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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Three House Committees Interview Key Witness Named In Whistleblower Complaint; George Conway: Trump's "Narcissism" Makes Him "Unfit For Office"; Voters In Critical Swing State Talk Impeachment; New Poll: Harris Drops 11 Points In Home State; WAPO: IRS Whistleblower Claims Treasury Political Appointee May Have Interfered With Audit Of Trump Or Pence; Source Political Bias Referred To In I.G. Letter Is Whistleblower Is A Registered Democrat. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


ANDREA BONIOR, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: We would have to have a full diagnostic history in order to actually think about a diagnostic label but I would almost argue that that's a separate issue. Being unfit to be president may be a totally separate issue than being a psychologically healthy.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Shankar, the fact that this discourse in the country has come to this that people are now writing these major stories about being mentally unfit. And look, we wouldn't normally do this, we haven't talked about the President's psychological state on the show before beyond just observations of his behavior as Dr. Bonior points out. But this is George Conway with close connections to the White House and this is a major story in a major magazine and he's making a case.

You think this is reflective of where we are in society right now.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, HOST, NPR'S "HIDDEN BRAIN": I think so. I mean when you look at the history of how mental illness has often been used in a political context, Jake. It's often been used in contexts where you're basically going after someone whom you don't like. So, for example, during times of slavery, slaves who left their masters were seen as having a mental illness or gay people were once considered to have a mental illness and totalitarian regimes, psychiatry has often been used to dismiss people who are dissidents.

So in many ways when we start to pathologize people using the lens of mental illness, partly I think what that reflects is how rancorous things have become between us, how tribal our partisanship has become.

TAPPER: And we should point out that George Conway anticipates this basic argument that people shouldn't necessarily do this, talks about how mental illness shouldn't have a stigma, talks about how Abraham Lincoln in all likelihood based on historians suffered from depression, but still was able to do his job.

BONIOR: Yes. Yes. And that's exactly right, because I think we can weaponize labeling people in a way that actually harms folks that have true psychological disorders. There are lots of people, I may say, with psychological disorders who nonetheless could function quite well as president of the United States. So I almost see it as separate issues and I think it's a dangerous slope for us to start throwing mental-health labels around when what we really talking about is whether somebody's actually got the ethical and moral constitution to be able to be president.

TAPPER: We should point out this is early in the presidential race. It's not even 2020 yet. It's probably going to get much, much worse.

VEDANTAM: It is probably going to get much worse, Jake. But here's a very simple test on whether you should be using the lens of mental illness to think about someone. Are you using it to basically help them or are you using it to help yourself?

It's a very simple test. So if you're basically employing, thinking about mental illness with a view of compassion, with a lens of compassion, a parent who calls 911 or calls a doctor and says, "I'm worried about my child." That person is basically using the lens of mental illness to say how do I help this person.

When we use the terms of mental illness or the diagnosis of mental illness to go after our opponents, we're not using it from the point of view of compassion, we're using it to score political points. I think that's where the history shows us that it's extremely dangerous to do.

TAPPER: So two respectful disagreements with George Conway writing this story, if I can interpret what you're saying.

BONIOR: Yes. I think he had a lot of great points, but I think we have to be more careful than he lets on.

TAPPER: Thanks to both. Oh, go ahead, one final point.

VEDANTAM: Well, one interesting thing, Jake, here is that people often use mental illness in the other way as well. After the shootings in El Paso, for example. Trump described some of the shooters as having mental illness.

So in some ways, we sometimes can use mental illness to defend people who we think of as being part of our groups even as we sometimes use it to go after our opponents and both, of course, are misuse of - a misuse of science.

TAPPER: Interesting. Thank you both for coming. I really appreciate it. Coming up, is President Trump close to committing a crime by publicly asking two world leaders to dig up dirt on the Bidens? Former prosecutor and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris will join me live. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:11]

TAPPER: In our politics lead now as President Trump's impeachment fight heats up here in Washington, new polling shows that 45 percent of the American public are in favor of the House voting to impeach the President. That's a plurality, but how is impeachment changing the minds of voters for 2020? CNN's Miguel Marquez went to one key County in Michigan that Trump flipped to red to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): All important Macomb County Michigan has impeachment dented the president's support here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Did you vote for the President or Clinton in 2016?

RICHARD JONES, UNDECIDED VOTER: The President.

MARQUEZ: For the President. Are you still just as happy with him?

JONES: No comment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ(voice-over): Some of the President's supporter on the fence, but most we spoke to see impeachment is little more than politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW KALINOWSKI, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it's a lot of just people don't like him and they want him out of office, the left and the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ(voice-over): John Skantze voted for Trump in 2016 and had concerns early on. Six months ago he thought Joe Biden might be an option. Now, he says the push for impeachment has him supporting the President more than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SKANTZE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: They are there for one thing now and one thing only and that's to try to impeach the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ(voice-over): But Democrats here say moving forward with the impeachment process could sway voters to their side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Does it help ...

CAROLE CHI, CHAIR, STERLING HEIGHTS DEMOCRATIC CLUB: And doesn't help Macomb ...

MARQUEZ: ... move votes in Macomb County? CHI: I think so. I think so because I think people in Macomb County

want to see what's being done, see the right thing being done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ(voice-over): Obama won Macomb and Michigan twice. Trump easily won Macomb and flipped the state by a razor-thin margin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She ran the State of Michigan and who won the state of Michigan after decades?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ(voice-over): The county critical to both parties. Republican strategist Jamie Roe says the drive for impeachment will only help re- elect the president and Republicans.

[16:40:08]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE ROE, GRAND RIVER STRATEGIES: If they're going to try and impeach him on this Ukraine business, I think that they are driving themselves straight back to the minority in the House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ(voice-over): Paul Kanan with the Michigan Democratic Party says while impeachment is important, Democrats also need to keep their focus on the issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL KANAN, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We need to be talking about what affects people on a day to day basis and that's those blue-collar pocketbook issues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, one other thing we heard from the President's supporters is that they're concerned about the economy. Even those that are striking now, the UAW workers that are striking that support the President, they're worried about the economy, they're worried about their own strike action on that economy as well. They say if the economy stay strong they think he will be fine and have another term, but they are worried that if it turns sour, it will get tougher and tougher, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Joining me now to discuss all of this is presidential candidate Kamala Harris. She's a Senator from California.

Senator, I want to get your reaction to President Trump publicly on the South Lawn of the White House calling on another foreign government, China, to investigate the Bidens.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, Jake, clearly the guy hasn't figured out that when you solicit the help of a foreign government to interfere in the election of the President of the United States, you may be impeached. It is extraordinary and I will tell you, I'm calling on the White House to actually release whatever transcripts, whatever recordings, whatever notes there are about Donald Trump's previous conversations with Xi, because we need to know what he has now said in private conversations because we obviously know what he's saying in public.

And clearly he doesn't get it, which is that the Commander-in-Chief of the United States, the President of the United States should not be in the business of working with foreign leaders against our democracy. It is a violation of the oath. It is a violation of all that should be, the responsibility of the President of the United States to uphold our democracy and the Constitution of the United States.

TAPPER: So you're on the Senate Judiciary Committee, you're a former State Attorney General, former District Attorney, I know that you consider this behavior to be an abuse of power and impeachable. Is it also illegal? Is there a criminal statute that the President is violating by calling on foreign powers, Ukraine and now China, to investigate his political opponents?

HARRIS: Well, we'll see as the impeachment process proceeds, but I will say, Jake, that it is a classic case in terms of what he's been doing as it relates to the whistleblower to an attempt to suppress evidence and intimidate a witness, which is why I've also called on Donald Trump's Twitter privileges to be revoked, because even as many other Members of Congress have indicated, he seems to be eliciting fear and threatening a witness to what could be a crime against America and our democracy and to try and suppress that evidence and that is a classic example of a crime.

TAPPER: I guess the question about you - I know you wrote to Twitter and the CEO, Jack Dorsey, and asked him to take away the President's Twitter handle, his account. How is that not a violation of free speech? I mean, the President has the same rights that you have that I have and how would that not just be a slippery slope where they have to ban half of the people on Twitter?

HARRIS: I've heard that argument but here's the thing, Jake, first of all a corporation which is what Twitter is has obligations and in this case, Twitter has terms of use policy. And their terms of use dictate who receives the privilege of speaking on that platform and who does not and Donald Trump has clearly violated the terms of use and there should be a consequence for that, not to mention the fact that he has used his platform being the President of the United States in a way that has been about inciting fear and potentially inciting harm against a witness to what might be a crime against our country and our democracy.

And for that reason, I do believe that it's clear that he has violated the terms of use and I'm asking that Twitter does what it has done in previous occasions, which is to revoke someone's privilege because they've not lived up to the advantages of the privilege.

TAPPER: I have to ask you. There is this new poll out of California, your home state showing that your approval numbers, your support numbers have dropped from 19 percent in July to just eight percent now in terms of your presidential race. Are you concerned at all if you're in single digits in your home state? How do you expect to get the numbers you need nationally?

[16:45:05]

HARRIS: Now, listen, Jake, I'll tell you, I am not going to ride that roller coaster. I don't ride the polls when they're high, I don't ride them when they're low. We are just steady. And it's about earning the right to support -- to get the support and earning the votes.

And so that's why I am working up and down the state of California, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina. We are organizing on the ground and we are putting the resources into earning the support.

But I'll tell you, this is not a new experience for me in California or in any office that I've run for and won, by the way, which is that you know, the polls will sometimes monitor the support we're receiving sometimes they don't. But frankly, the only poll that matters is on election night.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Kamala Harris, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Have fun on the campaign trail.

HARRIS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: New reporting just in about another possible whistleblower, this time involving the President's taxes. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

[16:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We have two major breaking news stories for you right now. First, this from CNN, a source familiar with the whistleblower investigation tells me that the political bias referred to by the Intelligence Community Inspector General is that the whistleblower is a registered Democrat. That is the bias.

The I.G. acknowledged the bias in his statement, though he said, that didn't change the facts of the whistleblower complaint. The attorney for the whistleblower Mark Zaid declined to give us a comment.

And some more breaking news. "The Washington Post" is reporting new details now on another whistleblower, this one a career official from the IRS. CNN's Lauren Fox joins me now live. Lauren, what can you tell us about this Washington Post report?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, the Washington Post's reporting that an IRS official filed a complaint arguing that there had been improper influence in the presidential audit program by at least one political appointee over at the IRS.

And I just want to flag that earlier this summer in July, Richard Neal, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman did receive a complaint from this person arguing that there had been improper influence over the presidential audit program.

Now, the administration has dismissed this claim arguing that this is hearsay, that this person didn't have any direct knowledge. But we learned about the individual filing a complaint with the House Ways and Means Committee because Richard Neal, the chairman of that committee, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and he included that letter in an August court document basically arguing that he had concerns about this presidential audit program.

And Jake, if you remember, the presidential audit program is at the center of that lawsuit that House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal filed for the President's tax returns. Basically, he's arguing he needs the President's tax returns because he needs to understand if there are safeguards in place over that presidential audit program.

So of course, if a whistleblower is coming forward here alleging that a political appointee is influencing that program, that's very significant.

TAPPER: And what does that mean, Lauren, for the Democrats trying to get their hands on the President's tax returns?

FOX: Well, Democrats were saying all along that if there was credibility to this, that would add more heft to their case. Because they're basically saying, look, if there's a way for a political appointee to influence this, that would be very significant. And it would mean that we need to change the country's laws.

This is not in trend in law as it is, Jake. This is a tradition. When a new president and vice president come in, their taxes are audited. Now, we don't know if this would have applied to the President's taxes or the Vice President's taxes, but obviously a significant development here from the Washington Post. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Lauren Fox, thank you so much. We're going to be right back with much more in the special edition of THE LEAD: "THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS". Stay with us.

[16:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Breaking news. A source familiar with the investigation prompted by the whistleblower tells me that the whistleblower is "possible political bias that was referred to by the Intelligence Community Inspector General who said that the complaint was credible regardless of it, is that the whistleblower is a registered Democrat.

As I stated, the I.G. announced the bias but said it did not change his determination that the complaint from the whistleblower was credible. An attorney for the whistleblower declined to comment. CNN Sara Murray joins me now.

Sara, what do you make of this? We were being told by some Republicans that wait till they find out what the bias is, but it turns out he belongs to one of the two major political parties in the country.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, I think if this is the extent of it, it's pretty thin. You know, you're allowed as an employee of the U.S. government to register with a political party. And even -- can you believe it -- to exercise your right to vote, Jake. You're still allowed to do that if you work for the U.S. government.

But as the whistleblower complaint points out, the I.G. did determine this to be credible. And we have seen over the course of these weeks the way that the in this complaint have continued to check out you know, almost across the board. And so I think that if this is it, if there is not more there that they found that indicated this kind of bias, it feels like a nothing burger.

TAPPER: And we should point out again that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community was appointed by Donald Trump.

MURRAY: Right, exactly. I mean, there are lots of political appointees that work in government every day. And you know, sometimes they do things that we don't agree with, but a lot of times we entrust them to make decisions that are on everyone's best behalf, on behalf of the U.S. government writ large not just what would be best for Donald Trump, just what would be best for the person in the White House.

I think that's even truer when you look at career officials, when you look at people who are in the defense community. A lot of these people went into government not because they wanted to serve whoever was sitting in the White House at any given moment but because they thought that was a good job. They wanted to serve their country.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, there are Democrats who work for President Trump.

MURRAY: Yes.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. You've been watching a special edition of THE LEAD: "THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS". Our coverage on CNN continues right now. See you tomorrow.