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Mitch McConnell Vows to Stop Impeachment; Trump Announces Troop Withdrawal From Syria. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The U.S. government should be in there telling the Chinese government that, no, it's not OK to pressure these companies. It's not OK to punish them for speech.

And if people, Americans -- American companies, but also American citizens, want to speak out in defense of human rights, that's our system. We're allowed to do that. That's what free speech is all about.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Yes. Josh Rogin, thank you.

ROGIN: Any time.

BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, House Democrats are warning that they will subpoena three associates of Rudy Giuliani if they do not comply with their request for documents and depositions, all part of this whole impeachment investigation.

Also today, the Pentagon and the White House Budget Office were officially put on notice, after the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees all issued subpoenas in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

At the center of these requests, they want documents on the decision to withhold military assistance to Ukraine. And those subpoenas come as a second whistle-blower comes forward, potentially weakening talking points for the president and his inner circle.

They say the first whistle-blower complaint wasn't credible because it was based on only secondhand information. Well, guess what? The law says firsthand information is not required for such a complaint. But firsthand information is precisely what this additional whistle-blower apparently has.

This is according to attorney Mark Zaid, who also represents that first whistle-blower. And he tells CNN that his client has also spoken with the inspector general.

And, move over, Mike Pompeo, because you aren't the only Cabinet member to get caught up in this whole thing. I give you Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who President Trump claims pushed him to call Ukraine's president, something Trump now tells congressional Republicans he never wanted to do.

We should note Perry's spokesman says that he was not on that July 25 call, but the secretary admits that he did want these two men to talk, but not about Joe Biden or his son Hunter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Absolutely. I asked the president multiple times, Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and in Ukraine's best interest that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there.

So, absolutely, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Perry says his focus was on energy issues. President Trump claims it was to discuss a natural gas project. But those topics were nowhere to be found in the White House transcript of the call. No word yet from the president on why. So, stay tuned.

As Republicans are scrambling to figure out ways to defend the president's on-camera requests asking Ukraine and China to go ahead and investigate the Biden family, some in the Republican Party are embracing this new narrative, arguing that the president wasn't serious, it was all a joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don't think it's a real request. Again, it I think he did it to gig you guys.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I doubt if the China comment was serious, to tell you the truth. The president...

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: You don't take the president at his word?

BLUNT: The president loves -- no, the president loves to go out on the -- on the White House driveway.

I haven't talked to him about this. I don't know what the president was thinking. But I do know he loves to bait the press.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I don't think anyone America really believes -- except people maybe in the press and some Democrats in Congress -- really believe that the president the United States thinks China is going to investigate. He's making a statement.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: The president -- well, he's asking for it. And the president hasn't said he's joking. He said a very direct statement. He wasn't smiling there. He wasn't laughing. It wasn't a joke.

Why can't you answer yes or no do you think it's appropriate? JORDAN: I don't -- because I don't think that's what he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, CNN's political director, David Chalian. And also with this, Jamie Gangel, CNN special correspondent.

So welcome to both of you.

And we will get to this whole joke bit in just a second.

But we have just gotten news in the last couple of minutes about Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio just speaking to "The Columbus Dispatch," saying that he believes -- I'm just looking down at our wire -- he believes President Trump should not have asked Ukraine or China to help investigating Joe Biden.

And this comes, of course, as so many Republicans are zip, zip, zip.

Are there cracks potentially in the party. What's going on?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: How's that for breaking news?

(LAUGHTER)

CHALIAN: That's something that is blatantly wrong that the president shouldn't have done, the third or fourth Republican senator actually came out and said so, and that's actually a headline.

We know note, Rob Portman also went on to say that impeachment is too extreme right now. This is not -- he made sure to separate out the impeachment process from the president's behavior here, calling it wrong, and he shouldn't have done it.

This is precisely the road map that Tucker Carlson was recommending to a lot of Republicans. Call out the president's behavior. You don't have to be for impeachment.

And, obviously, Rob Portman, after days of deliberation about this, came to this conclusion, that he wanted to be on the record, for history, if nothing else, that what the president did was wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think what David just said is very important. For history, he wanted to be on the world record.

[15:05:01]

GANGEL: I don't know how many times I have said, privately, Republican sources say.

But that's the reality. We are hearing one thing.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GANGEL: When we speak to them privately, they are very unhappy. They condemn this behavior. They say it's wrong.

One said to me, it's a disgrace. But it's taking a long time for them to come out.

But Rob Portman has come out. The question is, will more people come out.

CHALIAN: And the second question is, what are you going to do about it?

GANGEL: Right.

CHALIAN: So is there -- so now you have deemed that what the president did is wrong, it's inappropriate. So what is the punishment? If it's not impeachment for you -- and we will see as this process unfolds -- how do you hold the president to account for something like this?

BALDWIN: Well, here was the second line. So he -- this is according to us -- the senator said he didn't think Congress should pursue impeachment, but he did concede that a bipartisan group such as the Senate Intelligence Committee could investigate the allegations against the president.

So what does that -- he's -- he's saying, OK, I don't believe in them going down this road, but if they want to investigate, they can? Is that empty -- empty...

GANGEL: So, privately, Republican sources this weekend, my phone was ringing off the hook with, they believe impeachment in the House is likely, if not inevitable.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GANGEL: They are very concerned about how it's done, because they want it to be, to use that word, bipartisan.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GANGEL: Because if the articles of impeachment are clear, if there is a bright line, then, when it goes to the Senate, which is going to be the jury, it's a very different thing for them to consider.

Let's not forget, a lot of these Republicans have what someone said to me Trump exhaustion. They don't consider him -- many of them don't consider him a true Republican. So if there is any chance that they're going to take what happens in the House seriously, they want it to be bipartisan, and they wanted to reach it a certain level.

BALDWIN: OK. OK.

CHALIAN: I would just say...

GANGEL: He's going to kick me under the table and say, wait, wait, wait, wait.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: No kicking. No kicking.

CHALIAN: I would just say, but Kevin McCarthy is going to do everything in his power, as the top Republican of the House, to ensure it's not a bipartisan effort, right, because he doesn't want to give Nancy Pelosi's effort here any kind of legitimacy to it.

He wants it to be a purely partisan affair in the House.

GANGEL: So, one more, let's watch -- they would say, let's watch the polls. They don't know what's going to happen. Can they make it through this safely? Big question.

And what will the other whistle-blowers say? What other evidence will come out?

BALDWIN: Can we just -- speaking of the polls, I know you know every poll known to man. You're going to look at me like I'm a crazy person for being -- but it's -- the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is predicting this post-impeachment landslide, right?

So he says he thinks President Trump could win 45 states, 45 states.

CHALIAN: I don't know those polls. I can tell you that.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I'm like, I'm seeing a lot of polls. I don't think there's a poll for that.

CHALIAN: I don't know those polls.

BALDWIN: Why is he -- I was talking to Mia Love last hour. She said, hey, look at the polls from 2016. Maybe there's some truth to it.

I mean, is that crazy talk?

CHALIAN: Well, two different things. Right? Could impeachment, again, as Jamie is saying, depending on how this unfolds, could it be something that actually helps the president politically in the long run?

Sure, it could be. That is different than saying he's going to win 45 states, although I think that was Mulvaney's point, with a bit of hyperbole, saying, this is something that could really charge up the president's supporters to just have a completely turbocharged turnout next November.

Remember, if indeed he isn't impeached and he's acquitted, he will -- I mean, imagine what he's going to say to his supporters. He beat back Mueller. He would have beat back this impeachment. He will be the hero in such a way that it might really enliven his base.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Speaking of just how he's -- the words he's been using, I wanted to make sure we got to your point. I'm looking at your face. So amidst all of this impeachment talk today, the president today announces that he's pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, which would likely allow Turkey to launch attacks on our allies there the Kurds.

And so Trump -- let's throw the tweet on the screen.

And, Jamie, you tell me why you think he sounds like the great and powerful Oz.

GANGEL: Well, first of all, I will tell you that Wizard of Oz is now trending on Twitter. So I'm not alone. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. So what did he say in that.

The phrase was...

BALDWIN: Guys, throw it back up on the screen.

It's "in my great and unmatched wisdom."

GANGEL: "My great and unmatched wisdom."

That does sound even, by Donald Trump standards, way out there. But what's interesting is, as we were talking earlier, look at the GOP response. He is getting pushback. This has caused Republican unity from across the aisle.

BALDWIN: Mitch McConnell.

GANGEL: Mitch McConnell. Mitt Romney called it a betrayal. Nikki Haley, Liz Cheney, everybody is out there pushing back on this.

[15:10:07]

CHALIAN: More so on this.

GANGEL: But crickets for the most part on defending him on impeachment.

BALDWIN: On impeachment.

CHALIAN: And that's a question.

Why is this piece of national security worth Mitch McConnell joining this chorus of Republicans to push back on the president, but not the national security of our elections, when the president has asked a foreign government to intervene?

BALDWIN: Great question. Boom.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: David Chalian, Jamie Gangel, thank you so much. Much more ahead on President Trump's sudden decision to pull U.S.

troops off of the Turkish-Syrian border. We will get reaction from an Iraq War vet and Congressman Ruben Gallego.

Also ahead, a federal judge dismisses President Trump's effort to keep his tax returns out of the hands of a grand jury. But does that mean they will ever be public?

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sends out a fund-raising pitch claiming that he will stop impeachment. We're live on Capitol Hill with details on how he can do that.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN on this Monday afternoon. Thanks for being with me.

Outside of the diplomatic community, it is safe to say that the name Kurt Volker was unknown to most Americans. And that all changed just a couple of weeks ago, when Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, resigned just a day after a whistle-blower complaint that named him and detailed President Trump's interactions with his Ukrainian counterpart went public.

In the days since, Volker has turned over text messages to Congress, texts that show how President Trump and others pressed Ukraine to investigate the 2016 election just as the newly elected leader was looking to land a meeting at the White House.

And in one message, Volker texted the following to an adviser to Ukraine's president -- quote -- "Heard from White House. Assuming President Z" -- that's Zelensky -- "convinces Trump he will investigate, get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington."

That text was sent the same day as a call between President Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky happened. And Volker went on to have discussions about a potential statement between the U.S. and Ukraine, announcing that Zelensky was committed to cleaning up corruption.

Those discussions were eventually dropped.

James Melville is the former U.S. ambassador to Estonia.

So, Mr. Ambassador, welcome, sir.

JAMES MELVILLE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ESTONIA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You have been friends with Kurt Volker for years. What do you make of his involvement here? And how did a career diplomat get caught up in all of this?

MELVILLE: Well, Brooke, thank you very much for including a Foreign Service perspective in the discussion.

Kurt and I met when we both served back in the '90s at the U.S. Mission to NATO. And Kurt rose very quickly to the highest levels of the European bureau. And it's because he's a very gifted diplomat and was a terrific officer and a very good leader.

But Kurt left the State Department, as far as I remember, it was in 2009. So he's been out of the Foreign Service for a good -- good nine or 10 years before he was called back and offered this opportunity to try and resolve the war in Ukraine.

And he had the skill set to make a real important contribution. When he started in this job, many of us were really encouraged that the man had found the moment, and that we would be able to make progress.

I'm just sorry the way it did turn out. And the fact that, in the end, it failed doesn't mean that it wasn't worth trying.

BALDWIN: The president, Republicans have been trying to normalize this behavior, asking foreign powers to investigate rivals.

MELVILLE: Right. Right.

BALDWIN: Is it, Mr. Ambassador, illegal?

MELVILLE: Absolutely. It's illegal and it's immoral to ask foreign powers to interfere in our elections.

And this idea that perhaps somebody -- perhaps the president was joking about it is really hard for me to accept, because the integrity of our elections is no joking matter. And what's more serious for the underpinnings of our democracy than the sanctity of our elections?

BALDWIN: Exactly.

In the Trump White House, political operatives seem to be outweighing or overruling career diplomats. How much diplomatic work...

MELVILLE: Right.

BALDWIN: ... do you think is not getting done because the president is focused on his own interests in all these calls with foreign leaders?

MELVILLE: Well, I have a lot of confidence that my former colleagues are really moving the ball forward where they can.

In places where the political interference is less significant, we probably are making lots of progress. You don't hear very much about what we're doing in Latin America, what we're doing in Africa, how we're addressing some of the global challenges, pandemics, epidemics, refugee crises.

But where the political forces are involved significantly, as in Ukraine, as with Mr. Sondland's adventures in diplomacy, the result is less than ideal. [15:20:02]

BALDWIN: Adventures.

Ambassador Melville, what about just bigger picture? What's the long- term impact of this whole controversy? What does this signal to other countries about the U.S.' foreign policy and perhaps assistance being contingent upon willingness to, in the words of the first whistle- blower, play ball with the Trump White House?

MELVILLE: It's such a big question, Brooke.

Our integrity, the sanctity of our word is part of the currency of diplomacy. And when the United States makes promises, we're supposed to -- we're supposed to deliver on them.

And I had always said to people in Estonia and everywhere I have served that national interests don't change from one administration to the other. So there's a certain predictability about U.S. policy, that we stand with our allies, that we stand up against human rights violations, that we're in favor of democratization and liberal economics.

But, recently, there's been this element of unpredictability about where we're going, what we're doing, whether we will live up to agreements that we have made. And it's introduced an element of uncertainty.

And that uncertainty is something that makes it more difficult for us to achieve our goals.

BALDWIN: Integrity, that is the word I'm taking from our conversation.

Ambassador James Melville, thank you so much, sir. I appreciate having you on

MELVILLE: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he will work to block the testimony of two State Department officials as part of this impeachment inquiry, this as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell releases a new ad claiming he will stop impeachment.

We're live on Capitol Hill with the details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:53]

BALDWIN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now using the impeachment inquiry into President Trump as a means to raise money for his reelection.

He just posted a video on Facebook promising to stop any Democratic push to impeach the president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Nancy Pelosi is in the clutches of a left-wing mob. They have finally convinced her to impeach the president.

All of you know your Constitution. The way that impeachment stops is with a Senate majority with me as majority leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill.

And we know Leader McConnell admitted just a couple days ago he would have to take up impeachment if -- in the Senate, if the House passed. So now he's, what, promising to shut it down? How can you do that?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's saying that, under the rules, he has to at least begin the trial of this after the House were to impeach the president. The Senate would have to begin that trial.

But there are rules that would allow him to quickly dismiss the charges against the president after the trial has begun. Now, what we're hearing from Republican leadership aides is that essentially what their understanding of the rules here in the Senate it is that, after the trial were to begin, and after just a limited period of questioning is done, and after opening arguments are made, then, at that point, they could move to dismiss the charges.

And it would just require majority of senators to vote to dismiss the charges, essentially end any notion of removing the President Trump office. But that could be a risk, particularly if there are some senators who want to continue the trial and may -- may not vote to remove the president from office, but vote to continue the trial.

If the were president to lose that vote, he would only need to lose three Republican senators in order for that trial to continue. And at that point, Brooke, 67 senators would have to remove the president from office, a two-thirds majority.

And, as we know, we have not seen Republicans rebel in any way after this Ukraine scandal has come to pass. So the question is, will they get to 67 votes? Highly, highly unlikely, but McConnell's making very clear to his base, as he runs for reelection in 2020, he will be the person to stop the impeachment when it comes, if it does come to the Senate.

And the Democrats are saying he should be neutral, but, of course, Mitch McConnell make it very clear where he stands -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Manu, thank you very much.

President Trump couldn't name one corruption case he's asked foreign powers to investigate, except for the Bidens. A check on his anti- corruption crusade.

Plus, Democratic Congressman and Iraq War veteran Ruben Gallego joins me live -- his take on President Trump's sudden decision to pull U.S. troops out of Northern Syria, where they were there helping to protect the Kurdish fighters who were critical in defeating ISIS.

The congressman next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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