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Trump Admits To Talking To Foreign Power About Investigating Biden; Adam Schiff Tells CNN, Impeachment May Be The Only Option In This Case; Army Soldier Facing Several Serious Charges Including Plans To Target U.S. News Network And Democratic Presidential Candidate. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The day after the President of the United States was on the phone with the President of Ukraine and Trump is now openly admitting that during that phone call, he discussed former Vice President and potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden along with his son Hunter in what Trump claims was corruption by one or both men.

Sources tell CNN that Trump pressed Ukraine's President to investigate the younger Biden. And while the President doubled down on those claims today and over the weekend, we should be crystal clear. There is zero evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

In fact, Ukraine's current prosecutor said that in May, that Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws. And moments ago, a top aide to Ukraine's President says that he told Rudy Giuliani that Ukraine won't be opening or closing investigations, quote, unquote, "on command."

But back to that phone call. Now, we know a whistleblower raised a red flag to supervisors, we don't know what Trump said, and now that may be about to change.

Boris Sanchez is our CNN White House correspondent there and Boris, what are you hearing about this possible release of the transcript of said phone call?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we've learned that White House officials are actually considering releasing a transcript of this conversation between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. And sources of told CNN that the White House counsel's office is now a part of these deliberations.

One source telling CNN that these transcripts could potentially be released soon, but they wouldn't give them more specific timetable. From what we understand, they're going over specific details, considerations like what format these transcripts would be released and what vehicle they might use to release them and what redactions if any they would need to make.

Publicly we've seen the disagreements between President Trump and some within his own administration. The President saying that he wants these transcripts released. His Secretary of State, his Treasury Secretary, even his Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham today saying that this may set a dangerous precedent, this may be a bad idea. That echoes what we're hearing is going on behind closed doors inside the White House.

Officials are concerned that potentially, releasing these transcripts could open the White House up to having to release other transcripts of conversations that President Trump has had with other world leaders like Vladimir Putin, for example. So there is some concern about what precedent this might set.

Conversely, though, there are some within the White House that believe given everything that the President has already said about this conversation with the Ukrainian President, that just releasing these transcripts, could hasten the news cycle and get this controversy out of the headlines.

However, of course, not doing that, stonewalling could drag this out and yet create another legal battle between this White House and Congress -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Okay. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much. What does all of this mean for Democrats up on Capitol Hill? Well, it may be just the thing to get lawmakers opposed to impeachment to change their minds.

CNN has learned that some Democrats, some House Democrats who were hesitant to take action are ready to publicly back this move, especially if there's proof that President Trump held up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the Biden's.

At least one freshman Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that her party's refusal to hold Trump accountable is a bigger scandal than Trump's actions. House Intel Chief, Adam Schiff tells CNN, impeachment may be the only option in this case.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If the President is essentially withholding military aid, at the same time, that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that that conduct represents.


BALDWIN: Let's have a conversation. Gloria Borger is CNN's Chief Political Analyst. Kim Wehle is a former Federal prosecutor and former Associate Independent Counsel in the Watergate investigation. She is also the author of the new book, "How to Read the Constitution and Why." So that's germane to all of this.

Gloria, let me begin with you. You know, we know that Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff coordinated on strategy over the weekend. Is this the moment for Speaker Pelosi where there is no more mixed messages, where she has to go all in. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she was sending a

very, very strong signal to the White House and also to her troops, you know, some of whom were getting really restless, which is to say I hear you, this is different, this is important.

And what she is doing is she is taking the pulse of those 40 Democrats or so who won in Republican districts, in Trump districts and saying, look, how are you guys feeling about this? Because she can't make a move unless they have changed their position as well.

I think she still believes that, of course impeachment would go nowhere in the Senate. But at this point, it's very clear that she thinks this story about Ukraine has taken it to a different level for her, and we heard that from Adam Schiff, who said, basically, that the Rubicon may have been crossed.


BALDWIN: That's the Democrats who came on the flip side for the Republicans. Mitt Romney, for example, is one who has come forward and said that it would be quote, "troubling in the extreme," if Trump pressured Ukraine's President, adding that it is critical for facts to come out.

But the thing is, President Trump stood there and publicly admitted this. So what more could Romney or anyone else need?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, we don't know whether this extortion actually happened and extortion is a crime, and that means, give me this or else. In this instance, it would be, give me dirt on my political opponents, or I'll withhold this $250 million in military funding.

But I don't know that it's even the evil to do -- Congressman Schiff's point that is really the issue here, as I talk about in the book. It has to do with the rule of law and there are Republicans and Democrats who care about that.

And what I mean by that is, if there are red lights that people routinely run, and you never get a ticket, you run over and over and over again, then the red light is no longer a red light, people ignore it and then people could get hurt.

And this is a President, who we haven't seen any tickets being given him while running the red light.

BALDWIN: Would he have to say -- would he have to say, I did this. We know they withheld the aid. But what did he have to say, I did A plus B equals C and then equals C.

WEHLE: I think the question is, you know, he has done enough to start impeachment hearings, for sure. And the Congress has to ask themselves, are we going to have a check on the office of the presidency, because the judicial branch is out. The judicial branch is out pursuant to the O.L.C. memo banning the prosecutors - Federal prosecutors - from investigating and prosecuting a President. So the only potential ticket can come from the Congress and the

Congress represents the United States people, and the idea is that we are the bosses of ourselves.

So if Congress doesn't act, then they're abdicating their congressional prerogative and we're going to be left with a potential dictatorship.

BALDWIN: So let me -- hang on and then I want you to jump in on that, Gloria, because I thought "The Washington Post" to everything Kim just said, this is how "The Washington Post" summed it up, quote, "Now, President Trump, now he is alleged to have leveraged taxpayer dollars and U.S. military might to extort a foreign government for opposition research on a political opponent. And it is unclear what consequences if any, he may face." Unclear. Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: Well, that's absolutely true. And I think that Congress needs to start doing its job and be firm about it. I mean, they could have walked Corey Lewandowski out of his testimony the other day when he wasn't cooperating, and they didn't.

And I think now, they have to demand what they should have gotten in the first place, which is the transcript of this conversation, a recording of this conversation --

BALDWIN: How do we know -- how do we know -- pardon my cynicism, but how do we know even when the transcript comes out that it hasn't been, you know --

BORGER: Well, you know, you have to have faith in something. And the Inspector General went up and said, I am not allowed to do my job and I've been handcuffed by the Department of Justice and I've looked at this.

I've looked at this whistleblower complaint, and you should -- you meaning Congress, you should have this transcript right now and then you can start making your decisions, because I believe it is urgent. And so Congress needs to get this.

And now as, as our White House reporters are saying, there's disagreement in the White House about whether the transcripts should be released to Congress. It is the law, it should be released to Congress. And remember, remember during Mueller, Trump said, oh, I'll be happy to testify. And then of course, it was his lawyers who kept him from testifying.


BORGER: Well, now it's Trump saying I'm happy to release the transcript, and his lawyers are saying, well, maybe you shouldn't.

BALDWIN: And Kim, I want to hear from you. But let me just get this sound in. So basically, Trump world has been putting up this united front, even General James Mattis, who left the administration last fall, this is what they're saying.


STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think that would be a terrible precedent. Conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't release transcripts very often. It's the rare case. Those are private conversations between world leaders and it wouldn't be appropriate to do so except in the most extreme circumstances. There's no there's no evidence that that would be appropriate here at this point.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST: Should a President be asking foreign leaders to investigate political opponents?

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Yes, Martha, this is not something I have any background on. I don't know anything more than what I've read in the news. And apparently, no one has seen the complaint site. I really prefer to talk about things I know more about.



BALDWIN: So even incredibly well respected, General Mattis said that and let me just add that Trump ally, Lindsey Graham says that if this happened, that this would constitute executive privilege, Kim.

WEHLE: There are two items in play here. One is the transcript of the actual conversation, and I do think there's a constitutional argument, a strong one, that the President needs to have confidential communications with foreign leaders that aren't made public.

And that is within the President's discretion to release. He has indicated he will release it. I don't think we can take a whole lot of what he says at any point in time, to the bank, so to speak, so we'll have to see what happens there.

But the second piece is the actual whistleblower complaint. The person who was concerned, who overheard, we don't know what the complaint itself contains, the transcript. But that person certainly has information.

And the law is very, very clear, as Gloria indicated, that that whistleblower complaint shall be true transmitted to the Congress, if the Inspector General determines it's important enough. That was triggered here. They get seven days to hand it off.

The D.N.I., the Director of National Intelligence is saying, no. He is saying, I will not comply with an act of Congress, which remember, is the people's word. So Congress made a determination. This kind of information needs to be communicated with the Congress, so we can make sure that the executive branch is held accountable for extreme wrongdoing, all of that has been triggered.

So Congress should get that document. The whistleblower complaint should be in court in my mind right now to protect this prerogative and get a temporary injunction, T.R.O., forcing the disclosure of that or a writ of mandamus and then also ask, to actually call this witness. Bring this witness before Congress, maybe confidentially if there are state secrets and ask what actually happened.

Congress has its own independent investigative authority. It doesn't need to rely on the Executive Branch for the facts.

BALDWIN: Got it. Got it. So Congress if you're listening, I hear both of you loud and clear. Ladies, thank you so much. Gloria Borger, Kim Wehle, appreciate the conversation.

We have more breaking news this afternoon. An American soldier is under arrest in part for allegedly discussing plans to target a U.S. news network and a Democratic presidential candidate, so stand by for details there.

Also ahead, a high school football game canceled after cheerleaders are punished for holding up a Trump sign. Why school officials were worried about safety.

And Prince Harry and Meghan arrive in Cape Town. It is their first leg of what is expected to be an emotional journey. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: We are back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Here is the breaking news. An Army soldier is facing several serious charges including plans to target a U.S. news network and a Democratic presidential candidate. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is with me now with more. Who is this guy?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Twenty-four years old. His name is -- hold on a second, I'll grab it here. His name is Jarrett William Smith. He is 24. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.

What's interesting is this, this would appear to be something like we've seen with domestic terrorism, something that the F.B.I. and Department of Justice have been very concerned about, and what happens in this situation is around August 19th, there appears to be contact between this person and someone working for the F.B.I., where he talks about wanting to do an attack, conduct some kind of an attack in the United States.

And then there are conversations that go back and forth and that is where he talks about possibly targeting a major American news organization using a car-style bomb to launch a pretty severe attack on a news organization. They don't say what that news organization is.

He is charged with distributing material and how to make bombs on Facebook. This started all back in March. The F.B.I. was alerted to him through Facebook, basically, through these postings where he was talking about how to make bombs, how to make cell phone bombs in particular. And so he has been on their radar for quite some time. But he doesn't get back on their radar it appears until August where he talks about launching attacks in the U.S., this news organization.

And then there's talk of possibly targeting Beto O'Rourke. Of course, he is the candidate running -- a Democratic candidate running for President. So obviously a lot of concern here.

This was not based on any kind of international terrorism beliefs, like we've seen ISIS or some other group. This all appears to be just something that he wanted to do. Why? We don't know specifically, but obviously, these are the types of cases I think that's important to know, that the F.B.I ...

BALDWIN: Stopped him.

PROKUPECZ: ... is very much concerned about. And I think what we had here is that they started going back and looking at types of people, perhaps that could launch attacks within the U.S. and this was a type of person that they're concerned about.

BALDWIN: Well done F.B.I. Shimon, thank you very much. As a top Democrat escalates the possibility of pursuing impeachment, calling the President's phone call with the Ukrainian president, quote, unquote, "the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office."

The President is once again deflecting any wrongdoing to Biden and a conspiracy theory about his son, Hunter in Ukraine.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The one who has got the problem is Biden because if you look at what Biden did, Biden did what they would like to have me do except they have one problem, I didn't do it. What Biden did is a disgrace. What his son did is a disgrace. The son took money from Ukraine, the son took money from China -- a lot of money from China.



BALDWIN: CNN reporter, Daniel Dale is with me now. And so Daniel, what's the -- what's the backstory behind the President's accusations there?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: So in 2015, Ukraine appointed a Chief Prosecutor by the name of Viktor Shokin, who quickly earned a reputation for basically not prosecuting anybody when it came to corruption. He was widely criticized for letting the elite operate with impunity, even of being corrupt himself, and the U.S. and U.S. allies, the International Monetary Fund, were all pressuring Ukraine to get rid of this guy, to appoint someone more effective. And Vice President Joe Biden, who was the Obama administration's

appointment on Ukraine, personally pressured Ukraine. He said, I will not give you a billion dollars in loan guarantees, unless you sack the prosecutor, as you apparently have promised to do.

Now, Biden has been very open about this pressure effort. He has touted it as his own anti-corruption work. Listen to what he said at an event in 2018.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm desperately concerned about the backsliding on the part of key -- in terms of corruption. They made me -- I'll give you one concrete example.

I went over, I guess the 12th, 13th time to Kiev and I was supposed to announce that there is another billion dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor and they didn't.

So they said that -- they were walking out to the press conference and I said, I'm not -- we're not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You're not the President. The President said -- I said, call him. I said, I'm telling you're not getting the billion dollars. I said, you're not getting billion and I will be leaving here -- I think it was what? Six hours. And look, I said, I'm leaving in six hours, and if the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch, he got fired and they put in place someone who was solid at the time.


DALE: So why does the Trump campaign and the President himself take issue with this anti-corruption work? Well, they point out that at the same time as the Vice President Biden was pressuring the Ukrainians, his son, Hunter Biden sat on the Board of Directors of a natural gas company in Ukraine, whose owner was supposedly under investigation by this prosecutor's office.

Now that's true. Hunter Biden did sit on that Board. It was supposedly under investigation, but here are the holes in the Trump theory. One is that again, this prosecutor wasn't investigating or prosecuting much of anybody and there have been multiple reports now that this particular investigation was basically sidelined. It was dormant at the time the Vice President applied the pressure.

Second of all, Trump has repeatedly claimed that Hunter Biden himself was under investigation. There was no evidence whatsoever for that, and the third thing is that, Vice President Biden was pushing Ukrainians to appoint a more effective prosecutor.

It's not clear how in this case, his son would have benefited from an ineffective prosecutor being replaced by a prosecutor who actually did his job. So at this point, this is a conspiracy theory with a whole lot of holes that have not been filled by the President.

BALDWIN: Thank you for the perspective and the facts. Daniel Dale, appreciate it.

DALE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: New details today in a mass overdose. Three people have died, four are in the hospital and now the man accused of supplying the drugs is under arrest.



BALDWIN: Federal charges have now been filed against a man in connection with a string of drug overdoses that left three people dead, four others in the hospital in Pittsburgh.

It all unfolded Sunday morning when authorities responded to a report of an unconscious man in an apartment elevator. Another man was found in a similar condition just a couple of blocks away, and so police traced both men back to this Pittsburgh apartment where they found five other people who also apparently overdosed.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is covering all of this for us. And the three who have died, the four in the hospital, they were all wearing this orange wristband. What happened?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's all part of this big mystery about 36 hours ago.


SANDOVAL: A lot changed in the last 36 hours in the story here because initially you had seven men in their 30s, all wearing that same orange wristband, something that we'd wear maybe to a concert or a festival.

So immediately officials were afraid that this was perhaps some kind of a bigger health scare here. But now they can say definitively that this was actually a case of multiple overdoses -- mainly cocaine.

And this morning, investigators arrested somebody who they say was the provider of these drugs here. A man by the name of Peter Rene Sanchez Montalvo, known on the streets as Carlos according to investigators, and they believe that he was at a nightclub on the city's south side on Saturday night there in Pittsburgh. That is when he encountered these seven individuals who were later overdose and then according to investigators that they went to an apartment complex nearby for an after party.

And that is when authorities believed that the drugs were essentially distributed to the seven men, then took these drugs and then many of them, according to one witness immediately began to drop. Here's the question here. What was in that?

I spoke to the Medical Examiner there in Pittsburgh and he says at this point, it's simply too soon. We still have to wait for the toxicology reports to come back, but again, this started as with a possible scare, but now authorities can describe this as an isolated incident, but it certainly doesn't take away from the tragedy.