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All Eyes Are On To Democrats Who Could Pose A Serious Threat To President Trump's Chances Of Staying In The White House; Rep. Gloria Luria (D-VA) Reacts To President Trump's July 25th Call Ukrainian Counterpart Is A Game Changer; Speaker Of The House Nancy Pelosi In An Interview At The Atlantic Festival. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:01]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me today. All eyes are on to Democrats who in different ways could pose a serious threat to President Trump's chances of staying in the White House.

And one of them is 2020 candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, and the other is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And in just a few moments, Joe Biden is expected to speak as Trump continues his baseless allegations of corruptions by the former VP and his son, Hunter in Ukraine.

I say baseless, because the top prosecutor in Ukraine said there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. And those comments come as sources tell CNN that Speaker Pelosi is prepping a resolution to address President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian President and this is happening as calls for impeachment are really growing within the Democratic Caucus.

Among them, this group of moderate freshmen lawmakers, all in swing districts, and with all with national security backgrounds, and we'll talk with them -- one of them in just a few moments.

Now, Speaker Pelosi and Biden are about to speak as President Trump gives yet another reason for why he originally withheld millions in military aid from Ukraine after that whistleblower complaint came to light.

One day ago, he cited corruption and now, he is pointing the blame at Europe. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to make sure that country is honest, it's very important to talk about corruption. If you're not talking about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt? One of the reasons the new President got elected is he was going to stop corruption. My complaint has always been and I withhold again, and I'll continue

to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine because they're not doing it, just the United States. We're putting up the bulk of the money. And I'm asking, why is that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Trump insists there was never any quid pro quo involved in Ukraine and his phone call with its President about Biden and his son, so let's start with CNN Political Reporter, Arlette Saenz. She is at the hotel where Biden will be shortly speaking and so, Arlette, what will he be calling for?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, in just a short while Joe Biden will be speaking here in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. And he will say that if President Trump cannot or does not comply with Congress's requests, that impeachment should be proceeded upon and Biden is going to go further than he has ever gone when it comes to these calls for impeachment today.

And I want to read you what a top campaign aide told us just earlier this afternoon. They said he is going to make the point that Trump's latest abuses are on top of all of his prior abuses. He is going to call on Trump to comply with all of Congress's outstanding lawful request for information in the Ukraine matter and in the other investigations. And if Trump does not comply, Congress has no choice, but to impeach.

Now, Joe Biden, you know, has been at the center of this controversy relating to President Trump and Ukraine and the whistleblower after it was revealed that the President spoke with the Ukrainian President trying to pressure him to investigate Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the Biden's part.

But now you were seeing the former Vice President go further than he has gone to before in regards to impeachment, and as you're seeing other Democrats across the country, across party spectrum, who are also now coming forward saying that impeachment must be pursued. So we will be hearing from Joe Biden. He is expected here within the next hour to talk about these comments -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will stand by for that. We will take it. Arlette, thank you for now. So will Trump become the third U.S. President to face impeachment? The drumbeats are indeed getting louder and louder.

We're learning how speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to put a resolution on the House floor tomorrow addressing Ukraine. She meets with all of the Democrats in her chamber just two hours from now. We know she has been talking with the Democratic chairs of six House committees today, sounding out their views on whether to get impeachment proceedings rolling.

And Speaker Pelosi actually told our correspondent, Jeff Zeleny that Democrats quote, "will have no choice but to move forward with an inquiry." And the number of Democrats calling for that Impeachment Inquiry keeps growing. Look at your screen. Look at that. A hundred fifty eight at last count. Veteran Congresswoman -- Congressmen excuse me, John Lewis giving a fiery speech on the House floor today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): We cannot delay. We must not wait. Now is the time to act. I have been patient while we tried every other path and used every other tool.

I truly believe the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this President has come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:05:06]

BALDWIN: Congressman Lewis's voice adding to those and Democrats who have been demanding impeachment proceedings for months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to actually start doing our job. And part of that is actually -- is opening an impeachment inquiry, something I've been calling for since December of 2017. It's just the right thing to do, regardless of the politics. And you've seen more and more Democrats moving in this direction.

Just to be clear, there's not a single Democrat who has moved from pro-impeachment debate to against it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And then there's also this. Seven first-term House Democrats all from competitive swing districts, all with military or intelligence or national security experience penning this joint op-ed in "The Washington Post" saying that if the allegations about Ukraine are true, it is an impeachable offense.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill and is with me now. And Sunlen, we know Pelosi had been resisting impeachment now saying we have no choice, planning to put this resolution out on the floor. What's the temperature right now on Capitol Hill?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly feels much different than it was just only 24 hours, Brooke. There certainly feels like essentially an air of inevitability to all this amidst all these fast-moving developments on the part of House Democrats today.

You mentioned the rapidly growing numbers of House Democrats that are now coming out and saying that they are in support of impeachment, and certainly notable among those numbers, is who exactly is coming out.

You mentioned those moderate House freshmen from swing districts that came out with an op-ed, many allies and close friends of Speaker Pelosi who have been aligned with her strategy from the start announcing, yes, I'm going to add my name to this impeachment group. So significant, not only in numbers, but significant and who is

calling for impeachment. Of course, the biggest factor here is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. As you said, she has been huddling with key folks all day for the last 24 hours to -- she will meet with her six committee chairs today, kind of to talk strategy. And then that big key important meeting at 4:00 p.m. today with the entire House Democratic Caucus, where we believe of some sort of plan will emerge from that meeting and how Democrats will exactly proceed next, and if they indeed will move towards formal impeachment proceedings.

And we know that Pelosi will speak moments after that to potentially hear her ultimate decision. Of course, she has been very resistant in the past. But again, it feels like the tide really has shifted here on Capitol Hill. We know according to sources that she is paying attention to all of the voices, of course, within her caucus -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Well, let's pay extra attention to this voice. Coming up next -- Sunlen, thank you very much. My next guest says President Trump's July 25th call with his Ukrainian counterpart is a game changer and a critical reason why Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Gloria Luria, a Navy veteran who has flipped Virginia's second district to blue from red in the midterm. She says this is why she signed on to this joint op-ed with six of her fellow freshmen writing that, if the allegations are true, the time for impeachment has come.

And Congresswoman Luria is with me now in Washington. Congresswoman, a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.

REP. GLORIA LURIA (D-VA): Well, thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So you issued this statement saying President Trump has betrayed the public trust, abandoned his obligations to the Constitution and you write that, quote, "Allegations of the gross misconduct meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors."

So Congresswoman Luria, do you think this incident with Ukraine's President makes the justification for impeachment that much clearer and not just to you, but also to the American public?

LURIA: Well, Brooke, I think this makes it crystal clear. At this point, if you have the President of the United States enlisting a foreign leader to conduct an investigation that could do nothing other than smear and malign his political opponent in order to bolster his choices -- his chances for reelection, and then on top of that, withholding foreign aid in the amount of $250 million, this is just clear cut, this is beyond the pale, and this is an offense that if this isn't impeachable, what is?

BALDWIN: And so you're saying crystal clear. Your op-ed mentions a potential quid pro quo, right, withholding aid in exchange for investigating the Biden's.

Earlier today, the President insisted that that was never on the table. Does it matter to you if the President did not verbally mention money on this phone call? LURIA: That doesn't matter to me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: It doesn't.

LURIA: I think that it could be explicit, and we may find that out, but even an implicit connection between the two, I mean, put your shoes in the President of Ukraine's seat, President Zelensky. Here you have the President of the United States who has promised this $250 million in security assistance. You're in the position as well that in 2014 your country has been invaded by Russia and Crimea. And this is critical assistance to provide protection for your national security.

And then you're being asked to conduct an investigation to smear the political opponent of the President of another country, I mean, how could it not be implicitly connected?

[14:10:13]

BALDWIN: Speaker Pelosi tells CNN that she read your op-ed while she was flying back to Washington last night, and then she got a heads up about it coming on in "The Post." Have you, have any of your colleagues heard from the Speaker's office? And do you know her reaction to your decision?

LURIA: We all spoke to the Speaker before this. I mean, I was 20 years in the Navy and I know that you never want to surprise anyone in the chain of command, and, you know, the Speaker values all of our opinions. And, you know, was very glad to have the discussion with us and understand that, you know, we had made this decision.

I made this decision independently and then through discussion with my colleagues, you know, found that we were all on the same page. This was glaring misconduct, it just met a threshold that, you know, we felt was imperative that we move forward.

I am fortunate to have other colleagues of a national security background, myself in the military, and you know, former C.I.A. as well. The seven of us came together and said, we have to do this and let's speak as one voice to make sure that the American public understands that we see the severity of this.

BALDWIN: So when you gave Speaker Pelosi the heads up, what was her reaction to you?

LURIA: Her reaction is, as it always has been, whenever I've let her known about a decision I've made is that, you know, she said, Elaine, you represent your district and you do what is right for your district.

And, you know, pivoting on that, in this case, what I did was, you know, what I think people sent me to Congress to do is to make a tough decision.

BALDWIN: Okay. And we know that later this afternoon, she is speaking with your caucus. If she listens to you, if she takes your words to heart, what is next, Congresswoman Luria in terms of selling this to an American public? Does she take this to a prime time address? What do you think she could do?

LURIA: Well, I am learning. You know, as I'm watching the broadcast here, you know that former Vice President Biden is going to be speaking and then I will be attending the caucus meeting at four o'clock. And I know that that's a very good forum for all of us to speak.

And, you know, leadership in the Speaker and all the other members listen very closely to, you know, what we have to say as colleagues and what we're hearing from constituents around the country.

And then next after that, you know, just based off what I've learned during your broadcast, she will be making a public statement at some point today.

BALDWIN: Okay. Congresswoman Luria, thank you very much. I appreciate you.

LURIA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And thank you of course for all your years in the Navy serving this country as well.

Our breaking news coverage continues as we wait to hear from Vice President Joe Biden. We will talk to Michael Smerconish about this latest Trump scandal and whether it will stick. Plus, even before the events of today, a warning issued from veterans of Hillary Clinton's campaign to Team Biden. It's only going to get worse, they say.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:15:59]

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: ... President apparently, or evidently reached out to a foreign leader to ask that foreign leader to investigate one of his domestic political rivals, which is another way of saying that is the President of the United States asked a foreign government to interfere in an election and possibly subordinated American national security interests to his own personal needs and desires. My question to you is, is that an impeachable offense?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, first, let me say how pleased I am to be here this afternoon. It's a busy day, and to be the program opening with the arts is something I was very excited about because when I get to your question --

GOLDBERG: I am just here, so that's fine.

PELOSI: The fact is that I've tried to avoid the situation that we're in now, because it was very divisive for the country. This administration has done irreparable damage to our -- not irreparable, let's hope it is reparable -- but it is, we must repair and we must heal.

And for me, relating that to Yo-Yo and Chris, it is about the art side. I always believe that the arts would bring us together. When we can come together, listen, be inspired laugh, cry -- just enjoy and put our differences aside. That's a very positive thing.

And when we hear the Battle Hymn of the Republic, it arouses such emotion in all of us that we are united. So I think, Atlantic Monthly for you, what used to be called the Atlantic Monthly when I was in high school, so I congratulate the Atlantic for recognizing the role that music and the arts play in our lives. And I do believe that that is a path that can unify us one way.

You asked about what? Let me just say that last Tuesday, September 17th was Constitution Day. It was the anniversary of that day when Benjamin Franklin came out of Independence Home and people said, Ben Franklin, what do we have for your Republic? He said, a Republic, if we can keep it. A Republic, if we can keep it.

On that very day last week, that Tuesday erupted this remarkable set of facts on Constitution Day, and it was about the IG -- Inspector General at the Office the Director of National Intelligence saying that there was a whistleblower complaint. And then we learned that it was going to be blocked from being presented, and that the D.N.I. was not going to allow it to come forward.

So let me just say this -- I am more experienced in intelligence. I've been in Congress, at least 25 years. I was a member of the committee. I was the top Democrat. I was the Adam Schiff. We didn't have the majority, so as a Ranking Member, but that made me a member of the Gang of Four years ago. And then ex-officio as leader and as Speaker.

So I had been there for the writing of the laws that regard whistleblowers and further protections for them along the way. I was there to write -- part of writing the Bill to establish the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That's only since 2004. We didn't have it since then.

And that office has its own Inspector General. This Inspector General is appointed by President Bush, excuse me, Trump -- important difference -- by President Trump his own appointee.

The Inspector Generals are greatly respected for their independence, their objectivity and the rest.

[14:20:04]

PELOSI: And by law, when a complaint comes from a whistleblower, the Inspector General has 14 days to investigate, and then the Director of National Intelligence has seven days to report it to the Intelligence Committees of the Congress. That is the law. It says shall. It doesn't say may, should. It's a shall. And that's a very fraught with meaning word in legislation.

But this administration is blocking the D.N.I. from conveying that to Intelligence Committees. The D.N.I. is at the present time, breaking the law at the direction of the administration. It's really unfortunate. So to the substance of the -- we don't know. You know --

GOLDBERG: Well, we sort of do. I mean, the President has, in so many words, said that he has raised these questions with the Ukrainians. And he has in effect admitted that he has intervened on the quote unquote, "Biden issue."

PELOSI: Well, again, and he has referenced that, and if that is the case, that the President of the United States would ask a foreign government to assist him in a political way, that would be wrong.

GOLDBERG: Would it be impeachable?

PELOSI: Let me just say that everything we've been doing up until now, it is about preserving that Republic that Benjamin Franklin said, Republic, if we can keep it, and he -- and that means it's not a monarchy, and we have a system of checks and balances in our Constitution.

Three co-equal branches of government to be a check on each other, and that is a Republic, it is a democracy. It is not a monarchy.

The President has said, Article 2 says, I can do whatever I want. That is in violation of the spirit of the Constitution. Now, our founders wanted to provide for, shall we say, some activities that they might not themselves engage in, and they put up guardrails that they never could suspect that a President of the United States would jump over their guard rails.

GOLDBERG: I want to widen out the aperture in a minute and talk about this, the whole of this presidency, but let me just stay on this for a minute. If what we're describing is accurate, and if it's not impeachable, if you're not willing to say that it's an impeachable offense, what is impeachable to you?

PELOSI: Well, let me just say that I'll be making an announcement at five o'clock today, not here right now. And that --

GOLDBERG: You're more than welcome to make it right now.

(Cheering and Applause)

PELOSI: It's really sad to think that our President would perform an impeachable offense. It is hard. You know, it's hard to just say we've gotten to that place. But what would be an impeachable offense would be that which is proven in an investigation --

GOLDBERG: Right, but --

PELOSI: And we have to have an investigation.

GOLDBERG: Calling for, convening a select committee on an impeachment is the beginning of a process, the beginning of a discovery process, not the end. So you don't have to have enough proof to convict at the outset of the process. My question, I guess, is --

PELOSI: What you said is, is it an impeachable offense? And that isn't a verdict.

GOLDBERG: Given, given what we know and given what the President has said, I mean, the analogy here is crude, but we seem to be in a situation at the moment in which Richard Nixon after the Watergate break-in said something akin to Yes, I broke into the Watergate. I needed to see what the D.N.C. knew.

I mean, Donald Trump says -- Donald Trump says out loud what most people say to themselves. I mean -- and so I'm not going to belabor this forever, but --

PELOSI: No, I think you are.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: No, but -- and let me just say, in terms of the Nixon analogy. The President is making lawlessness a virtue in our country. On that call, he sort of is trying to exploit.

So understand that. So we have several concerns about the President in terms of our differences in policy. And I'd love to tell you about all the legislation we have passed that we're hoping the Senate will take up, starting with gun violence. Tomorrow, we have a big wear black tomorrow, gun violence activities on Capitol Hill and beyond and around the country.

So we have some differences in terms of policy. You might want to know that President called me this morning about gun violence.

[14:25:10]

PELOSI: He said that we were getting close to a solution.

GOLDBERG: Open parenthetical, what is that call like on a day like today?

(Laughter)

PELOSI: Somebody said to me last night, they said, give us a surreal moment about the President in your conversations with him. I said, it's more like it is always surreal, I'll give you a normal moment.

GOLDBERG: Was this a relatively normal call?

PELOSI: Well, he called to talk about gun violence and then segued into other things.

GOLDBERG: Can you give us an indication of what those other things are?

PELOSI: Not right now.

(Laughter) PELOSI: But I was concerned, just in terms of being global that the

President said, I have to get off the phone now, because I'm going to go speak at the United Nations. And it's great. I mean, it is great to hear. It is great. So I did -- I didn't have chance to listen to a speech. I was too busy, so that I could have time to come here.

But he said that he called upon the countries to reject globalism and embrace nationalism. Really? Really? So again, we have some serious policy differences. And in terms of multilateralism and who we are as a country.

I'll tell you a story about me. When I was a girl, a young girl, I was a student and I went to President Kennedy's inauguration. It was freezing cold, it was so fabulous. It's so much smaller on the east side of the Capitol, not the west side, I was a student at the time.

And everybody in the world, and all of you are too young, but you read it in history books knows that President Kennedy said to the citizens of America it is not what America can do for you, but what you can do for your country, right? Everybody knows that.

The very next sentence in the speech is what struck me because I was a student of Political Science and International Relations. The very next sentence he said, to the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind. Freedom. Freedom.

(Applause)

PELOSI: But the part that really stuck with me was the working together. No condescension, it was working together. Not what we do for you, but what we do together, and that multilateralism has been a source of our strength.

So when I see the President's call for rejecting globalism and embracing nationalism, when I see him questioning our involvement in Article 5 of the NATO and the rest, and I see his actions vis-a-vis Afghanistan, we went in together, multilaterally, but he is coming out unilaterally, then you see why there's some cause for questioning amongst some of our allies.

GOLDBERG: Let me there's --

PELOSI: Did I change the subject sufficiently?

(Laughter)

GOLDBERG: She -- beforehand, she said she only wanted to discuss the cello, actually. So this is already a victory. But there is according to what we're getting on the screen, there's a little bit of a -- what you might call now a breaking tweet from the President, who says that tomorrow, they will release a transcript of the Zelensky call.

So my question to you is, if you see that transcript, and it is more benign than we've been led to believe, will you -- do you think that your caucus might stand down a little bit? Or do you think that the caucus is at a boil right now? I mean, you're going to find out in a couple of hours.

PELOSI: No, it's not about that. This is about the Constitution of the United States, and we have many other, shall we say, candidates for impeachable offense in terms of the Constitution. But this one is the most understandable by the public.

And it's really important to know this. There is no requirement. There would be a quid pro quo in the conversation. If a President brings up, he wants them to investigate something, that's the -- of his political opponent -- that is self-evident that it is not right.

We don't ask foreign governments to help us in our election. That's what we've tried to stop with Russia. It is wrong. So it's not only about how we make decisions about our foreign policy and our global security, it's about undermining the integrity of our election, A.

B. I don't think there's -- I don't know -- I don't think there's a grasp on the part of this administration that the quid pro quo is not essential to an impeachable offense. But if you have sequence like a couple of days ago before, the President withdrew the bipartisan support for Ukraine, bipartisan enthusiastic support for Ukraine --

[14:30:10]