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Damning Text Messages Detail Trump Pressure on Ukraine. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, October 4, 6 a.m. here in New York. We begin with an avalanche of breaking developments in the impeachment inquiry.

First, while you were sleeping, bombshell text messages have come out from Kurt Volker. That's the diplomat who quit the State Department just last week. And these texts show how U.S. diplomats dangled a White House visit for Ukraine's president in exchange for Ukraine investigating the 2016 election and the Bidens.

One text from a senior Ukrainian aide to Kurt Volker reads, "Once we have a date, will call for press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations," end quote.

Burisma is the Ukrainian gas company that hired Joe Biden's son for its board.

Another text from a senior U.S. diplomat references the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. that was withheld -- in U.S. aid, I should say, withheld from Ukraine. Here it is. Quote, "Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?" end quote.

A source tells CNN the Ukrainian government went so far as to draft a public statement about its commitment to carry out these investigations but never released it, in part because Rudy Giuliani felt it did not go far enough.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You give me this, I give you that. That is the essence of a quid pro quo, and this will be the center of the coverage for this morning. But there is more.

Less and less is hidden in the shadows here, including new reporting on the president's out loud for the whole world to see, "You're damn right I did," call on China to investigate Joe Biden.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.


BERMAN: CNN has new reporting on this, too. It turns out this is not the first time President Trump raised Biden's name with China. Two sources tell CNN the president also talked about Biden and Elizabeth Warren with Chinese President Xi at a phone call back in June.

This comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faces a deadline today to turn over documents. The White House could be slapped with a subpoena if it doesn't comply today. And just hours from now, the man who turned the whistle-blower's complaint over to Congress briefs lawmakers behind closed doors.

Let's get to the lead story. These explosive text messages released overnight. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, there's no time to sleep. This is what we got late last night. We're talking about pages and pages of text messages. And what do these text messages show?

Well, the extent that U.S. diplomats were pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Overnight, the three House committees releasing an avalanche of new evidence after former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, met behind closed doors with investigators for more than nine hours. House Democrats releasing text messages provided by Volker showing President Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to agree to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden before meeting with the newly-elected leader.

Volker texting Ukraine's top diplomat, Andrey Yermak, less than an hour before Trump's call with Zelensky, writing, "Heard from White House -- assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington."

According to President Trump last month --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was never any quid pro quo.

MALVEAUX: But senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, questioning if that's the case. Texting on September 9, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with the political campaign."

More than four hours later, Ambassador Gordon Sondland responding: "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind."

The text messages also revealing just how involved Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was in setting up the call between Trump and Zelensky. The whistle-blower complaint alleging Volker held meetings with Giuliani where, in one, according to "The Washington Post," he warned Giuliani against trusting information he was receiving from Ukrainian political figures about Biden and his son.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: If Volker had said to me that my sources were incredible or wrong, any of them, I would have immediately said did you do an investigation? Because I really wanted them to.

SUZANNE: Republicans insisting Volker's deposition showed no wrong doing by the White House.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Not one thing he has said comports with any of the Democrats' impeachment narratives. Not one thing.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): The administration is -- is in an even stronger place today than they were this morning.

MALVEAUX: Earlier, President Trump making this stunning suggestion.

TRUMP: China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.

MALVEAUX: And doubling down on Twitter despite his pending impeachment inquiry, writing he has "an absolute right, perhaps even duty to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking or suggesting other Countries to help us out!"

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president has confessed to his violation of his oath of office right then and there, so not too much inquiry.



MALVEAUX: Today is deadline day for the White House to turn over its documents related to the president's phone call with the Ukrainian president or face a possible subpoena. House Democrats already drafting that memo earlier this week.

We're also looking for the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who is going to reappear here on the Hill behind closed doors to talk about -- give details about why he felt the whistle-blower's complaint was not only urgent but credible -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that. We will read more of those just-released text messages and explore what they mean to investigators, next.


CAMEROTA: All right. Breaking news and get used to it all morning. Because things are coming out every minute. There are new text messages that have come out while you were sleeping that show U.S. diplomats coordinating between Ukraine's president and Rudy Giuliani to leverage a White House meeting in exchange for investigations into the Bidens and an investigation into the 2016 election.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Elie Honig and CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga.

OK, Elie, let's read some of these just released overnight text messages. This is from the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, and Kurt Volker. So this is from Kurt Volker's cache. OK. So here's what Gordon Sondland says.

Do we still want Zelensky to give us an unequivocal draft, meaning a statement, with -- basically saying he will investigate 2016 and Barisma?

Kurt Volker says, "That's the clear message so far."

Two weeks later, here's this one. This is from senior U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor: "Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on these investigations?"

That's when the ambassador Gordon Sondland says, "Call me."

HONIG: I love that. You see why prosecutors love this kind of evidence. First of all, it's a gold mine. Because you see the actual words of the actual players at the time it's all happening. You can't spin it after the fact. It's in text. It's preserved.

So talk about a quid pro quo. I mean, conditioned on the investigation? That's English for quid pro quo. You get this, conditioned on me getting that.

And then the best part is, call me, which is -- translates to, of course it is, but don't put it in a text, genius.

So these texts are really incredibly valuable, I think, to giving a sense of, really, what was going on here. The president only wanted the investigations, and they understood it was this for that.

BERMAN: Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney, wrote overnight, he said, "All week I've been saying you never see direct written evidence of a quid pro quo. I stand corrected."


BERMAN: It is. And there are two separate quid pro quos if that's the plural in Latin here. There's No. 1 which might be the military aid which you read Ambassador Bill Taylor saying, are we really saying that the investigations are hinging on this aid? And then the other thing which really developed overnight, Bianna,

which is the idea that Zelensky is not going to get a meeting with President Trump, which is so important to the Ukrainians, unless he plays ball. And this is P-203. This is a text from Kurt Volker. "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 date for visit to Washington. Good luck! See you tomorrow. Kurt."

Assuming President Z. convinces Trump. I think Elie will tell you that is the exact kind of language you use in a quid pro quo. You give me this, I give you that.

GOLODRYGA: Exactly. And it wasn't enough for Zelensky and those around him to tell Trump and to tell Giuliani that, yes, we will do this. We will be on top of this. We will investigate over phone conversations and meetings, privately, right? They needed to put this in this statement, because they wanted to hold this as publicly, the Ukrainians saying that we will be investigating Barisma, we will be investigating the Bidens. And why?

As you mentioned, Zelensky desperately wanted to get a meeting with Donald Trump in the White House. That sends such a clear message to Vladimir Putin. We haven't been talking about Russia at all.

But let me tell you, Vladimir Putin is the winner in all of this. Because he's the one who invaded Crimea, annexed Crimea, right? You need not only the military aid, but you need the public support and backing which any U.S. [resident would automatically do in a situation like this of a newly democratic leader like Zelensky in Ukraine, to show the world, to show Vladimir Putin that we are on his side.

He didn't get that, which is why he was saying privately, look, we're doing this. We're investigating, what have you. That wasn't enough for this administration. They needed to have written proof from him that he would be doing that to hold over their heads.

CAMEROTA: One of the texts spells that out. So Bill Taylor, this senior U.S. diplomat, says on September 8, "The nightmare is that the Ukrainians give this statement, make this statement that they'll be investigating what happened in 2016." In other words, it'll be on them, not the Russians. And don't get the military aid. "Don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)"


CAMEROTA: Again, you hear people feeling very compromised about this position they've been put in.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you can see them starting to sort of circle the wagons. How are we going to spin this? How are we going to put this in the public sector? Because they're aware that this is not OK. And that's why they're coming up with public statements. How do we put this out there? How do we explain it? Who's going to win and lose? And what really jumps out to me is the singular focus that all these

people understand the president has. There's no talk of he wants to clean up Ukraine. He is a corruption buster. He wants to make sure other European countries are paying their share. All these cover stories that we've heard are blown apart by this, because this makes clear they all know Donald Trump wants one thing. It's the investigations of his political enemies.

GOLODRYGA: And it's not just the Bidens that they want investigated. Right? They basically want the Ukrainians to implicate themselves. This conspiracy theory that it wasn't the Russians who infiltrated and attacked our election system. It was all out of Ukraine.

So that's what the president, in that debunked theory that we had Tom Bossert say that there was no truth to that. Others around him constantly telling the president, there's no truth to this. The one person that was promoting it, obviously, our emissary to Ukraine, unbeknownst to us, Rudy Giuliani.

BERMAN: Those may be two qualitatively different things, though. Look, investigating Ukraine's role in the Russia investigation may be conspiratorial and tinfoil hat, but having the Ukrainians investigate your political opponent is a different level. And there is evidence in these text messages that that part was a requirement to meet Donald Trump --

GOLODRYGA: To get military aid.

BERMAN: Well, to get military aid or --

GOLODRYGA: A meeting.

BERMAN: -- a meeting. To get anything. To get something. And Rudy Giuliani, according to Volker's testimony, we understand, yesterday wasn't satisfied until the Ukrainians wrote down or spoke out loud were investigating Barisma, which is Biden.

HONIG: Yes, it makes a difference legally, as well. Now, look, everyone's been saying it. I will say it here. You do not need a crime in order to impeach. You can impeach based on an abuse of power.

But if you need a crime, if you have a crime, you have a stronger case. Getting the information on the Bidens is, I think, arguably election aid. Because this is the upcoming 2020 potential opponent of Donald Trump.

And so if he's digging for dirt on Joe Biden, he's trying to influence the 2020 election. The Hillary Clinton stuff is conspiracy theory. It's looking backwards. It's probably not a crime. But the Biden stuff absolutely could be.

BERMAN: We keep saying if. We've seen the transcript of the call, where the president leaned on the Ukrainian leader. It happened. And we've seen it.

CAMEROTA: All right. Elie, Bianna, thank you both very much for helping us go through these just-released texts.

BERMAN: We were just talking about what the text messages also show, which is Rudy Giuliani's central role in all of this. He hangs over the text messages, and we're getting new details about what he did in the testimony yesterday. We'll explain next.



BERMAN: All right. Breaking news. Text messages linking a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election to a White House visit. Quid pro quo.

The president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appears to be at the heart of shaping all of this in these text messages that were released overnight.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary and led Clinton's war room during the impeachment investigation and trial then.

We've seen the text messages that were released overnight, Joe. And we've also got some reporting out from CNN and "New York Times" and others about what Kurt Volker testified to yesterday behind closed doors.

Among other things, Volker reportedly said that Giuliani was behind the whole idea of the Ukrainians making a definitive message and that, when Giuliani read or was told about the message they were initially going to deliver, Giuliani said nuh-uh. Not enough. Not enough. He indicated to Mr. Volker that it was not sufficient, and the Ukrainians should be asked for specific public commitments to investigate Burisma and 2016. Burisma being Joe Biden. Giuliani was insisting they say out loud they're going after Biden.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you said in the intro, it is the -- you know, the smoking gun on quid pro quo. But I think the important part here is you have the -- you have various parts of the State Department and the U.S. foreign policy apparatus sitting in one place.

And you've got Rudy. And when you say Rudy, you mean Trump. Because Trump is exercising his wishes through Rudy Giuliani through a -- you know, a separate, you know --

CAMEROTA: A shadow secretary of state.

LOCKHART: A shadow secretary of state.

CAMEROTA: Isn't that what we see happening here?

LOCKHART: So, you know, I think Rudy will have some explaining to do and will -- will be grilled at some point up on Capitol Hill. But we shouldn't lose the point that he was exercising the will of the president, what the president really wanted here.

CAMEROTA: I think it is -- I recommend that everybody go to, read through these texts themselves -- yourself. It is a page turner. It is fascinating to watch how a country that desperately needs money can be manipulated by Rudy Giuliani.


CAMEROTA: Who was not in the government. He has no official title. He was operating as a shadow secretary of state where he's telling them here's what you have to do in order to get this $400,000 in military assistance.


CAMEROTA: And I mean, surely, Joe, when that happens, that -- you know, there's all this legal debate about is this wrong, is this illegal? This can't be how it really works.

Well, it is how it really works. And if you're sitting in Ukraine and you see -- you'll see -- be reading these text messages, there are a number of players here. The U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Mr. Taylor, Ambassador Taylor.

They don't represent the real power. What Rudy was able to do, given his very public relationship with the president, was he was able to go into Ukraine and say, I speak for the president. These other people, they speak for the American government. I speak for the president.

And there's a big difference. And it had an impact. Look at what Ukraine is doing. They're doing what they're asked.

CAMEROTA: They're starting to investigate the Bidens.


LOCKHART: It's the quo here.

BERMAN: Let me just also say that it's not just some freelance Rudy Giuliani operation here, because these text messages show that Kurt Volker, who was special envoy to Ukraine, was involved. His motivations, we don't know. Maybe he was trying to smooth things out and make it not as bad, but he was involved. The ambassador to the European Union also involved.

So the apparatus, the structure, the system is supporting the president's political goals here, if you follow these text messages.

And the release of these text messages, Joe, significant, also, as they happened overnight. In response to how the Republicans handled this yesterday. Jim Jordan and others came out of Kurt Volker's testimony and said nothing to see here. Nothing he said bolsters the idea that the president did anything wrong or this investigation is in any way valid.

How do you sort of reconcile these text messages with the claims of Jim Jordan?

LOCKHART: Well, you can't. And Jim Jordan is going to his political career so closely tied to Donald Trump that he's -- he's either going to sail into victory or go down with the ship.

I think the interesting thing yesterday, and you have to go back to early in the day, which now feels like weeks ago when Trump doubled down. And he said, you know, not only should Ukraine do this, China should also. And that was a strategic shift.

We've been talking this week about -- and I've been saying that their response -- Trump's response is unsustainable. Because these text messages were going to come out. Things like this were going to come out. Couldn't have predicted it this clearly.

Now he's in a position where I think he feels much more comfortable, which is I did it. I'd do it again. And --

BERMAN: I am doing it again.

LOCKHART: I am doing it again. And -- and my whole essence as president is I break the rules. I break the rules to get results. And that gives cover to guys like Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows.

The problem is it gives -- it exposes these Republican senators to a really hard situation, particularly the ones who are up. You saw Joni Ernst yesterday inch towards criticizing the president in Iowa. She's up.

Cory Gardner, the head of the campaign committee, is going to have to say something or he's going to lose to John Hickenlooper. So I think Trump is in, you know, legally, he's in unchartered territory. But politically, he's now back in the place that he loves, which is I'm different. I'm different for a reason. And the rules don't apply to me, because I'm Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: And you're so right. That pattern that we've spelled out before which is I didn't do it, I didn't do it. Evidence comes out. It's presented. OK, I did do it, and I'd do it again.


BERMAN: Also, can I just say that the whole idea the whistle-blower complaint is somehow flawed. Everything that comes out not only supports the original complaint but goes further. We almost don't even need the complaint any more.

LOCKHART: That was the nonsensical defense of the Republicans' defense in the first week, which was not only did the whistle-blower -- everything the whistle-blower say was corroborated by what limited evidence we had. It was corroborated by the president on the very first day of this.

So they -- you know, again, I think what you'll see now is the really hardcore Trump supporters in Congress and Trump are going to get very aggressive on this, which is nothing wrong here. This is how you get results for America. It's nonsense. But it's nonsense that at least their base can consume and be comfortable with. And that's, you know, this is -- this is the terrain we're going to fight on.

CAMEROTA: And here we are. Joe, thank you very much.

So again, overnight these new text messages have been released. They reveal a quid pro quo. These are not, perhaps, all of the text messages that exist. But these that we will read to you are fascinating. More of our breaking news ahead.