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Joe Biden Issues Fiery Rebuke Of Trump's Attacks On His Son; Trump Orders U.S. Troops Out Of Syria; House Democrats Set To Accelerate Impeachment Inquiry This Week; Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The Text Messages Between Ambassador Bill Taylor And E.U. Ambassador, Gordon Sondland; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) Is Interviewed About Hunter Biden's Resignation From A Chinese Company; Hunter Biden To Step Down From Chinese Company Board And Not Work For Foreign-Owned Firms If Father Elected; Diplomat At Center Of Ukraine Scandal To Testify This Week; Gabbard Threatens to Boycott Debate Over Rigged Primary. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 13, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alex Marquardt in tonight for Ana Cabrera. We start with breaking news this evening.
Joe Biden, with gloves off and furious at President Trump, at the public attacks on his family, and without naming any names, slamming any White House administration that puts family members in high positions of power as if they were cabinet members.
I wonder who he's talking about.
Biden spoke to reporters just a short time ago in Iowa. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's get something straight. First of all, no one, no one has indicated of any consequence that anything was done wrong or illegally by me or by my son. Every major national, international, and local news operation has looked into it, has said it's a lie. This is the president flat lying, number one.
Number two, the statement my son put out today, which I saw when he put it out -- I was told it was going to be put out. I did not consult with him while it was being put out. In fact, represents the kind of man of integrity he is and what, in fact, he has done and why he stepped down.
And I can tell you now, if I am your president, next president, I am going to build on the squeaky-clean, transparent environment that we had in the Obama-Biden White House, and no one in my family or associated with me will be involved in any foreign operation whatsoever, period, end of story. Now let's focus on the problem. The problem is, we have a president who violated his oath. He's invited not just relating to me, on three occasions. He's gone
to foreign governments and asked for their input on a domestic election -- the Russians, the Chinese, and the Ukrainians. And there's not a single shred of evidence to suggest anything I did was wrong. I enforced the policy of the United States government, backed up by the IMF, backed up by the E.U., and backed up by all our allies, to clean up the corruption and fire a prosecutor who was corrupt, period.
I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever had a conversation with my son about anything that I was doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Columbus, Ohio, right now where a Democratic Party -- at a Democratic Party dinner where some of those candidates who are going to be appearing on stage on Tuesday at the debate are speaking.
Jeff, candidate Joe Biden there making it very clear that he has, quote, "had it up to here" with the treatment that he's getting from the president, and of course, those who support him. And I understand he's even taking credit for the impeachment inquiry, saying that it's because of him that it was started.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, indeed. Good evening, Alex. As you can see behind me here, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is addressing Ohio Democrats, but it certainly was the former vice president, Joe Biden's words in Iowa earlier today which we just heard there, which are his most expansive words yet on his son's controversy, on Hunter Biden.
Hunter Biden started the morning by issuing a statement saying he is going to step down from the board of that Chinese company by the end of the month. They are certainly trying to quell, you know, what essentially was a growing threat to the Biden candidacy. But let's step back for a second.
This really has started and escalated over the last three weeks or so when President Trump, without any evidence, has accused Joe Biden and Hunter Biden of nefarious acts with Ukraine and China, saying they had essentially undue business influence and business dealings. Joe Biden has -- you know, has defended his son but said there was no wrongdoing there, which, again, no evidence of, but clearly, this had become a political issue.
So earlier today, Hunter Biden's attorney issuing a statement saying, if his father wins the White House, he would not serve on any foreign board, he would not serve on any type of the kind of dealing like he was a board member of a Ukrainian gas company, which certainly gave some ammunition to Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. So, it is in one respect at the center of this impeachment inquiry, but Joe Biden certainly has been leaning into supporting initially the investigation, but now supporting the impeachment of President Trump.
So, all this is setting the stage, Alex, for a debate Tuesday night here in Columbus.
MARQUARDT: And Jeff, Biden, of course, casts himself as a foreign policy expert. He went after President Trump, I understand, today on his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. What did he have to say?
ZELENY: He certainly did. Joe Biden adding his voice to really Republicans and Democrats who are criticizing and indeed questioning the wisdom of the Trump administration's strategy towards Syria. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: What in God's name is this man doing? What is he doing to our security? What is he doing to NATO? What is he doing? It is a shame. It's shameful what he's done. And the best of my knowledge, from all the sources I have who were in the intelligence community before, people who have worked with me, leaders in the foreign policy community, there was no consultation with the military. This is outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, certainly, there is worry that Joe Biden is voicing as well as other Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham and others, about the future of ISIS. Is ISIS going to, you know, revive and become stronger in the region because of the Trump administration's decision there? So, Joe Biden aggressively going after President Trump.
So, again, Alex, foreign policy has not been a central discussion during this Democratic presidential primary. That could change a bit on Tuesday night here in Ohio when some of those questions could come forward. But again, it's getting to be crunch time for many of these candidates, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who's still behind me on stage here. He'll be followed by about six other candidates tonight, trying to rally the Ohio faithful here in Columbus -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: All right, that debate just 48 hours away. And Jeff Zeleny will be right there. Thank you very much, Jeff.
Joining me now are CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, CNN Presidential Historian and Former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Naftali, and CNN political analyst and "New York Times" political editor Patrick Healy.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me tonight. Lots to discuss. Jeff was hitting on a lot of that.
Tim, I want to start with you and that clip we just saw of Joe Biden -- those clips. We saw a fired-up Joe Biden. We know that he doesn't take kindly to people going after his family. On two counts, do you think this was overdue? First, talk, becoming more aggressive towards President Trump, and secondly, explaining more and talking more about what his son has done and is doing.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it's very important for a frontrunner whose family is attacked to come back and be strong. When the Nixon campaign wanted to use -- and did use dirty tricks to undermine Ed Musky who was then the leading candidate, Ed Musky's response was weak, and it hurt him. It was important for the former vice president to do what he did today.
Something else happened today that's very important. Hunter Biden made clear that the appearance of impropriety worried him. Now, that stands in stark contrast to the family that happens to be in the White House right now, where the appearance of impropriety doesn't worry them. So, what I think Americans are seeing is a clear difference between the Biden family and the Trump family. So, today's words were necessary, perhaps overdue. I think they'll have an effect.
MARQUARDT: And Patrick, the president has locked on to Hunter Biden as a line of attack. This is something that he has brought up repeatedly online and in his rallies. He's basically coined a slogan, "Where's Hunter?" Because we actually haven't seen much of Hunter Biden. He tweeted as much, and you can see that tweet right there. "He has totally disappeared."
Following the president's lead, do you think his allies on Capitol Hill, like Lindsey Graham, will be successful possibly in an attempt to depose Hunter Biden in front of the Judiciary Committee?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that may be challenging because right now it's really a smear campaign that's going on with Hunter Biden, in terms of what the president and his allies are doing. They're not bringing forward any actual evidence that suggests, well, we need to bring this person in and necessarily depose them or ask them hard questions.
There usually at least needs to be some kind of evidence or standard for that. But right now, the way that the Biden campaign and the way that -- you know, even some Republicans who haven't been willing to be as aggressive on Hunter Biden as the president has been, the way that they're approaching this is basically saying, this is a political attack.
HEALY: This is clearly a political line of attack against Joe Biden. It has been, you know, since earlier this year with the phone calls and the planning by Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine, and at least right now, you know, Hunter Biden, where is he? It's not like this guy has been out on the campaign trail.
HEALY: It's not like --
MARQUARDT: Right, he never was.
HEALY: -- was a major figure in the Biden campaign and now isn't. MARQUARDT: Right.
HEALY: It is still, you know, a line of attack that they are trying to drive in.
So, whether Lindsey Graham ultimately is going to, you know, play into what President Trump wants, which, you know, would be essentially a -- you know, theatrical deposition.
HEALY: You know.
MARQUARDT: And we really have to highlight, again, that there is no evidence of any sort of impropriety, whether it comes to Hunter Biden's role in China, on that company, or in Ukraine with that energy company, Burisma.
Shimon, to you. We have seen this report from "The New York Times" on Friday night that Rudy Giuliani's being investigated by his old shop, the Southern District of New York. We've had this interesting timeline with the president on Friday. He said that he wasn't sure -- he didn't say for sure that Giuliani was still his lawyer. Over the weekend we saw them getting close. They went to the golf course together. How much trouble do you think Giuliani's in?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I think he's right now I would say, given what we know and what we've reported in terms of how investigators are looking at his finances, financial dealings between Rudy Giuliani and these two associates of his who were arrested and indicted last week, I think he should be worried. Any time the FBI or prosecutors start looking through your financial dealings, and where's this money coming from, right? And that's what's going on here right now.
So, Rudy Giuliani should be worried. I'm sure he's going to get some new lawyers to try and figure out what's going on. You know, he's out there saying, I don't know that I'm under investigation, no one's contacted me. Well, that sometimes is even worse in certain situations. So, the thing -- you know, the president will keep supporting him. We've seen the president support Michael Cohen and then drop Michael Cohen, once he got too hot.
PROKUPECZ: So, the heat's coming and we'll see what happens. I don't know that the president, given his track record, is going to stand by Rudy Giuliani all the way through and through.
MARQUARDT: Tim, put this into context for us, here we have a guy, whether he's in trouble or not we can debate, but his two associates who work for him are. They have been indicted. They have been charged on campaign finance violations. So, how extraordinary is it to see the president sitting down with a guy who is really in hot water?
NAFTALI: Well, Alex, it complicates the president's defense that he was seeking to eliminate corruption in Ukraine, that he was putting pressure on Zelensky to help Zelensky do the right thing for Ukraine, when his personal attorney is mixed up with corrupt Ukrainians. This just blows apart the president's defense, and it's going to be tough for him, because let's keep in mind that Ambassador Yovanovitch, Marie Yovanovitch, who was thrown out, who was pushed out from the embassy, our embassy in Ukraine, made the point that her job was to help the Ukrainians, especially the Zelensky regime, to get rid of corruption.
And she was being pushed out by a Trump administration that didn't like what she's doing. You take that evidence and you put it together with the fact that the president's personal attorney is stuck in the middle of a Ukrainian-corrupt circle, and you begin to wonder which side the Trump administration was on with regard to corruption in Ukraine.
PROKUPECZ: And you know, the two people who were behind and trying to lobby to get the Russian ambassador out are the two people who were just arrested and indicted.
PROKUPECZ: And they talk about this in the indictment, which I think is something that should also be very concerning for Rudy Giuliani and anyone who's been involved in that, because clearly now this is something that the FBI is looking at, something that prosecutors here in the Southern District of New York, it's caught their attention, so much so that it's an indictment. It's in criminal -- it's part of a criminal record now.
MARQUARDT: Right. And Yovanovitch, they're saying that there's a concerted campaign against her.
Patrick, there's another key ambassador who is testifying this week, Gordon Sondland. He is in this string of text messages that was released two weeks ago in which he was confronted with the question of whether there was quid pro quo. He said, after speaking with the president, that there was not. The "Washington Post" has now revealed that he is expected to say that that line, that there was no quid pro quo, came from the president. So, how worried should the White House be about Sondland's testimony on Thursday?
HEALY: Oh, I think very worried. I mean, this goes to the heart of the advisers around President Trump who are essentially saying, we didn't know what was actually true. We just know that the president was telling us to say these things, and you're seeing, you know, with Sondland, with Yovanovitch, you're seeing the potential, at least setting the stage for Democrats to be able to say, we need to hear from Rudy Giuliani on this, we need to put him under oath, we need to ask him hard questions about the degree to which President Trump's personal lawyer, personal lawyer.
MARQUARDT: Right. HEALY: Was going beyond even, you know, State Department officials in
putting pressure, bringing pressure to bear on behalf of the president in Ukraine. So, you know, we're talking about Hunter Biden and the lack of evidence, but pressure for him to testify, but it's actually Rudy Giuliani who, at least from all appearances, many roads lead back to him.
HEALY: In this. And questions that still have to be answered.
MARQUARDT: And he is mentioned throughout all of those text messages between those key players on Ukraine.
Guys, we've got to leave it there. Patrick Healy, Tim Naftali, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.
All right. Coming up, President Trump ordering a near-total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria as Kurdish forces accuse the U.S. of leaving them behind to be slaughtered.
MARQUARDT: Now to the major breaking news of the day. President Trump's decision to pull nearly all American troops out of Syria, not just from the northern border area where the U.S. allies -- where the Kurds -- the U.S. allies are facing military aggression from Turkey, but out of Syria altogether. The secretary of Defense announcing earlier.
And just a short time ago, we have a tweet from the president addressing one of the main criticisms of any military pullout, the very likely resurgence of ISIS. The president has tweeted, "The United States has the worst of the ISIS prisoners. Turkey and the Kurds must not let them escape. Europe should have taken them back after numerous requests. They should do it now. They will never come to or be allowed in the United States."
Let's get straight to CNN Pentagon Reporter, Ryan Browne.
Ryan, what do you make of that, that he's saying that the U.S. has the worst of the ISIS prisoners, but they will never come to the United States?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's not exactly clear what the president is referring to. Now, the U.S. military has acknowledged taking two ISIS -- high-profile ISIS prisoners, members of the former -- members of the British ISIS execution cell known as the "Beatles."
The U.S. military has acknowledged taking those two individuals into custody, holding them outside of Syria. But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were holding some 10,000 ISIS members prisoner, including 2,000 foreign fighters, several hundred of which are from Europe.
So not clear exactly what the president's talking about, because two out of 10,000 is a relatively small number. But again, that fear of those ISIS prisoners escaping is one reason that many are concerned about the withdrawal of U.S. troops, as Turkey has attacked several Kurdish detention facilities. There are reports that some ISIS members have been able to escape.
And so, again, the withdrawal of U.S. troops really paralyzing the U.S. fight against ISIS and risking the gains against that terror group, as the Kurds now seek help from Russia and the Syrian regime to help defend them from the Turkish attack. So, a lot of chaos on the ground in Syria as news of the U.S. pullout has been made public -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: Yes, that's right, and tens of thousands more in camps, families there who are also loyal to ISIS.
Ryan Browne in Washington, thanks very much.
BROWNE: You bet.
MARQUARDT: Coming up, all eyes on Capitol Hill as star witnesses prepare to testify about the president, Ukraine, and the scandal that is putting his legacy in peril. We'll be answering your impeachment questions. That's next.
MARQUARDT: Democrats in the House are getting ready to accelerate their impeachment inquiry against President Trump as they return to Capitol Hill from recess this week. Tomorrow's a big day. Fiona Hill, who served as the president's top Russia adviser until she left in August, she's expected to be interviewed by the three House panels who have been carrying out these interviews.
And all eyes then are going to be on Gordon Sondland on Thursday. He's the president's ambassador to the European Union, and he's going to be deposed under subpoena after refusing to testify last week.
Now, this brings us to our weekly segment, "Cross Exam," with CNN Legal Analyst and former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig. He is here to answer your questions about all of this complicated legal news.
Now, Elie, first of all, thanks so much for joining me.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
MARQUARDT: The White House has been arguing that they are going -- that they don't need to comply as much because the House has not yet held a formal vote on the impeachment inquiry, so we have one viewer who's asking, is that legally correct?
HONIG: No, it's not legally correct. There is no requirement that the full House of Representatives vote in order to start an impeachment inquiry. The Constitution does not require it. There's no statute that requires it. And just Friday, two days ago, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that there is no such requirement.
Now, that said, historical precedent tells us there were full House votes before the Nixon and Clinton impeachment inquiries. I think what the White House is doing here is they're making a political play and a legal play. Politically, they're trying to force a tough vote on Democrats from suing districts and I think legally they are trying to extract concessions, such as having their own subpoena power.
Don't count on Nancy Pelosi to give them that. But here's the thing to keep in mind. Nancy Pelosi has a very interesting decision to make. If she holds the vote -- and she's only going to hold the vote if she has the votes -- then she'll essentially be calling out this objection from the White House. On the other hand, even if they hold a vote and it passes, that will not end the White House objection.
It's not as if the White House is suddenly going to say, here's all the witnesses and evidence you want. They're just going to raise executive privilege and other objections. So, this is round one. There are many more to come.
MARQUARDT: Elie, one of the bigger twists in all of this was in the past week, two associates working with Rudy Giuliani were arrested and indicted by the Southern District of New York for allegedly funneling money, foreign money, into U.S. elections. So, one viewer wants to know, could Giuliani by association himself face these same criminal charges?
HONIG: Rudy Giuliani is in legitimate trouble here. We now know he's under investigation by the Southern District of New York, the office that Rudy Giuliani himself used to lead in the '80s. I worked at it a couple decades later. I'll tell you, as an alum of that office, it is jarring to think that the former U.S. attorney is now under investigation, but this is real.
Yes, the Southern District indictment last week of Parnas and Fruman is a serious case. They're charged with funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of foreign money into the U.S. election system through a shell company. Rudy Giuliani has close connections to these two guys. They were his point people in Ukraine. They paid him. And the best detail of all, of course, is the company that used to pay Rudy Giuliani is called Fraud Guarantee. They need a new marketing company or something.
But, look, Rudy is in legitimate trouble here. We've got to watch the Southern District very closely.
MARQUARDT: Elie Honig, thanks so much.
HONIG: Thank you. MARQUARDT: Appreciate it.
And get ready for what could be some make-or-break moments in the race to 2020. 12 Democratic candidates debate on Tuesday night. So, how will they try to stand out from each other when it comes to impeachment and taking on Donald Trump?
MARQUARDT: The stage is being set for a big night in politics. In just 2 days, 12 Democratic candidates will be taking part in the CNN/New York Times debate, live from the battleground state of Ohio.
And one of the big questions, how will the candidates address the news that Joe Biden's son, Hunter, is stepping down from a board of a Chinese company, after being repeatedly accused by the president of improperly benefiting from his foreign business dealings, while his father was vice president? There is, we must note, no evidence of any wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.
CNN's Abby Phillip joins me now from the debate site in Ohio. Abby, do you expect the other Democrats on that stage to bring up Hunter Biden? And if they do, is there a way they can do it without simply adopting the president's attacks?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really tricky for some of these Democratic candidates, Alex. And I think you've seen many of them try to avoid the issue altogether. Even just today, Pete Buttigieg was asked about this, and he pivoted immediately back to President Trump.
But here's where things might get tricky for Democrats who maybe don't want to be seen as attacking Biden over this. The question of whether or not they might allow their vice president to have a child in a similar arrangement that Hunter Biden was in, is one that I think you will see some Democratic candidates saying, no, I would not.
Already, Elizabeth Warren has answered that question with an emphatic no, and I think that we'll see several of the other candidates having to make it clear where they stand on that very issue.
MARQUARDT: And speaking of Warren, Abby, we have seen the gap between her and Biden, tightening, essentially neck and neck, in a number of recent polls.
[20:35:00] Do you think that that changes Biden's strategy in this debate, or does he keep his fire trained on the president?
PHILLIP: Warren is clearly rising in this race, and I think you've already seen Joe Biden starting to shift his language, a little bit, on the campaign trail. Just in the last several days, you've heard him say things like, plans are great. That's a reference to Elizabeth Warren. But you need someone who can actually get things done in Washington. I think we can expect to see a lot more of that from Biden, and frankly, from some of the other candidates. Elizabeth Warren is the candidate to beat right now. Her rise has been undeniable, and several other candidates are hoping to take some of that shine off of her candidacy at this next debate.
MARQUARDT: All right, Abby Phillip, right near the debate site. That debate, of course, is happening on Tuesday night. Thank you, Abby. You can catch the CNN/New York Times Democratic Presidential Debate, that is 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, right here, on CNN. We'll be right back.
MARQUARDT: This week, a U.S. diplomat at the center of the Ukraine scandal, will be testifying before the House, and while you might not know the name, Gordon Sondland, you've likely read his text messages by this point.
Like this one, Ambassador Bill Taylor, who is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, he writes to Sondland, are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?
Those would be those conspiracy theory investigations that President Trump wanted Ukraine to launch into the 2016 election, and Joe Biden and his son. Now, you can see there, Sondland's response was, call me.
California Congressman John Garamendi was in Ukraine earlier this month, and he was actually with Ambassador Bill Taylor, when these bombshell texts were released to the public. Here's what Congressman Garamendi had to say.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): The morning that we visited with the Minister of Defense, we met Ambassador Taylor --
GARAMENDI: -- right outside the Ministry. And at that moment, our cellphones went off about this text that he had sent out. And so, as we got out of the bus, greeted him, one of my colleagues wrapped his arm around him and said, your text was right on.
And he acknowledged that, yes, he did send the text, and that that was an issue. We didn't go any further, because at that very moment, a memorial had begun for the soldiers that were killed on that day, over the previous five years, so we entered that.
But it was very, very clear that this is a man that was standing up for what was right, pushing back against what is obviously a deal that the president was trying to cut with Syria. The money was absolutely withheld, some $400 million withheld, was not released until all of this thing broke open, following the whistleblower's whistle account. In addition to that, there was five hours between that text message from Ambassador Taylor and the response from Sondland. And it is now clear from the information that Sondland has made available about his testimony --
GARAMENDI: -- on Thursday, that he had talked to the president in that intervening five hours, and they apparently developed the response which is, what I would call, the ultimate CYA response.
MARQUARDT: Well, Congressman, let's show the audience what you're talking about. This was an exchange between Bill Taylor and the E.U. ambassador, Gordon Sondland. Taylor writes, as I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
Five hours later, as you noted, Sondland responded, saying, Bill, that's Taylor, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind.
Now, as you mentioned, we know that Sondland spoke directly with the president in those five hours, and now, according to the Washington Post, he is going to say tomorrow, in his testimony, that this was the message from President Trump.
So, Congressman, do you believe now that Sondland is going to be testifying, that he is going to turn against the president?
GARAMENDI: Well, if he's going to tell the truth, he's going to be under oath. He'll know that if he lies, there are other people that are privy to much of what will be said, much of that, those text messages and e-mails, as well as the call itself, between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine, all of that information is available.
So yes, I think Sondland's going to make sure that he tells -- that he is accurate. And it's very increasingly clear that accuracy is that, yes, there clearly was a strong arm, an extortion under way between -- that the president was attempting to extort the Ukrainian government to develop information on the 2016 election, as well as the Bidens.
The result of that extortion is, the president will be impeached.
MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Congressman John Garamendi there.
Now, coming up, get ready for another tense week ahead, in Washington. Congress is heading back from recess, just in time for a slew of high- profile appearances in the House impeachment probe. One of the biggest names in Democratic congressional circles, she joins me next live in the CNN NEWSROOM with an inside look at what is coming up this week.
MARQUARDT: Joe Biden's son, Hunter, announced today that he has resigned from the board of a Chinese-backed company. The former V.P.'s son also is now promising not to work for any foreign company again, if his father is elected president next year.
These announcements come after another baseless attack, we should say, from President Trump today. The president tweeting, where's Hunter? He has totally disappeared. Now looks like he has raided and scammed even more countries. Media is AWOL.
To discuss all this and more is, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me tonight. You, of course, serve on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which as we all know, is leading these hearings into the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
So, Congresswoman, I want to start with this Hunter Biden news and the former vice president's response today. Hunter Biden is resigning from the board of this Chinese company which he also owns a minority stake in. The fact that he's doing this, does that not imply that there is, at least, the appearance of impropriety or conflicts of interest on Hunter Biden's part?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): On the contrary, what it -- what it confirms, is that Hunter Biden is a person of integrity. And in an abundance of caution, just to make absolutely sure, that no question arises.
That he would resign from the board he was sitting on, and agree that going forward, he would not serve on any boards of foreign -- of foreign companies if Joe Biden were to be elected president. It makes sense. It demonstrates the, you know, lifetime of integrity that have -- that have been representing -- represented by the Bidens for their -- for their entire careers.
MARQUARDT: But he was also on the board of that Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, while his father was vice president. Isn't it a little bit too late?
[20:50:02] Isn't this the kind of thing that Joe Biden should have asked his son to do, years ago?
SCHULTZ: Again, I mean, as you --as you already noted, there was absolutely -- and has been absolutely no indication of any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden or Joe Biden. And so, serving on a foreign -- on the board of a foreign company is perfectly acceptable, and really, this is an extra step that Hunter Biden is taking, in an abundance of caution.
But the fact that he served on the board of a foreign company while Vice President Biden was serving in office, really is acceptable, and again, there was no wrongdoing.
But because -- unlike the president, who doesn't have a shred of integrity, and who pressured the president of Ukraine, abused his power, you know, asked for favors for his personal and political benefit, you know, there is no -- there is no caution.
Caution just gets tossed out the window with President Trump, and he compromises the United States' national security in the process.
MARQUARDT: Congresswoman, I want to turn to one of the highlights that is expected this week, and that is the potentially bombshell testimony of Gordon Sondland, who is the, of course, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, he was one of the president's point men on Ukraine. He is scheduled to testify before your committee on Thursday.
And what we have learned in the Washington Post is that he is going to tell your committee under oath, that a text message that he wrote to Ambassador Bill Taylor, he is a top U.S. diplomat in Kiev, saying, there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.
That message didn't come from him, but from President Trump. If that is indeed -- if that reporting does turn out to be correct, and that is what he tells your committee, how significant is that?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think it will be very significant. Particularly, because he's also expected to testify that the truth -- that the text message came directly from President Trump, through Ambassador Sondland, but that he cannot confirm that it is the truth, is incredibly damning and important information.
I mean, you know, the fact that -- the fact that Ambassador Sondland can't confirm, given the number of conversations he purportedly has had, as the -- as an interlocutor between President Zelensky and the State Department on all of this controversy, is really troubling.
Our ambassador to the E.U., who has been directly involved in this, cannot confirm that the president's statement that there was no quid pro quo is the truth, is actually the truth, that's just unbelievable. We have a -- and I, you know, Alex, I went to Ukraine with a Republican Senate delegation in May, met with Ambassador Yovanovitch, met with -- met with Ambassador Sondland, as a matter of fact.
And so, to have been there, communicating with the Ukrainian leadership about the absolute necessity, that the United States help them keep Russia at bay, and for President Trump to have compromised our national security for his own personal and political gain, is outrageous.
MARQUARDT: Congresswoman, I only have about 45 seconds left. But I want to ask you about Tulsi Gabbard, she is threatening to boycott the Ohio debate on Tuesday. She claims that the DNC is trying to rig the election against dark horse candidates like herself.
Back in 2016, you were the chairwoman of the DNC, and actually, you faced similar accusations from Bernie Sanders' supporters. So, how harmful is that, that there is this perception that the party puts its thumb on the scale for certain candidates?
SCHULTZ: Well, I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter whether Tulsi Gabbard participates in the debate or not. That's certainly her decision.
But, you know, speaking as a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, I'm sure Tom Perez is feeling the full impact of how difficult it is once you have candidates who are squeezed by the process, and are feeling concerned that they are really not going to be successful. They start throwing Hail Marys, and that's clearly what this is.
MARQUARDT: All right. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks so much for joining me tonight.
SCHULTZ: You're welcome. My pleasure.
MARQUARDT: And we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
MARQUARDT: American gymnast Simone Biles is solidifying her place as the greatest gymnast of all-time today. She won the gold in five out of six events at the World Championships in Germany this weekend, including the women's all-around. That gives her 25 career medals overall, at the World's. The 22-year-old says she's now preparing for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which she says will be her last.
On tonight's brand-new episode of "DECLASSIFIED" it's the untold story of how the Feds discovered Hezbollah militants hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. Here's a preview of tonight's episode, the terrorists, next door.
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ROBERT CLIFFORD, CONSULTANT, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND INVESTIGATIONS: In early 1995, an individual had run afoul of Hezbollah and was afraid that he would be killed. And so, he walked into an American Embassy and said, listen, I need some protection.
And he reported that a dangerous Hezbollah operative was currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina, and that operative was Mohamad Hammoud.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who gave you the tip?
CLIFFORD: We can't disclose that. At this time, it's still classified. With this information, I contacted the Charlotte office and they initiated an investigation on this individual. They started coming across more individuals in Charlotte, working together, that seemed to have some kind of group. As we got more intelligence from overseas, we started seeing that this could be a Hezbollah cell. No one would be looking for them here. This is not New York. This is not Los Angeles. This is Charlotte, North Carolina, the heart of America.
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MARQUARDT: And that will do it for me. I'm Alex Marquardt. Up next, the CNN Original Series "DECLASSIFIED: UNTOLD STORIES OF AMERICAN SPIES." That starts right now. Have a great night.