Return to Transcripts main page


Ex-Impeachment Adviser: Trump's White House "Woefully Unprepared"; Mike Pence Speaks in Arizona & Stands With Trump. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It meant nothing? Counterattack, wait for public attention to wane, rinse and repeat. So far, the president's preferred style of crisis management has worked for him the last three years.

He survived the "Access Hollywood" tape a month before the election along with revelations from Robert Mueller's special counsel report. But will this formula work in an impeachment inquiry?

Guy Smith is a former Clinton White House adviser. He served as a special advisor to the president during his impeachment process.

Guy, thanks for joining us.

Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: So you think this White House is not prepared for what is about to happen. Tell me about that.

GUY SMITH, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT CLINTON & FORMER IMPEACHMENT ADVISER: They're not at all prepared. They don't have any preparation. They don't have a separate team. The only thing they have is the president's Twitter feed. That's not adequate.

I mean, there's no political apparatus, there's no political apparatus, there's no coordination between the RNC, between the campaign, between the White House staff.

And who is running the government?

During the Clinton operation, there was a full, discreet team that dealt just with impeachment, and everybody else, including the president, ran the government. And there was much discipline, especially from the president, in what was said, when it was said, who it was said to and the entire context.

What we're seeing, as we saw on the South Lawn a little while ago, it's just kind of a stream of consciousness. He's now asking another country to get involved right in front of the world, and that's clearly unconstitutional and illegal. And this -- the thing is that the American people can see this. You

see it in the polls. And Trump's base, where he is right now, his base, they're not going to change. The people with the red hats, they're not going to change.

But if you look at the polls around the edges, it's chipping away at the base and he's not expanding it.

KEILAR: So when you look at him today and he not only is saying, yes, I did this, I asked Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens and they should do so, but he says that China should do so as well, he's clearly very confident that this doesn't matter, it's not going to register for enough voters. Why should he not be that confident?

SMITH: Well, this is for all the marbles. If the House actually votes articles of impeachment, and they probably will, there will be a trial in the Senate.

Suddenly, those Senators are going to be facing the Constitution, not just the politics of it, but the Constitution. And they will have to answer the question, what if your opponent was getting negative information about you from France or Peru or Egypt, is that OK?

Well, some of the people in their states will think it's OK. But what we're seeing in the polling is that group of people who think it's OK is contracting.


So even if Trump -- and this is his danger -- even if he is acquitted in a trial, he is severely damaged for reelection. So he's in a world of hurt, and he doesn't know what to do about it.

KEILAR: So Bill Clinton, who you saw through this process, proved, at least, that he could hang in there and wait this out and weather it.

SMITH: Well, he didn't just --


KEILAR: Go on, sorry.

SMITH: I'm sorry.

He didn't just wait it out. He continued to run the government. Remember, he was very popular and he had a big roaring economy also. But he also was highly disciplined. He didn't just run his mouth on the South Lawn every day about it. He was very disciplined.


KEILAR: And so because of that, is that the reason why you say the same strategy doesn't work for Trump? Because actually he's not even approaching this. The waiting it out kind of thing or the hanging in there, it matters how you hang in there's what you're saying? SMITH: I think the evidence of it not working is the deafening

silence from the United States Republican Senators who aren't saying anything.

And you guys, CNN has been reporting that they're very worried what's the next shoe that's going to drop, I think was the headline earlier in the cycle. And we don't know what the shoe's going to drop, but what we do know is the shoes that are dropping, like this fellow, Volker, who is on the Hill right now, they aren't going to be good shoes for Donald Trump.

There are always rocks that are going to be overturned from the whistleblower complaint and all these other things we're suddenly learning about.

Remember the Russian thing the other day? Right after Trump threatens the U.S. diplomats at the U.N., 24 hours later, the "New York Times" has a revelation about what he said, didn't care about election interference to the Russians in the Oval Office.


KEILAR: He said that a long, long time ago and finally that information came out.

Guy Smith, thank you.

SMITH: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: The president and his allies have targeted Joe Biden bragging about taking on corruption in Ukraine, but CNN has recovered a letter by some Republicans echoing Biden at the time.

Plus, a group of historians calling the president's behavior worrisome even before his statement today. I'll be talking to one of them.



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The simple truth is that those are the same issues that the president raised with President Zelensky in their call. The president spoke about lack of European support. He spoke about corruption. And he tasked me to go and to meet with the president of Ukraine and carry our concerns about those issues.

And anyone that looks at the president's transcript will see that the president was raising issues that were appropriate, that were of genuine interest to the American people.

And as more facts come out of this, as people take time to read the transcript of the president's call and reflect these facts, they'll come to realize this is more of the same of what we've seen from Democrats for the last two and a half years. They've literally spent two and a half years pushing an impeachment of

this administration, this president, on a theory of Russian collusion and obstruction. And when that didn't pan out, they briefly tried to talk about impeaching Justice Kavanaugh, of the Supreme Court. And over the last 10 days, we're back to talking impeachment.

I think the people of America are saying enough is enough. I mean, people of this country want us to focus on issues that matter most to them.

These endless investigations should end in Washington, D.C. And Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats ought to be focusing on issues of security, of prosperity, infrastructure, the USMCA, lowering drug prices.

Whatever they want to fight about in Washington, D.C., I promise you, President Trump and I will keep fighting for the issues that matter to the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was your biggest takeaway from today's meeting? What was your biggest takeaway?

PENCE: My biggest takeaway is how proud the Hispanic-American community is here in Arizona and in this country. When you look at the growth and the prosperity that's happened since 2016 in the state of Arizona and you understand the role that Hispanic-Americans have played in that, it was a real cause for celebration today.

And we're going to take this whole month, this Hispanic Heritage Month, to talk about the incredible cultural contributions, community contributions, the economic contributions that Hispanic-Americans make every day.

My big message was, as we've seen in the economy that's created 6.3 million new jobs.

BOLDUAN: All right, this is a moment that kind of perfectly encapsulates what the Trump administration is dealing with here, right? Mike Pence, the vice president, is in Scottsdale, Arizona. He's there during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Clearly, this is an area that President Trump would like to expand for his voters coming into this election. And he's been asked these questions, Pence has, about this call that President Trump had with the Ukrainian president.


Let's actually listen back in.

PENCE: Let me say that I'm vice president of the United States and I was elected to this job along with President Trump for many reasons. One was to rebuild our military, one was to revive our economy, another was to see conservatives appointed to our courts, another was to secure our borders. But one of the main reasons we were elected in Washington, D.C., was

to drain the swamp. And I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position as vice president during the last administration, that's about looking backwards and understanding what really happened.

The fact that my predecessor had a son who was paid $50,000 a month to be on a Ukrainian board at the time that Vice President Biden was leading the Obama administration's efforts in Ukraine, I think, is worth looking into.

The president made it very clear that he believes our -- other nations around the world should look into it as well.

The simple fact is that, you know, when you hold the second-highest office in the land, it comes with unique responsibilities, not just to be above impropriety but appearing to be above impropriety. And clearly, in this case, there are legitimate questions that ought to be asked. We're going to continue to ask them, since the American people have a right to know, whether or not the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position.

I mean, you look at the video of Vice President Biden and you can see there's clearly a quid pro quo. He said, if a prosecutor was not fired, who, among other things, was investigating the company his son sat on the board on, that he was going to withhold a billion dollars.

Contrast that with the transcript of the president's phone call with President Zelensky where there was no quid pro quo, there was no pressure.

And I think it's why most Americans want to get answers about what was going on and to have Ukraine particularly, as the president said, to get to the bottom of it. I think that's what the American people would expect and anticipate.

But this administration is going to continue to advance the policies and the agenda we were elected to advance. That includes draining the swamp and it includes demanding that our allies operate in an upright way as well.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, guys, we're done! Thank guys!


PENCE: Let me say, we're going to be in and out of Arizona a lot, because we've got a winning message. Hispanic-Americans here in Arizona are winning under the policies of President Trump and the policies that Senator Martha McSally who has supported, and Governor Ducey has advanced in this state.

Our economy is growing, our military is stronger than ever before. And let me also say that I think the values this administration has

stood for, of faith and family and the sanctity of life and freedom, those are all values that are synonymous with a Hispanic-American community.

We're going to come here and talk about the progress that we've made for security, for prosperity, but also about the values that Spanish- Americans cherish, that this president has championed.

And I know we're going to bring home a great victory for Senator McSally and President Donald Trump in November 2020.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, thanks, guys.




KEILAR: All right. Vice President Mike Pence there in Arizona for -- this is a very pivotal, interesting moment in all of this. He is all in with President Trump on what the president has been saying, and as the president admitted, that he asked the Ukrainian president for dirt on Joe Biden. Also asking China to investigate. Pence is saying the president on that phone call raised issues that were appropriate.

So even as Pence's staff has tried to distance the vice president, give him a little bit of political cover, the reality for the vice president is that he is linked to the president and he is going all in there.

He said, "The American people have the right to know whether the vice president or his family profited off of his position."


OK, well, look, we can tell you, because we have fact-checked this extensively, as have many other outlets, and what is clear here and - what is clear here is what the president is alleging that Vice President Joe Biden was doing something for the behest of his son, Hunter Biden, does not bear out. Right?

I want to talk about this now, this key moment with Chris Cillizza and Dana Bash, who are here with me.

This perfectly encapsulates what the Trump administration is dealing with. A couple other questions Pence got were about Hispanic voters in Arizona. Trump won Arizona, he wants to hang on to it. He's done a lot to offend Hispanic voters. That's a key constituency in Arizona. But he's trying to hang on to it and Pence is there as an emissary to help him do that.

But that's not really what Pence is talking about. He there in what appears to be in some discomfort as I look at him, having watched him -- (CROSSTALK)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he would rather be having a root canal.

BOLDUAN: That's right. That's about what it looked like.

BASH: Yes. I was running back up here to be with you. Maybe you can answer this question. My question for him, beyond what did you think of it, did you know. When you met with President Zelensky did you carry the same message that you heard, that we've heard the president make with the Ukraine president? He wasn't asked that question. Right?



BASH: That's a key question. One thing to say, there's no "there" there.

CILLIZZA: Looking at Joe Biden.

BASH: It's another question to ask, were you complicit in it. Did you carry out these orders?

CILLIZZA: It seems to me, he did -- I was listening honestly in the makeup room as I was coming in here. It seems he did what is Trump is trying to do, which is take all questions related to Ukraine and pivot to Biden.

The key here to your point, Brianna, yes, Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son was on the board of a Ukrainian national gas company. It that is true. Everything else Donald Trump has said about, or alleged, is false.

BOLDUAN: But Pence --

CILLIZZA: There's no connection of any sort in corruption.

Go ahead. I'm sorry.

BOLDUAN: Pence is, and I know, and you know, and we all know, for having covered Pence for so long, that Pence is lying, and that he knows that he is, because he says that the president was raising issues that were appropriate.


BOLDUAN: I do not believe that Mike Pence believes the president, in his heart of hearts or even, you know, just superficially believes what the president was saying was appropriate.

BASH: It's hard to imagine a Governor Pence, a House Republican Pence, under any other circumstances, any other president, seeing this exact conversation, would say those things, that it's appropriate.

But this is the -- this is the cross that he bears. This is what he decided that he was going to jump in on when he said, Donald Trump, I will be your running mate. He decided he's going to be loyal. That he -- just like Lindsey Graham, he has decided the Republican Party he's been a part of, his political life is now the party of Donald Trump, and he is on that train and he's not getting off.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Mike Pence wants more than anything else in the world to be president. That's not unique to him. Lots of people that are vice president want to be president, with notable exceptions, Dick Cheney, though you could make arguments about that, but he wants to be president.

To Dana's point, when he said, you know what, I'm signing on with this guy knowing that -- remember, at the time he says, yes, even then -- Donald Trump is obviously the nominee -- even then, there are a lot of voices, Paul Ryan, prominent voices, in the Republican Party that are like, do we really want to be associated with this guy?

He takes that gamble. It pays off for him. And he now understands there will not be a thing that I can imagine where Mike Pence says, you know what, I'm going to have to disagree with the president on that. I just -- I cannot --


BASH: Not publicly.

CILLIZZA: Not publicly, because he views his fate politically as so wedded -- he's not wrong -- so wedded to Donald Trump that there will never be even a scintilla of space between the two of them publicly.

BOLDUAN: And that ship set sail so long ago.

CILLIZZA: Yes, it did.

KEILAR: Just the backdrop of what's happening here, Dana, is vice president Pence is in Arizona taking these questions. I don't know the answer to this, whether this was previously scheduled. Just a press avail he would be doing.


BOLDUAN: It seemed it was because there are questions on the topic of Hispanic voters and Hispanic Heritage Month, which he was referencing and clearly trying to draw attention to.

But he is there as this "Washington Post" story has come out about the sort of whether or not -- you know, how informed was he? Right? This sort of question that's out there, how informed was he considering his national security adviser was on the call. Wouldn't he be informed?


[13:55:07] BASH: That's what I meant by, was that question posed to him?

Because it's not just, do you support it or do you not. It's, you had a full briefing book when you went to meet with the Ukrainian president in the beginning of September, so a little more than a month ago.

BOLDUAN: And the call happened in July.

BASH: And the call, we are told, the call -- the summer we have all seen, was in there.

Plus, his own national security adviser, Pence's, was on that call. So did he read that, was he briefed on it? Did he know and did he carry that message? Did he also ask the Ukrainian leader whether it was explicit or implicit for dirt on the former vice president?

BOLDUAN: He was saying he was raising issues of corruption and these appropriate issues that President Trump --


BASH: Questions whether the Ukrainian leader took that as code for Biden's son.




BOLDUAN: And Giuliani paving the way ahead of time --


BOLDUAN: -- as he clearly did in the call with Trump, take that idea with Trump being the Biden connection.

CILLIZZA: There's a big difference between saying, hey, I know you are committed to this and I want to know we are committed to helping you deal with corruption that has been going on in your government, in your society, and then saying, also, speaking of corruption, funny that this came up, Joe Biden has done some things over there I want you to look into.

I think, to Dana's point, the question is, let's say Mike Pence only talked about corruption broadly, that kind of, the latter idea -- the former idea not the latter. Even so, the context of the conversation between Donald Trump and Zelensky in July, Zelensky's thinking, corruption, Biden, Giuliani, Bill Barr, CrowdStrike, make the Americans happy, because of military aid, because of the necessary relationship there.

So, again, a lot of this is, you don't have to say quid pro quo. When you're the United States and you are meeting with the Ukrainians, you don't have to say I want X for Y because it's implicit.

BOLDUAN: It's so clear.

BASH: One other quick thing. To the vice president's right, screen left, was Senator Martha McSally, one of the Republicans on the ballot in a purple state in 2020, who has been not saying very much at all. The sound of Republican silence.

She's among the most important to watch there, because, you know, she's the kind of Senator who, depending how this goes, for her own liability, given her background in the military, could -- you never know.

CILLIZZA: And lost the race clearly in 2018.


KEILAR: We've got to wrap this up.

Thank you both --

BASH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: -- Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza.

But basically, you just saw Vice President Pence saying there was no quid pro quo, no pressure, and that the president had been raising issues appropriate. All of those things false.

More on other breaking news. A dramatic new turn. The president publicly urging China to investigate the Bidens just days before a Chinese delegation is set to arrive in the U.S. for trade talks.