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Ukraine Ambassador on The Hill; Troops Can't stay in Iraq; Ceasefire Expires in Hours; Trudeau Wins Second Term. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 22, 2019 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back.

We continue to follow the breaking news.

That is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, moments ago heading into Capitol Hill. He is answering questions from three House committees about particularly text messages he sent with the U.N. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, calling it crazy to withhold any aid to a foreign nation for political purposes. That will be a big focus of questioning for him today.

Manu Raju is on The Hill, and Susan Glasser and Elie Honig will help us analyze all of this.

But, Manu, we're learning a little bit more now about exactly what he is going to say to lawmakers.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's expected -- we are learning these new details about exactly how he plans to address some of the questions that have been lingering for weeks in the aftermath of those text messages that were released already by the committee in which he raised concerns that military aid had been withheld and why that had been withheld and whether or not this was tied to any investigations the president was seeking into his political rivals.

Now, sources telling our college Kylie Atwood that this morning Bill Taylor will deliver an opening statement that will include a chronology of events that will detail about his time when he began this post as a top diplomat in Ukraine up until October. And then he's going to lay out his reasoning behind some of those different text messages, explain why that -- some of the time lapse between the text messages, why he made -- raised some of those concerns. He will not be bringing new documents to the committee, according to this source. This is interesting, of course, because a number of current officials have not been able to turn over documents because they've turned them over to the State Department. The State Department has refused to turn them over to Capitol Hill. This has been an ongoing source of tension with Democrats on the committee. But this source says that Taylor is in a bit of a difficult spot

because he wants to maintain his current post.

HARLOW: Right.

He does not want to make a splash, although the source acknowledges that he could very well make a splash. And he's expected to go back to Ukraine tomorrow to resume this position. So, clearly, he wants to answer the questions from the committee, explain the timeline, lay out the chronology, detail what was behind those text messages and not, of course, go too far as to anger the president. So we'll see how he manages that, but a difficult balancing act. But it's a clear indication that Democrats and Republicans get a lot of answers to the questions they've had about these text messages.


HARLOW: OK, Manu, thank you very much.

Susan Glasser, to you.

What -- how does it perhaps complicate things for Bill Taylor that he is sitting in this post and wants to go back to it tomorrow?


That's different from the other witnesses we've heard from that have had these positions as ambassadors. Sondland, of course, still serving. But how does that complicate things for him?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Absolutely. This is an extraordinary situation, obviously, not only to be in the middle of an impeachment inquiry, but to have the acting U.S. ambassador called back from his country here to the United States to testify in defiance, it should be noted, of the White House and Secretary of State Pompeo.

HARLOW: Right.

GLASSER: So I think it makes it almost impossible, really, for him to do his job if he is portrayed as coming here as a witness to accuse the president if he's portrayed as a damning witness against Trump I think it's a huge problem. He and other sitting foreign service officers face the possibility of retribution, very likely not during this impeachment inquiry, because that could be a part of the charges added against President Trump.

But, again, we have a Ukraine policy of our government but the president doesn't support it. So there's already enormous confusion and dismay in Ukraine. So it speaks to why --

HARLOW: Which -- which makes me (INAUDIBLE) why he want to keep that job, though, Susan? I mean it may -- may very well speak to why he wants to be that buffer and to be there holding that important job because he does, according to those texts, hold people's feet to the fire in terms of the importance of supporting Ukraine. GLASSER: Well, remember, Poppy, that he already served as our

ambassador to Ukraine. So he has a deep knowledge and understanding of the country.


GLASSER: And, remember, this is a country that is in the middle of an ongoing war --


GLASSER: And occupation by Russian proxies in the eastern part of the country. And President Zelensky was elected, not only to fight corruption, but, you know, most significantly to see if he could bring that ongoing conflict to an end. It's been going on since 2014. Bill Taylor has been a U.S. official in the middle of this. Not only is the U.S. not leading, at this point, any kind of a peace settlement, but it -- the actions of the president appear to have helped Russian President Vladimir Putin at exactly, you know, this sort of difficult moment for the country that Ambassador Taylor cares very much about. So it's a terrible dilemma to be sucked into this if you're a career officer.

HARLOW: Elie, what he will not be bringing with him, even though we hear his testimony from those who knew him will be forthright, is documents. And State has been blocking other witnesses from bringing any documents. Of course, Pompeo is very upset that there are no State Department lawyers in these depositions.


HARLOW: How critical are documents like that?

HONIG: Well, documents are key, but we already have, I think, the most important documents --

HARLOW: The texts.

HONIG: Which are those texts. And I think -- I think this is a golden opportunity for the committee to really fill in the gaps. Look at these texts, right? The famous text where Taylor writes, are we now saying that security assistance and the White House visit are conditioned on investigations? Well, I would ask him, what happened right before that? Are we now saying? Somebody said or did something that prompted him to write that text.

Same thing with the other one. As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold.


HONIG: OK, so what preceded --

HARLOW: And what else happened in that phone conversation, right?

HONIG: Tell me about -- who were you talking to? HARLOW: Call -- when Sondland said, call me.

HONIG: Yes. So this is really a gold mine for the investigators. And I think they're going to get a lot out of this.

HARLOW: Thank you, Elie. Thank you, Susan. We appreciate it.

We'll bring you more as we hear what he may be saying behind closed doors.

In just a few hours from now, the ceasefire between Syria and Turkey will end as U.S. troops are leaving Syria, now finding out they cannot stay in Iraq. We'll have a live report from the region and the Pentagon ahead.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

In just a few hours, that five-day ceasefire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria will end. And no one knows what's going to happen next. Just this morning, Turkey's president met with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. No word if they discussed the ceasefire. The U.S. and our troops withdrawing from Syria, moving into Iraq, but the Iraqi military is saying they cannot stay.

Barbara Starr's at the Pentagon for us this morning. Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, joins us in Erbil, Iraq.

Let's begin at the Pentagon, Barbara.

I mean hearing from leaders in Iraq saying the U.S. forces cannot stay there contradicts what we heard from the defense secretary.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, now it all does, in fact, have to be worked out since the Iraqi government issued this statement that it did give permission for these U.S. troops coming from eastern Syria to come into western Iraq and stay in the relative safety of that northern area of Iraq, but saying that they could not stay.

Defense Secretary Esper traveling in the Middle East region earlier today said he will discuss all of this with his Iraqi counterpart and try to work out what happens next.

It may be that this is partially for essentially domestic political consumption inside Iraq. It is very difficult for that government to just say yes more troops can come in. It puts them in a very tough position with the Iraqi people.

But, Esper, however, has also said that, you know, eventually U.S. troops will, in fact, come home. Just, nobody can say exactly when that's going to be. [09:45:02]

HARLOW: Yes, a very important detail.

Barbara, thank you very much.

Let's get to Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Iraq for us this morning.

Nick, just -- you went to northern Syria this morning. Let's take a moment and listen to what the president said about the Kurds.


PRESET: They hated ISIS. So they were fighting ISIS. But we never agreed -- where is an agreement that said we have to stay in the Middle East for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization to protect the Kurds? It never said that. And we have protected them. We've taken very good care of them. And I hope they're going to watch over ISIS.


HARLOW: Nick, you went to northern Syria this morning. What did you see? What did you hear?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been there for the last few days, emerging just in the last few hours or so. And clearly that U.S. withdrawal was substantial. A large convoy crossing into Iraq.

The key focus today, though, is exactly what the cease-fire, which is supposed to end in about five hours or so, will mean on the ground. Calm as we left this morning around about dawn. But we are hearing reports of all sides readying themselves, frankly, for the possibility that there is not a deal in the press conference that emerges in Sochi, in Russian, between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Erdogan. And that's about to start any second now.

But that is where most people hope, who are on possibly the side of Turkey and Russia being the power brokers in all of this, that some sort of deal can emerge that will stop the ceasefire from collapsing. We are, as I say, hearing reports of both sides readying themselves for potential future fighting. But it is unclear exactly what will come out of Sochi.

It does seem that both Russia there, which is backing the Syrian regime, which is the new backers of the Syrian Kurds, that used to be a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, it seems they have similar possible ground here to occupy possibly. But Donald Trump's comments there startling. And, yes, it's absolutely true that there has been no public commitment from the U.S. to fight for the Kurds and protect them for a lifetime, but they lost 10,000-plus sons and daughters fighting ISIS on behalf of the United States and the rest of the world that wanted them kicked out of their so-called caliphate.

So the idea, I think had always been, really, that some sort of enduring alliance would be there despite the recognition that eventually the Syrian Kurds would have to come to accommodation with those forces around them, including Turkey, including the Syrian regime. It's the way in which it's collapsed in the last two weeks where the concession to Turkey, enabling their incursion. Mike Pompeo, today, said that essentially U.S. diplomacy had worked here and got Turkey to slow down using the economic might, he said, of the United States.

But, really, we have to see if this Sochi meeting can yield some kind of diplomatic outcome, otherwise we could be into a very messy six hours ahead.

HARLOW: Nick, we appreciate the reporting so much. It is invaluable to have you and your team on the ground. Thank you for all of that.

All right, ahead for us, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds on to his job but loses his majority. We'll have a live report from Montreal, next.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

This morning, former President Jimmy Carter is in a hospital in Georgia after taking another fall in his home. According to The Carter Center, the 95-year-old suffered a minor pelvic fracture. He's in good spirits. He's looking forward to recovering at home, they say. Of course, this follows just two weeks ago where he also fell at home and injured his head. He got 14 stitches that day. The former president has also survived brain cancer and liver cancer. We are wishing him a speedy recovery.

Justin Trudeau celebrating a political victory this morning. He will serve a second term as Canada's prime minister. His liberal party, though, is weakened.

Paula Newton joins us live in Montreal this morning.

It was a nail-biter. No one knew which way this thing was going to go.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you could really feel the relief in the room last night. We're here in Trudeau's hometown. It's where he made what was a fairly muted speech and, really, even the liberal party, Justin Trudeau, they can celebrate that they hung onto power, but only just. And the issue is here, the country is pretty much united in thanking everyone that this very nasty, negative campaign is over, and that's about it. Justin Trudeau leaves a lot of wreckage behind him, and that has to do with a divided country.

You know, Poppy, they had about 10 percent of the seats went to a sovereigntist, a separatist party here in Quebec that wants to take the province out of Canada. He's got that to look forward to. That's rife in Canada's history, he'll be familiar with that, but also this whole issue of other provinces, like Alberta, absolutely shutting out his party and saying you do not get us and especially our economy.

What's so interesting here, Poppy, and you and I have discuss it before, that whole issue of blackface.


NEWTON: Canadians really forgave him for that, but it left a taint, right, Poppy, it left that taint like, we're not so sure about this.

What liberals believe may have helped a little bit was Barack Obama coming in, weighing in, in the last few days in a tweet saying, we need Justin Trudeau. He's a progressive leader. I hope our neighbors to the north vote for him. They did in some measure.

But, Poppy, what's more interesting is Donald Trump tweeting late last night, congratulating Justin Trudeau, saying the country is well served.


NEWTON: Remember, Donald Trump has had a combative relationship with Justin Trudeau.


NEWTON: He was one of the first people to call him out as a liar. What's interesting here is Donald Trump needs Justin Trudeau to pass that USMCA.

HARLOW: Oh, yes.


NEWTON: He needs to be able to show Nancy Pelosi that that thing has passed, now, Nancy, get to work. And that is what the president is looking towards as Justin Trudeau continues his serve here as prime minister.

HARLOW: For sure. He wants that legislative win heading into 2020.

Paula Newton, thank you. We appreciate it.

On Capitol Hill, top U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor, of course the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, he is behind closed doors. He's testifying. This may be the most significant testimony so far in the impeachment inquiry. We'll stay on it.