Return to Transcripts main page
Lawyer Says Second Whistleblower Comes Forward On Trump's Actions; Two More Witnesses To Be Deposed This Week; Most Republican Lawmakers Standing By President Trump; U.S. Troops Begin Pullout From Syria Near Turkey's Border. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired October 7, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York and just a little bit of news this Monday morning.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: It's only 10:00 A.M. on Monday. There is a lot. So listen up. I'm Poppy Harlow. We're so glad you're with us this morning.
We're learning more about a second whistleblower also on that call with Mr. President and Ukrainian president. After first dismissing the complaint as based on hearsay evidence, the president is now calling the first whistleblower partisan and accusing Democrats of calling in the second whistleblower, quote, off the bench.
This is unfolding as Congress is, yes, in recess, but the impeachment inquiry very much continues. Two more witnesses are expected to testify behind closed doors on Capitol Hill this week.
SCIUTTO: And breaking overnight, the Trump administration has ordered U.S. troops to abandon their allies, withdrawing from Northern Syria, clearing a way for an invasion by Turkey. Why is this notable with those allies, the Kurds there? They did the real hard work to fighting against ISIS there now basically left behind.
Let's begin with CNN Congressional Reporter Lauren Fox. She's on Capitol Hill. Tell us what we know about this second whistleblower and what's described as direct knowledge of these efforts by this administration to connect aid and political favors from Ukraine.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right, Jim, a very significant development over the weekend with this second whistleblower. We know that this person is a member of the Intelligence Community. We know that they spoke with the inspector general of the Intelligence Community. But we don't know a ton more information specifically about, obviously, who this person is. That is being protected.
And I will tell you, Jim, that Democrats are arguing that this as more credence to the first whistleblower's complaint, because this second whistleblower has direct knowledge of some of the events that were detailed in that first whistleblower's complaint, Democrats arguing that's significant, Republicans dismissing the second whistleblower, basically saying, of course, more people are coming forward when there's already one. Perhaps more would come out of the woodwork. Lindsey Graham was arguing that point over the weekend, Jim.
HARLOW: So before you go, what are we going to see this week? Because we say Congress is on recess but they've got two big hearings coming up. I know they're behind closed doors. Who are they with? What do they mean?
FOX: Well, Poppy, tomorrow, Gordon Sondland is coming before members of the Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Oversight Committee. Then on Friday, Marie Yovanovitch will come forward. She is the former ambassador to Ukraine. And an important note, she was let go in May from that post. So Democrats want to know why was she let go and were there political motivations behind that. Jim and Poppy?
SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox on the Hill, thank you so much.
Let's get to CNN's Boris Sanchez. He is live at the White House. So you see the White House here now dismissing the second whistleblower. But, Boris, it's interesting to look at the statement basically on saying, well, it's just more whistleblowers about a single phone call, when in reality, we know these whistleblowers are talking about a pattern of behavior and a number of actions, are they not, regarding Ukraine pressure and political favors.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Precisely, Jim. Yes, the White House responds to the news of the second whistleblower as effectively that it doesn't matter. Take a look at what Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham sent out over the weekend. She reads, quote, it doesn't matter how many decide to call themselves whistleblowers about the same telephone call, a call the president has already made public. It doesn't change the fact that he has done nothing wrong.
As you said though, the first whistleblower's complaint laid out a pattern of behavior, not just this one phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, it's possible that the second whistleblower is going to come forth with even more information despite that the president tweeted about them this weekend not only being dismissive but also misrepresenting some of the reporting that we already know about this whistleblower. Jim and Poppy?
HARLOW: So, Boris, I mean, Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary, who's outgoing soon, has stayed out of the fray. I mean, head down, his name hasn't been brought up until now. He's defending what he says he told the president in terms of dealing with Zelensky. But the president seems to be throwing him under the bus.
SANCHEZ: Yes. It appears the president is scapegoating his energy secretary here. There's reporting out there in The Washington Post and Axios that on a call with House Republicans, the president said that he didn't even want to have that call with President Zelensky of Ukraine, but that Rick Perry urged him to.
It's not surprising that the energy secretary would want to foster a good relationship regarding natural energy between Ukraine and the United States. It's a critical part of the relationship. But Rick Perry, at no point, urged the president to ask Zelensky for a favor, right?
There was groundwork before this call even took place by Rudy Giuliani and others associated with President Trump to essentially make clear to the Ukrainian leadership had a good relationship between the nations was predicated on investigations into the president's potential 2020 rival in Joe Biden and into the 2016 election, Jim and Poppy.
SCIUTTO: And what's notable, you have a sitting cabinet secretary debunking a story by the president. The president -- oh, yes, Rick Perry told me to do it. Did I say no? But I didn't say --
HARLOW: That's not what I said.
SCIUTTO: -- to investigate the Bidens. It's remarkable, but here we are in 2019.
HARLOW: Boris, thank you for the reporting.
Let's talk about all of the developments. CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, of course, he's advised four former presidents, A.B. Stoddard, an Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics, also joins us. Good morning one and all.
So, David Gergen, the Republicans either won't go on television or when they do, you know, Ron Johnson being an example, doesn't even answer the first direct question he's asked about this, or they say that the president was joking about asking Biden -- China to investigate the Bidens. That's Marco Rubio, Jim Jordan, Roy blunt, are all suggesting the president is joking.
Colin Powell says, my party is in shambles right now, has got to get a grip, to use his words. Where are we?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We're watching Republicans squirm because they know so far the White House has not given them something they can defend very easily. And what we're seeing a pattern, and that is the White House erects a defense, then along comes the evidence and knocks down the defense. First we started with quid pro quo. The opposition -- White House claimed, well, there was no quid pro quo in the call. It was just simply straightforward. Now, we have these text messages which knocked down that defense.
The next argument from the White House is, well, all the information we have is from secondhand sources. Well, here comes a second whistleblower saying, no, no, no, I was there. They knocked down that defense. Instead of looking for the answers and looking for a defense that's true, they're looking for any defense that works. If the public will buy it, that's what they're looking for.
SCIUTTO: You know, I'm glad you laid it out, David, because you have seen each of these straw men as it were knocked down by the facts, and yet the pushback continues.
A.B., I wonders when you speak about this Republican silence here from lawmakers, some of them are willing to actively defend him but the vast majority is staying silent. How much do you think that's defensive in that Republicans are concerned that more information will come out and they'll be made to look the fool by defending things that are shown to be false, statements or stories that are shown to be false?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: No question. I think that's what's driving this. They have, whenever they've had the opportunity, jumped to be able to use, you know, a process argument or whatever they can, the ones who are speaking are trying to deflect and distract with process arguments and actual gaslighting, if you listen to some of them. But the ones who are silent are really concerned about what's going on behind the scenes in terms of potential more revelations, potential new whistleblowers and what they're going learn.
As David pointed out, we know enough from the transcript, the White House confirming the fact from White House lawyers that they stuffed things on to a secret server. We have the whistleblower complaint. We now have the text from Ambassador Volker and others. So it's really all out there. But there is so much more out there potentially that could come when you look at what the decision was about last night to just give in to Erdogan, the president of Turkey, to throw the Kurds, Kurdish forces under the bus on Syria. What if we learn about new conversations that we don't know about from another whistleblower with the Saudi Kingdom? Those are some of the discussions that we're stuffed on another server.
So this is really perilous for Republicans to try to talk about now because I think they are worried that there's a torrent of information to come.
HARLOW: Except that's why you're elected, to answer, you know, and do --
STODDARD: Yes, no question.
HARLOW: -- make difficult choices, answer hard questions. You're not elected to get elected again.
HARLOW: But, you know, whatever, all right.
So turning the page a little bit here though, it's a different view, but I want your take on it, David Gergen. David Ignatius is calling over the weekend in The Washington Post about Joe Biden, right, and not distracting from the main issue here what the president has done and called for, but this is some interesting critique, and I wonder if you agree with it, quote, Biden deserves some blame too. Putting aside the false Trump conspiracy theories about him, Biden used poor judgment in playing a role on Ukraine policy while his son, Hunter, was working for a Ukraine gas company, Burisma. Either the son should have quit or the father should have shut up, denying the obvious facts only weakens the Democrats' case against Trump.
Does he have a point?
GERGEN: I'm afraid he does. And, you know, because I do think Joe Biden and his son are increasingly the victims in all of this. They're being, you know -- they are being portrayed, I think, in the most negative light possible, and I think it's quite unfair.
Having said that, it was never going to go down well when the American public learned that Hunter Biden was on a board for a gas company in Ukraine. And he was being paid approximately $50,000 a month, a month. And I think that you leave yourself wide open to all sorts of interpretations in that circumstance.
Listen, when I served in government, you were -- it was recommended you don't even hold individual stocks --
SCIUTTO: -- that might do business with the country of China that I was serving in just for the impression of it let alone being sort of on board.
Now, of course, the president and his family's involvement with a whole host of companies that have business before this government is something we should mention.
But, A.B., before we go, looking at the politics here again, because they are so central to momentum towards impeachment, a lot of swing state Democrats, let alone Republicans, are facing backlash from their support for this impeachment vote. As more comes out, do you see those politics changing?
STODDARD: Well, what's interesting, Jim, is I think it's still early to look at impeachment polls, but they are all trending in one direction, and that's not good for the president.
I would argue that the Democrats are making a huge mistake trying to put a deadline on this. There is more to come. And the idea that they're going to tell the voters this isn't a political decision, they're doing it to protect the Constitution and the institutions, but we have to do it by Thanksgiving or Christmas is foolish. This is a long road, and I think they will only build public support if they do it cautiously and in a measured fashion and take their time.
SCIUTTO: That's interesting because it doesn't seem to be Nancy PELOSI's instincts, but we'll see. David Gergen, A.B. Stoddard, great to have you both on this morning.
GERGEN: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: And still to come this hour, one of the president's closest allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, blasting the president's move to abandon Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria who fought alongside U.S. forces bravely against ISIS.
Ahead, why Graham says this could be a disaster in the making. More Republicans are coming out and saying the same.
SCIUTTO: They are.
Plus, as former Vice President Joe Biden faces attacks from the president and a surging Elizabeth Warren, CNN has some new reporting this morning from campaign insiders about what his strategy will be moving forward.
And experts warn that an economic slowdown could accelerate, new evidence that trade war with China is just hurting American workers. The former White House Economic Chief Adviser, Kevin Hassett, will be here.
SCIUTTO: The vast majority of Republican lawmakers are standing by President Trump amid the impeachment inquiry. Just three GOP senators have publicly criticized the president for his dealings with Ukraine, Mitt Romney paying the price for speaking out. The senator trashed by Trump on Twitter this weekend.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ron Johnson yesterday suggested the president was being set up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I just want the truth. The American people want the truth.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: So do you not trust -- do you not trust the FBI? You don't trust the CIA?
JOHNSON: No, no, I don't.
TODD: I am just very confused here. You don't trust any of --
TODD: Okay. JOHNSON: After James Comey --
TODD: Do you believe the FBI and the CIA, these government agencies?
JOHNSON: John Brennan. I don't trust any of these guys in the Obama administration. I don't trust any of them.
TODD: You don't trust them now, do you trust them now?
JOHNSON: No, I didn't trust them back then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That's right, Ron Johnson given numerous opportunities there to express confidence in the agencies, the CIA and the FBI today, not taking those opportunities. He is, of course, the chairman of the Homeland Security in the Senate.
Former Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld, joins me now from Boston. He is hoping to replace Trump as the Republican Party nominee in 2020. Governor, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.
FMR. GOV. BILL WELD (R-MA): Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because, you know, forgive me for saying that politics are at play here in the way -- well, both parties, but Republicans are responding to the Ukraine phone call and other issues here.
WELD: No. Mark's a good man, but I do not agree with Mark on that. And he has said he would support Mr. Trump if Mr. Trump is the nominee. That's not my position at all.
You know, I agree with you, there's a lot of politics and impeachment proceedings and one number we're going to be watching is what Percent of the country favors not just impeachment but removal of the president.
And I believe I saw a nationwide poll by The Economist a few days ago, 51/49, U.S. in favor of removal, That is removal by the Senate.
And people are going to watch that number. And if that grows, then the Republican senators, even if they can't find it in their conscience to do the right thing, are going to have to be concerned.
And my concern on behalf of those Republican senators, most of whom I know, the senior ones, is they're going to be blown away just as happened after the Nixon in impeachment.. In 2020, you will have a very Democratic senate next year.
SCIUTTO: You know, interestingly, The Washington Post has a piece on this today that's making a contrarian point in effect about the current Republican base view of this whole thing. It makes the point that if you look at strongly approved and strongly disapprove of this president, only 24 percent of those polled in a Reuters (INAUDIBLE) poll say they strongly approve of President Trump, whereas 44 percent strongly disapprove. The folks who feel most strongly about this actually are with the president in far smaller numbers than those who disapprove of where he stands today. Do you believe it's possible that your fellow Republicans are overestimating the strength of the support for this president?
WELD: You see some of these polls, they have Trump ahead 100-0 in the Republican primary. But they're obviously polling, the Republican State Committees, the party faithful people who voted in the last five Republican primaries, you know, very, very tight and narrow screen.
And that's not representative of what I see on the ground, anywhere in the country, nowhere in the country do I find more than half the -- maybe Texas -- more than half the people on the ground favoring the president's point of view. Actually not in Austin Texas but elsewhere in Texas.
So I just think there's a disconnect between some of the polls and what I'm sensing there, and I'm pressing the flesh, shaking hundreds and hundreds of hands a day. And people, they go thumbs down, they make a face when Mr. Trump's name is mentioned. So unless they're paid Hollywood actors, I don't get it.
SCIUTTO: That would be a big payroll.
I want to ask you about foreign interference. We're just 13 months away from another election after the remarkable fact that Russia interfered so brazenly in 2016. What surprises me because I covered this interference so closely, is that you're not -- certainly not hearing from the president or his surrogates' concern about interference in the next election. In fact, you're hearing a sitting U.S. president asking for foreign powers to intervene, including China, very publicly.
By not speaking out, are Republicans, in effect, okay by omission, at least, okaying foreign interference in 2020?
WELD: That just displays such a heedless disregard of the Constitution as well as the laws. I find it hard to believe. If anything is clear from the four volumes of debates and the adoption of the Constitution in Philadelphia, from the federalist papers concerning its adoption, from James Madison's contemporaneous notes, it's that two things the framers feared most, one was foreign meddling, interference in our affairs, and two was corruption of office by Which I mean abuse of a public office to serve and acquire a private gain.
Both of those are absolutely out there on top of the table in the president's invitation, really, encouragement, to Ukraine to get dirt on his political opponent. He said, I need a favor, no. He said, we're doing a lot for you in military. I know that, you know that. Need a favor, though. That means if you want to receive the money, which I have just frozen $400 million worth of. Do you think Zelensky didn't know that when that call occurred? I find that very unlikely.
SCIUTTO: and we've heard it's been reported, CNN and others, that Ukrainian officials felt that implicit pressure there.
WELD: So what I'm saying is this is a classically, not only impeachable, but removable offense. And having an executive was new to the columnists. They had no executive in the articles of confederation. So the people who were pro-pounding the Constitution had to convince the columnists that having this executive, this powerful executive was safe, and the inclusion of the removal power closed the sail. If we now say we're ripping up the removal power, boy, I bet those anti-federalists would like to have their vote back from adopting the Constitution.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, history matters here. Governor bill weld, thanks so much for joining us this morning.
WELD: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: President Trump sending shockwaves through Syria, moving U.S. Troops from that country's border with Turkey. What this could mean for U.S.-backed Turkish fighters, as well as the ISIS militants they helped to push back there. We're going to stay on top of the story.
SCIUTTO: This morning, U.S. forces are moving back from Syria's border with Turkey. Turkish forces prepared to cross that border setting up a clash with Kurdish fighters who worked, fought and died alongside U.S. forces to fight ISIS in the region.
Now, a chorus of even Republican voices condemning the decision by President Trump to abandon America's close ally.
HARLOW: Including the president's former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeting in part, leaving them in die is a big mistake, #turkeyisnotourfriend.
Let's go to the Pentagon this morning. Our Correspondent, Barbara Starr, is with us. Barbara, what do you know in terms of how expected or unexpected this may have been by commanders?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think for senior military commanders, there likely was a sense of inevitability about this. That's what we are hearing. Not a big surprise to them. They knew for the last year, ever since Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned, that the president simply did not want to see U.S. troops remain in Syria even though they were lined with key forces there that were fighting ISIS.