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Crisis in Syria; Soon: Ambassador Taylor to Testify Before Three House Committees; Trump Rejects Part of Constitution; Trudeau's Liberal Party Projected to Win; Russian Trolls Return. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 22, 2019 - 04:30   ET





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


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

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


TRUMP: You people with this phony emoluments clause.


ROMANS: The president dismisses part of the Constitution as phony.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START on a Tuesday. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour here in New York.

And we begin with this 120-hour cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria. It ends today.

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

BRIGGS: 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.


BRIGGS: The president said beyond a small force 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 border anyway. Not all forces are coming home, though.

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.


ROMANS: So, keeping troops in the Middle East to protect oil facilities.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled to meet in Sochi this morning. The crisis in Syria is expected to dominate the discussion. Turkey calls all Kurdish force terrorists and Erdogan says he's prepared to take necessary further steps in northeast Syria.

Frederik Pleitgen joins us live from Sochi with the latest developments -- Fred.


An absolute key meeting that will take place here in Sochi. And essentially, these two men are probably going to decide the future of northeastern Syria and probably the future of those Syrian Kurds that were allied with the United States as well. And, of course, both leaders very much aware of the fact that President Trump has essentially taken the United States out of the equation as far as that's concerned, by withdrawing those troops and abandoning the Kurds as well.

So, now, it's going to be up to Erdogan and to Vladimir as they start their meeting here.

Now, as Nick just mentioned, his report there, the Russians have already struck a deal with the Syrian Kurds and have moved Russian force and Syrian government forces in to those border areas on the border between Turkey and Syria. That means Turkey can't invade those area at this point in time. In other words, Erdogan is not going to be able to do that.

He's going to want some guarantees however from the Russians that there are not going to be Syrian Kurdish armed fighters in that area. Vladimir Putin, for his part, he's had a very interesting strategy in all of this. The Russians completely stand behind Bashar al Assad. So, the Russians are going to say, they want Syrian government forces to move into those areas and possibly integrate some of those Kurds into the official Syrian government forces.

It's going to be very difficult discussions between these two leaders. However, they do have a pretty good relationship with one another. They have been known to strike deals with one another. But again, at this point in time you essentially have these two men deciding the fate of northeast Syria and Kurds on their own terms, America not at the table and certainly much less of a factor it was when the U.S. had troops in the country, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us this morning from Sochi -- thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: President Trump 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, quote, crazy in a now infamous text.

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 for that. House Democrats have blocked a Republican effort to censure Intel

Chairman Adam Schiff. The 218-185 vote along party lines effectively killed the proposal. It accused Schiff of misleading the American people with his 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 I give away my salary. I was willing to do this for free. It would have been the greatest G7 ever.


BRIGGS: The president blaming his about-face on Democrats and media for invoking the emolument clause of the 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. In that combative, sometimes disconnected cabinet meeting appearance the president snapped at reporters asking about impeachment saying this. It's the economy, stupid.


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, from there 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 that I've been watching 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, and destroy this country. It would destroy the country.


ROMANS: That's impossible to know for sure. But he says it anyway and he says it a lot. He repeatedly uses the stock market as his personal scorecard and he measures his stock market gains from the day after the election, not inauguration. And measured that way, he beats Obama's very strong stock market. Since the 2016 election, the Dow was up 44 percent, S&P up almost 40 percent. Look at the Nasdaq up 55 percent.

Now, Moody's analytics election model predicts a second Trump term if the economy remains as it is next year. Gas prices are tamed. Unemployment is at historic low. The stock market is near record highs.

Now, certainly there are risks. I mean, look at manufacturing jobs growth. It has stalled. The global economy is creaking under the weight of the president's trade war.

And U.S. growth is slowing. The 6 million jobs created in the Trump administration, that falls short of the pace of jobs in the end of the Obama administration.

But the president has taken an already strong economy, a 10-year lounge economic expansion branded it entirely as his own.

If Democrats want to win in 2020, they will have to sharpen their attacks on Trump economy and they haven't been able to do it yet.

BRIGGS: They haven't found what the message is that resonates.


BRIGGS: Ahead, Canada's Justin Trudeau celebrating a political victory this morning. The latest ahead.

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



BRIGGS: Four-forty-seven Eastern Time.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau 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 a partnership needs to be formed with at least one other party.

More now from Paula Newton in Montreal.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And, good morning, Dave and Christine.

Justin Trudeau has eked out a victory here but it is not the victory he had four years ago. You know, after the blackface scandal -- the fact that he dressed up in blackface, apologized, and then said he didn't even know how many times he had dressed up that way, Canadians forgave him. They were still disappointed in him.

But the issue here is the kind of mandate they gave him. I mean, he didn't even win the popular vote but still gets to be prime minister. Sound familiar?

And through all that, the president, Donald Trump, did tweet out his congratulations and graciously said that he thought Canada was well served.

But this is a diminished leader, both at home and abroad. I want you to take a listen now to his victory speech.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: From coast to coast to coast, tonight, Canadians rejected division and negativity. They rejected cuts and austerity and they voted in favor of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change.

I have heard you, my friends. You 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.

NEWTOWN: You know, he might be right on the climate crisis and Canadians spoke loudly and clearly that they want more done on that, but not on the division.

Look, the results here leave a divided Canada, one that will be much more difficult to govern in the months or years to come -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: Paula, thank you so much for that from Montreal.

All right. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to form a new government for the second time this year, opening the door for his new rival Benny Gantz to try. Gantz says he will try to form a liberal ruling coalition.

Oren Liebermann, he is in Israel.


He has been following this for some time for us now.

What's the latest?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine. We'll continue to do so as this political deadlock remains, and that maybe quite sometime.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a major blow in his second consecutive failure to put together a government, except this time, instead of going to another general election, he'll hand over the mandate to form a new government to somebody else. And that means for the first time in a decade, someone other than Netanyahu has a chance to put together a new government and a chance to be prime minister.

Netanyahu in addition has looming potential indictments hanging over him from ongoing corruption cases in which he proclaimed his innocence, which means his political and personal future at this point looks very uncertain. Who will it be? It will be Benny Gantz, his rival trying to form a government, the former chief of staff and head of the Blue and White Party.

The problem here is that Gantz doesn't have a clear path to his own coalition, that despite the fact that after last month's election, he had the biggest party. He said he's looking forward to go to work in negotiations. But he doesn't seem to have much room to maneuver, and again, doesn't have a clear path to getting the parliamentary majority he needs to be prime minister, which means, Dave and Christine, the possibility of third election in 12 months is also looming large here.

ROMANS: All right. So, you're not going anywhere. You remain at your post.


ROMANS: You remain at your post.

Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Just the way Oren loves it. Facebook says it has removed a network of Russian backed fake accounts that praise President Trump but attack Joe Biden in critical swing states. Facebook says the network appears to be the work of the same Kremlin backed group that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

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

ROMANS: Have you seen these posts pretending to look like local newspapers but pushing some of these same conspiracy theories. At first blush it looks like oh, this is a local paper in Michigan and Ohio and Wisconsin, but it's not.

BRIGGS: Most people can't tell the difference.

ROMANS: People can't tell the difference.

All right. It's finally here, fans get a new look at the last chapter of the Skywalker saga. CNN business has the details.



ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Looking at markets around the world. I mean, you can see some optimism in Asian markets and a mixed opening for Europe. Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.

On Wall Street, futures right now, dipping lower but this is not a big move, so still kind of searching for direction. Stocks finished higher Monday but not very much, up about 57 point. S&P 500 up just less than 1 percent. Nasdaq also less than 1 percent higher.

You know, the rally would have been stronger if it was not a weak performance from Boeing. Boeing shares closed down nearly 4 percent, eek. That loss meant 13 point drag on the Dow. It's because the plane maker was hit with analysts' downgrades and growing scrutiny about its safety.

The drones are coming and they are bringing your aspirin. CVS is teaming up with UPS to test drone delivery. UPS received a certificate from the FAA to make limited drone deliveries earlier this month. UPS said the drones making the deliveries will be automated flying on pre-planned routes up to five pounds and to leave them on household's front or backdoor step.

CVS and UPS have not said when or where deliveries will begin or how they will be made.

All right. Shed a tear. It's finally here.


ROMANS: The official trailer for the final chapter in the Skywalker saga, "The Rise of Skywalker", debuted last night. The ninth episode in the Skywalker story, you hear the voice of the late Carrie Fisher. They were able to use unreleased footage they shot for "The force Awakens". Pre-sale tickets are already on sale. "The Rise of Skywalker" hits theaters on December 20th.

BRIGGS: I'm very excited.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: It looks terrific.

ROMANS: It looks really good.

Thanks for our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

EARLY START continues right now.



TRUMP: So, I'm the one that did the capturing. I'm the one that knows more about it than you people.


ROMANS: President Trump boasting about his Syria strategy with a fragile cease-fire there set to expire in a matter of hours.

BRIGGS: Lawmakers will hear this morning from the man who might be the most important impeachment witness yet.


TRUMP: You people with this phony emoluments clause.


ROMANS: The president dismisses part of the Constitution as phony.

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

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, October 22nd, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And the 120-hour cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria, it ends today. U.S. troops pulling out. They were pelted with rotten potatoes by angry Syrian Kurds. These are America's former allies in the fight against ISIS.

What happens after the cease-fire ends, not totally clear. But Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Saturday, if Kurdish fighters are still inside a buffer zone, quote, we will take over where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists' heads.