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White House to Release Unredacted Ukraine Call Transcript; Trump Does Not Want to be Impeached; Trump to Release Unredacted Ukraine Call Transcript; Acting DNI to Testify Before House Intel Panel Tomorrow; Washington Post: Giuliani Pursued Shadow Ukraine Agenda. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 25, 2019 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has the day off and we do begin with breaking news.

This morning we are set to learn details of what was said on President Trump's call with the president of Ukraine back in July. The White House says it will release a log of that call some time in the next few hours.

Also happening today, two sources tell CNN that the White House plans to turn over the whistleblower complaint. We'll bring you both of those as soon as we get them.

And this all comes just one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the big step and the political risk of formally opening an official impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Now several Democratic sources tell CNN there's concern that Pelosi acted too soon and should have waited for that announcement until reading the log of the Ukraine call and actually seeing the whistleblower complaint.

Another important development this morning, House Intel Chairman, Adam Schiff, says the whistleblower wants to speak to his committee. That could come as early as this week.

Clearly there's a lot going on. We're covering this story from every angle this morning. Let's begin with Manu Raju on the Hill.

It has not even been 24 hours, and wow, how things have changed, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. Even though substantively the investigations will essentially continue as they have been doing. The six different committees on Capitol Hill -- in the House that have already been investigating all aspects of the presidency, his business, his past, and will likely continue those investigations including the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee.

The fact that the speaker put her blessing on moving forward with impeachment proceedings essentially is a green light for this House to potentially move forward to make President Trump just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached because now that this investigation is formally under way, we expect a decision about whether or not to actually recommend Articles of Impeachment to be made before the end of the year. That's the goal, at least, of the House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler.

Now what will happen in the next couple of months as those investigations will proceed, they'll decide exactly how to draft those Articles of Impeachment. If they decide to go that route, then the Judiciary Committee itself would vote on those Articles of Impeachment before it would go to the full House where a majority of the House would have to vote to impeach the president. But of course, to convict and remove the president a much different question. That would require two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate to do that and the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to do that. So while this could be a rebuke, a major rebuke, a historic rebuke of the president, it could also be symbolic -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Manu, thank you very much for the reporting. It's a big morning ahead.

Let's talk about all of this. Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst is with me, David Gregory, CNN political analyst, and Elie Honig, former federal and state prosecutor.

Gloria, good morning to you.


HARLOW: The words that Nancy Pelosi used and she chose them very carefully, these two struck me, utmost gravity. So we heard from Manu how symbolic this is, not necessarily changing the investigations.

BORGER: Right.

HARLOW: But speak to her choice to move now the use of those words but also the political risk the Democrats are facing here.

BORGER: Look, I think there is tremendous political risk. I think Nancy Pelosi knows that, although she does believe that this story is a violation of the Constitution, and when she heard the president speak in his own words that, so what if I mentioned Joe Biden, I think that kind of sealed the deal for her.

This is different from Russia in a lot of ways, though. You know, you have a whistleblower who may testify as you were just saying, who wants to testify. You have a transcript, we don't know in what form. You have Trump officials, according to reporting in "The Washington Post," who were scratching their heads because they thought this whole emphasis on Ukraine and holding up aid was very odd and very strange and they may have been cut out of the loop.

And of course you have the wild card of Rudy Giuliani being involved in this. Was he an emissary for the president? Did he and the president cook this up together outside of the State Department? So it's very different from the Russia investigation which had 1,000 strands. This may only have 100 strands. HARLOW: Right.

BORGER: And she believes it's a lot more clear-cut.

HARLOW: Yes. And it's progressed in a week, right, Gloria?


HARLOW: I mean, it hasn't been over a year which is just easier for anyone to digest, whether you're an expert in this stuff or not.

David, to you. Listen to Congressman Chris Stewart. He was on with Wolf on the "SITUATION ROOM" last night. He's on the Intel Committee with the big hearing tomorrow. He's how he sees it.



REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): I'm not at all surprised. I mean, they've been trying to impeach this president since literally before he was inaugurated, and Wolf, I think they're going to regret it. They announced this rather than wait less than 24 hours to read the transcript and see if there's a reason for this. And Miss Pelosi came on and she unequivocally said this president has broken his oath of office. He has betrayed national security.

How in the world does she know that? This inquiry hasn't even begun. For her to make a statement as definitive as that, that's why the American people are going to view this and roll their eyes.


HARLOW: Maybe they'll roll their eyes and maybe they won't. I mean, we just don't know yet, David Gregory, because we don't have polling, you know, from what's happened in the last week.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We don't and the congressman may absolutely be right. And I think as Gloria said, Speaker Pelosi knows how risky this is. We may look at yesterday and her decision as the moment that Donald Trump secured his second term. That is distinctly possible. But we also know what Donald Trump has said he did separate from whatever the log of the call shows.


GREGORY: The report from the inspector general or the whistleblower him or herself. We know the president has said, yes, he held up the aid and he made it very clear to the president of Ukraine that he should be investigating his political opponent. That is not done, potentially illegal, certainly showing an interest by the president to subordinate the role of the presidency in the interest of the country and our national security interests to his own personal political gain. So that much is true.

But this is an important day because whatever we learn from the call itself, if it's a transcript, if it's notes, if it's a log, that may be incomplete. The report is important because what other acts might be involved? Does it shed light on the role of Rudy Giuliani who is inserting himself into this process probably at the president's behest, going outside of all the national security lanes, the State Department and other national security officials?

What about the inspector general himself? Because in that case that's really a rebuttal to the partisan charges about all of this because this is an independent figure, and the whistleblower him or herself becomes very important. So there is a lot to learn and this is a political process. I mean, Speaker Pelosi was also judging the fact that her caucus which has been certainly the progressives moving toward impeachment based on everything that's happened heretofore, now you have more moderates and tougher districts moving for it as well.


GREGORY: So there's a broader context, no limit, no boundaries. That's how Donald Trump has lived his life in business, his personal life, and it is how he's behaved as president.

HARLOW: Right.

GREGORY: And I think that's what has pushed the Democrats here.

HARLOW: And clearly that op-ed yesterday by those seven freshman Democrats that have, you know, the national security background that are in these dangerous districts for them to move this way, that clearly moved her as well.

Elie, to David's point, you have said that releasing the transcript will not tell the whole story.


HARLOW: What, if anything, will?

HONIG: So the transcript is going to be an important piece of the puzzle but we need to see the whistleblower complaint. We need to get all the facts and circumstances. We may even need to hear from Rudy Giuliani in an under oath context. And one thing that I think is so important to keep in mind when we see this transcript today, first of all, you do not need a smoking gun in order to have a crime and you do not need a crime in order to impeach.

All right. People very rarely get on the phone with somebody and talk, hey, let's have a quid pro quo, I'm trying to bribe you. You're being extorted. I was a prosecutor for 14 year. It's not the way it goes.

HARLOW: It's a good point. You won't get the tone.

HONIG: No. No. Exactly.

HARLOW: Unless you hear audio which they're not going to have.


HARLOW: Because it's more a log, real-time log of the conversation someone is taking. Just listen to this from Rudy Giuliani, OK? Everyone, listen to this. He was just on FOX this morning. Here's what he said about the Ukraine call transcript.


BRIAN KILMEADE, "FOX AND FRIENDS" HOST: MALE: Mr. Mayor, could I ask you, did you read the transcript?


KILMEADE: It was read to you, the whole thing?


KILMEADE: So in it -- there's no pressure, there's no --

GIULIANI: In it -- in it -- Greg Jarrett and Professor Dershowitz and others are quite right when they say if the president hadn't discussed the subjects he discussed with the president of the Ukraine, he'd be a president like Obama who closed his eyes to corruption.


HARLOW: OK. A lot of things to say. It's right there. Joe Biden was tasked with dealing with the corruption in Ukraine for the Obama administration and did that, but, Elie Honig, the fact that he says -- and he's -- you know, he's not part of the administration. He's the president's personal lawyer, was read this transcript?


HARLOW: Is that kosher?

HONIG: Rudy Giuliani's involvement in this is very problematic for Donald Trump and I think telling. Because he's the question. Was Rudy Giuliani -- why was he involved in this? If this is official United States of America business, Rudy Giuliani is a private civilian. He has no role in this.


But if this is something to benefit Donald Trump personally or politically, then it makes sense that Rudy Giuliani was involved. So why is he involved? That to me really hurts Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Gloria?

BORGER: Yes, look, who is Rudy Giuliani? He's the president's personal attorney. I remember during the Russia investigation, Giuliani used to give the president's real attorneys heartburn every time he went on television. And now he has sort of insinuated himself probably at the behest of the president to help the president with the 2020 election. Russia was about the 2016 election.

This is about the next one, and everyone knows that Giuliani does the president's bidding and there's a question here about whether this fits a pattern like birtherism, whether you concoct a story, you stir the pot and then you let it stew for the political base which is what I think the Democrats believe this is.

HARLOW: David, help play this out for me.

GREGORY: There's another piece --

HARLOW: Sure, go ahead.

GREGORY: Yes. Well, I just think the other piece of this is let's remember that Rudy Giuliani plays an important role for Trump here. Not only his personal henchman apparently with a broad portfolio working around the world but most importantly to somebody like Donald Trump, he's his TV lawyer. And so he goes on TV to argue the case to sway public opinion.

You know, we talk about impeachment, we talk about Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon would have loved to have the media climate that exists today, particularly FOX News and other online supporters of the president who can further auspicious story about Hunter Biden and former vice president Joe Biden where they obscure the facts but also to amplify the president's argument that is twofold, one, I didn't do anything wrong to give the best interpretation of whatever we learn out of these reports, logs, et cetera, and to further try to discredit Democrats for, you know, just wanting to impeach the president since day one and go on some kind of witch hunt.

HARLOW: And David --

BORGER: Can I ask --


BORGER: I just want to ask, who read Rudy Giuliani the transcript?


BORGER: Was it the president? I have no idea.

HARLOW: It's a great question. I don't believe that was followed up with.


HARLOW: On the program he was on this morning.

BORGER: It was not.

HARLOW: But, David Gregory, just to build on that just for one second and then I want to get our Kaitlan Collins in here with some new reporting, some are speculating whether McConnell would even hold the trial in the Senate if it got to that point. You know, of course, we saw the example with Merrick Garland. Does that raise questions for you?

GREGORY: Yes, it does because what is precedent is that the Senate can decide exactly how any kind of trial would proceed or whether it would proceed. And that's of course part of the political risk here. You know, the House can do its duty and can pursue this political process. The Senate doesn't necessarily have to go along. And I think, you know, at this point certainly if you read the political tea leaves, there won't be support for this. But things are that way until they're not that way.


BORGER: Right.

GREGORY: And we have to be -- we have to understand that things can change. They can also change for the worse for Democrats based on what is provided and where the facts do ultimately lead.

HARLOW: Yes. Good point. Thank you one and all. Stick around. I have a feeling it's going to be a busy two hours. Kaitlan Collins is with me now.

Kaitlan, you've got some more reporting on the president's feelings on impeachment?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so there has been this kind of long-standing assumption that the president wants this impeachment fight because he thinks it's going to help him politically, and there are definitely aids who have argued as much but based on our reporting from the president's reaction to Nancy Pelosi coming out yesterday announcing she was going to launch this formal impeachment inquiry, that is not what we are hearing the president -- and how he reacted to that.

Essentially he made this phone call to Nancy Pelosi yesterday morning, talked about guns for a little bit but really wanted to cut to the chase here as he's hearing these growing calls for his impeachment from her caucus, many more calls than we had heard previously, and he wanted to talk to her about this whistleblower's complaint. And it's unclear how that conversation ended but the fact that he called her really speaks to the president trying to de-escalate tensions here. He wanted to ward off this clash. He didn't want it to continue to escalate as you're seeing these members call for his impeachment.

So the president ended that phone call, went on about his day here in New York, meeting with world leaders, feeling pretty confident about it. That's when he made the decision to release this transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president later on. Then his administration officials started working with intelligence officials to release this whistleblower's complaint, something they're still in the process of doing based on what our sources are telling us, and he was feeling good about things.

So when the president got back to Trump Tower yesterday, the place where he launched his longshot presidential campaign, he was stunned, he said, when he heard Nancy Pelosi come out, announced she was actually following through with this.


The president essentially thought he was going to be able to get Nancy Pelosi to back off of where she was headed very clearly yesterday morning.

Now, that may surprise some Democrats who say the tea leaves were here, you could read this, you knew this was --

HARLOW: Right --

COLLINS: But the president has misread Nancy Pelosi before. It appears yesterday he thought he could change her mind when very clearly --

HARLOW: He couldn't.

COLLINS: He couldn't. So, it will be interesting to see how he acts going forward, but we are told the president does not want to be impeached. He is not welcoming this impeachment fight, and it's not something he wants to go through, though aides are now preparing themselves for one.

HARLOW: Yes, that's fascinating reporting, how much can change in just a matter of hours. Kaitlan, thank you so much, we appreciate it. We're still waiting for that transcript, the log of the call between President Trump and Ukraine's president as this formal impeachment inquiry is now under way. What will that log say?

I'll talk to someone who was a key adviser to President Clinton during his impeachment, and what is expected ahead. And tomorrow of course, that big hearing with the acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. He testifies before the House Intelligence Committee, a member of that committee joins us as well.



HARLOW: All right, this morning, new reporting about the role President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani played in all of this. "The Washington Post" says that Giuliani was pursuing a shadow agenda with Ukrainian officials. Our Kylie Atwood has her own reporting on this, she joins me now with the developments.

Look, it's so important to reiterate, Giuliani does not work in the administration --


HARLOW: He does not work for the American people, he is not paid by the American taxpayer, yet he apparently had been inserting himself in this Ukraine back and forth saga, if you will for months.

ATWOOD: Right, and we knew that he was doing that because he was publicly talking about it --

HARLOW: Talking about going --

ATWOOD: You know, he was texting reporters to flag things for them on Ukraine. He was -- he was being very aggressive about these efforts. But what is interesting is that, my reporting is that in early July, when the Ukrainian president met with some State Department officials, he essentially laughed off Giuliani's impact that he was having.

You know, they were talking about the reforms that the Trump administration wants to see the Ukrainians making in terms of fighting corruption --

HARLOW: Sure --

ATWOOD: Domestically in their own country. And Zelensky made a comment, you know, referencing the challenge of working with lawyers and referencing the fact that he knew Giuliani was not working with the State Department officials that he was sitting across the table from. But then fast forward a few weeks from that moment in time, then you have Ukraine asking that same State Department official Ambassador Kurt Volker to set up a meeting with them to connect them with Rudy Giuliani.

Now, the State Department does acknowledge on the record that they connected Giuliani to the Ukrainian aide. But what Giuliani is now saying is that he did it at the direction that he was told, that he had to have those meetings by the State Department.

And that's where it gets a little bit murky here, and that's where Secretary Pompeo has stayed out of it. We know that he did sign off on this --

HARLOW: Release of the watch --

ATWOOD: Connection that was made by Ambassador Kurt Volker, but he is not wading into this territory very directly because it could implicate him and get him in some trouble.

HARLOW: Sure, she also didn't want the log of the call released, but has acquiesced --

ATWOOD: Of course --

HARLOW: And now we're going to see it --

ATWOOD: Right --

HARLOW: Within hours. Great reporting, thank you very much. So, this afternoon, and on top of all of this, it is the United Nations General Assembly here in New York and the president will meet with the president of Ukraine. Congressman Mike Rogers; former Congressman, former Chair of the House Intel Committee is with me this morning on all of it. Busy morning, sir, don't you think?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Busy morning -- HARLOW: Busy morning --

ROGERS: My -- does the year -- does the weather change quickly, doesn't it?

HARLOW: There you go. So, we'll get to the politics of that in a moment, but look, you chaired the Intel Committee, Adam Schiff now chairs it. They're holding this major public hearing with the acting DNI tomorrow morning about all of this. Take me through the key questions you would ask him, and what will get the most clarity and answers to the American people.

ROGERS: Well, first and foremost, I think the committee's responsibility is to the ongoing adversarial intelligence threat, terrorist threat, cyber threat. I hope they spend time on doing that because remember, you can't let this thing engulf everything that the government is doing or shame on all of us.

In the committee -- the community, the Intelligence community needs robust oversight. It needs both encouragement, it needs advice from council and of course, it needs money. All of those things the Intelligence Committee when it's fully functioning can do that.

So, that piece I hope is center stage. I think at the end of it, they're going to -- you know, you will not be able to avoid some of the questions -- and I wouldn't get down to try to get too many details or too many you too movements in an Intelligence Committee hearing.

But what I would do is press the director for either the report or allowing -- he should give the wink and the nod that this person, the whistleblower should be able to come to the committee directly. And the committee has other tools to talk to that person, I think again, this is a long and painful process that's going to happen anyway.

They might as well cooperate to get this -- the information out. And if they honestly believe there's no problem, then they should escalate this as fast as they can.

HARLOW: Chairman Rogers, isn't a key question though as well to him, you know, the letter of the law here is pretty clear, you have seven days to turn this over to Congress, why didn't you, why were you compelled to block it?


ROGERS: Yes, I mean, I think that's a question he will get. I'm sure he's prepared to answer it. You know, I think he's in a very bad spot, the Department of Justice says no, that is executive privilege --

HARLOW: Yes --

ROGERS: Information --

HARLOW: Except -- ROGERS: You can't release that information. Is that -- does he have

the ability to go around that decision --

HARLOW: Sure --

ROGERS: I'm not sure --

HARLOW: Well, he didn't need to go to the Department of Justice --

ROGERS: But I think it's good to pressure him --

HARLOW: That's the thing, he never needed to go. That's not sort of the route --

ROGERS: Yes --

HARLOW: That is laid out in a scenario like this, but he did. Let me just ask you to get some response to -- the president just wrote this. Quote, "will the Democrats apologize after seeing what they said on the call with the Ukrainian president? They should, a perfect call got them by surprise."

There are some Democrats this morning, Chairman Rogers, who are saying perhaps it would have been more prudent for Nancy Pelosi to wait 24 hours, 48 hours until the end of the week to see the transcript of the call, to see the testimony tomorrow, to see the whistleblower report, and that this could backfire politically for Democrats. What's your read?

ROGERS: Well, listen, and I've kind of been on this bandwagon for a while. I mean, everything -- they've wanted to impeach this president from everything -- from emoluments clause to the collision. Remember, they came out and said, oh, we have evidence when they didn't have evidence. I think their credibility is at risk here, the Democrats credibility in this, number one.

Number two, you're embarking on something that will create real division in the United States. My argument is, if you're going to do that, get it right, and you don't know. I mean, I've seen lots of Democrats on TV today --

HARLOW: So, you would agree that if --

ROGERS: I mean, listen, I'm not saying there isn't something here, this looks really bad --

HARLOW: Yes, OK --

ROGERS: But as an investigative prospect, get the facts down first. If you listen to them, they're saying I think he's guilty of A, B and C, and oh, by the way, I'm going to get the facts so that --

HARLOW: Well --

ROGERS: We might be able to do an impeachment. I just think that's not helpful to their cause if that's what they want to do, number one. And number two, remember, impeachment is going to be very divisive, so do it right. I'm just -- that's my whole point.

HARLOW: I hear you. The question becomes, you know, we know there's an A and a B, and the question is, is there -- is there a C, right? You've got a quid and a pro as you know, a quid and a quo, is there a pro? Is there a link? And we don't know. Mike Rogers, we're out of time. We'll have you back maybe even tomorrow. Great hearing, thank you so much.

As we mentioned, the acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will face the House Intel Committee tomorrow. What will he be asked? We're going to talk to one of the members of Congress on that panel, next.