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Ex-Diplomat Testifying as First Witness in Ukraine Probe; Trump: Ukraine & China Should Investigate Joe Biden and Son; Biden to Trump; "You're Not Going to Destroy Me"; Trump Continues to Attack Whistleblower; MGM & Las Vegas Shooting Victims Reach Major Settlement. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The impeachment inquiry under way right now. The first witness named in the whistleblower's complaint is speaking to three House committees this hour. It's Kurt Volker. He was the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine until last week when he resigned his post.

The whistleblower complaint says that one day after the president's call with Ukraine in July, Volker and another U.S. official met with President Zelensky, Ukraine's president.

And, quote, this is what's in the complaint: "Based on multiple readouts from these meetings recounted to me" -- the whistleblower -- "by various U.S. officials, Ambassadors Volker and Sondland reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to navigate the demands that the president had made of Mr. Zelensky."

Those demands, of course, include pushing Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

According to the complaint, Volker had been working to, quote, unquote, "contain the damage" to national security caused by Rudy Giuliani's involvement.

And Giuliani is trying to put this all on Volker, releasing the text messages between the two of them. Giuliani says it shows he was working at the direction of Volker and the State Department. So now Kurt Volker is having his say.

Joining me now is a former undersecretary of state and a former ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns. He's one of the 300 national security officials who signed the letter saying the president's Ukraine actions were serious enough to merit impeachment proceedings.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for being here.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO & FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, Kate. BOLDUAN: First, I have to ask you, I do want to ask you about Kurt

Volker, but I do have to ask you about what the president just said this morning outside of the White House. For you, for our viewers, once again, let me play this for you.


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 how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies if you look at -- 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.


BOLDUAN: So, yes, I'm asking Ukraine and now I'm asking China to investigate a political rival. What do you say to that?

BURNS: You know, Kate, I have to say, I mean, we've never had a president in the whole history of the United States, going back to 1789, who invited one of our strongest adversaries, in this case China, to intervene and interfere in our election.


The president is asking, this morning, China, an authoritarian dictatorship, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who I'm supporting in this campaign.

That is corruption. No prior president would ever go there. It's legally wrong. It's morally wrong.

And the president has to hear that from people on Capitol Hill, especially from Republican Senators and Republican members of the House, his own party.

This is unprecedented. If anybody thinks that inviting this dictatorship in Beijing to investigate a distinguished American is a good idea, they should speak up because it's a terrible idea.

The president is corrupting our discourse and dividing us from one another.

Today is a new low. And there have been a lot of lows in this Trump presidency, thousands of them. Today is one of the worst things he's ever done to our democracy. I think that's the way I see it.

I worked for five presidents, Republican and Democrat, none of those presidents would have come close to what the president did this morning.

BOLDUAN: Wow. I mean, ambassador, there are -- the president has said a lot of things over very short period of time. But what I'm hearing from you is this is a stop-and-listen moment, what the president just did.

BURNS: It sure is. It sure is. The president's own security strategy, his public foreign and defense policy strategy cites China and Russia as the two greatest adversaries of the United States, that all of our attention and resources and effort as a country must be to contain these countries and blunt their power. That's the national security strategy of the Trump administration.

And now the president calls on Xi Jinping to investigate someone who is completely innocent, Vice President Joe Biden?

And what the president said this morning are complete lies. I have to use that word about an American president. He's lying to the public about Vice President Biden's record. It's wrong do this.

I think if you just talk to individual Americans and take off the name Trump, should any American be calling on China, a dictatorship, to intervene in our democratic elections, I would think that 99.9 percent if not 100 percent of Americans would say no. And yet the president, our leader, just said that this morning.

I think it disqualifies him. He should be impeached by the House and there should be an inquiry by the Republicans and Democrats. I don't think he's fit for office based on what he said on China and also on Ukraine.


Mr. Ambassador, one thing we often here is don't -- don't take his words seriously, focus on his actions. The president is clearly making the ask here. Should it matter if Ukraine -- let's focus on China-- if the China would do anything to act on this ask he made this morning?

BURNS: There's an American law that makes it indefensible, legally wrong to invite a foreign government to intervene in American elections. This false distinction between the president's crazy words and the president's actions -- these are by his defenders -- that's a false distinction.

If the president of the United States announces on the South Lawn of the White House that he wants China to intervene in our election, it's an action, it's an open invitation to the government of China to do that.

You know how they'll do that? They'll use their cyber means. They'll use their black arts. They'll use their intelligence operations do this. Exactly what Vladimir Putin did to us in 2016.

The American people don't want that. And so it is simply wrong to suggest, don't worry about what the president says.

When he speaks, especially on a network like CNN, it's spread worldwide, live. That's what people around the world hear, including the Chinese people.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, the impeachment inquiry is under way. What do you -- what do you say to -- but it is a political process, right? And I do wonder what your message is in this moment, then, to not Democrats, but to Republican lawmakers? And I know that what you're saying, is this goes far beyond politics. But impeachment inherently and what we're looking at is a political process and question. What is your message to them this morning?

BURNS: I would say it's a constitutional process as well. It's in the Constitution. It's the checks and balances that we have on the president of the United States as the people of the United States and through our elected representatives. I'd say that, number one.

Number two, it shouldn't be taken lightly. I actually think Speaker Pelosi was right not to open up an impeachment inquiry during the Mueller investigation over Trump and the Russian government.

But if you read the summary, the July 25th phone call, and now listen to the president this morning on CNN, what he said, in my view, these are impeachable offenses. The president has abused his power in openly inviting two governments to intervene in our election.


I'd say to Republicans and Independents, people who don't like the Democrats, we have to think about our country first. Our country's democracy, our self-respect, is at stake. We, as Americans, on a nonpartisan basis, have to stand up to that question.

It's too early for us to make a final judgment, or at least the Congress to make a final judgment. But the Congress has continued to enquire and they have to investigate. If the Congress doesn't investigate these charges, then the Congress isn't fulfilling its constitutional duty to the American people.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, thank you so much for coming on.

We fully intended to speak much more about Kurt Volker who is testifying right now before closed doors, but we'll have that conversation on another moment. You did have another opinion piece that you put out this morning in the "New York Times." Speaking about --

BURNS: I did.

BOLDUAN: -- what all of this has done about to the state of morale at the State Department and State Department officials, diplomats abroad. It's worth a read.

Thank you so much for coming on, Ambassador. Really appreciate it.

BURNS: Thank you, Kate. Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.


Coming up, "You're not going to destroy me." That is former Vice President Joe Biden. That is his response now, speaking directly to President Trump. New much stronger, much more forceful statement than we have heard yet from Joe Biden, his campaign in the face of everything we've been talking about with regard to the president.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: This morning, President Trump not only asked Ukraine once again to investigate Joe Biden, one of his political rivals, the president of the United States stood outside the White House, we'll repeat again, and asked China, one of America's most powerful adversaries, to the very same, inviting China, asking China to interfere in the U.S. election.

Now, before this morning, the former Vice President Joe Biden struck back at the president, and his most forceful words yet. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now let me make something clear to Mr. Trump and his hatchet men and the special interest funding his attacks against me. I'm not going anywhere.



BIDEN: You are not going to destroy me and you're not going to destroy my family. I don't care how much money you spend, Mr. President, or how dirty the attacks get.


BOLDUAN: And that was before this morning.

Joining me right now is CNN political reporter, Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, have you heard anything from the campaign this morning in terms of what the president is now saying?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Kate, the Biden campaign hasn't commented yet on President Trump's latest calls for investigations into Biden.

But last night, you did see from the former vice president his most forceful, fiery response when it comes to this Trump and Ukraine matter, insisting that he's not going to be backing down amid these allegations. One thing that Biden and his team have repeatedly pointed to is that

there's zero evidence of wrongdoing on the Bidens part, as President Trump has alleged.

But what Biden was also able to do last night was once again frame this as a fight between himself and the president. You've seen him to do this from the start of his campaign. And the Biden campaign sees that as an asset when Joe Biden is able to go up against President Trump.

Take a listen to how he framed it last night in Reno, Nevada.


BIDEN: The truth doesn't matter to Donald Trump. It never has and it never will. Which is why I don't think the American people are going to believe him.

The American people know me and they know him. I'll put my integrity, my whole career of public service to this nation up against his long record of lying, cheating, and stealing any day of the week.


BIDEN: The idea of Donald Trump attacking anyone's integrity is a joke.


SAENZ: And, Kate, we actually just got a statement from deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield. I'm going to read from that.

She said, "What Donald Trump just said on the South Lawn of the White House was this election's equivalent of his infamous "Russia, if you're listening" moment from 2016. A grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over country. The White House itself has admitted that Donald Trump tried to bully a foreign country into lying about the domestic opponent he's afraid to look in the eye next November."

She goes on to say, "Now with his administration in freefall, Donald Trump is flailing and melting down on national television desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent credible news organizations."

They added, "Donald Trump is terrified that Joe Biden will beat him like a drum."

So that response just coming in right now to us -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Fascinating and obviously fast moving. One difference between, "Russia, are you listening," then, and now, is Donald Trump was a private citizen then. Donald Trump is the president of the United States saying that now from the South Lawn of the White House.

Arlette, thanks so much for being here. Thanks for reporting.


Coming up for us, President Trump continues to attack the whistleblower who sparked this impeachment inquiry. Next, a former whistleblower joins me to discuss.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

President Trump offered a bold defensive to whistleblowers yesterday which he immediately undermined.


TRUMP: I have a lot of respect for whistleblowers but only when they're real. His report of the phone call was totally different than the fact.


BOLDUAN: Sure. And it only got worse from there. The president not only continuing his attack on the whistleblower who filed the complaint flagging -- that revealed his phone call with the Ukrainian president, but it's getting even worse the angrier the president gets.


TRUMP: The whistleblower wrote, not that conversation, he wrote a vicious conversation. In other words, he either got it totally wrong, made it up, or the person giving the information to the whistleblower was dishonest. And this country has to find out who that person was, because that person is a spy, in my opinion.


BOLDUAN: But after this morning, with the president on the South Lawn, what exactly did anybody make up? What does this mean for the person behind this complaint, though? And what does it mean for any person who considers speaking up to expose wrongdoing?

Joining me right now is Patrick Eddington. He's a former CIA analyst who became a whistleblower. He revealed that U.S. troops had been exposed to dangerous chemical agents during the Gulf War.

Mr. Eddington, thank you for being here.

When you hear the president's comments there, what do you think?



And what I think is the president looked and sounded like a cornered animal. That's really what he looked and sounded like, quite frankly. At this point, I'll just repeat what I've said in other forums. We

need to have complete facts. We need to have a complete and thorough investigation. That means all relevant documents from CIA, NSA FBI and the State. And you need to have witnesses deposed who may have had any kind of knowledge of any goings-on in this interaction the president was having with Ukraine officials.

I hope that Mr. Schiff, who, to be blunt with you, hasn't taken whistleblower calls seriously in the past, is taking this one seriously. Because we haven't seen anything like this.

I've been watching this for 31 years and I can never recall a circumstance like this where a person is asserting -- an intelligence officer has made an accusation of this nature against the president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: You can probably also say that anyone making an accusation has not faced the withering criticism from the president of the United States in very similar way.


BOLDUAN: Throughout the president's time in office, people say, don't take his words seriously, and people say they don't in certain circumstances. But from your perspective and what your life experiences taught you, what is the real impact of a president's words like this?

EDDINGTON: Certainly, within the Intelligence Community, at least up to this presidency, folks who work there take what the president says deadly seriously. In my judgment, sometimes too seriously and too literally.

Folks have to remember, at the end of the day, if you're a federal employee, you're not taking an oath to an individual. You're taking an oath to preserve and respect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Right now, I have no reason to believe that the individual in question taht we're discussing here, this still anonymous whistleblower, did anything other than what they believed was upholding their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The president is trying to have as much of a chilling effect, obviously, as he possibly can.

I don't think he's alone in that activity. We're seeing evidence that Secretary Pompeo may also be engaged in that kind of activity. Whether the attorney general may be engaged in that kind of activity is another issue I think we have to examine. I hope they investigate that as well.

BOLDUAN: Adam Schiff and Speaker Pelosi yesterday when they were holding that press conference said they would do everything in their power to protect the whistleblower's identity. Do you think that they can? EDDINGTON: It's going to be really difficult to do that, I think,

over time. I think -- for one thing, folks in your business are out there trying to determine who this person is.

The "New York Times," of course, has already reported that this person allegedly is a CIA employee. The "New York Times" had that from three sources who asked for anonymity, but that's out there. I think it will be very difficult.

In a normal -- what I would describe as a normal whistleblower kind of case where you're actually reporting waste, fraud, abuse and criminal conduct about your own agency or department, it's a lot easier to keep the lid on.

But the pressure here is going to be enormous for this person to come forward, because we're talking about potentially overturning an election, and that's unique.

BOLDUAN: Yes, such high stakes here.

Patrick, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

EDDINGTON: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: We have some breaking news I want to get to coming in. Victims of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting have reached a landmark settlement with MGM Resorts and the details are just coming in.

Let's go over to CNN's Stephanie Elam. She's got more on this.

Stephanie, what are you learning?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is basically two years, almost exactly, from when the Las Vegas shooting happened, Kate. And what we're learning from MGM Resorts is they have a settlement agreement with people who were injured, hurt, and for families of members who have lost their lives because of the shooting.

They're saying now they've resolved these pending lawsuits, and now they're looking at a settlement that will be between $735 million and $800 million, depending on the number of plaintiffs that want to be a part of this.

This would end all of the other litigation that is out there right now. They're saying this whole process should be done by late next year.

They're also noting, too, that while it ends all the pending litigation, as far as MGM is concerned, the settlement is not an admission of their guilt.

And now part of the reason why this has become an issue is because of the fact that when the shooting happened, the shooter was actually in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino across from this venue where 22,000 concert goers were sitting there enjoying the last night of a three- day festival of country music. That shooter was in Mandalay Bay Resort. That hotel is owned by MGM.

This is part of the reason why the settlement has been there.

We've known this could possibly be in about the $800 million range, but obviously when you take a look at what some of the people who have been affected by this have to say, particularly Robert Egglet (ph(), who is one of the lawyers for plaintiffs, he is saying, at this point, this is a good resolution for these people who have been affected by the worst shooting that we've seen in modern history in America -- Kate?


BOLDUAN: Yes, 58 people killed, hundreds -- hundreds -- injured in this.

ELAM: Hundreds.

BOLDUAN: Stephanie, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.