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Nearly 300 Officials Call Trump's Ukraine Actions a 'Profound National Security Concern'; Giuliani Calls Himself a Hero, Says He 'Accomplished Mission'. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 27, 2019 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- and even more because she will share the stage with a fellow Latina.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I don't usually get to watch the halftime show, because the Patriots are in the game every year, and I have to use that time elsewhere. Hundreds of --

CAMEROTA: This time, I predict you will be watching.

BERMAN: Hundreds of -- That's not true.

Hundreds of former intelligence officials have just published a letter criticizing President Trump's actions with Ukraine. NEW DAY continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who's the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? With spies and treason, usually handled a little differently than we do now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is acting like his back is up against the wall.

JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This matter is unprecedented. I also believe that I handled this matter in full compliance with the law at all times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The committee's committed to make sure that we get to the bottom of what questions need answers.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): This was a sad, sad day for America. If it can't get any lower, it got even lower today.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Never thought we would see a president take the actions that he has.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

So the impeachment inquiry now moving quickly on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's looking to focus on the explosive allegations that are contained in this whistle-blower complaint and the fallout with a possible vote as early as next month.

And there are new questions about how the complaint was handled and who inside the White House may have assisted in the possible cover-up of President Trump's call with the Ukrainian president. In which he pushed for dirt on a political rival Joe Biden's family.

The complaint says a transcript of the call was, quote, "locked down" and moved to a top-level code-word-protected computer network inside the White House. "The Washington Post" reports that this could only be ordered by, quote, a very senior White House official, someone as high as the chief of staff or the national security adviser, and they must make a formal written request to do so.

BERMAN: The whistle-blower's identity and the other White House officials referenced in the report are unknown this morning. Still, President Trump is labeling their actions as treasonous. And seeming to suggest they should be executed.


TRUMP: I want to know who's the person that gave the whistle-blower -- who's the person that gave the whistle-blower 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? With spies and treason. We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.


BERMAN: That was speaking to people who worked for the United States at the United Nations, by the way.

CNN has learned the White House and the Justice Department were aware of the whistle-blower complaint more than a week before the inspector general made a formal referral.

And it's interesting. Just moments ago, "The Washington Post" published a letter from nearly 300 former U.S. national security and foreign policy officials, warning that President Trump's actions regarding Ukraine are a, quote, "profound national security concern" and supporting an impeachment inquiry by Congress to determine the facts.

Joining us now, Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst. David Gregory is back with us. Also, Nia-Malika Henderson.

Jeffrey, I just want to start with you on where we are this morning. It seems to me, and we are getting new details. The White House knew about this in August. The White House may have moved to put these recordings of this conversation, the records of them on paper, not on electronics. They wanted to keep them from fewer people. But all of this seems to get to these two key questions. Did the

president pressure a foreign leader to go after a political opponent? We can all now read that for ourselves. And to what extent and why did the White House try to cover it up? What does it all mean to you this morning?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: What it means is that we need more facts. That there needs to be a real investigation.

The whistle-blower's complaint is a road map to further investigation. But it is not, in and of itself, facts. He alleges that there was this cover-up involving White House lawyers and others. That's a very serious allegation. But the allegation doesn't prove anything.

The -- the Intelligence Committee, which apparently is going to be leading this investigation, has to go find these people, has to talk to the whistle-blower, find out the names of the people who were involved in a possible cover-up. Interview them, see what they knew, and -- and fill in the facts.

I mean, you know, the whistle-blower's complaint is enormously persuasive, but it is not evidence itself. I mean, it needs to be -- it's a guide to other -- you know, to gathering evidence. But that gathering process has to go forward. And it's not going to be easy, because the White House is very likely to go back to the stonewall with which it's met other investigations.

CAMEROTA: And this is where things get really interesting or, shall I say, more interesting, Nia-Malika. Because the whistle-blower says there were at least half a dozen people, officials in and around the White House that were so concerned about what they were saying, they came to this whistle-blower.


So either the whistle-blower has to say who with they are so that lawmakers can figure it out, or lawmakers have to follow some sort of trail of bread crumbs to figure out who those people are. I mean, there are some people who are named, obviously, in this whistle-blower complaint. It is interesting to see the ambassadors, et cetera, who are named in this. And then there are people who are not named. And who knows if they're going to be able to do all this by next month, when Nancy Pelosi says that she may have articles of impeachment ready.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, the word is expeditiously. That's how they want to proceed with this investigation.

The narrow focus on Ukraine. We'll see if that's doable. As Jeffrey said, this is very much a blueprint. But we've also seen another blueprint from this White House, which is to essentially claim executive privilege and not let folks go up and cooperate with Congress. Maybe the formalizing of the impeachment inquiry changes that. Who knows? We'll have to see. You know, I imagine if you're the president waking up in that White

House this morning with the notion that there are folks in and around the White House who were giving information to this whistle-blower, because they were so concerned about what they were seeing going on in the White House, this is -- this is a president who believes in conspiracy theories. He's somewhat paranoid. I imagine that paranoia is on -- on ten at this point.

All sorts of names floating around about who these folks may be. "The Washington Post" story there talking about who would have to authorize the transfer of these transcripts to this highly secretive vault of sorts. The chief of staff, national security adviser, were they at all involved with that? Or people who are involved in these allegations made by the whistle-blower, are they still in the White House? Are they outside of the White House? Have they left? We'll just have to see.

Adam Schiff has got a real big job here, and Nancy Pelosi, too, in steering this very massive and important investigation that will unfold over the next weeks.

BERMAN: Yes, two things are interesting to me, though. No. 1 is that this allegation in the whistle-blower complaint has been public now for 24 hours. And the White House has known about it for a month now. And they are not denying as of now the substance of the suggestion that the records of this phone conversation were moved. There hasn't been any denial of that, as far as I can see, which is interesting in and of itself.

And David, the other thing that's interesting, and this goes to how and whether the Democrats will keep a focus on Ukraine here, is if you are inclined to impeach the president for this, article one has already written itself.

Which is the transcript or the notes from the conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky. If you are inclined to impeach the president for leaning on a foreign leader, all you have to do is say, here's the White House document.

GREGORY: Right. And I think that's what's unique about this. There are White House officials. There's an evidence trail. There's the allegations of a cover-up. There's lots to try to know and investigate.

It is also different to see how the White House has handled this by releasing the summary of the call and then not getting in the way of the full complaint coming out.

So there's been more transparency.

But the thing has already happened. And if you listen to Democrats, they say the call is the thing. That's the impeachment. We can go on that alone.

Well, the dam hasn't broken in a political sense. Republicans have not coalesced around that to say, you're right. That's so repugnant and reprehensible, you know, everything should change. So there's no real way forward for impeachment to be successful yet.

And now you have Speaker Pelosi who wants to narrow the focus getting the investigation to go as quickly as possible. But the White House will go on a war footing and will argue this to be interpreted differently. Will argue a broader point about what they see as corruption and Joe Biden and all the rest. And I just don't see the politics moving dramatically yet.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, Rudy Giuliani is all over this whistle-blower's complaint. He's traveling to Madrid for meetings. He's traveling to Warsaw for meetings. He's meeting with the former prosecutor who was ousted. He's acting, it sounds like, as sort of a representative of the State Department.

First of all, what strikes me is wouldn't it just have been easier to talk about the economy? I mean, the idea that they're going to these lengths to try to dig up some dirt for the upcoming political season is mind blowing on one level. But second, is he in legal trouble today?

TOOBIN: Well, I think, again, we need more facts. And I think the one point you mentioned is the most important. Is his interaction with the State Department. You know, if he's a private citizen, he's entitled to go anywhere he wants and do any kind of research he wants.


But if he is using the resources of the U.S. government as, you know, he was showing his phone on FOX the other day about his texts with State Department officials. That's, I think, legally problematic.

Why is the State Department using official U.S. government resources to help Rudy Giuliani do opposition research for the 2020 campaign? That's legally problematic.

His activities on their own, it's -- you know, it's eccentric and strange. But as a private citizen, he's certainly entitled to do that.

I think the legal question about Rudy that is -- that is important is what was his interaction with the U.S. government and did other U.S. government officials behave improperly in helping him?

BERMAN: Jeffrey -- go ahead.

GREGORY: We know -- we know from Pompeo that even his initial comments, although he's been silent, was that, you know, he was aware and supported. So was he some kind of unofficial envoy, will be the question.

And I do think, you know, to Alisyn's point about why not just talk about the economy, you know, what we do understand about how President Trump thinks is, in its simplest form, he said "Lock her up" in 2016. He only knows one speed. And this is this speed. Which is to try to dig up dirt and tar who he thinks his rival is going to be.

BERMAN: Counselor, can I ask you one more question, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: On the cover-up. We're getting all these new details about how the process works. About putting what information on which computer.

Bigger picture, though. What matters with all of this? Because I don't know that anything is inherently illegal with a choice to store something in this place or that place. What does it get to? It gets to the consciousness of guilt. It gets to the idea that the president's claim that this phone conversation was perfect and beautiful, that consideration is not shared by a lot of people inside the White House.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And I also think, I mean, again, to get -- get into the legal details a little bit, you know, something can only be obstruction of justice if there's what's called a pending proceeding, some sort of grand jury investigation, FBI investigation. There was no investigation going on. So I don't think any of the officials in the White House who were involved in this are -- are at much legal risk themselves.

This all relates to the liability of the president for impeachment, abuse of power. And if he and other people at the White House knew this was a problem, knew this phone call, indicated that he had abused his power, that is consciousness of guilt. And that's devastating evidence, if it exists, of misconduct by the president. I think this is a unique Washington scandal in its very early stages here. Where only one person is really at risk, and that's the president.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, Nia.

HENDERSON: And we'll see if this matters to the American public. Polls will come out at some point. The polls so far haven't shown an appetite for impeachment. Part of that was because Democrats themselves weren't quite on board totally. So we'll see in the next couple of weeks if Democrats move. Obviously, if Republicans move and independents. So that's going to be something that Nancy Pelosi is certainly looking at, as well.

CAMEROTA: Nia-Malika, David, Jeffrey, thank you all very much.

So new questions about the Justice Department's role in the whistle- blower scandal. What did Attorney General William Barr know and when?



CAMEROTA: CNN has learned officials at the Justice Department were made aware of the whistle-blower's allegations more than a week before the formal complaint was filed. And that Attorney General Bill Barr was notified that his name was mentioned on the phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's leader.

Joining us now is 2020 presidential candidate and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. She serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: Let's just start with what your impressions, what your conclusions were after you read the whistle-blower complaint and the rough transcript of the phone call.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, my first impression was that this is part of a pattern that we've seen with this president, where from the very beginning when he stood in front of that sacred wall of the stars, commemorating the deaths of anonymous CIA agents, and gave a partisan speech, that we have seen that he has no limits.

Whether it is believing Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence directors or what we've learned now with this smoking gun of a summary of a call with a foreign leader.

Ukraine, a place that I actually visited with John McCain, saw that fledgling democracy. How much they depend on the strength of America standing with them.

So now you have the president of the United States, basically threatening this foreign leader saying, hey, freezing the aid and then saying, I need a favor. And in the context of that same conversation, bringing up digging up political dirt on one of his opponents.

You go back to Watergate, Alisyn, it's just a newfangled version of that. That was a president involved in a break-in to get dirt for a campaign, and then there was a cover-up.

What do we have here? Worse, a president using the levers of national security to get dirt on an opponent from a foreign power that is dependent on us. And there's a cover-up in terms of where they put the information.


CAMEROTA: So are you saying the president broke the law?

KLOBUCHAR: I'm saying that we must have impeachment investigations. I believe that this kind of conduct does rise to that level. But like any other good juror in the case -- I'm over in the Senate -- we have to look at all the evidence. But I've been calling for impeachment for months.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, when you just look at the law, let me just read a portion of it: "It shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or through any other person, to make a contribution of money or other thing of value; to promise, expressly or implied, to make any such contribution; for any person to solicit, accept, or receive any such contribution from a foreign national is illegal." I mean, what more -- you've seen the transcript of the phone call.

KLOBUCHAR: No, no, I agree. CAMEROTA: What more do you need to know?

KLOBUCHAR: No, no, no. I'm the one that wants these impeachment proceedings. I think that this is conduct that rises to that level.

But the point is we have bring -- the House has to come up with the evidence, and we want to have it be thorough. And you can bet, Alisyn, there are people out there that worked in the White House or work in the White House now that know about this. We already know it from the whistle-blower complaint that they know about this.

And that's the kind of evidence they're going to need to really make that strong case. Because our Senate colleagues, our Republican colleagues are the ones that are going to be key here. And I think they have to put their country in front of partisanship.

CAMEROTA: Behind the scenes, are you hearing anything from your Republican colleagues in the Senate, of any sort of discomfort with all of this?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. I mean, anyone that allegedly cares about national security has to care about this.

CAMEROTA: What are they saying?

KLOBUCHAR: We've got a -- we have long stood with our allies against Russia. And the fact that he has crossed that line so many times, I'm shocked that they haven't come out earlier. You had -- you had publicly, Senator Romney, of course, coming out voicing concern.

CAMEROTA: There's a handful publicly, but I mean, are you saying behind the scenes --

KLOBUCHAR: And you have governors that won't be involved in this --

CAMEROTA: True, but --

KLOBUCHAR: -- in Massachusetts and Vermont, all Republicans.

CAMEROTA: But are they being more explicit with you behind the scenes?

KLOBUCHAR: People seem very concerned about this. I will leave it at that. And I think all of this will depend on the case that comes over from the House. And then, if Mitch McConnell decides to give it the thorough hearing that it should have. And then where people are on this.

Because to me, this is pretty clear-cut. That's why I've called for impeachment months before.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about Attorney General Bill Barr's role. He's mentioned four times on the phone call. I'll just read a little portion of what the president said to the Ukrainian president. He says, "Mr. Giuliani is a highly-respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you, along with the attorney general." Meaning Bill Barr. What do you think his role is in all this?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I don't know why he wouldn't have recused himself from this at all, and he should right now because of the fact that this involves him. His name is mentioned. The president is throwing it around. That's what I think he should do.

And I also believe what happened here, the whistle-blower finds out this is heading to the White House, finds out it's around, and he actually makes a second complaint to the inspector general, who by the way, says clearly that the whistle-blower is credible. And so the -- the involvement of the attorney general, the opinion that they issued, things like that, just lead me to believe that he should recuse himself from this matter.

CAMEROTA: What did -- did you watch the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire's, appearance yesterday?

KLOBUCHAR: I saw segments of it. We were having our own work in the Senate.

CAMEROTA: Of course, you're busy as all of this is going on. But what was your impression of him? Do you think that he is an independent, uncompromised player in all of this?

KLOBUCHAR: I think that this part of it is going to end up being just the preliminary part of it. I don't think this is going to be major, the fact that he should have turned it over right away. All of that was, of course, is very key.

But he has said, basically, you have it now. Launch your investigation. And I think there's some truth to that.

What we have now is what I consider a smoking gun. We have a partial transcript, a summary of a conversation in which the president of the United States was basically saying to a foreign leader, go get dirt on my opponent.

We have the whistle-blower complaint that says there are multiple other people that know about this. That's obvious what you do.

And then we have a super-secret server, where that complaint should not have been placed. And now we learn from news reports that multiple things have been put on that server. The obvious -- and I know the House has asked them to preserve those documents. All of that has to be discovered.

And it's just impossible to believe that there's not going to be more documentation of what happened here. But I believe, on its own, that document is a cause for impeachment proceedings and a legal violation.

CAMEROTA: Well, it's happening. I mean, impeachment proceedings are happening. As you know, Nancy Pelosi has said, yes, we'll move forward with this impeachment inquiry.

And I understand what you're saying, respect the process. However, if you look at the number count right now, they have enough votes in the House to impeach the president.



CAMEROTA: But it gets caught up with conviction in the Senate. Do you see any movement possible in the Senate?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I do. Because our colleagues have got to see this as not just partisan politics. It is not that. Look at that letter from those seven Congress people who are new with national security backgrounds. They said, we believe this has to move forward with impeachment, because this is about our country.

This is about hundreds of thousands of people who died on the battlefields protecting our democracy and other democracies. This is very serious stuff.

And that's why you saw those 300 security experts come out this morning, including people that had worked in the George Bush administration, one in particular that headed up national security for the Justice Department. They came out and said we must go forward.

And so I think, Alisyn, this has just begun. And once you get and start questioning other witnesses, people who used to work at the White House, my guess is you're going to see a pattern of this. It won't even just be one call. For instance, we know he called Vladimir Putin just six days later after calling the president of Ukraine. Let's get that call.

CAMEROTA: President Trump was caught yesterday, I guess is the right word, on a cell phone video, making comments that sounded ominous about the whistle-blower or people who gave the whistle-blower information. Let me play that for you and our viewers.


TRUMP: I want to know who's the person that gave the whistle-blower -- who's the person that gave the whistle-blower 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? The spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.


CAMEROTA: What's your reaction?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, he's basically there threatening execution. He is talking calling someone that works for him and the whistle-blower a spy. Right?

And in fact, all of this makes sense to me. He has a very disturbing conversation about getting dirt on one of his opponents for the 2020 election. And then, of course, someone that heard about it talks to a trusted CIA agent who has -- this is the news reports -- has expertise on Ukraine. And that's how he finds it. This is legitimate discussions between security people who are involved that care about our country.

So what happens then is whoever in the White House maybe didn't predict the CIA agent would do this -- and again, this is just reports that he's a CIA agent. And he then files a whistle-blower complaint. I don't see anything wrong with that in that they were having a discussion of concern about national security.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that the president bringing up execution has a chilling effect on whistle-blowers?

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. That's what he's trying to do. But my point is, we just have to call on the patriotism of people that used to work in that White House or work there now to come forward and tell the truth. And if they don't do it out of patriotism, there's always subpoenas.

But I truly believe there's going to be more evidence that comes out that will bolster the case that will then come to the U.S. Senate. But my belief, to be clear, is that that transcript alone, that summary of a call is enough. But to make a stronger case to the public, you want to get the corroborating evidence, which is what the House will be looking for.

CAMEROTA: Senator Amy Klobuchar, great to have you here in the studio with us.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you so much.

KLOBUCHAR: Appreciate it. Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Alisyn.

At the heart of the whistle-blower complaint, that phone call with the Ukrainian president. A group of lawmakers is leaving for Ukraine today to get answers about what was happening behind the scenes leading up to that call.