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Trump And World Leaders Convene At United Nations; Fatal Proposal; President Trump Says He Would Like Transcript of His Conversation with Ukrainian President Released; Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) Interviewed on Possibility of Impeachment Proceeding against President Trump. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He admits it. He admits he brought up unfounded corruption allegations against Joe Biden during a phone call with the president of Ukraine over the summer. The question now is what are Democrats going to do about it.

There are some news signs this might be a tipping point, even a tipping point on impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promising a whole new stage of investigation unless the Trump administration turns over a whistleblower's complaint about the president's conduct by Thursday. The House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff now says impeachment may be the only remedy.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump claims he hopes a transcript of his Ukraine phone call will be released. Well, good news, Mr. President, you have the authority to order that. Moments ago, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee seemed to suggest that he supports that trips being released, though he couched it this way.


REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R-CA): If we're now going to be -- Congress, if we get to listen in and read transcripts of the president's talking, I'm all for it, but I want to start what did Biden say to the Ukrainians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what the president --

NUNES: What did Obama say to Putin? We want to know all of that.


BERMAN: I'm all for it, I'm all for having the transcript released, is that what he really means? Joining us is Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee. He's the chief, deputy chief whip of the House Democratic Caucus. Congressman, thank you for being with us right now.


BERMAN: You're part of leadership. What needs to happen now? KILDEE: Well, first of all, I long ago arrived at the conclusion that

president should be impeached. I hope that more members come to that conclusion based on past facts but especially based on what we see right now.

But the most immediate need is that the law be followed. The whistleblower act has a process in place that allows us to protect our intelligence information, protect individuals who see a need to come forward, to do it in an orderly fashion, and that law is simply being ignored. So the most immediate need is for Congress to assert itself, and I would hope Democrats and Republicans together assert itself and tell the president, direct your people to follow the laws of the United States. If they did that, the information that the inspector general wants to see forwarded to the Intelligence Committee would be delivered in a timely fashion, and then we could make our judgements based on the facts.

BERMAN: Nancy Pelosi says if the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of Constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation. If the transcript is not produced, if the intelligence chief, the DNI, does not testify in public about this on Thursday, my question is, what are you going to do about it? Because I've heard this lawlessness claim before from Democrats. All spring, we were hearing about it, people flouted subpoenas to come testify. We're going to take you to court. What happens if you don't get the transcript by Thursday?

KILDEE: We go to the Constitution, and the Constitution has a prescribed process for dealing with a president that ignores the law, and it's an impeachment. We do need to continue to pursue through the courts the enforcement of U.S. law and the enforcement of our constitutional separation of powers, which is what that law is founded upon. But that does not mean we ignore what is in black letters in the Constitution, and that is that we have the authority to exercise our responsibility through that process, and I don't see any alternative to it.

BERMAN: What's your message to the House Speaker who is not where you are yet?

KILDEE: First of all, I think she is doing what she has to do. She has to have a majority within her caucus, and 218 votes to get there. But I think she's handling it the way she should. It's really up to the members of the House who have not come to the conclusion to take a very close look at these facts and see whether or not that pushes them to the place where we have to go through this process. I believe we do.

BERMAN: Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee says we look weak. He says he thinks you all are looking weak now by not taking action. What's your response to that?

KILDEE: If these particular facts are allowed to stand without us doing something very strong and decisive, then I think he has a point. And I think we have to be very careful about this. And we have to ignore whatever people think the political implications are of this. History will not treat anyone well if they put foremost either their own politics or what we think the 2020 political implications are when we have a president who is just running absolutely roughshod over the rule of law.

BERMAN: Why is this different than the whole Mueller investigation?

KILDEE: It's different in a couple of ways. One, I think people understand it better. A lot of the information in the Mueller report around obstruction, for example, seems like these arcane principles of law. This is the case of a president turning to a foreign power, potentially. Now again, we need to see the facts, but this is what's being alleged.

BERMAN: He told us he did.

KILDEE: He said he did. But we don't know what the nature of the conversation, whether there was some inducement offered or some reward offered or some penalty offered.


BERMAN: Does that matter?

KILDEE: It would make a difference. It would make a difference in terms of the way, I think, the public would understand how this president operates.

BERMAN: What if he didn't make a quid pro quo, what if he didn't include money --

KILDEE: Obviously still problematic and still very wrong, no question about it. Just the idea that a president would turn to a foreign power and ask them to investigate the family of a political opponent, that's what we're talking about.

BERMAN: That's what he admits to.

KILDEE: This is the stuff that is basically banana republic behavior. And the idea that the president has created this sort of numbness around his corruption and that people will kind of say well, yes, that's Trump being Trump. No. It's not about Trump. It's about the Constitution of the United States. It's about what kind of principles we think ought to stand. This is so far beyond anything we've seen in any other circumstance. This is beyond Nixonian in terms of the way he's operating.

BERMAN: The president flat out admitted he had the conversation about Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine. So that much now is an established fact if you're going to take him at his word. Mitt Romney, the senator now from Utah, is really the only Republican to go this far, and I'm not sure how far this far really is. Let me read you what he said. "If the President asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his investigate his political rival either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out." So the president said what he said, he had the discussion about Joe Biden with the Ukraine president. Rudy Giuliani flat out said on T.V. he pressured them to investigate Joe Biden. So that much is established. What do you make of Romney's statement?

KILDEE: Well, it's refreshing to hear that voice. The framers of our Constitution anticipated the possibility of a rogue presidency. What they did not anticipate is that an entire political party -- of course, they didn't think about parties, but a faction, as they would call it, would wrap their arms around a president who so clearly is flaunting the law. It was so disturbing to see the political messaging gymnastics that some of these Republicans are doing to try to either divert attention away from this terrible moment or to somehow justify it as if well, it's really not that bad.

Lindsey Graham, for example, I don't get what's going on with him. This is really disturbing to see them take hook, line, and sinker the bizarre messaging that the president and his people are putting out and treat it as if it's rationale. It is completely irrational.

BERMAN: The president was asked if he is going to release the transcript this week. Let me read the actual words he spoke in response to that, because I think they're telling of something, at least. He says, "Well, I'm going to talk about it. I mean, I love it." I would love to do whatever I want to do. Let me repeat that. I would love to do whatever I want to do. I would love to do it. "But you have to be a little bit shy about doing that. It's a perfect -- everything we said on that call was perfect."

KILDEE: It's his pattern to first deny something and then go through the process of trying to normalize it and treat it as if it's OK. Whenever he says he can do something but he didn't do it, that means he absolutely did that, whatever that might be. This is his pattern. And it's pretty frightening. I think people need to keep in mind, it was a Trump appointed inspector general --

BERMAN: Still is.

KILDEE: -- that is raising this issue.

BERMAN: He says it's of urgent concern.

KILDEE: Wrote to the intelligence committee on September 9, wrote again on September 17, reiterating the point and taking issue with the position that the DNI and obviously the Justice Department and those around Trump are taking. This is a real crisis because you have some of Trump's own appointed officials fighting with one another as to whether or not the president is breaking the law.

BERMAN: Quickly, Congressman, while I have you here, you represent Flint, Michigan. There's this UAW strike going on against General Motors right now. How concerned are you that the longer this continues, it could push Michigan into some kind of slowdown or even a recession?

KILDEE: We want to get it resolved as soon as we can. But I have to keep in mind that if we see the workers continue down this path of being replaced by temporary workers, in other words, what the union is fighting for is not just about the immediate economics, but what they're fighting for is the kind of job security that in the long run is so much better for our community. So I stand with those workers because they're not just fighting for themselves. They're fighting to keep the American jobs that they and the American government helped to save when General Motors was flat on its back. It's time for G.M., a profitable company, $33 billion over the last three years, to give back some of what was sacrificed in order to keep that company from going under.

BERMAN: Congressman Dan Kildee, always a pleasure to have you on set with us. Thank you very much for being here.

KILDEE: Thank you.


PAUL: OK, John, one of the most anticipated events at this week's U.N. General Assembly will be President Trump's meeting with the president of Ukraine. More on what we can expect, next.


PAUL: The escalating tensions with Iran and President Trump's demand, or reported demand on Ukraine for political gain, threatened to overshadow this year's United Nations General Assembly. So joining us now to talk about what to expect, we have CNN's senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodyrga, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

Here are the few tidbits we have been told about what to expect for this meeting, this bilat with President Trump and Ukraine's president. I'll just read it. A senior administration official said that in Wednesday's meeting Trump would congratulate Zelensky on his election victory and his energy and success thus far in tackling corruption, while raising his concerns about predatory Chinese economic activity in Ukraine. Well, Dana, I guess they're going to have to look for some body language in that case to see what the subtext is for this meeting.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Listen, even President Trump who takes great pride in, you know, thumbing his nose at people telling him that he didn't -- shouldn't do things that he probably knows he shouldn't do.

Even for him, it's hard to imagine that there will be any reprisal of the content of the phone conversation that even he admitted over the weekend existed, talking about in July about Joe Biden and questioning whether or not the Ukraine at that point, the brand new Ukrainian leader could investigate or look into, quote, unquote, "corruption," which there is no basis -- evidential basis so far for with Joe Biden and his son. It's hard to imagine that happening. But I think more broadly, the reality is that Donald Trump is going to

have meeting after meeting whether official or unofficial with world leaders, and the end the backdrop is going to be that they're going to be thinking, well, at any point I could get a call from Donald Trump with a very clear, even though he doesn't actually ask for a quid pro quo, it is not clear. The content and the implication is going to be clear that, you know, if I don't do something, maybe we're going to lose some financial aid or have some other diplomatic problem.

That's the reality that the President is going to be facing with every meeting he has.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I have to say, the scheduling Gods giveth in this case to have this meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine and Bianna, imagine the pressure that Presidents Zelensky is under at this point. He needs the United States. He needs NATO. He needs the protection that he gets against Russia which is invading his country and has occupied parts of his country.

So it is very awkward for him to say or do anything that would offend the President of the United States. This could be an enormously difficult position to be in.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Difficult indeed, but the one thing these two Presidents share is that they're very familiar with the camera. Remember that Zelensky is a political neophyte, but he was an actor, a comedian, very familiar with public audiences and how perception comes across.

That being said, he is a political neophyte. So this having been the first interaction that he's had with the U.S. president is pretty stunning and unprecedented. There is a difference between breaking norms and breaking the laws. We will see if that's in fact what the President of the United States did.

But you're absolutely right. Ukraine is in a very tough position right now. You have Zelensky who ran and won, in part on wanting to simmer down tensions between Russia and try to establish any sort of relationship that they can. They had a prisoner swap just a few weeks ago, the President commented on that and congratulated both countries.

So you have Zelensky knowing what we all know now about Donald Trump's affinity towards Putin and the things that he said about Russia in the past. So he is really between a rock and a hard place when he does need to have military support to defend his country against Russia, knowing how President Trump feels about Russia.

So eight times having a U.S. President, your first conversation, as has been reported by "The Wall Street Journal" suggest that they should look into Vice President Biden's son before they hand over that money is a very, very serious predicament for him to have been in

CAMEROTA: Dana, another big issue is the apparent Iranian attack on the Saudi oil fields. So how will that be tackled this week?

BASH: You know, the President has shown so far that he is consistent in how he has been for the past three or four decades with regard to being very reluctant to use military intervention despite his rhetoric at the beginning of this crisis, the most recent crisis, locked and loaded, despite the fact that you have, you know, other members of his Cabinet being much more forward leaning rhetorically on Iran. The President is not there.

And he has made it clear he is not there, and that is obviously going to be a huge part of the discussion not just with the United States, but other nations about what is the United States' role vis-a-vis protecting a country like Saudi Arabia, or is it Saudi Arabia who should use, you know, millions of dollars' worth of weapons that it has purchased from the U.S. to protect itself or others in the region?

I mean, that is the -- to do that would be the traditional Donald Trump approach. What he campaigned on what he campaigned on successfully, what he said very vocally as a businessman.

BERMAN: It is interesting, Iran comes to this U.N. G.A. I think in a vastly different position than it was a year ago when I think they may have engendered some sympathy with some of the nations for the fact that U.S. had pulled out of the nuclear deal.


BERMAN: Now, the entire world is looking at them at being to an extent, behind this attack on the Saudi oil facilities. I do wonder what happens next.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, they really are a thorn in every one's side. Look, this really exposes a vulnerability for the Saudis, right? Whether it was a proxy or what have you, Iran proved that they could really do significant damage to Saudi Arabia and to their oil facilities. And if they were able to do it once, the question is will they do it again? And that is the message that the Iranians are trying to send.

Dana is right. The last thing this President wants to do is enter a war going into an election year on top of that, but the biggest risk is still a miscalculation. We don't have diplomatic relations with Iran. We haven't in decades.

The President clearly walked into this thinking that he could pressure Iran into sitting down and renegotiating a deal. That has not proven to be the case. Many suggesting we should have stuck with the Iran deal. That having been said it's going to be that much harder to renegotiate a new one.

Iran has been squeezed and they feel the pressure. But it doesn't seem at this point that they're letting up. We shall see what happens this week.

CAMEROTA: Dana, we only have 30 seconds left. The President is skipping the event today, which many consider the existential crisis of our time, and that is the climate crisis.

BASH: Listen, this is a huge problem politically for him in those key suburbs. Four years ago, the polls show focus groups did not show that the climate crisis penetrated as much as a front tier issue for voters who will matter for this President and the Democratic nominee.

It matters much more now. This is a risky move that he is making. Yes, it will please his base who -- and the people who are climate crisis deniers, but not so much for the voters he needs.

CAMEROTA: Ladies, thank you very much. Great to talk to both of you.

BASH: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Joy quickly turns into heartbreak. A man dies after proposing to his girlfriend underwater. We're going to speak to the man's sister next.



BERMAN: What was supposed to be such a moment of joy, the ultimate life-changing moment turned into a nightmare. A Louisiana man drowned after proposing to his girlfriend underwater.

Steven Weber and Kenesha Antoine were staying in Tanzania in a cabin that was submerged in the ocean. That was the whole idea. It was an underwater cabin. Weber swam underwater outside the cabin and held a note against the window, but never made it back to the surface.

In that note, he wrote, I can't hold my breath long enough to tell you everything I love about you. But everything I love about you I love more every day -- it was a wedding proposal.

Joining me now is Steven's sister, Mandy Weber-Hoffman and Mandy, we are so sorry for your loss and just know we're sending our love to you and your family. Did you know your brother planned to propose? What did he told you of his plans?

MANDY WEBER HOFFMAN, BROTHER OF STEVEN WEBER: Yes, I did. He had been planning this for quite a while. Obviously the trip has been planned for, you know, almost a year. And they were very much looking forward to it, and we knew that he wanted to propose to her. And he decided that this was the most wonderful time to do it, the trip of a lifetime and really wanted to surprise Kenesha with this proposal.

BERMAN: Now, what have you been told at this point about your brother's passing? About what happened?

HOFFMAN: Well, what we know is that he, as you had mentioned that he had Kenesha go down to the room that is underwater so that she could look through one of the windows. And he proposed to her, she ran up to the top of the cabin to meet him and to embrace him and at that time, he never came up.

So we don't know yet, if he was injured on the way up, if he hit his head on something or if he had a heart attack, or we really don't know all of the details yet, other than he did drown.

Kenesha was not able to get through to the main resort. She tried to use the telephone that was there. And she tried to use the radio that was there and could not get through. And so she was able to flag down some passing boaters.

They came and helped her, helped to get him out of the water after searching for him, and they did everything they could to try to revive them. But he just could not -- he didn't come back, obviously.

BERMAN: It just sounds awful. And again, we're so sorry. I want to read you something that Kenesha did write on Facebook after his death that gets to, I think the strength of the relationship. She said, "You never emerged from those depths, so you never got to hear my answer. Yes. Yes. A million times, yes, I will marry you. The best day of our lives turned into the worst and the cruelest twist of fate imaginable. I will try to take solace in the fact that we enjoyed the most amazing bucket list experiences these past few days and that we both were so happy and absolutely giddy with excitement in our final moments together."

Have you had a chance to speak with Kenesha? How is she holding up?

HOFFMAN: She and I, we've spoken quite a bit. You know, unfortunately, the travel time from Tanzania back to the United States is lengthy and she, as you can imagine, is just devastated and distraught.

I really am ready for her to be here so that we can get her from the airport, embrace her and just give her all of the support that she needs. Kenesha was and is part of our family now.

BERMAN: Are there any answers from authorities in Tanzania whether it be medical examiner's or law enforcement?

HOFFMAN: We haven't heard anything at this point. Not at all. We are hoping to get an autopsy result --