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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rep. Max Rose Says Democrats Should Not Cheer Impeachment; Interview with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Impeachment Inquiry; Pence Insists that Trump's Ukraine Call Was Appropriate; Sources Say Pence Aides Are Anxious and Frustrated Over Ukraine Scandal; Pence Echoes Trump's Debunked Claims about the Bidens; Pompeo Changes Tune on Demands for Documents, Witness Testimony; Pelosi Denies Minority Leader's Request to Suspend Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- colleagues sometimes acting in a way that you think might undermine the seriousness of purpose of the impeachment inquiry.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I haven't, I respect Representative Rose, I'm glad that he's now for impeachment inquiry. I don't know a single colleague who was for impeachment before the President was sworn in. There were many Democrats who even went to his inauguration as did I. The President has signed two of my bills. Speaker Pelosi is still calling on the President to work on prescription drugs and Speaker Pelosi talked about sadness as well.

No one wants to go through an impeachment inquiry that by definition is going to further polarize this country, but we have a constitutional responsibility, and we can't have a President out there saying to foreign leaders, come meddle with our democracy. So we have no choice but to do this.

TAPPER: All right, former Congressman, I mean, sorry, current Congressman Ro Khanna of California, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

KHANNA: Thank you, Jake. Always a pleasure.

TAPPER: Well, that was uncomfortable. Vice President Mike Pence was just asked about President Trump calling for now two countries to dig up dirt on the Bidens, stay with us.

[15:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to our special THE LEAD: WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS. Vice President Mike Pence this afternoon playing the dutiful soldier defending the President's call with the President of Ukraine which is now at the center of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry in the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President spoke about lack of European support. He spoke about corruption, and he tasks me to go and meet with the President of Ukraine and carry our concerns about those issues, and anyone that looks at the President's transcript will see that the President was raising issues that were appropriate, that were of genuine interest to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now that's Vice President Mike Pence 2019. Take a listen to a guy that looks a lot like him. Governor Mike Pence, 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: Now y'all need to know out there, this is basic stuff. Foreign donors and certainly foreign governments cannot participate in the American political process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Jeremy, sources tell CNN that there is some anxiety and frustration in the Pence camp about this impeachment investigation. What are you learning about those concerns and how they're trying to shelter the Vice President from the scandal?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, this Vice President is a Vice President who has had an uncanny ability to really stay above the fray as President Trump has been beset with one controversy after the next. We saw that play out especially with the Mueller investigation, but not as much as it relates to this Ukraine matter and this whistleblower complaint. And that has provoked a significant amount of anxiety among Pence advisers according to multiple sources who are upset with the way that the White House handled the whistleblower complaint and the way in which the President has repeatedly roped in the Vice President to this matter.

You'll remember, Jake, that after that transcript came out the President also offered up the transcript of Vice President Mike Pence's calls with the Ukrainian President. We haven't seen those yet, of course. Nonetheless, what we have seen from the Vice President's team is an attempt once again to say that the Vice President is out of the loop on these matters. It's something that we've heard from the Vice President's camp in the past and that is saying that you know they're not aware, the Vice President wasn't aware of the President raising Joe Biden on this call with the Ukrainian President.

All this despite the fact that the Vice President's own national security adviser was on this call that the Vice President would have been briefed on this call before traveling to Poland to meet with the Ukrainian President and indeed that is the case. The Vice President was repeatedly involved in interactions with Ukrainians officials so this is not one where he can really edge away in the same way -- Jake.

TAPPER: And Jeremy, I heard a clip of Vice President Pence saying that people like Joe Biden or himself need to avoid not only impropriety but even the appearance of impropriety, and that the Ukraine controversy involving Hunter and Joe Biden is that, the appearance of impropriety. Which is a fair enough assertion. I didn't hear the whole interview, though. I didn't hear whether or not he repeated the lies and smears and unfounded allegations about the Bidens. Did Pence do that, too?

DIAMOND: He did, Jake. He did. He once again raised those unfounded allegations about Vice President Biden and his son's activities in Ukraine and called for an investigate investigation of the matter. Saying that is the American people deserve to know what the Bidens did in Ukraine. He was very much towing the company line on this issue, Jake. He was backing up the President and his allegations about the Bidens but he didn't go quite as far as the President did in terms of calling on other countries to investigate Biden.

He said the President has made it clear he believes other nations around the world should look into it as well, but the Vice President did not himself call for Ukraine and China to investigate the former Vice President -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much. Let's chew over this. Dana, I mean. the Vice President, we've known him for a long time, he used to be in the House of Representatives, he knows better, and yet he's doing this, too.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, it's almost as if you can see the pain in his face as he is talking about.

TAPPER: And repeats the smears.

BASH: Yes. Because -- he does, from the guy that we covered in the House, as you said, the guy we got to know as Governor of Indiana afterwards. He does know better. I mean, you played the clip.

[15:40:00]

He said so himself during his own Vice President debate, that he knows better. But he also speaks fluent Trump-ese, and he understands that the DNA of the President as much as he needs to. To stay exactly where he has been for three and a half years which is first of all becoming the pick, and second of all navigating the very, very choppy waters of the Trump world.

And, you know, he tries to engage when he feels it's beneficial and disengaged when it's not. This is a situation where we don't know the answer to one of the key questions here with regard to him. Despite the fact he went after Joe Biden which is, he's the one who met with President Zelensky in September. He talked about corruption. His own national security adviser was on that July 25th phone call.

TAPPER: General Kellogg, yes.

BASH: Did he get briefed by General Kellogg? Did he read the transcript which was apparently in his briefing book? And did he deliver that message whether it was overt or subtly to the Ukrainian President knowing what he was doing?

TAPPER: Because, Nia, the argument is that when Vice President Pence went to talk to the Ukrainian President, Zelensky, about corruption, quote/unquote corruption, by then Zelensky had had it communicated with him by Rudy Giuliani through one of his top aides, by President Trump in a prior phone call to the one we have the rough transcript to. Zelensky knew by corruption they meant, the Bidens.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Exactly.

TAPPER: That's the argument.

HENDERSON: Right, right, because in the phone call when he talks about corruption it's only about Biden. Right? It's not about some sort of wholesale corruption in Ukraine. It's very specifically about Joe Biden, about Hunter Biden, and this other idea about the server as well. So, sure. I mean, if Pence is going there talking about corruption more broadly, you imagine that the President of Ukraine knows what he's talking about.

You know, I mean, Pence is someone who likes to be in power. Likes to be close to this President. Knows that being close to this President means showing utter loyalty and that is what he's doing. I don't know if it pains him to do that. He seems to do it with ease, at least today, and speak Trump fluently, and if you even turn back a week ago when President Trump called him out, and essentially said, listen, you should listen to Mike Pence's calls, too.

That night he went on TV to say that the transcript vindicated everything that Trump had said. So you know he might be in this up to his eyeballs but he seems to also be cosigning for this President.

TAPPER: Let's play that clip, because some people thought that that was a savvy way of President Trump to remind people around him, that he would not be the only one involved in this scandal. President Trump talking about Vice President Pence to reporters when talking about Ukraine last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you should ask for VP Pence's conversation because he had a couple of conversations also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: How do you interpret that, Ryan Lizza,

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly how you set it up, is him saying, you know, all of these other officials around me were on this call and, you know, I think what's implicit there is nobody complained. Right? And you know, and Trump does have a way of making sure that if he's going to be criticized for something, other people around him are going to be sullied in the same way.

TAPPER: And let me -- let me ask you. Is there a risk beyond a political risk, is there a risk legally or regarding impeachment for the Vice President?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: OK, I'm going to say three words that will drive fear into the hearts of Republicans everywhere. President Nancy Pelosi. Which is ultimately what happens if both the President and Vice President end up impeached. Now, that's a stretch, obviously, but anything the President could be charged with the Vice President could. So these extortion, bribery, foreign interference charges.

Now again, they're very, very hard to establish here, because you'd have to prove a thing of value, and, yes, it makes common sense. Yes, election value to a campaign is a thing of value. That's hard to prove in court, but at end of the day, this gets back to what we talked about earlier. If he's seen to have violated his oath of office, then yes, he can be impeached too.

LIZZA: And I feel like isn't everything that happened in that phone call basically moot after today?

TAPPER: Because it's already done, out in the open.

LIZZA: I mean the Democrats are basically going to say what he said today is impeachable all on its own and, yes, there's an interesting conversation about exactly what the nuance of that phone call was and whether it was a quid pro quo. But at the end of the day the question for impeachment now will be, is it OK for the President of the United States to invite totalitarian governments to investigate political opponents?

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got more to talk about. It was not too long ago that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was demanding all of the documents from the White House. He was a member of the House at the time. So what's changed? Stay with us.

[15:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to this special edition of THE LEAD: THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS, the impeachment inquiry engulfing some of the President's men, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is facing a big deadline tomorrow.

[15:50:00]

He says he will respond to a subpoena to turn over key documents to Congress dealing with the Ukraine scandal. Now once upon a time, Pompeo himself was in the House of Representatives and he was demanding that members of the White House, the Obama administration, turn over information in the Benghazi investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a deeply part of the American tradition and our Constitution that Congress perform this oversight. Our goal is quite simple. It's to get every single fact we can get.

Every document, every witness and to put together the puzzle, the mosaic for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He was right then.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. I'm sure he is behaving differently now.

TAPPER: The complete opposite.

HENDERSON: Complete opposite, just like you played Pence before and Pence now, Yes. I mean, he essentially is saying at this point that he feels like Congress, which he used to be a member of, is bullying State Department officials and he is there to protect them from these big bullies in Congress. Like Adam Schiff and all these other folks who are looking for documents and looking to piece together the mosaic of what happened with Ukraine.

Yes, and I mean this is what we've seen time and time again, all these Republicans who said something before when they were going after Hillary Clinton, going after Barack Obama, going after any number of Republicans. Now they're doing everything they can.

BASH: And to be fair, you can find Democratic sound bites from the impeachment inquiry into Bill Clinton that sounds a lot like Republicans now.

TAPPER: Jerrold Nadler and Nancy Pelosi.

BASH: Yes, which is the point you are making earlier, which is when you take norms and things that are supposed to be in place and you twist them for your partisan gain, it will come back to bite you at some point.

WILLIAMS: The one difference is you did have Democrats back in 1999.

HENDERSON: Vote for impeachment out of the House, yes.

WILLIAMS: Russ Feingold, the liberal stalwart in the Senate at the time did vote for impeachment. I'm sure there are others too.

HENDERSON: And out of the House, too.

WILLIAMS: Out of the House, too. Now that may change. As we know, Nixon's impeachment, public opinion and Congressional opinion evolved over time. But right now you simply -- oh, yes, Mitt Romney in a tweet. But at

the end of the day there isn't really serious Republican support for --

TAPPER; And look, Bill Clinton committed perjury and he suborned perjury, I don't have any problem saying --

WILLIAMS: And obstructed justice. TAPPER: I said it 20 years ago and I'll say it today. Let me ask you

a question, Elliot, while I have you. In his letter to Congress, Pompeo said he would only respond to the subpoena. He didn't say he was going to comply with the subpoena. Is there any recourse for the House if he does not comply with the subpoena?

WILLIAMS: Yes. Again, they can sue him, bring him to court and compel the production of the documents. Again, an impeachment proceeding is a different ball game than we're used to. It's different than Mueller and so on because it's called, under the law, a judicial proceeding. It's just easier to get stuff. So, yes, they will likely go to court if they don't get it. Because they're playing for keeps this time.

TAPPER: Ryan, I want to bring is some breaking news here. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just sent a letter to her Republican counterpart House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He earlier had requested suspending the impeachment inquiry. Pelosi, of course, denying the request. And this is part of her response that she just sent.

Quote, as you know, our Founders were specifically intent in ensuring foreign entities did not undermine the integrity of our elections. I received your letter this morning shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections.

LIZZA: I mean I think McCarthy's letter was about a series of questions about the process for impeachment. She's in a long list, Trump has now tweeted that out. And I think Nancy Pelosi will now put this question to every Republican, right. A lot of these process arguments are kind of in the weeds. For Democrats, it's very simple now. Do you agree with what the President did today or not? And I would be shocked for a Republican to affirmatively say that they are OK with what. If that's what happens we then going to be in a place as Dana and Jake were talking about before that both parties will -- can pick up that weapon. The Democrats can pick up that weapon and adopt it for themselves.

BASH: Republicans aren't going to say they are OK with what the President said.

LIZZA: They're not going to say that.

BASH: They are.

LIZZA: You think they are affirmatively going to say it's OK for you to ask the Chinese --

BASH: You don't think Jim Jordan who you talked to on Sunday.

TAPPER: Jim Jordan, sure.

BASH: I'm not saying the majority.

LIZZA: I guess it matters how they --

BASH: And I'm also not saying that they actually believe it. I'm just saying that some of them will say it.

WILLIAMS: The question is, do they duck the question or affirmatively say, no, that was OK? And I have a hard time believing. Because look, even Pompeo, at a certain point, diverted, you know, changed --

HENDERSON: Yes, that seems to be --

BASH: The majority are silent. And they are intentionally so but they're not going to be able to stay that way for long.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around, we've got more to talk about. He is the husband of one of President Trump's top White House advisers. George Conway just laid out a scathing case for why he believes Donald Trump is, in his words, unfit for office. That's ahead on this special edition of THE LEAD: THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS.

[15:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD: THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS. I'm Jake Tapper. We begin with breaking news in the politics lead today with an impeachment inquiry already raising issues of an abuse of power. President Trump today continued to shock the political system by openly pushing both Ukraine and now China to open investigations into Joe Biden and his son. Despite their being no evidence of wrongdoing, which the former Ukrainian prosecutor and President have said publicly.

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