Return to Transcripts main page


Videos: Graham & Gowdy Railed against Clinton White House, Hillary Clinton for Withholding Documents from Congress; Trey Gowdy to Serve as Trump's Outside Legal Counsel; GOP Holds Fire on Trump but Unleashes on Syria; Biden for 1st Time Says Trump Should be Impeached; Sanders Announces He's Scaling Back Campaign Events Following Heart Attack. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Railing against the White House for invoking executive privilege for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents. Listen.


TREY GOWDY, (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: 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.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Article III of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon, as president, failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress. The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress and he became the judge and jury.


KEILAR: So you would have expected right now those quotes to come from Democrats but those, of course, are Republicans in years past. The president's wing man, Lindsey Graham, during the Clinton impeachment and Trey Gowdy, who, at the time, was railing against Hillary Clinton over Benghazi. Now he is joining team Trump to help advise on impeachment.

Michael Smerconish is a CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "Smerconish."

Michael, thank you for joining us.

As you look at this, Trey Gowdy moving onto this team, what does that mean to you? MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST,

"SMERCONISH": Consistency in short supply. I think that's the tip of the iceberg in terms of individuals who said things in the mid-'90s when it was Bill Clinton at issue that are now going to be at odds with where we are today in 2019 headed into 2020.

I think with regard to Trey Gowdy, the president wanted a fighter, first and foremost, and that he has experience in the sort of partisan wars is to the benefit at least in the president's eyes.

You mentioned Trey Gowdy. The first thing that comes to my mind is Hillary Clinton testifying for I think about 11 hours. Although, frankly, the longer she sat in that witness chair, the more I think it was to her benefit. This is not going to be pleasant. This is going to be partisan warfare.

KEILAR: Republicans, who are not condemning President Trump on this, they are though avoiding talking about the substance of it. Instead, they're steering the conversation back toward the troops getting pulled out of Syria. This is what they would rather engage on, even criticizing the president, than talking about this phone call with Ukraine's president.

What do you make of that, that they'll criticize him on this one front and not the other?

SMERCONISH: The contrast could not be more stunning in terms of the willingness to say things about Syria and what's going on relative to Turkey as we speak and then the stone-cold silence.

I think, frankly, they have their fingers to the wind on the impeachment situation, are really not sure exactly how far it progresses. It seems likely that the Senate is going to have to take this up, because impeachment by the House seems increasingly likely.

But I think they're waiting to see exactly what that polling data shows. You know, in the last 24 hours, we've seen new data that shows that a majority of Americans have an appetite for this and an increasing number of Republicans.

I'm sure that gives them pause before they can consider defending the president or weighing in against him.

KEILAR: Former Vice President Joe Biden is in New Hampshire. He's giving this sort of what his campaign is billing as this most-robust response to this Ukraine scandal that the president is embroiled in. Obviously, that Biden is attached to as well.


Is there any good way for him to address really this issue? Because the president is alleging -- and this is not founded -- that there was corruption on the part of him and his son when it came to his son sitting on this Ukrainian board?

SMERCONISH: The answer to your question is no. I don't see a clean way of handling it, because, if the former vice president says nothing, then ceding this whole conversation to the president and his supporters. No matter how fiery he might get, it causes another airing underlying allegations by the White House.

The person politically who seems to benefit politically from this is Elizabeth Warren because she's the ascendant one. You have to wonder, no matter how unfounded the charges might be, if it wears on that perception of electability that Joe Biden has going for him.

If I can take this back to your first question, you also have to wonder if Trey Gowdy, given the opportunity to put on the kind of a defense for Donald Trump, that he'd like would seek to, who knows, subpoena Hunter Biden? Is that what this turns into where the president wants to litigate those allegations? Because that's even more to the detriment of Joe Biden.

So I think he's in a very difficult position.

KEILAR: Yesterday, I spoke with his deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, and I was essentially asking her about this. Because when you look at President Trump, his children involved in business overseas, obviously -- there's a conflict of interest or at least the appearance of a conflict of interest with some of their dealings.

I asked her, you know, considering that there actually seems to be a bigger vulnerability there, is that something you're going to address. She did not even touch that, Michael. That clearly isn't something that they want to get into.

Instead, they steer the conversation toward, look at the news outlets doing fact-checks of this corruption of this quid pro quo of Joe Biden on behalf of Hunter Biden. It doesn't exist. Every news outlet has said it doesn't exist.

SMERCONISH: I think if you put 10 political operatives, individuals who have run serious campaigns, in a room and ask them exactly how Joe Biden should be responding in this circumstance, you'd get beyond five and many 10 different answers.

I'll say this. The upside of the kind of speech that apparently he's about to deliver --


KEILAR: He's delivering now.

SMERCONISH: OK. You see genuine vim and vigor from him because he's pissed. So I think that vitality is to his advantage.

KEILAR: We'll be watching to see if it is to his advantage.

Michael Smerconish, thank you

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: You can catch Michael's show on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

As we talk about Watergate and the law, CNN finds some fascinating similarities between what's happening now and what happened then.

Also, Senator Bernie Sanders says he is going to slow down after his heart attack last week. What this means for the future of his 2020 campaign.




JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry. He's also convicted himself. In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts.

You know --


BIDEN: To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.


BIDEN: That's not only because of what he's done. To answer whether he's committed acts sufficient to warrant impeachment is obvious.

We see it in Trump's own words. We see it in the texts from State Department officials that have been made public. We see it in his pulling much of the United States government into his corrupt schemes, individuals within the government, his appointees.

But we have to remember that impeachment isn't only about what the president's done. It's about the threat the president poses to the nation if allowed to remain in office.

One thing about this president is absolutely clear. And I don't think anyone can contradict this. He has seen no limits to his power regardless of what the Constitution says.


BIDEN: He believes the entire United States government can be corrupted into furthering his personal political needs.


He's even willing to hold Congress and congressionally appropriated aid to a foreign nation hostage to his personal political demands. He believes if he does something, it's legal, period.

And perhaps most importantly, he believes there's nothing we can do about it.

He believes he can and will get away with anything he does.

We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it. It's no joke. He's shooting holes in the Constitution and we cannot let him get away with it.




KEILAR: All right. Big moment there. Joe Biden in New Hampshire just moments ago for the first time saying that President Trump should be impeached, which is something that other 2020 candidates have said before.

I want to bring in Jackie Kucinich to talk about this.

So this is significant because he's saying it, but a lot of others have said it before. Why does it matter so much that the former vice president is now saying it?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: As you said, Biden has resisted this. It's been, you know, perhaps taking the side of Democrats who weren't really sure yet of what they wanted to do, perhaps some independents as well. But we've seen the polling shift and we've seen Joe Biden shift.

Now, this is, in part, about him. So he was walking a line that the other candidates don't have to necessarily walk.

But Biden also has the institutional memory of having gone through impeachment before as a member of the Senate. So he knows the gravity of this. He knows what an impeachment inquiry and what an impeachment trial puts the country through more so than most of the other candidates currently running.

KEILAR: I also wonder, in the considering of this, Jackie -- and we saw this with Hillary Clinton as well -- as a candidate who is at least looking at polls now more likely to be the nominee? I mean, he's definitely getting a challenge from Elizabeth Warren.


KEILAR: But as someone who has that pressure on them, I might actually be the nominee, I might actually be in the White House, so my promises, I really have to make sure I can deliver on them, what I say is key. Is that something that affects his consideration of what he says here? KUCINICH: I mean, I think we just have to take him at his word

because we haven't had a chance to figure out what his consideration was. I don't have any reporting on that right now.


KUCINICH: But we do know this also, it has the added aspect of drawing attention, again, to this scandal or to this narrative about his son, Hunter Biden, and himself, which is why President Trump apparently had that conversation with the Ukrainian president. So there's also a risk here by not even acknowledging it but by going this far because of it.

But he also interestingly made this about national security, which is what you're hearing a lot of Democrats do --


KEILAR: If I may --


KEILAR: -- he said, this is not just about what the president has done, it's about the threat to the nation if he remains in office.

KUCINICH: Exactly. That's a point you're hearing a lot of Democrats make that this isn't just about this and, for Biden, this isn't just about me. This is about the security of the nation. This is about how solid the nation is, and it's dire. That's the message that he's putting out there and that's what you're hearing from a lot of Democrats out there, too.

KEILAR: What's difficult for Biden, as you said, was that he's involved in this, Hunter Biden's involved in this. I have no doubt that if they had a do-over here, Hunter Biden would have never sat on that Burisma board and gotten paid to do so. It's caused such heartburn for former Vice President Joe Biden.

But at the same time, news outlets have said there wasn't corruption. There wasn't a quid pro quo of Joe Biden doing something for Hunter Biden.

KUCINICH: Right. When you drill into what actually happened here, the international community, the IMF, the E.U., they were all calling for this Ukrainian prosecutor to be removed because he wasn't investigating corruption. Joe Biden has said that as well.

But with Republicans muddying the water and putting out all sorts of narratives, you can forgive people for getting confused and getting drawn into this.

That said, even Peter Schweizer had an op-ed in the "New York Times" today that said Hunter Biden didn't do anything wrong, but maybe that should be wrong in the future perhaps. But right now, it was completely legal.

KEILAR: Yes. It's not wrong. That's key.

What is the appearance of it? That's something --


KUCINICH: The appearance is something else entirely. It's not illegal, but the appearance is something else entirely.

KEILAR: Jackie Kucinich, thank you so much.

KUCINICH: Thank you. And stand by.


Biden's opponent, Bernie Sanders, slowing down his campaign after a heart attack. What that means for his presidential run.


KEILAR: Just one week after suffering a heart attack, Senator Bernie Sanders says he'll be back on the campaign trail but with a scaled- back approach.


Jackie Kucinich back with us.

What is this going to mean for his trying to become president?

KUCINICH: In the near term, it means his punishing schedule is over and he'll have fewer events. But more broadly, voters will be talking about Bernie Sanders' health and whether he is up to the task. And it's hard to talk about. You want to talk about, judge someone, because of, you know, a heart attack or some health issue.

That said, he's not applying for a job that's low stress. He is -- he's running for a job that is -- you know, people go in looking young and come out the other end looking 30 years older --

KEILAR: Right.

KUCINICH: -- after four years. So it's something that should be examined when talking about who's going to be the president.

KEILAR: Jackie, thank you so much.

New details on the elaborate effort to get Ukraine to investigate the president's political rival, including what Trump ordered of a cabinet member and the State Department.