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CNN RIGHT NOW
All The President's Men, Trump's Allies Part Of Tangled Web; Top Aides Annoyed Trump Won't Give Up On Conspiracies; Trump Administration Facing Potential New Whistleblower Over Taxes; Giuliani May Testify In Congress Allows Me To Use Video Tapes Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired October 1, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that question looms for her here pretty soon.
JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: The debate is two weeks away, right? We are on October.
Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics today. Brianna Keilar starts Right now. Have a great afternoon.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: John, thank you. I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters.
Underway right now, one warned that Trump would be an authoritarian. Another called him a race-baiting, xenophobic, evil bigot. And now, they are part of a crew riding with the president into an impeachment war. And one of them went on a world tour, America's top cop looking to fuel some of the president's biggest conspiracies.
Plus, Rudy Giuliani has said he's not always acting as the president's lawyer, so is he entitled to attorney/client privilege as House Democrats target him?
And the president's administration suddenly faces a potential second whistleblower, this one over presidential taxes. They are key supporters of the president, the men that he counts for counsel, and in some cases, for protection, five men inside and outside the administration who have the president's ear. They offer loyalty. They take on the president's critics. They are unencumbered by popular opinion.
CNN's Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is here with us now. And, Jess, these are the president's go-to guys, Giuliani, Barr, Graham, Pompeo and Pence. How do they fit into all this impeachment drama?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, they all seem to be sharing center stage. So let's start first with Attorney General Bill Barr. This is separate from the Ukraine issue. But we have now learned that the attorney general asked the president to request the help of several countries, including Australia, in what is this ongoing and previously announced Justice Department review of the early stages of the Russia investigation.
Now, DOJ officials says this ask for foreign assistance is perfectly appropriate. But there are some who express concerns that the attorney general is pushing the president's agenda.
Now, on to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We now know that he was on that July 25th phone call where President Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. That's according to a source familiar.
But in an interview that was on more than a week ago, the secretary of state indicated he knew nothing about that phone call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: What do you know about those conversations?
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: So you just gave me a report about an I.C. whistleblower complaint, none of which I have seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And Secretary Pompeo has actually been tweeting this morning, seemingly defiant against the subpoena he was issued for Ukraine-related documents from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Pompeo saying the committee is bullying and intimidating the State Department officials that that committee has also called for deposition.
Then Lindsey Graham, he is also lashing out, echoing the president's intense questioning of the whistleblower's knowledge and motives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Here is my question. Is this whistleblower, whoever he or she may be, do they have any connection to the Intelligence Community, the old Intelligence Community that was corrupt as hell?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And then there are questions about the vice president, Mike Pence, and why exactly he was suddenly pulled from a previously scheduled trip in May to attend the inauguration of the Ukrainian president. Was this intended as a signal to Ukraine to put more pressure on them? Remember, this was just two months before president's phone call request for a favor.
And then, of course, there is the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Top House Democrats subpoenaed Giuliani yesterday for documents related to his communications with Ukrainians trying to dig up dirt on the Bidens and any efforts by the president to press Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. Now, the Democratic chairmen have warned that if Giuliani does not comply, it will amount to obstruction. So, really, that is the swirl of questions and controversy around the president's closes confidants, Brianna, as the Democrats are pressing full steam ahead with their impeachment inquiry. Brianna?
KEILAR: Thank you so much for weaving all of that together for us, Jessica Schneider.
And the president's reliance on conspiracies is a cause for concern inside of the White House. There are also fears that the president does not quite grasp the seriousness of the situation that he's in or the speed at which the impeachment proceedings are progressing.
Abby Phillip is live for us at the White House. And, Abby, what are you hearing about how the president use all of this?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, around the president, there's a lot of anxiousness and a little bit of frustration that this impeachment inquiry has really gotten away from them, that they are not fully prepared to deal with what is about to come and what has already come this week in the form of a number of subpoenas directed at the president's close aides, and even his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Now, some White House aides are saying that they are concerned President Trump does not understand the gravity of what is happening right now. He has spent a lot of the last several days tweeting attacks on the whistleblower. But aides believe that he needs a more robust plan, and that's actually exactly what several of them plan to present him with as early as this week.
Last week, on Friday, several of his lawyers and aides met to talk over some of the strategy and they will present him with another plan this week. But the idea here is that this is a situation that, over the last seven days, seems to have gotten out of hand. As the president's aides and his allies have gone out on television to defend him, some of those defenses seem to have not really passed the smell (ph) test for some people.
And so the White House is trying to get to a place where they feel like they can wrap their arms around this controversy, perhaps getting the president more help, not just in terms of communication, but we've also seen some of his aides, his lawyers who were in charge of this -- the Russia defense, moving over to this issue of impeachment, one of the many signs that this is a very serious issue for the White House.
KEILAR: All right. Abby Phillip, thank you so much. live from the White House for us.
Carrie Cordero and Dana Bash are here with us now.
And, Carrie, it's interesting, we've been hearing the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, accusing Congress of bullying and trying to intimidate the State Department. What do you make of that? CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there's a couple of different things. On one hand, he's got employees who, according to his letter, said that they came to him or came to the department and said that they need more time to be able to testify and appear in these depositions before Congress.
On the other hand, one of the individuals who has been called is no longer a State Department employee And so the optics of his letter I think certainly looked like he is perhaps trying to communicate to those individuals that they should not comply. It's unusual to see letter like that from a cabinet head, directing people and sort of having this strong tone as far as them not wanting to comply versus just having the agency general counsel work behind the scenes to accommodate Congress and be able to facilitate the testimony.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. That was such a shot across the bow. I totally agree with you. To people across the State Department but also Volker, the now former ambassador who, according to Rudy Giuliani's text, which he has sent me and many other reporters, coordinated with Giuliani about trying to help Giuliani go see the Ukrainian president to deal with this issue, political issue, to try to get dirt on Joe Biden.
So the fact that Volker resigned last week for lots of reasons, apparently, but the bottom line is that does give him more of a green light to testify if he so wants to, and it seems as though Pompeo is saying, don't go there.
CORDERO: And, well, what I'm worried about, Brianna, is that the administration, by playing this strategy game, they're dragging Congress into fights over process, when the focus should be on the substance of what is alleged to have taken place, in which from the transcript of the phone call itself, the July 25th phone call itself, should show that there is a substantive problem going on and it shouldn't just become a fight about process.
KEILAR: We have learned, now talking about one of the president's other go-to people, that Bill Barr, the attorney general, has been traveling to enlist, really, the help of other countries, of U.S. allies. That's not -- I mean, he's allowed to do that. But I wonder how unusual this is and what kind of message it sends, Carrie, to allies as he's trying, for instance, to ask for help in investigating the origins of the Russia meddling investigation.
CORDERO: Yes, it's pretty bizarre. I mean, the attorney general, he designated a U.S. attorney to conduct an investigation. I've never heard of an attorney general traveling around the world -- I worked for the department for 13 years -- traveling around the world to personally lobby individuals to participate in an investigation of his own government officials to undo supposed wrongdoings.
So it's unusual from a Justice Department standpoint. It's also concerning from an Intelligence Community standpoint when the intelligence services of our country and these countries need to continue to be working together and have productive relationships on issues that have nothing to do with this impeachment inquiry or with this Ukrainian phone call or anything. There's real national security issues for them to continue to cooperate about. And I'm worried that he's undermining that.
KEILAR: The attorney general is -- I mean, the attorney general is supposed to be independent. They are always appointed by a certain president. So I think there is a frustration on the part of the opposing party, right, always with the attorney general.
But in this particular case, Dana, having looked and covered other administrations, I mean, what sort of stands out to you?
BASH: That since he came in, he made very, very clear that he was acting more as the president's personal attorney than the attorney of the United States, that the top cop, the top attorney in the United States government. And when I reference that, I'm obviously talking about the fact that he went out, set the narrative about the Mueller report before anybody could actually see it, saying that the president was basically exonerated on all fronts, which is not the case.
So he came in with people on both sides of the aisle thinking maybe there's a grown-up in the room. This guy has been around. Maybe he will act differently than we have seen other officials in the Trump world act, and the answer was no.
So given that, as unusual as this is for an attorney general in administrations, Republican and Democrat to do this, it's not surprising given the history that the attorney general has, a brief history, but the history is pretty intense so far working in this administration, and the fact that he's publicly under oath. He said, I'm going to investigate this. I'm going to look into this. I want this to be an issue, whether he assigned a U.S. attorney to do it or not, he has a lot of pressure on him by one important guy, and that's the president of the United States.
KEILAR: It sure does. Dana Bash, Carrie Cordero, thank you so much, you guys.
I'm going to speak live with one of the justice officials involved in the start of the Russia investigation as we learn about Bill Barr's world tour.
Also, Rudy Giuliani says he may testify only if he's allowed to use, quote, video tapes.
And another potential whistleblower, this one alleging wrongdoing by the IRS in an audit of President Trump. Will Congress release this complaint?
KEILAR: Attorney General William Barr breaking with norms, traveling overseas to speak in person with foreign officials, reportedly is part of the investigation into how the investigation into Russian election tampering began.
And here with me now is David Laufman. He's the former chief of counterintelligence in National Security Division at the Department of Justice. He's now a partner at the law firm of Wiggin and Dana. And you were personally involved in the beginnings, in the origins of the Russian probe at the DOJ before it became the Mueller investigation, before a special counsel was appointed.
The president and his supporters have said this never should have even begun. They've impugned the origins of this investigation. You know about them. Were they appropriate?
DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AT THE DOJ: There is nothing about the origins the investigation based on my experience had indicated any wrongdoing in the part of the men and women of the FBI or the Department of Justice that began an investigation to determine whether there was a national security threat to our democratic process. But the inspector general at the Department of Justice is undertaking a review. They will to see what the I.G. has to say.
KEILAR: So, David, when you hear that the attorney general is actually having these in-person overseas trips to ask allies to cooperate on this investigation, what's your reaction to that? Because it doesn't seem like it's unusual if -- it seems like it's within his abilities, of course, what he's allowed to do, but it's unusual. What's your reaction?
LAUFMAN: I mean, there is nothing unusual or wrong per se about the attorney general undertaking foreign prowl (ph) on behalf of the Department of Justice. That happens with every A.G. They usually have some overarching law enforcement agenda. They might get input from staff at the Department of Justice about what issues to raise, to make nice (INAUDIBLE) foreign law enforcement agency or an intelligence agency to thank them for assistance on a particular case.
What's unusual here is that the attorney general appears to be spearheading an inquiry and the Department of Justice does not call it a criminal investigation that is infused unmistakably with political partisanship. So the Department of Justice now has put itself in a position of looking like the head of the spear of a political vendetta, that the president, in essence, has weaponized the Department of Justice (INAUDIBLE) of his political grievances. And that's a bad place for the Department of Justice to be.
KEILAR: The top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, John Durham, is the one who's supposed to be spearheading or really directing this inquiry. Then you also have the inspector general looking as well at the origins of this. What do you make of Bill Barr's role? Should he be doing this when you are supposed to have John Durham in charge of this and you already have an I.G. investigation?
LAUFMAN: Well, it was questionable to begin with for the department to even create this so-called inquiry, this investigation of the investigation. But in John Durham, at least, we have an experienced, seasoned, non-partisan prosecutor, well-respected within the department and outside and the department. And so we had some measure of confidence this was going to be carried out in a professional non- partisan manner.
But now that we know about the attorney general's personal involvement, to the extent that it appears that he is closely overseeing, if not, directing any investigation, it infuses it with an unmistakable political taint that raises questions about the credibility of the investigation.
KEILAR: We also know the State Department now is digging back into Hillary Clinton's email investigation. They're actually reclassifying thousands of emails. They're now saying that years later, those emails are actually classified. So they're retroactively classifying them.
You were involved in the Clinton email probe's early days. What do you think of this move?
LAUFMAN: Well, I'm not going to comment about the merits of the investigation. It does seem a bit curious to me. We have a lengthy I.G. investigation at the Department of Justice published findings regarding the conduct and issue there. It does seem a little unusual to me. One could question whether this is an appropriate use of taxpayer resources this many years out, that will be something perhaps for the I.G. at the Department of State to look into as to whether diplomatic security service is carrying out a meritorious mission.
KEILAR: One of the arguments at the time was that -- you would hear this from Hillary Clinton's supporters. They would say, but things are overclassified, and this is an argument you often hear from many people. There are things that are -- they're open source, right? They're out. They're -- you know, you read them in the paper. And, of course, they're still classified and there are some things that are just very broadly known and they're still classified. That was one of the arguments that the Clinton folks made.
This is classifying it even more, more documents. Is that just unusual because there does seem to be disagreement that maybe some things are overclassified?
LAUFMAN: I mean, it's true, it's a general matter (ph) that a lot of government documents and information probably are overclassified. I can't really comment about the merits of this particular undertaking regarding the Clinton email matter. But it seems to me the fact that they're undertaking it now and the fact that they're undertaking it with respect to both former State Department personnel, as well as current personnel, it does raise some questions about the legitimacy of the inquiry.
KEILAR: You are an expert in cyber security. This is among your specialties. We're heading into 2020 and we have a big election coming our way. Are you worried about the security of these elections? LAUFMAN: Absolutely. I mean, the president of the United States and department heads should be listening to the men and women of the Intelligence Community who are today's Paul Reveres pointing to an impending assault on the integrity of our electoral system by the Russians and possibly other foreign actors. It should be every man and woman manning battle stations for this upcoming election to protect the integrity of the vote.
KEILAR: Do you think they are manning battle stations?
LAUFMAN: I think they're doing everything they can to raise consciousness within the government and in to institute measures to be prepared to identify threats in the counter room (ph).
KEILAR: All right. David, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you coming in.
KEILAR: Even though legal experts say he should remain silent, Rudy Giuliani is once again going on T.V. and revealing the items that he would bring to any testimony.
Plus, the president used to think he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his base wouldn't care, but has that changed?
KEILAR: Another whistleblower has come forward, this time with allegations about President Trump's tax returns. A federal employee is flagging, quote, possible misconduct related to mandatory IRS audits of a president's taxes.
Lauren Fox is covering this. She's live for us on Capitol Hill. Tell us what's going on here.
LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, what we know, Brianna, is back in July, a federal employee went to Richard Neal and basically argued that something was going on with the presidential audit program.
And I want to rewind a little bit because the context is important. Back in April, when Richard Neal requested the president's tax returns, and remember, there is an ongoing court case about that, he cited the need to look into the presidential audit program works as the reason he needed this tax return. Basically, what he argued was we need to make sure there are appropriate safeguards, but he says that this person came forward, and in a letter to Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, Neal wrote, quote, the committee received an unsolicited communication from a federal employee setting forth credible allegations of evidence of possible misconduct, specifically, potential, inappropriate efforts to influence the mandatory audit program. Neal goes on to call those a grave charge and he says that this really heightens the committee's ongoing concerns about what is going on with the presidential audit program. And, Brianna, is is -- we don't know a ton about it. But what it does is it basically says every time a new president comes in, their taxes are automatically audited.
But Neal is arguing that he needs the president's tax returns to actually understand how that process works and to understand if they need to change the laws to make sure that it's fair across the board depending on which administration is in power. So, obviously, this federal employee's complaint is alleging possible misconduct related to that program. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. We'll see if that argument from Neal goes anywhere. Thank you so much, Lauren Fox.
The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, locked in a showdown with House Democrats. He has been subpoenaed by three committees now for documents related to Ukraine.
Giuliani initially said he wouldn't testify without first getting an okay from President Trump.
Yesterday though, he told Fox News he may testify if Congress allows him to use, quote, video tapes.