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George Conway Gives Interview Critical of President Trump and President's Inner Circle; Interview With Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) About House Impeachment Proceedings; Biden Campaign Criticizes "New York Times" for Op-ed About Hunter Biden and Ukraine. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- conservative attorney and a fierce Trump critic on Twitter. So listen to what he says about people who continue to serve and support President Trump.


GEORGE CONWAY: Instead of making all these political calculations, although I think the calculation they should be making is he's going to be gone at some point, and there's going to be a reckoning, and history isn't going to be kind to people who said nothing or stood up for Trump.


CAMEROTA: All right, and wait until you hear what he says when asked directly about people in the president's inner circle. So we have all of that coming up for you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A source tells CNN the president has been calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell up to three times a day demanding Republican loyalty and threatening to ramp up attacks on any member of the party who criticizes him. Right now support for the president appears to be fading, at least support for the president in the impeachment battle appears to be fading among voters. A new FOX News poll shows 51 percent now support impeachment and removing the president from office. That's up nine points from July before the whistleblower went public.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee which is spearheading the impeachment investigation. Congressman, I'm glad you're here because I want to get a sense of where things are going. First and foremost, tomorrow, scheduled to testify before your committee, or speak with your committee behind closed doors, is Marie Yovanovitch who was the ambassador to Ukraine. What do you know about her testimony tomorrow?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, (D-IL) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I went all the way to D.C. Monday to hear the testimony. The E.U. ambassador Tuesday morning was disappointed. Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm going there again today, and I hope to hear the ambassador's testimony tomorrow. Obviously, we'd like to know the circumstances of her departure. Why was she fired? And what did she know firsthand or from others about the early pressure campaigns brought by this administration on Ukraine? And did she learn of other issues and pressures after she left?

BERMAN: You are beginning to issue subpoenas. We are told there will be several, if not many more subpoenas to people connected to the White House and the administration. What will the committee do if these subpoenas are dismissed or ignored?

QUIGLEY: I think we're going to act with a deliberate urgency. And we're going to be prudent and smart. If we have to go to court on certain matters to enforce them, we will. I do want to say this at the on onset, though. The public record details more than enough evidence to file articles of impeachment. We have the Volker text messages. We have the whistleblower's complaint, and the transcript issued by the White House, and the president's own remarks and a three-year history of obstruction detailed by the special counsel's report. So we're going to go forward because the American public has a right to know exactly what's taking place.

BERMAN: Will you wait for courts to decide on the subpoenas? If you take them to court to enforce the subpoenas, will you wait on the courts to decide before holding a vote on impeachment?

QUIGLEY: Look, for me, it is a day-by-day experience. I think what we've witnessed last week, which was a surprise to many, the Volker texts, we're going to be surprised on almost a daily basis. We're going to be smart about this. We're going to follow the evidence wherever it takes us. Decisions on those other matters will depend on the larger circumstances. But right now, what matters is finding out what we can and moving forward so the American public finds out exactly what took place.

BERMAN: There is no constitutional requirement for the House to vote to launch an impeachment inquiry. The president's team in his letter is calling on the House to do so and also calling for some rights in the investigation. And yesterday, some people are looking at a statement he made as some kind of a promise or guarantee that if the House gives him what he wants, he might cooperate. Listen to what he said.


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

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we would if they give us our rights. It depends.


BERMAN: We would if they give us our rights, the president says. What's your level of trust that if you do hold a House vote to launch the impeachment inquiry that the White House would cooperate? QUIGLEY: The White House hasn't cooperated from day one. I was there

three years ago when this investigation began. I saw the letter this week when they said they aren't going to cooperate anymore, which is news to us. I guess they just made it official. I can't think of an instance in which they cooperated with the Russian investigation. To imagine that they would go forward and act in good faith would be extraordinarily naive. We have to act as if they're going to continue in this process and move forward accordingly.


It's not just that it's not in the Constitution that we hold such a vote. It's not any law. It's not in any House rule. This is distraction. This is deflection. This is the president trying to lean on process when the facts and the law work against him.

BERMAN: Democrat John Garamendi yesterday told CNN that he would be perfectly in favor of the full House voting on the inquiry. Would you support such a vote?

QUIGLEY: I came out in favor of impeachment inquiry some time ago. I have said that I thought the president abused his powers. But I won't let the president use this as deflection. Our committee and others have to go forward, regardless of whether or not the House takes a vote. It is simply the president using deflection and attempting to use political gain to pressure, in his mind, some Democrats on how it will affect their election --

BERMAN: Let me ask you about a bit of news that was reported overnight. This came out of "Bloomberg." It has to do with the president allegedly pressuring the former secretary of state to stop an investigation that Rudy Giuliani was connected to. It comes from "Bloomberg." Let me read this to you. President Donald Trump pressed then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani. That's according to three people familiar with a 2017 meeting in the Oval Office. To what extent will this be part of your investigation?

QUIGLEY: I think you have to look at this as part of a pattern of behavior. The president has said publicly he believes the DOJ should do whatever he says. This is an autocratic notion that he can tell them who to prosecute and who not to prosecute, and that he is above the law. All these elements and all these behaviors should be part of the overall congressional oversight of the president of the United States abusing his powers, arguing that he is above the law. Any one particular case shouldn't outshine the other.

BERMAN: Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you for being with us this morning. Please keep us posted as you travel to Washington and let us know if this hearing tomorrow is, in fact, happening. Appreciate it.

QUIGLEY: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Alisyn? CAMEROTA: OK, John, former vice president Joe Biden's campaign is

blasting "The New York Times," accusing the paper of a smear campaign with its coverage of Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and the connection to Ukraine. CNN's senior media reporter Oliver Darcy joins me now. Oliver, great to have you here. Let me read a portion of what the Biden campaign sent "The New York Times." Here's a letter they sent yesterday. "What was especially troubling about the Times's active participation is this smear campaign is that prior to its reporting on the subject by Ken Vogel, this conspiracy had been relegated to the likes of Breitbart, Russian propaganda, and another conspiracy theorist, regular Hannity guest John Solomon." What's their specific beef? What are they objecting to?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Really remarkable letter. Active participation in a smear campaign is what the Biden campaign is accusing "The New York Times" of. And their beef comes down to a couple things. One is this "New York Times" story that was written by reporter Ken Vogel back in May. It gave life to this idea, really, that Biden perhaps abused his office as vice president to benefit his son Hunter Biden. The "Times" was widely panned at the time for publishing the story, particularly because it didn't note until the 19th paragraph that there was no actual evidence of wrongdoing. And to the "Times" got a lot of criticism back then.

And then yesterday in particular the "Times" published an op-ed by Peter Schweizer. He's an author who has given life to a lot of rightwing conspiracy theories in the past, most famous the Uranium One Clinton conspiracy theory back in 2016. And so the Biden campaign is saying, have you not learned anything from the 2016 election? And their basically -- their strategy is, we're not going to allow what happened in 2016 with Hillary Clinton and Peter Schweizer to happen again in the 2020 election.

CAMEROTA: Peter Schweizer is an interesting character because he writes these books that are popular. But when you dig deeper, they're not as journalistically sound as, say, our rules would be. And so why would "The New York Times" publish an op-ed from him?

DARCY: The "New York Times" is basically saying the op-ed they published yesterday from him made an argument that other nonprofit organizations have called for, basically that the children of politicians maybe shouldn't be able to profit off of their family's office. Actually, I want to read part of "The New York Times" statement to you. They said yesterday, "Our coverage of the Biden campaign and Hunter Biden has been fair and accurate. We will continue to cover Joe Biden with the same tough and fair standards we apply to every candidate in the office, and we're happy to sit down with the Biden advisers any time to discuss news coverage."

I should really note, though, that the Biden campaign sent this letter to Dean Baquet, who is the executive editor of "The New York Times." He oversees the news coverage. The Peter Schweizer op-ed actually fell under opinion. So they have a beef with not only one editor of "The New York Times" but actually two editors at "The New York Times".

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. This is also not going away. Oliver Darcy, thank you very much for bringing this to your attention. John?


BERMAN: OK, we have read his tweets. We read his tweets all the time. But we almost never hear George Conway speak. Up next, hear the conservative attorney and, yes, the husband to Kellyanne Conway, what he has to say about, yes, people in Trump's inner circle.


CAMEROTA: George Conway, conservative attorney, fierce Trump critic, and husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, has plenty to say on Twitter. But he has been fairly reticent about speaking out, until now. We are hearing him in his own voice in an exclusive interview with CNN's Preet Bharara for this podcast. So listen to Conway rip the White House Counsel's letter and their legal strategy, and a message to those in the president's inner circle.


PREET BHARARA: Do you think Nancy Pelosi should have a full vote in the House on formally proceeding with an impeachment inquiry, because people are making a lot of noise about that?


GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY: I -- well, I mean, I think as a legal and constitutional matter, it's completely irrelevant and meaningless. I mean, this letter which goes back to the Cipollone letter yesterday, I mean, the absurdity of the letter.

BHARARA: Let's go back to that, because you had strong feelings about that.

CONWAY: I mean, what --

BHARARA: It's nine pages.

CONWAY: It's just garbage.

BHARARA: It's one of the worst letters I've seen from the White House counsel's office, and they write very well and they make good legal arguments when they can be made.

CONWAY: This was trash. I mean, this was brash. I mean, basically, the thrust of -- the thrust of it is that there is some sort of constitutional obligations that the House has failed to meet that, therefore, render its impeachment inquiry illegitimate and unconstitutional, which is complete nonsense because all the Constitution says is that the house has the sole power of impeachment.

It completely vests the power of impeachment in the House and the House gets to decide how to go about doing that. All the House has to do, at the end of the day, is by majority vote, vote out a bill of impeachment, which is essentially an indictment. And because it's just essentially an indictment, they don't have to

conduct -- they don't have to conduct hearings at all. They don't have to hear witnesses at all. And they don't have to give anybody the right to cross-examine those witnesses. It's garbage.

BHARARA: Right, but it's prudential. But, prudentially, to bring the country along --

CONWAY: Well, yes, prudentially, you want -- right. You want -- I mean, it wouldn't be wise for them not to conduct hearings, but they're under no obligation to allow the president to participate, and there are Republican members of these committees who can ask questions if they do have witnesses. And there's no question that those Republican members are going to be carrying the president's water.

So, it's just, you know, it's just an excuse to prevent evidence damning evidence from reaching the public.

And for the life of me, I think that all these politicians, I can't see why they're doing it, but they're trying to figure out what's the safest course? If I go out and criticize him, some people will attack me. If I don't, some people will attack me. They're trying to chart some kind of a middle ground and they're trying to squeeze by, and instead of making this political --

BHARARA: Just hoping -- hope it's over.

CONWAY: Hope it's over like maybe he'll disappear tomorrow and instead of making all these political calculations, although I think the calculation they should be making is he's going to be gone at some point, and there's going to be a reckoning. And history isn't going to be kind to people who said nothing or stood up for Trump.

But that said, even if you don't believe in that, it's clear that they're not sure which way to go. And if you're not sure which way to go, why not just do the right thing?

BHARARA: Is your advice to people in his inner circle to quit?

CONWAY: If you can't have a positive effect on him, and I don't think anybody can, yes.


CAMEROTA: Well, that's interesting.

BERMAN: Who is in the inner circle? For instance --

CAMEROTA: I can't get past it. I can't get past that this is the husband of Kellyanne Conway.

BERMAN: Who is in the inner circle?

CAMEROTA: I mean, deep in the inner circle. She is -- you know, has the president's ear and vice versa. So, let's bring in Bianna Golodryga, CNN senior global affairs

analyst, and Jennifer Rodgers, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst.

They don't like it when we talk publicly about their marriage. I don't blame them. Of course, the Conways don't want their marriage on display.

But I can't get past it right now. She is in the inner circle and he's saying that people in the inner circle should quit because history won't be kind to them.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Imagine what their conversations at home are like. It's great to hear from George and kudos to Preet for getting this interview, right, and George really wasn't holding back. I think a lot of Democrats may be wondering whether he should be leading this impeachment inquiry given all the things he's laid out.

But, yes, you know, we've been wondering and puzzled by this relationship and this dynamic given that he hasn't really held back at all via Twitter. Now to hear his voice, I think that really reinforces the puzzlement that many people have as to how this relationship could work. But I also think the focus on that relationship has diminished given that there is so much attention now as to what he has to say.

And many Democrats and Republicans, at least quietly, agreeing with a lot of the points he's laid out with regards to this president and in his opinion, viewing him as unfit to serve as president.

BERMAN: Jen, what about the legal argument that he was making there? So interesting to hear him make it out loud again because you get the sense that George Conway might make for a good litigator.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he is 100 percent right on the law. First of all, it took awhile to find the legal arguments in this letter because most of it is essentially a version of the president's tweets with slightly better spelling and no exclamation points. It's just a reiteration of the ridiculous meritless arguments.

And lawyers have legal, ethical obligations. They shouldn't make these kinds of arguments. But that's one thing.

But on the law, he's absolutely right. The president is whining about his due process rights, he has no due process rights. We're talking about pre-charging. We're not talking about the trial.


The Senate trial is another matter. And, in fact, the one case they cite in here which is the lawyerly work that they were doing, is wrong because it's about a Senate impeachment trial, not the pre-stages that we're in now. So, it's complete bunk. I agree with him. CAMEROTA: But just help us understand that. Why would the White

House counsel Pat Cipollone trash -- quote, trash, garbage, nonsense? I mean, why? I mean, don't they still have, as you say, an obligation to the letter of the law?

RODGERS: They do. Now, they're not in court. They're not putting this in as an official filing with a judge so I think they know that no one is going to actually technically take them to task, but they all have reputations to protect.

Remember, White House counsel is not the president's personal lawyer. They are supposed to be protecting the institution of the presidency, not him personally against criminal or other liability. So, I think they have badly misjudged this and overstepped. We'll see how it all shakes out, but I think it was a misstep.

GOLODRYGA: Which is why legal experts like George Conway and many others say this is not a legal document. This is at best is a political document. You can see that President Trump was involved throughout it being written.

I think also the fact that George Conway speaking out about what the House has and can do and doesn't have to do as far as a vote, he knows the president's game. He knows that the president isn't going to follow through and participate in any of this investigation inquiry just because she holds a vote, Nancy Pelosi holds a vote. So, I think he's calling the president out on his own bluff.

BERMAN: So, here's a theory I'm floating all morning, and no one's bit on it yet. So, maybe you guys will.

CAMEROTA: Try again.

BERMAN: Which is -- so, George Conway tweets a lot and writes a lot. We rarely hear his voice. This is a new step he's taken to voice his displeasure of the president.

I'm wondering if that is something we might see going forward across the board here. We heard a lawyer yesterday, Greg Nanciata (ph), and I'm wondering if other Republicans who have been here might end up being here now, if this is the beginning of a trend.

RODGERS: I hope so because we've had some prominent conservatives speaking out for a long time about the president and what he's doing, although sometimes war on policy matters. It's important for the conservative lawyers who have been at the forefront of some of these organizations like the Federalist Society and others to come out and say this is wrong. It's wrong not just the policy stuff but as a legal matter what he's doing is improper, inappropriate and shouldn't be happening.

Maybe it will move the needle a little bit. We'll see. But I do think it's a big step.

GOLODRYGA: And I get your point, but I do think there's a difference between going on someone like Preet Bharara's podcast and going on Fox News. The day that George Conway goes on with Sean Hannity, maybe then I think the tide could be turning but I think there's still ways to go.

CAMEROTA: Stay tuned.

BERMAN: We'll have him on tomorrow morning if he wants to come on tomorrow morning. Phone lines are open.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Jennifer, Bianna, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. Sixty-three percent of Americans support same-sex marriage and it's still legal to fire people just for being gay in 28 states. An eye-opening reality check, next.



CAMEROTA: It is still legal in the United States to fire someone for being gay. This is 28 states in America still allow this. Are we sure this is 2019?

John Avlon takes a look in our "Reality Check" -- John.


Look, America can seem hopelessly divided these days. But we're still capable of bridging deep cultural divides and making progress however fitfully and imperfectly. Because we've got to recognize that America is seen a sea change in attitudes around gay rights over the last 25 years.

Take a look at this -- in 1996, only a quarter of Americans supported gay marriage. Now, that number has grown to nearly two-thirds. That's a civil rights revolution in our own time, changing people's hearts and minds by appealing to core American ideals of freedom and equality. All leading up to the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, an opinion written by a Republican appointee Anthony Kennedy.

It should be clear. The work is not done and the gains are not equally distributed. For example, only 44 percent of Republicans support same-sex marriage compared to 68 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats. And while an overwhelming 83 percent of people under age 30 support marriage equality, that number falls to 47 percent past age 65.

In virtually every demographic, we've seen support for gay marriage grow by double digits. Even in the south, 56 percent support for gay marriage now. That's an extraordinary shift considering the Stonewall riots happened just 50 years ago at a time when the American Psychiatric Association still classified being gay as a mental disorder.

Today, 55 percent of Americans say a presidential candidate were gay, lesbian or bisexual, it would make no difference to their vote. It's one reason why tonight's town hall on LGBTQ issues doesn't strike most folks as being remotely out of the ordinary.

Also not out of the ordinary is a genuinely pioneering candidacy. Thirty-seven-year-old war veteran and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, running as a candidate of general change who just happens to be gay.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If me being gay was a choice it was a choice made far, far above my pay grade. If you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my Creator.


AVLON: Of course, there are still some folks who have a problem with Mayor Pete and still efforts in states to restrict gay rights. There's a rise in hate crimes against the transgender community and this year, against the recommendation of top military leaders, the Trump administration rolled back the right of transgender Americans to serve in the military.

And just this week, the Supreme Court heard a case that could determine whether LGBT citizens will be protected by federal civil rights when facing workplace discrimination -- because there are 28 states where people can be fired for simply being gay. And the Trump administration is in court arguing it should stay that way.

If the Supremes don't step up, it will be up to the Senate to pass --