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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), about Impeachment and Stopping the Divisions Amongst Americans; CNN Poll Says 50 Percent of Americans Support Impeaching and Removing Trump from Office; New Book Called "A Warning" by Writer of Anonymous Op-Ed Vowed to Thwart Trump's Worst Inclinations; Ceasefire In Syria Ends; Turkey and Russia Agree to Joint Patrols Along Syrian Border; Defense Secretary Says U.S. Will Conduct a Phased Withdrawal Out of Syria and Iraq; Iowa Voters Weigh in on Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 22, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- that new CNN poll that came out today that shows 50 percent of Americans now endorse or now approve of impeaching and removing the President from office. Those are numbers that they are paying close attention to back here at the White House.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thanks so much.

Let's bring in Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. What's your reaction to Bill Taylor's opening statement and his testimony? He says he was informed, told, that President Trump wanted a public commitment from the President of Ukraine to conduct these investigations that would help Trump politically in exchange for military aid.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): So, Jake good to be with you. Again, I was not in those hearings. It is reports that we are hearing of what he said. So -- and I think it's good that these hearings are happening in a classified setting because I think this whole investigation matters because of what it's doing to our national security. But if true, if that is what he said, it should be deeply disturbing. We cannot have somebody using our country's national security, our resources, for personal gain or to undermine an election.

So I'm continuing to let the committees do their work, get the information, be as transparent at possible, tell the American people what's happening, but if these reports are true it should bother all of us.

TAPPER: Just this afternoon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied telling Trump that his call with the Ukrainian President was perfect, despite the President's assertion that McConnell had said the call was perfect. What do you make of that?

DINGELL: I think that the President's got to start to be very careful. I think this is a very solemn time in our country, I think it's a sad day. But you know, I tell people that when I was young, I'm not old, but I was younger in college, high school, college, I worked for a Republican Senator from Michigan. And I flew with him the day that he came back to Washington and called Richard Nixon and told him he had to resign. And I'll never forget that airplane ride and the things he talked me about, ethics and morality.

And I remember how all the Republicans were totally against impeachment until the facts became such that they felt and knew what their oath of office meant and where the duty was to the country.

So it's not only this particular comment but even the fact that the leaders of both the House and Senate actually had the courage today to speak up about inappropriate language in a tweet, or Twitter. I think the President needs to be careful, because I think a lot of Republicans are becoming very uncomfortable about where they are.

TAPPER: I want to ask about this new CNN poll that's out today. It finds that half of the American people polled support not only impeaching President Trump but removing him from office. 43 percent say no. 50 percent, yes. A New York Times/CNN college survey in six swing states, battleground states including your home state of Michigan finds that the majority, 53 percent, do not support impeachment and removal. It's 53 percent oppose, 43 percent support.

Obviously, you're very attuned to what your constituents in Michigan think and want. That's a state that President Trump won. Why do you think there's such a difference and does that concern you that maybe Democrats are moving too fast even?

DINGELL: I'm going to give you two different -- first of all, I don't trust polls. You and I had discussions before the last election that I thought Donald Trump could win Michigan and everybody thought I was crazy and you were reading polls.

TAPPER: I remember that. Absolutely.

DINGELL: So, these are merely polls. But I will tell you that I'm talking to people from one end of my district to the other that have very different feelings. And I think one of the things that we really have to worry about, it's in the Mueller report, we're hearing from intelligence agencies across the world that Russia tried to interfere in our election, Russia is trying to destabilize governments. Part of what we are seeing here is people are trying to divide us as a country.

And I was reluctant at first while I have deep concerns about much of what he did, until a whistleblower came forward and a President Trump appointed Inspector General said it's credible, it's urgent and of danger to our national security. People understand that, and I think as an elected official my job is to protect the Constitution, rule of the law, nobody's above the law.

But I also have to make sure we protect our democracy and the fundamental foundations of our democracy are under attack and I think people are just trying to sort it out. Which is why we have to do some of these debriefings in a classified setting. I'm not in them. We've got to get the facts. Nobody's above the law. But as much as we can make it transparent so everybody understands it and we do not allow Russia and other evil governments that want to divide us to do so and I think it's very complicated.

[15:35:00]

TAPPER: Congresswoman, I want to ask you about a story that CNN broke top of the hour. Which is the author, the senior administration official from the Trump administration who wrote that op-ed for the "New York Times" last September 2018. Has written a book, it's titled "A Warning." It's coming out November 19th. It is, the literary agents and publishes say, it is definitely the same person. He or she is remaining anonymous. They won't say whether or not the person still works for the administration but it is clearly as stated, according to sources close to the book, an attempt to convince the American people especially Trump voters, do not vote to re-elect President Trump. What do you make of it?

DINGELL: I haven't read the book. I obviously --

TAPPER: It's not out yet. I haven't read the book either.

DINGELL: So we're speculating. But I think we all need to pay attention. I love this country. And you know, I'm not a Democrat or a Republican first. I'm an American. And I think we worry -- need to worry about forces that are dividing us. I, every day am home and I get yelled at by everybody. People are more engaged than they've been. People are more on all sides of the issue than they've ever been. There's a lot of intense and emotional feelings.

You know, last week I was emceeing something and it quite frankly bring a group of business, labor, nonprofits and education together, and I'm co-chair of the group. And I talked about it being more important than ever, and maybe we all could learn from President Bush and Ellen DeGeneres. I got followed into the ladies' room and by these two young people, and they're screaming at me about defending George Bush and I looked at them and said, you are too young to hate.

You can't have hatred like in you and we've got to stop the hatred, we've got to respect each other. You can disagree. A good disagreement can get me energized, people have different life experiences, different perspectives but the hate that's in the country, the fear in this country is destroying us and we have to fight against that.

TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Democrat from Michigan. Thanks for your time we appreciate it.

DINGELL: Thank you.

TAPPER: Breaking news. Just moments ago the cease-fire between Turkey and Syria officially ended, this as Russia cements more control in the region than ever before.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back. We have breaking news in our world lead. The temporary cease-fire between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds has just officially expired. And moments ago Russia's President Putin, Turkey's President Erdogan announced that they've reached agreement for joint patrols along the Turkish/Syrian border.

CNN's Nick Payton Walsh just traveled back from Syria and joins us now live from northern Iraq. And Nick, what does this agreement, the Turks and the Russians for joint patrols, what does that mean for the situation on the ground? What does it mean for the Syrian Kurds?

NICK PATON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's extraordinary how wide-ranging this agreement between Moscow and Ankara actually is. We're 40 minutes away from the ceasefire having expired now but this deal seems to essentially eclipse that. In fact, the Russian Defense Minister overtly called out the United States to kind of back off and allow this new deal to take effect.

Noon tomorrow we are supposed to see the Syrian regime with Russian military police backing them up, going along the border between Syria and Turkey and taking control of it, and asking the Syrian Kurds formerly America's ally in the fight against ISIS to put pull back their fighters and weapons to a distance of about 20 miles or so, 30 kilometers in the deal. Turkey gets to keep the chunk of territory its essentially annexed inside of Syria between the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras-al-Ayn, deep 30 kilometers, 32 kilometers, 21 miles or so.

And then importantly, after six days expire, in which the Syrian Kurds are given to pull back, then these Russia and Turkish joint patrols kick in -- sound familiar? Well, it's the same mechanism the Americans had before that fatal Trump phone call with Erdogan which set in motion the Turkish incursion. But that patrol will go ten kilometers deep inside Syria. Essentially making Russia the peacekeeper here and giving Turkey kind of a say on how Syria's border functions with it. Importantly, they say this will keep the Syrian Kurds who Turkey considers terrorists away from their border

How do Syrian Kurds feel about it? Well, frankly, after the betrayal, they feel the United States dealt them over the past fortnight, this is probably the lesser of evils because the Syrian regime who is stepping to help them have Russia's backing and are now their new ally to some degree. There're some exceptions like the major town of Qamishli which is a Syrian Kurd stronghold is not part of this deal and we don't know about the fate of Kobane another Syrian Kurdish population center too.

But mind, Jake, this is extraordinary. This is Russia and Turkey calling the shots. And bear in mind more broadly this is NATO's southern border, Turkey's southern border and now Russians military patrols are going up and down it for an indefinite period of time enforcing a peace deal that America once tried to enforce but has since in her own President withdraw them from. Extraordinary times -- Jake.

TAPPER: Seems not just a big win for Erdogan but a big win for Putin. Nick Payton Walsh in Iraq, thank you so much.

Today, the Iraqi military announced that the U.S. service members withdrawing from Syria do not have permission to stay in Iraq. The statement that seemed to contradict comments made by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Let's get right to

CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. And Barbara, what does this mean for the U.S. service members in the region?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, for all those military personnel that crossed over the border into western Iraq from Syria, it means get out of Iraq. It's hard to see how soon that might actually happen. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried to explain it all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:45:00]

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're conducting a phased withdrawal, deliberate phased withdrawal from northeast Syria, it began with what we call phase one. Which was in the immediate zone of attack. Now we're under phase two, which is from the northeast quarter if you will, and then eventually we'll have another phase that we'll draw all forces out. We will temporarily reposition in Iraq, pursuant to bringing the troops home. And so it's just one part of a continuing phase but eventually those troops are going to come home.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: So they are coming home?

ESPER: They will come home.

AMANPOUR: None will stay in Syria?

ESPER: Well, right now the President has authorized that some would stay in the southern part of Syria --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And if you believe President Trump's contention that the fight, the U.S. fight against ISIS is over, that ISIS is defeated, well, earlier today a top U.S. envoy said on Capitol Hill there may be up to 18,000 ISIS fighters and adherents still spread out between Syria and Iraq -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thank you so much.

Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue seem to be consumed by the impeachment inquiry. But what do voters think? We traveled to a key state to find out. Stay with us.

[15:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Our 2020 LEAD now, a new CNN poll numbers that show that the impeachment trendline is moving in a direction that President Trump will not like. Half of the American people polled now say that President Trump should not only be impeached, he should be removed from office, that number was only 36 percent in March of this year. But does the national mood match what voters in Iowa think? Howard County, Iowa, is once placed that flipped from blue to red in 2016, and Miguel Marquez talked with some folks on the ground there to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Erin Schatz, fourth generation farmer in Cresco, Iowa.

ERIN SCHATZ, FOURTH GENERATION FARMER, CRESCO, IOWA: It's this corn that we've chopped. And then you feed it to the cows and --

MARQUEZ: His world, a wife, two kids, 1500 acres of corn and soybeans, milk and beef cows, two dogs and a goat named Gus. He's one of many voters in the northeastern Iowa county who supported Obama twice then voted for Donald Trump.

SCHATZ: I don't see I guess anybody in the Democratic field that I am too comfortable with yet. I guess we got to wait and see who comes out.

MARQUEZ (on camera): So your open for voting for a Democrat.

SCHATZ: I'm open but not probably by a lot.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Trade and health care his biggest concerns. Impeachment doesn't rate.

(on camera): Does impeachment play into your decision about him or your feeling about him at all?

SCHATZ: Not yet.

MARQUEZ: But it hasn't broken through for you?

SCHATZ: No, it hasn't yet. You know, I guess to me the things seem kind of minor I guess as of yet, you know.

MARQUEZ: Minor in that all politicians do this sort of stuff?

SCHATZ: Yes. I'm sure they all do it. I mean you think you could dig up dirt on everyone you know.

MARQUEZ (voice over): Business owner Barb Gardner also voted for Obama, then Trump, something she probably won't do again but not because of impeachment.

BARB GARDNER, IOWA BUSINESS OWNER: I kind of still like him but yet I don't like what he says, I don't like his -- the way he presents himself.

MARQUEZ: It's voters like these that help propel Donald Trump into the White House. Howard County is unique, flipping from Obama in 2012 and to Trump in 2016 by more than any other county in the country, a 41-point swing.

(on camera): What is it like to be a Democrat in Howard County, Iowa these days?

LAURA HUBKA, CHAIR, HOWARD COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: A lot of people hiding or not talking about it.

MARQUEZ (voice over): The chair of the Democratic Party in Howard County says impeachment complicates her job of convincing independents to vote Democratic.

HUBKA: If they actually bring something that's criminal that's worthy of impeachment, I could see people, those independents going, OK, there really is something.

MARQUEZ: The county's GOP chair says trade policy will move votes in Howard. Impeachment? Right now?

NEIL SHAFFER, CHAIR, HOWARD COUNTRY REPUBLICAN PARTY: It all becomes a hum. It all becomes a background noise. And we've almost come to expect it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now we spoke to lots and lots of voters here, Democrats and Republicans and independents, and they all say variations of the same theme, what the President is accused of seems slimy, it seems shady but they do not think at this point that it sounds like it is an impeachment offense -- Jake.

TAPPER: Vox populi. Miguel Marquez in Cresco, Iowa. Thank you so much, appreciate the report.

Breaking news, CNN has obtained the opening statement of the key witness testifying on The Hill now right now. That story is next. Stay with us.

[15:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: A Democratic lawmaker calls it a sea change in the impeachment probe. THE LEAD starts right now.

Tale of the texts. The diplomat who called President Trump's Ukraine policy crazy in a text message testifies on The Hill and now CNN has his stunning opening statement.

As a very shaky cease-fire expires, Vladimir Putin meets with Turkey's President. What decisions are these two autocrats makes with U.S. allies in harm's way?

Plus breaking right now, that anonymous senior Trump official from "The New York Times" op-ed last year, now coming out with a book that serves as a warning for the country not to vote for President Trump. This hour, the White House responds.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to the special edition of "THE LEAD: WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS" and we begin with breaking news. CNN has obtained the 15-page opening statement today from perhaps the key witness in the impeachment inquiry so far. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, explaining how the U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, told him that President Trump wanted a public commitment from Ukraine's President, that Ukraine's President would publicly state that he would open investigations that would benefit Trump politically in exchange for a White House meeting and U.S. military aid.

According to Taylor, those investigations included both the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election, and a probe of Burisma, the company that Vice President Joe Biden --

[16:00;00]