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Ex-Defense Secretary lays into Trump’s Syria pullout: He ‘plays into’ authoritarians’ hands to ‘weaken the United States’

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On Monday’s edition of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta blasted President Donald Trump over his foreign policy — particularly his withdrawal from Syria.

“Secretary Panetta, just generally what do you make of how this whole withdrawal, non-withdrawal is being handled by the White House?” asked Cooper. “We’re seeing the administration trying to walk back a broad policy announcement from the president.”

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“I think from the very beginning this has been a — probably the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in recent history,” said Panetta. “And there is no way when you commit a blunder like this that involves the consequences we’re now seeing, there’s no way to paint this picture as if somehow everything’s going well.”

“The bottom line is I think most Americans know the truth,” said Panetta. “President Obama began this policy of trying to go after this ISIS caliphate, that we developed the policy in working with the Kurds to assist us in that effort and President Trump, to his credit, basically embraced that same strategy and that’s what allowed us to be able to ultimately defeat the caliphate,” he added.

Panetta also had harsh words for the latest reporting that Trump relied on Russian president Vladimir Putin and far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his policy on Ukraine.

“You know, Speaker Pelosi said it best of all: All roads seem to lead to Putin. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that,” said Panetta. It’s incredible that the president of the United States relies on the advice of our primary adversary, Vladimir Putin, for guidance on these kinds of issues. Russia is our enemy. Their intent is to undermine the United States, their intent is to weaken the United States, and now they have the capability of through the advice of Putin to Trump, they have the ability to give our president the kind of guidance that basically plays into their hand.”

“That’s what he did in Syria,” continued Panetta. “That’s what he did when he stood up with Putin and said he believed in Russian intelligence more than our own intelligence when it came to what happened in the 2016 election. This president has continued, rather than standing up for America and for what we believe is right, this president continues to cater to the views of an authoritarian government like Vladimir Putin, and that, from my perspective, is very dangerous to the security of the United States.”

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Republicans have ‘very little ground to stand on’ to attack Taylor and Kent: Ex-FBI deputy director

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On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe broke down why it was all but impossible for Republicans to attack the credibility of diplomats William Taylor and George Kent during their impeachment testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

"They have very little ground to stand on to attack these gentlemen," said McCabe. "Particularly in the case of Taylor, he is backed up assiduously by a contemporaneous record. He's got his handwritten notes and he's got the texts messages that he sent the time. So when he tells you, I was shocked by what I heard on the phone call, you know that's true because at the time, he sent a contemporaneous text."

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CNN

White House is happy GOP lawmakers said Trump is too incompetent to do a quid pro quo: CNN’s Jim Acosta

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta reported that the White House is happy with how Republicans defended President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill — even though their central talking point was that the president tried to engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine but failed.

"The White House officials that responded back to the president said that they thought he had a great day when it comes to this hearing up on Capitol Hill," said Acosta. "They don't see any damage done to the president after this first day of testimony."

"I will tell you, though, Anderson, the talking points are shifting," added Acosta. "White House officials I spoke to this evening said that they were pleasantly surprised by the performance turned in by some of these GOP lawmakers who were essentially saying, well, this was an attempted quid pro quo, it wasn't a quid pro quo, so, therefore, it's not impeachable. So, Anderson, their talking points have shifted once again. They've gone from saying there was no quid pro quo to, well, an attempted quid pro quo isn't that bad after all."

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CNN

Southern District prosecutors watched impeachment hearing to decide whether to charge Giuliani: CNN reporter

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The first publicly televised impeachment hearing was aired to millions of people on Tuesday. But it wasn't just citizens who were watching, suggested justice correspondent Evan Perez on CNN's "The Situation Room" — it was federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, who are currently investigating President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

"Both of [the witnesses], Kent and Taylor, they weighed in on the role of Rudy Giuliani in all this diplomacy," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "What do you think?"

"Look, I think that's the key part of his testimony," said Perez. "I think we want to hear more from some of the other witnesses, including Ambassador Yovanovitch, and certainly Gordon Sondland, this is part of the story, the story Democrats are laying out for the impeachment inquiry. There is also another part of this, Wolf. I think the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York ... are watching this testimony today, no doubt, and trying to see whether it fits into the criminal investigation still ongoing in which Giuliani is the center of."

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