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Speaker Pelosi News Conference; Trump Administration To Release Transcript Of Call To Ukraine President, Whistleblower Complaint; Schiff: Whistleblower Wants To Speak To Congress; Joe Biden To Speak Publicly On Ukraine Controversy. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00]

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): But if you have sequencing, like a couple of days before, the president withdrew the bipartisan support for Ukraine, bipartisan enthusiastic support for Ukraine. A few days earlier, he withdraws it. Then makes this statement.

The President's words weigh tons -- weigh tons. And just bringing up the election is bad enough that there would be a quid pro quo -- isn't necessarily in the conversation, but in the sequencing. So, this is not a good thing for our democracy, for the leader of the free world to be talking like that. And I don't even know if there are any scruples involved that's why I say they think lawlessness is a virtue, and now they want to export it to another country.

JEFFREY GOLDBERT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: If I may, it sounds as if you believe that this is a very, very serious offense.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: Now, let's just put it this way, I accepted this invitation a while back.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: I have --

GOLDBERG: I am just noting as an observer of this conversation. But --

PELOSI: And I come every year --

GOLDBERG: More or less.

PELOSI: When I am invited -- I come when I'm invited because since I was in high school, I've read "The Atlantic," monthly and they always taught us if you want to know how to write, you have to read good writing. Let's hear it for "The Atlantic."

(Applause)

PELOSI: So, so --

GOLDBERG: You're incredibly manipulative by the way.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: Some people say that.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: So therefore, what would you be asking me if it weren't today? Let's go back when we were happily observing the anniversary of our Constitution last Tuesday morning.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but the issue is that I live in a time space continuum and we are here on a crucial day, in all seriousness in American history. And we could lift up beyond things the question of impeachment, if you want, by talking about lawlessness for a moment, and we were talking about this a little bit backstage. Do you think the President understands right from wrong?

(Laughter)

GOLDBERG: Well, it's a very serious question. Do you think he has the capacity to understand that he might -- remember, if this phone call happened, as we think, just using the phone calls example, that it happened the day after Mueller testified.

PELOSI: Yes.

GOLDBERG: But there are some abject lessons in the whole Mueller case for our President about talking to foreign powers, about intervention in elections. Do you think that -- and you probably have a dozen or two dozen other examples where you are not sure if the President's moral compass is true north? I mean, do you think based on your now significant two and a half year plus exposure to him that he understands right from wrong in the way that others probably --

PELOSI: Two years and nine months.

GOLDBERG: Two years and --

PELOSI: It's uncanny. So it's 13 and a half months until the -- you know.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: Let me say that the President is responsible for his actions, whether he has any scruples or understands right from wrong; he certainly has made some decisions that would call that into question. I Here we are. I mean, again, as I said, our founders -- our founders wanted to protect a Republic, they did not want a monarchy, and again, they established a Constitution that would prevent that from happening -- guardrails.

They didn't suspect that everyone would be exemplary, so they had guardrails, and they could not have expected that people would leapfrog over them, nor when we were writing the bills on the Director of National Intelligence's responsibility, shall -- did we ever think that the Director of National Intelligence would break the law -- would break the law.

So, yes, I mean, it is a question of right from wrong, it is legal or not legal, and in some cases, right from wrong. And I think we should start our healing process, because it's going to take a while. So let's be thinking in a positive way as we go forward, 13 and a half months. Now, it's like a third -- 13 and a third months. And because it's going to take some positive repair in addition to natural healing for us to get to a place and it's absolutely, absolutely essential that the President be held accountable. No one is above the law.

And separate from the issues, the concerns we're talking about here that on the policy that we have a clear discussion about whose vision for America is the one we want to go down.

[14:35:10]

PELOSI: And that is absolutely essential that he not be reelected President of the United States.

(Cheering and Applause)

GOLDBERG: Well, you are -- you are focused like a laser on this 13 and a half months number.

PELOSI: Yes, thirteen and a half.

GOLDBERG: Thirteen and a half months.

PELOSI: Everyday.

GOLDBERG: You're focused on that. You are a very smart political player and very adept at strategy and tactics. The question is, do you understand putting issues of constitutionality aside and law breaking aside? Do you see peril in going down the path that now two thirds of your caucus wants to go down? I mean, is that what we are talking about? Are we talking about a political calculation that impeachment will turn -- an impeachment process will turn President Trump into a martyr and will activate his base even more? I mean, is --

PELOSI: Look, I don't think politics has anything to do with this, although I read in some metropolitan journals that it's all about politics. It has nothing to do with politics or partisanship. This is about patriotism, though what is sad about is that the Republicans have not spoken up about any of this, and I'll invite them to join us now that we have gotten to this different place.

Use any metaphor -- crossing the Rubicon, yes -- this new territory, a new day has dawned -- anything you want to say. This is a very serious in a class of its own discussion that we are having about the conduct of the President of the United States, so this isn't about politics. If we have to honor our oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, that's what we'll have to do.

But we have to have the facts. That's why I've said, as soon as we had the facts, we're ready. Now we have the facts, we're ready, for later today.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: So this isn't about politics, and you know, people say, oh, you're just trying to protect your members. No, I have absolute certainty because we are going to make sure it happens that we will retain the majority in the House of Representatives.

What's more serious, is that he can't win. That is very serious, to our country, to us as America. What is America? America is our Constitution, with our system of checks and balances, a republic, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the guardian of our democracy, the press. That's one. That's America. Where is America? Our people. But if you're unless you're blessed to be a Native America, which is a blessing to you, and to all who know you. We are a nation of immigrants.

Don't take it from me, take it from Ronald Reagan. You've seen Ronald Reagan's -- this is the last speech I will make as President of the United States. The last speech -- and does get your attention? Ronald Reagan, the last speech as President, and I want to communicate a message to a country I love and in essence, look it up on Google. It is so beautiful, or wherever you look things up. It's beautiful.

The vital force of America's preeminence in the world is every new generation of immigrants who come to America and when America fails to recognize that, America will fail to be preeminent in the world. We cannot close the door to the vitality of our future -- Ronald Reagan. It's better than it's more poetic than that. It is longer, too.

(Applause)

PELOSI: So our Constitution, our people, our land, from sea, to shining sea, this beautiful patrimony and beyond God's gift to us, he degrades. He says, I'm not making any environmental decisions based on science. Oh, really? Oh, really? So dishonor the Constitution, denigrate who we are as a people, degrade the environment and devalue our values as who we are as America, the idea of America.

So this is -- this is another, shall we say, arena for us to have our discussion on the behavior of this President of the United States, but I really didn't come here to talk about him.

(Laughter)

PELOSI: Did you? You did I guess.

(Laughter)

GOLDBERG: Let's talk about --

PELOSI: Let me tell you about my caucus. In light of the questions. They had been so fabulous, so thoughtful, so patriotic, and I couldn't be prouder of them, and our Chairman had been magnificent.

GOLDBERG: Well, there is a suggestion in what you term metropolitan journals that Jerry Nadler and you are not seeing eye-to-eye on these questions and you're not seeing eye-to-eye with a large number of people on that. So my broader question about the caucus is --

[14:40:13]

PELOSI: That's not true.

GOLDBERG: My broader question about the caucus is --

PELOSI: It maybe true that that is what they are saying, but it is not true that we --

GOLDBERG: It is definitely that they are saying --

PELOSI: Yes, yes. We have to make that distinction.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. The question about the caucus is, I'm wondering, since you're focused on 13 and a half months out, if you're worried that --

PELOSI: Thirteen and one third.

(Laughter)

GOLDBERG: We've been up here for that long, you think? Is it really? The question is, are you worried? I mean, this puts you in a lot -- you're in an unlikely spot sometimes. You're a quote, "San Francisco Democrat," you're excoriated on the right for being an avatar of liberalism, and yet you've had incidents throughout the last year where people your Congress, not only the squad, the so-called squad, have question your liberal or left leaning bona fides.

And so, I wanted to ask you this question about the party and make believe that we're not talking about impeachment for a second, just other issues, including decriminalization of border crossing, Medicare-for-All. Are you worried as you go forward for to an election that the party is being pulled too far to the left to reach those people in places like Wisconsin?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, you've been listening to this incredible interview between Jeffrey Goldberg and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She's been as generous as she can be, thus far, on the question, is this an impeachable offense. She's been cautious, reluctant to go there, to talk impeachment.

She's gone further than she has before, saying she'll talk to her caucus, making a statement later, as calls, this chorus, now continues to grow into an impeachment inquiry.

They alluded to this Trump tweet that just happened sitting up there on the stage. Let's first get context on that.

And go to Kaitlan Collins, our White House correspondent.

The news from the president and what he's authorizing, Kaitlan. So what did he tweet? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, a call

from the president that was perfect, beautiful and appropriate, but tomorrow, we get to judge for ourselves. Trump tweeted is authorizing the release of the unredacted version of the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president, that July 25th phone call that has really stirred up so much scrutiny's in recent days.

The president says we'll get it tomorrow and says we'll get it tomorrow. And he says, "We'll see that it's very friendly and a totally appropriate call," where he says there was "no pressure, and unlike Joe Biden and his son, no quid pro quo."

Now, this also is going to come out in the day that the president is scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian president here at the United Nations the summit tomorrow.

The question coming out of that will be whether or not seeing that transcript is enough for these Democrats, especially the ones who changed their calls in recent days from not pushing for impeachment to what you've seen from them saying they're going to need to see this complaint from this whistleblower as they are going forward.

And whether or not it's going to be enough is a whole other question. From what Nancy Pelosi said there, she said there's not being an explicit agreement between President Trump and the Ukrainian president about that aid and investigation into Joe Biden won't be enough. She said that, it will be enough to calm those calls for impeachment.

She said essentially asking a foreign government to help, if that's what they see in the transcript tomorrow, will be bad enough in her mind and there are going to be questions going forward about what it is her caucus will do.

This comes after there was pushback internally about whether or not they should release this transcript, with people like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arguing it was going to set an ugly precedent if they do.

Then the next thing Congress will demand are transcripts of the president's calls with other world leaders, and potentially including the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Whether or not that happens, something we'll watch.

But we are going to be able to read the transcript of the last known call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president starting tomorrow, he says.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you very much, on the president's tweet, saying he'll put the transcript out there.

Michael Smerconish, let me get your reaction to that. A, do you trust that it will be an un-doctored transcript? And, B, the question, asking Nancy Pelosi whether it matters -- what if the transcript is benign? No discussion of money or any quid pro quo? Will that matter? MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I don't have any question to your

first point. I don't have any question we're going to see a full and honest reportage, because, if we didn't, others were presumably listening in who would throw a flag on this.

I fully expect that later today, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Speaker Pelosi was going to announce that the special committee, an impeachment, special committee to start the ball rolling. My hunch is if she were going to, now that's going to be delayed.

[14:45:11]

Now they want to wait and see exactly what's in that transcript, or they will appear as if they were rushing this process, much like, frankly, I think they looked in the Corey Lewandowski hearing recently.

To your second point, this will be really interesting because maybe the president, to an extent, has set a trap and didn't is benign.

I would remind you, Brooke, that, according to the reporting, the complaint says the July 25th phone call is one piece of the puzzle. A critical piece. But if there's no quid pro quo demanded in that transcript I imagine tomorrow the president will be saying, I told you so, again.

BALDWIN: OK. Quickly, I want to pivot, Jennifer Rodgers, to the legal piece of this, because if there's no -- if it is benign, if you don't through this transcript see that the president said, I'm withholding X many millions of dollars if you don't do X, Y, Z for me. Legally speaking, is that still election interference?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. That's not all there was. We know Rudy Giuliani was involved, and went over there. Other conversations and other things going on. That is one piece of the puzzle.

We really need to see, Brooke, is the whistleblower complaint. That was deemed credible and urgent and the whistleblower complaint presumable had more information than that one call to say that there was a problem.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the whistleblower, Dana Bash, let's go to you. Because speaking of tweets, Adam Schiff tweeted news on that issue. What is he saying?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is saying -- this is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- they have been informed by a whistleblower's counsel, the whistleblower's counsel -- see it on the screen - "that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the acting DNI as to how to do so. We are in touch with the counsel and look forward to the whistleblower's testimony as soon as this week."

This is a big, big development. Because the -- one of the questions for people who have done this before, even in and especially who have sat on the Intelligence Committee is, well, what would happen if the whistleblower went directly to Congress? Historically, the rule is, if you go to the inspector general, and the inspector general sees this as a credible complaint you have to wait.

Because of, this is not normal and this is not following protocol and, frankly, some of the law is in a little bit of a gray area, this is a big development. That the whistleblower now wants to just go directly to Congress.

And it will put the squeeze even more on the acting DNI to allow that to happen, to allow the whistleblower to be heard by Congress, by the Intelligence Committee, as, for most of the statute, it makes clear should happen. So it's going to put more pressure on that, but also on the DNI when and if he does continue with his expected trip to Congress on Thursday to comply with this. Very interesting.

These are two big developments that come --

BALDWIN: Huge, yes.

BASH: -- as we're listening to Nancy Pelosi all but say, talking about an announcement -- you know, she was trying to be coy, but she -- you know -- kind of let the cat out of the bag. We don't know exactly how far she's going to go, but she made pretty clear this is a very big day and she's going to say something very big after her meeting with the caucus this afternoon.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to all things Nancy Pelosi in a second.

Michael Smerconish, back to you on the news from Chairman Schiff and how the whistleblower, according to his counsel, wants to come forward and speak with Congress. You're also a lawyer. Your reaction to that?

SMERCONISH: I'm the least surprised. I said on "NEW DAY" this morning, we are not getting beyond the story until three things happen. Transcript of July 25 phone call. Copy of the complaint. That's still in doubt. And we will meet the whistleblower.

I'm not surprised at all. We're going to need all of this. Why throw up the hurdles if you're on the White House side of this? Because sooner or later, we're going to get the information.

There's something else going on. You look at "The Times" or "The Post" today, 10 people share the byline on the "New York Times" lead story, "Washington Post," seven reporters. CNN has its own team assigned to this. There are reporters working feverishly on this and overturning lots of stones. So it's all going to come out is my point -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

Michael, thank you. Stand by.

Let's bring in another smart voice into this thing, Gloria Borger. Listening to Speaker Pelosi -- and Dana was right, she basically said

all of the things she can say other than it's go time. What i noted in listening to her is she kept saying, this offense is most understandable for the public. Most understandable for the public. Why is that significant?

[14:49:06]

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's important to Nancy Pelosi, in particular, because she's always said that if you're going to begin an impeachment inquiry or impeach the president, you have to have public opinion on your side.

In saying this is understandable and digestible by the public, it means that the story line is not as complicated as the Mueller report was. Russian interference in the election was.

This was the president on a phone call with a foreign leader saying, I think you need to look into Joe Biden and his son, and holding up, holding up, foreign aid to that country. So I think that's, you know, that the American public -- it's very digestible here.

And I think what Nancy Pelosi is saying is, number one, the public can understand it.

Number two, I think, Brooke, you heard this, she made the point, you don't need a quid pro quo.

BALDWIN: I was going to ask about that.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Do you think any of that, if a benign conversation, does that slow her roll whatso ever?

BORGER: No. What is benign? If the president mentioned it, that is wildly inappropriate.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: He has effectively bartering without, in so many words. I mean, the president is not dumb. He would, I think he would not say, well, I'll give you this if you give me that. You don't have to spell it out when talking to another leader.

You're the president of the United States. You're -- telling somebody. You know? I think, we're worried about corruption in your country and I think you ought to investigate Biden. You don't have to spell it out beyond that, is what the speaker is saying.

And the third thing, to me, from Adam Schiff today, is that reading between the lines -- I might be wrong. Dana might be able to read the lines, better than can.

But I think Adam Schiff is talking directly with the whistleblower counsel, even though he's gone to the acting DNI. Schiff did not say they in Congress were consulting the acting DNI. Perhaps trying to cut their own deal with the whistleblower and cut out the acting DNI since they believe the complaint should have gone to them directly in the first place.

BALDWIN: Go to Dana in a second to read between those lines.

Gloria, stand by for me.

BORGER: sure.

BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny is also standing by as well.

And we know in the thick of all this, the former vice president himself is about to speak publicly, cameras rolling, reacting to all of this as he's been thrust in the center of this, he and his son, Hunter. What will he say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, I'm told by advisers to the former vice president he's not going to dwell on the Hunter/Biden matter. They believe the White House and president is trying to muddy the waters here.

I'm told he'll focus specifically in a 10-minute speech or so on the president and on his actions. Not simply Ukraine but others as well.

And he is, we're told, for the first time, going to say, that if the White House does not cooperate, he believes Congress should begin impeachment proceedings.

This is a significant development. You have the frontrunner for the presidential nomination joining others -- he's not leading the way by any means. He's getting in a bit just under the wire here before House Democrats almost certainly do the same thing. It's significant because this is where this is moving.

I think one other thing that Speaker Pelosi said in her conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg also very interesting. She said this, now that we have the facts we're ready. Dana said she all but --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: All but went there.

ZELENY: I talked her last night on a plane to Washington just randomly. She was much different than every other time we've talked about impeachment. She did not think the American people were ready for this and believes this is a different moment. Of course, the question, are they?

President Trump has been very skilled and very, you know, able to convince Republicans to not join any of this.

So this is -- uncharted waters here. Are Democrats, are they walking into a trap? We don't know the answer to the question. But things have certainly been escalating here -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: By the minute.

Jeff, thank you very much.

We're standing by to listen to the former vice president and his news.

Meantime, go to Matthew Chance. Matthew has more news out of Ukraine on the president's calls to reopen investigations.

Matthew, what's happening?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, the situation in Ukraine is one of utter paralysis. We've been texting, trying to call members of the Ukrainian government to get reaction to this, their concerns about this. They're not answering our texts, not taking our calls.

They seem to be utterly paralyzed at the prospect of being, the reality that, of being dragged into this partisan battle in the United States. Exactly what the Ukrainians do not want.

The U.S. is the most important strategic ally the country has, and they need to have a great relationship not just with the current American president but with future American presidents as well. And that's why they're trying to keep their mouths as tightly closed as possible as far as they're concerned.

[14:55:13]

And they are, though, speaking to -- some Ukrainian officials, some are speaking to us, particularly the former Ukrainian foreign minister. Spoke how damaging this is, how it weakens Ukraine the position, particularly in its confrontation with Russia next door. It's fighting a battle, of course. And a diplomatic campaign trying to get back control of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

This scandal, according to the former foreign minister, completely undermines that. The only people winning out of this are people like Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. In his words, they are cracking open bottles of Champaign in the Kremlin tonight as they watch this scandal unfold.

BALDWIN: Wow.

Matthew Chance, thank you very much in Ukraine.

Christiane Amanpour with me now.

I watched you earlier saying you were to have an interview with a Ukrainian official.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST, "AMANPOUR": To what Matthew is saying, they have gone silent --

BALDWIN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: -- because they don't want to pour more fuel on the fire. I don't usually telegraph when a world leader canceled an interview

but this is a strategic reason, and the foreign minister I would interview tonight, and instead is not talking.

They don't want to get anymore verbally involved in a public manner in was clearly a huge now-brewing domestic political crisis.

And I spoke to quite a few top leaders. The former French ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. and I asked about President Trump's rationale why he withheld American aid, as you remember, this afternoon.

This morning, at the U.N., said, well, we didn't want to pay our whack until the Europeans paid their whack.

The truth, Europeans have been paying a huge whack the last many years up to the tune of $150 billion, nearly $16 billion in military and other aid to Ukraine. That reasoning, many analysts don't believe to be the case.

In terms of the domestic situation, I spoke to former Congresswoman Jane Harman. Like Nancy Pelosi, who has been reluctant, up to now, to go the impeachment route. She says it's a poisonous trail, she says it's a poisonous trail. Unless you have a bipartisan consensus, it becomes yet another massively divisive situation in the country that could end up helping --

BALDWIN: Trump.

AMANPOUR: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Becoming a martyr, firing up his base, to Jeffrey Goldberg's point when talking to Speaker Pelosi.

I also wanted to ask you about, now that we know, vis-a-vis tweets, the White House will release this phone call with the president of Ukraine, what kind of precedent would this set by releasing this conversation with a foreign leader?

AMANPOUR: I am not sure about the precedent, because I haven't really, you know, looked into that, but if he does release the entire thing unredacted, to be frank, that will be the evidence. Either something will be there or there won't be something there.

It's interesting to know what Speaker Pelosi will do before or after seeing that unredacted as we're told from the White House, unredacted transcript. I think everybody will be waiting to look at that.

You also heard chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, saying the whistleblower --

BALDWIN: Whistleblower wants to talk.

AMANPOUR: -- wants to talk to Congress.

So there's a lot of openness that is being demanded right now. Former vice president, Al Gore, told me this goes to the heart of

America's rule of law and its constitutionality, and if there's a problem then it needs to be dealt with. That's what he told me yesterday.

BALDWIN: OK. Christiane Amanpour, thank you for weighing in. Good to see you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Stand by. In moments, former Vice President Joe Biden will speak out on this news.

Don't move. You're watching CNN special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

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