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Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) On U.S. Raid That Killed Isis Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; Rep. Katie Hill Resigns Amid Allegations Of Affair With Staffer; How Is Trump Impeachment Drama Playing In Ukraine? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 07:30   ET



SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I have concerns, first, that they were so close to the Turkish border in an area of Syria where Turkey has long had some real influence.

Second, that he was literally being sheltered -- at least this is according to press accounts. I haven't gotten any classified briefing on this. According to press accounts, al-Baghdadi was being sheltered by the leader of an al Qaeda-affiliated local terrorist group in Idlib province.

And frankly, there is, I think, a very real possibility that ISIS and various al Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan, in West Africa, in Syria and elsewhere will cooperate even more closely as they face significant pressure from the United States and those allies of ours who are still fighting alongside us in this work.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president did not notify Congress before the operation and it isn't clear that he was legally required to because they called it a military operation and not an intelligence operation.

COONS: Right.

BERMAN: But he didn't even call Democrats after it was a success and before he --

COONS: Right.

BERMAN: -- announced it publicly. Why would that be important?

COONS: Well, first, I think it is striking that the Russians were informed before Congress and that Congress found out when the rest of the country did. There is a long tradition of the president notifying leaders in Congress of both parties when there's a sensitive operation underway.

Look, I'm perfectly willing to say that this is a judgment call about whether this was so sensitive a military operation that long advance notice was inappropriate. But to disrespect the Speaker of the House, who is in the direct line of succession to the president, and to not inform bipartisan leaders in Congress -- to only inform a few Republicans -- I think was just one more important norm of cooperation shattered by this president.

When fighting ISIS and terrorism we aren't Democrats and Republicans, we're Americans. And I think the president should have the trust and confidence in our leaders in Congress to know that they would not have leaked sensitive details, certainly after the event.

And ultimately, it was the president himself who I think shared a remarkable, even disturbing amount of detail about the operation beyond what I think is advisable.

BERMAN: Too much?

COONS: Too much.

BERMAN: This all speaks to the political environment out there, I think, that the president did not talk to Democratic leaders in the House, even after the operation was done.

And to that end, about the political environment out there, President Trump attended game five of the World Series in Washington last night. I just want to play the sound for you.


WORLD SERIES CROWD (chanting): Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!


BERMAN: He was booed and you can hear the chants there of "lock him up!" What do you make of that, Senator?

COONS: Well, forgive me. I'm enough of a sort of traditionalist about our institutions that even at a time when there is a lot that our president does that I find disturbing, offensive, unconventional, I have a hard time with the idea of a -- of a crowd on a globally- televised sporting event chanting "lock him up" about our president.

I, frankly, think the office of the president deserves respect even when the actions of our president, at times, don't.

I certainly hope that we won't hear "lock him up" chants at Democratic rallies or at our convention. I think that's one of the most regrettable, even at times despicable actions by candidate Trump when he was running for president in 2016.

It reminds me of things that happen in countries where rule of law is unknown or unestablished and, you know, sort of whipping up public furor on both sides, I don't think is constructive or helpful.

I understand why crowds in Washington would feel a lot of animus towards our president, given a lot of things that he's done. But I, frankly -- that's why I think those of us in the Senate need to approach the impeachment process seriously in a measured and responsible way because our very institutions -- our Constitution is at risk by these sorts of -- the passions that have been unleashed by the politics of the moment.

BERMAN: Sen. Chris Coons from Delaware, thanks for being with us this morning.

COONS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John, more political news.

Breaking overnight, freshman Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill resigning amid allegations of an affair with a staffer. Hill accuses her husband and a conservative blog of publishing compromising photos and text messages as part of a smear campaign against her.

CNN's Kyung Lah has been following this for us. She's live in Los Angeles with details. Kyung, this has just been happening at a rapid clip.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And at one point, she was absolutely not going to resign. This is a decision that Rep. Hill simply did not want to make but it was the terror of the unknown -- what else is out there. The terror that on a personal level as well as for the people she represents in her district -- it is that that brought her to this decision.



REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): Hi, how are you? Thank you.

LAH (voice-over): This was Katie Hill last January.

LAH (on camera): From congresswoman-elect to dropping the elects (ph). How does it feel?

HILL: I guess so. It feels good. I'm excited to get to work, for sure.

LAH (voice-over): Moments later, she was sworn into Congress. No one had any idea her promising tenure would be so brief.

In a letter from her congressional office, Rep. Hill announced her resignation, writing, "This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives."

Hill's estranged husband is the man standing next to her. He has not replied to repeated requests for comment from CNN.

But, Hill says he is part of a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation. "Having private photos of personal moments weaponized against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy. As long as I'm in Congress, we'll live fearful of what might come next and how much it will hurt."

Rep. Hill is referring to private photos that were leaked and published online of her and a female campaign staffer. Hill has admitted to an intimate relationship with a campaign staffer, apologizing and calling it inappropriate.

But she denies a separate charge, an alleged relationship with her male congressional staffer. A relationship between members of Congress and their staff violates House ethics rules.

Some Democrats in Hill's district say personal issues don't matter in the Trump era.

RYAN MCANANY, DEMOCRAT: I'd rather have someone have something than rather "f" our country.

LAH (voice-over): But politically, this may matter in this swing district.

MARTHA JONES, KATIE HILL VOLUNTEER: Would we lose the seat to the Republicans again? I don't know. I -- I'm not saying we would -- hopefully not -- but it just doesn't help.


LAH: Now, under California law, the governor does have two weeks to set a date for a special election.

As far as Rep. Hill, she says that she will continue to work with investigators and with police to try to bring to justice the people who have these pictures who may be distributing them.

And one thing, John. I have spoken to a number of GOP operatives. One says that there are some 700 images, texts, and photos. Another saying that he has seen, personally, dozens of these intimate photos that are just floating out there -- John.

BERMAN: And legal questions about how exactly they came to be floating out there, that's for sure.

Kyung Lah, thank you very much for your reporting on all of this.

LAH: You bet.

BERMAN: A huge shake-up in the luxury sector. We're going to tell you which company is making a bid to take over Tiffany -- the little blue box.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's beautiful. I hope they're having free giveaways. Are they?

BERMAN: Definitely.


CAMEROTA: The impeachment inquiry into President Trump's interactions with Ukraine is the big story in Washington, but how is this political drama playing out 5,000 miles away in Ukraine?

CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is live in Kiev with more. That's an interesting question. How is it playing, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, I think it's fair to say that Ukraine, right now, is walking a tightrope, desperately hoping that this political scandal will blow over before Ukrainian leaders are forced to finally give their side of the story and risk angering the President of the United States himself, Donald Trump.

Take a look.


WARD (voice-over): Ukraine is still front and center in the U.S.'s political crisis more than a month after the impeachment inquiry began. The country has gone to lengths not to take sides and risk much-needed bipartisan support from the U.S., but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admits it is an uncomfortable position to be in.

During a recent press conference, he joked to journalists that he really wanted to be world-famous but not for this.

At the English-language "Kyiv Post," the political scandal is very much front-page news. The paper recently made waves with this headline that quickly went viral ("Shady Cast of Characters: Engineers of Trump-Ukraine Scandal").

WARD (on camera): I mean, this one is so striking to me because you're talking about a shady cast of characters -- here they all are -- and there is the President of the United States.

Did you know that it would create such waves online when you came out with this cover?

OLGA RUDENKO, DEPUTY CHIEF EDITOR, KYIV POST: No, no, we did not see it coming. We did not expect it when we were making it at all.

WARD (on camera): Did you have a moment at all thinking are we going to get in trouble at all for having a picture of President Trump right under the word "shady"?

RUDENKO: Not really. I mean, we're not making anything up here.

Here is his personal attorney who has been making this deal in Ukraine and here is Trump. It's not far-fetched. It's all very clear they're all connected.

WARD (voice-over): Anticorruption activist Daria Kaleniuk has spent years investigating many of the figures on the Ukrainian side and was disturbed to see the White House dealing with such dubious characters.

DARIA KALENIUK, ANTICORRUPTION ACTIVIST, UKRAINE: We don't see, more or less, the clearer picture of what was happening during the last half a year. It is outrageous.

WARD (on camera): Outrageous?

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

WARD (voice-over): On the streets of Kiev, few Ukrainians have such strong opinions about America's political turmoil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you care about the story?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, too -- yes. We don't care so much about the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problems of the President of the United States is not about us. We have our own problems.

WARD (voice-over): Chief among them for President Zelensky, the war against Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. Ukraine depends heavily on U.S. military aid in that fight.


Kaleniuk says that those who understand what is at stake here are uneasy.

WARD (on camera): Do you think people are angry?

KALENIUK: Absolutely. People are angry and scared and I will explain why people are scared.

It is an existential need for Ukraine to have the support of the United States. We want to live under the Western values and the values of world democracy. But in order to resist the pressure from Russia we need to rely on the support of all of our key partners.

WARD (voice-over): But as America's political crisis deepens, Russia's hand is only strengthened, leaving Ukraine with few good options but to try to ride out the storm.


WARD: And, of course, people here who are following this closely also understand that that war in the eastern part of the country -- more than 13,000 people dead, five years of fighting -- that is also directly linked to this political scandal in the U.S. -- U.S. military aid.

Nearly $400 million that was withheld for months. If that had gone on much longer it could have had a devastating impact for the Ukrainians in that conflict. And that is exactly why people here are so nervous about speaking out about this topic -- Alisyn, John.

BERMAN: It's a life and death issue for so many Ukrainians.

Clarissa Ward, terrific report. Thank you so much for being there for us.

It's time for "CNN Business Now." The French company that owns Louis Vuitton --

CAMEROTA: Well done.

BERMAN: -- is making a takeover bid for the iconic U.S. jeweler Tiffany, offering more than $14 billion, which gets you a pair of earrings and a blue box.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us with the breaking details.


BERMAN: Louis Vuitton.

ROMANS: Very well done.

All right, LVMH, in a statement this morning, confirming it is in preliminary discussions with Tiffany offering to buy Tiffany for $120 a share in an all-cash deal. That would value Tiffany at close to $14.5 billion.

"The Wall Street Journal" says the deal would help LVMH increase its exposure to jewelry. That is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the luxury market.

LVMH says there is no guarantee they will reach this deal. Tiffany is said to be evaluating the offer.

This potential deal news starting a very busy week for investors, you guys. There is trade optimism for now, at least, over this phase one of a trade deal with China. Markets are currently sitting very close to all-time highs.

And we'll get a good sense of just how well the U.S. economy is holding up as growth slows around the world. On Wednesday, the Fed is expected to cut interest rates for a third meeting in a row. We'll get a first read of third-quarter GDP numbers that has the forecast there around 1 1/2 percent. On Friday, the Labor Department will release jobs data for October.

All of this against the backdrop of a ballooning federal budget deficit. The Treasury Department, on Friday, announced a widening deficit of almost $1 trillion.

Also this week, corporate earnings from giants such as General Motors, Apple, and Facebook -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, it sounds like a busy week.

BERMAN: Louis Vuitton.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.


BERMAN: Louis Vuitton.

CAMEROTA: OK, Pepe Le Pew.

Meanwhile, there is breaking news to get to. New wildfires are exploding at this very hour. They're threatening homes and a major freeway in Los Angeles. So we're live with this extreme situation across the state.



CAMEROTA: Joe Biden telling CBS "60 MINUTES" that he considered himself the Democratic front-runner for 2020. This, despite recent polling showing the former V.P. facing a tightening race and fundraising challenges.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, HOST, "60 MINUTES": Do you still consider yourself the front-runner?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know I'm the front-runner. Find me a national poll with a notable -- a couple exceptions. But look, this is a marathon.

O'DONNELL: You can look at the last campaign finance filing -- we looked at that. You have less than $9 million in the bank. Bernie Sanders has nearly $34 million in the bank. Sen. Warren has $26 million.

How do you compete against that?

BIDEN: I just flat beat them.


CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now is CNN political commentator Andrew Gillum. He's the former mayor of Tallahassee and former Democratic candidate for governor in Florida. Mayor Gillum, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: That was an interesting answer to whether or not he's the front-runner because, of course, national polls aren't exactly what elects the president --

GILLUM: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- it's states.


CAMEROTA: And in Iowa, and in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina, the polls are different than what he's citing in terms of national polls. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Elizabeth Warren is leading in some of these polls.


CAMEROTA: So what do you make of his response?

GILLUM: Well, I mean -- so first of all, I think it is undeniable that Joe Biden has continued to have strength in the polls nationally and, of course, he remains in contention in some of these early states.

The problem is is that it's going to be really, really important that Joe Biden have a great showing in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

I think the idea that we can lose Iowa and New Hampshire, and maybe Nevada, and then South Carolina's going to be the rescue, especially when so much about South Carolina is based on the fact that people believe that he's the winner. Well, if you lose four -- three consecutive contests are you really the winner?

Now, I'm not suggesting that he's on the way to losing those states, but I'm simply saying that's something that they're going to have to be watchful for.


But I don't blame -- I don't blame Joe Biden for leaning into the fact that he's got some good poll numbers out there and he wants people to know that he's a force to be reckoned with.

BERMAN: He kind of has to. I mean, he has to maintain the mantle of front-runner because that's the basis in which he's running.

And I will note I think you're right. I think part of the calendar depends on if one candidate wins the other three states or if it's split between the other -- you know, a number of candidates.


BERMAN: What do you think Joe Biden owes his resilience in the polls to because you keep bringing that up?

GILLUM: Well, I mean, first of all, I don't -- I don't know that it is a secret but people believe that Joe Biden is the best of the Democratic field to go against Donald Trump and we've seen poll numbers that sort of back that up. What I think we have to be really, really aware of is that these things really do flip on a dime. This race is wide open. And this spirit of inevitability or that he's the candidate that can win is only there until it's no longer there.

And that's why these showings -- strong showings in these early three states, as well as South Carolina, is going to be really important for the Biden campaign.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you what happened over the weekend with Sen. Kamala Harris and President Trump, and it caused a lot of controversy.

So, Benedict College -- there were -- was hosting this forum. She was scheduled to go. And then, Benedict College or at least one arm, was presenting President Trump also with some sort of social justice award -- the Bipartisan Justice Award --


CAMEROTA: -- which Sen. Harris took objection to. She doesn't think that he deserves a justice award.

She then pulled out and then they recalibrated and she was able to show up.

But in the -- during all of this, our Van Jones, who is one of the people who tweeted about this -- and he said, "I will be there, too, @CoryBooker. Running away from a conversation has never solved anything. Some people will abandon a microphone because they don't like the person who touched it last. Others are smart enough to grab that microphone and make sure they get the last word."

So who is right here, Van Jones or Sen. Kamala Harris?

GILLUM: Listen, Van is a colleague and I love Van, but I will tell you I am with Sen. Harris on this one. And, quite frankly, the fact that it bore out -- her protest ended up getting this cosponsor removed from the sponsorship of that conference.

By the way, I'm told that Benedict College didn't even know that this presentation was being made. This was done a sponsoring organization.

And I've got to make this point. Senator Harris is a graduate of Howard University, a very rich tradition of the historically black college experience. I'm a graduate of Florida A&M University. These HBCU's are the academic conscience of our communities of color.

And so, in the very same week that the president ends up using a word -- like he's going through a lynching -- with no respect for the history -- the historical facts around lynching and the very deep- seated pain that it causes so many communities of color -- the same week he gets presented at an HBCU -- one of our leading HBCUs -- an award?

The good news is that they were able to get the course corrected; the sponsor was removed. Senator Harris then attended. And I have to tell you, the facts -- they're out. She -- her protest led to the changing of the rules.

BERMAN: So you think she won this at the end?

GILLUM: Well, I think the HBCUs won it at the end.

You do know -- I mean, how do you invite the President of the United States and only 10 students from Benedict College are in the audience? There are no questions that he took -- no questions that were posed to him.

For the candidates that attended on Saturday, they had to sit and take questions from the students. They had to exchange with them.

That's what the academy is about. This is not about a press release, this is not about using these individuals for photographs and then using those in campaigns. This is about engaging in a serious and honest conversation with the communities who have, quite frankly, been in the crosshairs of this administration.

CAMEROTA: Now, on the flip side, of course, the president did sign into law the act that Van Jones worked on --


CAMEROTA: -- and that was the First Step Act. And that was to reduce the sentences --


CAMEROTA: -- for many African-Americans who were charged with drug crimes.

GILLUM: Yes. So, the Republicans obstructed, under the Obama administration, very similar policies -- a stronger criminal justice reform platform. They wouldn't let it go through.

And so, to honor this president for the repackaging of Barack Obama's criminal justice agenda, good -- good step in the right direction. I'm not going to overplay what this administration has done for criminal justice reform, especially when it sows seeds of hate against communities of color every single day.

CAMEROTA: Mayor Gillum, great to have you on.

GILLUM: Good to be with you all.

CAMEROTA: Thanks very much for sharing your perspective on all of this.

And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, breaking news on the raging wildfires in California. NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, October 28th. It's 8:00 in the East.

And we begin with breaking news. Wildfires raging out of control in Southern California. Look at these aerials right now.