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Biden Campaign Embraces Super PAC Money After Biden Recently Refused It; Thousands Flee As Wildfires Rage In California; Book By Anonymous Op-Ed Writer Promises To Expose Private Trump Conversations; U.S. May Move Tanks To Protect Troops Near Syrian Oil Fields. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 11:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the Democratic primary field in most polls. But as this race is tightening, we're learning the campaign is now dropping its objection to supporters forming a super PAC.

Why is that important? Well, it's a significant reversal from the candidate's position just a few months ago.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No super PACs, no money at all coming from people that you don't know where it's coming from.



HILL: CNN's Arlette Saenz is with us now.

Arlette, how does this change, how does this impact Joe Biden's campaign? How does it impact the base? What does this actually do.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Erica, I think it remains to be seen how this is actually going to sit and resonate with voters.

But as you heard in that clip there, this is a major shift for the former vice president. He's talked about this, actually, for years, that he wouldn't want to run a campaign with the assistance of a super PAC.

But as we were reporting earlier this week, talks have really intensified among allies, top Democratic strategists and donors, supporters of Biden, who want to really jump in there and start this outside spending group to help the former vice president's candidacy.

And yesterday, you saw that shift in that statement from the deputy campaign manager, which essentially was saying that they are not discouraging super PACs from forming any longer.

And the calculus in this, in that statement was that they argued that President Trump's attacks on Biden have been relentless. You've seen him go up on the airwaves already with millions of dollars of attack ads. So this group -- the potential group that will be forming also said that they're ready to have his back.

Now, this has already prompted some swift criticism from Biden's rivals, particularly Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren recently tweeted that, "It was disappointing that someone would reverse course on this issue of super PACs." As you can see in that tweet right up there right now.

Bernie Sanders also recently sent out within the past hour, sent out a fund-raising email, calling out Biden for this reversal.

So, part of this is also part of the reality for Biden. He posted a lower fund-raising quarter within the last month than previous quarter. And he also is ending that quarter with less than $9 million cash on hand. So, this group could potentially help boost him.

We don't exactly know, the final decision hasn't been made yet, so we don't exactly know the timing of that.

And one big question is, will they simply keep their focus on these attacks from President Trump, or could they aim it potentially at his Democratic rivals.

HILL: We will be waiting and watching to see.

Arlette, appreciate it. Thank you.

SAENZ: Thank you.


HILL: Right now, a champion of civil rights, the man Speaker Pelosi is calling the master of the House, is being honored at his funeral. Family and friends saying their final good-byes to Congressman Elijah Cummings. Among those in attendance, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who are set to give eulogies Just ahead. And we will take you there live.

Stay with us.



HILL: We are following breaking news out of California. Fast-moving wildfires raging across the state right now. The largest is the Tick Fire, which tore through Santa Clarita Valley in just a matter of hours. And as it continues to grow, thousands of people forced from their homes. Overnight, the flames actually jumped a highway. Nearly 4,000 acres have burned. CNN's Nick Watt is just outside Los Angeles. He's in Canyon County,


So, where you are, give us a sense, what is the biggest challenge right now for firefighters, Nick?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is and always will be the wind. That is the issue. Sustained winds about 20 miles an hour during the night drove that fire. As you mentioned, it hopped that freeway, and that is why 40,000 people were put under a mandatory evacuation order. And 10,000 structures in danger.

Now, since the sun came up, that wind has also picked up. We're predicted forecasts to get gusts between 50 and 70 miles an hour. And the issue is that wind can pick up embers.

And that's why -- listen, this house behind me is done. There's no saving this house. But they will continue on this house with the water because that house burning can kick up embers. They can fly maybe a mile and ignite a spot fire.

So, we saw it yesterday when their fire first broke out. In the first 20 minutes, it ballooned to 200 acres, just driven by that wind. And you can see the chopper shots over this part of the country just north of Los Angeles.

And you know, when everyone was looking at the Tick Fire, another fire popped up 10 miles away, you know, and took out six homes in the blink of an eye.

So, it is the wind. It will always be the wind.

Now, the wind here is forecast to drop later today. But that is not it for California. The Santa Ana winds will continue. And we're being told now that there's going to be so-called red flag warnings up in the Sacramento Valley Saturday into Sunday.

And of course, I haven't even mentioned the Kincade Fire, which continues to burn up there in Sonoma County. That's up there nearly at 22,000 acres.

Nine wildfires, I believe, in California right now. This one alone, 500 firefighters working overnight trying to contain it before those winds picked up in the morning.

They are working tirelessly through the night, through this fire season to try and contain.

Back to you -- Erica?

HILL: Nick Watt, it is no small feat, that is for sure.

Appreciate it. Thank you.

At this moment, you're looking at live pictures from a final good-bye to honor the life of Congressman Elijah Cummings. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among those set to give eulogies. And we will take you there live. This, though, of course, one of his daughters.



HILL: How about a little good news for you on this Friday, an update on someone we all met last year whose life has been changed by top-10 "CNN Heroes," Amanda Boxtel. Her organization, Bridging Bionics provides free or low-cost cutting-edge therapy for those with mobile impairment.

Here's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Three years ago, Nate White injured his spine in a kayaking accident and was told he'd never walk again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to try to stack it?

COOPER: But his hard work and determination along with Amanda's incredible help has paid off.


COOPER: A year ago, he did this. And now, just three years after his accident, he's doing this.

WHITE: Amanda always believed that I was going to be walking again.

AMANDA BOXTEL, CNN HERO: He's living the miracle of what we all aspire for. This is the power of technology that everybody should have access to. That's my goal.


HILL: The 2019 top 10 "CNN Heroes" will be revealed next Wednesday. For more information, logon to


HILL: The anonymous Trump official who wrote a scathing op-ed is back, and this time, with a book, and promises to expose private conversations with President Trump.

You'll remember last year the official wrote an op-ed alleging there was an internal resistance forming against the administration. Well, now, in this forthcoming book, titled "A Warning," Anonymous says you will hear from the president himself.

On the back cover, it says, "In these pages, you will not just hear from me. You will hear a great deal from Donald Trump directly. For there's no better witness to his character than his own words and no better evidence of the danger he poses than his own conduct." CNN Chief Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter, is joining me now.


So, it's becoming clear, just based on what we see there, this is not likely a low-level staffer, if they had conversations with President Trump in this book.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this person's suggesting that they are in the room where it happened, so to speak, that they are inside with meetings, with deliberations with the president.

And according to this writer, he or she is going to share that information and make it very clear just how much access the person has.

What we don't know is if this person still works in the administration.

At the time of the op-ed last fall, the person said they were currently working for the government. Right now, the publisher for this book won't say if he or she still does.

That might be just to protect the person's identity, we don't know.

What we do know is this book is coming out in a little more than three weeks. It is already in the top-10 on Amazon, already a top seller.

And we know there's never been anything like this before. Someone inside the government claims they're blowing the whistle on Trump but in an anonymous book. Unprecedented.

HILL: There's also a level of frustration that we're more than a year out from having this book coming and we still don't know who this person is. Maybe it's to protect their identity. As you pointed out, from the publisher, may it's to drive book sales.


HILL: but there is some frustration. Ana Navarro actually talked about earlier today.


HILL: Take a listen.


ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I frankly have no patients with somebody who sees the level of chaos we're in and doesn't have the courage to come out and put a name and a face to this --


HILL: That's what I was going to ask. I mean -- (CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Let's focus on the people who are putting their names out there, their careers out there, their reputations out there. Not somebody who is too afraid to give their names and their true identity. Come out, man.


HILL: That's actually been the pushback from the beginning. It's, OK, but what are you doing about it and why not come forward?

STELTER: Even the pushback from the Trump campaign. They'll be calling this person out as are many others. I'm hearing a lot of criticism saying it is cowardly to do this in an anonymous way and not attach a name.

Here's the only counterargument I suggest making. We don't know the exact circumstances of this staffer's work. We don't know exactly where they work, why they feel they need to be anonymous. I want to wait ask and see why they've decided to be anonymous.

At the same time, this person is calling on others to speak out. They say, on the back cover, the truth of President Trump must come out. Perhaps the best way would be to do that on the record so everyone could evaluate it on good terms. But maybe this person has a good reason for hiding.

HILL: It'll be interesting to what happens when the book comes out.


HILL: Exactly.

STELTER: Let me predict right now, this person is not going to stay anonymous.

HILL: No. I agree with you.

Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

HILL: Coming up, President Trump says he's pulling U.S. troops from Syria, only now we've learned that several hundred personnel and tanks could actually be going right back in. We heard from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and what he has to say about this.



HILL: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States is taking action to strengthen their position in Syria to defend oil fields from ISIS. The move would partially counter President Trump's claim that he's pulling U.S. troops from Syria. CNN's Barbara Starr is with us now.

Barbara, what is the pentagon saying about moving these troops to eastern Syria?


This whole mission appears to be evolving day by day in a way because the president has talked about bringing the troops home, but now he's talking very adamantly about wanting to protect Kurdish oil fields against ISIS.

And that leads to this new deployment, possible or armored vehicles and troops into eastern Syria that the Pentagon is looking to try to protect again any ISIS movement into those oil fields.

Listen to what the defense secretary had to say just a short time ago.


MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As I've said over the past several days, we are also considering how we might reposition forces in the area in order to ensure we secure the oil fields. We are now taking some actions.


STARR: Some actions. So what officials here are saying, that could involve sending some armored vehicles, not clear how many additional troops, all aimed at defending the oil fields against ISIS.

But remember, the Syrian regime is now there, the Russians are there, Iranian militias are there. That is an area that is getting very complex.

And it is not at all clear if the U.S. would actually have the authority, for example, to fire back if the Syrians were to move their tanks into those areas. What would U.S. troops actually have the authority to do?

So a lot of complications. And a lot of people say still an awful lot of details to be worked out -- Erica?

HILL: Important questions that certainly need to be answered.

Barbara Starr, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

Thanks to all of you for joining us this hour.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.