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Poll: 58% of Americans Support Trump Impeachment Inquiry; Report: Trump Considers Giving All White House Staffers a Polygraph Test; Why Does Trump Keep Advancing Putin's Foreign Policy? Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired October 8, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. A new national poll shows support for an impeachment inquiry growing big-time. These are brutal numbers for President Trump.

[07:00:11]

Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say they support an impeachment inquiry. That's up from 37 percent in July. That's a big jump. And among those who support an impeachment inquiry, 49 percent -- no, I think it's actually overall, in the overall population, 49 percent of people say they support removing the president from office. And there are big jumps among Republicans and independents here, as well.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we'll get into all of that.

Also, very soon, a second key witness will testify in the Trump impeachment inquiry. This is U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. He'll be asked by congressional investigators what he knows about President Trump pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his rival, Joe Biden.

You'll remember those text messages released by House Democrats last week that show Sondland working with another of President Trump's envoys to get Ukraine to agree to investigate the Bidens in exchange for a Washington meeting with President Trump and Ukraine's president.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are issuing new subpoenas to the Pentagon and the White House budget office. All of this is tried to the freezing of that military aid to Ukraine.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.

David, these poll numbers are interesting, because an impeachment inquiry isn't just a battle about facts. It's also a battle for public opinion. And right now, this poll seems to indicate the president's losing that battle with support for the inquiry up to 58 percent. That's a 21 percent jump since July, and among all adults, 49 percent say now when we're in the second inning, as Joe Lockhart said before, 49 percent of Americans say they support removing the president from office today. These are tough numbers for the president, David. DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I think it's a simple

combination of bad facts and highly erratic behavior by the president. He's acting in a way where he's both hiding something. He's incensed, he's irrationally attacking people. He doesn't seem to have himself together at all.

And he seems to be cornered, and all of that in combination to revelations and the fact that you have not only a whistle-blower, you have additional people coming forward. You have text messages being released. I think the complete picture of a shadow government effort to take down a political opponent is coming into view, and it's easy enough to understand.

CAMEROTA: And Abby, as we know, often the president doesn't believe polls. The RNC has also said that they don't believe polls. Sometimes, I think, from our reporting, they don't even show the president polls. So it's possible that within the White House, they won't acknowledge this?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a certain cherry-picking of numbers that the president and his allies do to give him the rosiest picture of a situation.

You know, we reported yesterday that on Capitol Hill, Republican were telling their members that this could actually be -- impeachment could be a problem for these vulnerable Democrats who are in -- who are still in districts that Trump won in 2016, and that actually may very well be true.

I mean, I think it's a very important point to distinguish between an overall national picture and a kind of district by district, the kind of brawl that might be going on district by district as we go into the next election where Republicans might be saying, you know, if you're a Democrat and you're a moderate and you're coming from a district that the president won, you may be in trouble, because impeachment may not be all that popular.

But if you're in a purple district in, you know, the suburbs of Virginia where -- where Democrats had some of those -- their biggest wins in the midterm elections, impeachment might be something where you have no choice but to go along with what seems to be the trend in public opinion.

This is what Nancy Pelosi has been telling her members all along. She's been saying, look, we have to wait for the American public to be with us on this, and you know, you can see by the numbers it's a big shift. It's a pretty dramatic shift.

And I think it will help her as she tries to make the argument to those Democrats who are on these marginal districts who might be, one way or another, either risking losing their re-election or risking alienating moderate voters by not going along with this impeachment struggle. It will help her to make the argument to those people that they're doing the right thing for the Democrats.

BERMAN: And David, I've just been digging in more to these numbers as we're going along here. Let me read you something here.

Three in ten Republicans support the inquiry, and almost one-fifth of Republicans say they favor a vote recommending his removal. And among the critical voting block of independents, support for the impeachment inquiry hits 57 percent, with 49 percent saying the House should vote to remove Trump from office.

[07:05:04]

So he's losing ground among Republicans and independents. That's in the poll. And add to that yesterday what we saw from Rob Portman, who you and I both know from covering him for years, this guy is careful. I mean, there's no one more careful as a politician than Rob Portman, and he came out yesterday and said directly what the president did on the phone with the president of Ukraine was wrong.

GREGORY: Yes, I was struck by that. I mean, Rob Portman, I've frankly been surprised by his level of support for President Trump. He is from Ohio, but he's also a pretty consistently conservative what I would call more Bush-era Republican, and so I think he's been rather quiet in his criticism of President Trump. But, as you say, quite careful.

I think what's emerging, I think the independent number is striking in this poll, not altogether surprising. But this is still a pretty partisan effort hear the Democrats are undertaking.

And I think not only will the Republican base be galvanized by impeachment efforts, but you're seeing an argument that we talked about here over the last couple of days with Tucker Carlson from FOX News, strangely being the tip of the spear here for this Republican argument, which is, yes, this was bad, but it's not impeachable.

And you heard that from Rob Portman, and I think others may start to say that. Until and unless more evidence comes forward that would implicate the president and those around him even further, in which case I've long believed that Republican support for the president is soft. It's been -- it's been durable, but it's still soft.

I think a lot of Republicans, it's just so strange to me, they'll come out on this -- this Syria decision so strongly, but on something else like this, which is really in the same cone, they're so afraid.

CAMEROTA: Abby, let's talk about what's about to happen two hours from now, and that is ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland is going to come and be questioned by congressional investigators, and he, let's be honest, is not a disinterested objective party. He gave a million dollars to President Trump's inaugural -- inauguration, inaugural fund. He is also a wealthy hotelier.

BERMAN: Which is a great word.

CAMEROTA: It is. And he has these wildly officious text messages where it's clear, once all the Ukraine scandal starts breaking and starts being a problem, he then codifies in a text message, we must believe President Trump, here is what he has said. PHILLIP: And by the way, call me.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

When we -- Right, when he doesn't want to talk about anything, he says call me. So how are they going to tackle Gordon Sondland?

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, Sondland, the other thing to add to that, he is still in the administration, unlike Kurt Volker, who testified last week, he did not resign.

You know, so he's not outside of the circle of the Trump administration right now, so there is perhaps a limit to how candid he might be in this testimony. But it seems imperative for, you know, as a factual matter, to get at two things.

A, what was he doing in those text messages? Why were they so kind of official toward the end, and why was he insisting multiple times that people should not put this conversation in writing? He kept -- he kept saying if you have more questions, call me so we can talk about it. I suggest that we stop texting about this.

And then the second thing is why did he tell Senator Ron Johnson that there might have been some kind of scenario in which the aid was being held up in order -- until Ukraine agreed to investigate the Bidens in 2016. That is a conversation that Ron Johnson said he had with Gordon Sondland.

The question today is going to be why on earth would he have said that if he, in fact, as the text message, the very lawyerly text message suggested he didn't actually believe that that's what was going on.

BERMAN: You have a future as a congressional investigator. Those were all great questions. Go ahead, David.

GREGORY: Well, I would say, you know, the other part of this quid pro quo question is not just what Abby identifies as the crucial question, which is was was there a linkage between the investigations and holding up this aid, but it's more than that. It's -- and the aid is important, because Ukraine faces an existential threat from Russia on its border. But it's also standing with the president, getting a meeting with the president.

This is a new President Zelensky who wants to be in the U.S. -- U.S.'s good graces to be built up as a leader in Ukraine. All of that is being held out.

And I think the other piece about Sondland that's important, remember, there are the professional diplomats, and then there are just the Trump people, and not all are created equal. Right?

We know that there are diplomats who become that because they gave a lot of money, and that's the case with Sondland. And he seems to be very much on the reservation, and those like Taylor and Volker were skeptical, at least, and that's getting at that split, I think, will be important for members of Congress. [07:10:08]

BERMAN: And then there's a third group who aren't diplomats at all, but they're just friends or political cronies of the president like Rudy Giuliani, going around the world doing work that has to do with other countries, and Sondland, Abby, is a nexus there, as well, since he appears to have been communicating at some level with Rudy Giuliani.

PHILLIP: Yes. This is the great mystery of this whole scenario. Everyone involved in the text messages, based on that dialogue that we saw written out, seemed to think that Rudy Giuliani was critical to this relationship with Ukraine.

Why would they believe that? I think getting at concrete answers for what was their mandate to communicate with Giuliani? Who told them that Giuliani needed to be brought into the loop? And what did they believe Giuliani wanted?

I mean, they -- investigators on Capitol Hill, lawmakers have to get at these questions. Because even though we -- I think we know what the answers are, it's important for them to be laid out explicitly. And if Sondland can't answer them, because if he does, perhaps he feels like it might incriminate people. That will be telling, too.

But it's crucial, because there's almost a given that, oh yes, Giuliani said that this needs to be in that written statement, that -- that the Ukrainians put out.

Giuliani doesn't work for the federal government. Why would that be the case? And answering that is critically important.

CAMEROTA: This is a closed-door hearing. But that doesn't mean we won't hear about it, since it -- they have certainly been talking about what they've discovered and unearthed in these hearings. David, Abby, thank you both very much.

So there's a new report just out. It says President Trump has discussed giving all White House staffers a lie detector test. Why would he do that? We discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:15]

CAMEROTA: Four former White House officials tell "Politico" that President Trump has discussed giving a lie detector test to every White House staffer. "Politico" details President Trump's private obsession with polygraphing his team and how he's becoming increasingly paranoid over the leaks following the Ukraine fallout.

Let's bring in the reporter who wrote this story, "Politico's" White House reporter Daniel Lippman.

Daniel, thanks so much for being here.

DANIEL LIPPMAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Let me read a little portion of your reporting. You say, "Trump has talked about ordering polygraphs constantly when anything major has leaked, according to a former White House official. 'He talked about about it a lot,' said the former official. After reading and watching reports about his presidency, 'He'd be angry and ask, Why can't we stop these things?'"

So tell us more about this. Is this all because of Ukraine, or has this been going on a while?

LIPPMAN: What my reporting shows is that, you know, this is a constant through his presidency. He talks about this every few weeks. He gets very frustrated at the leaks.

And so this started early on in the White House and was even discussed in the Trump campaign, which would have been quite something to polygraph campaign staffers. That's not something that really helps morale for any Trump staffers.

And so I think this really gets to how the president, he hates these leaks. They make his administration and the White House look bad, and so that's kind of why he's been bringing this up.

CAMEROTA: Have you been able to determine, or has the president been curious about why are there so many leaks?

LIPPMAN: Well, there's a lot of leaks, because he's not very loyal to his staffers, and so they're not going to be very loyal back.

And plus, I think there's a lot of White House officials who actually want the world and the country and their fellow citizens to know what's going on in the White House, because it's important matters of public interest.

And so the -- you know, Trump himself he doesn't seem to think so. He's constantly calling us fake news and corrupt. And so people are still talking to the media, which is good. But this has definitely kind of colored some of his interactions with, especially, his chief of staff over the years, because he would always be bringing it up; and they would say, this is not a good idea. These things don't even work oftentimes.

CAMEROTA: And so is it the feeling of his staffers that you spoke to or the former officials, I guess, that he's becoming more paranoid since becoming president or he's always been a paranoid person?

LIPPMAN: I think when you're in the most powerful job in the world and you see the media kind of turn on you with all of these negative critical stories that are true, you become more paranoid, because this is -- you know, you're at the center of it, and you can't stop it. And it's describing how you are bad at your job in the eyes of many of your own officials.

And so I talked to one former White House official, and they said that he would especially get angry and want to order the polygraphs when he knew the news stories were accurate and that these officials were real sources instead of, you know, made up sources, in his mind.

CAMEROTA: Well, the White House put out a statement to "Politico," and it basically says that they don't know what you're talking about or they haven't heard anything like this. This is Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, says, "I think the president and anyone in his administration have the right to be frustrated and even angry about leaks. Leaking information, which is oftentimes classified, only hurts this country. I have been with the president since July 2015 and can say unequivocally that I have never heard suggesting polygraphs as a way to stop leaks."

Your response?

LIPPMAN: Well, my sources are pretty good. They have direct knowledge of this. It's not hearsay. And maybe, you know, her relationship isn't one with Trump where he's telling her what he wants in terms of this department.

[07:20:03]

But there's even been White House staffers who have volunteered to take polygraphs after they were accused of leaking, and the president himself, he mused about this publicly after that "New York Times" anonymous op-ed, you know, saying, well, maybe you know, we should do something like that.

Rand Paul had told the White House we should, you know, do polygraphs on all of the White House staffers after the Australia/Mexico call transcripts leaked a couple of years ago.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That's a very good point. He did muse publicly about it. So for Stephanie Grisham never to have heard it, that -- that is curious.

All right. Daniel Lippman, thank you very much --

LIPPMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- for sharing your reporting with us on NEW DAY this morning.

LIPPMAN: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: John.

BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news. The NBA commissioner is responding to the firestorm over free speech that began with a tweet. So where does he come now -- come down now in this debate? We'll tell you what he said. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:27]

BERMAN: President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria, abandoning Kurdish allies, has a not-so-surprising side effect. It benefits Vladimir Putin, and this isn't the first time that's happened.

John Avlon with "The Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, guys. Look, I'm old enough to remember when Republicans said things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've had a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Barack Obama has weakened America's place in the world, and it's emboldened our enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our policy is to alienate our allies and placate our enemies.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Our friends no longer think we have their back, and our enemies no longer fear us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As an ally of this country, you better watch your back. You better be wearing something that will stop a knife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: All right, that was then under President Obama. But this is now.

(SOUND EFFECT: CRICKETS)

AVLON: Yes, crickets because Republican senators not named Mitt Romney have been essentially silent on President Trump, coming up with all sorts of ornate excuses to avoid acknowledging the obvious.

Particularly, this president actually has been alienating our allies and embracing our enemies. Most recently, announcing the U.S. would withdraw our troops from Syria and cede the ground to Turkey, mortal enemy of our Kurdish allies, who have been fighting ISIS alongside us for years.

Trump's U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said from the sidelines, quote, "Leaving them to die is a big mistake." That's an understatement.

President Trump, for his part, tweeted, "If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off-limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey."

Yes, the self-styled very stable genius actually wrote that.

The real question is who benefits from this move? Well, certainly, Turkish strongman Erdogan but also Vladimir Putin. He's been shoring up his relationship with Turkey and betting big on Syria's Bashar al- Assad to help re-establish Russia as a Mideast power.

It's part of a long line of moves by President Trump that seem to help Russia achieve its ambitions. From constantly railing against international alliances like NATO and the E.U., to downplaying Russia's invasion of Crimea but still blaming Obama for it. To praising the autocratic Eastern European ally of Putin, Hungary's Viktor Orban. To reportedly telling British prime minister that Russia had nothing to do with the poisoning of a former spy on U.K.'s soil. To reportedly telling Russian officials that meddling in the U.S. election was no big deal, because the U.S. does it, too. To continuing to push people to investigate a totally discredited conspiracy theory that Russia didn't hack the DNC at all.

Quote, "Trump implements Russia's negative agenda by default," a Russian columnist told "The New York Times," "undermining the U.S.-led world order, U.S. alliances, U.S. credibility as a partner and an ally."

To be sure, there are members of the Trump administration who have tried to take a hard line against Russia, but they keep getting undercut by the president.

What's really stunning is how quickly Trump has undone decades of Republican warnings about Russia as a bad actor on the world stage, with 40 percent of Republicans now calling Russia a friend or ally as of 2018. That's almost double the number from 2014.

But none of that changes the facts. Russia's not a friend or an ally of the United States and, despite some Republicans trying to normalize Trump's actions, it's never been OK to invite foreign powers to interfere with our elections. Don't believe me? Ask this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: This is basic stuff. Foreign donors and, certainly, foreign governments cannot participate in the American political process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: Who was that guy?

AVLON: Looks a lot like Vice President Pence before he was in power.

BERMAN: Where'd he go?

AVLON: It's crazy. Who knows?

CAMEROTA: I want to slap my head, but it would hurt too much. Because I would have been slapping it throughout that entire "Reality Check." Thank you for reminding us how quickly they've forgotten.

AVLON: How quickly we forget.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, John.

AVLON: Thanks, guys. CAMEROTA: All right. Breaking news: a new national poll shows a major shift in support for an impeachment inquiry and even removing President Trump from office. So we get a reaction from a member of Congress, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:00]