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White House Refuses to Cooperate with Impeachment Inquiry; Turkey on Brink of Launching Offensive in Syria; Sen. Bernie Sanders to Scale Back Campaign after Heart Attack. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 06:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Escalating a standoff with House Democrats, President Trump is refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could it be that the Constitution gives Congress the right to impeach but, if you pursue impeachment, it's unconstitutional?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president is obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we need.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You think about what the Democrats are trying to do. Impeach the president of the United States 13 months prior to an election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president thinks by delaying this that he's going to prevent us from moving forward, he's sadly mistaken.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, October 9. It is 6 a.m. here in New York. And this is war. That is the message from the White House to Democrats who are leading the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

But the important thing is that this is not just war on Democrats. This morning, you will hear from impeachment experts and Republicans who used to work on Capitol Hill that this is war on the Constitution.

In a letter that one Republican lawyer describes as a Dumpster fire/legal war crime, the White House writes it is refusing to cooperate in any way, shape or form with the congressional investigation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded overnight, saying efforts by the Trump administration to hide the truth will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction of justice. Overnight, House Democrats subpoenaed a key witness in the case, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, after President Trump blocked his congressional testimony.

The White House letter suggests they will also block other key witnesses from testifying this week.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN also has brand-new reporting about that July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's president that led to this impeachment inquiry.

A source confirms that the whistle-blower wrote a memo saying that a White House aide who was on that call who listened into that phone call described -- described the conversation as, quote, "crazy and frightening," and said it apparently left him shaken.

CNN has also learned that months before that call, President Trump directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to circumvent official diplomatic channels and, instead, deal with Rudy Giuliani.

So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill. Another crazy day, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another crazy day, Alisyn. Good morning.

Well, the White House is obstructing the impeachment inquiry. And they say because they believe that this exercise is unconstitutional. So now the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and her caucus, they are facing a major challenge as how to move forward.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Trump continuing to stonewall House Democrats in their investigation efforts. The White House sending a scathing letter to Nancy Pelosi and House committees, refusing to cooperate, calling the impeachment inquiry "illegitimate" and "unconstitutional."

Pelosi sending her own strongly-worded warning, writing, "Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable."

PELOSI: The president is obstructing -- obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we need. He is -- it is an abuse of power for him to act in this way. And that is -- that is one of the reasons that we have an impeachment inquiry.

MALVEAUX: The war of words heating up after the White House blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, from appearing before three House committees on Tuesday. His attorney writing in a statement, "Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify."

House Democrats immediately issuing a subpoena to the ambassador.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction.

MALVEAUX: But a defiant President Trump claiming he wanted Sondland to testify, blaming the Democrats in a tweet, writing, "Unfortunately, he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republicans' rights have been taken away."

Trump's GOP allies nearly repeating those words verbatim as a defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): I think it was described today as a kangaroo court, and that's probably being nice.

MALVEAUX: House Democrats say it's crucial to press forward with their investigation.

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): The president doesn't make the rules for the House of Representatives. That's the whole point here.

Our objective is in necessity that we go through this carefully and develop the evidence before we reach conclusions.

MALVEAUX: This coming as more details about President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president emerge. As first reported in "The New York Times," in a memo written by the first whistle-blower, a White House official who listened in on the call described it as "crazy," "frightening," and "completely lacking in substance related to national security," adding the official was "visibly shaken by what had transpired."

Sources tell CNN as soon as President Trump hung up the phone, his administration began a mad dash to prevent fallout from the conversation. And White House lawyers later ordered the transcript of Trump's call be moved to a highly secure server.


MALVEAUX: And the White House is now gearing up for a long battle ahead. They are contacting outside lawyers to build up their impeachment legal team. And sources telling CNN that one of those individuals, former congressman from South Carolina Trey Gowdy, famous for leading the Benghazi investigation -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Suzanne. Thank you very much for all of that background reporting. We'll check back with you.

Up next, new details about the scramble in the White House to contain the fallout from the Ukraine call.



BERMAN: This morning the White House wants the discussion to be about the impeachment process, not the series of developments over the last 24 hours that raise questions about the administration's conduct.

Joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

John, where in the Constitution, can you point to me, that it says that the House has to vote on launching an impeachment inquiry?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That would be nowhere. But the arguments the White House are making are not rooted in the Constitution.

BERMAN: They're a-Constitution.

AVLON: Correct. They're essentially arguing that impeachment is unconstitutional, which I've got a little bad news for him. It's definitely not. The Founding Fathers, of course, put this in to hold the executive accountable.

The vision of sort of legal constraints on the president they have and are arguing are the president's not accountable. The president doesn't do it. If the president does it, it's not illegal. They seem to be echoing Nixon even there.

CAMEROTA: That's not exactly the wording they're saying. The wording they're saying is that the president, the way it's set up, is the president doesn't have access to this evidence. The president can't see what's going on behind closed doors. The president can't call his own witnesses. That's how --

AVLON: You're making almost more of a compelling case.

BERMAN: No, no, no, no, no. Go ahead.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The problem with the argument is they're -- they're trying to say we're not going to cooperate until we -- you know, until we see all of these things. And then we'll evaluate it.

They're not even saying that, if all of these procedural things are put in place like they have what they're calling due process, the ability to cross-examine witnesses, that they will even cooperate.

So it seems like an argument that -- that the impeachment process on its face is unconstitutional. Even though I do think there's -- you know, in defense of the Democrats here, there's an argument to be made that this is the fact-finding part of the process.


PHILLIP: And then there is an impeachment hearing. There is an actual hearing that happens in the Senate. And you know --

CAMEROTA: And then will the president get all of those things?

BERMAN: Absolutely, absolutely. It's an impeachment trial.

CAMEROTA: This is what has to be answered, because that's what they're saying.

BERMAN: Here's the thing. It doesn't have to be answered. Because it's a spurious charge to begin with, and it's a-constitutional.

CAMEROTA: Fine. But it's our job to shoot these down.

BERMAN: A House impeachment inquiry is a grand jury investigation. In a grand jury-like investigation, there is no lawyer, defense lawyer present in the room. There is no evidence presented by the defendant. This is an absurd argument the White House is making. So we will talk about it.

CAMEROTA: That's exactly what I wanted you to do.

BERMAN: And not talk -- and not talk --


BERMAN: -- about the series of developments over the last 24 hours.

CAMEROTA: Look, we can go with substance, for sure. We can go with substance. And I look forward to doing that. Or we can go with process, which is the process argument that they're making.

But I also think we need to shoot that down. Because --

AVLON: Correct.

CAMEROTA: -- how does that -- when you see this letter that they released from their lawyers -- I mean, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, they make all of these charges that the Democrats aren't doing. And so I think it's helpful to say those aren't supposed to be happening yet.

AVLON: Correct. I mean, look. It's also worth remembering, for example, the kangaroo court talking point we heard earlier.

BERMAN: Not based on Captain Kangaroo, by the way.

AVLON: Yes. Important clarification for those of you who aren't up on your legal history.

Look, the Nixon White House called the impeachment proceedings a kangaroo court and a witch hunt. I mean, the echoes are very clear. And this letter was a bit desperate coming from the White House counsel. And I think that's why, you know, we need to acknowledge it for what it is. They are fighting their own sort of ahistorical, a- constitutional argument here.

In the meantime, the process is going to go on. But to John's point, it's partly because they really don't like the facts that are emerging. And guess what? That's going to get worse.

PHILLIP: And some of the letter almost seemed to be taken directly from President Trump's mouth. It was sort of like a Jekyll and Hyde type of situation. Some of it was sort of written in a legalistic way. And others, it was like, the call was perfect. By the way, the call was perfect.

And you know, but there's no real defense of the substance of what is happening there. The reason there's an impeachment inquiry is because there is a complaint. There are facts that do not look proper. And the White House is not even bothering to address any of that.

The process argument, though, I'm not sure how this is really going to move public opinion if that's what they're -- they're trying to keep the lid on right now.

People don't really care much about process. They care about what looks right and what looks wrong. And right now, a lot of things look wrong.

CAMEROTA: You want to talk process?

AVLON: Speaking of --

BERMAN: I do. Over the last 24 hours, there's been a huge number of developments, including the CNN story, which goes into the concern in the White House at the time of the phone call. Right?

AVLON: Yes. This story, by the way -- I mean, Pamela Brown and Jason [SIC] Diamond, Kaitlan Collins deserve a lot of credit for this story. It is a deep dive into the atmosphere in the White House surrounding the call in real time.

First, the president wakes up. It's 9 a.m. John Bolton and he aren't on speaking terms. So what was intended to be sort of a Russian brushback pitch didn't quite turn out that way.

The president uniquely and almost strangely engaged, looking forward to this call. Aides trying to figure out why. The call goes down, and there's an immediate freak-out among White House staff.

And this is where part of the Republicans' argument sort of breaks down. Is the call is coming from inside the house, people. It's the White House staff that reacts with horror at what they apparently heard on this call, because it just crossed so many lines. And the president whistling Dixie on his way out.


CAMEROTA: Well, enter whistle-blower. Thank you for that thread.

AVLON: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: So -- and that's where the reporting says that the whistle- blower -- one of the whistle-blowers or I guess one of these, I guess officials, who reported it to the first whistle-blower felt it was crazy, unsettling, was visibly shaken by the call.

PHILLIP: Yes. And that was something that was told to the whistle- blower almost immediately after the call happened.

The next day, the whistle-blower wrote a memo describing what this official, who was actually on the call, felt about what had gone down in that call. This is so significant, because it really adds more meat to the bones about how horrified a lot of people inside the White House were about what happened.

They moved immediately to lock the call down, to move it to that code word server. And they did it in part because, A, they knew that the call was -- that something was -- things were said on the call that they did not want to talk about. And, B, they were concerned that they would have to preserve the records for the future because of potential litigation.

BERMAN: We're going to go to break here. I want to play you to break, though, all right, with Lindsey Graham. Not Lindsey Graham -- 2019 Lindsey Graham.

CAMEROTA: Old-school Lindsey Graham.

BERMAN: Old-school Lindsey Graham, who actually thought that Congress had the power to investigate the president. Listen to what Lindsey Graham said back then.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Article 3 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 that he was subject to impeachment, because he took the powers from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury.


CAMEROTA: There you have it. Open and shut. It's open and shut if you listen to Lindsey Graham.

BERMAN: All right. On top of all that, we have major developments in the Democratic race for president. Senator Bernie Sanders says he will scale back his campaign after suffering a heart attack. What does that mean for the race? Stay with us.



BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, Turkey is on the brink of launching a military offensive into northeast Syria. Turkish tanks are now positioned at Syria's border. Kurdish-led forces say the Turks have already begun shelling one of their locations on the border. And they're calling on the international community to help prevent a possible humanitarian disaster.

CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is live in northern Syria. CNN is the only American network in the country right now. Clarissa, tell us what you're seeing. CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you

can imagine, John, the situation is growing increasingly tense with expectations that a Turkish military invasion of northern Syria could begin any time now. We simply don't have specifics.

There have been reports of sporadic shelling, although the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the fighting force made up largely of Kurds, are saying that so far, no Turkish troops have entered Syrian territory.

But they've also put out a message, John, basically calling on everyone here to go and get themselves to the border as soon as possible to protest and to provide resistance to this potentially imminent incursion.

We don't know how many people are adhering to that call, but we do know that in the towns of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn -- those are the towns where this offensive is expected to begin -- people are already leaving their homes, trying to get to safer ground as everybody anxiously awaits what many fear could be a bloodbath, John.

BERMAN: Any sense of how large this operation will be, if and when it starts, Clarissa?

WARD: Well, it's -- it's a very ambitious project, John. The Turks say that they basically want to create a buffer zone along this entire border. That is more than 200 miles long. They want it to be 20 miles deep. This is going to be a massive undertaking. One can only presume it's going to take quite a bit of time.

But the question that everybody is asking is how much blood will be lost as a result of it? And what, if anything, will the U.S. do to defend its allies, the Kurds, who have been fighting and dying on the front lines in the battle against ISIS from this military incursion, if indeed, it does become a massacre -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Clarissa, thank you so much for being on the ground for us in Syria to let us know what is really happening there. We will check back with you.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is planning to scale back his campaign events after suffering a heart attack last week.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live in Burlington, Vermont.

So Ryan, is the senator taking a break from the campaign trail?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, right now he's taking a break. He is staying at his home here in Burlington as he recuperates from that heart attack that took place last week.

But this did come as a bit of a surprise yesterday, as Sanders returned home after a visit with his cardiologist. He told us that he's planning to change the nature of his campaign.

Listen to what he had to say.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were doing, you know, in some cases five or six meetings a day, you know, three or four rallies and town meetings. And meeting with groups of people. I don't think I'm going to do that.

But I certainly intend to be actively campaigning. I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit. Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.


NOBLES: Now, before he left for that cardiology appointment, Sanders told us that he was dumb, that he wasn't listening to the signs his body was sending him about a month before that heart attack took place.


Now, he's insistent that this doesn't change his resolve to become the next president of the United States. In fact, he would argue that this is going to put him more in line with his Democratic opponents, because he was doing far more events than many of the other people in the field.

But there are now certainly going to be questions about how this impacts Sanders going forward. Age was already an issue for Sanders, as it is for many of these candidates in the race. In fact, many of the top competitors, including Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, even Donald Trump, are going to be in their 70s on inauguration day.

But I asked Sanders specifically how he things voters will view the fact that he is in his 70s and now had a heart attack. He said that voters take everything into account and that he hopes that a look at the totality of his record and that he's a fighter, and he's going to fight through this particular problem as well. And he still has the resolve to become the next president of the United States -- John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Ryan -- Ryan, very quickly, he also suffered a family loss. His daughter-in-law died?

NOBLES: Yes, that's right. That was also a surprise that we learned about yesterday. This would be the wife of his son, Levi. She unexpected died after a very unexpected bout with cancer.

The news came very quickly. They found out about it Saturday. That's when he returned home here to Burlington. His daughter-in-law has three grandchildren -- or three children, I should say or grandchildren of Jane and Bernie Sanders.

It's not something that they're talking about very publicly. Levi's wife was a very private person. And they're asking that this information be kept within the family as they mourn this loss. But Alisyn, to your point, this is another thing that Sanders is

dealing with on top of his health issues and the fact that he's running for president.

CAMEROTA: How devastating. Ryan, OK, thank you very much for that update on Bernie Sanders.

Well, Ronan Farrow's long-awaited book is almost out. And in it, a former NBC News employee comes forward with very disturbing allegations. New allegations against former "Today Show" anchor Matt Lauer. Details next.