Return to Transcripts main page


New Text Messages Released Concerning Possible Quid Pro Quo between Trump Administration and Ukrainian Government; Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) Interviewed about Ongoing Investigation into President Trump's Asking Ukraine to Investigate Joe Biden; Mick Mulvaney and Jared Kushner to Lead White House Impeachment Strategy; Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is Interviewed About Damning Text Messages Detail Trump Pressure on Ukraine. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 08:00   ET



BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: And that is a very difficult burden to bear. And I'm tired of giving grace and forgiveness that is apparently a one-way street.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Van, Bakari, I really do appreciate this discussion. I think it's important and much more complicated than I think people first realized. Appreciate you being here, guys.

SELLERS: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That was an important discussion. Thanks so much to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN Newsroom with Christina Macfarlane is next. For our U.S. viewers, text messages have come out in the Ukraine scandal. A Republican on the House Intelligence Committee up next. NEW DAY continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Friday, October 4th, 8:00 now in the east. And we have breaking developments in the impeachment investigation. While you were sleeping, text messages have come out from Kurt Volker. He's that diplomatic who quit the State Department just last week. These texts show how U.S. diplomats tried to acquiesce to Rudy Giuliani's demands for Ukraine to investigate the 2016 election and to investigate the Bidens. One text from a senior Ukrainian aide to Kurt Volker reads "Once we have a date we will call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for a reboot of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including, among other things, Burisma and election meddling in investigations." Burisma, you'll remember, is the Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board.

Another text is from a senior U.S. diplomatic. It references the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid that was withheld from Ukraine. Quote, "Are we now saying the security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on the investigations?" A source tells CNN the Ukrainian government went as far as to draft a public statement about its commitment to carry out these Giuliani demands but never released it, in part because Rudy Giuliani felt it did not go far enough.

BERMAN: So a quid pro quo is defined as something for something, or this for that. I give you x, you give me y. And now we see this, we see this in these text messages. Also, we have president's words out loud that he spoke for the whole world to see, calling on China to investigate Joe Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And 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. Sources tell CNN he also talked about Biden and Elizabeth Warren with Chinese President Xi in a June phone call. Today is a very important day as well. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faces a deadline to turn over documents, and we just learned details about how the White House plans to respond to a subpoena that could be coming today.

CAMEROTA: Let's bring in now Republican Congressman Will Hurd. He's a member of the House Intelligence committee. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Have you had a chance to read these text messages yet?

REP. WILL HURD, (R-TX): I haven't. The first time I've seen them or heard of them was you just reading them. But this is part of the reason why I think we should be having these hearings in the Intelligence Committee. I believe the whistleblower. These were allegations, I think we've got to be clear of that, but these were serious enough that warrants some of this, the hearings that we've been having. I'm interested in hearing from more of the State Department officials, I'm looking forward to reviewing the transcript of Mr. Volker that happened yesterday.

And today we have the I.C. I.G., the Intelligence Community Inspector General, to talk further about what he knew about the whistleblower and some of the investigations that he may have already conducted.

CAMEROTA: And we'll get to that in a second, but first I just want to catch you up and our viewers, because these happened over night. So everyone like you, and us, are just waking up to these text messages. And what they show over and over, there are dozens of pages of them, people can go to to read them for themselves, is that there was an agreement that these diplomats, U.S. diplomats, were trying to arrange between the U.S. government, between President Trump and President Zelensky. And what the agreement was for was if the Ukraine would agree to investigate Burisma and Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, and if Ukraine would agree to say that they were somehow connected to 2016 election interference, then they would get the military aid that Congress had approved, the hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid.

I'll give you a couple of examples. Here's one. This is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He says "Do we still want Zelensky to give us an unequivocal draft of that statement with 2016 and Burisma?" Then Kurt Volker says "That's the clear message so far."


That was August 17th. Here is one from September 1st. This is the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor. "Are we now saying that security assistance," meaning those millions of dollars, "and White House meeting are conditioned on these investigations?" To which Gordon Sondland says, "Call me." And then on September 8th, Bill Taylor says "The nightmare is that Ukrainians give this interview," meaning the statement, "and don't get the security assistance," meaning the millions of dollars. "The Russians would love" that, he suggests, and he would quit, he suggests.

Are you comfortable with seeing that kind of agreement?

HURD: Of course not, I'm not comfortable. And 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 think this is serious stuff, these are serious matters. This has long-term implications on our foreign policy. I want to hear from Rudy Giuliani. I want to hear from the additional folks within the State Department to put all of this stuff in context. And I think, again, let's get to, let's have all the information available before we make a decision.

But the things that you have read are indeed concerning, and I think it's a confirmation of some of the veracity of the whistleblower's report. And so this is our job on the House Permanent Select Committee on intelligence to review this type of information and try to get to the facts. I know some of my colleagues want to look at stuff as if this is going to support impeachment. Some are looking at it that support exoneration. I'm looking at it to find the truth.

And while I'm back in D.C. today to have these conversations with the I.C. I.G., and then these hearings will continue next week. I'm interested to see how the White House is going respond to the request for subpoenas because there are a lot of people that should be coming in front of our committee.

CAMEROTA: And what if they stonewall? What if they don't respond to the subpoenas?

HURD: I think the next step is what tools does the legislative branch have to force compliance? I think, whether that is a lawsuit, and that has happened in the past. But we are co-equal branch of government, and this is something that you can't always claim executive privilege to prevent giving information to Congress.

CAMEROTA: I know you said you are waiting for the facts to come out, but some things are happening in broad daylight. Such as yesterday when on the White House lawn the president called upon China to investigate his political opponent Joe Biden. So let me just play this moment for everyone.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.


CAMEROTA: What do you think about that request?

HURD: I think it's terrible. It is something that I wouldn't have done. And I can go two days -- I think two days before that, wishing China congratulations on 70 years of communism via a tweet is not something I would do either. China is an adversary. China right now has a million ethnic minority, the Uighurs in basically in prison camps. Also, we are in a tight and complex trade negotiation with China now, and so you are potentially giving them something to hold over your head. And I would expect that prior to our upcoming elections to see the Chinese do something so manipulate their currency or impact global markets in order to have an impact on the U.S. economy going into an election. So I think that is something that a president of the United States shouldn't be doing.

CAMEROTA: What are you going to ask the inspector general for the Intelligence Committee when he comes before your Committee today?

HURD: I want to know what knew what, when, right, when this information was given. I want to know what did the I.C. I.G. do in order to confirm some of the veracity to make the decision that it was urgent or not. I also want to get to the bottom of, I believe that under all circumstances whistleblower information should be transmitted to Congress. And so we know that the DNI missed that seven-day deadline. And what was the ambiguity in the law, because I want to fix that, because even if the I.C. I.G. makes a determination that the information is not urgent, or even if it's not credible, I still think that information should be transmitted to the oversight committees, and I'm looking forward to how do we tighten that up.

So these are some of the areas and some of the questions that we'll get. And if the I.C. I.G. has further information about details within the report on obviously a follow up.


CAMEROTA: Congressman Will Hurd, we really appreciate you taking the time to come on NEW DAY. Thanks so much.

HURD: Always a pleasure.


BERMAN: We do have some breaking news for you. Details as to who is now leading the White House response to impeachment and how the West Wing plans to respond to the subpoena threat today. We'll give you that news. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, the breaking news out of the White House. We're getting word about who exactly will be leading the impeachment response inside the West Wing. Joining us now Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent, CNN political analyst David Gergen, and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, I am reliably told will be joining us shortly.

Kaitlan, I want to start with you on this. What are you learning about who and how the White House will respond?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are very much still in the beginning process of this, something that's been pretty frustrating to people in the White House that it has taken this long to get at the helm of this. But we are been told by sources that Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff, and Jared Kushner are really playing essentially the leading roles in trying to draft some kind of impeachment defense strategy inside the White House. And right now, a lot of what that looks like are officials trying to figure the exact timeline of how all of this unfolded after the president's July call with the president of Ukraine. They want to make sure that they have a good handle and grasp on exactly what went down, what was said, and who was communicating what, because they want to be prepared as they are watching these fast-moving investigations happen on Capitol Hill where they are calling several officials and only scheduled to speak to several more. And of course, as we're seeing by these text messages, those interviews happening on Capitol Hill are revealing pretty damaging information.

CAMEROTA: David Gergen, there is now a mountain of information for the White House to sift through, for Congress to sift through, for us to sift through. Overnight all of these text message, dozens of pages that are about this very thing, this arrangement. It's quite clear. It's in black and white. There was an arrangement where the White House wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and investigate the 2016 election interference, and Ukraine wanted millions of dollars. And you see these diplomats trying to figure out how they're going to make this happen. What do you see?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's been a disagreement up until now about whether in fact on July 25th and in other contacts with Ukrainians, the administration was seeking a quid pro quo, that they were going make a trade, in exchange for getting the investigations that would help Trump people and dig up dirt against Biden, for example, that they would get this meeting and get the foreign aid given over to them.

That was that disagreement. The Republicans claiming there is no quid pro quo. That disagreement is now over. These messages make it abundantly clear that there was indeed a quid pro quo, and it was very serious. And this is exactly what -- it will be very interesting to see what the Republicans now say having denied there was a quid pro quo.

[08:15:07] I was extremely encouraged by Will Hurd coming on your program and talking just a few minutes ago. If there were more Will Hurds in the Republican Party, frankly, relationships on the Capitol Hill would be a lot better, because he seems a fair-minded man. He's open to facts. And I think that's what we're asking for others, including Democrats. Bring an open mind and let's sort through.

But now it dispels the question whether there was quid pro quo or not. There was. It's serious, and it comes just on the day after the president of the United States has now enlisted China and Russia and trying to get -- and trying to build up a case to help him politically.

He did that with the Russians during the campaign. He said, come hack. He got together with the Russian diplomats in the Oval Office and said we don't care if interfere our election. He's now trying to snare the Chinese. He's ensnared the Australians, you know, the Italians, the British, the Ukrainians.

This is wild. It is unprecedented and it is extraordinarily dangerous.

BERMAN: It was global. That run of countries you were just listing, David. I didn't know when it was going to stop.

Jeffrey, very quickly, yes or no, do you agree with Gergen it puts to rest the notion of if there was quid pro quo?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Done. Over. That debate is concluded.

BERMAN: All right. Kaitlan's reporting what the White House is trying to do is now unwind what happened. These revelations seem to be coming so fast they can't keep track of them. They are trying to get their stories straight.

TOOBIN: Of course. And the one constant of the Trump White House is the enduring faith in nepotism. That, you know, the only people who can be trusted with the president's future are his relatives either by blood or by marriage. So Jared Kushner is going to be apparently in charge of this.

Maybe it will work. He got him elected in 2016. Who am I to say he won't get reelected in 2020.

BERMAN: But the fact that they need to unwind this and figure out the chain of events, that also speaks to something else.

TOOBIN: Well, it speaks to the fact they don't know the underlying facts. Remember, the initial line of defense was that well all I was concerned about was other countries weren't paying enough. That is gone.

Then the defense was well there was no quid pro quo. Now that's gone.

Now, presumably, the defense going forward will be well there was a quid pro quo but there is nothing wrong with that. And that presumably is what you are going to hear from Republicans.

You know, I think, you know, my brother David Gergen, is always -- you know he's so hopeful. Isn't Will Hurd a good guy and straight guy?

What do we know about Will Hurd? He will join Jeff Flake and Bob Corker leaving. The only Republicans who ever criticize the president is people who are leaving Congress. As Flake did. As Corker did. Will Hurd is leaving after this term.

Let's see a Republican running for reelection criticize the president. That's what will be interesting.

CAMEROTA: We'll see what happens today. A lot happens every day now.

Kaitlan, I want to ask you about Bill Taylor. Bill Taylor is in all of these text messages. He's the top diplomat in Ukraine, and there is one text message really telling about how compromised Bill Taylor was beginning to feel, or at least how dicey the road ahead was.

Here it is. This is September 8th. He writes: The nightmare is they give the interview, meaning the Ukrainians come out with this statement and say what Rudy Giuliani want and don't get the security assistance, meaning all the millions of dollars. He suggests the Russians love it. And I quit.

What's your reporting?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is pretty explosive to come from Bill Taylor, this guy who's been in Ukraine many times but he's back again after they recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, something that's also been a point of contention. And this is a pretty even keel guy. He's a career diplomat. He was a Vietnam veteran.

And he's essentially threatened to resign if they don't give that aid to Ukraine. That is at the center of whether or not there was this implied agreement whether or not they were going to open the investigation into the Bidens and he's making clear he thinks that is exactly is going to benefit the Russians, because, of course, that military aide to Ukraine is to help protect them from the Russians.

So, if you read through these messages between Kurt Volker, the other officials here and Bill Taylor, you really see how increasingly exasperated he becomes by all of. This not only there that he say he would resign if they didn't get the military aid, he's also said, are we now saying that the security assistance and the White House meeting are condition on investigations? That's a question he posed to other officials.


He said, quote, I think it is crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. And he also said that Ukraine did not, quote, want to be merely an instrument in domestic U.S. politics.

So, he really had a very different view of this than what you are hearing the administration push right now.

BERMAN: Right.

COLLINS: I think that is something that lawmakers are going to be watching today.

BERMAN: And very quickly, I should note, that other ambassador, Sondland says, oh, that's not what's happening here. There is no quid pro quo. He wrote that down on September 9th.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: After the whistleblower complaint was launched.

BERMAN: As the whistleblower complaint was being submitted shall we say.

Kaitlan, very quickly, and I want these gentlemen response to it.

The White House might actively do something say which is push back and say unless the House votes on impeachment, we're not playing ball here?

COLLINS: Yes, they haven't made a final decision on this. But the White House has drafted this letter that could go to Capitol Hill as soon as today, sources are telling me my colleague Pam Brown. And essentially, it would be daring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring an impeachment vote to the floor, a vote to make this a formal impeachment inquiry, something that the White House and Republicans have criticized Democrats for not doing so far.

And essentially their argument would be, we don't have to turn over documents or make officials available for interviews unless there is a formal impeachment vote done. Essentially, they are daring her essentially because they think behind the scenes, they don't think she has the votes for this. And it will be interesting to see how this plays because Democrats say they don't need that vote to have this formal impeachment inquiry, and essentially, you're seeing this fight between them and the White House.

But, of course, there are deadlines starting today for documents to be turned over. So keep an eye on that letter coming from the White House.

BERMAN: David Gergen, what do you think the Democrat response to that will be?

GERGEN: I think is Democratic response is going to be we don't have to do it. We're not doing it. It is true there was such a vote before the Nixon impeachment. There was such a vote before the Clinton impeachment, but there is no requirement. There is no rule.

And after all, at the end of the day there will be no impeachment unless there is a vote. That is what Nancy Pelosi and is saying. You'll have a chance to vote and everybody will have a chance to weigh in on this. But I do think -- I think they are using this argument from the White

House as an excuse to shut down, to stonewall and to end this, end as much as they can of the transfer of information. Because they just paid the price last night for transferring these e-mails and the White House is going to want to shut that down.

TOOBIN: And all that is going to happen is that Adam Schiff or Nancy Pelosi are going add the refusal to cooperate as another ground for impeachment.


GERGEN: I agree.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, Kaitlan, David, it's going to be yet another pivotal day in Washington. Thank you all very much.

BERMAN: All right. What's the next move from Democrats after these text messages were released overnight? We're going to speak to a Democrat on a House Intelligence Committee about this, next.

CAMEROTA: Moving fast.



BERMAN: And breaking news this morning. We are waking up to text messages that were released between U.S. diplomats and an aid to the Ukrainian president showing how a potential investigation into the 2016 election and the Bidens was linked to a White House meeting with Ukraine's new leader, maybe also military as well.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee which is now leading the impeachment investigation.

Congressman, thank you very much for being with us.

These text message, what do you see in them?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes, John, they are very damning. I think they confirm that there was military aid that was being held up, a meeting that was being held up, with the president of the Ukraine, unless he agreed to investigate Joe Biden at the request of Donald Trump. And you see diplomats going back and forth in the text messages talking about that.

You add on top of that the fact that on the White House lawn yesterday, the president asked China to investigate Joe Biden. So, every day, it seems like there are two or three major things that develop in the story. And the president is really digging himself into a deeper hole at this point.

BERMAN: You talked about one of the text message exchanges between Bill Taylor, the senior diplomat in Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland ambassador to the E.U. This is P201 (ph).

Bill Taylor says, as I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. Sondland did respond, Bill, I believe you're incorrect about President Trump's intentions. He says he doesn't believe there is a quid pro quo.

But clearly, the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, was concerned about such at thing having to do with military assistance.

I just spoke with Judd Gregg, former U.S. senator, Republican from New Hampshire, whose response to this is, OK, it's wrong but it's not impeachable. What do you see to that?

CASTRO: I think that's a joke. I think that answer is a joke. Think about what that means if a president can ask a foreign nation to at will investigate a political opponent of the United States. It means that president could ask to investigate not only Joe Biden but any other rival, and not just the presidential candidate, but any other politician in this country. And we would be saying that that's OK.

That answer is a joke. The president deserves impeachment at this point.

BERMAN: Nine hours of an interview with Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine yesterday. We've seen the text messages released that Volker turned over. Republicans are calling on a full transcript of this interview to be released. Do you support that?

CASTRO: I suspect at some point we will release it. When you deal with transcripts, you have to send it to the intelligence --