tv Inside Politics CNN October 23, 2019 9:00am-10:00am PDT
stepping back and handing over the region to other powers to take ownership of. if that's the case, the question becomes why did it have to be done in such a chaotic manner, why did it have to be done in such an incoherent way, why couldn't this have been declared, planned in a much more decisive way. >> the ripple effects of these remarks from president trump are going to go far and wide. thank you very much for joining me today. "inside politics" with john king starts right now. thank you. welcome to "inside politics." i'm john king. we begin the hour with a remarkable statement just completed by the president of the united states in the diplomatic reception room of the white house. the president taking what he considers a victory lap for the operation the turks just completed inside syria. the president saying this could not have happened without american leadership. the president in a long statement that often veered from the facts, now somehow saying
that because of his leadership, turkey and syria are a safer place. the president, listen here, taking credit. he green lights essentially the turkish operation. now he says he has stopped that military operation and the united states alone deserves the credit. >> we're willing to take blame and we're also willing to take credit. this is something they've been trying to do for many, many decades. since then, others have come out to help and we welcome them to do so. other countries have stepped forward. they want to help and we think that's great. >> the president also announcing it will be interesting to see what the reaction is in the united states congress. the president saying he has lifted sanctions he imposed on turkey at the beginning of this military operation. again, the president saying it's time to get u.s. troops out of syria. the president describing facts on the ground in syria that are not in sync with what we are hearing from officials there and our correspondents. let's begin with cnn's nick
paton walsh who has been tracking the reaction of the kurds and more. the way the president of the united states just described this, where does it match up with the reality on the ground and where is it wildly divergent? >> reporter: it's extraordinarily hard to see the gentle overlap between reality and the world that's just been described. the major problem of course is that the cease fire essentially has very little to do with u.s. involvement here at all. yes, they implemented inankara last week an agreement which saw a calming in the fighting but essentially just paved the deal yesterday in sochi where russian peace keepers came in and are now patrolling the border. turkey has got what it wanted through a deal with moscow. russia and moscow not mentioned once during that particular news conference.
the syrian kurds may have rung up and told the general who may have rung up and told donald trump he was happy. he hasn't got much choice at the end of the day. we know for a fact, having seen for ourselves syrian kurds stop u.s. military vehicles and yell at them, they are not happy at all. this is a gross betrayal. they've been in for about four to five on and off to fight isis. it was never meant to be a 30-day mission. he also talked about how people have tried to pull this off for decades. i'm not sure what he's referring to. there's also some slightly flippant remark where is he referred to the cease fire being permanent if any cease fire is
permanent in that part of the world. and the safe zone, he hopes will be made safe eventually. jarring to see how far from reality this was and some of the flippan flippancy. >> you're on the ground and you've covered the region for years. the president described this as a great american victory. is it not a fact that as a result of this is that assad is stronger, putin is stronger. a nato ally turkey is now working with the russians in syria and iran is stronger and perhaps isis is stronger. is that a fair statement? >> reporter: that's all fair. the other thing too is that now the russian military police are patrolling nato's southern border because that is what turkey is a member of. it's something that vladimir putin could never have wildly dreamed would have ever happened while he was in the kremlin. the reversal here has happened with the blessing frankly or the
assistance of the u.s. commander in chief. that is startling. the u.s. are not going home. they're simply having to carry out the same mission they were doing inside syria, now with the syrian kurds frankly hating them and the mission must be carried out from iraq, who's just said they don't really want those u.s. special forces here anymore and with a hundred or so down in the south in this slightly delusional mission of securing syria's oil. syria doesn't have that much oil and the u.s. is one of the biggest hydro carbon exporters in the world. that also leaves me baffled, john. >> appreciate the reporting. let's go straight live to the white house. kaitlan collins, take us inside the decision here. i know the president is mad he's being criticized by his own party in congress. he's decided to lift sanctions. he told the vice president don't go to michigan for a political
event because i want you standing behind me. what is the strategy here? as nick just laid out, a lot of what the president said in that statement is simply not matched by the facts. >> reporter: that was interesting. you saw the president having pence and pompeo, the two that he dispatched to turkey last week, a trip that i went with them to turkey on. he's declaring victory here saying not one drop of american blood had been spilled. but there are a lot of questions about what is going to come out of this. the president was talking about this cease fire. he says it's permanent now though, even he said that a cease fire in that area is questionable so they're going to wait to see if that is something that holds. he says if it doesn't, he'll reimpose sanctions that he's announcing he's lifting. but of course there are going to be questions about what exactly the strategy here is going forward, because the president said there are going to be u.s. troops that remain in the area.
those are those troops that left syria, went next door to iraq. the president is saying they're going to remain in the area. yesterday we heard the defense secretary mark esper say no they're only going to stay in iraq temporarily and then they'll return to the united states, seemingly contradicts the president saying they were going to remain there so there wasn't a resurgence of isis. the president also claimed a lot of those isis fighters who have escaped during this turkish incursion have been largely recaptured. that goes completely against what the president's top envoy to syria just testified today on capitol hill when he said that over 100 isis fighters have escaped from those prisons and they do not know where they are. those are going to be the questions going forward. the president also didn't answer questions about what else the top envoy to syria said, which there have been war crimes
committed in syria by these turkish led opposition forces. >> let's get some perspective now. nia malika henderson. david, i want to start with you. you've worked for four different presidents in the white house. you've been there when you need to spin a situation that's not so great and try to make it look a little bit better. as you listen to the president there and you know the facts on the ground, i suspect a part of this was to try to change the conversation on cable television away from the damning impeachment testimony that we have today. from what you heard, i mean, why, to what end? >> toward what end was the speech today? >> yes. >> well, we have to start with the fact that most americans,
two-thirds of americans say they're exhausted with all our efforts in the middle east and there is a desire to pull troops back. but the way the president described it today will strike anyone who's covered the middle east as alice in wonderland. have we heard from troops on the ground that they're celebrating this? no. they're all being very critical. they think it's a betrayal of the kurds. they threw rocks and poeptatoest american troops as they left because they felt betrayed. have we seen erdogan heading to washington to try to make this work with the president of the united states? no. he went to russia to work with putin. putin is now the dominant player in syria. he's become a major, major figure in the middle east. i can't tell you the presidents i worked for. they worked for years to get russia out of the middle east.
we've invited them back in and that's not good news. >> to that point, the president sa 's envoy to the region said the turks committed what's believed to be war crimes. the president of the united states just said he hopes to see erdogan soon. erdogan went to russia, not to washington to figure out how to make this work. president trump said erdogan is a great guy. think of him as a nice guy as you give me your congratulations. >> through much work, we have done things that everybody said couldn't be done. today's announcement validates our course of action with turkey that only a couple of weeks ago was scorned and now people are saying, wow, what a great outcome, congratulations. it's too early to me to be congratulated, but we've done a
good job. >> who's saying, wow, what a great outcome? >> i think russia is saying what a great outcome, i think turkey is saying what a great outcome, as saud aassad and isis. he said there there were some isis folks who were on the run they were captured. we'll see. i don't think there's any evidence of that. we'll also see what republicans do. it does seem like donald trump was able to quiet a lot of the evangelical leaders. pat robertson said he lost the mandate of heaven, for instance. we'll see what happens in congress. all sorts of sanction bills are floating around, both in the house and the senate, probably more likely out of the house. we'll see what happens in the house. graham has a bill, there are all sorts of bills. we'll see.
what mitch mcconnell laid out in that pretty scathing op-ed on friday pretty much captured where americans are. >> mcconnell went to the floor and said he wanted something stronger in the senate than what was passed in the house but drafted by democrats. mcconnell said this is the president of the united states essentially poking his own majority leader directly in the eye saying, go away, i'm lifting the sanctions. >> right. we were heading into this next week basically being a time in which we would see those sanctions bills come back up, at least on the house floor. we've seen mcconnell's promise. it's almost like a dare for the president saying you can't push me on this. it doesn't seem like on this issue that either party in congress is actually in a mood to back down. this cuts too close to what they believe is kind of not just the central tenet of how the middle
east works. >> this isn't going to offer his party anything to latch onto. this is sort of up is down, black is white description of what's actually going on there will not suddenly give his republican allies, mcconnell some sort of ammunition to say, wow, we can grab onto this thing the president said and come to his defense. if anything, the exact opposite. it will cause them more grief and frustration about how do we deal with this and how do we defend a president who's saying such things. >> it bolsters pelosi's argument that all roads lead to russia. the fact that trump started the sequence of events that created this situation and now at the end of it russia has patrols on the ground, something they never expected they would be able to have at all. the pentagon chief esper just
said that he couldn't say that the isis escapees were largely recaptured and it wasn't just a few that escaped, it was a hundred. >> we'll see if the white house can explain things that don't match the facts. up next, the white house responding to explosive testimony on capitol hill in the impeachment inquiry.
to the impeachment inquiry and proof that looks can be deceiving. the president's allies in the house today staging a protest of sorts, storming the committee room where the impeachment inquiry is taking place. they are complaining about the process at a time when their own staff lawyers are telling them the substance of the testimony is beyond damaging to the president. substance before stunts here. the top diplomat in ukraine bill taylor testified yesterday for nearly ten hours. he drew lines from the president to a quid pro quo with ukraine. taylor says he raised concerns about vital security aid being held up, but he says he was told that the no comes from the top and the president made clear ukraine gets nothing until it first commits to investigate the bidens. taylor puts trump's personal attorney rudy giuliani at the center of all this and said giuliani's work often undermined the efforts of the career professionals. there's no way to read taylor's testimony and not see deep trouble for the president.
the white house, though, choosing a familiar strategy, smear the source, railing against what it called, quote, coordinated smear attack from far left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats. taylor is a west point grad and vietnam veteran who has served in both democratic and republican administrations and a man who has a sterling reputation. but the vice president of the united states also joining the character assault. >> we have some extraordinary men and women in our diplomatic corps who know their work and who are strong and are out fighting for america's interests. but there's no question when president trump said we're going to drain the swamp, that an awful lot of the swamp has been caught up in the state department bureaucracy. we're just going to keep fighting it. >> phil, this public message of outrage about the process attacking bill taylor. behind the scenes, though, at
least my incoming is republicans understand the potential damage here. >> reporter: let me give you some context. the public message right now is process. that's it. you have a couple of the president's most ardent defenders trying to point to what other people said as perhaps carrying precedent over what taylor testified last night. i was talking to a republican lawmaker, a very close defender of the president who was laying out why he thought there were problems with taylor's testimony. then he paused and said, i'm going to be honest with you, today wasn't a great day for us. bill taylor, based on his career and based on how detailed his testimonyntation, there is a recognition this is a potential issue. that said, republicansss is the fight that they want to have right now. that's how they feel they can get their message across. resol senate condemning the democratic process saying it has no
historica historical precedent. you obviously s there's a recognition if you want to have the process fight, democrats have made clear, there will be public hearings, there will be more closed door depositions, then there will be public hearings. if the house votes to impeach, there will be a very public trial. i think right now republicans are trying to unify around a message. for them, it's not substance, it's process. >> the republicans are complaining this is being done behind closed doors and that it's an impeachment inquiry. they are right in the sense that in the clinton impeachment inquiry and the nixon, the full house had to pass the impeachment inquiry. they forget they had a months long benghazi investigation that had months of witnesses behind closed doors, months of document
requests behind closed doors. they forget the history. here are the republicans today saying what the democrats are doing is not fair to the president. >> it should be the people of this country who decide who's going to be president, not nancy pelosi and not adam schiff in secret behind closed doors. >> the millions of americans that we represent that want to see this congress working for them and not obsessed with attacking a president who we believe has not done anything to deserve impeachment. >> it is a sham and it's time for it to end. >> what is happening here is not fair. >> it's a total political hit job on the president of the united states. >> those are what i call and good for them, those are the always trumpers in the house. they have safe republican districts. this is the number two republican in the senate john thune earlier today. the picture coming out is not a good one.
but it's pretty hard to draw any hard and fast conclusions. a much more take from a senate republican who says if this witness can be corroborated and this comes out in public, that's not good. >> yes, there was this behind closed doors testimony but a lot of democrats would love to have him testify publicly and they're hoping that he will once they reach the public portion of this investigation. also on taylor, it was hinted by a number of democrats to us yesterday that he has contem contemporaneous notes which are key. it's unclear, though, whether or not those will be handed over to congress, whether or not the state department is withholdi i them. >> the administration has withheld the other documents. i was told by a republican lawyer in the room that he had specific citations about other cables, other e-mails, other documents, other people who could back up his account. so we're going to go through this as we go.
>> i was going to say this is the whole chess game the democrats are playing, is that they have these witnesses that are in the room and then they have these witnesses outside the room, the repositories of all the different information from where it came. they're kind of playing them off each other. you've got taylor versus sondland, taylor versus people within the president's cabinet circle as well. ideally i think democrats are trying to do is give us a taste of all that once it gets out into public which could look like a taylor or potential lay boly a bolton dow line. >> the president had been told this. the house democrats are going to impeach the president of the united states. we are on that path. so then this becomes a senate issue which is why senator thune is so interesting. then there was this shot across the bow yesterday from mitch mcconnell. the president has said on a couple of occasions, well, mitch
mcconnell says my call with the ukraine president was perfect. mitch mcconnell says never happened. >> the president has said that you told him that his phone call with the ukrainian president was perfect and innocent. do you believe that the president -- >> we've not had any conversations on that subject. >> so he was lying about that? >> you'll have to ask him. i don't recall any conversations with the president about that phone call. >> he speaks quietly, short sentences as mitch mcconnell does. but that was a mr. president, get your act together. >> there is definitely maybe a better recognition in the senate than there is in the house among the republicans that when the time comes for the public airing of all of this, that's probably not good for them. i mean, the republicans have a
sort of be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. when the democrats in the house decide that it's time to take all of these witnesses public and lay out the case, you sort of imagine that the republicans might be yelling and screaming about a circus environment in these hearings and saying why are we subjecting the public to all of this which is the opposite of what they're saying now. i think the republicans in the senate understand how damaging this could be for them. >> the conventional wisdom would be that somehow the impeachment would be good for the president and rally his base. maybe. the conventional wisdom has also been they can't find 20 republicans in the senate to remove him from office. we don't know, right? you hear mitch mcconnell, lisa murkowski and mitt romney, in some ways they are the people you would expect to speak out, but you also hear sort of silence from other gop senators.
i think the president should be worried about where the senate is right now in terms of republicans. >> regardless of what happens with the eventual verdict on what the senate does, the senate republicans know that this is going to be an election issue and they know that the house democrats, even if they don't manage to push trump out of office, think this is going to be something they can use to gain seats in the senate. if they look too closely aligned with the president, they lose that ability to punch back and say we're an independent entity, vote for us. >> mcconnell told a visitor yesterday, i'm told, that he was worried that he would lose the senate majority. can my side be firm?
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topping our political radar today, two men who helped rudy giuliani develop contacts in ukraine just plead not guilty in manhattan federal court to charges of funneling foreign money to u.s. political campaigns. they were arrested at dulles airport just two weeks ago with one-way tickets to europe. giuliani and his ukraine business dealings are apparently part of the investigation into their activities. >> many false things have been said about me and my family in the press and media recently. i look forward to defending myself vigorously in court and i am certain in time the truth will be revealed and i will be vindicated. in the end, i put my faith in god. thank you. happening in another federal courtroom in manhattan today, the latest showdown over president trump's tax returns.
a three-judge panel hearing arguments over the new york d.a.'s subpoena of the president's tax returns this summer. the president's lawyers are trying to keep those private after a lower court ruled against them. this has become a battle over the scope of presidential immunity which is likely headed for the supreme court. further insight today into the turmoil in the trump cabinet, why it's been such a revolving door. >> what led me to resign is there were a lot of things that there were those in the administration who thought that we should do. just as i spoke truth to power from the very beginning, it became clear that saying no and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough. so it was time for me to offer my resignation. that's what i did. >> up next, more details on the dramatic testimony of bill taylor and why it is so damaging to the president.
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more now on bill taylor's testimony to the house impeachment inquiry and why it matters so much. taylor repeatedly spelling out what he viewed as a clear quid pro quo. that clashes dramatically with the white house defense. taylor's statement referenced over and over a connection between u.s. military aid for ukraine and investigations the president was demanding. taylor says another diplomat
said the stalemate over aid wouldn't go away until ukraine made a public commitment to investigate. taylor also confirmed the existence of a rogue foreign policy operation, what he called a regular informal policy channel led by the president's personal attorney rudy giuliani. we'll go into some of the details in just a second. this was a methodical dissection of what happened. bill taylor was in the middle of it and a methodical dissection of what the white house strategy and the white house answers have been so far. >> one of the things that has been striking is how the democrats in this unfolding story have been one step ahead of the republican answers at every stage. one of the things i head repeatedly yesterday as taylor was inside that room from republicans was, oh, well, the ukrainians didn't know that the aid had stopped, the military aid had stopped flowing. therefore, there couldn't be a quid pro quo because they didn't know to be participating in one.
today we have a story on the front page of our paper and more evidence from taylor's testimony that in fact the ukrainians did know that the aid had stopped flowing. at every step the republicans and the white house have tried to figure out an answer to the substance of this and they keep getting turned back. >> that is a critical point as we go forward, because at every step the trump defenders on capitol hill come out and say quid pro quo. now you have clear evidence on a quid pro quo. the ukrainians didn't know. now you have documents that they did know. if you're a republican, today your answer is bill taylor says he was told by ambassador sondland and others, so you can say he doesn't have direct knowledge. here's the problem for republicans given the history we just went through. bill taylor told them, you want some people who can back me up on this one? you should call mick mulvaney, you should call rudy giuliani, you should call bill barr, call
the secretary of state. bring back ambassador sondland. rick perry knows about this. ron johnson was involved in some of this. john bolton has key details on this. if republicans want to say prove it, are they willing to go through that? >> that goes back to what we discussed earlier, which is that taylor gave the most thorough accounting to date for all of the members that were present. he filled in a lot of blank spacines and he has notes and pretty much receipts to back it up. >> everything corroborates everything else. if you think of everything that's come out, the whistleblower call, obviously the memo of the whistleblower report then the memo of the call, the text messages from volker, even mulvaney's admission that he tried to walk back and then of course taylor's really detailed 15-page single spaced recounting of what
happened. that's what makes it so hard for republicans. >> you asked if republicans want to face that potential music with these other witnesses. %-pk sondland, bring back giuliani. and others are doing the sit- t proceedings today. that's the fundamenthe wave come and if it's bad and it crashes everything over, we'll at least have a cleansing here and figure out what it is. then you have the gop people who are very loyal to the president s . >> do they change more republican minds to listening? up next, joe biden rebounds. we dig deeper on a brand new cnn poll. about 50% of people with severe asthma have too many cells
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brand new cnn national poll today on the 2020 democratic race shows joe biden not only in the lead, but that lead growing. let's take a look at the numbers. vice president biden in our new poll at 34%, elizabeth warren next at 19%. the top three have stayed the same for a long time, but biden is up ten points from our poll in september, benefitting in recent days from the news and from his campaigning. senator warren stayed about the same, senator sanders about the same. it is up plus ten since september for joe biden.
it's a national poll. if you look across the party, former vice president leads among women, leads among men. here holds his own with white voters. elizabeth warren in second place there. that's a close competition there. overwhelmingly for the former vice president among non-white democratic voters, that is a big reason for the support. he also leads when you ask a philosophical question among democrats, what are you looking for? things like free college, medicare for all. 42% of democrats want that. joe biden says let's work with republicans, let's get things done. do you support a good chance of things becoming law? 53% of democrats favor that. that's wherei'd
lod idealogically. >> too many middle class, working class folks can't look their kids in the eye any longer and say it's going to be okay and mean it. that's why i'm running. i'm running to rebuild the backbone of this country. the backbone of this country is the middle class. let's get something straight. wall street did not build america. investment bankers did not build america. hard working middle class people built america. >> it's a great poll for the former vice president. we pick presidents state by state. if you look at iowa and new hampshire, his position there is a bit more precarious. the president has been attacking him. at a time he's been on the debate stage looking at senator warren saying this is unrealistic, you don't know how to pay for it. the race at the moment at least
nationally seems to be moving his way. >> it seems in some ways static. the folks who have been in the lead, the top three, there's been some bit of a flip from bernie sanders to warren and you see that surge. if you're joe biden, you feel good. his fund-raising numbers aren't as good. he tends to get folks who are more likely to tithe to church than to donate to a political campaign. he's got a reason to feel good, this field being as big as it is is actually help him. he's sort of hanging in there with warren. there's also a poll coming out in south carolina that shows him with a pretty healthy lead there among african-american voters. >> biden holding his own among liberals. joe biden's very grateful for bernie sanders being in the race
right now. among moderate to conservative democrats, biden 43, a giant lead there for the former vice president. across the wide swath of the democratic party, the national poll shows the party is more moderate, centrist, pragmatic than maybe the coastal democratic parties. >> right. so the question there is as the field winnows, whose supporters go to whom. other polls have shown that buttigieg, harris supporters go to warren. oddly enough a lot of sanders supporters would go to biden. part of that is because it's the white working class. they tend to have that overlap there. another key piece of the poll that i thought was interesting is about 50-53% of democrats say they could change their mind. that's what people like warren and sanders are holding onto as we get to iowa or other early sta
states, they could potentially pull them from biden. >> the crush of other news between syria and impeachment and everything else, i know biden has been part of the impeachment story a little bit because of the attacks on him, but it's really drowned out the presidential campaign. to the extent there are going to be a changing dynamic, it's not going to take root until the american people are watching it in earnest and it breaks through. it will happen eventually. >> i think that's absolutely right. i think the flip side of that that benefits biden in the same way is that the focus has been on the impeachment inquiry. democrats don't like this president. they want him gone. if you look at the poll which is most important in a democratic presidential nominee, 54% say strong chance of beating trump. biden for now benefits in that democrats still believe he is the strongest candidate against the president. >> right. that is a very important motivating factor, but i think
it would be interesting to see a parallel poll too of the level of motivation of these voters to come out and vote for an anti-trump vote. if their primary motivation is anti-trump, then at the end of the day it may be they just cast an anti-trump vote no matter who the democrat is. >> a snapshot in time. up next, capitol hill reacts after president trump says victory in syria and decides to lift sanctions on turkey.
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let's close with some fresh congressional reaction to the president's announcement just last hour that he was lifting all sanctions against turkey because he says the military operation is over in syria and the president describing it as a great american success. from one of his big supporters on capitol hill senator lindsey graham, he says the president is right that the cease fire is a good thing but then goes on to say a number of things that are not in sync with this president. it's imperative that we continue to partner with kurdish forces to prevent isis from coming back. it goes on to say a number of things that he's trying at the top to say i agree with the president and then the rest of the statement clearly disagrees
with the president. >> which is the tactic to make sure you don't have an open fight with the president. you're arguing about the prudence of the policy regarding turkey and syria and the kurds in the middle of an impeachment fight. people who are tightly aligned with the president have to thread this needle. >> senator romney says it's unthinkable that turkey would not suffer consequences for malevolent behavior which is contrary to the interests of the united states and our friends. a former republican member of the house says president trump continues to send more troops to the middle east while publicly claiming he's bringing them home. there are more u.s. forces there today than when he took office. >> i think that romney sentiment is going to be more prevalent throughout the republican party in the hours ahead. i think it takes a little bit of time to digest this kind of thing. >> will they push hard to bring
sanctions or will they back off? will they risk a veto? if you look at the house numbers -- >> do they have it in the senate? that's the big question. will they actually push for this. if you listen to mitch mcconnell, it seems like they will, but we'll see. we don't know. >> i mean, i think that so far what we've heard is that they're going to be moving ahead. it doesn't seem like have many are pleased with the statement that trump gave. i would be surprised if they back off now. >> watch the majority leader mitch mcconnell who said on the floor he wanted something stronger than what the house passed. something to keep an eye on in the days ahead. see you back here this time tomorrow. brianna keilar starts right now. have a great day. ♪
♪ i'm brianna keilar live from cnn's washington headquarters. underway right now, could they be the words that directly threaten a presidency? bombshell testimony from a diplomat directly tying the president to ukraine quid pro quo and rocking his entire impeachment defense. it's a familiar pattern, speak up against the president, become a target. but will the president succeed in smearing the credibility of this respected diplomat who was hand picked by secretary pompeo? plus, as the senate majority leaders suggest that the president lied about their conversations. the second ranking republican in the senate says the latest testimony from the diplomat does not paint