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INSIDE POLITICS

Ukraine's President Speaks Amid Uproar Over Trump Call; ICIG Debunks Whistleblower Conspiracy Pushed by Trump and His Allies; Trump Pressure Australian PM to Help Barr Investigate Origins of Mueller's Russia Probe; Democratic Hopefuls Unveiling Q3 Fundraising Numbers. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 1, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He responded to me by saying, I like to tell you I never felt pressured. I have lots of people who'd like to put pressure on me here and abroad but I am president of independent Ukraine and I'd like to think and my actions suggest that no one can put pressure on me.

He also answered another question about whether he had had any contact with the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to which he answered, I have never met Giuliani, I have never spoken to Giuliani on the phone. In another question, he was asked again about the issue of military aid to which he said that Ukraine was apparently unconcerned about the freezing of that military aid because he said we are a strong country.

That one can assume to be a bit of bravado for the sake of national pride. But clearly, John, what you're seeing here is a president who is going to great pains to really underscore the idea that Ukraine is independent, autonomous, and will not get involved with domestic U.S. politics. They cannot be seen to be weighing in on either side because anyone could win the 2020 election and this president knows that Ukraine is incredibly dependent on aid from the U.S. as it continues to fight a war on its eastern flank with Russia, John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Clarissa Ward, great to have you there live in Kyiv at this important time. I appreciate the reporting.

Let's bring it into the room. A, it's a reminder, forgive the cliche that all politics is local everywhere. In the sense that you have Ukraine's president trying to say nobody can pressure me, nobody can get me to do things. And yet at the same time, as Clarissa smartly points out, they're incredibly dependent on the United States right now both financially and militarily in terms of support with Putin still invading their country. But also just morally for the backup, for the we've got your back in the war.

So the president of Ukraine needs to be very careful which brings you back to the idea, this is why what Secretary Pompeo did today is so critical. In the sense that the people who can tell you who did Rudy Giuliani meet with, were you in the room, what did he tell them, what did they ask you after? Did they come to you nervous? Should we do what he says? Is that official U.S. Government policy or is that guy freelancing on his own for the president of the United States?

Those are the witnesses that Pompeo told Congress, go away, I will not let them testify.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I do think this makes Volker, in particular, a really important player and all of the -- our speculation about why did he leave when he left. Was it just because he couldn't any longer be an effective envoy or was because he wanted the flexibility to answer questions if he were asked?

There is also a cast sort of a middle circle of people we haven't talk about yet who are obviously people who would be interesting if they would go before the committees and cooperate even behind closed doors. Dan Coats, John Bolton, H.R. McMaster, Fiona Hill, we can come up with the list of names. People who were involved in Russia and Ukraine policy, people who --

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: John Kelly.

TALEV: John Kelly. People who have been the chief of staff. People who were --

MARTIN: Rex Tillerson.

TALEV: -- in the room on the call. Who have been in the room on the call --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Mick Mulvaney maybe. Yes.

TALEV: -- in previous meetings. You don't have to be like a genius to see where this is going. The committees have to figure out do they want to call everybody. Is it going to look like a circus? How methodical do they want to be? And who will actually talk to them particularly in a closed-door setting?

So if their hand gets forced by this, they have other people they can go to.

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) one fast point, John, and that is, the biggest factor in the story is the coming facts that we don't know yet. There are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns. It's the latter which is so key here.

And what I mean by that is, those names you just mentioned, I'm not saying that they are folks who would leak information but there is a large group of people who are either former aides who are not happy campers right now and current career people in the White House and the bureaucracy who don't like Trump's conduct who are now going to be emboldened by his weakness, see an opportunity to damage him further and put out information that's going to further reveal his misdeeds when it comes to foreign policy and his own political interest. That to me is the biggest factor right now. It's what's to come and all these folks that you mentioned and the people inside who are anonymous who have access to information that could be very damaging. KING: I'll dial back even to -- you know, whatever their misgivings might have been, how about we have a moment where people tell the truth, and then we follow the truth wherever it ends up. Why should anyone be worried about that? Just a thought.

Just quickly, Clarissa said that the president of Ukraine said the military aid did not come up on the call. We're not sure which call he's talking about. But if it's the July 25th phone call, this is the White House transcript. The president of Ukraine says we're ready to buy more javelins from the United States for defense purposes. The president of the United States responds, I would like you to do us a favor, though before he moves to that conversation. That is central to the inquiry.

When we come back, the president and his allies say the rules were changed so that this whistleblower could file a complaint. A man appointed to his office by President Trump says that's not true.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:39:55] KING: Welcome back.

The intelligence community Inspector General is pushing back against a big argument being advanced by the president and his allies.

[12:40:01] In an extraordinary move, the ICIG released a rare public statement yesterday making two important points clear. First, that the whistleblower did, in fact, have firsthand knowledge of some of the events detailed in the whistleblower complaint. And secondly, that the whistleblower used the same form the Inspector General has had in place since 2018.

Both points matter, here is why. The president and his allies from the beginning have suggested the whistleblower had no direct knowledge of the key facts. The Inspector General says that's just not true.

At a prominent conservative website published this story Friday that was then later re-tweeted by the president that has been cited by many of his allies claiming that somehow the whistleblower rules were changed just before the Ukraine complaint. The Inspector General's statement making clear that notion was the actual fake news in this conversation.

Let's bring it to the room. Again, a Trump appointee getting in the president's grille essentially, my language not the IG's saying, you're wrong sir, you're lying sir, you're misleading the American people sir just by putting out a statement setting the facts straight. But this especially the idea that the rules were changed has been all over.

A conservative Twitter-verse and Fox News. In other words, I would say on that point, anyway, OK. If you saw a crime and it was in precinct A and you filed the report in precinct B, does that make it less of a crime? But that's where they are.

MARTIN: That's not even true. HENDERSON: Yes. And again, the crime here which, you know, this debate about whether or not there was anything illegal, this is what they don't want to talk about, right? Those inconvenient facts that the president is asking of the leader of a foreign country to interfere in an election involving him. And you see Republicans, you have them on the air here on various channels, you give that direct question to them and they spin and they go in all sorts of different directions. They want to talk about Obama, they want to talk about the whistleblower, but, you know -- and that's why you see this president, you know, talking about everything else. I think this was a Federalist report and immediately fact-checked not only by the press but in this case also by the IG.

KING: And to that point, if you're a Trump supporter or open-minded, skeptical about impeachment, you watch on Sunday, you saw this powerful argument being made by the president's defenders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Why did they pick this whistleblower to tell a hearsay story? The transcript does not match the complaint. What's going on here? When did they change the rules about a whistleblower? You can use hearsay when you could not just weeks before the complaint? So I think this thing stinks.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This individual has palms on both of those counts. He had no firsthand knowledge. He heard something from someone who may have heard something from someone --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, no. His sources were firsthand sources.

JORDAN: So he has -- but he has no firsthand knowledge.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He is giving them hearsay evidence. The thing is filled with "I don't know", "I heard", "I overheard." There's not a single time he says "I know".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In that clip we just showed you, none of it is true. None of it. None of it is supported by the facts. That is what the president's team is trying to sell you which is worthless so far.

Chuck Grassley today, a Republican senator, chairman of the Judiciary Committee from Iowa, he used to be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, it's the Finance Committee now, long history of supporting whistleblowers going back decades in the government. He issued a statement today saying, "The person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out protected. When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first-and-second-hand knowledge aren't legal ones. As I said last week, inquiries that put impeachment first and facts last don't weigh very credibly. Folks just ought to be responsible with their words." So a prominent Republican essentially saying Democrats you're way out of your skis saying impeach already. But critically important, respect this whistleblower. I raise this because Grassley has a history on this but also because that's a statement today. Yesterday, Chuck Grassley was home in Iowa getting hernia surgery. A statement came out with his name, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson, two other Republican senators essentially making the argument Chuck Grassley today says don't listen to.

This letter, it could go -- what about did you change the rules. This is asking if you changed the rules. Senator Grassley must have come out of surgery and decided to correct his staff here.

TALEV: These are all side issues. It's like every -- all of this is a side issue. What -- you know, does the whistleblower have the right to make the complaint. Of course, the whistleblower has the right to make the complaint.

KING: It's a side issue maybe but a prominent Republican senator saying back off.

TALEV: Yes, that's an important --

KING: Listen to this person and respect this person.

TALEV: That's an important distinction and it's Grassley saying, hey, cool it. This person had a right to do what they did and we have an obligation to listen to this even if we are not of the mind that impeachment is the appropriate next good course of action. So Grassley's words are important but I do think like we talk about Giuliani, it's -- he's irresistible to watch, it's irresistible to listen to what he's saying.

But it's the president's actions that are the focus of all of this in the end. And just like with the whistleblower complaint. I mean, the president is trying to out a whistleblower. The president is trying to force the exposure of the identity of someone who under the law has the right to not come forward and not have their identity revealed.

[12:45:07] KING: All right, another norm being busted before your eyes. More on this story including the attorney general's role when we come back.

But before we go to break, happy birthday. The former president Jimmy Carter, he's turning 95 today. He now has bragging rights the oldest living former president. Happy birthday, sir.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:05] KING: Turning now to a separate piece of important reporting, this one that looks backward. A source telling CNN President Trump recently pressed Australia's prime minister to help the attorney general, Bill Barr with an investigation of the origins of Robert Mueller's Russia probe. That official says the call was Barr's idea. We should note, it's a completely different phone call, not the Ukrainian president in July. Evan Perez joins us now live. What are you learning from your sources on this, Evan? Put this in a context for people out there who might be saying, Bill Barr is asking for foreign help investigation what.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, I think people might be confused about this but you explained it correctly which is the fact that this is a backward-looking investigation. This is something that we know Barr has very close to his heart. He believes, even before he became attorney general, he believes that there was some reason for skepticism on the origins of this investigation and so that's what he's doing.

He's doing a review of some of the intelligence that came in, and some of it, we know, came from foreign countries including Australia which gave the first tip -- one of the first tips that got this investigation started. We know the British Government, we know the Dutch Government also sent over information that became part of this investigation. And so the question that Bill Barr is asking, and he has John Durham who's a prosecutor in Connecticut leading this effort. Is, you know, was everything done properly? Was there any shortcuts taken?

Those are the things that they're exploring and that investigation, John, is still very, very early in its process. That's one reason why Barr is pushing governments when he goes overseas to cooperate with this investigation. Again, it's completely different from the allegation that the president on his call with the Ukrainian president was asking for essentially for help, getting dirt on his prospective 2020 opponent, possibly Joe Biden.

KING: Interesting to watch. Going to keep an open mind but given Barr's history on these issues, this question of whether he's already pre-judged the conclusion but we'll watch.

Evan Perez, appreciate it.

As we go break, a lighthearted moment from the 2020 campaign trail. Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren and her husband Bruce sharing the story of how they met with CNN's MJ Lee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was in the row ahead of me, down at the other end of the row. And it was on Monday when I actually saw him in shorts. Good-looking legs.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wow.

WARREN: Yes. That's when I was all in.

BRUCE MANN, ELIZABETH WARREN'S HUSBAND. Yes, that's right. That's right. I was -- she completely ejectified me.

WARREN: It's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:57:04] KING: Welcome to October, and this being October 1st means we're looking at getting a first look at the 2020 candidates' third- quarter fundraising numbers. Those candidates wanted to release them. The Bernie Sanders campaign says it hauled in an impressive more than $25 million. Pete Buttigieg campaign says it took in just over $19 million in the third quarter. Senator Cory Booker reporting $6 million in donations in quarter three behind the others but his best quarter.

HENDERSON: You know, Pete Buttigieg a master fundraiser, unclear what that means in terms of the (INAUDIBLE) competitive in. The rival campaigns to (INAUDIBLE) he's really strong in Iowa. That might be the place where he's able to make his stand.

But listen, you got $19 million for Pete Buttigieg, you got $25 million as Bernie Sanders, you're in this thing for the long haul.

KING: In this thing for the long haul as critical in the sense that if you look at the polling right now especially when you see Warren/Biden atop of the state, Warren/Biden atop that state, Warren/Biden -- forget about, it's a long time until people vote but also Bernie Sanders is having a hard time trying to find a place to win as of today.

MARTIN: Correct.

KING: However --

MARTIN: That's what matters.

KING: -- proportional rules (INAUDIBLE), he's going to hang out -- I know you need to win at some point, but he's not going anywhere.

MARTIN: Let me just challenge the he's staying put. Of course, he's staying put. Fine, if Warren wins the first three states and she --

KING: And they're all gone.

MARTIN: Yes. Bernie can stay as long as he wants but he's not going to be that much of a factor in the race if she is winning state after state. I will say this --

KING: But if that doesn't happen, he is positioned to be in a marathon.

MARTIN: A factor in the long run, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Pete Buttigieg's --

TALEV: And he positioned to slide (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: It maybe Biden's if he stays in. Look --

TALEV: It's always been Biden is under study in terms of that group of folks who thought well, if Biden doesn't do it I like --

MARTIN: That's why they're all staying, Margaret. This Ukraine story is going to give every one of these non-Biden moderates the rationale to stay in the race. Why? They want to see it through.

Where does the impeachment thing go? I'm going to take the sort of a long look at this thing. If I have to borrow some money I'll stay in because I want to be a candidate if Biden falls -- yes.

KING: As we have this conversation, Kamala Harris shaking up her staff. She's not the first one, Sanders has had some staff shakeups (INAUDIBLE). But she's had questions about her viability.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. And I think this debate is kind of seen in some make or break moment for her, right? I mean, if she doesn't come out swinging and land a punch, where does she really go from here? I mean, she had to hire leadership coaches for her executive staff we reported yesterday, so.

MARTIN: Yes, it's a good story.

KING: Digital ads is the new world order. Biden has pulled back dramatically. He was spending a lot, he's pulled it back. Not getting a return for it, not getting support --

MARTIN: I think he wasn't getting a return from it online. Yes. I think for Kamala, I think her campaign is in a place where if she doesn't move here pretty soon, she's going to have financial problems. But also she's a senator from the largest state in the country, she's pretty young. She needs to figure out what is her best interest in the long term too, right? Is that giving Iowa a go or is it, look, I'm going to come in six, that's not worth it. I think that question looms her -- for her here pretty soon.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) two weeks away. We can't wait, we are in October.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.