Return to Transcripts main page
State Department I.G. to Hold Briefing on Capitol Hill. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired October 2, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Key committees on the Hill have received an urgent request from the State Department inspector general.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's highly unusual for the inspector general of the State Department to ask to brief this committee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know exactly what they want to discuss with the Hill, but we know what it has to do with Ukraine and the State Department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears to be in response to a letter that Secretary Pompeo sent to Congress. He thinks that he has some kind of protective privilege blanket that he can draw down over all of the documents that we are requesting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a duty to protect certain information that's coming out of the State Department, classified information, and he's doing that.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, October 2, 6 a.m. here in New York. And once again, a lot has happened overnight.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Get ready to say that a lot over the next few days.
CAMEROTA: We've been saying that every day, and it is warranted. Today, we begin with several big developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Here's what we've learned in just the last several hours.
The State Department's inspector general is asking for a, quote, "urgent" Ukraine briefing on Capitol Hill today. We do not know what he plans to say to congressional staffers. One congressional aide tells CNN the I.G. report is, quote, "highly unusual" and cryptically worded.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is resisting demands by leaders of the House impeachment inquiry to turn over documents and make current and former State Department officials available for questioning. Three House chairmen are warning Pompeo to stop, quote, "intimidating" witnesses and informing the deputy secretary of state that Pompeo, quote, "appears to have an obvious conflict of interest," end quote, because of his involvement in the July phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's leader.
BERMAN: But despite Pompeo's efforts to keep him from talking, two diplomats have agreed to speak to Congress starting tomorrow. What is it they want to say and how hard will Pompeo fight on this? We could know in just minutes.
The secretary of state/potential witness in an impeachment investigation, he holds a news conference in Italy shortly. We will bring that to you live.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, they will brief reporters on the investigation later this morning.
And President Trump, whose inflammatory language has reached unprecedented levels, he will hold a news conference this afternoon.
Let's began, though, on Capitol Hill, where this fight is centered at this moment with who and who will not be coming to speak to them soon. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live there -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Secretary Pompeo is currently overseas in Italy, but he and his State Department are the focal point for House investigators who are leading this impeachment inquiry.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempting to block officials from his department from talking to Congress. Pompeo sending a fiery letter to House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel saying the deposition requests are "an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly distinguished professionals of the Department of State," adding they provided "a woefully inadequate opportunity for the department and the requested witnesses to prepare."
The chairmen from the three House committees accusing Pompeo of "intimidating department witnesses in order to protect himself and the president," warning his efforts could amount to obstruction.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Secretary Pompeo is just stonewalling and delaying. And we aren't going to put up with those tactics. And we're going to continue to enforce the deposition requests on the State Department employees. They will be in violation of the law if they do not comply. MALVEAUX: The State Department's inspector general scheduling an
urgent briefing with senior congressional staff, sources briefed on the matter tell CNN. No word yet on what he wants to tell them.
House Democrats able to break through Pompeo's efforts, scheduling depositions with five State Department officials in the upcoming weeks. The first, Kurt Volker, before tomorrow, the former diplomat named in the complaint, alleging he's one of the U.S. officials who reportedly provided advice on how to navigate President Trump's demands.
Inside the White House, President Trump tweeting his growing frustration with the whistle-blower and his sources, firing off a series of tweets asking, "Why aren't we entitled to interview and learn everything about the whistle-blower?"
Trump's allies mirroring his words.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): They are creating an obstruction trap to try to -- to hold this president on impeachable offenses.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): This is not a real impeachment. This is like a faux impeachment.
MALVEAUX: But the Senate's most senior Republican, Chuck Grassley, writing that the whistle-blower "ought to be heard and protected. Uninformed speculation is counterproductive and doesn't serve the country."
And of course, something to remember. Volker abruptly resigned after the release of the whistle-blower complaint and the transcript of the Trump phone call. Also, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was scheduled to appear today, where her testimony has now been moved to next Friday -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that background. The State Department's inspector general will give an urgent matter of some kind to congressional staffers in just a few hours. What does he want to reveal? How will this impact the impeachment inquiry? All of that is next.
BERMAN: I think this is the mystery of the day.
CAMEROTA: The State Department inspector general has asked for a briefing with congressional aides on a, quote, "urgent matter" today. This is related to the impeachment inquiry. But what is this urgent matter?
Joining us now is CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates.
Laura, let me read for everybody what we know about this from Manu Raju and our report -- and Kylie Atwood and our reporting at CNN. Here it is. "The State Department's inspector general on Tuesday requested an urgent briefing with senior congressional staff members after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back on House Democratic demands to turn over documents related to Ukraine and to depose current and former state officials, according to sources briefed on the matter. It's unclear exactly what state inspector general Steve Linick plans to provide Congress during the private Wednesday briefing. One congressional aide described the state inspector general's request as," quote, "'highly unusual and cryptically worded.' The inspector general said the reason for this briefing was the office had obtained documents from acting legal adviser in the State Department."
You read legalese. What do you see here?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, my first instinct is to say the word "urgent" being used for a second time, really, in as many weeks to describe behavior related to the State Department is particularly odd and unsettling.
But also, it leads me to talk about Pompeo's letter rejecting the idea of the calendar and the deadlines that were imposed by members of Congress about having members of the State Department testify.
Clearly, he's -- they are able to obtain documents. Clearly, the timeline is not so onerous to them. They're able to turn things over. And whatever it is this person is seeing in the documents led them to call congressional staffers during a congressional recess here, Alisyn.
It's not as if they couldn't wait to have it come back. They couldn't wait until perhaps depos ran for people like Kurt Volker or the former Russian -- I mean, the former Ukrainian ambassador. It had to be right now.
So I'm looking at this and saying, well, it must be something that is directly related to the subpoenas about the document. And it's of such an urgent nature that it could not wait for Congress even to return.
BERMAN: Let me tell you who the State Department inspector general is. He's a man named Steve Linick, who was actually appointed during the Obama administration, if you're keeping score at home. Now, does that matter? We don't know, because the Trump-appointed inspector general in the intelligence community is the one who's caused so many problems for him. But he's known as a straight shooter. He's known as someone who likes to hold the State Department to account. So we just don't know what he's going to deliver.
What we do know, Jeff, is that despite Mike Pompeo's efforts to keep from talking, he now has the State Department I.G. going up to talk. Kurt Volker, who was the special representative to Ukraine, going tomorrow to talk. And the former ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who has a story to tell, because she was reportedly pushed out from that job in Ukraine. She's going to talk next week. It seems like there's some internal pushback to Mike Pompeo. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think there is.
There's no question about it. And we are one week into this. If you take a step back and sort of assess everything that has happened in the last week. What we are going to see in the next perhaps 12 hours or so, I think, will show us a lot about how this whole investigation is going to proceed.
The Trump administration is clearly -- and, of course, the secretary of state is trying to slow-roll this, trying to block this. But there are several others proceeding apace here.
So Democrats that I talked to, senior congressional Democrats, still want this to move very swiftly. So they do not want to get mired in a legal dispute, fighting every single thing here.
But the inspector general this afternoon, when he meets with the staffers from several committees on the House side and the Senate side, what he provides will be interesting in terms of going forward on this.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also having a press conference this morning. I am told she is going to continue apace here. They are not going to at least try to avoid getting locked into a legal battle with Republicans, with the Trump administration all along the way here.
But -- and we really don't know what is going to happen in the coming hours. Mike Pompeo, as you said, he's traveling in Europe. He will be answering questions about this, as well. So at the end of the day, we're certainly likely to know a lot more about how this all would proceed.
But as the Trump administration tries to slow-roll and block this, Nancy Pelosi is pushing ahead.
CAMEROTA: Well -- and there's the rub, Laura. Because as Jeff says, the Democrats in the House are trying to move with alacrity. And Mike Pompeo is saying they're moving too fast. They actually haven't given him time to prepare, is his argument.
And so he's saying -- he's tweeting about this -- "I'm concerned with aspects of the committee's requests that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate and bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career FSOs. Let me be clear. I will not tolerate such tactics."
Basically, he's saying -- what he's saying is that they haven't given them time to prepare the needed documents and talk to their lawyers and get lawyers on board. Is that fair?
COATES: Well, only a bureaucrat would say, we need more red tape. We need more. I feel like I'm moving way too fast right now.
The most important aspect of the slide you showed Alisyn, earlier, is an idea that this I.G. is not -- is not somebody who has to follow Mike Pompeo's instructions. He's not somebody who has to get the clearance of Mike Pompeo to go forward in his organization as an I.G. for the State Department, is essentially a watch dog over the process.
So they said that there is an issue with the process moving too quickly. It would be the inspector general who would be the person to talk about whether or not there was -- the pace was too onerous for the members of the State Department.
But I think Pompeo's larger point is, and the bigger point of his letter is that he really wanted to have the counsel for the White House present to protect the president of the United States. Not about process. More about will there be privilege. Hint, hint, Mr. President. Step in.
BERMAN: All right. Laura, Jeff, thank you very much.
We have live pictures this morning to show you from Italy, where we're expecting to hear from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Secretary of state/potential witness in an impeachment investigation. He will be speaking to us very shortly. We will bring that to you live.
Plus, President Trump wants to know why he can't interview the whistle-blower. That's next.
BERMAN: President Trump holds a news conference this afternoon. His inflammatory rhetoric on impeachment really has reached unprecedented levels. And he says he should be allowed to interview the whistle- blower.
We want to bring in CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary during the impeachment inquiry and investigation and trial.
And Joe, it's interesting, because the president's rhetoric here has begun to draw a response and probably not the response he wants from Republicans. And you say that's critical. Why?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the president's problem is never going to be Democrats. Democrats are going to oppose him. They're probably going to vote for impeachment. In the Senate, if it's taken up for a vote, they're probably going to vote to impeach. His problem is always Republicans and making sure that they stay in line.
It was the same issue in 1998 with President Clinton, which is we didn't worry about what the Republicans were doing. We just needed to make sure the Democrats stayed with the president. Spent a lot of time and effort on it.
So the fact that there are Republicans now like Senator Grassley, who is directly criticizing the president on the whistle-blower issue, is significant. BERMAN: Let me read you what Chuck Grassley said. "This person
appears to have followed the whistle-blower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistle-blower, the distinctions being drawn between first-and second-hand knowledge aren't legal ones. It's just not part of whistle-blower protection law or any agency policy."
The bottom line here is he says the president is going too far.
LOCKHART: He is. And, you know, this has been a particular pet issue for Senator Grassley. He's been a loud proponent of whistle-blower protection.
So this is one of those times where loyalties to the president is trumped by a long-standing belief. You haven't seen a lot of that in the last two and a half years.
But what I think you're seeing now emerging is really a reassertion of institutional power in D.C., with the State Department I.G. going up the Hill, with the intelligence community I.G. pushing back on the president.
The president has run roughshod over Congress, over his own administration. And now you see some of that, you know, these Democratic institutions saying enough.
CAMEROTA: But there are also polls that show that Republicans, regular Republicans, and even Americans don't believe that the president asked the president of Ukraine for help with Biden.
It's in black and white. This is not an opinion. This is something that you can read with your own eyes. I think that it's interesting to hear Chuck Grassley do that. That's unusual. We haven't seen that. However, Republicans are still quite supportive of the president.
LOCKHART: Well, it underlines the quandary for Republicans, which is if they cross the president, they are more than likely going to lose the next election if they run. The president has that much influence on the Republican Party. It's become the Trump Republican Party. So they will more than likely lose.
You know, if they side with him, they have a very difficult time winning independent voters and moderate voters in their states or district. So it is a no-win situation.
I think they're just going to stand back and wait. And they're going to keep their finger up to the wind. And there may come a point where it's just too much, and they'll decide, based on their own political interests, to go against them. But it's -- you know, at this point, it's hard to see what piece of information triggers that.
BERMAN: All right. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, is saying a lot of words out loud on FOX TV. You guys can play either sound bite, because it will illustrate my point. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Have you never had a conversation?
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Not about this. I don't think so. If I did, it was at a social -- I don't think so. I have never had a --
INGRAHAM: You did or you didn't?
GIULIANI: I did not have a substantive conversation with him about it at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: In this instance, he's saying he doesn't know if he's ever spoken to William Barr, period. He later says he's got a whole bunch of other texts from State Department people he could turn over if he wanted to.
My question, Joe, is that the more we listen to Rudy Giuliani, it's not clear to me that his interests align with William Barr's or Mike Pompeo's. And it's not sure if any of their interests align with the president's here.
LOCKHART: Well, it's clear that Rudy Giuliani's interests don't -- do not align with Mike Pompeo. Because Rudy Giuliani is trying to make the case that he was not acting as a rogue figure here. He was doing it on behalf of the State Department. Because that protects him.
The State Department is saying, oh, no, you weren't.
And William Barr sort of gets put in here, because he looked at -- his Justice Department looked at the initial I.G. report and said, nothing to see here. So all of them are exposed.
And what we know about people around Trump is that they'll do whatever they can to take care of themselves. So I think this is going to be a rich source of information, not just for Democrats on the Hill, but journalists covering the story as people try to cover themselves moving forward.
CAMEROTA: Well, this is also why it's going to be so important to hear from Volker, Ambassador Volker, tomorrow. Because it's possible that it was Kurt Volker who asked Giuliani to intercede. Because you hear, again, in a transcript of that phone call, that President Zelensky of the Ukraine wants to talk to Giuliani. He says to President Trump, I want to talk to your guy Giuliani. And so he may have reached out to Volker to arrange that.
LOCKHART: He may very well have. And that's a big problem for Mike Pompeo and the State Department. So we're going to see. You know, it's a little bit like, you know, one of these games where, at the end of the day, someone is going to be held -- you know, holding the blame. And these guys are running around, you know, as quickly as they can to make sure it's not them.
BERMAN: It's the worst type of musical chairs that exists. Impeachment musical chairs.
LOCKHART: Yes. Impeachment musical chairs. It's going to -- it's going to sweep the country.
BERMAN: All right, Joe. Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
All right. A former Dallas police officer awaits sentencing after being convicted of murdering her black neighbor. How much time could she face? What will happen? We have a live report for you next.