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Rep. Al Green (D-TX) is Interviewed about Impeachment; Trump Announces New Intel Chief; Democrats Converge in Iowa. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:50] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, just a stunning revelation on impeachment from one of the top Democrats in the House. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler coming out in support of impeaching President Trump. He joined some 120 other House Democrats, many calling for Nadler's committee to open -- formally open an impeachment inquiry. But Nadler says it's a moot point since his panel is basely, in his view, already doing that.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): This is formal impeachment proceedings. We are investigating all the evidence. We gather the evidence. And we will, at the conclusion of this, hopefully by the end of the year, vote to -- vote articles of impeachment to the House floor or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Al Green from Texas, one of the first to call for the president's impeachment.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): Thank you, sir.

And I greatly appreciate this opportunity. And if I may say so, I still send my sympathies and condolences to those who have been harmed as a result of the mass killings.

SCIUTTO: Well, I'm with you. I was down there. The people need that. They do. And they'll need it for some time.


SCIUTTO: On Congressman Nadler's statement there, was that notable to you? And do you -- do you agree with him that in effect an impeachment inquiry has already started?

GREEN: Well, I think that impeachment should not be esoteric. I think it should be open and notorious. I think that it is a meaningful, significant step that Congress takes when we embark upon such an adventure and I think that we ought to say it in clear and concise words such that there is no question as to what we're doing because it is a meaningful step that the Constitution has accorded us when we have an unfit president who's causing harm to society.

And if I may say this, I appreciate what he's doing, but it is not enough. It's not enough because we are pursuing impeachment for obstruction. And I did call for impeachment for obstruction, but I've since learned now that it would be more important and worthwhile to impeach him for the bigotry that he's imposing upon society that is harming people. We now know that bigotry kills. The manifesto from the person who went some 600 miles to El Paso to take the lives of people clearly indicates that there was a connectivity between the presidency and his actions.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because, as you know, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has been skeptical of moving to formal impeachment inquiry. You've introduced legislation to impeach President Trump three separate times going back to 2017.

In your view, are House Democratic leaders dragging their feet on this?

GREEN: Well, this is not about any one person. This is about Democrats in the main. And I think Speaker Pelosi would be the first to say that she is but one person with one voice. Democrats have to make up their minds. The radical Republicans impeached Andrew Johnson for his bigotry. We can do the same thing for this president. He is the Andrew Johnson of our time.

[09:35:01] So I would call upon Democrats to invoke your consciences and do not assume that the speaker speaks for you. I don't think she speaks for you or in the sense that she's telling anyone what to do. In fact, she said every person should vote their conscience when it comes to these issues. So I think this is bigger than the speaker. It's about all of us.

I also think this, if I may say so --


GREEN: And this I say from my heart, we're making a mistake by being at home and watching these things on television. We meaning the Democratic members of Congress. We should be in Congress. We should be on the floor of the House. We should be debating gun violence. We should be debating bills to deal with assault-like weapons that are killing people across the length and breadth of this country.


GREEN: The optics of that can impact public opinion. They need to see Democrats doing the right thing and passing it onto Republicans in the Senate who will do the wrong thing.

SCIUTTO: OK. OK, hold on that thought because I do want to ask you about gun control measures. But before I get there, and these are numbers that Nancy Pelosi certainly conscious of. A majority of Americans, and we'll put those up on the screen, oppose impeaching the president, 60 to 32 percent. That's two to one. Do -- are Democrats out of step with the American public on this question?

GREEN: The question is, are Democrats and others in sync with righteousness? Are we in sync with what the Constitution allows and what duty mandates? The question is, will we do what Dr. King said when he indicated that the time is always right to do what is right?

This is clearly the right thing to do given the harm that this man is causing to this country. We will bring the public along as we do our jobs. Dr. King said, you can either drive public opinion or be driven by it. We ought not to be driven by public opinion when we know that this is the right thing to do.


GREEN: This president must be impeached. He must be.

SCIUTTO: OK, back to gun control.

GREEN: Yes, sir.

SCIUTTO: As you know, certainly Republicans have stood in the way of gun control measures in the past. But Democrats as well have been loath to anger the NRA, loath to face challenges from Republicans in their districts, and some of them look back to 1994, the crime bill, which also had the assault weapons ban, as part of the reason the Democrats got soaked in the '94 midterm elections here.

What are Democrats going to do differently this time to make sure something happens?

GREEN: Well, I'll tell you what we should be doing. We should be letting the world know from the floor of the House of Representatives that we're taking up the assault weapons ban. These weapons have to be banned. And if Democrats don't want to vote to do this, then let them vote and let history judge us all. But those of us who believe it should be done ought to have the opportunity to let the optics of it be presented to this country.

The people in this country want to do something about these assault- like weapons that are killing people and we cannot sit on our hands at home and watch television while people are being murdered, slaughtered, if you will, and simply say it's the Republicans fault. We have a duty, a responsibility and an obligation to go back to Washington, D.C., and take up assault weapons. That's what people are crying for, some efforts to deal with these assault weapons.

By the way, I support the background checks. I support red flags. All of these things are important. But the weapons that were used are an instrumentality that will impose great lethality and we ought to deal with them.

By the way, we need to deal with these gun manufacturers. They ought not have the immunity that they have. Congress (INAUDIBLE) immunity upon them. We need to take that immunity from them so that they can be civilly sued and I guarantee you you'll see some changes in the way guns are manufactured. You'll probably see some smart guns on the market as opposed to these dumb guns that create violence by virtue of the lethality that they impose, create death and destruction would be a more appropriate way to say it.

SCIUTTO: Well, we will see if those measures get through Congress and crucially does the president, this time, he hasn't in the past, backed them.

Congressman Al Green, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

GREEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, just days before she was set to take over as the acting director of national intelligence, the highest ranking intelligence official in the country, the president says the nation's number two intelligence officer is leaving her post.


[09:44:00] SCIUTTO: There are yet more shakeups at the top of the U.S. intelligence -- and intelligence agencies. The nation's number two intelligence official stepping down. President Trump making the announcement on Twitter writing, Sue Gordon is a great professional with a long and distinguished career. I've gotten to know Sue over the past two years and have developed great respect for her.

Meanwhile, within hours, Trump naming Joseph Mcguire as his pick for acting director of national intelligence. Yet one more acting head of agencies in this government.

Alex Marquart with me now.

So tell me about Sue Gordon's departure because it does not sound like this was voluntary.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. What's remarkable, Jim, we were sitting here 24 hours ago talking about who's going to be the next head of national intelligence. Now we have to ask ourselves who's going to be that person's number two with Sue Gordon's departure.

What is clear is that departure was not her choice. It seems like she was pushed out. And the reason we know that is because of a hand written note that she left with her letter of resignation for the president. This was a note that was released, as you can see right there, this was released by the White House, and she says in part, I offer this letter as an act of respect and patriotism, not preference. You should have your team. So it was not her preference to leave.

[09:45:11] Now, the president had been telegraphing that this might happen when he did not name her as the acting director of national intelligence when Dan Coats announced that he would be stepping down on August 15th. Now they will be leaving together on next Thursday. This is real blow to the intelligence community. She has three decades

in the community. She's widely respected. She is called by her colleagues the consummate professional. But what she stood for as a long-time member of the intelligence establishment, who she worked with, including President Obama's former CIA Director John Brennan, that clearly was not what President Trump was looking for.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, he seem to have a broader distaste because there's been consistency here for career officials, as if career is somehow a, you know, a negative as opposed to a positive.


SCIUTTO: So let's talk about Joseph Mcguire. He comes over from the NCTC, National Counterterrorism Center, but just as an acting. He's doesn't have a shot at being the permanent replacement?

MARQUARDT: Just as an acting. We haven't heard so far that he's in the running for -- for the head of DNI. But he's kind of career and establishment himself. He is coming from the Office of Director of National Intelligence. He's specifically the National Counterterrorism Center. He is a long time military officer, 36 years in the Navy. He was a Navy SEAL. He led the Naval Special Warfare Command. He's been around a long time, not directly in the intelligence world, but certainly working alongside it.

So what you're going to be hearing from a lot of intelligence officials is, if not Sue Gordon, then it's great to have someone like this in there.

I was speaking with a former senior official -- intelligence official this morning and he said that he doesn't imagine that in this shuffle of leadership that that will really impact intelligence operations.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, he's just an acting for now --


SCIUTTO: And there are a lot of actings in this administration. Of course that means no Senate confirmation.

Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.

Senator Kamala Harris is slamming President Trump as she makes a swing through a key early voting state. Coming up, where she and the other 2020 candidates will be this weekend.


[09:51:29] SCIUTTO: Fried food, butter, cows and politics. What could be a better combination? Iowa, center stage this weekend as the 2020 presidential hopefuls make their pitch to voters. More than 20 Democrats are holding events today in every corner of the Hawkeye state. Look at it there. You can barely fit all their faces in.

Kyung Lah joins me now. So, Kyung, six months from the Iowa caucuses may seem like a long time from now, but, listen, this is an early battleground state and these candidates are looking to make moves.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Looking to make moves and the people here in Iowa are certainly listening. These candidates are crisscrossing the state. Everywhere you look there are candidates. They're even bumping into each other in different cities.

There is the Iowa State Fair going on and this evening the big highlight is the Wing Ding Dinner. Twenty-one 2020 hopefuls are expected to show up. They're going to give brief remarks. All of them speaking to a large audience. This is a fundraiser for local Democrats.

Now, one of the people speaking at that dinner tonight is Senator Kamala Harris. She is on day two of a bus tour of the state. Something she's calling River to River. We joined her yesterday for a wide- ranging interview talking about a number of topics. One of them is whether or not she believes, after these shootings, whether Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will actually do something as far as bringing legislation to the floor. Here's what she said.


LAH: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that he will at least talk about background checks, the red flag laws. As a member of the Senate body, what do you think about his shift?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he needs to put the bill on the -- on the floor for a vote and call all of us back to Washington, D.C., to vote on it right away.

LAH: He doesn't want to call people back, but he says he will make it front and center --

HARRIS: Well, I think that on this we have to judge everyone by their conduct, not just their words.


LAH: So essentially saying she'll believe it when she sees it.

Now, we also asked her the question of white supremacy. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, going there, saying that they are going to label President Trump a white supremacist. Here's what she said.


HARRIS: There is just a long list of statements and tweets and behaviors from this president that make it very clear that he possesses hate, and that he is -- he is divisive and that he is a racist.

He is someone who give -- who empowers white supremacists and who condones their behavior. And that is not the kind of president that I think most Americans can be proud of, much less support.


LAH: Similar to Joe Biden, Senator Harris deciding to not go there, focusing not on a label, she says, but on the behavior and the actions of this president.


SCIUTTO: Pretty remarkable. You have half a dozen candidates for president of the United States identifying the sitting U.S. president as a white supremacist. I mean it's remarkable in the midst of it.

Kyung Lah, thanks so much for being on the story for us.

[09:54:44] SCIUTTO: Right now President Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House ahead of his week-long vacation. We're going to bring you those remarks shortly, as soon as we get them.


SCIUTTO: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Poppy Harlow is off today.

President Trump is on his way to a vacation after a stop in the Hamptons for two fundraisers there. But before he leaves, he is answering questions right now as we speak. We're going to bring you that tape in just a moment.

[09:59:58] This morning on Twitter, the president saying that discussions are underway regarding some form of gun control, but for now that's all there is. No promises of legislation or even a vote on legislation.