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Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) Discusses Bill Taylor Testimony in Impeachment Inquiry; Soon President Trump Will Speak at White House About Situation in Syria; Businessmen Who Helped Giuliani Investigate Biden in Court; Trump Holds Press Conference on Syria. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired October 23, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But what do you say to that Republican defense now?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, first off, I think we have to make something very clear. There doesn't have to be a quid pro quo. If the president asks a foreign government to do something to interfere with a U.S. election, that is unlawful and it's unethical. And it's unprecedented. That alone is a major problem and major national security threat.

In addition to that, we do have allegations of a quid pro quo that are being corroborated by multiple witnesses and sources and information, which makes it even worse.

So let's really zoom back out and remember what this is all about. You have the sitting president of the United States asking a foreign government leader, the president of Ukraine, to participate, actually initiate an investigation against a political opponent for his personal political gain.

And in doing so, withhold $400 million of critical military aid that's important to combat Russian aggression when we have 60,000 U.S. troops that are in harm's way in Europe. That's what this is about.

BOLDUAN: How tough is this conversation to have when you're back in your district. You represent a critical district held by a Republican previously.

CROW: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Is this level of detail -- you haven't been back since Bill Taylor testified. How tough is this conversation back home?

CROW: I don't think this is tough. This is just about the facts. This is not about politics. We have to completely divorce any political calculation from this. It's about national security.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's near impossible, though. CROW: It's not. Its' really not. My people know me. My voters know

me very well. My constituents. I've held hundreds of events throughout my community over the last couple of years. They know I'm somebody interested if fulfilling my oath, that's dedicated service to this country.

At my core, it's about doing the right thing and defending this nation and moving us forward together. They know that about me. And I'm having that conversation. People are interested in what's going on.

I will be going back here in a couple of days and continue those conversations. This is not about politics. This is about getting to the facts and having that honest conversation.

BOLDUAN: Interesting to hear back in your district. We'll have you on after to get back to your district.

Thank you, Congressman, for coming on.

CROW: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

We are keeping a close eye on the White House right now awaiting a first statement from President Trump. He is expected to address the situation in Syria any moment now.

We are also watching to see if he will talk about this very tough narrative for the White House to discuss at this moment. His own top diplomat in Ukraine, his testimony, explosive testimony drawing a direct line from the president to a quid pro quo to Ukraine by Bill Taylor. Will he take those questions?

Much more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:37:39]

BOLDUAN: Welcome back. Any moment now, President Trump is expected to be making a statement from the White House about Syria. We will bring that to you when it begins.

We are also following developments in New York with regard to what Rudy Giuliani was really doing in Ukraine.

There are countless subplots to this impeachment investigation. One surrounding two Florida-based businessmen in court right now, Les Parnas and Igor Fruman.

You may remember they were picked up at Dulles Airport outside D.C. earlier this month holding one-way tickets out of the United States. They are associates of Giuliani in countless videos and pictures with him.

Prosecutors say they Parnas and Fruman funneled illegal campaign contributions to a pro-Trump political group. But what more is there.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is outside the courthouse. CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig, former federal and state prosecutor and served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District, is here as well.

Shimon, first to you.

Can you catch us up on these men and what's happening in court?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Kate. As you said, what were these men doing? What really was behind all of this? And that is really the big question.

They're here in court this morning. They're going to be arraigned on the four charges. Of course, some of the big stuff having to do with finances. Putting money, donating money, using foreign money to donate into U.S. elections into campaigns. That is some of the big charges.

But there's a lot more to this case than has been revealed so far. As you said, these men were arrested after they were about to leave this country. Prosecutors rushing in, arresting them. And then making the charges public. It was not expected to be public, indicating that this investigation is very much still ongoing.

And, of course, Rudy Giuliani. These men very close associates with Rudy Giuliani, working hand-in-hand with him if trying to build ill up this Ukraine information concerning Joe Biden and his son, damaging information that, obviously, is now gaining a lot of attention behind potential impeachment of the president. All of that is still a part of this investigation as well.

As well, the Southern District of New York indicating they are looking at parts of what was going on with Rudy Giuliani and the Ukrainians in all of this. That is very much a part of this investigation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Shimon, thank you so much. We will keep close to this.

[11:40:06]

Elie, how important is what happens to them to Rudy Giuliani?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's vital. Because if either of these guys decides to cooperate with the Southern District of New York, that is very, very bad news for Rudy Giuliani, and likely for other people as well.

When you cooperate in the Southern District, we, prosecutors make you tell us everything you know, not just what's in the four corners of that indictment, everything, Rudy Giuliani.

Look, all roads are leading to Rudy Giuliani. Yesterday, the testimony put him near that shadow group. (CROSSTALK)

HONIG: Here, he has these mysterious dealings with these two American citizens, but Ukrainian-born American citizens. They are paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars and funneling money into our electoral system. A lot will turn on what they do and, in turn, what they do to Rudy.

BOLDUAN: Elie, thank you so much. You will have to create a new flow chart for this one. Thank you so much.

HONIG: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Shimon, great to see you. Thank you.

All right, so we have been looking at this empty podium all hour. It's not because it's a pretty picture. We are awaiting a statement from the White House.

It could be a critical statement. We expect the president to address the situation unfolding in Syria. The 120-hour, quote/unquote, "cease-fire" expired on Tuesday. And we are now waiting to see what is going to come of this situation as the president green light, green lit -- everyone hold on. I see Mike Pompeo walking in right now. This means -- you know what, we will stick here right now. The president is definitely walking in.

Here's the president of the United States. Let's all listen in and see what he has to say.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you very much.

My fellow Americans, I greet you this morning from the White House to announce a major breakthrough towards achieving a better future for Syria and for the Middle East. It's been a long time.

(PRESIDENT TRUMP PRESS CONFERENCE FROM 11:41:53 TO 11:56:24)

[11:55:24]

TRUMP: Thank you all very much and God bless America. Thank you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, you said that the ISIS fighters who had escaped had been recaptured, but today your top envoy said that's not true, that they don't know where they are. Do you have a comment?

BOLDUAN: President Trump right there declaring victory, declaring a major breakthrough in Syria. On what, though, is not entirely clear.

Also with this line, "Let someone else fight over this long- bloodstained sand."

I want to bring in first CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She was recently in northern Syria. She was with families, spoke to them, Kurdish families as they were fleeing the area of northern Syria that we're talking about right now.

Clarissa, how is this speech going to be received by those folks?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can you can probably imagine, Kate, that a lot of Kurds will find this speech very insulting, frankly.

It was just yesterday we were seeing images of Kurdish people pelting U.S. military vehicles as they were leaving Syria with tomatoes and fruit because there's a strong sense of indignation and anger they've been hung out to dry and left to the wind with President Erdogan and the Turkish military.

I don't think anything President Trump said in this speech will go far toward addressing those grievances. A lot of people will be offended by the sort of dismissive of almost colonial imperialism description of long bloodstained sand, as if almost forgetting the U.S.'s role in contributing to the blood that has stained those sands.

I think a lot of people will be bewildered as to how the president can take credit for essentially an agreement that was carving up northern Syria in Sochi, Russia, yesterday --

BOLDUAN: Right.

WARD: -- between President Erdogan, President Putin and the regime of Bashar al Assad, which as you well know, Kate, has been responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians. How do you spin this into a victory of the U.S.?

BOLDUAN: Clarissa, stick with me.

Samantha Vinograd is with me as well.

In response to this, the president has ordered the secretary of Treasury to lift all sanctions put in place against Turkey following the incursion into Syria.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: These sanctions were put in place to deter more bad behavior by Turkey but also to punish Turkey for what Turkey has already been done.

If you read the statement from the White House --

BOLDUAN: Turkey, Assad and Russia are still there. They have not left.

VINOGRAD: That's correct, Kate. But we also have to keep in mind what Turkey has done to date. Turkey is accused of committing war crimes. Turkey invaded a sovereign country. That's part of why the sanctions were leveled against them in the first place.

At this point, the worst thing Turkey has suffered through is a visit from Mike Pompeo and Vice President Pence. The fact that these sanctions aren't going forward really just green

lights Turkey doing more of the same. We are not punishing them for the egregious acts they've committed to date by keeping these sanctions on, which opens the door to continue this bad behavior.

The president has said the Kurds are safe. The Kurds are not safe. Turkey is in Syrian territory closer to the Kurds and they have suffered no real punishment for their actions.

I am deeply concerned this will send a message that they can literally get away with murder and the president of the United States is willing to lift sanctions and not punish them for that.

BOLDUAN: Clarissa, a final thought. One thing that stuck out to me is when the president says that Turkey is essentially in charge of handling ISIS.

WARD: Turkey is now in charge of handling ISIS. The U.S. is basically washing its hands clean of this and stepping back and handing over the region to other powers to take ownership of.

[12:00:00]

If that's the case, Kate, the question becomes, why did it have to be done in such a chaotic manner. Why did it have to be done in such an incoherent way? Why couldn't this have been declared, planned in a much more decisive way?