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Biden Says If Trump Continues to Obstruct Congress, He Will Leave No Choice but to Pursue Impeachment; Biden Says Core Values of The Nation Are at Risk; Interview with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) Presidential Candidate, Impeachment Would Divide the Country; Pelosi Expected to Announce Formal Impeachment Inquiry; Trump to Release Ukraine Call Transcript Tomorrow. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: -- calling for full blown impeachment process since April in this contest. And he knows that watching what has happened in these last few days that the political calculus would with Democrats on Capitol Hill has completely shifted beneath his feet. So he needed to get out there before giving Warren yet another opportunity sort of to draw contrast with him and move further than where he has been in this process. That is clear, I think, and his intention today as well.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Just curious. Do we know, has there been any conversation between Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi over this?

CHALIAN: I don't know the answer to that.

BALDWIN: OK. Gloria Borger, let me to you, what did you think of what the former Vice President said?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was no surprise that he had to come out as David was saying and be tough and stronger than he's been in the past, calling for an impeachment inquiry, if the White House continues to stonewall. And he came directly out and called it an abuse of power, and that he said it, you know, strikes at the heart of the responsibility of the presidency. And with the flags behind him, I mean, it was a, sort of a presidential setting, as David was saying. And when Biden stands in front of a lectern like that, with that backdrop, it reminds you that he was Vice President, and when he talks about the presidency, he knows what he's talking about.

And he was quite dismissive obviously of the charges that the President has raised against him and said that reputable publications have dismissed them. And he said that the President knows that they are untrue and they are untrue, he said. So he at once defended himself and then took the turn and said you know, I've got to defend the country. This isn't about me. This isn't about my family. We expected these kinds of attacks from this President, but I now have to go this step further, because this is about the country. BALDWIN: Arlette Saenz was in the room as Joe Biden was speaking and

we know every single word, right? Meticulously chosen for that statement. Tell me about just the decisions that went into the sentiment and what else you are learning from team Biden?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's very clear that Biden here is trying to present this contrast to President Trump. And he's linking it all back to the start of his campaign, when he said he entered this campaign because he felt that the core values of this country are at stake. And he says that this is a moment that further highlights that. And so, the former Vice President, you know, he has not gone as far as his 2020 opponents who have outright called for impeachments. This is the furthest that he has gone in these calls saying that if the President doesn't comply then there's no other choice but for Congress to impeach.

But this gives former Vice President Joe Biden just another opportunity to try to present his case for the direction that the country needs to be taken in, compared to the current President. And I thought everything that the folks before me were saying was very interesting. The formality of this event. He was announced with the voice of god as the former Vice President coming up to the podium with those flags behind him. It was very clear that they were trying to send a Presidential-type message as he's trying to present this contrast to the current President.

BALDWIN: Arlette, thank you very much. David, just back to you. Did you find it interesting that Joe Biden said the President deserves to be impeached, if he doesn't comply with Congress instead of being impeached over the specific conduct?

CHALIAN: Right. It gives a little breathing room to the process here. Right? And it is probably on more comfortable turf for Joe Biden than sort of picking up a pitchfork and demanding it be, you know, that impeachment -- an impeachment road happened on the House floor today just based on public reports. He's giving a nod to a real respect for the process. Remember, this is a man who spent more than three decades in Congress, and so -- before his time as Vice President. And one who does respect the process.

So I think that's what that nod was there but I think you're right to pick up on it, Brooke. Because it does put him in a slightly different place, and I think there are a lot of Democrats certainly on the progressive side of the party who would say, what have you been seeing for the last two and a half years that indicates to you that Donald Trump is complying with Congress? In what way is that a part of our current reality? So you know, I do think you'll see some of that tension there, but Joe Biden occupies a different space inside the Democratic Party and those words seemed more in-line with his comfort zone.

BALDWIN: Do you think we, the nation, would be here and they, the members of Congress, who are all jumping and you see the big number on the screen now, 160 House Democrats backing impeachment inquiries.

[15:35:00] CHALIAN: That number has been going up rapidly today.

BALDWIN: I mean, yes, had Mueller not happened, like, did Mueller prime them, prepare them for this moment?

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that. I mean, that -- that has been the predicate to all of this --

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- investigative work into the presidency. And I was saying to you earlier that's why when Nancy Pelosi was saying, you know, we have to marshal our facts. That was all through the Mueller process. That was all through the Russian investigation. What she said today after the last week of events was, we now have our facts in order and we're ready to go. That seems to think that this discreet set of events here is a different kind of -- a real tipping point. It's a different kind of moment for the Democrats.

BALDWIN: OK. David Chalian, thank you very much. All of this news is coming in today. We're going to talk to a senior adviser to the Biden campaign about all of this, that's coming up next. And minutes from now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes behind closed doors with Democratic leaders. We are live on Capitol Hill as all of this unfolds. We'll be right back.

[15:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: In the wake of President Trump's unrelenting and evidence free claims that Joe Biden's son was involved in corruption in Ukraine, Democratic Presidential candidate Biden is now hitting back and hard for the first time calling for Trump's impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- using its full constitutional authority Congress in my view should demand the information, it has a legal right to receive. The President does not comply with such a request from the Congress. He continues to obstruct Congress and flaunt the law. Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment. That would be a tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, Symone Sanders, senior adviser to the Biden campaign. Simone, thank you so much for coming on, and what a statement from your boss. I mean, tell how the former Vice President came to this decision.

SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Well, Brooke, thank you for having me today. It's unfortunate that we're here at this moment, Brooke. Vice President Biden as he said in his speech today absolutely believes that this is, frankly, a national security issue. Which is why this shouldn't be an issue or conversation that divides folks across political lines or political ideology. We're all Americans and our national security, it seems is at risk. And so Vice President Biden came out to give his statement today to, one, reassert why he got into the race.

Because he believes the very foundations of our nation, our democracy, was truly at stake and time and time again in this campaign, Brooke, we have seen Vice President Biden having to come out and make statements like this. Most recently after the shooting in El Paso. The very tragic shooting where we spoke very forcefully about white supremacy and hate in America and that the President was fanning the flames of white supremacy. Well, today again Vice President Biden came out and did what Donald Trump could not do. Speak very calmly and clearly to the nation and to really lay out where we are in this moment. So that is why he felt it was important to speak today.

BALDWIN: But Symone, just looking in the rearview mirror for a second, you know, what about the Mueller report? What about the multiple examples of President Trump's behavior, you know, up until now? Why was this phone call the tipping point? Given everything Trump's done?

SANDERS: You know, it's not just the phone call, Brooke. I will say that -- and we have said, Vice President Biden has repeatedly said that Donald Trump has regularly abused power. Again, he's in this race because the very foundations of our nation, our democracy are at risk with the current President.

But we should not gloss over the fact that Donald Trump admitted, he admitted, Brooke, that he called up a foreign leader and pressured him. Pressured the foreign leader to investigate his political opponent. And that political opponent is Joe Biden.

It is alleged that President Trump withheld aid from a foreign country, all to pressure a foreign country to investigate and open up inquiries about his political opponent. That is not just un- presidential, Brooke, that's un-American. That's not who we are. And so I think that's what is different about this moment, and we should all keep the focus here.

And if I can say one last thing. These allegations that President Trump have introduced into the mainstream of political press, these are smears, Brooke. As you noted in your opening, these are unfounded claims. And I think it's important that we all keep the focus on that. This is a national security issue.

And frankly, Donald Trump is putting our foreign policy at risk. And so we hope that the President decides to comply with Congress to stop obstructing their investigations and that he complies with any new investigations that come forward but also previous investigations that other committees have opened. And if President Trump does not comply, Congress will frankly have no other option but to initiate an impeachment inquiry, and that would be under President Trump's own doing -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We've been listening to, of course, not just Joe Biden but various Democratic Presidential contenders all weighing in on this. And when Senator Kamala Harris was asked about, you know, possible impeachment hearings last night she said it should go forward.

[15:45:00]

But I also want to show you how she responded when asked if the accusation against Biden needed looking into. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll leave that to the voters to decide. I'll leave that to the voters to decide and in my experience the voters are paying attention to this race. They are paying attention to the issues and people's records and they'll make the decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I'll leave that for the voters to decide. Symone, your response?

SANDERS: My response is that's unfortunate, Brooke. These claims by President Trump are smears, and they're lies and they have been debunked by very credible media outlets. Outlet after outlet has debunked this. Glenn Kessler has a fact check from the "Washington Post" debunking these claims. The "New York Times" own initial reporting on this issue, 17 paragraphs down, might I add, they debunk it themselves. And so I think is it incumbent upon every single Democrat, every single American, because, Brooke, this isn't a Democratic or Republican issue, this is an American issue.

Every single American to unite here and say what Donald Trump is doing is wrong. It is not who we are as Americans and he must be held accountable. And so Congress we believe is going to do their job but folks shouldn't take the bait. Folks should not take the bait. What Donald Trump is doing is initiating a smear campaign. And we know why he's doing it, Brooke. Because Vice President Biden knows he would beat Donald Trump in a general election and it's very clear to us that Donald Trump also knows that Vice President Biden would beat him in a general election.

BALDWIN: Symone Sanders with team Biden. Symone, thank you so much. Good to have you on.

SANDERS: Thank you so much, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Moments from now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with her caucus. She's expected to announce an impeachment inquiry and we are about to hear from President Trump responding to all of this at the U.N. stand by.

[15:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right. So as of right now you see the big number on your screen, 160. CNN has counted 160 House Democrats who are in favor of starting the impeachment process against President Trump. And that number is growing and growing fast in the leadup to this meeting minutes from now led by, of course, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And with me now Democratic Presidential candidate, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, she represents Hawaii's second district. So Congresswoman, a

pleasure.

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to see you.

BALDWIN: Thank you for coming by. So let's get straight to the news. So we're hearing that Speaker Pelosi is announcing a formal impeachment hearing in the coming hours. We know Trump plans to release this full transcript, he says unredacted transcript with his call with the Ukrainian President. Where do you stand on impeachment right this very moment?

GABBARD: Look, my position remains the same. I think that impeachment would be terribly divisive for our already very divided country.

BALDWIN: Even an impeachment inquiry, looking into it?

GABBARD: I think Congress needs to exercise oversight over the information that's been leaked. I think it's important that this transcript is released to Congress so that Congress can do its job. But I think the question of impeachment really would further tear apart an already divided country. I think it's important that Donald Trump is defeated. I believe I can defeat him in 2020. But it's the voters who need to make that choice unequivocally.

BALDWIN: But what do you make of this -- I talked to one of them, seven freshmen Democrats who have come out with national security backgrounds. You know about that as a veteran. They're pointing to national security as in this is a national security concern for the reasoning to now shift in the last 24 hours for an impeachment inquiry. Tell me why they're wrong.

GABBARD: I think that these issues that are being raised are deeply concerning. I think it's important that we not deal in hypotheticals and actually look at this transcript. I think it's important that it is released and make decisions based on the facts. But I think also look at the pragmatic next steps of what will follow. And my concern is for our country. United we stand, divided we fall. It's important that Donald Trump is voted out of office by the American people. And I feel very strongly about that.

BALDWIN: But what if when they look at the transcript there is no mention of money, right? The allegations that Trump withheld all these millions of dollars in exchange for, you know, for personal gain, if there is no quid pro quo in the transcript?

GABBARD: Well, that's again, that's why I think it's important that we actually look at --

BALDWIN: But once they do and it doesn't exist?

GABBARD: Well, this is the problem. If the motivation is political and the evidence is not there for those who are calling for impeachment to continue to pursue that, that just proves how divisive this will be. Because then whether it's Donald Trump's supporters or Republicans, moderates, independents, they will say, OK, gosh guys, come on, this is politics as usual. You couldn't beat Trump in 2016. Now you're trying to do it through Congress. This is why it's so important the American people make this decision that we as Democratic candidates for president make our case and defeat Donald Trump through the ballot box.

If some of my colleagues are running for President don't think they can do that, then maybe they shouldn't be running. But this is the challenge and opportunity that we have before us.

[15:55:00]

BALDWIN: But what about the President just even wanting dirt, information, Kompromat on Joe Biden, his opponent? How is that not a violation of the Constitution?

GABBARD: That Trump has done and continues to do so many things that are deeply concerning for us and the country.

BALDWIN: So shouldn't that be looked into?

GABBARD: And further proof, Congress can and should look into it. And it further proves that Donald Trump makes decisions based on what's good for him and his own political power and his own political interests rather than thinking about what's in the best interests of the people. And I give credit to the American people to be able to see that and to say, hey look, no, we don't need this guy as President anymore. We need to have somebody in the White House who is going to put the interests of the American people and our country first. That's why I'm running.

BALDWIN: But if the President continues to break the law and continues to go unchecked by Congress, is that not a dereliction of duty?

GABBARD: Congress can and should continue to exercise its oversight responsibility over President Trump and the executive branch.

BALDWIN: Wouldn't that be an impeachment inquiry?

GABBARD: I think that impeachment is something -- that is a step that will divide the country and we'll be worse off for our country, and that's why I think the American people should make that choice.

BALDWIN: Let's switch gears to Trump speaking today in front of the U.N. General Assembly. And so he's talking tough on Iran. We know that in the rare move on Friday the Pentagon announced a group of troops heading to Saudi Arabia. Should troops put their lives on the line for Saudi Arabia?

GABBARD: Absolutely not.

BALDWIN: Tell me why.

GABBARD: Absolutely not. This is something, as you know, I take very personally both because this my brothers and sisters in uniform. We're talking about, people who have raised their hands, taken an oath to support and defend our Constitution, the American people, and to put their lives on the line. Basically to pawn off our troops to serve a foreign power, and a foreign power, Saudi Arabia, that continues to provide direct and indirect support to al Qaeda now in places like Yemen and Syria, the very same terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11. The very same terrorist group that so many of us after that attack enlisted in the military, to go and to try to defeat.

This decision by Trump is an outright betrayal of every single one of us who wear the uniform, everyone who has sacrificed so much in waging these wars, and to those survivors of that attack on 9/11.

BALDWIN: Do you think it's illegal for Trump to move those troops without Congress?

GABBARD: I think it's absolutely unconstitutional, and the fact that this administration is not even entertaining the idea of going and abiding by the Constitution, going to Congress and getting that authorization is something that needs to be checked. And we're pushing legislation in Congress to do just that.

BALDWIN: You're running for President. If you were President right now, how would be deal with Iran?

GABBARD: I would see the situation for what it is, which is this latest attack on Saudi Arabia is a retaliatory attack because of all the sanctions in place that are essentially blocking Iran from selling their oil on the market. So by recognizing that this is a retaliatory attack, that we cannot continue this cycle of retaliation that can only lead to an all-out inferno of a war both in Iran and across the region that would be so costly and devastating that would make the war we served in in Iraq look like a picnic in comparison in lost American lives, trillions of taxpayer dollars, exacerbating an already terrible refugee crisis. This is not serving the interests of our people nor is it serving in the interest of our national security.

As President right now what I would do is re-enter the Iran nuclear agreement, take away those sanctions that have been put in place so that Iran is brought back into an agreement where they are complying. We have inspectors going in because every single day that this doesn't happen, Iran is moving forward towards developing a nuclear weapon.

BALDWIN: Do you -- just back on the troops -- do you regret the pimps and prostitute language?

GABBARD: Not at all. That's exactly what Trump is doing. He is treating our troops as though we are something that can be pawned off or prostituted off to the highest bidder. Our troops deploying now to Saudi Arabia at his direction are not there serving the interests of the American people or our own national security. In this administration's own words they're going to protect Saudi Arabia's oil, Saudi Arabia's infrastructure, protecting them which undermines the whole reason why we take this oath willing to lay our lives down for our country. And he is sending them to protect a country that is allied with our enemy al Qaeda.

BALDWIN: We will see you at CNN's next debate. Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming by. I appreciate you --

GABBARD: Thanks.

BALDWIN: -- sharing all of that with us.

And, again, just a reminder, this is a huge day. Nancy Pelosi meeting with her caucus in just a couple of minutes and, of course, she is addressing everyone at 5:00 Eastern. So stay tuned for all of that.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for rolling with me these last two hours. Let's go to Jake. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

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