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Pelosi Announces Formal Trump Impeachment Inquiry; Washington Post: Rudy Giuliani Pursued Shadow Ukraine Agenda. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired September 25, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an historic day. I think monumental. I don't see how we don't end up with an impeachment vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been trying to impeach the president since literally before he was inaugurated. I think they're going to regret it.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): An impeachment process is going to divide us further. But we can't be divided on rule of law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no evidence here yet that he committed any crime, and I don't believe he did.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): We cannot delay. We must not wait. The future of our democracy is at stake.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Brennan.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome in to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, September 25. It's 6 p.m. here in New York. Wow.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a breath. Let's take a breath, because this may be the last one that we have for the next three hours because of the velocity in which things are moving.
BERMAN: Well, that's the thing. We're waking up just to a series of dizzying events that have been moving at an explosive pace. This morning, for just the fourth time in the history of the republic, the president is facing an official impeachment inquiry.
At the center of it, accusations that the president and his personal attorney pressured a foreign country to investigate a political opponent, Joe Biden. And to different extents, both President Trump and Rudy Giuliani admit this happened. We could -- and I emphasize could -- learn a huge amount over the next
few hours. The president claims that today he will release the transcript of his July 25th call with the president of Ukraine, but how much of the transcript, how accurate, and through what filter remains to be seen.
Also, two sources tell CNN the administration plans to turn over the whistleblower complaint about that call to Congress. But again, the White House is currently reviewing the very complaint in which it might be implicated.
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff says the whistleblower himself has asked to speak to Congress directly. And this morning, we're waiting to see if the White House will try to block that from happening.
CAMEROTA: Again, so many developments on this historic day.
"The Washington Post" also has very interesting reporting that directly puts Rudy Giuliani at the center of this Ukraine scandal. "The Post" reports that the whistleblower complaint references Giuliani's attempt to insert himself into the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
Here's an excerpt from "The Post": "The person who appears to have been more directly involved at nearly every stage of the entanglement with Ukraine is Giuliani. 'Rudy, he did all of this,' one U.S. official says. This blank show that we're in, it's him injecting himself into the process."
Giuliani is now insisting that he, as a private citizen, that he acted at the request of the State Department.
President Trump is sure to be asked about much of this at a press conference this afternoon.
So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Lauren Fox. She s live on Capitol Hill. What a day yesterday and what a morning this morning, Lauren.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Just a slew of events moving yesterday on Capitol Hill.
Nancy Pelosi had held her caucus back for months from the edge of impeachment. Yesterday, she finally announced this is an official impeachment inquiry, and President Trump will become the fourth president to face impeachment here on Capitol Hill.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.
FOX (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi resisting no more.
PELOSI: I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
FOX: The seismic shift in the Democratic caucus pushing Pelosi over the edge.
CNN learned that President Trump asked his chief of staff to freeze millions in military aid to Ukraine roughly one week before a call with Ukraine's new leader, in which Mr. Trump pressed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
PELOSI: The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the discernable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.
FOX: There is no evidence the Bidens had any corrupt dealings with Ukraine.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever.
FOX: For months, Pelosi held off on the growing calls for impeachment, perhaps hoping to protect Democratic Congress members in swing districts who could face voter backlash in 2020.
CUMMINGS: We cannot delay. We must not wait. The future of our democracy is at stake.
FOX: But now more Democrats than ever are eager to push forward.
DINGELL: An impeachment process is going to divide us further. But we can't be divided at -- on rule of law.
FOX: The president's Republican allies quickly coming to his defense.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't know why the Democrats are excited. Because first of all, they just made America weaker.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The only reason they're trying to impeach the president is because they don't believe they can beat him at the ballot box or they're trying to destroy him.
FOX: President Trump firing off a series of tweets, calling it "presidential harassment" and an effort to derail his U.N. agenda with "breaking news witch hunt garbage."
TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. It's a witch hunt. I'm leading in the polls. They have no idea how they stop me. The only way they can try is through impeachment.
That call was perfect. It couldn't have been nicer.
FOX: Trump promising the release of the full, declassified and unredacted transcript of the July 25 Ukraine phone call today, reportedly going against the wishes of his senior aides.
TRUMP: And there was never any quid pro quo. FOX: The House planning to vote on a resolution today, condemning the
Trump administration's efforts to block releasing the alleged whistleblower complaint. A similar request unanimously passed by the Senate.
PELOSI: I hope that the Republicans will join us, as they have joined in the Senate, in unanimous consent, passing a -- passing a resolution for the release of the information.
FOX: Two sources tell CNN the White House could also make the whistleblower complaint public as soon as today. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff says the alleged whistleblower wants to speak to his committee.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We want to make sure that we get the full complaint, that we get the inspector general's report. And that that whistleblower is allowed to share with Congress anything that whistleblower believes is evidence of misconduct or malfeasance within the contours of the statute.
FOX: And of course, House committees will still be investigating, but now those six committee chairman will be under the umbrella of an official impeachment inquiry.
Nancy Pelosi still doesn't have quite enough votes to move forward with impeachment on the floor at this point. But again, this is a process that could take weeks, not months -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Lauren. Keep us posted. Again, events have been moving so fast, anything could happen in the next few minutes. So keep us posted as to what you hear.
Joining us now, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN political analyst David Gregory.
And Kaitlan raced into the studio with brand-new reporting, so I want to get to you first, Kaitlan.
There's been this notion, some suggest the president is some Svengali who has made this all happen. He's been looking for impeachment all along. He was trying to get this.
But your reporting is nuh-uh.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, that is not what our reporting shows at all. And if you look at the behind-the-scenes of what happened on a crazy day yesterday, you'll see that. Because yesterday the president was getting ready for all these meetings he had with foreign leaders. He took the time to place a call to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as these calls for his impeachment were ramping up but had not escalated to the point where they were yesterday afternoon. And he wanted to talk to her. They discussed this whistleblower's
complaint. The fact that it had been blocked from Congress. It's unclear how that call ended.
But the president essentially thought, based on what our sources are telling us, that he thought he could cool things down by speaking with her directly.
A short while after that call ended, though it's unclear how it ended, he made the decision to release this transcript of this call with the Ukrainian president. He thinks that it can undercut this argument from Democrats that he acted inappropriately, even though aides were telling him, do not release this transcript, because it's going to set a bad precedent. He made that decision.
And now, as Lauren reported there, they're working out this deal to get this whistleblower's complaint to Congress. All of this has to do with the president wanting to tamp down this talk about impeaching him. And that is why yesterday, when Nancy Pelosi came out, she said she was going to launch this formal inquiry.
The president was kind of taken aback. He couldn't believe that, despite his calls to her, he thought those were truly going to help mend the situation, which Democrats will say is surprising. Because this has been a long time in the making, if you're been paying attention to what they're doing on Capitol Hill.
But what we're told is the president is not welcoming this fight. He's actually a little concerned about it. He's been watching what Nancy Pelosi was saying. He's not welcoming this. And his aides are going to argue that this is Democratic overreach as they move forward over the next few days.
CAMEROTA: David, that's what I'm so struck by. Not just how differently the Democrats started behaving yesterday after all this wind-up, but how differently the White House behaved than anything that we've seen previously.
Their tactic in the past has been stonewall and make the Democrats fight it out in court. And yesterday, the idea that the president is going to allow this whistleblower complaint and the transcript of the phone call, I mean, he could have done that last Thursday.
But the idea that this is such a different tactic than what we've seen for the past three years. I think that tells you something about their mindset and how nobody would welcome this dubious distinction of being impeached.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right. But we do know the president loves a fight. We also know what the president has already admitted, which is the conduct. You know, that he used the leverage of military aid to an ally to attempt to coerce a foreign leader to investigate his political opponents.
He said that he did that. And that it was appropriate. He's saying, well, there wasn't a quid pro quo. There doesn't have to be. He's already said those things to set all of this in motion.
I'm very curious to see what we actually get. And I think that's important. I think the facts have to guide us here. Is it an actual transcript, or are there notes from aides on a call like this?
Will we actually get the inspector general's report? That's important, because that can rebut the charge of partisanship here as an inspector general for the intelligence community?
And will the whistleblower be able to appear before the House intelligence community -- committee? That becomes very important.
So I do think, on the one hand, you have to say, well, you know, what are they doing? Are they concerned, as Kaitlan says? Do they want to cooperate, try to tamp this down? That could very well be.
At the same time, we've seen this president and his supporters want to put information out there publicly into the political bloodstream, knowing that FOX News and other allies will begin to amplify his arguments of the case and begin to try to influence the public on this.
BERMAN: That's a great point. That's a great point, David, which is that this so-called evidence that we have been told will be produced today. And I don't know that we're going to get it until we see it.
I mean, I think we have to wait to see whether they in fact --
CAMEROTA: Smart. Is all coming through the filter of the White House, the same White House that might be implicated in it.
So Kaitlan, to the first point, do we know for sure this is going to happen? How's this process being handled? You have two separate things here. You have this transcript, which the White House is going over right now. And you have the whistleblower complaint, which also -- and this is even stranger -- the White House is also going over right now.
COLLINS: Yes, the transcript, there are going to be questions about whether or not it's accurate, because there's not going to be this Ukrainian version to match it. There'll be questions. Was this a recorded call that they had, and this was a verbatim transcript? Were they rough notes that a national security staffer took while the president was on the call? Those are the things people are going to be looking for.
And of course, this is a White House that has put information out before that was edited or doctored or incorrect, as you've seen. Even with times where the president had a press conference, and they left out key moments like the one that he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. They left out one of the key moments from that transcript.
So that's what people are going to be looking for when this comes out. Because of course, pointing to the White House's credibility on matters like this.
As far as the whistleblower's complaint, it does raise the question of why didn't they put this out sooner? Because they've been fighting it. They didn't let it go to Congress. A lot of that is what caused that backlash from people like Adam Schiff, because it's the law for this kind of a complaint to go to Congress. Why didn't they just release it sooner? Because that could have helped forestall what the president was trying to put off yesterday during that call.
The question is whether he changes his tactic now, that he's seen Nancy Pelosi go this far. What's he going to say? And it's going to overshadow this third day of the president here at the United Nations.
CAMEROTA: Hey, David, if you are a White House that is willing to change the track of a hurricane, how can the public really trust when you say that you're going to put out some sort of official document?
But that said, I predict that the transcript of the phone call will be wildly unsatisfying for people who are looking for a smoking gun. Because I just don't think, from what we know and having been around, having reported on him and been around the president now for years, I don't think that he speaks in overt terms like that. If you do this, I'll do this.
GREGORY: Right. I actually totally agree with that. And I don't think that's so much the issue. I don't think that -- first of all, we know what the president has already told us. There's not a lot of mystery. He describes this as a perfect call. A congratulatory call.
But we know that they froze the aid back in July. We know that Rudy Giuliani had been working to pressure the government to investigate the Bidens. And that the president said he did it. and he's changed his answer as to why he held up the aid.
I think what's more important here is the inspector general's report and the whistleblower, him or herself. Because we don't know whether there's more than this call. I mean, "The Wall Street Journal" has reported there were eight attempts, or eight different times did he press him to investigate the Bidens.
Were there other actions that were taken? And I think this speaks to "The Washington Post" reporting about Giuliani's role. What did former national security adviser John Bolton think about all of this? We know that there were strains. But here's Giuliani inserting himself into this -- into this relationship with Ukraine.
And so I think it's striking that -- so the bottom line is I don't know that the transcript is what is really the piece. I think focusing on what we already know, and how striking is it that someone like Lindsey Graham would immediately go to this complaint about how they're just trying to get the president instead of reacting to what the president actually admits he did.
BERMAN: To be clear, CNN's reporting is it's not just the call. That there is more than just the call. So you're absolutely right, David. That the transcript, in and of itself, isn't all of it. CAMEROTA: And that it hinges on Giuliani's behavior.
That's what the whistleblower was most upset about.
So David, Kaitlan, thank you, both, very much. So as this official impeachment inquiry now gets underway, some of President Trump's closest advisers are pointing the finger at one person in particular, and that's Rudy Giuliani. So our brand-new reporting next.
CAMEROTA: OK. Breaking overnight, brand-new reporting about the central role that Rudy Giuliani has played in the Ukraine controversy.
"The Washington Post" reports that Giuliani was pursuing a, quote, "shadow agenda with Ukrainian officials," end quote. And that the whistleblower report references Giuliani's behavior.
CNN's Kylie Atwood also has new reporting about Giuliani's involvement with Ukraine, so she is here with the details.
What have you learned, Kylie?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So what we have learned is that Rudy Giuliani was actually joked about by Ukrainian officials to U.S. officials in early July.
Now, that was before President Trump had his conversation, his phone call with President Zelensky. And it was during a meeting in which Zelensky was referencing how complicated it can be when lawyers get involved.
Now, this discussion between Zelensky and U.S. officials at the State Department was more focused on what the U.S. wants Ukraine to be doing, to be tackling corruption within its country, to be discussing how it can be interacting with Russia in a more productive way. But he did reference Giuliani in this joking manner.
Then we fast forward a few weeks, after that phone call with President Trump and President Zelensky. And that is when it was the Ukrainian officials that came back to the U.S. officials and asked to be connected directly with Giuliani. Obviously, they had changed their position there. They weren't joking about it anymore. They had taken it seriously. They wanted to sit down.
We know that Ambassador Kurt Volker, who is the top State Department official who's in charge with Ukrainian relations, did facilitate that meeting. He was given the OK by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has declined to comment specifically on the role that he played in that. But the State Department has said that they did play a role.
Now, what is important here is that Giuliani played an increasingly important role when it came to Ukraine over the last few months. We have seen that rhetoric. Now we know it from how the Ukrainians were asking about Giuliani, asking for meetings with him.
And this obviously comes as President Trump is set to sit down with President Zelensky here in New York today.
CAMEROTA: Yes. It's going to be a very interesting day. Thank you for sharing all of that new reporting with us.
Back with us now, David Gregory and Kaitlan Collins.
OK. So Kaitlan, as Kylie just reported and as we know from Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat of Connecticut who's going to be on later with us, he had a meeting with Zelensky a few weeks ago. And the Ukrainians were uncomfortable and confused about why Rudy Giuliani was making all of these demands.
COLLINS: And Rudy Giuliani saying last night that that was at the direction of the State Department. That he had their blessing to go and make these arguments, which raises questions, because you've seen people like the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, probably go up further than any other official when he did last Sunday, when he said, actually, he did think that the Biden family should be investigated.
You have not heard anything that strong from other people. And of course, a lot of that is stemming from President Trump.
This also echoes what we reported recently, that essentially, President Trump was not engaged in -- or was not interested in engaging with Ukraine at all. He really dismissed the country.
So over the summer when they started reviewing this aid package, and he took this special interest in them, it was really raising questions. But it was coming at the same time that Rudy Giuliani was taking these steps, going and visiting with representatives of the president to talk about these matters.
And so that's why you're seeing Rudy Giuliani, essentially, act as this arm of the State Department, which is not something that sits well with a lot of State Department officials that we've spoken with.
BERMAN: No. "The Washington Post" makes clear that the president's personal lawyer, to an extent, was taking over the Ukraine portfolio.
The State Department, the ambassador, the longtime ambassador had departed, not replaced immediately. Other officials had been overshadowed or not -- you know, not talked to about important things.
COLLINS: And it raises the question. If the president and his administration officials truly thought that Joe Biden and his family did something wrong, why would that the not send the FBI to investigate? Why would they not send DOJ lawyers? Why would the president send his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to handle this?
BERMAN: Political henchmen is another way that some critics say here, David Gregory. And I will just quote you from our very last segment once again.
Rudy Giuliani has admitted out loud and on CNN to pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden.
GREGORY: Look, he became Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer and henchman and fixer when President Trump alienated Michael Cohen. And now Rudy Giuliani is playing that job?
I think we have to take a step back and realize there's a broader context here. No limit, no boundaries. That's how Donald Trump has lived his life personally, as a businessman, and that's how he's conducted himself as president. Those are the facts.
And whether the minority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, who I thought was a Republican who stood for national security, and I'm sure he's got statements in the past condemning Russia's invasion of Crimea in the Ukraine, now all of a sudden doesn't want to go near this particular topic, because he just thinks Democrats are coming after the president, given what the president has said he already did.
So the fact that Giuliani is freelancing here is really at the behest of the president. The fact that Mike Pompeo, as Kaitlan says, the secretary of state, is going on television, saying, oh yes, the Bidens should be investigated for something that's completely unfounded. When he's secretary of state, he's supposed to be running foreign policy. And not engaged in trying to get a foreign leader to provide political dirt to help the president of the United States.
These are the contours here. And I think understanding more of who sanctioned Rudy Giuliani beyond the -- what appears to be the obvious, which is the president. To play this role and what precisely he did goes to what more is in the inspector general report. What misconduct there actually was beyond what is suspected out of this phone call.
BERMAN: More witnesses, too, potentially.
CAMEROTA: Didn't Rudy Giuliani want to be secretary of state? Isn't that what he was --
GREGORY: He did.
CAMEROTA: That's what he was after.
CAMEROTA: So now he's just operating as secretary of state, though he wasn't named it.
Here's -- In terms of, David, who you say who sanctioned this last night, Rudy Giuliani was on FOX TV. And here's who he says sanctioned it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: You know who I did it at the request of? The State Department. I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: But see, can I just say? This is what's so striking. I mean, Rudy Giuliani is not being careful here. He's just telling us everything he did. I mean, that's part of the problem. Why would the State Department sanction that? I think that's what Congress wants to investigate.
And again, the broader context is what we know so far about this administration and this president. They were certainly open to get help from the Russians if it was political dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president has said as much. He said he would do it if somebody overseas offered him opposition research or information on a political opponent, he would take it.
So again, there's broader context for the fact that there's no limits, no boundaries in terms of how he'll operate as president.
BERMAN: So Kaitlan, in terms of you couldn't write a more dramatic story, the president on his schedule today has a meeting with President Zelensky of Ukraine. How's that going to go?
COLLINS: I think Ukraine has been toeing the line over these last few days, because they don't know how this is going to wind up. And so they're being really careful here about what exactly they say. Did they feel pressured by the president? They've said, no, we're not going to talking about our conversations with Trump, which of course, we're all going to read for ourselves today.
And that's the thing about this transcript coming out. And while there are going to be questions about the accuracy of it, you're going to be able to see what you want in it. Democrats are going to see the president bringing up Joe Biden. And for them, that's enough. The president's allies are going to say, look, it wasn't as bad as you thought it was. The pressure wasn't as strong as you thought it was.
But yes, the two of the leaders are going to sit down this afternoon around 2 p.m. They're going to meet one-on-one. This is a meeting that likely would not have garnered as much attention in the past.
But right now, it's probably the most explosive meeting on the president's schedule.
CAMEROTA: Will there be other people in the room?
COLLINS: There are scheduled to be other staffers in the room at the beginning. Typically, you'll see when they let the reporters in, you'll see the secretary of state, several other officials. Sometimes the treasury secretary, NSA officials in there.
Whether or not they leave the room and it's just the president one-on- one, as we know he's met with several world leaders one-on-one. Kim Jong-un, they met one-on-one. Vladimir Putin, they met one-on-one. The president took the notes of the person who's in there to transcribe that meeting. Whether or not that's what happens here is another question.
But of course, that everyone is going to be closely watching what the president says publicly.
GREGORY: I just want to reiterate, too, that whether it's in the meeting where the president has an opportunity to speak to reporters. Whether it's releasing the notes of the transcript, or whatever it is. The president and his allies will take an opportunity to argue their case very strongly and to effect public opinion about this debate.
This is the part of the fight they may be queasy about it, but that he will not hesitate from. That he wants to try to affect how people think about it.
BERMAN: David, thank you very much for that.
Kaitlan, thank you very much for being here for all your new reporting.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, back in London and set to address Parliament in the next few minutes. His political future and Brexit hanging in the balance. We have a live report next.