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CNN NEWSROOM

Two Giuliani Associates Arrested For Campaign Finance Violations; House Democrats Prepare A Flurry Of New Subpoenas; Trump Warns Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) About Disloyal Republicans; Biden Calls For Trump Impeachment In New Ad. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. 10:00 A.M. Eastern, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in Washington. Jim Sciutto has the day off.

And we are following a major breaking development. Two foreign-born donors who gave money to a Trump fundraising committee have been arrested. The men were charged with violating campaign finance rules. This is after they donated money to a pro Trump fundraising committee that helped Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, helped his efforts to investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden.

Let's go straight to Evan Perez. He is with me here in Washington. Evan, what do we know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, this is just coming in. We just got the charges that were unsealed by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. But the two people that you're talking about are Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas. And these are two people who were associated with Rudy Giuliani. These are people who Giuliani has said were his clients in part.

And one of the things that they're charged with, I'll read you just a part of what the charges say, they say these two men conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal or state office. And so according to this, these men are charged with two others, by the way, with conspiracy, with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, as well as keeping false records.

Again, this is all just coming in right now. The two men were arrested yesterday at Dulles Airport and they're going to appear before a magistrate today in Alexandria before we presume they'll be moved to Manhattan, where they're going to face these charges. Again, these charges were just unsealed up in Manhattan. And so we're still going through the details of what the government is charging these two men with.

HARLOW: Okay. In terms of the connection to digging up potential dirt or attempts to on the president's Democratic rival, Joe Biden, what do we know about that from what just been unsealed?

PEREZ: Well, so far, that is not mentioned. We can't see that it is mentioned in these documents. But, look, we do know Giuliani has been very forward, they're very open about his efforts to try to get this information from Ukrainian sources and try to essentially, you know, put it into the mainstream here in the United States.

And these two guys, who are Florida-based, by the way, were very central to that effort, exactly what you're talking about. This is an effort that was based out of Ukraine and the effort here was to try to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and to try to make sure that this was something that would become part of the election campaign for 2020.

HARLOW: Evan, The Wall Street Journal has a little bit of reporting that I'd like your take on. The Wall Street Journal, specifically this morning, is reporting two things, that these two men had dinner with the president in May of 2018 and that later that month, they had breakfast in California with the president's son, Donald Trump Jr.

PEREZ: Yes. I think The Journal actually published photographs of some of these encounters. So it's very clear that these are very pro- Trump businessmen.

And, look, there's been a lot of speculation as to exactly where this money is coming from. The indictment here makes clear that this money was coming from other sources and was being essentially hidden under these other names here in the United States.

Now, again, as you said, you know, this is about foreign influence on U.S. elections. We are now talking about possibly foreign influence on the 2020 election. And you're not allowed to do that. And so that's one of the things that the prosecutors in Manhattan are targeting with this case.

And so we'll see where this leads, but, obviously, they're going to be important questions that are now going to be raised, Poppy, about Rudy Giuliani, what did he know about any of this. Obviously, he has identified that these are people who he's very close to, that he's worked with, that he represents. And so the bigger question is the president's attorney, he's the president's personal lawyer. And so where are the lines being crossed here between Rudy and his business interests and the president and his interests?

HARLOW: Evan, such important reporting. Thank you for jumping on that for us. We'll get back to you in a little bit.

Let's go to the White House, our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, joins me there. And we'll also to talk to Shan Wu, our Legal Analyst. Evan, stick around. We've also got Kirsten Powers here and Ryan Lizza.

Everyone is trying to read this reporting. Take your time. Put your heads down. I'll let you get through. I'll get to you in a minute, but let me get to you, Kaitlan Collins, because we are hearing from the PAC, from America First, with their response about this money. What are they saying? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So it's important to, again, focus on who these people are, what they've done. They've donated to Republican campaigns in the past, including, of course, President Trump's. They gave a donation through an LLC to a pro-Trump Super PAC, America First.

And in a statement that we've just gotten from a spokesperson for America First, they talk about getting this donation from this LLC.

[10:05:03]

This LLC is called global energy producers.

And a spokesperson says that when an FEC complaint was filed, they put this donation in a separate bank account. It says, quote, accordingly, America First action placed the contribution in a segregated bank account. It has not been used for any purpose and the funds will remain in the segregated account until these matters are resolved.

That came pretty quickly after the news of the arrest of these two men broke, this arrest which, as Evan just detailed, is still pretty unclear. But, of course, this is going to come under so much scrutiny because Giuliani has admitted that both of these people are his clients. These are people who had dinner with the president last year. They've met with Donald Trump Jr. in the past. So that is going to be the focus of so much scrutiny.

But, Poppy, one more thing I do want to point out is that John Dowd is the man -- the attorney representing these two men. Of course, John Dowd was the president's attorney until, I believe, spring of 2018. So that's another Trump connection to the White House through this arrest.

HARLOW: And I know that you're reaching out to John Dowd for a comment. Let us know if you get one. The Journal did not get any comment from him. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Shan Wu, I have two legal questions for you. The first is the PAC is saying this money hasn't been used, it's just sitting there. Legally, does it matter if the money was used or is the issue here is that it was given?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The issue is that it was given. The sources are important. And it sounds like from the indictment, one of the problems is that they've tried to cover up the actual source of the money. It's actually contributing it was going to be --

HARLOW: You mean because it's through an LLC?

WU: Right. It's okay to do it through the LLC, but if they're using that in an effort to --

HARLOW: In a way to shield, right? That's a key question.

WU: -- to shield, that's the problem. HARLOW: John Dowd, formerly in the White House, former attorney in the Trump administration representing these two men. What do you think of that?

WU: Enormous conflict of interest for Dowd, as well as for Giuliani. The tests for conflict of interest is could your clients, in this case, his clients, the president and these men, have some sort of adversarial conflict. They obviously could. These two people, potentially, could turn into cooperating witnesses against the president.

Giuliani, same problem, that they are his clients. He also represents the president. They are conflicted out of these representations at this point. And also they could be forced to testify because there is the crime fraud exception. Even though there's an attorney/client privilege, you cannot help the clients for fraud.

HARLOW: Force to testify. And that will be in court in Virginia today.

Okay. Let's get the political analysis on this. Ryan Lizza, to you first, what's your read?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, these two gentlemen have been a source of intrigue for a while now. The House Intelligence Committee has wanted documents from them and wanted them to come in for depositions and John Dowd informed the committee, you know, that he was representing them and that it was going to take some time before he responded to those requests.

If you read any of the coverage of Ukraine, it has been a source of criticism for Giuliani for a while that he was associating with these two gentlemen. And, you know, it's a pretty -- if what's being reported is accurate, it is a -- it's election interference, right? Trying to -- having foreign donors contribute to an American Super Pac or campaign is not allowed.

So I think there's a lot more questions we need to get about what was the nature of their relationship with Giuliani, with President Trump, with President Trump's son. But the Trump family and Giuliani have been extremely public about their relationship with these two guys. Posts on Facebook, on social media, Giuliani used them as sources in the effort to find dirt on Joe Biden.

So they've been at the center of this since the beginning. But, obviously, this is the first time we've learned any criminal allegations.

HARLOW: Kirsten Powers, this is comes at a time where the president is now looking at an American public that according to a Fox News poll, more than 50 percent think that he should not only be impeached but removed from office.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think one of the things that often happens in these situations is you'll see like the president be able to distance himself because he didn't actually meet with the person. But according to the reporting, he did actually meet with them and he does have a relationship with them and the fact that there is a relationship with Don Jr. I think those are things that makes it very difficult for them to distance themselves from it, which is usually the first step when they have a crisis like this, is to sort of push it off on other people, and I don't think that they can do that.

And I think we've scratched the surface of the Ukraine story. We're starting to have more and more information, particularly about Giuliani's long relationship with people in that country and a lot of shady behavior that goes beyond what even is the point of the impeachment. And I think that we're going to find out more and more. And we'll find more and more about this story, but I think we're probably going to find out more and more about what's been going on that probably isn't going to be very good.

[10:10:07]

HARLOW: Okay. And, Evan, just back to you quickly, if people are just joining us on this breaking news, what is the big take away as we wait for a response from the White House?

PEREZ: Well, look, I think these guys were very big, important figures in the current investigation, the impeachment inquiry. We know that Congress was asking them to come forward as soon as this week to provide depositions. We don't know whether they were planning to show or not. The fact that they were at Dulles Airport suggests that they were not planning to be around for that.

So that's an important thing for us to keep in mind because this is information that these guys possess that could tell us more about what was going on behind the scenes between Giuliani and the president and the efforts to dig up this information that's been debunked, by the way, largely, you know, by Ukrainian authorities on Joe Biden.

And so that's an important part of the story, what do they know, the fact that they are now in custody, really, I think opens the door to the possibility that they are going to be able to tell a lot more about what was happening behind the scenes, exactly where this information was coming from.

There's a lot of suspicion, Poppy, by the way, that some of this information is essentially disinformation. We're back to 2016 and an effort to use disinformation for the 2020 election. And so keep that in mind as this story unfolds.

HARLOW: And as Shan said, they don't have the full legal protection of attorney/client privilege. They could be compelled to talk here.

Don't go anywhere, everyone. Obviously we have a lot to talk about. We'll be on top of this after the break.

Also, the president's strategy to fight the impeachment inquiry, next.

Plus, an enraged Joe Biden on the attack with a scathing new ad released today calling for impeachment of the president. A Joe Biden senior adviser will join right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

HARLOW: Welcome back.

A source tells CNN that the president has been calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell up to three times a day apparently warning him to keep his troops in line on impeachment. McConnell's office says that's not true.

A Democrat -- this is as Democrats plan a wave of new subpoenas. Some voices strongly suggesting they hold that formal vote on impeachment. You heard one Democratic Congressman, John Garamendi of California, yesterday say as much. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: If they held a vote in the full House and the vote were to authorize, would you cooperate?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, we would if they give us our rights. It depends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. Tonight, the president heads to Minneapolis. He will hold a campaign rally in a state his team thinks he can flip.

But look at this new polling out of Fox News this morning. 51 percent of Americans believe the president should not only be impeached but also removed from office.

CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is back with me on this. And if you add the other 4 percent that think he should be at least impeached, maybe not removed from office, you're at 55 percent of Americans right now and it's trending higher in every group that is critical for this president.

COLLINS: Yes. And the president is already complaining about that on Twitter this morning in a series of tweets that range from things about Joe Biden to this impeachment inquiry that the White House is now facing, something that has become essentially something that's really consumed a lot of people inside the west wing as they're trying to figure out what their strategy is going to be going forward.

And, of course, a lot of what that has to do when the president is upset about something is he starts calling people, aides and allies regularly. One of those right now is the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who, sources are telling CNN, the president is phoning up to three times a day talking about what exactly the mood is on Capitol Hill about this, how the Republicans are feeling. And, of course, that comes after we've long reported the president has been mistrustful of some of these establishment Republicans, the ones who aren't so willing to go on television and defend the president's every move.

So that's clearly become a source of concern for the president. And you heard him echo that as he's talking about how he feels. Democrats are so quick to get in line with what their leaders want to do, in his eyes, but he thinks Republicans have a struggle at doing that.

Now, we have reported a few weeks ago that the president was essentially seen as in denial about impeachment, and just how serious it was, Poppy, in what he was facing. That seems to have changed a little bit because the president has been convinced to hire someone who is outside counsel.

And, of course, they confirmed out last night that it's going to be former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, someone who is going to essentially be another voice for the president defending him, because people have been telling the president that Rudy Giuliani isn't being aggressive enough, isn't -- he's being aggressive enough, but they're saying he's not being aggressive in a way that they find is strategic and helpful to the president.

So there does seem to be a shift in the president's mood realizing that he is going to need help here.

HARLOW: Okay. Kaitlan, thank you very much for that.

Let's talk about what these numbers mean for the president. Our Political Analyst, Kirsten Powers, is back as well, as Ryan Lizza.

Okay, guys, switching gears here a little bit, we'll get to back breaking news in just a moment. But I think, Kirsten, these numbers a really important, because, dig into them more, and this is what you see when it comes to rural Americans, when it comes to white men without a college degree, up eight points in terms of approval of impeachment of the president, when you look at Evangelical Christians, up 5 percent.

[10:20:03]

So if you are in the White House and you're advising the president, and he is going to Minneapolis to hold a rally tonight, what are you telling him?

KIRSTEN: Well, I mean, you will obviously be concerned. I think they would probably focus on the Republican numbers where you still only have about 13 percent who are supporting --

HARLOW: But it is up.

KIRSTEN: It's up, but it's still only 13 percent, right? I mean, it's not -- and that's impeach and remove. And that track sort of with roughly around the number of people who disapprove of him typically and didn't really vote for him in the first place for a Republican.

So -- but it does matter that you have lot of independents who've moved against him, right? And so I think that they definitely would be looking at that.

Now, I think what the White House thinks or at least what Trump thinks, I don't know if people around him necessarily think it, is that if they create enough chaos and they can make it look like Democrats are just being partisan and on a witch hunt, that eventually people will get fatigued, right? That's the idea, is to create fatigue and then people kind of lose interest. I mean, we know voters kind of have -- we all have ADD right in this day and age and that over time, that those numbers, you know, turn back towards him.

But I think if you're looking at it today, the trajectory is not good, right? I mean, it's not just about the numbers, It's about the trajectory.

HARLOW: What do you think, Ryan?

LIZZA: Well, I mean the first thing that moved is, remember, Democrats were divided about this. So as soon as Democratic leadership rallied around impeachment, those numbers of Democratic voters shot up and --

HARLOW: I can't hear, Ryan.

LIZZA: Oh, you guys can't hear?

HARLOW: we're going to fix that. I can hear you, Ryan. We're going to fix Kirsten's audio.

LIZZA: Right, that was the first thing to move. Kirsten is right though, so the numbers among Republicans aren't that impressive. But anything in a polarized country right now, anything that commands a majority, anything that gets over 50 percent is impressive.

I think Democrats haven't quite focused as much as they probably should on the jury in this case. The jury are conservative Republicans in the Senate. Those are the people that they need to convince that what Trump did is important enough and a high crime that justifies his removal from office.

And I think, so far, that the way that they have gone about the Impeachment inquiry in the House has been pretty much the traditional -- what's been traditional oversight in the last few years, which is just completely partisan.

Now, there's a lot of reasons for that. But eventually, they're going to have to focus this debate on convincing their political opponents that this is something that needs to be done, right? That's -- you know, if you were thinking about this as a prosecutor in a trial, you wouldn't just be sitting there ignoring, you know, a third of the jurors. You'd be trying to figure out how to move them. And I think that's what Democrats will have to start focusing on as the -- and especially if the evidence becomes even more compelling.

HARLOW: And, Kirsten, if we could just take a step back here and just talk about the overarching theme, whether it's the breaking news that we just discussed, this indictment, this criminal complaint and this arrest against these two foreign-born donors to the campaign, the transcript of the Ukraine call between President Gentleman Zelensy and President Trump.

And Bloomberg is reporting this morning, and I'll lay it out for people who haven't read it, that in an Oval Office in 2017, the president then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to instruct the DOJ drop a criminal case against a client of Rudy Giuliani's, who will happen to be in Turkey who happen to be a Turkish-Iranian god trader.

Tillerson said no way, that's illegal. The White House isn't commenting. But if you look at these three incidents, the question becomes abuse of power.

POWERS: It's such an open and shut case in my mind, right? I think that it's astonishing that there's anybody that would defend this kind of behavior. And the only -- and, I guess, for Republicans, they're afraid of Donald Trump and they're afraid of the Trump supporters.

And I don't find that to be a super compelling argument when you're looking at corrupt behavior, right? I mean, it's just -- it's absolutely corrupt, there's just no question, there's no way to shade it in a way where it's not corrupt. It certainly rises to the level of impeachment, and yet I think you're not going to see -- there's been a lot of talk about will Republicans turn against Trump. And Republicans will turn against Trump and Republican voters turn against Trump, like that's how it will work.

HARLOW: All right. We have to leave it there. I would just say though, they're very vocal when it comes to Syria, right? And they're speaking out in force, even McConnell, when it comes to Syria.

All right, thank you both. I appreciate you jumping on that breaking news as well.

LIZZA: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you.

All right, for the first time, former Vice President Joe Biden is directly calling for President Trump to be impeached over the Ukrainian controversy. His senior adviser, Symone Sanders, will be with me next.

[10:25:03]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: The Biden campaign is releasing a new digital video this morning. It's responding to the president's attacks. Here is a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:30:03]

HARLOW: Notable, he says there at the end, impeach the president --