Return to Transcripts main page
Impeachment Drama Takes Hold of Washington; Bernie Sanders' Path Forward After Heart Attack; Biden Shifts Tactics, Pushes Back Hard against Trump; Top Administration Officials Swept Up in Ukraine Scandal. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired October 6, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The president unplugged.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Adam Schiff, he's a lowlife. Frankly, they should look at him for treason.
KING: And unrepentant.
TRUMP: China should start an investigation.
KING: Plus, the Democrats' impeachment document demand now also targets the vice president.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is just more of the same of what we've seen from Democrats for the last two and a half years.
KING: And Joe Biden fights back.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy like all bullies is a coward. He does not want to run against me.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories, sourced by the best reporters now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your Sunday.
We begin with the latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry. Stunning does not do justice to describe the developments of the week just ended, and the week ahead includes testimony from witnesses central to the question of whether President Trump abused his power and undermined U.S. national security to pursue his personal political vendettas.
The president roused anger and constant attacks and tells us he understands quite well the likelihood he will be impeached by the Democratic House. His most remarkable statement this past week was this -- asking Ukraine and China for election help despite laws that forbid such help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies if you look at -- and by the way, likewise, 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)
KING: Senator Mitt Romney of Utah interrupted the near silence among the president's fellow Republicans, brazen and unprecedented, he called it. Wrong and appalling, he continued.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins telling "The Bangor Daily News", asking China to investigate a political opponent was, quote, a big mistake and, quote, completely inappropriate.
Many other Republicans voiced their displeasure but privately to the White House, and the president tried to clean it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't care about Biden's campaign, but I do care about corruption. His campaign, that's up to him. Politics, that's up to them. I don't care about politics.
And if you look and read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption. I have an actual obligation and a duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But Democrats are building a case that the president's obsession with Biden has already crossed the line. One key witness in the week ahead is Gordon Sondland, a Trump campaign donor who was then named ambassador to the European Union. Quote, call me. That was Sondland's response when career diplomat Bill Taylor texted concerns the president was withholding security aid from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate Biden and his son, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Days after the call Taylor remained concerned, quote, I think it's crazy to withhold political assistance for help with a political campaign, he texted. Sondland waited more than four hours and then texted back, quote: the president was clear no quid pro quos of any kind, and then he suggested it was time to stop texting about this.
But Republican Senator Ron Johnson told the "Wall Street Journal" on Friday, that same Ambassador Sondland told him the U.S. was withholding the aid contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations. Sondland scheduled to be questioned on Tuesday.
With me to share their reporting and their insights this Sunday, Seung Min Kim of "The Washington Post", CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Toluse Olorunnipa with "The Washington Post", and Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times".
It is hard, especially after the week we just went through to sort the facts building from all the political spin from both sides, but largely from the president and the machine.
Mr. Sondland is going to be in the witness chair on Tuesday. Let start with that as the Democrats try to build their case, why is he so critical?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's critical because of what you mentioned earlier. He has been a key player particularly in the extreme of text messages that we saw disclosed earlier this week by Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine. And this has been -- I mean, the series of witnesses that House Democrats have been able to get have been pretty major gets that we've learned a lot already from Volker's testimony and from the text messages.
And what Sondland is going to say is going to be important. Now, we don't know how cooperative he will be, clearly. He's still part of the administration.
You mentioned that he was a Trump campaign donor and we reported yesterday that while Mr. Volker had willingly turned over his text messages to the committees and they were able to release some pretty easily, like we saw on Thursday, Ambassador Sondland has actually turned his documents over to the State Department and how the State Department -- the committees will have to fight directly with Pompeo and the State Department for them.
So, we don't know how much we're going to learn from him, but clearly, it's going to be very critical testimony to watch on Tuesday.
KING: And that's a very important point to make as this plays out. The former Ukraine ambassador, also, Ms. Yovanovitch, will be u upon Friday. She's cooperating with the investigation and she was recalled after Rudy Giuliani went to the president and said, she's not doing what you want over there. She's not pushing Ukrainians to do these investigations.
So, we're getting some witnesses in the middle of what could be a very prolonged document fight, both the White House and the State Department pushing back against Congress. We'll see how that plays out. Subpoenas now in play there. We'll see how it plays out.
But Democrats say they're going to try to build their case through the witnesses and if the White House doesn't cooperate, they will fold the refusal to give the documents into an obstruction count.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's exactly right. They already have a lot of information and evidence that they can use against the president with these text messages, with the president's phone call, the summary of the phone call, the whistleblower report.
So they believe they have enough to build a strong case for impeachment, but they're trying to fill in some of the gaps, some of conversations, some of the things that were not in the text messages where Bill Taylor said, as I said on the phone, he may want -- the committee may want to know what that exactly that conversation was about, what caused him to say we shouldn't have a quid pro quo for the president's campaign. Those are the gaps they're going to try to fill in.
But even if the president and the administration try to withhold documents, withhold witnesses, they're just going to push forward. I don't think they want this to bleed on for months and months. They want to have this be very narrow and very tight and very focused and finished relatively quickly by making sure that if the administration decides not to hand over documents, that they can add that to the evidence of obstruction and close shop pretty soon on this.
KING: There's been a lot of reporting this week, quoting friends of the president, aides of the president, allies of the president saying he doesn't quite understand the depth and the gravity of this. But he does seem to understand it to a degree in the sense when you see his raw anger. The president's transparent in that way and he's lashing out. He keeps defending his call to the Ukrainian president as perfect. It is far from perfect.
Read it yourself. Read it yourself. You can access this.
But in the tweets: I'm coming to the conclusion what is taking place is not an impeachment, it's a coup. Adam Schiff illegally made up a fake and terrible statement, pretended it to be mine. Arrest for treason? There, attacking the chairman of the committee. We'll come back to that a bit later.
And then it will cause a civil war like a fracture in our nation which the country will never heal, quoting an evangelical pastor from Fox News there.
The president follows the news as closely as anybody. And here, just some, just some of the headlines. A second official is weighing whether to blow the whistle on Trump's Ukraine dealings. Trumps calls for foreign leadership, long worry days, leaving some, quote, genuinely horrified.
Ukraine officials felt pressure in months before Trump call. And somewhat unrelated but another evidence of the cloud of the White House treasury inspector general, to review handling of Trump's tax returns.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, as you say, this -- the sort of piling up of charges and headlines against him is troubling to the president and I think he feels the walls closing in a bit. This is also, I think, you know, his typical sort of performance art, for lack of a better term, of wanting to stoke his fight. He uses the terms treason and traitor and people are going to be arrested and he knows that will get a big reaction.
But he does feel -- he is in a situation here and I think this is key to understand, where he knows that he's not just dealing with people inside his administration that he might be able to control but whistle-blowers by definition are people who have gone off the reservation and are saying, I have witnessed something that has gone wrong here and that's an abuse, and that people need to know about.
He's dealing with House Democrats who also have no interest in what the president wants or how the White House wants to handle this. They're going to do their own thing. And as Toluse said, they're moving very quickly.
And so, I think that's why you see this sort of amplification coming from him. But we are also seeing his defense kind of evolve in real time here. First, he said perfect call, nothing went wrong. Now, he's starting to blame the energy secretary, Rick Perry, who we hear is on his way out of the administration.
So, this is sort of going from I didn't do anything wrong, to, well, I had a reason to do what I did, to, it was somebody else's idea.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPOINDENT: And despite these daily developments, sometimes hourly developments, the facts still remain the same as you said in the first phone call, the rough transcript the White House. That is what is guiding all of this.
So, he's flailing around this week. He's trying to normalize his behavior. But the thing I was fascinated with, as we're only a week essentially into this. We've only had the beginning of the witnesses, so we don't know where this is going substantively or politically.
But the Republican defense and talking points are all aimed at Adam Schiff or a vote in the House. It is not on the substance of what happened on Ukraine or China. So, the Republicans I talked to from senators to chiefs of staff, they are worried about where this is going. Susan Collins spoke out over the weekend, I assume the president will respond at some point when he sees her comment, saying that the China discussion is bad, improper.
So, Republicans increasingly uncomfortable with that.
KING: And to that point, especially Republicans on the ballot, Susan Collins is up for reelection next year. Very hard to understand where the politics are going.
Joni Ernst in Iowa up for reelection next year.
Listen to this answer, and tell me do you find this directly responsive to the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the line? When are you guys going to say enough? And stand up and say, you know what, I'm not backing any of this?
SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I can say yea, 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You can say more than yea, nay, whatever. You can say more than yea, nay, whatever.
You can stand up to a president. You're a member of the United States Senate. It's a co-equal branch of government, the Congress. You can stand up for a president of any party if you choose to. That is choosing not to. That is choosing not to.
Mitt Romney did decide to stand up. He called it appalling what the president said and the president -- this is why the other Republicans are reluctant. The president using his Twitter chainsaw over the weekend, Mitt Romney never knew how to win, he's a pompous ass that's been fighting from the beginning. Except when he begged me for my endorsement for a Senate run, I gave it to him. And when he begged to be secretary of state, I didn't give it to him. He's so bad for Republicans.
And then he goes on to say, I'm hearing the great people of Utah, the president lies a lot on Twitter, I'm hearing the great people of Utah are considering their vote -- reconsidering their vote for pompous Senator Mitt Romney to be a mistake. I agree, he's a fool playing right -- he says impeachment Romney, you can't impeach the senator, it doesn't work that way.
I just want to show Matt Viser tweeting a picture that Senator Romney tweeted out over the weekend, asking who is having a better Saturday, Senator Romney spending time with his family there. He has a beautiful family.
But to this point, if you're another Republican and you're thinking of speaking out, this is the president sending a signal. If you're going to do it, be prepared.
ZELENY: Exactly, I mean, and Senator Romney I think has the support of the great people of Utah. The president actually, that's one of his weakest performing red states because of moral character and other matters. But, look, it is definitely sending a message to other Senate Republicans, be it Ben Sasse, Cory Gardner, whoever, are -- you know, perhaps don't go there. That doesn't mean that a lot of senators believe what Mitt Romney is saying, they're not just saying it out loud. We'll see if that changes.
KING: Right, what you hear privately from them is different from either what they say or more often what they don't say. A lot of them are in hiding. One Republican noting the other day, a lot of primary deadlines haven't passed yet in the states. These people are nervous.
Up next for us, are the Democrats up to the impeachment challenge, including this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: He should resign from office in disgrace and, frankly, they should look at him for treason, because he is making up the words of the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All but nine of the 235 House Democrats support the Trump impeachment inquiry. Their resilience is being tested, especially those from competitive districts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Instead of fixing health care and lowering drug prices, Slotkin votes with the radicals for endless investigations of President Trump, wasting tax dollars. Instead of working to create more jobs, Slotkin wants more hearings.
(END VIEO CLIP)
KING: One Democrat is most under fire, the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading the inquiry. He began the first hearing with what he called a parody of the president's July phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Short of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it, you know what I'm asking and so I'm only going to say this a few more times, in a few more ways. And by the way, don't call me again, I'll call you when you've done what I asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was Schiff's parody. He could have just quoted the president. He chose not to.
Schiff also did not proactively disclose that the White House whistleblower came to the committee staff for advice. "The New York Times" was first to report that and Republicans who can't really defend the president's conduct here now have a new talking point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Now, he met with this whistleblower and lied to the American public? Every time they have attempted a coup, there's been one common denominator, the lies and deceit of Adam Schiff.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: There's a lot to unpack every time anybody speaks on this story, but that the House Republican leader embraces the president's idea of coup. You can be critical, you can say the Democrats are way out over their skis on impeachment if you want to make that political argument. He serves in the same building as them and the Constitution gives them this power.
Again, you can argue about whether they're doing the right thing or not. But to embrace the coup language, sorry --
DAVIS: It's really striking and I think we're going to hear a lot more of this because the president is setting the tone and that's the language that he's using. What we're seeing here I think, though, is what we saw during the Clinton impeachment as well, which is Republican attempts to demonize the people who will be the impeachment managers should this go forward in a way that I think we all expected is likely to do. They're demonizing Adam Schiff, and frankly, Chairman Schiff has given them some reason or excuse to do that, something to hang their hats on as they try to do that.
I think the point that he was trying to make in that statement is you can't make this stuff up, so you shouldn't make it up. You don't have to, right? And I do think the fact that his office knew about the whistle-blower complaint and he didn't find a way, even though the situation is very technical and there are a lot of legal nuances to actually come out and proactively say that they were aware of this on the front end has given Republicans an opening to criticize him. Democrats know that they have to be really careful and as close to perfect as they can be if they want this to be an effective process.
KING: Especially if you're trying to get independents and Trump voters to listen to you, to open their minds to at least listen to you. You have to be near perfect -- I would argue Democrats need to be near perfect.
When we watch -- you saw the ad at the beginning, the Republicans running against Democrats from districts either that the president carried or ran very strongly in in 2016. Elissa Slotkin, that was the ad against her. She had a town hall the other day where, yes, this came up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): The issue that got to me was this idea that the president, the most powerful man in the world, reached out to a foreigner -- a foreign leader and asked him to dig up dirt on an American.
CROWD: Not true. Not true.
SLOTKIN: There are some moments in life that are beyond politics, and I felt that this movement was that.
(APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This will be interesting to watch and most of the stories about this happening across the country so far. It's limited, it's not off the charts. But you heard boo, boo, fake news.
Actually, he was telling the truth. Read the president's own words. The memo released by the White House. The president reached out to a foreign leader and asked for help. He did, that's a fact.
But there you see the power of the Trump-aganda machine, as I call it where someone would say that's fake news, it's not. She's telling the truth there.
OLORUNNIPA: There are a lot of people who have not followed the ins and outs of the story or have watched one news channel and they're not getting the full picture and a lot of them are getting the Trump's own version of what happened. He said it was a perfect call. He said he did nothing wrong. He said the Bidens are corrupt.
So, it's up to Democrats, it's up to some of the Democrats in swing district to tell their voters exactly what happened, to say why they're supporting this impeachment inquiry and to make the impeachment inquiry something that translates to the American people. If it becomes so technical and gets bogged down in the details, people -- it will go over people's heads.
So, the Democrats' charge here is to not only be near perfect, as you said, but also to be able to translate this to the American people in a way that they can understand.
KIM: What seems so interesting too, because the "Washington Post" did send reporters to about nine Democratic town halls to try to gauge the reaction of the voters and how these vulnerable members were responding to the pressure from the voters in their swing districts. And right now, we haven't yet -- it's still early, we still haven't -- we haven't seen major signs of a political backlash.
Sure, Elissa Slotkin gets booed initially, but then she leans into her position. She defends her position and gets a round of applause. And that's a lot of what the reaction that we've seen and while it took a long time for -- a relatively long time for these swing members to embrace this impeachment inquiry.
Not that they've embraced it, they really are defending him. You saw her do that.
Another congressman took, you know, 15 written against on impeachment only. Max Rose in New York, he began his town hall by defending his position. So, for now, despite Republican pressure, we're not seeing them back off their position just yet.
KING: It'd be fascinating --
ZELENY: The Democrats are unified as well. They were not at the beginning. That's one thing that's changed over the last two weeks.
KING: Right, they'll hold -- it's going to be fascinating to watch as we go through this. The politics of it, the substance to me is most important, but we'll watch the politics, too.
More on the impeachment inquiry ahead, including the spotlight on the vice president.
Next, though, our Sunday trail mix and new questions for Bernie Sanders.
KING: Our Sunday trail mix now, a big development in the 2020 campaign.
Senator Bernie Sanders back home in Vermont after three days in the hospital for what his staff initially said was treatment for a locked artery. But on Friday evening, this from Sanders' doctors, quote: After presenting to an outside facility with chest pain, Senator Sanders was diagnosed with a myocardial infarction, in other words, heart attack.
Now, why the campaign waited three days to acknowledge that is one question.
Just when we will see the 78-year-old senator back on the trail is another. Senator Sanders promising that will be soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-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 to me. See you soon on the campaign trail.
JANE SANDERS, SEN. SANDERS' WIFE: Thank you all so much. It really made a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did they handle this right, wrong, somewhere in the middle?
ZELENY: I mean, the reality on Friday evening, basically, they said that he had a heart attack after he was released. So, no, there were three days of really limited transparency from the campaign.
He's 78 years old. So, no, they didn't. I mean, of course, our thoughts and best wishes are with senator Sanders, and by all accounts, he will return to the campaign trail. But the advisers I've spoken to have said they're not sure when and the biggest question is, will he able to campaign as vigorously as he had before. And he had a tough schedule. I mean, few people hold as many events
with as much energy as Bernie Sanders. But going into this, you know, it is to be something that he's going to have to show that he has gotten beyond this, not just say that he's feeling OK. So, we'll see, but I don't think they were as transparent as they should have been.
OLORUNNIPA: This news came just shortly after he had a blockbuster fundraising quarter where he outpaced the entire field so it's a hard bit of news for the Bernie campaign to take given that he does seem to have some momentum and there are a lot of voters that are supporting him. But some of them may question whether or not he'll be able to stay in the race, and I think the next few days and weeks will show how much he's going to be able to continue.
KING: And we'll see when he hits back on the trial. He says soon. We'll keep an eye on that.
Next for us, it is testing time for Joe Biden.
KING: This is Joe Biden's big bet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people know me. And they know him. And I'll put my integrity of my whole career of public service to this nation up against his long record of lying, cheating and stealing any day of the week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But there is a reason the President constantly lies and twists the truth when it comes to his opponents. It works. Or at least it muddies the water. In a Monmouth poll released this week, 42 percent responded "probably did" when asked if Biden pressured Ukraine to not investigate his son's business. 42 percent also said "yes" when U.S.A. Today/IPSOS poll asked if there are valid reasons to look into Hunter and Joe Biden's behavior in Ukraine.
Let me try this again, there is zero evidence of any wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son -- zero. But Biden knows he's being tested by a president that Biden says is unhinged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: All this talk of the President about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history. He's the definition of corruption. He's indicted himself by his own statements.
This is not about me. It's not about my son. There's not a shred of evidence that anything done was done wrong.
Let's focus on the problem, focus on this man. What he's doing that no president has ever done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You see the anger there at the end. They changed their strategy as the week went on to get much more aggressive, to get in the face of the President. But also to get sometimes in the face of the reporters, saying make sure you get after what he's doing, not just allow him to say what he's saying. Why the shift?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD-DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's I think an acknowledgment that this is not going away. That the polls are showing that these counter-punches that the President is making are resonating in some cases.
As (INAUDIBLE) said earlier, these are very complicated issues, it's a complicated part of the world that most people don't understand. And I think they saw that by trying to hang back and stay above the fray, that was not working.
But it is very difficult. We've seen this before with President Trump and people he lashes out at. He gets as much oxygen for his criticisms and counter-punches as the aggrieved gets for hitting back. So when they do end up, you know, getting angry and flustered the way we saw Joe Biden in that clip, it seemed to sort of undercut the case and make it harder.
KING: Right. Right -- and every time we say here, you know, there's no evidence that Hunter Biden did anything wrong, there's no evidence the timeline the President uses about the investigations and getting the prosecutor fired is wrong and inaccurate among those other quote- unquote "media outlets" that support the President They leave that part out.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR Washington CORRESPONDENT: I mean the reality here though is this is what Joe Biden has wanted. He's wanted a head to head match up with Donald Trump. But not in this way.
So a couple of things are going on. One, I talked to a lot of Biden advisers this week. One -- if this wasn't about Hunter Biden, it might be somewhat different. But he is someone who -- it's complicated for this presidential campaign and for Joe Biden. He's had a long struggle with drug abuse and other matters. He's never been exactly the shining light of the family. And so this is a complicated area of discussion for the former vice president.
So I'm told he did not want to sit down for interviews or other things this week because he didn't want to specifically be asked a lot of Hunter Biden like questions.
But you are going to see a different shift going forward. You could see it on Friday night in California. He met with donors over the weekend in Philadelphia on Saturday and assured them that he's going to be aggressive on them. But a lot of other things are going on in the Biden campaign. Fundraising, he was number four and Elizabeth Warren is at his heels. So this is a perilous moment, an important moment for Biden..
KING: I want to put the fundraising numbers up on the screen. This was from the last quarter. He raised a lot of money but you're right. He's well behind Senator Sanders and Senator Warren even behind Mayor Pete Buttigieg there and so -- and he was struggling in the polls, Senator Warren catching up in Iowa, in New Hampshire and closing the gap of some other early states. South Carolina the exception for Biden so far.
So he was -- he was in (INAUDIBLE) in the campaign anyway. The Democratic nomination raised even before this hit. And if you're a Democratic vote or Democratic campaign, you made this point. You have to remember Trump's history.
And Biden himself, this is him at a fundraiser in California the other day. "I did 83 events for Hillary. I campaigned like the devil for her." What happened was, and she talks about it. "You got sucked into the trap of the stuff Trump was laying. He wants you in a mud fight. When you respond to that, it brings you back down into that."
The question is, and this is the challenge for any Democrat, or we saw the President's Republican primary opponents go through this in 2016. They couldn't figure it out.
Where is the sweet spot of pushing back but not getting caught in the mess?
SEUNG-MIN KIM, And that's exactly the challenge for Democratic candidates. Because not just former vice president saying when us reporters ask about the questions with the son, he's not the only Democratic candidate who is saying like don't play into the President's hands like that. That's what he wants you to focus on.
We've heard that line actually from other Democratic candidates as well when they've been questioned about their rivals, the issues surrounding Hunter Biden.
KIM: But it does create an uncomfortable moment for a lot of these Democratic candidates. You know, a couple of weeks ago or maybe last week, Kamala Harris was asked about this.
You know,, would you let your vice president's son serve on the board of a foreign oil company and she said no, probably not. I mean these, these are difficult questions that Democratic candidates are faced with because of this whole issue.
KING: Right. And so they've -- some of them have tried to find the balance themselves. Beto O'Rourke said pretty much the same thing, that wouldn't happen in my administration, then he says but, you know, or Mayor Buttigieg the same thing but we shouldn't be talking about Joe Biden. But they did drop it in there before they said we shouldn't be talking about Joe Biden.
So it's an interesting moment for other candidates as well who are waiting to see. And to your point about Biden, In fact there are some Democratic strategists who say he should just rush into this because if you want to make yourself Trump's opponent, just blowout the rest of the primary rather than get in a fight with them.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA: Yes. We talk a lot about foreign governments meddling in the U.S. election. President Trump is definitely meddling in the Democratic primary. He's going to do it for the next several because he realizes that he can't have he can have a say in who he runs against in 2020.
And he's not going to play by the old political rules. He's going to go after family members; if you're and what he believes are the weaknesses of these various candidates and Democratic voters are looking to see which candidates show that they can punch back or they can actually go up against the President in a one on one.
They can figure out that sweet spot and how to do it without muddying themselves. And right now I think the jury is still out on which candidate is going to be able to do that.
KING: And there are some great stories this weekend in a number of publications here at CNN. The "Times", the "Post" -- please read them and come to your own conclusions here, about this.
And one of them being about how Rudy Giuliani the President's lawyer who has spread all this, relies on some pretty disreputable, untrustworthy sources in Ukraine.
For a lot of information I thought was interesting was Volker Kurt Volker, the President's special envoy who did testify. He said some things to the committee that will help the President.
He said he didn't see -- yes, he was the security aide. Yes, the Biden investigation, he did not see he said at least in his opening statement, a link between the two.
The White House were like that. But he also said this and the President won't like this, "I have known former vice president Biden for 20 years and the suggestion that he would be influenced in his duties as vice president by money for his son simply has no credibility to me. I know him as a man of integrity and dedication to our country."
Kurt Volker again working for the President United States. Bill Taylor, career Democrat, working for the President of the United States. They view this whole Giuliani thing as a conspiracy whack job.
ZELENY: For sure. And you know, there's a reason why that Joe Biden is the object of the President's obsession. There's a reason why he's the object of Rudy Giuliani's obsession. They do see him as the strongest potential opponent running against him. So they did want to muddy him up from the very beginning. And Rudy
Giuliani has offered, you know, up just a buffet of conspiracy theories which the President has fully embraced.
Look, we don't know the politics of this. A, it could elevate the former vice president going forward. We're just not sure. It's on shifting ground here. But set that aside, he was still facing a challenging moment in this Democratic primary, which they always expected.
They knew that Elizabeth Warren would be ascending. We do not know the future necessarily of Bernie Sanders, the strength of his campaign. But this is a moment for the Bidens that could go either way. And anyone who says they know, it's not true.
KING: Let's watch it as it plays out. 18 weeks I think to Iowa. We'll watch this as it all plays out.
The timing here, the campaign playing out the same time as the impeachment inquiry is a big giant question mark.
Up next for us, all the President's men, the big impeachment questions reach well beyond the Oval Office.
KING: The President's conduct is the central focus of the impeachment inquiry, but the questions also involve several of his top deputies. Let's take a look.
One is the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry. He's had several meetings with top Ukrainian officials, including the president. He says his staff says he brought up corruption, they insists he was not into you need to investigate the Bidens. Perry says he'll cooperate with Congress.
He went to the inaugural of the new president instead of Mike Pence. So some questions for Rick Perry.
Questions as well for the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr. Trump told -- remember, if you read the President's call with Ukrainian president in July, he told the Ukrainians to work with Barr on an investigation into the Bidens.
The whistle-blower complaint was sent to the Justice Department and many think just simply buried and not seriously investigated. Barr also has been on a world tour trying to get to the origins of the Russia investigation, asking other countries what intelligence they provided to the FBI about the beginnings of what became the Mueller investigation.
The Secretary of State, he's on the world stage right now. He was on that July call with President Zelensky and President where the President said I need you to do me a favor, brought up the investigations into Biden. He's the one Mike Pompeo as you recall the ambassador to Ukraine has been a key witness this coming week.
And here's a question for the Secretary. Was he in the loop? Was he aware that Rudy Giuliani was using the leverage of the State Department and State Department officials to advance his agenda inside Ukraine. So questions for the Secretary of State.
Now we come to the vice president. Democrats in the house: want documents from him. His top national security adviser was on the call when the President said I need a favor and brought up the Biden investigations.
The President instructed the vice president not to go to the Zelensky inaugural. The story inside the White House being the President didn't think the President had done enough to deserve that. He met with Zelensky in September urged him to fight corruption. The vice president, his public remarks echoing the boss.
One of the main reasons we were elected to Washington, D.C. Was to drain the swamp and I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position, clearly in this case there are legitimate questions that ought to be asked.
It's the official position of both the President and the Vice President of the United States that it's okay to ask a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political opponent. That's part of the new Republican platform. What else -- when it comes to the questions of facing the vice president? His office issued a statement that said we'll look at this but it seemed to be to the Democrats go away.
DAVIS: Right, I mean there's no really good answer for the Vice President. Clearly given what we know from the whistle-blower complaint, Vice President Pence was involved in some way in President Trump's bidding on this. And what he wanted to be done. He was supposed to attend that inauguration then he was told not too attend the inauguration He obviously and then he was told not to
[08:45:02] He obviously knows about the telephone call and some of the other conversations, but the documents that the Congress has asked for is pretty expansive, if you read through the list of things they're asking for.
They're usually things that would be privileged. And that a Vice President would not turn over It's every unusual to see this sort of expansive of a request. So it will be interesting to see what of it, if any the fancy people are willing to turn over.
And it's very popular that some of it will actually come from other sources that the vice president's office will not play ball but other people will have access to the same documents and that they will be given over.
So Pence does face an exposure here and you see him --
(CROSSTALKING) KING: He also faces questions about -- forgive me -- there are questions about consistency in a sense you just heard him right there saying why can't we ask this, of course we can ask these things. This is another Mike Pence another day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Now, you all need to know out there, this is basic stuff. Foreign donors and certainly foreign governments cannot participate in the American political process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Guy's got a point.
DAVIS: That was a while ago.
OLORUNNIPA: A lot has changed since 2016, including the election which has caused a lot of Republicans to recant on some of their previous positions. But I think from Mike Pompeo to Mike Pence, there's going to be a lot of questions as to whether or not they do cooperate at all. And if they don't, will Democrats be able to push the message that this is a cover-up.
We've seen from the evidence that has come out so far, that has come out of the government that a lot of it is damaging to the White House. So the Democrats will need to sort of express to the American people that if the White House is holding back more evidence, it's because they believe that there's a cover-up and there's more damaging information that's out there.
Otherwise you could end up in this long legal back and forth trying to get documents and it could just end up being a cloudy situation where no one knows what's really going on.
KING: And you heard from the Vice President, Secretary Pompeo doing the same thing, trying to muddle your memory, if you will. He said in Athens yesterday, about the call with the Ukrainian President. We wanted to make sure they didn't interfere in our election in 2016. It has long been debunked, including by CIA that's Mike Putin's once led -- that's Putin talking points that it was Ukraine not Russia.
He's the Secretary of State of the United States traveling the world still asking we want to know if they were involved in 2016. He knows they were not.
And up until now, everyone has been very loyal to the President without question. We'll see if that changes as this impeachment inquiry begins because this is a new moment. The past isn't necessarily prologue.
KING: We'll watch this for the fight's out. Up next for us, our reporters share from their notebooks, including President Trump's new take on the individual mandate for immigrants. [08:47:33]
KING: Let's head one last time around the inside politics table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news around the corner.
KIM: So Washington may be swept up in impeachment fever right now but there might be, dare I say a little bit of progress on one major legislative front and that is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade deal. There is a group of House Democrats who are actually going to Mexico later this week to meet with Mexican government officials and local workers there about the trade deal.
I spoke with one of the members of the working group this week and she said, look, we've met with Ambassador Lighthizer since this impeachment inquiry began. The dynamic of the discussions in the room have not changed. We really do want to get this done. We want to come to a compromise with the administration.
But that optimism is not coming so much from the President himself. We've seen him actually be publicly downcast about the prospects of the USMCA group when we were up at the U.N. General Assembly a couple of weeks ago. He said, I think for the first time that this deal actually might not get a vote in the congress and we'll see who is right at the end. But there is some movement at least for now.
KING: Should get the answer soon-ish.
ZELENY: For nearly a month, Senator Kamala Harris has been advertising this Iowa all-in strategy. Finally tonight, she actually arrives in Iowa to start doing this. She has a rally in Aimes (ph) but some of her advisers are saying she's going to be doing the Obama strategy. Focusing all on Iowa.
That is simply not a correct reading of history. 12 years ago Barack Obama, yes, he was trying to do a come-from-behind victory in Iowa which he pulled off against from Hillary Clinton but he started there early and never wavered in his Iowa Plan.
Talking to many advisers to Senator Harris, they believe she's been spooked by Iowa in one person's words because of Hillary Clinton's experience there. So now they are trying to revive her candidacy in Iowa but don't believe that they are trying to repeat the Obama strategy. Had she done that, she wouldn't be doing a Hail Mary right now.
KING: It is hard to repeat anybody else. You have to do it your way.
ZELENY: For sure.
OLORUNNIPA: Well, this pas week marked the one year anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi's grisly murder by the Saudi government. We spend the past year trying to get to the bottom of what happened. And also trying to see how the U.S. government would respond.
And we have seen President Trump really rehabilitate the image of Mohammed Bin Salman, the leader (INAUDIBLE) there in Saudi Arabia over the past year and not really punish him at all for what our reporting shows he basically ordered this grisly murder of a "Washington Post" columnist.
We're expecting the Trump administration to be heavily represented at the "Davos in the Desert" event later this month showing and in pretty stark imagery how much the Trump administration has welcomed the Saudis right back into the global stage so we'll watch as we talk about the President's discussions with foreign leaders and his discussions and his relations with the Saudi government is going to be something that something that will be heavily in focus in the weeks ahead.
KING: Those are transcripts the public should see -- those phone calls. But I suspect we won't.
DAVIS: Well, this past week we saw President Trump sign a proclamation that essentially would bar immigrants who couldn't pay for their own health care from staying in this country. This came just a few days after I reported along with my colleague Mike Shearer about the President's more extreme ideas for preventing immigrants from coming across the southern border, everything from shooting at them to digging a water-filled trench with potentially dangerous reptiles inside.
What we're seeing here is something that Mike and I explore really deeply in our book that is coming out next week called "Border Wars, inside Trump's assault on immigration".
And the dynamic is that you have a president who's really obsessed with this issue who's grasping for ever more sort of extreme ways to get at the -- what he sees as the problem of illegal immigration.
But what you also see inside the White House and we look at this as well and this is part of what was at play with the proclamation is Stephen Miller, his senior adviser who has really sort of stood up as an internal think tank inside the West Wing to come up with ideas to target legal immigration.
[01:55:04] And that is some of what we'll continue to see I think in the run-up to the 2020 election. So I hope they will read the book of Tuesday, when it comes out.
KING: That is the reflex when this President is in crisis he goes back to this playbook of immigration. The book is "Border Wars" Julie and Mike Shearer. You can catch here on the program, it comes out on Tuesday. You want to buy it.
I will close with a few flashbacks to Washington's last impeachment drama. 21 years ago this week, October 5th 1988, to be exact that the House Judiciary committee voted to open its impeachment inquiry of President Bill Clinton, the full House endorsed that inquiry on a vote of 258 to 176 just a few days later. So far this time Speaker Pelosi said such votes are not necessary.
Another big difference, Clinton's approval rating was 63 percent in the gallop polling and President Trump's is just 40 percent. Now one thing we won't have this time, is an immediate test of how voters react at the polls.
The Clinton impeachment drama began in the final weeks of the 1998 midterms and Republicans Democrats decided to hammer Democrats with ads linking them to Clinton and his personal behavior.
But it didn't work. It backfired actually. Democrats defied the midterm norms picking up five seats in the house and breaking even in the senate race. We're going to have to wait to understand the politics of this one a little better.
That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon eastern.
Don't go anywhere, up next "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". His guests include two Republican presidential challengers. Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh.
Thanks again for sharing your Sunday. Have a great day.