Return to Transcripts main page


CNN Obtains Kurt Volker's Opening Statement; Donald Trump: Will Send Letter to Pelosi Demanding Full House Vote on Impeachment Before White House Turns Over Documents; Damning Text Messages Detail Trump Admin Pressure on Ukraine; Republicans Concerned About Lack of White House Impeachment Strategy; Kurt Volker Statement Details Warning he Gave Rudy Giuliani. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: --dove tails with the momentum that we're seeing get reflected in early state polls and national polls and in her standing of them in the field.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, I mean, in the first quarter she only raised around $6 million. Last quarter she raised 19 million and now around 25 million or almost 25 million. Clearly we're seeing that momentum on a whole different level.

BOLDUAN: And not over yet. Good to see, thank you so much. And I really appreciate it.

LEE: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you so much for joining me today another wild ride. We are on it together. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing another busy news day with us. 3.5 percent that was the unemployment rate in September, the lowest number in 50 years. 136,000 new jobs added last month but there are some flashing lights when you look closer at manufacturing and other sectors bruised by the President's trade wars.

Plus the President insists, insisting again just moments ago, nothing wrong with asking Ukraine and China for dirt on the Bidens. And CNN confirms that in a phone call with China's President Xi, Mr. Trump promised to stay quiet about the Hong Kong protests as long as trade talks continued.

And the damaging text messages that are now impeachment evidence. They suggest that clear Ukraine quid pro quo and highlight how much the President's Personal Attorney was influencing critical foreign policy questions.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D-CA): He's running a shadow State Department without being vetted, without having security clearances, without being confirmed by the Senate. It's outrageous that he has the ability and portfolio to do all that he has done, and I think many of those in the State Department are diplomatic are disgusted what they've been required to do on his behalf.


KING: We begin the hour there with the latest on the impeachment drama with a combative President Trump denying any quid pro quo with Ukraine despite damning texts from his own diplomats saying there was one.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland, who is highly respected, was there's no quid pro quo. He said that. He said, by the way, it almost sounded like in general. He said, by the way, there is no quid pro quo, and there isn't.


KING: The President also daring the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call for a full House vote on the impeachment inquiry. But he says he'll leave it to his lawyers to decide whether to cooperate with House deadlines. One of those is today.

The President also trying to do some major cleanup from yesterday when he challenged both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens when he acknowledged he had asked Presidents from both those countries to do that. Today he changed the story.


TRUMP: I don't care about politics, but I do care about corruption. And this whole thing is about corruption.


KING: Let's go straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the white House. Kaitlan, what the President did yesterday many attorney said was essentially confess to campaign finance violations. He seemed determined to clean it up today.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he wanted to separate those two today saying the trade talks with China had nothing to do with him saying yesterday saying that China should launch an investigation into Joe Biden, of course, his political rival.

We should know when the President brought it up yesterday, it was unprompted. A reporter didn't asked him if he thought should investigate the Bidens, he brought it up on his own after just moments before noting that the Chinese trade delegation will be in Washington in next week for another round of trade talks which is why people put two in two together because the President was talking about the tremendous leverage he said he has over China. But out there today you saw the President once again defending that call with the President of Ukraine. That text he was pointing to from Sondland, that's the Ambassador to the European Union, text messages that were revealed after Kurt Volker the Former Envoy to Ukraine was up on Capitol Hill yesterday.

The President was referencing how he said no there was no quid pro quo no agreement for that that military aid in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens, but John what the President left out was the text messages from the other person in that conversation, Bill Taylor, who is also in Ukraine, a top U.S. Diplomat, a career diplomat, who raised questions about the fact that the President's actions seemed to be threatening to withhold that aid if he didn't get an investigation, and also dangling a white House visit over the Ukrainians and the Ukrainian President if they did not publicly open an investigation into the Bidens.

Those are the questions that President is facing. This also comes John as we have reporting that shows, and the President just confirmed, they are expecting to send a letter to Capitol Hill essentially daring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry vote on the floor, something the White House doesn't believe that they'll get the vote for, and they say they need that before they'll send over any documents related to this inquiry.

KING: Interesting day at the White House as always. Kaitlan Collins let us know what the President speaks when he comes back as well the President this hour we should know going to - medical center, the military medical center visit some veterans. That's a good trip to the President.

With me in studio to share the reporting and their insights CNN's Dana Bash, Michael Bender with The Wall Street Journal, Shawna Thomas with VICE News and our Military Diplomatic Analyst the Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

I want to start with the cleanup. Essentially when the President stood there yesterday and said, yes, I asked President Xi to investigate the Bidens. Yes, I asked President of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. So what?


KING: You could make the case - you have to take it to the regulatory agency or to court, but that was violating campaign finance law right there, asking for an in kind contribution from a foreign government which is forbidden.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Uh-huh. And just in talking to some Republican sources this morning, including those who are friends of - allies of the President, this was not helpful. I've heard that from sort of, you know, from the top all the way down, and that's an understatement.

The beginning of the week, the feeling among Republicans was, let's just see if another shoe dropped. The President took the shoe and he slammed it on the ground yesterday with those comments. And now what he tried to do, clearly, is clean it up because I don't know this for a fact, but it's hard to imagine that he didn't hear from people who care about his political future and legacy and reputation to say, okay, that's too far, Mr. President.

KING: Some - other than his TV lawyer maybe suggesting that those of us who read the law say what you just said was a fault. Admiral, I want to come back to you on these texts. I'm sure you texted about delicate sensitive things sometimes with diplomat overseas in different time zones. When you saw the texts, the President said no quid pro quo, and he focused on one text.

When you look at these, as I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with political campaign that from Mr. Taylor a veteran U.S. diplomat. Four hours later, a Trump appointee, who was a donor, four hours later, Bill, I believe you're incorrect about President Trump's intentions.

The President has been crystal clear, no quid pro quo of any kind. If that was the immediate response for a minute or two, maybe 15 minutes, maybe the guy was a little busy, okay; maybe we have a disagreement here. Four hours later that's what you get. What does that tell you?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (Ret.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's pretty articulate to it's not like the other rest of Sondland's tweets, clearly written for the record, no question about that.

KING: Someone might see these texts someday, and if they do, we're in trouble.

KIRBY: Exactly. And of course you saw the President quote that text alone. But all the texts, if you take them in sum and read them all, they are just dripping with arm twisting for the Ukrainian government. Whether its military aid, whether it's a phone call as much less a date for the White House visit all of these things are being held hostage to getting a statement of support for investigations from the President of Ukraine. I mean, it's just dripping with, it's self- evident.

KING: Right, here is another one I've covered a lot of trials before I got involved in politics. Bill Taylor, are we now saying that security assistance and White House meetings are conditioned on investigations? According to Sondland, call me.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, that's right. I mean, we've been so focused here on the potential quid pro quo for Trump and to give Ukraine aid, but the other what these texts shows that what the - are really interesting. What Ukraine was mostly interested in was a meeting, and that whatever directive President Trump may or may not have given some of these officials, his administration was clearly under the impression that a meeting with Zelensky was going to be contingent up on the Ukrainian President convincing him that he would investigate these issues that the President is so interested in.

SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: And I also think, as we had this sort of like mini argument in our newsroom this morning that it is not crazy from the Ukrainian side to be trying to figure out, how do I get in the room with the President? How do I have that phone call, that whole thing?

BASH: It's their lifeline.

THOMAS: Exactly. I don't think sometimes people understand the amount of aid that the United States gives around the world, how much everyone has said we want to support Ukraine? How much we think of Ukraine as a way to backstop Russia as well, that we need to have a presence there? In one way America is also playing on the fact that the Ukrainians and this new President really want to stay involved and keep the United States on their side. And that's just diplomacy.

KING: Right. And to your point, the new President of Ukrainian just election promising anti-corruption, knows Putin is watching, knows, Putin wants him to fail. Wants corroboration with the United States to send a signal to Putin, we've got this guy's back. And he is getting - read these texts, they're pretty damning. This is from Kurt Volker the President's Special Envoy until he resigned last week, good lunch. This is to a top aid to the new President, good lunch. Heard from white House assuming President Xi convinces Trump he will investigate. Get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington. I'm sorry, the President can stand outside the white House and say no quid pro quo all he wants, that's a quid pro quo.

KIRBY: He wasn't just holding Zelensky hostage here, he's holding our national security interests in Europe hostage. This is what Putin wants. He wants a weak Ukraine, he wants the United States to turn a cold shoulder to the struggle there, and Trump was signaling that he's willing to do that by holding back this lethal military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces.

KING: And there is no rule, pick up your constitution at home against the President's part is the constitutionally conservative party all of pocket constitution, pick it up and read about impeachment. There is no rule that you have to have a full vote on the House floor to have oversight. Any Committee can have oversight of any other co-equal branch of government, but the President trying to push Nancy Pelosi here and push hard.



TRUMP: Now, in the House, they have the majority. They all vote with AOC and plus three. Nancy Pelosi is petrified of them. She's afraid she's going to lose her position. Nancy Pelosi will lose her speakership right after the election when the Republicans take over the House.


KING: Now we don't know how this is going to play out in 2020. We have no idea. We do know Nancy Pelosi is not petrified of the junior members of caucus who sometimes raise some issues or sometimes cause all the trouble in the family. Nancy Pelosi is not afraid of them. What the President is trying to do there is keep Republicans in their corner to make this partisan?

Especially on a day when the documentary evidence before you is pretty damning for the White House, this is a get everybody in the Republican/Democrat travel corners before they read all this stuff and maybe thinks oh, we might have a problem here.

BASH: Right. And he is trying to - look, it is true that the custom has been, as much as you can call it a custom since impeachment is so rare, but in recent history, there have been votes to formally start an impeachment inquiry. But as you mentioned, it is absolutely not necessary. What he's trying to do is very obvious, which is to try to put the Democrats who are maybe in Trump won districts and others who maybe are not that comfortable with this on the record to support the impeachment inquiry so that they can run more effective ads against those democrats.

But it does cut both ways. There are retiring more than a dozen almost 20 retired Republicans right now who don't have any political reason to not stand up and say, we're with the Democrats. And, you know, there aren't that many moderate Republicans left who aren't retiring, but there are some who might not go with the President, because they've been very quiet so far.

BENDER: I do wonder if this will fall on deaf ears, because Pelosi already lost her speakership once, and you could argue that was over principle that was over her decision to push hard on Obamacare which she believed in. So I don't think that's going to necessarily scare Pelosi anymore, but it does show as you are saying that Trump and his people are fully aware of where this thing really starts to break for them is when Republicans start to line up with the rest of the Democrats. That is one of the few things they truly fear about this impeachment.

KIRBY: Will his distancing today from the campaign finance thing will that maybe encourage more Republicans to come out a little bit more? Is that for their benefit, too?

KING: Is it believable is the issue. I'm sorry, is it believable given all these texts and given what he has said yesterday and what he has said for months about Joe Biden. And again, almost everything he says about Joe and Hunter Biden just is not true. With Republicans it might be a different issue as to whether anybody with an open mind finds it believable.

THOMAS: I do think it does give them a little cover. The fact that he came out on the white House south lawn, decided to try to clean up, give the other Republicans a quote to say, hey look, the President said this isn't about politics, it's about corruption. It gives them something to repeat, which is probably they feel a little bit helpful.

BENDER: Let's give that 24 hours too, because this is also the pattern with Trump as soon as we start saying about how he's backtracking on something and cleaning something up, he comes right back usually and says--

BASH: What he really thinks.

BENDER: Exactly.

KING: All right, a quick break. When we come back, more on the President's defense and the question just raised. Is there any evidence Republicans are cracking?



KING: A lot of moving parts in the impeachment inquiry today. I want to let you know the full testimony, at least the prepared statement by Kurt Volker, the President's Former Special Envoy to Ukraine has just been released. We've reporters going through it to pick out the highlights. We'll bring it to you as soon as we can Mr. Volker testifying yesterday is part of Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

One other things we're watching as this place out is for the reaction of Republicans some new reaction today this one just done on Twitter by Utah Senator Mitt Romney who says the President's phone calls where he asked Ukraine and China, the Presidents of those countries, for help investigating the Biden family appalling wrong and appalling.

When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China's investigation is his political opponent, in the midst of the Democratic nomination process it is strains credulity to suggest it is anything other than politically motivated. Wrote Romney by all appearances' the President's brazing and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.

Senator Romney has been one of the few Republicans to speak out forcefully. I want to read you a little bit more this is from a Town Hall in Iowa last night. Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst who is up for reelection next year in a tough race was asked this at Town Hall by an independent voter.

Where is the line, when are you going to say enough and stand up and say you know what? I'm not backing any of this. This is the Senator's response see if you can follow this it's a bit hard to follow. I can say 'yay, nay, whatever'. The President is going to say what the President is going to do. It's up to us as members of Congress to continue working with our allies, making sure that we remain strong in the face of adversity.

So a very direct statement from Senator Romney I would call that a bit of a punt from Senator Ernst.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, the silence from Republicans has been fairly deafening this week. Those are the two exceptions you've raised here, and I think they can do that because they're on congressional recess and they're able to skirt the press some.


LERER: I think the question is whether this is a silence of consent or the silence before a horror movie. There is a sense in Republican circles that it's hard to come out and defend the President when you don't know what's coming and they're not getting a lot of guidance from the White House.

So the real test will come when they come back in ten days or so and they can no longer escape these questions and what Republicans say then. And by then, who knows what kinds of revelations they'll be dealing with because this thing is moving so fast.

BENDER: I'm not sure how much Romney adds to the conversation. I think we understood yesterday that Romney felt a lot of things about how Trump operated were appalling. And the question that is going to be put to Romney and to lawmakers on the Hill is not whether Trump is wrong and appalling, it's whether it's impeachable. That's the needle - you know what I'm saying.

The Republicans on the Hill are walking down this line that this is wrong. This is appalling. This is not something I would do but a lot of them quickly add it's not impeachable.

KING: And I think that's a great point, because where would we be if the Democrats hadn't spent the last two and a half years talking about impeaching this President? If they had talked about they didn't like his behavior. They had aggressive oversight but hadn't frequently used the impeachment word, would Republicans be more open minded? I don't know the answer. You think it is yes.

BASH: I think yes because some of the Republicans who are quiet are also saying what they hear from their constituents back home is enough already. It's the Russia hangover that they think okay it's just more of this. We'll never know the real answer to that because we can't rewind history, but that at least is their political defense that they're starting to build if these Republicans decide not to go with the Democrats and instead defend the President.

LERER: I don't know. I'm not sure. I think President Trump has such a hold on the base of this party that if he maintains that, and there are some signs, at least among certain groups of swing voters that complain, some of these Senate races, that that may be shifting. He has such a hold on the base of this party, and if he's able to maintain that through this process, I think it's really hard for Republicans to come out, regardless of what Democrats have or have not been saying.

THOMAS: But I think the Romney tweet, because we're on recess, because there's so much silence, that tweet echoes. That means what he is setting up, and I think he knows he is doing this, that everyone is going to ask other Republicans to comment on his tweet.

Now I agree with you, that the follow-up is, it's really easy to put that on in Twitter form because there is no reporter like you sitting like. So the follow-up is do you think what he did is illegal? But Romney is causing an issue for other Republicans because he is coming out and actually saying something.

KING: And to your point earlier about the Republicans who are retiring, I just want to play this. This is Will Hurd from a tough district. He decided he's not going to run for the election, he has gone home. He's been critical as Former CIA Officer. He has been critical of the President in the past and how he beats up on the Intelligence Community all the time.

Here is how he points this, and again thinks in the context, he says, the Democrats have already said this is impeachable; at least most Democrats have said this is impeachable. Will Hurd won't go that far, however, he wants some answers.


REP. WILL HURD, (R-TX): I think some of these things are indeed damning, however, I want to make sure we get through this entire investigation before coming to some kind of conclusions. I'm interested to see how the White House is going to respond to the request for the subpoenas because there are a lot of people that should be coming in front of our Committee.


KING: I don't know how many there are, but to your point, there's one. There's one.

LERER: Who is not running for reelection?

KING: Yes, he was not running for reelection. The question how many will at least say, send us some witnesses. Or even say help us tell the Democrats they're going too far with impeachment by getting us some answers and have us clear this up. We'll see that would be a logical process probably won't happen in town.

Coming up for us a break from the impeachment inquiry onto the economy latest jobs report gives the President a very much needed win but some economists still see a recession possibly looming up there.



KING: On the breaking news developing on the impeachment inquiry. Remember Kurt Volker, the President's Former Special Envoy to Ukraine, was the star witness. Nine hours up on Capitol Hill yesterday. They have just released an opening statement testimony he provided to the lawmakers. Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill. CNN's Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox. Lauren, what are the highlights?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Good morning, that's right. So basically what Kurt Volker said behind closed doors was exactly what we are seeing here in this statement. Basically, one of the arguments that Volker made was that the President was very skeptical of Ukraine. What he said in his opening statement was the President was skeptical. Given Ukraine's history of corruption, that's understandable. He said Ukraine was a corrupt country, full of terrible people. He said that he tried to take me down in the course of that conversation. He referenced conversations with Mayor Giuliani, and it was clear to me that despite the positive news and recommendations being conveyed by this official delegation about the new President, President Trump had a deeply rooted negative view on Ukraine rooted in the past.

He was clearly receiving other information from other sources, including Mayor Giuliani that was more negative, causing him to retain this negative view. That's just one of the arguments that Volker made behind closed doors yesterday, John. It was also clear that Volker was saying he had deep skepticism that anything about Joe Biden--