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White House Refuses to Cooperate With Impeach Inquiry; Democrats Don't Think White House Stonewalling Will Slow Down Probe; Donald Trump Rails Against "Total Scam" Impeachment Inquiry; Turkey Launches Military Offensive in Syria; U.S. Allies at Risk; Rudy Giuliani Won't Say if he Discussed Ukraine Meeting With Rick Perry. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 12:00   ET



LUCY KAFANOC, CNN CORRESPONDENT: --one of the most dangerous ones taken place last November PGNE was found to have caused that with faulty equipment and so these black cats are now part of an effort to prevent a similar disaster Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, could last for days it is quiet a reality for folks there in California. Lucy Kafanoc, we appreciate it thank you. Thanks all of you for joining us today. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Thank you Erica. Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Turkey launches its promised military assault against the Kurds in Northern Syria. Leading Republicans accuse President Trump of abandoning a key U.S. ally and they predict it will lead to ISIS resurgence.

Plus, House Democrats say the defiant White House refusal to cooperate will not slow their impeachment inquiry, one of Speaker Pelosi's fellow California Democrats however, splits with leadership and he thinks a full House should take a vote to endorse the impeachment inquiry so that in his view it has more standing.

And Rudy Giuliani of course central to the allegations the President abused his power trying to get Ukraine to help with personal political vendettas. So Giuliani has been studying history, just not impeachment history.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PRESONAL ATTORNEY: I went back to read two books about the Salem Witch Trials. They required witnesses to face the witch and some witches were acquitted.

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

GIULIANI: They had more rights.

INGRAHAM: They had it better.

GIULIANI: They had more rights.


KING: Interesting theory there. A lot of news to get to this hour but we begin with the White House slamming the door in the face of Democrats. The President's lawyers declaring in a brazen angry letter last night that they won't cooperate at all with the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. "From that letter, President Trump and his Administration reject your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the Democratic process. Your unprecedented actions" the letter says have left the President with no choice.

In order to fulfill his duties President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi firing back overnight, warning the White House in a statement that, "Continued efforts to hide the truth of the President's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction.

Mr. President, the Speaker went on to say, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable. One Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee telling CNN earlier today the White House letter is a stall tactic and he predicts it will not work.


REP. JIM HIMES, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE (D): The subject of an investigation doesn't get to say, hey, I don't want to cooperate here. Subpoenas will be received by all of the people that the Congress wants to talk to. They will ignore those subpoenas at their peril. You don't get to say no to a Congressional subpoena. I imagine we will eventually get to talk to these people.


KING: But also on CNN today, one of Speaker Pelosi's most loyal supporters the fellow Californian suggesting the Democratic leadership should now bend its strategy to deal with that White House letter. CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill for us. Manu, is there a real debate among the Democrats about what next?

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment there are Democrats who are pushing for an impeachment inquiry vote or at least are open to it although at the moment that is minority in the Democratic Caucus and the Democratic leadership. Nancy Pelosi has shown no interest in actually holding a vote for a variety of reasons, but one saying they simply don't need it, but also it leads to political problems for some vulnerable Democrats.

Also, it could take up some time and some Democrats simply view that as a distraction. Clearly this is a discussion point among some Democrats. John Garamendi, who made this point earlier today that it makes sense to call the White House's bluff.


REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, (D-CA): It's time for us to put a vote on the floor, a resolution for the inquiry structured in such a way it can move forward with the full power of Congress behind it. I think that's probably going to come in the next week or so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What tells you that?

GARAMENDI: Well, the letter from the White House. They want to fight? Okay. Let's arm ourselves completely and totally with the full power of Congress. The votes, I'm sure, are there.


RAJU: Now it's very unlikely that vote's going to happen within the next week, but what will happen within the next week is a debate within the Democratic Caucus about the exact best strategy to move forward on Friday. I'm told that the House Democratic Caucus will have the conference call Nancy Pelosi will be on that call. This is the topic will almost certainly come up next week.

There are several meetings that they typically have early in the week where they talk about strategy. Pelosi will hear from her caucus about exactly what they want. If there continues to be stonewalling, the question of the next step, some Democrats believe it just furthers their evidence of obstruction of Congress. Others say let's call their bluff. John.

KING: This is a remarkable stand after say the least. Manu, appreciate the live reporting from the Hill. With me in the studio to share their reporting and their insights Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post" Melanie Zanona with "POLITICO" Karoun Demirjian also with "The Washington Post" Margaret Talev with "AXIOS".

For those of you who wander the Hill, is Garamandi out by himself? It's just one man's opinion to put it that way and not a big view among the Democrats? The only reason I found it interesting was he is a member of the California delegation that is Pelosi's core base of support. So when he said it, I was like is he just talking or what?


MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: We are hearing more Democrats start to say this but so far Pelosi has given no indication that's a step she's willing to take. There was a federal court hearing yesterday related to the Mueller investigation where the federal judge says I give a huge amount of deference to the House when determining their impeachment rules and procedures.

So I don't know Pelosi is going to go down that route. They're really reluctant to be sort of bided into this process to be that the GOP is trying to drag them into. This could be really time consuming but if Pelosi does decide to do it, it will be because her Caucus wants that and not because the GOP is demanding it.

KING: And to your point about the Federal Judge Barrel Howly yesterday saying this is House purview. The courts have traditionally said this is the House purview when impeachment or questions like this have come before the court. It's rare, but the courts have said this is the House. Read the constitution, the constitution says the House has this power, which is why the White House letter is so striking because it's a political document.

It was signed by the White House Counsel who is an Attorney but it's a political speech on paper if you will. I just want to read a little bit more from it. Never before in our history has the House of Representatives under the control of either political party taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue.

Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen. Any time the House impeaches, and again it's very rare, yes, the effect would be to overturn the results of the election like when the Republicans were impeaching Bill Clinton, a Democratic President who was in his second term, but they were trying to overturn the results of the 1996 election, were they not?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: In fact if you end up successfully convicting a President after an impeachment that does end up happening yes. The eight page letter is basically a formal presentation of things that we've known for a very long time which is the White House does not like this probe. Wants the House Democrats to go away and start bugging the President.

And they just put this out there. It's not really a specific response to any particular move that the Democrats have taken in the last week though we've seen new subpoena fights crap up. What's noticeably missing from this is that as much as they're saying you really need to put a vote on the House floor, they're not saying what they would then do if that happens.

I mean, look, impeachment yes we talk about legal procedures and we talk about court fights but they are fundamentally at their base a politically act. The question that Nancy Pelosi has to weigh is if she meets the White House at their bluff call or whatever it is to hold that vote on the floor, what does she get?

Does she get White House compliance? Does she get people actually showing up and pulling up documents for those subpoenas that the individuals they wanted to pose? And does she get any easier argument to take to the campaign trail which is her other concern, right?

If they wrote an impeachment too early does she lose the message when she's trying to project that for keeping the majority in the House for Democrats and winning it in the Senate and challenging the President in 2020?

KING: And as you jump I just want to get this here because a lot of people have gone to their partisan corner. If you're a Democrat, you're for the impeachment inquiry. If you're a Republican, you're not. Whatever you think about it, whether you think it's a good idea, it is bad ideas, gone too far. There is this thing called the constitution. It's not just the Democrats saying that the House has this authority under the constitution.

The majority in the House can do this. This is Gregg Nunziata he is Marco Rubio's Republican and Former General Counsel. Wow, this letter is bananas, meaning the White House letter. A "Barley-Lawyered" temper tantrum a middle finger to Congress and it is oversight responsibilities. No member of Congress should accept it no matter his or her view on the behavior of Pelosi, Schiff or Trump. Things are bad, things will get worse.

MARGARET TALEV, POLITICS AND WHIT HOUSE EDITOR, AXIOS: I mean the letter sounds a lot like Trump like saying what he's thinking and then a lawyer being like, all right, I think I can put that into some legal language, let me give it a shot. It's basically like the lawyer version of Trump dictating a statement from the Press Secretary on the airplane that gets passed back to everyone.

If anything, to me this letter pulls Nancy Pelosi in the other direction, makes her double down. There's one reason and I think probably one reason alone why she would feel compelled to formally vote on an inquiry and that is if a court tells her in no uncertain terms. I would have ordered that this person need to testify, but because you've not voted, I won't.

If you had voted for a formal inquiry, I would require that the White House turn over the transcripts of every call we really want to see. Until that happens, what's the motivation? Does she have any reason more to believe after yesterday's letter that they're going to be forthcoming? They've just shown their whole hand, we're not going to do anything until a court makes us to do it.

KING: You may tonight the letter and then the President just reinforcing you're right. They took I'm going to read some presidential tweets the letter was slightly more tame than these but it's the same point. A total scam by do-nothing Democrats wriggle the country. The witch hunt, he missed about witch this morning. The witch hunt should end now.

The whistleblower's facts have been so incorrect. That's not true. The President keeps tweeting things are not true. The whistleblower's fact have actually been substantiated by everything we are to see. But the President continues to rant about this, which is his effort to keep Republicans in his corner. This is a loyalty test from the President.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And even before this letter came out would Democrats you - already seeing a lot of impatience from Democrats. We had reported that they're not going to wait for the courts to weigh in the on the validity of the subpoena or their investigatory powers they were now package all the define actions together into one article obstruction of Congress.


KIM: And that's why Margaret is totally right. This only emboldens the Democratic position despite the few outlier voices for now just to really go out what they're doing and I think there is most of the support in the Caucus for that. KING: I just want to bring one more thing and the White House now brought Former Congressman Trey Gowdy loosely in to its lawyers. I don't think he is officially working to the White Office he is going to help out. I view him more as he knows the House. He's is not a loyal lawyer, he is there to whip to count among House Republicans to work it.

But I just want to - we like to track consistency or inconsistency here. This is Trey Gowdy. When the House was in the majority, he wanted documents from the Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration was resisting that, Trey Gowdy taking a bold stand for the House.


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.


KING: I agree.

DEMIRJIAN: There's so many great clips. We've seen Lindsey Graham clips. And look especially in the bench right this defending Trump, Pompeo as Secretary of State, Gowdy on the legal team. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordon on one of the Committees if he involved with inquiry, it's the Benghazi team back together again just on the other side of the fence. They of course argue that there are nuances that make this very different than what the other case was.

KING: Yes, there is a Republican. There's the nuance.


DEMIRJIAN: The one thing though this that Gowdy does know the House and he knows how to craft a legal argument that's compelling. He's not a slouch when it comes to what he does. He's a formidable guy to put on that team.

KING: And he has access to them because of his member privileges. So, if there is any sense of wavering or cracks or anything he can get - he's there as a scout more than anything else. We'll continue the conversation a bit later. Up next though some serious foreign policy issues. Turkey scrambles fighter jets, start an all-out assault in Northern Syria.



KING: Turkey today began a military offensive in Northern Syria, provoking worries of a massacre in the region and also stirring rare Republican condemnation of President Trump. The President's decision to order U.S. troops out of Northern Syria cleared the way for this Turkish military operation. It is against Kurdish forces, who have been a critical U.S. ally.

The U.S. official confirming to CNN today that Turkey bombed two cities in Northern Syria. You can see here Turkish fighter jets roaring through the skies. Syrian Democratic forces in the region say there have already been civilian casualties. They are now pleading with the United States and other allies to impose a no-fly zone.

CNN's Arwa Damon, join us live from Istanbul. Arwa, hard to get information from this region anyway especially early in such an operation but what are we hearing?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned there the operation has begun. It was announced over Twitter by the Turkish President. Our Clarissa Ward on the ground inside Northern Syria she was reporting on streams of civilians evacuating one of those areas that was being targeted we're already hearing about civilian casualties.

Turkey has an objective that it believes it needs to fulfill because Turkey believes from Turkey's perspective the Syrian Kurdish Fighting Force the YPG, those key U.S. allies, pose an existential threat to Turkey. Turkey considers them to be a terrorist group. They are effectively the sister organization of the PKK that Turkey has been battling for decades now.

Turkey has these very lofty ambitions, though and it's unclear exactly how John it's going to carry them out to push in about 18 miles along hundreds of miles of stretch of Syrian/Turkish border, taking over multiple towns some major cities. And then the plan for once this has actually happened, Turkey says it's going to create a safe zone that Syrian refugees - Europe Syrian refugees mind you living in Turkey can be moved back into.

That would effectively be creating a significant change in the demographic there, not to mention another more pressing concern John. And that is that those Syrian Kurds, that Syrian Kurdish Fighting Force, they have been guarding ISIS fighters in prisons, so both foreign fighters as well as Syrians and Iraqis.

They have been guarding refugee camps like Al-Hawl that has home to 70,000 people who are among the last to leave the ISIS caliphate, that last stronghold they were holding. In these camps, John, I was just there, the ISIS ideology is very much alive. This is the same fighting force mind you that is on the front lines of the still ongoing battle against ISIS that just announced it suspended its operations against ISIS to move its fighters to position them to fight the incoming Turkish forces. So John, it is just an extraordinarily messy and dangerous situation.


KING: It is a mess. Arwa Damon, appreciate your reporting. We'll stay in touch over the next few days. We'll watch how this all plays out. Let's bringing into the room - watch this in - hour makes a key point. These Kurdish Syrian forces 72 hours ago were a key U.S. ally. 72 hours ago were alongside U.S. forces in this fight. The President of the United States decided to pull the U.S. troops out and essentially give a green light he keeps warning Turkey don't go too far, don't do too much but by pulling out those U.S. troops he has cleared the battlefield for Turkey to go in. This is one of the areas where you do see rare but very vocal and damning Republican rebukes of the President.

This is Lindsey Graham a bit earlier today. If media reports are accurate and Turkey has entered Northern Syria, a disaster is in the making. Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS.

So two key points there that he's making. That you're turning your back on people who fought and lost their lives for you in the fight there and number two, as Arwa made the point, if the Kurds abandon those ISIS prisons because the Turks are coming, what do you do?

DEMIRJIAN: This is the one area where the GOP is really willing to break with Trump because there's such a fundamental pragmatic ideological split here what is actually - on the world stage. You cannot fight all these battles against various terrorist groups by yourself. You have to make contracts with people that are local that do it well.

The Kurds were a huge ally for this entire regional configuration fight we've been involved in. If you want to be able to secure those allies or maintain your current allies in the future to help you out, you have to actually hold up your end of the bargain, which is not to let them sitting there like sitting ducks to get slaughtered.

The second that it's may be not conducive to what you're current ambitions are. Also, we are talking about almost - I can't even count how many years right now but almost two decades right, of trying to counter various sorts of offshoots of terror groups that at once upon a time did pose an existential threat to the United States within our borders.

And the question if you just throw that up because you prioritize the people Turkey say are terrorists, over the people that we've kind of identified as the greater terrorists threat what was all of that for? The Republicans have been very consistent about challenging the President on that because they think it's not going--

KING: His view and he'll get a lot of support in the country. His view will be we've had American troops there forever. It's a mess and it's always going to be a mess, so why are our kids getting killed in a mess? That's the President's argument essentially. The other argument is of course - the ISIS - you're going to have to deal with this down the road. If you come out now you're going to deal it in a bigger way down the road.

Either in Syria or if ISIS or Al-Qaeda or whoever talking about Afghans regroups. But the President's view is I've been dealing with this for three years, Obama dealt with it for eight years, the President before him dealt with it for eight years, what's the point? ZANONA: I think it's a much more popular argument for him to make on the campaign trail. He ran on this. He can say I'm bringing our troops home. I don't know that he will suffer politically at least in the short-term. But this is some of the most blistering criticism we have seen from the GOP and obviously a very sensitive time for the President.

I think they're far more comfortable to your point criticizing him on foreign policy than his conduct. And I also think it's easier because almost the entire conference is united against him on this. They're sort of all holding their hands and jumping. It's harder for Trump to pick them off one by one.

KING: He has been very un-Trump on this in the sense that - on this one usually he chain saws. He says I respect the difference of opinion. We'll watch as it plays out. Up next, a new reporting about how the President wanted Rudy Giuliani to run the show in Ukraine?



KING: The combative White House political standoff with House Democrats comes as we do learn important new details of the events at the center of the Democrats' impeachment case. For example, CNN reporting last night that the President's Personal Attorney General Rudy Giuliani acted as de facto gatekeeper on Ukraine.

And that President Trump told his Energy Secretary Rick Perry that he and two top State Department officials would have to convince Rudy before they could broker a meeting with Ukraine's new President.

A source familiar with the May 23rd meeting between the President Perry and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Ukraine Envoy Kurt Volker described the key take away this way, "If they can satisfy Rudy, they can satisfy the President". Asked last night on Fox News if he ever talked to Perry following that May meeting, Giuliani gave a non- answer.


INGRAHAM: Did you debrief him after the trip or before the trip?

GIULIANI: Not going to tell you my internal conversations. I talked to a lot of people. Not necessarily Rick, though.


KING: CNN's Michael Warren joins our conversation. We talk about the politics of the standoff the White House says it doesn't want to cooperate. As we get more information about what the Democrats say is the building blocks and abuse of power, a corruption case against the President, it is striking how many roads lead to Giuliani?

How much the President essentially gave him the carte blanche to be the State Department or to oversee, or to be more important than the State Department in this issue?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Remember, this traces back to the whistleblower complaint. This was something central to the whistleblower complaint, that the people in the President's National Security Team were concerned about the big role that Giuliani was playing.

Look, I think, we should also not forget that Rudy Giuliani wanted to be Secretary of State at the beginning of this administration. He made that very clear. In fact, he told CNN that recently, I wanted to be Secretary of State. He now had that opportunity and it really alarmed a lot of people sort of in the career level as well as even some of these political folks.

But look, I think it's very interesting that--