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State Department I.G. Briefs Congress; Interview With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Presidential Candidate; Combative Trump Attacks Schiff, Impeachment Inquiry "Hoax"; Trump Froze Ukraine Aid In June, Demanded A Policy Review That Baffled Officials. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 16:30   ET



REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The inspector general was basically just saying, we're sitting on this packet of disinformation which came from some uncertain place.

And, again, this is my interpretation of it. There may be misconduct by the secretary of state or other State Department employees in distributing this, if they know where it comes from, and they know that it does not have any authentic source in the White House.

But maybe it did come from the White House. We just don't know where it came from. I think that's the big mystery here. It's very clear what it is.

It is a package of propaganda and disinformation and conspiracy theories. The real question is, where did it come from? And how did it end up in our lap right now?


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ownership.

How did the I.G. become aware of this? This went to Secretary Pompeo. And then how did it get to the I.G.?

RASKIN: This is a question you will have to ask to the I.G.

But I believe it was the counsel to the State Department who turned it over to the I.G.


QUESTION: Did Pompeo distribute it in any other ways to staffers in the department?

RASKIN: We don't know the -- we don't know the answer to that. And we don't know where it came from.

The whole thing looks rather amateurish to me. It looks like a collection of some newspaper articles that appear to have been coordinated, some e-mails, and then basically a lot of conspiracy theories. QUESTION: Could it be some sort of a false flag operation, if it was done so amateurish, as you suggest?

RASKIN: It could be anything at this point. Who knows.


QUESTION: There had been some reporting that the urgent matter related to the State Department retaliating against career officials who tried to cooperate or wanted to cooperate with House Democrats.

Did that come up at all today?

RASKIN: That was not the purpose of this meeting. That was not a subject of the meeting.

So, really, the whole meeting consisted of the inspector general turning over this packet of information to us, and people trying to figure out where it came from and what it all means.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What constitutes an urgent concern? Why is this considered urgent if it's unclear where this is even coming from?

RASKIN: Well, that was one of the questions I think a lot of people present in the meeting had.

The inspector general seem to feel that he had been sitting on this for months, and that it might be relevant to the work of the committee.

I mean, the committee is obviously -- look, the big story is, the president of the United States was involved in a shakedown operation against the Ukrainian government, attempting to obtain political dirt on the Bidens. And he held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign military and economic aid in order to make that happen. Then they covered the whole thing up.

As -- there's not much of an effort to refute that on the facts, but there's an effort to try to go underneath it, to say that there was a vast conspiracy to make up everything that special counsel Mueller investigated.

I don't really know the relevance of it. At a certain, it's hard to follow all the conspiracy theories. But this packet of information is simply meant to advance the conspiracy theory that Mueller's finding that there was a sweeping and systematic campaign by Russia to interfere in our election was specious and fallacious.

QUESTION: And as you go forth trying to write potential articles of impeachment for the president, you're on the Judiciary Committee. How does that play into this? I mean, is this part of -- or -- and did the I.G. come forth with this at this point only prompted by the fact that we are this deep into impeachment at this stage and thought he was compelled to do so?

RASKIN: Well, there's nothing in here, I think, that's directly relevant to the president's impeachable conduct.

I don't think it relates to the president's high crimes and misdemeanors, but it does relate to efforts to sabotage Ambassador Yovanovitch and to basically smear a number of employees who perhaps were getting in the way of the president.

And I think that's really the importance of this document, that there was an organized effort to go after people who the White House or perhaps Mr. Giuliani thought were getting in the way of the president's...


RAJU: Did the I.G. allege that? Did the I.G. allege that? Did the I.G. allege...

RASKIN: No, no, that's my interpretation of the situation.


QUESTION: ... propaganda, disinformation and conspiracy theories?

RASKIN: No, that's totally my interpretation of what this is.

He just said, I wanted to turn it over.

So everybody's going to have to take a look at it and see if you think there's something valuable in there.


QUESTION: Can you be more specific about the claims that you characterize as conspiracy theories? Like, what are the actual -- what are the actual claims that your (OFF-MIKE) about?

RASKIN: Well, you -- I imagine everybody -- you're going to have to -- the committees, I think, are going to be discussing what to do with all of the information.

But the names that you have been reading about in the conspiracy theories are in this package. So the Bidens are in there. Yovanovitch is in there and so on.


So there has been an attempt to create a narrative that would somehow justify what the president did.

Now, from our perspective, all of it is completely and totally irrelevant. This is an irrelevant distraction from the matter at hand.

What the president did was to use the military national security power of his office in order to try to extract political dirt from a foreign ally, a besieged foreign ally resisting Russian aggression. That's really the only thing that America understands. And that's all

America needs to understand, because the rest of this, I think, is a propagandistic distortion and distraction of other events.

But people will have a chance to read it on their own.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, we're going to break out of this press conference that is a part of one of the odder developments in this impeachment inquiry.

That was Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. He is on the House Judiciary Committee, talking about how the inspector general for the State Department, for this urgent meeting, basically just turned over a bunch of propaganda that had been mailed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, alleging in its pages, these documents, a whole host of conspiracy theories having to do with players in the Ukraine scandal, most notably including Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch, who was dismissed by President Trump as ambassador to Ukraine earlier this year.

Let's chat about this.

Let's start with the intelligence expert we have at the table, Phil Mudd.

I don't really understand the purpose of the inspector general turning over these document. And I certainly don't understand the purpose of having a press conference like that, if all this stuff is just unproven, not linked to anybody, no proof wrongdoing by anybody, and all of it is false.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Man, are you polite. I will never have your job.


MUDD: Let me give you another interpretation of that.

The congressman put his foot in a cow pie and said, isn't this cool? What a hot mess that was. He doesn't know where -- they don't know where this stuff came from. I could have sent it for all I know. He clearly hasn't reviewed it. He hasn't had the time to review it.

So we don't know exactly what's in there. He comes to us and says, despite the fact that he jumps out to a press conference 10 seconds later, it's not clear why this was such an urgent matter. And he also says it's not even clear this is relevant to the investigation we have under way.

But we need to break for a press conference because we think he's going to say something significant. Let me cut to the chase. He didn't. That was a hot mess, in my judgment.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But this is also confusing because what we had been told was that this was described as an urgent briefing from the inspector general to give to these lawmakers, their staff. And, clearly, Manu asked the best question there. He said, well, what

is urgent about this? Because as he described it as -- quote -- "amateurish," he said, essentially, we don't know what this is or where it came from or who it was supposed to go to, or anything else or how it's related to all of this.

So the question is, why did the inspector general or whoever scheduled this briefing, why did they deem it as urgent?

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

We have got more to talk about.

Coming up next, we're going to talk to a 2020 presidential candidate and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as President Trump faces an impeachment inquiry.

You're watching a special edition of THE LEAD: "The White House in Crisis."

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are back with breaking news, President Trump a short time ago continuing to publicly lash out, claiming he will cooperate with House Democrats as they prepare to subpoena the White House, though he has not cooperated in the past, and he simultaneously railed against the inquiry as a hoax, and attacked the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Joining me now is presidential candidate and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, who also sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for taking time out of your day to talk to us.


TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to President Trump earlier today on the impeachment inquiry.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No Republicans have raised concerns.


TAPPER: No Republicans have raised concerns with him, he says.

You talk a lot about your ability to work in a bipartisan fashion, reach across the aisle, your relationships with Republicans.

Have you talked to any of your Republican colleagues about this Ukraine scandal? Are they worried at all?

KLOBUCHAR: Of course I have.

And I think we know that, for a long time, specially when John McCain was still alive, the Republicans were very strong on the fact that you don't want to have Russia invading our allies, invading countries like Ukraine, what they did, not just annex the Crimea, but Russian separatists shooting down a plane, killing innocent people, horrific things going on.

And, in fact, I went to the Ukraine with John McCain and Lindsey Graham and stood there, so we could show we stood with our allies.

So, they have said this in the past.

And the president is wrong, in that we have seen Republicans voicing concerns.

Let's go through it, two Republican governors voicing support for at least going forward with the impeachment inquiry. Senator Grassley this weekend speaking out very strongly about protecting the whistle- blower.

Mitt Romney early on sending out a statement about his concern about the president's statements in that transcript, or at least memo of the call.


You can go through it. I'm not saying they have been strong enough, but I just appeal to their patriotism. And, also, those people that work in the White House or used to work in the White House who despise this guy, who know that he's a security risk, those people who know stuff are going to have to come forward and testify, because my guess is, there's a lot of corroborating evidence here, and that that memo of that call was just the beginning.

TAPPER: You have called the Ukraine scandal a global Watergate. You have been calling for impeachment proceedings actually long before this.

If impeachment ultimately gets to the Senate, if the House votes to impeach and it goes to the Senate, you will be a juror.

Do your comments mean that you have already made up your mind?

KLOBUCHAR: I think it is important to look at all of the evidence.

And you have no idea what counts are going to come our way, how strong they are going to be. I have been simply very strong on pushing for impeachment proceedings because of what I have heard.

And I just view this as a simple, straightforward focus on putting our country first over someone's own political ambitions, their partisan ambitions. And President Trump, from the moment he stood in front of that wall of the deceased CIA agents, that sacred wall, and made a partisan speech, has never respected that line.

And that is really the road that we have been on ever since that time. And that is why I think it is important to hear all the evidence and to have a fair proceeding.

And we're very -- you know, Senate McConnell said we have got to consider this under the Senate rules and have a trial.

Well, we better have one.

TAPPER: You and other Democratic candidates have been talking about gun control today, the need to take action, in your view.

But with impeachment hanging over Washington, the impeachment inquiry, is Congress going to be able to get anything done right now, anything legislatively?

KLOBUCHAR: Maybe it is because I'm a mom, but I have always been able to do two things at once.

That is what this is about. We in the Senate should be able to do two things at once. And we can. While the House is considering the evidence, there are tons of bills, including three gun safety bills that we're talking about today, universal background checks.

Majority of Trump voters support them. Majority of hunters support them. The work that has been done on pharmaceutical crisis, you name it. There are so many bills -- election security -- that are sitting on Mitch McConnell's doorstep.

So there is every reason we can move forward with those bills while the House is considering impeachment. We will have weeks to do it. And so it is time for him to act on those bills.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Amy Klobuchar, 2020 presidential candidate, Democrat of Minnesota, thank you so much for your time.

Have fun out there on the campaign trail.

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: And we will see --

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, it's good.

We just put our first ad out, Jake, People should watch it.

TAPPER:, with a C-H-A-R, we should note.

Amy Klobuchar, thank you so much.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: And we're going to see Senator Klobuchar --

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

TAPPER: -- and 11 of her opponents on the debate stage soon. We just the official stage line up. Once again, former Vice-President Biden will be center stage with Senator Elizabeth Warren because they lead in the polls. On the left side of the stage Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer the billionaire for his first debate, Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders.

Plus, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, businessman Andrew Yang, Congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Klobuchar, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. That's right here on CNN Tuesday, October 15th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, new reporting about the mystery surrounding President Trump's decision to halt that military aid to Ukraine. Why months later his own administration is quite confused. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Today, we're learning that members of President Trump's own administration are still confused as to why President Trump halted millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine that Congress had appropriated. CNN, Sara Murray has been looking into this. And Sarah, Congress started asking questions about what happened to the funding in July but an order to freeze the aid may have come before that, before July?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We've previously reported that this came around July. We're now learning it actually came earlier. The President decided in June, he wanted to freeze this aid. And he said he wanted the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and John Bolton who is that as National Security Advisor to run a policy review.

Now the President said via Twitter, this was about you know, investigating corruption and about making sure us allies pay their fair share. Here is why that doesn't make any sense. Because before the President had ordered this review, the Pentagon and the State Department had already done a review.

They'd already announced to their oversight committees and Congress and to the public that this aid was ready to go. And even when the President got back from the G7, the point at which you would assume like you were pressuring your allies to put forth more aid, he still didn't unfreeze this.

So we are now four months after this mysterious policy review was ordered. And when you talk to officials in the White House, at the Office of Management Budget, and even at DOD, they do not understand why this review was ordered, or even what this review entailed.

And of course, this raises suspicions that could have just been a stalling tactic, and that it was politically motivated on the part of the President,

TAPPER: The President trying to hold back as the allegation -- hold back this aid until the president of Ukraine does what he wants him to do.

MURRAY: Right, exactly. You know, we saw from this phone call, which happened in July that the President of Ukraine brings up the potential of defense assistance, thanks to U.S. for everything they've done. And all the sudden the president says, well, I have a favor to ask.

TAPPER: You're also learning about two dates from the whistleblower complaints that are now checking out. What is that?

MURRAY: Well, it's interesting because we saw the president again, attack the whistleblower's credibility, but a senior administration official said that there were two meetings that were mentioned in the whistleblower's complaint in July, and this person confirmed these meetings did occur. They were interagency meetings. They happen on the days that whistleblower said.

This person tried to downplay it and said, well, these were junior- level meetings. But what we're seeing is the whistleblower complaint more or less has checked out.


TAPPER: All right, Sarah Murray, thank you so much. You're watching a special edition of THE LEAD, The White House in Crisis. A member of the House Intelligence Committee Democratic Congressman Andre Carson is coming up.


TAPPER: Thanks for watching our special edition of THE LEAD, The White House in Crisis. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.