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Washington Post: Trump's Ex-Envoy Told Lawmakers Giuliani was Warned that Ukrainians were Feeding Him Bad Info on Bidens; Washington Post: IRS Whistleblower Complained Treasury Appointee Tried to Interfere with Audit of Trump or Pence; Rep. Ro Khanna, (D) California is Interviewed About Whistleblower, Kurt Volker, Election Interference, Republicans and the President; Wall Street Journal: Trump Ordered Removal of Ukraine Ambassador After Complaints from Giuliani and Others; Trump Urges China to Investigate Bidens, Repeating Request for Foreign Interference in U.S. Election; WSJ: Trump Ordered Removal of Ukraine Ambassador after Complaints from Giuliani and Others; Putin Praises Trump's Courage as Denuclearization Talks Between the U.S. and North Korea About to Resume. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 3, 2019 - 17:00 ET
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Key witness speaks. President Trump's former special envoy for Ukraine gives closed door testimony to lawmakers as part of the impeachment inquiry, reportedly telling them Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was warned, he was getting bad information about Joe Biden from Ukrainian sources.
China should investigate. Despite unfolding impeachment inquiry, President Trump calls for another foreign adversary to interfere in the 2020 election and investigate his political rival.
Second whistleblower. An IRS official has reportedly filed a complaint, saying he was told at least one Treasury Department, political appointee, attempted to improperly interfere with an audit of President Trump or Vice President Pence.
Rudy's role. Giuliani admits he generated conspiracy theory documents. The State Department Inspector General hands it over to Congress. And that he's communicating with Paul Manafort in jail through his lawyer.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."
We're following breaking news, three House committees hearing close door testimony from the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine as the impeachment inquiry into President Trump gains steam.
"The Washington Post" is now reporting that Kurt Volker told lawmakers that the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was warned that Ukrainian claims of alleged misconduct by Joe Biden and his son were not credible. That didn't stop President Trump from repeating his request for foreign interference in the upcoming 2020 election. The President is now urging China to investigate Biden, despite the impeachment probe that rose from a similar request to Ukraine.
And there's a new report just out from "The Washington Post" saying that an IRS whistleblower complained that a Treasury political appointee tried to interfere with an audit by either President Trump or Vice President Pence. We'll talk about the breaking news with more Congressman Ro Khanna of the Oversight and Armed Services Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta first.
Jim, the President now urging Ukraine and China to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating Joe Biden.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Despite all the day's developments it is hard to look past what was a remarkable moment, one for the history books as President Trump stood on the grounds of the White House and called for interference on the 2020 election. Today he asked China to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Unlike his conversation with Ukraine's President, no call transcript is necessary here after today. President said the quiet part out loud. Mr. Trump sounded like he was saying, China, if you're listening.
ACOSTA (voice-over): In what is fast becoming a game of chicken with House Democrats threatening impeachment, President Trump is calling on a U.S. adversary, China, to interfere in the 2020 election, by investigating his unproven conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter's, business activities overseas. The President his plea after admitting he wanted the same out of Ukraine.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They should investigate the Bidens.
China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
ACOSTA: Bidens campaign immediately pounced, comparing Mr. Trump's statement to the one he made in 2016 when he asked Russia to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will be rewarded mightily by our press.
ACOSTA: At a campaign event overnight, Biden accused the President of acting out of fear. JOE BIDEN, (D) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He did it because, like every bully in history, he's afraid. He's afraid of just how badly he may be beaten in November.
ACOSTA: The President is counting on Republicans to remain loyal, pointing to his latest poll numbers and fund-raising figures in a tweet and thanking the Senate Majority Leader McConnell for his support. McConnell would play a pivotal role in a Senate trial of the President, if Mr. Trump is impeached in the House.
TRUMP: He read my phone call with the President of Ukraine, Mitch McConnell. He said that was the most innocent phone call that I've read. I mean, give me a break.
ACOSTA: And the plot is thickening after the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted to "The Washington Post" he has discussed his unproven Biden claims with an attorney for a former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who is in prison.
Contrast that with Vice President Mike Pence who is trying to keep his distance from the Ukraine investigation.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is great to be in Arizona.
ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN to expect the Vice President to spend much of his time over the coming weeks on the road, as his aides worry about the Ukraine fallout back in Washington, with questions swirling about what Pence knew and when, he has latched on to Mr. Trump's allegations.
PENCE: There are legitimate questions that ought to be asked and we're going to continue to ask them since the American people have a right to know whether or not the Vice President of the United States or his family profited from his position.
ACOSTA: The President is umping up his accusations on social media. Tweeting out a video slamming the Bidens featuring music from the rock group Nickelback, only to be shut down by Twitter after the band complained that was a copyright violation.
The President is grumbling about the prospect of being impeached even at official White House events.
TRUMP: That's why they do the impeachment crap because they know they can't bit us fairly. That's the only reason. They can't win.
ACOSTA: That's not swaying the growing number of Democrats coming out publicly to state the impeachment inquiry must continue.
REP. MAX ROSE, (D) NEW YORK: We have no choice now but to proceed with an impeachment inquiry and the only person the President has to blame is himself.
ACOSTA: Now another key sign the administration is gearing up for an impeachment battle, the Justice Department has instructed White House employees to preserve documents and e-mails that may have to be turned over to House Democrats as part of their inquiry. It's become more difficult for the White House and its defenders to accuse the whistleblower complaint of relying upon hearsay to accuse the President of asking a foreign government to interfere in the upcoming election, as Mr. Trump did that today, out loud, that talking point, Wolf, no longer holds up. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now where there are truly some fast- moving developments. Lawmakers have been hearing privately from the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Let's go to our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, what are you picking up over there?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, behind closed doors, Kurt Volker has been getting grilled for about 7 1/2 hours now, and counting, as Democrats and Republicans have been trading off hours, questioning Volker about his conversations with the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, setting up -- trying to set up a meeting soon after the President's own phone call with the Ukrainian President in which the President urged the Ukrainians to launch an investigation into his political rival. According to the whistleblower complaint, Giuliani -- Volker had made clear that there were concerns about -- he was trying to navigate concerns from the Ukrainians about the differing messages that were coming from the Trump administration as well as from Giuliani and other aspects about investigating Joe Biden.
Now, at the same time, Republicans who have emerged from this closed door briefing, have tried to push back, saying that Volker has provided nothing in their view to further the Democrats' impeachment narrative. Now the Republicans are also being very careful not to say exactly why that is, exactly why they don't believe that this is adding any further fuel for the Democrats push and Democrats, at the same time, also at the moment withholding their comments, saying that they won't discuss this until after.
Now, at the same time, Wolf, this is coming amid a fast-moving inquiry after today. Tomorrow, the House Intelligence Committee will meet with the inspector general of the Intelligence Community who has previously met with this committee but has not talked with them since the whistleblower complaint was released. And of course it was him, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of Intelligence Community who deemed that whistleblower complaint credible and urgent. And members have a lot of questions about that as they decide how to pursue this investigation.
But at the moment, Wolf, we're waiting for Kurt Volker to emerge and we'll get some more sense about how lawmakers viewed what actually occurred behind closed doors and what Democrats will glean for this as they push ahead on this investigation, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you. Manu Raju up in Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" is now reporting that Kurt Volker told lawmakers today that he warned Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that allegations against Joe Biden and his son were simply not credible. Let's bring in our Political Analyst, Rachael Bade, she broke the story for "The Washington Post."
So, Rachael, first of all, tell us about that warning that Volker gave.
RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHITON POST: Hey, Wolf. So I spoke to two sources who are in the room for Volker's testimony. It's still ongoing, obviously. But they both told me that Volker has basically told Giuliani that he needed to be careful with this information he was getting from this former Ukrainian prosecutors who were pushed out for corruption.
Obviously, Giuliani was hearing all this stuff about Joe Biden, putting some sort of pressure on them to get rid of an investigation, but Volker told him that these were not credible sources and he needed to be very careful with the information that he was getting. Sort of trying to warn him off. Obviously, that didn't take, because Giuliani continued to pursue this matter.
We are also learning that Volker warned the Ukrainians, even as Giuliani was talking to him, that they should not be getting involved in U.S. domestic politics. That if they were to sort of step into this mess they could potentially in the future be accused of meddling in the U.S. election and that it would hurt Ukraine long-term. So he was also telling the Ukrainians, be careful.
We're also learning that there was an actual agreement between Ukraine and the United States that the President of Ukraine was supposed to come to the U.S. right after Zelensky was elected, to meet with Trump. And they were really excited about this meeting. That was obviously delayed, delayed, delayed as the U.S. was holding military financial assistance and Trump was pressuring Ukraine to have this investigation. And Zelensky told lawmakers that that meeting and the delay caused a lot of internal panic and a lot of internal concern by a U.S. ally, Ukraine.
And so, coming out of this meeting, the source -- the sources that I've been talking to say that this sort of solidifies this narrative that Democrats, you know, have been investigating, that this investigation in what Trump did with Ukraine really infringed on U.S. foreign policy and caused a lot of problems.
BLITZER: You know, Rachael, did Volker tell the lawmakers how Giuliani responded when he gave him that warning not to go with all those wild accusations?
BADE: To be answered, I don't know at this point. I'm sure he was probably asked that question. We're still learning details as they come out. But clearly, Giuliani continued to pursue this matter, right?
This warning, we don't know exactly when it happened, but my understanding it was months ago. And clearly, Giuliani continued to pursue this.
BLITZER: And you also are reporting, Rachael, that Volker handed over some documents to these members of Congress. What do we know about that?
BADE: Well, I've seen some other reporting that he has turned over some text messages right now. We saw a text message exchange where he expressed concern about the U.S. holding this financial military assistance. Now, to be clear, this was ABCs reporting. I have not seen these text messages personally myself. But a couple of outlets have matched them.
And what I do know and what I can tell you from these two sources that I spoke within the room is that he has expressed concern about the U.S. halting the military assistance to Ukraine. They didn't know why it was happening. I was told that he -- they never were given an explanation for why this was not going through, and they thought it was sort of damaging to Ukraine and the U.S./Ukrainian relationship. So it was not something that he, being a long-time foreign ambassador, somebody who has expertise in Ukraine and who has worked in the foreign service for decades and years, it's not something that he would have wanted.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting, Rachael. Thank you so much, Rachael Bade --
BADE: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- of "The Washington Post," a CNN political contributor as well.
Also breaking this hour "The Washington Post" is reporting that a new, yes, new whistleblower has filed a formal complaint. This time, a career IRS official allegedly heard of interference in an audit of the President or the Vice President by a political appointee, a Treasury Department political appointee. Let's go to our Politics Congressional Reporter, Lauren Fox, has been working the story for us.
Lauren, what are you learning about this second whistleblower?
LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CINGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, we knew that this whistleblower had existed because this person came forward in July according to a court document filed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. And what we is that from a August court filing, Neal wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and said, look, a whistleblower came forward in July, they are alleging that there was improper interference in the presidential audit program and I have concerns.
"The Washington Post" now reporting that that person is alleging that at least one political appointee was trying to influence the presidential audit program.
And I want to take a step back, Wolf, because this is important. Back in the spring when House Ways and Means Chairman Neal requested the President's tax returns, he did so with a legislative purpose. He basically argued that this issue of the presidential audit program was not enshrined in law and he wanted to look at whether or not there was undue political influence depending on whether you're a Republican or a Democrat coming into office.
Right now every time a new administration comes into office, the President and the Vice President's taxes are audited. That program, however, is pretty secret. There's not a lot of information known about it. This whistleblower is alleging that there was undue political influence, at least that's according to what "The Washington Post" has today. And I'm continuing to call sources and trying to get more information, Wolf, on precisely what was in that complaint. Wolf.
BLITZER: Emily -- excuse me, Lauren. Lauren Fox reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California is joining us. He's a key member of both the Oversight and the Armed Services Committees. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
And I want to begin with Kurt Volker's testimony up on Capitol Hill today behind closed doors. As you heard according to "The Washington Post," Volker testified that he told Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney, he was receiving untrustworthy information on the Biden family and that he warned the Ukrainians against getting involved in U.S. politics. So what's the significance of this new information?
REP. RO KHANNA, (D) OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, it's deeply concerning. Obviously the person who is the foreign policy expert who understands the U.S. -Ukraine relationship clearly said that the information and smears against Vice President Biden had no basis in fact. And yet we see Rudy Giuliani continuing to spread those smears, handing that over to the State Department, pushing a narrative that was false.
BLITZER: Did Voker's testimony give you and your colleagues new leads, potentially new witnesses to pursue?
KHANNA: Well based on the public reporting, what concerns me the most is the text that he apparently sent to one of the ambassadors, saying he doesn't understand why the President is withholding financial aid, military aid from Ukraine for a political campaign. And if that is true, if that text exists, that is explosive. That is a text that shows that the sitting ambassador envoy to Ukraine was concerned that President Trump was using our military, our national security for aiding his own political campaign.
BLITZER: So do you believe the information we're all learning today, the public information will bolster the case for impeachment?
KHANNA: I do. But, Wolf, you also have the President of the United States going on television and saying and asking China to interfere in our election, asking Ukraine to continue to interfere in the election. At this point there is no dispute about the facts. The President is basically saying that he is allowed to get foreign leaders to interfere in our elections. And at some point even Republicans have to say that this is a total violation of our constitutional republic.
BLITZER: Some of your Republican colleagues walked away from the Kurt Volker deposition today saying they don't think that Volker shed new light on any impeachable conduct. Are they saying the same thing in private to members like you?
KHANNA: What they're saying in private, Wolf, is that the President's conduct is inappropriate, some of his tweets are inappropriate, but it doesn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense. I mean, that's what you hear in private.
And my question to them is that what would be impeachable? I mean, if you don't believe that soliciting foreign interference is impeachable, that going after and targeting your political rival with foreign leaders is impeachable, then what is impeachable?
BLITZER: Well, what's your reaction to the President, as you point out correctly, publicly today in front of all the cameras on the -- over at the White House, publicly urging China to investigate the Bidens?
KHANNA: The President is being brazen. I mean, he is basically saying that he's trying to normalize this behavior, and saying that it's perfectly appropriate. I mean, it's as if someone is accused of robbing a bank, goes on television and says, I'm going to continue to rob banks and you're not going to be able to do anything because I've got a lot of money in my campaign account and my poll numbers are good. And the question is when is -- when are people like Senator Mitt Romney going to speak up and say enough is enough, this is about our constitutional democracy? We need profiles of courage who are Republicans, who are going to stand up against this President.
BLITZER: Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much for joining us.
KHANNA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stay with us. For more on the breaking news, the former special envoy to Ukraine testifies up on Capitol Hill as President Trump publicly calls on Ukraine and now China to investigate the Bidens.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories right now. And just moments ago, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that President Trump ordered the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after complaints by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani and others. We're joined now by the former U.S. Attorney Office for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, is a CNN Senior Legal Analyst.
Let me read the lead to you from this "Wall Street Journal" report, Preet. President Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies outside the administration including his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that he was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kiev to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the matter. We're talking about a career diplomat , Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed earlier than scheduled. She has become a key point of interest because of the whistleblower complaint. So what's your reaction, first of all to this?
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I have 45 seconds to digest the information? I don't know if all of it is true. I haven't been able to read the whole article. But I'll tell you, it's kind of jaw dropping. And this has been a week of jaw-dropping moments. And it's part of the pattern, isn't it?
The President of the United States has been on a rampage to try to do one thing, and that is to discredit, of all the 330 some odd million people in the country, of all the crime that extensively happens in this country and around the world, corruption and otherwise, he has singled out one human being by the name of Joe Biden. Who is Joe Biden? He happens to be the person who is leading in the polls to be his challenger in the general election in 2020.
So, you know, I'm anticipating that as these reports circulate further that allies of the President, well as they always do after the firing of Jim Comey and the firing of other people will say, he has the absolute constitutional authority and power to relieve people of their duties because they serve at the pleasure of the President. But once again, if this turns out to be true, you have -- for a President who is abusing his power in the service of one thing, his own personal benefit, in this case, an election benefit.
And on top of all that, basically he read to me, you once again have Rudy Giuliani -- I don't know what his portfolio is, I don't know what legal capacity he is serving the President in. But the way that story reads, that, you know, a career diplomat who is respected by members of both parties was removed because Rudy Giuliani didn't like how she was getting in the way of the dirty work that the President wanted Rudy Giuliani to do. That's abhorrent, it's going to push the story further. And this is a kind of thing that, you know, over time, when you keep getting stories about this kind of activity happening, there becomes no question in the mind of any rational person of what the President is trying to do.
At some point, I know I'll be asked whether certain things constitute a crime or not. I don't know. But I think it's very clearly an abuse of power.
BLITZER: Let me read another couple of sentences from "The Wall Street Journal" report that was just posted. "State Department officials were told this spring that Ms. Yovanovitch's removal was a priority for the President, a person familiar with the matter said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the move. An administration official said, Ms. Yovanovitch was told by State Department officials that they couldn't shield her from attacks by the President and his allies, according to people close to her."
And earlier today, the President was asked, why did you recall the U.S. ambassador from Kiev, and he said specifically, I heard very bad things about her and I don't know if I re-called her or somebody re- called her, but I heard very bad things about her for a long period of time. Not good. This is presumably going to open up yet another avenue for those supporting this impeachment inquiry.
BHARARA: Yes, and I think it furthers the need for Rudy Giuliani to come and testify. There's going to be, you know, a wider scope to his testimony if he chooses to come and testify or if he has -- it has to be fought in the courts and also Secretary Pompeo. And it goes to the President's good faith.
I mean, look, there are all these things that the President has the power to do, up to and including, you know, having people who are on his team. But if you have, time and time again, it turns out that the reason that someone was removed was because he was trying to do something that was inappropriate, namely in this case trying to get an investigation done of his political rival, then that's a problem and I think it's an impeachable problem, right? Because, you know, it's fine to do what you want to do and if you're acting in good faith. But is there any, you know, rational thinking human being in the world who thinks that in all of these incidents, the President was doing anything other than trying to smear a political opponent?
And if that's the basis on which you're conducting foreign policy, you're conducting the staffing of your State Department, you're conducting the staffing of your Justice Department, then I think Congress has a right to question whether or not that person is fit to lead.
BLITZER: Did you think it was a crime today when the President said on television publicly, not behind closed doors, that he wants China to investigate his main, arguably his main Democratic political rival, Joe Biden?
BHARARA: So, you know, maybe. I've been in the last couple of weeks resisting the urge or the impulse to opine on whether not something is formally a federal crime or not. We all know now after two years based on the Office of Legal Counsel Opinions that no one in the Justice Department is going to charge the sitting president with a crime, whether or not he committed one because of this guidance that lives within the Justice Department.
So the critical question is now, does it rise to the level of an impeachable offense? Which obviously I'm not a member of Congress, nor are you, but we can sit here and talk about what a rational way of thinking about this conduct is. And so he stands up in front of cameras and he does just like he did with Ukraine, except this time as you mentioned, out in the open.
And he's exerting his power not as a candidate but as the sitting President of the United States of America who is in the middle of trade negotiations with, you know, our arguably our greatest, most significant geopolitical rival, which happens to be a communist country. And enlisting their aid to do what? Not to fight general corruption, not to talk about whether or not there's intellectual property theft, not to talk about cyber crime, but to talk about one human being, the human being who leads in the polls against Donald Trump generally and also in the primaries.
And the only reason he could be doing that is to gain a political advantage. And that is not how the presidency should be used. You can run ads, you can say all you want to do on television, but I think Congress would be right to question whether or not it's appropriate and whether or not it's an abuse of power for the sitting president to use the leverage of his power to enlist a foreign government, China know less, on top of Russia before and on top of Ukraine since to be a political rival. I think it's a problem, whether or not it's a crime.
BLITZER: Does it make any difference, Preet, whether this kind of request is done in private, such as the phone call with the Ukraine President, or in public like we saw today?
BHARARA: Well, it shouldn't. You know, I was recalling earlier today, and I tweeted about it, there's a passage from the Mueller report in volume two where they address this issue.
And, you know, the President's supporters and defenders would say, well, some of the things he did that looked like intimidation of witness or obstruction of justice were done out in the open. And the Mueller report correctly states that there's no legal distinction between trying to intimidate a witness privately or intimidate a witness publicly.
And obviously, we -- as we know, they didn't come up with an ultimate conclusion about whether or not a crime was committed, but the same principle holds here. You do something that's wrong or an abuse of power, either behind closed doors, it's a problem; you do it in front of cameras, it's the same problem.
Psychologically, you know, maybe it's the -- or politically or optically, maybe it helps him a little bit because rational people who are used to norms being observed by leaders like their sitting president don't brag about doing things that are problematic, potential crimes and abuses of power.
And by normalizing it, by talking about it in a way in which he has doubled down on it, maybe that causes people to think, well, you know, rational people don't brag about their bad conduct, maybe it's not bad conduct. I think they're failing to appreciate that this is not a normal person who engages in that kind of speech.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks, as usual, for joining us. BHARARA: Thanks for having me, sir.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get some insight from our political and legal experts. You know, I want to, Gloria, begin with this bombshell report in "The Wall Street Journal" that we were just talking about, that President Trump ordered the Ukraine -- the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv, to Ukraine, removed after complaints from Giuliani and others.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, Giuliani is like Zelig.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes.
BORGER: I mean, he's everywhere --
CILLIZZA: Or Forrest Gump.
BORGER: -- into everything. And according, excuse me, to "The Wall Street Journal," one of the reasons he didn't like her was that she had exhibited anti-Trump bias in private. It seems like a cleansing of all people who don't like Donald Trump. And you'll notice, in the phone call that the President had with Zelensky, he called her bad news.
BLITZER: We have that. We have that quote. Let me put it up on the screen, and I'll read it to our viewers. "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news, and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news, so I just want to let you know that." That's the phone call between President Zelensky and President Trump on July 25th.
You know, Chris Cillizza, you know, the developments are moving very, very rapidly. And Kurt Volker, the special envoy to the Ukraine, he's been up there for hours now.
BLITZER: Who knows what he's saying in this deposition behind closed doors?
CILLIZZA: Yes, and I don't think we should be terribly surprised. Because the Trump you see in the Ukraine transcript that, I'll remind people, was released by the White House, is Trump. So this is not the exception to how he acts, this is how he acts.
So a lot of fast-moving developments in the Ukraine, so it can -- I'd be a little bit surprised if we don't see other reports of calls he has made because, again, it's who he has been his entire life. The expectation that Donald Trump would somehow change once elected president, this is -- who he is in that Ukraine call is who he is.
He has no awareness of boundaries. He has no sense if what he is doing is right or wrong. Now, it is his responsibility to learn about those things as president. It doesn't excuse the conduct, but it's who he is.
BLITZER: You know, it's not as if --
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: But that's just also --
BLITZER: It's not as if the President today was asking a friendly ally, let's say Canada or the U.K., or even Ukraine for that matter, for dirt on a political opponent. He was asking China for that kind of information.
HENNESSEY: Right. So the President has not been able to effectively wield and abuse U.S. law enforcement against the civil liberties and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, and so he's going to authoritarian regimes that are more comfortable with doing this. He's doing it sort of open and notoriously. And by doing so, he really is calling the bluff of Republicans in Congress, right?
They -- we've seen them sort of refuse to defend Trump on the substance but to say, you know, there's process issues and they're waiting to see more information. Trump has sort of said, I'm going to do it right out in public and that's going to sort of force the question for Republicans.
Either they defend him now, they defend these statements that he is making on national television, or they admit that it's not impeachable. And so, whatever information comes out later, it's going to make it more difficult. This really is a moment in which Republicans are going to have to decide.
One thing I do think that's worth noting about this "Wall Street journal Story" is this is additional evidence that the President was not pursuing U.S. interests. He was pursuing his personal interests and that a U.S. diplomat, who was working on behalf of the United States of America, who was getting in the way of those efforts, was essentially retaliated against for it.
BORGER: And Pompeo was involved, by the way, so you have the Secretary of State.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And there are some questions about Bill Barr, too. But just to add to Susan's point, "The Wall Street Journal" makes this pretty explicit. They talked to Giuliani. He acknowledged that he told the President she was disloyal, be he also said -- in Giuliani's view, she also had been an obstacle to efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter.
It's pretty explicit there. Giuliani acknowledges it to "The Journal" as they were reporting this story. And so, some of the missing links here that we've had for a couple of days are starting to come together. There are some questions about why she was fired. That's in the whistleblower report. The whistleblower indicated that he believed she was fired because she would not help pursue these investigations.
And then, there's also the question of what happened with that aid. What did senior officials at the State Department know about why the President was holding up that aid? That's something that Kurt Volker, who is on the Hill today, likely will be -- will be able to reveal a lot of information about. He was there and likely would've been privy to those conversations. It'll connect the dots that need to be connected as --
CILLIZZA: But why --
PHILLIP: -- Congress (ph) moves forward.
CILLIZZA: Why is -- going back to Abby's point, and Gloria mentioned this and Preet mentioned it. Giuliani is Trump's personal lawyer. And why is Giuliani doing all of these things? I mean, he is --
BORGER: Because that is --
CILLIZZA: He is clearly --
PHILLIP: That is himself (ph).
CILLIZZA: He is clearly at the center of this, right?
CILLIZZA: He is not a spoke on this wheel. He is the hub of the wheel from which all these stories are emanating.
CILLIZZA: Why --
HENNESSEY: But --
CILLIZZA: He is the lawyer. Why is he the one who's, by the way, telling "The New York Times" last -- earlier last year --
BORGER: Because the President --
CILLIZZA: -- it's not illegal for us to meddle in an investigation. It's not an election.
BORGER: Because the President went around --
CILLIZZA: It's remarkable.
BORGER: -- the government, which he doesn't trust.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
BORGER: He doesn't trust the FBI.
CILLIZZA: Trust his people, yes.
BORGER: He doesn't trust the Justice Department, aside from Bill Barr.
BORGER: I was just --
HENNESSEY: Well, I think that the question does answer itself. He's using Rudy Giuliani because this is not a legitimate government purpose.
HENNESSEY: We put up one sort of disturbing quote from that Trump/Zelensky transcript, but there's another quote in which the President, referring to the Ukrainian ambassador, says, quote, she is going to go through some things. That has been sort of overlooked as people have poured through this transcript, but it does appear that the President of the United States explicitly has threatened or referenced retaliation against a U.S. diplomat.
And so, I do think that if what we're seeing here is a U.S. diplomat that stood on principle, wanted to follow the rules, was not willing to abuse her office on behalf of the President, was actually trying to prevent Rudy Giuliani from --
CILLIZZA: From not running --
HENNESSEY: -- interfering with --
HENNESSEY: -- U.S./Ukrainian relations --
HENNESSEY: -- and if she was actually retaliated for it, I do think that this is another substantial development in the case.
BLITZER: So let me play the clip of the President earlier today --
BLITZER: -- speaking about the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine? Was she a problem? Why did you recall her? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard very bad things
about her. And I don't know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a very long period of time. Not good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He heard very bad things about her from --
BORGER: Somebody recalled her.
BLITZER: -- Rudy Giuliani.
BORGER: I don't know if I recalled her or somebody --
BORGER: I mean, you know, this is a purge. I mean, this is what happens. This is a president who doesn't trust people in government who haven't taken a loyalty oath to him. And he's allowed to appoint his own ambassadors. He is allowed to say I want my friends in an ambassadorial post. But by all accounts, she's a professional diplomat who --
BLITZER: Who served in Democratic administrations and Republican administrations --
BORGER: And "The Wall Street Journal" story --
BLITZER: -- and had an outstanding career.
BORGER: And "The Wall Street Journal" story says that, you know, the suspicion was that she was so-called close to Biden. The Biden people say he didn't even really know her. But, you know, Giuliani had to keep this moving.
HENNESSEY: Of course (ph).
BORGER: He had to keep this going.
BLITZER: You know, Abby, all of a sudden, the Vice President, today, he is weighing in. He is sounding almost exactly like the President.
PHILLIP: Yes, and this is after a slew of stories in which his office seemed to be distancing themselves from this project that seemed to be underway, of trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. His aides were saying to CNN and to other outlets that the Vice President actually had no idea about this effort, that he believed that what the President really wanted was Europe to pay more and for Ukraine to root out corruption.
But now, you're hearing Vice President Mike Pence basically saying what Trump is saying, echoing these baseless conspiracy theories, essentially, about Joe Biden and suggesting that that is a legitimate U.S. government objective, which it is not. I mean, I think we just need to emphasize here -- CILLIZZA: Yes.
PHILLIP: -- this is a political objective. That's one of the main reasons why it is inappropriate for the President to potentially be doing this because the objective here is to damage Joe Biden before a potential 2020 run. And now, Mike Pence is deeply in the middle of that effort.
BORGER: This is outsourcing your campaign's opposition research to foreign governments, which is exactly what Donald Trump is doing. And it's -- he's doing it out in the open. I'm suspicious enough of the thing about China today to believe that maybe he's trying to inoculate himself. In case the phone call --
CILLIZZA: But remember, he openly -- he openly said the Russia thing.
BORGER: Can I finish?
CILLIZZA: Right, yes.
BORGER: In case the phone call --
BORGER: -- gets released --
BORGER: -- or we learn of another phone call --
CILLIZZA: No way (ph).
BORGER: -- in which maybe he spoke about. We don't know, but why did he come out today and talk about China?
HENNESSEY: Look --
BORGER: That was sort of surprising.
HENNESSEY: It's also worth going to the heart of the matter, which is that Vice President Pence was suggesting that there was something -- it's -- you know, we should get to the bottom of what Joe Biden was doing.
HENNESSEY: We -- Joe Biden observed all ethics rules. Now, vice presidents and presidents' children always and often have a business interest. They are affected by all kinds of U.S. policy. That's why we ask our elected leaders to comply with ethics rules, things like divestment from federal -- from business holdings, not hiring their family members, adhering to process, not using their personal lawyers, going to the State Department so we know when they are acting on behalf of U.S. interests and rather than on their own personal interests when those actual conflicts arise.
Joe Biden observed all those rules, and that's how we can have faith that he was actually acting on behalf of the United States. Donald Trump, in the meantime, has violated every norm, law and -- you know, and sort of tradition of basic ethics in the United States, so it's just one thing that makes this particular line of attack so hypocritical and so astonishing.
BORGER: Do you remember during the Russia investigation, one of the questions we were asking was, can you obstruct justice in public? Remember that?
CILLIZZA: Right, yes.
BORGER: And so, now, the question is, with China, here he is. Can you abuse the power of your office publicly?
HENNESSEY: And Robert Mueller answered that question.
PHILLIP: Right, the answer is yes.
HENNESSY: He said yes.
PHILLIP: The answer is yes.
HENNESSEY: Public acts that are designed to obstruct justice, they are obstruction of justice.
BORGER: Yes, and -- yes.
BLITZER: And they're into very sensitive tariff and trade negotiations in the coming days.
BLITZER: And basically, the President is saying, China, if you're listening, dot, dot, dot.
CILLIZZA: And he's done -- I mean, he's done it --
CILLIZZA: He has done it before, opening day of the Democratic convention --
BLITZER: Right. CILLIZZA: -- in 2016 campaign, Russia, if you're listening --
CILLIZZA: -- get those emails.
BORGER: China is listening.
CILLIZZA: Well, what happened days later? We know what happened.
BORGER: We sure do.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's more news we're following. The House Intelligence Committee is now spearheading the impeachment inquiry sparked by the Ukraine revelations. Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us with a closer look at the man who is leading that committee.
Representative Adam Schiff has become one of the President's, Dana, top targets.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And of course, during the Russia probe, the President worked hard to make Robert Mueller a boogie man, trying to discredit him and his investigation. Now, Trump's focus is on the House Democrat leading the impeachment investigation, someone his colleagues call up for the job while also warning he's got to be really careful.
TRUMP: We'll work together with Shifty Schiff.
BASH (voice-over): Donald Trump thrives on creating political foils, especially in a crisis.
TRUMP: Shifty, dishonest guy.
BASH (voice-over): Now, that's Adam Schiff, the man spearheading the impeachment inquiry. What this means for Schiff is that there is no room for error. Every move he makes, every word he utters, scrutinized by Republicans and combed for mistakes. Like this last month.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower.
BASH (voice-over): Schiff now says, quote, I regret that I wasn't much more clear. Because he may not have spoken to the whistleblower but it turns out his staff did. The whistleblower contacted his committee for guidance and was told to file the complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General, which is what happened. An aide to the Republican-run Senate Intelligence Committee said Schiff followed protocol, but that nuance is irrelevant to a president eager to discredit him. TRUMP: He knew long before. And he helped write it, too. It's a
BASH (voice-over): Schiff's aides and the whistleblower's attorney say that is not true. The committee had no role in writing the whistleblower's complaint. But that did not stop Trump's campaign and conservative media from pushing the false claim.
SCHIFF: I have a favor I want from you.
BASH (voice-over): The President is also pummeling Schiff for reading a parody of his call with Ukraine's leader instead of the actual White House summary, though Schiff did introduce it this way.
SCHIFF: This is the essence of what the President communicates, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it on this and on that. I'm going to put you in touch with people and not just any people.
TRUMP: He actually made it up. It should be criminal. It should be treasonous. He made it up. Every word of it, made up and read to Congress as though I said it.
BASH (voice-over): The President's hyperbole aside, CNN is told by Democratic sources that Schiff realizes it opened him up to criticism despite telling, Wolf, this.
SCHIFF: I was mocking the President's conduct.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Good morning, everyone.
BASH (voice-over): The House Speaker, a big Schiff champion, backs him up.
PELOSI: I want them to hear it, so, yes, it's fair. It's sad but he's using the President's own words.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABS NEWS ANCHOR: It's an interpretation of the President's words.
PELOSI: He did not make it up.
BASH (voice-over): Many House Democratic sources say Pelosi was eager to put Schiff in charge of the impeachment inquiry because of his intellect, savvy, and background as a prosecutor which, opening statement aside, came across during Q&A with the Acting DNI last week.
SCHIFF: Is that not an issue of interference?
BASH (voice-over): Now more than ever, some colleagues tell CNN he is well aware he's under the biggest microscope of his life.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: And I'm also told Schiff is keenly aware of the pitfalls of
leading an impeachment inquiry because he was first elected to the House almost 20 years ago in a race against Republican James Rogan, who was an impeachment manager who argued the case against Bill Clinton in that Senate trial. Voter backlash against Rogan for going overboard with that helped Schiff win, and now I'm told lessons from what he thinks his Republican -- that his Republican opponent did wrong are helping guide him now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very intriguing, very interesting, indeed. Dana, thanks for that excellent report.
Coming up, President Trump's outreach to North Korea's murderous dictator Kim Jong-un draws praise from, of all people, Vladimir Putin.
BLITZER: The diplomatic impasse between President Trump's team and Kim Jong-un is showing some signs of breaking even as the dictator continues his provocative behavior. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's working the story for us.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Tonight, that diplomatic dance between President Trump and Kim Jong-un is set to resume in the form of talks between officials just below Trump and Kim. This comes even though Kim Jong-un has just launched the most threatening missile test he's undertaken since negotiations began.
TODD (voice-over): Even as his own Pentagon was demanding today that North Korea stop launching missiles, including a provocative test overnight Tuesday, saying they don't set the stage for diplomacy, President Trump said new talks with Kim Jong-un's government, which a source says start Friday in Stockholm, are on.
TRUMP: They want to talk, and we'll be talking to them soon.
TODD (voice-over): Meanwhile, America's arch-rival, Vladimir Putin, who himself met with Kim in April, is weighing in, praising Trump for meeting Kim and holding talks instead of treating North Korea as an outcast.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): We must give credit to President Trump's courage and his ability to make unorthodox moves.
TODD (voice-over): But analysts say the new missile test is more evidence that North Korea is not acting in good faith.
COL. DAVID MAXWELL (RET.), SENIOR FELLOW, THE FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: I think it's an indication that they have no intention to denuclearize because they want to have their long-range, land-based missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and that gives them a real nuclear deterrent.
TODD (voice-over): Even as diplomacy takes center stage tonight, there is a new reminder of the brutality of the man President Trump wants to cut a deal with. Siti Aisyah, one of two women who were tried for murdering Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at the Kuala Lumpur Airport, has provided startling details of the 2017 attack to the British tabloid, "The Mail" on Sunday.
Aisyah and her alleged accomplice smeared Kim Jong-nam with V.X. nerve agent, she says, after being tricked into thinking it was a game. He looked annoyed and upset, she says. I thought he looks like a rich man, and he is clearly angry and he might report us to the police.
Kim Jong-nam collapsed and died within 20 minutes of the attack. Aisyah says the North Korean agents who recruited her for the attack posed as Japanese T.V. producers and duped the women into thinking they were doing a prank for a reality T.V. show.
MAXWELL: They conducted rehearsals. They -- you know, they practiced and they manipulated these young women to conduct this blatant assassination in broad daylight in an airport. And it's really quite startling.
TODD (voice-over): Aisyah says she was so naive, she didn't know who Kim Jong-un was or even where North Korea was.
I had no idea what I had done, she says. They told me they were going to make me a star. I feel so foolish for believing them so easily. I feel bad about what happened to Kim Jong-nam, and I wish I had never been involved.
South Korean intelligence says Kim Jong-un ordered the hit which his regime denies. Charges were eventually dropped against Aisyah and the other woman. Human rights advocates are concerned tonight that in his zeal to strike an agreement with Kim, President Trump and his team are brushing aside incidents like Kim Jong-nam's assassination.
ROBERTA COHEN, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE FOR NORTH KOREA: They do not treat human rights as a serious subject of negotiation. It's not broken down into issues that ought to be negotiated with North Korea.
TODD: Now, despite his newly acquired status as a statesman, analysts say Kim Jong-un probably won't hesitate to kill again, to launch assassination attempts against anyone who he sees as a threat.
Now, are President Trump and his negotiators going to raise those issues with the North Koreans during upcoming talks? We pressed the White House and the State Department on that. They didn't comment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. We're going to continue to follow all the breaking news right here in the nation's capital. [17:54:56]
We're getting word of an active shooter situation also, by the way, in Vancouver, Washington. Stay with us. We'll have details.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Fired by Trump. There's new reporting tonight that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was ousted by the President based, in part, on complaints from Rudy Giuliani. Tonight, Giuliani's role in the Ukraine scandal keeps growing.
Impeachment testimony. The President's former U.S. envoy to Ukraine tells Congress he warned that a foreign investigation of Joe Biden would be seen as election interference. What more did Kurt Volker reveal?
No inner monologue. President Trump --