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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Trump Blasts Democrats, Media Over Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired October 2, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The president's attack on the whistle-blower's honesty and integrity, again, it's undermined by the fact that the whistle-blower's description of the call aligns with the transcript, according to Director of National Intelligence Maguire, not to mention all of the comments that both the president and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani Have made publicly acknowledging their push to have the Ukrainians dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.
The president refused to answer the question today when asked today what exactly he wanted Ukraine to investigate. But he did complete this completely unsubstantiated claim about the Bidens instead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked, and you know it. His son walks out with millions of dollars. The kid knows nothing. You know it, and so do we.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Again, the Ukrainian prosecutor has said that he has seen no evidence that Hunter Biden did anything wrong.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins me now.
Kaitlan, it's a pretty remarkable claim that the president made against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, along with all his claims about everyone else.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but it is.
We have heard privately just how much the president has focused and zeroed in his anger on Adam Schiff over the last few days, as they have launched this impeachment inquiry against him. And you saw it play out today.
When the president was asked during that press conference about this "New York Times" report that Adam Schiff's office essentially got an early readout of a general outline of the complaint that this whistle- blower was going to make before they had actually filed the complaint, the president was asked about that, and he said he believed that Adam Schiff knew about the scandal before and then he said he was going to go one step further and say that he believed that House Intelligence chairman helped this whistle-blower quite this complaint, something that the president provided no evidence for why he thought that.
And, of course, as you noted, the whistle-blower's lawyer has said that is not true. But really this is just a larger aspect of you could see just how angry the president is as he's facing this impeachment inquiry.
TRUMP: This is a hoax. This is the greatest hoax. This is just a continuation of what has been playing out, John, for the last -- since my election.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump making clear today that the impeachment inquiry has gotten to him, as sources say he feels wronged and that Democrats are out to get him.
TRUMP: This is a fraudulent crime on the American people. But we will work together with Shifty Shift (sic) and Pelosi and all of them.
That was a perfect conversation.
COLLINS: His combative stance on full display as he attacks the House Intelligence chairman and the House speaker.
TRUMP: Listen to this one, President.
COLLINS: While the Finnish president looked on.
TRUMP: I'm sorry to both you with this, Mr. President, because we have other things to talk about.
COLLINS: Moments earlier, Trump watched as Schiff and Nancy Pelosi delivered a warning shot to the White House.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We're not fooling around here, though.
COLLINS: The president also calling into question the credibility of the whistle-blower and those who gave the official information.
TRUMP: The person is a spy, in my opinion.
COLLINS: After Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said the whistle- blower should be heard and protected, Trump said this:
TRUMP: I think a whistle-blower should be protected, if the whistle- blower is legitimate.
COLLINS: His combative appearance coming hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted he was on that July call with Ukraine's President Zelensky.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As for was I on the phone call, I was on the phone call
COLLINS: It is the first time he's publicly addressed his role in the call since this interview. POMPEO: So you just gave me a report about an I.C. whistle-blower
complaint, none of which I have seen.
COLLINS: It is a scandal the world is watching, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who defended Trump against the impeachment inquiry today.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Nixon's team was wiretapping, listening to their rivals. But this is a completely different situation. Trump was wiretapped.
COLLINS: U.S. intelligence agencies have said there is no doubt Russia interfered in the 2016 election. While Putin has denied it, he joked about doing it again today.
PUTIN (through translator): I will tell you a secret. Yes, of course, we will do it, to finally make you happier. Just don't tell anyone.
COLLINS: Now, Jake, during the press conference with the president of Finland, president grew incredibly combative, at one point refusing to answer a reporter's question that really seems to be at the center of all of this.
And that is whether or not and what exactly he wanted the Ukrainian president to do about the Bidens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Are you talking to me?
QUESTION: Yes, it was just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir.
TRUMP: Listen, listen, are you ready? We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question.
QUESTION: I have one for him. I just wanted to follow up on the one I asked you, which was, what did you want...
TRUMP: Did you hear me? Did you hear me? Ask him a question.
QUESTION: I will, but...
TRUMP: I have given you a long answer. Ask this gentleman a question.
TRUMP: Don't be rude.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Now, Jeff Mason, that reporter, went on to ask the Finland president a question that President Trump later answered. But Trump never answered that question about what he wanted him to do about the Bidens.
TAPPER: All right, let's talk about all this.
Phil Mudd, how do you interpret it that President Trump, who up until now has been saying it was a perfect conversation, there was nothing wrong with it, when Jeff Mason from Reuters asks just a very specific question, what did you want the Ukrainians to investigate when it came to the Bidens, your domestic political rivals, he wouldn't answer it?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, if you look at what happened during the Russia investigation, when the president went after the authors of the investigation, the most storied prosecutor of our time, Robert Mueller, everybody in town when Robert Mueller is nominated said, this guy is the best there is and ever was.
The president is doing the same thing. Let me not offer answers about the investigation itself. Let me say the people, including the lead in this case, not Robert Mueller, but the whistle-blower, let me attack them.
And the reason I think he's doing it is simple. Look at what happened to Robert Mueller's numbers over time. Declined. People started to say maybe, after month after month after month, maybe he's right. He's doing exactly the same thing.
TAPPER: And the campaign, it is not really that difficult to figure out. He smears people and he lies. He just makes things up. We heard him do that today.
I am going to run this clip. Before I do, I want you to just remember, if you have been watching the show, I asked the whistle- blower's attorney, Mark Zaid, is there any truth to the president's allegation that the whistle-blower had help writing his complaint from Chairman Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee?
Mark Zaid said -- quote -- "Absolutely not."
All right? So that is what the whistle-blower's team says. Take a listen to President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think it's a scandal that he knew before.
I would go a step further. I think he probably helped write it. He knew long before and he helped write it too.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I mean, it is not true.
Now, as for the allegation that Schiff knew before, it is true that the committee had some idea about the contours of the whistle-blower allegation, as did the Justice Department and the intelligence community inspector general as well.
But your reaction?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is irrelevant to whether the underlying claims themselves are truthful.
However the vehicle has come to be known, however it's come -- and according to the attorney for the whistle-blower, it is absolutely not true. But if the underlying complaint and the actual substance, which the president, by the way, has corroborated several times, perhaps inadvertently at first, and now continues to do so, it is wholly irrelevant.
But that shiny object he's trying to put over there is trying attraction, is trying to say, listen, if I deflect enough, maybe he will lose focus.
But in reality here, the reason the president won't answer this very simple question is because probably his lawyers have said, do not answer this question, because the very first time you talked about this issue, when you had it in this non-verbatim transcript, that's what allowed people to actually say this, this sounds like a quid pro quo.
Those words were not used, but guess what was used? I want you to do me a favor.
COATES: And then resulting from that came the rest of the conversation.
So, the president is aware deflection is a better strategy. The idea of trying to attack and vilify the Democrats is a better strategy on a political issue. But you know what it doesn't do? It doesn't change the fact that the conversation as given to us by the White House suggests that there was something sinister and nefarious and potentially criminal.
TAPPER: And, Bill, take a listen to what the president said about the whistle-blower him or her self.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The whistle-blower was so dishonest. The whistle-blower said terrible things about the call.
But he then -- I then found out he was secondhand and thirdhand. In other words, he didn't know what was on the call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The inspector general of the intelligence community appointed by President Trump said that's not true, that the whistle-blower did know some things firsthand, and also that it's irrelevant.
You don't have to know everything firsthand to be a whistle-blower.
BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: And we have the transcript, as you say, the underlying document, which he hasn't challenged the veracity of.
I think he has a twofold strategy. One is deflection, attack everyone, discredit everyone as much as possible. A couple years ago, someone in "The Weekly" -- Eric Felten writing in "The Weekly Standard" called this the O.J. Simpson defense. Don't defend yourself against the charge, but discredit the accusers enough that there's some kind of doubt in the jury.
And play off various prejudices against some of those people who are doing the investigating. So part of it is the deflection.
But the other part is the stonewall. We really shouldn't forget that, because at the end of the day, what is going to actually prove what happened in terms of our dealings with the Ukraine? Having documents of -- having transcripts of other meetings, at least examined privately by relevant -- by the committee staff and by the members of the committee.
Having Rudy Giuliani testify under oath. Having people from the State Department who were at some of these meetings or saw, heard about them contemporaneously testify under oath.
I mean, that's how we're going to learn what happened. So the stonewalling is as much part of the strategy as the deception.
TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, does the president seem to be lashing out more than normal to you?
COLLINS: Basically, what we have seen publicly today is what we have been hearing privately, that he's focusing on Adam Schiff, that he's furious with him, that he's been calling it B.S., as he did on Twitter earlier today.
And he's really, like you said, more focusing on the Democrats, because he feels like they are out to get him, less focused on the call, the Ukraine aspect of this, where that's going.
And people have said privately he's been really combative lately because he is so frustrated by this. But it's interesting to see how it's progressed since Pelosi announced that she was doing this inquiry, because he was incredulous then. People didn't feel like he was grasping just what exactly he was facing in the days after.
And now, today, you're seeing this combative stance. So he's saying he's going to participate. He says he always cooperates. That has not been the case for the last 10 months. It will be a question of whether or not it is with this.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We have got more to talk about.
We have breaking news. The State Department inspector general is holding that -- quote -- "urgent briefing" on Capitol Hill. We're going to go live to the Hill next.
And then, shoot them, electrocute them, let the alligators eat them? President Trump today also responding to a "New York Times" report that he had some disturbing demands for border enforcement.
You're watching a special edition of THE LEAD, "The White House in Crisis."
Stay with us.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to the special edition of THE LEAD: The White House in Crisis.
Right now, the State Department's inspector general is on Capitol Hill briefing congressional committees in what is being described as an urgent meeting as the impeachment inquiry moved forward.
As CNN's Sunlen Serfaty reports, the briefing comes as Democrats are warning President Trump and his administration not to stonewall their investigation.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the impeachment inquiry drama, the State Department inspector general shuttling to Capitol Hill today to give what congressional sources describe as an urgent and highly unusual briefing.
The meeting happening behind closed doors with staffers from several key House and Senate Committees requested specifically by the I.G. to, quote, provide staff with copies of documents related to this State Department and Ukraine.
That cryptic email coming hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to prevent key witnesses from appearing on Capitol Hill.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): They will be strengthening the case on obstruction if they behave that way.
SERFATY: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff today blasting the administration's stonewalling, warning that blocking witnesses and documents will be considered obstruction of Congress's duties and would only strengthen Democrats' hands if they drop articles of impeachment.
SCHIFF: Any effort by the secretary, by the president or anyone else to interfere with the Congress' ability to call before it relevant witnesses will be considered as evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress.
SERFATY: Schiff now leading the impeachment inquiry appearing today in a show of force with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This president of the United States is stooping to a level that is beneath the dignity of the Constitution of the United States.
SERFATY: As several key House committees are ready to issue subpoenas to the White House Friday, for documents related to President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president and the holding up of Ukrainian aid.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings sending a memo today saying, quote: The White House's flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents combined with stark and urgent warnings from the inspector general about the gravity of these allegations have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena.
Adam Schiff making it clear they won't get drawn into another protracted fight.
SCHIFF: We're not fooling around here though. We don't want this to drag on months and months which is appears to be the administration's strategy.
SERFATY: In that classified briefing up here on Capitol Hill is now breaking up. Our team outside of the doors there report that the inspector general of the State Department has just departed. He did not make any comments on his way out and staff are starting to filter out of the room where they had, again, that classified briefing for over an hour on the Senate side of the Capitol.
Jake, certainly the intrigue and the mystery extending up to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who is on a conference call with her entire caucus and she said she, too, did not know what would be revealed today -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
My experts are here with me.
Kaitlan, take a listen to Speaker Pelosi talking about President Trump's demeanor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I think the president knows the argument that could be made against him and he's scared. And so he's trying to divert attention from that to standing in the way of legislation. I saw the surprise in his voice that he didn't understand that I thought what he did was wrong, that he was undermining our national security, that he was undermining our Constitution by his actions and was undermining the integrity of our elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Your response? What do you think? I think one of the things that is true in there is that Pelosi believes that President Trump, when she talked to him a week ago yesterday, that he didn't understand that what he done was not perfect, that actually could be perceived by many people as wrong, even though it seemed as of today based on his refusal to answer questions about it, he now is starting to get it maybe.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she used the word "scared" and that is the word my sources have used but they have used he is in denial about this. And remember, when the president made that phone call to Nancy Pelosi, he said it was about guns, I don't think she really thought it was about guns in the beginning, neither did some of the aides that I later spoke with.
Of course, it then turns to this.
Essentially, what was communicated to me by sources is that the president thought he could get on the phone with her and he could change Nancy Pelosi's mind, which is interesting if you've been watching her the past few months because it's kind of pretty clear that she was headed this way. And so, when they had that phone call, she walks away from it and she thinks that essentially he didn't she was actually going to do this. He didn't actually think she was going to take this step.
So, it's interesting to see how she is portraying that call now, saying he's scared of what's going to happen, because he was genuinely surprised that she actually thinks something wrong with what he said during the phone call and she watched this before he released the transcript.
TAPPER: You used to work at the CIA. You're like you have training in reading people. How do you interpret --
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, there's a lot of rats in Washington, D.C. and I smell a big one. Let me explain why, and it's the president himself who talked about this, starting out with the Russia investigation. Initially, he's so embarrassed that there are of allegations of contact with the Russians, we didn't have any contact, and then the contacts are benign.
And then when my son, this is him speaking, meets with Russia and it is about adoption. And we realize that's a lie because he's embarrassed. Overtime, we normalize behavior and he tells someone, George Stephanopoulos, actually, I think I would accept information from the Russians, now we've come a long way. Now we're saying not only would I accept it, in three years, we've normalized having foreigners interfere in our election so much, he's saying it is a perfect phone call when I ask a foreigner to help me undermine an American electoral opponent.
That's what's happening. He knew it because he told us from day one in the Russia investigation I'm embarrassed about it and he's telling the people this is part of the American electoral process. Remarkable.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The idea that Nancy Pelosi -- I have to call it like a prosecutor here, there is the court of public opinion and if I wanted to make sure that people saw my defendant's emotions in a particular light, I wouldn't used things like unhinged, I wouldn't use things like he's apoplectic, I would say things like scared, to reflect my own power, as opposed to person's dynamic.
I think what she's doing in many ways is to structure the argument in much the way that we saw Bill Barr did through a four-page letter, also through a press conference to say the president was acting in this way not in on obstructive capacity but he was offended by the allegations against him. So, he was angry and he was defending his own integrity. See how the framing worked to actually discredit the Mueller report before it even began.
Now, she's looking at the idea I'm in the court of public opinion, how do I bring my jury pool along? I have to show that I have somehow beneficence of strength to show this person is weak. And now the president looks as though again to the American people that he is in denial, that he is actually scared. What of the big, bad impeachment.
TAPPER: And, Bill, I want to get your reaction to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff warning that any stonewalling could result in actual -- other charges and problems for the administration. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Any effort by the secretary, by the president or anyone else to interfere with the Congress's ability to call before it relevant witnesses will be considered as evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress. We're not fooling around here though. We don't want this to drag on months and months, which appears to be the administration's strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What do you think?
BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: I think it's very important. I think what Phil said is extremely important. The underlying facts have to be hammered home about inviting a foreign government to interfere in our domestic politics to go after an American citizen and not just in that one conversation but through Rudy Giuliani and other respects as well. And secondly, that their stonewalling and Congress has the right and obligation to discover what happened.
They have this impeachment inquiry and the House of Representatives impeaches, the president and the executive branch have no right to say we don't think you need this or that when you are in that inquiry. They could say this should be in looked at in confidence in camera, in private session and so forth, but not that.
So, I think those two points are key. I think they should -- they could avoid responding to all the attacks on them and the deflections we talked about earlier, you know, the media -- attacks on the media, attacks on Democrats and what matters are two things, what happened and if the president stops them from finding out exactly what happened, that that itself has to be considered impeachable.
TAPPER: And, Phil, I want you to take a listen to what the president said, again inaccurately describing the whistle-blower.
Let's roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whistleblower wrote not that conversation. He wrote a vicious conversation. In other words, he either got it totally wrong, made it up, or the person giving the information to the whistle-blower was dishonest, and this country has to find out who that person was because that person is a spy in my opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The person is not a spy. The person is a whistle-blower. The person is a member of the intelligence community.
We're going to go right now to breaking news.
We got Congressman Raskin of Maryland talking about the inspector general of the State Department. Let's listen in.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): He wanted to give us a packet of information which is unclassified which originally arrived at the Department of State addressed to Secretary Pompeo and it looks like this.
So, it's in calligraphy, says Secretary Pompeo, attention wrote (ph), it says the White House.
So, it may have come from the White House, it may not. We don't know. And there is a series of folders which all come from Trump Hotels. So, folder after folder that say Trump Hotel.
Now, I haven't had time to thoroughly scrutinize but it is a packet of propaganda and disinformation spreading conspiracy theories. Those conspiracy theories have been widely debunked and discredited. Apparently, the material came in May of this year. And so, it coincided with the moment in which Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled. So, it was clearly targeting her, as well some other people.
The inspector general turned it over to the FBI and then has not done anything else internally with it at the Department of State, as far as we understand. When the whistle-blower report came out he felt that he needed to turn it over to Congress. And so, we are now in possession of this packet of propaganda and disinformation that was circulated in May.
Now it mentions a number of people that were planning to see, most notably Ambassador Yovanovitch. Secretary of State Pompeo is trying to block her from coming. We don't think he'll succeed in doing that, but he wants to try to prevent her from coming to Congress to give her testimony.
The existence of this packet and its curious history raises profoundly troubling questions. Why was Secretary of State Pompeo in possession of this packet of disinformation? Why did he distribute it and circulate it? To whom else did he distribute it and circulate it? And why was his staff involved in that process?
So I've got to say that it raises more questions than it answers. I'm not sure it is an urgent thing but I could understand why the inspector general at this point wanted to turn it over.
REPORTER: What did the inspector general -- what is the inspector general's concern here?
RASKIN: You would have to ask the inspector general about that. He just realized that given the whistleblower's account and reporting suggesting that there has been an effort to target Ambassador Yovanovitch and that there is, you know, the effort to deploy the president's cabinet to go abroad in search of conspiracy theories, that this would be relevant.
So I imagine that is why. But you would have to ask him. I mean, he didn't say specifically why he felt he had to turn it over but that was my impression.
REPORTER: Is he alleging -- is the inspector general alleging that the secretary of state was targeting the former ambassador with this document of conspiracy theories, is that what he's alleging?
RASKIN: No, he was not alleging that -- that Secretary of State Pompeo did it. But this was all addressed to Secretary of State Pompeo. This is where it came from. And then he made it available to the inspector general. We don't know who else -- it was given to.
But it is consistent with the conspiracy theories that you see online about CrowdStrike and about Ukraine having concocted the whole story about the Russian interference in our election and of course special counsel Mueller found that there was a sweeping and systematic campaign by Russia to interfere in our election and that is a established national fact the intelligence community accepted. But there are these lingering conspiracy theories that the president
is promoting attempting to undermine Mueller's findings about that. And given that the president was not found by Mueller to have been conspiring with Russia, it raises the question of why is the president, why is the White House still trying to undermine the separate finding that Russia engaged in the sweeping and systematic to undermine our election? That could serve only one person and that's Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.
REPORTER: Who does he think is responsible for that? Who does he think is responsible for that document?
RASKIN: The inspector general has no idea where it came from. I mean, of course, on its face it says it's coming from the White House. This doesn't look like White House stationery. And then there are the Trump Hotel folders that are built into it. So, it has mystery and uncertain provenance.
REPORTER: So, the inspector general was basically covering his bases? He's not alleging any wrongdoing by anyone inside of the State Department?