Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump: Ukraine & China Should Investigate Joe Biden and Son; Ex-Diplomat Testifying Now on Trump's Ukraine Dealings. State Dept. I.G. Gives Congress Documents Giuliani Provided. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired October 3, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
Facing impeachment for asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival, President Trump stood outside the White House and asked two foreign governments to do just that. Honestly, seriously, this is what just happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer.
They should investigate the Bidens because, because how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies if you look at -- and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let's not breeze past this one. This is not just an angry outburst by Donald Trump. This is a real ask coming from the president of the United States.
Now one question that at least I have is, why does he keep saying that the whistleblower account of the call was inaccurate? He just basically repeated it, essentially, plus some. And what does the president's party do now?
Also happening right now is the first official to testify on the charges leveled by the whistleblower in that explosive complaint against the president is on Capitol Hill at this very moment.
Career diplomat, Kurt Volker, testifying before three congressional committees who are investigating the allegations that President Trump used the power of his office to ask a foreign leader for help digging up dirt on a potential 2020 rival. In other words, what the president just did on camera.
Let's start right there. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.
Let's start with the president. Jeremy, what just happened?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, what we just saw there was the president of the United States saying -- confirming, indeed, that he wanted a foreign country, in this case Ukraine, to start a, quote, "major investigation" into his political rival, the former vice president Joe Biden.
And the president, of course, went beyond that. Not only confirming what was in the whistleblower complaint, confirming what is at the core of Democrats impeachment inquiry, but also now saying that he wants China to also investigate his political rival, Joe Biden.
And, again that kind of goes to what we've seen the president do time and again. We saw it as well during the Mueller inquiry as well, where the president says these things out loud and, in effect, tries to normalize what he's doing by saying it out loud, by making it acceptable, and signaling to his supporters that if he's saying it in this way then it's acceptable.
We also saw the president once again slamming the former Vice President Joe Biden. I asked him specifically his response, to the former vice president, saying that the president is not going to destroy him and he's not going to go anywhere. The president said that this is attacking him, saying he thinks the former vice president is going down in the Democratic race for president -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Beyond his political analysis, let's stick on what's coming out of president's mouth at this moment.
Great see you. Thanks so much, Jeremy.
Here with me now is Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator, former Clinton White House press secretary, Anne Milgram, CNN legal analyst and former New Jersey attorney general, and Jamie Gangel, CNN special correspondent.
Thank you guys for being here. Really appreciate it.
Jamie, Trump on camera now this morning heading out of the White House not only asking for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden but now adding China into the mix. Reports of him doing this, making that ask, was enough for House to -- to push House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. What does this mean now?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we have to start by saying each time this is not normal. We also have to say there's no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.
As Jeremy just said, I think what we're seeing here again is very similar to his reaction during the Mueller investigation.
What were John Kelly and Mattis and everyone quoted as saying? Erratic, unhinged.
This is outrageous. And it is going to simply add for the Democrats more evidence on their side, the articles of impeachment. This is a political battle that this is an abuse of power.
BOLDUAN: Anne, from your perspective, what do you think just happened and what this means for where we in this obviously very clearly historical moment?
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So just start with the beginning point, which is that, you know, I prosecuted a lot of cases in state and federal court, this is what we call an admission. This is from the president's own mouth.
So all the conversations are we talking about hearsay, secondhand information, the president of the United States just essentially doubled down on what he had said and we've already read the memorandum of the conversation.
BOLDUAN: Wait. This is -- I think, what you guys are saying is so key. It's all of the defenses or attacks on credibility, essentially, that have been happening in the lightning -- the light years that have happened in the past week, can all go out the window now. The president just stood there and said it and said, and you know what, China, let's add that to it as well.
MILGRAM: And what's really important is you don't have to trust the whistleblower. You have the president himself saying it. So it really changes the conversation.
BOLDUAN: OK. So, Joe, saying it on camera instead of on a classified phone call with a -- with another foreign leader and a phone call of which the notes of which are moved to a secret server, the fact that he's now just saying it on camera, does it make it different? Does it make it, I don't know, better? Does it make it worse?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what it does it signals a change in his strategy and the White House strategy. The strategy they had been pursuing was completely unsustainable.
The president admitted to something and then they tried to discredit the people who were accusing the president of something he admitted to. A second grader could figure out that that argument wasn't going to work for very long.
So what he's done here -- he's done this in the past. He's basically going out and saying, I did it, I'd do it again, and there's nothing wrong with it.
And this is not a legal case. We have to remember, this is a political case. So I think what you see the president doing from now until this is
resolved saying that there's nothing wrong with it, there's nothing wrong with it, it was a perfect call, there's nothing wrong with asking a foreign government root out corruption so that he's telling his people.
The problem with this is this puts Republicans in Congress in a terrible position. You can't with a straight face, if you're a serious member of Congress who has any respect for the rule of law and the traditional norms of the presidency, defend this.
But the president doesn't care. He doesn't care what he does with anyone around him.
This, as opposed to yesterday, this was strategic. It may not be great strategy, but I think did he this very much on purpose.
BOLDUAN: Jamie, what are your sources saying about the White House -- about a White House strategy?
GANGEL: So we're hearing that they are trying to get the White House strategy together. And I was told by multiple sources that Jared is now involved in it.
But the reality, as Joe said, is the Republicans on the Hill are not going to want to carry that water. That is not good for them.
And let's just talk about his tone for a minute. This is not something -- we've seen him say, oh, I was joking. There was nothing joking. That's not at a rally. There's no way to interpret it any other way.
One source said something interesting to me about Jared coming on board. The person said, the most helpful thing for messaging would be for Trump to stop tweeting and having --
GANGEL: -- and having press conference like this.
BOLDUAN: For goodness sake.
GANGEL: And the point is, no one is going to be able to stop tweeting, no one's going to be able to stop press availabilities like this. There's one person at the center of this strategy, and that's Donald Trump.
BOLDUAN: And this just -- that's just reality. Even if the White House wanted to make a strategy, there's no way Donald Trump was going to allow it.
BOLDUAN: I love that anyone in the White House would want him to stop tweeting. They've been wanting that since January 21st.
LOCKHART: But that's how they develop strategy in the White House.
As posed to getting together the way previous presidents did and getting a strategy together and getting president to buy in and going and executing it, they wait for his tweets. They wait for him to go out on the lawn. And then no matter what they've said previously, they run in behind it and try to say what the president said. And it's --
BOLDUAN: One interesting part of the evolution that led to what just happened with the president, as he was leaving the White House, is yesterday, he wouldn't answer that question. This was everything that Jeff Mason was trying to get to, right? He wouldn't answer the question. I don't know if he was caught off guard, whatever.
We have the moment from yesterday. Let's replay it just not only to Jamie's point to hear the tone bit of this, but just listen, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF MASON, REPORTER, REUTERS: The question, sir, was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter?
TRUMP: Are you talking to me?
MASON: Yes, it was just a follow-up of what I just asked you sir.
TRUMP: Are you ready? We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question.
MASON: I have one for him. I just wanted to follow up on the one I asked you, which --
TRUMP: Did you hear me? Did you hear me?
MASON: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: Ask him a question.
MASON: I will. But --
TRUMP: I've given you a long answer. Ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude.
MASON: No, sir, I don't want to be rude. I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question that I've asked you.
TRUMP: I've answered everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You guys are -- the commentary as the sound byte is running is what you guys need to be hearing this.
BOLDUAN: Joe, what were you saying as you're watching this play?
LOCKHART: I don't know if right in that moment he realized, oh, my goodness, my strategy isn't going to work. But certainly when he walked off and replayed it in his head, he realized he was stuck. So that's why you saw him go out and pursue the question again today so he could answer it the way he did.
I mean, it is a terrible answer. But it is an answer that he mentally can get behind and then go out to these rallies and talk about how it's protecting America to ask foreign countries to interfere.
BOLDUAN: Jamie, is it -- it seems similar to -- it's a -- I don't know. It's different. It's different. It's not the same.
His approach to it is the same, which is I'm angry and that's what got me re-elected. It's us against them, it's us against them. And it seems a different -- I guess it doesn't really matter because this is actually different. He is facing an impeachment investigation over what he has said, what he has asked.
And when you see this now play out in this moment, is this exactly why Republicans, in large part, are staying is, they don't know, one, what's going to come out of the investigation or, two, what's going to come out of the president's mouth?
GANGEL: Absolutely. To your point, what do we know? Donald Trump's default position is fight. He's right there now. He's happy in this place. He's comfortable in this place.
BOLDUAN: This is his most comfortable place.
GANGEL: This is his most comfortable place.
But there were two things that were interesting there. One was, I couldn't help it, there was the Robert de Niro moment where he said his least favorite actor, you know, are you talking to me? It sounded like a mobster. The tone of it was just very peculiar.
But I did -- he likes to answer questions and the fact that he dodged that one, that he didn't go there, there was something that he thought was dangerous that he was going to say if he answered that question. And so he punched back.
It's exactly what Republicans are worried about. It's exactly why, for the most part, other than Lindsey Graham and a few others, we are hearing crickets from Capitol Hill.
BOLDUAN: Anne, so this isn't -- I mean, what we heard from Republicans after the George Stephanopoulos interview, he said, sure, I'll take a look at any dirt that any foreign government cooks up against a rival. And he said, sure, I'll take it. When that happened Republicans were, this should never happen, there should be a law against this, we're absolutely, that is not OK.
I mean, Republicans could not -- I can't -- I'm sure we'll see -- I stutter because I'm going to use my words against me because I'm sure they will defend what he said. But it's saying please -- this is, Russia, can you hear me, on steroids again.
MILGRAM: It is.
BOLDUAN: Does it make a difference that this isn't a call from July, this is happening right now?
MILGRAM: I think there are a couple things that make a difference. The first is Russia can you hear me, please go get Secretary Clinton's emails was when Donald Trump was a presidential candidate, not the president of the United States. So there's an implicit, I'll cut a deal with you if I'm elected president.
But today, he is the president of the United States and he has the power of the presidency. And one of the things that I think people were objecting to universally is this corruption. I'm going to leverage my presidential power, which is extraordinarily vast, in exchange for a personal and political benefit.
The fact that he sits as president today strikes me as incredibly different. The fact that he's now doubled down and repeated it shows that this is his world view, that he thinks he can use and abuse his office in that way and that is very telling.
BOLDUAN: In his mind, he doesn't think this is wrong.
LOCKHART: No, but I think the most --
BOLDUAN: It doesn't matter with him.
LOCKHART: What he's playing into now, which I think will be very power for Democrats, if they actually hit it right, both on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, is this idea that the government is -- it's using his argument against him, that it is rigged, that it's corrupt, that it's just the insiders in the swamp.
What he's basically doing is showing that he's even more corrupt than what he was running against. That's how they Democrats have to frame this as opposed to any other strategy they might --
BOLDUAN: Obviously, getting caught in the weeds.
LOCKHART: Yes, yes.
BOLDUAN: So it's just 11:14, let's see what happened by 11:16.
Don't laugh, Jamie, you're sitting here with me.
Stay with us, everybody. We have more to discuss, including the first witness named in the whistleblower's complaint, an ex-special envoy to Ukraine, is speaking now to three House committees this hour. That critical testimony and what that could reveal.
Stay with us.
BOLDUAN: Right now, in the impeachment inquiry, the first official named by the whistleblower is behind closed doors answering questions from three congressional committees, Kurt Volker.
CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill.
Manu, it's behind closed doors, but what are you hearing, what's happening?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, we have not heard from the members or the staff who are in there. It this has been going on for about an hour and 45 minutes. No one's yet to emerge from this closed-door interview that's happening in a secure location here in the capitol.
It's being launch and driven by the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating impeachment, taking the lead on the impeachment inquiry. Some Republicans have voiced objections that that panel is not the right one here on Capitol Hill that should be doing this.
But, nevertheless, Adam Schiff's committee has significant questions about Volker's name that was raised in the whistleblower's complaint about Volker trying to deal with meetings, arranging meetings for Rudy Giuliani and with Ukrainian officials about the concerns about what the president raised in that phone call with the Ukrainian president about investigating his political rival, Joe Biden.
Now, in that whistleblower complaint, it says that Volker was trying to navigate the different messages coming out of the Trump administration as far as what they wanted the Ukrainians to do, as well as Giuliani pushing for investigation.
So we'll ultimately learn about any concerns he may have had with what Rudy Giuliani was doing, how he approached this issue, all the extra communications that he had had on this matter.
We're also told, Kate, that dozens of documents have been turned over to Capitol Hill as part of this interview. So the members, staff, they're undoubtedly going through those documents, asking him questions, a detailed timeline. So this could carry on for several more hours here -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Kind of dovetailed into this. Yesterday, they met with congressional staffers and one member of Congress and handed over documents that included some from Rudy Giuliani, some that Rudy Giuliani had given to the State Department. What can you tell us about that?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. Rudy Giuliani acknowledged to CNN last night that some of these documents originated from him, that he passed along to the White House, which then passed along to the State Department, that Mike Pompeo and the State Department told us that they then provided to the inspector general.
What this document is, is a roughly 40 or so pages of allegations, many of them unsubstantiated, attacking Joe Biden, raising questions about Joe Biden, similar things that we've been hearing from Rudy Giuliani over some time.
But also including allegations that Democrats are continuing to call a smear campaign against the former ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post back in May.
This is -- the inspector general came to deliver this to the Hill believing he could help with their impeachment investigations.
So Democrats and Republicans going through this. We'll see if it does anything to the investigation or, as Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who was in that briefing, said yesterday, is it just a distraction -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: We'll see.
Manu, thank you so much. We'll see what comes out if we do learn anything from this testimony Kurt Volker.
Jamie is back with me, Joe Lockhart, and Anne Milgram is still with me.
Just to start with Kurt Volker and his testimony. Anne, from your perspective, what are the questions that you would have that Volker should be facing and answering when he's behind closed doors?
MILGRAM: There's so many. And I think he's going to spend a long time in there.
First of all, the documents are really important. Giuliani held up his phone, he read some text messages back and forth with Volker. I would go through each and every one in detail. I would want to know when he first communicated with Giuliani, who put him in touch with Giuliani, everything about his communications with the Ukrainians related to Biden or the company, Burisma.
There's another piece of that that I'm curious about. I don't know if Volker is the right person. But when you read the whistleblower complaint, there's a part that says the Ukrainians had knowledge that the money was being withheld. And so that's something I would want to know from Volker, how did the Ukrainians know that.
And also that they were told in sort of a pregame of the president's conversation with Zelensky that the president wanted to talk about Biden and this investigation into Biden.
So I am very curious to know who made that call to the Ukrainians. Was it the White House? Was it State? What knowledge does Volker have of any of those actions?
BOLDUAN: And he's no longer -- someone that works for the State Department, who would be testifying, would do anything short of telling the truth. But he resigned when this came out. Is he a private citizen? And he has agreed to come on to Capitol Hill to answer all of these questions?
From your source, what's are you hearing that could be coming out of this?
GANGEL: I know several people who have worked with him closely over the years. They say he's a great guy, very experienced, a straight shooter.
To Anne's point and those questions, what I'm hearing is that the concern is that he was in the middle of many of those questions because he was the special envoy.
And what -- we don't know whether there's anything legally that he did, but that they are concerned that it will be very at least politically embarrassing because he was trying to navigate dealing with Rudy Giuliani, who, at the president's behest, was involved here. And that Volker was right in the center of that.
MILGRAM: There's one more topic, which is the Pompeo piece. And to Jamie's point, Volker, he is in the middle. People who are squeezed in the middle are often looking to their superiors on how to handle something, so that will be an important part of this as.
BOLDUAN: If you're in the White House, Joe, right now, you know Volker's testifying, what are the conversations behind closed doors about what is going to be coming out?
LOCKHART: Well, one of the interesting things about Volker is he is going to give a roadmap to the committee of who else to talk to. He's going to be able to tell --
BOLDUAN: Even if it leads to more questions.
LOCKHART: Even if he does nothing else, he'll say in this meeting these 10 people were in. Pompeo was in this meeting. Pence was in this meeting. Mick Mulvaney.
I think what the White House has to do is figure out a way to get ahead of this. And the Democrats and Pelosi and Schiff -- and they've been very smart the way they've done this. They've taken it out of the normal committee structure, which is important.
And second, they're doing their fact-finding behind closed doors so it can't be impeached and muddled by, you know, Congressman Collins or Jim Jordan. And then they will present committee staff work, which I think is critical to doing this.
So what I would do if I was in the White House -- not that they want my advice -- figure out what their exposure is and put out information on their own terms. And put it out in the best way they can, accepting that some of it is problematic and then leading it.
Because if they leave it to the committee to reveal what Volker said and what the --
GANGEL: It looks worse.
LOCKHART: Yes. It will look terrible. They won't get a chance to rebut it, really.
GANGEL: Can I just say, to Joe's point, the Republican sources I spoke to on the Hill this morning are worried about exactly this. There's no State Department lawyer in there with them. They don't know what is going to come out. It does not give them -- and the fact that Pelosi and Schiff have kept it away from a normal structure of an impeachment inquiry and they're calling all the shots, the Republicans are at a big disadvantage in dealing with exactly the kind of information Joe talked about.
BOLDUAN: Now I'm all the more curious to see what comes out and what we can learn out of this hours'-long meeting with Kurt Volker. Let us see.
Good to see you guys. Thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.
Coming up for us, a former U.S. ambassador will be joining me on the extraordinary developments of the morning, the president on camera asking Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden, one of his political rivals.
Stay with us.