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Syria Crisis: Ceasefire Ends Today; Soon: Ambassador Taylor to Testify Before Three House Committees; Trump Rejects Part of Constitution; Russian Trolls Return; World Series Takes Center Stage Tonight. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 22, 2019 - 05:00   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 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 start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists' heads. [05:00:12]

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.

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: All right. Nick, thank you for that.

The Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, and the Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Sochi in a matter of hours. Syria, of course, will dominate that discussion. Turkey calls all Kurdish forces, these allies, until now, with the Americans. He calls them terrorists. Erdogan says he is ready to take necessary further steps in northeast Syria.

Jomana Karadsheh is there for us. She is live on the Turkey-Syria border.

What are you seeing? What is the state of play there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Christine, since that pause went into effect back on Thursday, the situation overall has calmed down to an extent. There have been some violations of that ceasefire.

But you need to keep in mind, why that ceasefire, why that pause in fighting was agreed on to start with, because Turkey wanted to see the fighters from its designated safe zone. So, they were given that time, that deadline, 120 hours, 5 days for that to happen. And that deadline expires in about ten hours from now.

So, what happens next? Have they withdrawn from the designated safe area? The big question is, Christine, what is the safe area? We have a vague agreement between the United States and Turkey. There have been questions about that, because what Turkey wants is for all Syrian Kurdish fighters to withdraw from this area that's more than 270 miles, more than 20 miles deep inside Syria.

But what it seems like is on the other hand, you've got the Syrian Kurdish fighters, the U.S. officials also saying is what they were discussing is a much smaller area. An area where the Turkish incursion took place. We're talking 70 miles.

We heard from President Erdogan on his way to Sochi to meet with Vladimir Putin and he says that, while he is threatening to resume this operation if there's no full withdrawal by the end of the deadline, he did seem to be leaving room for diplomacy and negotiations and saying they are seeing signs of these Kurdish fighters withdrawing -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jomana Karadsheh for us there on the border, thank you.

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.


Taylor 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: Yes, those text messages are the center of this inquiry at the moment.

BRIGGS: Yes, big day.

ROMANS: All right. Six minutes past the hour. Facebook under pressure to deal with Russian trolls and lying politicians in this election. More next.



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

Joining us now with more, CNN tech reporter, Brian Fung.

Good morning. So, we're going to talk about meddlers and liars on Facebook. In case you're wondering, there are meddlers and liars on Facebook.

What does Facebook say it found and what it did do about it?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Sure, Facebook said it found dozens of accounts on Instagram that are apparently linked to the same sort of people who ran the Internet Research Agency's 2016 disinformation campaign that targeted the 2016 elections. And what Facebook found was a bunch of what it calls coordinated inauthentic behavior, essentially fake posts by people pretending to be real Americans in swing states, you know, pretending to be black activists, environmentalists, gun rights groups, all sorts of people who are trying to sow disinformation and discord among American voters.

ROMANS: And the idea is to undermine democracy, essentially.

BRIGGS: But we mentioned there, praising Trump and critical of Biden. Is it chaos and divisiveness, or is it a candidate that these are favoring?

FUNG: And that's a great question and it's all across the spectrum here. You see, you know, some accounts supporting Joe Biden. You see some accounts supporting President Trump.

The whole objective here is to apparently drive more debate and more divisiveness against voters and prevent them from reaching.

ROMANS: And so, Facebook says it's got thousands of people who are looking into finding these accounts and taking them down. Is that going to be the strategy in the election?

FUNG: Facebook has said it's hired 35,000 people to work on security issues, and it's taken a number of policy steps in the past 24 hours to try and address what it says is the rising tide of disinformation.

One of those things changing, it's going to start labeling information that comes from state-controlled media, for example.

ROMANS: We know Iran has been doing it, too.

BRIGGS: But for our politicians, Facebook will not be regulating the ads or their speech. Here's what Mark Zuckerberg told Lester Holt about that.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Do you feel like you're giving a green light to politicians that lie, lie, lie?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: No, look -- I believe it is important for people to hear and see what politicians are saying. And I think that when they do that, that speech will be scrutinized by other journalists, by other people.


ROMANS: So, it's a platform.

BRIGGS: Not their job to regulate.

Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill tomorrow. Is he opening the door for regulation of Facebook?

FUNG: Well, tomorrow's hearing is going to be on digital currencies Facebook is trying to expand into financial sectors. But, you know, the overall question I think you're going to see a lot of lawmakers really drill down on Mark Zuckerberg for some of the political elements that, you know, these political debates that he's raised. The thing that Facebook said in response to, say, Senator Warren, taking out a fake ad is, we believe that all political speech should be protected and it's not Facebook's job to censor politicians.


Now, that obviously raises some big questions here, you know, with some policymakers, saying Facebook needs to be regulated more heavily. And, you know, when Facebook said it compared itself to broadcasters a few weeks ago, saying, look at all these TV stations that ran a misleading Trump ad. We believe in the same principle.

That opened the door to a lot of people wondering whether or not broadcast regulations should apply to Facebook.

ROMANS: Certainly, these companies under so much scrutiny. Mark Zuckerberg is under so much scrutiny. I mean, what they've done to date, I think it's not controversial to say, has not been good enough. And so, now, we're heading into another election, with meddlers and liars again.

BRIGGS: Meddlers and liars.

ROMANS: On the platform.

Nice to see you, Brian. Thank you.

FUNG: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Appreciate it. All right. Ahead, baseball's fall classic begins tonight. Will pitching dominate this year's World Series between the Astros and the Nationals?

Andy Scholes live in Houston with the "Bleacher Report", next.



BRIGGS: Late October means Halloween, pumpkin pie, lattes, and the fall classic.

The Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals squaring off in the 115th edition of the World Series.

Andy Scholes live in Houston, the site of the big games in the "Bleacher Report".

Andy, good to have you there. You're not biased at all. And as one of the folks follow your Instagram feed, it has been wildly entertaining in recent days.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Dave, they call Disneyland the happiest place on earth, if you're a Houstonian, that's Minute Maid Park, especially after game six against the Yankees when Altuve with that walk of home run.

Now, the Astros is in the World Series. This World Series, it's team dynasty versus team destiny. The Houston Astros is trying to win their second World Series in three years.

Washington Nationals trying to complete the most impossible comebacks in baseball history after Bryce Harper left them before the season to go to the Phillies. The Nationals started the year 19-31. But they battled to a wild card. They came back to beat the Brewers. They rally to beat the Dodgers. After years of postseason failures, there's something special about this Nationals team.


ANTHONY RENDON, NATIONALS THIRD BASEMAN: To be honest with you, we have nothing to lose. I mean, obviously, we are being resilient, and we are staying in the fight, you know, with all of the little, you know -- the mottos that they put out in there.

JOSE ALTUVE, ASTROS SECOND BASEMAN: We go back in the days, we lost three years in row. Now, we're in a good situation to win, the second one in three years. It's a lot of hard work and a lot of days. So, everything. It means a lot for us.


SCHOLES: That series will feature the starting pitching that the World Series has ever seen. You got Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer around the mound tonight in Houston. First pitch just after 8:00 Eastern.

All right. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots remaining undefeated as they put a beat down on the New York Jets last night. The patriots up 24-0 at halftime. Sam Darnold, five turnovers in the game. At one point, Sam Darnold said he was seeing ghosts. Belichick cracking a smile in this one as the Patriots win 33-0 to improve to 7- 0, on the season.

The NBA season gets started tonight on TNT. And we're going to have to wait to see the Pelicans star rookie Zion Williamson. He is out six to eight weeks after knee surgery. New Orleans will take on the Raptors, they get their championship rings tonight. That one tips off at 8:00 Eastern.

Followed by the big showdown in L.A. between the Lakers and the Clippers. Inside the NBA, Chuck, Kenny, Shaq and Ernie, they are live in L.A. for opening night. And, Dave, you know, after years of mediocrity, seems like the championship is going to go through L.A. this season between the Lakers and the Clippers. That showdown is going to be a fun one to watch.

BRIGGS: Sure will.

Sure a bummer though about Zion. We lost Patrick Mahomes for a few weeks. Now, the most electric prospect in the NBA. But tonight will be fun.

Andy, enjoy the World Series. We'll talk to you tomorrow.

Romans, what's coming up?

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Dave.

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




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


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

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: You people with this phony emoluments clause.


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

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

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs, 5:29 Eastern Time.

We start abroad, the 120-hour cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria 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 today 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.