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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Turkey Launches Offensive in Syria; White House Refuses to Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let's send it to Washington.

"THE LEAD" starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Well, Democrats saying a White House stonewall is the concrete evidence.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Digging in. The White House showing it is ready to go to war with Democrats over impeaching President Trump, as we learn Democrats are planning the major next wave of the investigation.

And breaking today, the president's critics called it. Turkey attacks U.S. allies days after President Trump pulled troops back. And one of the biggest defenders of the president is livid.

Plus, punching back. Joe Biden for the first time saying, impeach President Trump, but does he have a plan with the woman with all the plans now neck and neck with him in the polls?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROWN: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start today with breaking news in our politics lead.

New CNN reporting right now that House Democrats are preparing a flurry of new subpoenas, as the Trump administration declares war on the impeachment inquiry. Sources telling CNN Democrats are now threatening subpoenas for associates for President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and debating subpoenas for current State Department officials.

Plus, we've got new reporting on a growing fracture in the Democratic Party over whether they should hold a formal vote on the impeachment inquiry.

I'm going to go straight to CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, let's start with the new impeachment push. Who all could be subpoenaed?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, expect three Rudy Giuliani associates to be hit with subpoenas very soon after they defied requests for information from these committees that are pushing forward on the impeachment probe.

They are almost certain to get hit with these subpoenas just in a matter of days, but also current State Department officials, people who have been asked to come in and testify, expected to be served with subpoenas because of this White House and State Department effort to resist the impeachment investigation at all costs.

Now, that also could include Marie Yovanovitch. She was, of course, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. She has already been scheduled for an interview on Friday. But we are told from multiple sources familiar with the matter that there is new concern that she may not appear on Friday amid this White House and State Department push to prevent these officials from testifying.

Because she is still a State Department employee, there's concern she may face backlash internally. So now there's growing discussion among Democrats to simply hit these people with subpoenas without formally inviting them for interviews first.

And also -- news also on the whistle-blower whose complaint has roiled the Trump presidency. There is an effort to try to bring in the whistle-blower to talk to this person behind closed doors and discussion about bringing this person in, not announcing this at all, and saying essentially that we will not learn about this testimony until after it happens, essentially doing the entire thing in secret, either in the Capitol or off-site.

All of this happening amid this growing push to wrap up this investigation, wrap up the decision to impeach this president as soon as Thanksgiving, Pam.

BROWN: And, Manu, a small, but influential group of Democrats are now saying that they think an impeachment vote would be a good thing. They're supporting that.

But Speaker Pelosi seems to still be resisting that.

RAJU: That's right, because she does not believe it's worthwhile. She believes, under current House rules, they are essentially doing the impeachment inquiry. Nothing requires them to actually have the vote, and that it could also put some of their members in a difficult spot.

But there are Democrats who believe, let's actually have the vote. John Garamendi today on CNN, who's an influential voice within the Democratic Caucus, said, have the vote amid the White House resistance to turning anything over, because they're essentially saying, let's call the White House's bluff.

The White House says this is not a valid inquiry. So they're saying, have the vote, and then the White House will have to stand on absolutely no grounds to turn over this information. And if they don't do it then, then Democrats argue it will only strengthen their case that the president's obstructing Congress, which they say, Pam, is an impeachable offense.

BROWN: All right, Manu Raju bringing us the very latest from Capitol Hill.

Now let's discuss all of this with our wonderful panel here today.

And I want to start with you, Mehdi, because as Manu sort of laid out there, it seems as though we're entering this new phase in the fight at the very least. The pressure is on. The White House is stonewalling. Democrats are trying to figure out their strategy here.

What do you think it should be? Should it be more subpoenas, pushing for a vote to formalize this? Both? What do you think?

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: So, I think the pushing for the vote -- I'm not normally a big fan of the way Nancy Pelosi handles things, but I think she's right on this.

The idea that you do it because the White House demands it is absurd. Manu mentioned some Democrats are saying call their bluff, call this White House's bluff.

[16:05:00]

That might work with a normal White House.

BROWN: Yes.

HASAN: This White House doesn't give a damn about bluffs. It doesn't give a damn about facts.

It will just move the goalposts, raise the bar. It's not a good-faith actor. So it's not as if they actually care about the vote, and the minute you have a vote, they will stop complying with subpoenas. They won't.

I think you deal with the subpoena issue now. There's a viral clip doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook of Lindsey Graham from 1998 going on about how the moment Richard Nixon didn't comply with a subpoena, that was the day he was impeached.

Well, play that clip. Play it everywhere. Play it to every Republican. Play it in every hearing, because Lindsey Graham is now obviously Trump's biggest defender. Then he was a campaign manager for Republicans on Bill Clinton's impeachment.

The hypocrisy is there. The bad faith is there. I think the Democrats just have to plow ahead and not do anything on the White House or the Republicans' terms. That's madness.

BROWN: And, Sara, you have covered the White House. You know it very well. I mean, so you're in a situation now where, if a vote is held, the

White House could still very well stonewall. They didn't make any commitments in that letter. Democrats have said, well, if they do that, then that will give us even more ammunition.

What do you think?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they already have a lot of ammunition.

I mean, they get to decide how the impeachment proceedings go. And I think that we have seen in the way that other challenges have been brought in court, the judges are essentially saying, we are ready. And we have been watching the arguments that this administration has made across the board when it comes to oversight issues, when it comes to impeachment issues. We are ready to counter these arguments, because they haven't been tested in court.

And so I think that if what the committees want to actually do is get this information and move forward as quickly as possible, that's the place to find it. It's not to hold a vote and then wait for the White House to move the goalposts again and then decide that you want to try to challenge this in court.

I think they have the ammunition to do that already. You have them openly defying subpoenas. What more do you need?

BROWN: Yes.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think what Democrats are losing focus of is what is at stake here.

Subpoenas are a tool in this fight against the White House. But what isn't being messaged, what I'm concerned about, what I think a lot of Republicans are concerned about, what is at stake here? This really has to do with our democracy, our elections, our allies, our enemies, our foreign policy, our national security.

We really should be thinking -- and I have the Kurds in the back of my mind now, as we all should, and this terrible moment that they're in -- what kind of foreign policy president is Donald Trump? Is he trading our democracy, our military aid, our American might in military for election assistance, for cheating?

I mean, we really have to talk about the big values here. It's not about subpoenas. And so I do think Nancy Pelosi, they need to talk about what this is about. Why are you doing this? Because if you're just talking about pushing paper, it doesn't matter.

(CROSSTALK)

MURRAY: ... the public on board, right? She has said from the very beginning it's all about getting the public on board.

And so a lot of this, of course, is messaging. And this is a White House that has a very expansive view of executive privilege, but executive privilege is not Trump public interest.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I would -- I'm going to reshape this for just 30 seconds.

I think this isn't good for America. I do think it is good for the president. It's not a new strategy. Remember, they had a bad story on Russian intervention in the election, including the president's son accepting or potentially accepting a bad story.

MURRAY: Soliciting.

MUDD: Soliciting.

What did that story become? This is a partisan fight. As soon as you have a vote in the Congress, the president is going to switch this into, see, not everybody voted. This is the Democrats vs. Republicans. It doesn't have to do with Ukraine.

This looks to me like back to the future. And the last time we did this, I think the president won.

HASAN: Right now, they're winning the messaging battle, the Democrats. Look at the polls this week, 50 percent of registered voters saying they support impeachment, not an inquiry, actually removing the president from office.

You have one in three Republicans in the Trump cult saying that they support an impeachment inquiry, which is an astonishing number. I never thought I'd see a number that high so quickly.

I actually think that the Democrats should actually go bigger. I have been saying this for a while. The impeachment can't just be about Ukraine. That's my personal view.

BROWN: Yes. And it's interesting, because the president seems to be grappling, just from my reporting, about how to handle this, what the strategy should be.

HASAN: He's very calm on Twitter.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: It's always chaos.

They know if they can make everyone hate Washington more and make this a partisan fight, they win. He was the candidate elected to come to Washington and blow it up with his Twitter account, right?

But now we're dealing with the consequences of that.

BROWN: Speaking of Twitter, President Trump -- no surprise to any of us here -- unleashing on Twitter today -- why he is now demanding an apology over the impeachment investigation. And then breaking moments ago, Turkey sends ground troops to Northern

Syria, just after President Trump's withdrawal. We're live on the ground there in Syria.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BROWN: And we're back with our politics lead.

President Trump today twisting the truth and doing everything he can to undermine the whistle-blower, as the White House refuses to cooperate with what it calls an illegitimate impeachment probe by Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now says that move could be used as evidence of obstruction, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After announcing he will totally defy the Democratic-led impeachment investigation, today, President Trump called for it to end, claiming it's tainted with political bias, and demanding the whistle-blower be exposed and questioned.

After the White House counsel wrote in a scathing eight-page letter Tuesday that Trump has a country to lead, the president fired off dozens of tweets today, seizing on a conservative media report that the whistle-blower has a professional tie to a 2020 candidate, which CNN has not been able to verify, despite the inspector general finding the complaint urgent and credible.

Democrats say they're calling the administration's bluff on stonewalling.

[16:15:04]

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): They will ignore those subpoenas at their peril. You don't get to say no to a congressional subpoena.

COLLINS: Though claiming it won't cooperate, the White House is gearing up for an impeachment fight any way, recruiting Trey Gowdy to help from the outside.

The former South Carolina congressman led the Benghazi probe and once held this view on stonewalling.

THEN-REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you're the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles. COLLINS: Sources say the White House wants another voice in the

impeachment battle, a job that has mostly been left to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani until now.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I went back to read two books about that Salem witch trials, they required witnesses to face the width and some witches were acquitted.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: The witches had it better in other words.

GIULIANI: They had more rights.

COLLINS: The fight coming as CNN has learned that as early as last May, Trump directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other top officials to deal with Giuliani on Ukraine and go around official channels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Pam, the president was just speaking with reporters during an event here at the White House, and during that time, he predicted that this fight with Democrats over impeachment could go to the Supreme Court and when one reporter in the room asked if the White House would be more willing to cooperate with Democrats in their request for documents and testimony if the House took that floor vote, this is something the White House would not go this far on yesterday, the president said they would if Democrats gave them the rights without going into full detail of what that would look like.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: All right. Kaitlan Collins from the White House there, thank you so much.

So let's try to figure out what is going on here at the White House. Because it seems as though they're trying to peace together a strategy sending out this blistering letter and hiring outside counsel, also though saying this isn't a formal impeachment inquiry. And it's interesting, if you look at the letter, it is very Trump-esque. This is from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, but do you think about trumping it up, if you will, that that sort of undermines perhaps some of the merits in the letter. What do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, their biggest offense is what they've been saying for so, so long is the Democrats are hysterical and want to -- and overturn the results of the 2016 election because they hate Trump, like this is what you hear everywhere. You can't get away from this talking point.

But I do think among the Trump's allies on the Hill and in the media, it's starting to feel like the boy who cried wolf. He's been saying it so much. But there's really something here, and you do see the more intellectually honest people who try to talk about this and say, listen, this is bad but it's not impeachable.

That's not a great conversation to have the Democrats because if you admit he did something bad and if you think it is bad, how do you trust this president to continue to conduct foreign policy amidst another election? I don't think they've gotten that far. But those are the natural questions that I don't think they know how to answer.

HASSAN: I agree with that. And even Tucker Carlson came out and wrote an op-ed -- even Tucker Carlson said this is not a good presentation. Donald Trump is described as a perfect conversation. Tucker disagrees with him.

And once do you that, you're in a different ball game and talking about what do we do about it? When you said the White House strategy, I think Jay Rhodes said there is no White House. The idea that there is a coordinated strategy, there's no evidence of that in any scandal that we've seen in the last three years.

Do you think the White House, quote/unquote, wanted Donald Trump to stand up and say China you should investigate Joe Biden too. I'm sure that wasn't part of the political strategy. He goes out and says mad stuff.

So, as long as he continues to do that, he'll continue to digging his hole. It's what the Democrats do with that hole, you know, subpoena, subpoena, but how are you going to enforce it? What contempt are you going to throw out there against officials who don't turn up?

And this one last point, the idea of Trey Gowdy, who's idea was that to hire Trey Gowdy as your outside counsel? We saw the clip in the package where he's done a U-turn --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: -- accusers (ph).

HASSAN: -- he's done a U-turn like Lindsey Graham. The idea that the guy who run the fake Benghazi inquiry when there was no story is the guy you will go to discredit what was a real story.

BROWN: And it seems like to me it's also a way to put Rudy on the sidelines more.

MURRAY: Perhaps.

BROWN: Perhaps.

(LAUGHTER)

MURRAY: Trey Gowdy is all over television, I'm very curious to see how interviews go because I imagine they will begin frequently with the clip of the Benghazi investigations.

I also think, look, lawmakers have not been in town which is hard to remember because some have been because they thought they were going to get witnesses, but for the most part, lawmakers have been at home and they are about to come back and Republicans, especially, will not be able to hide from Manu Raju and the rest of the press corps --

BROWN: Exactly. MURRAY: -- those on Capitol Hill chasing them down and saying you had your time back in your district, you had a couple of weeks to figure out what are you going to say, what are you going to say?

[16:20:00]

How are you going to just explain this away? And if you don't think it is impeachable, as you were saying, so what do you do about it?

If you think that this is just cringe worthy and tows the line of American democracy and isn't impeachable --

MUDD: I don't want to be the skunk but let me try --

MURRAY: Go for it.

MUDD: But I do think there is an --if not strategy, at least tactics consistent. I think Trey Gowdy makes perfect sense. We're not talking about Ukraine. The president pivoted the conversation to something that Republicans are comfortable with, should the president be impeached or not. No conversation the last half hour has been about Ukraine.

Trey Gowdy is not there to explain why it's appropriate to ask a foreign power to intervene in America. He's there to tell the people, as the president will say at rallies, I told you I was going to drain the swamp and the swamp is trying to reverse the election again. I think I'm not sure it's calculated but starting to clarify.

HASSAN: Yes, it might work at the rallies because lots of mad stuff he says works at the rallies. But as is said, the polls, we're barely two weeks in and the polls are really bad for the president. We know he polls over this the polls and that's going to make him even crazier.

BROWN: Exactly. That's going to make him crazy as he grapples how to move forward.

Thank you so much, guys.

We still have more news to get to. So, why does President Trump keep attacking the whistleblower? I'm going to talk to a whistleblower whisperer, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:12]

BROWN: Well, breaking news in our politics lead. The president continues to mislead and attack the whistleblower despite the fact that their complaint lines up with the White House's rough transcript of President Trump's call with the Ukrainian leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then it turns out that the whistle-blower was in cahoots with Schiff and then it turned out that the whistle-blower is a Democrat, strong Democrat and is working with one of my opponents as a Democrat that I might end up running against. The whole thing is a scam. It's a fix.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So we know the whistleblower did meet with the House aide, but that doesn't mean the whistleblower was in cahoots with Adam Schiff or anyone and CNN has not been able to verify if the whistleblower was working with the 2020 candidate.

But just moments ago, CNN also learning the whistleblower could secretly be deposed.

Joining me now is Tom Mueller, author of the brand-new book "Crisis of Conscious: Whistleblowing in the Age of Fraud."

What a perfect timing for your book to be released right now amid all of this going on, Tom. You know, we're learning through my colleague and Manu Raju and Zach Cohen's new reporting that now the whistleblower may be deposed to testify on Capitol Hill in secret so no one would know of it happening.

What value would that add, an in person testimony to the Hill committee and add beyond what is already out there from the whistle- blower complaint?

TOM MUELLER, AUTHOR, "CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE, WHISTLEBLOWING IN AN AGE OF FRAUD": Yes, it is an extremely important thing for the whistle- blower to fill out a lot of the details that essentially they laid out in a road map in their complaint. It is a nine-page bulletproof complaint that lays out who you need to talk with, which documents you need to subpoena, and now it is up to Congress to kick the tires and make sure these facts are correct.

BROWN: And you've spoken to over 200 whistleblowers. When you hear the president talk like we just heard and see the tweets from the president calling the whistleblower a spy, treasonous, a liar, do you think this will have an impact or deter other whistle-blowers from coming forward in the future?

MUELLER: Well, let me say, this is standard 101 whistleblower retaliation. When you're scared --

BROWN: So you think it is a violation of the law?

MUELLER: I certainly do. I mean, this person was guaranteed anonymity, that means anonymity. Trying to challenge that is a bigger problem, but it's also a way of shifting focus from the facts to the person, see if you can personalize this, to see what kind of person they are and it is a smokescreen basically to deflect from the truth.

And, yes, it's certainly going to scare certain people away but make another group of people, those 12 people referenced in the complaint perhaps even more determined to come forward. We've heard of one perhaps more that are willing to become whistleblowers themselves. This is the community of whistleblowers that is surfacing and that is bringing a body of evidence together.

And that's what we need to focus on. Not who they are or what they do on the weekends. This is facts. We need to focus on facts.

BROWN: So let me get to that because the president is trying to make the argument that who they are matters because there could be political bias. A source told CNN that the possible political bias listed in the I.G. report was that the whistle-blower is a registered Democrat.

So does that discredit the whistleblower's complaint at all particularly when you look at public perception of this?

MUELLER: Well, public perception is easily deflected. We have a situation in which we have public servants who may be Republican or Democrat. I still believe they are public servants who actually want to do their duty. That is my sense of what we have here.

So it is very, very easy to start calling names and saying -- but besides consulting Adam Schiff, consulting the House Intel Committee, that is a standard procedure to figure out what steps you need to take to follow the law in your disclosure. Many people have done that.

BROWN: And more of the onus was on Schiff for saying he hadn't had contact and to learn about it.

All right. Thank you so much, Tom. Really appreciate you sharing your insight in the show.

MUELLER: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Tom Mueller, author of the brand-new book, "Crisis of Conscience".

And breaking news: Turkey now sending ground troops into Syria just days after the U.S. withdraw.

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