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Secretary of State Pompeo Confirms He Heard Phone Call between President Trump and Ukrainian President; State Department Inspector General Asks to Speak to Congress on Urgent Matter; Interview With Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Urgent briefing with congressional staff on their demands to turn over documents related to Ukraine. Our understanding is he actually asked for this briefing. He told Congress he has something that he wants to tell them. What could that be? As we sit here this morning, that much remains a mystery.

Joining me now is CNN national security analyst James Clapper. He is the former Director of National Intelligence. Director, thank you very much for being with us. I want to start with Mike Pompeo and, let's call it an evolution, from dodging Martha Raddatz's very direct question of what do you know about this phone call 10 days ago to this morning, I was on that phone call?

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, our friends and Watergate journalists, famously say follow the lies and it will bring you to the answer. What do you make of that evolution from Mike Pompeo?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, to be honest, I kind of feel bad for Secretary Pompeo who is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point which instills in graduates and the cadets, and then when they graduate, duty on our country. And it's just a reminder, I think, of people that are in the Trump orb is not unlike the moth that flies too close to the hot candle. And this is -- of course, the two answers are going to be on highlight films now for some time to come.

I would note that the question at the press conference that he had in Italy, he didn't address at all whether he thought that what went on and what transpired during that phone call was appropriate or not.

BERMAN: No, he dodged that question even today as he admitted the truth that he could have admitted to Martha Raddatz when she asked the very direct question 10 days ago. What do you think he might have been trying to hide? Why not say I heard the conversation?

CLAPPER: I don't know. I'm not a mind-reader, but I think there was a, perhaps, certain amount of guilt pangs, I think, that I'm sure he understood what was going on, where the president was trying to muscle another head of state to do his bidding to advance his political fortunes and by holding hostage the military assistance that the Congress had long ago voted on and appropriated. So I think he knew all that.

BERMAN: He admitted that he heard it. He's going to face more questions like he did today about what he thought about it or why he stood by without objecting.

I want to ask about another potentially major development today, which is that the State Department Inspector General, a man named Steve Linick, has asked to speak to Congress on what he is calling an urgent matter, or he has an urgent discussion that he wants to bring up with Congress. We just don't know what this is about. It might be connected to some kind of documents that he received from State Department Legal Counsel, but we don't even know what that means.

But the word "urgent" is interesting, because we've heard that word before in the last few weeks. Urgent is a legal definition that the Intelligence Community Inspector General used to describe the orignial whistleblower complaint. He thought it was a matter of urgent concern. What do you see in all this?

CLAPPER: I don't know, either, what's afoot here, but it's certainly very interesting. I don't recall ever a State Department Inspector General approaching the Congress seeking a meeting based on an urgent matter. The term "urgent," of course, as you indicated, does have a specific legal standing because it is the phraseology used in the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. T

hat doesn't necessarily apply to the State Department unless it involves an intelligence person that's, say, in I and R or someplace, which is the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. So I don't know what to read into this. I just find it very interesting.

BERMAN: We're all standing by to find out more information on that because at this moment it, frankly, just remains a pure mystery, and our viewers we'll bring them any news on this as soon as it comes in.

On this the idea of the whistleblower complaint, the president says he wants to interview the whistleblower. He has suggested, or his cohorts have suggested that this person is a saboteur. This is really caustic language. What are your concerns about how this might affect people who want to blow the whistle on government malfeasance?

CLAPPER: In the first instance, this is a completely inappropriate, and in fact, I would suggest perhaps unlawful, because the whole purpose of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act is to protect the identity, the anonymity of, and implying the safety and security of the whistleblower, and to protect the information that he or she may have to convey.


So what the president is saying here conflicts with that law, and of course, it's quite intimidating. The whistleblower is a courageous soul. And he or she needs to be protected. And this is where the now acting Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire needs to step up and ensure that he or she is protected. But the president's particularly his, I thought, egregious statement

at the U.S.-U.N. mission was terrible, which implies shooting somebody for treason or something, which is ridiculous. And it will have, as you indicate John, quickly here, an intimidating effect, I think a chilling effect on others who may have wrongdoing to report.

BERMAN: And I just want to read you what Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican from Iowa, says about this. "This person," he's talking about the whistleblower, "appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected." You feel that statement is significant?

CLAPPER: Absolutely. Senator Grassley has long been a champion advocate for whistleblowers and protecting them. In fact, he's also been, as I can attest, a staunch critic of the intelligence community for not being sufficiently sensitive to whistleblowers and what they have to say and protecting them. So I was a little bothered when he didn't come out right away condemning what the president said. So this is a significant thing, and it's a good thing that Senator Grassley said what he said.

BERMAN: So Director Clapper, while we have you here, I want your take on what we are seeing from the Attorney General William Barr, who has been traveling the world literally, and in some cases trying to speak to foreign leaders to get assistance with the investigation that he launched into the origins of the Russia probe. Now, you were there. It was launched during the Obama administration where you were Director of National Intelligence. So what's your opinion of this and the fact that he's devoting so much energy to it?

CLAPPER: Well, this illustrates the lengths to which this administration will go and is going to try to discredit the Russian interference and certainly the investigation that was done by the FBI on connections between the Trump campaign and Russians. And what concerns me particularly about this is foreign intelligence partners who in good faith share information with us which they thought bore or was germane to our national security, and again, I fear a chilling effect on this where our foreign partners are going to think twice before they do that again lest they be investigated for having reported the information.

BERMAN: Director James Clapper, it's always a pleasure to speak with you. Don't go far, because we keep learning new things over the course of the morning, we might need to lean on you again for your expertise. Appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, John.

CAMEROTA: John, as you were just discussing, the State Department's inspector general is heading to Capitol Hill today for a, quote, urgent matter with congressional staff. We'll speak to one congressman whose committee is about to be briefed by that inspector general.



CAMEROTA: The inspector general of the State Department has something to say, and today senior staff members of eight congressional committees will receive what's been described as an urgent briefing from that inspector general. Joining us now is one of the lawmakers who will be privy to what results from that meeting, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna. He serves on the House Oversight and Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thank you very much for being here. You are a wonderful person to talk to today because you are right in the thick of everything that's happening in Congress. What do you know of this inspector general and what he wants to share with Congress today?

REP. RO KHANNA, (D-CA): It's concerning and it's highly unusual. In my time in Congress and many of my colleagues, we've never had an inspector general from the State Department request to meet with the committee on an urgent matter. We don't know what he's going to present. It could be concerns about allowing State Department officials to testify to Congress. It could concern issues with the president's call to Ukraine and what the State Department knew and whether they tried to facilitate any wrongdoing. But it's highly unusual, and we're waiting to get all the facts.

CAMEROTA: Why is he being so cryptic?

KHANNA: I think he may fear retaliation. It's unusual that you have the secretary of state blocking career officials from testifying. And we already know that Secretary Pompeo is under investigation by the I.G. for political bias. There are accusations that he's pushed out State Department officials for political issues. So he's coming to Congress because he obviously doesn't have the confidence of his own secretary of state.

CAMEROTA: The only tidbit from the inspector general that I think we can parse is this sentence. I will read it to you. He says "The inspector general said the reason for the briefing was the office had obtained documents from acting legal adviser in the State Department," had obtained documents from an acting legal adviser in the State Department. So does that sound to you like he maybe got a cease-and- desist letter, maybe he got some sort of non-disclosure request?

KHANNA: It could be anything. And I don't want to speculate too much, but it could concern the legal department's advice on State Department officials giving information to Congress. It could concern what the State Department's involvement was with Rudy Giuliani. It could concern why some of these people, like Ambassador Volker, were removed and what the motives were. So who knows what it is? But the fact that he's coming, the fact that he's coming urgently while we're on recess, suggests that it is something serious.

CAMEROTA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as you point out, has been resistant to some of your requests for documents and for some of his staff. He has defined it as kind of bullying and intimidation on the part of these committees, including yours, and he just explained more about this in Rome this morning. So listen to his explanation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: What we objected to was the demands that were put that deeply violate fundamental principles of the separation of powers. They contacted State Department employees directly and told them not to contact legal counsel at the State Department, as that's been reported to us. They said that the State Department wouldn't be able to be present.


CAMEROTA: Has your committee contacted the State Department employees directly and told them not to contact legal counsel?

KHANNA: They absolutely have legal counsel. And Secretary Pompeo has a credability problem. And for the longest time he was denying that he was on the Ukraine phone call. Now suddenly he says he was on the call. He's under a lot of hot water.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, hold on one second. I don't know that he was denying it. He just gave a sort of strange answer to Martha Raddatz where he pivoted and talked about something else. I hadn't heard him deny that he was on that phone call.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, that's fair. He wasn't forthcoming. Now he is saying that he was on the phone call. He hasn't given the American people an explanation about why he hasn't taken any action after that phone call, why he didn't try to alert Congress and say something was wrong.

I mean, we have to get back to the basic fact, which is that the president tried to get dirt from a political opponent from a foreign country on a rival and that's the abuse that we're looking into. But everyone is going to have counsel. The concern is that they don't get squelched by the State Department from testifying freely.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But to be clear, no one on your committee contacted a State Department staffer directly and told them not to contact legal counsel?

KHANNA: To my knowledge, they all have counsel. I don't know the details of what counsel that staff may have had conversations with, but to my knowledge, anyone there is going to have access to counsel. Which lawyer it is and the details, I don't know all of that in terms of what the staff conversations were, but I -- we would never have someone there without access to some counsel.

CAMEROTA: OK. Next, tomorrow, your committee is going to be hearing from the special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Kurt Volker is -- I mean, our reporting suggests that he helped coordinate meetings between President Zelensky of Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani who is acting as somehow President Trump's representative.

If Zelensky believed that Giuliani has the president's ear and actually has some insight into what President Trump wants and that's what you hear in the phone call between the two men, what's wrong with Giuliani -- or I should say, what's wrong with Volker acting as a liaison between Giuliani and the Ukrainians?

KHANNA: There would be nothing wrong if the question was actual diplomacy, but if Volker is acting as a liaison because they want to investigate Vice President Biden and get political dirt, then he's doing something that isn't about American national interests, but is in the president's personal interest.

What we need to understand is was that what Volker was doing? Did he push back? Did he say this is inappropriate and why was he removed from office? Was he removed from office because he did push back and raise red flags about what Giuliani and the president were doing?

CAMEROTA: Well, he resigned.

KHANNA: Well, there are reports that he may not have wanted to resign and then Secretary Pompeo put pressure. We don't know the facts and that's one of the things that we're going to be asking Volker. Was there pressure on him to step down?

CAMEROTA: So you're going to ask him directly about the favor regarding Joe Biden and Joe Biden's son?

KHANNA: Yes. The question is, was there pressure on Volker to try to get dirt on the vice president? Did he push back on that? Did he say no? That's not appropriate.

Why would the president of the United States seek political dirt on his opponent? What was the reaction when he pushed back? Did he have a conversation with Secretary Pompeo? When all knew that the president was trying to use the office to get this information on his political rival?

These are the questions that we will ask and I expect him to be forthcoming because I think he's been under a lot of pressure, as well.

CAMEROTA: It will be very interesting to hear what comes out of this.

Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you very much.

KHANNA: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Alisyn referred to it there. Pompeo saying, I was on the call. He has adjusted about being a participant on the call where President Trump leaned on the leader of Ukraine. Why the shift? What does it tell us about what is going on inside the Trump administration?

That's next.


BERMAN: All right. Unquestionably, the most mysterious development in the impeachment investigation today is this, the State Department inspector general is going to Capitol Hill today. He asked to. He wants to give what he is calling an urgent briefing to congressional staff. This is after the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back on demands for records on Ukraine.

So what does Steve Linick, the inspector general, want?

Joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer for "The New Yorker."

Jeffrey, read the tea leaves, what's behind the mystery here. And all I would point is he says is he has an urgent matter to discuss with Congress. Urgent is a legal term that was used when analyzing the initial whistle-blower complaint by the intelligence community inspector general when he agreed it was a matter of urgent concern.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Berman, I'm going to use the three words you're never allowed to say on cable news, which are: I don't know. I don't know what's in these reports, and, you know, we'll know soon. You know, given the pace of developments, it appears that it's likely to be related to the whole Ukraine matter, but I -- you know, I -- you know, I just don't know.

CAMEROTA: I don't know either, but that's not stopping me, Susan, and so what I'm hinging my theory on is this sentence from the reporting about what the inspector general has to say. Here it is, the inspector general said the reason for the briefing was the office had obtained documents from an acting legal adviser in the State Department.


I'll grant you, there's not a lot of detail there, but that tells me that it's something from a legal adviser was alarming enough that he alerted these congressional committees and wants to come over and speak about it.

Your thoughts?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look. First of all, it does also tell us that there are documents, and I think the paper trail is one of the things that I think is going to end up being quite significant as the impeachment investigation on the Hill moves forward because it's not just about parsing the words in the transcript of President Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president, but I'm struck talking to this in this pretty small world of experts here in Washington who follow Ukraine and Russia very closely.

Remember that for months, there was an ongoing debate and discussion about this mull tear aid that Congress had approved to Ukraine and you know, what kind of paper trail is the hold up and the delay in it? "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" have reported according to sources that President Trump personally held up aid and instructed Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, and that that was relayed to participants at an interagency meeting.

Is there a paper trail on that military aid? That could be followed on. What about the state department paperwork involving the firing and the abrupt replacement of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine which also seems to have been part of the shadow foreign policy that Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump were running?

So again, I don't want to get ahead of this could be totally unrelated and it could be a new allegation, but I am interested in the documentary paper trail they believe does exist as we go forward around this allegation.

BERMAN: And --


BERMAN: I see Toobin nodding here. Go ahead.

TOOBIN: That sentence that you pointed out, Alisyn, legal adviser is a term of art in the State Department. It's not just some lawyer there. The legal advisor is a high ranking person within the State Department and that's a job that is always filled. And so the fact that the acting legal adviser who is a high-ranking official initiated this process, you know, suggests that it is of some moment. But again, what it is, I -- I don't want to speculate.

CAMEROTA: That's helpful context, thank you, Jeffrey.

BERMAN: Can I also say it is the fact of his mission to Congress that interests me also when in the state 24-hour period we learn that despite the efforts of Mike Pompeo, we're going to hear from Kurt Volker, the special adviser.

CAMEROTA: Did he try to block Volker?

BERMAN: I don't know that. He sent a blanket statement criticizing Congress for getting these depositions or going after these depositions and after Pompeo tried to stop it, Kurt Volker went and said, I'm going anyway, you know why? Because Kurt Volker can't be stopped by Mike Pompeo --

CAMEROTA: Because he resigned.

BERMAN: Because he resigned.

Also --


BERMAN: The former ambassador, Maria Yovanovitch is going to testify at the end of next week.

CAMEROTA: Postponed. BERMAN: Postponed but still going, over the concerns, Susan, of Mike Pompeo. So it does make me wonder if there are people there within the State Department who want to talk despite what the secretary says?

GLASSER: Well, first of all, it does seem to be that way. Second of all, that statement from Mike Pompeo was such an extraordinary inversion of where the facts seem to accuse Congress of intimidating and bullying the State Department employees and portraying itself as the protector of this agency that has been battered by repeated budget cuts that Mike Pompeo has gone along with by essentially a war on the professional foreign service, along with the professional intelligence agencies, by the White House, and Pompeo again has gone along with that.

It really -- it was just a crazy inversion of the fact which is seems to be part of the tactics of how the administration deals with most allegations and the -- just this morning to watch Pompeo struggling to basically have to admit that he did not tell the truth for six days about this transcript and the fact that he was listening in on the phone call -- again, this seems like there's really more to the story here and I'm told by my sources that it is extremely unusual for a secretary of state to have been listening in on a phone call like that and that's something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention yet, but why was he on the phone call?

Again, I was told in the past, in the previous Republican and Democrat administration, the secretary of state would not be listening in unless he literally, physically happened to be in the Oval Office with the president.

CAMEROTA: Well, Admiral John Kirby, who's in the Obama administration, told us that it wasn't that out of the norm. That there were times when the secretary of state would listen in on the phone calls in his experience if it had something to do with their area of expertise.

So, again, Susan, who knows? I mean, that's one of the questions --