Return to Transcripts main page
Key Witness Testify This Week In Impeachment Inquiry; New York Times Reports Violent Video Depicting Fake Trump Shooting, Stabbing Media And Critics Shown At His Miami Resort; Mnuchin Says, Turkey Sanctions Ready To Go. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired October 14, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right, good Monday morning, top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has the day off.
And right now, the president's former top Russia adviser is testifying on Capitol Hill. You see her there moments ago. Fiona Hill is speaking to lawmakers as they return from a two-week recess and pick up their pace on the impeachment inquiry.
Later this week, E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland will be interview under subpoena, returning after he backed out of that voluntary testimony about a week ago.
This time, according to The Washington Post, Sondland is expected to testify that there was a quid pro quo in the president's dealings with Ukraine but he believes it was not a corrupt one.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.
Good morning, Manu. Let's begin with all of this. I mean, it's a very consequential week of witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. And Fiona Hill did just arrive here moments ago. They're expected to be asking her about all the work that went up to that phone call in July with President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, what she knew about that and whether she had concerns or not about what happened. Ultimately, she has since left the administration.
And we've also learned through her attorney that she has been subpoenaed to come here and testify. The Republicans moments ago just complained saying that she had voluntarily agreed to come but the Democrats issuing the subpoena apparently trying to make sure that she answers all of their questions.
Now, this comes as a number of subpoenas have been sent to a variety of witnesses and for a variety of documents. There is a big deadline coming up this week, tomorrow for Rudy Giuliani to turn over documents related to what he knew about or his efforts to try to urge the Ukrainian government to pressure Joe Biden. There was also document deadlines for the Pentagon, for the White House office and Management and Budget, and other agencies to turn over information, something that the White House has indicated they certainly will not do.
And then, yes, you mentioned that big testimony coming up on Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, questions about what he may have known about the hold on military aid, what his discussions were with the president. We expect to hear more about that also later this week.
So, certainly, Poppy, Democrats and Republicans coming back after their two-week recess, a big decision will have to be made about how quickly they want to move on this investigation, when they decide to move on articles of impeachment for this president, assuming that's the direction they ultimately take, how quickly they plan to do this, what more witnesses they want to bring forward.
And certainly this week, pivotal as they hear some key witnesses about the preparations for that phone call, what happened on that phone call and the efforts allegedly to cover it up.
HARLOW: And, Manu, just to your point about that before you go, the chair of the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, over the weekend saying that he doesn't necessarily think it's necessary for the whistleblower to testify, citing security concerns, et cetera.
RAJU: Yes. That was an interesting comment from him. We've heard that there's been some challenges bringing in the whistleblower over concerns of this individual's security. They talked about extreme measures to protect his or her identity. There were concerns of potential leaks.
Republicans this morning are criticizing that decision or that comment that they may not bring in the whistleblower but Schiff saying essentially they may not need to hear from this person because they've talked to everybody around that, a lot people around the call. So we'll see what they ultimately decide. But, yes, that will be a significant decision not to bring forward the whistleblower and open up the Democrats to Republican criticism, Poppy.
HARLOW: For sure. Okay. Manu, thank you very much for that reporting.
Also this morning, the White House is reacting to incredibly disturbing, violent video that shows a fake President Trump shooting and stabbing media organizations as well as his political opponents and critics. The New York Times reports this video was played last week at the President's Miami resort during a conference for Trump supporters.
Our Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter joins me now.
Look, the White House is responding to this yet. Had we heard from president directly? BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: No, not directly. But I had asked White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham and if she had a comment overnight. And she says this in a tweet now. She's saying regarding the video that I'm about to describe. The president has not yet seen it. He will see it shortly. But based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video.
Of course, that flies in the face of years of violent rhetoric from the president, anti-media memes and messages he has promoted constantly.
But let's talk about what is actually in this video. We are clearly not going to be showing it here on CNN. it is an abhorrent video showing gruesome violence.
It's a parody of a movie from 2014 called The Kingsman and it was created by a man who promotes President Trump content on social media.
In fact, this video had been up on YouTube for more than a year and then it made its way to Doral, one of the president's golf clubs at this pro-Trump conference last week.
The New York Times describes parts of the video this way, saying, Mr. Trump attacks a range of his critics in this video. He strikes at John McCain in the back of the neck, he hits Rosie O'Donnell in the face and then stabs her in the head, he strikes Maxine Waters, he lights the head of Bernie Sanders on fire. The clip goes on for several minutes and ends with Trump putting the stake in a head of a person of CNN logo for a face. Trump then stands on the altar of this church admiring his rampage and smiles.
Now, some Trump supporters might say this is funny, it's just supposed to be a joke. There is nothing funny about the rising threats to newsrooms in this country, nothing funny about the mass shooting scourge in this country. And I think this speaks to is, unfortunately, the venomous climate in this country that has partly been created by President Trump. His daily and weekly attacks against the media and other lawmakers do cause some of his supporters to take it very seriously.
HARLOW: Brian Stelter, thank you for joining us on that unfortunate, that it was a such horrific news.
Let's talk about this and a lot more. CNN Political Commentator Mia Love is with me, of course, former Republican congresswoman from Utah, and CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon. Good morning, one and all.
Mia, what should the president say this morning about this video?
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he should emphatically condemn it. If this is not what he wants to be associated with, I think it's important that he says that this is -- this has nothing to do with us and I strongly condemn it. You would think watching this video that this person was actually working for the president's opponent. I mean, it's that horrific. Just to see the violence, to see what is happening to people and, you know, to some people making jokes about it and saying that they're supporters of the president. I would actually, if I were the president, move away, as far away from this as possible and strongly condemn it and follow the statement that CNN put out, saying, that if you don't condemn it, then you're in essence for it.
HARLOW: Yes. John?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I want to pick up on something Mia just said because -- let's offer a reality check here. Mia said that this is a video something you'd expect the president's opponents to come up with showing the president of the United States, doctored video, conducting a church shooting, a mass shooting in a church against his political opponents.
Instead we see that this is something that his supporters created. Stop and take that in for a second. His supporters celebrating the idea under the guise of parody and satire the president would commit mass shooting in a church. That says a lot about our current environment. That says a lot about how we have deviancy down that those folks see it as something to they want to celebrate rather than, in anything, resembling a sane political universe, something opponents would do to create a slur about the incumbent in the Oval Office.
HARLOW: It is tragic and, of course, the White House condemning it, of course, as soon as we hear from the president in his words, we'll bring them to you here because they hold so much weight.
Let me turn to the topic of testimony this week. Mia, you've got Fiona Hill, the former top adviser on all things Russia to this administration testifying before Congress right now. On Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador and a strong supporter of the president, big donor to the president, will testify under oath because of this subpoena on Thursday. And The Washington Post reports a number of things about what he will say someone familiar with his prepared testimony.
And one of them, Mia, is that he is going to say that in that text conversation with Bill Taylor, the diplomat in Ukraine, you know, who said it's crazy to trade defense, you know, funding for, you know, political favors, et cetera, that he spoke with the president in those five hours and the president directly told him to relay that there was no quid pro quo. If that is what he testifies, how significant is that?
LOVE: Well, I think that if there is evidence of a quid pro quo, especially when you're withholding funds in order to get information on a political opponent, that will not bode well. I don't think that it would -- I think it would actually put into question, even some Republicans saying, okay, we've crossed the line here. So it's going to be really interesting to see exactly what he says. I understand that when you go into these hearings, being a former member of Congress, when you go into these hearings, both sides have pretty much made up their mind. And so what you are going to get a lot of is how am I going to get these words or the words that have been used in these testimonies to fit my narrative?
And so you're going to see a lot of that as we we have seen before.
HARLOW: Except -- I hear you, Mia. Except the difference, John Avlon, is that they are not going to be able to paint this guy as a hater of the president, right? I mean, he put million dollars in donations to his inaugural fund, a defender of the president who, according to The Washington Post, is going to say two critical things.
One, quote, it was a quid pro quo but not a corrupt one. And two, according to what The Post was learned when asked if he had knowledge of whether, John, the president was telling him the truth or not, he's going to say, it's only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth.
AVLON: Which is an extraordinary distinction. I'm going to testify as the president said it, not necessarily the president told the truth, because it's becoming sort of baseline that the president lies.
I think the point Mia made is important, right? One, both sides are coming into this with their own talking points, trying to fit facts in their narrative. But it is difficult, as you point out, to cast this ambassador as a deep state operative or a de facto Democrat, because he's not.
HARLOW: He's never been a diplomat before. He was a hotelier from Kiev.
AVLON: Yes. Look, this is a Trump partisan who got -- who raised money for the campaign and got a plum ambassadorial job and now finds himself in the middle of an impeachment inquiry, potentially.
What's so significant though is people should go into something this serious, this constitutional of a standard, without their minds made up. They should be finding ways to reason together, even a small sliver (ph). But that kind of flexibility and open-mindedness of Congress has become totally MIA. And that's one of the things that polarizes this important paralysis (ph).
HARLOW: Okay. Thank you both, Mia Love, John Avlon, good to have you here. We'll see how this all shakes out this week. A lot ahead, for sure.
Still to come for us, the White House says sanctions on Turkey are ready to go but will the president follow through with them? We'll discuss with former vice presidential candidate, Senator Tim Kaine, who has been calling for that, next.
Plus, Elizabeth Warren and Facebook at odds clearly over political ads posted on Facebook. What she says and how Facebook is firing back.
And one person still missing after a deadly construction collapse at the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. Search efforts this morning underway, difficult and dangerous. We'll take you to the ground with the latest.
HARLOW: This morning, as Turkey ramps up its attacks against the Kurds in Northern Syria, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says if and when the president gives him the green light, the U.S. is ready with sanctions on Turkey. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The national security team met yesterday in the situation room. We'll be meeting again this morning. I think you know this is an evolving situation. We're monitoring the situation carefully.
As I said, the sanctions are ready to go. We'll be updating the president this morning and when he makes the decision, we'll act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Okay. Joining me now to talk about this is in depth is Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. He, of course, sits on the Armed Services and the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thank you very much for being with me. It's very clear where you stand. I mean, you have called the president's to withdraw those troops from Northern Syria a betrayal to the Kurds.
SEN. TIME KAINE (D-VA): It's a betrayal.
HARLOW: On top of it, this weekend, we learned that the SDF has allied itself now with the Assad regime, of course, backed by the Russians, out of desperation to fight back Turkey in the region. What's your response?
KAINE: Well, it's a betrayal of the Kurds and there's three big consequences. One, when you betray the Kurdish, who were our best allies in fighting ISIS, everybody says ISIS is now likely to come back stronger, they will regain strength after we spent tremendous energy with the Kurds to defeat them. We already see ISIS supporters escaping from jails and prisons in the chaos that's occurring after the U.S. pulls out.
Second, our on military is very demoralized. The U.S. military, they don't want to leave people behind. And when somebody is your ally in a battle against ISIS, for example, and then the U.S. pulls out and leaves them open to be slaughtered by the Turks. Our military is upset. And then, finally, the consequence I'm worried about is -- we need allies. And the way you get allies is being a nation that they can count on. If we're together, we'll stick with you.
People are now looking at the United States as they can't count on us and that means it will be harder to get allies to go together with us to battle ISIS or other bad actors in the future.
HARLOW: In fact, The New York Times is reporting this morning there have been two ISIS attacks in Syria since Wednesday, since the Turkish incursion, one right near an international military base.
Listen to Defense Secretary Mark Esper addressing some of these questions yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, we find ourselves is we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation. So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from Northern Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Well, you know, the question, of course, becomes how did they get into that untenable situation? That is the -- but that aside, is that a prudent move at this point?
KAINE: No, no. The reason that -- the reason that these armies are approaching with U.S. stuck in the middle is because the U.S. withdrawing. Turkey was not going to invade Northern Syria to go after the Kurds with U.S. troops there. And so our troops' presence not only had defeated ISIS but was maintaining some stability in a very unstable part of the world.
But with the U.S. announcing it's withdrawing, now you're having Turkey move in, you're having Russia and the Assad regime in Syria pushing back. So you're going to likely see a full-scale war on the border, which is bad for everybody because the U.S. stabilizing force is gone.
HARLOW: So, Senator, this is in area where you couldn't agree more, frankly, with Senator Lindsey Graham. And there's not a whole lot that you guys agree on but on this, you're on the same page.
So he said that these conditional sanctions that Mnuchin keeps talking about, right, like we're ready to go right now, but they haven't moved, he says conditional sanctions merely embolden President Erdogan. Is he right? And if so, are you supportive of the legislation that he and Senator Chris Van Hollen have put forth with some very severe sanctions on Turkey and Erdogan and some of the leadership in Turkey? KAINE: I haven't read the text but certainly the way Lindsey and Chris Van Hollen have talked about, I would be very supportive of it. But let's be clear about this. What is happening is what President Trump knew would happen, what his military leadership told him would happen. We don't have any guarantee that the president would even sign these sanctions. And the sanctions are not going to stop chaos. They're not going to stop the chaos left by the U.S. withdrawing.
HARLOW: Just a point of fact that the President just tweeted about an hour ago very severe sanctions coming on Turkey. So it sounds as though he's supportive of them. We'll wait to see for action. And what is your --
KAINE: He knew that Turkey would invade across the border when he pulled the U.S. out. Everybody told him that would happen.
HARLOW: The response from Secretary Esper yesterday, he was on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, when Chris Wallace asked him about that was essentially the phone call last week between Erdogan and President Trump made the administration believe that Turkey was coming anyway.
Now, we have seen for years Turkey has wanted to and has not when U.S. troops have been there, but that is their read.
KAINE: I think the likelihood of Turkey invading Northern Syria with U.S. troops there was zero. And with the U.S. pulling out now, they feel like they have a green light and they're doing exactly what everybody told President Trump that they would do.
HARLOW: Let's move to domestic politics, if we could, in the few minutes we have remaining with you, Senator.
The House Intelligence chairman, Adam Schiff, who is leading this impeachment inquiry, signaled for the first time over the weekend that the whistleblower who wrote that complaint may not appear. I want you to listen so his argument that it may not be necessary to hear from him or her. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Given that we already have the call record, we don't need the whistleblower who wasn't on the call to tell us what took place during the call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Do you agree or does that just give fodder to Republicans who will argue lack of transparency?
KAINE: Well, it might. The Republicans are going to make every argument they can think of against this. At the end of the day, look, the House is going to complete an investigation. And if they decide that the evidence warrants articles of impeachment, there will be a transparent debate about the evidence and everybody will have to vote, first likely on the Judiciary Committee and then on the floor of the House. So that will be aired before the entire American public and the -- either the evidence is going to be there or it's not.
HARLOW: Let me ask you finally this given your unique experience, having been on a presidential ticket before, running with Hillary Clinton in 2016, and you saw what happened with the messaging around her email server and how that was effectively, by many, used against her, right? I wonder what your advice would be to former Vice President Joe Biden and his campaign on how they address this, how they message questions around Hunter Biden and just the overall question about children or family members serving with foreign companies when someone is in office. What would your advice be to them?
KAINE: I think the step that was taken by Hunter Biden over the weekend is smart. And you're right, I've thought about those days in 2016 as it's revealed that the White House puts material on secret servers now, when they really don't warrant it by classification but they're doing it to hide it from the public. And I derive some -- had a smile on my face when I heard that.
I think the key right now is we've got to get all this information out on the table so the American public can understand what's at stake.
This is about protecting the integrity of our elections. It is not a rear-view mirror look at what happened in 2016. What's going on right now is we need to protect the 2020 election from a foreign attack.
HARLOW: You know what? It's a question my good colleague and co- host, Jim Sciutto, asks every day, right? What are we doing about 2020? How are we protecting that? And it is critical. You make a very important point. Senator Tim Kaine, thank you very much for being with me this norning. I appreciate it.
KAINE: Absolutely, Poppy.
HARLOW: Okay. Coming up, what is next now?
The Kurdish forces in Northern Syria have cut a deal with the Russian- backed Syrian Assad regime. We'll talk to a retired Air Force colonel to get his perspective, next.
HARLOW: Right now in Northern Syria, Russian-backed Syrian government forces are moving in and U.S. forces are moving out. The Kurds cutting a deal over the weekend with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after President Trump ordered all U.S. forces to leave that region.
Listen to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaking yesterday on Fox -