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Impeachment Inquiry Update; U.S. Envoy to Ukraine Has Resigned; Schiff: Intel Committee Preparing for Hearings As Soon As Next Week; Democratic Contenders Taking Part in Texas Tribune Festival; "Declassified" Premieres Tomorrow At 9 P.M. ET/PT. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired September 28, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, hello again everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we begin with the latest in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump including a report from the "Washington Post" which U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling quote, the most disturbing thing we've learned yet, unquote. According to "The Post," President Trump allegedly told two senior Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting that he was not concerned about Moscow's interference in the 2016 election.
This comes as CNN is learning about the extraordinary steps the White House has taken to restrict access to phone calls between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. And now, multiple sources tell CNN that the U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, is now gone, resigning just one day after the release of the whistle-blower report.
We're also learning that it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who urged the White House to release the rough transcript of the call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President Zelensky in order to back up Trump's claim that he did nothing wrong. In the mean time U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been subpoenaed by three House committees for documents related to President Trump's conversation with the President of Ukraine.
And Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani insists he will not testify without first consulting the president. CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House. So Sarah, there is a lot there, what can you tell us about the special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who has now abruptly resigned?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, sources tell CNN that U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, resigned last night and he is really a key figure in this Ukraine situation. He was mentioned several times in the whistle-blower complaint as someone that facilitated a meeting between Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, and a top aid to Ukrainian President Zelensky. That meeting happened in Madrid about a week after the president had that now infamous phone call with Zelensky in which he pressured the Ukrainians to look into what he described as alleged corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden. There's no evidence of any wrong doing there. But none the less Giuliani defended himself this week on "Fox News." Take a listen. S
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I spoke to Volker eight times. They basically knew everything I want doing. It was being done with the authorization and at the request, and then I have a final one in which there's a big thank you about how my honest and straightforward discussion led to solving a problem in the relationship. Gee, I think I should get some kind of an award.
WESTWOOD: Now the White House this week released that transcript between Trump and Zelensky. CNN is confirming that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of many voices pressuring the president to do so to get ahead of this controversy. House democrats though still want more documents. They also want to hear from Volker who has now left the White House. Trump this morning was defending himself on twitter writing, can you imagine if these do nothing democrat savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC +3 and many more had a republican party who would have done to Obama what the do nothings are doing to me? Oh well, maybe next time.
And as you mentioned Fred, the democrats also issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They want Pompeo to provide the documents they've been asking for for about a month now by Friday, October 4th or they will consider it obstruction of their impeachment inquiry Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood at the White House. Thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
All right, let's talk right now, with me now to discuss this is Kylie Atwood who is a CNN National Security Reporter; Evan Perez is a CNN Senior Justice Correspondent. Also joining me is Patrick Healy who is the Politics Editor for "The New York Times" and a CNN political analyst. Good to see all of you. All right so Kylie, let me begin with you. Secretary of State Pompeo you know has missed now two deadlines to turn over documents. What happens if he ignores the subpoenas doesn't turn over material by this Friday deadline?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, so that's a good question because we have seen the Trump Administration ignore subpoenas in the past, right?
But what they're asking for now is documents related to President Trump and his conversations with the Ukrainians that were political in nature. They want to hear from the State Department what they have with regard to those conversations. Now if he does ignore this subpoena however, there are consequences which could be very impactful for this White House because it will be evidence of obstruction and what that means is it will become part of the impeachment inquiry. So there are some real ramifications if the State Department does not comply. We haven't' heard from the State Department yet about if they are going to or if they aren't. They haven't' replied to any requests for comment on this matter.
WHITFIELD: And then Evan, now that Kurt Volker, you know, the special envoy to Ukraine has abruptly resigned, has he now only added fuel to any interest of what he could testify too.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Oh my goodness.
PEREZ: Yes, I think it does. It really, I think makes what's going to happen with him a lot more interesting because here's what we know. The White House is certainly going to try to assert some kind of executive privilege or some sort of privilege on any conversations he may have had with the president and perhaps, you know, on any internal discussions within the executive branch. But now that he's out of the government, you know certainly he's going to have to -- he probably is going to have his own lawyer.
WHITFIELD: He's more vulnerable is he not, to questioning?
PEREZ: Well exactly. He is more vulnerable, because people are going to ask him what exactly did you say to Giuliani. Giuliani says it is your fault that he went there and you're certainly giving him instructions. So now we're going to hear from him as to whether or not that is accurate or not. Fred, the other thing here is that we've seen some witnesses who go before these committees, before these inquiries and essentially interpret what the White House is telling them to do very broadly. They are very uncooperative. Volker now has a lot of freedom. He possibly could interpret whatever the White House tells him to do more narrowly and cooperate more fully with the - with this impeachment inquiry. And so it does make it a lot more interesting. He's a free agent now to a certain extent and so I think that really, really raises the stakes for what Volker - what Volker's story is. I think his story is going to be very important.
WHITFIELD: And Patrick, you know House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was slow to join this whole impeachment push. This week she said it was the breaking point. She said she called it a violation of laws, a violation of the Constitution based largely on what the whistle-blower has said. So she is now making this impeachment case to the American people. Take a listen to what she recently said, last night in fact.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is not a cause for any joy that we have to go down this path. It's a difficult decision to make but we have that obligation because in the actions that were taken that undermines the Constitution and the oath we take to protect and defend, including the oath that the president takes.
(END VIDEO) WHITFIELD: So Patrick, how important will it be for Pelosi and democrats to really get support beyond their own party but from the American people because it's about, you know, at the halfway point now where the American public based on recent polling, you know, would be on board with impeachment proceedings.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR WITH "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's really important Fred. I mean right now you have - you do have a majority of the democratic caucus - democrats in the House that support certainly the investigation - excuse me a majority of the members in the house who support the investigation.
Healy: Yes, and you need the party - the Democratic Party needs that support from voters. The house is now on recess for about two weeks. You're having members who are going back to their districts Andy Kim is having a town hall meeting in New Jersey tonight. There's a Nevada Democratic Party dinner tonight in Orange County event tonight. So you're going to have in some of the battlegrounds, democrats who are coming together who are going to try to build support over the next two weeks among voters, behind the idea at least of a very thorough fact-based investigation. And you're going to have democrats going out and saying that while impeachment is a political process, that this is about facts.
This is about their Constitutional obligations and it's about Trump's behavior and the testimony of people like Volker and seeing where those facts and where those -- that testimony leads. Right now Fred, as you pointed out, there is slightly more people in poles that are saying they support the investigation than oppose it. Those numbers could go in different directions based on how this unfolds, but you saw Pelosi last night. You're seeing talking points going out among the democrats to really try to focus this message on facts and the Constitution and not on a partisan political process.
WHITFIELD: All right, Patrick Healy, Evan Perez, Kylie Atwood, thank you so much.
PEREZ: Thanks Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, now that the democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry in Congress, what happens next and how could the process affect both sides of the political aisle. Plus, the president's personal attorney says he should get an award for his talks with Ukraine even though he was named in the whistle-blowers complaint 31 times.
WHITFIELD: The whistle-blower complaint highlights Rudy Giuliani's role in President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. His name was mentioned dozens of times in the complaint. CNN's Brian Todd looks at how the president's personal lawyer has become a central figure in this scandal.
RUDY GIULANI, TRUMP LAWYER: Let me tell you the facts, they called me....
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rudy Giuliani is fighting back.
GIULANI: I wasn't operating on my own.
FOREMAN: Insisting his talks with Ukrainian officials were proper, important, and encouraged by the U.S. State Department.
GIULANI: In fact, I'm a legitimate whistleblower.
FOREMAN: So why is President Trump's personal lawyer so worked up? It comes in the wake of news about the now infamous call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky.
In that call Giuliani's name comes up repeatedly as Trump asks for foreign help investigating democrat Joe Biden. Rudy very much knows what's happening Trump says. If you could speak to him that would be great.
That has raised accusations Giuliani was acting as an improper agent of the State Department, arranging a political hit job from afar in the name of official business. Giuliani says no way. He was investigating corruption and he says he has a paper trail that proves it including this text message from a state department official arranging a meeting.
GIULIANI: I went to meet Mr. Zelensky's aide at the request of the State Department. Fifteen memos make that clear.
FORMAN: The State Department says Mr. Giuliani is a private citizen and acts in a personal capacity as a lawyer for President Trump. He does not speak on behalf of the U.S. government, but he has spoken for Trump many times.
GIULIANI: What you said is totally erroneous. It's not a crime.
FORMAN: Attacking his foes, dismissing his critics.
GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. He didn't obstruct.
FORMAN: The president calls him a loyal ally.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rudy is a very straight shooter.
FORMAN: His critics call him something else.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D) CALIFORNIA: He's the political henchman for the president.
FORMAN: And Giuliani is clearly hedging his bets against another potential title that he could be saddled with if the Ukraine affair gets much messier - fall guy.
Giuliani is pledging to defend himself as vigorously he has defended Donald Trump. The only question is will the president stand by him as strongly if the going gets tough? Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: And they are back, a CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez and "New York Times" political editor Patrick Healy. All right so Evan, Giuliani may exert lawyer-client privilege, right? But did Giuliani undermine that best defense by saying it's the U.S. State Department that has been giving him directives?
PEREZ: Yes, I think it does undermine what he is saying and certainly the ability to shield some of what he says will be privileged. There is another thing; he released some of these communications so now Congress can say, look...
WHITFIELD: Right, he tweeted out texts.
PEREZ: Right, exactly. He's releasing some of these communications and so that appears as some of the privilege. So it's going to get a little more messier for Rudy Giuliani and look, we've seen this repeatedly over the last couple years, certainly in the last year as Rudy has taken a more forceful public role in defense of the president. We have seen him step on not only the president's defense, but on himself, and I think it is very clear that he is causing a lot more problems for the president. He's also causing problems for himself and for others.
Everybody is trying to run away from him at this point. Republicans on Capitol Hill are very, very frustrated with him but certainly we've asked the Justice Department, for instance, Fred. Did Bill Barr, the attorney general, has he met with Giuliani about some of these Ukraine allegations and they say categorically absolutely not. So we'll see what the story is-what emerges in the coming months but certainly I think you're right, this is going to be a lot messier for Rudy Giuliani than he thinks right now.
WHITFIELD: Right. And so Patrick we see Giuliani working really hard working to protect the president, but will the president be working really hard to protect Giuliani in all of this?
HEALY: Well it is a great question Fred. Rudy Giuliani is one of the few people who are still with the president now who have been around for years. But the reality is that Rudy Giuliani's fingerprints are all over this Ukraine storyline. The reality is that he has been pushing for months -- for months before those text messages that he is indicating suggest that the State Department pulled him in. For months, the whole question about whether Joe Biden was involved in corruption and Hunter Biden in corruption in Ukraine.
WHITFIELD: And the Ukrainian prosecutor has said there's nothing is there?
HEALY: Correct, there is nothing there. These have been unsubstantiated allegations that have been pushed by Giuliani and by President Trump. But the reality is that Rudy Giuliani has been in this for a long time and now sort of trying to make the argument that really it was just the state department and Paul Volker - excuse me -- Volker who brought him into this is just not factual. And the reality is when they go down this process; President Trump and the White House are going to decide who is helpful and who is vulnerable here.
And Rudy Giuliani is now making himself something of a target in terms of possible subpoenas, testimony and if he holds to this position well maybe he won't testify, or he needs to talk to President Trump, it does open up a threat of an obstruction dimension to this, where Rudy Giuliani would be part of too.
WHITFIELD: Right, so there's a lot at stake. You know Evan, Guiliani says he's not going to go before Congress without first discussing it with the president. I mean do you see that Kurt Volker will be able to say the same thing because his resignation has made him a far more appealing candidate to be subpoenaed.
PEREZ: No, absolutely I think you're right. We have seen that some of the witnesses, even ones who don't work for the White House. Corey Lewendowski is a great example. When they don't want to cooperate, they can go in there..
WHITFIELD: Corey Lewendowski.
PEREZ: ... exactly. They can essentially obstruct and really make it difficult to get any facts out of them. If you actually want to cooperate, then you can certainly take a different attitude. And so we'll see whether Ambassador Volker decides that he wants to tell the truth and what is the story here.
WHITFIELD: Bit that stonewalling can work but so long.
WHITFIELD: I mean while the White House and Lewendowski felt like they had great success in that kind of approach. At this juncture and particularly after such a detailed complaint and if we do indeed hear testimony from or a transcript of the testimony from the whistle- blower, won't stonewalling be even more complicated or even backfire?
PEREZ: It will be more complicated but the other side of this is this. You have to have good questioners. And we've seen, frankly some of the questioners on the House side by the democrats have not been very good. And so Lewendowski worked because some of the questions and some of the ways members of Congress approached him really allowed that to happen and so I think there is a lot of frustration.
WHITFIELD: They were not flexible.
PEREZ: Right. Some democrats are very frustrated with how that went and don't want to repeat if you see witnesses who come forward. And by the way, Giuliani is one of those who says I welcome coming forward because he wants this to be about Hunter Biden, about Joe Biden and exactly its is dream. This is the story he is trying to peddle. WHITFIELD: OK.
PEREZ: And make out there in the public eye.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there for now. Evan, Patrick, thanks for coming back. Appreciate it.
All right, still to come, House democrats gearing up for impeachment hearings as soon as next week but what will a formal impeachment really look like if it comes to that? More after this.
WHITFIELD: House democrats are ramping up their impeachment inquiry into President Trump in the wake of an explosive week of allegations. This past week lawmakers officially launched their inquiry and we learned the details of a whistle-blower complaint alleging that Mr. Trump abused his office in a phone conversation with Ukraine's president. The whistle-blower complaint also alleges White House staffers tried to cover it up by moving records of that conversation into a top secret separate computer system. CNN's Jessica Schneider walks us through a shocking week in Washington.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials now say the Department of Justice and White House knew about the whistle-blower's concerns more than one week before they were formally alerted by the acting director of national intelligence and the intelligence community inspector general the last week of August. Here is the timeline we know so far. August 12th, the inspector general for the intelligence community receives the whistle-blower seven-page complaint.
Two days later on August 14, attorneys at the DOJ's national security division are alerted bout the whistle-blower's concerns during a routine conference call. The next day, the head of the division goes to the White House to review the transcript of the call between President Trump and Ukraine's president where the president pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son. The head of the DOJ's criminal division and the deputy attorney general are notified afterward that the attorney general was mentioned in that call. For at least the next 10 days, the DOJ deliberated about how to handle the matter. It is unclear how much the attorney general learned during that time or on which day, but he was made generally aware of the situation.
JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: With my office referred this matter to the Department of Justice for investigation. I think the whistle-blower did the right thing. I think he followed the law every step of the way.
SCHNEIDER: And there is major scrutiny over the DOJ's decision not to open a full-fledged criminal investigation into potential campaign finance violations stemming from that July 25th phone call. The DOJ came to its conclusion despite the inspector general for the intelligence community concluding that the whistle-blower's complaint was in fact credible. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: All right, for more now on what impeachment means and how the process works, let's bring in former Florida republican Congressman Bill McCollum who served as a manager during President Clinton's Senate trial on impeachment, a role that is equavilent to a prosecutor. Good to see you.
BILL MCCOLLUM, FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Good to see you too. Glad to be back.
WHITFIELD: So what's your reaction to this whistle-blower complaint? In your opinion, do you think it warrants an impeachment inquiry?
MCCOLLUM: Well I think it warrants an inquiry. Certainly that is what the intelligence community should be doing; it's an intelligence issue right now. But the fact is, we don't know - we don't know what the witnesses actually will say. It's hearsay at the present time but it does raise the red flag that says somebody ought to be asking questions about it. It, however at the present time, would contradict what seems to be a pretty superficial but nonetheless innocent call the president had with the President of Ukraine as far as criminal behavior is concerned. There don't seem to me to be any crimes in what I see in the transcript that has been released.
WHITFIELD: Nothing in that transcript alarms you?
MCCOLLUM: Well, I think the fact that the president behaves the way he does and this is not the first time he's done that does bother me always. But the fact that I've been through this, I was on the Judiciary Committee many years in the U.S. House, attorney general of Florida, I've looked at it this from a criminal justice standpoint and I don't see a crime here at this point. Now there may be one, we may find witnesses coming forward that say something different that creates that, but at the present time I don't see anything that's impeachable here nor do I see anything that you would prosecute for. You just don't have the proof at this moment.
WHITFIELD: Well, we heard the House speaker this week who said, you know, laws were violated, the constitution was violated and we know that the House Intel Committee, you know, is working while most of Congress is, you know, on recess right now, that committee claiming it will hold hearings as early as next week. And that more subpoenas may be issued. We know the three committees, House committees have subpoenaed the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
What do you see potentially happening next since this is an inquiry?
MCCOLLUM: Well, first of all, you got to have witnesses come before Congress. This is complicated in the sense that you do not have like we had, an independent counsel who is going and doing the investigation and then making a report. The road map for the impeachment of President Clinton was laid out by Ken Starr's report and very specific articles -- proposed articles of impeachment that he had drawn up for criminal behavior that it had occurred or at least wrote that forward here. It's much more like Whitewater, a lot of people won't remember that but all of Starr's investigation began because of the House Banking Committee now financial services I served on was looking into a Whitewater question in Arkansas. And that sounds very similar to this kind of an inquiry.
We weren't getting anywhere with it. I think a lot of people thought that was a pretty dead end but there was an independent counsel appointed and in that process, it unearthed a lot more things. They don't have that now so it's hard to do in the committee hearing process the way Congress works to get to the kind of bottom line that I think Democrats want to do. So for right now, they're fishing.
There is a lot of politics in this on both sides. There's a lot of politics --
WHITFIELD: Do you see it primarily as a political situation because even if you read the complaint, you know, the whistleblower author here saying, you know, I'm also concerned that these actions pose risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government's efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections. I know you had just said that you didn't see anything really that alarming in the transcript of the call, the president calling it a perfect call, but base on the complaint, do you see it as more than political but one of an issue of national security?
MCCOLLUM: I see that might be a policy question should the president and should Rudy Giuliani or should Bill Barr be going and doing certain things instead of somebody in the State Department or the intelligence community or whatever. The fact the inspector general finds this of concern does not mean that he found of criminal concern. He's not as he said in testifying the other day DNI, he's not a lawyer, he doesn't have that background, but I don't find it alarming as a lawyer or as a former attorney general at this point and I think it is a policy matter.
The reasons why the president was looking into this or asking the government to look into it because the former prosecutor in Ukraine had been saying for a number of years this corporation that dealt with the original Steel dossier --
WHITFIELD: But that really wasn't the crooks of it. The conversation was inviting the Ukrainian president to look into the Bidens. I mean, that really is the nucleons of that concern.
MCCOLLUM: At the end of it, the last two (INAUDIBLE) of sentences were about the reason for all of the investigative work that is being done right now or was being done by both Giuliani and I think by the attorney general of the United States was into the questions raised by that Ukrainian prosecutor about the corporation that Biden's son was a sort of on the board of, and the fact that prosecutor had criminal charges he planned to give against that corporation and didn't that we don't know of --
WHITFIELD: But now the Ukrainian prosecutor is saying that the Biden's didn't appear to do anything wrong. MCCOLLUM: Well, we haven't seen all those facts any more than we've seen all the facts related to what maybe somebody who's giving information that the whistleblower may say. So I really dislike the fact that people are jumping to so many conclusions so quickly and making so much political hay out of this although it's the political season and you're dealing with very valuable issues.
[12:35:08] WHITFIELD: But you're thinking it at least justifies the inquiry because the inquiry is to lead to any concrete decisions isn't it?
MCCOLLUM: I think it justifies moving methodically and moving through the committee process of calling witnesses and asking them. But withholding judgment until you get facts in front of you that can corroborate or deny, we don't have any of that, we don't have the independent investigation here. We have an inspector general's report which is very different from an independent counsel or the Mueller report or whatever doing that.
This is very, very different and so it's going to be a very volatile political couple of weeks, couple of months or whatever here because we don't know what these folks are going to say. We don't know how cooperated they're going to be as one of your earlier commentators said they may not testify, they may be more limited in what they say. It's going to be difficult for the committee to get this done in a very quick manner which is what's being implied right now and be done fairly, accurately, and appropriately.
Look, when we did the impeachment trial of President Clinton, we knew when we came through that process that he had committed certain specific crimes. Lying under oath, perjury in front of a grand jury and in a deposition in a court, breaking -- something somebody else that wasn't the president would be prosecuted for and had been many, many times. We also knew that he'd asked Betty Currie, his secretary to hide gifts to Monica Lewinsky so we had a cover-up, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, all kinds of things. None of that is the type of thing that's involved here. And even when we have all of that, public opinion was never in favor of impeachment.
Now I have a hard time believing that they'll impeach this president if they don't have a public opinion.
WHITFIELD: Yes, and according to polling, half of Americans do agree with this road of at least the inquiry, and then half do not thus far. Former congressman Bill McCollum, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
MCCOLLUM: You're welcome.
WHITFIELD: All right, tomorrow night, you want to watch CNN because Lisa Ling is back with a brand-new season of "This Is Life". Here is a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA LING, CNN HOST, "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING": Tell me, are you nervous? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit.
LING: Take a deep breath.
Is there any room for error?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: None. It's a life or death mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is like we're one person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I then talk (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning marines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ban on women in combat, it's over.
LING: Would you say that porn was your sex ed?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are sexual beings. I don't think we should be ashamed.
LING: Jesus. Is the threat bigger now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorism has evolved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have to be a problem for your environment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the largest epidemic that not people want to talk about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I didn't do what I did I would have died that night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[12:42:18] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.
As impeachment talk swirl around Capitol Hill, 2020 contenders are our in the trail making their cases to become America's next commander-in- chief. And this weekend, a handful of candidates are taking part in the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.
CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me now from Austin, Texas. So Polo, what's been the message? Are they talking about everything but impeachment inquiries or are they including that dialogue?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, impeachment, impeachment, and impeachment. Yes, that's really one of the big topics of conversations obviously, other political issues as well are being discussed. But that really seems to be the focus. Well, there more notable moments expected tonight when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will participate in an event here. So obviously a lot of people will be watching and listening to what she has to say. In the meantime though, we're hearing from various 2020 hopefuls. We heard from Mayor Pete Buttigieg yesterday, today though, Beto O'Rourke also participating in a speaking engagement. And he is also speaking to reporters and saying that he would like this impeachment inquiry to broaden out not just be narrowly focused on Ukraine. And then he also answered another interesting question here, Fred which is, are there any concerns among House Democrats that this impeachment probe could potentially further drive a wedge between Republicans and Democrats on other issues. And as you're about to hear, the way that the El Paso congressman feels is that could actually if anything help unites the country according to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we're divided right now, and yes, impeachment is not easy. But if we were because of a fear of division or the politics or polling in this issue to desist in the necessary effort to hold this president accountable, we will by extension have destroyed any chance of this country being able to continue as a democracy. So it's the right thing to do, ultimately will unify us but if we're concerned about that best thing that the president can do now is to step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: Another Democratic 2020 hopeful, Mayor Pete Buttigieg who also made a stop here yesterday saying that if he is elected and that he is confronted with the choice of potentially pardoning President Trump for any potential prosecution. He said that he would not do that. And again, he does further support this impeachment inquiry here. But the big question, how the Texans feel about this, we're working to do that. On a Saturday, everybody, if they're not talking about football, they're talking about politics in the heart of Texas right now.
WHITFIELD: All right, in Austin, thank you so much, Polo Sandoval. We'll be right back.
[12:48:39] WHITFIELD: All right, tomorrow, an all-new season of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies" is back to give unprecedented access to the riveting and secret world of espionage. The premiere episode takes us inside the 2009 plot to blow up the New York subway system on the eighth anniversary of 9/11.
Our Brynn Gingras has more.
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: This was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September the 11th, 2001.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In September 2009, Najibullah Zazi and his two high school friends planned to blow up New York City subway system. An idea the three men, Zazi, Adis Medunjanin, and Zarein Ahmedzay adapted while training with Al-Qaeda the year before. They had traveled to Pakistan. They learned how to use AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades and the terrorist group taught Zazi how to make explosives.
HOLDER: Zazi took detailed notes during is training and even e-mailed himself a summary of those notes so he could access them when he returns to the United States.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Back in the U.S., the plan was in motion. Zazi who was raised in Queens made several trips to New York City but the group decided best to make the bombs in Colorado where Zazi was living with his parents. In the fall of 2009, with his car packed with acetone peroxide and other supplies for the blasts, Zazi drove across the country to complete the mission. He didn't realize the FBI was following him.
[12:50:09] Authorities arrested Zazi in Colorado and charged him with three federal crimes carrying the punishment of multiple life sentences. Now Zazi is free but under strict lifetime supervision after what a federal judge called an unprecedented amount of cooperation with the U.S. Government. Zazi met with authorities more than 100 times while in custody, testified in multiple trials and provided information that was used in the prosecution of others including his own father.
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Most people that are willing to die for their perverse ideology, they're not typically the people that you can sit down with and have an exchange or conversation with and convince him to see true justice in the American way. So if the American Government to be able to do this speaks volumes of the prosecutors and says something about the men that's about to be released.
GINGRAS (voice-over): As Zazi's plea hearing in May, the judge noted the once would be terrorist earned a second chance. Is this the same Mr. Zazi I saw so many years ago? The judge praised the transformation and said all indications are, it is not.
Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.
WHITFIELD: And be sure to tune in as Mike Rogers host an all-new season of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies". That is tomorrow, 9 Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.
[12:55:06] WHITFIELD: With the impeachment inquiry into President Trump moving at a rapid pace, Democrats are making their case to the American public. In the last hour, I spoke with Congressman Ted Lieu. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee and explains why he supports an impeachment inquiry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): So the reason that this impeachment inquiry is different is this is not a partisan issue, it's an American issue. No American president should ever be soliciting a foreign power to target an American citizen for political purposes. And when you look at this rough transcript literally right after the Ukrainian leader raises the issue of U.S. military aide, Donald Trump asks for two favors, one of which is to go after Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, new reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the White House to release a rough transcript of the call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president Zelensky. Details coming up.
WHITFIELD: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right, we begin with the latest in the impeachment inquiry into the president of the United States and a bombshell report from the Washington Post which says Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says if true could be one of the most disturbing things we've learned yet. His word --