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Trump Takes Victory Lap On Syria; Russia's Putin Takes A Victory Lap In Syria As Well; Poll: Trump's Baseless Corruption Claims Are Helping Biden; Democratic Presidential Candidate, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Discusses Democrat Donors Looking For Alternate Candidates, The Syria Situation, Impeachment; Trump's Advisers Creating War Room As Republicans Are Discontent Over Ukraine Scandal. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 23, 2019 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: President Trump is taking a victory lap on the current situation in Syria.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Early this morning, the government of Turkey informed my administration that they would be stopping combat and their offensive in Syria and making the cease fire permanent. And it will indeed be permanent.

However, you would also define the word permanent in that part of the world as somewhat questionable. We all understand that, but I do believe it will be permanent.


KEILAR: For that, the president is lifting all sanctions on Turkey, which is a huge win for Turkey.

But that's not all. This comes one day after Russia's president Putin and Turkey's President Erdogan came to an agreement that drastically shifts the dynamics of the region.

Syrian and Russian forces will make sure that Kurdish forces withdraw approximately 18 miles away from the Turkish-Syrian border. The Kremlin is warning that if the Kurds do not comply, they risk being, quote, "steam rolled" by the Turkish army.

A reminder, it was the Kurdish-led militias who fought side by side with U.S. troops to dramatically reduce ISIS and to keep it at bay.

Senior International Correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, is in Sochi.

Fred, the president may be claiming a win and he is insistent this is a win solely for the United States and no other nation. Putin has reason to take a victory lap here. FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Putin

definitely has reason to take a victory lap. Certainly the Russians are the big winners in this agreement. If you look at what happened just today, the Russians making some very quick, Brianna, and decisive military moves in Syria.


The moment the clock struck 12:00, Syrian time, noon, the Russians started moving forces into the town of Kobani on the border.

The Russians also put out a map announcing that the Syrian government, which is the entity that the Russians back, the government of President Bashar al Assad, would be putting up border posts on the border between Syria and Turkey.

The Russians very much the dominant force on the ground and also bringing Assad back into the equation as well, which is something the Russians have been longing to do for a very long time.

One other thing President Trump said is he believes the Syrian Kurds are safe. Well, the Russians seem to take a pretty different view of that.

The spokesman for the Kremlin said earlier today that he believed that the Kurds were indeed the best fighters on the side of the United States, the best allies of the United States. But he said that they had both been abandoned and betrayed by the United States.

The Russians certainly not mincing any words. And on other words very much making clear they are the dominant force on the ground. They believe they are the winners in all of this and they are obviously as they put it very much in that area to stay working together there with the Turks on the ground -- Brianna?

KEILAR: They have filled a void for sure.

Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

Are the president's attacks against Joe Biden helping the Democrats in the polls? A new poll shows Biden is widening his lead again.

Plus, I'll speak live with the Democratic candidate to respond to reports that Democratic voters are mulling alternative candidates to this huge current field because they're not happy with it.



KEILAR: Are President Trump's baseless corruption allegations against Joe Biden actually helping the former vice president? A new CNN poll shows that might be the case.

Our king of numbers and maps and magic walls, John King, is here with us. Walk us through this brand-new polling.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You raised the question, right, for the last month-plus President Trump has been saying things that are false, that are reckless.

But the question was would they hurt Joe Biden, allegations against Hunter Biden. Look at our brand-new poll. It's a national poll. We pick presidents state by state. Iowa goes first in 103 days. And 30 percent for the former vice president. Elizabeth Warren second at 19. Senator Sanders at 16. Senator Harris and Mayor Buttigieg in single digits.

That's plus 10. That 34 percent is plus 10 for Joe Biden since September. At a time when he's been under attack, his numbers are going up.

I'll also say, the more liberal candidates have been under attack from being questioned by Vice President Biden, Mayor Buttigieg, Senator Klobuchar. It's a combination of things. There's no question in the national numbers he's going up right now.

Why? The single most important dynamic for Democratic voters is who can beat President Trump. And 54 percent say the most important issue is beating Trump. Only 39 percent say share my concerns.

This is not an ideological primary nationally at the moment. The former vice president has benefited from that.

Great numbers for him after this period of questions would this hurt him. I'll add the caveat we pick presidents state by state, nominees state by state. Iowa at 103 days, New Hampshire after that. But if you're Joe Biden today, you're feeling better.

KEILAR: What's the breakdown on ideology of voters?

KING: A lot of people say the Democratic Party is drifting left. It is in Washington. It is on Twitter.

Look at this breakdown among liberals and Democrats who describe themselves as moderate or conservative. Joe Biden holds his own among liberals if you look at the numbers. Elizabeth Warren -- that's statistical -- Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, essentially in a three-way tie among liberal Democrats.

Look at moderate to conservative voters. Joe Biden wipes the table there. So among centrists, more moderate, more pragmatic Democrats, Joe Biden is holding his own. That is the big source of his lead right now.

In the polls, if you look at the issues, he leads on most of the issues. He leads among non-white voters off the charts. Holds his own with white voters. When you get past Iowa and New Hampshire, into these other states, that's when Latinos kick in. Again, 100 days is a long time. Sometimes what happens in Iowa can change the national numbers and change the dynamic. But if you're the former vice president, having been through several

weeks of testing, today you're happy.

KEILAR: All right. John King, thank you so much for walking us through that.

I want to bring in Democratic presidential candidate and the governor of Montana, Steve Bullock.

Governor, thanks for joining us.

STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Brianna, it's great to be with you today, for sure.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about this "New York Times" report. As if the field of Democrats isn't big enough, there are Democratic donors now searching for alternatives, late entrants into the race. What is your reaction to that?

BULLOCK: Well, I think in part, right, the concern really is making sure that we can beat Donald Trump.

Look, as the one that actually won in a Trump state that has been able to bridge divides, get things done, that's where there's still 100 days left.

Both what we've been able to do in Iowa and as we bring that across the country, I hope those party bosses, because they're not the ones that actually decide this or the debate rules, that they'll start looking at a guy from Montana that's won in the sort of places that we need to win and have been able to actually bring people together and get things done.


KEILAR: You're part of the field. What do you make of these donors looking at this field and saying they want other voices in there?

BULLOCK: Yes. I think, at the end of the day, you know, we've seen this sort of panic and concern at times but it's not the party bosses or the donors who get to decide who would be best to beat Donald Trump. It's going to be the voters.

As literally the only one in this field that won in a state where Trump won -- he took Montana by 20. I won by four. A quarter of my voters voted for Donald Trump.

Knowing we have to win back places like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, it's not going to be some donors in New York City that decide the best way to do that. It's going to be the early states that are going to take this big field and narrow it down.

KEILAR: I want to switch gears and talk about what the president said this morning. He took essentially a victory lap when it came to Syria. He said that he's going to keep troops in Syria to protect oil fields. He also said, quote, "Let someone else fight over this long- bloodstained sand."

If you were elected president, and you now have the limitations created, and that is the argument by many bipartisan observers here, that you have the limitations created by this retreat of U.S. troops from northern Syria, what would you do if there was a resurgence of ISIS? How would you handle that knowing that the U.S. stature in the region has been greatly reduced and your options for allies are much diminished?

BULLOCK: No. That's actually the challenge, right, is that our stature has been greatly reduced, and our allies, it's darn hard to trust this country when, all of a sudden President Trump walks backwards on this.

This has been a gift to Turkey but also a gift to Russia as they come closer, a gift to Assad in Syria. And even greater than that, at the end of the day, you've got folks -- you know, people rely on this country and our country's word to stand by them along the way.

So we are in a much more dangerous position at this point. I think that the next president --


BULLOCK: Go ahead.

KEILAR: I was going to say you were saying the next president has to what? We know what the circumstances are. You have to deal with them. That's what you're handed. So what would you do?

BULLOCK: Yes. And the challenge is, even 14 months from now, we don't know what that's going to look like and what the resurgence of ISIS might be. So we do have to work with allies and adversaries to try to keep ISIS in check.

It's a heck of a lot harder today than it was two weeks ago, you know, before Donald Trump talked to the head of Turkey.

And going in then, we have to both look at what has happened with ISIS along the way if there hasn't been sufficient containment and pick up the pieces of this mess that Trump's leaving all of us.

KEILAR: I want to turn to the impeachment inquiry because it is looking now like there's a lot of thread for Democrats to pull and this could spill now into even 2020. Do you think the House should wait?

BULLOCK: The House should wait, what, to undertake an impeachment? Look, I was not an --


KEILAR: Would you rather see them do this basically ahead of the holidays? What would you think about that drifting into 2020?

BULLOCK: Yes. I would much rather certainly Trump be removed at the ballot box. I think that the House has to actually move swiftly and not get into 2020 along with this.

In as much as I was not an impeachment guy. I think focusing on the challenges of folks all across this country is so much more important.

But this president has crossed the line with Ukraine. I think they have to go forward. They have to be judicious, also recognizing there's going to be deep divides in this nation afterward.

The more judicious and quickly this is handled, to say here's the evidence from the inquiry, we're all much better off, not only from a political perspective, because who knows how politics will play in this, but with the preserving of this country and dealing with the deep divides that we have.

KEILAR: Governor, thank you. Governor Steve Bullock joining us. We appreciate it.

BULLOCK: Thanks for having me on today for sure.

KEILAR: Definitely, sir.


Just into CNN, Republicans in Congress are, quote, "fed up" from having to defend the president. We'll have new details, next.


KEILAR: Amid dissatisfaction in its response to the impeachment investigation, CNN learns that advisers are telling the president to beef up his communications team and get additional help with strategy dealing with this.

This is raising questions on whether a White House war room is being created. But there's also quiet discontent among Republicans about the president's direct messaging on the Ukraine scandal.

We have CNN Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel, joining with new reporting.

Tell us what you're hearing?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I would sum it up saying, for Republicans on the Hill, this was the week from hell. And yesterday, Taylor's testimony, I'm being told, is a game-changer.

KEILAR: Really?


GANGEL: They have been able to say, "the process is unfair." We see a protest going on right now where the hearing was disrupted, and some Republican Congressmen are sitting in there. But they can't defend him on substance.

And I just want to read you some of the quotes from the Republicans on the Hill. They're saying they are, quote, "Fed up and tired of being asked to defend the president."

They say there's a growing unease that there's no defense. "We can't defend the substance. All we can do is talk about the process."

And Taylor's testimony is just the beginning. They don't know what's coming next. So I think the words "growing unease" are an understatement for how they're feeling right now.

KEILAR: So interesting to understand what they're thinking beneath the surface.

We appreciate the reporting, Jamie Gangel.

Conservatives storming the room, as Jamie mentioned, during witness testimony today, yelling about, yes, the process. We're going to take you live to the standoff.