Return to Transcripts main page


National Security Council Official Reportedly Contacted White House National Security Lawyers to Express Concerns about President Trump's Conversation with Ukrainian President; White House Refuses to Comply with House Impeachment Investigation; Attack Near Synagogue Takes Place in Germany; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Inquiry and His Presidential Run. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: For our U.S. viewers, the White House refuses to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Escalating a standoff with House Democrats, President Trump is refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we sound like we're pissed as we stand here, it's because we are.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, October 9th. It is 8:00 in the east.

And we begin with a war in the nation's capital. The White House has declared war on House Democrats and their impeachment inquiry into the president. But this is something more this morning. We are hearing from impeachment experts and even Republicans that used to work on Capitol Hill that this is a war on the Constitution. In a letter described by one Republican lawyer 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, claiming efforts by the Trump administration to hide the truth will be used as further evidence of obstruction of justice. Overnight, Congress subpoenaed a key witness in the case, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, after President Trump blocked his congressional testimony. The White House letter suggests that other key witnesses will also be blocked from testifying this week.

CAMEROTA: CNN also has new reporting about the July 25th call at the heart of the impeachment inquiry between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. A source confirms that the whistleblower wrote a memo saying that a White House aide who listened in on that call described the conversation as, quote, crazy and frightening. It apparently left him visibly shaken. CNN has also learned 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.

Joining us now, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. Great to have both of you. Kaitlan, let's start with your great reporting along with many of our CNN colleagues about what was going on in the White House and in the National Security Council behind the scenes right after that phone call. What have you learned?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is really fascinating, because a lot of what we've picked up on from the multiple sources we spoke with backs up really what's in this whistleblower's complaint. And basically, a scramble began the minute the president hung up the phone with the Ukrainian president during that July phone call, and that scramble included one National Security Council official reaching out to the White House's national security lawyers to express that there were concerns about what the president had said about Joe Biden on that call. Those are the same lawyers who later ordered that transcript of the call moved to that highly sensitive server, that server where transcripts are not typically stored.

Another thing that we learned happened is actually NSC officials started asking one another, should they call other senior officials and alert them about what had been said on the call? Mostly that included people at the Justice Department, senior officials of the Justice Department, because the president had invoked Bill Barr so many times. So essentially what you saw were officials running around trying to figure out, what is the best way to do this? What's the best way we can try to contain this was the view from some White House lawyers who thought they could keep it within the executive branch. And of course as the fact that we are in the middle of an impeachment inquiry right now shows that was not successful.

BERMAN: It makes one think that perhaps there were people in the White House who didn't find it to be a perfect phone call, which is how the president has portrayed it. And it might illustrate, Abby, why the White House and Republican allies would so much rather be talking about the process here, would so much rather be waging political arguments about how the Democrats are investigating this, rather than arguing the facts here, which had been laid out by reporting.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The facts are clearly not on the president's side. And he continues on Twitter this morning, even, to claim that the whistleblower report was inaccurate. We know whether it was accurate or not because we have the transcript of the call, and it is, in fact, closely -- it closely hues to what we know hand on the call. And based on the text messages that we have we know about the series of events that happened around it.

So the president is making one set of arguments that his call is perfect and that everything was going great, and then within the White House, we now know that people were concerned about this immediately, so much so that they began talking to people, to each other about it. So much so that the whistleblower heard from an official who was on the call and wrote a memo, a contemporaneous memo outlining what the concerns that he had heard.


And Republicans on Capitol Hill are in a bind now. They know that they can't really defend the substance, so they're working on the process. They're trying to delegitimize not only the whistleblower but the impeachment process. But this letter that the White House sent to Capitol Hill yesterday, it really just begs the question, do they think there is any circumstance under which a president can be impeached and they would actually participate in?

CAMEROTA: Or even investigated.

PHILLIP: It almost seems to argue that there is no circumstance under which that is a legitimate thing for Congress to do, which is why you're seeing some Republicans, like the guest you had on earlier, expressing concerns about that argument.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, what I think is so interesting about your reporting is that it's not just one whistleblower, as we know now. There's two whistleblowers, unnamed, and more. What you are suggesting is that there weren't just two people. There isn't just one disgruntled person, any way they've tried to spin it, there were a bunch of people who immediately heard alarm bells with this phone call.

COLLINS: And that's what was so interesting, because we've really tried to whittle down who exactly was on this phone call. You read in the whistleblower's complaint that they believed it was about a dozen people. Of course, that includes the president, the secretary of state, other top officials. But also you saw that maybe necessarily if the vice president wasn't on that call, his national security adviser was. If Mick Mulvaney wasn't on the call, his national security adviser was on the call listening in, too. So you really see just how widespread this call was. Even though typically these calls are really run of the mill. It wasn't necessarily something aides would always scramble to get on. But this was a call that even struck people as interesting because the president had such an interest in it beforehand. And we had one official who told us they thought that was odd, that they weren't expecting why the president believed that.

But other officials said, yes, they had heard the president talking about Joe Biden, talking about this theory they believe that Ukraine was behind interference in the 2016 election, not Russia. Those are things he had been openly talking about privately, because the president, obviously, as he makes clear, doesn't often hide his true thoughts. So there was a lot of build-up to the call in addition to that scrambling after the president had brought Joe Biden up.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

PHILLIP: Just to add to what Kaitlan is saying, one of the reasons -- we have a little more context about what was going on around the call because of the text messages. And it's clear that the president had a hugely negative view of Ukraine leading up to this call, and that aides at the State Department along with Giuliani were working to get the Ukrainians in what they thought was a good place on the issue of investigating Biden in 2016 before the president would be willing to engage with President Zelensky. So at this point President Trump seemed confident that Zelensky would be open to what he had to say about Biden and 2016, which might explain why he was so eager to get on the phone with him to congratulate him for winning an election he had won months ago.

BERMAN: If you don't want to take our word for it that the White House letter isn't based on law, if you don't want to take our word for it that the argument that the president isn't subject to any congressional oversight is spurious, I want you to listen to Trey Gowdy, former Republican congressman who CNN is reporting will be brought on as an outside impeachment counsel to the president here. This was Trey Gowdy in 2012 talking about how the executive must respond to congressional investigations.


TREY GOWDY, (R) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA REPRESENTATIVE: The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are 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.


BERMAN: Now, one wonders when he is officially named later today, we suspect, as a White House counsel if he will continue to hold those views.

CAMEROTA: They were very strong then. He felt very passionate and strong then.

BERMAN: Very strongly.

CAMEROTA: So we can assume he still will today.

BERMAN: Oh, yes.

I do want to ask, Abby, what you think Democrats will do now. That's a legitimate question. Now that the White House has said we're not helping, we're not complying in any way, how do Democrats handle it? What are their options?

PHILLIP: They're going to try subpoenas. Subpoenas are not going to work. The White House has not been willing to cooperate with even those either. I think that it's a legitimate question how long Pelosi can go without actually holding a vote. That's a strategy right now. They don't think they need to rush into it, that they can do the investigation before that. But at some point, there may be a point at which you do have to outline what is going on here for the American people. And you do have to kind of lay the cards on the table and see where the public support is. Pelosi has said this is her guiding star is where is the American public on this?

BERMAN: The American public, the numbers on the impeachment inquiry are going up across the board. Every poll we've seen that.

PHILLIP: But John, as you and I know, the true test of whether or not members of Congress think that their constituents are with them is whether or not they are willing to vote on it. And I think that is going to be the true test.


CAMEROTA: We just had Jim Himes on from the Intel Committee, and he said respect the process. Basically, don't rush to judgment. But again, some of the evidence is out in plain sight. And so if Nancy Pelosi believes that all of this that is happening right now, is obstruction of justice, that's an article of impeachment right there.

BERMAN: It was article three with Richard Nixon. Abby, Kaitlan, thank you so much for your reporting.

We are following breaking news we want to get to right away. This is out of Germany. Two people are dead after a shooting near a synagogue in central Germany. And of course, today is Yom Kippur, one of the high holy days. Let's get right to CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. Nic, what do you know?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: John, a day when you can expect more people to be around synagogues than an average day. The police say that they've got one suspect in custody, an eyewitness that we've spoken to who was driving down the street from his business, past a synagogue, and he said he was just a few meters from the synagogue, and saw a man dressed in camouflage clothing wearing what this witness describes as a steel helmet. He said the man was holding an automatic weapon. He said he didn't hear shots, but that he could see somebody lying in the street very close to this man in camouflage clothing. And then he said he saw the assailant throwing grenades over the wall

into the synagogue. Now this wall, we understand, is about two-and-a- half meters, about eight feet high. The synagogue has electronic gates securing the entrance to it. But this assailant throwing grenades into the synagogue. The police are saying two dead, a number of people injured. Not clear what the injuries are, how many people have been injured yet.

The eyewitness we spoke to who witnessed this on the street and a nearby eyewitness who saw developments from their storefront said that the attacker got in his vehicle and drove off immediately after the attack. The police had initially said that local residents should stay indoors because the attacker was on the loose. As far as we know at the moment, the police are saying they've caught one suspect. Eyewitnesses so far have told us only of one assailant. Not clear if this is all entirely contained at the moment, but, of course, the details here still developing.

BERMAN: All right, Nic. Please keep us posted on this. Again, it is Yom Kippur, one of the most important days for Jews around the world. Thank you so much for your reporting here.

The White House flat out refusing to comply with any part of the House impeachment investigation. We're going to get reaction from a presidential candidate, next.


CAMEROTA: 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. And Ryan, is the senator taking a full break from the campaign trail?


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is at this point, Alisyn. He is recuperating at his home in Burlington after suffering that heart attack about a week ago.

But Sanders was insistent he's not going anywhere. He's still very much running for president of the United States. It's just the way that he's running for president that's going to change a bit.

Listen to what he told us yesterday.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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: So, essentially what Sanders said is he is not going to do as many public events as he was doing up until this point. And we should point out he had a break-neck pace, far ahead of many of his opponents in this Democratic primary. Would often travel six days a week, three or four events a day.

Sanders is going to scale that back. But that doesn't mean that he is dropping out. In fact, Sanders said his voice is still going to be an important part of this process. He has a lot of money to get that voice out there through campaign ads and other respect.

But this is going to change a bit. And this is also important to point out because it now brings back into focus Sanders' age. He's 78 years old. On inauguration day, he'll be 79, much like many other people running for president, including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and, of course, Donald Trump.

And I asked Sanders specifically about his age. Will this be something that will be in the back of voters' minds, especially now that he has these health issues?

Sanders told me he thinks voters look at the totality of a candidate. This will just be one aspect they'll look at, but it will also show that he is a fighter. He's going to fight through this problem. And he's going to continue his run for president and this is not going to stop him from moving forward toward that goal -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Ryan Nobles for us in Burlington, Vermont -- Ryan, please stay on this and keep us updated.

This morning, though, the White House is refusing to comply with the House impeachment investigation at all, refusing to comply with congressional oversight, period. The Trump administration has already blocked one key witness from testifying and will likely block other witnesses from appearing on Capitol Hill this week.

Joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Michael Bennet. He's on the Senate Intelligence Committee which will have an interest in all of this as well.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us. The White House says --


BERMAN: -- it's not going to subject itself to congressional oversight at all. And it bases the argument on a constitutional criteria there.

My question to you is, what should Democrats do about it today?

BENNET: Well, we're going to keep pushing for it today. I don't think that their stonewalling will hold up. I think that the courts will do what they did in the Nixon case and make them turn over the documents. I mean, Donald Trump has believed from the day he walked into the White House that he's above the law. And nobody is above the law. So he's going to slow us down. He's going to delay us, but in the end, he won't stop us from doing the people's business here.

BERMAN: So you think that house Democrats should take this to court immediately?

BENNET: I think they should. I do.

BERMAN: And --

BENNET: We started -- go ahead, John.

BERMAN: Well, I was going to say -- so that does take time. And you have been cautious, to say the least, about the impeachment investigation from the beginning.

Are you concerned that the House is getting itself involved in something that the American people may not back?

BENNET: Look, I think it's very important that the American people back this at the end of the process. But we're at the very beginning of the process. And the president should be turning over documents and instead he's hiding under his desk in the White House.

And we have an obligation to get these documents to have an investigation of what the president did. He tried to solicit the help of a foreign leader to go after one of his political opponents in the White House. He did it on the front lawn of the White House. That doesn't make it better. It just makes it even more problematic for him.

I remember when the Watergate stuff was going on, and we were focused on that. That was a very dark time in American history, John, as you'll remember. We had the Vietnam War going on. Nixon was doing what Nixon was doing. And yet, through it all, the United States Congress, however improbably it was, rose above partisan politics, stood up for the rule of law and restored the American people's faith in our democracy and the separation of powers, in the Constitution that the Framers wrote for us and is being so irresponsibly disregarded by this president.

And it was a shining moment for American democracy. And I hope this will turn into that. I really do. It's long overdue.

This Trump era has done such violence to our Constitution and to our democracy. And I think we need to get to the bottom of the facts of this case.


BERMAN: One thing I want to point out as I was talking about public opinion. Public opinion now in three recent polls support for the impeachment inquiry is well over 50 percent, for the inquiry. So public opinion is behind the investigation as of now.

One thing I do want to ask you, you brought up Watergate, article III of the articles of impeachment in Watergate were based on obstruction of justice.

Do you feel that what the White House is doing now constitutes obstruction of justice and would you support that being an article of impeachment? BENNET: Well, I don't want to jump to a conclusion, but I think -- I

mean, about what should be in the articles of impeachment, but, clearly, they are obstructing justice by not turning over the documents, by arguing that the precedent that was so clearly set in the Watergate matter is not binding precedent on them. They are obstructing justice.

And the president needs to be held to account to the American people here, and I believe in the end he will. I know he thinks he won't because he thinks that this is just like every other scam that he's run in his life, but it is not like every other scam that he's run in his life. He is the president of the United States of America. And he has asked a foreign power to intervene on his behalf in an election.

BERMAN: I want to --

BENNET: We can't -- he forced -- he basically forced Nancy Pelosi's hand, and I think he was saying, I dare you to come get me. And she started the proceedings.

BERMAN: We just heard from senator Bernie Sanders who is in Burlington, Vermont. He had a heart attack last week and talked about scaling back his campaign a little bit doing fewer events.

You battled a health care last year before you got in the race. You beat prostate cancer, which we're happy to see.


BERMAN: But what should voters consider when it comes to the health of the candidates?

BENNET: Well, first of all, I wish Bernie all the best. And he -- I have no doubt, even having had a heart attack that he's going to continue to persevere because that's who Bernie Sanders is. I think that the voters are going to look at what he said which is the totality of every single one of the candidates are going to consider their positions on the issues. They're going to consider whether they think they've got the stamina to be able to go up against Donald Trump.

And I think that he's right about that. I agree with that.

BERMAN: Your campaign is still going on. You are still running for present you aren't part of the CNN debate next week in October.

What's the metric for you? I know you raised over $2 million the last quarter. How long do you plan on staying in or what's your path to success?

BENNET: Well, I'm trying to stay in as long as I can. I hope to stay in through New Hampshire and Iowa and to do well in both of those states. Those are my metrics for success, doing well in those early states. If history is any guide, the leading candidates today are not going to

be the people that do the best in those two contests. Voters in these early states are just beginning to make up their minds. So I had a decision to make which was whether to spend my resources trying to bribe my way on to the debate stage or to communicate with voters in the early states, and that's what I'm doing instead in Iowa and New Hampshire.

And I think we've got a message based on the work I've done from ten years from Colorado that I think will not just unify the Democratic Party but also attract back some of the 9 million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump. That's what we have to do in this election. And it's challenging, an environment where we have the investigations going to in D.C., but we're all going to have to figure out how to walk and chew gum at the same time.

BERMAN: Senator Michael Bennet, and I know you'll be part of that investigation so you will be walking and chewing gum at the same time. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BENNET: That's true. That's true. Thanks a lot, John, for having me.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, John. The Dallas judge is speaking out after facing backlash for hugging a convicted murderer.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you say to those critics who say you had no business hugging a convicted murderer in that courtroom?


CAMEROTA: Her answer and more from the Amber Guyger case, next.



CAMEROTA: The judge in the Amber Guyger murder trial is defending her actions in a CNN interview, after an ethics complaint was filed against her. Judge Tammy Kemp explaining why she allowed this extraordinary embrace between Guyger and the brother of Botham Jean, the man that she killed.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas with the judge's side of this emotional story.

What a great interview you got, Ed. Tell us everything.

LAVANDERA: Good morning, Alisyn.

It was really fascinating. You know, Judge Tammy Kemp told us she was inspired to become a judge in 2014 in part because of the Trayvon Martin case. Little did she know that five years later she'd find herself in the middle of another high-profile case where the themes of race and justice were so prominent.


LAVANDERA: This is just one day's worth of mail?

(voice-over): Hundreds of letters and emails sit on Judge Tammy Kemp's desk. Even a few bibles have come in the mail since the end of the Amber Guyger murder trial.

Judge Kemp sat down with CNN for an extensive interview about the breathtaking moments that unfolded in her courtroom.

BRANDT JEAN, BROTHER OF BOTHAM JEAN: I love you just like anyone else.

LAVANDERA: Judge Kemp says Botham Jean's little brother was the last person she expected to speak directly to Amber Guyger. His family said the young man had been quiet and they were worried about him. But he was actually preparing for this moment.