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Trump Publicly Urges Ukraine And China To Investigate Biden; Pence Repeats Trump's Debunked Biden Conspiracies. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me. President Trump has gone way out of his way to downplay the White House's rough transcript of his call with the Ukrainian President who he repeatedly urged to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter on Trump's baseless claims of corruption.

But who needs a summary when you can hear it right from the President's mouth? Take a listen as Trump revives his Ukraine conspiracy -- oh and adds China to the list.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China Just started investigation into the Biden's because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Biden's.


BALDWIN: That might have cleared things up for Senator Mitt Romney, whose initial reaction to the Ukraine call was the following, quote, "If the President asked or pressured Ukraine's President to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling to the extreme, critical for the facts to come out." It looks like you have your answer now, Senator.

As for the Biden's here's your daily reminder that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by the former Vice President or his son in Ukraine. And with respect to China and Trump's claim that the Father and son got millions of dollars from the country, there is no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden received a dime.

And a lawyer for Hunter Biden pushback on his characterization calling it a quote, "gross misrepresentation." Team Biden says President Trump is quote, "desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed." In fact, just last night before this latest attack, the former VP was little bit more want.


(Cheering and Applause)

BIDEN: You're not going to destroy me, you're not going to destroy my family.


BALDWIN: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us this afternoon, and Jeremy, it seems what the President had to say about China will only make things more difficult over there at the White House.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Very much so, and it all comes Of course, just before the President's team is set to restart those negotiations with China over that ongoing trade war, so this adds a whole new element to that.

But what we saw from the President this morning, you know, after days of him going after the whistleblower seeking to discredit the whistleblower, and that individual's claims, we now have the President essentially confirming what that whistleblower said in the complaint confirming what was already clear from the transcripts of the President's call, which is the President saying that he did indeed hope that Ukraine would start a major investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden as a result of that July conversation.

And it was plain and clear for everyone to see in those comments that you played just moments ago, Brooke, and the President adding to that, of course, as well, also saying that he would like to see China investigate the former Vice President, again, as you mentioned, those allegations that the President is making about the former Vice President and his son as it relates to China, there's no evidence that the former Vice President received money from China as a result of those business dealings.

But what we're seeing here, Brooke really is despite the fact that the White House does not have a war room on impeachment, that there is no clear overarching message that we're hearing from the White House, we're seeing the President really taking the mantle here and running the strategy himself. And that is simply to say whatever is on his mind that seems at the moment, and perhaps to put all of this out in public as if, to say it publicly rather than in a secret telephone conversation with another world leader would somehow normalize the behavior and make it more acceptable.

But as you said, for those senators who were wondering what the President exactly was saying and what his intentions were behind that ask to the Ukrainian President, it's now out in the open and very clear to see.

BALDWIN: Yes, he is basically like China, if you're listening in front of all the news cameras for the world to see. Jeremy Diamond. Thank you very much. Jim Baker is the former F.B.I. General Counsel, as well as the Director of National Security and Cybersecurity at the R Street Institute, he's also a CNN legal analyst. And so Jim Baker, a pleasure, sir. I mean, what we witnessed today from the White House, from this President, just -- was that illegal?

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's unconstitutional. So therefore, it is illegal because it's directly in contravention of the President's duties and responsibilities under the Constitution of the United States. He is not taking care that the laws are faithfully executed.


BAKER: He is not living up to his oath of office, and so this was a very dramatic day for America. In my opinion, a very sad day, too. I just -- I think it's a sad day, and one that all Americans should be troubled about.

The President, if he actually thinks that Joe Biden or any member of his family broke a U.S. law, right? And that's what the President's responsibility is to enforce U.S. law, then he should refer the matter to the Attorney General and tell the Attorney General to ask the F.B.I. where I used to work to investigate. That's the way this is done.

You don't invite a foreign power, especially some -- an entity like the Chinese government to start investigating Americans, let alone Americans who are potential political opponents. The thing here that troubles me the most, is that the President is abusing his power in order to stay in power.

That would be the -- go ahead, I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: No, no. He is doing it in broad daylight. I mean, does he think by saying it publicly? Does that somehow make it okay?

BAKER: No, it doesn't make it okay. If you can't -- I don't want to make -- I don't want to leap to making analogies, right? But you can't stand on a street corner and start proclaiming that you're going to commit a crime, and then go do it and somehow have that be okay.

The thing here is the President has so much power. The President of the United States has so much power that foreign leaders listen to him, and they want to be on his good side, because he is responsible for the whole Executive Branch, right? And so they want to do things, that he wants them to do and so him speaking the words, in and of itself is the abuse of power. It is what is again, against the Constitution. That's what we're talking about here, not statutes, per se, but the Constitution itself.

BALDWIN: And how does this White House then even begin to fight this Impeachment Inquiry when the President is admitting this in broad daylight?

BAKER: I have -- that's a good question. Because he is serving up exhibit after exhibit for the congressional investigators. And you know, he is writing the impeachment. He is writing the Articles of Impeachment for them.

I was thinking earlier that this may be the first time we could have Articles of Impeachment, with links embedded into it with video linking to the President making the statements himself and it is -- it's so crazy, but he is serving up and he is just making it easier for them.

And, you know, they're going to have to do due diligence behind the scene. But this is just -- I don't know how if you're at the White House, you deal with this kind of a situation. It's just crazy.

BALDWIN: Links embedded, example, and then cut to, you know --

BAKER: To CNN video, right?

BALDWIN: To CNN video. Jim Baker, just stand by for me. I have more questions for you. But let me just get some more reporting in from Capitol Hill where one of the key people mentioned in that whistleblower complaint, former Ukraine Special Envoy Kurt Volker is testifying today behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee.

Volker who resigned the day after that complaint went public is a career diplomat. He was a good friend of the late Senator John McCain's and someone who CNN has learned was never fully on board via Trump train, at least in the eyes of this White House.

He is also the man in a series of text messages with Rudy Giuliani texted Giuliani claims show, the State Department was aware of his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Biden's. So let's go to Capitol Hill, to our correspondent there, Sunlen Serfaty and so Sunlen, we don't know as this is all behind closed doors. We don't know any details out of this, other than you know, Volker testimony, but that isn't stopping lawmakers on both sides from putting their own spin on things. What are you hearing from them?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke, and this is notably already a very lengthy briefing, now lasting already four hours plus, it's still going on right now behind closed doors in the House side of the Capitol in that classified room.

But as you noted, lawmakers are coming in and out of that briefing, occasionally stopping to talk to press, not much by way of substance. Lawmakers really refusing to wade into the details of what exactly Volker is saying behind closed doors. What exactly are those documents that we know were delivered last night to the committee, dozens of pages of documents on his behalf.

So not much by way of substance, but Democrats, but we're seeing their response really going after President Trump with President Trump's new comments this morning. Again, prompting Ukraine and now China to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Here is what the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): President States encouraging a foreign

nation to interfere again to help his campaign by investigating -- and that is a fundamental breach of the President's oath of office. It endangers our elections and it endangers our national security. It ought to be condemned by every member of this body.



SERFATY: And similarly, we've seen Republicans essentially fall into their partisan camp, Brooke, Republicans leaving that meeting saying that the testimony was impressive by Kurt Volker today, but two Republicans saying that they did not believe his testimony in any way advance the Democrats' impeachment agenda -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Sunlen, thank you very much. So Jim Baker, back over to you here. Testimony happening four hours plus still ongoing. Is the big question, whether the State Department actually coordinated with Rudy Giuliani on his pursuit of dirt on Joe Biden?

BAKER: No, I think the big question is, what did the President do? What did the President say? He said some of that today, as we were just talking about, but what did he ask Rudy Giuliani to do and what efforts did he undertake?

The President -- under the Constitution, the President does have authority broadly, to conduct the foreign relations of the United States. If he thinks that some type of personal emissary would do a job more effectively than perhaps a State Department diplomat, then he likely has the power to do that. So that's not to me the big issue here.

The issue is what did they actually say? What were they trying to get Ukrainian authorities to do? And was that a violation of the President's oath of office? That's what we need to come back to -- the President's conduct. That is a big concern here.

Mr. Giuliani and others, whether they violated criminal statutes having to do with campaign finance laws, that's something that the F.B.I. could and should investigate. But the real question here, I think, the gravest question for America is, what is the President up to and what did he want them to do?

And he is telling us again from the front lawn of the White House exactly what he thought. There's no doubt about it. I don't see how anybody could have any doubt about what the issue is here anymore.

BALDWIN: Jim Baker, you have been excellent. Thank you very much. Appreciate all of your insight there. Adding to all of this, moments ago, as he faces serious questions over his role in this whole scandal, the Vice President is repeating those debunked conspiracy theories.

Plus CNN digs up evidence of the Republican hypocrisy on former Vice President Joe Biden. Hear how they praised him just a couple of years ago.

And later, this woman who just wrote the book on Andrew Johnson's impeachment joins me live to explain the striking similarities between the former President and President Trump. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: We are back with the breaking news on this Thursday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. After what appeared to be an effort to distance himself from President Trump's push to get Ukraine to investigate the Biden's, Vice President Mike Pence has just repeated his boss's debunked conspiracy although Pence denied speaking about Biden during his September meeting with Ukraine's President.

Now, in that meeting, "The Washington Post" is reporting that pence was, however, asked to deliver a message to Ukraine that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid was still being withheld.

A source tells CNN that Pence advisers are frustrated with the White House and are working to isolate him from all this fallout, but a source tells CNN that the top Pence aid was on that July 25th phone call.

So with me now, CNN Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel and Frank Bruni, a columnist for "The New York Times" and a CNN contributor. So welcome, welcome to both of you. Starting with you, what do you make of this latest move from Pence that he is peddling this whole, there's nothing wrong with asking a foreign government for help there, but then also saying we knew nothing about it at the time.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: This is classic Pence. I didn't know anything about it. I'm innocent, innocent -- but what do we know about him? He has been in lockstep with Donald Trump every step of the way. There is one word for Mike Pence, and that is loyalty.

So there is no way that he is not going to come out and do this publicly. He has an audience, Donald Trump. That said, we are told by his staff, that they are very upset that they're very concerned that they feel that they are -- that he is being implicated in this.

It is the same thing, Brooke, as we're hearing from the Republicans on the Hill.

BALDWIN: What are you hearing?

GANGEL: Which is that they are looking for a bigger desk to hide under. They don't know what Trump is going to say. They don't know what else is going to come out. And there is one person in charge of White House strategy and we saw that yesterday --

BALDWIN: President Donald Trump.

GANGEL: And that's Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: What did you think of this?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think strategy is a kind word for what he is in charge of, right?

BALDWIN: What did you think of what he did today in front of the White House?

BRUNI: Well, I think Jamie is exactly right. What he is saying from his own mouth, we're hearing utter loyalty. But meanwhile, behind the scenes, aides were saying yes, but; yes, but -- but let's like, let's be realists here.

Mike Pence had to know what was going on between Donald Trump and Ukraine. He cannot have believed that Donald Trump wanted to put pressure on Ukraine about corruption because Donald Trump is so concerned about corruption and that doesn't pass the smell test.

All around him in the White House, all of this stuff is going on. He has got a senior adviser on the July 25th call, and you're telling me that person didn't go back to Mike Pence and say, you know, during that call, the President actually seemed to tie Ukraine aid to digging up dirt on the Biden's? We're supposed to believe none of that reached Mike Pence?


BRUNI: It reached the whistleblower, it reached all of these other people, but he was living in some little bubble of purity. I don't think so.

BALDWIN: What about what Trump said today, essentially, you know, China, if you're listening, go investigate the Biden's?

BRUNI: I think in Trump's mind, he is trying to send the signal, I'm doing so little wrong here, I'm willing to publicly own it. I'm willing to bring that -- other countries, you want to get in on the action. Come on.

BALDWIN: But even though what he did is entirely unconstitutional that's against the law -- I was just talking to Jim Baker.

BRUNI: His contention is it isn't, so if he is being consistent to his own contention, he is saying I'm so -- I'm so unashamed of what I did. I'm proud enough to repeat the offer to another country out here in public. I mean, that's his thinking.

GANGEL: But --

BRUNI: But the thing is, it's wrong.

BALDWIN: But it is wrong.

BRUNI: When he saw it, I thought, you know, impeachment process, he is self-impeaching. Remember, in the 2012 campaign, the Republican primary, they talked about self-deportation, we're seeing self- impeachment. The articles are going to expand every time Donald Trump gets to a microphone.

GANGEL: And I just got off the phone with a senior administration official who said that was, quote, "a disgrace" for him to say that. You do not reach out to a totalitarian government and say, come investigate.

BRUNI: You don't reach out to Russia and ask for help with Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

GANGEL: Correct.

BALDWIN: Correct. That's your point about they're all hiding under this, you know, big desk.

GANGEL: A bigger desk.

BALDWIN: I mean, they say one thing publicly, one thing privately, but, I mean, does it just have to get worse and worse and worse for them to finally say, you know, record scratch, all right, we're coming out and saying this is wrong, or does that even -- is that more fuel to their fire of deny, deny, deny?

GANGEL: I think there are two things to watch. How many Republicans are coming out to carry water for him? Are they going on TV to do this? So let's see what happens with that.

Number two, watch Mitch McConnell. He is playing three dimensional chess. He has 23 Republicans up in the Senate. If the Democrats net three, he loses control of the Senate. They're watching the polls. And in the next couple of weeks, they're going to see what else comes out. But keep an eye on Mitch McConnell.


BRUNI: Key phrase there, they're watching the polls. They're watching the polls. As long as they feel that Donald Trump turning on them on Twitter could cost them elections, they're going to stick with him regardless of the way he is trashing the Constitution. The minute their political survival is on the line, everything changes.

BALDWIN: Can we talk about your op-ed, please, sir?

BRUNI: Sure.

BALDWIN: The final graph. This is the headline for Frank's piece in "The Times." "If Trump goes down, he is taking everyone with him." You end the whole thing with this. "He's in a bind." He, of course, being Donald J. Trump, " ... because his burn down the house defense against impeachment makes the best case that he must be impeached - that a leader with no bounds and no bottom can't be allowed to rage on unimpeded. The impeachment Inquiry is laying Trump bear. As scary as that is for us, it may be even scarier for him."

BRUNI: He is using the word treason to describe Adam Schiff, and he is essentially recommending capital punishment for people who spied on him in the White House. He is acting in a way where I think he's making it impossible for the House not to impeach him. Or I think he is creating the very possibility that over time, Republicans will have to turn on him.

And as ugly as it is for us in terms of what it is doing for the country, I think he's sealing his own fate, and now we're back to the self-impeachment we were talking about before.

BALDWIN: Okay, quickly, you wanted --

GANGEL: And just to say, this is his default position. He loves to fight. And as someone once said to me, he picks a fight even when he is winning. Now, he is under fire. He is not winning, but he is out there fighting.

BALDWIN: Jamie and Frank, thank you both very much. Coming up next, I will talk to the author of this opinion piece entitled "The Dangers of Donald Trump's Ignorance." Why she says the President's pattern of lies in the face of clear evidence to the contrary could have a lasting impact on our democracy. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign says that he will be discharged from the hospital and back home in Vermont before the end of the weekend.

This of course comes after this blockage was found in one of his arteries Tuesday night and two stents had to be placed in. The campaign also says Senator Sanders does plan to be at the CNN-New York Times debate that is October 15th.

Is President Trump trying to impeach himself even in the middle of an impeachment investigation where he is accused of trying to get a foreign power to investigate a rival? The President emerged on the White House lawn just today and asked not only Ukraine, but also China to do just that, to investigate Joe Biden.

And my next guest writes for "Time" magazine that this level of ignorance on behalf of the President is dangerous quote, "When he describes his thuggish conversation with Zelensky as 'perfect' and appears shocked that even some of his allies don't agree, he proves better than any prosecutor could, his ignorance of his constitutional oath or even basic rules of decency."

Nancy Gibbs is also the Director of the Shorenstein Center. And so Nancy, a pleasure to have you on today.


BALDWIN: First and foremost, just your reaction. I don't know if you watched President Trump this morning in real time saying what he did, calling out China to investigate the Biden's. What was your first thought?

GIBBS: Well, it was another example that the problem isn't just that he says things that aren't true. It's that he believes things that aren't true and in this case, that it is fine to call on foreign governments to investigate what he considers the corruption of his rivals and that we see over and over and over again that he honestly believes --