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Trump: "I Think I'd Take" Dirt from Foreign Government on Political Rivals; Sen. Graham: Was a "Mistake" for Trump to Say He'd Accept Dirt on Opponent from Foreign Nationals; Speaker Pelosi Speaks to Media as Trump Says He'd Still Accept Foreign Dirt. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 13, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:06] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Shock and surprise. You would think at this point it would be nearly impossible for a comment from the president to shock or surprise anyone. But he did. In a jarring Oval Office interview, President Trump said he'd welcome foreign interference in the upcoming election.

Here he is with ABC. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't -- there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I'd want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference on our elections?

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong.

But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right they come up with oppo research, oh, let's call the FBI. The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it.

But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: In the 12 hours after that, predictably, Democrats, especially Democratic presidential candidates, they have voiced outrage, dialing up calls for impeachment. Including one presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, even saying that Trump is, quote, "now a national security threat."

But also predictably, sadly, Republicans are either ducking or dodging, in large part, the president's comments. Really crickets so far, save a couple of Republicans.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House where the president is either doubling down or trying to clean things up now. And Manu Raju's on Capitol Hill. Let's get to it.

Manu, you would think that my inbox, your inbox would be flooded with Republicans speaking out in defense of free and fair elections, condemning the president's remarks. But, no. But you did hear from Lindsey Graham.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was one of the very few who have spoken out critically of what the president has been saying, saying that, no, you should, in fact, go to the FBI if there was as someone who was offering foreign dirt, someone - a foreign government, particularly a hostile foreign government coming to you and offering dirt on your political opponent.

And making it very clear, Kate, that he's prepared to offer legislation to make it even clearer that this kind of activity is illegal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): That's not the right answer. If a foreign government comes to you as a public official and offers to help your campaign, giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponents, the right answer is no.

RAJU: What are the implications of hearing the president of the United States saying it's OK to accept foreign -- dirt from about an opponent?

GRAHAM: I think it's a mistake. I think it's a mistake of law. I don't want to send a signal to encourage this. I hope my Democrat colleagues will be equally offended by the fact that this actually did happen in 2016 where a foreign agent was paid for by a political party to gather opposition research. All those things are wrong.

RAJU: Should there be legislation to make it expressly outlawed in this country?

GRAHAM: I think it already is, I think. But I'm willing to make it clear if we need to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: But most Republicans are taking a bit of an opposite tack, saying they have not seen the comments that some -- Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, up in 2020 said. Also, Marcia Blackburn, from Tennessee, not familiar with what the president said.

Some also defending the president, as well, including Senator Thom Tillis, of North Carolina. He said making it -- pointing at Hillary Clinton and her effort to try to get dirt on the Russia -- the Trump campaign by hiring the opposition research firm Fusion GPSs which, of course, contracted with Christopher Steele, the former British agent, to try to look into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But those two situations, not entirely synonymous. Christopher Steele was hired -- Steele himself went to the FBI to discuss what he was learning, and the actual effort of trying to hack into foreign -- the DNC servers and get Podesta emails and leak those out. That's much different than what was happening with the Steele situation, with the Steele dossier.

Nevertheless, you're hearing Republicans make that case as a lot of them try to defend what the president is doing, but Lindsey Graham making that opposite case just moments ago -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Right, but -- but these two things, the dossier and what Trump is talking about here, these things are not the same.

And Lindsey Graham, he knows it. Lindsey Graham has said as much. He's said that he is the one who told John McCain, when John McCain received the Steele dossier -- Lindsey Graham says -- has said he's the one that told John McCain to take the dossier to the FBI. I've talked to him about that. You've talked to him about that. He knows that's not the same thing, Manu.

[11:05:07] RAJU: Yes, that's right. In fact, he said that, after the president had criticized the late Senator McCain for going to the FBI with the information from the Steele dossier. He said he encouraged him to go to the FBI.

So, yes, this is not the exact same thing. But Republicans are trying to -- a lot of them are trying to conflate these two issues to try to make it appear the same because they know how sensitive this is for this president and --

BOLDUAN: You know, I'm going to jump -- I'm going to jump in real quick.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she's speaking. And I'm told she might be being asked about this right now.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): In terms of being -- to be held accountable to obey the law.

So we have a package that we're putting forth in light of the Mueller report. A package of legislation, duty report. If someone comes to you, if a -- mandating that campaigns report foreign offers of assistance. This shouldn't even -- it's so self-evident as a matter of ethics, but we'll have to codify it. Mandating a duty to report for campaigns reporting foreign interventions in our elections.

Protecting our elections with paper ballots. That's our Election Security Bill that Zoe Lofgren is working on. She is working with the Senate, hoping to have bipartisan support in the House for our legislation to protect our electoral system.

Closing foreign money loopholes. That's Mr. Sarbanes' bill, post the Mueller report.

And Mr. Thompson will be having a hearing in the Homeland Security Committee about preventing foreign disinformation.

That is just a sample of some of the things that will be out there.

I believe we're making good progress on oversight. Our -- our chairmen are doing a great job. I'm so proud of them. They're winning in the courts and winning documents from the Justice Department with the thought of contempt or following up on subpoenas.

And we're going to get the truth for the American people so that they can know what the attack is on our country, what the president refused to do about it, and what he engaged in to coverup what was done.

There's so many things happening. I just want to refer to one thing in Hong Kong. As many as of you know -- some of you do anyway -- the issue of China has been an important one for me since Tiananmen Square, even before. But their terms of public policy in the Congress.

Tiananmen Square, June 4th, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square. At the same time, we're observing that the Chinese government is engaged in arresting millions and putting them into education camps. They are diminishing the democracy in Hong Kong, trying to really just eliminate the culture, the language, the religion in Tibet. The list goes on and on.

But right now, currently, as we gather here, in Hong Kong, the last few days, hundreds of thousands, if not a million people gathered in the street to protest an extradition law that the Chinese government wants the Hong Kong government to pass. It's such a horrible -- horribly dangerous piece of legislation.

I'm very pleased to be supporting legislation that Senator Marco Rubio and Chris Smith, on the Republican side, Jim McGovern and I, on our side, and others are putting forth to improve and modernize the U.S.- Hong Kong Relations Act. And that is going to be submitted today. They're just finalizing it. It's being submitted today.

But this is so wrong. And I do hope that the president will speak about human rights in China and freedoms in China when he talks about trade with the Chinese. I am pleased with Secretary Pompeo's statement on what's happening in China in this regard.

With that I'll take any questions.

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Yes -- you always hit right there, so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When it comes to the issue of opposition research, what will do if a House Democrat accepted assistance, campaign assistance from a foreign power?

PELOSI: What -- it's so against any sense of decency.

But let me give you an example. Perhaps you don't know this or maybe you do.

[11:10:05] But to remind, in 2000, when the race was between Senator Gore and Governor Bush, Tom Downy, a former member of Congress, close friend of Al Gore, was playing George Bush in the debate prep. Somebody, through over the transom, under the door, whatever place it came, the plans for the Bush campaign in the debates, in the debates. They got that to Tom Downy. He picked it up and sent it to the FBI.

This isn't even foreign governments. This is foreign governments. That's what you do.

There's a sense of decency about fruit from the forbidden tree, ill- gotten gain about what -- again, how then Governor Bush would have conducted that debate.

This is -- this is so -- and just by dent of your question, with all due respect, you make it sounds like it could be a common thing. It is not.

What the president said last night shows clearly, once again, over and over again, that he does not know the difference between right and wrong. And that's probably the nicest thing I can say about him. If he doesn't know the difference, it could explain some of this ridiculous behavior.

And now to invite further involvement of foreign governments into our election. There was an assault on our democracy, an assault on our country by the Russians that has been clearly documented by the Intelligence Community. And the president of the United States, instead of coming to the defense of our -- our democracy, has said it's a hoax.

This is beyond -- it's really -- there's no sense of -- what's the word I wanted to find -- any ethical sense that informs his comments and his thinking.

(CROSSTALK)

Yes -- yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I want to make sure we understand what you're saying because you're going to be pushing for legislation here. Are you saying, is it clear now whether this is illegal, whether it's wrong, is it illegal to take this kind of information? And in addition one of your members at least --

PELOSI: Do we have --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- consider it impeachable -- (INAUDIBLE)

PELOSI: There's -- there's in the law that you cannot accept contributions, and that includes in-kind from a foreign -- campaign cannot from a foreign government. That is in the law. If it needs more clarity, then we will go the duty to report. Not that only you don't accept it but you report it to the FBI because this is -- it's an invasion of our democracy.

I don't have the language right here. But there's language in the law that prohibits any contribution. Again, contribution is in-kind information or whatever that is. But we want to make sure that it has more clarity and carries a responsibility to report.

Uh-huh?

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you discovered -- we're already in campaign season. If you discover that this president, in the course of the 2020 campaign, accepted help from a foreign government, as he suggested that he might, would you consider that grounds to launch impeachment proceedings?

PELOSI: It has nothing to do with any campaign. I want to make sure -- I want you all to understand that. As we go down this path to seek the truth for the American people and to hold the president accountable, it has nothing to do with politics or any campaigns. It has everything to do --

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: -- if I may, excuse me, to answer your question, it has everything to do with patriotism, not partisanship.

So we -- as we collect the facts, and it takes time because you have to do your research, make your requests, if you go to court, you have to do the accommodation, you know what that is? It takes time to prove that you have tried to resolve the issue, and that takes time. And that's the path that we will be on.

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: And it encompasses any and all of the comments that the president has made.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madam speaker --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To clarify, though --

PELOSI: It's all women in the front here. I'm so excited about that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm here.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There's a couple of us guys here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why -- if the president is inviting foreign interference, why is that not grounds to move toward impeachment? And what concrete steps will you take to try and prevent him from doing it?

[11:15:07] PELOSI: Excuse me.

I didn't know I needed water, but I guess I do.

The -- everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night. Should be totally appalled. But he has a habit of making appalling statements. This one borders on so totally unethical that he doesn't even realize it.

However, what we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that.

But not any one issue is going to trigger, oh, now we'll go do this because it's about investigating, it's about litigating, it's about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable, and no one is above the law.

But I want to get back to our -- our legislation because that is what the American people elected us to do. They elected us to, For the People Agenda, to increase paychecks, lower health care costs, have cleaner government. Many of these pieces of legislation are in that.

What is it about Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in Congress that they do not want to respond to what is so popular across the board in our country?

What -- to take it back to your question, what is it about the Republicans in Congress, how much more can they bear of the president's unethical behavior that they think that they are honoring their oath of office?

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: And I believe these are all connected. I think it's all about money. Connect the dots in all of this. It's all about money.

And look at what the president is doing in terms of Saudi Arabia and the sale of perhaps nuclear technologies as well as planes to Saudi Arabia. Follow the money. Who benefits from that?

Declare a national emergency that he can bypass Congress in terms of those sales, bypass the law in terms of transferring of any nuclear technology to a country. Follow the money.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madam secretary --

PELOSI: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. Good morning. On this issue of a COLA increase, is there, number one, a problem with

the idea that people come here and because the pay isn't satisfactory, they go off Capitol Hill and go to K Street and that entails corruption? And why is it so hard, naturally, to then take a vote on this because it's so toxic for a regular pay raise or a COLA increase?

And is it appropriate at this time when people, you know, themselves back home in the Midwest or out west are on the money?

PELOSI: It's hard at any time. It's not a pay raise. It's a COLA increase. And whether that comes to be, I don't know. It would have to be a bipartisan initiative if it were to be the case.

As you know, Mr. Hoyer feels very strongly in support of strengthening this institution, that there could be a recognition of -- with a COLA of the work that is done.

Let me just say, listening to the members -- because it's never a good time to bring up something like this -- there's -- there's a sentiment in the country that Congress should not be just people who can afford to go to Congress. It should be about everybody having the opportunity. Many more women, many more -- people of color and the rest.

And that that is where some of the unease comes from that people say, well, it shouldn't be just for wealthy people. It isn't just for wealthy people. But there's that impression.

And there's an impression among members that it's hard to have two homes, raise a family, and all the rest. So that's part of what the discussion is.

I don't see it as any -- what you did say? You related it to going to K Street? No.

I think, what is an issue in our country is revolving door, largely spinning madly. And the executive branch as we see it now, look at the people in the department -- the secretaries in the cabinet. They're all connected to the special interests. So many of them have left already in disgrace, dismay, or disappointment.

But you see their connection, whether it's EPA, Interior, you name the list, there's so much connection to the -- I want to say private sector. I don't want to paint everyone with the same brush. But to special interests. I'll paint that in there.

So this whole issue of this revolving door is a separate issue and something that has to be looked into.

[11:20:07] But as we have inclusion --and that is an important -- important value --

& The House was in at 4:01 this morning. And most people back home say, Congress doesn't get work done, nothing happens. But that said, the public doesn't think that Congress gets things done. And the House was in at 4:00 in the morning. The deficit markup was late last night as well --

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Not until 7:00 this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That's my point. Why does the public perceive this differently, and that's why they're opposed to a COLA increase, and members are afraid if they vote for that they'll get hammered?

PELOSI: I don't think this is -- look, we have a president who is ignoring the law, not honoring his oath of office, not honoring the office that he holds.

We have a -- a funding challenge that we have, which is something that must be done by the end of the fiscal year. We must pass the appropriations bills. I'm an appropriator. Left to our own devices, I believe, as I've said to you before, that the appropriations, in a bipartisan way, can reach solutions. We're still having the cap fight, the lifting of the debt ceiling.

We had the president transferring nuclear technology as well as other weaponry to a country that is getting away with murder and he chooses to ignore it, is engaged in a deadly war in Yemen, which the Congress opposes. So we have important policy matters to deal with.

I think I've spent enough time on speculating as to whether there will be something or not, which we don't know if there will be.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madam Secretary --

PELOSI: Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On the appropriations, at the end of the month, the Office of Refugee Resettlements says they are going to run out of money to house migrants at the border. There will be a bill marked up next week on the issue.

How do think that the Senate and the House can bridge the divide, given the fact that they had to drop this off of the disaster aid bill just a couple of weeks ago because they couldn't find agreement?

PELOSI: They're working on it. There are two paths. One is, in the appropriations bill where we have the Homeland Security piece, which is part of the 2020 appropriations. And then the supplemental. We'll have to have a supplemental because of the needs are so great.

But I have confidence that they will come to a conclusion on it. We have to. The humanitarian needs are very great there. And we care very much about that. And we don't want them to poison pill what we're trying to do to alleviate that -- that humanitarian challenge.

I mean, really, taking children out of the arms of their mother, separating families -- how could we as people of faith that believe in the spark of divinity in every person, that we're all God's children, that we could treat people the way they do?

But we will have to come to an agreement to get the bill passed and signed by the president.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think it will be by the end of the month?

PELOSI: I hope so. I hope so. We're on that path.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Budget cap legislation. You'll have to work with this president. I don't see -- going back to the infrastructure meeting a few weeks ago, looking back, was it a good idea, at that moment, right before we walked in, to accuse the president of a criminal coverup before you were trying to get a deal done for the American public?

PELOSI: These are bills that have passed the House.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I know. Yes.

PELOSI: They have passed the House. We are not giving up on infrastructure.

I say almost every day that the president is involved in a criminal coverup. He just chose to pick it up that day. There was nothing new about anything I said about the president that time. I think the president just didn't want to pay for it.

The purpose of that meeting was we're going to do infrastructure, build the infrastructure of our country, which I truly believe he wants to do, build the infrastructure of our country in a green way -- I'm not sure about that -- to raise the paychecks of the American worker.

And to do so in a way -- infrastructure is a national security issue, as President Eisenhower beautifully demonstrated in the '50s when he instituted the -- the Interstate Highway System as a national security issue to unify America.

So I don't take any responsibility for the president's behavior except to say that we're going to hold him accountable for it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- I understand the White House is floating some new offer to Democrats. They were going to review it. Have you seen that? Any comment on how the talks are going?

PELOSI: Not I don't what that is. What are you referencing?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Apparently, Mnuchin was in with McConnell making offers last night and wanted to run something by you, so --

(CROSSTALK) PELOSI: I don't know what it is. But I'll tell you where I see things. We have to lift the budget caps. And we have to -- we have to avoid sequestration because that's not a good idea for our country. Have to avoid shutdown of government, which is palatable. Some Republicans, who don't believe in governance, but we will not go down that path.

[11:25:06] And we are going to combine, when we lift the caps, we can talk about lifting the debt ceiling. But that would have to come second or simultaneous but not before lifting the caps. I don't know what their proposal is.

But I do know that when we've been engaged in conversation, mentioned -- Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer and Mr. McCarthy and I, with the secretary of the Treasury, we were making some progress. But then they kinds of backed away from it. So we'll see -- I don't know what that one is.

I'm not usually, shall we say -- when Mick Mulvaney takes the lead -- Mick Mulvaney was one of the leaders in shutting down government when he was here, and voted to keep it closed. Voted to keep it closed.

And that was when we were operating on the Republican number that we said we'll agree to it. We don't like it, we'll agree to it. And they didn't agree to their own -- they don't agree to their own number. I'm hopeful -- always hopeful, always open.

But I think, left to our own devices we can get -- I keep using that phrase because there's bipartisanship in all of this. We know what we have to do. We can get it done.

It's when they come in with deal breakers because they don't believe in governance. They don't believe in science, which says evidence, data, truth, fact of what we need to do for our country. So if you don't accept that and you don't believe in governance, then you have a different approach to all this.

OK. Are you ready for game time tonight? See my yellow jacket?

(LAUGHTER)

Golden State Warriors. Game time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You made a bet with Justin Trudeau?

PELOSI: I did. Made a bet with Justin Trudeau after it was 3-1. I didn't want to bring it up in Normandy. It wasn't appropriate.

(LAUGHTER)

It wasn't the time or the place. But the next day, the next day we made our bet. Can't wait to see what those goodies are from Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The team -- (INAUDIBLE)

PELOSI: Say what? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The team -- (INAUDIBLE)

PELOSI: Is that what they'll have? I think that it will be -- see my advantage is, my advantage -- apart a from the Golden State Warriors, my advantage is I'm the speaker of the House, but my bet is from California. So walnuts and almonds and chocolate and wine.

(LAUGHTER)

His advantage is he's the prime minister of Canada. So he has to have a representative supply from -- I don't have to do the whole country. I can just do California. I'm eager to see what he says.

Game time.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Good luck.

PELOSI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: OK. And with that we have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The important line just to remind you is when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the president's comments to ABC, this is evidence he does not know right from wrong, and that's probably the nicest thing I could say about him. We have a lot to discuss here.

I do want to bring in first, Evan Perez, CNN senior justice correspondent.

Because we need to pick up on where the conversation was left with Manu. Nancy Pelosi calls it sad. She does not suggest that she's going to be moving -- this moves her any closer to impeachment, what she heard from the president in the interview with ABC.

But what we're hearing from Republicans, quite a few of them, Evan, is that trying to say that what Donald Trump is inviting or welcoming is the same as what the Steele dossier was in 2016. You have done a lot of reporting on this. Please lay it out for us.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And look, even Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham, who told -- who's now put out a statement today sort of using the what about-ism excuse, saying what the dossier claims were made -- just a second here, I forgot to turn my phone off there. The comparison between the dossier and what the Trump Tower meeting where Russian operative was offering dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign, that they're the same thing.

If you remember, back in 2017, when we first learned about the Trump Tower meeting, Lindsey Graham himself said that that should never have happened. You should pick up the phone and call the FBI. He's repeated the same statement. So he's trying to have it both ways.

Let's compare the two things. On one hand, you have Christopher Steele who's a former spy for the British intelligence services, one of the closest allies of the United States, who was -- who again had a record of working with the FBI on investigations, and that information was used as part of a FISA application on Carter Page.

But it wasn't the only evidence that the FBI says that they had. We don't know everything that was in there, but we do know that they had a massive amount of information that they asked, that they provided to the FISA court in order to get that surveillance warrant. That's the first thing.

[11:30:00]