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Growing GOP Concerns about Impeachment; Biden Rails Against Trump; Volker Testifies on Capitol Hill; Sanders Cancels Events after Cardiac Procedure. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Signs warning that more Republicans are concerned about the president's strategy or lack of strategy in the middle of this Ukraine controversy. Several GOP sources tell CNN, a majority of Republicans have been silent on the impeachment inquiry because they don't know what else the House Democrats investigation will reveal or frankly what's going to come next.

SCIUTTO: The handful of Senate Republicans on the ballot in 2020 are potentially vulnerable, so there are certainly a lot at stake there, as well as control of the Senate.

Here with me now to discuss, national politics reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" and CNN political analyst Sabrina Siddiqui, and CNN political commentator and host of "You Decide" podcast, Errol Louis.

Errol, I want to get your sense of where the politics are here on impeachment because it appears that there's a lot of contradictory data out here. You have our own good reporting here that Republicans are nervous. But political reporting today that the NRCC --


SCIUTTO: Which handles congressional campaigns for Republicans, is finding that in their target districts two-thirds of voters, not just Republicans, believe impeachment is sort of a waste of time. They want to talk about other issues. Who's (INAUDIBLE) --

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, look, the NRCC, I mean they may be whistling past the graveyard, frankly. They've got a big problem. They've got a lot of incumbents who are retiring, who are walking away from these races. They may be able to hang on to what they have, but what they have is a minority in the House of Representatives, which is why impeachment is going forward in the first place.

SCIUTTO: But could those numbers be right because I hear from Democratic and Republican lawmakers that when they go to their home districts, people aren't exactly clambering for an impeachment inquiry here. LOUIS: No, that's right.

SCIUTTO: And I know the public polling has moved, but --

LOUIS: Well, it's -- look, it depends on how you're asking the question. It's not going to be top of mind, right? Top of mind is going to be jobs, education, health care, the usual cast of characters.


LOUIS: But if you ask, is this warranted, is it OK for the president to publicly ask for a foreign leader to interfere in our election, nobody is going to be voting for that.

So, you know, the way that the Democrats structure this question, and this is where Nancy Pelosi's strategy comes in, how they structure the question and when and how and why they put it forward will really make the difference.

HARLOW: Right.

And also, I think, Sabrina, to Errol's great point and what Jim brings up, because that's what I hear from people as well, the Democrats also have to deliver on some key things, right?


HARLOW: They can -- they have to prove that their energy and their work is going elsewhere as well, which would make getting USMCA passed of critical importance to them, to be able to show their voters, for example, we -- you know, we delivered on something. We're not just doing impeachment inquiry in Washington.

Do you agree with that assessment?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And I think that Democrats have been engaged in that balancing act ever since they took control of the House of Representatives last January, even as the Mueller investigation continued to unfold and the now Democratic-led committees in the House have pursued various avenues in terms of investigating both the president and his allies. They've also, at the same time, had to balance that with their messaging around issues like Medicare for all and other health care proposals, anti-corruption bills that they passed through the House, anti-gun violence legislation that they also passed through the House. And so when they go out on the campaign trail, I think there is going to be a very key component to the messaging. And one of the Democratic strategists I spoke to framed it this way. He said that the key for Democrats is going to make sure that they don't frame themselves as the pro- impeachment party, that they frame themselves as the anti-corruption party because this really dovetails into the messaging they've had around the president's and his associates and this notion of corruption throughout the administration.

But one of the things that does make the messaging on this easier for Democrats is that the evidence really is in what the president already said in that summary of the call that his own White House put out in public --


SIDDIQUI: Which really is the president explicitly asking a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent.


SIDDIQUI: And that's a lot more cut and dry for people than the Russia investigation and easier for them to comprehend.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Take over the drain the swamp message, they could attempt to, I suppose.

Joe Biden, of course, as you know, Errol, is a target of the president here and these efforts. Listen to how he responded, because he pushed back in stronger terms than he has previously, and I want to get your sense of it. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, let me make something clear to Mr. Trump and hatchet men and the special interest funding his attacks against me, I'm not going anywhere.


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.


SCIUTTO: An effective response from the vice president there?

LOUIS: Well, it's heartfelt. It's understandable. On the other hand, you have to keep in mind, Joe Biden has to keep in mind, the president doesn't need to destroy him. He just needs to create enough confusion that this assumes the kind of dimensions of the e-mail scandal around Hillary Clinton where swing voters, undecided voters, independent voters start to say, I don't know what this is all about, but I don't like this guy. Maybe I stay home.

HARLOW: Is -- is this e-mail server 2.0, Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I don't think that there is a direct line to former Vice President Joe Biden here. It's very complicated, I think, for a lot of people to understand.

HARLOW: Yes, I'm saying in the messaging, right, muddy the water, confuse people.

SIDDIQUI: I -- I think there is an element as to whether this effects the notion of electability upon which he has centered his campaign and does it re-enforce this idea that he's someone who comes into the race with a lot of baggage. If -- if there -- if Republicans and the president are successful and as they're trying to do in pushing this idea that there is something shady that was going on behind the scenes, even if the evidence does not support any wrongdoing on the part of Biden, that's what will become a problem for him. But, so far, we haven't necessarily seen evidence in the polls that this is moving the needle, but it's very early on and I think that's part of why you saw the vice president last night want to go on the offense and try and get out ahead of this.

And also I do think what one of the things that his campaign has pointed out is, if the president wants to engage, there is a response that you might see from Democrats where they'll bring up a lot of the ties that the president's own children, his adult children, have to businesses overseas and the ways that they've tried to profit off of the presidency. So I do think that they believe that this sort of negates itself in terms of an attack.

SCIUTTO: And two of whom currently work for the White House in taxpayer funded roles.

HARLOW: Yes. Very good points.

Thank you, Sabrina.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Errol.

Appreciate it.

LOUIS: Thanks.

HARLOW: Right now the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, is on the Hill testifying. What will he say? What is it going to mean for the administration. Very important testimony. The latest on that ahead.



SCIUTTO: This is a story we've covered and we'll continue to cover. It is one year and a day since the brutal killing of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. There are still very few answers, lots of questions. But now the International Criminal Court is considering an investigation into the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salmon, the suspected man who directed this murder.

Two Washington attorneys are calling for that investigation. They say the Saudi crown prince is responsible for the kidnapping, torture and assassination of Khashoggi, along with other crimes against humanity.

Yesterday, of course, marked one year since the murder and disappearance. Dozens gathered outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to remember him, including his fiance, and also "Washington Post" owner, Jeff Bezos. A memorial stone was unveiled displaying his birth and death dates.

Well, soon, the former State Department employee and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, will face questions from three congressional committees about the Ukraine investigation. Did the president pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent? This as the State Department seems to be in something of turmoil here. Internal conflict over this.

Joining me now, CNN national security reporter Kylie Atwood.

Kylie, good to have you on this morning.

Volker facing those questions now. Do we know what story he's going to tell here?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: We don't exactly know what story he's going to tell. But according to those who are close to him, I've had a bunch of those conversations. And over the past few weeks, they kind of described what he thought he was doing when he connected Giuliani with that Zelensky aide, explaining that he essentially wanted to table the issue. You know, give the political issues to Giuliani so that he could continue to do his work. So I assume that that is something that he is going to be explaining to the committee today.

But we also know, however, that Giuliani was showing off text messages between he and Kurt Volker on Fox News last week during UNGA and the State Department never really came out and defended Kurt Volker. And then, of course, Kurt Volker decided to resign last week.

So, clearly, the -- Volker is going to want to defend himself here. It's going to be his opportunity to bring his side of the story forth because he has remained largely publicly silent and so has the State Department.

Now, we know that just yesterday a bunch of the documents for his deposition were brought to Congress so that they could review him before -- review those documents before today. And tomorrow is the big deadline for the State Department because those documents that have been subpoenaed, forced to be compelled to produce to Congress by Pompeo and by the State Department on the connections between Ukraine and the State Department are expected to come tomorrow. But we're going to have to see if the State Department actually complies with that subpoena because, as you said, Jim, there is some inner turmoil here.


I mean Secretary Pompeo has tried to prevent those five current and former State Department officials from attending the deposition in the time period that the committee requested.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And, you know what some of them are doing, they're defying the secretary of state.

ATWOOD: Right. SCIUTTO: Kylie Atwood, great to have you on the story.

As you noted before the show this morning, this is a significant moment happening on The Hill today. It is really the first official --

HARLOW: It's the first --

SCIUTTO: Interview or testimony in this impeachment inquiry.

HARLOW: It is. And it's important. There will be a lot to follow.

So, ahead, Bernie Sanders off the campaign trail indefinitely right now after a heart procedure. How is he doing? We'll get a check on that ahead.



HARLOW: All right, this morning, Senator Bernie Sanders' wife is with him in Las Vegas as he recovers from a procedure to treat a blocked artery. The Democratic presidential candidate has canceled his scheduled appearances. He is off of the campaign trail until further notice.

SCIUTTO: Yes, sad news for him and his family. The normally energetic Sanders experienced chest discomfort Tuesday night. He asked for a chair to sit down in the campaign event. Sanders, staying on message, tweeted yesterday that he is feeling good and is, quote, lucky to have good health care. Notable.

Ryan Nobles has the latest from Washington.

This came as something as a shock, as you know, Ryan, yesterday. Tell us what you've been hearing from the campaign in the last 24 hours, particularly as to how soon he can get back on the campaign trail.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the short answer is, Jim, that the campaign is being very vague about what the future holds for Senator Sanders.

The only thing we know for sure is that he is feeling much better after having those two stents inserted in that artery that was dealing with a partial blockage. At this point the campaign really won't even tell us if Senator Sanders is still being treated at a hospital or whether or not he's been discharged yet. We've checked in with them this morning. They said no updates as of yet.

I think there is, right now, an internal deliberation about what the next step should be for Senator Sanders. I think at least the first 24 hours is about making sure that his health is in order and that he's able to make a full and complete recovery, and then they will begin the conversations about what this means for the campaign going forward.

But most notably, of course, Jim and Poppy, was that right after they made the announcement that Senator Sanders was dealing with this health condition, they also canceled a $1.3 million ad buy in Iowa. So that's at least some indication that there's at least a deliberation going on within the campaign about what happens next.


SCIUTTO: That's interesting. (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: That -- I didn't -- I hadn't read that. That's interesting, Ryan.

Before you go -- I mean, obviously, we're talking about politics. He's running for president. The most important thing is that he's OK.

NOBLES: Right.

HARLOW: So, first and foremost, we hope he is doing OK.

On the political side, there are some important dates coming up, namely the CNN/"New York Times" debate, which is October 15th. Some other big things. Are those in doubt for him now?

NOBLES: At this point the campaign said that he is off the campaign trail indefinitely. So there are two big dates that I'm keeping a close eye on. The first, you mentioned that debate on the 15th. That's going to be vitally important. But there's also the LGBTQ town hall that CNN is hosting --

HARLOW: Yes, that's right.

NOBLES: On October 10th, which is just a little more than a week away that Senator Sanders had agreed to participate in. I think those are the two big watermarks to see whether or not his health improves enough to get him back out on the campaign trail and those two big events.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes. All right. Wishing him the best.

Ryan, thank you for your reporting. You were great yesterday. You jumped on the news right away. Thank you very much for that.

NOBLES: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So watch this next story coming up because we have so much bad news, we have so much divisive news.


SCIUTTO: But an emotional moment inside a Dallas courtroom. The brother of a murdered man right there hugs and forgives the ex-police officer who killed his brother in his own apartment.

HARLOW: Wow. You'll see more of that ahead.

We're also moments away from the president leaving the White House. He's heading to Florida, but will he stop and speak to reporters and answer their questions? Because -- this is all while his administration's former special envoy to Ukraine is deposed on Capitol Hill behind closed doors.

A lot going on. Stay right there.



SCIUTTO: So, folks, if you missed this moment, you do want to watch it. Dramatic, highly emotional.


SCIUTTO: I can't say I've ever seen anything like this in a courtroom.

HARLOW: I never have.

SCIUTTO: This in Dallas just moments after former police officer Amber Guyger was handed a ten-year sentence for murdering an unarmed black man, her neighbor, Botham Jean, Jean's brother addressed Guyger directly. And what happened next shocked everyone and brought on some tears in that courtroom. Have a look.


BRANDT JEAN, BROTHER OF BOTHAM JEAN: I love you as a person. And I don't wish anything bad on you.

I don't know if this is possible, but can -- can I give her a hug, please? Please?




The judge, Tammy Kemp, also hugged Guyger and then gave her that Bible.

Jean's father, meanwhile, spoke to CNN last hour. He says of course he is hurting in deep pain and describes his son and their entire family, though, as forgiving.


BERTRUM JEAN, FATHER OF BOTHAM JEAN: Grew up in church. He loved to sing. But that was amazing to watch him develop into the great song leader.


I call him the gentle giant because of his size, but he was so soft and.