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Trump Holds Press Conference with Ukrainian President Zelensky; Report: Giuliani Says State Department Asked Him to Intervene on Ukraine; Biden Responds on Released Trump/Zelensky Call Memorandum; DNI Maguire Threatened to Resign if Trump Administration Did Allow Testimony on Capitol Hill. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 25, 2019 - 14:30   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he's done is he wants to find out where did this Russian witch hunt that you people really helped perpetrate, where did it start? How come it started? It was all nonsense. It was a hoax. It was a total hoax. It was a media hoax and a Democrat hoax. Where did it start.

And Rudy has every right to go and find out where that started. And other people are looking at that, too. Where did it start. The enablers? Where did it all come from? It was out of thin air.

And I think he's got a very strong right to do it. He's a good lawyer. He knows exactly what he's doing. And it's very important.



TRUMP: The Democrats can't talk about that, because they have been taken over by a radical group of people. And Nancy Pelosi, far as I'm concerned unfortunately, is no longer speaker of the House.

Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President -- the attorney general --






BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: OK. Last I checked Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House. I have no idea what he was referencing there.

Number two, we just need to know before we analyze all this that everything he said about the Bidens is 100 percent wrong. The accusations against the Bidens are baseless. There's no evidence of wrongdoing, including by Ukrainian prosecutors.

Joe Biden is, indeed, on tape talking about withholding aid because the U.S. and Western nations wanted a corrupt prosecutor out. In fact, the goal of Western nations at the time, get prosecutors who would investigate corruption. So first and foremost, those are the facts.

Christiane Amanpour is with me.

And we're listening to this together. The money questions was to the president of Ukraine, whether or not he felt pressured. We've read transcript. Seen it all, read it, he basically says no one pushed me. Trump jumped in and said, there was no pressure. What do you think of that?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The president of Ukraine is under enormous pressure right now. This is not the kind of spotlight he wants. He is a neophyte. He's not a political leader. He is a television personality.

He is a comedian. He won in an extraordinary outsider come from behind races in Ukraine and he has now landed in one of the most dramatic political crises that his country could imagine, but also that the United States right now could imagine. He is desperately punting for every way he possibly can.

Earlier today, he said to Ukrainian correspondents following him around that the only person who can pressure me is my 6-year-old son. We're an independent country and we will not be pressured into anything.

The transcript, to an extent, speaks for itself. Right? President Trump talks about how he's been very helpful with military and how they've bought these Javelin defense systems, and then President Trump says, fine, but I want you to do me a favor. I mean, this comes right after.

To the point in question, that they were talking about, this is the prosecutor in the Ukraine. President Trump, according to this transcript, says that he needs him to look into the issue of the prosecutor in Ukraine.

And Zelensky says, "I want to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I'm knowledgeable about the situation. Since we've won the majority now in this country, the next prosecutor will be 100 percent my person, my candidate, approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation specifically to the company that you mentioned on this issue."

So they are definitely talking about the same thing. And President Zelensky is talking about the request for a favor that President Trump made.

[14:40:00] And I think that, you know, the other thing that's really very interesting in this is that President Trump four times in this phone call mentions not just Rudy Giuliani but the attorney general --

BALDWIN: Bill Barr.

AMANPOUR: -- of the United States. And says he wants Zelensky to work with the attorney general on this issue of the prosecutor.

And you know and I know, from my previous reporting, my previous interviews with the previous president of Ukraine, that corruption was a main focus of the United States. U.S. ambassadors were desperately trying to eradicate and reform the corrupt business practices and judicial practices and legal practices that are rife in the Ukraine. That was certainly something the Trump -- the Obama administration was trying to fulfill.

And one other thing that's really important. This idea that the Europeans haven't been helping. The Europeans have given in the region of $16 billion to Ukraine to help it in all sorts of ways. Democracy building, in terms of all issues it needs because Ukraine wanted to be part of the E.U.

That's what started this entire issue and made Russia invade Ukraine partly. And, of course, you know, Ukraine needs a weapons systems and all the rest because it's at war with Russia right now.

BALDWIN: Which the question where Trump kept bringing up Putin, you should get along with Putin, and you know, we -- peace with Russia, and we were just -- looking at Zelensky's face he was like --

AMANPOUR: I mean, look, a lot of tap dancing and punting going on here. Zelensky, look at the original beginning of the transcript --


AMANPOUR: Yes. Trump is calling to congratulate. This is a one- issue conversation and about a domestic problem President Trump raised, that is to look into his main challenger for the 2020 race and that's Joe Biden and his son.


AMANPOUR: Zelensky, though, starts the conversation on this July 24th call by essentially mimicking President Trump. Flattering President Trump. Saying we used your tactics --


BALDWIN: Drain the swamp, I stayed in your hotels.

AMANPOUR: All of those things. Yes.

BALDWIN: You're a great educator.

AMANPOUR: And even then trying to make Trump feel comfortable deflecting the limelight. And he's a pro in the spotlight. What he had done. He's a television personality.

BALDWIN: Zelensky?

AMANPOUR: Yes. And President Trump. You've got a lot of currents conflicting here.

BALDWIN: OK. I'd like to, shall we -- shall I bring in Kyle?

OK, hang on, Kylie. I'll come to you on Rudy in a second, Rudy Giuliani.

Dana Bash joining us here also.

And, Dana, one thing that struck me listening to the dialogue he said he would ask Rudy Giuliani why he's involved, but Trump himself on the call told Ukraine to get in touch with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, several times over.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He knows why he's involved. He's involved because Rudy Giuliani has been aggressively telling the president, telling the press, telling the Ukrainians, telling everybody since last summer that he wants to and is actively working to, from his perspective, get to the bottom of corruption that he thinks that Joe Biden was involved in.

And not just that. Allegations that the Democrats were working with the Ukrainians to influence the 2016 election, allegations which is we should underscore highlight and embolden, saying there are no basis for that. They are just allegations. So the president knows exactly what's going on.

And you have to also remember the timing. That Giuliani back in the summer was not just telling the press but trying to go to Ukraine. And it was the day after the Mueller hearing, which at the time was seen as, you know, a mothing burger for the president. Felt he was in the clear and the day after he made that phone call to the man he was sitting next to today.

As Christiane said, that was remarkable to watch. Couldn't have been a bigger elephant in the room with that transcript. And good for that reporter trying to get an answer from, from the Ukrainian leader and he smartly tried to deflect as much as he could. What choice did he have?

BALDWIN: Stay on -- thank you, Dana. Hang with me.

Kylie Atwood, you cover State. Before we just listened to Zelensky and Trump, we played the clip from FOX last night. Rudy Giuliani, you know, saying, well, State Department asked me to reach out. Right? So can you -- did the State Department do that? What do you know from state?

KELLY ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: What we do know is that the State Department did connect Giuliani with an aide of Zelensky. Right? They admitted that, said that on the record to us. What we don't know is the extent to which the State Department was

really involved here. Right? Did they set up a number of meetings or did they just make the connection?


What Giuliani is saying, he was asked by the State Department to have these meetings. State Department doesn't go that far. They say they made the connection and are trying to essentially, according to sources I know that are familiar with Ambassador Volker, who is the top State Department official who handles Ukraine.

He was trying to sort of clear his hands of this. Push it off the table. Push all the political stuff over to Giuliani so he could deal with the policy. But we saw that now the two are directly entangled in one another.

We have President Trump on an official phone call with Zelensky talking about Giuliani repeatedly, who is his personal lawyer, not working for the White House.

So that's where it gets complicated and still where there are a lot of answers that we still need from the State Department.

But just there, the president also said that Rudy has every right to be looking at this. He still is standing by the fact that he wants Rudy Giuliani out on this mission for him. The question, has he implicated his own State Department in doing so.

BALDWIN: What do you think, Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Look, the minute you start mixing personal with professional, State Department, policy with politics, you know, this is going to be a question and a matter of investigation for a long time to come.

I mean, it is actually kind of incredible to think that after this entire couple of years of the Russia investigation, which was them interfering here, there's now an apparent appearance of interfering there for politics here.

And it's going to be a really, really -- it's going to be very divisive and very difficult to get to the bottom of, and also in terms about the State Department.

You know, this transcript shows that the president of the United States is trashing the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and the president of Ukraine is also trashing the former U.S. ambassador, who was an Obama appointee but a career foreign servant.


BALDWIN: Doesn't she work for the state?



AMANPOUR: And President Trump, at one point, says, well, you know, things are going to happen with her. I'm not sure. Well, she's going to go through some things.

Again, I will have Giuliani and the attorney general -- I mean, four times he brings up the attorney general of the United States. The attorney general of the United States.

BALDWIN: Who, by the way, is head of DOJ overseeing this whistleblower complaint.

And I was talking to a member of Congress a minute ago saying there's a lot of issues, conflicts of interest.

Thank you for that.

Kaitlan Collins, do you have a second? You're on your phone. If I can jump in as we're getting this information. I understand team Biden responded.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's got a lengthy statement. I'll read parts of it. He's talking about this transcript really, gotten from the White House, the White House version of this call.

He is saying it makes clear, in Joe Biden's word, quote, "The president ordered delay of congressional appropriated military assistance to Ukraine, implored the president to work with his personal attorney to manufacture a smear against a domestic political opponent, and is using a malicious conspiracy theory," Joe Biden said, "has been debunk universally."

Then he says, quote -- this is interesting because of the focus on Barr in this transcript.

"We also learned he planned to involve the United States Department of Justice in his scheme, a direct attack on the core independence of that department and independence is essential to the rule of law."

Joe Biden goes on to say he's not going to just focus on what Donald Trump is saying about him in these accusations but focus on his campaign, health care, those issues.

But he says, quote, "Congress must pursue the facts and quickly take prompt action to hold Donald Trump accountable."

And said, essentially, in the meantime the House should do its job and he's going to focus on his campaign.

AMANPOUR: Kaitlan and Brooke, it's interesting what Biden said. He skirted over it, the business about a conspiracy theory. In addition to the CrowdStrike comment made. Does Zelensky know what CrowdStrike is? That is a discredited conspiracy theory which posits that somehow Ukraine is in possession of the secret --


BALDWIN: Why would the president of the United States think they would be in possession?

AMANPOUR: Because that's the -- the, that right winger. You know? The conspiracy theorist who says Ukraine has the secret server of Hillary Clinton. That was that he even brought up.

COLLINS: That was the first thing the president brought up after talking about the military aid. The president brought it up and said I need you to do me a favor. Brought up the cybersecurity firm the DNC hired after the hack of the emails.


COLLINS: Yes. And that's when the reporter said, do you think that Hillary Clinton's emails are on a server in Ukraine? The president essentially said, yes. Something he's argued before.

You could see how clearly uncomfortable the Ukraine president was when asked, did you feel pressure by President Trump. He said noble pushed me but essentially you've read how this call went downed and can see what was said there and he's wants to stay out of American politics.


BALDWIN: Add one more voice, Gloria Borger, in Washington.

You've listened, heard the Biden reaction, saw Trump and Zelensky. What say you?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that was kind of an extraordinary moment. Wasn't it?

BALDWIN: Kind of, yes.

BORGER: The thing that struck me about the whole press availability was the passion with which Donald Trump defended Rudy Giuliani. And he has done that all along. He did it during the Russia investigation when the other attorneys were rolling their eyes about Rudy Giuliani's TV appearances.

And it seems to me -- and, you know, Kylie would know more about this from the State Department. But this is something cooked up by these guys, by Rudy Giuliani and his old buddy, Donald Trump, and, OK, you're going to face Joe Biden in 2020.

Let's get to the bottom of the Hunter Biden story and let's figure out about the Hillary Clinton story and those servers and Ukraine, of course, is involved and let Rudy, send you over there, because you're my guy.

And can you imagine being the American ambassador at that time, which the president totally dissed in this phone conversation, or being a member of the national security team trying to figure out why funding had been held up for Ukraine?

Can you imagine not knowing exactly why you were told, well, I'm not sure, and, you know, you were given a song and dance about it?

To me, looking at this, the president was so vociferous in his defense of Rudy Giuliani. And, by the way, Rudy Giuliani doesn't work for the United States government.

Rudy Giuliani --


BORGER: -- is not paid by taxpayers to be an envoy to Ukraine. He is the president's lawyer.

And I just -- you know, and the president was completely saying, that's fine. He works -- he works for me and I admire his passion, the president said. The reason the president admires it is because he shares it, and they feed off of each other.

And I think that's -- you know, that's what's going on here. It's kind of, they feed off of each other and then Rudy goes off and does what he has to do and reports back to the president and then the president gets on this phone call and does what he does.

BALDWIN: There was an incredible piece from the "Washington Post" all about Rudy Giuliani's role and national security folks getting sidestepped for Rudy Giuliani.

I want to quote it. It's from one U.S. official not named, told the "Washington Post," "Rudy, he did all of this. This -- show that we're in, it's him injecting himself into the process."

BORGER: Right. Always been the -- that's always been the case although the Russia team lawyers kind of like to use Rudy Giuliani because he became the Trump whisperer during the Mueller investigation.

They would want to do something. Tell Giuliani and he would convince the president that maybe he ought to do it. Then go out on TV and they'd have a week of damage control on something else.



AMANPOUR: Just on the weapon, suspension of the weapons, you hear from the former prime minister, foreign minister, in fact, of Ukraine, has been saying, it's reported, it's out there in various newspaper accounts.

When it was suspended, it was done without warning, without coming through any channels that they normally would have. They have had very, very good connections with the Pentagon for years since Ukraine became independent and then they just had no idea why it was happening. It was completely usual, because they always had this pipeline going.

There was never any, if you do this or don't do that we're going to suspend this for that period of time. It was a complete surprise to them.

BALDWIN: How about the fact that we were all noticing when Trump brought up Obama again, and in talking about Crimea and Russia, basically blaming the Obama administration and not Vladimir Putin.

AMANPOUR: Well, look, you know, President Trump does do a lot of that. I mean, many of his foreign policy, whether it's the Iran nuclear deal or Paris Climate Accord, whatever it is, it's in opposition to President Obama.

The truth is the United States has some of the strongest sanctions on Russia despite what President Trump might say warmly about Vladimir Putin or not.

Congress has ensured that very strong U.S. sanctions are still on Russia because of the Crimea and because of all the other allegations of interference into the election et cetera. Yes.

BALDWIN: All right. Christiane, thank you.

Getting more breaking news just in to the "Washington Post." The acting director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with this matter.


Go straight to Karoun Demirjian, the author of the piece in "The Post."

Karoun, tell us more.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): Basically, we know Maguire is coming to Capitol Hill Thursday and threatened he wasn't able to speak openly and if the White House tied his hand and made it so he couldn't say anything in this public hearing tomorrow morning he threatened to resign over that.

It shows that there's trouble in paradise in terms of what is going on between the White House and the director of National Intelligence and DOJ.

All of these conversations happening whether or not to release the whistleblower's complaint to Capitol Hill. It seems there's, tension there internally about what they should be doing.

BALDWIN: Let me just stay with you. I've been handed this and haven't had a chance to read it.

Just tell me honestly, what else is in here that you wrote about? DEMIRJIAN: Well, basically, the fact that Maguire basically served

notice he was, if he was not able to talk to lawmakers, if he just had to sit there and refuse to say anything he was going to resign. Basically, saying that he wants to cooperate to some extent with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

That's significant because he's seen resistance from the administration --


DEMIRJIAN: -- to turning over the whistleblower complaint or letting anybody talk about it.

Remember, the I.G. for the Intelligence Community who first flagged this to Capitol Hill couldn't give lawmakers details because he wasn't allowed to. Just talk how he thought it was urgent, credible and lawmakers should know but wasn't able to actually discuss details with them directly.

The fact you're seeing now resistance from Maguire when it seems initially resistance was between the I.G. and Maguire, but Maguire doesn't like the idea being told he can't talk either.

That indicates there's a difference of opinion, to put it lightly, between the various agencies we're talking about, which we know include the Intelligence Community and the DNI and also the Justice Department..

And so what will the end result be now? It doesn't seem the administration is doing this with a unified heart, even if thus far doing it with a unified voice in terms of resisting and turning it over.

BALDWIN: I got it. I got it.

Karoun, thank you so much, with the scoop with "The Post."

Anne Milgram, on the legal, we've talked about all the stonewalling, not wanting to release information up on the Hill. We saw Corey Lewandowski on the Hill not willing to give up information.

To see this man saying I want to speak freely to Congress. If you won't let me, I'm out. It's significant.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's extraordinary. We predicted he would be muzzled by the White House and Department of Justice.


MILGRAM: This is an extraordinary circumstance with the whistleblower. It's never happened before, even when the director of National Intelligence found something to not be an urgent concern it's always gone to Congress. The fact the DNI has not given a path for the whistleblower to go to wrong hasn't happened is extraordinary. I was assuming Maguire bought into this conversation and was a part of

it. Now we're seeing he has not and in fact pushing back on it. This makes his testimony tomorrow so much more important.

COLLINS: This guy has only been on the job about a month. Remember, Dan Coats stepped down, essentially, pushed out because he and the president clashed repeatedly. The president picked a new DNI in John Ratcliffe and he withdrew his name from the nomination. Essentially, people said this guy might not get confirmed, Senators were pushing back.


COLLINS: The president hasn't named his next DNI. This guy is in an acting capacity and he's telling the White House, unless you make a specific legal argument why I can't say anything, I'm going to be candid if I'm there.

I think that's interesting because we've seen the White House have people go there before, answer some questions, not others on the basis of privilege. And clearly, he didn't feel comfortable doing that without an explicit legal argument.


MILGRAM: And we saw evidence that this may be coming yesterday when the acting director put out a statement in which he acknowledged how long he has worked for the U.S. government, saying he had sworn an oath to the Constitution 11 times in his 36 years of public service. Saying that he wasn't willing to swear that oath and not actually follow through on that oath when he goes up and testifies tomorrow.

And he went on to say, "I am committing to protecting whistleblowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately."

So he there, just yesterday, was giving us a signal he was fighting back against this pressure coming from the White House.

BALDWIN: Yes. And now we know thanks to Karoun and her team at "The Post." That's exactly what's happening.

[15:00:06] Dana Bash, to you, my friend. This is extraordinary. Yes?