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Laws May Not Protect Whistleblower; Swing Democrats May Not Support Impeachment; Mike Pompeo Tweets State Department May Resist Subpoenas. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 1, 2019 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: In an extremely rare review, the intelligence community's inspector general, appointed by this president, is rejecting, contradicting, fact-checking false claims pushed by President Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill and on television.

First, some GOP lawmakers are arguing about the validity of the basis of the whistleblower's claims. Have a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I can't believe we're talking about impeaching the president based on an accusation based on hearsay. Why did they change the rules about a whistleblower? You can use hearsay when you used -- could not, just weeks before the complaint.



REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): He had no firsthand knowledge, he heard something from someone who may have heard something from someone --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: No, no. His sources were firsthand sources.

You know, as well as I do, that you do not need to have firsthand knowledge to be a whistleblower. And even if --

JORDAN: Well, you don't know because they changed the form. You used to, they changed the form.

TAPPER: There's --



SCIUTTO: That's not true. HARLOW: They didn't change the rule. They may have changed how the

form looked, they didn't change the rule. The type of rhetoric by some in the Republican Party has spurred the inspector general to take a remarkable step yesterday, twice correcting the record on what the president and his allies have said, and noting the whistleblower had, quote, "direct knowledge" of certain alleged conduct.

With us now is Mandy Smithberger, she's director for Defense Information for Project on Government Oversight. Mandy, thank you very much for being here. Let me just, you know, ask you, your read on the fact that the I.G. appointed by the president felt the need to do this twice yesterday, publicly, to correct the record.

MANDY SMITHBERGER, DIRECTOR FOR DEFENSE INFORMATION, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: So it's an unusual step, and I think it really underscores the importance of having independent watchdogs to help oversee our federal government. It's very clear in the law that the standard is a reasonable belief that misconduct that occurred, it doesn't matter what was on the form.

And, again, as the I.G. clarified yesterday, the whistleblower had direct and indirect knowledge. What's important to look at is the underlying disclosure, focusing on a form as a red herring.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about the president attempting to out this whistleblower. I just want to play his comments and get your response on the significance of this. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you now know who the whistleblower is, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're trying to find out about a whistleblower. When you have a whistleblower that reports things that were incorrect --


SCIUTTO: That, an unfounded statement, there. But, of course, the law is designed, is it not, to protect whistleblowers' identity so they feel the security to report such things within government without penalty?

SMITHBERGER: Yes, so the president's statements are extremely troubling. I think an important thing to keep in mind is that the protections in place in the law frequently look a lot stronger than we actually see them being in force.

And what we've seen throughout this process is that we need to strengthen the protected channels in the whistleblower protections. Because there were a number of places where the process broke down, and Congress might not have gotten this information but for the I.G. --

HARLOW: Right. SMITHBERGER: -- really making sure that he was doing his duty before

(ph) Congress.

HARLOW: Let me just read you from the statute, right? This became law in '98, it was amended in 2010, in 2014. Quote, "The inspector general shall not disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee." You have said that these protections are broadly applied but not always absolute?

SMITHBERGER: Right. So I think we especially are unclear what happens if the president goes after the identity of the whistleblower. He's unfortunately sending a very chilling message to the rest of the federal government, in trying to out who this individual is. And even with those protections in place, as you know, it's only regarding the I.G. And we saw in the Valerie Plame case --

HARLOW: Right.

SMITHBERGER: -- that Privacy Act protections are much weaker than we all thought they were.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned Valerie Plame case as one, a Bush administration official, if folks don't remember. She was outed as a CIA agent when her husband was a State Department official --


SCIUTTO: -- questioned the Bush administration's rationale for war in Iraq. So tell us how the Privacy Act, applied to her, may or may not apply here.

SMITHBERGER: So in her case, she was a covert agent so there are special protections in place for covert agents that, in this case, it appears that the whistleblower is not. And, again, there isn't a sufficient executive branch check if the president or other government officials violate the privacy of this whistleblower.


And, again, the process is going to take an independent investigation from the ICIG to substantiate those concerns, and the whistleblower is largely hanging out in the wind and vulnerable while they wait for that due process to occur.

HARLOW: Wow, wow. OK. Mandy, thank you very much --


HARLOW: -- for that reporting --

SMITHBERGER: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: -- it's important.

Here's "What to Watch" today, take a quick look. TEXT: What to Watch... 11:00 a.m. Eastern, EPA Administration gives

remarks at forum; 12:00 p.m. Eastern, Appeals court hearing on asylum cases; 3:00 p.m. Eastern, Rep. Chris Collins to plead guilty in court


HARLOW: All right. Coming up, there are among -- they are among the newest members of Congress, and perhaps the most vulnerable for re- election. Now, those Democrats who flipped Trump territories are torn over the impeachment inquiry.



SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, responding to the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning on Twitter. This, in response to subpoenas from that committee as the investigation continues.

He says the following: "Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead at the Department of State."

It's not clear what he bases the intimidation charge in that tweet on, but that is his statement. Of course, it indicates, perhaps, that the State Department is not going to comply with that subpoena, as this investigation continues.

HARLOW: What he's not responding to is the key question this morning --


HARLOW: -- of why he essentially told Martha Raddatz a few weeks ago, he didn't know anything about the whistleblower complaint about the Ukraine call, when he was on the call.

SCIUTTO: When he was on the call, which is a remarkable moment.

Well --

HARLOW: All right.

SCIUTTO: -- the inquiry is playing out in the House, and it enjoys wide support among House Democrats. But a dozen Democrats are holding out.

HARLOW: Most are first-term lawmakers who represent districts that the president won. Our Kyung Lah spoke to voters in those districts about what they think their representatives should do. Here's her reporting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got 77 counties here, and -- Hillary didn't win one, Barack didn't win either election, not one county.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to Oklahoma, a deep red state with just one blue spot in its 5th Congressional District.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kendra! Kendra! Kendra!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kendra! Kendra! Kendra!

LAH (voice-over): Democrat Kendra Horn pulled off an upset to defeat the Republican incumbent last year, winning by less than two percentage points.

REP. KENDRA HORN (D-OK): We surprised a lot of people tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't think we had a chance in Oklahoma.

LAH (voice-over): Fast-forward a year, as House Democrats begin impeachment proceedings. Horn is in a political pickle. Two hundred and twenty-three of Horn's fellow House Democrats support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, but she and 11 other so- called holdouts have not done so. Nearly all represent pro-Trump territory.

HORN: When we are facing critical issues in front of our country, I think it's important to take the time to do it deliberately and intentionally and thoughtfully.

LAH (voice-over): At a town hall, Monday night, Horn refused to budge from her middle ground.

HORN: I'm not going to do it. I won't do it. I will make a decision based on what information is fully discovered based on the investigation.

REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ): So grateful for --

LAH (voice-over): Democrat Andy Kim knows the predicament well. He flipped New Jersey's 3rd District from red to blue last year. Kim announced his support for an inquiry just last week.

KIM: I mean, look, it's up to the American people to decide, when it comes to their elections, of who they want.

LAH (voice-over): Back in Oklahoma City, some Democrats want Horn to play it safe.

LAH: Would you worry about her chances for re-election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would. I think she's done a good job so far, and I would hate to see her lose.

LAH (voice-over): But Horn also must contend with her Democratic base. KEVIN MOORE, REGISTERED DEMOCRAT: I would rather her go with the

impeachment and lose her seat, than worry about what happens to her position. At a certain point, you have to stand up for what you believe in. I don't think people here ever expected a Democrat to win. However, the demographics are changing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's homemade food. Let me know if you all need anything else.


LAH (voice-over): They're not changing that quickly, warn some Republicans.


LAH (voice-over): Support for impeaching Trump, predicts Mike Munday, would energize voters like him.

MUNDAY: If she wants a prayer to win this next time, I would suggest that she not vote for the impeachment.


HARLOW: It is fascinating to see that reporting, Kyung.


HARLOW: Thank you so much for that.


OK. Ahead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, just moments ago, responding to that House Foreign Affairs Committee and their demands on Twitter. We'll have more on what he's saying, next.


HARLOW: All right. The secretary of state is in Rome right now, but he's also making remarks on Twitter. Let's go to Sarah Westwood for more.

And, Sarah, he's not answering the key question about why he wasn't forthcoming about being on that Ukraine call with President Trump. But he is responding pretty forcefully, here, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Poppy, a defiant response from Secretary of State Pompeo. Recall that the Foreign Affairs Committee was one of the three congressional committees who issued a subpoena for Mike Pompeo on Friday, and gave him a deadline until October 4th to respond, so he only has three days until, under the impeachment inquiry, the administration was going to be considered to have committed obstruction here.

So, in a series of tweets, Mike Pompeo posted a letter to the Foreign Affairs Committee, I want to read you part of those tweets he wrote. "I'm concerned with aspects of the committee's request that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career foreign service officers."


And then he goes on to say, "Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State."

Now, keep in mind that as part of those subpoenas, House Democrats wanted to get depositions from five current and former State Department officials, and part of their request involved not having a White House lawyer or a State Department lawyer accompany those witnesses -- they said they didn't want minders from the administration to try to prevent candid testimony.

In that letter, part of what Pompeo lists as his objections, Poppy, is not having -- not being allowed to have a lawyer present to prevent -- to protect State Department interests.

SCIUTTO: OK. There's a lot of hyperbolic statements in his tweet there, alleging intimidation, et cetera. But fact is, committees, oversight committees in particular, issue subpoenas all the time. What is the Foreign Affairs Committee specifically trying to get to the bottom of with these subpoenas here?

WESTWOOD: Well, part of what the Foreign Affairs Committee wanted to get to the bottom of is how the State Department worked potentially with Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, in facilitating those talks. So, for example --


WESTWOOD: -- Kurt Volker, he was the envoy to Ukraine who, sources said, resigned last week.


WESTWOOD: He had been accused in that whistleblower complaint of setting up those talks, so that's just one aspect of what the committee is looking at here with the Ukraine situation.



SCIUTTO: And it's notable, that the special envoy for Ukraine resigned in the wake of that. So it seems to raise that those are some legitimate questions that need to be answered.

HARLOW: For sure. Sarah, thank you for jumping on that reporting.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, it is one month after Hurricane Dorian ravaged parts of the Bahamas. You remember, we brought those images to you here. Well, CNN is back on Grand Bahama Island to see how people are trying to rebuild their lives. They have a lot of work to do.



HARLOW: It has been a month since Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas, completely devastating so many parts of the Bahamas. Hundreds of people, if not thousands --


HARLOW: -- still missing, so many homeless.

SCIUTTO: We remember, CNN took you there, to the ground, among them, Patrick Oppmann, and now he's returned to Bahama Island to check in with some of the people he met right after the storm hit.

Patrick, you know, you were there through the worst of this. You met so many people who lost everything. As you went back to see them now, how are they doing? Are they going to be able to turn this around?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question. I don't have the answer. We've even had people tell us that it feels worse now. I mean, just look over my shoulder. Those are boats that were thrown by Dorian, onto the shore. Everywhere you look, you see that level of damage. None of it has been picked up, even though aid has come in, the situation has gotten somewhat better.

Talking to these people who have been so affected by this storm, it's really not even the physical damage to their homes, to their boats, to the property. It is the mental wounds that have cut the deepest.


HOWARD ARMSTRONG, WIFE KILLED DURING HURRICANE DORIAN: The porch was still here, but that went that night. Obviously, it was probably the worst part of the storm as the night came on then.

OPPMANN (voice-over): A month after Hurricane Dorian rained hell down on the Bahamas, survivor Howard Armstrong shows us what remains of his home, his island, his life.

ARMSTRONG: I'm hanging on this tree, up there.


And they were all pounding and pounding, it was -- it was just terrible.

That's the bathroom, bedroom there and a bedroom here.

She was laying, floating and I checked her out, she died on me.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Dorian hit Grand Bahama in the Abaco Islands with 200-mile-an-hour gusts, and a storm surge over 20 feet high.

When we first met Howard, he had just been rescued by jet ski. He has just seen his wife, Lynn (ph), die in front of him.

ARMSTRONG: My poor little wife got hypothermia, and she was standing on top of the kitchen cabinets until they disintegrated. And then I -- I kept with her, and she just drowned on me.



We've got to --

OPPMANN (voice-over): Like thousands of Bahamians, Howard as less homeless by Dorian. Only after weeks of searching did we manage to track him down.

ARMSTRONG: -- they just popped right out.

She was giving up on it. And --

OPPMANN (voice-over): He shows us the cabinets he and Lynn (ph) climbed on top of to escape the rising waters.

Everywhere you look, there are fragments of their old life. One of Lynn's (ph) diaries in the yard, her cross, hanging from a tree branch.

ARMSTRONG: There (ph) are her glasses.

OPPMANN (voice-over): The glasses she lost in the storm.

ARMSTRONG: I'll have to keep those. She couldn't see. See how thick they are?

OPPMANN (voice-over): Howard can't find (ph) her body. The storm carried her away.


OPPMANN: And Howard Armstrong is still looking for his wife's body. We were with him last week when he went to several police stations here on this island, searching for information. They said they had none, that her body at this point, as of today, is still unrecovered.

SCIUTTO: Goodness gracious, Patrick. Just a heartbreaking story, and we know that that kind of story's been repeated so many times there. Good to have you there on the ground, it's a story we're going to continue to tell.

HARLOW: Yes. We're so glad you went back, Patrick. Thank you very much for shining a light.

And thank all of you --

OPPMANN: Thank you, guys.

HARLOW: -- for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow. We'll see you back here tomorrow.


SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.