Return to Transcripts main page


House Intel Members Told To Be Prepared To Return During Recess Amid Impeachment Inquiry; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) On Attorney General Barr, He's Gone Rogue; Interview with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL); 300+ Ex-National Security Officials Support Impeachment Probe. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired September 27, 2019 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right, top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

We have breaking news just in the last few minutes. Our Manu Raju on Capitol Hill reporting that House Intelligence Committee members have been told to be prepared to come back during a scheduled recess coming up. This is Democrats' attempt to wrap up an impeachment inquiry during the fall. A remarkable development, Poppy, this is going to move very quickly.

HARLOW: Yes. I just think it shows how quickly this has all moved, right? I mean, where were we a week ago.

Also this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, so believes Attorney General Bill Barr, in her words, quote, has gone rogue. Democrats are demanding to know why did Barr, who was mentioned in the whistleblower's complaint four times, did he have anything, even if a little bit, to do with the Justice Department's decision-making on this, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Our Suzanne Malveaux, she caught up with the speaker this morning on Capitol Hill. And, Suzanne, this is really remarkable. They really seem like they are going to pursue getting this inquiry going and wrapped up by Thanksgiving.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a remarkable pace when you think about it. Yes, there's a flurry of activity this morning. And as Manu Raju had reported also that some of those members of the House Intelligence Committee could be coming back here within that two-week recess. And so they want to get this going in earnest.

And what she is saying here is that she's not limited to a timetable here, she is not going to put any handcuffs on it and she is also taking this monumental task very seriously. She knows she has more than a majority of Democrats in support of the inquiry. It is far from certain whether or not they have the numbers to impeach the president. But she is looking at all things.

And this is going to be a bigger investigation than they had initially imagined because now she is talking not only about the president's role but also the role of the Attorney General.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Now, I think we're getting involved in the cover-up of the cover-up, and that may be something that will take some time to investigate.

I do think the attorney general has gone rogue. He has for a long time now. And since he was mentioned in all of this, it's curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint could be handled.

MALVEAUX: And are you worried about the security of the sources of the whistleblower? The president --

PELOSI: Yes, I'm very worried about it. I think what the president said goes beyond irresponsible. It's dangerous. Whistleblowers have an important role to play in unfolding -- revealing wrongdoing in our government. If their complaint has been deemed by the inspector general as credible and also of urgent concern, and therefore sent to the Director of National Intelligence, the law says the director must send it to Congress. The White House intervened, the executive branch intervened and held him back for doing that. I feel sad for him because he's a respected professional.

But for the president to say what he said about those who may have supplied information to the whistleblower seriously undermines integrity in the government, but the president does that almost every day.


MALVEAUX: And the speaker referring to comments the president made yesterday about how spies were treated in the past, essentially, they had been shot in the past. And that was quite alarming to a lot of people who heard those comments, that it could really kind of dampen what would be enthusiasm, or at least cooperation in this investigation. Poppy, Jim?

HARLOW: I mean, talk about a way to tell people to shut up, right, I mean, when you say something like that. Suzanne, thank you, very, very much.

How is the White House responding?


Kaitlan Collins joins us this morning.

Well, Kaitlan, Corey Lewandowski may be going to come on to politically leave this effort? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The White House is still essentially reeling from just how quickly all of this has developed, as you've heard what Suzanne was laying out there.

And you're seeing that the in the president's Twitter feed this morning, as he's Lashing out, calling for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to resign, saying that Adam Schiff needs to be investigated, but also going after this whistleblower again, questioning them, trying to create these credibility questions about this person, saying that a lot of what was in their complaint was inaccurate, when actually when you read through that nine-page complaint from the whistleblower, a lot of what they said mirrors mirrors what was in the transcript released by the White House.

Of course, that complaint was filed long before the White House the decision to release that transcript. But that's essentially the larger effort that you're seeing going on here at the White House. And this fits into this broader picture of the White House is still trying to figure out how they're going to face this.

People that we've spoken with, what we reported a few days ago, well, they believe that the president is kind of in denial about the situation he's facing. And, Poppy and Jim, we have only heard move of that in the recent days and today from several more voices echoing that, saying that they just don't think the president realizes what he is facing, and that impeachment is actually, potentially on the horizon for him. And that's really something they're trying to the president to come to grips with right now.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Let's discuss now with Carrie Cordero. She's she's former counsel to U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Wes Lowery, National Reporter for The Washington Post, and Margaret Hoover, she's a Republican consultant and also host of PBS Firing Line, she also worked in the Bush White House. Thanks, great to have you all here.

Carrie, if I could ask you, this timeline now being discussed but bring folks back from recess, get working on this, have the inquiry and possibly a vote by Thanksgiving two months from now, so just about almost exactly two months right now, is that realistic?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's totally appropriate. I mean, the new allegations are so serious, as you know, from a national security perspective, and the allegation made in the whistleblower complaint, the central allegation, which is that the president solicited the foreign assistance in an election from a foreign government official, is already actually confirmed by the text of the call that has been released. So the central allegation is undisputed.

And so now, really, the investigation is not so complex. It's not classified information, for the most part. The Congress needs to confirm through some of the additional witnesses that the whistleblower refers to, needs to explore the circumstances of withholding the foreign aid, and make some of those connections that are alleged in the whistleblower complaint, and determine whether there're some other phone calls that also confirm this general information.

But I think it's absolutely appropriate that the Congress move quickly and it would be unusual if they would make this -- deal with this information and then say, well, we're going to go away for two weeks and not address this serious situation.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a great way that you frame it there. Poppy basically making the point that this happened, that's not questioned. The question becomes should it have happened, right, because the transcript lays it all out.

HARLOW: Right, and what are the consequences to it happening, and was there a cover-up of the cover-up, right? There are so many tentacles here, Margaret Hoover, the question becomes -- you worked in a Republican White House. You are a Republican strategist, Mitt Romney, and to a extent, Ben Sasse are -- made Rob Portman a little bit on an island by here.

So even if the Democrats vote to impeach, it moves to trial in the Senate, to what end, or do we just not know everything yet and the Republicans could really turn?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it's early to suspect that you won't have more Republicans begin to speak out, because -- sorry to go back to 1778, but Alexander Hamilton actually predicted explicitly in Federalist 65 what happens in an impeachment inquiry.

What happens in an impeachment inquiry is not necessarily the administration of justice, but certainly factions break down along predictable political lines. That's what's going to happen in the House of Representatives, and I don't suspect you're going to see clairvoyant Republicans in the House of Representatives taking the line that Mitt Romney did.

But the Senate is an entirely different matter. You have Senate elections coming up. You have the Republican leadership in the Senate hanging in a balance in the next year's election. And I suspect that as this process unfolds, cooler heads will prevail in the likes of Susan Collins from Maine, who is up for re-election, Cory Gardner from Colorado, who is up for re-election, Joni Ernst from Iowa, who is up for re-election. All Republicans in blue states who need to hold on to their seats and frankly will be rewarded for having a cool and collected approach towards this that is explicitly partisan.

HARLOW: That's a great point. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Wes, and it's interesting, you are seeing cracks, small ones and not many in the Republican wall of defense here, Romney, yes, a turner at the hearing yesterday.


I just spoke to James Comer of Kentucky, who defended the president vigorously but on the point of hiding the phone calls, he said, well, yes, that should be investigated. I mean, you have an opening there, do you not, where some Republicans publicly are saying, hey, this ain't all right here.

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Certainly. Watching that interview, I thought that was fascinating, that he conceded that there are questions here, questions to be asked, answers for the American people. He conceded not only that, but also the role of Rudy Giuliani and what he was doing, and whether or not it was appropriate for him to be acting the way he was as both the president's personal attorney but seemingly doing some freelancing diplomacy work.

And so I do think that, you know, to see allies of the president, Republican members of the House conceding this relatively early on in this controversy that there are certainly questions to be answered, might provide an opening, provide some wiggle room moving forward in terms of other questions they want.

Because we don't even know everything yet about -- there was reporting from my colleague, Josh Dawsey, earlier today about the processes in place now at the White House as they are -- after the initial leaks early in the administration, how they are taking all of these steps to try to conceal or classify up some of these calls with foreign leaders.

That's a Pandora's Box. Who knows what else might be discovered by congressional investigators or during hearings if they're probing that question specifically. Who knows who else Rudy Giuliani has met with over the last three or four years

And so when you have even Republicans, even allies of the president conceding that some of these are legitimate questions to be asked, that does provide us some room on the backend depending on what the answers are.

HARLOW: That's a good point. I mean, Margaret, to Wesley's point there, Rudy Giuliani, I mean, New Yorkers know him well, you know, could he be the one who could put this president -- if he hasn't already -- in a great amount of peril? Meaning, could freelancing by Rudy Giuliani be the straw that broke the camel's back?

HOOVER: I don't think that Rudy Giuliani is going to be the straw that breaks Donald Trump's back. I think Donald Trump will be the straw that breaks Donald Trump's back.

Certainly, it appears that they are acting in tandem. He is the president's lawyer. He has been acting at the request of the president. I mean, you can see a direct line chronologically in the whistleblower complaint that the president asks for Rudy Giuliani to follow up with Ukrainian contacts, and then within a day or two, Rudy Giuliani is in Madrid meeting with Ukrainian contacts.

Look, Rudy Giuliani is clearly a central part of this story and we're going to learn more, but I wouldn't put any of this at the foot of Rudy Giuliani. I think all the of this is on the president of the United States. HARLOW: Right. He says he will be the hero, Jim, in all of this.

SCIUTTO: Yes, he has said this with volume in the interview. Carrie Cordero, the White House has the ability here to throw up road blocks. Whether they do is an open question. Road blocks like they have thrown up on other investigations, just flat-out refuse if White House officials, for instance, are subpoenaed or demand -- or ruled that executive privilege covers them. I mean, do you see -- first of all, how extensive is that power to stonewall and do you see them doing so?

CORDERO: So I do see them absolutely trying to implement a strategy of preventing some of these witnesses, especially because a number of the individuals that the complainant describes are people who worked in the White House. So the complainant says the people who worked in the White House came to the complainant on multiple occasions, different people reporting the same deeply held concerns about what they were observing.

So I do think the White House will observe that. That is where Congress is going to have to push back strongly, and where I think we saw a change this week was the Senate resolution a couple of days ago, mid-week, where the full Senate, bipartisan, all Republicans in the Senate voted that the administration needed to provide the whistleblower complaint to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. I think that was a huge vote that was a real indication that a particularly in the Senate, they are not going to permit this White House to obstruct the Intelligence Committees' investigation.

SCIUTTO: It's a thing, poppy, right, when these things move, they don't necessarily move in some watershed moment but over time. Although I would say the pace of this one is, I suppose, faster than anyone expected. Anyway, we're going to keep covering it. You know that.

HARLOW: Yes, Carrie makes a great point, for sure, on that front, that is hasn't gotten frankly enough attention. Thank you, guys, very, very much.

SCIUTTO: Margaret, Wes, Carrie, thanks so much.

More than 300 national security officials are blasting the president's action around Ukraine, calling it a, quote, profound national security concern. We will speak with one of those officials, former Ambassador Nicholas Burns.

HARLOW: And Joe Biden's son, Hunter, is thrust into the political spotlight over all of this. What role does he now play? We're going to speak to a journalist who spent weeks speaking with Hunter Biden on all of this.



SCIUTTO: We continue to follow the breaking news, members of the House Intelligence Committee have been told to be prepared potentially to return to Washington during the upcoming two-week recess, this as Democrats try to wrap up an impeachment inquiry by this fall.


Let's discuss with a member that committee, Congressman Mike Quigley. Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Good morning. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So, first of, can you confirm that members of your committee will be coming back early in effect to begin impeachment proceedings?

QUIGLEY: I'm about 20 feet from the House floor. When we're done, my colleagues and I are going to vote, head to the airport and go home for a two-week district work period. But I am almost certain that we'll be back at least once as members of the Intelligence Committee to go forward with this investigation and listen to witness testimony.

SCIUTTO: As you know, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has been discussing about the need for speed, in effect, in this inquiry with the intention of wrapping it up by Thanksgiving, just two months from now. Is it realistic for our viewers to imagine that there would be a vote on the House floor on impeachment before Thanksgiving?

QUIGLEY: It's going to be a tough challenge, but I do think this is different than the challenges the Special Counsel had.

First of all, I see a crack there we didn't see before, and, clearly, because of the whistleblowers process, we have access, as we have witnessed this week, to things the Special Counsel doesn't have, right? We have people from within the administration and we're hearing within the White House coming forward with information that could and probably should lead to articles of impeachment.

SCIUTTO: Will you call members of the Trump administration to testify in this inquiry before your committee, including Bill Barr, the attorney general, Rudy Giuliani, other White House officials?

QUIGLEY: Look, I saw Rudy this morning talking about he's going to be the hero of this. I obviously have several questions for him starting with what color is the sky in your world, but do you have security clearance? The head of our Intelligence Community, on my questioning yesterday, said he didn't know, and the head of our Intelligence Community didn't know what role he's playing.

And last night, Rudy referenced that Mr. Pompeo may have issues with what he is doing. And given his personality, Rudy may be the best source of information because he doesn't know what he shouldn't say. But I do think the attorney general is part of that list as well.

SCIUTTO: You would call the attorney general to testify before the committee?

QUIGLEY: I would. I think, first, let's remember, he applied for this job by arguing against the Special Counsel's work. He has acted not as an independent attorney general but as a Special Counsel for the president of the United States during the Mueller investigation and certainly now.

He wrote -- the Justice Department wrote an extraordinary opinion balanced against the weight of law of blocking this complaint coming before the House in the first place.

SCIUTTO: If the White House expresses executive privilege and attempts to prevent testimony from, say, the attorney general or the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, will the committee exercise its powers, declare those witnesses in contempt and even enforce a subpoena perhaps by sending the sergeant-at-arms?

QUIGLEY: I think that these are all decisions that leadership and the chairman are going to have to make with all of us in the committee. But I do think stressing the point there's urgency here that the president can't hide behind privilege particularly when there's law breaking taking place. So I believe the committee will take whatever actions are necessary. At least that will be my vote.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Mike Quigley, we appreciate you coming on. We know this is a continuing conversation. We look forward to the next one.

QUIGLEY: Thank you. Take care.

HARLOW: That's a good point about the color of the sky there from the congressman.

All right, hundreds of national security officials coming out this morning in support of an impeachment probe of the president, why they are calling his actions such as a national security concern, next.



HARLOW: All right. Welcome back.

Well, this is a really important letter for more than 300 national security officials this morning, taking aim at the president's actions surrounding Ukraine and, of course, that July phone call, calling all of this, quote, profound national security concern.

SCIUTTO: In a statement, the officials say that if the whistleblower's allegations are true, then it would, quote, constitute an unconscionable abuse of power.

Joining us now is former U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns.

Ambassador, as you know, you signed this letter. Forgive me, we have seen letters like this before with long lists of experiences former officials expressing their concern. In your view, is this one different?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: I think it's different, Jim, because this is an extraordinary time and a time of crisis. These over 300 people, many of us have served for presidents of both parties. We have traditions of bipartisanship in the career foreign service, to which I belonged. But to see the president abuse his power by inviting a foreign government to investigate Vice President Biden and to invite that power to interfere in our democracy crosses a red line that no president should ever cross.


And so what we're trying to say in this letter is that it is now time to begin impeachment proceedings.