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Trump Publicly Urges Ukraine And China To Investigate Biden; Interview with Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-PA; Key Player Testifies Over State's Involvement In Biden Pursuits; Team Pence Distances Vice President From Trump's Pursuit Of Biden Dirt. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired October 3, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And so, you know, well, let's try it another way. Could we just shoot them to wound them? So these are just ways that he was trying to get his hand around the problem and they kept telling him, no.
JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Remarkable work. The book comes out on Tuesday. You should buy it. The president will read it. Trust me.
Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. Brianna Keilar starts Right Now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
And underway right now, it's a truly extraordinary moment, as the president of the United States not only is admitting to the very offense at the center of his impeachment battle, asking a foreign country for dirt on a political opponent of his, he's also doing it again, President Trump now asking two foreign powers, Ukraine and communist China, to investigate his political rival, and he did it on the White House lawn in front of all the cameras for all of the world to see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I would think that if they were honest about it, they would 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 -- and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And while suggesting that China investigate a Democratic presidential candidate, Trump also announced that Chinese trade negotiators are coming to Washington next week for critical talks.
Kaitlan Collins is live for us at the White House. And, Kaitlan, now, the president wants China to dig up dirt on the Bidens as well. Is he admitting here to what he's likely going to be impeached for?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a pretty remarkable moment to see on the south lawn. The president is facing this impeachment inquiry over his request to a foreign leader that they investigate his political rival, a request he made in private but then became public when the White House released the transcript of that call. But then today, as you noted, in front of the cameras, president publicly called on another foreign leader to also investigate the Biden family.
It was kind of a stunning moment out there where reporters asked, had he already communicate such a request to the president of China? He said he hadn't yet, but he made clear that he was open to doing so, and, of course, it's raising questions because the U.S. and China are locked in the middle of this trade war right now.
And just moments before the President had called on China to investigate the Bidens, he had noted that, yes, the Chinese trade delegation is coming to Washington next week for another round of talks, talks that have really been at a standstill for several months now with not a lot of progress, and the president making clear there that he sounded pretty ambivalent about whether or not they're actually going to make any progress when they come here next week.
But, of course, it's stunning because you've the White House and aides and allies of the president insist that when he was talking to the Ukrainian president, it was just about corruption, there was nothing wrong with that request, but then the president made point blank another similar request in front of the cameras today.
It fits in with that the president has been saying as he's insisting that he doesn't think there was anything wrong with what he said to the Ukrainian leader. But now, of course, there are going to a lot of questions for Republicans on Capitol Hill now that the president is doing so once again with China.
KEILAR: Yes, it doesn't fit in with what they have been saying to defend the situation. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much for that.
We're going to keep an eye on the president's speech in Florida this hour. We will bring you the highlights from that.
Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Boyle is joining us now. He is a Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, the tax-writing committee in the House.
And, Congressman, what does it say to you as you Democrats are pursuing impeachment that the president is comfortable enough to flat out admit what he's done and really to do again? He clearly thinks his supporters don't care and maybe he's right. So how do you sway people? REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): Well, thanks for having me again. We already know we don't have to take any whistleblower's word for it. The statement, what they call a transcript of the president's own words with President Zelensky of Ukraine, showed first and foremost that the president broke numerous laws in that conversation, soliciting something clearly of value from a foreign national. Then today, he actually doubles down on it and repeats that offense, only this time it's a different day, so it's a different country.
This is a president, whether you watched the press conference yesterday with the president of Finland or you see President Trump today right there on the south lawn of the White House, this is a president who is increasingly becoming unhinged.
It is deeply dangerous the further this goes on. I strongly favor this impeachment inquiry, and today's comments only further strengthen my resolve to make sure that we uphold the Constitution and fulfill our duty.
KEILAR: Congressman, he doesn't seem to think that many people, a lot of his supporters, all of his supporters may be enough to re-elect him. We don't know at this point in time. He seems to think they don't care. He's saying the very thing that he's been accused of doing, that the transcript shows him doing, and he doesn't seem to think that it's going to make enough of a difference to oust him. So how do you deal with a situation like that, and how do you convince voters that that's incorrect?
BOYLE: Yes, I don't know what's going on in the president's mind. That's perhaps the understatement of my career. But I will say this. If he believes that ultimately the American people won't care, I think he's wrong. We've already seen a dramatic shift in the polls over the last week-and-a-half. Support for impeachment was somewhere in the mid to high 30s just a week-and-a-half ago. Now it's polling over 50 percent. That is a remarkable change in polling numbers that otherwise when it comes to President Trump had been remarkably stable for the last three years.
I would also just point to the count even in the House of Representatives. A week-and-a-half ago, support for impeachment was somewhere in the 120 range. It's now well north of 220. So if the president thinks he's going to be able to get away with this, I think he's clearly wrong.
KEILAR: With the U.S. and China in the middle of this trade dispute and Chinese officials heading to Washington next week for these trade talks, do you think the president is linking these two things, the trade negotiations and this request, because this issue of quid pro quo is really what's at the heart of the Ukraine scandal?
BOYLE: It's not just a matter that I think it, it's that President Trump, in his own words, is linking these things. We already have that in the Zelensky call, linking the aid and the purchasing of further Javelin missiles. The very next sentence is Trump saying, I need you to do me a favor though.
Then we have this morning when the conversation turned to trade. 30 seconds after the president saying that he has an incredible number of tools to deal with China on trade, literally, 30 seconds later, if you look at the transcript, the president then said he believes that China should open an investigation into Vice President Biden. And by investigation, we mean just basically come up with any sort of dirt, manufactured or not, to help Trump in his campaign.
So the president basically is impeaching himself by his own words and by his own actions.
KEILAR: Earlier this week, we learned about another whistleblower, a claim from another whistleblower that there were efforts to improperly influence the IRS and their mandatory audits of presidential tax returns. You were on the tax-writing committee. Is there anything else you can tell us about this?
BOYLE: Yes, I really don't know anything further about this other than what's in the public domain. I do think though that we need t keep focus on the Ukrainian matter and what we had in front of us. While there certainly are many other instances where President Trump has behaved poorly, unethically, perhaps illegally, I think that it is actually in our best interest in terms of this process that we keep the focus on one area rather than running the risk that we focus on too many things and we essentially lose the public.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman Brendan Boyle, thank you so much.
BOYLE: Thank you.
KEILAR: Meanwhile, right now, behind closed doors, the very first official is testifying on the whistleblower's explosive accusations, and this official is not known as someone who is on the so-called Trump train. Instead, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine who set up at least one meeting between Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, and the Ukrainian official serves as the executive director of the McCain Institute, as in the late Senator John McCain, not a Trump ally, to say the least.
Even though this hearing is going on, as we speak, some Republicans are already talking to reporters saying Volker's testimony is not helping Democrats' impeachment narrative. Washington Post Congressional Reporter Rachael Bade is live for us on Capitol Hill. Rachael, what can you tell us?
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey there, Brianna. Yes, so on the Hill today, quite a circus, a lot of reporters, a lot of people sitting and waiting to hear about what is going on behind closed doors right now. We are about three-and-a-half hours into this first deposition of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry over the president.
And you're right, a long-time GOP foreign policy official, a very traditional-minded Republican, who basically found himself ensnared in this sort of tug-of-war between the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his campaign to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate Biden over the past few months and his own desire to sort of keep good relationships between the United States and Ukraine, where he has a lot of contacts and has a deep care.
So this morning, we saw Giuliani, and we have over past couple of days, try to put out a bunch of text messages, saying that this gentleman, Kurt Volker, knew everything he was doing in terms of pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden. Now, the State was basically okay with it, including the officials who were on the ground there.
Now, our understanding, and my colleague, Josh, Rogin, reported this yesterday, and I'm hearing some of it as well right now is that he's pushing back on that, and that he's sort of saying that this is -- he was there to sort of mitigate any potential damage and sort of make sure that the relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine could move forward and was on a positive direction but also try to keep the politics aside. So we're hoping to get more details here in the coming hours.
KEILAR: So then in those texts, Rachael, that Rudy Giuliani was showing basically, look, the State Department wants me to do this. I'm doing this at the State Department's behest. Instead, the other way to read those is these were -- this was an official sort of being polite, right, ingratiating themselves to Rudy Giuliani?
BADE: That's right exactly right. Obviously, people in Ukraine, and this has been reported already, they were concerned, they didn't know how to take Rudy Giuliani's sort of insistence that they needed to have this investigation of Biden. They didn't know. Was he speaking for the U.S. government? How are they supposed to handle that? How does this factor into the military aid being held up and a longtime meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump getting canceled and delayed and postponed over and over again.
So, clearly, Volker was in the middle of all of this and was trying to help them make sense of what they were hearing from Giuliani versus the actual State Department policy. And so that's what he's taking lawmakers through right now. What did he see, what did he hear? Did he think it was kosher that Giuliani was pressuring Ukrainians and how does that affect -- how did it affect the U.S. relationship with one of our top allies, Ukraine?
KEILAR: Yes, it wasn't kosher. We'll see if Kurt Volker says that. Rachael Bade, thank you so much. I really appreciate it, live from Capitol Hill.
We have more on this extraordinary story that we're following, this breaking news. The president just admitting to the offense that Democrats are looking to impeach him over, asking Ukraine and now China to investigate Joe Biden.
Plus, Team Pence is distancing the vice president from the president's pressure on Ukraine. But his national security adviser was actually on that phone call with the Ukrainian president. It is possible that Pence was really in the dark here? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: China should start an investigation into the Bidens. 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 Bidens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Well, that was President Trump urging two foreign leaders now to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, the very thing the president is currently under an impeachment investigation for doing.
We've got former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman with us, our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, and our Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger, as well.
Gloria, I wonder how Republicans who have been trying, if not, to defend the president's actions, they've been kind of trying to change the subject on what they were. This doesn't make their job a whole lot harder?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it doesn't, and they're going to sort of duck and cover again, I think, to a certain degree. And lots of them, look, may want an investigation into China and the Bidens. This is a political year. But I doubt they want China doing that investigation. Somebody else ought to be doing it.
And remember, this is so reminiscent to me of Donald Trump during the election, saying, Russia, if you're out there and you've got Hillary Clinton emails, I think you've ought to release those emails. And so I also have a question of whether the president, in a way, is trying to inoculate himself against further stories about phone calls and whoever else he might have spoken with, and he could say, look, I said that publicly, why wouldn't I say that privately?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Inoculate himself and normalize it.
BASH: By saying it over and over again, he's signaling -- trying to send a signal particularly to supporters. This is obviously no big deal because I'm talking about it. It's not a bad thing that I'm doing this. Why would I even admit it if it was bad? Well, it is.
BORGER: It is bad.
BASH: It is not normal, it is not right, and just because he's saying it out loud doesn't make it so.
KEILAR: And yet that tactic works, right? We know that in terms of simple, like, persuasion, it is effective.
BASH: It is effective.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It works to the core base maybe, but that's really not the audience now. We know that 35 percent will never abandon him. But that really looked like, you know, impeachment in plain view.
And to Gloria's point, when he said that in the 2016 campaign, Mueller, despite looking hard, was never able to stitch it up with actual conduct from Russia. Here, we have the July 25th conversation, much more coming out that actually shows this wasn't a casual overture, this was foreign policy.
BASH: And he wasn't on the phone with a foreign leader here. He was on the south lawn of the White House saying it to the world, go please do it. And I think it also is important to point out that Ukraine is one thing. China is a country that he's in a massive trade war with right now because of practices that he calls unfair. China is -- makes it a habit of stealing American intellectual property, on and on and on. That's the country he was so inherent (ph).
KEILAR: So now, he's enlisting -- he is enlisting the (INAUDIBLE) ally, right?
So former Vice President Joe Biden has responded. He said in a statement, quote, what Donald Trump just said on the south lawn of the White House was this election's equivalent of his famous, Russia, if you're listening moment from 2016, a grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over the country.
But, I mean, legally, is there any exposure for the president, do you think?
LITMAN: Sure. And, by the way, all the best countries, right? We have Russia, China, et cetera, are adversaries that he's trying to get to either shake loose some dirt on the Bidens.
This is volume one of Mueller. If we were in that stage that we were in a year ago, there would be plenty to look at. Of course, it would still hit the brick wall of you can't indict the president. But the reason there isn't now is there is no way the Department of Justice would green-light anything, and also we're in a clearly political moment. His exposure now, same with Pence, same with Pompeo, is political. You could state a potential crime, but it's going to be judged within the political sphere.
BORGER: And also is this notion that the president really doesn't understand or care to understand that he did anything wrong in that Ukraine phone call that he calls beautiful and perfect. Well, it was so beautiful and perfect, he just did it again, as Dana points out, on the White House lawn, only this time he was imploring somebody who was not a friend. Ukraine, at least, is an ally. This is not a friend and imploring them to effectively provide his opposition research for his political campaign.
KEILAR: Let's talk about the vice president, Dana, because The Washington Post says that President Trump told Vice President Pence not to attend the Ukrainian president's inauguration, which he was going to do, and it was this crucial time when the newly elected leader was obviously looking for some signs of support from the U.S., and then the president, as we know, would go on to hold up the aid to Ukraine and then ask for a favor.
The paper also says Trump had Pence deliver the news to Ukraine that their aid was going to be withheld at the same time the president was asking Ukraine to investigate, quote, unquote, corruption, which, by the way, can we just put out there, Ukraine has clearly had issues with corruption, but it had actually has made some improvements. And I think that's the context that --
LITMAN: Part of which was Biden getting the former corrupt prosecutor out of there.
KEILAR: Yes. So does the vice president have deniability here?
BASH: Well, yes, because -- we don't know the answer to that, because what our colleagues have also reported is that the vice president's national security adviser was on that July 25th phone call, heard the president, do me a favor, comments to the Ukrainian leader. And so it was before -- okay, so that phone call happened, the vice president's aide was on that call. After that --
KEILAR: Can I ask you a quick question about that? Is that a miscarriage of your duties as a national security adviser to a vice president if you do not inform your boss what happened?
BASH: Our colleague sources are saying that it didn't immediately raise a red flag. And maybe it never did because the vice president then went, on September 1st, a month and a week later, to meet with Zelensky and --
LITMAN: With briefing paper on the July 25th call.
BASH: -- with a briefing paper included in there, talking about the need to tamp down on corruption. So by that time, in Zelensky's mind, corruption equals investigate Joe Biden. Whether or not the vice president did that knowingly or not, wittingly or unwittingly, we don't know. But he -- he has to be asked about it.
BORGER: Well, the transcript of this call would presumably -- tell me if I'm wrong, presumably a bit in his briefing book, in his briefing book. So whether Kellogg, his national security person, didn't flag it because he didn't think there was anything wrong or whether they told never Pence or whether Pence decided not to pay attention to any of it --
BASH: He's been involved in a party to so many crises in Trump world and he tends to never -- hear no evil, see no evil. KEILAR: Yes. But I would just point about Mike Pence, and, Dana, you've covered him. I covered him on the Hill, you covered him for longer on the Hill. Knowing Mike Pence and his -- just what Mike Pence knows and what would make sense to Mike Pence, you would expect that if he read this transcript that this would be --
BORGER: Danger, Will Robinson.
KEILAR: Obviously. This is something -- it may not -- this may not raise a red flag for Donald Trump, but it would for Mike Pence. Your thoughts?
LITMAN: Oh, I think it would for Donald Trump. And what's interesting now about the call is it's brazenous, because we now know through Pence. I mean, this was really set up for weeks and months, including with Team Giuliani, our shadow secretary of state, and as they insist (ph). By then, we clearly knew, Zelensky clearly knew corruption equals giving something on Biden. So why was Trump so blatant and brazen in the call to not speak in any kind of code but just come right out, you know, eight times, investigate, investigate and really draw the lane.
BORGER: And as we all know that Trump would tell anybody, and he says it 50 times a day, that the Bidens should be investigated for corruption in Ukraine, you don't think when he canceled Pence's visit that he said to Pence, you know, I'm canceling your visit because blank?
LITMAN: We're sending Rick Perry.
BORGER: Because of corruption, because they're not investigating the Bidens? I mean, that strains credulity.
KEILAR: Gloria, Dana, thank you so much, Harry, so much, thank you so much for joining me and my colleagues here.
A former Clinton impeachment adviser says this White House is, quote, woefully unprepared for what is about to happen. He is going to join us.
Plus, startling and narcissistic, a group of historians weighing in on the president's behavior as something they have never seen before.