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United Kingdom Supreme Court Overturns Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Suspension of Parliament; Democrats Representatives in Swing Districts Write Op-Ed Calling for Impeachment Proceedings against President Trump; Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NY) and Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) Interviewed about Op-Ed Calling for Impeachment Proceedings against President Trump. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired September 24, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In an op-ed overnight seven key freshman Democrats, the kind that had been resistant to impeachment proceedings, largely moderates from swing districts, this is what they wrote. "This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand." And they add, "If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense." Two of those lawmakers who signed the op-ed are standing by to talk to us in a matter of just minutes.
We also have more breaking news. We are waiting to hear from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom ruled that his suspending parliament was unlawful. This puts his political future in question this morning. We'll get to all of it.
We going to begin, though, with Josh Dawsey, "Washington Post" report and a CNN political analyst, part of the team that broke the story that the president ordered the suspension of military funds to Ukraine. Let me read a clip from this story, Josh, for you. "Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which Trump is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden. Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an interagency process but to give them no additional information." A lot there. Let's start with this. The substance and the timing of the order from the president, Josh?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So what we reported last night was that about a week before the president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Hunter Biden, he puts a freeze on about $400 million in military aid, and tells his staff discussions had been going on since late June, we were told, about this aid, and then the president makes his decision, and it's communicated to State Department and Defense Department officials.
Then they have a meeting with White House officials, with Office of Management and Budget officials, where they ask questions about why this aid is being held up, and they're not given any answers, and they're told there are unspecified concerns from the president, and when concerned lawmakers on Capitol Hill call, to say it's part of an interagency review process, they're looking at this aid, they're looking at this aid, and not to give any more details.
What we are still trying to figure out, John, is exactly why the president froze the aid a week before the phone call. The White House officials last night insisted to us repeatedly that it was not a quid pro quo, that it was actually as part of a legitimate review process. But obviously you see a lot of Democrats and others who are questioning. The timing seems a bit coincidental in their minds.
BERMAN: Interagency process, what interagency process? What evidence did you find in your reporting, Josh, that there was some interagency review process?
DAWSEY: OMB officials certainly looked at the aid. This is a president even outside of the Ukraine situation who has been very skeptical of foreign aid. We have seen him try to take money from the northern triangle, from other countries overseas, South Korea, he has threatened to take their aid. He doesn't believe that the United States should be as fulsome a presence in the world on foreign aid as his predecessors do.
But that's a different case of saying, oh, we don't want them to have this aid because there's a legitimate reason why, and I want my counterpart to investigate the son of a political rival. And what we are trying to discern now is exactly what the reason was. But the real question here is what happened in the intervening days.
DAWSEY: A phone call on July 25th between the president of Ukraine and the president of the United States, President Trump, and then their meetings with Rudy Giuliani, with others, a new prosecutor is appointed, and then the aid is restored. And what we are trying to figure out is why the aid is restored.
BERMAN: There's so much that I want to dig into here. Let's start with the Rudy Giuliani aspect of this. What contact did he have with the president during this time period, and what was the substance of that?
DAWSEY: Rudy Giuliani has told me repeatedly that he briefs the president on what he is doing. During this time period we know Rudy Giuliani flew to Madrid. He met with an aid to the president there and insisted, once again, that they wanted these investigations to continue. This is in early August, about a week after the phone call.
DAWSEY: He comes back to the United States, reports those conversations back to the government, but he goes to Madrid in early August and says we want these to continue. Ukraine tells him, we'll appoint a new prosecutor soon, we'll look into this, at least in Giuliani's telling.
BERMAN: Josh --
DAWSEY: Go ahead, I'm sorry.
BERMAN: Two quick questions I want to get into before we run out of time. Number one, what was the response among officials inside the government after the president ordered the blocking of this funding? Were they confused?
DAWSEY: They were confused, and there was a lot of criticism, even from GOP senators privately. They tried to call the White House and discern why this aid was being held up and couldn't get answers either. Rob Portman, Mitch McConnell, a number of others called OMB, called State Department, Defense Department, we want this aid to be released, and it just wasn't for a long time.
BERMAN: And then the big issue for many Democrats is was there a quid pro quo? We have a quid and we have a quo, right.
We have reporting by "The Washington Post" and others that the president talked to the president of Ukraine about investigating Joe Biden. That's a quid. We have a quo, which is the withholding of funds to Ukraine. What you don't have, Josh, to be clear is any direct linkage that the president explicitly made to the Ukrainian leader, correct?
DAWSEY: That's correct. And that's what we're trying to figure out, whether that exists or not.
BERMAN: Josh Dawsey, thank you very much for your reporting. Thank you so much for being with us.
DAWSEY: Thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, this morning seven freshmen, seven House freshman Democrats, all from competitive districts, are moving towards impeachment in a new "Washington Post" op-ed. They write, "We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump. If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense."
Joining us now, two of those lawmakers, Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey. Great to have both of you here. Congressman, I will start with you. You are here in studio. What changed yesterday? What tipped you last night to being an author on this op-ed?
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL, (D-NJ): I think the president's crossed a line here. We see him threatening our national security. That's something that all of us on this op-ed have spent many years trying to protect. And to see the president of the United States trying to force a foreign government to investigate an American citizen, especially one that's attempting to run against the president, is just a line that I think was too much for all of us.
CAMEROTA: Are you sure of that? Are you sure that that's happened? You haven't seen the whistleblower complaint.
SHERRILL: The president pretty much admitted that he talked about Biden, he talked about corruption. We know he withheld military funds from -- eastern Ukraine is a hot warzone right now, and so to withhold the military funds for days from Ukraine, I think that's really telling.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Crow, you said in July, just a couple of months ago, that impeachment needs to be, quote, the last course of action. Are we at the last course of action in your mind?
REP. JASON CROW, (D-CO): I think what we're doing, what we're facing right now is a situation where you have the sitting president of the United States using foreign military aid to potentially advance his own election. This is unprecedented. We as a country have never seen a situation like that. All of us who signed on to the opinion piece yesterday said our adult lives have been defined by defense of this country and making sure that we are up holding our national security.
That is our fundamental purpose, whether you're a member of the Congress or the president of the United States. And when it comes to fulfilling that duty, fulfilling our oaths, it is time that we do what we need to do. We uphold that oath, and we're calling on all of our colleagues in both chambers in Congress and both parties to step up to the plate and make sure that we are defending our country.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Sherrill, the reporting has been that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, has been keeping her finger on all of your pulses, you in particular in the swing districts, in the competitive districts, because you guys have the most to lose. So did you talk to her yesterday about your changing stance?
SHERRILL: So, of course, we came out with this op-ed, and then we did tell Nancy Pelosi that we were going to release this in the morning to make sure that she was aware of our position and how we felt about this. None of us ran on impeaching the president. I ran to lower health care costs, to get the gateway tunnel project funded, to make sure that we have fairer tax system in New Jersey. These are things that people in my district care very deeply about. However, people in my district also know I'm a Navy veteran, that I served this country my entire life, and I certainly won't stand by as the president tries to undermine our democratic elections.
CAMEROTA: What did she say? What did Nancy Pelosi say when you all told her that you planned to do this?
SHERRILL: I think she understood where we were coming from. I think she appreciated our experience in national security and what this meant to us, and our understanding of foreign affairs and how this would impact the nation. And so I think she appreciated the call.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, is it your impression that Nancy Pelosi herself has moved closer to an impeachment process and inquiry now in part because you all have gotten more comfortable with it?
CROW: I can't speak for the speaker or any of our other colleagues. All I know is that the seven of us decided to come together and fulfill our oaths, because ultimately that's what this is about. Our fundamental duty is to make sure that we are doing what we to do to defend the country. And we are in a position where there are very serious allegations against the sitting president of the United States, that he is misusing or abusing his position and his authority in a way that threatens our national security. So we're going to keep our laser focus on that, and we're calling on the House now to use all available tools to get the information we need to decide what we need to do to secure the country and to move forward.
CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, tell us a little bit about the process this weekend. How did you seven come together? Were there phone calls? Did you all meet? How did you reach the point of this op-ed?
SHERRILL: It was pretty remarkable. In fact, my head said to me last night, who led this, who decided to do this? And I said, we all sort of came together. I think we all understood the implications of this right away. Many of us, if not all of us, have worked overseas, we have worked with foreign governments, we have worked to protect our national security and our democracy. So this was a red line. And we coalesced on this very quickly. I think the phone lines probably lit up for all seven of us just right away because we were all calling back and forth to say where are you going to be on this, what are you thinking on this, what does this mean to you?
CAMEROTA: And had you all been in contact? Do you normally all check in with each other?
SHERRILL: We check in daily.
CAMEROTA: Do you?
SHERRILL: Oh, yes.
CROW: We do talk a lot.
SHERRILL: Yes. Yes, we do.
CAMEROTA: I'm interested in this phone tree, Congressman. So you all check in with each other. And had you been taking each other's pulse on this all along for these months leading up to yesterday?
CROW: Well, we are a very close group, and I think that's the result of the fact that we share a common background. Our background is in service to the country outside of politics. Up until January 3rd, none of us had served in Congress, in elected office. We are used to approaching this from a service or orientation, a service mindset. So that background is something that we share and we have coalesced over the last nine plus months around that. And that's really a great thing I think for all of us, that we have people that we trust, people that we share that service mentality with. And we have a lot of discussions about what we're going to do and how we're going to approach issues, and I was happy that we were able to come together in a unified way and send the message that we did.
CAMEROTA: So is it true there was no ring leader? Somebody has to organize the writing of this?
CROW: No, it was an organic process. We all got together and got on conference calls and talked about what we wanted to say, how we wanted to say it. It was a very collaborative process.
CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, what about what you mentioned earlier? This isn't why you got into Congress. And this isn't what your constituents I think voted for you to do. And so what about the argument that by definition starting an impeachment process does take your time and energy away from other issues?
SHERRILL: That's something I have been very concerned about, but we as Congresspeople need to make sure that we can do our oversight duties, perform our constitutional duties, protect our country while at the same time focusing on the American people and the needs of the American people.
Quite frankly, in my district, it's not enough to impeach the president. In fact, many people probably won't agree with my decision, that we need to use every possible tool in this instance. However, we have got to make sure that we tackle our tax problems in New Jersey, that we make sure we have the Gateway Tunnel program fixed, that we move forward on health care costs. These are the things that are going to impact people's lives, and impeachment might not.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, last question. Are you going to see this whistleblower complaint?
CROW: We need to see the complaint. Under the law, we are entitled to the complaint. The intelligence community has to give it over. The inspector general for the intelligence community has already made a legal determination that this is the type of complaint that needs to be seen by Congress. The administration is withholding that. It is time to pass it over. We need the facts at the end of the day. And I will say, I reject the false premise that we can't fulfill our oaths and do what we need to do to protect the country and go through proceedings and hearings, and also do the things that our constituents need us to do. We can and must do both.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Crow, Congresswoman Sherrill, thank you very much for being here to explain your thinking behind this op-ed. We really appreciate it.
SHERRILL: Thank you for having us. CAMEROTA: John?
BERMAN: Really fascinating discussion.
We have other breaking news. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a major legal defeat this morning. The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom ruled that Johnson's five-week suspension of Parliament was unlawful. The British prime minister just arrived at the United Nations. He is scheduled to meet with President Trump this morning. We don't know if that is still going to happen. CNN's Melissa Bell is live at the U.K. Supreme Court with all of the breaking details. Melissa?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is where that shocking verdict was made just a few hours ago that really throws into turmoil the British political landscape, also any idea that we might have about what's actually going to happen to Brexit, John, let's be clear. So all eyes very much on New York and what Boris Johnson's reaction is going to be to a growing chorus of calls for his resignation.
First of all, because his decision to suspend Parliament so spectacularly backfired with that decision with the Supreme Court not only ruling it unlawful but essentially quashing it, overturning it. MP's due to get back here at Westminster tomorrow as a result of that decision, and despite Boris Johnson's suspension of it a few weeks ago, normally on a Wednesday afternoon the prime minister holds prime minister's questions. Will he be back to take those questions, to address that growing chorus of calls for his resignation? That is one of the questions we're going to be looking to hear from him.
Is this a prime minister to bash on regardless, and what will his strategy be? I mean, at the heart of this suspension of this entire story over the last couple of weeks, John, has been that the fact that the British executive, in the shape of Boris Johnson, is determined to keep on the table the possibility of the United Kingdom crashing out of the E.U. on the 31st of October should no deal with European partners be found.
And on the other, parliamentarians who in there majority want to stop him doing that.
This tussle between them is due to get back. Can Boris Johnson stay in those circumstances? That is the question for the prime minister this lunch time here in London. One thing is certain, is that the possibility of the U.K. crashing out of the E.U. has receded essentially with the pound rising on that news -- John.
CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Melissa. Thank you very much for giving us a status report. Please keep us posted. It's a very pivotal day there.
And in just hours, President Trump will address the U.N. He plans to make a case against Iran as the embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who you just heard about will join President Trump in calling for a new nuclear deal with Iran. CNN's Alex Marquardt is live at the United Nations with a preview of
Mr. Trump's speech.
What do we think he's going to say, Alex?
MARQUARDT: Good morning, Alisyn.
That's right. This is a big day for international diplomacy, a big day for world leader speeches. The president is set to speak in just two hours time. He is going second -- he is wedged between two authoritarians who he has shown admiration for in the past -- Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, he'll go first, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who President Trump just called his favorite dictator.
Alisyn, it is a tough room for the president. His America-first policy doesn't fly in a body that was founded on international multilateralism. And to some extent, the fascination with the American president has faded. World leaders think they've sized President Trump up.
We do expect the president to touch on the crisis with Iran as the global consensus cements around this idea that Iran did carry out this strike against Saudi Arabian oil fields. We don't know too much more beyond that. Will he talk about the crisis with Ukraine?
And then after his speech, he has other international crises to deal with. He does have that meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the U.K., very much embattled after that Supreme Court decision. Big question, Alisyn and John, will he sit down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani?
That is highly unlikely but as the president likes to say, you never know what can happen -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Alex. Stand by at the U.N. for us. Keep us posted.
We just heard from two of the seven freshmen Democrats now speaking out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. When will we hear something from Republicans? Next.
BERMAN: All right. Major developments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called a meeting with key committee chairs this afternoon to talk about the possibility of impeachment proceedings, and then she will have a meeting with the full Democratic caucus after that.
One hundred forty-five House Democrats, at least, because this number keeps going up every minute.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Like a minute ago, I think we might just have added one to the list. BERMAN: So, we may be at 146, and 147 by the end of this breath.
They now support an impeachment inquiry. Two of them spoke with NEW DAY just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): So, the seven of us decided to come together and fulfill our oath because ultimately, that's what this is about. Our fundamental duty is to make sure that we are doing what we need to do to defend the country, and we are in a situation where, you know, there are serious allegations against the sitting president of the United States that he is misusing or abusing his position and his authority.
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): We all understood the implications of this right away. Many of us, if not all of us, have worked overseas. We have worked with foreign governments. We worked to protect our national security and democracy. So, this was a red line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. I want to bring in Dana Bash, CNN chief political correspondent, and David Gregory , CNN political analyst.
And, Dana, this is a different place this morning than we were yesterday and certainly one week ago. You have Nancy Pelosi reportedly on the phone, not as resistant to impeachment proceedings. You have the seven freshmen, and I know you have been speaking with them, who one week ago were against an impeachment inquiry and they are now for it.
What do you see happening by tonight?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This day is the day I think that we're going to look back on and see that there was a major shift. Now, I don't know that there will be any decisions made until Thursday when the acting head of the director of national intelligence goes to Capitol Hill to formally say yea or nay on whether or not the Congress will get the complaint from the whistleblower.
But when it comes to the dynamics of the Democratic caucus, led by Nancy Pelosi who, as you said, obviously has been so resistant to this, over the past 24 hours, things have changed and today is the day she is going to have the formal conversation with her -- with her caucus.
Just real quickly, the fact that you spoke to Mikie Sherrill in particular but also Jason Crow, I actually spoke to Mikie Sherrill and the four other women who served in national security positions on that letter just last week doing a story. They call themselves the bad ass caucus, guys. And they all to a person said they were not there yet on impeachment, and it was because, as she said, of what happened with this Ukraine call that it hit close to home.
There is not a groundswell for this moving forward on this in the majority maker's districts, and that is what those two people are. They're the ones who took Republican seats. And the fact that they are saying that is why this is a very different day than it was just yesterday.
CAMEROTA: I think that is really important to note, David.
So either they're not worried about their reelection because they've heard from their constituents that they want them to move ahead with impeachment, or they just feel as they made their case here that the principle of protecting the country, the oath that they took is more important than that political calculation.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I really think it is the latter. I mean, I think you now have a situation where they're willing to take the risk because this is so fundamental a problem to them.
And there is a call-out aspect of this as well. I mean, the fact that these are freshmen Democrats who have a national security background, calling out Republicans to say, aren't you the party of national security, aren't you the party of election security, of standing up to enemies like Russia, those who would interfere with our election, or to have a president who would -- who would compromise national security to try to enhance his political prospects? That's the call- out nature of this to try to get some movement on the part of the Republicans because there's still a lot of danger to this.
There may be more consensus among Democrats, that hasn't moved Republicans yet. That's something that Nancy Pelosi is thinking very hard about.
BERMAN: Hasn't moved Republicans really at all. Except for Mitt Romney no one has come in any way forward.
I wonder if there's an off ramp, Dana, between now and Thursday. Today is Tuesday, so there's two days. Is there an off ramp for the administration to avoid what could be an inevitable impeachment proceeding? Would it be turning over the inspector general complaint?
BASH: Yes. But not to get too Machiavellian here, but does the administration want to avoid an impeachment proceeding?
The reason why it has been so -- the Democratic leadership has been so tentative is because politically, they understand that once they go down this road, it takes up all of the oxygen, A, and, B, it could and will motivate the Republican base in a way that they haven't been motivated before, to likely rally around the president because that's how these things tend to work when they are partisan.
So does the White House -- I mean, I'm not saying they would withhold the complaint in order to spur impeachment, that would be a bridge too far I think even for Washington, but it is not as if, you know, they will try very hard to avoid it in order to give the complaint.
Having said that, if for some reason the acting DNI does come and say, OK, fine, you can see this, it might take the -- you know, sort of the heat out of this, at least temporarily.
But you also have to remember that Corey Lewandoski sit last week. That's a big part of this also. He embarrassed the Democrats. They were embarrassed. They felt like, why do we have this majority if we're going to sit here and take it from somebody like Corey Lewandoski and not hold him in contempt or not do what we need to do to get answers?
GREGORY: I also want to expand on that.
CAMEROTA: Yes, quickly.
GREGORY: That this is also such a part of the Trump playbook, the way he went after Hillary Clinton for being corrupt. He is going to take that fight to Joe Biden. I mean, let's remember this is the president who comes to national prominence by saying that our first African- American president wasn't American and bringing up the specious issue of his birth certificate.
So, he is going to run this hard. He is going to come just as hard as he always has about the media and about liberals and, you know, progressives were talking about impeaching Justice Kavanaugh.
This is all of a piece, and so, there's no question there are going to be hard core supporters for the president who will be motivated by him saying, this is liberals doing their there.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Hey, David, very quickly we need to ask, there is another country that is in turmoil, or at least embroiled in controversy this morning and that is the U.K. The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it has just been ruled he acted illegally in somehow misleading the queen.
So he is here in New York for the U.N. general assembly. He is scheduled to meet with President Trump in three hours. He just made his first comments about this.
So, listen to Boris Johnson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I strongly disagree with the decision of the Supreme Court. I have the utmost respect for our judiciary. I don't think it was the rightful decision. I think the prerogative of prorogation has been used for centuries without this kind of -- without this kind of challenge.
It's perfectly usual to have a queen speech, that's what we want to do. More importantly, let's be in no doubt, there are a lot of people who want to frustrate Brexit. There are a lot of people who basically want to stop this country coming out of the E.U.
And we have a parliament that is unable to make roads, unable to -- doesn't want to have an election, and I think it's time we took things forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: What does moving forward for Boris Johnson look like, David?
GREGORY: I think it's so precarious because members of his own party are among those who are fighting so strongly against him, which makes his hold on power so tenuous. And he's a couple of hours away from meeting with Donald Trump, who still has the support of his party, which is a -- which is a very --