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GOP Mostly Silent after Trump Asks China to Investigate Bidens; Trump Demands Pelosi Hold Full House Vote on Impeachment Before White House Cooperates; Trump's Pattern of Declaring His "Absolute Right". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Republicans are largely staying quiet on this issue of the president publicly calling on China to investigate the Biden family. A few like retiring Texas Congressman Will Hurd called it terrible. Senator Mitt Romney weighed in on it a while ago. He called it appalling. There are few willing to go on the record about this.

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich joins me now.

I want to ask you first and get your perspective as a Republican, but first I want to ask you your reaction to these text messages.

Because the president and his supporters have been saying there's no quid pro quo, but these text messages paint a very clear picture that military aid from the U.S. and a visit from the president were very much linked to Ukraine having an investigation into Burisma, this company that Joe Biden's son was on the board of, and also investigating 2016 Ukrainian-linked conspiracy theory.

What's your reaction to this really taking issue with the president saying no quid pro quo?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I haven't had a chance to really look in depth at those text messages. It looked as though there was something being said that if you want to have a meeting with the president, we would like you to do this.

I need to really go to the bottom of that and think that all the way through.

But let me also tell you, Brianna, what's really bothered me. This whole business of the president trying to get the Chinese to get in the middle of this and to conduct an investigation against Biden is just shocking, frankly.

And our founders warned us about foreign, you know, entanglements, and for the president to not double down has gotten me really, really disturbed, upset, and it's forcing me to continue to think through all of this very, very carefully. [13:34:58]

And then the question gets to be, as we see the president's continuing aberrant behavior, never seen anything like this, are there guardrails. Are there limits to what we should tolerate in terms of presidential conduct, whether it's the name-calling, which he's done all along, but the way in which he's behaving is really concerning to me.

And then the question gets to be, can there be some sort of bipartisan agreement that this behavior is out of control and unacceptable. When I see some of these -- at least this one Senator say, well, I don't see anything wrong with it. That shocks me, because we can't have somebody operating completely outside the norms of presidential behavior. This has serious consequences.

The investigation should continue. The inquiry should continue. The more evidence that gets gathered, that is if there's more, and more evidence that absolutely creates a quid pro quo, then even people who are Republicans might have to say, begrudgingly, yes, this is terrible, we need to do something.


KASICH: But we have a ways to go and they need to proceed carefully.

KEILAR: Most Republicans aren't saying what you're saying. I think we wonder if maybe they're thinking it as they work through some of this, but they're not saying it. Does not saying that normalize what the president has done and do long-term damage?

KASICH: Well, I think they need to look themselves in the mirror and understand why they're not willing to say anything.

I've been saying this for two and a half years. It's why I didn't support him. It's why I didn't go to the convention in my own state, because I'm, frankly, shocked at where we are today. But some of what we've seen over time doesn't surprise me.

There's another thing we have to ask ourselves. Say the House passes an impeachment resolution, it goes to the Senate and doesn't go anywhere. Let me ask this question. We all ought to think about this. Should we go forward with these proceedings? Is this the most effective way? Or do we let the people decide this in an election that's just around the corner?


KASICH: That doesn't mean that we don't take this action. It's just something we have to ask ourselves as we move down the road here.

KEILAR: You said before, one of the questions you're thinking through is, are there guardrails. A lot of people would look at this, a lot of observers, a lot of lawyers would say there don't really seem to be guardrails here. Do you think there are guardrails that keep President Trump operating in the norm? KASICH: No. I think you have to --


KASICH: No, I don't think there are guardrails. There aren't limits to what he can do.

KEILAR: So what can be done?

KASICH: That brings to mind, this coupled with what we're looking at, Ukraine, now his activity in China, and the Volker texts, and all these things have to be reviewed.

I do think Nancy Pelosi ought to have a vote of the impeachment inquiry inside the House. I think that is an important step. But I think they have to be serious, which they're trying to be. I don't think they should be in a rush. We've got to let the facts speak for themselves and let the facts determine the outcome in this.

And if we can make it less partisan, and if we can get reasonable Republicans -- you're not going to get the vast majority, but reasonable Republicans to say, yes, I think this is very serious and action has to be taken, that is how I think the country can move together in a less divided way.

That's why the inquiry is so important. That's why the facts are important. That's why the investigation into additional quid pro quos are important. That's why the activity around China -- asking the Chinese -- we're in the middle of a trade war with them and now we're asking them to do us a favor and check this out?

I got to tell you, Brianna, on the scales, and I've tried -- look, I voted on impeachment. I know how serious this is. It is gut- wrenching for members to make a decision. But on the scales about where we are now, this action on China is putting more and more evidence here in terms of the need to move forward, in my mind.

KEILAR: Governor --

KASICH: I'm trying to be honest and fair and all that, and balanced.

KEILAR: Governor, thanks so much. John Kasich, we appreciate it.

KASICH: Thank you.

KEILAR: We are following breaking news now. A stunning report from Microsoft. The company says hackers backed by Iran tried to target at least one 2020 presidential campaign between the months of August and September. Microsoft has not revealed which campaign was targeted but says the attempts were unsuccessful. The company says the hackers also tried to attack accounts belonging to current and former government officials and also journalists.

The White House says it's not handing over any more documents to Democrats until the House speaker holds a floor vote on impeachment. So what are Democrats going to do next. [13:39:55]

Plus, the president claiming he has the absolute right to ask other countries to investigate on his behalf. We're going to show you the pattern that we found.


KEILAR: We're back now with more on our breaking news. President Trump threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a formal vote on impeachment on the House floor before he cooperates with the impeachment inquiry.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be issuing a letter. As everybody knows, we've been treated very unfairly, very different than anybody else. If you go over, not only history, you go over any aspect of life, you'll see how unfairly we've been treated.

And this is not about politics. This is about corruption. If you look and you read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption. I have an actual obligation and a duty.


KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.

Kaitlan, what can you tell us about the president's strategy here, because it appears to be changing from yesterday?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does. And about that letter the president was talking about, we had been hearing this was in the works.

Essentially, it's framing this White House argument we've been hearing since last Tuesday that, unless Nancy Pelosi places a vote on the floor formally for this impeachment inquiry, that they have to comply with these document requests, these requests for officials to go up to Capitol Hill, to sit down with House Democrats and talk about impeachment inquiry.

So essentially, they're going to send her this letter daring her to hold a floor vote.

That's counting on the fact we've seen a surging number of Democrats saying they support impeachment inquiry. They're going to make the argument that could change once they actually have to go on the record.

They haven't sent this letter yet. We had heard they were going to. And the president announced it this morning. We're waiting to see if they actually sent it to Democrats. The question is, does it change anything. If they do hold this vote,

which Democrats don't feel they need to, will the White House fully cooperate? Some have questioned whether or not they will.

Of course, the interesting part came a few minutes later where the president said he thinks, if it went to a trial in the Senate, the Republican-led Senate, he thinks he would win. But he did concede at one point that he does think House Democrats do have the votes to move forward with an impeachment.

So it kind of changes the president's frame of mind from where we were told by officials that he was kind of in denial about all of this. So now he does seem to be acknowledging the fact the fact that the Democrats do have the votes.

You do hear him at the end, he's still maintaining the same kind of defense. He doesn't think anything he said to these leaders, calling on Ukraine personally, to investigate the Bidens, or publicly, saying China should investigate the Bidens, he doesn't think there's anything wrong with that.

KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins, at the White House, thank you.

The president defending his actions by saying he has, quote, "the absolute right" to do so. It's not the first time he's given that reason.

Plus, the former special envoy to Ukraine telling Congress he found no credibility in the president's allegations against the Bidens. What else we're learning about what Kurt Volker said to Congress in his testimony on Capitol Hill.



KEILAR: When the president declared on Twitter that he has the absolute right to ask other countries to conduct investigations on his behalf, it was part of a pattern of similar defiant declarations going back almost to the beginning of his administration.

And in this case, despite clear evidence to the contrary, the president is saying his power overrides U.S. law, which states you cannot solicit that kind of investigation from foreign powers.

Chris Cillizza is here to help break it all down.

Chris, whenever the president uses the, "I have the absolute right," phrase, it's usually when he's under fire.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's right, Brianna. It's also overcompensation. I can do whatever I want.

Let's go through a few examples that will be reminiscent of that tweet you just read. Donald Trump, this is December 17, giving an interview to Mark

Schmidt, at the "New York Times," "I have an absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department." This is about the Mueller probe. This is obviously one of the many times Trump insisted he had a right to get rid of the Mueller probe. That's not absolutely clear. He could ask the attorney general to fire Mueller, but another special counsel could be appointed. Again, glossing over the facts.

There's more of this. As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, many people are saying, "I have the absolute right to pardon myself." This is June 2018. This is in the wake of Rudy Giuliani -- he was in the middle of it even back then -- Rudy Giuliani saying that Trump probably could pardon himself, but he probably wouldn't. Donald Trump puts this out again. Not entirely clear he can do this from a legal perspective.

A couple more. This, May 2017. "As president, I wanted to share with Russia and hopefully schedule a White House meeting. This is the May 10 meeting, the day after Comey got fired. He meets in the Oval Office with the two -- two of the top Russian officials. He says, "The pressure has been relieved from me now that Comey is fired."

And he tells them classified information that late comes out he should not have told them. This is his defense. "I have the absolute right to do so."

Again, the absolute right or whether you should or not is a different thing.


That's not all. Beyond the tweets, we have a couple other absolute right demands by Donald Trump. Let's play those.


TRUMP: I have an absolute right to call a national security --

I just wish Iran well. They had a big problem. And we had a photo. And I released it, which I have the absolute right to do.


CILLIZZA: Here's the key. If you hear Donald Trump saying, "I have the absolute right," prick your ears up because the next thing that's coming, he almost certainly does not have the absolute right to do.

Brianna, back to you.

KEILAR: That is a very good little way to read that.

Chris Cillizza, thanks so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: We have more on these damning text messages that the Trump administration pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Is their legal exposure here?

Plus, just in, we're now learning that the former diplomat who was a key witness in this scandal testified to Congress about Rudy Giuliani and the president.