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Pelosi & Schiff Hold News Conference; I.C. I.G. Sends Letter to Capitol Hill Seeking Urgent Meeting about Documents Relating to Ukraine. Vintage Plane Crashes in Connecticut. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired October 2, 2019 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So, this is very -- I hope that you understand, and I suspect is that you do, the seriousness of the president of the United States sailing he wants to interview that person. We will treat the president with fairness in the -- as we go forward.
We will have investigations and questioning that are worthy of the Constitution of the United States.
It's unworthy of the Constitution of the United States to do what he did in that call, and he admitted to me; said it's perfect. No, it's not perfect. It's wrong, A, and B, that protecting whistleblowers is a very, very important -- important requirement that we have. The intelligence community recognizes the importance of whistleblowers. Protecting whistleblowers who see wrongdoing of any kind in our government is essential.
So the president probably doesn't realize how dangerous his statements are when he says he wants to expose who the whistleblower is and -- and those who may have given the whistleblower that information.
QUESTION: Madam Speaker, (inaudible)
PELOSI: This is very serious -- very serious challenge that the president has put there. It's very sad. I don't see impeachment as a unifying thing for our country. I weighed those equities hard and long until I had the president's admission that he did what he did on that call.
PELOSI: Yes, please?
QUESTION: One big-picture question and one -- one logistical question. Just following up on what you just said, some Republicans have said that the president's phone call wasn't great, but that it isn't an impeachable offense. Is it possible that you're making too much of one phone call?
PELOSI: Absolutely not.
I want to yield to (inaudible). SCHIFF: Well, if you think about what the framers were concerned about at the time of the drafting of the Constitution, they were paramountly concerned about foreign interference in American affairs. They wanted to ensure that the president of the United States was defending the interests and national security of the United States, and not corruptly, secretly advancing some private agenda with a foreign power.
It's hard to imagine a set of circumstances that would have alarmed the founders more than what's on that call, where you have a president using the full power of his office to try to effectively coerce a foreign leader, that is completely dependent on our country for military, economic, diplomatic and other support, to intervene in our election to help his campaign. It's hard to imagine a more corrupt course of conduct.
So, to my Republican colleagues that say, "There's nothing to see here," or, "Yeah, it's bad, but is it really something you'd remove from -- the president from office for?" they're going to have to answer: If this conduct doesn't rise to the level of the concern the founders had, what conduct does?
Now, we only know some of the facts at this point. The call record seems to be pretty indisputed (sic). The suspension of military assistance is undisputed now. The sequestration of this call record, and maybe others, into a file in which they were never supposed to be placed, a file that is for classified information of the highest order -- covert action, for example -- those facts are not contested.
But all the facts around that, we still need to flesh out. What was the State Department's role? What was the secretary's role? What was the role of the attorney general? There's a great more that we need to know to understand the full depth of the president's misconduct.
And maybe when that comes out, it will persuade some of those Republicans to recognize the gravity of the situation. But I think we have to be realistic here: There seems to be no floor below which this president can drop that some of the GOP members, and maybe even many of the GOP members, would not be willing to endorse, look away from, avoid comment on, let alone rise to condemn, as -- as incompatible with the duties of his office.
PELOSI: Make no mistake: In that telephone call, the president undermined our national security because of his -- what he had done a few days earlier. See, the president said, "Well, I didn't say that in the call." No, the sequencing of it. You have to look at the sequence. A few days before, the president withdrew that.
Now, why? Why would that just come from the president? There was no -- as far as we know, and we'll find out if there is -- any National Security Council justification for the president withdrawing assistance that had been passed by the Congress of the United States in a bipartisan way. And then the president just, on his own, decided he was going to use it as leverage. So using that as leverage -- we -- we supported that military assistance in the interest of our national security. Undermining our national security, undermining his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, because he was overthrowing an act of Congress just on his own, undermining the integrity of our elections.
PELOSI: And that's what means something to people in their lives. They have to know that their vote counts, and that it will be counted as cast. And this president of the United States is stooping to a level that is beneath the dignity of the Constitution of the United States and our founders, since the chairman mentioned our founders.
They put guardrails in the Constitution because they knew there might be someone who would overplay his or her power. They never thought that we would have a president that would kick those guardrails over and disregard the Constitution and say Article II says that I can do whatever I feel like.
So this -- this is sad. We have to be prayerful, we have to be worthy of the Constitution as we go forward, we have to be fair to the president, and that's why this is a -- an -- an inquiry, and not an outright impeachment, and we have to give the president his chance to exonerate himself, but he thinks what he did was perfect, so we have that -- that situation.
But I say to my colleagues, calmness, quiet so that we can hear -- that we can hear what is being said in this regard. Again, when -- on that very day, September 17th, that was Constitution Day, a Tuesday -- two Tuesdays ago from yesterday -- that was when that explosion hit of what possibly happened in that phone conversation, which the president confirmed to me in our call.
QUESTION: Madam Speaker?
PELOSI: And that day was the day we observed the adoption of our Constitution, September 17th. On that day way back when, when Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall, people said to him, "What do we have, Dr. Franklin, a monarchy or a republic?" He said, "A republic, if we can keep it."
It is our responsibility to keep that republic with the genius of a separation of powers, (inaudible), two -- three coequal branches of government, each a check and balance on the others, separation of power. A republic, if we can keep it. That's our responsibility, that's the oath of office that we take, and that is what is the -- one of the reasons why we just have to look at the facts and the Constitution.
Any other objections people may have to the president have no place in this discussion in terms of, is he too cowardly to protect children from gun violence, is he too cruel to protect pre-existing (ph) -- is he too in denial to understand climate change? The list goes on. Save that for the election. This is about the facts relating to the Constitution, and that is how we will proceed, with dignity, with respect, prayerfully, and again, worthy of the sacrifice of our founders, the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who fight for our freedom and the aspirations of our children so they'll live under future presidents who will honor the Constitution of the United States.
Thank you all very much.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you're listening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff with what turned out to be an important press conference about where Democrats see the impeachment investigation right now and where they would like to see the process going forward.
Joining me right now is Julie Pace, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. Jennifer Rodgers is a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. And Jeff Zeleny is our senior Washington correspondent.
Jeff, first to you.
Just your take on, what do you think the message -- I mean they said some very strong things about protections for the whistleblower, where Nancy Pelosi thought the president was taking the office of the presidency in this moment and the threat to national security. But what do you think of the message that Pelosi and Schiff were laying out there right there?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, first and foremost, Speaker Pelosi, one week into this inquiry, is again trying to present a road map for other Democrats. That this is not a time to gloat. This is not a time to be joyful, in her words. She said, impeachment is a very serious and sad matter.
So she has been consistent on this message going since the very beginning. So she is trying to keep her Democrats in line.
You will note she was starting the press conference with the cost of prescription drug, the USMCA. She is definitely trying to convey to the American people Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time. There's no evidence of that, we should point out.
But she is also making the case that the president has a chance to exonerate himself, in her words. In a respect, Kate, she was talking directly to him. He was tweeting during this.
ZELENY: So the president was at the White House watching all this unfold.
I think the news out of this news conference this morning and one thing that Democrats must decide, Chairman Schiff said that they will use this as part of an obstruction evidence if the White House refuses to comply here with some of these subpoenas.
But Democrats know if they do want to work in a swift manner, they will have to decide if they want to fight all of these blockages illegally or move forward here.
So Chairman Schiff also said, look at the facts from that memo of that phone call. There are plenty of facts in the public sphere already.
So a lot of Democrats do not want this to be litigated for months and months and months. They want this to move quickly here. We'll see if they are successful in that.
BOLDUAN: That was one thing Adam Schiff laid out.
Jennifer, since Jeff raised it, let me ask you about that. I have heard from more than one Democrat, Adam Schiff obviously being the most highest ranking, bringing it up right there, is that any effort to block them, any effort to not turn over the information that they are requesting, or interfere in them getting testimony from people they want to speak to, will be considered evidence of obstruction.
And he said, we're not fooling around. We don't want this dragging out for months and months and months. Which indicates they don't want to go to court to hand this over. What does evidence of obstruction mean in this situation?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It means two things. One is that, if they persist in the blocking of witnesses and documents, they will draft an article of impeachment, like they did in the Nixon case --
RODGERS: -- that said, you are obstructing justice by refusing to turn over documents and witnesses that we are entitled to in our impeachment inquiry. So that's --
BOLDUAN: In essence on that, if you don't hand over this information that we are requesting, then you are going to be adding to the problem. You are going to be considered -- you are adding to what is potentially an article of impeachment, which is one of those against Nixon.
RODGERS: That's right. In the same way, in a criminal case, someone obstructing justice may find themselves facing another criminal count of obstruction of justice.
There's another thing, too, which is this adverse inference concept. That's also from the legal system, which says, if you do something that is obstructionist like that, we can take an adverse inference.
So we can use that as a piece of proof to say, you didn't turn over these documents we are entitled to, therefore, we will infer from that that those documents are harmful to you and helpful to our case. That's also from the legal system, you can get that inference, get a
jury instructed by the judge to take an adverse inference against the party. That's what they are saying there, we will use this as a piece of evidence to say, you didn't give us the documents we sought, we were entitled to, we can infer those look bad for you. So --
BOLDUAN: Turn them over. That this was going to be bad for new that case.
BOLDUAN: Julie, on this point of -- I mean, Adam Schiff made really clear, they're moving -- the way he put it, they want to get this done within a reasonable period of time. And he says we're proceeding deliberately and feel a sense of urgency to get it done in a reasonable time.
Again, I've heard that from other Democrats as well, that they're going to be moving forward. This is not going to be a year's-long process, if you will.
Are you getting any indication, any clue, though, of what that timeline actually looks like?
JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, there's a lot of discussion about the end of the year being a deadline, essentially. The idea being that you don't want Democrats still to be mired in an impeachment when the Iowa caucuses are going on, when the New Hampshire primaries, when it very quickly is going to lead into an election year.
I think Democrats would like as much as possible to try to separate what will be happening on the Hill from that campaign. Certainly, have you look at these in tandem.
But I think if they can wrap this up, have a vote on articles of impeachment by the end of the year, Democrats would be quite pleased with that.
But this time frame, this faster time frame that they are trying to move on here really has put the White House on the back foot. They are caught off guard by this. They don't have a clear plan right now for answering exactly the questions that you are raising here, whether they're going to cooperate.
That's a hugely significant question for the president that will impact his future, the future of his presidency, and they're really scrambling to try to figure out how to proceed, given how fast the Democrats are trying to move on this.
BOLDUAN: Let's get back into the room.
Manu Raju was in that news conference. He has been able to pop up. He is joining me now. Manu, really interesting is right before the press conference they
alluded to, they announced that subpoenas to the White House are coming.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. On Friday, the House Oversight Committee, in consultation with two other committees, plans to issue that subpoena to the White House after several -- two letters were sent earlier in September asking for documents related to Ukraine.
The documents were not -- the requests were not complied with. Now they're threatening this will be the next batch of subpoenas that would go over to the White House asking for this information, demanding they be turned over.
This, of course, coming after issues -- subpoenas sent to the State Department and the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Adam Schiff is making clear there will likely be even more subpoenas coming forward.
But exactly the headline out of here, if for certain, is what Adam Schiff alluded to there, that they are not going to let this drag out in court. We have seen this strategy play out for months now, with the House Judiciary Committee now in court on several issue, including getting the testimony of former White House counsel, Don McGahn.
That is not necessarily the way they want to go now. They will decide how to pursue these.
But I am told by multiple Democratic officials that if they don't get compliance, that essentially will be one of the articles of impeachment that would be obstruction of Congress, and exactly what Adam Schiff just alluded to here in talking to reporters.
That's the sign that the Democrats want to make. They don't want to be consumed with impeachment up through next year, through the election year, which is why they want to wrap this up in the coming weeks.
Which is one reason why Nancy Pelosi, at the beginning of the press conference, tried to talk about her agenda and would not take questions for several minutes about impeachment. Because it overshadows what they're trying to sell the public.
As she noted, it is very divisive and does not play particularly well with some Democrats who are in tough re-election races. So they do want to wrap this up quickly.
RAJU: If the White House doesn't comply, they'll say this could be one reason to impeach. And they hope to wrap it up in a matter of weeks -- Kate? BOLDUAN: They knew, Manu. That's one of the reasons why Nancy Pelosi
hesitated, one of the many reasons Nancy Pelosi was not there on impeachment protection for so long.
She knows that, yes, technically, they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes, they can pass legislation. But when are you dealing with the consideration of impeaching the president of the United States, that is -- that is one of the most serious questions that can be considered by the House of Representatives. Of course, it's going to overshadow any other agenda item.
RAJU: No question about it.
And what's interesting, if you look at there's overwhelming support, even among some of those vulnerable Democrats in those swing districts, they're supporting an impeachment inquiry at the moment.
RAJU: But they're not all on the page about supporting impeaching the president, about supporting articles of impeachment. When they do, that will be a much more difficult conversation, a different conversation within the caucus to get everybody on the same page. So there's a lot that has to move the caucus needs to move forward on.
But they have to resolve that in a matter of weeks if they don't want this to overshadow what they are selling to voters to try to keep the House in 2020.
BOLDUAN: Manu, one of the things -- I know the speaker and the chairman cut it short. One of the things they weren't able to ask about is one of the more interesting details and developments that is going to be happening today.
The inspector general of the State Department reaching out to the Hill, to the Hill staff, the committee staff, saying that he wants to have a briefing. And that's going to be happening today and it's related to if some way, shape or form, documents about Ukraine.
What are you hearing about this?
RAJU: Yes, a number of Democrats and Republicans I spoke to, who got that e-mail, said they were shocked to see that. They were stunned. They had no idea what this could be about.
But what was interesting to several people that I spoke to, is that it came about an hour after Mike Pompeo sent that letter to Capitol Hill saying he would not essentially be complying with the subpoena for documents that the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent last week and was pushing back the idea of deposing five current and former State Department officials.
Then the I.G., the inspector general, sent that letter to Capitol Hill saying, let's have this meeting, urgent meeting behind closed doors about documents related to Ukraine, documents that the inspector general apparently got from the legal adviser of the State Department. When I talked to a number of people, there's a lot of speculation
about what this is about. But at the moment, no one really knows.
So it could fuel the Democratic investigation, impeachment investigation. Maybe it tamps it down in some way.
Of course, as we know, the inspector general of the Intelligence Community is the one who drove this investigation, saying the whistleblower complaint was credible and urgent. We'll see what happens later today -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much. I know you have to run. You have a lot more to do. Thank you so much. Pop up whenever you have it.
Let me get back.
Jeff, let me bring you in on this.
There's a striking thing -- and I think I have it right here. A striking thing that Adam Schiff actually said during this press briefing was, when he says, "The president wants to make this all about the whistleblower and suggests that people that came ahead with evidence of his wrongdoing are somehow treasonous and should be treated as traitors and spies." And Schiff says, "This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses and it's an incitement to violence."
I found that striking because that is where the president's focus really is. It is on, I want to interview, I want to find out the identity of this whistleblower. That is at least at the moment kind of -- that's his messaging target.
ZELENY: No question. And the president every day, sometimes several hours during the day, has been trying to redirect the focus of this on the whistleblower, trying to say that he's being treated unfairly, that he should meet his accuser.
What Chairman Schiff was trying to do there was essentially expand the lens here, if you will, and take a 30,000-foot view of this.
Yes, we are going to have these hourly developments but the point is what we learned last week when we have the memorandum of that phone call, a transcript, if you will, a rough transcript, that is outlining all of this.
So that is the basis of this impeachment inquiry. It is not the president going after the whistleblower. That is what he's trying to redirect this, of course. But that's what Chairman Schiff was trying to do there, focus on the president's words.
The reality here is, as I talk to Republicans -- again, we're a week and a day into this. Republicans are more concerned by the president's reaction to all this than the actual substance of that phone call. Look what Senator Grassley did yesterday. He's back home in Iowa
recovering from a surgery himself but he put out a statement protecting the whistleblower. He has made it his life's work in the halls of the Senate to protect whistleblowers.
That is where the president could get into trouble with Republicans is his conduct in the aftermath, never mind the actual substance of that phone call.
BOLDUAN: It is very clear the president was watching this press conference live --
BOLDUAN: -- Julie, because he has been tweeting. Now he's tweeting expletives about Democrats on Capitol Hill.
That just gets me to my question of, what is the White House -- we know there's very little White House strategy on how to respond to the seriousness of an impeachment inquiry, but what are you hearing there?
PACE: Right now, the strategy is to let Trump be his own defender. It's so interesting to think about the contrast between what we're seeing right now and what happened during the Clinton impeachment where basically the rule was no discussion of impeachment from the president, no discussion of it even from the press secretary.
They were deflecting all questions to a small group of people who were focused on this issue and they were trying to show the country, hey, we're doing other things, we have other priorities.
This is a president who is signaling to the American people that he is following every twist and turn and that he thinks his best defense is to just get incredibly personal in his attacks on Democrats.
It's the same strategy we saw play out during the Mueller investigation. The takeaway from that investigation for the White House is that this is a strategy that works.
BOLDUAN: They believe that. There's a very important significant difference here. This did not come from a dossier. This came from a whistleblower and also is backed up by an inspector general of the Intelligence Community, who called it urgent and credible, an inspector general that the president himself appointed.
Guys, thank you so much. A lot going on today. I feel like I say that every day now.
We have more coming up right now. So much more on the breaking news ahead. President Trump is not only having his say on Twitter but he's also set to speak moments from now. This coming just after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff are warning the White House against any stonewalling and saying, if that's what happens, it will be considered obstruction.
Plus, more on an update on Senator Bernie Sanders undergoing a procedure for a blocked artery this week. He's cancelling all campaign events until further notice. We have an update on his recovery.
Also this. A plane crashes at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. We'll have an update on that.
And the Dow is tanking over concerns about the economy.
Yes, another day in the news. It's a busy one. Stay with us.
BOLDUAN: More breaking news this morning. According to the FAA, a vintage plane crashed while trying to land at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. Just look at that.
CNN's Alexandra Field is following all of this for us. She's here now.
Alex, what are you learning about this?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still very much a breaking situation, Kate. We can see those black plumes of smoke shooting out of the aircraft at the airport as it landed. Six people injured at least, taken to hospitals. We don't know how many people were on board. We don't know the extent of the injuries.
The investigation into the cause of the crash now being launched with state agencies and first responders on scene.
This is a World War II B-17 vintage aircraft. It was at the airport as part of a Wings of Freedom tour, which is an experience that allows people, civilians, to purchase experiences on board these aircrafts.
Obviously, a tragic ending to this flight. We will find out what prompted this and the status of those who were injured.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Just look at the response though. Obviously took it very seriously and acted swiftly.
We'll have much more on this. Alex is going to be following these developments.
And as you can tell, much more developments throughout the day, including President Trump will be speaking at a press conference this afternoon.