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Zuckerberg Testifies on Capitol Hill; Freshman Congresswoman Denies Improper Relationship; John Lithgow is Interviewed about his New Book. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 23, 2019 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00]

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: So I took, with the recommendation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we recommended that those troops be withdrawn and eventually the rest of the forces be withdrawn.

I think the broader, strategic context is this. Look, it's no surprise that President Trump said coming into office, as he campaigned, that he wanted to bring American soldiers, service members home as much as he can and to end the endless wars, in his words. And so this is part and parcel of that and it should come at no surprise to anybody.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I just ask you a personal question --

ESPER: Sure.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's a professional question. Were you on the phone call that President Trump had with President Erdogan? Did you know what was being discussed between the two presidents in the hours before the Turks launched their offensive into Syria?

ESPER: Sure. No, I listened into the phone call, of course. But my experience with that --

AMANPOUR: So you knew what was being discussed?

ESPER: Well, I -- yes, absolutely. But my experience goes back to when I first came into office in late July, so two months or so into it. Probably the one issue that dominated my time more than anything else was working with my counterpart, the defense minister of Turkey, trying to build this safe zone, this security mechanism by which we would do joint patrolling with the Turks to keep a buffer zone between Turkey and the SDF. And we thought it was going well. We had established a joint operation center in southern Turkey. We were doing ground patrols and air patrols. We got the SDF to agree to back up a little bit. And I guess at some point the Turks decided it's not moving fast enough, it's not comprehensive enough, whatever the case may be. But we saw the pressure building despite our efforts and --

AMANPOUR: The pressure from the Turks?

ESPER: From the Turks. And it was just days before, when President Erdogan called President Trump that the minister told me, look, we're going to be coming across. We'll give you a heads-up. And when Erdogan spoke to President Trump, he confirmed that and notified us that that was his intent.

AMANPOUR: SO, Mitt Romney, as you know, senator from Utah, what we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain on the annals of American history.

Was there no chance for diplomacy, he asked. Are we so weak and inept diametrically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America?

Turkey, he said. And you've just said pretty much that that's exactly what happened.

ESPER: Well, look, Turkey is a long-standing NATO ally. We're not going to go to war against a NATO ally and certainly not over -- across a -- with regard to a border that we didn't sign up to defend in the first place. You've got to go back to our primary mission, defeat ISIS.

AMANPOUR: Right.

So you had just said that you were doing a good job and most people thought you were doing a good job.

ESPER: Everybody except the Turks thought we were doing a good job.

AMANPOUR: Right, bizarrely, because you were keeping ISIS down and you were a buffer force there, correct.

ESPER: Right. Well, no, I meant in the context of the Turkish government did not feel we were doing a good enough or fast enough job with regard to building the safe zone.

AMANPOUR: I understand. Of moving the -- right. OK. But, strategically, in terms of defeating ISIS, that was a successful buffer zone that had taken, you know, a good five to six years --

ESPER: Again, that buffer zone is not related to the defeat of ISIS.

AMANPOUR: All right. Fine.

They were buffer forces, would you say?

ESPER: It was a -- it was a -- we were trying to build a safe zone between the Turks and the SDF.

AMANPOUR: That, I understand.

ESPER: OK.

AMANPOUR: But to keep down ISIS, you were doing quite a good job there.

ESPER: Yes. That's right. AMANPOUR: Fine.

The president has said, and of course it's within his right, and the right of any president, to want to end, quote, endless wars and bring troops home.

But you know again, much better than I do, that America is full of buffer troops in many parts of the world where wars have ended in order to prevent a re-emergence of hostilities --

ESPER: Right.

AMANPOUR: Whether it's between North and South Korea, whether it's in Europe and now with the (INAUDIBLE) Russia, whether it's elsewhere in the Middle East.

ESPER: And that's one of the challenges I face as secretary of defense trying to implement our new national defense strategy is, how do I reposition our forces to deal with the threats of the coming decades, which is China, number one, and Russia, number two.

As I look around the globe, I see our forces tied down in multiple locations. I mean if you step back you'd see American forces easily, in 80, 90 countries around the world. You see we have legal obligations to help defend dozens of countries. And we will honor those.

But what I have to do is think about, how do I reallocate, reposition my forces and in some cases substitute them with other countries so that I can free them up to deal with China, again, our principal, strategic competitor in the next few decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What an interesting, revealing discussion that was.

OK, another big day on Capitol Hill. I'm not talking about impeachment. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat. What will he say about election interference and privacy issues? We have a live report next.

And, stick around, actor John Lithgow joins us live. He talks politics, poetry and, look at that, playing Roger Ailes. That's just minutes from now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:39:29]

BERMAN: In just hours, FaceBook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are expected to press him on the company's efforts to fight election interference and ongoing privacy concerns, which have been involving the social media giant for years.

CNN tech reporter Brian Fung live on Capitol Hill with what we will hear later.

Brian.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Guys, this looks to be a major test for FaceBook as it tries to restore trust with policymakers. The company is expected to face questions on everything from FaceBook's expansion into digital currency, to its impact on the housing market.

[08:40:02]

Top lawmakers like Maxine Waters, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, where Zuckerberg will be testifying today, has called on FaceBook to stop development of its digital currency, which is known as Libra.

Now, Zuckerberg has said -- or will say, in fact, that, you know, FaceBook will not be a part of launching Libra around the world until U.S. policymakers' questions have all been addressed and are satisfied.

But that's not all. FaceBook is also expected to say today that -- offer a defense of the company's position as it -- as it faces a number of questions surrounding its stance on political advertising. And given all the attention FaceBook has received on that issue, lawmakers say that FaceBook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, should be prepared for anything.

Here's what Congresswoman Silvia Garcia told reporters yesterday. When you're here as a witness, you've got to be prepared to answer whatever questions come. There's serious concerns in light of the news within the last 24 hours.

The news she's referring to, of course, is FaceBook's announcement that it has shut down dozens of fake accounts linked to Russia and Iran that are seeking to influence the 2020 election.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Brian, thank you very much for the update from The Hill there.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill is denying allegations that she had an improper relationship with a member of her congressional staff. She claims the Republican operatives and her husband are behind a smear campaign during the couple's pending divorce.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live for us in Los Angeles with more.

Tell us about this, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

It's a little confusing, so bear with me here. We're talking about two allegations involving two staffers, potentially. That's the allegation that's out there. And what we have this morning is Representative Katie Hill with a strongly worded statement saying with -- with -- as regards to the first allegation of an inappropriate relationship with a male congressional staffer, she is calling that, quote, absolutely false. She says that there is no merit to that.

Now, Hill says that she has also notified U.S. Capitol Police about three photos that were posted by a conservative blog. One of those photos is explicit. Because of that police investigation, Hill says that she will not address the allegation involving a second staffer, a female staffer, that this conservative blog is alleging that she has had a relationship with. Representative Hill saying in this statement that this is a politically motivated attack.

I want you to take a look at some part of the statement that she released. She says, quote, I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain. This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and people close to me is despicable and will not succeed.

The second part of this statement, the smear campaign, this smear campaign will not get in the way of the work I am doing every day to move our district and our country forward.

Now, I have reached out to her husband, both in person, via text, through his parents. He did not have anything substantive to add in regards to whether or not this is a political smear campaign.

I can say, Alisyn and John, that this is a district, California's 25th district, that Hill won. She's a rising superstar in the Democratic Party. She flipped it. The GOP wants to flip it back. It is considered a battleground state.

If this is true, it would be a violation of House ethic rules. But whether it's true or not, we should point out that California does have a revenge porn law on the books. The release of this photo could certainly be problematic.

BERMAN: All right, Kyung Lah for us. We know you're going to stay on this story. Please, keep us posted.

Now here is what else to watch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:00 a.m. ET, Mark Zuckerberg testifies.

3:40 p.m. ET, Trump remarks in Pittsburg.

8:07 p.m. ET, Game two of 2019 World Series.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, we do have some breaking news.

We just learned moments ago that President Trump said he will make some kind of a statement on Syria. That will be at the White House at 11:00 a.m.

CAMEROTA: OK. We'll be watching that.

But, first, politics and poetry in the age of Trump with the one and only John Lithgow. He joins us next.

BERMAN: He's on the stairs.

CAMEROTA: He is. That's how important he is, he's on --

BERMAN: It must be serious.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:48:54]

CAMEROTA: It's been a busy year for John Lithgow. He's one of the stars of the upcoming movie "Bombshell" about Fox News Channel in which he plays Roger Ailes. That will hit theaters in December.

But his latest work is the new book "Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse," which is out right now. And John Lithgow joins us now live.

Great to have you here in studio.

JOHN LITHGOW, ACTOR: Wonderful to be here.

CAMEROTA: You're a poet.

LITHGOW: Well, yes. I'm a little hesitant to call myself a poet because I have too much regard for real poets. I' a sort of dogeral (ph) rhymester.

CAMEROTA: Well, sort of. I mean I was surprised when I read through this last night, you're good at rhyming. This is obviously a skill of yours that you've been cultivating for some time.

LITHGOW: Well, I -- not consciously, but I've always written ridiculous little poems for things like high school graduations, using the names of all the graduates.

BERMAN: Do you think you missed your calling? Do you think you should have devoted the last several decades to poetry instead of this other business you've been doing?

LITHGOW: I have missed so many callings. Acting was a huge misstep early on. So at all these other things I'm simply a very good actor.

[08:50:05]

CAMEROTA: So, fair to say you're not a fan of the president's. That's what I picked up from the poetry.

LITHGOW: I -- it's pretty hard to keep that agenda hidden.

CAMEROTA: Uh-huh. And so do you normally channel all of your frustration and outrage through rhyming? Like at home say?

LITHGOW: No, no, not at all. This was a brand-new idea that was the last thing on my mind. I've always had a sort of subversive satirical streak. If you think of "Third Rock From the Sun," we -- we sort of poked all sorts of subjects but always in an extremely entertaining and wacky way. That's kind of the tenor of my book.

BERMAN: I want to hear it. I want to hear some of this poetry.

LITHGOW: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Will you read some to us?

LITHGOW: I'm going to use this one because I marked one.

CAMEROTA: Very good.

LITHGOW: You know, the name is "Dumpty." It's a reference to Trumpty Dumpty. There are four little Trumpty Dumpty poems that run through it.

BERMAN: I love that. It's interspersed throughout the book, the four poems.

LITHGOW: Yes. Yes. It's one of the little motifs that go through the book.

This is the last of them. And I also did the illustrations, so we'll show you the graphic when I finish the poem.

Trumpty Dumpty wanted a barrier. Broad as a wall but preferably scarier. He wanted a fortress, forbidding and stout, to keep all those meddling journalists out. Dumpty detested each sentence they wrote. Presidential harassment was getting his goat. How could he counter their carping and slanders? That impregnable bulwark, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

LITHGOW: And there's -- there's the illustration.

BERMAN: The rhyme coming from miles away there.

CAMEROTA: Wow.

LITHGOW: Yes, it's a little mean-spirited, but I think they all have -- had it coming.

BERMAN: You also -- you wrote a whole poem about Paul Manafort's ostrich skin jacket, too.

LITHGOW: Yes. Right.

BERMAN: That was admirable.

LITHGOW: That was actually my favorite. It's called The Ostrich's Lament.

BERMAN: And I want to read one more here, if I can, and I'll try to do this with Alisyn. This is Dumpty, A Few of My Favorite Lies, which I imagine -- do you have that? Do you want to do it?

LITHGOW: No, I want you to do it.

BERMAN: I assume it's to the rhythm of "My Favorite Things" from "Sound of Music."

LITHGOW: Yes. In fact, I'd love to hear you sing it.

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE) singing this?

BERMAN: All right. Well, I'm not going to sing it, though I am a lot like Julie Andrews in other ways. This says, Muslim festivities on 9/11, barring the Russians has screwed the G-7. China makes none of my cheap merchandise. These are a few of my favorite lies.

LITHGOW: Exactly. And it goes on.

CAMEROTA: It's really impressive that you -- how long did it take for you to come up with all of these?

LITHGOW: A year. I -- my literary agent and I came up with the idea in June of 2018. And my deadline was April 1, 2019. So I squeezed it all in.

And my last poem was two days after William Barr presented his version of the Mueller report.

BERMAN: Was it a summary poem or was it the full poem?

LITHGOW: It was --

BERMAN: Sorry.

LITHGOW: This book is a summary of the entire Trump administration.

CAMEROTA: And somehow, John, you managed to also star in a movie during all of this time.

LITHGOW: Oh, yes. This was not my day job by any means.

CAMEROTA: No. And so I had a chance with you this week to see a screening.

LITHGOW: Alisyn did a little -- moderated a Q&A. She was -- has been the best moderator we've had. And we've done a lot of them.

CAMEROTA: I think we can all agree I'm the real star here.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: And so --

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE).

LITHGOW: Let's make this -- let's make this about you. It will be such a relief.

CAMEROTA: So we'll actually -- let's do that, but it will be hard to when I show this next clip, which is where you star as Roger Ailes.

So, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LITHGOW: Nobody stops watching because of a conflict. They stop watching when there isn't one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to convince you that I belong on air, Mr. Ailes. I think I'd be freaking phenomenal on your network.

LITHGOW: I could pluck you out and move you to the front of the line, but I need to know that you're loyal. I need you to find a way to prove it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, John. I mean your body language. The way you speak. It's all -- you really nailed the Roger Ailes character.

LITHGOW: Well, it was a fun thing to do.

CAMEROTA: And so tell us about that. I mean why did you want to play that character and tell that story right now?

LITHGOW: Oh, my God, it is the story of the moment. I don't think I've ever been in a movie that is quite so urgent and contemporary. And why did I do it? My agent called me and told me that Jay Roach was directing a movie written by Charles Randolph starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margo Robbie. Are you interested? Now, he didn't even get the sentence out.

BERMAN: First of all, I have to say, in terms of relevance, I don't want you to shortchange "Harry and the Hendersons," but --

LITHGOW: They're very -- they're very similar when you -- when you think -- I'm more or less the bigfoot in this one.

BERMAN: But I want to ask you, because, you know, I did not know Roger Ailes. You obviously Roger Ailes. When you see him up on the screen as Roger Ailes --

CAMEROTA: Eerie. Eerie. I mean I told you this, John, at the screening, that there's something that you do where you just have captured -- you know, Roger was, obviously, a complicated person.

[08:55:06]

He wasn't one-dimensional, as he's sometimes depicted. And you somehow captured that entire spectrum of charming and charismatic and paternal, as well as the other darker side. And sometimes you do it all in one scene, all in one sitting.

LITHGOW: All in one sentence.

CAMEROTA: Yes, all in one sentence. LITHGOW: He was very mercurial. And, yes, he created an enormously successful institution. Like Fox News or not, it is an amazing achievement of his. I think it would be a much better channel now if he were still in charge, in fact.

CAMEROTA: Well, it's a fantastic movie. And everybody gets to see it in December. But before that, everybody can pick up "Dumpty" by John Lithgow. Very clever and, well, if you agree with John, in terms of politics, you will enjoy it very much.

LITHGOW: Yes, you will either love it or you'll buy it in order to burn it.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Perfect. Either way, you win.

BERMAN: Great to have you here.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you, John.

LITHGOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, it is a big day. We're told the president will make a statement on Syria at the White House at 11:00. There are major developments in the impeachment inquiry as well. CNN's all over it.

Stay with us.

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[09:00:00]