Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Lashes Out At Whistleblower; Source: Trump Pressed Australian Leader To Help A.G. Barr Investigate Mueller Probe's Origins. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Even promoting the idea that impeachment could lead to civil war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This whole thing is a disgrace.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While aides wish he'd focus on an impeachment strategy, President Trump this afternoon is demanding to know the identity of the whistleblower.

TRUMP: We're trying to find out about a whistleblower, when you have a whistleblower that reports things that were incorrect.

COLLINS: He's also raising the idea of arresting the House Intelligence chairman for treason.

TRUMP: He actually took words and made it up.

COLLINS: After Adam Schiff read a fictionalized account of his call with the Ukrainian president.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And, by the way, don't call me again. I will call you when you have done what I asked.

COLLINS: But as Trump fumes, White House aides fear they have squandered an opportunity to shape public opinion.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president is the whistleblower here!

COLLINS: Trump is resisting calls to create an impeachment response team or hire new attorneys.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is about proving that Donald Trump was framed by the Democrats.

COLLINS: Sources say Trump thinks doing either will make him look weak. But the void has left Republicans scrambling to defend him.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You just added another word. QUESTION: No. It's in the transcript.

MCCARTHY: You said, "I would like you to do a favor, though"?

QUESTION: Yes, it's in -- it's in the White House transcript.

COLLINS: Instead, they're leveling unsubstantiated allegations against Joe Biden and his son.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Guess what? Daddy comes running to the rescue, the vice president of United States come running...

(CROSSTALK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's not what happened.

JORDAN: ... says, fire -- fire that prosecutor.

TAPPER: Sir, sir, that's not what happened.

COLLINS: But not everyone is coming to Trump's defense, including his first homeland security adviser.

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It is a bad day and a bad week for this president and for this country if he is asking for political dirt on an opponent.

COLLINS: Tom Bossert says he told Trump there was no basis to the theory that Ukraine interfered in the election, instead of Russia.

BOSSERT: I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, of course, Erica, this whistleblower is entitled by law to remain anonymous, if they so wish, something their attorney pointed out on Twitter shortly after the president made those comments saying that they were trying to identify this person.

But, of course, we should note the president said they're trying to figure that out. He didn't say what steps they're taking to do so.

HILL: Oh, to be a fly on the wall and find out.

Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, Kaitlan, thank you.

And as we look at what's happening here, in terms of the president promoting this idea from a supporter that impeachment could lead to what would feel like a civil war, Republican Adam Kinzinger rebuking the president pretty strongly for that language, noting: "I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a president. This is beyond repugnant."

What do you make of the idea of a president supporting this idea from one of his supporters that impeachment could lead to civil war?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's extraordinary. It's stunning. It's divisive.

It strikes me as odd, because I spent eight years watching Republicans accuse Barack Obama of being divisive. And from my perspective, as a liberal Democrat, Barack Obama bent over backwards to accommodate Republicans, and they kicked him repeatedly and refused to agree with his accommodations.

But this guy, Donald Trump, makes no effort to reach out to the other party. He makes no effort to reach across the aisle to people who may disagree with him. He calls for civil war. He divides the country.

(CROSSTALK)

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: He didn't call for a civil war.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: Well, he encourages civil war, practically.

When you post a tweet or retweet somebody who is saying that there may be a civil war if I'm removed from office, you're basically calling for a civil war. You're calling your supporters to arms. That is a threat.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: That is irresponsible. It's reckless. And he should be challenged for it.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: It's a bad tweet.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: That is a reckless statement.

No, this is the president of the United States. We have to stop holding him to a lower standard. He should not be behaving this way at all.

LOWRY: It's a bad tweet.

But the fact is, if he were impeached and removed on anything like the current possible universe of facts, it would create a crisis of legitimacy at the height of American politics that will probably take years to heal.

If you think politics is too divisive now, just wait until he's impeached and removed.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: One last point.

You might say Barack Obama accommodated the other side. The fact is, he repeatedly said he didn't have the power to write immigration law on his own. And when he couldn't get his immigration law passed by Congress, the way it's supposed to work, he imposed it unilaterally.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: We have never had any, Obama or anybody, who's tried to use the power and instruments of government repeatedly against his political opponents. That is unprecedented. We're in uncharted territory.

This is beyond Nixonian.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We are beyond Nixon in many respects.

Look, he did not call for a civil war, but he trial ballooned the idea by echoing an unhinged supporter. That is incredibly beneath the office of president. And it's part of the problems of having a president who doesn't seem to understand or care about American history.

[16:35:08]

We lost over 700,000 Americans in the Civil War. And so to play politics with that legacy is beyond divisive.

It's not a bad tweet. It's much worse than that. And it's indicative of how he's approached his office. This is somebody who has blown through a lot of Republican principles, from free trade to executive orders. This is somebody who's demonizing the opposition at a level we have not seen before, just recently threatening to imprison critics in the context of this impeachment, floating the idea of, I wish it was back in the day when whistleblowers were considered spies, and you remember what we did to them?

Words have meaning, especially from the president of the United States.

LOWRY: Please, don't pretend, don't pretend that all the divisiveness has just been from the president of the United States.

AVLON: Not all.

LOWRY: For two-and-a-half years, we have been told by Democrats and by the media press that there was some dire conspiracy with Russia, with Russia.

AVLON: Russia helped get him elected.

LOWRY: And it was completely false.

AVLON: That's not so.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: Of course it was.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: We had a Mueller report, and you still cannot admit there was no collusion?

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: You said there was no involvement from Russia in the election. And the intelligence community clearly found there was involvement from Russia in the election.

LOWRY: No, no, no, those are two separate things.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: The allegation was that there's a conspiracy with President Trump, when there wasn't.

(CROSSTALK)

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is the kind of gaslighting he's planning on. This is what he wants, this kind of conversation.

And I don't think you have to go as far as Keith goes to say that he called for a civil war, to say that this was a terrible thing to say in and of itself.

And there are a couple of things that might stop you if you're the president from saying something like this. One is if maybe you served and you have seen the real effects of actual war. You might not say this.

Another is if you respect the office of the presidency and know it's bigger than just a man.

And the final one if you love your country, you're a patriot, and you don't want to see it torn apart. All those things might stop you from saying something like this.

And I think it's fair to say Trump is none of those things. And so he doesn't have an inner governor telling him, do not say this. As much as it helps your case and makes you feel good, do not say it. It's irresponsible. He doesn't have that.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: We're going to leave it there. We will be back.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: You guys think removing him from office is going to heal our politics?

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: No, nobody is saying that, literally nobody.

HILL: No, no, no, no.

Gentlemen and the lady to my left, we're going to leave it there for just a moment, but stay with us.

There is more breaking news this hour, new reporting now about a call between President Trump and another world leader that reportedly sounds a whole lot like that call with Ukraine.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:05]

HILL: Breaking news: "The New York Times" reporting President Trump -- quote -- "pushed" the Australian prime minister in a recent phone call to help Attorney General Bill Barr investigate the origins of the Mueller probe.

One U.S. official telling "The Times" the White House also restricted access to the transcript of that call. Sources say President Trump initiated the conversation for this sole purpose.

I want to bring in now former Federal Prosecutor, Laura Coates.

So, Laura, as we look at this, in this reporting, the fact too that the attorney general requested the president speak with Mr. Morrison, I'm just curious your initial gut reaction to all of this.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, this is one heck of a pattern now, Erica, the idea of using the presidential office in some way to gain leverage with America's allies.

It's almost like the president doesn't realize that diplomacy is actually the name of the game for the presidency, not digging up dirt, not using other nations to be investigative agencies on behalf of things that the president says have already been resolved.

It almost belies his notions earlier saying that he felt totally confident and exonerated if he's still trying to build some evidence against the origins of the report, even after the Mueller report has come out, after Mueller has testified, and after he has claimed exoneration.

Also, the fact that Attorney General Barr finds himself once again as somebody who the president believes is going to be an ally in trying to use the presidential power to get other nations to be involved in our investigation gives further credence to why it's so important to hear about the Ukrainian call and whether or not Attorney General Barr had some hand or some notion that he was being used and exploited in this way. HILL: Well, to that point, right, and just picking up on two things

that you said there, so there's been a lot made about how the president views the attorney general and who, in President Trump's mind -- who the attorney general of the United States actually works for.

That's one part of the equation. There's also the current attorney general, Bill Barr, as you point out. We need to know more about what happened in terms of that call with Ukraine. But the fact that -- and I just go back to this again, that in this "New York Times" reporting -- quote -- "Mr. Barr requested that Mr. Trump speak to Mr. Morrison," that also calls into question how the attorney general views his own role.

COATES: It does indeed.

And, of course, remember it goes back to where you had Attorney General Barr testifying and also giving statements when he had the four-page release and the press conference before the public release of the Mueller report, where he went on to talk about the idea of the president of the United States being viciously attacked, where he thought the president of the United States had some leg to stand on, and also that he believed that the origins was up for scrutiny and further examination by his office.

When everyone else was looking at the idea of not shooting the messenger, not thinking about how it came to pass, but investigating the actual substance of it, he was more fixated on the origins of it.

And now that has transpired and continued, which makes it all the more believable, frankly, "The New York Times"' reporting that Barr had a hand or was at least interested in continuing along that path of figuring out what were the origins.

Now, this misses the forest through the trees, of course, Erica, if the fixation is on the underlying or the origins and not on the underlying claims that have made. It is reminiscent of what's going on right now with the whistleblower complaint. The shoot the messenger philosophy as opposed to investigating the underlying substantive allegations that are there.

HILL: And that is -- that's actually I would say, that is a page from a playbook that a well-worn page we have seen. Really quickly, Senate Democrats, as we know on the Judiciary Committee are demanding the Barr testified. Do you see him complying with that request?

COATES: Well, he very well should. He hasn't have a leg to stand on why he could not. The idea of testifying here is to figure out one, whether, in fact, he did have some role in trying to allow Rudy Giuliani who you know is not employed in the federal government to play a role in foreign diplomacy or on other nefarious acts. He should testify for his own credibility if not more.

HILL: Laura Coates, I appreciate it as always. It turns out we're also learning it may not just be Australia. New details just confirmed by CNN, that's next. [16:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: We are back with more breaking news and this hour. Just in this hour, let me just recap for you here. The President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani subpoenaed by House Democrats. Our new CNN poll reveals 47 percent support the impeachment and removal of President Trump.

And now an official confirming to CNN, the President pressed Australia's Prime Minister in a recent phone call pressing the prime minister to help the attorney general with his review of the origins of the Russia probe.

The story was first reported by the New York Times, but CNN's Evan Perez joins me now with more of his reporting. So you're learning a little bit more about this call and also about the apparently -- the prompting that was done by the Attorney General to get the president to make that call.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. And it goes beyond Australia. The Attorney General is doing -- is closely managing this investigation of the origins of the Mueller investigation, the 2016 election interference.

And so one of the things that they're doing, according to official we talked to just a little while ago, is that they are asking -- the Justice Department's asking the president to intervene and ask other foreign countries to help with this investigation which is being managed by John Durham, a prosecutor out of Connecticut.

And so it goes beyond Australia. There are other countries that provided intelligence that ended up being part of the Mueller investigation that now the Justice Department and the Trump administration say they need their foreign help -- these help of these foreign countries with. So stay tuned. We'll see whether or not he has talked to other countries with exactly the same thing in mind.

HILL: Stay tuned, indeed. S.E. Cupp, I want to go to you first on this one. Just -- what do you make of this what we're seeing? Is it -- is it enough to say there's a pattern?

CUPP: Well, you didn't think this was the only or the first time, right? I mean, I think -- I think we're going to see a pattern, this will be a sort of iceberg, and we'll see that this happened probably more than once. I don't want to get ahead of facts here.

But it seemed to me the brazenness with which Trump urged to the new president of Ukraine suggested he didn't think that this was bad. He didn't think that this was not something he was supposed to do. And so I don't think anyone will be surprised if we find out that he asked this of other world leaders. This or similar.

LOWRY: But this is different in kind. The U.S. government ass foreign countries to cooperate with our duly constitute investigations all the time. The Justice Department is looking into how the bogus 2016 story started. I know everyone on the set maybe wants to move on from that and get on to Ukraine but that's a legitimate interest. And there's nothing wrong with pressing United States, asking a foreign government to cooperate with the attorney general.

HILL: And there's nothing wrong -- in your mind, there's nothing wrong with the Attorney General saying I want you to call the Prime Minister of Australia and I want you to press him on this.

LOWRY: Nothing wrong at all. Just sir, if you could please cooperate with my attorney general. There's nothing wrong.

HILL: Do you believe that's how it went down? I just need you to cooperate a little bit.

LOWRY: On Australia, well, we can always learn more. But if the Attorney General is investigating something --

HILL: That was not a yes.

LOWRY: Let's -- I want to find the facts in every instance.

BOYKIN: You know --

LOWRY: Radical transparency works for me, but there is nothing inappropriate this -- with this. And this is all the Ukraine call had been, there wouldn't have been anything inappropriate with that either.

BOYKIN: You know, we are led to believe that presidents when they have conversations with world leaders on the phone, they're talking about vital national security interests and how to protect America's interest abroad, and what we can do to work on agreements and so forth. And this guy, President Trump is simply talking about what's in his best personal interests. He's probably promoting hotels to some of the world leaders as well.

He has no sense of his duty as President of the United States. He seems to only function as Donald Trump's personal emissary with whomever he's speaking to. And we now have not only implicated Mike Pompeo, but also Attorney General Barr. And we've got so many people in the administration who are involved in this. It's not just one person.

This is a part of a pattern on the behavior of the Trump administration officials and all of us should be concerned about that.

HILL: John, do you want to jump in?

AVLON: We can see very clearly the president is motivated primarily by self-interest. What's troubling is that we're seeing some cabinet members be drawn into that orbit and to do his bidding when they should be acting -- contain the President's worst pulses and to try to keep him directed in the national interest.

This investigation allegedly request to Australia to reinvestigate their own country's cooperation with the Mueller report is part of this sort of investigate the investigators obsession that Barr has been focused on, and the President is focused on, and the Conservative media has been focused on because they're trying to shift the narrative and they're trying to say that the real conspiracy, the real collusion, that we're the victims here. That's not a good use of national resources.

[16:55:24]

LOWRY: (INAUDIBLE) story that obsessed and distorting our politics for two years.

HILL: We've got to get a break-in. Don't go anywhere. We have more on this breaking news ahead. President Trump, another phone call with a foreign leader pressing the Australian Prime Minister to help Attorney General Barr. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)