Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Congress Subpoenas White House for Ukraine Documents; Trump Openly Urges China to Investigate Bidens; Iran-Backed Hackers Targeted U.S. President Campaign; Sanders Leaves Hospital, Campaign Says He had a Heart Attack. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 5, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:34]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with a barrage of stunning new developments on the impeachment inquiry and a defiant President Trump. Moments ago in a series of tweets, the President blasted Democrats, Mitt Romney, a Republican, and the whistleblower. This, as House Democrats for the first time have subpoenaed the White House for documents on Ukraine.

The subpoenas coming after the President announced he will not comply with their investigation until Speaker -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a formal vote on the impeachment inquiry in the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be issuing a letter. As everybody knows, we've been treated very unfairly, very different from anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The House Speaker pushing back against the President, arguing American democracy is at stake in this impeachment fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Some people say why are you doing this? He's not worth it to divide the country this way. I say he may not be, but our constitution is worth it. Our democracy is worth it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: House Democrats are also now demanding that Vice President Mike Pence hand over documents on Ukraine. The Vice President has ten days to respond.

This as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo missed his Friday subpoena deadline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The State Department sent a letter last night to Congress which is our initial response to the document request. We'll obviously do all the things we're required to do by law.

I was a member of Congress once. Article 1 has a certain set of powers and Article 2 has an obligation to make sure that we protect officials at the State Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Meantime the "New York Times" reporting a second potential whistleblower is considering filing a separate formal complaint. The "Times" reporting that an intelligence official with more direct knowledge of President Trump's dealing with Ukraine than the original whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry.

And finally, the "Washington Post" reveals more concerns, now coming from the President's aides about his phone calls with other world leaders, which left at least one former White House official, quote, "genuinely horrified".

The "Washington Post" reporting in one of the calls Trump fawned over Vladimir Putin, telling the Russian president he was a great leader. We know the President has also said that out loud.

And now President Trump back on the attack. He is now targeting Senator Mitt Romney after the GOP lawmaker called the President's actions wrong and appalling.

Trump responding this morning tweeting this. "Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He's a pompous A who has been fighting me from the beginning except when he begged me for my endorsement for his senator run. I gave it to him. And when he begged me to be Secretary of State, I didn't give it to him. He is so bad for R's."

CNN's Kristen Holmes is at the White House. So Kristen -- give us more about the reaction coming from the White House, the defiance and now even hearing from the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this morning who did miss this deadline, but then he has a response about compliance.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So that's right. There's a lot going on here and we're going to break it down. But I do want to start with you talking about those tweets.

We'll get to what the administration is saying, but if you look at those tweets, that is President Trump's reaction. You are not hearing there about anything reacting whether or not they're going to comply to a subpoena.

But what he's making very clear in his tweets this morning, which by the way were sent on his way to his national golf club in Virginia, is that he is willing to take down anyone -- Republican, Democrat, whistleblower -- if they stand in his way. That is his strategy to get him through this impeachment inquiry.

Now, the administration -- they have a little bit of a different strategy here as do House Republicans. They really want to turn this around. They want to be talking about anything else other than that phone call between the Ukrainian president and President Trump.

I want you to listen to what Mike Pompeo said about that phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: This administration was incredibly focused on making sure that we worked with Ukraine in a way that was appropriate. And it is not only appropriate, but it is our duty to investigate if we think there was interference in the election of 2016.

[11:05:02]

POMPEO: I think everyone recognizes that governments have an obligation, indeed a duty, to ensure that elections happen with integrity, without interference from any government, whether that's the Ukrainian government or any other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: So, Fred -- you might have missed a couple of words there. Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, investigation into political rivals. What the crux of this impeachment inquiry is actually about.

Of course he's talking here about this theory that Ukraine was part of the interference into the 2016 election but that is not what the impeachment inquiry is about. It is about the fact that the President of the United States asked another foreign leader for help digging up dirt on a potential political rival, something he did again on the south lawn earlier this week.

So it's interesting to see here picking and choosing as they try to defend the President during this time.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you.

All right. Meantime we're taking a closer look at damning text messages given to Congress by the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. The messages between U.S. diplomats and a senior Ukrainian aide bring up the explosive issue of a potential quid pro quo between the White House and Ukraine.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joining me right now. So Shimon -- walk us through these text messages and how on one end it may spell out what the interpretation is. And on the response end, it is a bit of a deflection or here's some clarity to what you think you might be understanding.

SHIMON PROCUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, it is. But I think the one thing that's important to point out in all of this is that some of the people who are communicating on this text message are concerned that this is a quid pro quo, are concerned that the President withholding aid to the Ukraine is doing it for political reasons, to help his political campaign.

And when you see these text messages and the concerns that are then raised by one person, a career diplomat, it's certainly very troubling and very revealing.

So let's just go through some of what was released and what we have. And of course one of those first ones that we have is from Volker, Kurt Volker. He's the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine and he testified just recently on the Hill.

His communications with the Ukrainian advisor to the President there in Ukraine, he says "Good lunch. 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 visit to Washington. Good luck. See you tomorrow."

And then there's another message from Kurt Volker to Rudy Giuliani where he says, "Hi, Mr. Mayor. Had a good chat with Yermak (ph) last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement." That's the Ukrainian president. "Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right."

And then there's the career diplomat, a man by the name of Bill Taylor. And this is a pretty significant moment. He's texting back and forth with Gordon Sondland, who is the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. He was appointed by the President to be the ambassador there to the E.U.

And Bill Taylor here -- this is the significant moment. When he starts to raise this concern that perhaps the President could be doing this to -- the withholding of money to the Ukraine because of political reasons. He says, and this is Taylor now, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

And then I think the timing here is significant. That text message that Bill Taylor sends is at 12:47 a.m. It is about five hours later or so that Gordon Sondland responds and he says, "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions."

And then in sort of this lawyerly fashion and the way that he responds, he says, "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 the campaign I suggest."

So it's really significant. This exchange certainly is something that investigators on the Hill are going to want to look into. Sondland, I should note, Gordon Sondland is expected to appear before the Hill in a closed deposition on Tuesday.

WHITFIELD: All right. Shimon Prokupecz -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss further now with Molly Ball, a national political correspondent for "Time" and a CNN political analyst. Also with me, Toluse Olorunnipa, who is a White House reporter for the "Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst. All right. Good to see both of you.

[11:10:00]

WHITFIELD: All right. So you know, Toluse -- let's begin with this report, "Washington Post" report, or "New York Times" report that there is a potential second whistleblower. And talk to us about how the report of a possible whistleblower complaint, the complaint that has not been filed yet, may potentially undermine the complaint before it's actually been launched or submitted.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one thing I thought was key about this report was that this second whistleblower appears to have more direct knowledge of some of the potential misconduct by the administration, by the President, even more so than the first whistleblower.

If you remember in the first whistleblower complaint, he said that he had heard from more than half a dozen officials who were directly involved in some of these calls, that they were concerned about what the President was doing and trying to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden.

This second whistleblower, according to these reports, has more direct knowledge, has not filed that report yet, which may make him a target for retribution, or may make it more likely that the administration may try to find out who the person is and stop the process before they are able to file the complaint.

But the fact that the person has more direct knowledge would make it harder for Republicans to say this is hearsay or this is secondhand and we can't trust this information or this whistleblower is not even legally allowed to file this complaint like they tried to say about the first whistleblower.

So the fact that this person is contemplating filing a report that may shed even more light on this misconduct, alleged misconduct by the administration may make it even harder for Republicans to defend the President and they have already struggled so far over the last couple of weeks to defend the conduct on the first call with the Ukrainian government.

WHITFIELD: Because, Molly, is it your view that these texts are significant. And if a second whistleblower complaint is that much more powerful potentially, is this a potential game-changer in the way in which elected officials speak out about what should happen next in this process?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think there's been any one game-changer, but I do think it's significant that every successive development in this story has only more bolstered and more substantiated the official allegation. Nothing yet has come along really to muddy or detract from the original allegation that first came out a couple of weeks ago from that first whistleblower.

In fact everything we've heard is simply more and more evidence to the effect of what was originally alleged -- whether you're talking about the transcript, the whistleblower report, the text messages, now a potential second whistleblower.

(CROSSTALKING)

WHITFIELD: But the President will still even with that -- even with that the President will continue to say it was a perfect phone call.

Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, just came out today to say this administration has every right to look into corruption in the 2016 -- now trying to change the focus, because these phone calls have been about the family or was a, you know, leading political rival in this 2020 race.

So Pompeo too trying to say this is about looking back at corruption potentially in the 2016 race.

BALL: Well, and there's just so much evidence that that is not what it was about. And by essentially admitting to the central allegation here and then trying to claim that it was a fine thing to do, I think the President has, as you mentioned, put Republican office holders in a very difficult position of having to defend the actual admitted conduct at issue rather than trying to deny it and have them litigate, you know, was the whistleblower legit? Did they really know what they were talking to.

He has come out and admitted what he's accused of doing and then tried to muddy the waters about, oh, what I was really concerned with is corruption which really does not pass the laugh test. And various other defenses of oh, this was about 2016, which again doesn't make any sense because it's based on an insane conspiracy theory.

But he's put Republicans in a really tough position by saying, yes, I did do this but I think it's a fine thing to do. And I think particularly once Congress comes back, you know, Republicans have had a little bit of an advantage that they can lie low because congress is in recess. Once they're back in Washington, it's going to be harder and harder for them to figure out how to defend this conduct.

WHITFIELD: And Toluse -- you know, an admission from the President. Yes, you know, I had that call and, yes, I did ask that of Ukraine. But taking it even further this week now calling on China. I mean this was another, you know, Russia, are you listening except it was China, are you listening, investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son.

So while Democrats believe, you know, that this adds to the evidence of this impeachment push, many Republicans still choose to brush it off. Listen to Senator Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's ok for President Trump to ask China to launch an investigation of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden?

[11:14:58] SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don't know if that's a real request or him just needling the press knowing that you guys were going to get outraged by it. He's pretty good at getting everybody fired up and he's been doing that for a while and the media responded right on -- right on task.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're one of the loudest critics of China and its human rights abuses. I mean is it ok for him to ask, to say that?

RUBIO: I don't think it's a real request. I think he did it to gig you guys. I think he did it to provoke you to ask me and others and get outraged by it.

Like I said, I mean he plays it like a violin and everybody falls right into it. That's not a real request.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Toluse, one has to wonder, you know, what is really is the breaking point. When will there be other Republicans who are willing to vociferously saying out loud what Mitt Romney has said, what Ben Sasse has said?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. I think, maybe as Molly said when these senators come back into town, where they are faced with these direct questions, you see they're finding different ways to try to excuse the President's comments, say that they're not exactly what the President meant, trying to basically defend the comments without defending the substance. And in some cases --

WHITFIELD: Or even changing the subject.

OLORUNNIPA: -- changing the subject. It does sound like they are uncomfortable with the idea that they are being forced to endorse this behavior of asking foreign governments to interfere with the 2020 election by investigating top rivals of the President.

So they're looking for different ways to get away from it without, you know, going against the President because they know that if they do speak out and say that it's wrong as Mitt Romney did, they're going to find a big target on their back with the President of the United States, with his Twitter account, attacking them directly and that's not something that they want.

WHITFIELD: So then Molly -- really quick, is this kind of evidence that many of these elected officials are really following the lead of the directive that starts from the White House? Or particularly now on break when they have their town halls, they're meeting with their constituents, they need to hear or are hoping to hear what kind of directive will come from their constituents?

BALL: You know, honestly I think there's a lot of panic and anxiety behind the scenes with these Republicans. It is every man for himself. They know that the White House is not particularly organized and can't be counted on to back them up in difficult situations, so they are worried about being hung out to dry.

They're worried they may go out and defend something that then turns out not to be the case the next day, as has happened in so many situations with this president. That's why I think you have so many Republicans either trying to stay out of the spotlight or coming up with these contrived defenses that don't actually defend the conduct at issue because they aren't sure how they can actually defend what they're being asked to defend.

WHITFIELD: All right, Molly Ball, Toluse Olorunnipa -- thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, the case for impeachment. As President Trump lambasts the investigation into possible impeachment offenses, what evidence do Democrats really need in their arsenal?

Plus, President Trump gives the green light to China to interfere in 2020. We talked a little bit about that. So what's the point of view from Beijing?

And just days after a heart attack, a confident Bernie Sanders says, quote, "I'll see you on the campaign trail." An update on his condition and future plans.

[11:18:07]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump intensifies. In just the last 24 hours, three House committees issued subpoenas to the White House and a request for documents from Vice President Mike Pence. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo missing the deadline for delivering related documents. And the "New York Times" reporting there may be another whistleblower.

I'm joined now by Cass Sunstein, a professor of law at Harvard University. He's also the author of the book "Impeachment: a Citizen's Guide". Cass -- good to see you, or Professor, I should say.

CASS SUNSTEIN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: So, on Sunday you wrote this in the "New York Times" in an op-ed. "In the coming weeks the House of Representatives will have to get clear on exactly what happened here and also on whether other potential grounds for impeachment warrant serious consideration under the legal standard. What kind of material do you believe they need still? SUNSTEIN: Well, anything that would clarify that the President was

actually pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political opponent would be very disturbing. It would be highly suggestive that we are in the domain of the impeachable offense.

So the most extreme would be a quid pro quo where it was explicit or universally understood by the participants that financial aid and other good things would be forthcoming if and only if there was an investigation of a political opponent. That would be -- that would be very damning.

WHITFIELD: But this would mean the cooperation of the White House, of the State Department. I mean we know that, you know, Mike Pompeo has already missed his deadline. And we know that documents are being requested of the Vice President and his interactions, all things Ukraine.

So without that cooperation, because thus far a deadline has been missed and there may be -- or this may be a sign of yet more stonewalling -- then will these House investigative committees be able to get the kind of material they want or need without the cooperation from the administration?

SUNSTEIN: There are two possible directions. One is that even without cooperation, somebody within the executive branch will give clarity. Maybe it's not as bad as the President's critics suggest. Maybe there will be clarity to that effect.

Or maybe there will be clarity that it's at least as bad as the critics suggest or worse. So that is one possible direction that as even if the White House doesn't cooperate, there are people who might.

The other possible direction which is one to keep in mind is that a refusal to respond to a subpoena has been historically considered a legitimate basis for an article of impeachment. And that could be an independent route for serious consideration of an article of impeachment and conceivably removal even.

WHITFIELD: What's the timeline that you see on this? You know, critical to get certain things done by what time in your view?

SUNSTEIN: Well, I think there's constitutional obligation and then there's politics. And they may not go hand in hand.

[11:25:00]

SUNSTEIN: So as a matter of constitutional obligation, to proceed in a way that is fair to all concerned, above all the constitution, which I think means we're saying not days, probably not weeks, but months.

In terms of politics, they are putting a little more time pressure on the proceeding. They're suggesting maybe a little more expedition than would be optimal.

And as between politics and the constitution, we go with the constitution. WHITFIELD: All right. Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein -- thank

you so much.

SUNSTEIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Straight ahead, President Trump calls on China to investigate Joe Biden. As we learned, he promised China's president that he would stay quiet on Hong Kong protests while trade talks continued.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. In case you missed it, President Trump said this week that he wants China to investigate his political opponent Joe Biden, and his son. He was responding to questions about the Ukraine call that triggered the whistleblower complaint.

[11:30:01] Here is what Trump told reporters outside the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, Trump also said that all of his conversations with foreign leaders are appropriate.

CNN's David Culver is in Beijing. So David -- did the President there on the White House grounds just give a green light for China to interfere in U.S. elections? And would it comply?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly gives that impression to some -- Fredricka. Or at the very least in the near future we've got the upcoming U.S. trade talks with China. Perhaps this is something they could use as leverage in those talks. That's all things that are coming to light right now.

Overall though, I've got to say there's this cloud of confusion here from Beijing looking in. Here's what they see. Thursday the President makes those remarks. On Friday he seems to stand by them but pushes more the corruption side of things.

Also on Friday, and you played the sound a short time ago, U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio is saying that the President really wasn't going forward with an actual request, that was more just messing with the media. President Trump, mind you, retweeted that video comment.

So for Chinese officials, there's confusion looking at this. Is the President serious or is it as Rubio suggests. Here's how Beijing operates, though. They're not just going to come out and react with a statement or an on-camera comment. It is not in their nature. Washington -- you can find somebody to react to pretty much anything. It's much more controlled here. It's calculated. It's on their own timeline that they'll respond to this.

The only response really, Fredricka -- that we have seen is their censoring of CNN's coverage of this topic, which shows they're really trying to create distance between their President Xi and anything that's potentially controversial with President Trump.

WHITFIELD: All right. David Culver in Beijing -- thank you so much.

Do you hear that? Utter silence from the majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill after President Trump urges two foreign powers to look into his 2020 rivals. Where does the Republican Party stand on this?

I'll talk to the Republican National Committee, next.

Plus, new questions about Senator Bernie Sanders' health and age after doctors reveal he actually suffered a heart attack earlier this week.

[11:32:30]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

This week CNN reached out to the offices of more than 60 Republican lawmakers to see if they had any concerns after the President on the White House lawn called for China to investigate a political rival. Few responded.

But one of the lawmakers was Texas congressman Will Hurd who weighed in, as did former Ohio governor John Kasich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I think it's terrible. It's something that I wouldn't have done. I think that is something that a president of the United States shouldn't be doing.

JOHN KASICH (R), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: 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 entanglements.

And for the President to not like double down has got me really, really disturbed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Republican Senator Mitt Romney echoing that sentiment, tweeting, "By all appearances, the President's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.

Liz Harrington is the national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. She's joining me right now. Liz -- good to see you.

So the President has been tweeting this morning and he has been focusing on Senator Romney, saying in part Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous a who has been fighting me from the beginning. He is so bad for Rs.

So, Liz, the President going after a Republican senator because he is critical of this so-called perfect phone call to Ukraine, and now inviting China to investigate a political rival. Is that how the power of this presidency should be used?

LIZ HARRINGTON, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: That's not at all what's happening. The President merely raised the same question that NBC News was raising the day before, which was how is it on an official visit to China, Vice President Joe Biden brought his son, Hunter Biden, on the trip and he secretly was meeting with Chinese bankers. And ten days later he magically gets a business deal to have a private equity firm.

WHITFIELD: But any wrongdoing has not been substantiated. I mean that has not been confirmed.

HARRINGTON: Then we should investigate it then.

WHITFIELD: But let's just talk to the -- speak to the issue of inviting a foreign country to interfere with the U.S. elections. Why is that ok?

HARRINGTON: We should be investigating just that and that's exactly what Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. Attorney John Durham are doing, getting to the bottom of what in fact the Obama administration was doing.

WHITFIELD: Preceding that Liz -- don't avoid the question. Preceding that, Liz, the President has invited, asked Ukraine to look into a political rival and there is now -- there is texting on that. We're seeing the unfolding potentially of evidence to justify the whistleblower's complaint.

So the question is, is this how the power of the presidency should be used? To get a foreign country to interfere or meddle with U.S. elections?

HARRINGTON: We have confirmed from Kurt Volker's testimony that there was no quid pro quo here. The favor, in fact, was getting to the bottom of what happened in 2016.

This is an issue that Democrats and the media was very interested in not very long ago. How exactly was Russian disinformation infiltrated throughout our politics for over two years, pushing an insane conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia that was completely false.

[11:40:04]

WHITFIELD: The intelligence community has already said that Russia did interfere.

HARRINGTON: The Obama administration --

WHITFIELD: The intelligence community did say that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. And the challenge has been on the President of the United States to do more with that. And we have not seen any evidence coming from this administration that more is being done to address Russia and now invite two foreign countries to involve themselves in this election. What is correct about that when you are sitting in the White House?

HARRINGTON: He did not solicit foreign dirt on Joe Biden. He merely said we want to root out corruption in Ukraine. And so looking at corruption, President Trump wants to get rid of it.

What was Joe Biden doing when he was point man for the United States rooting out corruption in Ukraine? His son, Hunter, magically ends up on the board of Burisma Holdings making --

(CROSSTALKING)

HARRINGTON: That is corruption.

WHITFIELD: -- sitting president right now. Is this an FEC type violation when the current president is currying favor of a foreign country to dig up information on a political rival?

HARRINGTON: That is just not what happened. There was for quid pro quo. There was no pressure. Kurt Volker testified yesterday to say Biden wasn't even mentioned.

WHITFIELD: There is no conclusion on that but you see from the complaint -- you see from the complaint and the texts that it alludes to that. That is what is at the core of the investigation.

HARRINGTON: There can be no quid pro quo when there's no quid. Ukraine had no idea that money was being withheld. And it wasn't being withheld because of anything to do with Joe Biden. It was everything to do to see if they were getting to the bottom of corruption, which we know Ukrainian court ruled that the DNC and the Obama administration were soliciting dirt from Ukraine in 2016.

(CROSSTALKING)

WHITFIELD: -- Are you sure you want to do this? Do I understand this correctly that I'm withholding money because at the President's request for political reasons, we saw that. And then it was call me.

So listen to Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz when he spoke to CNN earlier this morning. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard my commentary. What kind of a precedent would we be setting for future elections if the President's requests for foreign assistance in our elections is normalized? REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Well, I have to reject the premise of

the question. I think that the President's context for these discussions isn't forward leaning into the next election. He is attempting to solicit Ukraine support to find out what happened in the last election. It is a retrospective conversation as it relates to the Ukraine.

And when you look at Zelensky praising Trump for creating a populist rhetoric that was helpful to him in rooting out corruption, I think you see two men who are on the same page, frankly trying to leverage against Europe to get Europe to do more for the Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Liz -- how is this sustainable that it will appear to be normal and ok that a U.S. president can invite other countries to investigate Americans who are in political office or seeking office?

HARRINGTON: That is not what's happening here at all. It's about rooting out Joe Biden's corruption in plain sight. And what the real question is -- I'm glad you asked that question because who normalized this? Barack Obama. His Justice Department --

(CROSSTALKING)

WHITFIELD: Who are the other corrupt individuals you're looking into who do not have affiliations, he could not answer the question, Liz.

HARRINGTON: The Obama administration solicited foreign dirt.

WHITFIELD: You cannot continue to deflect. Just deal with the issue right here.

HARRINGTON: That's what happened. And that's what we need to get to the bottom of.

WHITFIELD: Right here. Why is it the President who was asked what other individuals that you suspect are corrupt that you are looking into that do not have any political affiliations. He didn't have an answer. If this is the President who is saying that he wants to root out corruption, why didn't he have other examples? Why does it happen to be the current frontrunner, you know, his Democratic rival in the race for the White House?

HARRINGTON: What other Democrats were overseeing attempts to root out corruption in Ukraine? I mean what other official?

WHITFIELD: That's not the question. That's not the answer to my question.

HARRINGTON: It was Joe Biden.

WHITFIELD: What other individuals of corruption is the President focusing on that have no political affiliation?

HARRINGTON: He will root it out wherever he finds it. This is -- the reason why Joe Biden even came up in passing in this conversation, which by the way it's not a cover-up when you release the transcript. If you actually read the transcript, President Zelensky was saying we've had some bad, corrupt people. We're rooting them out and President Trump said, yes, I've heard about this because it's very terrible and that's what President Trump said.

He said it sounds terrible to me when you have a vice president of the United States running point on corruption in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. His son sits on a board making $50,000 a month. And then, oh by the way, the prosecutor looking into that corrupt natural gas company where his son had no prior business knowledge --

(CROSSTALKING)

WHITFIELD: Except the chronology is not quite right.

HARRINGTON: That is absolutely right.

WHITFIELD: The investigation that corruption actually happened before the newly-elected president and the Obama administration or Joe Biden was helping to pressure the stepping down of a prosecutor because of corruption.

That was in step with the IMF, with other western leaders, European leaders. So, you know, we just have to get facts straight because I think people are getting very confused by interchangeably throwing around information as opposed to keeping a straight line so it's coherent and with clarity.

HARRINGTON: When you're talking about giving millions of dollars to Ukraine, you're talking about in the past Joe Biden withholding a billion dollars unless this prosecutor was fired. It's very relevant to the conversation of corruption in Ukraine.

WHITFIELD: Ok. All right. Liz Harrington -- glad you could be with us. National spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.

HARRINGTON: Thanks for having me.

All right. A new report says Iranian-backed hackers tried to attack a 2020 presidential campaign. The Trump campaign has already responded. We'll get all the details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:00]

WHITFIELD: Hackers linked to the Iranian government attempted to attack a 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, that's according to Microsoft.

While the company did not specifically say which campaign was targeted, the Trump reelection campaign said it had no indication it was them. Microsoft said a group called Phosphorous attempted to hack the campaign between August and September. Donie O'Sullivan is in New York. So Donie -- we heard the Trump campaign, you know, say they don't believe it was them. Is the Democratic National Committee responding or any other campaign?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes -- Fred.

The DNC actually sent out a warning as soon as they heard from Microsoft and they advised all and they have many of course, primary candidates and candidates to check the logs on their systems. They actually provided the candidates with a certain IP address -- it is sort of a unique identifier on each computer network and that was the network that these allegedly Iranian hackers were using to double check to see if the campaigns had been accessed through that way.

Now, the "New York Times" and Reuters say that it was actually the Trump campaign that was targeted, but the Trump campaign, as you mentioned, say that they have no indication that they were breached in any way.

You know, I think that what this highlights though is the challenge, right of we saw how big a role hacking played in 2016 with the dump of the DNC emails and the Podesta emails. This is going to be a huge challenge going into 2020.

And you know, it's not just the campaign e-mail addresses. It's all the staffers, the personal accounts, the Facebook and e-mail accounts of those staffers all across the country.

WHITFIELD: All right. Donie O'Sullivan -- thank you so much for bringing that to us.

All right. Coming up, a major health scare for a top Democratic presidential candidate. Bernie Sanders out of the hospital after doctors confirmed he had a heart attack.

[11:51:53]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Senator Bernie Sanders is promising he will return to the campaign trail despite doctors confirming that he did in fact have a heart attack earlier in the week.

Sanders left a Las Vegas hospital yesterday and in a video posted online, he reassured his supporters that he isn't going anywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, everybody. We're in Las Vegas. I just got out of the hospital a few hours ago and I'm feeling so much better.

I just want to thank all of you for the love and warm wishes that you sent me. See you soon on the campaign trail. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The Sanders campaign says the Senator will rest at his home in Vermont for several days, but that he does plan on taking part in the CNN Democratic debate. That's October 15th.

And get ready for what could be the make or break moments in the race for 2020. The fourth Democratic presidential debate is coming to you live from CNN with the battle ground state of Ohio as the backdrop. Watch CNN and the "New York Times" Democratic presidential debate. It is Tuesday, October 15th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

[11:56:31]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)