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Trump Demands to Meet Whistleblower, Warns of "Big Consequences"; Trump Escalates Attacks as House Democrats Begin Impeachment Push; House Democrats Begin Impeachment Hearings & Depositions This Week; Former Trump Adviser "Deeply Frustrated" With Trump Team Using Debunked Conspiracies. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 12:00   ET




BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: --ties going back to the royal families to the 1980s. Now for him to be murdered in a Saudi consulate by a team that composed of some of the most senior members of the Crown Prince's anchorage who were flown through in two jets contracted by the Saudi government. This claim by the Crown Prince doesn't carry a lot of weight. Erica.


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: No, it doesn't, Ben Wedeman for us. Ben, thank you. Thanks for all of you for joining us this hour. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Erica, and welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A big week ahead for the Trump impeachment inquiry, House Democrats plan to question several key witnesses behind closed doors. Plus, raw anger today from the President himself tweets lashing out at the White House whistleblower and that Democrats leading the inquiry. The President trying to keep Republicans in line at the moment many are privately nervous about where this is heading?

And John Bolton back in the public eye today. The Former top White House aide painting President Trump is naive about North Korea saying Kim Jong-Un has no intention of giving up his nuclear program and deserves no more rewards.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It remains unacceptable for North Korea to have deliverable nuclear weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So then is so-called romance diplomacy the best way to try get to that point?

BOLTON: I'm not going to comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Then - nice try. Okay.


KING: Back to that story a little bit later, but President Trump today very much aware it is a big week ahead in the house impeachment inquiry on Twitter a tome of presidential complaints, many of them wandering far from the facts, going after the Bidens, the whistleblower and the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

The President demanding he get to meet his "Accuser", that being the whistleblower, and calling Chairman Schiff a criminal. More on the President's mindset in a moment, but first the big week ahead. Democrats gathering the building blocks for their impeachment inquiry, mostly behind closed doors.

This week key house committees will depose two people you've likely never heard of but who are crucial potential witnesses. The Former Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She was recalled from her post earlier this year. And Kurt Volker, he was the President's point man; he is special envoy to Ukraine. Volker suddenly resigned that post on Friday.

This Friday, the coming Friday the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson will also testify behind closed doors. Chairman Schiff says he has reached the deal to secure that critical whistleblower testimony, but we don't have a date for that yet. CNN's Manu Raju, live on Capitol Hill. Manu, the Democrats hoping this week we won't see it but they're hoping to build the foundations here?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they expect more subpoenas to come out this week. Adam Schiff made it clear last night, speaking to "60 minutes" that he plans to issue a subpoena to Rudy Giuliani for documents. The question is ultimately do they bring him forward someone like a Rudy Giuliani to testify in a public setting. That is the decision I'm told that has just simply not been made yet.

There are a number of other document requests the Democrats plan to issue in the days ahead. They view what the whistleblower complaint laid out is essentially a road map of their investigation. Also that subpoena that went out Friday from Adam Schiff's committee and two other house committees demanding depositions from five State Department officials as well as documents from the State Department by Friday.

We do expect Kurt Volker the Former U.S. to Trump envoy to Ukraine to come before these house panels on Thursday. The question is though the other four agreed to come forward or disavow the House. The White House in any way tries to take steps to block the House's efforts to investigate.

Now John, I'm told from the House Democrats' that they do not plan to put up efforts to derail their investigations, efforts to block the information to coming over to Capitol Hill as we've seen from this entire year over the administration refusing to comply with House subpoenas. This time I'm told from Democrats that they plan to use that as what they view as evidence for obstruction of Congress which they believe is an impeachable offense.

So expect an escalation from the House Democrats as the Intelligence Committee continues to investigate even as the rest of the Congress is on recess, John.

KING: A busy and important week ahead and may be even busy important couple hours ahead as we learn about the first subpoenas. Manu Raju, live on the Hill, appreciate it. Come back if there's more.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Paul Kane with the "The Washington Post," Katie Rogers with "The New York Times" and Tarini Parti with "The Wall Street Journal."

I get the sense find me I you think I'm wrong. From my in box this morning everybody realizes this is real. The tone in town has changed in the last 48 hours. But as you get to the business here, Manu mentions these subpoenas.

Paul, I want to start with you in the sense that I lived through the last impeachment. There are big names here. Will they subpoena Mike Pompeo? Will they get Rudy Giuliani in the Chair? But if you're building a case, whether it's a criminal trial or whether impeachment is, is a political trial, sometimes it's the people we don't really know much about publicly who give you the clues, if you will, and the crumbs, if you will?

The Ambassador and Kurt Volker, Democrats believe, can take us beyond just the President's Ukraine call. They believe this was going on weeks and months in advance time after as well and that the Former Ambassador and the Former Special Envoy know all the critical pieces.


KING: A, about what Rudy Giuliani was doing? And B, how much government resources went into this?

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. They played a role in hearing from the State Department, hearing from Rudy Giuliani who wants to come over and meet with these people, helping set the meetings up. And they know where the pressure points were, especially relating to the $400 million in aid in military and State Department aide that was held up that was also a piece of this.

So that's sort of the first stumbling blocks that they have to get through. And eventually, you know, the mysterious whistleblower might come and testify, and at that point, what threads get pulled out, we're still really waiting to see.

KING: And where we are at the moment is that this is still, for the large part, a Democrat-led enterprise. There are no Republicans so far jumping on board. There are Republicans saying there are questions to be answered here, but most of those Republicans also say they don't see this as an impeachable offense.

As we watch this play out, the question is how does it play at home? How does it play in America? We'll show you some polling later in the program about how this impeachment is growing in support with the public. If you're a House Democrat and you're home this week, especially if you're from a contested district, Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying listen here, this is from 60 minutes, focus on the facts, focus on the President's own words. Try not to get caught up in the politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any anxiety at all about any of the stuff we're talking about or anything that we're not talking about impacting your ability to hold control of the house in 2020?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Doesn't matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't matter.

PELOSI: Our first responsibility is to protect and defend the constitution.



KING: It's an interesting week. We're going to spend a lot of time on the details here in Washington. But it's also an interesting week for the politics of this as most House Democrats, Intelligence Committee is here doing some work. Most House Democrats are at home.

TARINI PARTI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think the politics is interesting because the pressure that Democrats are facing right now is basically to show this isn't political, you know. And as they keep hearing from Republicans who really aren't defending the content of what's at play here but really that they're trying to say that Democrats are doing this for partisan reasons.

It puts pressure on Democrats to make sure they're doing it in a narrow, focused way, bringing up things like the constitution, saying that they're first off just investigating, they're not outright calling for impeachment, at least some of the moderate Democrats so far.

KING: And one of the questions has been, you've seen some people suggest that, let's assume - and most people do assume now that Nancy Pelosi has given the blessing to calling this an impeachment inquiry that the House Democrats are going to impeach the President. Most people think you can't come back at this point. We'll see if it gets there but most people think what would be the reaction of the Democratic base be?

If you're given at the go ahead you're going to get there. Then the question is, if the house impeaches the President what would happen in the Senate? There have been some saying Mitch McConnell could just - not never mind and table it. Mitch McConnell saying, no, that's not how the rules work.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D-KY): If the Senate ruled related to impeachment, it would take 67 votes to change, so I would have no choice but to take it up.


KING: That's from CNBC this morning. Washington needs to prepare not only for the likelihood, I would argue, that the House would impeach, but McConnell is going to have to deal with this. He is going to have his own difficult issues.

KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that signals to the White House that they have to start actually practicing and coordinating a specific war room response type effort. The President and his aides have been rejecting that idea over the weekend, but now that you have more these visible cracks like this might have to go forward.

There tends to be this inertia inside the White House. It's understaffed and the different worrying factions can sort of lead to their own inertia. But there is definitely sentiment among the President's aides that they need to get in line in their smear campaign. They need to do more than smear Yovanovitch and other people that have been right before that.

KING: That was excellent in text but McConnell was spring. I don't say that is joke and that's how he talks. That he's sending a signal there that I don't have a choice, Mr. President. I don't have a choice, Mr. President's team. And right now he's not happy because he was there - White House kept telling him there's nothing in this Ukraine transcript, he said then well, release it.

They released it. And there's a lot in the Ukraine transcript. To the point Katie makes, do they get it inside the White House? So I was mentioning how this week is different. My inbox is full of Republicans who publicly won't say any of the things that are in my inbox. But they are nervous about where this is going?

Number one, factually, because they're worried about what Kurt Volker and the Ambassador are going to say to the committee? And number two, they're worried the President's team is not prepared for this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And there is a difference in the thinking of the President and the thinking of his aides and allies. His aides and allies have been pushing him to form this impeachment response team, have someone else instead of just his tweets attacking these Democrats. And also people have been urging him to bring in additional lawyers.

They say Rudy Giuliani is not doing enough to help you. If you watch him on the Sunday shows, they say you need somebody else. The President has resisted all of those calls because he essentially thinks that makes him look week and the he actually does need that and that he's actually potentially in trouble here.


COLLINS: People are frustrated because they just don't think he realizes the implications of this and what he's facing. Right now it's been six days since Nancy Pelosi announced she was launching this formal impeachment inquiry, and people inside the White House think that they've really squandered that opportunity, and that was evident in the fact that they're relying on these Republicans to go out and defend him.

And if you watched them on the Sunday shows yesterday, they really struggled to justify what the President said during that call with Ukraine. That is really where they are right now, trying to give in to the President. This is real, this is serious, and you're going to need help with this.

KING: And do we have a firm timetable? We heard some Democrats say we'd like to have this over by Thanksgiving. We also know you try to depose witnesses there will be some push back. Democrats say they're not going to court that if the administration says no, they're just going to put that into an obstruction impeachment article. But there will be some back and forth and they have to show that they're at least good faith negotiating.

KANE: I think that goes back to what those the whistleblower what else comes up? What else comes up this week in the testimony and then ultimately the whistleblower? Does it open up other lines of inquiry, other phone calls, other pressure points with using the White House to try and push for intervention in 2020?

If not, if it stays within the facts as we know it, they probably can get this done by Thanksgiving or early December. That would fit the 1998 timeline.

KING: Yes, other phone calls, I was mentioning the inbox and the things Republicans won't say publicly, other phone calls is a major foundation of those concerns. We'll have much more on this on the hour ahead and plus if you have any questions on today's big political stories, impeachment 2020, for anyone here at the table tweet us, use the hastag "Inside Politics". We might answer some of those questions at end of the show or on our podcast. Next, President Trump airing his defense straight to you one tweet at a time.



KING: Welcome back. President Trump's anger and anxiety clear for all to see today as long as you have the internet. In yet another avalanche of tweets the President writing, who changed the longstanding whistleblower rules before the submittal of the fake whistleblower report? Drain the swamp.

That point has been made frequently over the weekend by the President and his allies. It is misleading at best. In another tweet President Trump writing, the fake whistleblower complaint is not holding up. The secondhand description of the call is a fraud to which point the call transcript itself and the White House have confirmed elements of that complaint. That's the important point there, forgive how I read that.

The President says in his tweet this has not been backed up. Actually, the whistleblower complaint very accurately describes the Ukraine call that was released later. The whistleblower complaint very accurately describes what now the President's own aides have confirmed that sensitive conversations that are normally followed over here were put in a secret server instead a top secret server instead, breaking normal procedures. The bigger point to me seems to be the President is very transparent. His mood is very clear.

COLLINS: Yes. That's safe to say. And that's why you're seeing the President vent essentially on Twitter, but a lot of that is also what he was also saying privately. He was on the phone our sources told us all weekend railing against this whistleblower and the people who gave the whistleblower the information because though the President is dismissing it on Twitter saying it's just second hand information.

When you read through the complaint, you see that this person spoke with a lot of people. Multiple times they say I spoke with several officials, multiple officials, half dozens of officials. So you see get a grasp of just how many people this person spoke to. But the President has long been skeptical of the Intelligence community ever since the day one when he entered the administration, he has felt that they were working against him.

So this is essentially feeding those fears and he's got allies in his ears also backing that up. That's why you're seeing the President say what he is on Twitter.

KING: And I think it's important to note every time we can as the President says this is partisan or this is deep state or this is Democrat. It was a Trump-appointed Intelligence Community Inspector General who looked at the whistleblower complaint, deeming it to be urgent and credible a Trump-appointee.

Here is another Trump-appointee Tom Bossert is Former Homeland Security Adviser with the White House on television yesterday saying, we wouldn't have to be here if the President only would have listened to those of us who told him most of what he thinks about Ukraine is hogwash.


TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It is not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked. And last year, Retired Former Senator Greg wrote a piece in the Hill magazine saying, the three ways or the five ways to impeach oneself and the third way was to hire Rudy Giuliani. I am deeply frustrated with what he and his 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. Let me just again repeat that it has no validity.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now Tom Bossert went on to say he didn't see an impeachable offense here but if you're the Democrats and you're trying to make a case, that the President is using government resources and then his private Attorney to help himself politically and to lean on a foreign government to give you aid, when you have somebody who served in the White House so has viewed as a credible guy that's saying, we repeatedly tried to tell the President to get off it, this is a whack job. It helps the Democrats make their case.

KANE: Yes, and you look at what Rudy Giuliani is doing, is that really legal work? Is that something a lawyer does or is he just really an opposition researcher digging for dirt on potential opponents? It's troubling to Senate Republicans, the sort of traditional types, several of who are on the Senate Intel Committee, Richard Burr, Marco Rubio.


KANE: Those types of - they see this and they have long been on the Anti-Moscow side of this argument. They're the ones to sort of watch in the next few weeks or months if there is going to be any sort of crumbling among Senate Republicans over this issue.

KING: Right, to that point what the President to what Rudy Giuliani says is the pro-Russia side of this in a sense that Putin has always said Ukraine did this, not Russia. That's what Tom Bossert was saying that has been completely debunked. Then the President on the call though was asking for this crowd strike server. It's a wacky conspiracy theory at best.

PARTI: I think well we're already seeing a sort of a different reaction to what we saw from the Mueller report? You're seeing the President adopt a similar playbook where he is saying it's partisan, it's a witch hunt, during the swamp that sort of messaging. But in that case you saw some people sort of sympathize with that given how long the Mueller report kind of stretched out?

The expanding scope of it, with this it's getting harder for people to sympathize with that messaging and you're seeing some of his own former administration officials now speak up.

KING: Right, because it's the "A" the call is to President in his own words and read the transcript no matter what your politics is, just read the transcript. It's troubling. Is it impeachable? That's for the House to decide but it is troubling. And then as Rudy Giuliani, and there is no love loss for Rudy Giuliani now among current elected Republicans who have to go home and answer to voters.

ROGERS: Even in the White House I think over the past few days when you do reporting on this people close to the President are just like, he keeps putting this stuff in the President's ear and people - there's nobody around to block off access to the President now. So basically what they say is the President, if you drop something in his ear, he'll keep coming back to it and coming back to it and that key person is closer to the President than ever. And when Bossert says this is a conspiracy theory he keeps parroting, that is really an under covered part of this whole thing, is how accessible this President is to conspiracy theories whether they love it on Fox News, whether something that is - whether or not Rudy Giuliani can then go and whisper. Like that is a really - it's an underlying theme of this entire situation.

KING: It's a constant of the presidency.

ROGERS: Open to that and he uses his office to spread those theories and uses Twitter to spread those theories. It's like a feedback loop that is troubling.

COLLINS: But it's also important to remember, he's been shown hard evidence that it was Russia that meddled in the election. Secretary of State Pompeo, one of the closest people to the President who has been entangled in this Ukraine scandal is the one of the chief people who pushed the fact that Russia was responsible.

People have told the President day in and day out. He gets intelligence briefings on a near daily basis, almost. It's not like the President doesn't know and hasn't been shown the evidence that it wasn't Ukraine, it was Russia, but time and time again we've seen him be--

ROGERS: He hoping to theories that say the opposite.

KING: He chooses to live in a parallel universe at times. I'm going to say it just like that. His son Eric says, don't worry, this is all great.


ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: My father is doing great. He's the greatest fighter in the world. When you look at our fundraising numbers right now, in the first 72 hours since the impeachment came up, my father raised $15 million in small dollar donations 50,000 new donors who had never donated to a political campaign ever before. People are rallying behind this.


KING: Will test the people are rallying behind us part it doesn't mean people who support the President aren't giving money, but impeachment of a President should be more about raise money for a campaign should be. I just going to put that out there.

He says everything is great, if you just look and let's watch this over time. So don't invest in any of the early polls here. But if you look at this over time CBS poll, Congress opening an impeachment inquiry among all Americans 55 percent say necessary, 45 percent say unnecessary. Trump encouraging the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his Son Hunter is very or somewhat serious, 91 percent of Democrats agree with that but 32 percent of Republicans agree with that. Watch the Republican number, if that starts to grow the President would probably have a problem. KANE: That's the sort of flip of what impeachment used to be a month ago, when you would ask the a question the Democratic energy was kind of low on the issue while the conservatives were right over up and ready to fight impeachment. Now you're seeing those sort of numbers flip around and if he can toxify sort of this Biden part and encourage investigations it's going to hurt Biden.

KING: All right, we will come back to that point in a minute. The question is what about the President his party in the party short term? And up next we get to that, the Republican Party are they rallying behind the President? We will look at their words.



KING: Some of the President's top allies are defending him on TV, much ado about nothing, they say.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is a phone call between two Presidents one that just reelected just got elected. Congratulations, we're very generous of the Ukraine. Other countries like Germany should do more. By the way, I've heard that this prosecutor that was fired. Maybe he was a good guy and they fired because he was looking at Joe Biden's son. Can you look into it, congratulations? That to me is not a quid pro quo and the entire whistleblower complaint is based on here say and we're not going to impeach a President by his own here say as long as I'm around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is trying to look into the interference by Russia so it does not happen again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have any problem with the call, we've now seen the transcript, the President of the Ukraine said that there was no pressure. He was not pushed. Look, if Democrats want to impeach because Rudy Giuliani talked to a couple Ukrainians, good luck with that.