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New Charges in College Admissions Scandal; Russia Warns Kurdish Forces; Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) is Interviewed on Impeachment Inquiry; Nationals Take Game One. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 23, 2019 - 06:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Hong Kong's legislature formally withdrawing its controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. That original measure triggered months of massive and violent protests in the city. But the withdrawal is not likely to end this unrest. Protesters are also calling for Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, to resign and an independent inquiry into police brutality.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have more breaking news.

Police in England say a 25-year-old man from northern Ireland is under arrest on suspicion of murder after 39 people were found dead in a truck container. The discovery was made in an industrial park in Essex. That's in the southeast of England. Police say all 39 were pronounced dead at the scene, 38 adults and one teenager. Authorities are in the process now of identifying the victims.

CAMEROTA: New questions this morning about the fate of "Full House" star Lori Loughlin, her husband, and nine other parents who have pleaded not guilty in that nationwide college admissions scandal. Federal prosecutors announcing an additional bribery charge, meaning that those parents could now face up to 45 years in prison.

CNN's Alexandra Field is here to explain.

So prosecutors just keep upping the ante.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we keep watching the number go up, that possible sentence going up and up and up. This is a tactic that we've seen prosecutors in this case use before, upping charges. Now we're seeing it again. They've slapped 11 parents with additional charges. They've also slapped new charges on seven college athletic officials and alleged associates of the scheme's mastermind.

What's interesting is that we're not learning about any new alleged activity. It's all stuff you've heard before about paying to have SAT scores inflated, paying to have students designated as college athletic recruits. So, really, it would seem, that this is about creating more pressure for parents who are still wanting to fight these charges against them.

And it looks like the pressure might be working because just this week, with word of possible new charges coming down, four parents did flip their pleas from not guilty to guilty. Of the 52 defendants charged in the college admissions scandal, we've already seen 29 of them accept plea deals, including actress Felicity Huffman, who, John, is, of course, in the middle of serving a 14-day federal prison sentence.

BERMAN: All right, seems like those who took the deal early might be better off than those who have waited.

Alexandra Field, thank you very much.

Overnight, the Kremlin issued a warning to Kurdish forces in Syria after making a deal with Turkey. We have a live report from the region, next.



BERMAN: Breaking overnight, Russia warning Kurdish forces to withdraw from the Turkey/Syria border or be steamrolled by the Turkish army. This comes after this agreement. Russia and Turkey agreed on a deal to patrol the border in conjunction. The Kremlin, this morning, is accusing the U.S. of betraying the Kurds in Syria.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Iraq this morning with all these breaking details.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for once, we can wholeheartedly agree with what Russia is saying. Yes, certainly the United States has betrayed the Kurds and they've left them in the grip of this ceasefire arranged between Turkey, the force who are trying, frankly, to take as much territory from the Syrian Kurds as they can inside of Syria, and Russia, who backed the Syrian regime, who have stepped into the role of the United States as formerly the Syrian Kurds' key ally here.

This deal is going into effect now as far as we can see. There are suggestions that Russian military police are heading to the border areas, probably along with their Syrian regime counterparts. They will establish checkpoints, positions all along that border. And then, over the next six days, tell the Syrian Kurds to push back 30 kilometers. That is the full extent, really, of what President Erdogan wanted originally, except he wanted his forces to do the pushing there. He's probably still going to get that and now the Russians there very clear in their rhetoric saying that there will be steamrolling of any Syrian Kurdish fighters who choose to stay in that 30 kilometer area.

It's going to be a complex, new situation on the ground, frankly, to see how many fighters actually do withdraw. They are going to have families in these areas. They are sometimes just the civilians too. So that will be messy, frankly, and the Syrian Kurds will probably, yet again, feel that their newest allies are probably betraying some of them to some degree too.

And then, of course, we have the broad problem of the whole Turkish zone that's currently controlled, much of it, still goes straight up to Syrian Kurdish territory without this buffer zone. And in a week or so, we'll see Russian and Turkish patrols ten kilometers deep into Syria patrolling to try and keep the peace there.

Just look at the geopolitics of this. Startling now that a NATO member, Turkey, has invited Russia, the country that was frankly the focus of the creation of NATO, to protect against Russia along its southern border in such unmonitored, unfettered patrols. Startling to see that. A real gut punch, frankly, for the U.S. presence here that is still now receiving complicated signals about exactly where it can reposition its troops inside Iraq.


They're not welcome there. But, really, we have to see how peaceful this is. It seems to have calmed things again now, but so much could fall apart in the days ahead.


CAMEROTA: And startling how quickly this has all changed.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for explaining that.

So, overnight, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Baghdad to discuss that withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria with Iraqi officials.

CNN's Christian Amanpour caught up with Esper about the backlash over pulling U.S. troops out of Syria and how that could embolden ISIS.

Here's part of her interview.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell us, first and foremost, there seems to be some confusion that maybe you can clear up, where are the U.S. forces in Syria going? The president has said perhaps a contingent could stay in Syria. You said that they were going to be redeployed to western Iraq. But the latest news is that the Iraqi command says, welcome to come across the border, but only en route out. He doesn't anticipate your troops staying there. So where will they be?

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, as you know, we're conducting a phased withdrawal, a deliberate phased withdrawal from northeast Syria. It began with the -- what we call phase one, which was in the immediate zone of attack. Now we're under phase two, which was from the northeast quarter, if you will. And then eventually we have other phases that will draw all the forces out. We will temporarily reposition in Iraq pursuant to bringing the troops home. And so it's just one part of a continuing phase, but eventually those troops are going to come home.

AMANPOUR: So they are coming home?

ESPER: They will come home.

AMANPOUR: None will stay in Syria?

ESPER: Well, we -- right now the president has authorized the -- that some would stay in the southern part of Syria in the (INAUDIBLE). And we are looking maybe keeping some additional forces to ensure that we deny ISIS and others access to these key oil fields, also in the middle part of the country, if you will.

But that needs to be worked out in time. The president hasn't approved that yet. I need to take him options sometime here soon.

AMANPOUR: So -- so --

ESPER: But the bulk of the force would reposition in Iraq and eventually go home.

AMANPOUR: So none of this is clear, first and foremost. And those who might stay might be away from that border, away from the bulk of the ISIS trouble. And securing oil fields from who?

ESPER: Well, I don't -- I don't talk about securing oil fields as much as I talk about denying ISIS access to the oil fields so that they can't have revenue to continue their bad behavior.

And with regard to, you know, the deployment, what I try and do, what my aim is to keep my options open, really keep the president's options open so that as events change on the ground, whether it's up in northeast Syria or other parts, that we have the flexibility to respond to the president's direction.

AMANPOUR: How are you going to have the flexibility to respond to a resurgence of ISIS? And, as you know, that is a big concern from inside the military, from amongst your allies, from many in the president's party back in the United States and -- and analysts and politicians all over the world. All of these years that you've managed to deny them the ability to pose a serious threat, they are now open for business again. And people are very, very concerned.

In fact, General Petraeus has said, this does not end an endless war, it probably prolongs it, because this gives ISIS an opportunity for a resurgence. This is not a strategic success.

ESPER: Well, let's -- let's look at the facts on the ground. Based on the intelligence we have, the reporting we have of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports of a little bit more than a hundred that have escaped. The SDF, and we remain in contact with them, are maintaining guards over top of the prisons they have control of. So right now we have not seen this big prison break that we all expected. So that's the good news piece. And then with regard to the -- the other part, I'll be meeting with my

allies, the United States allies in Brussels in the coming days. We're going to have a specific session on, what do we do with the defeat ISIS campaign now that it's in the new phase to ensure that we can contain -- maintain pressure on ISIS so that it doesn't resurge?

AMANPOUR: Golly, secretary, in a new phase, some would say you have, I don't know, wantanly (ph) or willingly ended the success on ISIS. You heard what General Petraeus just said.

ESPER: Well, the success --

AMANPOUR: It's not really a new phase. I mean the metrics are not about territory, are they? They are about resurgence, regrouping, the ability to do so. And even before this withdrawal of U.S. forces, many in your military and elsewhere were watching a resurgence and watching cells come together.

ESPER: I -- I wouldn't classify it as a resurgent. I had not. What I would say is this, is, keep in mind why we partnered with the SDF originally going back to 2014. It was to defeat ISIS. And we ended up destroying the physical caliphate of ISIS as of March this year. And the task then is to make sure we maintain the enduring defeat. And part and parcel, that is making sure that local security, et cetera, can handle that.

So, yes, we are in a new phase of the defeat ISIS campaign. It's to maintain that defeat, maintain that destruction.

AMANPOUR: I'm still confused. The local forces who are making sure that that happened were the SDF, and those are the forces who, by withdrawing, you have allowed to be victims and targets of the Turkish offensive, which is precisely designed to get them out of the way of the area that you've been stabilizing.


ESPER: Yes, well the SDF -- the SDF are still in control of the prisons that are under their control. The Turks have told us they've taken control of the prisons under which they now have responsibility. And our mission in that area was to train, advise, and assist. We weren't guarding prisons up there in that part of the world.

AMANPOUR: I mean, as you know, it's not just about prisons. This is about fighting. And the Kurds were your real on the ground fighting force.

ESPER: Sure.

AMANPOUR: Tragically, about eight American lives were lost during the fight for ISIS but more than 11,000 Kurdish lives were lost.

ESPER: That's right. And we were their enablers and we were their air force. So we had mutual interests. The mutual interest was destroying the physical caliphate of ISIS.

AMANPOUR: Correct. And make sure that ISIS doesn't come back as a fighting force --

ESPER: That's right.

AMANPOUR: Which people are worried that they will right now, including members of the Pentagon.

ESPER: And we're -- and we're all focused on that, is to make sure we understand, as we enter this new phase, how do we continue that enduring defeat of ISIS.

AMANPOUR: I'm having trouble with the word enduring, but let me ask you first, you say you're going to NATO to talk to allies.

ESPER: Sure.

AMANPOUR: Allies are actually quite shocked. And I'd be interesting to know what they say to you because those were your allies, the Kurdish forces on the ground, and they, right now, feel utterly betrayed. You've seen these terrible, tragic pictures. I'm sure no secretary of defense wants to see their allies throwing rocks and rotten fruit at retreating American forces calling them liars and saying that they've betrayed them. I wonder what your -- how do you feel when you see that?

ESPER: Well, here's what the allies have said publicly and privately, we all condemn what President Erdogan of Turkey has done. We all opposed it. That is this irresponsible incursion into northern Syria that has upset -- upset what had been happening on the ground successfully. And so everybody opposes that. We're going to talk specifically about that as well in the context of what's next with regard to defeat ISIS. So that's, I think, where we will begin at that point right there.


BERMAN: Such good, important questions to be asking. What a timely moment for that interview.

In the meantime, explosive testimony directly implicating President Trump in a quid pro quo. Up next, we're going to speak with a Democrat who was initially hesitant to back the impeachment inquiry. Not so hesitant now.



BERMAN: Big developments this morning in the impeachment inquiry. The top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, directly implicating President Trump in trying to withhold military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine's president publically announced investigations into Mr. Trump's political rivals.

Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. She serves on the House Foreign Services Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you for being with us.

You were not part of the committees involved in this testimony from Bill Taylor yesterday, but like the rest of us, I am sure you've read through this stunning 15-page opening statement that is now public. And when you read it with your prosecutor's eyes, what jumps out to you?

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): What jumps out to me is this is a man of service. This is somebody who is putting his country first. He has been in service to this country his entire career.

And I think what really comes through to me is his -- his concern for our country, his concern for the actions of this sort of shadow group of people that were operating, I would say, against the interest of the United States.

BERMAN: You say what jumped out to you was his service to the country. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a statement that was released after his testimony, said, quote, this is a coordinated smear campaign from far left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.

He's a Vietnam War veteran, a West Point grad, who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations. How do you feel about that characterization of his service?

SHERRILL: I think anyone who has read this testimony would realize that this is a person who is coming forward because he cares deeply about his country. I think there's no other way to really read this testimony.

BERMAN: And when you read the existence of the pressure he describes from the president and others on the administration for Ukraine to investigate the president's political opponents, do you see that as a quid pro quo?

SHERRILL: I certainly do. I think it's pretty obvious that pressure was being put on the Ukrainian president in order to get him to come out publicly on television and say that he was going to investigate and start this investigation that the president wanted.

BERMAN: We have seen the rough transcript of the president's call with President Zelensky, where we see, in black and white, the president pressuring President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and to talk with William Barr and Rudy Giuliani about that subject.

So the question -- and I've been asking this for weeks, is, since you've already seen that, do you even need more evidence of this quid pro quo? Isn't the ask enough?

SHERRILL: Well, John. I've always agreed with you that we already had the evidence from what the president has said that was -- that he was putting his own self-interests ahead of the interests of the United States. That he was trying to affect our 2020 elections. That he was trying to pressure a security partner, the president of Ukraine, into doing his, you know, his bidding, really, again, against the interests of our country. So I have agreed with you on that.

However, I think it's important that we show the American people a fuller picture of exactly what has been going on.

BERMAN: One of the things that Ambassador Taylor described was visiting the Donbast (ph) region in Ukraine where Ukrainian forces had been battling the Russians for years right now. And just one part of that statement is he recognized that over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance, he noted. And he was talking about what withholding aid, which was withheld for a period of weeks, some $391 million, might do and how would it affect those people.

As someone who's served your country, reflect on his observations about the threat of withholding those funds.

SHERRILL: So, you know, there were Russian nuclear weapons in Ukraine. And we said that if they gave those up, we would protect them. Most people believe that the javelin weapons that we give to Ukraine are what is standing between them protecting the territorial integrity of their country, protecting the rest of Europe from a Russian incursion. So to withhold critical security aid like that is another breach of a promise of ours and also puts them in danger.


BERMAN: I will say, some of that lethal aid, including the javelins, was provided by the Trump administration, not directly at a point by the Obama administration. Of course, the Obama administration was criticized for.

The timing. Yesterday, Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, told me at this point he's sort of looking at between Thanksgiving and Christmas for a full House vote on impeachment.

How does that timing sound to you? Is that too long to wait?

SHERRILL: I don't have a timetable in mind. So I -- you know, as a former federal prosecutor, I never said, we're going to have a trial on this date and we're going to, you know, have the jury decision by this date. These, you know, these types of things, you get certain evidence, you want to call in other people to make sure you have, like I said, the fullest picture possible.

So I think what's critically important is that we get to the bottom of what happened. That we, again, provide to the American people and to Congress as much evidence as possible and to shape the fullest picture possible of what took place.

BERMAN: You support the impeachment inquiry at this point. If you had to vote today, yes or no on impeachment, how would you vote?

SHERRILL: It would depend what the articles are on impeachment, but there are certainly articles that I think would certainly be something that the president could be accused of. BERMAN: That you would vote yes if the article said, for instance,

abuse of power or pressuring a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent?

SHERRILL: Again, it depends on the articles, John.

BERMAN: All right, we'll get back to you when we see what those articles are. This process continues.

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, thank you very much.

SHERRILL: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to sports.

As I can tell you, the Washington Nationals went into Houston and stunned Astros ace Gerrit Cole --

BERMAN: Gerrit. Gerrit.

CAMEROTA: Gerrit Cole.

BERMAN: As you can tell, that's Gerrit Cole.

CAMEROTA: To take game one of the World Series.

Andy Scholes was there last night and has -- if there is more, I don't know if there is -- in the "Bleacher Report."


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, there's more, Alisyn. And Gerrit Cole, he was on a historic run before last night. Hadn't lost a game since May 22nd. He was 19-0 since then. But the Nationals putting an end to that streak on the game's biggest stage. And their young star, Juan Soto, coming up big in this one for the Nationals. He doesn't turn 21 until Friday. And he hit an absolute moon shot Cole in the fourth inning. The ball landed on the train track. Few balls land way up there. Solo, the fourth youngest to hit a home run in the World Series. He'd also come through big again in the fifth with a two run double.

Nationals steal home field advantage in this World Series with the win in game one 5-4 the final. Nationals are going to try to take a 2-0 lead tonight. They've got Stephen Strasburg on the hill up against Justin Verlander for the Astros.

All right, the NBA season tipping off last night on TNT. The showdown everyone was waiting for, the new look Lakers taking on the new look Clippers in the battle for Los Angeles. And in the first edition, Kawhi Leonard, he was out -- without his new running mate Paul George, who's still out with an injured shoulder, but he's able to out-dual LeBron and Anthony Davis. Kawhi, 30 points as the Clippers win 112- 102. Kawhi picking up right where he left off after winning a championship last year in Toronto. His former team, the Raptors, dropping their championship banner last night and they also got their rings as well. And those rings, wow, they have a 1.25 carat diamond on top of the trophy. It's the largest diamond for any sports ring ever. It's got 650 total diamonds on that bad boy, 16 rubies as well. It's the largest NBA ring ever.

The Raptors, they won in overtime on opening night. So definitely a fun night there in Toronto.

But, John, the fallout from Daryl Morey's pro-Hong Kong tweet, it continues. CCTV, China's state run television, did not run the NBA's opening games, as they customarily would have done. And, also, there were some pro-Hong Kong advocates outside both of the games in L.A. and in Toronto.

BERMAN: Well, that's China's loss, because Kawhi Leonard was awesome last night.

Andy Scholes, thank you very much for being with us.

Stunning testimony about an explicit quid pro quo may have given the Democrats the smoking gun they were looking for. But how will Republicans see it.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, revealing details of a phone call he had with the U.S. ambassador of the European Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a patriot. He comes with no political agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the world knows what's in that transcript to that phone call. There was no quid pro quo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know he is in deep trouble and they're going to full partisan warfare here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats were particularly concerned that the impeachment inquiry will suck all of the oxygen out of the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me the things seem minor, I guess, as of yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they'd actually bring something that's criminal, I can see those independents going, OK, there really is something.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.


CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And it is being described as the most pivotal and dramatic day of testimony thus far in the impeachment inquiry.