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This is a rush transcript from “Fox News Sunday,” October 13, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I’m Chris Wallace.
There are now reports Turkish-backed forces are executing Kurdish fighters and civilians while President Trump declares he is an island of one for pulling back U.S. troops in northern Syria.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: The Kurds are tending to leave, and that’s good. Let them have their borders, but I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years regarding a border.
WALLACE: The president’s move opens the way for Turkish forces to launch an assault against the Kurds, the key American ally in the fight against ISIS.
MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have not abandoned them. Nobody green lighted this operation by Turkey, just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels.
WALLACE: We’ll discuss the fallout with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper live in his first Sunday show appearance.
And we’ll discuss the bipartisan push to punish Turkey for its actions with Senator Chris Van Hollen.
Then — Democrats launch a new impeachment offensive after the White House refuses to cooperate.
TRUMP: They know they can’t win the 2020 election, so they are pursuing the insane impeachment witch hunt.
WALLACE: We’ll ask our Sunday panel about the latest developments and where are prospects for impeachment stand now.
And our “Power Player of the Week,” an exiled journalist fighting for women’s rights back in her homeland.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had two options, to stay in Iran and keep silent or leave Iran and be loud.
WALLACE: All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday”.
WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington.
There are now reports Turkish-backed militias are committing atrocities against the Kurds as part of the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. Eyewitnesses backed up by videos say militias are executing Kurdish fighters and civilians, and there is also evidence the Turks are hitting prisons holding thousands of ISIS fighters, allowing some to escape.
In a moment, we’ll talk with the secretary of defense, Mark Esper. But first, let’s get the latest from Steve Harrigan, who is live inside Syria – – Steve.
STEVE HARRIGAN, CORRESPONDENT: Chris, reports of those possible atrocities are spreading like wildfire here across Syria and when you cross over the border, you can really just sense people’s fear. I heard a Kurdish official tell a journalist, you’re never going to find a driver to take you around at that price, not with all the bombs falling from the sky. Not with what they’re doing to people.
Some disturbing video emerging of what may be — FOX has been unable to verify its authenticity — a Turkish-backed Arab militia fighter executing a Kurdish fighter along the side of the road. As the fighter shoots the Kurd, he shouts, feel me, feel me. There are also reports, denied by the Turkish-backed era militia, that they have assassinated a female Kurdish political party leader. Once again, the Turks denying that.
As far as the bigger picture here goes, we are in day five of this military offensive. No sign of a slowdown. Turkey’s President Erdogan pushing ahead with military action from the sky and from shelling. You can see plumes of smoke rise up from those towns as far as the action goes on the ground, they’ve taken control of a major city in Syria, they’ve taken control of major highways too.
So, the Kurdish fighters are in real danger of being cut off from each other, this despite worldwide criticism of Turkey’s operation. There’s a real concern among a number of world leaders that this operation could lead to the resurgence of the Islamic State in this area. Kurdish officials say they can’t fight the Turkish army and guard ISIS prisoners at the same time. They say more than 700 ISIS supporters escaped from a camp just this weekend.
As far as the U.S. position goes, they have threatened sanctions, but not enforced any financial sanctions as of yet. The Kurds, some leaders say they are deeply disappointed in the U.S., they feel like an ally has stabbed them in the back. Others still hope for a U.S. no-fly zone.
Chris, back to you.
WALLACE: Steve Harrigan reporting live from Syria — Steve, thank you.
Joining us now, the secretary of defense, Mark Esper, for his first Sunday show appearance. Mr. Secretary, welcome to Fox News Sunday.
MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Chris, thank you for having me on today.
WALLACE: I have to assume you’re just as distressed as I am, by hearing Steve Harrigan’s reports, stories, that Turkish-backed militias are executing civilians and Kurdish fighters, reports that the Turks are hitting prisons and that hundreds of either ISIS fighters or their supporters are escaping.
How much of that can you confirm?
ESPER: It’s terrible. I’ve heard the same reports. It gets worse by the hour, Chris. These are all the exact things that we have communicated to President Erdogan and his ministers. I spoke to my counterpart a few days ago. I sent him a memo on Friday night, a formal response, warned them that if they do this incursion, which we oppose, we will see everything from the release of ISIS prisoners to humanitarian catastrophe.
It will damage U.S. relations with Turkey, their staying in NATO. All of this is playing out exactly as we predicted, and we, again, urge President Erdogan to stop and go back to the status quo ante.
WALLACE: So what is the U.S., what is the Pentagon, as the primary — the military force there, what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do to stop this?
ESPER: Well, this is part of the terrible situation that Turkey has put us in. And again, despite our protestations, we now know — we believe that the Turks now intend to go further south than originally expected and to go both west and east, which would increase their zone from beyond a 30- kilometer depth and nearly 440 kilometers wide.
At the same time, we’ve learned in the last 24 hours that it looks like the SDF is cutting a deal with the Syrians and Russians.
WALLACE: Yes, we should say SDF does, or the —
ESPER: Syrian Forces (ph).
WALLACE: — Syrian Democracy Forces.
ESPER: Defense Forces, that’s right. They’re cutting a deal. And now, what we’re facing is U.S. forces in a — trapped between a Syrian-Russian army moving north to take on the Turkish army that is moving south.
It puts us in a terrible position. And the protection and safety of our service members comes first to me. I spoke with the National Security team yesterday. We all talked on the phone. I talked to the president, and he is concerned. And so, last night, he directed that we begin a deliberate withdraw of U.S. forces from the northern part of Syria.
WALLACE: Now, how many people are we talking about? How quickly are they going to move out?
ESPER: We’re talking less than a thousand. I can’t give you a timeline, because it changes hourly. We want to make sure that we do so in a very safe, deliberate manner, that we de-conflict things as we go with our — with those folks on the ground in the immediate area.
WALLACE: But I’m not quite sure I understand. So the Turks and their militias are committing atrocities against the Kurds, who are our allies. The Kurds are asking us for help, but we’re going to pull out and allow the Kurds to go to the Russians and the Syrians?
That doesn’t seem to make much sense.
ESPER: Well, look, the United States, first of all, doesn’t have the forces on hand to stop and invasion of Turkey that is 15,000 strong, if you will, proceeded by airstrikes and artillery and mechanized forces.
You got to keep in mind, too, that, look, we didn’t sign up to fight Turkey, a longstanding NATO ally, on behalf of the SDF. Again, this is a terrible situation. That’s why in the little over two months that I’ve been on the job, this has probably been the number one issue that I’ve dealt with, week after week, with our Turkish counterparts.
We’ve done everything we can to dissuade them from doing this. We will — we thought we were making very good progress on the so-called “Safety Zone” in Northern Syria, a way to keep the forces separated and to ensure we can keep both these good partners at odds ends.
But as you know, Chris, this conflict has its roots that goes back 200 years, and in fact, in the — in the last few years, since we began this relationship with the — with the Kurds to take on ISIS, the Turks protested it from the beginning. This is now their third incursion into Syria in the last few years to do this.
WALLACE: But you emphasized on Friday that we stand by our Kurdish allies who fought with us, died — 11,000 of them died in the fight against ISIS. Here you are, sir, on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ESPER: We have not abandoned the Kurds. Now, let me be clear about that. We have not abandoned them. Nobody greenlighted this operation by Turkey, just the opposite. We push back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But Secretary Esper, the U.S. had 50 special operations forces along the border, acting as a tripwire, if you will, to keep the Turks from coming across the border. We were their protection for the Kurds. After President Trump talked to President Erdogan last Sunday, President Trump decided to pull those troops out, and the Turks invaded.
Isn’t that the definition of abandoning the Kurds?
ESPER: Yes, I think you got the sequencing in the reverse order. The first thing that we understood, I’ve understood from my counterpart, Secretary Pompeo from his, and certainly from President Erdogan, is they were fully committed to doing this, regardless of what we did.
We thought it was prudent. It was my recommendation. I know the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed as well. We should not put U.S. forces in between a Turkish advance. We’re talking less than 50, more like two dozen. There is no way they could stop 15,000 Turks from proceeding south.
WALLACE: But you had talked to the — your counterpart, the Turkish defense minister, several days before the presidential phone call. And you had said to him, make — let’s make the safety zone work, where the Turks and U.S. work together to keep this border and keep the Turks on one side of the border and the Kurds on the other side of the border.
Then the president has his phone call with President Erdogan, and you say, well, there’s nothing we can do. One, did Erdogan say I’m going to come in anyway? Yes or no?
ESPER: The — it was clear to me that President Erdogan was committed to coming in. He informed us that he was coming in. He didn’t ask permission. He — it was clear to me that he was coming in.
WALLACE: But do you think that with 50 U.S. troops on the border, acting as a tripwire, and with U.S. — complete air superiority over the border, do you really believe that President Erdogan and the Turks were going to just come through the border, perhaps create a conflict with the United States, if we had stood firm?
ESPER: Well, I think it’s how you define standing firm. First of all, as I said, 50 service members are not going to stop a Turkish advance. And I’m not one to —
WALLACE: But wait (ph) —
ESPER: Well, let me finish — to classify them as a trip wire and sacrifice them, if you will.
WALLACE: Well, you only sacrifice them if Turkey goes ahead, sir. If Turkey says, you know, we’re not going to take on the U.S., we’re not going to take on U.S. fighters overhead, maybe we would’ve stopped them.
ESPER: I don’t believe so. I think they were fully committed. That was what I took from my conversations with my counterpart, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff took from his, Secretary Pompeo form his.
Look, the fact is also, Chris, we are not going to go to war, another war in the Middle East, against Turkey, which is a longstanding NATO ally that has fought alongside us from Korea all the way through Afghanistan.
That’s not what we signed up for.
WALLACE: Well, do they seem like much of an ally now, Turkey?
ESPER: No, I think Turkey, the arch of their behavior over the past several years has been terrible. I mean, they are spinning out of the western orbit, if you will. We see them purchasing Russian arms, culling up to President Putin. We see them doing all these things that, frankly, concern us that — with regard to the direction they are heading.
WALLACE: But you say they — it concerns us. The reaction is that the president is going to pull all of our troops out of that region, and although he has talked about sanctions and authorized Secretary Mnuchin to impose sanctions, there’s been no action.
ESPER: Well, we’ll what happens. You know, like I said, this — all these developments have happened in the last 24 — actually, more like the last 14 hours, if you will. The National Security team will be talking today about it.
We still have been holding out hope that we can get to Erdogan and tell him to stop what he’s doing, return to the border and let’s work on the safety zone, the mechanism. Those talks are still, by the way, underway right now. We want to get to that point and settle this situation now and stabilize it, so we can get back on the right path.
WALLACE: And meanwhile, what do you say to the head of the SDF, our allies, the people who fought and died to help us beat ISIS. Mazlum Kobane Abdi, the head of the Kurdish Army, said, today, “You are leaving us to be slaughtered.”
What do you say to him, sir?
ESPER: I would say what we’ve been saying, because we stay in contact with him. We are doing everything we can to get the Turks to stop this egregious behavior, get them to go back across the line and stop. And that’s our message to them at this point in time.
WALLACE: President Trump says that he is just keeping a campaign promise. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want to bring our troops back home, and I got elected on that. If you go back and look at our speeches, I would say we want to bring our troops back home from these endless wars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But while we are in the process of pulling troops at least back in Syria, maybe not out of Syria, though the president has talked about that, you just announced on Friday the president is going to send another 1,800 troops into Saudi Arabia.
So are we trying to get out of the Middle East? Are we trying to get out of endless wars or not?
ESPER: Well, we do have the aspiration to relocate our forces to move back in certain regions of the world, so that we can reposition them to deal with the real strategic challenges we face. That is, number one, China and, number two, Russia.
In this case, with Iran, we know that their malign behavior over the last 40 years continues to create instability throughout the entire Middle East, to include Northern Syria. So in that regard, we want to make sure that we have sufficient forces on the ground, first to help defend our partners, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and, secondly, to deter further Iranian provocative behavior that could lead to a conflict.
We are not looking to a conflict in the Middle East and not with Iran. But as I said to them, they should not mistake our restraint for weakness. If they do and do something that would strike our interests of our allies, we will respond.
WALLACE: I got two minutes left. I’m going to ask you two questions about, I’m sure, a subject you’re dying to talk about, which is impeachment. House Democrats have subpoenaed you, personally, that you, as the secretary of defense, turn over all documents related to decisions being made about authorization and then the decision to withhold military aide to Ukraine.
Will you comply by the deadline to for the House subpoena, which is this Tuesday, two days from today?
ESPER: Well, you know, we will do everything we can to respond to their inquiry, Chris. My general counsel, a week or two ago, sent out a note, as we often do in these situations, to the key members in the Pentagon to say, retain your documents and institute other controls.
So, again, we will respond as we can.
WALLACE: You say we will respond as we can. You’re not making a firm commitment that you will meet the deadline of Tuesday?
ESPER: Well, I don’t know — I don’t know the status of what that document preparation is. I don’t know what restrictions we may have internally with regard to releasing them. The White House has a say on the release of documents as well.
There are a number of things that play into this.
WALLACE: Finally, last May, the president’s phone call with Zelensky was in July, but last May, two months before, the undersecretary of defense certified to Congress that Ukraine had made major efforts in fighting corruption and certified to Congress that the Pentagon was, in fact, going to release all military aide that had been approved by Congress to the Ukrainians.
Did President Trump ever explain to you why he had decided to go against the Pentagon’s decision and to hold up the aide?
ESPER: Chris, I have nothing to share with you on this. As you know, I came into office in late July, and since that time, as we looked at this issue periodically, the DOD’s focus has been on three things.
What is the importance, the value of the aide to Ukraine to deter Russian behavior, defend themselves? Number two, are they making progress on corruption which is of keen interest to the Congress? And then number three, how are we getting other NATO allies, European partners to also help assist the Ukrainians?
The key point is this: we got most of the money out on time, as required, and at no point in time was U.S. national security harmed.
WALLACE: Secretary Esper, thank you. Thanks for coming in. Please come back, sir.
ESPER: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, the fallout from President Trump’s decision to pull out U.S. troops in a bipartisan measure that would be a major rebuke of the president’s policies in Syria.
WALLACE: President Trump is facing a fierce backlash from both Republicans and Democrats over his decision to pull U.S. troops from the Syrian border, allowing Turkey to attack our Kurdish allies there. This week, when Congress returns from recess, lawmakers plan to take up a bipartisan bill that would slap tough sanctions on Turkey.
Joining me now, Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen, who has written that bill, along with Republican Lindsey Graham. Senator, you just heard Secretary Esper talking about the fact that the president has ordered him to pull U.S. troops, all of the U.S. troops, out of Northern Syria, basically to leave the Kurds on their own, and that we understand that they have made a deal — cut a deal, the Kurds have, with Assad’s forces in Syria and the Russians, and they’re going to go them for protection against the Turks. Your reaction?
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD: Well, Chris, what we’re seeing on the ground right now is absolutely sickening. It’s absolutely shameful that President Trump allowed Turkey to begin killing the Syrian Kurds who are our allies in the fight against ISIS. And that’s why you have this big, bipartisan uproar. You have ISIS right now being the big winner, because the Syrian Kurds were our most effective partner in going after ISIS. Now, they’re going to have a comeback. That’s what Secretary Mattis, former secretary of defense, just said. You just heard the current secretary of defense essentially say the Trump administration is doing nothing. They’re asking Turkey, oh please, please stop what you’re doing. That is nothing, so that’s why you’re going to see a strong bipartisan response from the Congress. First of all, we want to insist that President Trump actually step up and do something. He said he was going to destroy the Turkish economy if Erdogan did this kind of thing, and yet, he’s doing absolutely nothing. If fact, this administration sided with Russia and opposed a resolution at the United Nations Security Council, a statement condemning Turkey’s actions. So Congress is going to first call upon the president to do the right thing, but we since we can’t count on that, we will have this bipartisan legislation that will impose very stiff sanctions on Turkey until they stop their aggression and withdraw their forces.
WALLACE: Now, Treasury secretary, Mnuchin, on Friday, said that President Trump had authorized him, not that he had imposed, but authorized him at some point to impose tough sanctions on — against Turkey. Here is the secretary of this treasury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: These are very powerful sanctions. We hope we don’t have to use them, but we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: So I guess the question is, when are they going to do that?
VAN HOLLEN: For God sakes, what are they waiting for, right? People are being killed right now. Our Syrian Kurdish allies are being killed right now. It looks like many of the ISIS detainees, there are about 10,000 fighters, are now possibly going to be able to escape. There are reports this morning that ISIS sympathizers have already escaped, thousands of them. And here, you have Secretary Mnuchin saying, oh, well, we’ll think about it. Maybe we’ll do something. President Trump tweeting that he’s going to destroy their economy. They look ridiculous right now. So that’s why it’s important that the Congress move forward on this front. I don’t know what this administration’s waiting for. All they’re doing is talking while people are being killed.
WALLACE: So let’s talk about you and Lindsay Graham. A pretty staunch Democrat and a very staunch Republican are writing, putting together your own set of sanctions. But as we say, while this is going on, and I understand, you’re — the Congress comes back from recess tomorrow, the Kurds are being slaughtered. As you say, ISIS supporters and fighters are leaving. Have you gotten a commitment form Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, one, that he is going to take this up and, two, schedule it for a quick vote? Because the longer you wait, the longer the Turks are there to do their worst in Northern Syria.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, you’re right, Chris. We believe momentum is building for the Congress to act, since this president has shown a total unwillingness to do something in the face of this slaughter. You’re already seeing bipartisan movement in the Senate, the bill you discussed. You’re also seeing bipartisan legislation in the House coming together. So the key is to act quickly. As you say, time is of the essence. But you know, when Congress wants to act quickly, it can. So the Senate could take this bill up, pass it, send it to the House and then send it to the president’s deck. The president who said he wanted to “destroy the Turkish economy if they did this kind of thing.” And so, we need to move very quickly, because –
WALLACE: But have you gotten any commitment from Mitch McConnell that they are going to move quickly?
VAN HOLLEN: To my knowledge, Mitch McConnell has not yet committed to that, which is why it’s very important that members of the Senate, on a bipartisan basis, call upon him to do that. I do understand that, in the House, you have a strong bipartisan group also pushing for sanctions, because everyday that it goes on, ISIS s the winner. I mean, these are the guys who pose the biggest terrorist threat to the United States in the world. They’re celebrating what’s happening here. And so, I do believe Congress will muster the bipartisan will to do something quickly.
WALLACE: I want to ask you two quick questions, in the time we have left, about the other big story in Washington, which is impeachment. You have now, since the Zelensky phone call rough transcript was released, you have now called for — supported the House impeachment inquiry. From what you have seen so far, do you believe that there is sufficient evidence that the president should be removed from office?
VAN HOLLEN: Well Chris, what we’ve seen from this president, in that transcript and other actions, is a president who was abusing his power, using the power of the office of the presidency to try to get a foreign government, the Ukraine, to interfere on his behalf in an American election. And the evidence is also mounting that he withheld vital U.S. military assistance to Ukraine that they need to stop Russian aggression. In my view, that is an impeachable offense, but — but, the hearings will have to collect the evidence and the president and the White House will have an opportunity to put forward any exculpatory evidence they want. So, I won’t reach any final conclusion until all the evidence is in, but the evidence that is in is very damming of the president’s actions.
WALLACE: And finally –
VAN HOLLEN: So, and the fact that they refuse — the fact, Chris, that they refused to present the information, you asked the Secretary about documents about the Ukraine arms sales, the fact that they refused to present more information suggests that they don’t have any exculpatory evidence.
WALLACE: And very briefly, even if all 47 Democrats were in the Senate to vote to remove the president, you would still need 20 Republicans to get to the super majority of 67. At this point, and again, briefly, do you see any chance that 20 Republicans are going to jump ship, Senate Republicans, jump ship on the president and vote to remove him?
VAN HOLLEN: Chris, I’m not going to prejudge anything, because there’s still a lot of evidence to come in. The evidence about this Administration withholding very important military assistance to Ukraine, while the president tried, through is lawyer Giuliani and others to try to get Ukraine to interfere on President Trump’s behalf in an election, as that evidence comes in I hope people will take a very close look at it and ask themselves, what would they have been doing and saying if President Obama had done something like that.
WALLACE: Senator Van Hollen, thank you. Thanks for your time today.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
WALLACE: Always good to talk with you, sir.
VAN HOLLEN: You too.
WALLACE: Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the split between President Trump and congressional Republicans over the Turkish offensive against the Kurds.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about the president’s decision to pull back the troops in Syria? Just go to Facebook or Twitter, @FoxNewsSunday, and we may use your question on the air.
WALLACE: Coming up, as Turkey invades Syria, President Trump defends his decision to pull U.S. troops from the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We don’t have any soldiers there because we left. We won, we left. Take a victory, United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We’ll ask our Sunday panel what it all means for stability in the region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: We had a big victory. We left the area. I don’t think the American people want to see us go back in with our military, go back into that area again.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I know that every military person has told him, don’t do this. And this is the pre-9/11 mentality that paved the way for 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump’s staunch supporter, Senator Lindsey Graham, breaking with the president over his decision to pull back U.S. troops in northern Syria, allowing a Turkish offensive against our Kurdish allies.
And it’s time now for our Sunday group. Jason Riley of “The Wall Street Journal,” Charles Lane from “The Washington Post,” former DNC chair Donna Brazile, and Guy Benson of Fox News Radio.
Jason, I am not often or easily shocked here at the anchor chair on Sunday mornings, but I have to say that the conjunction of reports that the — that the Turkish-backed militia are committing atrocities and slaughtering, executing Kurdish civilians and soldiers, the fact that ISIS fighters are escaping, that the president has decided to pull all U.S. forces out of northern Syria and allow the Kurds to make common cause with the Assad regime and Russians, I find that shocking.
JASON RILEY, CONTRIBUTOR: I think a lot of people find it shocking.
Chris, the defense secretary said that our biggest strategic interests were China and Russia. Two big, important, powerful countries that are currently watching a couple ten pact dictators in Turkey and Syria thumb their nose at the United States, call the shots in terms of what Turkey is going to do, tell us what they are going to do, as the defense secretary said. I — I find that — that shocking as well.
And the big concern here, of course, is we’re abandoning allies in the Kurds. These are the people — they were the ground came. We had the air support. We supported the intelligence, but they took the casualties, thousands of casualties. And they are now going to turn, out of self- preservation, to Russia and Syria if we are not going to back them.
And the other problem here, Chris, is that, you know, ISIS is dispersed right now, but they are not defeated. And they will reconstitute if they have a safe place to do that. That is another problem with us leaving Syria.
WALLACE: The other question I have, Guy, on this is that the defense secretary, Mark Esper, says Turkey was going to do this anyway. They were going to come across the border and invade. We had troops, not a lot, but we had some troops on the border. We had U.S. fighters patrolling the area. They say they thought that Erdogan, the Turkish president, meant business.
Do you really think he was going to take on the U.S., defy the U.S. and move in?
GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: No, there is this sense that we got from the secretary that the U.S. was just impotent in this situation. Well, Turkey was going to do what they were going to do and we had nothing that we really had at our fingertips to stop them. No options. And I just find that hard to believe. I think many Americans find it hard to believe. It — we don’t have to say let’s go to war with Turkey without saying behind the scenes, if you do this, the first boot on the ground, there’s going to be a massive consequence. There will be military consequences. There will be economic consequences. I don’t know if that was said, but it sounds like it was not. And I just keep coming back to this quote. It was a tweet from the president just a few days ago on the situation. Quote, anything that I and my great and unmatched wisdom consider to be off limits, talking about what Turkey might do, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey.
I think many conservatives were rightly, deeply critical of President Obama on a red line in Syria. This wasn’t a specific red line, but he said, if they go out-of-bounds, they’re in huge trouble.
The question that I have this morning is, what’s the definition of out-of- bounds, if not what we’re seeing right now?
WALLACE: There is another side to this story, and it — the president and many of his supporters are advancing it, and that is — we ask you for questions for the panel and we got this on the issue of the president pulling back U.S. troops and allowing Turkey to invade. We got this on FaceBook from Karen Margrave. The Middle East has been fighting each other since biblical times, mostly over religion and oil. How will sacrificing American lives change anything?
Donna, how do you answer Karen, particularly in the context of President Trump and the decisions he has made with regard to Turkey and the Kurds?
DONNA BRAZILE, CONTRIBUTOR: I agree that we’ve been in endless wars in the Middle East for a long time, and we will likely be in the Middle East for much longer.
But this is a disaster of the president’s own making. There are serious consequences of withdrawing from Syria. We know that. We know that this could lead to the reemergence of ISIS, or resurgence of ISIS. We know that it will likely lead to more conflict in the region.
The president made a huge mistake and I think to this coming week that both the House and the Senate needs to come together and decide what if any actions they will take to prevent Turkey from doing more damage to our interests in the region.
WALLACE: There is a larger policy question here, and that is what the role of the U.S. military should be.
Here is President Trump on that this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: We’re like a police force over there. We’re policing. We’re not fighting, we’re policing. We’re not a police force. We’re the greatest military force ever assembled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But we have deployed U.S. troops around the world for more than half a century, in a sense, not to fight wars. Thirty-five thousand U.S. troops right now in Germany, 26,000 right now in South Korea, 55,000 in Japan.
Chuck, what President Trump calls a police force has been a decision that if the U.S. puts troops on borders as tripwires, if you will, that sometimes — oftentimes, in some — these cases, for decades, it prevents wars.
CHARLES LANE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: We have, in the greater Middle East, about 60,000 troops. There’re in places of lot of Americans probably don’t even realize they are, like Oman and Qatar. And — and, as you say, they’re there for sort of a general securities function.
What we’re learning out of this situation is that many people who before his election regarded Donald Trump as some sort of dealmaker or pragmatist kind of got it wrong. He is deeply ideological about this point, that we are overcommitted overseas, people take advantage of us and advantage of our troop presence and don’t pay for it and all we get out of it is money and lives lost. And that’s a big part of the America first ideology that he deeply believes. And what he’s learning is, that that simple grid, when you try to impose it over a complicated situation like this, it doesn’t always work because he simultaneously promised we’ll wipe out ISIS and we’ll end the endless wars. And we’re learning today that you can’t really have both of those things.
WALLACE: Well, and — and — we — I — we’ve got to wrap this up quickly because I want to move on to the next segment, but almost hate to talk about the political impact of this when you’re talking about people’s lives and atrocities and ISIS getting out, Jason, but the president believes that — you know, he made this campaign promise to his supporters, I want to get out of these wars, and I think he believes there are an awful lot of voters out there who are not going to be upset, but are going to be happy to see U.S. forces not fighting in other people’s land.
RILEY: They are. He did make the promise, and we all understand the sentiment, but U.S. foreign policy has to respond to the world as it is, not as we want it to be. And these conflicts, many of which he inherited, of course, will not get better in the absence if we just stick to our own business, stick to our own knitting. That is not how the world works. We know if there’s a vacuum, bad guys will fill it, particularly in this part of the world. And if there’s more mayhem over there, if there’s more bedlam, if we see beheadings and executions, that is not going to help Donald Trump politically here at home.
WALLACE: All right, panel, we have to take a break here, but when we come back, the latest on the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, and is the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, now in trouble?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You’re running a country. I just don’t think that you can have all of these people testifying about every conversation you’ve had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The president announcing this week an end to any cooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, but in the last few days, Mr. Trump is being urged to cut ties with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, amid reports the mayor is now under investigation for his work in Ukraine.
Let’s get the latest from Kevin Corke at the White House.
KEVIN CORKE, CORRESPONDENT: Chris, asked this weekend whether or not he was still the president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani told Fox News, yes. But there were new questions about just how long that might be the case.
TRUMP: I stand behind Rudy Giuliani, absolutely.
CORKE (voice over): In six words, President Trump put to rest any speculation that he’s turning his back on his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani. And while no one knows for certain, “The New York Times” reports the former New York City mayor is now squarely at the center of an impeachment probe thanks to his ties to two foreign nationals, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, arrested and charged with campaign finance violations stemming from what prosecutors alleged was a pressure campaign to investigate Democrats.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT: The defendants broke the law to gain political influence while avoiding disclosure of who is actually making the donations and where the money was coming from.
CORKE: Meanwhile, former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled abruptly back in May, gave a closed-door deposition to three congressional committees investigating whether there are grounds to impeach the president. In her prepared remarks, Yovanovitch accused the State Department of bringing her back to Washington because of disinformation spread by people, including the president’s attorney.
This just ahead of a week when even more officials are expected to testify, including U.S. ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, and Fiona Hill, who was, until recently, President Trump’s top eight on Russia and Europe.
CORKE: Sources tell “The Washington Post” that Sondland is expected to tell congressional lawmakers that the content of a text denying a quid pro quo with Ukraine came directly after a phone call from President Trump himself, although he is also expected to tell them, Chris, he’s not sure if that’s true or not.
WALLACE: Kevin Corke reporting from the White House.
And we’re back now with the panel.
Well, perhaps the biggest development, and there were a lot this week, with the arrest of those two associates, and there you see them, of Rudy Giuliani, on campaign finance charges.
Now, “The New York Times” reports federal prosecutors are investigating whether Giuliani failed to disclose he was lobbying for — in the U.S. on behalf of foreign officials.
Here was President Trump being asked about Giuliani on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Is Rudy Giuliani still your personal attorney?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to Rudy. I spoke to him yesterday briefly. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney, yes, sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Yes, sure.
So, Guy, the president did call in last night and say, yes, Giuliani is still his attorney and he is a, quote, fine — a great gentleman, that was the quote. But it doesn’t seem that there’s ringing vote of confidence.
Do you see a potential break in the Trump-Giuliani alliance?
BENSON: Well, I just watched that clip again and the first time I saw it my ears perked up because the tense of verbs sometimes matters when someone is signaling or telegraphing where they might be going. So instead of saying Rudy is my attorney, he said, Rudy has been my attorney. I said, uh-oh, that could not be good for Rudy.
And, look, I’ll tell you this, speaking to every single right-leaning person and Republican over the last few weeks, frankly, almost unanimously they’re all saying, Rudy’s a liability for the president. He’s all over TV constantly. He’s contradicting himself. He sometimes seems a little bit sort of crazed in — in some of his responses. And now with this whole thing with the friends of Rudy getting arrested, this is a series of headlines that is not helpful to his client, who happens to be the president of the United States.
WALLACE: Yes, Chuck, I want to pick up on that because, you know, there has been criticism — were drama critics of Giuliani’s performance, but with the arrest of these two people and with new reports — and you got it from the ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch, who was called back, that it seems that the president and — and Giuliani were running their own off-the-books foreign policy, their — their own operation in Ukraine outside and apart from the administration.
How big a liability, potentially, is that to the president?
LANE: Well, when the president says he stands absolutely behind Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani probably ought to think about all the other people the president has said he stands behind, you know, including the Kurds today, and actually that is quite often in our history been the prelude to dumping him.
There is a problem. I think Giuliani is a liability, both substantively and for all the optics reasons that Guy talked about. And now he is himself under a criminal investigation. It’s kind of awkward to have your personal attorney in that position.
But let’s not forget, these two guys go back a long way. If — if Donald Trump could be said to have a close, best friend, it might be Rudy Giuliani, going all the way back to New York. And so Rudy knows a lot, and maybe too much, to be cut loose just like that. So I would be surprised if in the very short term, before it absolutely becomes necessary, the president has to cut him loose, but definitely a lot of people want him to.
WALLACE: And let me turn to another part of the developments this week, Jason.
The president is pushing the argument about executive powers. As far, it seems, as any president ever has. In the various court cases he says he has immunity from investigation, immunity from prosecution while he’s president. And now, this week, he announced a complete halt in — to any cooperation with Congress and his lawyer, the White House counsel, said this is unconstitutional and it’s simply an attempt to overturn an election.
Do you think — I mean, on the one hand, if you say, I don’t have to cooperate with the court’s and I don’t have to cooperate with Congress, do you think he can make that stick?
RILEY: I think some of the argument laid out in that document by the attorney are —
WALLACE: The White House counsel.
RILEY: Counsel, make more — hold more weight than others or potentially hold more weight than others with the court.
We know the Constitution gives the Congress wide berth to define high crimes and misdemeanors. It can be whatever essentially they wanted it to. But there are sort of traditions that have been followed when it comes to impeachment inquiries, whether it was a Democratic Congress going after Nixon, or a Republican Congress going after Bill Clinton, and that was that you have an entire House vote on the formal inquiry to begin. And it gives a sort of bipartisan sheen to the proceedings and the current speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has ducked doing that. She’s avoided doing that, I think, partly to protect some of her members that come from Trump district, and partly because she knows she’ll get barely any, if any, Republicans to support this, which will expose it as the partisan exercise that it is.
But I think the White House is smart to litigate this to death because the longer they do, and the closer we get to November of next year, the more voters will say, why do we need to impeach? Let’s just go to the polls and decide if this amounts to something Donald Trump should lose his job over.
WALLACE: And then there are the president’s attacks on some of his critics and rivals in which he is using — increasingly using language, some of which we cannot put on the air here.
Take a look at — and we are going to put this on the air — take a look at this exchange from this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it. It’s no joke. He’s shooting holes in the Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it.
TRUMP: He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: So, you know, some of the chattering class in the beltway is going to get their knickers in a twist about this, but you’ve got to know, and it played well with that crowd, that a lot of the president’s supporters like the bluntness of those attacks. And that was one of the ones we could put on TV.
BRAZILE: And, you know, the president is going to continue to rally his base to his defense and avoid looking at what is really at stake. The House is gathering evidence. That evidence will be presented in articles of impeachment. The Senate will be able to look at this evidence and they will proceed to be the jury.
I think the president should figure out what is his best strategy. Is — is obstructing Congress, stonewalling the Congress, when the House has sole discretion. The Constitution gives the power to the House, the people’s House, to make this decision. The president can go around name-calling all he wants, but Nancy Pelosi is focused on abiding by the Constitution and making sure that her committees come up with the evidence that will be presented to the American people and the Senate will act as jurors.
WALLACE: I’ve got less than a minute, Guy.
The president, one of the things he didn’t like this week, he attacked Fox News about, is our latest poll, which I have to say, another thing I was shocked about, 51 percent now support not just impeachment, but removal. Now, the president — and there are other polls that say different things. Do you think, though, that public opinion is moving against the president at this point?
BENSON: Yes, it has been so far, but there’s a long way to go in this process. And I think the fact that, to your point, that the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi has not called for a full vote, that’s an issue. And all of this operating in secrecy, are they going to try to impeach a president in secret? I think that’s going to rub a lot of voters the wrong way if they continue down that path.
Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss this.
Up next, our “Power Player of the Week,” the political activist mobilizing women to fight back against Iran’s leaders.
WALLACE: When we interviewed Iran’s president, Rouhani, at the U.N. two weeks ago, we focused on the foreign policy differences between his country and the U.S. But there are also serious questions about what goes on inside Iran.
Here is our “Power Player of the Week.”
MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND ACTIVIST: We are banned from singing. We are banned from dancing. We are banned from showing our hair.
WALLACE (voice over): Masih Alinejad is talking about laws in Iran that bar women from so-called “indecent behavior.”
ALINEJAD: When you go to Iran and stand up for your own dignity —
WALLACE: Now living in Brooklyn, she spent the last ten years mobilizing women in her home country to fight for their freedom.
ALINEJAD: When I fight against compulsory (ph) hijab (ph), I’m not fighting against a small piece of cloth, I’m fighting against one of the main pillar of a religious dictatorship.
WALLACE: Hijab is part of the Islamic dress code. Women must cover their head in public or risk imprisonment.
Five years ago, Masih started a website called My Stealthy Freedom, urging women to share pictures of their defiance.
ALINEJAD: I got bombarded by photos and videos from women inside Iran holding headscarves, waving it in public and saying, this is our true self.
WALLACE (on camera): And what happens to women in Iran who take off the hijab, who wave the scarf, who sing or dance in public? What kind of risk are they taking?
ALINEJAD: Being a woman means that you risk your life every day.
WALLACE (voice over): But she didn’t stop there.
In 2017, she launched White Wednesday, urging men and women to wear that color in protest. The videos people sent became much bolder.
Masih says 29 people were arrested in one day last year. These two sisters were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are Nasrin Sotoudoh (ph). We are Sepidoh Gholian (ph). We are the voice of women who are in prison for saying no to forced hijab.
ALINEJAD: They know the risk. They know the danger. But they are like the women of suffragettes. They want freedom and they are ready to pay the price.
WALLACE: Which brings us to Masih’s story. She grew up in a traditional family in northern Iran, but she always wondered why she couldn’t enjoy the same freedom as her brother.
ALINEJAD: I started my own revolution from my family’s kitchen.
WALLACE: By 2009, she was a journalist, but Iranian officials didn’t like her constant questioning.
ALINEJAD: I had two options, to stay in Iran and keep silent, or leave Iran and be loud.
WALLACE: The revolutionary court has certainly heard her. This summer they banned any interaction with Masih.
ALINEJAD: They call me hostile government (ph). They call me a whore. They call me a prostitute. They call me what — the agent of CIA, MI-6. They even called me the agent of President Trump.
WALLACE: That isn’t the worst of it. Authorities interrogated her mother and arrested her brother and her father stopped talking to her.
ALINEJAD: I don’t want to actually show them that they can break us.
WALLACE (on camera): Making this break with your family, with tradition, it comes at a cost.
ALINEJAD: You know, it’s not easy. I haven’t seen my family for ten years. It’s not easy.
WALLACE (voice over): But there is no chance Masih or supporters back in Iran will stop fighting.
ALINEJAD: That is why I have to be strong. Otherwise, you know, they’re going to win the battle, and I’m not going to let them win.
WALLACE: Masih met with Secretary of State Pompeo a few months ago. She urged him, if U.S. officials negotiate with Iran about nuclear weapons and terrorism, they shouldn’t forget human rights, especially the rights of women in their own country.
And that’s it for today. Have a great week and we’ll see you next “Fox News Sunday.”
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