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President Trump Dodges Key Question About Ukraine In Fiery Exchange; Growing GOP Concern About White House Impeachment Strategy; 11 Dead In U.S. From Mosquito-Borne Virus. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired October 3, 2019 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS, FORMER PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: -- for the Ukrainian president to investigate Vice President Biden or Hunter Biden, then he had a chance to say that. And if not, then he would be confirming that is, in fact, exactly what he was looking for as the transcript shows.
But I thought it was telling, meaning it was a straightforward, legitimate question that he didn't have an answer or didn't want to answer it despite being given a couple of opportunities to do so.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Talk more about that because we just played that minute chunk. Did you hear a direct answer to your question there?
MASON: No -- no, I didn't.
And honestly, sometimes the president, as many politicians will do, will give an answer to a question that's not related to the question. So then it's our job, particularly in a case like this, to follow-up and that's what I did. And I think that's -- that was -- I think that was the right thing to do.
And, you know, sometimes you're not sure if maybe he caught the question, although I think it's pretty clear that he caught the question.
BERMAN: Oh, he caught it.
MASON: In all three cases yesterday.
BERMAN: And just to be crystal clear, did -- he didn't answer it. The question was --
BERMAN: -- what did you want from the president of Ukraine and he didn't answer.
MASON: No, that's right. He dodged the question and he -- and he sought to not only dodge it with his -- with his answer but then also to try and encourage me to divert my attention to the man standing to his right.
BERMAN: That is a very nice way of saying what he did with you yesterday -- "encourage me to divert my attention to the man on his right."
How was the president's behavior inside that news conference different than what you have seen in the past? You've been at many news conferences with this president and many others.
MASON: Oh, sure, and I've asked him some tough questions before. I mean, that's not a new dynamic.
He was mad. He was just really frustrated.
And we know from having covered President Trump now for more than 2 1/2 years that he lashes out at the media, he lashes at reporters, he lashes out at the press when he feels under pressure when he feels frustrated. And that happened a few times yesterday, particularly in that press conference but also in the Oval Office during the pool spray a few hours before.
I think it just shows that he's really like he needs to hunker down and he's feeling mistreated and he's looking for a scapegoat. And he found one yesterday in me and in the press writ large.
BERMAN: You say he seemed mad. More mad than usual?
MASON: You know, I -- it's hard for me to answer that. If you look over the last 2 1/2 years, he certainly had phases and ups and downs where we see him reacting really angrily. I think this is just part of a pattern of one of those phases.
I'm reluctant to say it's more or different from other times but it was certainly acute yesterday and certainly very pronounced.
BERMAN: Did you ever get any reaction from the Finland leader?
MASON: Well, you know, my question to the Finland -- Finnish president was he had started out the press conference -- or his piece of the press conference by mentioning that he had attended some museums or visited some museums yesterday and wanted to compliment the United States on our democracy and then sort of encourage President Trump to make sure that kept going.
And that seemed telling to me that he would say that at a press conference in the White House East Room next to the President of the United States. So I asked him if there was a reason that he brought that up and then he said -- you know, he just sort of repeated his comments about U.S. democracy. So I did eventually get that out of him.
And he also weighed in on the WTO, which -- and its ruling on Airbus yesterday, which the president was happy to comment on as well.
BERMAN: Yes. The Finnish president bringing up democracy seemed to suggest that maybe he thinks the future of democracy in the United States might be in question or else why bring it up the way he did?
Finally -- and Jeff, you eluded to this in your first answer. Why do you think it is difficult for the president to answer your simple and, I would suggest, central question?
MASON: Yes, I don't know why. I mean, I don't know if he doesn't want to dwell on what's in -- very clearly in that transcript. He's very eager to mention that he released that transcript. He says that that transcript is perfect and that it essentially exonerates him from the accusations that people are making against him about his motivations with President Zelensky.
I think yesterday would have been an opportunity for him to really spell that out and he chose not to. Only he can know why he didn't.
But as you say, it was a direct question, it was a straightforward issue, and it's really the central issue right now at the heart of what is turning into a very big political crisis for him and his administration.
BERMAN: All right. Jeff Mason, keep asking the questions. We really appreciate it. Thanks so much for being with us.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I want to go to his anger management specialist.
BERMAN: Jeff is so calm --
CAMEROTA: I can see that.
BERMAN: -- so collected. Just the facts. He handled that brilliantly.
CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. I mean, everybody else's pulse was elevating, but not his.
CAMEROTA: That was incredible to hear from him.
And this -- this stunning moment in the courtroom. The brother of a murder victim hugging the convicted murderer.
We'll bring you the emotional moment inside and outside the courtroom.
CAMEROTA: House Democrats are threatening to subpoena the White House if they do not comply with requests for documents related to the Ukraine controversy. CNN has also learned that the Justice Department told White House personnel they must now preserve all the presidential records, including any notes regarding President Trump's meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders.
Joining us now, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Well, they're luckily preserved in that other code word-protected computer system --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER, AUTHOR, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes.
CAMEROTA: -- so that -- they're there.
TOOBIN: They're somewhere in there.
CAMEROTA: That ought to be fine.
Is this a big deal that the Justice Department has told them it's time to start preserving all records -- you can't destroy them?
TOOBIN: Well, it's the prudent -- it's the appropriate thing to do for the Justice Department.
But the big issue is what happens to them once they're preserved. Are they being preserved so that the president can claim various privileges and not disclose them to congressional investigators or are they being preserved then to be turned over in the impeachment investigation? That's the big question now.
BERMAN: And the subpoenas, Jeffrey.
BERMAN: That seems significant.
TOOBIN: It is because Adam Schiff and the Democrats have worked the White House into a kind of 'heads, I win -- tails, you lose' situation, which is either you give us these documents, which we think are incriminating, or if you don't we are going to add this refusal to the articles of impeachment, which has some history.
Richard Nixon -- one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974. Look at that.
BERMAN: Article three, here.
TOOBIN: Yes, Article three.
CAMEROTA: He's uploading every article.
TOOBIN: I think it would be a little long to -- we might get it into, like, Brooke Baldwin's --
CAMEROTA: John has it committed to memory.
TOOBIN: -- television program if we had to -- if we had to read the whole thing.
But the point is, the -- if -- the failure to respond to congressional subpoenas -- legitimate, justified subpoenas -- was an article of impeachment -- was an article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
BERMAN: That's quite a hammer --
TOOBIN: It is.
BERMAN: -- that the Democrats are wielding now that they did not have in their arsenal, Jeffrey, before they launched this impeachment inquiry.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, if you recall way, way back like a month ago when Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee was being frustrated at all their attempts to get, for example, Don McGahn, the former White House counsel. They could go to court and say well, let's force Don McGahn to testify -- long, laborious, uncertain process.
Here, no court involved. Either you produce the documents or you are going to have an article of impeachment.
CAMEROTA: That is very interesting. So in other words, by officially launching the impeachment inquiry, they have taken out the court process.
TOOBIN: Well, they have chosen to take out the court process. They could still go to court and try to get some of these materials, but they're in an expedited schedule.
They recognize that if you go to court, you're in for months of litigation. Nancy Pelosi wants this process over by the end of the year. They're not going to court.
CAMEROTA: Here's what Elijah Cummings, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, says about this.
"I do not take this step lightly. Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with or even respond to the committees."
TOOBIN: That's where the process has been.
I mean, think about it. When the Democrats took control of the House in November of 2018, so many of us thought oh, there's going to be so much oversight. They're going to learn so much about the Trump administration.
It's been a failure. They have -- because the White House has stonewalled on virtually everything. Now, that becomes a weapon against the White House is an impeachment process.
BERMAN: And that's just one way that this week and last week have been different than the previous two years. The Democrats are now wielding that weapon. We'll see to what end.
The other thing is that people are slipping through the cracks. Kurt Volker, who will speak to Congress today, to an extent, has slipped through the cracks. He quit his job with the State Department last week and he has agreed to speak to Congress or to be deposed by Congress.
And this is despite the fact that Mike Pompeo has tried to throw up smokescreens to people from the State Department going to speak to Congress.
TOOBIN: Well, you mention the critical fact. He's left his job. He no longer works for the State Department.
The former ambassador to Ukraine, she is another important figure in this. She has not -- she's -- she was fired, in effect, from her job as ambassador but she's still a State Department employee. Whether she, in fact, testifies next week is a very interesting question. Supposedly, she is.
But if you look at the people who have actually testified before Congress -- Michael Cohen, who was a guest of the federal government now but not a federal employee anymore. He is -- he testified before Congress.
But the White House has succeeded in shutting down virtually all federal employees and we'll see if that continues to be true in the impeachment investigation.
CAMEROTA: In our waning seconds, can you explain what happened yesterday with the State Department inspector general, who produced some peculiar document? Are we supposed to -- what the heck was that?
TOOBIN: You know, can you ask me an easier question?
TOOBIN: I was completely mystified by what went on yesterday. I was mystified by the urgency of the inspector generals -- I think there is a certain degree of paranoia in the -- especially among the inspector generals after the whole -- the situation with the Intelligence Community.
I think they found some documents that were -- they thought had something to do with this and they figured the safest course was just to turn them over, even though they look like they're pretty nutty irrelevant stuff.
BERMAN: Although one peculiar new development is that Rudy Giuliani admits to CNN that he is behind --
CAMEROTA: That he was behind them.
BERMAN: -- the creation of some of these documents. So who knows where it goes.
TOOBIN: The mysteries of Rudy continue, yes.
BERMAN: Thank you, Jeffrey Toobin.
CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, thank you very much.
BERMAN: All right.
A mosquito-borne illness continues to spread and the death toll rises. We're getting a new warning from the CDC, next.
CAMEROTA: According to our reporters, there is growing fear in Republican ranks about the president's possible impeachment and the uncoordinated response to it.
Sources tell CNN, quote, "Along with that fear is frustration with President Donald Trump -- his ranting and performances full of false claims, like Wednesday in the Oval Office and White House East Room, and stream of consciousness rapid-fire tweets -- curse words and all -- are not exactly an anti-impeachment road map for his fellow Republicans."
Joining us now is Kori Schake. She served on the National Security Council and State Department under President George W. Bush. Ms. Schake, great to see you here.
We're interested in talking to you because of your long experience with some of these Republicans and what they are currently experiencing and thinking.
And first, did you -- John Harwood, of CNBC, quotes you as saying -- let me read it -- "Whistleblower account seems convincing that the president was using our foreign policy to blackmail a foreign country into assisting his reelection beyond the pale. I believe the president's conduct merits impeachment."
You mean impeachment or an inquiry, as we're seeing now?
KORI SCHAKE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STRATEGIC STUDIES, FORMER NSC AND STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, impeachment is an inquiry and I think the president's behavior merits it. American democracy really relies on a single set of rules that apply equally no matter which party is in power and the president's behavior, I think, is cause for a legitimate concern and congressional oversight.
CAMEROTA: As I said, you worked for George W. Bush. You worked -- you co-wrote a book with former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Jim Mattis, in his book, has been sort of dancing around the edges of how he feels about this and suggesting why he left the administration. One of the things that he wrote was, "All Americans need to recognize
that our democracy is an experiment and one that can be reversed. We all know we're better than our current politics. Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment."
That was seen as basically a message to President Trump. How did you interpret that?
SCHAKE: Well, Sec. Mattis can speak for himself.
I agree with the judgment, though, that it really matters for us to have a common set of rules that we hold either party in power accountable for and especially in the highest office of the land, the President of the United States.
CAMEROTA: Some people -- on Twitter, primarily, I've noticed -- are saying when will former President George W. Bush say some of these things.
SCHAKE: Well, you know, I feel like people currently holding public office, especially in the Congress, ought to be our first line of reaction. And I am surprised that so few of my fellow Republicans are willing to actually publicly hold the president accountable to standards of behavior.
For example, Sec. Pompeo set an excruciatingly high standard for his -- one of his predecessors, Sec. Clinton, in terms of accountability to Congress. And he doesn't appear, at the moment, to be holding himself to the same standard. And I think that's bad for democracy in America.
CAMEROTA: Why are they doing that?
SCHAKE: You know, I ask myself that very often. But I do have the sense that the dynamic is changing because the evidence presented by the whistleblower and confirmed in the -- in the transcript -- not transcript -- the account of the call that the White House released is actually really dangerous behavior for an elected official and particular, for the President of the United States to be engaged in.
CAMEROTA: What do you wish that, say, Sec. Pompeo or any of the Republicans in Congress would say?
SCHAKE: I wish they would say that we entrust the President of the United States with an enormous amount of responsibility. And that to use his office for purposes of domestic political politicking and to encourage other countries, in particular America's allies and in particular countries that rely on the United States for their security or for assistance in their security -- for the president to try and manipulate those relationships for domestic political gain is bad for democracy in America.
CAMEROTA: And from your read of the transcript of the phone call with the president of Ukraine and President Trump, is it crystal clear to you what happened? SCHAKE: Well, it -- yes. It is clear that the President of the United States was attempting to encourage a foreign head of state to come up with information that could be damaging to a potential political rival. And that's terrible conduct. It's disgraceful conduct and it's possibly even unconstitutional conduct by the President of the United States.
CAMEROTA: Kori Schake, thank you very much for your perspective on all of this -- John.
BERMAN: All right.
This morning, we're getting new reports about concerns surrounding a mosquito-borne virus known as EEE. Eleven people have died across the United States. This is the worst outbreak of the deadly brain infection in decades.
CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now with more.
And, Brynn, I've got to tell you, I've been up in Massachusetts. There's serious concern about this -- festivals, practices being canceled.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's where most of the cases are occurring, John, is Massachusetts. There's really concern for southern New England, but like you said, across the United States at this point, too, as well.
Two deaths just this week, and as John mentioned, 11 deaths this year attributed to EEE. It's a mosquito-transmitted disease that is tracked every summer. But why it is so bad this year and can we expect this every summer is something the scientists we met are trying to figure out, while also combatting this spike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRAS (voice-over): While a Rhode Island baseball team squeezes in a late-summer practice, up above something is happening in the state for the first time in nearly 30 years -- aerial spraying to kills mosquitos -- a last line of defense in the state's fight against EEE.
KEN AYARS, AGRICULTURE DIVISION CHIEF, RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT: There are certain conditions, like this year, where we have to go above and beyond those normal measures because people's health is at risk.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Eastern Equine Encephalitis or EEE is a virus transmitted by mosquitos through a mosquito bite and can cause a rare brain infection, sometimes death.
AL GETTMAN, MOSQUITO ABATEMENT COORDINATOR, RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT: I have a couple -- three, at least, candidate female mosquitos in here. GINGRAS (voice-over): Al Gettman is an entomologist for the state. He's studied mosquitoes for 27 years, tracking their habitats and what diseases they could carry, like West Nile and EEE.
GINGRAS (on camera): You're around mosquitos all the time. Are you alarmed by this spike that we're seeing?
GETTMAN: Well, yes. This is a very, very unusual year we're having here in southern New England. Nothing quite like this has been observed before where EEE has become so widespread.
GINGRAS (voice-over): At least 30 people have become ill in six states this year after bitten by mosquitos carrying EEE. Eleven of them have died.
Finding answers as to why the widespread spike starts with catching mosquitos.
GINGRAS (on camera): You're laying more traps now at the direction of the state. Why?
GETTMAN: We all want to know in this very unusual year how much EEE is out there. Where is it and what species of mosquito is it in, et cetera.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Gettman leaves the traps overnight and by next morning --
GETTMAN: Well, that's a good mosquito catch for this time of year.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Next, it's back to the lab where those mosquitos are frozen and separated by species.
GETTMAN: That's our weekly routine is produce these vials and get them up to our state health department.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Where the species are round up and tested for the presence of EEE. The results inform state officials about next steps on how to combat the disease. It's a process repeated every summer.
AYARS: We really can't predict if it's going to be a bad summer.
GINGRAS (voice-over): While the disease is cyclical and outbreaks happen every few years, officials say determining why it's setting records now will take time.
AYARS: There will be more study about that but I can say that there is an effect of climate change on weather and weather influences mosquito production.
GINGRAS (on camera): What would you say to the people that are really worried?
GETTMAN: The threat is out there -- that's certain. The obvious message to the public is to remain vigilant and protect yourself from mosquito bites for the rest of the season.
GINGRAS: And, of course, for now, there's only so much health officials really can do. We saw record temperatures in many areas prone to EEE just yesterday.
The mosquitos are still flying. It's important that people take their own precautions until the threat is over, which will likely be in the next couple of weeks when we have that first frost -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Brynn, watching this very closely. Thank you for that.
And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Christina McFarlane is next.
For our U.S. viewers, we're just getting some breaking news on documents that just arrived on Capitol Hill from a key witness testifying today. NEW DAY continues right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BERMAN: All right. Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, October third, 8:00 in the East.
And we do have breaking news. Former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, is due to testify within the next few hours on Capitol Hill. What does he know about the president and Rudy Giuliani's pressure on Ukraine to deliver dirt on Joe Biden? We will find out.
The breaking news is this. Dozens of pages of documents were delivered to the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees.