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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Associates of Rudy Giuliani Arrested; Rick Perry Subpoenaed for Documents in House Impeachment Inquiry; Rudy Giuliani's Associates Charged with Campaign Finance Violation. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: That will do it for me today. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

We will see you back here tomorrow.

In the meantime, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Well, that's one way to prove that you're an expert on corruption.

THE LEAD STARTS right now.

Breaking news today: two Trump-supporting Rudy Giuliani associates arrested. They were connected to the effort to dig up dirt in Ukraine over Joe Biden, but does their alleged crime here connect it all to the tangled web that could lead to impeachment?

So far, President Trump has been silent on his lawyer's associates being nabbed at the airport trying to skip the country. What might he say when he walks to Marine One this hour?

And Republican anger growing with the death toll. As President Trump allows Turkey to run over U.S. allies in Syria, a Republican congressman and Iraq War veteran with a passionate opinion on the subject will join me this hour.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin with the breaking news.

Two of Rudy Giuliani's so-called expert witnesses to find alleged corruption by Trump's opponents were arrested today by the U.S. Department of Justice for -- quote -- "corrupt behavior."

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, shown here in their mug shots, helped Giuliani dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, according to Mr. Giuliani, who has said that his Ukraine investigation is to help his client the president.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., last night holding one-way tickets out of the country, according to two U.S. officials, prompting prosecutors to today unseal this indictment that claims that they were funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, which is, of course, a crime.

In May 2018, they funneled $325,000 to America First Action. That's the main pro-Trump reelection super PAC. They did so in a way that the Justice Department says was intended -- quote -- "to evade the reporting requirements" in federal election law.

A White House visit for the now defendants soon followed. And just yesterday, the two men were seeing having lunch with Rudy Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel here in D.C., according to "The Wall Street Journal."

In another case, while raising thousands of dollars for a Republican congressman, they asked the congressman in 2018 to help get rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine -- quote -- "at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials."

That ambassador is Marie Yovanovitch, whom President Trump ultimately fired in May. Yovanovitch is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry and is scheduled to appear before Congress tomorrow.

"The Wall Street Journal" has previously reported that President Trump ordered the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch after complaints from allies, including Giuliani, who felt that she was obstructing their efforts to dig up dirt on Biden.

And as, CNN's Jessica Schneider reports for us now, prosecutors this afternoon said this investigation is not over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two associates of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in court this afternoon, indicted on charges they made political donations to a U.S. congressman, while pushing him to help get rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on behalf of at least one Ukrainian official who wanted her gone.

That's the same ambassador Trump removed from Ukraine this year, partially at the behest of Rudy Giuliani. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and are charged with conspiracy, false statements and funneling foreign money into U.S. elections.

GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6:00 p.m. last night at Dulles Airport as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets.

SCHNEIDER: The two men, along with two others also indicted, allegedly gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Trump-aligned super PAC. The indictment laying out that the contributors were made to advance their personal financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working. That foreign money coming in part from an unnamed Russian citizen,

whose involvement they hid because of his Russian roots and current political paranoia about it.

WILLIAM SWEENEY, ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: This investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.

SCHNEIDER: According to prosecutors, the men pushed a former U.S. congressman, who sources say is Texas Republican Pete Sessions, to help get former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired.

The indictment alleges Parnas and Fruman attempted to gain influence by committing to raise $20,000 or more for a then sitting U.S. congressman and that Parnas sought that congressman's assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, at least in part at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.

Yovanovitch was recalled by President Trump in May, in part because Rudy Giuliani accused her of hampering efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard very, very bad things about her for a long period of done. Not good.

SCHNEIDER: One key question is how these two men fit into the broader scope of the Ukraine impeachment inquiry. House Democrats today subpoenaed the men for documents.

Today's indictment adding intrigue to what is already known. Parnas and Fruman worked with Giuliani to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the same dirt Trump brought up in his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, the same phone call where Trump mentioned the ousted ambassador to Ukraine who the indictment alleges Parnas and Fruman were trying to get Trump to fire because a Ukrainian official asked them to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be interesting what they have to share and what Giuliani's involvement in all of this was.

SCHNEIDER: The president's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, saying in a statement to CNN: "Neither the candidate nor the campaign have anything to do with the scheme these guys were involved in."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And turns out prosecutors in New York had to act fast. We have learned that they did not intend to unseal this indictment today, but their hand was forced when those two men bought a one-way ticket to Frankfurt, Germany, en route to another location.

Of course, they were both arrested at Dulles Airport last night. And, Jake, in just the past few minutes, we have learned that they will both be held in Virginia on $1 million bond. But we have learned that they also plan to secure that bond by putting up their residence and their business. If and when they are released, they will be confined to their homes with a GPS monitor. They will be allowed to travel from their homes in Southern Florida to the Southern District of New York, where, of course, they are facing those criminal charges -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

And we have some breaking news for you now. We have just learned that the energy secretary, Rick Perry, has been subpoenaed by the House of Representatives for documents as part of this House impeachment inquiry.

And if I can just read exactly what they're calling for, it says: "Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the president's stark message to the Ukrainian president," the chairmen wrote. "These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian- state owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani's push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election."

That's a lot to chew over. But let's start with today's suit -- today's indictments.

Carrie, let me start with you.

These two men are accused of giving -- funneling all this foreign money, including $325,000 that they were trying to evade from detection in terms of -- I don't know if that's foreign money, but the $325,000 intended to evade election reporting requirements.

What's going on here? What are the feds doing?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So this is -- this looks like a pretty big investigation.

They included charges. And these were just one -- they did one count each. So I think Jessica's reporting that they had to act fast indicates to me that this was a really -- this is a live investigation. So the current charges are just one count of campaign finance, one count of conspiracy, one count of false statements, one count of falsifying records.

The fact that they just put those one counts on looks to me like there's probably a lot more beneath it, and this is just the beginning. So it looks to me like a complex investigation into foreign money coming into a variety of federal and state electoral candidates and processes.

TAPPER: And we know that these two individuals have been to the White House. We know that they have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a pro-Trump super PAC. And we know that they were pushing for President Trump or for the U.S. government to do something that President Trump ultimately did, which was to fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

And I understand Jay Sekulow's statement saying essentially this has nothing to do with a campaign, this has nothing to do with the White House, this has nothing to do with the president.

But these were the guys who were working alongside Rudy Giuliani, who were sending forth, essentially, this Ukrainian misinformation campaign, which was backed by Russian businessmen and funneling it into the White House. And, ultimately, that got the attention of President Trump. And he embraced that.

I mean, the ambassador that they wanted ousted from Ukraine was recalled from her position. She's back. She -- they're now trying to interview her in front of the House impeachment inquiry. They're trying -- or committees are trying to set that up.

So, essentially, these guys were able to get a lot of what they wanted by going through Rudy Giuliani and getting directly to the president. And it is kind of stunning that this has been carrying on and the levels that they reached with this sort of operation.

TAPPER: And what's your reaction to this all? I mean, it's obviously unsettling to have people breaking the law, election law, involved in this 2020 election.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It's very easy to look at this as a campaign finance story, but, actually, it's a Russia story. And that's a story that's been going on since well before 2016.

These are Soviet-born nationals who have figured out a way to infiltrate the U.S. campaign finance system. They were able to get a sitting congressman to vote against Russian sanctions and actively lobby to lift Russian sanctions.

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He's now, we know, the congressman number one that Congress wants to speak to as part of their inquiry.

TAPPER: Congressman Pete Sessions.

HAQ: Congressman Pete Sessions.

TAPPER: Republican of Texas. He was defeated, but he's running for -- he's trying to get his old seat back.

HAQ: And while he was in office, he was actively working on behalf of -- now we know, of Russian interests.

So this just underscores that it didn't end with the Mueller report. It didn't end in 2016. And this has been an ongoing challenge for the Trump administration, their relationship with Russia, Russian individuals, and I would underscore there is an ongoing counterintelligence investigation against the president that we still do not know about.

So there's a lot more to be coming down the pike.

TAPPER: And in addition to the counterintelligence investigation, there's a counterintelligence campaign. There's an intelligence campaign going on by Russia right now to change the narrative, so it's Ukraine that was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election, even though every U.S. intelligence agency has said the opposite.

And these conspiracy theories apparently are going from some of these folks to Rudy Giuliani to the Resolute Desk.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Yes, or in the opposite direction.

I mean, let's not make Trump too much of a passive victim here. Ooh, people are giving him things. Trump wanted the Russians to intervene in 2016. He may not have coordinated it and there was no crime perhaps. Trump wanted -- we know this from his own phone call -- as president of the United States, from the president of Ukraine, dirt on a possible -- on the most recent American vice president who was a possible opponent of his next year.

And I think Trump was perfectly happy to have his campaign get all kinds of help, both financial and otherwise, from foreign sources of various kinds. He said it publicly. He wants China to help, not just the president of Ukraine, and he welcomed Putin's help, and he thinks it's terrible that the U.S. intelligence agencies disbelieve Putin.

I mean, the degree to which Trump is at the center now of a -- as you say, a disinformation campaign, a campaign finance violation campaign, an improper leaning on foreign governments to provide dirt on Americans campaign, it's pretty remarkable.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.

And we're going to talk about this breaking news that Energy Secretary Rick Perry is just the latest official to be subpoenaed for documents in this impeachment inquiry.

We're going to talk about that next. Stay with us.

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with the breaking news. Energy Secretary Rick Perry was just subpoenaed by the House Impeachment Inquiry chairman for documents related to the Ukraine scandal.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, what are you are learning about the subpoena?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the subpoenas are demanding documents by October 18th to be turned over to these three committee in light of the conversations that Rick Perry had with the Ukrainian President Zelensky, as well as conversations that he had both with the president and Rudy Giuliani that led up to -- that surrounded those meetings.

Now there have been a number of reports about what Rick Perry was up to. And Rick Perry has said it was simply energy discussions that he was having with Zelensky and the Ukrainian government, nothing to do with Joe Biden. But the Democrats say this in their letter. They say these reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani's push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 elections.

Now Rick Perry has said in the past that he would cooperate with the House Democrats looking into this matter, but that was before that White House letter came out earlier this week, saying that essentially that they would not -- the administration would not comply whatsoever. So the question is, what will they do next?

A big question, though, Jake, is what did he know about what Rudy Giuliani did? CNN reported earlier this week that the president directed Giuliani to talk, to deal with -- directed Perry to talk to Giuliani about his conversations with Ukraine -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Let's chew over all of this. So the allegation, this is starting to get dense and confusing. But the allegation is that there are a bunch of Ukrainians in Ukraine, and President Trump and Rudy Giuliani and others are pushing them to investigate Joe Biden, to get dirt. And the allegation here, the suggestion that Democrats are making, as Rick Perry was suggesting, that an energy company be restructured so as to help some of the people that they're counting on to provide some of this dirt. Would that be a crime? Is that against the law?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have to think about whether or not that would be a crime. I mean, the question as to whether or not it's OK for U.S. government officials to be requesting foreign assistance, really, we can think about different statutory crimes, if it's campaign violations, or bribery, things in that realm, that seems a little extraneous for being able to be applied to Rick Perry. But that would be the general of statutory violations at play. But the bigger issue is the constitutional issues, which is whether or not it's abuse of the executive authority to be requesting foreign assistance to assist in that campaign and whether or not Rick Perry now was in some way involved.

If he knew that he was involved, maybe he was being used in some way or whether he actually was knowledgeable about what the bigger picture is. And I would just add this is really the dilemma that current executive branch officials are going to find themselves in.

[16:20:04]

As the subpoenas start getting broader and broader, an issue to more and more people like the State Department officials, they're going to have to decide if they're going to comply with the congressional demands for information in support of this impeachment inquiry, or whether they are going to go along with the White House to stonewall every single request and subpoena that comes out.

TAPPER: Yes.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: But that's just such an amazing statement because people are not grasping the magnitude of the White House stonewall in my opinion. There are always disputes about certain documents, certain conversations that might be privileged. The idea that the ambassador to the E.U. isn't supposed to testify about conversations and decisions he was clearly involved in, to Congress. The idea that they're going to stop cabinet secretaries. It's one thing to have a White House staffer who shouldn't talk about private conversations with the president. A cabinet secretary is not supposed to talk about representing the U.S. abroad?

I mean, one thing that would help clear up this very difficult complex tangle of things is to learn the facts. And I do think the Democrats just need to be very clear at the front. If they're not -- they're not going to litigate this forever in the courts, they're not going to dispute on the margins of these. If they can't get basic cooperation on things that unquestionably in the past have been within Congress' purview to investigate, they need to say that in itself is an impeachable offense. And that's a decision of the president. That's not Rick Perry's decision, that's not Mike Pompeo's decision as to whether people can testify. That's Trump himself saying no.

TAPPER: We could find quote after quote after quote from House Republicans during the Obama years talking about the need for Congress to conduct its oversight, whether it was then Congressman Mike Pompeo, now secretary of State, saying that this is what Congress does. And that's why Hillary Clinton testified for so many hours about the Benghazi tragedy. But --

KRISTOL: Who was the congressman running that investigation? Trey Gowdy.

TAPPER: Trey Gowdy.

KRISTOL: Yes. Now going to be the defense lawyer, right? I mean --

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SENIOR DIRECTOR: I mean, Democrats at some point have to be willing to use the same tactics and tools that Republicans used against Bill Clinton in the last impeachment hearing. You have to be willing to arrest people for breaking the law. It is not the -- not necessarily breaking the law, a criminal act of what Rick Perry may have done or what is -- whether or not it's criminal about what's happening with the Ukraine. That's a part of a congressional oversight, their statutory authority.

But if you deny a subpoena, you don't show up, that is denying, effectively, a court order. Susan McDougal, average citizen working, you know, close to the Clintons, was arrested and went to jail for 18 months for refusing to answer three questions. These are the people who are responsible for the public trust and have actually been appointed and approved by the people asking them to show up.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's true. But if you are a Democrat and you're out there and that's the argument you're making, you're losing. You can't just constantly be arguing about this subpoena and that subpoena, and in the weeds about Rick Perry, what Rick Perry did or didn't do. The point that this has moved from oversight to impeachment is because the president and his allies allegedly have taken the U.S. government and said, we are not using the U.S. government just for the interest of U.S. policy making anymore. We are using it for our own political interests, we are using it for our own financial interests, and we're using it for the financial interest of all those people around us.

That is why we've moved into impeachment territory. And not oversight territory. And if they are stuck in this sort of process by day in and day out, the American public is not going to understand the sort of magnitude of --

HAQ: And I agree with you on the process piece. But I think that's actually the White House's messaging is that there's no vote. We haven't done the formal part. They are the ones arguing that this is a process problem versus we know -- we know treason when we smell it.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAQ: And we know that what's happening right now is not in the public trust.

TAPPER: Well, Congress had an oversight responsibility during the Obama years and it does now during the Trump years as well. I think we all agree on that.

Now that two Rudy Giuliani associates have been indicted, will House Democrats be able to get the documents they want from them related to the Ukraine scandal? Stay with us.

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TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead" now, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced today the arrest of two associates of Rudy Giuliani who have been helping the president's lawyer in efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. But now, for alleged crimes unrelated to the dirt digging, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are behind bars. What might this all mean for the White House?

And joining me now is Preet Bharara. He was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York until President Trump ignominiously fired him.

Preet, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Sure.

TAPPER: These are the guys who are helping Rudy Giuliani, quote- unquote, "investigate" Joe Biden. How significant, do you think, today's arrests are?

BHARARA: Pretty significant. And the main reasons that any arrests are significant when the people involved may have information about other conduct that has been under inquiry for a while, the Ukraine business, is that when you get arrested especially by the federal government you have a motivation to cooperate, to flip. And we talked about that a lot in the months leading up to the Michael Cohen's plea, the former lawyer to the president, and depending on what information he has and depending on these four men, actually, the two of them are associates of Giuliani in connection with the Ukraine business. But they have good information and they want to do themselves a favor, who knows what other information they have with respect to Rudy Giuliani or anyone else.

There's no allegation that I read in the indictment that connects the business they were doing with Ukraine and Giuliani directly to what they're charged with, which is basically campaign finance violations using straw donors --

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