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Anatomy Of Trump Conspiracy Theories; Historian: Why It's Scary When Trump Tweets About Civil War; Kamala Harris Calls On Twitter To Suspend Trump's Account; Lindsey Graham Contradicts Himself On Impeachment. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 1, 2019 - 14:30   ET



BROKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: He just keeps spreading this --


CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. He keeps spreading it because of particularly his size of his social media microphone, Brooke. It's very hard, even as we fact-check in real time, to beat it back.

Let's just -- remember first of all, Donald Trump's entire candidacy founded on a conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born outside the United States. Not true.

Obviously, remember, he won the election, three million tore 5 million people voted illegally. I won't touch on all of these.

Barack Obama put a wiretap in Trump Tower during the election. Hillary Clinton's emails hidden somewhere people don't know about. And most recently, the Bidens have done something corrupt in the Ukraine, which all independent fact-checking says nothing is there.

How does he do this? How does he get it into the mainstream? OK. Baseless claim.

Use the Ukrainian example because it's most recent. Something efficiency going on with Joe and Hunter Biden. He got $50,000 a month. Then, repeat, repeat, repeat. Lots and lots of tweets. Lots and lots of surrogates saying it. So it churns out.

We have to fact-check it and debunk, by "we," broadly the media, debunk it saying actually independent fact-checkers says there nothing here.

Yes, Hunter Biden on this board but the prosecutor wasn't fired because Joe Biden was trying to protect his son. Debunked.

He says, fake news. Doubles down. Put doubles, triples, quadruples down. That's what he does. Keep doing.

The Roy Cohn thing, one of Donald Trump's mentors and advisers to Joe McCarthy during the red scare. Roy Cohn told him, never say you're sorry or regret anything because that is a sign of weakness. He basically says, well, I was right. Why would I apologize?

Add here, he demands the other people, in fact, media should apologize to me. Right?

And then, this is the part that's really, really depressing, Brooke. It's too late. Because by the time we have walked through this cycle, doesn't take long, 24, 48 hours, even after he makes the claim, repeats the claim, the claim is repeatedly debunked he dibbles down on it, refuses to apologize. We get to this point where it's now in the culture.

My in-laws, who don't follow politics that closely, will say things to me like, what's the deal with Biden in Ukraine? There it is. That's a victory for Trump. Because if you go into the ballot box and you think, I don't know if we got the whole story. That's a win for Donald Trump, because he has started it.

Remember, this is so important. He has started it with a baseless claim.


CILLIZZA: Remember, they say a lie traveled around the world before the truth puts its pants on in the morning. That's this! That is this.

Donald Trump, thanks to his social media megaphone, has exploited that time and time again.

And, remember, Brooke. You know, it's October 1st of the off year. Wait until October 1st 2020. Things will get worse unfortunately.

BALDWIN: Sure. Every time you talk to your in-laws, though, you give them --


CILLIZZA: I do. I say, look, I do these segments on television. I'll send them to you.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, thank you for that.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Anatomy of the Trump conspiracy theories.

President Trump is spreading a warning that impeachment could lead to a civil war. Speaking of. We talk to a historian as to why a threat like this has to be taken very seriously.



BALDWIN: More breaking news this afternoon. Chairman of three different committees up on the Hill issued a statement in response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's actions they were, quote, "intimidating and bullying State Department officials." Show you the tweet here. Just sent out this morning.

Go straight to Manu Raju.

What did this committees say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are pushing back. This comes after Lindsey Graham said Mike Pompeo indicated five current and former State Department officials, not feasible to be deposed by these congressional committees as part of this impeachment investigation. is looking into the Ukraine situation, efforts to urge the government to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Right?

Pompeo saying it wouldn't happen and criticized Democrats for moving forward. And Democrats issue as statement pushing back saying that they said in this statement, "Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress including State Department employees is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry."

In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint.

What they are suggesting here in this statement is that efforts in their view to obstruct their investigation would essentially amount to what their saying obstructing Congress, obstructing Congress' investigation and Democrats saying privately and publicly could be an impeachable offense by this president.

If Mike Pompeo does not allow the officials to come forward and not deposed, that essentially will give more weight to their push for impeachment.

Also in this statement, they call Mike Pompeo a "fact witness." Reportedly, he was on that phone call with the Ukrainian president and the president of the United States about this. And so they want to hear from Mike Pompeo himself, but Pompeo pushing back.


Democrats pushing back. And where this potentially goes could be an impeachment push.

We'll see how Democrats plan to respond. I tried to ask Adam Schiff about it moments ago and he declined to comment. See what he has to say a little later -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Manu, what about tomorrow? A scheduled deposition tomorrow? Do we know if that State Department official will show up?

RAJU: We don't know exactly yet at the moment. We've been trying to get the exact answer about whether or not that deposition will, in fact, happen. At the moment seems unlikely because the State Department, Mike Pompeo saying it's not feasible and pushing back. We're not expecting it to, but we'll see. A lot can change as you know in a matter of minutes up here.

BALDWIN: It can.

Manu, thank you very much up on Capitol Hill this afternoon.

Meantime, a U.S. Senator, one of the president's biggest defenders. This was not always the case. What changed for Lindsey Graham?

Plus, word of a potential second whistleblower and this time allegations of misconduct involving the president's taxes.

We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Once again today President Trump is lashing out at the whistleblower who's coming forward as well as Democrats pushing this impeachment inquiry.

On Monday, the president took his apocalyptic rhetoric to a frightening level quoting a Baptist minister and FOX News commentator warning a of a civil war-like fracture from which our country will never heal.

Nicole Hemmer is an associate research scholar of Columbia University and author of "Messengers of the Right Conservative Media and Transformation of American Government." And wrote a piece for, "Why It's So Scary When Trump Tweets about Civil War."

Thank you for being with me.

Why is it so scary?

NICOLE HEMMER, ASSOCIATE RESEARCH SCHOLAR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY & AUTHOR: It's so scary because that language of civil war is something that militia groups, white power groups, hear as permission to actually engage in more vile. Something we should be really concerned about.

Presidents don't normally encourage this kind of activity. But we already know from the Oath Keeper's Twitter profile, one of the major militias in the United States, they hear this as something that says, hey, it's time for us to pick up arms and start fighting back.

BALDWIN: Kamala Harris, obviously, so many listened to what she said and saw the tweets and Kamala Harris says he crossed a line with this tweet on Monday and there should be consequences. Take a listen.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): His Twitter account should be suspended. I think there's plenty of now evidence to suggest that he is irresponsible with his words in a way that could result in harm to other people. So the privilege of using those words in that way should probably be taken from him.


BALDWIN: Now, Twitter is not going to suspend or ban the president of the United States, but what does it say that we are at this point where a sitting U.S. Senator is saying this about the president of the United States?

HEMMER: I think it speaks to the real danger of his words. Right? This isn't just a president using apocalyptic rhetoric. He's called for political violence over the past four years and that is something that Senators in Congress, party leaders should be standing up against, because it has potential and already has created violence in the United States.

BALDWIN: In case you all watching forgot, and you point it out in your piece, at rallies, "knock the crap our protesters." Told police office, please, don't be too nice when looking to arrest his word was I believe "thugs." What he said right after the whistleblower complaint went public.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to know who's the person that gave the whistleblower, who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that's close to a spy.

You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.


BALDWIN: I mean in this climate, we so often talk about how people are almost numb to this, this rhetoric which we shouldn't be, but we've seen and heard so much of it. What will it take for this president to be held accountable for his language?

HEMMER: So far, he hasn't been held accountable. I don't imagine this is something that will appear in articles of impeachment but it should. He has sworn an oath to protect the United States and here he endangers specific people with his comments and that's a real problem.

BALDWIN: Nicole Hemmer, thank you for coming on.

HEMMER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, Democrats accusing the secretary of state of intimidating witnesses at the State Department to protect himself and this president in this whole whistleblower scandal. Why Secretary Pompeo is just of the president's man engulfed in this impeachment firestorm.


[14:50:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think Donald Trump is a political car wreck. He's becoming a jackass at a time when he needs to have a serious debate. I think he's appealing to the dark side of American politics. He is not offering solutions to hard, complicated problems. He is basically selling fear and prejudice.


BALDWIN: That is the same Senator who would essentially become one of President Trump's biggest defenders as he faces potential impeachment.

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham isn't just contradicting himself from the 2016 campaign days. He's also making a stunningly different argument than he did when in the House back in 1999 voted to impeach president Clinton. Listen to him then and now.


GRAHAM: You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic, because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.

The president is between a rock and hard place. I think he did the right thing.

From my point of view, to impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.


BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, chief political analyst.

Gloria, the then and now, hypocrisy seems stunning.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is stunning and a complete turnaround.

And you can trace it back at least in terms of Donald Trump to the Brett Kavanaugh fight. Remember, Lindsey Graham came out and defended Brett Kavanaugh vociferously and seemed to change the tone on the committee and almost single-handedly helped save the Kavanaugh nomination.

But make no mistake, this is a man who, years ago, spoke about restoring honor and integrity to the office. As you showed in that clip, now he's defending Donald Trump's behavior and also claiming that the whistleblower's charges are hearsay and we know they are not.

BALDWIN: Right. Interesting you point out Kavanaugh. Hard to believe just one year ago as of just a couple days ago.

BORGER: Absolutely. BALDWIN: One of Graham's biggest arguments against this whistleblower

complaint, you point out, is hearsay. We know the transcript backs that up. And much of the key in evidence in Bill Clinton's impeachment trial was from Linda Tripp, wait for it, was relaying information she heard from Monica Lewinsky.

BORGER: Right. Also, Lindsey Graham has said this is a setup.

So going back to Linda Tripp, what was that? When she secretly tape- recorded Monica Lewinsky pouring her heart out to her night after night on these phone calls about Bill Clinton, the president of the United States? Was that a setup? And was Lindsey Graham defending that? At that particular time? Yes, he was.

And so, you know, you can also make the point, and I will, that this is not hearsay. The inspector general was so upset about it that --


BALDWIN: He rebuked.

BORGER: Came out and rebuked all of those people who say it was a setup, and that you don't need firsthand information. And Chuck Grassley, who's the champion of whistleblowers, came out today and said, you do not need firsthand information.

And by the way, by the way, the inspector general says this person said that he or she had personal or direct knowledge of events or records involved. So that is direct information.

So I have a hard time figuring out what Lindsey Graham is talking about.

BALDWIN: Whether it is Lindsey Graham or former critic Mike Pompeo does this prove many are really just motivated by self-survival?

BORGER: In politics? Are you kidding?

BALDWIN: A straight face.

BORGER: Say that's a given. Lindsey Graham is from South Carolina, don't forget. And he has been a Trump critic, as you pointed out. He has been an ally of John McCain, who's no longer at his side leading him, and he's going to be a Trump promoter, because where he hails from is Trump country.

And so I think there's a political danger from him in getting too far out and I think he would reject that. He would say that's wrong. I really believe this.

But you know, in life we can rationalize anything. And I think going from one extreme to the other is, is very difficult.

Now, he does disagree with Trump, for example, on Syria. He disagreed with him, disagreed with him on Iran. There are still points of contention, but don't forget, he's a hawk, and that is safe in South Carolina.


BALDWIN: Yes, yes.

Gloria, thank you very much. Gloria Borger in Washington.


BALDWIN: Special coverage continues with "THE LEAD" right now.