Return to Transcripts main page


Ukrainians Mentioned by Whistleblower; Chiefs Rally to Beat Lions; Trump Escalates Attacks as Dems Begin Impeachment Push; Election Security Debate Intensifies. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 06:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Because of the president's threats.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says they hope to hear from the whistleblower soon. Schiff confirming that his panel has secured a tentative agreement for the whistleblower to testify before the committee. Schiff says he plans to subpoena President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as well for documents as soon as today. Giuliani tells CNN he is willing to testify only if Trump OKs it.

CAMEROTA: Officials in the Ukraine are increasingly alarmed over the potential fallout of President Trump's contacts with the Ukrainian president. Officials in Kiev has been tight-lipped, but CNN's Clarissa Ward tracked down two people mentioned in the whistleblower complaint and she joins us live from Kiev.

So what did they tell you, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an interesting story, Alisyn, because these two men could not be on more opposite ends of the political spectrum. They have a wildly different approach and take to this whole issue.

But one thing they do seem to clearly agree on is that President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was actively and energetically engaged in trying to get Ukraine to open up an investigation into Trump's political opponents. Take a look.


WARD (voice over): Ukraine is struggling with the fallout of America's political crisis. Officials here aren't talking, but we tracked down two of those mentioned in the whistleblower's complaint, each with a very different perspective. Former diplomat Andrii Telizhenko say President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, approached him in May for a meeting. Telizhenko is known for his claims that Democrats colluded with Ukrainian officials against Trump in 2016. He says the two men spent six hours discussing a range of issues.

ANDRII TELIZHENKO, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: My insights on what's happening in the U.S./Ukrainian relationship and the DNC Ukraine collusion was also mentioned. Giuliani also asked me about Vice President Biden, what my thought was, what my insights were on him.

WARD (on camera): So you had the sense that this was a priority for Mr. Giuliani?

TELIZHENKO: Yes, that's the -- he doesn't hide it. It's his work. That's what he was hired to do to represent the president of the United States and his personal interests and --

WARD: By trying to further conspiracy theories about the president's political opponents?

TELIZHENKO: No, there is no conspiracy theories in that. I'll just -- we need to investigate this properly.

WARD (voice over): Sergii Leshchenko disagrees. He was an adviser to Ukrainian President Zelensky's campaign and says Giuliani began applying pressure to investigate the Bidens shortly after the election.

SERGII LESHCHENKO, FORMER CAMPAIGN AIDE TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKY: I knew it for sure because for Giuliani it was only interest in Ukraine, to get this information about Biden and to use this information in the U.S.

WARD (on camera): You think that he was focused on it for the president or --

LESHCHENKO: Well, for sure. Not for his private purposes. We know who is Giuliani. We know what is his role. We know that he's acting not just the private person, but on behalf of your -- of his client.

WARD: So this wasn't a secret?

LESHCHENKO: It was a clear effect.


WARD: Now, Giuliani has repeatedly defended his efforts to get an investigation launched here in Ukraine. He has said that he has not done anything wrong, even though those claims of Democratic collusion in the 2016 election of wrong of Hunter Biden and his father, then Vice President Joe Biden, are unsubstantiated and have been repeatedly debunked.


SCIUTTO: Clarissa Ward there, thanks very much.

The impeachment inquiry here at home carries major political risks for both parties. But two new national polls suggest that Democrats could be starting to sway public opinion. We're going to break down those numbers. And that's coming up.


[06:38:17] CAMEROTA: The impeachment inquiry into President Trump is moving full

steam ahead this week. And this comes as two, new national polls shows a difference in public opinion. A CBS News poll finds a majority of Americans now support an impeachment inquiry.

Joining us now are CNN political commentators. We have Mark McKinnon, he's a former senior adviser to the George W. Bush and McCain campaigns, and creator of "The Circus" on Showtime, and Jess McIntosh. She's the former director of communications outreach for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Great to have both of you in studio.



CAMEROTA: So I'll just pull this up one more time. This CBS poll says is an impeachment inquiry necessary: Fifty-five percent say yes it is necessary, 45 percent say unnecessary.

But, Jess, that's different than an impeachment, OK. An impeachment inquiry is what a majority of Americans are now comfortable with.

MCINTOSH: Yes. And I think when you drill down into that poll, it is really interesting to see that independents are almost split 50/50 on whether or not they approve of the impeachment inquiry and Republicans approve of it at 23 percent, which is a shockingly high number from the president's own party. So this is the very beginning. We have only been living in this new rubric for a few days at this point. I think we will see those numbers shift as the impeachment inquiry proceeds. We're going to see more people supporting the -- an actual impeachment vote.

CAMEROTA: You know what's interesting, Mark, is that I -- Nancy Pelosi, according to the reporting at least, was reluctant to begin this. She was slow rolling this. She wanted to wait until the American people were there.

But what ended up happening was the opposite. Because Nadler and Schiff pressed ahead and those seven Democrats, freshman Democrats, wrote that op-ed, they pulled the American people along.

MCKINNON: Well, they did, but also, Alisyn, this issue is so much simpler than the Russia investigation.


I mean as the former Governor Ann Richards would say, my mama can understand this one.

You know, and so what's happening is people are looking at this and a lot of those members of the Democratic caucus, particularly the vulnerable ones who aren't in Trump districts, are saying the same thing as a lot of those voters are saying. They support the inquiry, they don't yet support impeachment. And so they're letting the process go forward, which is smart.

And Nancy Pelosi has played this very smartly all along. By holding back that dam and the people didn't go over too quickly, but now they're supporting the inquiry on a question that's much easier for the public to understand.

CAMEROTA: And, by the way, this has not been without its detriment to Joe Biden. I mean all of this, though the American public, at the moment, I think, sees that there's something that isn't right going on in the White House with the president and it supports the inquiry. Here's this ABC News poll.

How serious Trump/Ukraine president investigate Biden. That doesn't -- that's not English. How serious of a problem is it that President Trump encouraged the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden? Sixty-three percent say serious, 36 percent say not serious. But at least, of course, with President Trump's base, they still feel like there's some there there and that's -- is that a problem?

MCINTOSH: Well, I think that President Trump's base is going to assume that there is something nefarious about anybody that President Trump goes after. That list is very, very long. It doesn't so far look like the president's pushing of conspiracy theories, widely debunked conspiracy theories is having any sort of impact on those independents or those moderates or folks who might be persuaded one way or the other. So at this point I certainly don't envy Joe Biden. Obviously he wants to run the race he wants to run. He wants to talk about what it would mean for him to be president. He wants to talk about how we get out of this mess. He certainly doesn't want to be responding to widely debunked conspiracy theories.

But as long as the media keeps doing what the media has been doing, which is very fairly and accurately reporting on what's being said that is truthful and untruthful, hopefully he can keep to the message that he wants to stay at.

CAMEROTA: What do you think about how --

MCKINNON: Well, the problem for Joe Biden is in the Democratic primary, not so much even the general election. When you have a primary that's all about kind of the new generation doing things the new way, anti-corruption, this is a very old style, swampy way of going about business where it's kind of -- it may not be illegal, but there's certainly a big whiff of nepotism there.

He had no background in Russia, no background in energy. What was he doing on that board? Certainly if he wasn't the vice president's son, it's unlikely he wouldn't have been there.

CAMEROTA: And do you think that Joe Biden needs to address it in a different way than he has?

MCKINNON: You know, I think all he can do is say that it -- what he's been saying and debunk and talk about the media reports that there's no there there. And, in fact, what Joe Biden didn't -- what he probably should talk about is that he was backing off a prosecutor who wasn't prosecuting the company. That's what -- that's -- you know, that's what Donald Trump isn't telling people.

CAMEROTA: Yes, because there's two separate things. So the trying to get rid of the prosecutor is what the international community all wanted because this prosecutor and his deputies --

MCKINNON: Wasn't doing his job. Right.

CAMEROTA: Clearly were involved somehow in some sort of corruption. They weren't going after corruption. They were gathering diamonds in their homes for some reason. So that's one thing, OK?

But then the Hunter Biden stuff, which is what you're suggesting, seeing -- maybe there's a whiff of nepotism and does he need to, do you think, talk about this?

MCINTOSH: I think at this point, no, I don't think so. I think this story has been in the ecosystem for a very long time and he has addressed it before. Maybe at some point that will change, but right now I think he wants to talk about what he wants to talk about.

I think if -- if the -- if it -- this becomes about foreign policy and why Joe Biden did what he did in the Ukraine or just about any other country as the vice president, I think he's on very strong territory. That is really where he is head and shoulders above the rest of the field in terms of experience. Similarly, if we want to talk about whiffs of nepotism, I think the president's own family is so much more in the spotlight than he wants them to be when compared to anybody else. It's just a -- it's a strange road to go down.

MCKINNON: There could be a sympathetic response, too, from (INAUDIBLE). It's just like, lay off the guy's family after all he's been through.

CAMEROTA: You just never know how these things are going to play out at this point.

Jess McIntosh, Mark McKinnon, thank you both very much for all of your expertise in this field.



SCIUTTO: Well, if you want a break from all this, there was football this weekend. Week four in the NFL saw a number of unbeaten teams squaring off.

Carolyn Manno has more on the "Bleacher Report."

What -- tell us what happened.


Defense certainly the story of the weekend. And if you got up to go to the fridge in the middle of the Chiefs/Lions game, chances are pretty good that you missed something. Five turnovers, five lead changes, 14 points in the last three minutes of the game.

Detroit looking for the upset late. Matthew Stafford hitting a familiar target here, a dart to Kenny Golladay in the end zone for the second time in a tightrope catch to give the Lions a lead with 226 remaining.

That is too much time for the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, playing in his first indoor NFL game. He didn't throw for any touchdowns, but he still got the job done. Mahomes rallied his team in a game winning drive that ended up with Darrel Williams one yard chance here to dive for the score with just 20 ticks on the clock. So they managed to get it done.


The New England Patriots stayed perfect despite a messy win against the Bills. Defense was the story for both teams. A blocked punt led to the first period touchdown for long-time Patriots captain and special teamer Matthew Slater. He's a fan favorite. That was the difference. Tom Brady and the offense stalled for most of the afternoon.

But, you guys, this was the play of the day. it came from two diehard Bills fans. Mackenzie Park and Jordan Binggeli tying the knot at the 50 yard line during halftime. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly gave the bride away. Longtime Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams officiating the ceremony.

NFL stadium, y the way, not the easiest venue to book for the wedding. The pair beat out close to 1,500 couples in a contest to tie the knot. Diehard Bills fans for as long as they both shall live. I was thinking about, if it would have been the other side, with the Patriots, Bill Belichick saying, we're on to marriage. You know, do your job. That sort of thing.

SCIUTTO: No, you've got to be a good Bills fan to have your wedding at halftime.

MANNO: Big Bills fan.

CAMEROTA: There's so many guests. That must have been very expensive.


CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

MANNO: Sure.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.

All right, a new article says that President Trump told Russian officials in 2017 that he was not concerned about Moscow's election interference. What does that mean for next year's election? That's next.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Overnight, President Trump attacked the whistleblower and that person's sources once again accusing them of spying. Lawyers representing the whistleblower say they are now concerned about their client's safety.

Joining me now, the former executive director of the intelligence community's whistleblowing program, Dan Meyer, and former CIA officer assigned to the White House Situation Room Joel Willett.

Thanks to both of you. It's great to have your expertise here.

Dan, let me begin with you. You have the president here claiming he has a right to face his accuser. When, in fact, of course, a key to any whistleblower law or process is anonymity, is it not, so that people feel comfortable coming forward.


Tell us, Dan, why that's important.

DAN MEYER, FORMER DIRECTOR, INTEL WHISTLEBLOWING PROGRAM: Well, the president's mistake here is that he's confused a criminal trial with an administrative procedure. Many senior officials in whistleblower cases are upset that they can't confront the whistleblower. But that right doesn't attach under the Constitution unless the Sixth Amendment is triggered and it's not triggered here.

So we keep the whistleblower anonymous. You don't take the whistleblower's facts as face value. You charge up your investigators, your inspectors, your auditors, your prosecutors. They go out and collect more evidence, corroborate the whistle-blowing, or sometimes they find out that the whistleblower is wrong. A federal whistleblower can be completely wrong and still be in the right as a whistleblower.

SCIUTTO: Joel, you have the advantage of having served in the White House as a CIA officer and participated on -- listened in on many calls between the president and world leaders. As you know, the president has described this as something akin to spying here. You know, people listening in on my calls. Of course he's attacked the whistleblower as a spy as well.

But tell us how and why it is normal to have people, subject matter experts, et cetera, on these calls with world leaders.

JOEL WILLETT, FORMER CIA OFFICER, WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM: Right. So as I mentioned, I was staff to the White House Situation Room, and among one of its many responsibilities is to coordinate and execute the president's interactions with foreign heads of state over the phone or video conference. We also do the same thing for the national security adviser and the vice president. It's one of the primary services we provide.

The Situation Room is staffed from people like me from the intelligence community, the military, and the State Department, and the president and all the those senior advisers know that we're on the line. And, in fact, it's critical that we be there. We take notes. We have three note takers on the line trying to take these transcripts as accurate and as close to verbatim as possible and that the reason is simple, foreign policy is bigger than any one person.

Relationships are developed on these calls. Foreign policy agendas are advanced on these calls. And many of the president's senior advisers and other parts of government have action items to follow up on after these calls. And so it's critical that accurate readouts exist and that those are disseminated to the appropriate people within the government.

SCIUTTO: So we know that the White House, following a call with the Ukrainian president, that his staff, seeing that untoward things, perhaps unacceptable things were said in that call, made an effort to move it to a code word protected system. It's CNN's reporting with my colleague Pamela Brown and I on Friday that it wasn't just the Ukrainian president's call that got treated this way. It was also the president's calls with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And also, imagine this, the president's conversations with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

What does that say to you? That's a system that is intended for things, calls, conversations that included protected classified information. For White House officials to move things that were just politically sensitive to that system, why is that wrong?

WILLETT: Right. So there are four systems in the White House. There's an unclassified system, a secret level system and a top secret system. Those are the first three. And then there is this code word server that you just mentioned.

In my experience, all of the transcripts of presidential and head of state calls were -- were -- those notes were taken on the top secret SCI system. It -- I never knew, in my experience, of a call to be retroactively moved to the code word special access program system. And I've checked with a number of colleagues that I worked with during that time and it was not their recollection either.

So this is highly unusual. That system is meant for code word special access programs in the intelligence community. It's not meant as a storage mechanism for presidential phone calls, certainly not retroactively. If an issue -- code word issue is going to be discussed with a foreign partner, it would have been known in advance of the call.

SCIUTTO: Dan, so let's get to the substance of the whistleblower's complaint here. Alleging not just through this call with the Ukrainian president, but a host of other accounts of other White House officials here that the president was effectively shaking down the Ukrainian president here, but also pursuing the conspiracy theory that it wasn't Russia who interfered in the election, it was Ukraine.

You know, here we are, two and a half years into this president's term, and apparently he still does not accept that Russia interfered in the election despite the findings, not just the intelligence community, but bipartisan committees on Capitol Hill. Tell us the significance of that, when we have another election just a

little more than a year away. Can this president credibly defend the U.S. election system against another attack?

MEYER: Well, the chief evil here is that, you know, in our system, the American people are sovereign. We don't have a king. We don't have a queen. And it's elections by which the American people speak and are represented in Congress. So interfering with the elections is really the great concern here. That's where I suspect Chairman Nadler's team will be looking for violations of law, rule or regulation.

The whistleblower complaint simply speaks to motive on the interference in those elections.


So if the president's communications about the complaint, the complaint itself shows that there was motive to interfere with the elections, that then attaches him to the overall problem of whether there was a violation of law.


MEYER: Strong arming of foreign leaders, I would be surprised if Donald Trump was the first American president to strong arm a foreign leader. But I think if you look at the handling of the classified information in the Situation Room, look at the federal election laws, that's what tells us whether there was a challenge here.

SCIUTTO: And the question, of course, strong arm of foreign leader to interfere it appears in the U.S. election process.

Dan Meyer, Joel Willett, thanks very much.


Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire's congressional testimony got a lot of attention last week, but one of his revelations flew under the radar.

John Avlon has our "Reality Check."

Tell us more, John.


So, look, amid all the partisan noise, you might have missed this, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire's answer about the most urgent threat America faces.


JOE MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our intelligence system.


AVLON: Got that? And that's the essence of the whistleblower complaint. Quote, the president of the United States is using his power to his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. elections.

Here's what makes it worse. The call Trump make to the Ukrainian president came one day after Robert Mueller told Congress this.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNCIL: Over the course of my career, I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.


AVLON: You'll remember Mueller said that deserves the attention of every American. And that's why "The Washington Post" report this weekend was such a gut punch. "The Post" writing that during a 2017 Oval Office meeting with two Russian officials, Trump said he was unconcerned about Moscow's interference in the 2016 presidential election because the U.S. did the same in other countries. That's beyond moral relativism, the thing that Republicans used to accuse liberals of indulging in. It's a green light for meddling in future elections, which Trump doesn't seem to mind as long as it benefits him.

At least that was the reaction among three former White House officials according to "The Post," which reported it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help him. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other country's elections.

This also means the president was privately acknowledging Russian election interference, which in public he kept contesting that Russia did it despite the consensus of U.S. intelligence.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.


AVLON: Why would it be? The president's response to all this has been predictable, deflect and project, tweeting that it was Democrats who were lying and cheating like never before in our country's history to destabilize the United States of American and its upcoming 2020 election. That's, of course, exactly what President Trump is being credibly accused of doing.

He also accused Congressman Adam Schiff of committing fraud and treason. Exactly what some have started to accuse the president of doing. But here's what's not contested. Foreign interference in our elections

is an urgent concern. Russia did it in 2016 and again in the 2018 midterms and they're aiming to do it again in 2020.

Despite all that, they know the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, repeatedly blocked bipartisan election security bills until he relented last week to allow additional funding.

We cannot allow the integrity of American elections to be a partisan issue. And we can't allow anyone to undermine the integrity of our election system, that includes the president.

And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: So important, John. Thank you very much for keeping everyone focused on this and what's coming up.

SCIUTTO: That's why we check the facts.

Well, for a little light-hearted break, here's "Saturday Night Live's" season premier wasted no time taking jabs at the Ukraine scandal and the 2020 race. Here are your "Late Night Laughs."


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I'm being impeached. It's the greatest presidential harassment of all time. I would know. I'm like the president of harassment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTOR, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": You got to relax, Mr. Trump. We've got nothing to worry about. Nobody's going to find out about our illegal side dealings with the Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or how we tried to cover up those side dealings.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or how we plan to cover up the cover-up.

BALDWIN: Rudy -- Rudy, where are you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm on CNN right now. And let me put you on speaker.

BALDWIN: Rudy, get out of there. And whatever you do, stay off the phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'd also like to welcome California Senator Kamala Harris.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, Erin, that little girl you just introduced, that little girl was me.

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: I'm like plastic straws. I've been around forever. I've always worked. But now you're mad at me?


SCIUTTO: That was one of my favorites.

CAMEROTA: It was so good. Woody Harrelson did a mean Joe Biden. I mean a funny Joe Biden.

OK, Meanwhile, we're learning when the whistleblower may testify before Congress.