Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RIGHT NOW

Trump Blasts Democrats For Impeachment Bullshit; Democrats Up Pressure To Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Says, Any Effort To Interfere With Witnesses Is Obstruction; Trump Denies Wanting Snakes, Gators, Spikes On Border. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:01]

JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: This is one phone call, this one up for months. There was a previous phone call between the presidents. There was a lot of Rudy Giuliani meetings. There were some things we don't know about, we won't find out eventually. One hopes.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics, a little rock and roll day of all that happening. Don't go anywhere, a lot to continue. Brianna Keilar starts Right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: Thank you, John. I am Brianna Keilar. And President Trump is appearing in front of the cameras in the Oval Office just moments ago alongside the president of Finland, blasting the impeachment inquiry, which he has called a coup attempt. In the next hour, we will hear from him again in a joint press conference.

He's also blowing up Twitter today. He live tweeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's press conference on Capitol Hill. Trump seemed irate, even cursing. Here is one of the tweets.

The do-nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our country, not wasting everyone's time and energy on bull, S-H-I-T, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223 to 306. We get a better candidate this time, you'll need it.

Our Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. And this was the first that we've heard from the president in person since he tweeted calling the impeachment inquiry a coup. Tell us more, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. President Trump is in a mood and it's clearly a combative one, as you saw there when he was sitting next to the president of Finland, who said very few words in that Oval Office setting while reporters were in the room asking the president about this call with Ukraine.

And, of course, as you noted, the president tuned in as Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff gave that press conference earlier to reporters where they spoke about this and the president's conduct, and, clearly, he wanted to push back on that. We have been hearing from people that the president, they didn't think he was grasping the enormity of what was facing him in this impeachment fight. That seems to have change today, because you're seeing the president lash out once again, accusing Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Chairman, saying that he believes what he did was criminal and worthy of treason after Adam Schiff, of course, read that fictionalized version of the president's phone call with the president of Ukraine last week in front of the cameras. That is something that has really been a sticking point for the president in all of this.

And he has repeatedly hammered Adam Schiff over it and even compared him unfavorably to the secretary of state after Adam Schiff was speaking about the fact that Pompeo right now is not letting those State Department officials come and give depositions on Capitol Hill. That's a focus that was right off the bat, something the president was speaking out there in the Oval Office.

But then, Brianna, the other thing we saw the president do was question the credibility of this whistleblower once again. He said that he didn't think Republicans had criticized what he's been saying about the whistleblower, saying that he wants to find out this individual's identity. That actually is not true. Chairman Chuck Grassley, who leads the whistleblower protection caucus, actually was someone who was saying yesterday that this whistleblower is someone who should be heard out and protected.

The president said he agrees today the whistleblowers should be protected but only if they're legitimate. And, clearly, he says he doesn't think this one is legitimate because talked about the fact that they were talking about this transcript, he said, they gave an inaccurate description, even though, of course, in this complaint, which was followed long before the White House released the transcript of that call, it showed to be a pretty good match of what it actually transpired during the call.

Now, of course, the president seems to be in this combative mood about this impeachment inquiry now. The question is where does he go from here? Does he now start listening to aides who have been appealing to him to hire new attorneys, to form an impeachment response team? That doesn't seem clear, but, clearly, he is agitated by all of this.

KEILAR: Clearly. All right, Kaitlan, Collins, thank you so much for that, from the north lawn of the White House. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.

First though, the other big event that we are watching is a, quote, highly unusual and cryptically worded request for a briefing on Capitol Hill that is going to happen here in the next two hours. This is how one congressional aide described this request from State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who is the independent watchdog there at the State Department, to brief key congressional committees on a, quote, urgent matter relating to Ukraine.

The I.G. put in this request yesterday afternoon. This morning, just hours before this briefing is set to take place, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly admitted he was on the call with President Trump and the president of Ukraine making the subject of this briefing all the more curious.

Let's go to CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us. What do we know, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the request for this urgent briefing came soon after Mike Pompeo sent a letter to Capitol Hill and said essentially that the State Department would not be complying with what the Democrats have been asking for, documents about the Ukraine matter.

There was a subpoena that was issued last week. Pompeo pushed back rather aggressively on that and as well as the Democrats' efforts to schedule depositions with current and former State Department officials, people who know about what happened in the Ukraine matter, people who were named in the whistleblower complaint and who were involved with conversations with Rudy Giuliani, who, of course, as we now know, urged the president of Ukraine to investigate the president's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

[13:05:10]

Now, what we don't know is exactly why the inspector general wants to meet with them about an urgent matter. According to this email that was sent to Capitol Hill and according to several people who I've talked to who have received that email, essentially, what the State Department inspector general is saying is that he has received documents from the State Department's legal adviser that he wants to share with Congress.

Now, what this does for the impeachment investigation going forward remains to be seen. Does it add any more fuel to this fire or does it tamp it down in any way? It's still a question that we'll have to see resolved. But as we know, Brianna, it was the separate inspector general for the Intelligence Community who came out and said that the whistleblower complaint was credible and urgent and that was what is fuelling what is happening right now on the Hill and has put the presidency in a very difficult spot.

So we'll see what else they learn in a matter of moments, but several key staffers from these committees plan to meet in a secure location at the Capitol in this classified briefing. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Manu, thank you so much.

I want to bring in Admiral John Kirby, David Gregory and Gloria Borger to talk about this right now.

Okay. So, two things, obviously, we're following this impending I.G. briefing from the State Department, what's that going to be about, to be a fly on the wall there, right? But then the president responding in this lengthy on-camera availability and tweeting a lot, these tweets that we're seeing, what we just saw in the Oval Office, are these a pretty good indicator of the president's state of mind?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he's in a tail spin, I think, is the only way to describe it. I was communicating yesterday with somebody very close to the White House who said, look, it's chaos inside the White House, there is nobody there who can say no to him and there's nobody sort of blocking the door to his office and he's just spinning and spinning and spinning and there's nothing you can do about it. So he's tweeting and actually what he tweets is the real Donald Trump. And that is what he said in this press conference where I think he was just out of control even for Donald Trump calling the press corrupt, we're no longer enemies, I guess, we're corrupt. But calling Adam Schiff by an offensive name, tweeting B.S. today in all caps, it's just --

KEILAR: Not abbreviated like you did, graceful Gloria Borger.

BORGER: Like I just did in a lady-like way.

KEILAR: That's right.

BORGER: But it's just -- it's out of control.

KEILAR: He's not handling this well.

BORGER: No.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's extremely erratic. We know how crude he is. We know he is unpresidential. And it's really not worth, from a news point of view, a journalistic point of view, to parse that anymore. People know that about him. And if there's a political price to be paid, that will be paid somewhere down the road, potentially.

But I do think the mindset is important and. If you recall in Bob Woodward's book, Fear, when he first learned about the Mueller report and the special prosecutor being put in place, Bob Mueller, he felt the walls were closing in, how could this happen to me, a sense that his days as president were effectively numbered. He thought he triumphed over that and here he faces another inquiry again.

So I think he is completely thrown so completely off his center point because of what his political opposition is doing. And the only default point he knows is to fight and to fight hard and to fight like no one has fought in this office before. Going beyond -- you know, Richard Nixon, at the end at least, played within the lines and said, okay, you got me, I'm going to give up. I think Trump is saying, no, you never give up, you always fight. And that's the play book and he has some success with that. That's, I think, really where his state of mind is.

And I think, again, the important question for us is to keep wondering what this brief on Capitol Hill, what else might they be hiding? What else the president may be hiding or those who work with him? The bureaucracy of this government is full of people who want to do the right thing. And if they sense that he is dangerous and doing the wrong thing, people are going to step forward. And then it becomes important to figure what's true, what's not true and so forth.

KEILAR: Those folks you just described is what the president would call the deep state, right? GREGORY: That's right. But that's not correct. It doesn't mean there aren't political opponents within the bureaucracy of the government, people who have been a long time. But the notion that the deep state is so inherently -- what his view of the deep state, again, goes to his state of mind.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, John Kirby, what are you thinking as you're watching all of this go down, especially as we have our eyes on the Hill? We are wondering what is going to come out of this briefing if we are going to fully have a picture of it. You're a former State Department spokesman. What do you think?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think, first of all, you can't overstate how significant it is that an inspector general, particularly Mr. Linick, who's been there a long, long time, I dealt with him a little bit when I was at State, to ask unsolicited to go to the Hill and call it urgent.

[13:10:06]

That's -- I mean, I can't remember a time when an inspector general did that on his own without being prompted by something or somebody else.

Then think about the timing. It comes right the day after Pompeo writes this lengthy letter to Chairman Engel saying, we're not going to cooperate and here's why not, and a day before Kurt Volker who resigned for his post as special envoy for Ukraine is going to go up and be deposed. And if Manu's reporting is right, that Linick was prompted to do this based on something that he either got or heard from the chief of legal -- the legal adviser at the State Department. And it makes you wonder whether there was some frantic activity at the State Department in the wake of or maybe it timed coincidentally with Pompeo's letter about records preservation or maybe not talking or just some sort of guidance that came from the seventh floor that might have prompted these urgent concerns.

GREGORY: But it's not like we've been here before. I mean, in the Nixon White House and in the committee to re-elect the president, they destroyed documents, they used parts of the government to completely obliterate the trail. It's not like we haven't seen it before. And the role of these inspectors general is important as rebuttal to the partisanship of the government. And that's what the president doesn't understand or respect.

And when you hear him talk about the whistleblower, the he does, or about Adam Schiff, the way he does, you do have to wonder what is it that he's hiding, because that's not how a normal person reacts.

KEILAR: I want you to listen to something that the chairman, Adam Schiff, said this morning. Because I think -- big picture, I want to see what you think. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We want to make it abundantly clear that any effort by the secretary, by the president or anyone else to interfere with the Congress' ability to call before the relevant witnesses will be considered as evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: So he's making it clear obstruction is going to be part of these expected articles of impeachment. But I also wonder how big of a deal is it that they are not maybe going to hear from some people they want to hear from considering all of the other stuff that Congress has here from the whistleblower complaint to the call memo, to even the president's own public statements?

BORGER: We don't know yet what this threat will do. But it's clear, what he's saying is, whatever they did with the Mueller report, we're not going to do that. We're going to do the opposite of what they did. We are playing hardball here and we want to get this information and we're going to subpoena you. And if you don't comply, you can take it to court all you want but it's going to become an article of impeachment.

GREGORY: Which makes it curious, why did he release the summary of the call because it was so counter to their strategy.

BORGER: Because Donald Trump, in his head, believes it was perfect. He did not honestly see --

GREGORY: And he has a legion of people who will come and defend him.

BORGER: He did not see anything wrong with it.

My question, to John's point, is are there more whistleblowers? If this whistleblower is protected, and I hope the whistleblower is protected, but it's a big if, because look at what's going on in the country, look at the president saying, I want to meet the whistleblower, but if this whistleblower is protected, will there be more whistleblowers? Could that be what we're talking about here? Does this all start to unravel?

I don't know the answer to that, but Donald Trump would call it the deep state. The inspector general is somebody that he appointed in the intelligence community. And sometimes when you rail against people for a couple of years and call them deep state and say they're not patriots and they're not doing their job, sometimes it comes back and hits you.

KEILAR: Well, if you could stand by for me for just a moment. We're waiting for two events now, President Trump's news conference and also the State Department watchdog's urgent briefing on the Hill.

Plus, I'm going to speak live with a former whistleblower who will react to the president's new attacks on this current whistleblower, and the president denying floating the idea of putting snakes, alligators and flesh-piercing spikes at the border.

This CNN special live coverage. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

KEILAR: Snakes and alligators, maybe you find it hard to believe. But at one time, that was part of President Trump's immigration plan or maybe you don't find it hard to believe, which is an alarming commentary on the State of Affairs here in Washington.

According to The New York Times and a new book by two veteran reporters there, quote, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench stocked with snakes and alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He also, quote, wanted the wall electrified with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh.

You may recall the president has previously suggested that U.S. troops shoot migrants who threw rocks at them and he was told that was illegal, so he, quote, suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. These were just some of the ideas that aides had to waive off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The ways in which the people around him are continually forced to confront ever more extreme ideas that he throws out there, often telling him that they're not practical or they're illegal or they're immoral.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:20:07]

KEILAR: Now, in an interview with The Times, the president lamented, the problem you have with the laws, the way they are, we can have 100,000 of our soldiers standing up there, they can't do a thing.

Gloria Borger and David Gregory are back with me now. This was part of an immigration meeting that happened in March. The president was threatening to completely shut down the border with Mexico.

But let me start first with his idea of how to treat human beings.

BORGER: It's almost incomprehensible and almost cartoonish in a way, if it weren't so sad and depressing.

KEILAR: Is it amoral?

BORGER: putting snakes and alligators in a moat to eat people or shooting their legs off, you think that is -- imagine being -- of course, it is, to answer your question. And imagine being a staffer sitting there. It's like dealing with your young child when they're having a tantrum. The child leaves the room and then you say, well, how are we to comply with that child's wishes? I mean, what are they doing? What are they doing? GREGORY: It also shows that the president doesn't view any limits or boundaries to his role as president. And it begs the question, what does he think the job of president is. And his view of solving problems doesn't adhere to limits or boundaries or precedent or what it means. But, again it's illustrative and we've seen it in other reporting, including the book, Fear, when, remember, notably, former Defense Secretary Mattis says, well, why do we have troops in South Korea, that is to prevent World War III.

And somehow, that needed to be said out loud to the president of the United States. It wasn't abundantly clear. And in this case, you can imagine. I mean, it's perfectly plausible to imagine these meetings where the president goes off like this and they'd say, no, Mr. President, we can't do those things.

KEILAR: And he seemed frustrated.

The other interesting part of the story and what is coming from this book is he's so frustrated by them just telling him reality, right?

GREGORY: Right.

KEILAR: The president addressed this story today, railed against it. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: So these two reporters wrote this book and they said I want a moat with alligators, snakes, electrified fences so people get electrocuted if they so much as touch the fence and spikes on top. Never said it, never thought of it.

It's written by Washington Post people, so you know it's inaccurate. You know it's probably a fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All right. Just to be clear, it's written by two New York Times reporters who we know. I've known both of them for years. These are really good reporters.

BORGER: Multiple sources.

KEILAR: Very well -- multiple sources, very well sources.

GREGORY: Well, there are sources in the White House, there are people close to the president who are increasingly talking to reporters to get their story out. Now, these are folks who have made a decision not to resign if they find the president going way beyond limits or boundaries. They may be pushing back against him but, they think, to little avail.

And I think this vision of the president as isolated and as listening to no one is what is dangerous for any president.

KEILAR: And it could also be people who have gotten fired, because one of the interesting things, right, there's a lot of details in there about how he treated Kirstjen Nielsen. So, clearly, that there are people in her camp, at the very least, who are making clear what happened and credibly so.

But the interesting part of this is she is describing to him the limits of what he can do. She's in this --

BORGER: And she hates that.

KEILAR: She hates it. She's in a room with him and a number of other aides. She's the one who really pushes back, and in the end, she gets canned.

BORGER: She pushes back, thought she was going to get fired once, didn't get fired that time, but knew she was going to get fired eventually. And he was called her sweetheart at one point, honey, just shoot the drones, sweetheart, did you hear me, so very patronizing.

And it's very clear that she was trying to bring him some semblance of reality. And remember, this wasn't making her popular with anyone outside the oval and she was trying to bring him some sense of reality. And he would not accept it. You know, we can't close the border by Friday, I think he wanted.

KEILAR: Can we visit that really quick before we wrap up here? The idea of closing the border, I mean, that was the thing that freaked out aides so much, David, because doing so would have been nuts, it would have been catastrophic to the economies of both of these countries.

GREGORY: Right, and the president just doesn't care. I mean, ultimately, he's not thinking about the implications of those limits, of those boundaries. He wants a different kind of solution that he can -- look, his view of what the country is is American carnage that he only uniquely can fix.

The model employee for Donald Trump in this administration, the attorney general, Bill Barr, and Stephen Miller, hard line, no apologies and on the attack.

[13:25:09]

That's what this president wants. And if you don't do it, then you run afoul of him.

KEILAR: David Gregory, Gloria Borger, thank you so much to both of you.

The president once again attacking the whistleblower, and my next guest, who has been in this person's shoes, says he's about to, quote, go through hell.

Plus, just in, a CNN exclusive, why the U.S. is now running ads on Facebook targeting Russian spies. And we're watching Dow right now as the markets fall over fears about the health of the U.S. economy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:00]