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Whistleblower Complaint Declassified, Intel Chief to Testify; PA Voters Weigh In On Trump Impeachment Inquiry; Impeachment And Abuse of Power; "This is Life with Lisa Ling" Premieres Sunday At 10 P.M. ET/PT; More Than Half of House of Reps Support Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired September 26, 2019 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- when you hear that records of these phone calls were moved to a different server, what does that tell you?
LARRY PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM: So when I was running Situation Room in the National Security Council, there was a separate server that was used for the absolutely most sensitive activities of the government. So these would be covert action plans, it would have been information surrounding the operation for example to bring down Bin Laden. Some of the very early stages of the negotiations with the Omanis to begin the conversations with Iran on the nuclear agreement.
It would not have been a place to perhaps hide activities by the president that they were concerned would be uncovered.
BERMAN: Where were the records or how were the records of conversations with world leaders stored?
PFEIFFER: Normally, the raw transcripts that are developed by the Situation Room, those were all transcripts, probably the most verbatim transcripts you would find of a conversation are retained in the Situation Room on their computers. The final memorandums of conversation as we saw released yesterday would have been stored and maintained by the executive secretary of the National Security Council on their computers and their servers.
BERMAN: Tape recordings, audio recordings?
PFEIFFER: Absolutely not. When I arrived in the Situation Room in 2011, I inherited this somewhat inefficient process of human transcription of live phone calls. And it was one of the first questions I asked was why aren't we recording these? And I think I know the answer. And I was told that they hadn't been recording presidential phone calls since about 1974.
In addition, not recording a call also can establish perhaps a certain element of trust with a foreign leader that their words are not being recorded and potentially could be used exactly.
BERMAN: A very important to know, 1974 by the way, Watergate for those youngsters out there who might not have been alive. So Larry, back to the record-keeping here, what does it suggest to you if the conversations which the president has with foreign leaders were not kept where they normally were, were put somewhere else. What does that tell you maybe about the mindset of the people moving them?
PFEIFFER: It suggests to me that they had material that they considered very, very sensitive, that they would want to protect in the most careful way possible.
BERMAN: So when you say sensitive, that's interesting, because we've now seen the notes from this phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. Would there be anything from an intelligence perspective that sensitive about that or is more politically sensitive?
PFEIFFER: Normally, a conversation like that surrounding the congratulatory tone of the conversation, the only sensitivity would be the fact that it was a head of state talking to another head of state. I think let the audience come to their own conclusions about the nature of the conversation that we saw yesterday.
BERMAN: But you didn't see top-secret spycraft in there. You know, plans to kill a terrorist chief or discussions about negotiations so sensitive that if they leaked out, they may ruin things?
PFEIFFER: I didn't see that in yesterday's conversation, no.
BERMAN: OK. And one other thing because you are an expert on this. It's been suggested -- wee noted on the paper there that it's not an example transcript, right? But was there anything unusual you saw about the notes that were released yesterday?
PFEIFFER: Yes, at face value, it really looks like the kinds of memorandums and conversations that I saw during my time in the Situation Room. The format is the same, the language is the same, the markings were the same. I know some questions have been raised about the use of ellipses. That is a little unusual.
If that was suggesting a long pause, the Situation Room perhaps would have indicated a long pause. Or if it was a section of the conversation that they just could not quite hear correctly like any phone conversation, they would normally have some kind of a notation there indicating words indistinguishable or garbled words. So perhaps this was somebody on the staff trying to create something a little more elegant looking, something that flowed a little more nicely by putting ellipses in.
BERMAN: Right. I mean, some of the things they did leave in there like do me a favor make you wonder if they were trying to hide things, why wouldn't have they hide that necessarily. Just a big picture in closing here as someone who was part of the intelligence community for a long time. When you have the inspector general of the intelligence committee who looked at all of this evidence from the whistleblower and reportedly did interviews as well deeming this all to be of urgent concern and credible, what does that tell you?
PFEIFFER: It tells me that we have an employee who has laid out a compelling case with evidence likely beyond just the one phone call that suggests activities of a concerning nature.
[07:35:06] I don't think -- I know intelligence community personnel, they are not going to put their careers on the line on some flimsy information or out of some sense of political bias. It's going to be analytically compelling.
BERMAN: Larry Pfeiffer, this has been fascinating. Thank you for helping us understand all of this including how these records are normally kept and how this might deviate from that. Really appreciate your time.
PFEIFFER: You bet. Thanks, John.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. How is this impeachment drama playing in swing states that flipped from blue to red in 2016? We're going to talk to voters about impeachment next.
CAMEROTA: The impeachment inquiry could have major implications for the 2020 race particularly in swing states.
[07:40:05] CNN's Miguel Marquez talked to Pennsylvania voters about their feelings on it.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Quakertown borough, PA voted for the president in 2016. Today, some of his supporters aren't so sure.
TODD CHIARADA, WAVERING TRUMP VOTER: I think he's crossed the line. But that's the way he is.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Todd Chiarada voted for Obama twice. Liked Bernie Sanders in 2016. Then voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
(on camera) Did you reluctantly voted for the president in 2016 and in 2020 it's an open question for you.
CHIARADA: Only because I didn't see another -- a better opportunity there.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): A chef at Quakertown's Karlton Cafe, Chiarada says with impeachment, Democrats may be going a step too far.
(on camera) Do you feel like it's overreaching right now?
CHIARADA: I think so. I think they are. I think they're -- they want him out, I'm pretty sure.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Third generation shoe store owner Ralph Morey became a Democrat in 2008 so he could vote for Barack Obama in the primary. He voted for Obama again in 2012. In 2016, he voted for Donald Trump. In 2020 he says, no way. (on camera) What is it about the president --
RALPH MOREY, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: The way he manages himself. And then that reflects on what our country's all about. And our country is better than what the way we're being perceived as.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): But he thinks impeachment will further divide an already hyperpartisan country.
MOREY: I think it is ugly now. And I think we should focus on not being ugly.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hard-core Trump supporter Rockey Bixel says Democrats will only harm themselves in going after the president.
ROCKY BIXEL, TRUMP SUPPORTER: In this town, there's a lot of people turning because they say it's just stupid.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Quakertown is part of Bucks County in the vote- rich Philly suburbs. It narrowly supported Clinton in 2016. In new hope, a Democratic stronghold, many voters here says impeachment about time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just show people that the president can't do these things and just get away with it.
ANNELI MARTIN, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think that Democrats need to show some spine. Though I think that it's a good way of showing power and what's right and doing everything by the law.
MARQUEZ: So over the years, I've done a lot of stories here in Pennsylvania, the Midwest, those states that flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. I have never heard the president's supporters in 2016 as open and as candid about why they cannot support him in 2020. At the same time, the president's supporters have only become more resolute in their belief in him. It is going to be a long, hard, polarizing year.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
CAMEROTA: I think that is a safe prediction that Miguel just made. People's positions have gotten firmer. I mean, based on what he said.
BERMAN: The question is, does new information change anything?
CAMEROTA: That is an excellent question.
We hear a lot about impeachment, but what will it look like? John Avlon explains how history gives us a guide and he has our reality check.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, guys. So if you've got questions about impeachment, you're not alone. For example, are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence? The answer to that in a 2014 tweet from Donald Trump is of course no. But it's a good example of the way that partisan instincts and situational ethics often drive these debates and dumb us all down.
So, buckle up as we take a quick tour through the history of impeachment, its intention, its implementation, and whether there are any past parallels to what might be ahead. So the constitutional standard is well-known and painfully opaque. Treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. What exactly does that mean?
Well, treason and bribery are clear enough. The founding fathers worried that a president could sell out to a foreign power or profit off his office. But at the constitutional convention, George Mason thought those two terms were too narrow and he worried that they would reach -- they would not reach many great and dangerous offenses. "Shall any man be above justice", he asked. And so the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors were barred from British law expressed by Alexander Hamilton as the abuse or violation of some public trust.
At least the mechanism is clear. The House of Representatives votes to impeach the simple majority but a two-thirds supermajority is required in the Senate to convict and remove from office. A high bar as it should be.
Impeachments are very rare. Only eight federal judges have been convicted and removed from Congress in the history of the republic. And only two presidents impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both acquitted by the Senate. Johnson got caught in the wrong end of a political fight over reconstruction. Clinton, of course, was impeached for lying under oath about an affair.
But it's the case of Richard Nixon that might be the closest. The trigger was the break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate building during the '72 election. White House cover-up led to obstruction charges and the first article of impeachment. But it's the second lesser-known article of impeachment that might be the most relevant. If focused on abuse of power, evidence that Nixon used the power of the presidency and agencies including the FBI or the IRS to investigate and harass his political opponents in violation of their constitutional rights.
[07:45:09] The Judiciary Committee concluded these activities were conducted in the political interest to the president. Ultimately took a delegation of Republican senators to convince Nixon that he should be resigned rather than be removed. And that's where past parallels pretty much break down because in our hyperpartisan times, it is almost impossible to imagine Senate Republicans turning on Trump. But this is a political process inherently polarizing and nothing that anyone should be cheering. But there are principles at stake set out by the founding fathers. Problem is they're likely to get obscured under an avalanche of partisan theatrics and situational ethics.
For example, this is what Senator Lindsey Graham said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: And here's what he said during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: You don't even have to be convicted of a crime. Impeachment is about cleansing the office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: And that's your reality check.
CAMEROTA: And that's a good one, John. That is a good one. I mean, going back to the tape archives that people seem to have forgotten that we have.
BERMAN: Was that Judy Blume? Judy Blume would say that was then, this is now.
AVLON: As a constitutional scholar, Judy Blume once reminded us.
BERMAN: That was then.
CAMEROTA: Are you there, God? It's me, Alisyn.
AVLON: That one too.
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, John.
BERMAN: All right. Coming up, an eye-opening look at something we don't talk a lot about on morning television.
CAMEROTA: But we should.
BERMAN: How pornography is shaping a generation's perception of sex and intimacy. Lisa Ling with us next.
[07:51:15] BERMAN: This Sunday, Lisa Ling is back with an all-new season of "This Is Life". And in the first episode, she's taking on really a key taboo topic, online pornography. In this episode, Lisa looks at how digital porn is addicting watchers and badly damaging an entire generation's perception of sex and intimacy. This is a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA LING, CNN HOST, "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING": Porn. Every kid who has access to a computer or smartphone has access to porn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was first exposed when I was seven or eight.
LING: Would you say porn was your sex ed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our generation is consumed by pornography.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the largest epidemic that not many people want to talk about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. And here with us is Lisa Ling. Great to have you here.
LING: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: So powerful.
BERMAN: And really interesting. This is such an important subject. And I think the key point here is obviously pornography has been around for a while.
BERMAN: But the current phenomenon hasn't and it has an impact.
LING: So, it's really about the ease of access. These days, there are children eight-years-old, nine-years-old getting devices or with access to devices. And even if you have the strictest filters on your phone, you can still find pornography by just typing in a couple of words in Google. And kids are very savvy, they can bypass those filters. I mean, they know these devices better than we do.
And so the whole point of this piece is really to encourage parents to start thinking about having those conversations with their kids. Because if we don't have those conversations with our kids, porn producers will. And the porn that's available to kids these days at the tip of their fingertips is not the porn that we grew up with. I mean, we all have been exposed when we were kids but we haven't really looked for it. Literally at the tip of their fingertips at all hours of the day they can access an abundance of things, some of which is violent, some of which -- most of which is really demeaning to women and how are young people supposed to perceive sex and relationships.
CAMEROTA: That's the question. Because not only is it shocking to stumble upon porn if you are an adolescent or anyone if you are not looking for it, it's that what does it do? How does it warp their perception of their future romantic relationships?
LING: And how they look at the opposite sex. And the thing about what's happening today is, once you see this, you can't just erase it from your brains. And it can affect young people's lives forever in how they look at sex.
BERMAN: So porn addiction is not recognized right now as a medical condition. This is a discussion that you had in this piece and I want to play some of that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LING: Porn addiction isn't a medically recognized disease but hundreds of thousands of people claim it is real and are turning to sites like NoFap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have people from every continent across the planet. It impacts Christians, atheist, Muslims, Republicans, Democrats. If you're a human being and you have access to the internet, you can absolutely get addicted to porn.
LING: Though Alex (ph) is emphatic this can happen to anyone, he tells me that 95 percent of NoFap users are men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does happen to young men more often than any other group I would say. I think the most vulnerable demographic is males between the ages of eight to 14.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Oh my God.
BERMAN: So are you convinced there is addiction and what are the implications of that?
LING: Well, look, all can I do is talk to large groups of people. And we met so many people who were first exposed as young as eight, nine-years-old.
[07:55:00] And there's a reason why this website has half a million followers from all over the world because it hasn't been medically recognized so there isn't that much information available. And you can't really seek out therapy for it. And your insurance probably doesn't even cover that, right?
And so this website exists for people who believe they are addicted to pornography to offer each other suggestions as to how to overcome it or to deal with it. So is it medically recognized? No. But do I believe it's a massive epidemic and affecting so many thousands of young people, absolutely.
And if you talk to most pediatricians they will tell you that parents are increasingly coming in asking questions about this because their kids have been exposed. You'll hear them talk about how girls are -- they now have a distorted perception of what men or boys are expecting of them sexually and they are getting their sex ed from pornography. And I think that's a really dangerous place to get it.
CAMEROTA: And what is the answer, if you found one, from pediatricians or whoever if your child has been exposed.
LING: I think that the first thing we all need to do is just having open conversations with our kids. Start young. Start talking about the anatomy, how things work, you know, as a sort of entry point. And I really think that schools need to recognize and we feature a program in the Boston public school system, they have a pre-sex -- comprehensive sexual ed curriculum and in it they have a class about pornography literacy because they realize that so many kids are exposed to porn that they need to sort of teach these kids how to differentiate between what they're seeing online and what real sex should be.
What real sex is? Because sex is something that should be enjoyed. It's not something that should be taboo. But when you look -- when you type in a couple of words, what you see is really alarming. And in many cases, it is really grotesque.
BERMAN: We have a few seconds left. What else do you have in store this season?
LING: We have a piece about benzodiazepine so it's a class of medication that is prescribed by physicians. We're talking about Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin. And this was one of the infuriating experiences I've ever had as a reporter because I came to realize that these are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the world to treat anxiety but many doctors don't know how to treat the symptoms of addiction and withdrawal when people do, in fact, become addicted and it's really disturbing.
We also profiled some women who have just undergone marine combat training with the marines and we embed with the NYPD counterterrorism department on their highest threat level day in New York which I'm not going to tell you what it is but also very riveting. And we look at how terrorism has changed and evolved over the years. So a vast array of topics.
BERMAN: Sounds great.
CAMEROTA: It sounds fascinating and all of the promos have me riveted so I can't wait to watch all of these. Lisa Ling, great to see you as always.
LING: Thank you. You too.
BERMAN: All right, be sure to tune in on the all-new season of "This Is Life With Lisa Ling". It premieres this Sunday 10 p.m. only on CNN.
CAMEROTA: OK, thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster is next. For our U.S. viewers, the whistleblower complaint could be released at any moment. NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
CAMEROTA: All right, good morning everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, September 26th, 8:00 now in the East.
The whistleblower complaint at the heart of the Democrats impeachment inquiry into President Trump has now overnight been declassified it could be released as early as this hour. So we are now also just minutes away from the nation's intelligence chief testifying in public before the House Intel Committee about this whistleblower complaint. And we're also learning stunning new details about what it contains.
BERMAN: The Washington Post reports that, "The complaint alleges a pattern of obfuscation at the White House in which officials move the records of some of Trump's communications with foreign officials onto a separate computer network from where they were normally stored." The Post says this includes records of that controversial July call between Mr. Trump and the Ukraine leader.
Also, new this hour, an important milestone reached in the push for an impeachment inquiry and it is already officially begun. More than half of the 435 members of the House of Representatives now say they support an impeachment probe into President Trump.
CNN's Lauren Fox live on Capitol Hill. Lauren, this hearing is set to begin shortly.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That is right, John. And Democrats have reached that magic number. Now more than half of the caucus supports moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. That number 218 made up of 217 Democrats and one independent. This comes of course just a bit before Joseph Maguire, the acting DNI will come before the House Intelligence --