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Trump Slams Impeachment Inquiry; Trump Presidency Haunted by Questions of Foreign Ties; Email Probe of Former Clinton Aides Intensifies; Corbyn: We Must Avoid "Trump-Inspired" Trade Deal; Wales to Take on Australia at Rugby World Cup. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 29, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): New fallout from the Trump impeachment inquiry, why the White House chief of staff maybe feeling the heat.

Also the impact this is all having in Ukraine. We will have a live report from the capital, Kiev.

And why the State Department is revisiting the Clinton email investigations.

We are live from CNN Center in Atlanta. Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining. Us. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us. Our top story, the deepening turmoil over President Trump's phone call with Ukraine's leader appears to be taking a toll on senior White House staff.

Sources say White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is on shaky ground for not containing the backlash after details of the call were made public. The White House is denying he is in trouble, however.

We have also learned that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell pushed the White House to release the rough transcript of the call, thinking it would exonerate the president.

And sources tell CNN that former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who resigned Friday, plans to appear Thursday at his deposition in front of three House committees.

Well, as for President Trump, he spent Saturday lashing out at the impeachment investigation. CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports from the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With Democrats moving quickly toward impeachment, president Donald Trump on Saturday after a day of golf going on the counter offensive.

In a series of tweets, the president insists that he should not be impeached because of the good job he says he is doing for the country.

He also writes this, "The conversation with the new and very good Ukraine president, who told the fake news at the United Nations that he was not pressured by me in any way, shape or form, should by and of itself bring an end to the new and most recent witch hunt. Others ended in ashes."

This is, of course, a familiar refrain we have heard the president not only in the matter of this whistleblower complaint but also as it related previously to the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

But the president, for his part, is still directing some of his ire at his White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, is what we are learning from multiple sources on Saturday, that the president is directing his ire at Mulvaney, not because of the decision to release the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president but rather because of the lack of a strategy to handle the fallout of that complaint.

The White House has indeed been caught quite flat-footed by the pace and speed at which House Democrats have moved towards impeachment. Now the White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denied this report in a statement, saying, "This story is manufactured palace intrigue. The fact is, President Trump and this administration have done nothing wrong. Why would we need to implement a strategy to explain the contents of a document we willingly released?"

Now White House officials insist there is no war room being set up at the White House even as Democrats move quickly with their impeachment inquiry, already three Democratic chairs of congressional committees in the House have subpoenaed the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, demanding documents and more information about the United States' foreign policy toward Ukraine.

That of course, as all of these questions have been swirling about whether the president has been outsourcing U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: As we, mentioned sources tell CNN the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine plans to appear at his deposition on Capitol Hill this Thursday. Kurt Volker stepped down from his post Friday, one day after it was learned he was named in the whistleblower's complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Volker helped set up a meeting in Madrid earlier this year between a Ukrainian official and President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who was trying to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

This scandal could be a diplomatic nightmare for Ukraine. The U.S. is a key ally and Ukraine cannot afford to anger President Trump. But there is a U.S. election coming up and it can't anger his potential successor, either. For more about, this CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is live in the capital, Kiev, for us.


ALLEN: And Clarissa, hello to you. Clearly the impeachment inquiry in the U.S. has certainly embroiled Ukraine.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. And to be honest, this really is Ukraine's worst nightmare, for some of the reasons you just laid out. They can't afford not to have a good relationship with the United States, no matter who is in power.

This country is very much reliant on the largesse of the U.S.' $400 million in military aid given this year alone. And now they find themselves at the center of a political tug-of-war. They are very concerned that they could become a casualty of this tug-of-war.

Now we have been hearing from some Ukrainian officials in response to Volker's resignation, basically saying that they are very disappointed to hear this, the former president Petro Poroshenko calling it disturbing.

A top aide to the current president Zelensky, Andriy Yermak, saying that he also is disappointed because of the enormous support that Volker provided to Ukraine throughout his tenure in that role but..

For the most part, Natalie, we are hearing very little from Ukrainian officials on this issue of what exactly transpired in the phone call between Zelensky and President Trump but also during the course of the repeated attempts by Rudy Giuliani to apparently try to influence Ukraine into reigniting an investigation into the son of then Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden.

Ukraine, for its part, has said all along that Hunter Biden did not break any law in dealings or in his role on the board of Burisma, which is an energy holdings company here.

The investigations that go on into that company predate Hunter Biden's time with that company. So clearly, a very uncomfortable position for Ukraine as it watches this play out. You can be sure that all officials here will be watching volker's testimony on Thursday very closely -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Absolutely. They found themselves caught in the middle of quite an imbroglio here in the United States. Clarissa Ward, live in Kiev, thank you so much.

Let's talk about these developments with Michael Genovese, he is president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and author of "How Trump Governs" and a frequent guest for us.

Michael, thanks for being with us. MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Pleasure.

ALLEN: All right. Question number one, much of President Trump's presidency has been shadowed by questions of foreign ties and now it looks as though the impeachment inquiry is set to focus, is it, on that very thing?

GENOVESE: I think it will focus on that but I think there are a wide range of things that the Democrats want to bring onto the table. Emoluments: that could be an article of impeachment. The intent of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas, there are a variety of things.

This is probably though the most dramatic and the one that is most accessible to the public. They get this. They know that the president withheld funds to an ally, helping Russia perhaps, when the president asked for a favor and wanted it back.

That is something we all understand. We have all seen the mob movies and mafia movies. We know how that works and so that is why it is dangerous to President Trump, because we all get it.

ALLEN: Well, the White House acting like it is not a big deal, Mitch McConnell is acting like the Democrats overplayed their hand and the president said this about the phone call with Ukraine.

He called it perfect and, in a tweet said, "If it is not considered appropriate, then no future president can ever speak to another foreign leader."

This inquiry will indeed look at the extent and limits of a president's interactions with other countries, won't it?

GENOVESE: Yes. And that is just bombast by the president and he knows he is in trouble and you can tell because he is scrambling, he is flailing around, arms akimbo, blaming Mulvaney, blaming others, not taking responsibility.

And that is typical of the president. He looks for somebody to throw under the bus. But you can see that the White House is right now in chaos. Everyone is scrambling. They were not prepared for this.

But you cannot prepare for Donald Trump because he goes all over the political landscape. You never know where he will land. And once this became public, it was out of their control, out of their hands. There was no strategy to diminish this. It was out there. It became headline news and they cannot put the genie back in the bottle.

ALLEN: Right, where you say no strategy and they are apparently pointing the finger at Mick Mulvaney according to CNN sources, the acting chief of staff.

But let's talk, Michael, how this might play, this impeachment inquiry, affecting U.S. global leadership.

[03:10:00] ALLEN: It has already waned under President Trump and has been confusing his team, saying one thing and then he says another.

But does this stand out?

One European diplomat said to CNN, it is always something with this administration. But this feels different.

GENOVESE: Well, grant you, this is a different presidency and a different administration but if you look at the past, during Watergate, the president was distracted but foreign policy went on.

During the Clinton impeachment, Clinton was distracted, foreign policy went on. And that is because in the past there were institutional imperatives that were followed, that we had a State Department that was active and in control. The Defense Department, et cetera; this White House different and that is why I think it has raised some alarm bells in Europe and elsewhere because we do not know what the normal channels of government will be doing.

Will they be in the process or out?

Will Trump take over as he often does or will it be politics as usual?

We have a history of being able to get through these things because we have professional civil servants and professional foreign service. If the president relies on those folks, we can get through this. If he relies simply on himself carrying all the water, that creates chaos.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your insights. This next week will be another one of we will wait and see. But certainly people will be glued to what happens in Washington. Michael Genovese, always appreciate your insights. Thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

ALLEN: Now we have. This if you thought the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails it was, over well, think again. The current administration has a new plan to look into that. That is coming up here.

Plus, another thrilling game at the Rugby World Cup. You are not going to believe who is on top right now.




ALLEN: Welcome back.

Hong Kong protesters are out again in one of the city's busiest shopping districts. Earlier police fired pepper stray and tear gas to break up the crowds but demonstrators are back in the street, taking part in a global anti-totalitarianism rally. Now this is live video we are bringing you from Hong Kong, this is the

17th straight weekend of protests, some of which have turned violent and we are expecting to see major demonstrations on Tuesday. That is China's National Day. We will continue to watch what is unfolding in the streets right now.

In Hong Kong, just after 3 o'clock in the afternoon there.

"The Washington Post" is reporting the Trump administration is ramping up its investigation into, get, this former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's emails, as many as 130 current and former senior officials have been contacted by the State Department.


ALLEN: They were told emails they sent to Clinton's private email account years ago have been retroactively classified and now are potential security violations. This report comes days after the Trump-Ukraine controversy came into the spotlight.

Current and former U.S. officials told "The Washington Post" that the investigation was an extraordinary crackdown by the Trump administration. Others insisted the probe is standard protocol and not politically motivated.

President Trump's apparent obsession with investigating Hillary Clinton surfaced even in his call to Ukraine's leader. He asked Volodymyr Zelensky to possibly look into a U.S. cyber security firm to find a missing computer server. For more about, this here's CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one of the more bizarre comments made by President Trump in his phone call with Ukraine's president, the suggestion that somehow a computer server tied to the 2016 election is now mysteriously in Ukraine.

According to the rough transcript of the July call, Trump says he'd likes his Ukrainian counterpart to, quote, "do us a favor," and alludes to the Mueller investigation before saying, "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.

"They say CrowdStrike, I guess you have one of your healthy people the silver they say, Ukraine has it. I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it."

The only problem?

Experts say there's no evidence of any of this.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is really a deep-state conspiracy theory. It's not supported by the facts.

TODD: The server Trump refers to appears to be the Democratic National Committee's server, which federal indictments filed by Robert Mueller say was hacked by the Russians during their 2016 election interference campaign as part of the Kremlin's effort to help get Trump elected.

CrowdStrike, which the president mentions, is the cyber security firm hired by the Democratic Committee to investigate the Russian hacks. Trump, in more than 20 interviews, tweets and other public comments, has harped on the debunked idea that the DNC'S server somehow contains unrevealed evidence and might be in mysterious hands.

TRUMP: I want to know, where is the server and what is the server saying?

TODD: Trump regularly points out that the FBI never had access to the original DNC servers. That's in part because of the FBI's practice of working with copies.

But the DNC says none of its original servers were ever missing. The DNC and CrowdStrike say they ultimately gave the FBI copies of the DNC servers, once they determined there was a Russian hack, something then FBI director James Comey didn't object to.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Best practice always to get access to the machines themselves. But this, my folks tell me, was an appropriate substitute.

TODD: So why would the president think someone in Ukraine has the DNC server?

We got no response from the White House. CrowdStrike did previously do work for the Ukrainian government, but that was totally unrelated to the DNC or the 2016 presidential election and Trump once mistakenly asserted that CrowdStrike was owned and run by Ukrainians, a comment apparently driven by online conspiracy theories.

Analysts say Trump is either just repeating these false online myths or he's trying to misdirect and muddy the waters.

HONIG: I think he is looking continually for a counter narrative to the Mueller report, constantly trying to shift the blame.

TODD (on camera): Then there's the matter of Trump telling the Ukrainian president that he wanted attorney general Bill Barr to contact the Ukrainians to get to the bottom of the server question.

Legal analysts say it would be inappropriate for the attorney general to become involved in any of that. A Justice Department spokeswoman tells CNN the president didn't ask Barr to contact the Ukrainians on that, or any other matter and that Barr never communicated with the Ukrainians on his own -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Well, take a look at this. It is not exactly the reception any world leader wants to receive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN (voice-over): A heckler shouted at the British prime minister as he pulled up to his party's annual conference on Saturday. Boris Johnson will meet with fellow Tories in a few hours as he faces a possible no confidence vote.

A senior Parliament member tells the BBC there is a real chance a vote could happen next week in order to remove Mr. Johnson from office and secure a Brexit date extension. If that, happens he could be replaced for a time by his political archenemy, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who wants a different approach to Brexit.



JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: We are not going to allow the people of this country to be taken over a cliff edge, knowing full well it would damage medicine supplies, damage the food supply, damage jobs and lead us straight into the arms of a Donald Trump-inspired free trade deal with the United States. We are simply not going there.


ALLEN: Although Corbyn is himself divisive, some MPs believe they may have to rally behind him if they want an extension on Brexit.

Austrians are voting right now in a snap election after a scandal tore the country's governing coalition apart. Conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz is hoping to win his seat back. His government lost a no confidence vote after his vice chancellor was shown in a video filmed secretly two years ago appearing to offer state contracts to a woman falsely claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

If Kurz returns, he will have to decide whether to form another coalition with his former vice chancellor's far right party or turn the to the Left.

We turn to sports next. The Rugby World Cup has already produced some memorable games, one involving Japan we'll tell you about.

But can we expect another thriller between Wales and Australia?

We have a preview just ahead.




ALLEN: At the Rugby World Cup, a major upset for the top-ranked team, World number 1 Ireland was stunned 19-12 on Saturday by host nation Japan. The win now gives Japan a strong chance of reaching the knockout stages for the first time. We learn more from CNN's Alex Thomas. He's in Tokyo. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Day 10 of this Rugby World Cup and the tournament is still in shock at Japan's miracle win over Ireland in Shizuoka on Saturday night, a 19-12 victory for the host nation, bringing back memories of four years earlier when they beat the two- time world champion South Africa in Brighton during England 2015.

No wonder it makes the front of the sports pages but not just that and really good for rugby unions' grown here in Japan. It has also made the front of the serious stuff, the main newspapers that tens of millions of Japanese will be reading over their Sunday breakfast.

So huge for the sport of Japan, who are now top of Pool A. Remember, there are four groups of five teams. The top two go through to the quarterfinals. Japan may well top Pool A now and could be on another collision course with the Springboks if they finish runners-up in Pool B.

The action continues here in Tokyo with Australia against Wales, another epic encounter, Australia with the better Rugby World Cup pedigree, two-time former champions, two times runners-up, including four years ago at that England Rugby World Cup.

But it's Wales in better form, ranked higher, the reigning six nations' Grand Slam champions and beating Australia for the first time in 14 meetings, when they met at the end of last year.

A shoutout to the Wales captain, Alun Wyn Jones.


THOMAS: He's playing for a record 130th time for his country -- Alex Thomas, CNN, Tokyo.



ALLEN: We are going to outer space now because SpaceX says it has developed the rocket ship that will carry people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. It is called Starship and it is a reusable spacecraft capable of making interplanetary trips.

In a speech Saturday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said he wants to make space travel just like air travel. Musk says the company could test the new ship within the next two months.

He also wants to put people on board as early as next year, so sign up and let's all try to keep up with Elon Musk.

Thank you for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. We will be right back with our top stories.