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Trump Unleashes Over Impeachment As Pressure Mounts; Whistleblower Concerned For Safety Amid Trump Attacks; Tangled Web Of Trump Officials In Whistleblower Fallout. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: ... took steps to cover it all up. The developments just in the last 72 hours are so critical to understand really the big picture here. So let me bring you all up to speed.

This is where we are, despite threats of retaliation from this President, the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says that the whistleblower who prompted this inquiry is still willing to testify.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We are taking all the precautions we can to make sure that we do so, we allow that testimony to go forward in a way that protects the whistleblower's identity because as you can imagine, with the President issuing threats, like we ought to treat these people who expose my wrongdoing as we used to treat traitors and spies and we used to execute traitors and spies, you can imagine the security concerns here.


BALDWIN: Congressman Schiff also revealing that he plans to subpoena the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani for documents. That could happen as soon as this week, but Giuliani has said that he will not cooperate.

One official who already has a subpoena on his desk is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has until this Friday to hand over information pertaining to Ukraine. Democrats also hope to get more answers from the Special Envoy to Ukraine who was named in that complaint. He agreed to testify mere hours after resigning from his post.

All of this as we are learning that President Trump's conversation with the President of Ukraine isn't the only call the White House has gone to great lengths to hide. The administration has also taken remarkable steps to conceal a call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And another conversation that prompted internal concerns, that infamous 2017 meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. The "Washington Post" is reporting that the President said he was not concerned about Moscow's interference in the 2016 election.

All right, but as lawmakers spearheading the impeachment committee expect to issue even more subpoenas in coming days, CNN has new reporting that the President's allies are concerned that he doesn't understand the gravity of what's to come.

What is clear, is that the President is on the attack tweeting more than 100 times since Friday, claiming that he deserves to meet this whistleblower. He is trying to paint the law-protected citizen as a spy, and threatening, quote unquote, "big consequences." The President is also accusing Chairman Schiff of treason in one tweet.

And then there was this one quoting a pundit from Fox News, championing the notion that impeachment would lead to quote, "a civil war like fracture" in this country. That's where we are today.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us. And so Kaitlan, when you look at tweet after tweet after tweet, is this indicative of how the White House plans to fight this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So far, it seems to be what President Trump thinks is a good idea, this counter attacking that you've seen from what he's doing tweeted so far over the weekend, as you noted multiple times, but what we're hearing from people who work here at the White House and the President's allies outside the White House is they think that they've squandered these last six days since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched this formal inquiry, they squandered that opportunity to really shape the public opinion in their favor.

And a lot of that has to do with the President is resisting calls to be aggressive here, to melt this defense by one saying he doesn't want to form this impeachment response team, which a lot of allies think would help because you saw how the Republican lawmakers were defending the President yesterday that did very little to tamp down any of the scrutiny over the President's call with Ukrainian President.

But also the president is saying he doesn't need to hire any new lawyers. He says that Rudy Giuliani is doing a fine job as you've seen him on cable news appearance after cable news appearance, and he has resisted calls to add any additional legal work to a legal effort to his team.

That's something that people don't think is a wise decision because they've watched Rudy Giuliani go out on television. They don't think he is doing any favors for the President, as he is mounting these defenses and tangling the Secretary of State and other officials into the Ukrainian scandal. And that's what they're watching happen before their eyes.

And they say that a lot of that reason that they are not seeing this sense of an aggressive or viable strategy coming out of the White House, is because they don't think the President realizes the implications of what he is facing here, Brooke.

They say that the President has been pretty resistant to everything so far. They're not sure that's going to change. But their concern now is going to be if the President does come around, will it be too late for them then to help shape that public opinion in their favor.

BALDWIN: Maybe that's indicative of them choosing not to have a war room. We'll get into all of that. Kaitlan, thank you. My next guest knows the President very well.

CNN contributor Michael d' Antonio is a Trump biographer who wrote the book, "The Truth about Trump." Michael, nice to have you on, sir.


BALDWIN: You know, listen, we talk about these tweets like the President is still venting on Twitter. I got handed this list to read. This is just this morning by my producer -- greatest witch hunt. The whistleblower knew almost nothing. It is second hand description that the call was fraud.

Adam Schiff calling for maybe treason. The President of Ukraine said there was -- all caps -- no pressure put on him by me.


BALDWIN: I mean, Michael, what does this reveal about the current state of mind for the President of the United States?

D'ANTONIO: Well, I think the President is very desperate, and I've been in touch with some sources, who've actually spoken to them in recent days. They indicate that he is having trouble focusing on conversations. There's a lot of talk around the President, about him, perhaps being a bit incapacitated, that he is not really able to bring his intellect to bear on these problems.

And I don't know if that's foreshadowing an excuse that they're going to make later on in defense of him. But this is Donald Trump's worst moment. This is what he's been around afraid of all of his life.

And ironically, it's what he's courted all of his life. He almost has a kind of political death wish, I think that he is enacting the very nightmare that he has always feared.

BALDWIN: I mean, to read the tweet from this President comparing it to the Civil War, we even have a Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger responding to that. This is how the Congressman puts it, "I have visited nations ravaged by Civil War. Donald Trump, I have never imagined such a quote, to be repeated by a President."

And in such a divided time, Michael, a time when we have seen the President's tweet cited, you know, violent manifestos, does he understand the true implications of saying that this could cause a Civil War?

D'ANTONIO: I don't think he does. So we have to remember that before the 2016 Republican Convention, his adviser, Roger Stone was talking about how there could be violence at the convention, if somehow people move to block his nomination. So this is a President and a crowd of folks of the likes we've never

seen. So he is willing to provoke, to disturb the peace, and it's all in his interest.

Now, one of the great things that might actually come out of this is that Americans may be shocked into ending this period of intense conflict among ourselves.

We may say, well, this is how bad it can get and we're not going to wait for his leadership. We're going to make the country better ourselves right now.

BALDWIN: Jay Sekulow, another personal attorney for President Trump tells Axios this about the White House strategy to respond to impeachment developments, quote, "We have just handled a major investigation ..." that being Mueller, " ... that was multifaceted and multi-jurisdictional. There was no war room. We responded as appropriate. We won that battle."

And so you know, now we know that this White House, this President doesn't need a war room to wage this battle. We know that the President feels that he is his best messenger, Michael, do you think he is right?

D'ANTONIO: Absolutely not. I think Mr. Sekulow and the President are in a fantasy world now. For them to imagine that they've prevailed with Robert Mueller when there were 10 documented incidents of obstruction of justice, and the country was focused finally on the President's wrongdoing, and then the very next day, he places this really crazy call to the Ukrainian President.

And in that instance, you know, having the President say, well, the President of Ukraine said there was no pressure. That's sort of like a gangster standing next to a store owner that he is shaking down and there's a cop on the sidewalk and the cop says, is this guy bothering you -- to the shopkeeper and the shopkeepers says, oh, no, it's okay.

Well, of course, Ukraine is not going to say there's a problem. They need the $400 million to defend themselves from Russian invasion.

BALDWIN: Well, what about the whistleblower? Because you see the Trump tweets demanding to meet you know, him or her and he is launching all of these attacks. Do you think that this is -- he launching these attacks directed at this particular whistleblower, Michael, or do you think that this is really a warning for future whistleblowers in the eyes of the President?

D'ANTONIO: It's a warning to all of us. I think the terrible statement about the Civil War is a threat. This is a man, Donald Trump who does everything with a threat. He is either the victim of some terrible conspiracy, so that's the witch hunt aspect, or he is threatening people to try and get them to be afraid of him.

But there is something happening now in Washington where I think people are less afraid of him. There's a proof that Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership are running him. What Jay Sekulow said about the last few days being very difficult and lost time for the President is true.

And he may be discovering the limits of his own abilities to chart a course alone.


BALDWIN: But if people in Washington are less afraid of him, then why aren't more Republicans speaking up? We're going to have that whole conversation a little bit later.

Michael d'Antonio, you are excellent as always. Thank you very much.

D'ANTONIO: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the whistleblower, right now, you know, serious concerns about the safety of him or her. President Trump has attacked and threatened that person and those who provided information and now the whistleblower's lawyers are asking for help.

And we will have a closer look for you at the key people in the Ukraine scandal. Who are all the President's men in this White House scandal?

And we will talk to the reporter who was covered what could soon be three Impeachment Inquiries. The lessons he has learned from each one. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. So if and when this whistleblower testifies before the House, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says that he or she will be able to speak without the presence of quote a "minder" or someone from the Department of Justice or White House restricting any statements.

And as whistleblower prepares to tell all, his or her lawyers are worried someone may just reveal all on their client's identity. They have sent a warning to officials saying there is quote "bounty" for information on their clients and the lawyer say this is just the beginning of the risk the whistleblower is facing.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is with me on this angle. And so Jessica, talk to me about the real concerns this whistleblower's lawyers have.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the whistleblower's lawyer is really detailing all of the threats that their client is facing. They're putting it really starkly saying that they have "serious concerns regarding our client's personal safety."

Now, this is a letter that goes into troubling detail about what that whistleblower has been threatened with. The lead off to the letter has the President's own words from last week, when President Trump as you'll remember told a room-full of people that whoever provided the whistleblower with information about his call with the Ukrainian President was in the President's words close to a spy.

And then the lawyer discloses what they've learned. They say that "certain individuals have issued a $50,000.00 bounty for any information relating to our client's identity," and they continue saying, "We expect this situation to worsen and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers."

Now, these lawyers, though, have disputed a recent report that the whistleblower is under Federal protection. However, this letter does allude to some help they've gotten from the Director of National Intelligence's office. They put it this way, saying, "We appreciate your office's support thus far to activate appropriate resources to ensure their safety."

Now, of course, the whistleblower's identity has been very closely guarded. The Acting Director of National Intelligence said last week in that testimony that he doesn't know the identity. And he also said that the President hasn't asked him for the identity of this whistleblower.

However, the President changed his tune slightly in a tweet this weekend saying, "I deserve to meet my accuser." Now -- but the identity of this whistleblower continues to be protected, but they will likely testify likely behind closed doors in a way that would ensure that his or her identity is protected.

And Brooke, we know that that testimony could come very soon. That's according to the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, though no date or time has yet been set -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It will be a huge day. Jessica Schneider. Thank you very much. Let's just stay on this and let me turn now to a whistleblower, Irvin McCullough is a National Security Analyst with the Government Accountability Project. It is a nonprofit law firm that represents whistleblowers and we should also point out his father, Charles is a former Intelligence Community Inspector General and one of several attorneys representing the whistleblower who wrote this complaint against the President.

So Irvin, thank you so much for coming on with me today. Welcome.


BALDWIN: Just perspective for everyone. Right? You think back some decades, the identity of Deep Throat was kept secret for 30 years. That said, we're living in a very different time. So how do they keep the whistleblower safe as the President calls for his or her head, and especially in this age of social media?

MCCULLOUGH: It is exceptionally difficult to keep this whistleblower's identity a secret. But the Inspector General Act calls on Inspectors General as the investigators that are actually looking at this whistleblower's complaint, to maintain the whistleblower's confidentiality until it is otherwise unavoidable to do so.

That means the Inspector General will be doing everything they can to contain any identifying information related this whistleblower.

BALDWIN: How do they do that? I mean, just play this forward with me. You have this whistleblower, he or she needs to head to Capitol Hill, right? I mean, down to tinted windows and is there a tunnel where he or she can get out? Is there an underground entrance? And of course, they'll have security? How do you vet security around him or her? How is that supposed to work?


MCCULLOUGH: Well, it is certainly a busy week for the Senate and House Intelligence Committee security officers who are in charge of processes just like that one. I am positive that the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee in securing any kind of testimony from this whistleblower will do their utmost to protect their identity.

However, one of the options could be borrowing a U.S. government facility where the whistleblower could go to and make their disclosures known to congressional staff and members.

That might be a good option to be honest, especially given the fact there are only so many facilities on Capitol Hill were classified information can actually be discussed. And journalist like yourself know exactly where those are on the Hill.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. And then you work with whistleblowers all the time. How do you -- is there anything unique about how you prep a whistleblower for testimony?

MCCULLOUGH: Well, there actually is. Essentially, when I prep a whistleblower for testimony, I'm going to go through some of the questions they may receive.

In this case, some of the questions they may receive from Republican defenders of the President might be particularly extreme, that are going to harken back to the defenses that they are using to say that this is not a big deal, this is hearsay, et cetera.

And I'm sure the attorneys are prepping the whistleblower to handle tough questions just like that one. I'm sure the whistleblower will be able to do so. This is all fact-finding process and the whistleblower is there to deliver the facts.

BALDWIN: And then next question and I don't mean this lightly at all, but you know, if in when this person's identity is outed, Irvin, A. What are the ramifications or the worries for the whistleblower? And B. The person who blew his or her cover?

MCCULLOUGH: I'd imagine that A. will include some type of either formal or informal retaliation against this whistleblower. Well, the Director of National Intelligence has made it clear, this whistleblower needs to be protected as they're required to do so under the law.

The threat of retaliation is still real. And the fact that the President is out of the premises and on Twitter talking about what should be happening to whistleblowers like this one, and calling this whistleblower more of a traitor and a spy than an actual truth teller makes that really hard to do and makes it hard for the D.N.I. to uphold that promise.

BALDWIN: Irvin McCullough, thank you very much for your expertise there.

MCCULLOUGH: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: From the Vice President and Rudy Giuliani to a Chief of Staff that the President isn't too happy with, we will talk to you about the key people at the center of this scandal.

Plus does Giuliani or any White House officials involved in this alleged cover up face legal exposure? We'll discuss that ahead.



BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, we have now learned that New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins is stepping down. This news columns as he is expected to plead guilty to Federal charges of insider trading.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells CNN that the Speaker's office has received a letter of resignation. Congressman Collins was the first sitting congressman to back President Trump's bid for the White House. He was reelected to office several months after he was originally indicted in the insider trading case.

And now more on this fast moving scandal involving President Trump and allegations that he pressured Ukraine's President to interfere in the 2020 election. There was this tangled web of White House and foreign officials among the list of who is who.

Keeping up with a minute by minute developments is CNN Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large, Chris Cillizza.

So, who are the bubbles?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It's a complicated drama, Brooke, with lots of players. So let's go through them. Now some of these faces are people you're going to recognize, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. If you watch cable television, you know that guy Rudy Giuliani, Attorney General William Barr.

But I want to point to a few people who might be a little less familiar. Michael Atkinson, first of all, is the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community where the whistleblower complaint was filed. And then we have over here and these are people who are named in the actual whistleblower complaint. Okay, so these are people you've got to familiarize yourself with.

Kurt Volker is the Special Envoy to Ukraine. Now, why is that interesting? He resigned in the wake of being named in the whistleblower complaint and he is going to testify in front the House Foreign Affairs Committee later this week. So that's one to watch.

Gordon Sondland is the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. Now, Volker is interesting because according to the complaint, and according Rudy Giuliani, Volker helped Giuliani get set up with some Ukrainian officials, a Ukrainian in Florida, first Ukrainian-American and then some Ukrainian officials where Giuliani did some of his, I will say pressurizing, potentially the spadework to get Donald Trump -- to get the Ukrainian ministers in to looking into what Donald Trump wanted them to look into. Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Okay, now let's go to the side not named in the complaint. Okay. Now these are people not named, again, as I said, Atkinson, which is where this all started. The whistleblower complaint goes to Atkinson. Atkinson files it to the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire. Maguire sits on it.

Atkinson then alerts Congress that this exists and that's how we got to where we are. A lot of these other players, you know, obviously John Bolton is gone, but this could be the key right here.

John Bolton removed by Donald Trump, as the Ambassador to the United Nations has already said some things particular about North Korea that he disagreed with what Trump and the Trump administration --