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Donald Trump Dismisses Whistleblower Complaint As Political Hack Job; Donald Trump: "Doesn't Matter" If I Discussed Investigating The Bidens; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Laws Says DNI Must Send Whistleblower Info To Congress; Donald Trump: The Strong Approach On Iran Is To Show Restraint; Donald Trump Holds News Conference Amid Whistleblower Firestorm. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King, President Trump, at any moment to hold a news conference alongside the Prime Minister of Australia here for a state visit at the White House. The President of the United States in a very talkative mood already today announcing in the Oval Office last hour. What he calls new tough sanctions on the Iranian National Bank.

That the President says though, "Right to the top of the Iranian regime and he's already answered several questions about an urgent whistleblower complaint which sources tell CNN involves the President. President Trump says the complaint is partisan nonsense.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's a partisan whistleblower. They shouldn't even have information. I've had conversations with many leaders that are always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that. Always appropriate. At the highest level always appropriate. Anything I do, I fight for this country. I fight so strongly for this country. It's just another political hack job. That's all it is.


KING: You've seen this playbook from the President before. Attack the source, make it all partisan. Even as the President went on to admit he's not really sure, he says, what the complaint is about.


TRUMP: I don't know the identity of the whistleblower, I just hear it's a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party, but I don't have -Which conversation? Figure it out. You're supposed to be the media, figure it out. Which conversation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: July 25th with the President of United States.

TRUMP: I don't know. I really don't know.


KING: Let's get straight to the White House CNN's Kaitlan Collins live for us. The President shaking his head and saying, I really don't know. I don't find that quite believable given the events of last 24 hours.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And the President going back and forth several times alleging that this whistleblower is partisan although the President admitted he doesn't know who this whistleblower is. He said this complaint was ridiculous, though he later said that he hasn't read it, only his staff has. And he also said he is not sure which conversation it's referring to though he said all of his conversations with world leaders have been appropriate.

The President declined to say that he hasn't discussed Joe Biden with the Ukrainian President in that last known phone call that we know they have is we're trying to figure out how Ukraine fits into this allegation. The President saying he doesn't know there but continuing to certain - several things about this whistleblower, things that mirrored what his own Attorney Rudy Giuliani said last night, alleging that they're a Democrat even though it's not clear the identity of this whistleblower, to anyone including the President saying he doesn't know who it is.

Now the question going forward is how this is hanging over the second state visit that the President is hosting, the first being with the French, the second with the Australian today and as they get into this first conference underway in just a few minutes, John. Of course, these are going to be the questions facing the President.

If the this conversation he had, this communication with this whistleblower is filing a complaint and was a above and appropriate as the President is insisting it was, then why is the administration blocking that information from being able to be release to Congress or to the public that's something that the White House has not been able to answer yet, John.

KING: Okay. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, stay strap in there, it's going to be a busy hour ahead. We're waiting for the Prime Minister to answer more questions. With me here in studio to share the reporting and their insight, CNN's Dana Bash, Former House Intelligence Chairman, Mike Rogers, CNN's Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero and Maggie Haberman with "The New York Times".

We're going to wait for the two leaders it's always interesting that the President was in a talkative mood this morning. He says he's already had a press conference then he gets a break after these meeting said he has another press conference. The staff gets to tell the President anything they want or the President gets to rethink what he said, see if he wants to repeat it and the reporters get to look what the President said and may be think let's ask a better question or ask a sharper question to follow up on that. Here's one thing the President said. We don't know it's important to our viewers. We're not certain that what is at stake here because we don't have the complaint. It is the July phone call with the President of Ukraine. The President was asked today if, on that phone call, you raised the idea of, please gets me some dirt or please investigates matters that have to do with Joe Biden, is that okay?


TRUMP: It doesn't matter what I discussed, but I will say this somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he's not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case.


KING: It doesn't matter what I discuss. Let me start with the lawmakers and the lawyer at the table.


KING: If the President of the United States is having a conversation with another leader at a time when the United States is holding up promised military assistance and says, I'd like you to help me out here, on what is inherently a domestic U.S. political issue, does it matter?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It matters if it's a corrupt purpose. If what he's doing - if he was having a conversation with a foreign leader about a legitimate - something that's in U.S. interest, then that's a legitimate exercise of his foreign affairs authority, which is very strong as the executive.

But if he is trying to establish some kind of quid pro quo between - I'll use an instrument of U.S. foreign policy and national security and defense power, foreign aid or other assistance in exchange for your assistance to me politically, that's corrupt. And that is not a lawful exercise of his executive authority.

KING: And so the President says, and this is a quick answer, but the President was asked at the very end of the oval office meeting, sir, you can clear all of this up. Release the transcript of the phone call with the leader of Ukraine.


TRUMP: There is nothing. There's nothing.


KING: If there's nothing, why not release it?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN (R): Well, listen, this is all going to come out. No is just a long and painful way to yes. We've seen this tactic before. It's going to come out, it's going to drip out, there is going to be beading that you can see.

Every four minutes there is a new speculation on what it might be. I do believe that they need to get to the bottom of this soon. I think they should get ahead of it. It is not normally the tactic of this White House to get ahead it, but I think they should do it. I think they should pull the relevant folks in the room.

The Senate is not going crazy. The Senate Intelligence Committee is not having press conferences talking about speculative matters of the report. Start there. Go up there. Have the conversation. It should be behind closed doors.

I do think the President has a right to exert that I have the right to do this. He does. And maybe the person making the complaint saw one piece of a thousand-piece puzzle, you don't know. So I do think if they could clear it up, it would go a long way to go away.

KING: To that point, I want to come back to the process and the lack of trust in this time on the minute, but to that point about what we're seeing. The President could clear this up. He could release the transcript. He could have sent his DNI up to Capitol Hill and say, may be I don't want you to meet with Adam Schiff because we don't trust Adam Schiff.

But go ahead with Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer and Kevin McCarthy have a meeting with the four leaders and give just tell them calm down back off here is what this. They haven't done that. And then instead what we see is even though he says he doesn't know who it is, it's a partisan hack; they're out to get me.

It's the deep state again. We've seen this playbook before when they stall, before information comes out discredit the source so when it does come out, at least his people are inclined to say, forget about it.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We've seen something else John, in this playbook before, too, that the actual act in question may not really be a thing. We won't know until we see this transcript ultimately. But if it is as Carrie points out something that's within the scope of his powers as President, then it will be - that's just how he talk's moment and we've heard a lot of those kinds of things.

And then what it ends up, the controversy revolves around it's not just that, it's his or his aides' behavior around what the initial incident was. Half the Mueller Report was related to incidents of possible obstruction of justice by the President and his interaction with the Mueller investigation into the President.

Right now you are talking about the administration preventing the IG from briefing Congress. And then the President on the one hand says, I don't know who this is, but your point is defining the person in stark political terms. I think at another point said, some of my aides have read this complaint and were laughing about it. So I don't know which it is. KING: Right the issue is we don't know. Adam Schiff, who is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who got way out there over skis during the Mueller investigation saying there, is collusion before there was any evidence of collusion. You get the reason why the Trump Administration might not trust Adam Schiff. But there are other ways.

There is this thing called the law where if you have an urgent complaint, the IG at - the Trump-appointed IG for the Intelligence Community went around the DNI to tell the Congress about this because he was concerned they weren't following procedure and the law.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi moments ago said, turn it over. I'm sorry Speaker Pelosi was just talking moments ago. The law says the DNI should send the information. Shall not should, shall send that information to Congress. The law is the law so we just have to uphold the law.

So the question is the Democrats are in court on a whole lot of things. Is this going to drag out in court or by the time the DNI who has agreed to come up to Capitol Hill next week, we know he is not going to say anything, has agreed to come next week. Will they as Chairman Raju says figure out a way to get to a yes or at least?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: In normal times, yes, that's what the Chairman to my right used to do. You figure it out so that this whole thing stops or that the adults can find a way to get to a room and talk each other.


BASH: In normal times yes that happens. I'm not so sure that - I wonder what you think - that the law is as clear as the speaker says, and that is the big issue here. The law didn't anticipate, the whistleblower law, the problem being the President of the United States. It just didn't.

So that is why the Inspector General went to Congress, why the DNI is being told by the Executive Branch, no, you can't do it, and you are in this very, very slim slice of a gray area legally. Politically the one thing I will say, and I'm guessing you have it there, is to your point about the long road to yes. No is a long road to yes.

Rudy Giuliani came out on Chris Cuomo's show last night and tried to do what he is done several times before which he seems like he is may be speaking out of turn or saying something just from the hip. He is not he's trying to get out ahead politically of something they know is coming.


KING: And to that point, we do have it because of course this drama also involves Rudy Giuliani because it just wouldn't be right if it didn't. Who has acknowledged that he has had a meeting with Ukrainians', has acknowledged that he is trying to get dirt on the Biden family. And whether there is any - dealings by Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden who was a consultant for Ukrainian Energy Company. He told Chris Cuomo, last night no, I did not discuss Hunter Biden with Ukrainians and then he said this.


CHRIS CUOMO, FOX NEWS HOST: You never asked anything about Hunter Biden, you never asked anything about Joe Biden for the prosecutor?

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lou Sanco (ph), who was appointed, dismissed the case against--

COUMO: So you did ask Ukraine do you look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: Of course, I did.


HABERMAN: He's crazy like a fox.

BASH: He knows exactly what he's doing, don't you think, Maggie?

HABERMAN: I'm a little uncertain.

BASH: Maybe not on that moment, on the notion of that it's going to get out. People know that I'm in Ukraine and this was likely part of the President's conversation. Let's lay the groundwork.

HABERMAN: I think that's exactly right. I think that was his goal. I don't know whether he accomplished that, but I think that his goal as it was when he went on Hannity, to Hannity's shock that night, and yes said oh yes, the President did make these payments related to Stormy Daniels.

He did that on purpose and he was really vilified that night and it wasn't fair. He actually did know what he was doing and it turned out to have helped his client. I don't know that this one helped his client quite the same way. I'll say in fairness to him, I have watched that tape, it's like there is a film at this point.

I've seen it many, many times. But I think there is a world where he actually thought that he was responding to - I don't think he was trying to say that he asked about Joe Biden, I think he also thought he was answering a question about Hunter Biden and I think he got tangled up on that, just as an on the other hand answer.

KING: Confusion have made the confusion if you are, because it's difficult when you get into these issues a lot of names--

HABERMAN: And they were fighting. I mean, they were literally going back and forth on arguments.

KING: We're going to continue to follow this again. We need to be honest, there is a lot we don't know about the specifics of the complaint, about where it goes from here, but we're going to hear in just moments from now more from the President of the United States in his press conference in the East Room with the White House with Prime Minister of Australia in just moments away. We'll be right back.



KING: Live pictures here at the East Room with the White House, we're waiting for the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morison in a press conference after their meetings today. They're all ready had a meeting with the reporters in the Oval office as the President was greeting the Prime Minister and his wife here for an official state visit.

A lot discussed there, we just discussed a moments ago the whistleblower controversy, we'll come back to that in a moment. But the President also announcing at the top of this meeting and calling in his Treasury Secretary for assist that the Treasury Department is now imposing what the President calls tough new sanctions that go to the top of the Iranian regime by cutting off access of the Iranian National Bank to global funds the President offering those new sanctions.

This afternoon he will meet with his National Security team to discuss possible military actions. Many hawkish Republicans in Congress have told the President he should put on the table strikes on Iranian oil facilities this in response of course to those attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure last week and the administration blames it on the President saying, everybody calm down waiting. Not going immediately to military action is not weakness but strength.


TRUMP: We want to see if it works out, and if it works out, that's great. If it doesn't work out, that's great. In the end it always works out, whether it's now or in three weeks. It doesn't make any difference. But I think the strong person's approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint much easier to do it the other way. It's much easier. And Iran knows if they misbehave, they're on borrowed time.


KING: The President meanders sometimes in his language which is his way, but that is Trump. That is, don't push me. I don't want to start military confrontation. I'm going to meet with my advisers today. Everybody calm down.

HABERMAN: I think the problem that the President finds himself is on the issue of Iran is that he tends to make very declarative statements and he makes them very bluntly and forcefully, and his actual impulse on issues related to the Middle East related to oversees conflict it's actually not to be that militaristic. And he is very mindful that he won in 2016 in part, because he was opposed over engaging and continuing the engagements in the Middle East. So I'm not surprised by what he's saying.


HABERMAN: This is as you say the purest distillation him but it is just that is sometimes at odds with other things he's said.

KING: And pressure is on him, number on his close relationship with the Saudis which gets him into somehow water with including people of his party. Number two a commitment to the United States to protect the Persian Gulf. Number three, what they say is clear and convincing evidence that Iranian equipment was used here, and that equipment could not have been used without Iran's consent even though they haven't put all the police publicly put the pieces together yet to show it, but they believe that it was actually launched from Iran as well.

BASH: And I think especially given the Saudi piece of what he just talked about the fact that he didn't do very much anything after what happened to Khashoggi and those other examples of U.S. - the Trump Administration not kind of putting their hands up when it comes to Saudi.

The fact that he is not going in to try to protect Saudi right now in a knee jerk way is also telling and speaks to exactly what you both were talking about, that this there are a few things that Donald Trump has been consistent on for 30-plus years since he's even talked about things in public life. The issue of not going to war so aggressively and trade and China and this is so fundamental of who he is?

KING: And here we are now. You saw the delegations walking to President, the Prime Minister walking into the East Room just moments ago. The First Lady walked in, Vice President Pence before that. See them coming down. She - here at the White House showing the President and Prime Minister coming in. It's the East Room in the United States, East Room of the White House. Let's listen.

TRUMP: Thanks you very much please. We've had a spectacular morning, and it is an honor being with the Prime Minister and Mrs. Morrison. Thank you very much. Australia is a fantastic country and a brilliant ally.

We just spent a lot of time together with our Representatives, and they get along very well and we're doing a lot of deals. We talked military, we talked trade, we talked about everything you can talk about. And we came to the same conclusion, I think, in every case. But I just want to say it's an honor having both of you here. Thank you very much.

You have a truly great country and I don't think we've ever had a better relationship than we have right now. Tonight we're going to have something very special in the Rose Garden, and based on all of that money we spend on all of that weather-predicting equipment, they're saying no chance of rain. Let's see if that's right. If it is, we'll run right back into this room.

But we're going to have a fantastic evening, and First Lady, thank you very much. You worked very hard on this. It's not going to rain it's going to be a beautiful evening and great job, really great job, honey. Thank you. Please. Scott.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Mr. President and Mrs. Trump. We thank you very much for the incredibly warm and generous welcome that Jenny and I and the delegation have had here in Washington in this great home of the American Presidency, and indeed your home.

One of the many things that the President and I share in common is a passion for jobs, and the job performance here in the United States, the jobs that are being created in Australia, the jobs that change people's lives. You know, when people get a job, they got choices. And Australia and the United States we're committed to creating jobs.

Whether it's in trade or looking at the future and where those jobs are going to come from, we want our people to have those economic opportunities. I commend the President on the great work he's done in creating jobs here in the United States, and we're doing the same thing in Australia. We want to keep creating jobs and this partnership is a big part of that and that's why we're pleased to come together here.

We share objectives in so many areas. We share common values, we share beliefs. We've shared a wonderful century together, and now we're going to have another great century together. Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for the opportunity for the discussions we had today.

We are very much looking forward to the state dinner this evening and Mrs. Trump, you're doing something special there tonight, we've been to the first ever, but as the President said perhaps the first ever and that's just another great innovation which is part of this wonderful visit. So thank you very much.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. It's a great honor. Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you've been negotiating with the Chinese and there seems to be a possibility in terms of a China trade deal that they might actually offer some agricultural purchases. Is that going to be enough for you, sir, in order to get a deal done?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you need to see at this point to get that deal past the finish line?

TRUMP: We're looking for a complete deal. I'm not looking for a partial deal. China has been starting to buy our agricultural product, if you noticed, over the last week and actually some very big purchases, but that's not what I'm looking for. We're looking for the big deal. We've taken it to this level. We've taken in billions and billions of dollars of tariffs.

[12:25:00] TRUMP: China has devalued their currency and they're putting out a lot of money into their economy, and they have a very bad economy right now and I don't want them to have a bad economy. It's the worst in, say, 57 years. Two weeks ago it was the worst in 22 years, now it is 57 years, and it's only going to get worse.

Their supply chain is being broken up very badly and companies are leaving because they can't pay the 25, soon to go to 30 percent tariff. And we have 30 percent very shortly on 250 billion. We have another tariff at a slightly smaller number, as you know, on other - on about $300 billion worth of the goods and products.

So they would like to do something. As you know, we're talking a little bit this week, talking a lot next week, and then top people are going to be speaking the week following. But I'm not looking for a partial deal I'm looking for a complete deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel you need that deal before the election, sir?

TRUMP: No, I don't think I need it before the election. I think people know that we're doing a great job. I've rebuilt the military. Scott and I were talking about that. We spent $1.5 trillion. When I came in, our military was depleted. Frankly, we didn't have ammunition, okay?

Our military was in very bad shape. We rebuilt the military. We've got one of the strongest economies. Mike Pence actually got some - who is right here. He's a great Vice President. He was talking yesterday and with these numbers - these consumer numbers are incredible the retail numbers that came out two days ago that really weren't reported were just incredible numbers.

You know that very well, that's your world and some other numbers. We're doing very well. Our economy is very strong. And China is being affected very badly. We're not being affected. In fact, we're taking in billions of dollars. China is eating that. China is eating the tariffs because of the devaluation.

That doesn't happen with all countries. China is China and they know what they're doing as well as anybody. My relationship with President Xi is a very amazing one, very good one, but we have right now a little spat. But I think we're doing very well. Our country is doing well.

You look at so many different things. Look at all of the regulation cutting that allows us to do what we did. Look what happens three days ago we have an attack like that and it takes out a big chunk of oil and the price goes up $4, $5 and now it's heading down rapidly that shows you. That would have happened years ago. It would have gone up $50. It would have doubled.

This was a blip. So it's been really amazing what we've been able to do. I think the voters understand that. I don't think it has any impact on the election. Now, if something happened, I think that would probably be a positive for the election, but that's okay. I do think signing USMCA on a bipartisan basis with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and everybody else, very bipartisan, I think that's good for our country, and I would certainly be willing to say that's a bipartisan deal.

But I think that's very important for our manufacturers, for our farmers. Even for unions they want that deal done. So hopefully that's going to be put up to a vote very soon. There will be very little cajoling of the Democrats because most Democrats wanted to, but the USMCA is ready to be voted on. It's finished.

Mexico has taken their final votes. Candidate is willing to do that any time we want them to they're all set to go. And we need that for our country. It's a great deal. It's a great deal. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for the Prime Minister, sir, your economy to some degree is caught in the cross-currents between the United States and China. What did you say to the President about what your ideal outcome is here for a China trade agreement between the United States and China?

MORRISON: Thank you. Obviously, we'd like to see the United States and China to be able to come to an agreement. But what is always necessary is deals have got to be fair, deals have got to be good deals, deals have got to be sustainable deals.

I think one of the things we've seen, Australia's benefit greatly from the economic growth of China where the comprehensive strategic partnership with China in a free trade agreement with China. They've grown and they've become a standard economy in the world. Once you sort of get into that level, then you need to be able to be playing to the same rules as those other developed nations.

I think this is the new generation of deals I think we'll see China do, which the President has been working on. He's been working on it for some time and we wish him well in that process. There are some real series issues that have to be addressed in that deal.

Thinks like intellectual property, that's a big issue and it needs to be addressed. So we look forward to them achieving it and that providing I think the broader certainty and stability to the global economy which all nations will benefit from.

TRUMP: And we could do, Scott, a very big deal with China and it could go very quickly, as you know. But it wouldn't be the appropriate deal. We have to do it right. And it's a great complicated deal with intellectual property protection we have to do that and other things--