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Syria 5-Day Ceasefire Ends Today; Soon: Ambassador Taylor to Testify Before Three House Committees; Trump Rejects Part of Constitution; Russian Trolls Return. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 22, 2019 - 04:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the one that did the capturing. I'm the one that knows more about it than you people.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump boasting about his Syria strategy with the fragile cease-fire set to expire in a matter of hours.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Lawmakers get ready to hear from what might be the most important impeachment witness yet.


TRUMP: You people in this phony emoluments cause.


BRIGGS: President dismisses parts of the Constitution as phony.

ROMANS: Facebook says Russian trolls are back and preparing to meddle in the 2020 election. Great.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning, everyone.

Tuesday, October 22nd. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York and Montreal, 11:00 a.m. in Syria, Sochi and Jerusalem. Reports from there shortly.

We start with the 120-hour cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria ends today. U.S. troops pulling out being pelted with rotten tomatoes -- potatoes, excuse me, by angry Syrian Kurds, America's former allies in the fight against ISIS. What happens after the cease-fire ends today is not entirely clear but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday if Turkish fighters are still inside a buffer zone, quote, we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists heads.

ROMANS: With the U.S. leaving, Russia is among the players stepping in. Erdogan and Vladimir Putin set to meet in Sochi, Russia, later today. More on that in a moment.

President Trump speaking at length about Syria during this volatile 70-minute photo spray after the cabinet meeting. He said the U.S. never promised to protect the Kurds who were fighting for their own reasons.


TRUMP: They hated ISIS, so they were fighting ISIS. But we never agreed -- where is the agreement we have to stay in the Middle East for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization to protect? The Kurds never said that.

And we have protected them. We've and the very good care of them. And I hope they're going to watch over ISIS.


ROMANS: President said beyond a small force, quote, to secure the oil. He didn't think it was necessary to leave troops behind in Syria. He said there had only been 28 U.S. troops on the Syrian- Turkish borders anyway. It doesn't mean U.S. forces are coming home, though. They are staying in the Middle East.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh takes a closer look at some of the president's claims.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, in that rambling statement from President Trump, there were many things frankly that didn't strike true with reality. Yes, the U.S. has never promised to protect the Kurds forever, but many thought that alliance would last a little longer or will at least end in a more managed fashion than the past four nights. Yes, there were 28 troops pulled back from the border area but frankly, while they were there they were not to be obliterated by two advancing armies. They were in fact the reason why Turkey felt restrained before starting this incursion.

So, now, after the past 48 hours of slow withdrawal here, we've seen ourselves troops rallying and then leaving. We now see I think a different Syria left behind them. Certainly in the meeting in Sochi that we will see today between Russia and Turkey, maybe a peace can be arranged between Moscow, who backs the Syrian regime who seems to be the new ally for the Syrian Kurds here. Now, they feel betrayed by the United States.

But there was a key upshot to all this. There maybe 200 to 300 hundred U.S. troops still left inside Syria, Trump says, to protect the oil fields and continue the ISIS fights. But make no mistake here: oil is not strategically important to the U.S. here. But more broadly, the mission will continue in Iraq with a similar number of troops simply in a much worse position, in a neighboring country with a small number only on the ground.

They no longer have the Syrian Kurds as allies. Russia is in the ascendants. The Syrian regime is stronger and they're simply tactically worse off for a mission they needed to finish. Remember, ISIS may get a second life out of the vacuum and chaos here -- Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: Our Nick Paton Walsh there, thank you.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled to meet in Sochi in a matter of hours. Syria, of course, will dominate the discussion. Turkey calls all Kurdish force terrorists and Erdogan says he's prepared to take necessary further steps in northeast Syria.

Jomana Karadsheh joining us live from the Turkey Syria border with the latest.

Jomana, good morning.


Well that pause in fighting that was agreed on when Vice President Mike Pence was in Ankara and met with President Erdogan is set to expire in about 11 hours time from now. So, what happens next?

Turkey said they are ready to resume their operation moments after that deadline comes to an end, if the Syrian Kurdish fighters do not withdraw from the entire area of its designated safe zone.


Now, you know, when it comes to that agreement it's quite vague. There were so many questions that were left unanswered. You had Turkey saying they are talking about the entire safe zone area. That's more than 270 miles long and more than 20 miles deep into Syria.

But you had U.S. officials, you had the Syrian Kurds saying, no, they are talking about a much smaller area, that area where that Turkish incursion took place, the Iranian where the fighting was taking place. And since that pause in fighting, we did see a major withdrawal taking place from that town of Ras al-Ain, where the fighting was concentrated during the operation.

So, basically, you have a smaller chunk that the Syrian Kurds were talking about and U.S. officials that has now pretty much been cleared of the Syrian-Kurdish fighters. What happens next? Well, the United States is not going to have much say in it. It is

going to be the decided between President Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin, when they meet later on today in Sochi. That is because we have seen Syrian regime forces moving over the past week after the Syrian Kurds turned to them asking for their support. They moved into a lot of areas of this safe zone, key parts for Turkey.

So, whatever happens next, they're going to have to decide it today. Yet again, it is down to Russia and Turkey to decide what happens in Syria, Dave.

BRIGGS: Crucial 24 hours. And again all paths lead to Putin.

Jomana Karadsheh live for us along the border, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump is pushing Republicans to fight harder against the impeachment inquiry. His plea comes at a critical time Ambassador Bill Taylor is just hours away from appearing before Congress. He is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and called the withholding of U.S. military aid in exchange for political favors crazy in a now infamous texts.

More on today's testimony from Boris Sanchez at the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, President Trump complaining about unity in his own party during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday. Now, the president saying that Democrats are vicious and that they are lousy politicians, but saying that he envies them a little bit because of their unity, because they stick together and they don't have, in his words a Mitt Romney.

Listen to more from President Trump.

TRUMP: I think they are lousy politicians. But two things they have. They are vicious. And they the stick together.

They don't have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don't have people like that. They stick together. You never see them break off.

SANCHEZ: The context here is important. This comes at a critical time for President Trump when he's hearing criticism from a number of Republicans on his dealings with Ukraine, on the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and on his decision to host the G7 summit at his golf club in Doral, Florida. A decision that he ultimately abandoned over the weekend.

But the president is hearing this criticism, this splintering within his own party as some of the voices he's hearing are the ones he needs the most to stave off any possible forward movement of the impeachment inquiry that now sits in the House of Representatives.

Another important note, Dave and Christine, Bill Taylor, the president's top diplomat for Ukraine, is scheduled to testify before House investigators today what could be a pivotal moment for the future of this White House -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Boris at the White House, thank you so much for that.

House Democrats have blocked a Republican effort to censure Intel Chairman Adam Schiff. The 218-185 vote along party lines effectively killed their proposal. It accused Schiff of misleading the American people with this characterization of a phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. The measure claimed Schiff brought disrepute upon the House of Representatives and made a mockery of the impeachment process.

Here's how Chairman Schiff responded: It will be said of House Republicans, when they found they lacked the courage to confront the most dangerous and unethical president in American history, they consoled themselves by attacking those who did.

BRIGGS: Just days after reversing course on using his Florida resort to host the 2020 G7 summit, President Trump is still defending his initial plan, saying it was a win-win for the country.


TRUMP: I own property in Florida. I was going to do it at no cost or give it free. But I would have given it for nothing. So, a lot of money I give away like my salary. I was willing to do this for free. It would have been the greatest G7 ever.


BRIGGS: The president blaming Democrats and the media for invoking the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.


TRUMP: I don't think you people with this phony emoluments clause and, by the way, I would say it cost me anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion to be president.


BRIGGS: The emoluments clause forbids the president from profiting from foreign governments or receiving any money from the U.S. government except for an annual salary.


ROMANS: All right. President Trump brags and exaggerates about the economy especially now that he's being asked about impeachment.


TRUMP: Look, I have the strongest economy ever. We're setting records over a hundred times. And, by the way, the day I got elected the following day until January 20th, the market went through the roof. You know why it went through the roof? Because they got rid of Obama and they got rid of Clinton.

And if anybody else, any of these people on the stage got elected, your 401(k)s would be down the tubes. They would go down not 20 percent or 30 percent they would go down 70, 90, 80, destroy this country. They destroy the country.


ROMANS: Down 70, 90, 80 percent, there's zero. There's no way to know if that would ever happen.

But the president is zeroing in on his stock market gains from the day after the election, not from the day he took office. That's traditionally how we measure it. But he likes to go from right after the election. So, let's give him those numbers, right?

Almost three years after the 2016 election, the Dow was up 44 percent. He's right this has been a strong stock market. The S&P 500 up 39 percent. Nasdaq up 55 percent.

Now, the president, though -- this is what is so vintage Trump. He takes a strong economy, a record long bull run in stock exaggerate the results. He exaggerates the success, even when he doesn't have to, really.

Moody's Analytics election model says Trump's odds for a second term are very good if the economy remains strong next year. Gas prices are tamed, unemployment is at a historic low. Stock market is near these record highs. You heard the president say they hit hundreds of highs.

If Democrats want to win in 2020, they're going to have to sharpen their attacks on Trump economy.

And the president, the president has been zeroing in -- he said, it's the economy stupid. It's not the best economy in the history of American republic, it isn't.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: It's been stronger in the Clinton administration and, in fact, under Obama, the last -- same period of time one Obama, there were more jobs created than these 6 million jobs in the Trump administration. But he owns the branding of the economy.

BRIGGS: But what is the central knock from Democrats 2020? On this Trump economy?

ROMANS: They are trying to search for health care. They're trying to talk about cost for child care and for the things that people feel everyday. But they haven't managed -- because there's so many candidates I think, they haven't managed to just zero in on the thing that counters the Trump strong economy message.

BRIGGS: All right. They'll have to figure that out.

Ahead, Canada's Justin Trudeau celebrating a political victory this morning.

ROMANS: While Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu may be losing his grip on power. Details ahead.



ROMANS: In Canada, Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party is expected to remain in power after Monday's general election but as a minority government. According to projections from CBC and CTV News, Trudeau will serve as prime minister for a second term. But he'll have to form a partnership with at least one other party.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We are sending our liberal team back to work, back to Ottawa with a clear mandate. We will make life more affordable. We will continue to fight climate change. We will get guns off our streets. And we will keep investing in Canadians!


ROMANS: Trudeau overcame a blackface scandal to hold on to his job. He publicly apologized claiming he didn't realize at the time what he was doing dressing up as Aladdin was racist.

BRIGGS: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to form a new government for the second time this year, opening the door for his main rival Benny Gantz to try. Gantz says he'll try to form a liberal ruling coalition.

Oren Liebermann live from Jerusalem with the latest.

Oren, here we go again.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we could be well under way to a third general election. But let's not talk about that just yet. This is a major blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it's certainly not the end of the longest serving prime minister in Israel's history, at least not yet.

For the second time in a year, Netanyahu failed to form a government and now for the first time in more than a decade, it will be somebody else who has that opportunity to form a government.

On top of that, there are potential criminal indictments looming over the prime minister in ongoing corruption probes in which he has proclaimed his innocence. All of that means Netanyahu's political and personal future may very well be shaky right now, perhaps shakier than it's been in a long time. Who will it be to form a new government? His rival, Benny Gantz, the

former chief of staff and the head of the Blue and White Party. What's the problem here?

Well, it doesn't seems that Gantz have a clear path to forming a coalition either. He'll have 28 days to try and he'll see what room he has to maneuver politically, to see if he can pull in the seven seats he needs to form a ruling coalition. But he's not clear that he has any clear path to that coalition, meaning that if he fails in 28 days, there will be three more weeks to try to find somebody else and new election are automatically triggered, Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: An interesting ride.

Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Facebook says it has removed a network of Russian-backed fake accounts that praise President Trump and attacks Joe Biden in critical swing states. Facebook says its network appears to be the work of the same Kremlin-backed group that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.


Now, one Russian account portrayed itself as a black voter in Michigan and use Black Lives Matter hashtag to criticize Biden on racial issues. Facebook says it also took down three misleading campaigns originating in Iran.

BRIGGS: Ahead here, angry protesters change their whole tune, at the sight of a young toddler. The story behind this moment, next.



BRIGGS: Four-twenty-five Eastern Time.

And all evacuation orders lifted overnight for a wildfire that threatens celebrities' multimillion dollar homes in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. The Palisades Fire grew to about 40 acres by midday yesterday, forcing fire officials to order a mandatory evacuation. The Pacific Palisades neighborhood between Malibu and Santa Monica is home to many big names including actress Reese Witherspoon and "Star Wars" director JJ Abrams.

ROMANS: Protesters in Lebanon have been united in outrage over the country's crumbling economy and political turmoil there. But a much sweeter show of unity is going viral. This is what happened when a mother told protesters surrounding her car that her 15-month-old son Robin was scared.


ROMANS: Yes, Baby Shark is truly global. Robin's mother says the break into song was spontaneous. She says the cute clips spread so quickly across Lebanon, and her husband saw the video before she could even tell him about it.

Dave's favorite song, Robin's favorite song.

BRIGGS: It absolutely is. They were enjoying it a little bit more than you would imagine, 3.6 billion YouTube views would do that.

We're counting down to the final hours of a fragile cease-fire in Syria with Russia's Vladimir Putin set to discuss the crisis there with Turkey's leader later this morning. A live report from Russia is next.