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NYT: Trump Wanted Snake-Filled Moat Around Border Wall; Ex-Cop Amber Guyger Found Guilty of Murder in Neighbor Shooting; Ambassador Volker to Testify Tomorrow in Impeachment Probe; State Department Inspector General to Hold Urgent Briefing on Capitol Hill; Mike Pompeo Confirms He was on Ukraine Phone Call. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 09:00   ET



BERMAN: You can also go thank a veteran in person when they're alive, too. Maybe take the chance to say thank you.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. That is also a wonderful gesture, but it is so great that a thousand people showed up.

All right. Meanwhile, there's this mysterious and urgent briefing on Capitol Hill from the State Department inspector general. Our live coverage continues after this.

BERMAN: Right now.

CAMEROTA: Right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. As the impeachment inquiry into President Trump moves into its second week, so does the faceoff between Congress and the executive branch. Today there will be a private briefing on Capitol Hill with the State Department's inspector general. There's no word yet on what he plans to speak about but a congressional aide called the IG's urgent request for the briefing highly unusual and cryptically worded.

HARLOW: So that briefing will happen as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is stonewalling Congress resisting requests to turn over documents and accusing Democratic of, quote, "intimidating and bullying" witnesses. Democratic leaders fighting back warning Pompeo against obstructing this investigation, accusing him of having a conflict of interest since he failed to mention being on that call between the president of Ukraine and President Trump. They argue that would make him a fact witness in all of this.

SCIUTTO: As for the president he is now echoing right-wing media outlets comparing the impeachment process, which is laid out in the Constitution, to an illegal coup. We're seeing that word a lot. He's set to speak today but first we will hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence chair Adam Schiff, this in the next hour. We're covering all the angles this morning. Let's begin with CNN

congressional reporter Lauren Fox.

So this is an unusual briefing on the Hill, urgent briefing, by the inspector general here. Do we have any idea what the subject of the briefing is?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we're trying to get more information of course about what the State Department inspector general is going to talk to congressional staff members about today in that briefing. But I will tell you, when the news came down yesterday, it was very surprising. And people on Capitol Hill were caught a little bit off guard saying that this was highly unusual, saying that this cryptic message from the State Department IG was very peculiar and of course everyone is going to be watching very closely, though I'm told that that briefing is going to take place this afternoon and potentially there will be copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.

But, you know, one of the things that we have been watching very closely up here on Capitol Hill is how quickly these developments are coming. In some ways this is very different than the investigations that we've been watching for the last several months. And yesterday when Mike Pompeo, the secretary of State, was arguing that congressional leaders were bullying members of his department because they wanted to speak to them in these depositions, you know, Democrats fired back very quickly saying this is just another stalling tactic. We have seen this before and we're not going to stand for it.

They are trying to move as expeditiously as possible when it comes to this impeachment inquiry. So you can expect more rapid developments today -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: One of the witnesses who's been called directly, the former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine was pushed by President Trump, was supposed to testify today. That's delayed. But is there any indication that doesn't happen or is this just a delay?

FOX: Well, it appears to be a delay at this point. She's going to testify next week. We also know that Kurt Volker, who's the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, is going to be coming before Capitol Hill tomorrow to speak behind closed doors. So all of that is still ongoing but I will tell you, you know, this feels different than all the past stonewalling we've seen in that members of Congress are getting somewhere in some of these depositions -- Jim.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a very good point, Lauren. Thank you so much.

Let's go now to our correspondent Melissa Bell. She's in Rome. That's where the secretary of State is. He just did speak to reporters and answer some of their questions a short time ago. He addressed this fight with Democrats and just for the first time actually said, yes, he was on that July 25th call between the president of Ukraine and President Trump. MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. All eyes clearly on

what the secretary of State had to say in particular to these accusations in that joint statement by the House committee chairman that he was stonewalling, that he was getting in the way of the investigation. Very clearly warning Mike Pompeo that any obstruction to their inquiry would constitute a form of illegality and that he needed to be very careful. So he was asked specifically about whether he intended to carry out his constitutional duties, this was his reply.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We won't tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying, intimidating State Department employees. That's unacceptable. And it's not something that I'm going to permit to happen.


BELL: So he did say he would abide by his constitutional duty, and he would be helping with that inquiry but all the time saying that he would -- did not like the methods that have been deployed so far and he would be protecting the officials at the State Department.


So no great clarity on exactly what he intends to do next and how he intends to proceed with regards to that cooperation. But perhaps the most important question, Poppy, at this stage was whether he had or had not been on that call because that of course goes to the heart of the accusations on the part of the committee chairman that essentially he is facing a conflict of interest as we head into this inquiry. This is what he had to say.


POMPEO: I was on the phone call. The phone call was in the context of -- now I guess I've been secretary of State for coming on a year and a half. I know precisely what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine. It's been remarkably consistent. And we will continue to try to drive those set of outcomes.


BELL: Now what he would not be drawn on was whether or not he had heard any red flags, whether there was anything in that conversation of July 25th that he was a party to that had raised alarm bells in his mind. He would simply not be drawn also, Poppy and Jim, on the question of what the inspector general intends to tell congressmen tonight. He would not be drawn on whether he'd known about it or whether he knew what the contents of those documents were.

SCIUTTO: Well, it was a remarkable moment because him publicly acknowledging he was on that call belies his earlier statements.

HARLOW: Answer. SCIUTTO: As if he didn't know what that call was all about.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Melissa Bell, thanks very much.

Plenty to dissect here. Let's bring in Laura Barron-Lopez, she's national political reporter for Politico, Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the "Daily Beast," and Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

You know, gosh, there's so much to unwrap here.

Elie, I just want to go to a legal point here because Pompeo's protests yesterday about these requests for State Department employees to testify, you know, seemed like an act of stonewalling, saying, we're not going to let it happen. Now what's interesting is that a lot of those witnesses are saying we're going to go anyway.



SCIUTTO: You know, regardless of what he says. What is the potential here, though, for the administration to follow what has been its earlier playbook with these inquiries just to say we ain't going to cooperate?

HONIG: Yes. I think the administration is going for, we're fighting all the subpoenas part two. That was President Trump's famous quote when the subpoenas started coming from Congress, from Jerry Nadler, for all the people related to the Mueller probe. And by and large, that stonewalling strategy worked. They managed to slow things down. Nadler, really the only witness he ever got in front of the cameras was Corey Lewandowski, who chose what questions he felt like answering or not.

And I think Adam Schiff and the people running the investigation now need to take a hard lesson from that, not get slow played, not get stonewalled. Now what do they do? Going to the courts will take forever, way too long. Longer than this impeachment inquiry has. And I think if you look at the cover letters and the subpoenas, Schiff has signaled what they're going to do, which is, one, we're going to hold an adverse inference, meaning we're going to assume if you don't respond, we're going to assume the worst. We're going to assume you're trying to hide something. And two, there's always potential to bring in Articles of Impeachment for obstruction of Congress.


HARLOW: Jackie, it's interesting that the IG, the State Department IG, this is a different IG, we're talking about, is going to go before Congress today in this urgent manner. We just learned from reporting from our Lauren Fox that he is going to provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine. One could surmise will they have anything to say about Giuliani's assertion that he was ordered by the State Department, for example, to go to Ukraine and have these conversations, we don't know.

But I will say that, you know, Mike Pompeo made a technical and political argument yesterday, you know, you didn't give my staff the appropriate technical forms in advance to be deposed, and by the way you're intimidating them here. But what does it say that the IG has requested this and is now turning over documents regardless?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I don't know if we know exactly yet, Poppy, because we don't know -- we know this is unusual. We know this is pretty sudden that this happened. But we don't know what they're going to discuss. But what we do know, I mean, we've seen the text messages between the special envoy and Giuliani. We know that there are two State -- former State Department employees that are going to testify because, to your earlier point, there's not a whole lot the administration can do once someone no longer works for them and they're paying their own legal fees if they want to go before Congress.

So this afternoon obviously we don't know if we're going to find out what happened in those meetings. Certainly a lot of questions.


KUCINICH: But what we do know is pretty concerning.

SCIUTTO: Yes. This is some new reporting here from CNN. It doesn't answer all the questions. But it gives a little more detail. And Laura, I want to get your thoughts on this, but the State Department inspector general will, quote, "provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, consistent with obligations under the Inspector General Act."

Listen, Laura, he's providing documents here. Do we have any sense as to whether these will be exculpatory for State Department officials here or perhaps concerning in terms of what those documents show?


LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, again to Jackie's point, that's what we really don't know. And even the staff that was called to this briefing that was invited doesn't know and has described it as being very cryptically worded. There is some speculation and again speculation, I want to repeat that, that it could have to do with Pompeo's involvement given the fact that this notice came so quickly after Pompeo issued his statement and his letter. But again a lot of us are in the dark here with as to what exactly the inspector general is going to be providing to Congress.

SCIUTTO: Let's wait for the facts here and then we'll make all judgments.

HARLOW: Always good to do that.

Elie, So Pompeo says you guys are, you know, intimidating and bullying my staff. House Democrats respond and say no, actually what you're doing is illegal and you're obstructing the process here. HONIG: Right.

HARLOW: Is it illegal, what Pompeo is doing or is there just no clarity there? Is there clear obstruction in your mind?

HONIG: So it's got to be case by case. First of all, there's seems to be a bit of hypocrisy in my mind between the president first of all coming out and saying people who provide information to whistleblowers should be treated like spies in the old days, execute it really is what he means, versus a lawful subpoena as bullying.

Now look, people can contest subpoenas. Mike Pompeo can raise legal objections to a subpoena. Maybe it's too broad. Maybe it invades certain attorney-client privileges. But on the face of that subpoena I don't see anything wrong with it.

HARLOW: It's actually up to each person, right?

HONIG: It's up to each person individually, yes, but it's particularly, as I think Laura just said, if they don't work for the government anymore.


HONIG: But Congress has subpoena power. They have very broad subpoena power. And so for Pompeo to just say, this is bullying, we're not dealing with it, is obstructionism.

SCIUTTO: OK. Laura, one of the consistent attacks since the start of this has been on the whistleblower's credibility, but also did the whistleblower follow laws, this whole conspiracy theory that the rules were somehow changed just before which has been debunked by the inspector general himself.


SCIUTTO: So the statement from Republican Senator Chuck Grassley who has often defended the president struck me. I just want to read it. "This person appears to have followed the Whistleblower Protection Laws and ought to be heard out and protected. When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinction between first and secondhand knowledge are not legal ones."

So that's attacking -- both attacks that the president --

HARLOW: I mean, the fact that Grassley said that, right?

SCIUTTO: And it's Grassley. And yet, as often happens, Laura, contradictory information does not necessarily lead people to change their views.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. I mean, that statement from Grassley is not entirely surprising given the fact that Grassley has been a strong advocate and protector of whistleblowers and trying to shield them and making sure that they are properly, you know, taken care of. But again, it is unique in that the vast majority of Republicans have parroted White House talking points, have parroted Trump's talking points in trying to either discredit the whistleblower, trying to figure out who the whistleblower is, and also trying to peddle in conspiracy theories that discredit Congress' inquiry.



SCIUTTO: Well, the other advantage of Grassley's statement is that it's true. There is no legal definition beyond the rules between --

HARLOW: Isn't that refreshing?

SCIUTTO: Between legal and first and secondhand information, and did he follow the rules, but, you know, true does not always win the day.

HARLOW: Yes. There you go. And here's evidence of that, Jackie. So the president calls this all a coup, by the way. The definition of a coup, quote, "a sudden, violent and illegal seizure of power from government." All right, that said, look at the new numbers from this Monmouth poll. It asked people, do you think Donald Trump probably did or probably did not mention the possibility of an investigation into the Biden family during his call with the Ukrainian president?

Jackie, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that Trump mentioned the investigation during the call despite seeing it in the transcript and despite the president saying he did.


HARLOW: OK. So where does that leave us?

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, they've been engaging in such a disinformation campaign since the transcript came out and even beforehand. Perhaps they didn't read the transcript like Leader Kevin McCarthy didn't which was pretty evident during his interview.


KUCINICH: On "60 Minutes." But this is -- this is part of the political battle here which is why the administration is doing everything it can through Donald Trump's Twitter feed and others to discredit this person. But listen, we also had the acting director of National Intelligence last week say that this person was credible and followed or indicated this person was credible and followed the procedures that they needed to follow. So listen to the facts, not the hyperbole.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Good advice.

HARLOW: There we go. Good lesson for 9:14 on a Wednesday morning. Thank you very much, Jackie, Laura and Elie. We appreciate it.

Still to come, the ambassador who resigned just a day after the whistleblower complaint went public. Will testify tomorrow. What will he say?

SCIUTTO: And shocking new details in a "New York Times" report. President Trump reportedly said he wanted, quote, "a snake-filled moat" around his border wall. And that's not all. There were alligators, too. More details ahead.


Plus, a former Dallas police officer was found guilty of murder for shooting her neighbor. She now faces life in prison, we're awaiting her sentencing, a lot going on this morning, please stay with us.



HARLOW: All right, we could hear new revelations when Kurt Volker; the former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine testifies before three congressional committees, that's going to happen tomorrow. Of course, this comes in the wake of Volter(ph) suddenly -- Volker suddenly quitting on Friday, a day after the whistleblower complaint was made public.

What will he say? That's anyone's guess. We do know though he has mentioned numerous times in the whistleblower complaint. Let me read you part of it directly, quote, "State Department officials including Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, had spoken with Mr. Giuliani in an attempt to contain the damage to the U.S. national security.

And that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland sought to help Ukrainian leaders understand and respond to the different messages they were receiving from official U.S. channels on the one hand and from Mr. Giuliani on the other." So, that of course prompted Rudy Giuliani to reveal text messages of some of his conversations with Volker which Giuliani says proved the State Department knew all along that he was meeting with these Ukrainian officials.

CNN political analyst, "Washington Post" columnist Josh Rogin is with me. You have a new fascinating op-ed this morning on Volker making quite an argument that he was acting on behalf of the American people, not as Rudy Giuliani is asserting. Giuliani says, Josh, quote, "Volker should step forward and explain what he did."

I know, you don't have the prepared remarks of what Volker is going to say tomorrow, but you have a pretty good sense of what he will testify. What is it?

JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, so my reporting is based on multiple conversations with people with direct knowledge of Volker's activities over this time period and what he plans to testify tomorrow before Congress. And basically, Ambassador Volker is going to testify that he was trying to manage an erratic president and a rogue president's personal attorney who were mucking around in Ukrainian politics.

And he is the special envoy for Ukraine, knew that this was a problem that the Ukrainian government had to deal with, and he was trying to fix it. And basically, his theory of the case was that if he could just get Rudy and Zelensky's advisors together, and also he pushed for the Trump-Zelensky phone call that perhaps he could convince both Trump and Rudy that Zelensky was a good actor that he should be worked with, that they should support this new Ukrainian government and do all the things that improve Ukrainian democracy and stand up to Russian aggression --

HARLOW: Quite in the face of Russia --

ROGIN: The problem -- right --

HARLOW: In the face of Russia -- go ahead --

ROGIN: Exactly. The problem of course is that it's not clear that Rudy or Trump was really interested in doing that. And you know, they seemed to be according to the whistleblower complaint and all the reporting, you know, be more interested in pushing their own agenda and the president's political interests.

HARLOW: Well --

ROGIN: And this was something that Ambassador Volker had to deal with.

HARLOW: Look, and you write, quote, "Volker knew the risks when he signed up to help manage the U.S.-Ukraine relationship." Here's what Rudy Giuliani said last night on "Fox".


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've showed us a number of text messages from him, one even pushing you to meet with someone close to the Ukrainian president. So, are you concerned about his testimony?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: No, I'm not concerned about his testimony. I have all the text messages. He didn't push me, he asked me. I would say push goes a little too far. He asked me to do it, and I said yes after a day's consideration. I do know they were kind of reluctant to admit that they asked me to do it.

I was very happy I kept, you know, like 13 texts that lay out the conversations in great detail.


HARLOW: You make the argument that Rudy's argument doesn't make sense. Why?

ROGIN: Right, well, for one thing, you know, what Rudy is saying here is technically true. Ambassador Volker did ask him to meet with Zelensky's people. But it's grossly misleading because it assumes that this was the beginning of Rudy's intervention when in fact, that's clearly not the case. And everybody knew that Giuliani had been mucking around in Ukrainian politics for several months prior to that text message. And we knew that because Giuliani was talking about it publicly. He talked about it on the record to "The New York Times", he was tweeting about it, OK? He was running around, meeting with several prosecutors trying to push Biden narratives and Manafort narratives. And this was something that people in the know were trying to deal with including Volker.

Now, it only became public to most of the American audience when the whistleblower --

HARLOW: Yes --

ROGIN: Complaint came to light. But to pretend that like the State Department initiated this out of the clear blue sky just doesn't pass the laugh test. Volker was dealing with the problem that Rudy had already created.

HARLOW: And now that we have, you know, Volker's sudden resignation, you've got that on top of John Bolton's resignation, Fiona Hill who was the top Europe official to the NSC staff, you've got Dan Coates and you still have no ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, so that's where we are left in this moment --

ROGIN: Right --

HARLOW: On the Ukrainian front. Josh, everyone --

ROGIN: Just on that real quick --

HARLOW: Yes, sure --

ROGIN: You know, we've got a bunch of Republicans who volunteered to serve President Trump, they knew that it was a risky thing, and they've all being thrown under the bus by this administration. And what really suffers is the policy that they're supposed to be working on --


ROGIN: Which is U.S. leadership and U.S. support for democracy facing Russian aggression, and no one is talking about that today.



HARLOW: Well, you are, Josh Rogin, thank you --

ROGIN: And you're welcome --

HARLOW: Everyone should read your column, really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.

SCIUTTO: You know, what's interesting there is you see this split within the ranks.

HARLOW: Totally --

SCIUTTO: At the beginning of the split --

HARLOW: Totally --

SCIUTTO: Giuliani lodging some mild accusations State Department's way --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Volker is going to tell --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: A different story, and this is going to be sworn testimony.

HARLOW: It will be under oath, all right --

SCIUTTO: Watch it, folks, it's going to be important. Other news, President Obama once joked that Republicans would not be pleased with his border security plan until it came with a moat filled with alligators. Well --

HARLOW: He joked.

SCIUTTO: He joked at that time. Now, the "New York Times" is reporting very seriously President Trump suggested doing exactly that. Much more on that, and other even more disturbing ideas that the president has suggested at the border, including violent ones, that's coming up.