Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Lifts Sanctions Against Turkey As U.S. Syria Envoy Alleges War Crimes, Tells Lawmakers "We Have A Problem"; House Republicans Storm Closed-Door Impeachment Hearing Delaying Testimony, Source Says Trump Had Advance Knowledge; Federal Judge Orders State Department To Release Ukraine Records In 30 Days; Trump Lashes Out At "Human Scum" Republicans As House Allies Storm Closed-Door Impeachment Deposition; Kim Jong-un Orders Resort Spruce Up As U.N. Report Reveal Almost Half Of North Korea Is Malnourished. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 23, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I will see you tomorrow. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, it was like a mob. Chaos erupts on Capitol Hill as House Republicans storm a closed-door impeachment probe hearing delaying testimony by a top Pentagon official for hours. Was President Trump in on it?
We have a problem, the U.S. envoy to Syria warns lawmakers of dire consequences from the withdrawal of U.S. troops and says Turkish allies are likely behind war crimes against Kurds as President Trump lifts sanctions against Turkey for its military offensive.
Tied to Trump, two men who helped Rudy Giuliani with his efforts in Ukraine plead not guilty to campaign finance violations and the lawyer for one of them says there could be executive privilege issues, implying President Trump may be linked to the case.
And resort renovation, Kim Jong-un slams condition at a North Korean resort that was once a showcase for his regime, demanding improvements even as a new U.N. report says millions of his people are malnourished.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news. About two dozen conservative Republicans bursting into a closed-door impeachment probe hearing just days after President Trump called on GOP allies to get tough.
Tonight, a source tells CNN Mr. Trump had advanced knowledge of the stunt, which delayed testimony by the Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper for hours as Republicans demanded to be present, flouting House rules.
Also, President Trump has now lifted sanctions imposed on Turkey over its military offensive against Kurds in Northern Syria. That's despite testimony from his special envoy who told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Turkish-backed forces are likely behind war crimes against Kurds, adding, "We have a problem following the President's withdrawal of U.S. forces."
We'll talk about the breaking news and much more with Congressman Adam Kinzinger of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on the scene for us. Manu, truly a remarkable scene today. Tell our viewers what happened.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. After five hours of fighting, this testimony now taking place. The top -- senior defense official answering questions about why the President's aid to Ukraine was withheld, but this after Republicans delayed proceedings for hours.
Ones who are not part of the hearing demanding to be part of it, storming into a closed-door hearing, Democrats pushing back, getting yelled at by some Republicans, even calling in the capitol police and sergeant at arms.
All Democrats are saying in the aftermath of all of this, is that they believe this is an effort to distract from a key revelation in yesterday's testimony that undercut a White House defense that there was no quid pro quo in stalling Ukrainian aid.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): And then, we're going to try to go in there and we're going to try to figure out what's going on.
RAJU (voice-over): House Republicans today stormed a closed-door impeachment hearing, after damning testimony revealed that President Trump may have stalled vital military aid to Ukraine in exchange for help with his reelection prospects.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a sham and it's time for it to end.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is happening here is not fair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is Adam Schiff trying to hide?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a total political hit job on the President of the United States.
RAJU: Roughly two dozen lawmakers taking part and refusing to leave, some even flouting House rules by carrying electronics into the secure space. As one Republican member screamed at House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Democratic Congressman Val Demings responded, shouting at Republicans and asking if they are trying to teach their children that it's OK to lie, steal and cheat so long as you don't get caught. Leaving the hearing room, Republicans argued the process wasn't fair, saying the GOP is being kept in the dark. But Republicans are involved. The ones who sit on the committees can ask questions and attend the hearings.
Few GOP members would talk about the damning testimony from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine who testified that U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, told him that President Trump held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine until that country agreed to reopen an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 campaign.
(on camera) Representative Brooks, the opening statement says very clearly, this is not -- this is what Bill -- hold on. Let me finish what I'm saying. Let me finish my question. He says very clearly --
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): You should not be relying on it.
RAJU: Why shouldn't I be relying on his public testimony?
[17:05:00] BROOKS: If you were in a court of law, would you rely just on the opening statement of an attorney?
RAJU (voice-over): Democrats call the protest a stunt to distract from Taylor's testimony.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): It's a pathetic stunt. It's going to -- all of this is going to be forgotten very soon because the real story is what did the President do and why and the harm that it's done to our national security.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Our Republican colleagues evidently have freaked out because they have nothing substantive to say about that. They're not denying it in any way. They're just trying to avoid it. And so instead, they attack the committee process of Congress. It's really a pathetic show on their part.
RAJU: GOP leaders stuck to the White House line, insisting there was no quid pro quo. Based on a rough transcript, the White House released of a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Nowhere in that phone call is a quid pro quo. Did the President ask just as America does every day to work on different cases?
RAJU: Now, McCarthy also said a quid pro quo means essentially getting something physically or in exchange for something. He said name me one thing that Ukraine did to release the money, he said, nothing. That's a new line of defense coming from Republicans.
But also today, Wolf, a setback for the Trump administration in court, a federal judge ruled that the State Department has 30 days to turn over to a watchdog group of American oversight records related to communications between Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, and the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
So while Congress is trying to get those records, the State Department has denied access to those records, perhaps this watchdog group could get those records and we'll see how that affects the impeachment probe going forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots going on. Manu, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. Boris, this chaos up on Capitol Hill comes just days after President Trump told Republicans they need to get tough and fight the impeachment inquiry. What are you hearing over there?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, President Trump, again, calling on Republicans to be more aggressive in defending him. He said so just moments ago at an event in Pittsburgh, the President calling for unity in his party as he tries to defend his confounding serious strategy even as top officials contradict the President's description on what's happening on the ground there.
GAETZ: Let's see if we can get in.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Tonight, as chaos was unfolding on Capitol Hill with Republican members interrupting testimony from the latest impeachment witness, a source tells CNN that not only was the stunt preplanned, but President Trump was given a heads up. A source revealing that some of the Republican members who stormed Laura Cooper's deposition appeared at the White House Tuesday night.
President Trump also shooting a warning to Republicans who aren't standing by him through the fight, "The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum."
The tweet coming on the hills of the number two Republican in the Senate lamenting testimony from the President's top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Senator John Thune telling reporters off camera, "The picture coming out of it, based on the reporting that we've seen, I would say is not a good one."
Behind closed-doors, the President's attorneys are scrambling. Sources say Trump's legal team is recalibrating their impeachment strategy, keeping the focus on the Democrats' command of legal proceedings instead of trying to answer for the substance of Trump's alleged actions on Ukraine, arguing the President is being denied due process.
Meantime, Trump attempting to spin another crisis of his own making in Northern Syria.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand. SANCHEZ: Even as administration officials paint a very different picture of what's happening on the ground, today, Trump defiantly declaring victory.
TRUMP: Today's announcement validates our course of action with Turkey that only a couple of weeks ago was scorned and now people are saying, wow, what a great outcome. Congratulations. It's too early to me to be congratulated, but we've done a good job. We've saved a lot of lives. Most importantly, we have avoided another costly military intervention that could have led to disastrous far-reaching consequences.
SANCHEZ: Trump also announcing the imminent lifting of sanctions on Turkey, though just yesterday his top envoy to Syria admitted Turkish forces likely committed war crimes against the Kurds.
JAMES JEFFREY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA: We've seen several incidences which we consider war crimes.
SANCHEZ: The President also trying to downplay the escape of more than a hundred ISIS detainees.
TRUMP: There were a few that got out, a small number, relatively speaking, and they've been largely recaptured.
[17:10:07] SANCHEZ: Though hours earlier Jim Jeffrey contradicted Trump.
JEFFREY: We would say that the number is now over a hundred. We do not know where they are. We're monitoring that as best we can.
SANCHEZ: Now, Wolf, Ambassador Jeffrey just spoke to House Foreign Relations Committee a few moments ago. He says, "We do have a problem right now because of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from that region, because of the potential resurgence of ISIS." He warned that the mission against ISIS, Wolf, is not complete.
WOLF: Ambassador Jeffry, I mean, has enormous amount of experience in that part of the world. All right, thank you very much for that, Boris, for that report.
Let's get some more on the breaking news right now. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is joining us. He's a key member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Yes, you bet.
BLITZER: We've got a lot to discuss, including the situation in Syria. You've got strong views on that. But first, let me get your reaction to your Republican colleagues, a couple dozen of them entering what's call the skiff, the sensitive compartmented information facility in the House of Representatives of the intelligence committee. They came in unauthorized. They brought their cell phones into the skiff. Is that a potential risk to national security?
KINZINGER: No, look, I was in the Syria hearing when all that of happened. I don't know. I've just seen the press reports. I wasn't part of it and you can't take your phone into the skiff. So -- but they do have a point and that these proceedings I think should be out in the open. It's only fair. We get selective leaks. But, I don't know a lot more than what's being reported. I'll talk to some of them probably during votes in the next half hour.
BLITZER: You're a veteran of the Air Force. You deal with classified information all of the time. You know what is skiff. But tell our viewers why is it potentially so dangerous to bring in cell phones, to bring cell phones into the skiff.
KINZINGER: Well, cell phones are prohibited in the skiff because they can be listened to the -- you know, hackers can activate cameras, obviously things can be recorded, pictures can be taken of things where you are not supposed to have that. That's a question I have.
You know, this testimony from Ambassador Taylor yesterday was taken by a cell phone camera, as you can see in the shadow. So, I don't know how that got out either. But, look, bottom line is skiff is the skiff. Like, this is all classified information. We should all keep it classified. And I do think in this impeachment inquiry, they really should bring that out in the open. But it's a political decision they have to make.
BLITZER: Well, potentially it's a national security decision, but also a violation of the rules, at least as they exist over there. Let's get to some of the other dramatic developments.
Ambassador Bill Taylor, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, he testified yesterday that aid to Ukraine and a meeting with President Trump depended on Ukraine publicly committing to investigate on the President's behalf political issues. Potentially from your perspective, is that an impeachable conduct?
KINZINGER: I'm not going to jump there. I'm going to say its concerning. I read it. The things that were alleged are concerning. Since this is not in the open, I have no idea, the follow up questions, I have no idea how that went.
I could tell you in reading that there are some concerns, real concerns, but there is a lot that has been presented before these committees or this committee that I don't know. So for me to jump to a position right now when everything is kind of behind closed-doors would be irresponsible of me.
But I will say, look, to the extent there are those concerns, I assume at some point they're going to bring it out in the open and show everybody any evidence.
BLITZER: We do have the President's own words in that rough transcript of his conversation in the end of May with President Zelensky of Ukraine asking for these investigations. The acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, he listed an investigation of the DNC server, the 2016 election as a reason to hold up the nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine. What more, Congressman, do you need to see?
KINZINGER: Well, I mean, yes, I've heard all of that. And as I've said, every time one of those pieces of information come out, it's really concerning. The problem is, there is a whole thing that's happening that I don't get to see right now. Maybe I will at some point when this report or whatever is produced.
So for me to just jump on the things I know when I know that there's all kinds of information being behind closed-doors (INAUDIBLE) access to would be irresponsible. But it's concerning, of course. The question is, what all happened and what level does that rise to?
BLITZER: The President today tweeted that Ambassador Taylor was a distinguish diplomat as you know, a Vietnam War veteran, is a never Trumper, and then he said that never Trumper Republicans, and these are the President of the United States words, are human scum. What do you make of that language?
KINZINGER: I mean, it's a call anybody human scum is beneath the office of the presidency. You can't say that, right? You're the president. You have different standards, so sometimes you'll hear people say, well, this congressman said this one and this.
Yes, nobody should saying anything like this. But I think there is a different level when you're the President of the United States, you have a different responsibility and that's why -- you know, that's why I'm outspoken about it.
It's not because I think that the Democrats have never committed any verbal sins or I haven't ever committed a verbal sin, but once you're the President of the United States, your words have a massive impact.
So whether it's so-called never Trumper Republicans, whether it's Democrats, whether it's, you know, your best friend that you're not best friends with any more, like we need to just have conversations and I'm going to say this to my colleagues on my side and the other side of the aisle, let's talk to each other as grown-ups again, because by calling names and screaming and yelling and demonstrating, you never win anybody to your side. You just make your base happy, but you're not actually doing anything effective.
BLITZER: Yes, important point, good point. I want to turn to Syria, a subject very close to your heart. You're a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm going to play a little bit more of the President's announcement today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Earlier this morning the government of Turkey informed my administration that they would be stopping combat. I've therefore instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to lift all sanctions imposed on October 14th in response to Turkey's original offensive. This was an outcome created by us, the United States and nobody else. Other countries have stepped forward, they want to help, and we think that's great.
Now, Turkey, Syria and others in the region must work to ensure that ISIS does not regain any territory. It's their neighborhood. Now, people are saying, wow, what a great outcome. Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And so what's your reaction to that?
KINZINGER: I'm glad people aren't being killed, but I asked him, Ambassador Jeffrey today, does ISIS see this pullout as a benefit or negative to them? He said that they're happy about it. So it's beneficial to ISIS. We don't have a view on where ISIS is right now. They're obviously going to reconstitute.
Russia now has basically emboldened its position in the Middle East. It's now patrolling in the southern border of NATO with Turkey. You know, Turkey had their strategy of attacking civilians basically and reinforced.
They threatened to overrun American troops. They called our bluff and that is why I think they should be sanctioned as much as anything. A NATO ally threatened to basically overrun this position.
I could go on and on, including the better position of Iran. I'm glad there's no fighting. You know, I think given the circumstance, a ceasefire is good, but this is not a victory at all.
BLITZER: As you know, Ambassador Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for Syria, says he wasn't consulted on the President's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the region. He says more than a hundred ISIS fighter have escaped.
You heard him say earlier, you know, the U.S. doesn't know where they are. And he also says Turkish-backed forces may have committed several incidents, which in his words, we consider to be war crimes. How concerning is all that to you?
KINZINGER: It's really concerning. None of it is surprising in terms of, you know, the President not asking him. He makes a good point. He's not in the chain of command where the President would ask. He talked to the Secretary of State. But I think even the supporters of the President's decision realize that he just made the decision.
And, you know, he's going to have to live by that -- what happens, what happens out of this. And we're only going to know not in the next month, not in the next two months, but I think in the five-year history. When we failed to enforce the red line in Syria in '13, it took a while to see the ramifications of that of which this is all part.
BLITZER: All right, the consequence is clearly could be very, very serious. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf. See you.
BLITZER: All right, up next, we'll have more on today's chaos up on Capitol Hill as Republicans disrupted the Trump impeachment hearings, delaying today's testimony for hours.
[17:23:33] BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the impeachment inquiry. Today's testimony from a top Pentagon official got underway a little bit ago after being delayed some five hours after Republican lawmakers stormed the room in protest.
Let's bring in our experts to discuss these truly extraordinary developments. I don't remember a time when so many members of Congress were doing this kind of protest, storming in to a very secure sensitive room up on Capitol Hill, Dana.
But you've been speaking with some of these Republican members who were involved in today's protest. What are you hearing from them behind the scenes? What was going on?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I spoke to one who said that it was on his calendar for a week. And when I say it, what they were originally planning at least that rank and file, who were filing in there, were told not the organizers like Matt Gaetz, is that it was going to be a press conference.
So they were planning in going before the cameras to talk about how inappropriate and how the process of the impeachment inquiry was not fair, so on and so forth. At some point, that changed into this protest. But it was definitely something along these lines had been planned for a long time.
Our colleague Kevin Liptak was told that the President himself was given a heads up that this was exactly what they were going to do.
BLITZER: Because the President had been saying to the Republicans on the Hill, you know, the Democrats are tough, you guys aren't being tough. You got to get tougher. Do you think he had this in mind?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, maybe. I mean, it's certainly was a stunt that would make the news, right, the news very theatrical. The President likes theatrical acts. He's known for the same thing.
You know, in some ways, it's like this is all they could come up with after, you know, thinking about it for a week. And I guess the next question is, what do they do next, right? I mean, its one thing to sort of make headlines because they were barging into that secure facility, but what do they do next about all of the facts that are coming out from those hearings? They, of course, are complaining that they feel like it's not partisan enough, but actually the depositions are bipartisan, right? The Republicans who are in there, they're able to ask questions just as well as Democrats are.
So listen, this has been their strategy to be theatrical, to have press conferences, to really rip apart the process. But so far, I mean, the Democrats have been very methodical with these depositions in a way that I think people might not have expected from Democrats who themselves are typically very disorganized. But so far, they've done pretty well with this part of the process.
BLITZER: This closed-door depositions, they are bipartisan in the sense that for the first hour Democratic staffers ask questions, the second hour, Republicans staffers asked questions, then the members could go back and forth Democrat --
BLITZER: -- and Republican and ask questions. It's all done in secret, but they say eventually they'll release the transcripts, scrubbed a little bit for national security classified information.
You would think that all of these members of the House, a couple of dozen Republican members, Mark, would go in when they went into the skiff, this very sensitive room, the sensitive compartmented information facility, they would know you don't bring in electronic cell phones or any electronic equipment because that could compromise the national security of this kind of facility.
MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. I mean, Nia is right. This is largely political theater and it will probably be forgotten, you know, shortly. But this is a real issue, right, is what you can and can't bring into one of these facilities.
And the concern is, if you bring a cell phone in, it -- the phone could be already compromised by hackers or foreign intelligence service. If you're bringing into a facility and, you know, who knows what could be let loose from that.
Now, is it, you know, the end of the world? Maybe not. And again, this was -- they were in there for a short period of time. But these are -- the reasons they have these rules because of the very real concerns about compromised cell phones --
BLITZER: But you would think that somebody would have told these guys, if you're going to the skiff, don't take your cell phones in there.
MAZZETTI: Right. The fact that we're talking about it, then like, you know, it takes away from the idea of the stunt to begin with. And so, you know, maybe they should have all realize you've got to take your phone out so we're not talking about it right now.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect a lot of those members didn't want to take their phones out, but that's another matter. You know, Sara, the -- clearly they're arguing, they're protesting these Republicans the process that's going on. Some of the points they make are legitimate points, more transparency. They want the information out there. They want representatives and the President's legal team in there. There are some of the points may have valid notions to be clear, but they're arguing process instead of substance or policy because presumably they can't argue the latter.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that that's pretty much right. I think that if the roles were reversed and this was a Democrat in the White House who had had these conversations with the president of another nation who had done these things, who had run diplomacy in this way, who had brought in his personal attorney, Republicans would be calling it treason. Their heads would be popping off. They would just losing their minds all over Washington.
And so I think that they sort of find that they're in a bind because they are so afraid of this President, they're so reliant on his support in some ways and so afraid of the power that he wields on Twitter that they can't bear to criticize him, but they can't necessarily find a lot to defend in this. And so they're attacking the process rather than the substance of what these witnesses who, again, many of whom are long time career officials are staying behind closed-doors.
BASH: And, Sara, that's -- you're exactly right. And I am told that it is very deliberate. I talked to some of the President's allies who have said that the President has been told or encouraged to kind of realize that the House is almost surely going to impeach you and the most important thing now you can do is to trivialize the process, to diminish the process and the hopes that it doesn't carry through in the Senate.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more that we're following on all of the breaking news. We'll resume our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and our analysts.
And, Dana, the President, he is clearly frustrated by what's going on right now. And he's calling Republicans who criticize him human scum. Let me read from his tweet.
The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our country than the do-nothing Democrats. Watch out for them. They are human scum.
That underscores his -- his anger and his frustration.
BASH: Well, and it's -- it's strategic. He is trying to gin up his supporters in the districts and the states where it is possible -- and I think that it is still an outside possibility but a possibility -- that they will turn on him when it comes to their votes on impeachment. I mean, that's what that is.
And when you asked Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from a moderate district in Illinois, he said, as he has been increasingly doing recently, he called the President out about it and said a president should not talk like that. But how many times have we heard people say that? And the President is not going to change, particularly now when his back is up against the wall.
BLITZER: You know, Nia, there are some cracks among establishment Republicans and Republican leaders including Senator John Thune. He's a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate.
He said of Ambassador Bill Taylor's testimony yesterday, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, the picture coming out of it based on the reporting that we've seen, I would say, is not a good one. I think that's significant.
HENDERSON: It's significant. And listen, the President is certainly watching all of this, right? There is one thing to have folks in the House, people like Matt Gaetz and other folks, charge the skiff, but there is another thing to have folks like John Thune and other folks in the Senate really criticize the President, right?
There is no wall of support -- vocal support yet. I mean, there might be at some point, but there is no vocal wall of support among senators for this president yet. And I think, you know, if you're the President, that's really what you want to see, right? There is some fear here. Dana was talking about how he really is trying to speak to the base and rally those folks.
But, listen, I mean, if -- if Mitt Romney becomes John Thune, becomes a couple of other folks in the Senate who really start to express problems with what the President is alleged to have done that's coming out of these depositions, he's in a real bind here. So that's why I -- I think you see him, on the one hand, taking to Twitter all the time. He sounds confident. I think, in reality, he's really afraid.
BLITZER: Interesting development, Sara, in New York today. Two of Rudy Giuliani's associates, Igor Furman and Lev Parnas, they pleaded not guilty to the charges that have been leveled against them in connection with Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine and other issues. What did we learn from their appearance today?
MURRAY: You know, we learned some weird stuff, Wolf, if I may --
MURRAY: To be totally honest, as if the case of Lev Parnas and Igor Furman was not already bizarre. I mean, we know that Rudy Giuliani is tied into this somehow and that finally came through in court today when an attorney for Lev Parnas was telling the judge, well, you know, there may be some issues, some attorney-client privilege issues, and some executive privilege issues when it comes to the discovery.
He basically said that, at times, Rudy Giuliani was representing Lev Parnas, but at times, Rudy Giuliani -- or Lev Parnas was working for Rudy Giuliani and so it kind of went both ways. And also, Rudy Giuliani was the President's attorney so there might be executive privilege issues here.
So it was basically just kind of this very weird knot that they just kind of dumped before the judge and haven't untangled yet.
BLITZER: Yes. What -- what do you think? Because all of a sudden, executive privilege is raised as Sara just said.
MAZZETTI: Right. It could mean that there is evidence that directly implicates the President. We don't know.
What we do know, of course, is that Giuliani and Parnas and Furman are directly tied up in this operation that the President has, at least, blessed. And this is the operation to try to oust the former ambassador to Ukraine, to dig up dirt on President Trump's political enemies.
And so, the trial of these two individuals potentially does bring -- bring more evidence that could put the President in some kind of jeopardy. And so, that's going to wind its way through this court, but this issue raised today, as Sara said, does at least imply that there could be some direct implication in evidence of president.
BLITZER: Interesting developments in New York today. We'll stay on top of that. Guys, thanks very much.
We got a lot more news coming up including more on today's major breaking stories. President Trump ends sanctions on Turkey, praises what he calls a great outcome in Syria. So why is a top U.S. envoy telling Congress, and I'm quoting him now, we have a problem.
BLITZER: At the White House today, President Trump announced he's lifting the sanctions imposed on Turkey last week. But up on Capitol Hill, a top U.S. special envoy for the fight against ISIS told lawmakers, and I'm quoting now, we have a problem. Let's go to live to our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh.
Nick, you spent some time in recent days in Syria covering this Turkish incursion. What are you hearing right now?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Essentially, the White House announcement today returned Turkey exactly back where it was before it launched this incursion, rewarding it really, frankly.
Despite the fact that at the same time Donald Trump made his announcement alleviating those sanctions, his senior officials were saying that Turkey was guilty of war crimes. Not Turkish military itself but the Syrian rebels that Turkey has been backing to doing a lot of its fighting on the ground.
We are still in a very precarious and, frankly, confusing situation for the fight against ISIS certainly. Because at the same time we have learned that some ISIS fighters have escaped, Donald Trump very flippantly said they've all been recaptured.
I have to say it was a bizarre speech where he seemed extraordinarily loose with the facts, saying how the original mission inside Syria against ISIS was supposed to take 30 days. Not sure where he got that from, but they've been there 10 years. That's definitely untrue.
And they've struck a bargain in which people have been looking for, for decades. It's true there has been fighting between the Kurds and Turkey for a while but not in this particular neighborhood. Still, this is what his top envoy toward Syria had to say, a very difficult, negative take on the problem comparatively.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES JEFFREY, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR THE GLOBAL COALITION TO COUNTER THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT: I can't convince this body or any other body that we had troops there for no reason.
We obviously had troops there for a mission. The mission was defeating ISIS. So if you remove those troops before that mission is complete, then you have a problem. And we do have a problem right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Obviously, we have a problem here. One of them is the current mechanism in place is run by Russia and Turkey. They will be patrolling the borders. They will be telling the Syrian-Kurds essentially what to do.
It's unclear if that will be peace or we're going to look at a new phase in the conflict here. And certainly, U.S. troops now forced to conduct their anti-ISIS mission from Iraq or in smaller numbers inside of Syria, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us. As usual, Nick, thanks very much.
Coming up, a new report reveals widespread malnutrition in North Korea, but Kim Jong-un is concerned about shabby conditions at one of his resorts.
BLITZER: A United Nations report is shedding new light on the extreme deprivation millions of North Koreans are suffering under Kim Jong-un. But tonight, the dictator appears more concerned about the state of one of his resorts. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with the latest.
Brian, Kim visited that resort, and clearly, he didn't like what he saw.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He didn't like it, Wolf, and he ripped into the place. Kim was so upset about the state of this decaying resort he did the unimaginable in North Korea. He slammed his own father.
TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-un on a tear. The dictator not pleased with the state of disrepair at his famed Mount Kumgang resort, a once posh hideaway featuring gorgeous canyons, spectacular waterfalls, and beaches. Maybe it was the public presence for the first time in several months of his alluring wife, Ri Sol-ju, that got him anxious on his visit.
Kim compared Mount Kumgang to a refugee camp. His news agency is saying the buildings were, quote, built like makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area and ordering that the property be spruced up.
MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Kim Jong-un likes fancy things. He's built a ski resort. He's built amusement parks, you know. And -- and so, he has a sort of a standard of luxury that -- that he's familiar with.
TODD (voice-over): A standard that has gone by the wayside at Mount Kumgang. It was once the crown jewel of joint cooperation between North and South Korea. Built with a lot of South Korean resources, South Korean tourists would flock to the retreat until 2008 when a South Korean tourist was killed.
NOLAND: The lady woke up one morning, she went wondering down the beach. And apparently, she wandered too far and was shot and killed by a North Korean sentry.
TODD (voice-over): At which point South Korea banned its citizens from going there. Kim so upset over the state of Mount Kumgang he said the almost unthinkable, criticizing the, quote, very wrong dependent policy of the predecessors, an implicit jab at his late father, Kim Jong-il, who initiated the Mount Kumgang project in 1998.
NOLAND: He's feeling very confident and -- to take on his new titles, to implicitly criticize his father's development strategy. There is definitely a sense that he is building himself up as perhaps the most important person in North Korea since his grandfather, the founder of the country.
TODD (voice-over): This as the U.N.'s top human rights monitor for North Korea has issued a scathing report, saying nearly half of Kim's people are undernourished. GREG SCARLATOIU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN
NORTH KOREA: They will do anything it takes to -- to find food for themselves and their families. During the worst times in North Korea, they ate weeds and the bark off of trees. If that's what it takes, they will steal. They're desperate.
TODD (voice-over): While Kim spends hundreds of millions on the development of nuclear warheads, submarine-launched missiles, and other delivery systems, the U.N. says, jarringly, that because of the food crisis, 30,000 North Korean children face an increased risk of death.
SCARLATOIU: This is a regime that invests in high risers, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and now, yes, recently, high-class resorts. All they bring in the eyes of Kim Jong-un is more prestige to the regime at the expense of sacrificing the people of North Korea.
TODD: The U.N. human rights report doesn't only slam Kim's regime for the malnourishment of his people. It is also critical of North Korea's system of so-called peer monitoring where citizens are forced to spy on neighbors and co-workers, report them for the tiniest or made-up infraction which often leads to intimidation, imprisonment, or even execution.
We reached out to North Korea's mission at the U.N. for response to the new U.N. report. We never heard back, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, good report, thanks very much.
There's more breaking news. Coming up next, impeachment inquiry testimony gets under way after Republicans storm the hearing, delaying it for hours.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Impeachment chaos. Republican lawmakers storm a secure room, disrupting the investigation of the President and the Ukraine scandal. After hours of confrontation, shouting, and delay, a key witness is finally testifying tonight.
Let someone else fight. Mr. Trump effectively walks away from the conflict in Syria, lifting sanctions on Turkey even as administration officials warn the Turks may be connected to war crimes.
Rudy's allies in court. We're learning more tonight about the indicted businessmen who helped Giuliani's efforts to investigate Joe Biden.