Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Ex-Diplomat On Hill As First Witness In Ukraine Probe; Trump Rages As House Democrats Threaten To Subpoena White House; Washington Post Reports Trump Involved Vice President Pence In Efforts To Pressure Ukraine; One Of Last Democratic Holdouts Announces Support Of Impeachment Probe. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


BERTNUM JEAN, FATHER OF BOTHAM JEAN: -- to watch him develop into a great song leader.

[10:00:03]

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Of course, he said his son's death is still very fresh but also that he has no hatred for Guyger, and, well, if you can believe it, like to befriend her.

Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour, I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Right now, the first witness in the impeachment inquiry is on Capitol Hill testifying. Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine spoke behind closed doors in front of three committees. We're learning that dozens of pages were delivered ahead of his deposition this morning.

HARLOW: This was all sparked by President Trump's pressure on the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Democrats say more subpoenas could be coming if the White House refuses to release for documents related to that effort.

In just a few minutes, the president is set to leave the White House. He's headed to Florida. Will he follow up on his bruising back and forth with reporters that we saw yesterday? Basically, will he take reporter questions? And if he does, will he weigh in on that Washington Post reporting that a top staffer for the vice president was on that Ukraine call?

SCIUTTO: Our team is covering all angles of this impeachment inquiry. Let's begin with CNN's Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.

Three committees today for Kurt Volker, he's going to be asked very specific questions here. Do we know anything about the story he's going to tell? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're waiting any sort of readout once members start to leave this closed-door brief and witness interview that's happening right now. He's been in there about an hour. The interview started at 9:30 Eastern.

You can see not just this is going to be led by the House Intelligence Committee but also staff members will be doing this interview, but members of these three different committees have started to arrive. So expect some members will try to engage in the questioning as well.

And the questioning is going to center a lot around what was alleged in this whistleblower complaint that Mr. Volker was trying to navigate concerns from the Ukrainian leadership about the differing messages that were coming out from the administration and as well as the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about what to do about Ukraine, what to do about this investigation. The president was urging the Ukrainian officials to launch against his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

We're going to learn a lot about those communications, how he felt about what was happening, his own communications with the president, with Giuliani, what happened there. So expect to learn a lot from these members -- these members expect to learn a lot from this interview. The question is how much does he ultimately reveal?

But I can tell you, talking to members of this committee, that the expectations are pretty high, that he will reveal a lot given the fact that he did step aside as the special envoy to Ukraine and then came and talked to this committee and also, of course, as we know, the State Department tried to push back these interviews of these current and former state officials. He agreed to come as scheduled today. So we'll see ultimately what he reveals to this committee, guys.

HARLOW: I think it all indicates he's going to say a lot, Manu, especially because he's got this narrative from Rudy Giuliani and all of these text messages out there. I think he's going to want to complete the story that has been painted about him by Giuliani. Thank you, Manu.

Let's go to the White House. Joe Johns is there. The president is about to leave any minute for Florida, but do we know if he's going to stop and talk to reporters and answer the questions that frankly he didn't answer yesterday?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anybody's guess and sort of luck of the draw. As you know, when the president leaves, a lot of times, he does stop and talk to reporters, sometimes at length, the question, of course, as you said, whether he'll do that this time. And there is that key question he got from a reporter from Reuters just yesterday at that news conference asking essentially why or what the president was trying to get out of the president of Ukraine at the time he had that conversation on July 25th.

So that's the question at the center of it all and it has to be answered very gingerly. But there are other things this administration is worrying about with regard to this. Probably top from the list is that threat from the chairman of the House Oversight Committee that he will issue subpoenas by Friday if the White House does not give him information about the administration's dealings with Ukraine.

Now, there's also concern that some of this could be spreading over to the office of the vice president. As you know, he has had some dealings with Ukraine. He says he was clueless as to any subtext or what it was the administration may have been getting at. Nonetheless, we do now know, according to two sources, that one of his top officials is National Security Adviser Keith Kellogg was on that July 25th call. So that is cause for concern also.

And on top of all that, we've had this report now that the courts have told essentially or asked the DOJ if, in fact, they're going to hold on to records, the White House records of the president's communications with foreign leaders. Back to you.

[10:05:16]

HARLOW: Right, which they've said that they will. Joe, thank you. We'll see if the president talks in just a minute.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, one of the last Democratic holdouts in the House is now throwing his support behind the impeachment inquiry. Here is New York Congressman Max Rose just last night explaining why he changed his mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): So while the president of the United States may be willing to violate the Constitution to get re-elected, I will not. I will not shirk my duty and I will not violate my oath. I will support and I will defend the United States Constitution.

And it is for that reason that I intend to fully support this impeachment inquiry and follow the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Congressman Rose joins me now. He's a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He's, of course, a veteran himself of the war in Afghanistan. We're hearing a purple heart and bronze star, also member of the Homeland Security Committee. Congressman, we appreciate your time.

ROSE: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Thanks for taking the time this morning.

You were one of the last, and there's still some other Democrats holding out, but to support the impeachment inquiry. And just last month, you argued that impeachment will only tear our country apart further. What changed for you?

ROSE: So, first of all, several things. First of all is that this is an incredibly serious and credible allegation that directly implicates the president and revolves around not only a national security issue but also a way in which the president potentially personally used the apparatus of the state to advance his own self-interest. I take that incredibly seriously. But on the same hand, we have got to not only figure out the facts here, we've got to earn the trust of the American people. And it was for that reason that I thought initially we could proceed with a normal investigation.

What we have seen, though over the last few days is not only this president and his White House, but the secretary of state and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, obstruct each and every step of the way. We have no choice now but to proceed with an impeachment inquiry. And the only person that the president has to blame is himself. This is a new chapter, a new investigation, and it's something that is not about partisanship, it's about upholding the Constitution.

SCIUTTO: I don't have to tell you about the politics here, Staten Island, the only borough in New York that voted for President Trump 2016. You won a district to Trump himself, won by 17 points. Are you afraid that this support might lose you your seat?

ROSE: So I'm not afraid at all. I'm thinking about politics. I've sworn an oath to the Constitution twice in my life. First when I enlisted in the military nearly ten years ago and the second earlier this year when I became a United States congressman. I did not swear an oath to politics.

I'd also like to point out to you that the great people of Staten Island also voted for me in 2018. They're not Republicans, they're not Democrats, they're not partisans, they're patriots. They vote for the person, not the party, and they want to see us actually focus on bread and butter issues. And we've got to make sure that those continue to be the priority. But at the same time, nobody is above the law in this country.

Let me just add one other thing though. You talk about the hard politics of this situation. The politics will remain to be seen but there are 19 Republicans that right now sit in seats that Donald Trump won by less than he won my seat. Let's see them show just a little bit of encourage and integrity.

SCIUTTO: You make the point that you took an oath to defend this Constitution twice, of course, as a sitting congressman but also as a soldier in the U.S. military. There are Republicans who did the same.

ROSE: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Did you speak privately with fellow veterans on the other side of the aisle about your argument hear for supporting this and do you hear from them, well, listen, maybe this is a step too far for me?

ROSE: Well, look, I respect my colleagues across the aisle. I certainly respect their service, not only now but in previous forms. And what I believe over the course of the coming weeks and months is you'll see some of them make the same decision that I have made. But what's most important here is that we do not jump either to any conclusions. This is a sad, sad day for America. No one should cheer this, no one should applaud it. There were Democrats that signed on to impeachment before they were even sworn in. That's absolutely wrong. But what's even more wrong is Republicans who dismiss these claims, dismiss these allegations as credible as they are, just because it's a member of their own party.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I've covered Russian interference in the U.S. election 2016, 2018 --

ROSE: I'm sure you have.

SCIUTTO: -- since the very beginning. And what strikes me is that here we are 11 months -- 13 months rather from another election. The president is not talking about defending the next election from Russian interference.

[10:10:04]

In fact, he's still exploring, did Russia actually interfere. And that's part of the pressure that he put on Ukraine here. You're on the Homeland Security Committee. For people at home who care about their vote, who's protecting the 2020 election and is the president being derelict in his duty?

ROSE: I still have faith in our public servants, whether it's the men and women in uniform or the men and women who are working for state, local and the federal government.

But let's just imagine for a moment. If this president was as captivated, as committed, as obsessed with infrastructure, lowering drug prices, gun control, the opioid epidemic, serving our veterans, draining the swamp, all the things that he spoke about in 2016, imagine if he was as obsessed with those issues as he is with the Mueller report. This country would be doing unbelievable things and he'd be leading it. It's not too late. Maybe can he turn the page.

SCIUTTO: Can you just -- yes or no, can the U.S. defend its elections against Russian interference without presidential leadership?

ROSE: Yes, I certainly believe that we can. As I said, I have faith in our men and women who are serving this government. But we certainly need presidential leadership right now, now more than ever. And on top of that, we need Mitch McConnell to fully sign on to the legislation the House has passed to secure our elections going forward.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Max Rose, thanks so much for coming on. We look forward to keeping up the conversation.

ROSE: Thanks you so much again.

HARLOW: That was fascinating.

SCIUTTO: Well, throughout this conversation, President Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on almost every allegation against him. But with the controversy surrounding Trump's call with the Ukrainian president, we have a transcript here that very clearly displays the president's actions and statements and pressure.

Now, as the president regurgitates claims of a perfect call, in his words, he is falsely attacking the process of the whistleblower complaint itself, the latest attack, a false claim that House Intel Chair Adam Schiff co-wrote the whistleblower's complaint.

The fact is that the whistleblower's attorney says their client contacted House Intel staff for guidance before sending the complaint. A spokesperson for Schiff says the whistleblower was then advised to contact the Intel Community I.G., which the whistleblower did.

When asked by CNN if Schiff or the House panel helped with the complaint in any way, the whistleblower's attorney, Mark Zaid, said, quote, absolutely not.

Then there's this claim that the whistleblower complaint did not match the events laid out in the transcript. It's also not true. Just look at the transcript. The whistleblower's three primary allegations about the call prove to be accurate or very similar to that transcript as released by the White House.

Trump says the whistleblower lacked firsthand knowledge of the call. That claim was also debunked by the Intel Community I.G. himself. The complaint itself even reads, I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials.

One more, President Trump also pedaling what is a conspiracy theory here circulating online, suggesting the whistleblower rules were secretly changed. They weren't. In fact, this whistleblower filled out the same form used for whistleblowers since May 2018. So as much as the president asserts that this is all a lie, a conspiracy, a witch hunt to get him out of office, remember, these are the facts. Listen to the facts, this is reality, even if it isn't the president's reality.

HARLOW: Yes, amen to that. It's exhausting for people, I think, but so important to just hammer the facts back time and time and time again.

SCIUTTO: Because the strategy is just to throw so many pieces of jell-o against the wall, right? And this information --

HARLOW: And see what sticks.

SCIUTTO: You might abandon one and move on, but they keep at it.

HARLOW: We'll keep doing that every morning for you here.

Still to come, the president is expected to leave the White House at any minute. He has been openly expressing his frustration with the impeachment probe. Will he answer reporter questions this morning?

Also, new morning that says the president involved the vice president, Mike Pence, in his efforts to pressure Ukraine's leader to investigate Joe Biden and his son. We'll talk about what the vice president knew and didn't know. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

SCIUTTO: Right now as we speak, President Trump set to depart the White House for Florida as his private anger over the Ukraine controversy and questions pours out in public.

HARLOW: We understand that he's taking reporter question so you'll hear from him shortly, this as the president just unleashed his frustrations in that joint presser with the Finnish president yesterday. If you missed it, you should especially watch the exchange with Jeff Mason of Reuters. Will we see more of that as he talks to reporters right now?

With us now, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, Bloomberg Political Reporter Sahil Kapur and The Washington Post Columnist, Max Boot. Good morning.

Forgive us if we have to interrupt you mid-segment because of the president, but let me just start with you, Dana. You've got a lot of new reporting, some on Biden, which we'll get to in a moment, but let's begin with your reporting on those in the Republican Party and their concerns over how this administration is handling this inquiry.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, or not handling, except if you're the president of the United States. And sources that I'm talking to, Jamie Gangel as well, are telling us that it is the combination of the president just shooting from the hip in typical Trump-style but that plus, plus.

[10:20:03]

I mean, even for Trump, it's on steroids, the way that he is just saying everything that he feels, as you mentioned, in private and very much going on the attack in press conferences, on Twitter, going after every shiny object, but also the fact that the frustration is in the fact that they don't know what else House Democrats going to uncover.

They don't know what they don't know, which is why, yes, Congress is on recess, but even in this atmosphere, the fact that we have heard very, very little from Republicans out on television defending the president, except for a couple who came out on the weekend, like Jim Jordan ran into a buzz saw fact-checking from our colleague, Jake Tapper, they've been quiet because they just don't know what else is coming and they're not getting enough direction from the White House staff.

SCIUTTO: And Kevin McCarthy clearly hadn't read the transcript when he spoke to Scott Pelley over the weekend as well.

Sahil Kapur, though, the Politico reporting this morning that the NRCC's numbers looking at swing districts in 2020 that most voters in those swing districts want Congress to be focusing on something else other than impeachment, and it's the party's numbers, but the politics are complicated here, are they not, as to how folks outside of New York and D.C. are reading this story?

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG POLITICAL REPORTER: They are complicated, Jim. And it is dizzying how sharply the politics have shifted just in the last week or week-and-a-half. I mean, the narrative for months was that this was dangerous for Democrats, that there were swing state Democrats who didn't want to touch impeachment because it would hurt them. And all of the sudden, you're seeing some Democrats in the toughest districts, including Max Rose, who you just had on, coming out emphatically for impeachment. And suddenly a handful of Republicans in tough districts are saying, hey, maybe the president should be looked into.

Now, no Republicans are for an impeachment inquiry. They don't like the I word at this point. But we have seen polls showing as much as a 20-point shift in the direction of impeachment. Of course, Democrats still have that tight rope to walk, as, again, you saw from Max Rose, they don't want this to be seen as their entire agenda. They want to be seen working on kitchen table issues, healthcare, paychecks, USMCA and trade, that sort of thing. But things have really shifted. It's not quite clear how this breaks out. There are an enormous amount of unknowns in this. But we are seeing a very, very volatile political landscape on impeachment.

HARLOW: Listen to this, Max, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This is in her interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. Here is how she frames the president right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I think the president knows the argument that can be made against him, and he's scared. And so he's trying to divert attention from that to where it's standing in the way of legislation.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: You see --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: She chooses her words carefully. She chose to call him scared, Max Boot. Is that an effective strategy against this president? He just looked very angry yesterday.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he was clearly having a meltdown. But I think Speaker Pelosi is absolutely right, that the president is trying to do whatever he can to distract attention from the fact that he has basically impeached himself. I mean, the reason why I think impeachment is inevitable right now is because of the transcript, which shows Donald Trump himself said, the ten words that have gotten him into trouble, I would like you to do us a favor though. That is a clear evidence of a quid pro quo.

That's not made up by the whistleblower, that's not made up by Adam Schiff. The president cannot blame anybody but himself. And so he's trying to distract attention from that with his lies, with his attacks, trying everything possible to focus attention away from the conduct, which he himself committed, which is in the transcript released by the White House.

So, you know, he's flailing around and, you know, it's too soon to say whether his tactics will work or not. I think one of the most striking polls I've seen this week is that while support for impeachment has definitely gone up, there was a poll showing that 40 percent of Republicans don't realize that Trump asked the president of Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden. I mean, that's amazing.

SCIUTTO: Yeah.

Dana, Kurt Volker is testifying, as we speak. The guy is a Trump appointee. He was inside the Ukraine issue himself personally for months. You know, he's not a passive observer here. But you see the Trump attack machine already going in, describing him as not being on the Trump train. They've done this before. He's not really a loyalist, can't trust him, et cetera. But his position gives him enormous credibility, does it not? Tell us about the significance of his testimony today.

BASH: Yes. He's not a Trumpee. He is a career foreign service person. He is somebody who has allegiance to that. He has a good reputation for having, you know, good diplomatic antenna working across parties, across administrations. And he is a John McCain kind of Republican. He heads the McCain Institute.

[10:25:02]

So he is somebody who the Trump people are worried about, which is why they say he's not a Trump loyalist, because he's not.

So the fact that he's going in there, he resigned from his position, which allowed him to go in and talk to members of Congress. And apparently, according to our Kylie Atwood and Evan Perez, is bringing some documents with him, suggests that he is going to tell it like it is. What did he see and what did he hear and maybe even most importantly, given the fact that he has such experience in Ukraine, what did the Ukrainians think that the president's message was? Did they feel that they were -- that he was being pressured or that it was a quid pro quo? He'll know the answer to that.

HARLOW: Max, The Washington Post reporting this morning about the vice president that not only was he pushed and instructed, is the word they used, by the president not to go to Zelensky's inauguration in the spring but also that he was the one having to message Zelensky why the aid was being held up. But those close to Pence are insisting this morning he didn't know about the July 25th call, he didn't know about any ask for a Biden investigation. If all of that is true, and we have no reason to believe it's not, what does that tell you about the vice president's role and how out of the loop he was in the big picture?

BOOT: Well, I think Vice President Pence is trying the Sergeant Klink defense, I know nothing. I know nothing. I mean, it's pretty incredible that he would not know what was going on, because it was not exactly a secret that Rudy Giuliani was running around trying to pressure the Ukrainians to implicate Joe Biden. I mean, Rudy Giuliani was bragging about this in the newspapers.

And, of course, we know that Vice President Pence's own national security adviser was on that infamous July 25th call. And, apparently, Pence himself received that readout of the July 25th call and then he was to go pressure Zelensky about, quote, unquote, corruption. I mean,

does Pence really imagine that this is the only country in the world where Donald Trump is actually worried about rooting out corruption? I mean, it seems pretty clear that corruption is a code word for dirt on Joe Biden.

And so I guess Pence has two choices here. He can either admit that he was part of this nefarious scheme to betray the trust of the American people or he can claim that he was clueless and had no idea what he was involved in. And so he's obviously going for the clueless defense. But it's hard to be very convinced by that.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Going for the latter at least for right now. Thank you, Dana, Max, Sahil, we appreciate it.

Again, the president is speaking, answering reporter questions. You'll see that on the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:30:00]