Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RIGHT NOW

Trump Unleashes Over Impeachment As Pressure Mounts; Whistleblower Concerned For Safety Amid Trump Attacks; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Signals Giuliani Subpoena Coming As Pressure Mounts; Senate Intel Vice Hair Speaks On House's Impeachment Inquiry; Ex-Trump Official Says, I'm Deeply Disturbed By Ukraine Phone Call. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: -- to overturn it.

[13:00:01]

But there is --

JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Lesser penalty if you wanted to try that.

KANE: Yes.

KING: One of the things we'll keep an eye on. I appreciate the questions.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. See you back at this time tomorrow. Brianna Keilar starts Right now. Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters.

Underway right now, with his presidency in peril, the president demands to meet the whistleblower, agrees with comparisons to a civil war and asks that the House Intel Committee chairman should be arrested for treason.

Congress subpoenas the Secretary of State. Could the president's lawyer be next?

Plus, as President Trump attacks the whistleblower, the anonymous official is now concerned for their safety.

And it's not just Ukraine. Why would the White House also hide conversations with Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Crown Prince?

But first, President Trump is in full attack mode. He's been going on a relentless Twitter tirade, tweeting and re-tweeting 124 times since Friday as Democrats are aiming for a speedy impeachment push, and the pressure is mounting.

Sources tell CNN that former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker plans to appear in front of not one, but three congressional committees this week. Volker, of course, one of the key people in touch with the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and he resigned just one day after the release of the whistleblower complaint, which accuses the president urging Ukraine to dig up dirt on his 2020 rival, Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter.

Now, that whistleblower could be one step closer to going under oath. Intel Chairman, Congressman Adam Schiff says, there is a tentative agreement for the anonymous whistleblower to testify, and it could happen very soon.

However, there are now concerns that the whistleblower's identity and safety could be in jeopardy amid a barrage of attacks from the president and his allies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR POLICY: The president of the United States is the whistleblower and this individual is a saboteur.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This seems to me like a political set up. It's all hearsay.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): He has no firsthand knowledge, and second, he has a political bias. That should tell us something about this guy who came forward with this claim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: In the meantime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the first to face subpoenas from three different House committees for failing to hand over documents on Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani could be next. And all of this comes as we are learning that the administration hid the president's conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman. And The Washington Post reports that the president told Russians inside the Oval Office he did not care about their interference into the 2016 election.

Let's go to Sarah Westwood. She is at the White House. And, Sarah, the president has been on a Twitter rant, really, for the last three days. Tell us what's on his mind.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Brianna. President Trump has been casting about for ways to defend himself against this rapidly escalating impeachment inquiry, and he's been raising eyebrows with these wild series of attacks. I wanted to just walk you through a sampling of them.

First, he's been going after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff for comments Schiff made at a hearing last week. He suggested without evidence that Schiff should be arrested for treason. He's claiming he has a right to confront the whistleblower, describing this person as his accuser.

He also wants to know who in the White House has been talking to the whistleblower, likening that individual to a spy.

And he's also elevating comments from a supporter that if House Democrats are successful in removing President Trump from office, then there could be a civil war-like fracture in this country.

And all of this as it becomes increasingly clear that the White House does not have an overarching strategy to defend the president against impeachment. Privately, some inside the White House believe that the past six days have been a lost opportunity to shake public opinion around impeachment.

President Trump has really been going it alone on Twitter, but, privately, sources say President Trump believes he does not need an impeachment response team. He said he does not think he needs more lawyers to help handle the impeachment strategy.

Aides are expected to brief him more on their plans to handle Democrats' request for documents and testimony under this growing impeachment inquiry this week, Brianna.

But, privately, the president has been dismissive and some around him think he doesn't quite understand just how perilous his position is at this moment.

KEILAR: All right. Sarah Westwood at the White House, thank you so much for that report.

And as the whistleblower gets ready to testify before Congress and the president ramps up his attacks, the whistleblower's lawyer says his client is facing some serious safety concerns. Our Jessica Schneider is here with more.

Tell us what the attorney is saying, Jess.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, these concerns are so urgent that the whistleblower's lawyer has sent letters to the acting Director of National Intelligence who, of course, we saw testify last week, and has also notified the chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about these threats facing that whistleblower.

[13:05:03]

The main message in this letter actually is that political retaliation is not permitted under the system that specifically protects whistleblowers, and the purpose is also to notify about the serious concerns we have regarding our client's personal safety.

Now, this letter goes into stark detail about what the whistleblower has been threatened with. The letter leads off with the president's own words from last week when President Trump told that roomful of people in New York that whoever provided the whistleblower with information about his call to the Ukrainian president was, in the president's word, close to a spy.

And then the whistleblower's lawyer discloses that they have learned certain individuals have issued a $50,000 bounty for any information relating to our client's identity. It says that they also expect this situation to worsen and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers.

Now, these lawyers have disputed a recent report that the whistleblower is under federal protection. But the letter, nonetheless, it will move to the Director of National Intelligence's office in any assistance, saying, we do appreciate your office's support thus far to activate appropriate resources to ensure their safety.

Now, of course, the whistleblower's identity has been closely guarded. The acting Director of National Intelligence, saying he doesn't know the identity, that the president had not, as of last week, asked for the identity. But, of course, then there's this tweet from the president over the weekend. And it took quite a different tune when the president said, he deserves to meet my accuser.

Now, there is a tentative agreement so far to have this whistleblower testify. It will likely be behind closed doors in a way that would ensure that his or her identity is protected. And, Brianna, we've learned that that testimony could come very soon. That's according to what the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said over the weekend. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, we'll be waiting. Jessica Schneider, thank you.

And as early as today, Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, could be subpoenaed for documents related to his dealings in Ukraine, but it is unclear if he will comply.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Will you cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee?

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I wouldn't cooperate with Adam Schiff. I think Adam Schiff should be removed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not going to cooperate?

GIULIANI: I didn't say that. I said that I will consider it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said you wouldn't do it. You said you will not cooperate with Adam Schiff.

GIULIANI: I said I will consider it. I have to be guided by my client, frankly. I'm a lawyer. It's his privilege, not mine. If he decides that he wants me to testify, of course, I'll testify.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Joseph Moreno is a former national security and Department of Justice prosecutor. Laura Barron-Lopez is National Political Reporter for Politico. Okay. So let's say, Joe, that Rudy Giuliani doesn't comply with the subpoena, as the first time, he said he wouldn't, right? If he doesn't comply the subpoena, then the Democrats go to court, is this whole thing moved along more quickly at all because this is an impeachment inquiry or not so much?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER DOJ PROSECUTOR: It will help. But at the end of the day, and I know this is really frustrating to everybody, the process is slow. Congress will get this information from Rudy Giuliani. I can't imagine -- well, I can imagine the argument he'll make. It's not going to be successful. He's not going to be able to assert legal privilege here.

At the end of the day though, if Congress wants this information and Rudy puts up a struggle and the president puts up a struggle, it will go to the courts and it will take time.

Being able to say this an active impeachment inquiry is helpful, at the end of the day though, there's no fast-tracking this.

KEILAR: So what does Congress do with that Laura?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, so -- I mean, it still is unclear whether or not Congressman Schiff wants to entirely subpoena Giuliani because they don't want -- whether it's to testify because they don't want another Lewandowski show. But they can also get the more information by going straight to the State Department as opposed to potentially just going after Giuliani. Because if he -- or whatever his involvement was, they could go other routes to get those documents.

KEILAR: Because they don't necessarily want, right, with Lewandowski. That didn't look so great for them.

Okay. So right now, the president's response has been to go on attack, right? He's threatened the whistleblower. And any other president would know that you're sort of hands-off in a situation like this, Joseph. So what are the ramifications of this?

MORENO: I could almost see the way the whistleblower -- the entire process plays out almost as critical as the underlying offense here. Because we tell people all the time, don't leak. There is a right way to raise concerns. The whistleblower did that. It is exactly what we expect government employees to do. Use your chain of command and raise your concerns.

If that person is outed, if that person is threatened, if that person is mistreated in any way, it doesn't matter what the information they brought forth, it doesn't matter if they have political biases. If they're mistreated, that would be a travesty and that goes against everything we stand for.

[13:10:00]

So I think we have to really, really watch how this plays out. KEILAR: And how are Democrats watching that, Laura? Are they worried that as this whistleblower testifies that perhaps he or she will not be protected?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, everything that we've heard from Congressman Schiff again is that they expect to hear from the whistleblower very soon and that he is going to do everything that he possibly can to make sure that their identity is kept a secret.

But we have known that in the past when certain people come to testify before Congress in private sessions in order to keep those things secret, that there are leaks. Members of Congress are known to leak them. So I think that that is definitely a fear that a number of Democrats have, which is for certain political reasons, some of their colleagues could leak the identity.

KEILAR: How -- is there -- the members of Congress who are behind closed doors talking to this whistleblower, Joseph, are they going to see the whistleblower? Is there any way to realistically shield the identity of this person from the members of this committee?

MORENO: I mean, the safest way would be getting written questions and answers, which is not nearly as effective as live testimony though, right? So if we want live testimony, yes, there are ways you can camouflage the identity. You see it in trials in certain unusual circumstances where you kind of mask the identity, even the voice of the person that's testifying. So I assume, in a congressional hearing, you could do that behind closed doors.

But at the end of the day, you're putting a lot of faith in the hands of the congressmen from both sides of the aisle that they will respect the privilege and respect the confidentiality of the whistleblower (INAUDIBLE) and really, really important.

KEILAR: Joseph, Laura, thank you guys so much.

As the president questions whether Adam Schiff should be arrested for treason, one of Schiff's Democratic colleagues in Congress will join us live to respond.

Also, a former Trump administration official gets candid and reveals how he warned the president about sham conspiracies.

And one of the more explosive reports in the past 48 hours, the president told the Russians inside the Oval Office he was not concerned about their interference in the 2016 election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

KEILAR: As the president goes on a tirade over the impeachment inquiry against him, let's head out now to Capitol Hill where our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is standing by there with the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, Mark Warner. Manu? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. I'm with Mark Warner whose Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating this whistleblower complaint which we want to talk to him about.

Here, the president over the weekend went after the whistleblower. You've been trying to get the whistleblower to come before your committee. Is this impacting your ability to talk to the whistleblower?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Well, time will tell on that. But we've had a lot of questions about what the president did or didn't do with the Ukrainian president.

But one area where we don't have more information to seek out is calling out the president's outrageous comments, both last Thursday, when he called the whistleblower and anyone else that he or she may have talked to traitorous and like a spy, where he implied that there should be physical harm to the whistleblower.

And then when that kind of commentary was reinforced by his tweets over the weekend, even my Republican colleagues who may not want to weigh in on the substance of the complaint need to stand up and push back on this president's outrageous behavior about protecting the whistleblower program, because for 40 years, this program has allowed folks to come forward in a protected way when they've seen abuse.

And this president's failure to honor that, to recognize that the whistleblower deserves protections and what the chilling effect it would have on our whole Intelligence Community, which more than any other area, needs to have the ability to not be politicized, to speak truth to power and be able to say something if they see something.

RAJU: Are you concerned about the whistleblower's safety at this point?

WARNER: Any rational person would be concerned about the whistleblower's safety after the president's comments, which led to from some press outlets on the right were actually offering a bounty on trying to reveal the whistleblower's identity.

RAJU: Some Democrats believe this could be witness tampering by the president, which is also, in their view, an impeachable offense. Do you agree?

WARNER: I'm going to stick with what is the most obvious. The most obvious is this is an effort to undermine the protections of the whistleblower program. I believe it falls into the category of reprisal, these kinds of threats, and I think it needs to stop.

And I would hope that my colleagues on both sides of aisle will speak out in a unified voice because what this -- what the chilling effect it will have, not only on this individual, whoever he or she talked to, but what it will in terms of the overall effect on people in the Intelligence Community, being able to speak truth to power and calling out bad behavior, that will be a scar on us for a long time to come.

[13:20:02]

RAJU: And you're obviously investigating this complaint. Do you need to speak to Rudy Giuliani, who is mentioned pretty prominently through this whistleblower complaint?

WARNER: We're going through, even as we speak, who all we need to talk to, how we go about contacting them. I think, again, our committee, which has been the only bipartisan committee working through the Mueller investigation and now through this issue, we want to do this the right way.

I think we want to be complete, but we're going to go about that, again, in a bipartisan fashion, so I'm not going to start laying out who we're going to see.

RAJU: Have you issued any subpoenas yet?

WARNER: I'm not going to go through the process until we gently are moving forward.

RAJU: And you also, on Thursday, did meet with the inspector general of the Intelligence Community, as well as the acting Director of National Intelligence. Did you learn more details about the substance of the whistleblower complaint in those?

WARNER: Well, I think, again, not going to get into any of the testimony, but the inspector general, based upon his assessment and based upon his preliminary investigation that he did, and I'm anxious to see that preliminary investigation, I think, makes this whole area even more credible.

RAJU: Did they give you any details about who the White House officials were who allegedly tried to conceal this in other phone calls?

WARNER: Again, I'm not going to get into any of the specifics, but I thought the inspector general made a very credible presentation.

RAJU: The Democrats in the House want to try to conclude their investigation in a matter of weeks, potentially even before Thanksgiving. Is that realistic for your investigation?

WARNER: I can't comment on what's going to in the House. I think as Chairman Richard Burr said, we probably won't be moving as fast as the House but we're going to get to the bottom of this.

RAJU: The president, over the weekend, also went after Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, said that his actions, in some ways, are treasonous. Your reaction to that?

WARNER: This president doesn't understand separation of powers and doesn't understand that just because a member of Congress in a different branch of government, a member Congress in a different political part, wants to criticize your behavior, that doesn't give license to call out that individual, his term, traitorous. I find it, again, almost every week goes by, I don't think I'm going to be more surprised, but I'm more surprised.

RAJU: And the last question, the Justice Department, when they investigated this, they only looked at this in terms of a narrow campaign finance violation and they essentially said there was nothing there. Do you believe that there should be a broader investigation by the Justice Department? Do you believe that potential criminality could be broader than a potential campaign finance violation?

WARNER: There were an awful lot of questions raised by the whistleblower's complaint. It touched on a wide variety of areas and wide variety of areas that if they all prove to be true, I think, open a whole lot of legal questions.

But once again, let's take this step by step. Let's -- I'm not going to jump to conclusions. I want to try to treat this process with the respect and fairness that everyone deserves. I wish we would see that same kind of respect for the process coming out of the White House.

RAJU: Senator Mark Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Community, raising some serious concerns about the president's comments from over the weekend. Brianna, back to you.

KEILAR: All right. Manu, thank you so much, and thank you so much to Senator Warner as well.

A former Trump administration official gets candid and breaks from the talking points to say the scandal is deeply disturbing. His words, next.

Also, a former official on the president's transition team will join me live on why he supports impeachment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:25:00]

KEILAR: The president's former Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, is speaking out for the first time since the Ukraine scandal broke, saying he's, quote, deeply disturbed by President Trump's attempt to get Ukraine to investigate his political rival.

He's also scolding the White House for continuing to propagate the theory that Ukraine and not Russia interfered with the 2016 election, a theory that has been completely debunked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER TRUMP HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: And at this point, 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. And for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: J.W. Verret teaches law at George Mason University and was an adviser to the Trump pre-transition team. And it's worth noting it was after the Mueller report that you decided to support the impeachment proceeding. So what is your reaction now to this phone call that shows the president trying to shake down Ukraine's president for dirt on his political rival?

J.W. VERRET, FORMER ADVISER, TRUMP PRE-TRANSITION TEAM: Well, I felt there was enough there to begin impeachment proceedings, in fact, to call for a vote of impeachment contained in the Mueller report. There was enough to begin what's essentially a version of a grand jury process, but this is much worse.

[13:30:03]

I mean, people have made the analogy to the Nixon era scandals and Nixon's --