-48 hours until this ceasefire is supposed to have some kind of conclusion. Do the Syrian Kurds pull back or do Turkey and Russia, in a meeting in Sochi tomorrow, come up with a diplomatic solution?

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh for us in northern Syria. Nick, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Gen. Wesley Clark, retired Army general and former NATO Supreme Allied commander. General, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

The news, and CNN has confirmed this -- the Defense secretary told us they're going to leave a couple hundred U.S. troops behind in northeast Syria. What do you make of that development?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, SENIOR FELLOW, UCLA'S BURKLE CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Well, I think that's very important and it's encouraging, but it doesn't really offset the diplomatic impact or the loss of position by the -- by the abrupt pullback in President Trump's announcement.

All over the world people are asking can you trust the United States. What's this about? And again, although it's welcome to have a couple hundred troops left in northeast Syria, what it shows is the United States is not reliable. We're not credible when we say things. I just can't imagine the pain our troops feel who've worked personally and encouraged the Kurds to put their lives on the line. They've seen the casualties and to drive off and leave them, it's incredibly painful.

BERMAN: When you see the pictures -- and I don't know if you could see the pictures we just put up on the screen of U.S. troops having potatoes thrown at them as they withdraw from Syria, what does that picture represent to you?

CLARK: It just represents the real emotional impact of betrayal. It represents the fear of ethnic cleansing in this region because we know what's going to happen. We can see the ethnic cleansing already underway.

These people are going to lose their homes, their livelihoods, their families, their lives without our protection there. That's the fear already hundreds of thousands have left from that region.

They have no place to go. They're living with relatives. There's fear, there's panic. Yes, they're angry at us.

BERMAN: I want to play you something that retired Gen. David Petraeus said over the weekend about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I think we have abandoned our Syrian Kurdish partners. They took over 10,000 losses as the defeated Islamic State was carried out.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "STATE OF THE UNION": You called it an abandonment but is it a betrayal?

PETRAEUS: I do think it is, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Gen. Petraeus using very much the same language you have.

What does it say to you that it does seem we're hearing from more and more retired -- some very recently retired generals criticizing U.S. policy?

CLARK: Well, you know, we're at the cutting edge of this policy. The U.S. has put its military forces on the ground there for almost two decades.

And especially over the last four years, we've been bonded shoulder- to-shoulder with the Kurds. We put our lives on the lines, we've talked families, we've shared rations, we've shared danger and hardship with them.

And suddenly, to just pack up and leave with no warning, no planning, no concern for their welfare and their future -- yes. I mean, our soldiers who put their lives on the lines with the Kurds feel that sense of betrayal very strongly.

BERMAN: We've got about 30 seconds left, General. Who benefits from all of this?

CLARK: Well, Russia is the first beneficiary. Turkey, of course, gains; Assad gains; and Iran gains. Israel loses, the United States loses, and ISIS gains. You know, this is not in America's best interest.

BERMAN: Gen. Wesley Clark, we appreciate you coming on this morning. Thank you, sir.

CLARK: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, some cracks in Republican support for President Trump. NEW DAY continues right now.

BERMAN: All right, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, October 21st. It's 8:00 in the east.

And over the last 72 hours or so, the White House has engaged in this mind-bending display of political retreat and reversal, all while the president loses support from some Republicans. He also mangled the name of his Defense secretary, for what it's worth.

END