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Interview with Rep. Mark Green (R-TN); New Fire in Los Angeles This Morning Joins Others Across the State; Ukraine Avoiding Public Statements in Trump Scandal. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This just in to CNN, the Justice Department is now appealing a court's decision last week that the House of Representatives should be allowed access to secret grand jury information from the Mueller investigation. The DOJ has also asked the court to prevent the release of any of the secret details until the appeals court, higher up, can decide.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that the documents must be turned over by this Wednesday, October 30th.


And just moments ago -- things moving quickly -- House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, weighing in after a key witness failed to appear at a scheduled testimony this morning in the impeachment investigation against the president, saying this adds even more evidence for obstruction of justice case against the president.

I'm joined now by Republican Congressman Mark Green. He's a veteran. He's on the Homeland Security Committee. He wrote his own book called, "A Night with Saddam," about a previous raid. Of course, the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. MARK GREEN (R-TN): Thanks, Jim. Thanks for having me on the show.

SCIUTTO: So, first, on the White House position here. It sent a letter to this witness and said, listen, you'd better not testify, in effect. And that witness then said a judge has to tell me what to do. And now, that's what's happening here.


SCIUTTO: I just wondered, do you support this White House effort to block these witnesses from testifying?

GREEN: I absolutely believe that the president has executive privilege, and he has the right to identify who those people are within his administration or who have served in his administration, whom he wants to exercise executive privilege over.

If you look at it -- and this is what frustrates me about Adam Schiff and his dishonesty. To suggest that this is somehow obstruction of justice, when every single president in our nation's history has practically claimed executive privilege, it's just more dishonesty on Schiff's part and more hyperbole, so.

SCIUTTO: Well, but to be clear, every president has claimed it but not -- the courts have not backed it as a blanket rule. I mean, Nixon claimed it, but the courts ruled of course, at the time, that if there's criminal wrongdoing --

GREEN: Sure.

SCIUTTO: -- then that privilege doesn't apply.

I just wonder because you've been a chief advocate for transparency in these hearings, you were part of this group of Republicans --

GREEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- that stormed the castle, as it were, last week in that committee room.


SCIUTTO: I just wonder if transparency is the goal, why wouldn't you support witnesses like this? If they've got a good story to tell about the president, why not let them speak?

GREEN: Sure. And I think if there were, you know, something that -- the real issue is what happens in communications and things that the president -- how the president interacts with foreign countries and all that stuff. Some of that stuff needs to be protected. And I'm certain that that's probably why the president is asking.

Clearly, if the guy was going to get on there and, you know and say -- look at Sondland who, in the text, said there was no quid pro quo. And the president still asked that guy not to testify, right? So I mean it's --

SCIUTTO: Well, though -- though I'm sure you read "The Wall Street Journal" this weekend and other outlets that said, in fact, he testified it was a quid pro quo, as was the concern of Bill Taylor, a veteran like you and a longtime diplomat, who said that from his perspective, pressure was being applied unduly to a U.S. ally, Ukraine here, to get a political favor.

GREEN: Yes. I have not read that because I'm not allowed to get a copy of the transcripts.


GREEN: Right, right?

SCIUTTO: As you know, the Democrats say that they will provide those when there's public hearings. I wonder, will your complaints, when some of these witnesses are called to public testimony, as the Democrats say they will -- granted, to your point, it hasn't happened yet -- but when that happens, will you then consider this inquiry fair, an open process? Because they'll testify in public at that point.

GREEN: We -- we absolutely need an open process. I mean, you look at the legislative branch as a coequal branch of government, but that's when the 435 of us vote. One individual is not the Congress. I mean, Nancy Pelosi can't make a decision to turn a bill into a law. It takes a vote of our entire body.

And we are doing one of the most serious duties of Congress, impeaching a president, with one person making that decision. That is undemocratic. It is an insult to our representative democracy. So, yes, I have a problem with the way they're doing it right now. And I'm looking forward to, hopefully, them changing and seeing that American people are frustrated with it too, and doing it differently.

SCIUTTO: I want to talk now about the Baghdadi operation over the weekend --

GREEN: Sure.

SCIUTTO: -- tremendous success for U.S. forces, and for the president who ordered this operation. And I'm glad to have you on because you yourself -- viewers might not know this -- you were involved in a very successful operation some 15 years ago in Iraq, the capture of Saddam Hussein.


SCIUTTO: You got to sit down with him, interrogate him. That's a subject of your book, which I think folks should read, "A Night with Saddam." You were in Iraq for that raid. Would you have withdrawn U.S. forces from Iraq afterwards and, in effect, abandon the Iraqi allies who took such a central role in that raid, which is, in effect, what's happened here in Syria? Would you have done the same?

GREEN: I -- you know, I think the president's right to say that we need to stop all these endless wars. I mean, he wants America to kind of get out of that business. And I understand that, and he's right to want to bring our troops home, he's right to want to keep a campaign promise.

You know, my biggest concern about all of this is just the perception of allies. You know, you had Michael (ph) Haass -- Richard Haass --

SCIUTTO: Richard Haass.

GREEN: -- on earlier, and you know, his book, "A World in Disarray," kind of addresses the issue of whether we're going to be a multipolar world next, or a bipolar world or a unipolar world right now, which was demonstrated by this mission, only America has the capacity to do something like this --



GREEN: -- but we're transitioning to a bipolar world. And those alliances are really important in a bipolar situation. So my concern, of course, has always been -- and I've shared this with the president -- you know, just maintaining the perception with our allies.

SCIUTTO: Now, do you believe the president has undermined that perception of loyalty by this summary withdrawal? And as you saw, I mean, there were a lot of accounts on the ground of some of our close Syrian Kurdish allies getting slaughtered by Turkish forces as they crossed the border.

GREEN: You know, I think it's a testament to this president and his commitment to keep his promises. And then you look at how Republicans have disagreed over this issue. I think, you know, he's standing by his principles and what he believes. And I think that's a good thing.

In terms of the allies, this mission can clearly demonstrate that we have the capacity to continue to defend our friends and fight our enemies without being on the ground. And if you --

SCIUTTO: Yes, But you know as well as me, that the troops on the ground there -- and the Pentagon has told us that, our reporters there, straight-up. That having that U.S. troop presence on the ground, and the key help of the Syrian Kurds, made this operation possible.

GREEN: Absolutely. The Kurds gave us the intel. I'm convinced the Kurds will continue to give us the intel.

SCIUTTO: But will you grant that having U.S. boots on the ground made a difference here as well? I mean, that's what -- that's what Pentagon officials, that's what forces on the ground in Syria have been telling our reporters.

GREEN: Yes. Clearly, our relationship with the Kurds is critical to getting these kinds of support from them. And I think that's one of the reasons why they're beefing up the support. We're actually adding some armored vehicles and, you know. So we're actually strengthening some of the support in the southern part of Syria.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Mark Green, good to have you on the broadcast. Let's keep up the conversation.

GREEN: Thanks, Jim. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes. Really important voice.

OK. So we're going to take you to California. Fast-moving flames, threatening homes and a major freeway in the middle of Los Angeles. Omar Jimenez is there -- Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fire is on the move this morning. You can see, just last hour, it was right behind us along the 405, and it has now moved further into this hillside coming up. I'll tell you the very next step we are hearing from L.A. officials.



HARLOW: All right. Right now, morning commuters on the busy 405 freeway in Los Angeles are driving right next to an out-of-control wildfire that continues to grow. The Getty fire has burned at least 500 acres since it started early this morning. More than 3,000 homes have been evacuated.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, these fires become a plague across the state. It is just one of more than a dozen wildfires burning today across California.

Up north in Sonoma County, the heart of California wine country, nearly 200,000 people have now been evacuated from their homes. At one point, the fire there grew at a rate of one football field of land every three seconds, fed by wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour. That is like jet fuel for these fires.

CNN's Dan Simon, he is live in Sonoma County. But let's begin with Omar Jimenez. He's in Los Angeles. Omar, this fire keeps growing. I mean, it's only been going for a few hours now, but it's spread far and wide.

JIMENEZ: And that's really what officials had feared throughout this, the speed in which these flames have spread, even just last hour, when we were talking this whole hillside just behind me was completely engulfed in flames. You see at this point, it is smoldering. And that's because, as you look at the direction of this smoke here, it's moving west-southwest. You can already see it has moved on, further into the hillside, burning fresh new vegetation.

And, again, there are homes located throughout this hillside. And of course, that is why we have seen mandatory evacuations, up and down, throughout this area as well.

One of the other things that we've been looking for that has changed over the course of the past hour. We heard from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who says they are going to have CAL FIRE planes come through to basically drop fire retardant, to help spot some of these fires. And just within the past 20 minutes, we have seen those planes circling this area, and really disappearing over the backside of this ridge here, likely dropping fire retardant onto some of the homes below.

This is a fire that started at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time, just in a matter of hours, bloomed to more than 500 acres. And based on the conditions today, we're going to have to see how fast it moves from there -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. All right, Omar. Thank you very much.

Let's go north now. Dan Simon is in Sonoma County. The fire there was been burning since Wednesday, Dan. How is it looking now? DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Poppy. Today is really a race against the clock, to try to take advantage of these dying winds to get the containment number up. Right now, it stands at about 5 percent. But you're looking at some strong winds, again, tomorrow night. So fire crews, hoping to make some progress today.

In the meantime, let me explain where we are. This was the Soda Rock Winery, had been standing for 150 years. Now all you see is this brick facade, basically burned down in less than an hour. And, you know, you see all these burned-out structures in these various communities, about 41 homes have been destroyed.

But what makes this fire such an extraordinary event is the massive impact this had on so many people. About 800,000 folks, you know -- excuse me, about 200,000 folks have had to evacuate, and you have about 2 million people who literally have been in the dark because PG&E, the utility, had to cut power to try to prevent more fires from breaking out.


So we don't know when those folks are going to get their power on. Hopefully today, but then they could lose their power again tomorrow night, if you can believe that, Poppy.

HARLOW: My goodness. It's unbelievable, to see what's behind you and how frequently this has happened, especially this year. Dan, thank you very much for being there and for that reporting.

There's a lot going on this Monday. Here's a look at "What to Watch."

TEXT: What to Watch... 11:25 a.m. Eastern, President Trump speaks in Chicago; 1:00 pm. Eastern, Criminal Justice town hall in Philadelphia; 5:45 p.m. Eastern, White House Halloween.


SCIUTTO: From the halls of Capitol Hill to the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, front and center in the House impeachment inquiry. Coming up, how the impeachment drama is playing out in that country.



SCIUTTO: Ukraine is more than 5,000 miles away from the halls of Capitol Hill, but President Trump's handling of crucial military aid to that country -- which, by the way, is at war with Russia -- today is the focus of the House impeachment inquiry.

HARLOW: So how is that political drama in Washington playing out in Ukraine? Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is live in Kiev with more. Clarissa, it's fascinating, what you found, talking to these individuals. Is the impeachment front like, you know, front-page news the way it is, here in the U.S.? CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really depends who you talk to, Poppy. If you go out onto the streets and talk to ordinary Ukrainians, their focus is on problems here in this country, particularly the war in the east of the country against Russian-backed separatists, but also the economy, issues with corruption, these are front and foremost in their minds.

But if you talk to people who are the political leaders of this country, this is a nightmare for them because they are essentially walking a diplomatic tightrope. And if they are seen to speak out on one side or the other of this political drama, they risk alienating much-needed bipartisan support from the U.S. So they are in a very, very difficult position.

But those who are in the know and who are watching closely are growing ever-more angered by what they are seeing playing out, and what they are learning happened between the White House and the leaders of this country. Take a look at a chat I had with one anti-corruption activist.


DARIA KALENIUK, ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTIVIST: We now (ph) see more lies (ph), the clear picture, what was happening during the last half a year, it is outrageous.

WARD: Outrageous?

KALENIUK: It's absolutely outrageous. It's very disappointing. I could never believe that something like that could happen.

WARD: Do you think people are angry?

KALENIUK: Absolutely. People are angry and scared. And I will explain why people are scared. It is existential need for Ukraine, to have the support of the United States.

We want to live under the Western values, under the values of liberal democracy. But in order to resist the pressure from Russia, we need to rely on the support of our key partners.


WARD: And so, there you have it. Basically, people feeling angry, upset by what they're learning as it transpires. And even those who aren't following the U.S. side of this very closely, are all too aware that nearly $400 million in much-needed military aid was frozen this year for months. And they're aware that if this continues, this political crisis, that once again Ukraine could be impacted by that again, if it takes sides either way.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And people are still dying on the front lines. They died while the aid was being withheld.

Clarissa, I'm sure you've had this same experience. I've spoken to Ukrainian officials who describe their balancing act here, reacting to the politics of Washington because, of course, they don't want to alienate the ally, they want to keep the aid coming. I mean, how difficult is it for them to handle this?

WARD: I think it really is incredibly difficult, Jim. I mean, literally, President Zelensky joked at a recent press conference that he always wanted to be world-famous, but not for this. He essentially, right now, cannot open his mouth and speak frankly about this issue. He cannot get his side of the story on the record.

And all the while that this political turmoil is playing out in Washington, the real fear here in Ukraine is that this is strengthening Russia's hand, particularly with regards to the conflict in the eastern part of this country. That's why everyone here would like to see this blow over in the U.S., relations become normalized and not to have this bipartisan tug of war.


SCIUTTO: Goodness. And 13,000 Ukrainians -- more -- dead in this conflict already. Clarissa Ward, great to have you there. Thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Clarissa.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.


SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.