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Joe Biden Speaks Out on Trump Misconduct Accusations; Democrats Expected to Announce Formal Impeachment Inquiry Against President Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:28]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Welcome back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Lots of breaking news right now. For months here, top Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have told the American public that investigations were the best way to build a case against President Trump and potentially for impeachment.

But it turns out that a phone call, not subpoenas or congressional hearings, may be the deciding factor. Trump admits he spoke to Ukraine's president about investigating the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

And even though we have learned that President Trump ordered a hold on military aid to Ukraine days before that phone call, he insists that there was no quid pro quo, that he didn't dangle money in exchange for a probe of a political opponent.

Sources also tell CNN that Speaker Pelosi is prepping a resolution on that Ukraine call, as more of her members beat that drum for impeachment. She meets with them next hour, but, before that, Pelosi said this about Trump's latest claims:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): There is no requirement there be a quid pro quo in the conversation. If the president brings up he wants them to investigate something, that's -- of his political opponent, that is self-evident that it is not right.

We don't ask foreign governments to help us in our elections.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And just reminder to all of you, live pictures there. We are waiting to see former Vice President Joe Biden. He's expected to say publicly that Congress has no choice but to impeach the president if he does not comply with congressional oversight, including handing over a whistle-blower complaint about his call to his Ukrainian counterpart.

For his part, the president says he is releasing the full transcript of that call. He says he will do that tomorrow.

Our CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is live at the United Nations today, where President Trump shifted his story on withholding aid to Ukraine.

Jim, what did he say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, Brooke.

And I think the news is pretty important that we underline that the president just tweeted out a few moments ago. It does appear that he's trying to tamp down this controversy by tweeting that he is going to release the transcript of that call with President Zelensky of Ukraine.

But earlier this morning, it was a remarkable admission coming from the president, essentially confirming some of the reporting from "The Washington Post," CNN and others that, yes, he did order his aides, including the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold up hundreds of billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

This was a week before he had that phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. Here's how the president explained it earlier this morning, just before his speech to the United Nations. He said he was holding it up because he wanted European partners to essentially pay their fair share and to contribute to the cause in Ukraine as well.

Here's what he had to say:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to make sure that country is honest. It's very important to talk about corruption. If you don't talk 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 would 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. It's the United States. We're putting up the bulk of the money.

And I'm asking, why is that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, one of the other interesting things that the president had to say -- more than interesting -- was when he said that there wasn't any pressure put on the Ukrainians.

But then he went on to say, well, there was pressure with respect to Joe Biden. Obviously, this is something the president has been thinking about, stewing over for months and months. He feels that something untoward had happened on the part of the former vice president, even though there's no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the former vice president and Hunter Biden that's been brought to light.

And, Brooke, it does seem to be at this point the bar that the president is setting for the public, for members of Congress up on Capitol Hill in terms of determining whether or not to continue with these impeachment proceedings is whether or not there was a quid pro quo, a this for that, if you investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, we will give you the Ukrainian aid.

But it's interesting to note what the House speaker was saying just a few moments ago, that she's saying that there -- doesn't matter if there was a quid pro quo, that just the president of the United States being on a call with a foreign leader and pressuring that foreign leader to investigate one of his political rivals, that might be enough to do it for Democrats.

[15:05:05]

BALDWIN: Yes.

ACOSTA: It'll be -- the president has not responded to that line of thinking. And we will be waiting for that here in New York -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's exactly what Nancy Pelosi said. That's what Elaine Luria, freshman Democratic congresswoman, said as well, who has penned this op-ed in and "The Post."

Jim, thank you very much.

Will President Trump face impeachment proceedings? We could find out very soon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling our correspondent Manu Raju that she will deliver a statement in two hours from now.

But this is what she said moments ago:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): 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.

QUESTION: Would it be impeachable?

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: Let me just say that everything we have been doing up until now it's about preserving that republic that Benjamin Franklin said it, 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 -- that is a republic, is a democracy. It is not a monarchy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's do some analysis.

I have got all these great voices joining me.

David Chalian, you first, our CNN political director.

And wow. Listening to Nancy Pelosi, it's like she inched right up to that line of a yes on the impeachable offense question. What did you make of what she said and what do you think she will say in two hours from now?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, well, she went even further in that same session with Jeffrey Goldberg of "The Atlantic" there, Brooke, and said that all up until now has been about finding facts.

And Nancy Pelosi said that week after week at her press conference, as other Democrat have moved to impeachment. She said, we have got to methodically be on a fact-finding mission. And she said today, that's what we have been doing.

Then she added, now we have the facts and now we're ready.

So, like, it didn't seem to me that there was much hidden language there about what we anticipate hearing from her in a couple of hours. This is a House speaker and a House Democratic Caucus that seems poised to begin a formal impeachment process here of the president United States.

BALDWIN: So let me just follow up to that. If all things are a go, right, and we hear that from her in two hours, what then happens next, David?

CHALIAN: Well, you are still going to be in a marshaling the facts kind of a moment.

For those that remember the 1998 process against President Clinton -- and, again, I think it's unclear, and we have to wait to hear from Speaker Pelosi about how she's going to set up this process. Would it happen in Judiciary? Would it be a select committee outside of that?

But there's going to be a gathering of the facts. There are going to be witnesses. There are going to be hearings to put together -- and this is why I think she also wasn't saying it's an impeachable offense yet, because that determination sort of comes at the end of that process, when the House then votes on articles of impeachment.

That's what makes an offense -- quote, unquote -- "impeachable," right? And so you're going to hear a -- you're going to go through a process here now, Brooke, of trying to marshal all of the facts here in public, and then have a very public vote.

Here's -- can I just say that the two things that have been missing in Speaker Pelosi's calculus to date that we still don't really know about, the public perception of this. So we will have to see as polls come out...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Well, she did say -- if I can just jump in, and I hear you on hard numbers, but she kept going back to this line: This offense is most understandable for the public.

So she's thinking that way, I think.

CHALIAN: I think -- yes, and she may be right that this is an under -- a much more understandable scenario than, say, the Russia investigation for the American public, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: But that doesn't mean that they have necessarily moved on determining that this is impeachment-worthy.

That's just not where they have been to date, the public, on President -- in President Trump's tenure. The other thing Nancy Pelosi has pointed to in the past is, will any Republicans come on board, that she believes it's so divisive, that having it be somewhat bipartisan would be an important credential.

And we don't have any indication that that is going to happen yet either. So I do think there are going -- there is still going to be a burden on the Democrats, if indeed they do proceed to this formal impeachment process, on bringing the country along with them.

BALDWIN: Hang with me.

Dana Bash, just jumping off of David's last point.

Do we have Dana?

David.

All right, David, to your point about the Republicans, where -- where have the Republicans been on this the last couple of days?

CHALIAN: Well, I will just note that one place Republicans are, from a political point of view, Brooke, is that, as each one of these centrist Democrats in a marginal district, the majority makers for Democrats, has come out in favor of impeachment, the Republican campaign arm is making sure to hammer them back home and with statements to note that they are in districts that either Donald Trump won or that were just recently held by a Republican.

[15:10:12]

Those are the kinds of districts that Democrats, that Speaker Pelosi is looking to protect. And the Republicans are right there to try to remind voters, hey, they're now joining with their left-wing colleagues on this.

This is why the politics of this -- while the evidence may be very clear for the House Democrats to move forward, and there may be a consensus that this is past the point of discussion anymore, the politics of this still are going to need to be worked out.

BALDWIN: OK. David, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Sure.

BALDWIN: Again, just a reminder to all of you. We are standing by to listen to Joe Biden speak. That should be happening any moment now. You can see the white balance. They're getting ready for him.

He is expected, of course, to weigh in on all what we have been talking about, this impeachment issue involving the president of the United States.

We are also less than an hour from that critical Democratic meeting that could turn the tide toward an impeachment proceeding. We will be hearing more from Speaker Pelosi after she meets with her caucus. We will bring you all the updates as we get them here at CNN.

We're live. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:57]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We're back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

More breaking news for you, as the pressure mounts on the president over his call to a foreign power and asking to investigate Joe Biden.

Dana Bash, you have some news, as Biden and Speaker Pelosi are set to speak. What are you learning?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were talking as we were listening to the House speaker lean very far into the idea that she's going to make an announcement on impeachment today.

We now can report from sources that the House speaker does intend to announce a formal impeachment inquiry after she has this meeting with her caucus. That meeting is supposed to start at about 45 minutes.

She's going to speak to reporters in just little less than two hours, 5:00 Eastern. She has a speech prepared. That is the headline, we are told, of the speech about impeachment. She has come very, very far.

This is a huge, huge step that was building for the last 24 hours. We reported that she was helping build it by pushing her fellow Democrats out to -- to sort of create the drumbeat within the caucus. And she's going to cap that with her speech today, and she is going to announce that she does support an impeachment inquiry before the day is over.

BALDWIN: OK, Dana with the scoop. Dana, thank you very much.

Gloria Borger, this is happening.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well this is a huge step for Nancy Pelosi, who has been pushing back her caucus, as you know, for months and months.

And I think you heard her today, when she was speaking to "The Atlantic," saying, effectively, the time has come.

And I think what's interesting about the way this is all playing out is, you see the president saying, OK, I'm going to release the transcript of my phone call.

And then you have the whistle-blower contacting the Intelligence Committee, saying, I want to speak with you directly.

And what we know from reporting and from other people's reporting is that the whistle-blower complaint, Brooke, was not just about this one phone call.

BALDWIN: It was multiple actions, right?

BORGER: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: So I think you have the president saying, well, this phone call is OK, Nancy Pelosi saying, even if there wasn't a quid pro quo, it's still really problematic, and then the whistle-blower saying, wait a minute, I have to talk to these committees directly and let them know what was in my complaint, because that is what the Democrats are really going to want to see.

The transcript of this phone conversation just isn't going to be enough.

BALDWIN: Not just this phone call.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: Multiple actions, according to this whistle-blower complaint.

Gloria Borger, thank you.

Do you want to add a quick note on that, just on that it's not just this one call?

(CROSSTALK)

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, sure. I mean, there's a lot more information that they need and that they will get. I mean, remember, we have Rudy Giuliani over there talking to people. We had the withholding of aid, the dangling of aid, and all of these actions kind of behind the scenes being transmitted from U.S. people to folks in Ukraine.

BALDWIN: Yes.

RODGERS: So there's a lot more information that was going into this whole notion of not a quid pro quo -- I'm actually getting kind of annoyed with that phrase at this point -- abuse of power.

This is about abuse of power. And that is what ultimately -- if there's an impeachment article about this, that's what will be, an abuse of power the president did in connection with this Ukraine stuff.

BALDWIN: Appreciate that. We're going to take a quick pause, go to break.

We're waiting to hear from former Vice President Joe Biden weighing in on all of this next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:16]

BALDWIN: All right, let's listen in, Joe Biden.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for being here.

When I announced I was running for president, I said I believed that the core values of this nation, our very democracy, was at risk.

And events in recent days have made that even clearer, not only to me, but I think to everyone.

We have a president who believes there's no limit to his power. We have a president who believes he can do anything and get away with it.

We have a president who believes he's above the law.

Pursuing the leader of another nation to investigate a political opponent to help win his election is not the conduct of an American president.

The allegations that blocked hundreds of millions of dollars -- that he blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally approved aid to another country -- and this is an allegation -- unless he agreed to smear a political opponent, is not the conduct of an American president.

Denying Congress the information which it is constitutionally entitled to, and obstructing its efforts to investigate actions, is not the conduct of an American president. It is an abuse of power. It undermines our national security, it violates his oath of office,

and it strikes at the heart of the sworn responsibility of the president -- a president has to put national interests before personal interests.

I knew, when I decided to run, this president would attack me and anyone else who he thought would be a threat to his winning again. Well, that's what he does. That's what he's always done.

[15:25:03]

And know that, even though every reputable publication that has looked at the charge that has been made against me, and they found them baseless and untrue and without merit, that's not about to stop him.

I can take the political attacks. They will come and they will go, and, in time, they will soon be forgotten.

But if we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever.

Too many people, too many good, decent people have taken an oath to this nation and given their lives over the past 243 years to let that happen. Too many people are serving this nation right now and honoring the oath they have taken to let that happen.

This isn't a Democratic issue or Republican issue. It is a national issue. It is a security issue.

It is time for this administration to stop stonewalling and provide the Congress with all the facts it needs, including a copy of the formal complaint made by the whistle-blower.

And it is time for the Congress to fully investigate the conduct of this president.

The president should stop stonewalling this investigation and all the other investigations into his alleged wrongdoing.

Using its full constitutional authority, Congress, in my view, should demand the information it has a legal right to receive.

If the Congress does not -- if the president does not comply with such a request from the Congress, if he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment.

That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making.

I have always believed -- and still do -- that America is a truly special and unique nation, better than any other nation in history. We have made the experiment of self-government work. We have always been a beacon to other countries around the world.

We know who Donald Trump is. It is time to let the world know who we are. Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: All right.

So, actually, let's go -- we have got David Chalian, Dana Bash, Jennifer Rodgers.

Jen, just first to you.

It's like he heard you say abuse of power. You were like, enough with this quid pro quo. Call it what it is, abuse of power. That is exactly what Joe Biden said.

And he kept saying to this White House, stop stonewalling.

And you and I were talking before, because I was wondering, how quickly could Congress get rolling on this and...

RODGERS: Yes, so there are a couple related issues, right, a couple things they have to do.

They have to collect information, and then they have to draft these articles of impeachment.

So my question is, first of all, how far are they going to go? Are they going to stick with kind of the basics, the Ukrainian abuse of power situation, the Mueller report, and those violations, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations, or are they going to go off into other things, like the president enriching himself while in an office, and the attacks on the press?

And they're all sorts of things, abuse of the pardon power, that he's done. How far are they going to go? And as part of that calculation is, how long is it going to take? There's been a lot of stonewalling. They have had to go to court on some things. Other things, they haven't even really tried very hard to get.

Now, if they're in formal impeachment proceedings, it should be better, because that's an actual process in the Constitution. Judges should recognize it. It needs to move more quickly.

But will it? You still have to get in front of a judge if the White House is going to continue this stonewalling routine that they have been doing.

BALDWIN: Yes.

RODGERS: So that issue may impact how far they go with the articles of impeachment, how many different areas of presidential misconduct they want to go into in the first place.

BALDWIN: OK.

And just -- let's go back to just the significance that we just heard from a man who would like to be the next president, who found himself in the middle of all of this, right, who is basically saying to the president, if he doesn't comply, then they should begin these impeachment proceedings.

David Chalian, as our CNN political director -- and, David, I know you were listening to his every word. What did you think?

CHALIAN: Yes.

Well, the visual, first of all, right, was all those flags behind him, standing at the podium like that, a lectern like that, this was to convey a presidential image against what he thinks is clearly unpresidential behavior.

So the visual was really interesting to me, Brooke.

But I would also say, this wasn't just a press conference on the fly or taking a question. This was a very formal statement from Vice President Biden.

What I will also say is, we can't ignore the political reality that Vice President Biden is in, right? He understands that his closest competitor for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Warren, has been out there calling for full-bore impeachment process since April in this contest.

And he knows that, watching what has happened in these last

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