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Trump's Order to Put Brakes on Ukraine Aid Earlier Than Thought; FBI Running Facebook Ads Targeting Russian Spies in Washington; Op-Ed: Trump Has Disqualified Himself from 2020 Run. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired October 2, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Just in, there's new information now on the holding up of U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Of course, this is at the center of this scandal surrounding the phone call that President Trump made to Ukrainian President Zelensky. Now we know that President Trump put a hold on that aid a lot earlier than previously thought.
Our Sara Murray is looking into this.
Sara, this timeline is changing. What about the reasons here? What are you hearing?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. A senior administration official says it was actually June, earlier than we had previously heard, that the president put a freeze on these funds when he directed his defense secretary, Mark Esper, and his then-national security advisor, John Bolton, to do a policy review.
Now, this was confusing to people at the time, because when the president was ordering this policy review, the State Department and the Pentagon had already evaluated these funds. They'd already notified their congressional oversight committees that these funds were good to go.
The Pentagon even put out a press release saying we have $250 million in military aid to Ukraine ready to rock and roll. The president was putting the brakes on it, ordering this policy review.
We are now four months later and people across these agencies, across the Office of Management and Budget, across the White House, across the Department of Defense, still cannot explain exactly what was behind that policy review and why it created such a delay in these funds being released to Ukraine.
Now the president -- the White House have said the president did nothing wrong, that this was all about rooting out corruption. The Pentagon had already done that assessment when it came to these funds.
They also said this had to do with pressuring American allies to do more when it came to Ukraine. But president had already come back from the G-7 and the funds were still stalled.
Brianna, all of this just adds to the suspicion that there was another motivation to withhold this aid and that the president may have been doing this for political purposes.
Again, the White House denies all of this. We heard what the president had to say earlier about the whistleblower.
But the other interesting thing that came up in the line of my reporting is an administration official confirmed more details from this were accurate, that those meetings laid out in the whistleblower complaint that happened between OMB and other agency officials, actually occurred on the dates that the whistleblower said and people were confused across Capitol Hill, across DOD, across OMB, about what was going on with this money.
KEILAR: Sara Murray, thank you so much for all of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whistleblower was so dishonest. The whistleblower 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.
No. These are bad people. These are dishonest people. When the American people find out what happened, it's going to be a great day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That was President Trump in the Oval Office moments ago calling this whistleblower, who accurately recalled the president's conversation with the correct dates, as you just heard Sara report, with Ukraine's president, dishonest.
President Trump went on to call the whistleblower a spy and he said the country needs to find out who this person is.
My next guest, Dan Meyer, has been a whistleblower no less than three times. He also used to oversee the very program this whistleblower went through in order to file their complaint.
Dan, first off, just react to what you just heard the president say and this kind of language that he's been using to talk about the whistleblower.
DAN MEYER, FORMER WHISTLEBLOWER & FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY WHISTLEBLOWING & SOURCE PROTECTION: Well, it's unfortunate, Brianna, because he's the chief executive. He's supposed to be enforcing the whistleblower protection laws. Even when you're the subject of an allegation, you can still protect whistleblowers. You can still adhere to the program.
I've worked for two inspectors general. We've had allegations against heads of agencies and I never saw a head of an agency come in and try to tamper with the process. So the president needs to step into his assigned role.
KEILAR: As someone who has been a whistleblower multiple times -- and we were just speaking off camera about the decision to come forward again. You said the decision to come forward the second time is not nearly as hard as the first time, because the first time, life is going to change. "You're going to go through hell," as you put it. Tell us about that.
MEYER: There's the same reaction of people time and time again when they confront whistleblowers or they interact with whistleblowers. People have a hard time understanding why a whistleblower steps forward because the majority of people don't.
So for a whistleblower there's an isolation that sets in. You're like in a deep hole, as Mike Wallace once explained it to me.
Once you go through it once, you recognize the pattern and you have coping strategies and you pull through. So it's actually easier to blow the whistle the second, third or, in my case, the fourth time you do it.
KEILAR: You said you're isolated. Do people stop talking to you? Do you silo yourself? Do you worry about your safety? What are all the considerations?
Even before knowing, what do you know, I guess, before you become a whistleblower as you consider it, and then what do you know after the reality of being a whistleblower?
MEYER: Once you blow the whistle, if you were on the team in an agency, if you were part of an inner circle, you will only be admitted to those parts of the agency the inner circle that the head of the agency wants you to be admitted to. So you'll see restrictions. People will not talk to you. You will not be on certain assignments. That in itself can be reprisal.
Then there's the isolation that occurs when your family members try to figure out what you're doing because family members may not understand.
When I blew the whistle on the Iowa investigation, I came from a Navy family and my family had a really difficult time understanding why I was taking on the chain of command.
So there's family trust issues. There can be professional trust issues.
Then you wonder about your whole career because, especially if you're young, you've just mapped out a different course for yourself. You don't know where it goes and it could go on for another 20 or 30 years.
KEILAR: That's why many people don't speak out about many controversies at work. It sounds so formulaic Dan, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming in and talking about this.
MEYER: Well, thank you. Thank you.
KEILAR: We have more on our breaking news. The president increasingly rattled over the impeachment inquiry, saying the Intel chair committed treason as Democrats up the pressure.
Plus, we're waiting for this mysterious briefing on Capitol Hill by the State Department watchdog as Democrats accuse the secretary of state of trying to interfere with witnesses.
This is CNN special live coverage.
KEILAR: We have new reporting on the whistleblower scandal in just a moment.
First, the FBI is now running Facebook ads targeting Russian spies. The goal is to convince those spies to switch allegiances and cooperate with the U.S. government.
The FBI did not confirm any details about the campaign. But we can confirm that these ads are powered by the bureau's verified Facebook page and that they are publicly viewable.
This is a CNN exclusive. And our own Donie O'Sullivan helped break this story.
Donie, just describe these ads for us and tell us how your team came about discovering them.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN TECHNOLOGY & POLITICS REPORTER: Brianna, I mean, we all know that in 2016 Russia ran a pretty elaborate effort on Facebook to attack America. They set up pages like D.C. Links to distribute hacked materials and ran an expansive troll campaign.
Now the FBI is using that same platform to recruit and to try to bring Russian spies to the side of the U.S. government.
We saw there some of the ads. They're pretty emotive. They're in Russian text and they're running in the D.C. area.
The ads say things like, think about your family, think about your future, consider coming to our side, and include details of how somebody could contact the FBI in D.C.
As you mentioned, the FBI did not confirm they're running these ads but there's now a tool on Facebook where you can see what ads are running on the platform. Partly, as a result of Russia placing ads on the platform in the runup to the election in 2016.
We can see those ads are running from the FBI's Facebook page. And a source tells us that they were running throughout the summer.
KEILAR: So the FBI isn't confirming it, but you don't really need them to confirm it because of this transparency thing.
So they're targeting Russians in D.C. Is there anywhere else that you know they may be targeting Russians, or do they clearly think the concentration of Russian spies is almost totally in D.C.?
O'SULLIVAN: All we're aware of at the moment is that these ads are running in the D.C. area. The details, when somebody was to click through to the ad, actually has the address of the Washington, D.C. FBI field office where people are told to come in and basically cooperate with the FBI. That page with those instructions is also available in Russian.
If you just think, as you're scrolling through your Facebook feed, Facebook feeds are very personalized. You can imagine how jarring it might be to be somebody working for Russia in D.C. and seeing this pop up on your phone.
KEILAR: Indeed. Donie, such an interesting report.
Donie O'Sullivan, thank you.
So we're standing by to hear from President Trump. Any minute now, he's going to take questions from reporters as Democrats ramp up their push for impeachment.
Plus, as the 2020 campaign kicks into high gear, my next guest says President Trump has already disqualified himself from running.
KEILAR: As an impeachment inquiry presses forward and the cracks and the coverups become exposed, securing a second term is proving to be an increasingly uphill battle for the president.
But according to my next guest, Trump has disqualified himself from running in 2020.
In a new op-ed in the "New York Times," Will Wilkinson writes, quote, "The president's bungled bid to coerce Ukraine's leader into helping the Trump 2020 reelection campaign smear a rival struck decided at the ballot box off the menu of reasonable opinion forever. Mr. Trump's brazen attempt to cheat his way into a second term stands so scandalously exposed that there can be no assurance of a fair election if he's allowed to stay in office."
Will Wilkinson is joining me now to discuss this.
Will, thanks for joining us. And just explain why you say letting voters' decide the president's fate is no longer an acceptable path, especially in the face of critics who would say that just overrules democracy, that overrules the will of the American public.
WILL WILKINSON, OPINION COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I say in the piece, the idea that we need to decide it at the ballot box can't be, you know, a good option much less the best option if the question about the president's fitness really boils down to whether he's going to stuff the ballot box. Right?
So the fundamental point behind the piece is that the United States of America is a constitutional republic, and the way that works is that all the power, all the authority, is vested in the people, and they have to specifically delegate that authority to the government if it's going to have a legitimate claim to authority and political power.
The way that we do that delegation is through elections. We have a formal process spelled out. There's a bunch of rules that you have to follow. And -- but if you don't follow the rules, then the result isn't valid. There has been no real delegation of authority from the people to the government.
If a party to an election, if the president of the United States, running for re-election, has already violated the rules of the game that need to be followed if the result is to be valid, if the winner of the election is actually delegated authority, if he's already broken those rules, then he has no path forward to a legitimate election.
That's what I mean --
KEILAR: Yes. And that may be so. I wonder, then -- you sort of are -- you're making the argument for why Republicans should not let President Trump get away with this.
But barring some -- major developments, it seems like it is highly unlikely that, as this impeachment process moves forward, if articles are impeachment move forward, the House would have the votes to impeach the president. Seems very unlikely there would be 20 Republican whose would convict the president.
So where does that leave the U.S. government?
WILKINSON: Well, that's part of the case I'm trying to make in my piece. I actually have more faith in Republican Senators. I think that they actually do love their country, that they do honor the truth, that they honor their oath of office.
And that when everybody is looking carefully and diligently at the evidence that comes out from the impeachment inquiry that's currently going on, that there will be a lot of them that really do, do the right thing. And I'm trying to argue that they need to kind of think their way into
the future, and like, what happens if Trump is impeached and then they acquit. Like what does that do to the legitimacy of their own power?
You know, doesn't that, in fact, imperil the continuity of government, kind of risk civil uprising, because there will be a huge mass of the American public who, you know, very justly will suspect that the election was not, you know, by the books.
KEILAR: Yes. You make this case that they'll make some of these -- or a lot of people will believe that if the president's re-elected, it's not legitimate, but not just that Republicans as a party are not legitimate. Definitely worth a read.
Will Wilkinson, thanks so much for coming on.
WILKINSON: Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: As we await the president's news conference in a few moments, big developments in the escalating impeachment inquiry, including Democrats mounting pressure on the White House. The president increasingly rattled. That is clear. And this mysterious briefing described as urgent on Capitol Hill involving the State Department and the Ukraine call.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.
As the White House is consumed by controversy over his call with the leader of Ukraine, President Trump is consumed with anger and he's on the attack, blasting, as he refers to them, as the do-nothing Democrats, going on a profanity-laced tirade against the House impeachment inquiry, calling it a coup and other more colorful language, repeating his claims that the whistleblower is dishonest and his or her source is a spy.
And, folks, he made some of those remarks while sitting right next to the president of Finland in the Oval Office.
Moments from now, these two men will once again appear before cameras in a joint news conference.
The president also had a few choice words for House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff, whose committee, along with two others, plan to subpoena the White House to get access to documents on Ukraine.
Trump said Schiff should be forced to resign and potentially charged with treason.
Schiff says anyone who thinks they will stand in the way of congressional requests should think again.