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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
CNN Exclusive: Trump Raised Biden with Xi in June Call, White House Record of Call Moved to Highly-Secure Server; Washington Post: Whistleblower Claims Treasury Political Appointee May Have Interfered With Audit of Trump or Pence; Dem 2020 Candidate Beto O'Rourke is Interviewed about Trump Raising Biden with Chinese President and His Clash with Buttigieg on Mandatory Gun Buybacks; Reports: To U.S. Diplomat In Ukraine Tested "It's Crazy To Withhold Security Assistance For Help With A Political Campaign"; Trump Now Says Both China And Ukraine Should Investigate Bidens As Ex-Envoy Testifies Before Congress In Impeachment Probe; CNN Exclusive: Trump Raised Biden With Xi In June Call; WH Record Of Call Moved To Highly-Secure Server; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Is Interviewed About Kurt Volker's Deposition Behind Closed Doors; Pelosi: Trump Violated His Oath Of Office By Asking Ukraine And China To Investigate Bidens. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 3, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: ... in Alaska. Seven were hospitalized. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, President Trump says it, Ukraine and China should investigate the Bidens. And we have more breaking news, we have found out Trump brought up Biden to China's President during a June phone call and they hit it. The breaking details are next. Plus, the first witness on the impeachment inquiry still behind closed doors at this moment on Capitol Hill. We are learning tonight of revealing texts that he provided. And more breaking news, a second whistleblower complaint about the Trump administration. This one reportedly from an IRS official regarding tax returns. Let's go outside.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight breaking news, Trump's quid pro quo. So the President's own special envoy to Ukraine who resigned just days ago is providing the text messages to Congress. So Kurt Volker, I just mentioned this, but he's still there on behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. He is now in his ninth hour of a deposition.
He has handed over encrypted texts that he received and here's the key thing, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine in one of these texts writes he was very concerned about the President withholding aid money from Ukraine. That career State Department official wrote and you've got a quote this. "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
So you can't get more clear than that, this is according to multiple reports this evening and the text came in early September. And the reason I want to emphasize that date is because that means that text was said before the news broke that there even was a whistleblower.
So Trump's top diplomat in Ukraine believed before any of this public spectacle that the President of the United States was withholding security assistance for help on his reelection campaign. Of course, Trump has denied time and time again that there was a quid pro quo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no quid pro quo at all.
There was no quid pro quo.
If you take a look at that call, it was perfect. I didn't do it. There was no quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine obviously believed otherwise. And, of course, the transcript of the President's own phone call shows him asking for a 'favor' from the Ukraine President when that president brought up U.S. military aid.
And today, to make it seem that his actions with Ukraine were OK, Trump went out publicly and asked another country to interfere in the U.S. election. This time, it's China. A country the United States is currently negotiating a trade deal with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies if you look at - and by the way, likewise China should start an investigation into the Bidens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And by the way as I said much more on that breaking story in just a moment. I want to point out the irony of what the President said there though, because it is quite something. The reason is because here's Trump talking about China interfering in American elections just last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election.
We learned that they are trying to meddle in our elections and we're not going to let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Unless it's to help him. I mean, here's the thing, Trump may be doubling down on asking foreign countries for help because he knows the facts on Ukraine. They're in black and white. They're on a transcript. He can't hide that and it could be from China too. So he may want us to think this is all OK despite the hypocrisy that
you just heard. But, President Trump also knows that asking a foreign country publicly for help may have worked before. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He is talking about Hillary Clinton's emails. And his words then might have mattered, because the Mueller report concluded 'within five hours of Trump's remark, a Russian intelligence service began targeting email accounts associated with Hillary Clinton for possible hacks'. Talk about speaking publicly and getting private gain.
So tonight, Trump asks China to investigate his political rival publicly and as I said we have some breaking details this hour about what he did privately. The President is doing this well aware that the biggest trade deal in history is on the table, everything matters with China right now. And American consumers are paying higher prices as a result of that trade war.
The President may be asking to investigate Biden, maybe to give himself cover for a call that he knows the public may find out about with presidency or cover for the private call with the President of Ukraine. Because remember, the bottom line here is this crucial text tonight.
When the President asked the President of Ukraine for a favor, that favor to bring it home here, Trump's top diplomat in Ukraine described it by saying, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." That's a quid pro quo.
That text was sent on an encrypted server. A text that was sent before Americans knew there was a whistleblower, a text nobody ever thought would see the light of day. It is a text that today Trump envoy Kurt Volker showed Congress, as I said, he is still behind closed doors and we are going to get to everything we know about that crucial testimony in just a minute on Capitol Hill with Manu Raju.
First though the breaking developments here on China as I have been speaking. Kylie Atwood is out front in Washington. And Kylie, you have some breaking information about a phone call that President Trump had with the Chinese President Xi where he talked about Biden, a call that was also stored in that super classified system which would not fit with protocol.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. That's right. So over the summer in June, President Trump spoke over the phone with President Xi of China and he did bring up Joe Biden, the former Vice President who is now his most formidable Democratic opponent leading up to 2020. He also brought up Elizabeth Warren.
Now, he brought him up in the sense of their political prospects. Warren was rising in the polls at the time and he talked about them politically. He did not, at that time, according to sources familiar with this call encourage the Chinese to invest Biden. But that is what he did publicly today and we should note that he came out to reporters and encouraged China to investigate Joe Biden.
Now, this phone call back in June, it did go into that secret, that highly sensitive server that the Ukraine call went into. It's a place where the White House stores these conversations that they want to keep particularly away from most people's eyes. They don't want them to get out.
The other thing we should mention, however, is that the Chinese were thrown off guard today. I spoke with the Chinese diplomat after these comments made by President Trump and they said it was quite chaotic. They had learned that Trump wanted the Chinese to investigate Joe Biden via the media reports and said that they had no interest, the Chinese had no interest in getting involved in the U.S. domestic political process.
But we'll see how this plays out. We really haven't seen a formal response from the Chinese yet.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kylie. Obviously, significant in light of the President's public request to China today to investigate Joe Biden. I want to go to Capitol Hill right now with Manu Raju with this crucial testimony. Manu, as we are speaking still unfolding where you are, that text that I was just sharing and you know so much more, what are you learning about what Volker has been telling Congress today?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's been in there for nine and a half hours and we're told that he actually just left. So it appears that it just finally wrapped up after a full day of marathon testimony behind closed doors, getting questions from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Now, we've learned some aspects of what he has told these three committees that are pushing forward on this impeachment inquiry. Now, what he said to that and the aftermath of that phone call between President Zelensky of Ukraine and President Trump, in which Trump asked Zelensky to launch an investigation into the Bidens.
We're told that Volker testified that he actually urged the Ukrainian government not to go forward with not to interfere in U.S. politics. And he also made clear that there were questions that have been raised by the Ukrainian government repeatedly to him about why military aid have been withheld, U.S. military aid that had been approved by the U.S. Congress, why was that not being provided to Ukraine.
Now, we're told by multiple sources that he had no good answers for that to the Ukrainian officials when he had been asked. Now, also there was a planned meeting that had been in the works, that had been discussed in Washington between the new Ukrainian administration, the Zelensky administration and President Trump.
Now, that meeting had been put on ice and there were questions in Ukraine about exactly why that meeting had been put on ice. And in that transcript that the White House released, that rough trans, they do reference a meeting that Zelensky had been eager to have in Washington and there have been questions internally in Ukraine about why that wasn't happening. Volker behind closed door said he couldn't answer that.
And also, Erin, he also raised concerns about the source of Rudy Giuliani's information about Joe Biden and other matters he said that Volker told Giuliani that source was not credible. So those are among some of the headlines that we're hearing there, but a lot more details to learn on this unfolding day long marathon testimony that happened behind closed doors, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And I want to go out front now to Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly. He's on the Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees. He attended Kurt Volker's deposition today. Nine and a half hour marathon, Congressman. What did you learn?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Well, I wasn't there for the whole nine and a half hours.
Unfortunately, for Mr. Ambassador Volker was - well, let me start by saying, I think, what I learned was this Ambassador who was very forthcoming essentially corroborated the essential facts of the whistleblower complaint and that was a very important piece of testimony to hear.
BURNETT: And when you say corroborated the facts, were you able to ascertain that the President had explicitly linked aid to Biden investigation and perhaps that had even happened before the phone call in the summer, obviously.
CONNOLLY: I would say that the Ambassador was careful with his words, but he admitted that he was never provided, that he had the title special envoy to Ukraine, he was never provided with any explanation for this sudden mysterious suspension of as much as $400 million worth of military aid that Ukraine desperately needed to be able to defend itself against Russian incursion that's occurring as we speak.
BURNETT: And - yes, go ahead.
CONNOLLY: And so I think that was very important corroboration that clearly something was afoot and then he also added particularly that had been a planned trip and an invitation to the new President of the Ukraine to come to Washington and meet with Trump. That also was put as Manu just said on ice until and unless the Ukrainian government cooperated in digging up dirt on a political opponent of Trump.
BURNETT: And so this text, which he provided, which started with the other top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. Let me be clear that text was sent before any of this became public, so this was set before anybody knew.
CONNOLLY: That's right.
BURNETT: This was the discussion and I think that's important to note.
CONNOLLY: That's right.
BURNETT: Did he give you any color on that, his opinion on that?
CONNOLLY: He confirmed that text and I think also confirmed that this was a point of friction with the new Ukrainian government, which you got to remember was sort of an unknown quantity and quality. We didn't really know what Zelensky was going to be like or what his policies were, because he had never been in public life before.
And so it was in our interest to want to establish early on positive relationships. And instead we suspend military aid, we suspend the invitation to come early to Washington to meet with the President and we basically put a demand on him that they call crazy. I call that extortion, which is not only wrong and an abuse of office. It's a crime.
BURNETT: So you're saying, envoy Volker confirmed that the aid was suspended, that he knew it was suspended but you're saying he never explicitly withhold, why?
CONNOLLY: He told us he was in the dark, no one ever explained to him why we did it and as a result he was at a loss to try to explain it to his Ukrainian counterparts.
BURNETT: All right. So you're saying that you learned a lot from this, obviously he provided that crucial text, he's confirming all of these things were suspended and there was a reason for that although he did not know what it was, you're clear on that.
CONNOLLY: That's right.
BURNETT: Republicans are now saying this about Volker's deposition, note that they said this, obviously, long before he had actually concluded but here is a Jim Jordan and Lee Zeldin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Not one thing he has said comports with any of the Democrats' impeachment narrative, not one thing.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): The administration is in an even stronger place today than they were this morning as a product of Ambassador Volker coming to testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Did you hear anything? Did you hear what they heard? I mean, you guys were all in the same room.
CONNOLLY: I can only say the power of rationalization and the power delusion continue to hold sway here in Washington in certain quarters. I don't think any rational person listening to that testimony today could remotely come to the conclusion those two gentlemen came to.
BURNETT: Before we go, Congressman. I have one question, as you know Trump publicly asked the Chinese President with whom he has engaged in a massive trade war to investigate Joe Biden today. We have now learned that in a phone call in June with President Xi, the president raised Joe Biden although we do not understand with a direct request for an investigation that call was also housed on the same top secret server that we now know the Ukraine call was housed on. What do you make of that?
CONNOLLY: Well, I think this is further evidence that gives the lie to what you just heard from those two gentlemen, my colleagues, and from the President himself. So when he says there was no quid pro quo, what he really means by projection is there was a quid pro quo.
When he says there's no collusion, he means there's collusion and now we have the evidence. In addition, remember we were debating not long ago was there collusion with Russia, well, now we know there was not only collusion with Russia, there was attempted collusion with Ukraine and attempted collusion with China and this is what we know about.
And this is deeply, deeply troubling that the President would use the apparatus of our foreign diplomacy for narrow partisan political ends, where does that end. That is not something we should tolerate in a democracy.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Connolly.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure.
BURNETT: I appreciate your time tonight.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, Vice President Pence all-in tonight defending Trump's request for foreign countries to investigate Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President was raising issues that were appropriate, that were of genuine interest to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, breaking news, and now there are two, we are learning much more now. There is a second whistleblower complaint tonight. This one is about a different thing. It is alleging interference with audits of tax returns belonging to either President Trump or Vice President Pence. And how the impeachment probe could affect the 2020 election and the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you still just as happy with him?
RICHARD JONES, UNDECIDED VOTER: No comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Breaking news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tonight claiming President Trump publicly violated his oath of office by asking Ukraine and China to investigate his possible 2020 rival, Joe Biden, and his son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The President has confessed to his violation of his oath of office right then and there, so it doesn't need too much inquiry. It's sad for our country that we would have a president that would put us in this situation. But no one is above the law and the President will be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Out front now CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Political Editor for The New York Times Patrick Healy, Former Counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Carrie Cordero and former Director of the Nixon Library Tim Naftali.
All right. I want to ask you all about the legal implications. The story is moving so quickly though, Patrick, I want to start with you, because you have some breaking news At The New York Times right now about exactly how far this went and Trump's involvement went.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's right. We're reporting that two top envoys to President Trump, the ambassador to the European Union and Kurt Volker drafted a statement in august with the help of Rudy Giuliani that committed Ukraine to basically doing the investigations that Trump wanted. Investigating Hunter Biden and investigating whether Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election, the debunked conspiracy theory that Rudy and the President continued to continue push.
It just shows it's yet more evidence of the degree to which top administration officials were bending and frankly warping American foreign policy to carry out the political directives, the interest, the political interests of the President by drafting a statement for foreign power.
BURNETT: They drafted the statement, the statement explicitly gave the investigations that Trump wanted. HEALY: Correct.
BURNETT: And the Ukraine government is going to put it out.
BURNETT: Rudy Giuliani helped write it. Now, it didn't come out as this all was blowing out.
HEALY: It all was blowing up. This was in August and internally as we know within the administration they realized that there was a whistleblower complaint, this was going to be unfolding so that statement never came out.
BURNETT: What do you make of that, Tim?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We have become the super corrupt power, that we are a center of corruption, we are asking foreign governments to participate in our domestic corruption. When the President goes and ask a foreign country for dirt on a political opponent, I think we have to tell Americans this is not just about Democrats versus Republicans.
Imagine, would you like your president to go to foreign countries to ask for their secret information, which by the way they could invent to make you happy, to destroy the character of an American citizen, doesn't that scare you? That is an abuse of power that fits neatly in Article Two of the articles that were passed by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon. I consider that the gold standard for impeachment. It's an abuse of power.
And the President did it publicly, so what do I think this means, this means, first of all, we are terribly vulnerable. I'm not just saying at home, I mean abroad. The Chinese now have a great opportunity. They're negotiating with us a new trading agreement. They now have an opening. They know the President is vulnerable. They're going to give him some nonsense.
BURNETT: Well, I want to get to that just because certainly it appears that they now think Trump will give things up for trade for the United States in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens. It certainly looks that way. I first though, Carrie, want to give you a chance to respond just to this development as Patrick's reporting that Rudy Giuliani worked with the envoy, the U.S. envoy and the President of Ukraine to draft this statement in August which would have announced that Ukraine was launching an investigation to Joe and Hunter Biden. What's the legal implication of that as the story develops?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, I think really we're out of the realm of technical statutory violations. I mean we can come up with a theory potentially that bribery statutes are implicated if they're offering a thing of value or they're trying to get something in return for something else. But I think we're way out of the realm of technical statutory violations. And Tim is exactly right that what we're dealing with is a
Here you have as being reported, at least, Rudy Giuliani who does not work for the United States of America. He purports to work as the personal attorney for Donald Trump, not President Trump, Donald Trump. And so if - to have him inserted he who represents someone as an individual, inserting himself into the foreign policy machinations of the country is something that then affects whether or not the State Department is conducting foreign affairs on behalf of a person, the person of Donald Trump or on behalf of the United States.
So, well, we can talk about specific statutory potentially violations for Rudy Giuliani, I think the more important principle is the abuse of office issue that Tim was describing.
BURNETT: And Gloria, does this all start to become an avalanche or no, obviously, you just heard Republicans still defending the President. Patrick's reporting thinks that maybe some of them aren't even aware although some of them were in the room with Kurt Volker today and you would presume if they listened, they would have heard some of this. Does this start to change?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know. I mean there is this old thing as well if you talk to Republicans privately, they'll tell you they're upset by this, but publicly they won't. Look, the President has 95 percent popularity in the Republican Party and cross him at your own risk.
I think at a certain point though, Republicans have to say who is the Secretary of State here. I remember, I'm old enough to remember, when Rudy Giuliani wanted to be Secretary of State, remember that?
BURNETT: Yes. That's a good point.
BORGER: And they were told, the President actually stayed away from that because people were saying to him, look, there's too many conflicts of interest, Rudy Giuliani is not dependable enough to be your Secretary of State and so they took him out of that pile during the transition. And lo and behold, it actually looks like Rudy Giuliani is the secretary of state in so many ways now, because he's become Zelig everywhere when it comes to Ukraine, everywhere talking to Mike Pompeo about Ukraine, dealing with official envoys on this particular issue.
Does he have his own self interest at heart here in addition to the President's self interest in getting reelected, but is his own self- interest a part of this in terms of his own potential business dealings now that Paul Manafort is out of the picture and in jail. Maybe Rudy Giuliani wanted some business for himself.
This onion has got to be peeled and I think that's what Congress is going to do and clearly questioned the role of Rudy Giuliani. BURNETT: So that's crucial, now, I just want to raise China again
because the breaking news at the top of the hour that the President brought, let's talk about the polls that appears, Patrick, from what we understand in this call about Biden and Warren with the President of China. That gets put in the super secret server. You now have the President publicly saying to Xi launch an investigation into Hunter Biden.
I want to contextualize China, because this is something where it's not just about holding up military aid, everyone can understand that. But this is something that could affect every American.
BURNETT: This is a president putting out there the concept and the question is how much you can peel back the onion of if you investigate my political rival, I may cede to you something on trade that could cause a whole group of Americans something, but it's OK because you gave me what I asked for.
HEALY: Yes. No, Tim's point here is right on. I mean, this opens the door to all kinds of behavior both on China's part but also where you have to wonder as an American citizen, what is President Trump willing to give away to serve his political interest.
BURNETT: His personal interest.
HEALY: His personal and political interest. I mean, there's trade, there's National Security issues, there's North Korea and what we're seeing now from the President is that in the middle of a trade war that is causing real pain for some Americans, he's essentially willing to say, "Hey, China will you do me a favor, basically, to further my own political interest," which raises questions.
We've known there's no real concerted strategy for a long time that this is a deeply impulsive president who oftentimes is making things up as he goes along. But really sort of putting his political interests at the top of the pyramid that includes trade, National Security and others that really stands out.
BURNETT: I mean that is what's stunning about it, Tim, because you could imagine and look, people have a really negative view of politicians and there may be people out there that go, "OK. Well, what's the difference in a trade negotiation?" "Well, if I give you this over here, I'll hurt this group of people. What's the difference they say?" So there is a difference.
NAFTALI: There is a difference and President Trump has successfully convinced a large percentage of our population that everybody is a crook, that every institution is crooked, that nobody plays by the rules.
If you play by the rules, you're a sucker. He has successfully conned a percentage of our country to believing that. By going public today and saying that he is doing exactly what is an
abuse of power --
BURNETT: This is about China?
NAFTALI: Upon China and about Ukraine, he's actually daring the American people. He's saying, you know, Richard Nixon said, I'm not a crook, because Richard Nixon thought Americans did not want a crooked president, Donald Trump says to Americans, I am a crook and you don't care.
BURNETT: And everybody, well, he's saying, and that's the way it is.
I mean, Carrie, can I ask you this call with China, because I do want -- as we're developing the reporting here. That it was in June, obviously, the President Trump today explicitly said investigate Hunter Biden. But in June, he raises Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, talking about their polls, and these concerns. We do not believe there was anything there asked about the investigation, but yet, this call, Carrie, gets put on the super code word server like Ukraine, a thing that doesn't happen except it does seem to happen with President Trump.
Why do you think they would put a call like that there? Have you -- with you thinking about this legally and the national security background, why were the calls put there?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly appears based on what we know from the whistle-blower complaint that's been released so far, it appears they were doing that because they knew people in the White House knew that this would be really bad if it got out and so they were trying to segregate it into a system and so a safe place, if you're in the government, a safe place to segregate something and try to protect it better is a chase that protects classified information. So, all indication are that's why they did it.
But I think your question about China more generally and why now that we know he is raising these issues with China is something even different than raising the issues with Ukraine and it is a really important question because China is a repeat offender and constant national security threat when it comes to cyber security, when it comes to economic espionage, when it comes to competition with the United States on defense issues.
I mean, China is a emerging -- trying to be an emerging power in all of these fronts globally in the world, in competition with the United States. And so, to ask that country, it's different than asking Ukraine. He has basically invited now a country that has been prosecuted.
We have Justice Department, national security division indictments against Chinese officials and he is now inviting this government contrary to U.S. national security interests to interfere in our election.
BURNETT: Right, as I showed. He called them out for doing now what he's inviting them to do.
Gloria, you had a point to make about the calls.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think this is reminiscent, him coming out publicly saying if I were China, I would -- I would look into this. It is very reminiscent of what we went through with the whole Mueller investigation, where the question we all asked was, can you obstruct justice in public?
And here we are having the president effectively abusing his power in public and the answer that Mueller gave us on obstruction was yes, you can obstruct justice in public, and so I think we have to go back and think about this and say, the president is doing this again. Only this time, he's abusing his power and he's saying, you know, China, we are about to sit down and trade negotiations, but if I were you, maybe I would look into Joe Biden.
BURNETT: Right, and who knows? Maybe I'm more favorable. It certainly appears that way.
You know, this also comes, you know, when you talk about the whole Hunter Biden situation, as he's pushing the conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden and defending President Trump for doing what he's doing, urging foreign governments, adversary in the case of China, to investigate Hunter Biden. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the many reasons we were elected to 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, Tim, it is incredibly brazen or incredibly brain washed to say what he said, right? Because if Pence truly cared about this particular issue, he would want an investigation to be pounding the table for an investigation into President Trump and his children who are profiting every single day from office and receiving the money from these hotels.
So, what is it? Brain-washed or brazen?
NAFTALI: It is hard to know if the vice president is a non-entity or absolutely cynical and waiting for his chance at the brass ring. It's not clear. What it is -- what is clear is that he has now embraced President Trump completely.
There is a certain point when Gerald Ford started to distance himself, he was vice president at the time from Richard Nixon, this was a full- throated defense of bad behavior of an abuse of power from somebody who theoretically could become president. He is now endorsing a theory of presidential action that the founders would have found completely abhorrent, but I'm not sure he understands that.
BURNETT: So, Carrie, let me ask you, again. We have new reporting coming in, this is what we are now learning about Vice President Pence, that he was briefed the day after the president's call with Zelensky. Now, we are told he was not briefed verbally about the Biden part of the call, but he was provided with the transcript which he may or may not have read.
What's the significance of that, Carrie, as this now pertains to what Pence knew and when he knew it in his role?
CORDERO: Well, I'm not sure that report gives us quite enough to understand exactly what Vice President Pence's understanding and role has been in the president's, efforts to solicit foreign assistance to solicit his political prospects. If the vice president read the transcript that has now been released that we all can read, it's pretty clear from that transcript itself or the summary of the call that the president was asking the president of Ukraine to conduct this investigation and to do him a favor and to follow up with Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Barr on it. So -- I think there still remains a question as to what exactly the vice president knows.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much as this story moves so quickly through each hour. We have more breaking news next. Details of a second whistle-blower complaint about the Trump administration. This one about tax returns.
Plus, support for impeachment picking up steam, this is a new poll coming out. So, does it make a difference in say, Michigan which Trump won by a razor-thin margin?
BURNETT: Breaking news: another whistleblower complaint tonight. This one from an IRS official.
According to "The Washington Post," the whistle-blower claims he was told at least one political appointee with the Treasury Department tried to improperly interfere with the annual audit of either President Trump or Vice President Pence's tax returns.
Now, keep in mind, President Trump as we all know has refused to release his returns, doing obviously interfering with that audit could be a serious violation of the law.
Lauren Fox is OUTFRONT.
So, Lauren, what else do you know, have you learned about this whistleblower complaint?
LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Erin, we do know the presidential audit program is an automatic program when a new president and a new vice president come into office their taxes are audited. But one of the concerns that House Democrats have had for a while now and this stretches back to when they filed their lawsuit to get the president's tax returns, one of the concerns has been whether or not this program is being administered properly from administration to administration.
There's some concern about potential political influence and so, what "The Washington Post" was reporting is basically this person is saying there may have been at least one political appointee who was seeking to improperly influence the presidential audit program, and that would be significant because again, back in the spring when Richard Neal requested the president's tax returns he did so under the guise that they needed to learn more about how the presidential audit program was being operated.
Now, we did know that there was this whistle-blower because back in August, in some court documents, there was a letter, and it was from Richard Neal to the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and it said that a person had come forward back in July expressing the concerns about the mandatory audit program.
So we did know this person existed, but "The Washington Post" with more details tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: And the whistleblower did express some concerns. What do you know about them?
FOX: Well, given what the president has been saying about the national security whistleblower, there has been concerns about basically protecting the identity of people who come forward with concerns about what's going into the government. I mean, you know, you're talking about a massive government. You're talking about an administration that a lot of people here are claiming are doing things that break a lot of norms and basically, what this person told the post is those people who have concerns who have the way that the government is operating need to feel comfortable to come forward.
So, that's what was being expressed in this "Post" story -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Lauren, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Breaking news, and next, the impeachment effect on 2020. We are in the ground tonight in the make or break state of Michigan. It was a razor thin margin. So, what is the story going to mean at the polls?
And guns in America. Is it an issue that will help or hurt Democrats? Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Tonight, a new poll shows growing support for impeachment. This is a "USA Today"/IPSOS poll, and the numbers now, 45 percent saying Americans say the House should vote to impeach Trump, 38 percent are opposed. Obviously, 45 percent is not a majority, but this is a huge shift, and it -- also the key number to look at there, it's 17 percent who are now trying to figure out what they want to do. Now, one of the places where impeachment can make a huge difference on
how people vote is Michigan. Now, keep in mind, Michigan is crucial. It is a state President Trump won by just 11,000 votes.
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All- important Macomb County, Michigan, has impeachment dented the president's support here.
(on camera): Did you vote for the president or Clinton in 2016?
RICHARD JONES, UNDECIDED VOTER: The president.
MARQUEZ: The president. Are you still just as happy with him?
JONES: No comment.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Some of the president's supporter on the fence, but most we spoke to see impeachment is little more than politics.
MATTHEW KALINOWSKI, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it's a lot of just people don't like him and they want him out of office, the left and the media.
MARQUEZ: John Skantze voted for Trump in 2016 and had concerns early on. Six months ago, he thought Joe Biden might be an option. Now, he says the push for impeachment has him supporting the president more than ever.
JOHN SKANTZE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: They're there for one thing now and one thing only and that's to try to impeach the president.
MARQUEZ: But Democrats here say moving forward with the impeachment process could sway voters to their side.
(on camera): It doesn't help in Macomb County?
CAROLE CHI, CHAIR, STERLING HEIGHTS DEMOCRATIC CLUB: I think so. I think so because I think people in Macomb County want to see what's being done and see the right thing being done.
MARQUEZ: Obama won Macomb and Michigan twice. Trump easily won Macomb and flipped the state by a razor-thin margin.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And who won the state of Michigan after decades?
MARQUEZ: The county critical to both parties.
Republican strategist Jamie Roe says the drive for impeachment will only help reelect the president and Republicans.
JAMIE ROE, GRAND RIVER STRATEGIES: If they're trying to impeach him on the Ukraine business, I think that they are -- they are driving themselves straight back to the minority in the House.
MARQUEZ: Paul Kanan with the Michigan Democratic Party says, while impeachment is important, Democrats also need to keep their focus on the issues.
PAUL KANAN, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We need to be talking about what affects people on a day to day basis and that's those blue-collar pocketbook issues.
MARQUEZ: Now another thing that Republicans tell us they're worried about is the economy. Even though that are striking, they are concerned that the strike could negatively affect the economy here and possibly negatively affect the president's chances of being re-elected -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you very much.
And I want to go to Van Jones, host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW."
Van, you've been -- you've talked to so many voters and what you're hearing a lot like what Miguel is hearing?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. You know, it's interesting because it's a tricky thing. The impeachment process because for some Republicans, it makes them want to rally around the flag.
Now, remember, when I was anti-Bill Clinton from the left in the '90s and then they tried to impeach him and suddenly Clinton was my best friend and I was, like, leave Bill Clinton alone.
So, I think, you know, you get crosscurrents in this thing and at the same time the Democrats are in a lose-lose situation and if they don't do something, their own base is going to feel disappointed, and if you like maybe Trump get away too much. If you go through impeachment, though, you can divide the country further, you take the action away from your candidates, and you still don't stop the problem of interference, just because you impeach the president doesn't mean you don't still the foreign interference. So, it's a big mess.
BURNETT: It's a big mess. I mean, look, it's possible that just everybody comes out of the works for wear. One point, though, of voter there that he was talking to said over the Ukraine business. Ukraine business, it's clear to explain, but it's Ukraine.
BURNETT: China, now the president is asking for help publicly in investigating Hunter Biden. But China -- what's at stake with China, his leverage is something that affects the pocketbooks of people certainly in Michigan and across the country.
Could China be different? JONES: China could be different. I think you have to remember,
though, that I think for a lot of red voters, they do feel that Trump has been persecuted the whole time and the problem with impeachment is, it's a nuclear bomb.
It's like, you can say, listen, I don't like what the president did, we're going to give him a traffic ticket. You know, they might for that.
But you say, I don't like the president, you're going to take him out of office. So, the bar to go I supported him to I want him impeach and thrown out, that's a pretty high bar.
Even voters who don't like what he is doing, so ask for impeachment is a whole different level.
BURNETT: So, people who could stay home or not vote for him.
JONES: Yes, that's what you want to look at. It's a reduction of enthusiasm for Republican voters in the industrial. Those are the numbers you want to be watching for is those enthusiasm numbers come back, that's how Democrats have a chance to win.
But you're never going to have Republicans saying let's impeach the guy. You're not going to have that.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Van.
And next, more on the breaking news and CNN's exclusive reporting, President Trump talking about Biden with China. 2020 candidate Beto O'Rourke is my guest, next.
BURNETT: Breaking tonight, CNN learning President Trump brought up Joe Biden in a call with the Chinese president back in June, a president, of course, with whom he is involved in a trade war.
The White House moving the record of that call to the highly secret codename-only server. We understand talked about Biden and Warren's polls. And this reporting comes as the president publicly asked China and Ukraine to investigate the Biden family today.
Joe Biden firing back in a tweet, quote: Mr. President, you cannot extort foreign governments to help you win reelection. It's an abuse of power. It violates your oath of office and it jeopardizes our national security. I know you want to rig the primary and pick your opponent, but I'm not going anywhere.
And that is the state of that back and forth. I want to go now to Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman, Beto O'Rourke. Congressman, I want to give you a chance to react to the new
reporting. We understand the president raised Biden's polls on a call put on a secret server. Today, the president publicly asking Ukraine and China to investigate the Biden family. Your reaction to that?
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is another criminal effort on the part of the president to involve a foreign power in our elections, and to do so by offering a quid pro quo. Unprompted, the president today brought up the trade deal, the tariffs that have been imposed on China, and seemed to imply that if China were willing to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, then those tariffs would be eased. Perhaps a trade war could end.
He did the same thing with Ukraine with $400 million in military aid. And nothing about the fact that he is doing it out in the open for all the public to see makes it any less criminal. So, we've got to hold him to account. There has to be impeachment, or else there will be impunity, and that will set the precedent that some people are above the law in this country.
The moment we do that is the moment we lose democracy and lose this country. So, full speed ahead for those investigating the president and holding him to account.
BURNETT: Do you think any Republicans in Congress will vote for his impeachment? So, it's not all Democrats?
O'ROURKE: I do.
BURNETT: -- politically. You do?
O'ROURKE: I do, because I believe in their constituents, the people of this country, who are going to put America before any loyalty to party, their personal careers, the next election. They're going to do right for their kids and for their fellow Americans at this defining moment of truth.
We saw this before in 1974. No one thought at the outset of that investigation of Richard Nixon that it would lead to impeachment. But when the writing became clear, Republican senators sat down with the president and helped him to make the decision to resign. We need that kind of leadership right now from Republicans, from our fellow Americans at this moment of truth.
BURNETT: You are explicitly now I know taking on Pete Buttigieg for opposing your mandatory assault weapons buyback plan. You tweeted: To those in our party worried about polls and listening to constituents, and I'm thinking about Mayor Pete, let me tell you that assault weapons buybacks are supported by the majority of Americans.
He, of course, called your idea, mandatory buybacks a quote, shiny object, and he said it could distract people from things that really could be done on gun control, in his opinion.
What do you say to him, shiny object?
O'ROURKE: I just find that term and that kind of calculating politics the way that you triangulate your position based on which way the wind is blowing so offensive to those who have lost a family member to gun violence, or who live in constant fear of being shot and killed by a weapon of war that we freely sell in this country and we allow our fellow Americans to possess so that there are 10 million of these potential instruments of war, offensive to March for Our Lives and those student leaders who survived gun violence and now have a very bold peace plan to ensure that we save the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow Americans.
They're deciding that this is possible. They're deciding that we're going to be able to do this. A majority of Americans agree with us. So, let's find the right thing and then get after it and do it. That's what I want to do as president. That's what I'm doing as a candidate now.
BURNETT: You've supported Joe Biden and how he has handled this situation with the president with Ukraine, now with China. He released his plan. It doesn't call for mandatory buybacks of assault weapons either.
Given that, you know, you feel not doing so is going to the wind in the polls. Is Joe Biden also doing that, guilty of that weakness?
O'ROURKE: Here's the distinction. When Mayor Pete is taking potshots at a plan proposed by the student leaders in March for Our Lives, when he is disregarding the very real pain that the people of El Paso, or Midland, Odessa or Sutherland Springs, or Sta. Fe High School in Texas, just to name four communities that have suffered mass shootings, acts of terror in one state alone, that's what I find to be so offensive and so galling.
And for someone who said that we should decide what the right thing is to do and just pursue it, regardless of Republicans and what they say, to allow the talking points to be defined by the NRA and the Republican Party, to limit us in what we are able to the and the lives we're able to say, that's what's offensive to me.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Congressman O'Rourke.
O'ROURKE: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And thanks to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" begins right now.