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Source Says Secretary of State Pompeo Was on Trump's Call with Ukraine; Trump Allies and Advisers Entangled in Impeachment Probe; Giuliani Hires Watergate Prosecutor as His Attorney in Impeachment Inquiry; Some Trump Allies Defend Him as Many Republicans Stay Silent; Democrats Fire Back Warning Pompeo to Stop Intimidating Witnesses. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 1, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's no question he is. He seems to be just unspooled, rambling around, travelling around the Ukraine fumbling and bumbling through everything that he does and says. You know, people are wondering about whether Giuliani is compos mentis, does he have his wits about him? Or is he kind of, you know -- his egotism is so overweening that he's

just wanting TV time and doing anything that Donald Trump says for him to do.

I'll be interested to see if the American Bar Association starts questioning what Giuliani's doing, which is charging people, Americans like the Bidens, using Ukraine in this sort of weird way. I've never seen a lawyer behave in this fashion at the behest of a U.S. President.

TAPPER: Carl, let's talk about the abuse of power allegations against President Trump and against President Nixon. Just on the issue of abuse of power, on this issue having to do with Ukraine, how did the two -- how does President Trump stand up when it comes to President Nixon?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, both Presidents wanted to undermine the very basis of American democracy which are free elections. In Nixon's case, it was a campaign of political espionage and sabotage intended to get the Democrats to nominate George McGovern, his weakest possible opponent as opposed to his strongest opponent who would have been Senator Edward Musky of Maine who was cripple by this political espionage and sabotage.

Just as and what Nixon did not do was involve a foreign power in the attempt to undermine American democracy and free elections, whereas Trump has involved several foreign powers to try and come up with dirt on the strongest or the person he perceives, Trump, as strongest as an opponent to him, Biden. And through this patently unlawful, unconstitutional, corrupt behavior.

And if Republicans, and here's the big difference between Watergate and what we're seeing now. If Republicans are willing to go along with this, it is going to change our history. Because Republicans became the heroes in Watergate who finally said, we cannot tolerate a corrupt President who undermines our electoral system and this is far worse than just undermining the electoral system given the rhetoric and what we've seen of the President's unraveling in the last week or two.

TAPPER: Doug, and what do you think about that in terms of how much Republicans on Capitol Hill are willing to tolerate? We've seen some of the President's most loyal defenders, the Lindsey Grahams and Jim Jordans out there supporting him. But really a lot of them have just been holding their tongues. I don't know where we are, vis-a-vis this scandal versus Watergate, but do you see any difference between how Republicans are acting?

BRINKLEY: Yes, I do. During Watergate eventually you got Republicans whether it was Barry Goldwater or Howard Baker and others standing up to the power of Nixon saying that he lied. And we also in Nixon years had a State Department with William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. For whatever problems they might have they wouldn't have damaged the State Department as an institution and become a henchman for the President. I'm afraid that's what Mike Pompeo did by going to the press and lying that he wasn't on the phone call with the Ukrainian President, he is no longer credible in the public arena as Secretary of State.

TAPPER: OK. That phrase from that era, credibility gap is coming into play here as well.

BRINKLEY: Yes.

TAPPER: Douglas Brinkley and Carl Bernstein, thank you so much for your time and expertise. Appreciate it.

For Attorney General Barr, the development that he might mean he will need to recuse himself. Our legal experts weigh in next. Stay with us.

[15:35:00]

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TAPPER: Today all the President's men finding themselves entangled in the Democrats impeachment probe. Secretary of State Pompeo, Mike Pompeo, who we now know according to a source was on the President's July phone call. Attorney General Bill Barr mentioned numerous times by President Trump in that phone call with the President of Ukraine. The President's person lawyer Rudy Giuliani was also mentioned and has been subpoenaed for documents related to Ukraine. And Vice President Pence who was in in Ukraine recently before the scandal broke and while they are brought up both the aid the Ukrainian President so desires and President Trump's quote, great concerns about issues of corruption, unquote, according to Pence.

Let's chew over all this. Phil, when Pence says he didn't mention Biden's name in that meeting with the President of Ukraine but he brought up the President's concern about corruption, translate that for us?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What that means is, look, this is going to be a long investigation. It's perfect appropriate for an American diplomatic official to start obscuring this, that it's not simply about one phone call, it's about a long relationship with the Ukrainians. Anybody in America would say it's appropriate to press the Ukrainians on corruption. All we did was do anything any other President would do.

Let me cut to the bottom line. This is about saying it's not about one phone call and about holding up money. It's about making this 17 angry Democrats are investigating for months and months and months an allegation that won't prove out to be true. They want to make this as obscure as possible, that's what he's doing.

TAPPER: But when Vice President Pence brings up issues of corruption to Zelensky, might Zelensky not think that he's talking about Biden?

[15:40:00]

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't think the Ukrainians, I mean I think they were panicked for a portion of this. I don't think they were confused about what the administration was asking for. I mean I think if you go through and see the transcripts of President Trump's call, you know, all of a sudden we're talking about Javelin missiles and then we're talking about, oh, hey, can I ask you to do me this favor and run a few of these investigations of things we want you to look into?

So it is not you know a quid pro quo written out word for word in a way that I'm sure Democrats would appreciate, but I don't think Ukrainians were confused about what exactly was going on here, what the Trump administration was suggesting.

TAPPER: And Elliot, let me ask you about Attorney General Barr. Because he's mentioned in the very first paragraph of the whistleblower complaint. The President in the transcript cites him as a go-to guy on issues having to do with investigating the Bidens. Barr's office was told that there was a whistleblower complaint about the call and that Barr was mentioned, that's a week before the actual complaint was given to the Justice Department. Is there not some ground here for recusal? I mean he's all over this.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Some ground. Look, at this point, the Attorney General's like the Forrest Gump of the President's wrongdoing. Every single place you have a question of the President meddling in the Justice Department or questions about impartiality, the Attorney General seems to be there. There's absolutely a question of recusal. And here's why. The rules just say if there's an appearance of a conflict not even a real conflict, and it's clear there's at least an appearance, when the guy is the guy named on the call by the President of the United States when speaking to a foreign leader. So absolutely he ought to recuse and he'd be acting perfectly within Justice Department guidelines if he did.

TAPPER: And then now we are also told that the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, he's considering how to respond to the Democrats' subpoena for documents. Do you think Giuliani might actually not cooperate with this? The way Pompeo is saying he won't cooperate?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean it's unclear, I mean you listen to Rudy Giuliani on different days and you'll get a different answer. He was saying, I guess it was last night, that you know if he can bring his charts and graphs and audio recordings and do his whole Rudy Giuliani show in front of Congress, you know, then maybe, but we'll have to see. Obviously, they're asking for documents. He might claim privilege even though sometimes he said he wasn't doing this as President's lawyer. He was doing this as the President's friend.

So we don't know. I mean he's obviously a key person in this. Look, he's obviously very willing to go on camera and talk about it. Whether or not he's actually going to sit down and cooperate with them in terms of documents or testimony we'll just have to wait.

TAPPER: And speaking of Giuliani, he confirmed to CNN that he has hired former Watergate prosecutor Jon Sale as his attorney to represent him throughout this impeachment. Sale was Assistant Special Prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. He's now a white-collar lawyer. Obviously, Giuliani getting ready for a long fight.

MURRAY: Well, yes, and look, I don't think anyone who is an attorney would advise another attorney to try to represent themselves in something like this. Like that is a bigger disaster in the making than what we've already seen in terms of the rolling Rudy Giuliani disasters. I think this does send a signal that he knows this is a serious issue. If he decides he wants to snub this committee, he at least wants to consult with another attorney about the best way to do it. And maybe there is some way to hand over some documents and refuse to testify. We will see. I am with Mia on this. But I think we're going to get 15 different versions of this before we know what Giuliani does.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Coming up, the Republican reaction so far, silence, deflection, distraction. How far can they do that? We'll talk to a former Republican Congressman next on this special edition of THE LEAD: THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS. Stay with us.

[15:45:00]

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TAPPER: In our politics lead today the President's allies defending him as most Republican lawmakers seem to be staying quiet about the growing White House crisis. Joining me now to talk about this is former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Congressman, thanks for joining us. Do you think it is an abuse pf power for any president of the United States to ask a foreign country to investigate a domestic political rival?

CHARLIE DENT (R) FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE: Absolutely, I do, Jake. In fact, you know, I served as Chairman of the House Ethics Committee, had I ever received a transcript like the one I saw of the President with the President of Ukraine, Zelensky, that would have probably immediately triggered an ethics investigation and probably referral to the DOJ. You cannot use your official offices for a naked political purpose. And that's what that transcript struck me as. An attempt to use your office to get opposition research or dig dirt on your primary, or principal political rival.

TAPPER: So I appreciate your moral clarity. But I have to say, your former colleagues up on Capitol Hill, Republican colleagues, are being very, very quiet about this. Something that I would think would be a fairly easy thing to say, this is not OK. Have you talked to any of them?

DENT: Yes, I have. And most of them do know that they cannot defend the indefensible. When you look at both the phone transcript and the whistleblower report or complaint, and it's in plain English. You cannot defend the substance of what's in those two documents.

[15:50:00]

And so, I think those who are trying to defend the President, you hear them, they're, I think getting themselves in all sorts of trouble. They're talking process, oh, it's a secondary source, even though the secondary source is quite credible, and is verified with what the primary sources say. But that's what they're doing. So there's really no way to defend this.

Some of these members -- when this first broke, those members in my view were concerned but not yet alarmed. I did speak to a Republican Senator you know who fully understands the impossible situation that they are put in. Now that if they get too close to the President, that they will alienate swing and moderate independent voters, and if they get too far away from the President, they will have base erosion. And for some of these members they need to hold together their base and be able to bring in swing voters so the President places them in an impossible position.

TAPPER: Right, an impossible position politically for them to get re- elected but it's really not that impossible if you're actually just thinking about what's the right thing to do. I mean this is a no- brainer as you say. The President is in the transcript asking a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. End of story.

DENT: Correct. Full stop. And that is not even getting into the quid pro quo, Jake. I mean if we look at the other aspect of this, too, withholding foreign assistance until the Ukrainians initiate an investigate the Bidens, I mean that's another issue fully separate from the use of official resources. But like, hey, when I was in, Jake, I didn't worry about -- I said sometimes you have to do the right thing. Do the right thing and the politics will sort itself out. And I think sometimes as elected officials we would tend to overthink the politics or everything, and sometimes it is just easier to state what you believe in and then try to defend it. People respect that. TAPPER: You note there are all sorts of ways people are trying to --

Republicans are trying to spin this, defend this. Just last Friday on the show a former RNC chief of staff and CNN political commentator Mike Shields was talking about Rudy Giuliani and his role with the Ukrainians, and then tried to pivot to Hillary Clinton aide Sydney Blumenthal. Shields we should note falsely claimed that Blumenthal was involved with the Steele dossier. He went as far as to suggest that Blumenthal was an outside spy for Hillary Clinton. False, also completely irrelevant to the Ukraine call. Is this just the game plan now? Just throw out names, throw out mud, see what sticks on the wall?

DENT: Yes, they're simply trying to distract. To my Republican friends, I say this. Over the last several months we heard the President ad nauseam talk about no collusion, no collusion with respect to Russia and the Mueller investigation. Now we have this document in front of us where the President of the United States is trying to collaborate with the President of the Ukraine to basically do research on his opponent. That is collusion. I mean I just -- it is just stunning to me and striking that the President would be so reckless and self-destructive. So that's what I would tell my Republican colleagues, there's no way to sugar coat this thing, the optics are just terrible and don't try to defend the indefensible or explain the inexplicable.

TAPPER: Former Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

DENT: Jake, great to be with you. Thanks.

TAPPER: While President Trump faces allegations of using his influence to dig up dirt on his opponent, his first official endorser in Congress just pleaded guilty to his own set of corruption charges. Who is it? Stay with us.

[15:55:00]

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TAPPER: Breaking news, as President Trump continues to rail against, as far as the evidence shows, baseless claims of corruption, the first member of Congress to back his White House run has just pleaded guilty to crimes connected to actual proven corruption. Republican Chris Collins of New York, the Congressman who officially resigned from the House of Representatives today, pleaded guilty for charges related to insider trading. CNN's Brynn Gingras joins me from outside the courthouse. Brynn, tell us what happened inside of the courtroom?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Jake, well Chris Collins actually just left the courthouse and jumped into a van. Didn't say a word. Now remember this is a man who adamantly denied any wrongdoing for the last year. This morning he became a former Congressman, by this afternoon he became a convicted felon. Pleading guilty to two charges, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements each which carry a five-year penalty. Remember, he admitted now to making a call on the White House lawn at

the Congressional picnic to his son telling him about a failed drug trial which he served on the board of the drug company allowing his son and an associate to essentially dump stock, saving money. He's now going to face sentencing for that in January -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD: THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS. I'm Jake Tapper. And we begin this hour with breaking news. Three top House Democrats this afternoon, are accusing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of intimidating witnesses in an effort to protect himself and President Trump.

Secretary of State Pompeo today said he is refusing to honor Democrats' requests for depositions of five State Department officials, and he accused Democrats of bullying. Secretary Pompeo, we should note, was on the call in question with President Trump and Ukraine's President, a source tells CNN.

And as CNN's Abby Phillip reports, President Trump is also keeping up his attacks. He's also going after Democrats as well as the media and the whistleblower.

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