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Car Bomb Explosion Kills at Least 13 in Northern Syria; Trump Met with Loud Boos, Some Cheers at UFC Fight in New York; White House Braces for More Damaging Testimony; World's Most Profitable Company Goes Public; Airbnb Bans "Party Houses" after Five Die in Halloween Shooting; Rainforest Protector Is Ambushed and Killed. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2019 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome everyone. Coming to you live from Studio 7 at CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Michael Holmes.

Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, more than a dozen dead in a car bomb attack in the so-called safe zone in Syria. We'll have the latest for you.

Also, "We have asked and we have received." After suing the U.S. Justice Department, CNN has obtained access to Robert Mueller's notes on the investigation and they are revealing.

Also another dizzying week in the impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president.

What did you miss?

What does it all mean?

We'll have the answers to those questions coming up next.


HOLMES: But we begin in northern Syria, where a town along the border with Turkey has been devastated by a deadly explosion. Officials say a car bomb blasted through a busy market on Saturday, killing at least 13 people, wounding many others. The explosion damaged several buildings and left piles of rubble in its wake.

This happened in one of the towns that Turkey took control of in its offensive into Syria last month, the operation aimed to clear Kurdish forces from the border and resettle Syrian Arab refugees into a so- called safe zone in the area. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is Istanbul with more on the deadly attack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to the Turkish defense ministry and officials on the ground, they say that this was a car bomb that struck a busy marketplace in Tal Abyad on Saturday afternoon.

Now the town is a town on the border with Turkey. It's a Sunni Arab majority town that was previously under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces. So far there's been no claim of responsibility for this attack. But both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds are trading blame here.

The Turkish defense ministry saying that this was an attack that targeted civilians just as life was returning to normal in the town. And they accused Kurdish fighters of being behind this attack, the separatist group ,the PKK, and also the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

The Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces, they responded by denying any responsibility for this attack. They say they had nothing to do with this and they say it is Turkey's responsibility to protect civilians in that designated safe zone, in these areas that they have captured.

And they say that it is Turkey that is behind this attack and that it aims to distort the image of the Syrian Kurdish fighters with these accusations. Now we cannot verify these claims from both sides but, as is always the case in Syria, it is the civilians who continue to pay the heaviest price.

According to eyewitnesses on the ground, this was a scene of absolute carnage, of devastation. They say that there was no military site in the area, that this was a busy marketplace on a Saturday afternoon, where people were out and about.

They describe how charred bodies were pulled from the scene and people were able to still list, recognize and remember those who were killed in this attack, people mentioning the pharmacist, the local shopkeeper and his children and a woman who was out shopping with her children.

People there are absolutely terrified. They're not used to this kind of violence in this part of Syria. They're concerned that this could be the beginning of more bloodshed -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


HOLMES: And ISIS is now claiming responsibility for a second and a third attack since naming its new leader.

The terror group says it clashed with soldiers at a military base on Friday in northeastern Mali. The Malian government says at least 53 soldiers and one civilian were killed. Rescue workers found the bodies along with 10 survivors.

In a separate attack, the terror group also claimed responsibility for killing a French soldier in Mali after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb. On Saturday night, the U.S. president Donald Trump left behind his political troubles in Washington to attend a mixed martial arts event in New York.


HOLMES: Now his arrival at Madison Square Garden provoked a loud and, let's call it, boisterous response.


HOLMES (voice-over): One reporter there on the spot, the pool reporter for the White House press pool, said that it was mainly booing, although Trump supporters say there was cheering as well.

Mr. Trump no stranger to this kind of entertainment. One of his advisers, in fact, said the president likes a good fistfight, presumably watching one, not taking part. As for the impeachment inquiry back in Washington, Mr. Trump departed Washington, saying, quote, "There's something wrong with the U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi."



TRUMP: I don't know. You'll have to speak to the lawyers. Nancy Pelosi has become unhinged. There's something wrong with her. If you look at what's happening, if you look at the poll numbers, in the swing states, they're saying don't do this. don't do it. I'm fine with it. We did absolutely nothing wrong.


HOLMES: The president has been pushing a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine and not Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party computers ahead of the 2016 election. Well, now we know where he might have gotten such an idea.

Paul Manafort, who had ties to Ukraine, a lot of ties, was making that claim when he was chairman of the Trump campaign. It's just one of the fascinating details uncovered by then special counsel Robert Mueller but left out of his final report.

Well, CNN has now obtained 274 pages of interview notes, emails and other documents collected by Mueller's team. And there is much, much more to come. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz picks it up from here.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: The newly obtained FBI interview reports show how president Donald Trump and other top 2016 Trump officials repeatedly discussed how to get access to the stolen WikiLeaks emails, to interviews with former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, details of discussions as the Trump campaign pursued damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Now some of what these discussions show that Rick Gates had with FBI

agents, he recalled a time on the campaign aircraft when Trump said, "Get the emails."

The interviews also show that Michael Flynn claimed that he could somehow use his intelligence sources to obtain some of these emails.

And then Rick Gates describes essentially in these interviews with investigators how several close advisers to Donald Trump and Trump's family members and Trump himself considered how to get the stolen documents and even pushed for this effort.

Donald Trump Jr., we're told, in family meetings, according to these documents, would have discussions about this. Michael Flynn was present for it. Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and other people attached to the campaign, like Corey Lewandowski and the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was part of the campaign at the time, all expressed interest in obtaining the emails as well.

So these 300 pages of documents that we obtained is just the start of more to come. CNN has sued for more of this and we're told that, every month, we're expected to get more as the Justice Department has been ordered to release these documents on a monthly basis.

And another important point here is that the documents also show how the Trump campaign -- the chairman, Paul Manafort at the time, erroneously raised the possibility that the Ukrainians, not the Russians, might have been the ones responsible for hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

This is what Mueller was told by Rick Gates when he was interviewed. These documents are just the beginning of yet what more is going to come. Within the next few months, we expect more documents like this to be released by the Department of Justice -- Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Now the documents that CNN has obtained from the Mueller investigation lend context to the Ukraine investigation now underway in Congress. It's too soon to say if Mr. Trump will be impeached, of course, but the risk of that happening does seem to grow daily. We get more now from CNN's Alex Marquardt.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A roller coaster of a week, one that took the impeachment inquiry to new heights and set the stage for a historic showdown on Capitol Hill.

Democrats and Republicans in lockstep with their parties, as the deeply divided House of Representatives voted on Thursday to make the inquiry official.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Two Democrats joined the Republican minority in voting against it, which the GOP claimed as a bipartisan victory.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: The only bipartisan vote on that floor was against.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): While the Democrats, who won the vote, struck a somber tone and argued they had no choice.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is a solemn day in the history of our country, when the president's misconduct has compelled us to continue to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): That will mean open televised hearings and transcripts from the dozen closed-door testimonies released to the public beginning as early as next week. One person ready to testify in public is the most senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Ambassador Bill Taylor.

Taylor has already told lawmakers that he understood that U.S. military aid for Ukraine was tied to so-called investigations. He was told that, in order for the new Ukrainian president to get a meeting with President Trump, President Zelensky would have to go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference.

That was confirmed on Thursday by top National Security Council official Tim Morrison, who was on the infamous July 25th call between the two presidents, in which Trump asked for a favor.

Morrison was told by his boss to stay away from the shadowy parallel Ukraine policy led in part by Rudy Giuliani.

However, Morrison told lawmakers that nothing was wrong with the call, saying, "I want to be clear. I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed."

The White House is already looking ahead, saying impeachment by the House is all but a foregone conclusion.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This has been set up to make the -- to impeach the president. So that's something that we're expecting but we can always hope that the Dems will again come to their senses.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Democrats are more fired up than ever after a parade of longtime apolitical career officials have given damning testimony.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top White House expert on Ukraine, who was on the July call, saying this week he was so convinced that the president was blocking $400 million in aid for political reasons, that Vindman went to the National Security Council's lawyers twice.

The top lawyer, John Eisenberg, who has been called in to testify, quickly ordered the transcript of the call be placed in a highly classified server, restricting access to it. And Vindman, according to a source, testified he was told not to talk to anyone about the call.

It was Colonel Vindman, along with Ambassador Taylor, who contradicted one of the president's main envoys to Ukraine, Gordon Sondland, who was appointed by Trump to be ambassador to the European Union. Sondland has denied pushing investigations into Joe Biden and his son in a July 10th meeting with Ukrainian officials.

But Vindman and his then boss, Fiona Hill, both understood that he was. Vindman said Hill even shut down a meeting over it.

Witness after witness compounding the evidence that the president had linked aid for Ukraine to investigations into his political opponents. The president declaring the Democratic-led investigation is "the greatest witch hunt in American history," but its leader, Adam Schiff, is seemingly undeterred.

SCHIFF: We're going to finish our investigation and the public testimony and then make a decision on whether the remedy of impeachment is warranted.

MARQUARDT: Even as much of this impeachment inquiry is set to go public next week, testimony behind closed doors will continue. The three committees that are driving the process are looking to hear from that NSC lawyer, John Eisenberg, as well as his colleague, Michael Ellis.

The big fish they want to get is former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he will only appear if he is subpoenaed. Bolton compared that rogue Ukraine policy to a "drug deal" -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Michael Gerhardt joins me now. He's a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Thanks so much. Appreciate your time. I'm just curious. When it comes to the impeachment process, how does that House vote change things?

I mean it's what the Republicans wanted, open hearings, but they all voted against it.

MICHAEL GERHARDT, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA/CHAPEL HILL: The House majority approved procedures which were pretty much what the Republicans had wanted. Perhaps the majority did that to call the Republicans' bluff.

But in any event, we have formally approved the impeachment inquiry and procedures for that inquiry. They include a lot of protections for the president and they lay out a roadmap for the future of the investigations.

HOLMES: Do you expect the stalling tactics by the administration to continue and will they be successful?

I mean they're already trying to stop administration and former administration figures from testifying, refusing to hand over documents, challenging just about everything in court, running down the clock, if you like.

Do you expect that to continue?

And would those legal challenges be successful in delaying, if anything?


GERHARDT: The delaying tactics will continue. The president and Republicans in Congress and perhaps elsewhere will do whatever they can to stall and perhaps we could even use the word obstruct any inquiries made by the House.

So the House has to work around those. I think that it's not entirely clear whether the efforts in court by the Trump administration and by the president in particular will succeed. I think success is defined partly in terms of delay and they'll get the delay in court. But they probably won't get much delay in the House.

HOLMES: Right. OK. Gotcha. There are these new documents from the Mueller investigation that were obtained by CNN and BuzzFeed. I'm curious how damaging you think they are. I mean it sort of shows Trump very well knew that these emails were illegally obtained by tried to get them anyway and tried hard according to these documents.

GERHARDT: Well, I think they are damaging but they're damaging only to the extent that people pay attention to them. That is, it's not entirely clear his constituency or core constituency cares.

But I think for most of the American people, this will be viewed as damaging or more damaging information as you point out. The president knew that it was illegal or at that time the candidate knew it was illegal. It didn't matter and he's kind of continued the same pattern after becoming president.

The law doesn't seem to matter very much. It's the bottom line for him and he breaks laws, breaks norms pretty much on an ongoing basis. And these hearings are, in part, designed to determine whether there will be consequences for that.

HOLMES: In the overall, when you look at how things stand now, what do you think has been most damaging for this administration, the president in particular?

I mean you've seen the Republican narrative shift from, you know, no quid pro quo to almost sort of now adopting a, well, he might have done it but it's not impeachable.

What's your view on that?

GERHARDT: Well, I interpret the defense as just basically moving the goalposts, constantly changing what has to be shown in order to demonstrate some damage. And, therefore, I don't expect any new revelations to make much difference to the defense. They'll just keep shifting their defense and not acknowledging the truth and veracity of what these facts might demonstrate.

The investigation, therefore, will just keep going on and ultimately the judgment will be made in the House whether or not to impeach. If it goes to the Senate, they'll make their judgment. And all along, the American people will have to make their judgment as well.

HOLMES: Professor, Michael Gerhardt, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.


HOLMES: All right. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, Saudi Arabia's crown jewel and the world's most profitable company is looking at a stock market debut. We'll have details coming up on Saudi Aramco's long awaited initial public offering. We'll be right back.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

Saudi Aramco, the world's most profitable company, is moving ahead with its initial public offering. State regulators approved the oil giant's IPO request a few hours ago.

Analysts expect Aramco to list on the Saudi stock market, a part of the kingdom's plan to diversify its company. Bankers valuing the company at about $1.5 trillion. For more, I'm joined by CNN Business emerging markets editor John Defterios.

It's a big deal for Saudi Arabia and, in particular, MBS, right?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It certainly is, Michael. This is the crown jewel, if you will, of the kingdom. I think it's extraordinary that they're rolling out this IPO less than two months after the major attacks against their facilities, which knocked out half of their production, and they're back up to full production already.

This is a behemoth. It produces one out of every 10 barrels of crude every single day and has combined reserves that are bigger than the top five international oil companies, like ExxonMobil or BP and Shell, and incredibly efficient. It produces oil, Michael, onshore and offshore for about $2 to $4 a barrel.

With oil at $60 a barrel, you can see the profit. And in fact their profits in 2018 were nearly two times that of Apple. Now some subtlety here: I think for ego purposes and to fly the flag for the kingdom, they'd like to see an IPO of above $25 billion. That was the record for Alibaba in September 2014.

The crown prince originally had a target of $2 trillion for this IPO, the market suggesting $1.5 trillion, so I think they would like the target above that. I'm sure you remember the debate, Michael. They were talking about a New York listing, a London listing, perhaps something in Asia.

So far in the first 20 minutes of this press conference with the chairman of Aramco and the CEO of Aramco, they're just talking about Riyadh in the month of September -- or, rather, December.

HOLMES: Right. OK. You know, the Saudis would probably like it to go away but the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi isn't being forgotten by a lot of people around the world.

In light of that brutal murder, does that play into why this listing is so important?

DEFTERIOS: I think it plays into the listing and I would also flag, Michael, the arrest of some 400-plus Saudi businessmen that were in the Ritz-Carlton in 2017. And in fact we saw the listing, expected to happen in 2018, and those two factors indeed held back the listing until the end of 2019.

Now this is not a favorable market for listings right now because oil and gas companies have the threat of climate change and also the transition to renewables. But once the crown prince said back in 2016, it's so vital to our Vision 2030 plan to raise money, diversify out of oil, there is no way he could pull it.

So they have ambitious plans to get that valuation I was talking about. They'd like to be the biggest IPO ever. And they'd like to turn the page on Jamal Khashoggi and the arrest of those Saudi businessmen in late 2017, no doubt about it, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Khashoggi's supporters won't let them turn the page, I'm sure. But it's going to be interesting to see. Great to have you there, explaining these things to people like me. John Defterios, thank you so much.

All right. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, firefighters making headway in California after long, exhausting days fighting more than a dozen wildfires all across the state. Things are starting to take a turn for the better. Some good news perhaps. We'll have that for you when we come back.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Welcome back. Airbnb is banning so-called party houses in

the wake of a deadly shooting in the U.S. The CEO of the online home rental site announced the change on Twitter.

Five people were shot and killed at a Halloween party in California on Thursday. It was at an Airbnb house whose owner had specifically banned parties. When the party was advertised on social media, more than 100 people showed up. The company says it will set up a response team to deal with unauthorized parties at rentals.

An indigenous leader who helped protect the rain forest in Brazil has been killed. Authorities say loggers ambushed and shot halo Paulo Guajajara along with another member of the Forest Guardians on Friday when they left their village to fetch water. His tribesman was wounded but able to escape.

Brazil's justice minister calling the attack "a terrible crime." National police saying they're investigating.

Now in California, 12 of the wildfires that are still considered active are more than 70 percent contained, some of them all but extinguished. Meanwhile, the Maria fire we've been reporting on for several days now is still ongoing. It's charred thousands of hectares since it broke out on Thursday. Several thousand people forced to flee their homes.

And finally, astronauts on the International Space Station will soon be able to bake cookies. That will be fun. NASA is sending them a new space oven on this resupply launch taking off from Virginia. The capsule set to dock with the space station on Monday.

Now what we're talking about is a toaster oven that will test how baking works in low gravity. The goal, NASA says, will be able to make longer duration space flights more comfortable for future astronauts. And the fragrance will make it easier to sell it when it's put up for sale because that's what happens.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Natalie Allen will be back with more news at the top of the hour. Stay tuned. "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGE MAKERS" up next.