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INSIDE POLITICS

Joe Biden To Donald Trump: "You're Not Going To Destroy Me"; Former Diplomat Volker Meeting With Lawmakers On Capitol Hill; Trump Says Ukraine And China Should Investigate Joe Biden And Son Despite No Evidence They Did Anything Wrong Or Illegal; Donald Trump Claims Adam Schiff Involved In "Scandal" After New York Times Report; Sources: Growing GOP Concern About White House Impeachment Strategy. Aired 12- 12.30p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --possibly and about the $800 million range but obviously when you take a look at some of the people who have been affected by this I have to say particularly, Robert Edward (Ph) who was one of the lawyers for --. He is saying that at this point this is a good resolution for these people who have been affected by first shooting that we've seen in the modern history in the America, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: 58 people killed, hundred--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hundreds.

BOLDUAN: Stephanie, thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for joining me, everybody. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this busy news day with us. A key impeachment witness being questioned on Capitol Hill this hour. Kurt Volker resigned as special envoy to Ukraine just last week. He knows details of Rudy Giuliani's overseas search for 2020 election dirt.

Plus, the President's anger is raw and very public. In contrast, the Vice President's team is working frantically but behind the scenes to try to shield him from any Ukraine backlash. And if you think maybe, just maybe, the President would now have second thoughts asking for foreign election help, well, think again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I would think that if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into Biden. It's a very simple answer. Likewise, 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)

KING: A packed hour ahead for us, but we start right there with that remarkable moment. President Trump on his way to Florida telling reporters standing outside of the White House that Ukraine and China should launch investigations into the Bidens. This at the very same moment House Intelligence Committee members are questioning a potential impeachment witness about that exact same topic, using Presidential power and the leverage of official policy of President of Ukraine to dig up election dirt.

President Trump again, in that session outside the White House launching reckless, unfounded smears against Joe Biden and his son. Again, what the President is saying isn't true, but the Former Vice President feels compelled to fire back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now let me make something clear to Mr. Trump and his hatchet men and this special interest funding these attacks against me. I'm not going anywhere. You are not going to destroy me, and you're not going to destroy my family. I don't care how much money you spend, Mr. President, or how dirty the attacks get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There is a lot of moving parts going on today, some on the substance, some in the political debate. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff getting some blowback today after a "New York Times" account saying, Schiff got an early account of the whistleblower's claims.

Schiff's office telling CNN, the whistleblower contacted the Committee for guidance on how to report his complaint. The Committee staff advised the whistleblower on the proper procedures but Schiff's office denies the Committee saw in advance the complaint against the President.

President Trump is now saying, of course, he thinks Schiff helped write that whistleblower complaint. There is no evidence of that, of course what so ever, but that Schiff didn't proactively disclose the contact has some of his fellow Democrats frustrated. CNN's Manu Raju and Kaitlan Collins join us live to start the program. First to you, Kaitlan that was remarkable, the President of the United States, standing outside of the White House asking to beg foreign governments for help.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And John, it came as the President is literally facing an impeachment inquiry over what he said to the Ukrainian President about investigating the Bidens. That's something we learned about form the whistleblower's complaint. A transcript released by the White House.

We didn't need any of that today when the President on south lawn of the White House said in front of reporters surrounded by microphones and in front of the cameras that he believes China should launch an investigation into the Bidens. Just pretty openly exactly what we've been trying to report out, what if he had similarly pressured other world leaders to open investigation into them and the President make clear he thinks that something that should happen.

Now the President said he had not spoken with President Xi of China about this but he said that it's clear that something they should begin talking about, essentially leaving open the possibility that's something they could start doing in the future.

It's going to be pretty interesting to see how Republicans respond to this. Of course, it's coming after the President congratulated China on their Communist Anniversary the other day. And, of course, as the President himself noted, the Chinese delegation is coming to the United States next week for another round of those trade talks as we've been locked in this trade battle.

You've seen this playing out between the United States and China. Whether or not it comes up then is going to be another question, but it's certainly going to be something on everyone's mind.

KING: Fascinating, and as you said, it will be interesting to see if any Senior Republicans say anything critical about the President of the United States standing on the grounds at the White House asking foreign governments for election dirt, lessons not learned.

Kaitlan Collins live at the White House, appreciate that. Let's get up to the Hill now with CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, today the House Intelligence Committee is speaking behind closed doors to the first big witness, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. What do they hope to learn?

[12:05:00]

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they want to know exactly what happened as Rudy Giuliani in particular came to the Ukraine to try talk to Ukraine officials. Giuliani himself has released text messages showing that they were in communication as Volker was trying to set up a meeting with an emissary of the Ukrainian government.

Now the whistleblower complaint had named Volker as an individual who has raised some - tried to alleviate concerns from the Ukrainian government about conflicting messages that were coming out from the Trump administration, as well as from the President and his Personal Attorney about what exactly the Ukrainian government - the U.S. wanted from the Ukrainian government, namely that investigation into the Bidens.

There are going to be a lot of questions about exactly what transpired in the aftermath of the President's phone call with the Ukrainian President Zelensky. Also documents have turned over to Capitol Hill about those communications, and we expect the members and staff members to go through those documents individually.

Now, members who have left this closed door briefing which is being led by the House Intelligence Committee Staff, the Democratic Members who have left have not commented, but we have gotten the first comment out of this briefing from a Republican member who sits on the House Intelligence Committee Mike Turner.

Turner calls this a, "Show trial". He's criticizing the way this transpired, and also he is suggesting that so far this testimony has done, in his view, nothing to advance Chairman Adam Schiff's "Impeachment agenda". So the Republicans believe that so far Volker hasn't done anything to add to the evidence against this President.

We'll see how the Democrats ultimately respond, but John, this is just the beginning. We expect there to be a full day of questioning behind closed doors. We'll see what they ultimately learn. John.

KING: It will be interesting to see if we get to see at least parts of this deposition as it plays out. Manu Raju, appreciate it. Live reporting big day on Capitol Hill. Here with me in studio to share reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times." Michael Shear also of "The New York Times" POLITICO's Laura Barron-Lopez, and Julie Pace with the Associated Press.

Somebody help me, in the sense that, I get what he is doing. If it's everyday behavior, how can you impeach him for it, right? So he is just going to stand there and ask we'll go around the world, and by the time we're done, he would have asked 170 or 80 countries for help and then he'll say, what's the big deal, right?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: He's essentially trying to normalize this and say it out loud, making the assumption that if you do that, if you're not hiding it behind closed doors in private conversation that there's nothing wrong with it. But I think he's wrong on that front. I think the fact saying it on front of a camera doesn't make it right, and it certainly bolsters the idea that his actual intention in the private phone call with Ukraine was not just, oh, here's an example of corruption with the Bidens, again, unproven example, but it was actually a direct request to a foreign government to help him in his reelection bid.

KING: And the Biden campaign, jumping right into this. This is Kate Bedingfield the Deputy Campaign Manager. As Joe Bided forcedly said last night, the defining characteristic of Donald Trump's presidency is the ongoing abuse of power. What Donald Trump just said on the south lawn of the White House was the election equivalent of his infamous Russia, "if you're you listening" moment from 2016.

It is Democrats are trying to build an impeachment case on abuse of power. Letting Rudy Giuliani use the State Department, use of tax resources, official government access and influence to people to gather personal, political information. You have the President again I get the politics of it he is trying to say, what's wrong? I'll keep doing it.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: But by him repeatedly doing it and repeatedly saying it out loud, it emboldens House Democrats and emboldens their inquiry and it also adds, potentially further, another checkmark on, oh, this is an abuse of power, saying it on front lawn and saying out loud exactly what was in the transcript and exactly what they're pursuing in their inquiry right now. KING: I'll come back to this in a second. I just want to get this point and it also makes it harder for Republicans.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I was just about to saying this. It also makes it much harder for Republicans because to the extent that you could point to what's in the whistleblower complaint, and say we don't really know all the conversations. We don't know what the full extent of that July conversations was even though we've seen a partial transcript.

How can we know what the actual tenure of those back and forth were? They can sort of cast us - or casting doubt on what Democrats are trying to point you. That's objectionable in those conversations but when the President says the very same thing out loud, they're going to be faced with the question of was that okay with you? That the United States that the President in front of the White House asking for Ukraine, asking for China to go ahead and investigate Joe Biden?

Is that something that you think the United States President should be doing? And to the degree they don't have a good answer for that, it's going to make it much harder for them to be vigorous defenders of him as this goes forward.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I agree with that, but I also think it's not a hypothetical strategy that has never been that he's never played out before to try to normalize this. It worked with the Mueller investigation in a lot of ways. He spoke so many words about it.

He literally made it such an everyday occurrence that by the end of it, people kind of numbed and it was normal and--

KING: He exhausts you.

[12:10:00]

SHEAR: And it's not impossible to imagine the same thing could happen here where, a week from now, two weeks from now, a month from now, two months from now, we're all just sick and tired of Ukraine.

PACE: I do think this one, though, has potentially different because it does all circle one very specific question, which is, is it right for the President of the United States to be asking a foreign government to investigate a political rival? That is one simple question that is now on the table, and he vocalized his desire to do that on camera.

KING: Is it right, or how wrong is it, is the way I would put it. Is it an impeachable offense? This term gets way overused, Trump being Trump. He's been President for three years now done with that. He used to be he wasn't a politician, haven't held office. You sort of excuse some things. How wrong is it, I think, is the question here?

And part of the Democrats' challenge is to build a case to try to build a corruption abuse of power using the leverage of government to advance your personal, political gains. That's the case they're trying to m make. Kurt Volker is behind closed doors. You heard Manu with the initial reporting, and we don't know people going to come out, no offense, Congressman Turner. We'll see what happens in the end.

People are going to come out they're going to give their take on it as we go forward. He resigned just last week. That is why this is interesting? He resigned suddenly last week after conversations about whether or not he should cooperate? He mentioned the whistleblower complaint.

He connected Giuliani with top officials we know that. Giuliani has released the text, Volker does not dispute that. He has brought his own documents up to Capitol with him. I view this as a first big witness as a central witness. This is not an angry Democrat this is a man who has worked for more than two decades in Republican politics.

Senators know him. He worked for Senator McCain. Was an Ambassador, has a Republican pedigree. If he brings evidence to the table that they were wrongly using the instrument of power government taxpayer resources, that's a credible witness.

BARRON-LOPEZ: What Democrats want to hear from him is to what extent was he involved with Rudy Giuliani, because Giuliani has played up Volker's involvement in this incident, and also potentially to what extent did Giuliani try to recruit other government officials to also engage in this with Ukraine and ask Ukraine for these favors?

That's what they're going to be asking Volker, all those details, what Giuliani was doing? There is also some speculation about, as you mentioned, the timing of his resignation and whether or not that was done so that way he could cooperate with the committees.

KING: And yesterday we were all focused on what would the State Department Inspector General bring to Capitol Hill? The reviews of that were kind of confusing. Democrats were somewhat disappointed. This is a statement from the three Committee Chairmen involved in this.

The documents provided by the Inspector General included a package of misinformation, debunked conspiracy theories and baseless allegations in an envelope marked "White House" and containing folders labeled "Trump Hotel." these documents also reinforce concerns that the President and his allies sought to use the machinery of the State Department to further the President's personal politics.

So they didn't get a document that says ah, ah but they did get evidence that Rudy Giuliani who peddles lies and conspiracy theories all the time got this into the official government machinery. Is this valid enough?

DAVIS: I mean it's clear that - this makes it very clear that he got it into the blood streams of the State Department somehow. We don't know how seriously they took this document. They had it sitting there in somebody's office in the file cabinet and it's an open question I think still whether they were actively engaging in trying to corroborate it or pursue other threads of the investigation? There is a timeline in there, interview notes. Some of them are conspiracy theories but some of it is actual information "The New York Times" has reported, actual meetings that took place between Ukrainian officials and Giuliani in some cases and others to try to build this case that most of which has been debunked up till now.

I think what it shows is the degree to which Giuliani was kind of freelancing this but also, you know, had a conduit to make this part of the United States government activities, whether that meant they were going to follow up and investigate or that it was just sitting around ready for someone to pick up if there were a reason to do so?

I think what the Committee really wants to know - what the Committees want to know from Volker in addition to all the other issues is, what did he know about this effort to hold back the military and security aid, and whether that was at all connected to these other issues that Giuliani was trying to inject into the bloodstream here?

KING: Was it quid pro quo, not just a call? There were meetings for months and months and months and we're trying to piece it together. We shall see it's going to take a while. Up next, some Republicans say they're getting more and more nervous watching the President react to this impeachment inquiry.

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[12:15:00]

KING: The President is both the target of the impeachment inquiry and its loudest critic and that has his fellow Republicans more and more worried as the inquiry gains steam. Again today, the President asked Ukraine and China to investigate a domestic political opponent. That is indefensible, and yet the President is clamoring for more and more Republicans to go out and defend him.

But a growing number of Republicans instead voicing private concerns including complaining they cannot obviously repeat what the President says and are otherwise not getting good guidance from the White House. One Congressional Republican source complaining to CNN that relying on the President's reelection campaign alone to shape the counter- narrative will not be enough. There is no White House war room.

[12:20:00]

KING: This source saying, why are we the ones who have to defend him? It is interesting in the sense that again the other Republican President heading into reelection year. Their faiths are largely tied to him in the House; in the Senate even governor raises anything else across the country. Their faiths are largely tied to him and where are they? You have his most reliable allies out there, but even they are more attacking the Democrats or saying the Democrats are overreaching than trying to defend this up.

PACE: It's a really hard position for Republicans because they don't know the full body of evidence right now, so they have to make this choice over between how forcefully they want to defend him knowing that those words could come back to haunt them if there is much more that comes out here. And then they're simply just getting guidance from the White House on their strategy.

It doesn't leave them. They've been in this place before this is sort of a - this is the typical dynamic where the Republicans look to the White House and think what's the playbook? What's the plan here? They don't get much guidance. In this case I think the difference is they're more likely to stand back right now and take a more wait and see approach.

KING: Today's guidance was we're going to shift the focus from Ukraine and ask China. I say that, it's a bit of snore but if you're a Republican, and even if you're a Republican who wants to go out and defend the President, you have this issue.

One of the things Nancy Pelosi has said to her members is, be careful, be serious, don't give them an opening. There are a lot of Republicans who think the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee did give them an opening. There is a story in the newspaper today that the whistleblower called, and the way Adam Schiff describes it and the way the whistleblower's lawyers describes it is that this person was going to file a complaint?

That takes lot of guts and was looking for help. How do I do this, what's the form, what's the process? That went to Schiff, maybe that's the way it all played out. But Schiff did not proactively say that. He did not come out and publicly say that. It's printed in the newspaper, the President says, aha.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think it's a scandal that he knew before. I would go a step further I think he probably helped write it. That's what the word is. And I think it's - I give a lot of respect to "The New York Times" for putting it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This is the challenge for the Democrats in this environment. That's a new window, this is wrong, there is no evidence, Schiff helped to write it. That's what the word is people are saying now we've lived this for the last several years of our lives. But this is why Democrats have to be extraordinarily careful. That's an opening.

DAVIS: Absolutely it's an opening. The story itself - I think it goes without saying, but I'll just say it, anyway, that there is no evidence that Adam Schiff or his staff helped this whistleblower file the complaint. What was going on behind the scenes, we understand from my colleagues' reporting was that the whistleblower was afraid this was not being taken seriously and wanted to make sure that his concerns got seen and addressed and so went to get guidance where he thought he could get it.

The whistleblower procedures are pretty clearly laid out, and it's very important in those situations to follow the law. And it could be that Adam Schiff was worried that if he did voice this or proactively come out and say, hey, I know about this, that he would be somehow circumventing that process.

We do know now looking back it seems a lot less mysterious why he was raising this letter that he got from Intelligence Community IG saying this complaint is out here. We can't share it with you because we've gotten guidance that we can't. He was clearly trying to focus more attention there and didn't come out and say, I have this. But they do have to really be careful with how they talk about it.

KING: It's politics 101. If they have something that especially in the aides of Trump, that they can twist and use against you, you have to proactively get out ahead of it. The other conversation among Republicans is what about the Vice President? Who we know, the whistleblower complaint says the President told the Vice President not to go to the Zelensky inaugural.

Pulling back this kind of a message to Ukraine then they did have later meetings. The Vice President staff, as we all know from reporting, is they're in a bit of a tizzy trying to protect him, that's their job. They're trying to get information, what's going on? Is the Vice President exposed here?

In "The Washington Post" Today, this is what gets interesting when you try to get into Pence land. Officials said Pence and his staff weren't aware that the call had provoked alarm inside the White House, even though his National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg had been monitoring it.

It's also not clear whether Pence failed to read the accounts of the call in the briefing book or read it and found it unremarkable. The challenge for the Pence people is he likes to say he's always in the loop. He is an important adviser to the President. He did go meet with Zelensky and a rough transcript of that call was in his briefing book.

If you read it, it is hard to not be alarmed by it, and yet they say his national security adviser not alarmed, the Vice President either not alarmed or in the loop?

SHEAR: Yes. Look, this is emblematic also the land mines that keep popping up for the different administration and the different administration figures as this goes along. You try one story and then something else comes out, and that story doesn't work so well anymore.

It is even just with the publicly available information, it's hard to imagine the Vice President wouldn't be aware of what was going on, given the fact that Rudy Giuliani was on television on this network and everywhere else, talking about what they tried to do in the first place. And as you say, the Vice President doesn't go to a meeting with a foreign leader without being fully briefed on what's happened certainly by the President in the previous days and weeks.

[12:25:00]

SHEAR: They are scrambling in Pence's office to figure out a narrative that avoids all these land mines and still makes him, in the end, look okay. PACE: The other piece of this were they really scrambling is in the whistleblower complaint there is a footnote that says that Trump ordered Pence to not go on the trip. Sources told us that is true. The Pence people now say its logistics. It's kind of difficult to imagine if the President did ask the Vice President to not go on this trip that he wouldn't say why? Why don't you want me to go on this trip?

They're scrambling with logistics. They couldn't set a date by a certain time secret service wasn't ready for it. It took them a week to come up with that explanation.

KING: I adjust the note. Kurt Volker is up on Capitol Hill testifying. Jim Jordon, Republican, Ranking Republican on one of the committees involved and came out and said he is impressed by the testimony so far. Again we're getting just bits and pieces reactions as they come up. We want to bring them to you. We'll keep up on that.

Next for us, are there frustrations in the Democratic Party as they finesse and balance their own message on impeachment?

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