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Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) is Interviewed on Impeachment Inquiry and Baghdadi Raid; Fast-Moving Fires Rage in California; Rep. Katie Hill Resigns. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired October 28, 2019 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: For being here. We'll get to all of that in just a moment.
I do want to begin, though, with what is supposed to happen in one minute where you are on Capitol Hill. Charles Kupperman, the ex-deputy former national security adviser to John Bolton is supposed to show up for a scheduled testimony in the impeachment inquiry. He's considered a key witness. He was on that July phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine. His attorney says he's not going to come. They want a judge to decide if he should.
What's your reaction?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, we need a ruling on that lawsuit filed by Mr. Kupperman's attorney. The president and his lawyers have, you know, said that due to constitutional immunities that Mr. Kupperman can't testify. Clearly, the intelligence community has the -- or committee has the authority to request that testimony. We need that testimony to gets to the bottom of what happened in Ukraine.
CROW: So we hope to get a ruling very quickly here so that we can get Mr. Kupperman's testimony.
So, on this beat, on the inquiry, for a moment before we move on, you said on NPR last month that this whole process, in your words, must be open and transparent. I wonder if you think at all that your Republican colleagues in the House have a legitimate gripe with this all taking place behind closed doors at this point? And, yes, transcripts will be released. Adam Schiff has assured everyone of that. But, for example, they bring up in the Clinton impeachment that his attorneys were allowed in the room during depositions. Do they have a legitimate gripe? I mean you've said open and transparent is important.
CROW: Yes, what's different now is that in past inquiries, a special prosecutor appointed by the attorney general conducted, you know, classified and, you know, behind closed doors investigations. And the reason you do that is to protect the innocent, right? When you're calling witnesses, you don't want innocent people to be smeared. It's to get information to make sure that there isn't witness tampering, that witnesses are not comparing notes.
Unfortunately, there was a criminal referral in this case. The attorney general declined to do anything to follow up on it. So that puts now the House in the position of doing that investigation. We have to get that done. So we have to make sure we're doing that initial stage in a proper way and then that will transition to open hearings and the transcripts will be made available for all the stuff that's happening now.
And, by the way, I think it's really important to know that Republicans are involved in this process. Republican lawyers are involved in the process.
HARLOW: Yes, 48 of them.
HARLOW: Sure. I -- that is --
CROW: I mean they're in the room.
HARLOW: That is what -- noted, Congressman.
HARLOW: OK, so moving on.
You serve on the Armed Services Committee. You're a member of the Syria caucus. You just returned from a congressional visit to the region. You served, as I said, as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan.
Lindsey Graham said overnight, Trump's worst critics should say, well done, Mr. President, on the death of Baghdadi. Do you agree?
CROW: Well, this was undeniably a victory for America. I mean the special operations forces, the pilots that were involved. I've been involved in many of these types of raids before. They're very dangerous. They're very complicated. I know what went into the planning of this. This was about a four-month process. These are very difficult things to execute and to pull off. So, you know, the special operations forces, the commandos, the pilots, the intelligence officials involved did a remarkable job. And it's a great day for America. There's no doubt about that.
HARLOW: We just heard the president a few moments ago criticizing Adam Schiff, your fellow Democrat in Congress, calling him a leaker, you know, as part of the rationale for not alerting him, Nancy Pelosi, the gang of eight, et cetera, before this raid. But some Republicans in Congress, we're told, Russia was told, not the details, but Russia was told.
What is your response to that? CROW: Well, I've been concerned for a long time about the president's
politicizing of the military. So, you know, he doesn't have an obligation to inform Congress in advance of a mission like this. But the fact that he did inform some members of Congress of his party and not others is very concerning.
And, you know, there are reasons to inform Russia. I mean the eight helicopters that went in to northern Syria to conduct this mission actually were operating in air space controlled by Russian and Syrian air force, you know, personnel. So there had to be some deconfliction I would imagine to make that happen and to ensure the safety.
CROW: So I understand that. But I am concerned about the politicizing of our military. There's no doubt about it.
HARLOW: You wrote this, quote, the successful mission shows once again how important it is that we partner with our allies around the world. We are stronger with friends.
I am assuming that you were talking especially about the Kurds here. So correct me if I'm wrong, but if not, listen to what Defense Secretary Mark Esper had to say to Jake on that front just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": The administration has been taking a lot of heat for the handling of the U.S./Kurdish allies in northern Syria. Did the Kurds play a role in this operation?
MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm not going to discuss who all participated, but we had some help from outside partners.
TAPPER: But the U.S. allies, the main U.S. allies in that region are the Kurds.
ESPER: That's right. I'm just not going to get into details right now.
TAPPER: OK. The general of the Kurdish forces, the U.S. ally Kurdish forces, say that they did play a role. Is that --
ESPER: Well, the SDF have been good partners for the last few years. They were instrumental to us helping defeat, destroy the physical caliphate of ISIS. And, again, we remain in contact with them on the ground and they've been helpful in a variety of ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: It seemed to me, congressman, like Jake had to sort of draw that out of the defense secretary and we -- you know, we heard the president yesterday say, quote, Russia treated us great.
I just wonder if you think, does it sound like to you the administration is not giving our Kurdish allies enough credit?
CROW: Well, the president, over the last three weeks, has been consistently downplaying the role of our Kurdish forces. You know, what is very clear to me is that this mission would not have happened had it not been for Iraqi intelligence, for SDF forces on the ground, for our partners on the ground, human intelligence, you know, basically spies and informants on the ground in northern Syria, from the Kurdish forces and others, it's my understanding, provided the intelligence that located al-Baghdadi.
That's why partners are important. You know, we cannot go into areas of the world, like the Middle East and Syria and Afghanistan and other places and get this information on our own. I know. I've tried. It's very hard. We don't have the networks on the ground. People don't trust us walking into, you know, villages, in the mountains. But they can do it. The local forces can do it.
So that's why it's really important and that's why the last three weeks I've been a critic of the president's move because we have left those folks behind. We've turned our back on them and we're less safe.
HARLOW: Congressman Jason Crow, thank you for being here and, of course, thank you for your service to this country.
CROW: Thanks, Poppy.
HARLOW: You got it.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news. And these are live pictures you're about to see. A fast-moving fire raging in the middle of Los Angeles, right next to a major freeway running through southern California. Coming up, the battle to attempt to slow down the spread of wildfires now across that state. Look at those pictures there.
HARLOW: All right, now to the breaking news.
These are live pictures of a major wildfire raging out of control in Los Angeles County, threatening the 405 as thousands of commuters you see there are heading to work. The Getty Fire has already burned at least 400 acres and forced thousands of people to leave their homes. Among those evacuating this morning, NBA star LeBron James, who tweeted about his search for a place to stay as his family is leaving their home.
SCIUTTO: The pace of this is just incredible. It only started at 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time. So, five, six hours in. It's already done an enormous amount of damage. More than a dozen fires driven by hurricane-force winds burning across the state of California now.
SCIUTTO: And California's wine country up north, nearly 200,000 people have now evacuated their homes. At one point the fire there grew at a rate of one football field every three seconds.
SCIUTTO: CNN's Dan Simon, he's up north live in Sonoma County. But we begin with Omar Jimenez. He's in Los Angeles County.
Omar, I mean the amount of damage this fire has done in just a few hours is remarkable. Are they having any progress getting this under control?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy, that is the number one priority right now. This is obviously a situation that balloons in a matter of hours overnight. You can see just over my shoulder here, this is what people here in Los Angeles are waking up to. People still headed to work. Meanwhile, hillsides on fire. Thousands facing evacuation.
And as you look at how this fire has burned across this bridge -- across this ridge, in the beginning it started where I was pointing to earlier, but as you can see it's continued to move over across. And on that far ridge where we're seeing on the left side right now, that is new. That popped up within the last 25 minutes or so. And it highlights part of what officials are fearing in this, winds right now, you can -- may be able to see the smoke as it's blowing, is headed in that west/southwest direction driven by these high winds. Officials are describing it as a very dynamic fire. And based on what we have seen over the course of the morning, we can say that definitely holds up over the course of this.
I mentioned some of those evacuations. Those mandatory evacuation zones have been steadily growing over the course of this morning, but many more are facing evacuation warnings.
Now, as you mentioned earlier, LeBron James was among those that evacuated his home, but he is among the many here in this area who are trying to figure out at what point do they leave. Officials, of course, urging people to err on the side of caution, but one of the things that many people fear in this is that we're not expecting to get any relief from the winds any time soon, expect some wind gusts over the course of today and even more midway this week, which, of course, can exacerbate some of the flames.
HARLOW: The pictures are astounding. And to see it so close to the 405 with people driving to work as it encroaches.
HARLOW: Dan Simon, to you.
You're in the north. You're in Sonoma County. If people don't know, that's about an hour outside of the main part of San Francisco. The fire has been raging there since Wednesday and, as we understand it, less than 10 percent contained, is that right?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it actually was 10 percent contained and then it actually dropped down to 5 percent when you had these fierce winds over the weekend, gusts exceeding 90 miles per hour, Poppy.
But let me explain where we are. Behind me was a very famous winery. Had been here for 150 years. The Soda Springs Winery reduced to rubble in less than an hour.
About the only thing you can see is this brick facade here. You see burned out structures in various communities.
But what makes this fire truly extraordinary is just the incredible impact it is having on so many people. As you said, about 200,000 people have been evacuated because of those fierce winds, very dynamic winds. And then you have another 2 million more who are literally in the dark because the utility PG&E cut power to prevent more wildfires from breaking out.
We should point out, though, that the Kincade Fire, which is impacting this area, may have been started by a PG&E transmission line. The company reporting that a line went down near where the fire started. And if that's the case, then you're talking about a nightmare scenario for this company which has faced withering criticism because of these widespread blackouts and they're currently experiencing, you know, bankruptcy because of some of the past wildfires the company has caused.
SIMON: Again, this fire just 5 percent contained. The winds have died down, but they're expected to pick up again tomorrow.
HARLOW: Wow, not good news. Dan, thank you for the great reporting. Omar, to you as well. We really appreciate it.
Still to come, Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hills resigning from office days after admitting she had an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer. What does this mean for her seat in that key district that she flipped?
SCIUTTO: Embattled Congresswoman Katie Hill saying her fight is not over, even though she did announce her resignation from Congress just days after admitting to having an affair with a campaign staffer.
HARLOW: The freshman Democrat from California announced she was stepping down last night. She's also facing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee for an alleged relationship with a member of her staff on Capitol Hill.
Our Kyung Lah joins me now.
Kyung, I mean I remember when you did the first big profile piece on her, right? I mean she flipped this district. She was seen as a rising star for some in the party. What does this all mean?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for her politically, it really is a very short career in Congress. Really one of the rising stars. Somebody who Nancy Pelosi took special interest in. She's so young. One of the youngest members of Congress.
So when she says that she is going to step away from this, this is truly, Poppy and Jim, just the end of a very promising career, a career that really was only months in the making that many thought was a very long runway to what would be a startling rise in the Democratic Party.
SCIUTTO: And, Kyung, she was one of this freshman class that helped flip the House in 2018, flipping a red district to blue district. There already is not -- is there not a Republican and a Democrat who we're talking about running to replacing her?
LAH: There are two declared Republicans. But the people you're talking about are better known people. Representative Steve Knight. And I'm using the term representative because he is the man who Katie Hill defeated. Just hours after she resigned, he said that he would then be joining in on the race. The governor does have two weeks to set a date for a special election.
And then our Manu Raju has some reporting that Democrats are discussing who it might be who could potentially replace Katie Hill. And the California secretary of state, Alex Padilla, sources are telling Manu Raju, is considering a possible run in that district.
So, what are people within the district though saying? Here's what a sampling of them told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It puts her seat at risk, I think, which is, to me, the most important thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as long as she's doing what we put her in office to do, that's all I care about.
LAH: Do you think this district flips back to the Republicans?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so. Yes. I think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Now, Jim and Poppy, we should say that in her resignation letter, Katie Hill did talk about fighting on, continuing a fight. And what she's referring to is fighting cyber exploitation. She's referring to a number of explicit photos that have been floating around. I've spoken to people, GOP operatives, who say that they have seen these photos in chat rooms. Some are saying there are as many as 700 screen grabs of explicit photos and personal text messages.
LAH: So this certainly -- it's the disturbing notion of what potentially could come as long as she is a sitting congresswoman.
SCIUTTO: And allegations of revenge porn from a bad divorce. You even saw them from some of her Republican colleagues on The Hill defending her.
SCIUTTO: Kyung Lah, thanks very much for covering the story.
Well, the World Series crowd takes a page out of the president's playbook, chanting directed at him, lock him up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (chanting): Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: He was met with chants of "lock him up" and a chorus of boos at Nationals Park last night for game five of the World Series.
SCIUTTO: The president, the first lady, and Republican members of Congress were there as the Houston Astros played the Washington Nationals. The president had been asked to throw out the first pitch, but he declined. The honor, instead, went to frequent Trump critic and chef, Jose Andres. The game ended with a 7-1 loss for the Nationals.
Good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.
The appointment came and it went. This morning, Congress was waiting to hear testimony from Charles Kupperman, a former White House official, who listened in on that controversial call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.
But Kupperman's lawyer says lawmakers are going to have to keep waiting. Waiting until a federal judge steps in and