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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Will Send Letter to Pelosi Demanding Full House Vote on Impeachment Before White House Turns over Documents; Damning Text Messages Detail Trump Administration Pressure on Ukraine; Trump Speaks to Reporters on South Lawn. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

It's like yesterday all over again. President Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House. We are bringing in the tape any moment and we'll play it for you because, yes, he is making news again.

What we know so far is that President Trump essentially is daring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on impeachment on the House floor. Until then, it doesn't sound-like the president will be turning anything over that the House is requesting in their impeachment investigation. So a full-on standoff is before us.

Let's get the very latest right now. CNN congressional reporter, Lauren Fox, on Capitol Hill. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.

Jeremy, what are we hearing from the president? Fill us in.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Kate. What we are hearing from the president is that he says he is will he be issuing a letter to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and we're hearing him comments, daring Democrats to go to the House floor to vote to formally open an impeachment inquiry.

This morning, we reported that White House lawyers are drafting a letter to the House speaker, saying they are not compelled to comply with any document requests from the impeachment inquiry that the speaker has said that House Democrats opened until she got to the floor to make that vote.

White House officials say there's precedent in past impeachment inquiries for such a vote to be held on the floor of the House. The House speaker says she is under no obligation to hold such a vote, to hold this impeachment inquiry.

If appears we're heading for a standoff once again between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The president is also, in his remarks this morning on the White House South Lawn, insisting again there was no quid pro quo involving holding security assistance to Ukraine in exchange for asking the Ukrainians to investigate the president's political rival, Joe Biden, and also circumstances surrounding that investigation into the 2016 election.

Of course, we have seen the text messages now in the past day between ambassadors involved in Ukraine. And it was very clear from the text messages, Kate, that there was significant pressure applied to the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians were concerned about the fate of U.S.- Ukraine relations if they didn't carry out the investigations -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: A lot has changed since we spoke and a lot is changing as we speak.

Jeremy, please stay close. I have a lot of questions for you.

Lauren, first to you.

I have a ton to cover with you as well. Number one, the Intelligence Community inspector general is on Capitol Hill. We have the text messages revealed after Kurt Volker revealed them to the committees yesterday.

But, first, just on what we are hearing coming from the White House, the president is daring the House speaker to hold a vote, unless and until he is not going to cooperate. What are you hearing from House members, the speaker, leadership, as this question is lingering out there?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right. This question has been lingering, Kate for several weeks. I will tell that you aides to Nancy Pelosi said repeatedly it's not in the Constitution. It's not in-House rules. We are not required to hold a formal vote on impeachment inquiry to start one.

So we have already begun an inquiry. It's ongoing. If the president doesn't want to comply with the records request, that's potential obstruction. That's where Democrats are standing right at this moment.

Like you said, Michael Atkinson, the I.C. I.G., is right now in the SCIF, with the House Intelligence Committee trying to describe to them this complaint and explaining why this complaint didn't get in the hands of Congress sooner.

But this all comes after Kurt Volker's testimony yesterday with the explosive text messages we saw.

I want to read you one that Democrats are seizing on. It comes from Bill Taylor, who is a U.S. official, saying, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Then four hours later, Gordon Sondland, write, "Bill, I believe you're incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind. The president is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign. I suggest we stop the back and forth by text. If you still have concerns, I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S. a call to discuss them directly. Thanks."

Then another message. This one from Volker to a top Zelensky aide. Saying, "Good lunch. Thanks. Heard from the White House. Assuming President Z. convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down a date for visit to Washington. Good luck. See you tomorrow. Kurt."

[11:05:03]

So that's what Democrats are seizing op this morning. You can expect they'll have more questions about the text messages for the I.C. I.G. in the SCIF today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And Bill Taylor, one thing that's striking, Lauren, is how Bill Taylor clearly repeatedly -- I don't want everybody confused with the new names introduced to the conversation. Just think of it this is a top U.S. official in Ukraine repeatedly concerned about this idea that we don't know where he reached the conclusion that there was going to need to be this exchange of military assistance -- it would be received if and when you get these investigations.

But repeatedly raising concerns about it, even in an earlier one, saying, "Are we now saying security assistance and White House meetings are conditioned on investigations?" Another top U.S.-- U.S. ambassador actually just responds, "Call me."

I mean, these are remarkable in what you see in this. Context is key. And often everything, except when it's really right in front of you, which is a remarkable thing.

Real quick, Lauren, Volker was before the committee for hours yesterday. Any word on how long the inspector general will be there?

FOX: Well, we've heard from at least one Democratic member. It could be between two and eight hours. That gives you a sense of how little we know about how long the meeting could go on. When they are in the SCIF, it's all unexpected when they'll come out -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Perfect. That's a great round about estimate.

Jeremy Diamond will bring us more reporting coming from President Trump. We bring that tape in when it wraps up and they will play it back from what he was saying on the South Lawn of the White House.

Lauren, thank you so much.

In the meantime, let's be bring in -- I need a little more perspective here -- Caroline Polisi, a white-collar criminal defense attorney. Melanie Zanona is a congressional reporter for "Politico." And Susan Glasser is here, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for the "New Yorker."

Caroline, I was bugging you as this was playing out before we came to air. What is your perspective on the question of -- look, if the White House wanted to have full transparency they're not saying because you didn't follow this written rule in in step, in this process, we're not going to hand it over. They could hand over information if they wanted to. But -

(CROSSTALK)

CAROLINE POLISI, WHITE-COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, absolutely to be clear there's no rule.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes. What is the rule on -- you have to have a formal vote on impeachment on the floor before I hand over -- respond to the subpoenas?

POLISI: You don't. There's nothing in the Constitution that dictates that would have to have a formal vote just to conduct the oversight function.

BOLDUAN: OK.

POLISI: Now, there's a precedent in Nixon -- both Nixon and Clinton impeachments that they had the vote before. Pelosi and Schiff say that, just the response to this, the White House is stonewalling. They'll use that as more evidence of obstruction of justice in the impeachment inquiry as it stands.

So absolutely not. They're playing games here. They've done it with executive privilege before. It's one thing for Congress to have a theoretical legal right to this information but it's quite another to see it play out in real time. And they're see egg the obstacles. It's taking time to get this through courts.

And if you think about citing a contempt citation in the criminal context, who is involved in that? The DOJ. Bill Barr. When you think about it, Bill Barr is certainly not going to issue a contempt citation for the White House stonewalling. It's a really mucky situation.

BOLDUAN: Welcome to where we are in general.

POLISI: Yes.

BOLDUAN: But I think there's always a need for clarity on when important moments are happening.

I'm told by the control room that President Trump also just said that there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine, despite the text messages we're discussing between U.S. diplomats showing President Trump's -- the administration putting pressure on -- on the country.

Caroline, when you look at these text messages that we have seen that have been released from the committee, do you think that is evidence of a quid pro quo, despite the president said?

POLISI: It's just laughable. You can tell me the sky is purple but obviously the sky is blue. The text messages do nothing if not corroborate everything we have known about this inquiry to begin with.

By the way, Kate, it doesn't matter whether there was a quid pro quo. Perhaps we should think about the lessons we learned from the Mueller investigation in terms of thinking about this too strictly in a legal sense.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

POLISI: Quid pro quo sounds very much like a statutory legal language. The issue in impeachment obviously as we learned has nothing to do necessarily with whether or not you meet the statutory definition for a crime.

This is -- this type of behavior is quintessentially what the framers had in mind when they were thinking about an impeachment process. This is exactly putting a president's own personal, whether political or economic, you know, things --

BOLDUAN: Priorities.

POLISI: -- priorities in front of the nation's. That's exactly what the founder thought.

If we think about in terms of legal question, yes, there was a quid pro quo and it's what it is. But it doesn't matter. We don't need to get that question.

BOLDUAN: We have the tape that will come in any moment.

[11:10:02]

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. We have much coming in from the White House and far beyond. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:14:58]

BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

Any moment now, we'll be heading back to the White House where President Trump has been speaking with reporters as he is leaving the White House from the South Lawn.

And what he has been saying -- he has been defending himself. He has told reporters, when asked about the damning text messages revealed overnight from congressional committees between top U.S. officials, also the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, President Trump is insisting that there was no quid pro quo with the dealings with Ukraine.

That, though -- when you look at the text messages, though it shows in written word, talk of quid pro quo.

I will read one of them for you. We read them before. But they are worth repeating over and over again.

From one top U.S. official to another, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

In response -- in response, another official says, "Bill, I believe you're incorrect about the president's intentions."

Goes on to lay out it's "crystal clear he does not want quid pro quos. But then says, "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text. If you still have concerns," I recommend you reach out to these two people to discuss directly.

In this moment, there's a need for perspective. Let me bring in right now Susan Glasser for a little bit of that.

Susan, when you look at text messages revealed -- handed over by Kurt Volker to the committees yesterday, what picture does this paint, despite what we hear this morning from the president who says, the conversations were perfect, there's no quid pro quo to look at.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it's a pretty striking development, I would say, having seen a lot of document dumps. This was a breathtaking thing to have written down and to be released publicly.

At the very beginning, I should point out yesterday was the first witness in this impeachment inquiry --

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

GLASSER: -- to have the new information coming to us. Veteran prosecutors, lawyers who have reviewed millions of pages of documents in their careers, they might never come across evidence so explicit and so damning on its face. It would be almost a textbook definition, in fact, of what a quid pro quo would be.

Bill Taylor, I should point out, is the senior U.S. official in Ukraine after President Trump fired the previous U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the midst of a campaign by his son, Don Jr, and Rudy Giuliani because she apparently objected to Giuliani's interference in Ukrainian affairs.

And so this person who is raising this objection is a highly credible career foreign service officer. No flame thrower, I should point out, not only not a partisan but described to me by someone who knows him well as a complete Boy Scout.

The fact he puts it down in writing was explicitly done. The fact he did it twice, numerous days apart, points out that his concerns were not only not assuaged but seemed to be heightened about the explicit use of leverage by the United States of America and President Trump on Ukraine to get something of value for President Trump's personal political interests.

This is a fact set I have not encountered in almost three decades as a journalist.

One thing I'm struck by is that President Trump, if he were any other president, would be advised very strongly to shut up and to stop talking, because the new arguments he makes, first of all, setting a standard that he can't meet, claiming there's no quid pro quo, when there appears to be evidence of it.

BOLDUAN: Oh, going to interrupt, Susan, because the tape is coming in.

Let's listen to what President Trump has to say about this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unemployment numbers just came out and they're the best numbers we have had in over 50 years. The unemployment number is down to 3.5 percent. So that goes way, way back. We haven't had numbers like this in a long time.

Wages are up by almost 3 percent, that's a fantastic increase for everybody out there working. We're very happy about those numbers.

The stock market is substantially up, as it was yesterday. And our country does well. Europe is not doing well, Asia is doing poorly, to put it mildly. And we continue to do very well. We're the miracle.

But the unemployment numbers just came out: 3.5 percent unemployment. And that is a tremendous number, the lowest in over 50 years. So very happy.

And I think, really very important, again I'll say, wages are up. When I was running, wages were nowhere, they were going down and people were having two and three jobs, and they were making less money than they made 20 years before. Now wages are up. So we're very happy about that.

TRUMP: One other thing having to do with Poland. So, Poland is a country, great people. We have a lot of Polish-Americans living in the United States. I've just signed -- I will soon be signing and sign certain preliminary applications. We will be giving a full visa waiver to Poland. That means that people from Poland can easily travel there, and people from here can easily go back and forth. They can each -- people from the U.S., people from Poland can very easily go back and forth between the United States and Poland.

So they've been trying to get this for many, many decades. And I got it for the Polish people, in honor of the Polish people in the United States and in Poland. So we're very happy with that.

Yeah? QUESTION: Did you see Adam Schiff got four Pinocchios by the Post this morning for lying?

TRUMP: Well, I heard Adam Schiff got four Pinocchios. That's good. He should have gotten them two-and-a-half years ago. That's a very nice question. Let me shake your hand. Come here. That's a very nice question.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I -- almost a surprise -- I figured that was a trick question, right?

QUESTION: Also, what did your letter to Pelosi say? When will you send it (ph)?

TRUMP: Well, we'll be issuing a letter. As everybody knows, we've been treated very unfairly, very different from anybody else. If you go over -- not only history, I mean, you go over any aspect of life, you'll see how unfairly we've been treated. We've done a fantastic job.

Everything, to me, is about corruption. We want to find out what happened with 2016. And as you know, there's a lot of work going on, on that.

I don't care about Biden's campaign, but I do care about corruption. His campaign, that's up to him. Politics, that's up to them. I don't care about politics. Politics, as I think I made clear -- and yesterday, somebody asked me a question and I gave an answer, but always in the form of corruption.

What I want to do -- and I think I have an obligation to do it, probably a duty to do it -- corruption. We are looking for corruption. When you look at what Biden and his son did, and when you look at other people, what they've done. And I believe there was tremendous corruption with Biden, but I think that was beyond. I mean, beyond corruption, having to do with the 2016 campaign and what these low- lifes did to so many people, to hurt so many people in the Trump campaign, which was successful, despite all of the fighting us. I mean, despite all of the unfairness.

So we are looking at corruption. We're not looking at politics; we're looking at corruption.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What did you say to the Chinese about the Bidens, sir?

TRUMP: I don't know. Somebody said that -- a long time ago. Was that in 2017? I don't know. You'd have to tell me when.

All I can tell you, this -- when I speak to foreign leaders, I speak in an appropriate way. If you notice, they don't mention the call that I had with the president of Ukraine. They don't mention that, because it was so good. The only time they mentioned it was when Adam Schiff made it up. You talk about Pinocchios, that should get 10 Pinocchios. He made up -- he made up a story. It was a phony story -- Adam Schiff.

So they don't talk about that any more. You know, when this came out, it was quid pro quo. Well, there was none.

Also, yesterday, the ambassador, who I heard was tremendous and a tremendous person, he was a hundred percent for what we're saying, a hundred percent. And if you look, he also said there was no quid pro quo. That's the whole ballgame. But now, the Democrats don't bring that up anymore because they lost.

Look, they never thought I was going to release the phone call between the Ukrainian president and myself. When I released that call, they were -- they were jumping around like you wouldn't believe. They didn't know how to respond. And then they found out -- and then they found out that the call itself was so bad for them.

It was a perfect call. There was nothing -- we hand that call out. We've handed the call out to people, and they say, wow, this is incredible. We're very proud of that call.

When I speak to a foreign leader, I speak in an appropriate manner.

Now, we're also doing trade deals with China, and we're doing deals with a lot of people, for the country. So I'm not looking to insult people, I can tell you that. But we can probably find that out.

QUESTION: Would you be more willing to do a trade deal with the Chinese if they investigate Biden?

TRUMP: No, it has nothing to do with it. No.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, I want to do a trade deal with China, but only if it's good for our country. And it could happen.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you want the House to...

TRUMP: As you know, they're very much -- they're very much coming over, next week, as I understand it. So I'd like to do a trade deal with China, but only if it's a great trade deal for this country. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

QUESTION: Do you want the House to proceed with an impeachment inquiry at this point, an official impeachment inquiry?

TRUMP: Well, I wouldn't mind, because we have no rights. The way they're doing it, they've taken away our rights.

So if they proceed -- and, you know, they'll just get their people, they're all in line. Because even though many of them don't want to vote, they have no choice. They have to follow their leadership.

(CORRECTED COPY: FILLS IN INAUDIBLES) TRUMP: And then we'll get it to the Senate, and we're going to win. The Republicans have been very unified. This is the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.

So we beat the one that started immediately. We went through two years of Mueller, and that came out like a 10. It was -- came out perfect. And a few days go by, and they start this nonsense. And this is just as ridiculous.

So the Democrats, unfortunately, they have the votes. They could vote very easily, even though most of them -- many of them don't believe they should do it.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: And I do believe -- I do believe that because of what they're doing with Pelosi and -- and their real leaders, AOC-plus-three, that's their real leaders -- I really believe that they're going to pay a tremendous price at the polls.

And we saw the first glimpse of it two weeks ago in a great state, North Carolina. We saw a great, great glimpse of what's going to happen. Because in North Carolina we had two races. One gentleman, Dan Bishop, was down by 17 points with three weeks to go and he won easily. And the other man, as you know, Greg Murphy, was up by a very little bit and he won by a massive amount -- I don't know, someplace in the 20s, 20 percent or something, maybe higher.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: So I think you've gotten your first glimpse of what's going to happen.

And the big key is that I have to campaign there. But if you look at what happened in North Carolina, two races, we won both of them and we won them easily. And one was almost tied, and the other one was a big, big lead, and that one turned and the tie became a landslide.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (inaudible) the votes in the Senate?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know about Mitch. I have a lot of respect for Mitch McConnell. I know that I saw his statements. And he thinks that this is ridiculous. He thinks it's unfair.

I saw his statement yesterday that he put out where he read my phone conversation, and he thought it was a -- a wonderful conversation, and it was.

But see, the Democrats don't talk about that anymore. They try and go to other things.

These people are looking for anything they can get, because they know they're going to lose the election. And we're in election season now. For them to be doing this now, it's never been done. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (inaudible)

TRUMP: What?

QUESTION: You (inaudible) North Korea. It's (inaudible) right now. What do you expect?

TRUMP: So we're dealing with North Korea. They want to meet, and we'll be meeting with them. It's probably being set up as we speak, but we'll let you know.

But North Korea would like to do something. Iran would like to do something. We have a lot of countries in a very good position right now, despite the witch hunt which hurts our country and it hurts America.

But Iran wants to do something. North Korea wants to do something. And China would like to do something.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Is the Justice Department investigating Joe Biden?

TRUMP: I don't know. You -- that, you'd have to ask, is -- is the Justice Department investigating Joe Biden? Well, that, you'd have to ask Attorney General Barr.

But I can tell you just as an observer, what I saw Biden do with his son, he is pillaging these countries and he's hurting us. How would you like to have, as an example, Joe Biden negotiating the China deal if he took it over from me after the election? He would give them...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Wait.

He would give them everything. He would give them everything. How would you like to have that? Joe Biden would just roll out the red carpet. He'd give them everything.

So, again, this doesn't pertain to anything but corruption, and that has to do with me. I don't care about politics. I don't care about anything. But I do care about corruption. And to have somebody take out a billion and a half dollars out of China who's totally unfit -- he's unfit -- to have him get a billion and a half dollars, to have him -- and now I'm hearing the number of $50,000 a month.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Now I'm hearing the number of $50,000 a month is very low. It's a much higher number that Biden's son was getting per month. In fact, it's much higher.

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: And for him to -- and for him as a totally...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: For him, as a totally unqualified person, to be getting hundreds of thousands a month is very, very sad.

So -- so again...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Is the Justice Department investigating that? I just don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do the Democrats have the votes? Do the Democrats have the votes to impeach? Do you think he (inaudible)?

[11:30:00]

TRUMP: Well, I think they follow the leader. One thing with the Democrats -- I give them credit for it -- a lot of them don't want it. You know that. You interview them. A lot of them are in -- they call them in the Trump districts where I won and then they won after when I wasn't running, but I'm going to win them big.