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INSIDE POLITICS

Nancy Pelosi On William Barr: "The Attorney General Has Gone Rouge"; CNN: White House Says Lawyers Directed Move Ukraine Call Transcript To Highly Secure System; Donald Trump Demands Democrat House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff Resign; Speaker Pelosi Predicts Impeachment Inquiry "Will Take Some Time"; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Year Answering Questions About Impeachment. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired September 27, 2019 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON KOSIK, CORRESPONDENT: -- to the market. I think it will continue to buss in the background but if you look at historically it's really have little effect on the market. During the next era the economy wasn't strong and stocks fell 33 percent but during the Clinton impeachment SMP 500 rose 27 percent. In the end Kate, it all really depends on the strength and weakness of the economy.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Something to keep an eye on regardless of impeachment is where the economy stands. Alison thanks so much. And thanks so much for joining me, everybody. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. We begin the hour with war of new developments all connected with the whistleblower complaint, now the lynch pin to the Democratic impeachment push.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused today to put a specific timeline on the investigation, but the Committee taking the lead, telling reporters, expect subpoenas for key witnesses and telling its members to be ready to work during a planned two-week Congressional recess.

Speaker Pelosi says the President's request will be an overwhelming focus, but part of that must include the Attorney General and how quickly his department decided the allegations raised by the whistleblower did not warrant a criminal investigation?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The committee will make their own announcements about who they're calling in to be witnesses. I do believe the Attorney General has gone rogue. He has for a long time now. Since he was mentioned in all of this, it's curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint would be handled?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Also new today, the President's own staff undercutting his attacks on the whistleblower's credibility. The President tweeting this morning that the whistleblower's information cannot be trusted but White House officials are confirming to CNN now a key element of the whistleblower's accounts. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House. Kaitlan, what are we learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is significant because for the first time the White House is saying, yes, White House lawyers did direct staff to move that transcript of the President's call with the Ukrainian President from where these transcripts are typically stored to a highly secure area where they aren't typically stored.

And in a statement to CNN or first obtained by CNN, a senior White House official said, "NFC meeting financial security lawyers directed that the White House document be handled appropriately". What you could read into that is there is a National Security Council lawyer who instructed his staff to move this transcript to this highly secured area this highly secured server where they're not normally kept.

And of course, this is significant because even though the President is on Twitter this morning questioning the credibility of this whistleblower? This backs up a key part of the complaint from the whistleblower. Now look at the complaint.

So then the White House officials have been dismissing it, saying he's imparting inaccurate information what the President said this morning. But John, when you read this complaint, it sounds pretty accurate because this whistleblower said, "White House officials told me that they were directed by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically scored for coordination, finalization and distribution to cabinet-level officials.

So it is significant. Even though the President is doubting this person's credibility, behind the scenes White House officials on background, meaning not using their name, are confirming, that yes, White House lawyers did direct staff to move that transcript, john.

KING: And in essence confirming that's not the way they would put, that the President is lying when they sends out these tweets. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate that reporting from the White House. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights Julie Pace with the Associated Press, Sahil Kapur with Bloomberg. Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times" and CNN's Abby Phillip.

It is critical sometimes we get to stop and pause for a second because we're in this blur of people throwing things out there. The White House says the call was perfect. Now the President releases a memo not a full transcript of the call that says the President leaned on the President of Ukraine for help.

The whistleblower complaint very accurately describes the call by the White House's own transcript. Now the President says don't believe the whistleblower, it's bad information. The White House lawyers confirms to us, yes, just as the whistleblower said in his complaint or her complaint that this information was put in a secret vault.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: The White House seems to be trying to make this a question of motivation. So, yes, the transcript was moved into the server. They say that is normal process. The whistleblower says that was effectively a cover-up, an attempt to hide this transcript that White House officials knew would be problematic.

I think you're going to see that as part of the White House strategy if other parts of the whistleblower complaint hold up, and so far they have, to try to say, sure, that step happened, but it's not -- it didn't happen because of the reason the whistleblower said. It didn't happen because people were nervous about it, it didn't happen for some improper reason, we were simply following protocol.

What you're seeing is this White House just trying to shape their own version of events. The whistleblower got the first jump on this narrative and now the White House has to go through step by step and try to cast their own narrative.

KING: It's a great point you make, though, following protocol or following Trump White House protocol? In this sense that if you talk to people work in previous administrations this was not done. A Democratic or Republican go back to the time there was a system for handling these things that have been pretty consistent over time but if you go back again; remember the anonymous essay of a year ago.

[12:05:00]

KING: What the whistleblower alleges tracked some of that, that you have White House staff essentially working to, "protect themselves" or protect the President from themselves or protect the country from the President and so on, and having an extraordinary system of doing things.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICL CORRESPONDENT: I think the reason why there is a culture of secrecy around the President's calls is because he has in fact been embarrassed before by the transcripts of the call or by accounts of his calls being released to the public.

But at the same time it doesn't explain why, in a situation like this in which the President wants to claim on the one hand that the call was perfect, the White House would be trying to prevent him from embarrassment via leaks by moving the call to a different server.

So you have a real disconnect in the narrative that I think will be apparent to people who are hearing about the President's side of this and the whistleblower's side on this. But to your point about the whistleblower, there are so many people in this White House who are trying to, in their view, do their jobs, pursuing a foreign policy that is coherent in this administration, and it's almost impossible to do that when the President undermines that effort in a phone call in which he apparently seems to be seeking his own political gain. So that's why you have all these officials in private conversations in the White House, according to the whistleblower, really expressing frustration that they cannot move forward on the policy of the government of the United States.

KING: And the question becomes, if you also talk to the other new developments today, the House Intelligence Committee warning its members essentially, you're supposed to be on recess the next two weeks. We'll be doing some work. Some of it will be behind the scenes, like subpoenas.

I assume the people of national security lawyers, the people who decided this is the system we're going to have in this White House, will be subpoenaed to come before the Intelligence Committee to explain the tick-tock. The question then becomes, does the White House say yes or do we have the boom?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean that is what's happening now, is that Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Community is trying to figure out, what is our witness list, what is our document list, maybe more importantly, of who we need to hear from and what we need to see to be able to bear out some of what the whistleblower is alleging?

And also to provide those explanations, if the White House can argue, and it looks like they will, this is standard protocol at least for this administration, was it a proper protocol? Or was that a protocol arrived at because the President was having conversations like the July conversation with the Ukrainian President?

But according to the whistleblower, there were other conversations of sufficient concern that those records were being handled that way. That will be a key what Adam Schiff calls a road map for them moving forward, and I think we'll see them move pretty quickly to get the information they can for how that process was laid out.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: This will be enormously consequential decision for Speaker Pelosi to make and House Democrats leaders to make on two fronts. They have to decide the two targets they're going to go after? AG Barr is implicated by Speaker Pelosi this morning.

The DNI is involved, Rudy Giuliani is involved. The State Department has implicated by Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pompeo seems unhappy about that. Democrats have to make priorities and decide who to go first after.

The second question is what articles of impeachment do they pursue? The Ukrainian President seems to be unifying force among the House Democrats, to push some of these front liners into getting yes on impeachment, but there are obstructions of justice, obstructions of Congress that the institutionalists not the leftists really feel strongly about and want to go after and there is the issue of emoluments that the party wants to go after. This is a very big decision for Nancy Pelosi. KING: And as they make those decisions that the committee is going to issue subpoenas, and perhaps actually bring law makers back during the recess tells you they understand want to do this as quickly as possible. Number one that's because there's an election year reporting approaching and already Republicans say this is just politics, you're trying to poison the election.

Number two they understand how the President operates. We're seeing examples of that, the President on Twitter attacking the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who is essentially the lead person right now that we expect to become an impeachment process.

Rep. Adam Schiff fraudulently read to Congress with millions of people watching a version of my conversation with the President of Ukrainian that doesn't exist. He was supposedly reading exact transcribed version of the call but he completely changed the verse to makes it sound horrible and it goes on and on.

Adam Schiff did what he later said was a parody at the beginning of the Committee, meaning yesterday. Most Democrats would say that was a profound mistake in the sense that this is not funny. None of this is funny whatever your partisan alignments, and that if Democrats are going to move this process forward, they have to behave almost perfectly.

PACE: They really do because right now this is just a Democratic process. How do you make a process run by one party not look partisan? It's a very difficult task. To your point earlier, I think speed is crucial here, and that's because speed is the difference. Trump has been investigated before for emoluments and a whole host of things. He was investigated by Bob Mueller. It was long and drawn out. They were complicated. This has moved incredibly fast and Democrats think that the speed of this adds to their power.

KING: To the other part of the President's strategy discredit anybody who speaks ill of him. In this case, the whistleblower, the President we talked about a little bit tweeting this morning, sounding more and more like a so-called whistleblower isn't whistleblower at all.

[12:10:00]

KING: In addition, all secondhand information that is proved to be so inaccurate that there may not have been someone else, a leak or a spy, feeding it to him or her a partisan operative. We're going to go through this for months, I think. That's just bogus in the sense that anything we've been able to corroborate from the whistleblower complaint has turned out to be spot on.

The call with Ukraine, the whistleblower complaint filed before that memo was released almost verbatim. Has it. The whistleblower saying they had this other system, the secret computer where they put the transcripts. The White House now confirming the President is correct there which gets you to this point.

This is under the President's skin which is why this is important, what the President said yesterday about the whistleblower. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Who is the person that gave the whistleblower? Who is the person that gave the whistleblower the information, because that's close to a spy? You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right, to spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We can talk about this for a month. Number one, he's in a room with American diplomats. The people who we hope if they see wrongdoing in their own government -- not every whistleblower is correct. You still want them to have the courage to come forward. He's in a room with American diplomats and he's saying this person is a spy.

This person, even if he or she has some things wrong, is trying to do the right thing. Treat him like we did in the good old days. They executed spies in the good old days. That's intimidation.

DAVIS: I mean there is world in which this was with the case with the Mueller investigation with the very fact that the impeachment inquiry prods the President to do even more things that will be pointed to as either unsuited for office or just illegal or obstruction of justice.

He seems to be going down that road. What's striking is you probably remember back in the Clinton impeachment days, the -- edict in the White House is we're not going to talk about it. We're going to separate this out. The President is not going to talk about this. The staff isn't going to talk about it.

That is not - those terms are not terms that you can impose on this President and certainly there is not a lot of discipline that goes on around him and his team or people who can say to him, you have to not talk about this or you're not going to disparage this whistleblower.

This person has been deemed as credible and a patriot by your own Director of National Intelligence and the Inspector General, and you can't do that. He's not going to listen to that, so that comes back to where Julie was talking about in terms of speed. The Democrats want to move really quickly before the President and the people around him have the chance to distort the narrative.

KING: The striking part to me is you see people standing in the room, holding up their phones. It's not like he thinks he's in an off the record private setting with friends and family here. He's in a room with people.

PHILLIP: Well, he is doing effectively the same thing on Twitter with all caps so that's a clear sign that where we are headed on. He's angry about this and we're going to hear about it pretty much every single day.

KING: Angry is a polite term. We'll take a quick break when we come back we have much more on this. Not only the calculations of the White House but - started tear just a moment ago. The Democrats are going forward. The question is how broad of an investigation and how fast that you get it done?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:00]

KING: It is the House Intelligence Committee and Chairman Adam Schiff leading the investigation into the so called whistleblower complaint, the President's phone call with the President of Ukraine. But the woman calling the shots is the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This morning, she stopped to talk with the CNN's Suzanne Malveaux about where we go from here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you give us a time table in terms of when the committee plans to wrap up before Thanksgiving?

PELOSI: No, it is up to the Committee. They'll do the work they have to do, following the facts and the time it takes to find the facts. As you know, we never know where we're going next. Now I think we're getting involved in a cover-up of a cover-up, and that will take them some time to investigate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Cover-up of the cover-up. She means the Justice Department, in her view, helping the White House hide things. We'll see where the facts take us as we go forward. She doesn't want to put a firm timeline on it, and yet privately she's telling the Chairman and Committee, move.

PHILLIP: In many ways I think they have a pathway to do that much more easily on this particular probe than perhaps if they were trying to dig into some of the elements of the Mueller investigation. One of the reasons is actually the thing that President Trump has been keying in on, which is who are the people inside the White House who talked to the whistleblower?

This becomes one of the major elements of the probe. The President is calling it secondhand knowledge, but what it actually is, is proof that there are a lot of people who either work in the White House right now or worked in the White House until recently who can be called as witnesses.

Some of those people do not work in the White House and may not be covered under privilege concerns like the Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his Deputy Sue Gordon. These are the red flags for President Trump and for people in the White House.

This probe can move much more quickly because there is a laundry list of potential witnesses that can be called before Congress to help this process go at a much faster clip and reveal really new information that we may not already know. KING: It's interesting, because there is. You could build a long list of people. Okay, even if you were a Republican and actually wanted answers, you could build a list. Let's bring them in let's put them under oath and if this thing is a partisan hack, we'll be able to debunk it.

[12:20:00]

KING: But there are other Democrats who say we have the President's own words. On that memo from the call from Ukraine, like Eric Swalwell says we don't really need a lot more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will you investigate? What more do you need to know about that call?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe we need to know much more. And I would recommend to my colleagues that we keep this simple. Of course, the President is entitled to a fair process like anyone, but that we don't need to have a month long hearings, we don't need to hear from people who will show up and insist on executive privileges that don't exist. We have the President's own words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Easy to understand that argument in the sense that we've seen the administration saying no to telling Congress what day of the week it is, therefore, how are they going to be able to put forward documents and witnesses and things like that. But there is a counterargument.

This is Angie Craig in Democratic Lawmaker for Minnesota in a much tougher district than Eric Swalwell represents. I want to put it in the record. I'm in a district where I've been reluctant to move forward only from the perspective where I want to be disciplined, I want to look at due process and want to make sure we get all of our facts. And this process will allow us to do that.

So one of the members who is there now those essentially backing her leadership get this right.

KAPUR: Many - it's a key point. Many Democrats have already convinced that the President has committed impeachable offense. They are ready to vote on article of impeachment. And in the Ukraine call there is a quid and there is the quo. There is the aid and there is the investigation of his political rival.

Democrats can look at that and say, it's not explicit, that may not be enough to get him charged guilty in a court of law. But this is impeachment. The bar is higher for public officials, higher for the President, so Democrats have to decide what level of facts are enough to make that case.

Pelosi doesn't want to sound like she's prejudging this. She can't make it look like, yeah, there is election year coming up and have to get it done by X time. That gives her opponent a lot of time to cut it.

PACE: This is also they were the White House has to make some tough decisions because there are some members of Congress and Craig probably falls in this category who, if the White House participates, if they say yes, certain people can speak, yes, we will give over certain documents, they may look at the end of the day and say, I don't like this, I don't know if this is impeachable.

If the White House stonewalls everything and we go into a situation where you've got obstruction of Congress, how many lawmakers say, that's okay, if the President of the United States just says no to our oversight ability? The White House is going to have to think about this. They tried to stonewall pretty much everything, but that could make the process of impeachment much more difficult for the President to overcome.

KING: It's a great point and we'll come to the Republican calculation a little later in the program, but for the Democrats the number has spiked so dramatically. Just in the last couple of weeks over the number of Democrats who at least support an inquiry. That doesn't mean you support impeachment, you support an inquiry.

I just want to look at the 13. There are only 13 of the 235 Democrats, only 13 left who still don't, and guess what? 11 of them are in districts won by the President of the United States, seven of them in districts that President won by more than ten points, nine of the eleven in districts that flipped from Republicans to Democrat in 2018. You have a very small group left who are in the most vulnerable Democratic districts who are still nervous about where the party is headed.

DAVIS: Absolutely and you see almost a anonymous opposition at this point among Republicans for the same reason. I don't know that you're going to actually get that with all of the Democrats, they already have I mean, the majority of the House saying they're at least in favor of an impeachment inquiry.

But I do think is this obstruction of Congress can be key because there could be a disagreements about whether you need a quid pro quo or not to say that this was inappropriate behavior or that was a high crime or misdemeanor. A lot of Democrats, some Republicans I've talked to privately, don't think you need that at all.

He already said he was trying to get a foreign leader to do something for him and it was clearly of a political nature to tarnish one of his rivals. For some those Democrats who are now saying they're in favor of an inquiry who are in the more moderate districts and it was a tough call.

If you add that layer that they're not even cooperating with Congress, they're obstructing Congress that was one of the impeachment articles against Richard Nixon. That is something that a lot more can agree upon. KING: And when we come back, we deal with that especially in the Republican calculations as we go forward. As we go to break, just a reminder, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not always where she is today on the question of impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: They want me to impeach President Bush for the Iraq war. I didn't believe it in then I don't believe it now. It divides the country unless there is some conclusive evidence that takes us to that place.

I think it's like 35 of them out of 238 may a 38 of them out of 238 they have said that they wanted to be outspoken on impeachment.

Every time one of my members says, oh, the pressure is on. The pressure is not on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you comfortable with the term impeachment inquiry. Is there another term we should be using?

[12:25:00]

PELOSI: Thank you all very much. Today I am announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A very big question in Washington today, are House Democrats on their own or will the Republican-led Senate look at all into allegations raised in that explosive whistleblower complaint? The GOP Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee choosing his words very carefully--

[12:30:00]