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CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Pressured U.K. and Australia Over Mueller Investigation; Live Coverage of Trump Press Conference; Joe Biden Responded to Trump Last Night. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:32:25]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: CNN has learned that President Trump tried to persuade two key U.S. allies in his effort to discredit Robert Mueller's investigation. The president apparently believed that newly elected prime ministers in the U.K. and Australia could help him.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: According to people familiar with those phone calls, President Trump raised the matter with both prime ministers over the summer, once again using foreign relationships to go after domestic rivals.

Joining us now is former deputy director of the FBI and CNN contributor Andy McCabe. Good to have you on.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much. Let's talk about -- I wonder if, legally, can you draw a distinction here between the president, say in that phone call, pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on a potential political opponent -- likely political opponent, you could say -- Joe Biden?

And Bill Barr, traveling around the world, going to the U.K., Australia, elsewhere to help with a DOJ probe of the origins of the Russia investigation, are those --

MCCABE: Sure.

SCIUTTO: -- two different lines of inquiry?

MCCABE: I think they're slightly different, but they share some concerning similarities. So there is nothing inappropriate about the attorney general traveling around, meeting with colleagues in foreign nations and advancing the cause of U.S. interests, and pursuing investigations.

And these two colleagues or nations, particularly, Australia and the United Kingdom, are some of our closest allies. They are Five Eyes partners, they exchange --

HARLOW: Right. MCCABE: -- information on criminal and national security matters with

us every day. So this is not unusual.

What is strange here, is to have the president directly involved. So I conducted and oversaw international investigations for 21 years under four presidents -- two Democratic, two Republican -- I have never, in all my experience, seen the president of the United States weigh in directly on an investigative matter.

So the question for us is, why does he feel the need to kind of tee up this investigative effort and the attorney general's introduction, on a matter that is so clearly in his own personal political interest, rather than the country's interest?

HARLOW: As we wait to be able to play the president's remarks -- which, from the headlines we're seeing, are quite newsworthy -- in just a minute for our viewers, as soon as we get them in.

MCCABE: Sure.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about big testimony tomorrow on the Hill. Behind closed doors, the inspector general for the intelligence community, appointed by the president --

MCCABE: Right.

HARLOW: -- Michael Atkinson, is going to answer questions. And, knowing everything we know about him, he'll be very straightforward.

There's something that he wrote this week, in one of the memos he put out, that struck me, and I wonder if it struck you. He said there is, quote, "other information obtained" during the IGIC's preliminary review, that supported the whistleblower's allegations.

[10:35:03]

MCCABE: That's right.

HARLOW: Other information, which I read as, on top of the whistleblower complaint.

MCCABE: That's absolutely right. In fact, in that statement, which is remarkable and incredibly well-reasoned and a really first-class piece of lawyering, he makes two references to uncovering, in the course of his investigation, other information. So that's going to be either information or possibly additional witnesses --

SCIUTTO: Right.

MCCABE: -- who have information that was not presented but is --

HARLOW: OK.

MCCABE: -- consistent with the whistleblower.

SCIUTTO: Here's the president now, just moments ago, on the White House lawn.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Villages in Ocala, Florida. We have a big crowd. We're going to be talking about health care, we're doing a lot of work on health care. We're very successful at it. And so we're going to be speaking to the great people of Florida, and I think they're very happy with the job we're doing, yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What exactly -- what exactly (INAUDIBLE) close (ph) the (ph) (inaudible)?

TRUMP: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What exact is inaccurate (ph) in the whistleblower's complaint?

TRUMP: Well, if you look at the whistleblower's complaint, it's totally inaccurate because the conversation that I had was absolutely perfect. And most people that have read it say the same thing. The whistleblower never saw the conversation. He got his information, I guess, second or thirdhand. He wrote something that was total fiction. And now, when people see that, they're not happy.

TEXT; Facts First: Trump says whistleblower lacked firsthand knowledge of call. Intelligence community inspector general says whistleblower had "direct knowledge of certain alleged conduct." Whistleblower: "I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials..."

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- (INAUDIBLE) it's a sign (ph) (INAUDIBLE) leadership (ph)?

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at a lot of different things. China's coming in next week, we're going to have a meeting with them, we'll see. But we're doing very well. Some of the -- the numbers, I think, are being affected by all of the nonsense, all of the politics going on in this country by the Democrats. I call them the do-nothings, they do nothing for this country. They don't care about this country.

But the numbers, really, are looking very good, going into the future. So we'll see. I have a lot of options on China. But if they don't do what we want, we have tremendous -- tremendous power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call? Exactly.

TEXT: Facts First: Joe Biden and Ukraine. No public evidence Biden sought to get former Ukrainian prosecutor removed from any particular case. Investigation was into business dealings with owner of Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma

TRUMP: 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 -- and, by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.

TEXT: Facts First: Hunter Biden in Ukraine. There is no evidence Hunter Biden was ever under investigation. Former Ukraine deputy prosecutor said Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws

TRUMP: So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens because nobody has any doubt that they weren't crooked. That was a crooked deal, a hundred percent. He had no knowledge of energy, didn't know the first thing about it. All of a sudden, he's getting $50,000 a month plus a lot of other things? Nobody has any doubt.

And they got rid of a prosecutor who was a very tough prosecutor, they got rid of him. Now, they're trying to make it the opposite way, but they got rid -- so if I were the president, I would certainly recommend that of Ukraine.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you asked (ph) President (ph) Xi (ph) (INAUDIBLE) at (ph) all (ph)?

TRUMP: I haven't, but it's certainly something we can start thinking about. Because I'm sure that President Xi does not like being under that kind of scrutiny, where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy. He got kicked out of the Navy. All of a sudden, he's getting billions of dollars. You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- either (ph) the White House is lying (ph), (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, I leave that to the lawyers. I can say, though, that Schiff has now been proven to be a liar. We've known it for three years, because they've been trying to impeach for three years. He's a liar, he's a stone-cold liar. So I leave that to the lawyers, that's up to them to decide. But the whole investigation is crumbling.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you still work with Congress to get other work done? Could (ph) you still work with (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I can, yeah, I can. I can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How (ph)?

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) I can (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Well, we have a real problem. We've been hitting the Taliban very, very hard. And as far as I'm concerned, they still haven't recovered from killing 12 people. One happened to be a great American soldier from Puerto Rico, and they still have not recovered and they probably never will.

(CROSSTALK)

[10:40:06]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What (ph) is (ph) McConnell telling (ph) you about (ph) impeachment (ph), (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: No, but I read Mitch McConnell's statement yesterday. And he read my phone call. And as you know, he put out a statement that said that was the most innocent phone call he's read. And I spoke to him about it, too. He read my phone call with the president of Ukraine, Mitch McConnell.

He said, that was the most innocent phone call that I've read.

I mean, give me a break. Anybody that reads it says the same thing. And the only people that don't understand it is when they look at the false, fabricated, fraudulent statement made by Shifty Schiff.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) not (ph) (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, I think Biden is going down. And I think his whole situation -- because, now, you may very well find that there are many other countries that they scammed, just like they scammed China and Ukraine and basically, who are they really scamming? The USA. And it's not good.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: And that's probably why China, for so many years, has had a sweetheart deal where China rips off the USA because they deal like people with Biden, where they give the son a billion and a half dollars, and that's probably why China has such a sweetheart deal that, for so many years, they've been ripping off our country.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support -- do you support getting (INAUDIBLE), would you sign (ph) (INAUDIBLE), federal law?

TRUMP: We're looking at it, we're looking at it very closely. It's under study.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On North Korea, (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: We'll see. They want to talk, and we'll be talking to them soon. We'll see.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Are (ph) going to -- yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine? Was she a problem, why did you recall her?

TRUMP: I heard very bad things about her. And I don't know if I recalled or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a long period of time, not good.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you. I'll see you in Florida, I'll see you all in Florida.

SCIUTTO: Well, there you have it. The president, who's now being investigated by the House for pressuring a foreign leader to investigate his potential political opponent, has just, in plain sight, asked two countries to investigate his political opponent. Not just Ukraine, saying he would -- absolutely thinks they should investigate Biden --

HARLOW: But China.

SCIUTTO: -- but China as well. And we should note, China and the U.S., in the midst of --

HARLOW: I think --

SCIUTTO: -- high-stakes trade talks.

HARLOW: I think you're right. It's very notable. So the Chinese delegation's going to come to Washington next week --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: -- amid these tariffs and trade talks, and the president just said -- and I quote -- "China should start an investigation into the Bidens."

SCIUTTO: Listen, as a practical matter, China will look at this as a bargaining chip in those --

HARLOW: Sure.

SCIUTTO: -- high-stakes, multi-billion-dollar --

HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: -- trade talks, investigating a political opponent.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: It's remarkable.

Andy McCabe, spent a long time at the DOJ. Is it illegal for a sitting U.S. president to publicly state their -- listen, these foreign countries, one an adversary, should investigate my political opponent?

MCCABE: Well, before we get to the legality of it, let's just note how utterly -- what a departure this is from what everything we've experienced to this day, right? The president is primarily responsible for protecting American citizens. So to hear the president, suggesting, exhorting, pushing a foreign nation, especially one that doesn't have the greatest reputation of rule of law and democratic protections to people under investigation, pushing that country to investigate a U.S. citizen is a remarkable departure --

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes --

MCCABE: -- from anything we're used to.

SCIUTTO: -- it's a good point. It's an authoritarian state --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- with no rule of law.

MCCABE: That's right, that's right.

HARLOW: So -- so -- and on the legal front, which -- Jim's right to ask that question. Let me read you what we just heard.

MCCABE: Sure.

HARLOW: A reporter asked, "Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would be able to do about the Bidens?" Repeating the Jeff Mason question that he wouldn't --

MCCABE: Of course.

HARLOW: -- answer yesterday. Quote, from the president, I thought -- hoped "if they were honest about it, they would start an investigation into the Bidens."

There's that on Ukraine, there's what I just read about this --

MCCABE: Right.

HARLOW: -- ask of China, now. The legal question becomes, is it legal? Could it be seen as an FEC violation, a campaign --

SCIUTTO: Right.

HARLOW: -- donation? MCCABE: There are all kinds of ways that it could be illegal. Whether or not it is, we'll see, as the congressional inquiry plays out. It could be an FEC violation, if it is seen as a foreign aid to a -- in a U.S. domestic political matter.

It could be seen as bribery, if -- requesting something in return for an official act, which is, in the context of the Ukraine call, easier to see, as we now know that the president was holding back crucial military assistance to Ukraine.

Or it could be seen as a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issue, where you are actually soliciting -- it's like, kind of, bribery in the opposite direction --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MCCABE: -- you're soliciting a foreign government to take an official act on your behalf.

[10:45:02]

These are very tough cases. There's a lot of kind of legal intricacies there, that lawyers would have to work through. But regardless of all that, it is a shocking abuse of the presidential power to conduct foreign relations.

SCIUTTO: Listen, we have Jeremy Diamond here, Dana Bash, Sahil Kapur as well.

Dana Bash, the president and his allies have spent the last several days claiming the whistleblower complaint, which said that the president was pressuring a foreign government to investigate his opponent, was false, questionable, et cetera, and the president walks out on the White House lawn and says, yes, Ukraine should investigate my political opponent and, by the way, so should China.

HARLOW: He just said it.

SCIUTTO: Did he just cop to the -- to the allegation?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes. He did. And doubled down on it, he added a country, as Andy McCabe just said, a country that has -- and you know well, Jim, since you lived there -- does not have the greatest track record.

SCIUTTO: No.

BASH: But can we just take a step back? This is -- that was so stunning because it is the biggest piece of evidence we have, to date, that Donald Trump doesn't think he's doing anything wrong. He's playing by his own rules and, frankly, he's playing a different game than everybody else is, in Washington, who adheres to the basics of the Constitution. He does not. He just doesn't think --

HARLOW: Yes.

BASH: -- he did anything wrong.

SCIUTTO: No.

BASH: And that's what this is going to come down to. Andy was talking about -- rightly so, he's a good lawyer -- about FEC rules. The impeachment process is a political process.

The Democrats in the House are going to look at that, just as they have looked at the transcript and, now, out of the president's own mouth, saying, yes, I am asking foreign countries to investigate my political opponent. Even if they find nothing else, that in and of itself --

HARLOW: Yes.

BASH: -- is impeachable from their point of view.

HARLOW: So --

BASH: And the president doesn't get it, and he doesn't agree. And the two are not ever going to meet.

HARLOW: You're completely right, Dana. But add on top of that what we know. And that is -- that Monmouth poll showed it, that Max Boot brought up earlier -- the fact that this week, 40 percent of Republicans in this country do not believe that the president asked the president of Ukraine in -- to investigate the Bidens --

BASH: Right.

HARLOW: -- despite the transcript and despite the president saying it. So what --

BASH: Right.

HARLOW: -- you know, does this, Dana, change anything on that front?

BASH: I mean, do those 40 percent of Republicans get their news from conservative cable, from conservative media? And if they do, they're not even going to hear that, they're only going to hear Democrats --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: -- are trying to unfairly stage a coup, Democrats are trying to steal the election. And they're not even going to hear what you just said, what the president just said, and certainly not in the context that it should be heard, which is, the president saying that Ukraine and even China should investigate his political opponent. They're not even going to hear what that actually means because --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: -- they're going to hear it filtered through conservative media.

SCIUTTO: OK. Sahil, so what about sitting members of U.S. Congress, of the Republican Party who, to this point, virtually across the board, but not entirely -- have sat on their hands and remained silent? The president just said it on the White House lawn. Ukraine and China, look into my political opponent. While, at the same time -- and again, you've got to fact-check the president repeatedly because he unleashed a series of uncorroborated claims against the Bidens, as he did that. But set that aside for a moment, Sahil. Does this move the dial for sitting members of U.S. Congress, who have sworn an oath?

SAHIL KAPUT, POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, Jim, it's a remarkable thing. The president just said out loud what was allegedly the most damning thing in the call that sparked the impeachment inquiry. So that certainly, as Dana pointed out, gives Democrats a lot to work with.

Now, will Republicans move? It's a complicated question. The sources I'm talking to on Capitol Hill say there's not a ton of movement. That, in the Senate especially, if the vote were to be taken now, there would be not a single Republican vote to convict the president.

They are concerned about his rhetoric, they always are. But the recent surveys that show the country moving toward impeachment, especially independent and Democratic voters, moving toward impeachment, show Republicans still overwhelmingly, by about a margin of 90 percent or so, opposing it.

So they are listening to the president, the president is running the same playbook here as he did on the Mueller probe, which is to attack the investigation and to undermine the process, and to create a counternarrative in which he and, by extension, his supporters, are the ones being victimized. So if Republican voters believe that, I suspect the dial is not going to move a whole lot in Congress.

HARLOW: Jeremy, Dana's great reporting overnight and Jamie Gangel, that, you know, the GOP, many members of the party are freaked out now and they don't know how the White House is handling this. Is there any strategy right now? How much harder did the president just make their job inside the White House?

[10:50:00]

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He makes it a lot harder, especially when he, once again, says the quiet part out loud. And I think that that is kind of the big point here, is this is what the president tried to do very often, in terms of normalizing his past behavior.

He is trying to normalize what he said on the call with the Ukrainian president in private, asking him to investigate the Bidens, by saying it in public, and saying it in public about China as well. Because when you hear the president say it out loud, you say, well, this can't be impeachable, he's saying it out loud, he's saying it in public, he has no qualms about -- about making --

SCIUTTO: Yes. DIAMOND: -- about pressuring other countries to investigate his

political rivals. And so what we're seeing is the president trying to move the dial once again. And that goes to that understanding of Republicans and his base. They see him saying this, you know, they're going to think that it's all right.

SCIUTTO: Well, he called on Russia to hack his political opponent in 2016: "Russia, if you're listening." I suppose we shouldn't be surprised --

HARLOW: Good point.

SCIUTTO: -- that the question is, will he be held accountable politically? That's the ultimate question here.

Guys, thanks to all of you. Quite a few moments from the White House lawn.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:55:42]

SCIUTTO: More now on our breaking news -- and it is truly remarkable, stand by -- President Trump just saying, on the White House lawn, that Ukraine and China, a U.S. adversary with no credible rule of law, should investigate an American, former Vice President Joe Biden, who happens to be a likely or possible political opponent of this president.

HARLOW: Joining us to discuss this, Xochitl Hinojosa, communications director for the Democratic National Committee. All of the questions we had planned for you are going to have to wait. I just want your response to this. The president, flat-out, China -- who's coming next week to negotiate on trade -- should investigate the Bidens, and so should Ukraine. Do you view that as legal? Or do you view it as a potential FEC violation?

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It was just an admission. He just admitted, right now, that -- and on television, in front of the American people, exactly what he's been saying all along, that the whistleblower is wrong about. They've been trying to discredit the whistleblower, and how he is saying that, you know what, I am pressuring them.

HARLOW: Do you think it's a -- can be viewed as a campaign donation to -- yeah --

HINOJOSA: I think that's -- that is what we'll talk to our attorneys about. I think that's what the House is --

HARLOW: Soliciting one? HINOJOSA: That is something that the House will be looking at, and that's something that is problematic because we should look at this. It's -- he is asking a foreign government to investigate his political opponent.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HINOJOSA: And what he's been trying to do, all along, is discredit the whistleblower, and distract. So right now, just look at his own words. I mean, that's what we'll be talking to voters about, is look at Donald Trump's own words here.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about this particular foreign country, China. It's an authoritarian state. I lived there a couple years, I've covered it for decades. It kills and imprisons political opponents, it has not credible rule of law. Tell us about the qualitative difference of a sitting U.S. president, to call on that country to investigate an American for political effect.

HINOJOSA: Well, I think that with China and also with Ukraine, but generally, it's just troubling. And every American should be scared right now, that this is what Donald Trump is spending his time on. And I think especially with China. You guys fact-checked this, you found that there was nothing -- there is no there, there. It has been fact-checked time and time again.

But what is troubling is Donald Trump's conspiracy theories. Last week, we were talking about -- and we've forgotten about it -- that the DNC server was in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HINOJOSA: What -- this is the president of the United States, saying that the DNC server is in Ukraine. I will tell you right now, the DNC server is not in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: And, by the way, U.S. intelligence agencies agree with you. That is not a political talking point, it is not what the U.S. investigation found.

HINOJOSA: It is -- it is -- it's very troubling, and people should be really disturbed. And I think you saw Biden, last night, come out aggressively, which he should. Because all of these allegations are unfounded.

HARLOW: Let's listen to that quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: He's going to have -- he's going to keep responding forcefully, I think.

Before you go, we'd love to hear any update you might have on Senator Bernie Sanders, his health. Obviously, he got two stents placed in his heart, he's off the campaign trail indefinitely, we hope he's OK. Do you have any updates? Will he be on the debate stage?

HINOJOSA: Well, we hope that he is doing well and I believe that he is, and that's what his campaign has said.

I don't have any updates. We are planning for him to be on the debate stage right now --

HARLOW: On both October 10th and the 15th?

HINOJOSA: -- on -- we have a debate on the 15th, and that's the one that the DNC has sanctioned --

HARLOW: Right.

HINOJOSA: -- and so we don't have any plans for him not to be on the debate stage right now. And knowing Bernie Sanders -- and I think Chuck Schumer said -- he is back to, you know, his normal self, and I'm sure he'll be back on the campaign trail soon. And we hope to have him at the debate on the 15th.

HARLOW: OK. Xochitl Hinojosa, thank you.

HINOJOSA: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, and we wish him the best of health --

HARLOW: Very much.

HINOJOSA: Yes, definitely.

SCIUTTO: -- to him and his family.

HARLOW: Of course. Thank you very much.

HINOJOSA: Thank you.

HARLOW: What a morning. Thank you all for joining us.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. The news, of course, continues. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.

[11:00:00]