Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) is Interviewed about Ukraine Investigation and the FEC; Hotel Collapse in New Orleans; Search for Amelia Earhart. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 14, 2019 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The impeachment inquiry ramps up this week with Congress back in session after recess. "The Washington Post" reports that the ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, will testify that his denial of any quid pro quo with Ukraine was directed by President Trump himself.

So let's bring in Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois. He's the top Republican on the Committee of House Administration -- hope I'm saying that right -- committee on House Administration, Transportation and Infrastructure.

Congressman, thank you very much for being here. We have a lot to talk to you about.

Let's start with this impeachment inquiry, that it begins again, I guess, in earnest, now that you all are back from recess.

From what you've heard and seen thus far, are you concerned about the president having asked a foreign president for help with political rivals?


REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R-IL): You know, what I'm concerned about is an impeachment inquiry that's moving forward, this denying the president and his administration due process. If we want to exercise oversight, which is our responsibility in Congress, you don't have to label it an impeachment inquiry. If you do, I certainly hope that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer will put a vote on the floor of the House, just like the three other impeachments in our nation's history, to ensure that the American people know where each and every member of Congress stands in moving this inquiry forward. Otherwise we're just having committee hearings and people coming in and directing our own oversight.

CAMEROTA: Well, I hear you and I've heard that complaint a lot, obviously, from the Republican side. And there is nothing in the Constitution, just to be clear, that requires that vote. But I'm talking more about, instead of process, I'm talking about the

substance of it. When you read the transcript of what the president said to President Zelensky of Ukraine, in terms of asking for a favor, in terms of wanting to get to the bottom of some dirt on the Bidens, were you comfortable with that?

DAVIS: Well, I read the transcript. And I think it has to be noted that this administration, this president, provided a transcript of a call between himself and another leader of a foreign nation, something that we haven't seen out of any other administration that I can remember. And that transcript, I read it, I don't see any criminal wrongdoing in there. I look at the paragraph that you mention where he says, "I'd like a favor, though." Well, if the word "though" was going to be focused on, well, let's get to the end of that paragraph where he says "if possible." That doesn't look like a demand.

And then let's look at the facts. The facts are this, Alisyn, that this administration has actually been the administration giving lethal weapons to the Ukrainians to fight back Russian aggression.


DAVIS: I was in the Ukraine in 2017, meeting with former President Poroshenko and others.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, as you know, they held up all sorts of military aid. I mean they held up the $400 million of military aid. And there was also some questions from Congress about why that was happening. And this seems to be connected because, you know, what you're talking about is when the president says, I would like you to do a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say crowd strike, which of course is a conspiracy theory from the 2016 election. I guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server, they say Ukraine has it.

So I guess my question is, is it OK to ask a foreign leader for help with a political rival? Full stop. Is that OK?

DAVIS: Well, I don't think what you just said, Alisyn, was asking our foreign leader for help with a political rival. It was what he was asking about was, are you in -- are you sure that Ukraine didn't have any role in the 2016 election interference? That's something that I thought all of us, the Republicans and Democrats, wanted to look into.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but -- but he's saying I would like you to do us a favor, though.

Well, I mean, that's been debunked. It's just been --

DAVIS: To look into the 2016 election? I thought that's what we were supposed to do.

CAMEROTA: That the server about crowd strike has been debunked six ways to Sunday. Tom Bossert, the president's former national security adviser, has said there is no basis to the theory that Ukraine had anything to do with the 2016 election.

But before we go down that rabbit hole, would you ask a foreign leader for help with a political rival?

DAVIS: Well, absolutely not. But here's where we are today with an impeachment inquiry that's beginning based on a transcript where the president clearly asks for assistance in the 2016 election. And if that theory has been debunked, then it would be a pretty short investigation either in the Ukraine or here.

But in the end, let's make sure we have the facts. And there's not enough facts to impeach a president. And I think the Democrats are moving ahead on an impeachment inquiry taken way --

CAMEROTA: Well, that's what they're doing. I mean, Congressman, with all due respect, I mean that's what -- that's what this investigation is doing, is trying to get the facts. You know, that's what -- why they're beginning this inquiry. That's why they're calling witnesses. It's to get the facts. That's -- that is the definition of an investigation.

DAVIS: Well, an impeachment inquiry is a lot different than us exercising our oversight. And, frankly, what it has the potential to do is to shut down progress in Washington. We won't be able to address prescription drug prices. We won't be able to get the USMCA passed. We're not going to be able to see finally maybe the Democrats' health plan that they promised the American people when they took charge of the House of Representatives.

And let's also talk about some of the things like fracture, where we ought to be able to have bipartisan consensus. My good friend and former member of Congress, former secretary of transportation under President Obama, Ray LaHood, he told me at a hearing right before we left for this two-week recess that he didn't think anything could get done if impeachment was moving forward. And he said to avoid impeachment like the plague.



Well, I hear you, that you want to get on to infrastructure. I understand. That's your committee.

Just to be clear, the president, at his most recent rallies, which went on for a couple of hours, mostly talked about his political rivals and about the campaign. I think that he brought up health care for 90 seconds during those.

But let's move on, because I know that you also wanted to talk about Ellen Weintraub. She is the chair of the Federal Election Committee -- Commission, I should say. And you have a beef with her. So can you just describe what your issue is about her talking about, and trying to debunk conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

DAVIS: Well, clearly, the FEC is a commission that needs a lot of change right now. There aren't enough commissioners. There are supposed to be six commissioners. This has been dysfunctional since long before President Trump got here.

Miss Weintraub, we sent a letter to the inspector general's office. We want the FEC to work. And, frankly, I think the FEC should be the least partisan commission that we have in the federal government. And some of the things that we put in the letter to the inspector general talked about where we thought Miss Weintraub was being a bit more partisan than we think the FEC should be.

CAMEROTA: But how is it partisan that she is trying the dispute that there was widespread voter fraud? She's saying there was no widespread voter fraud. In fact, there wasn't even narrow voter fraud. There's not even of it.

How is that -- how is that not her role to try to quell any fears about that?

DAVIS: Well, what Miss Weintraub is talking about in that instance when it comes to voter fraud is not even under the jurisdiction of the FEC. It's under another agency and other departments within the federal government. So that instance right there shows me that she may have stepped out of her bounds as an FEC commissioner.

And we need to make sure that the FEC remains a non-partisan entity.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, quickly --

DAVIS: Not too long ago the Democrats tried to force a bill through the House of Representatives that was going to -- going to break down the FEC into five members, which would make it a partisan operation.


DAVIS: I want to stay away from partisanship, especially in the FEC.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, I mean, I think that her argument is that she's just trying to get the facts out, that people don't need to worry. That she's basically saying, you don't need to worry about voter fraud. And if there is any, present the evidence. And I think that that is what she thinks her role is.

But here's what she told us on CNN on Friday. So let me play you her response.


ELLEN WEINTRAUB, CHAIR, FEDERAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION: Our office of inspector general completely cleared me and said there is nothing wrong with a public official speaking to the public. As an election commissioner, everything that concerns the integrity of our elections is something that I am concerned about and that I speak to the public about. It's part of my job.


CAMEROTA: Congressman, your response to that, it's part of her job, she says.

DAVIS: Well, I'm glad she views it that way. I certainly was hoping to ask her many of these questions myself when we had a hearing scheduled in the House Administration Committee that was abruptly canceled immediately after the impeachment inquiry was announced. Clearly, the impeachment inquiry is stopping us from being able to have oversight responsibilities. I certainly would rather have this discussion at a hearing level rather than through CNN.

However, let's get the facts straight. Miss Weintraub was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002. The terms for the FEC commissioners last for six years. She's been held over now an additional eleven years without an appointment. We have too many opening on the FEC. I certainly hope that the FEC can remain as nonpartisan as possible.

And, frankly, I think Miss Weintraub knows that her time at the FEC is probably limited. And I think she might be auditioning for some opportunities to get on to your network in the future.

CAMEROTA: You think that her days are numbered there. Why is that?

DAVIS: Eleven years over the appointed term that you have is probably not going to be something that she's going to be able to turn that into another six-year term.


DAVIS: But the Democrats are the ones that are going to either appoint her or not.


DAVIS: Or, actually, nominate her or not, to this administration.

CAMEROTA: OK, so, Congressman, I do want to move on because this morning, overnight, "The New York Times" broke the story of this very violent video having been played at President Trump's Doral resort this weekend for a conference of his supporters. And it shows -- it depicts a sort of, I guess, caricature, cartoonish version of President Trump engaged in a mass shooting in a church, shooting journalists and his political rivals. Have you seen that video?

DAVIS: I've not seen the video, Alisyn, but I've heard about it.


CAMEROTA: What's your response?

DAVIS: I think it's a tragedy. I think it should be denounced by the administration. These types of videos happen not just by supporters of the president, they happen by supporters of those who despise the president.

Here in Illinois, it wasn't too long ago where one of our state senators at an event had a videotaped of an assassination of President Trump. And all of these things, they actually can lead to political violence.

It was a little over two and a half years ago, Alisyn, that I was sitting in this studio a few days after a gunman came to a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, and tried to kill me and my friends, injured many of my -- numerous friends of mine because he disagreed with us, because of the rhetoric from people like Bernie Sanders, who said Republican policies are killing people. I don't think it was a coincidence when he was screaming "health care" while he was firing at Republican members of Congress that morning. I held up a bullet fragment that I found in my bag that day in this studio.

The violence is real. We all have to take a step back. This isn't just President Trump, it's everyone that has to take a step back and tone down this rhetoric.

CAMEROTA: We really appreciate you saying that, that the violence is real. It is real. And you've seen it and we've seen it.

I am just being handed now a new response from the White House. This is from the press secretary of the White House that says, regarding the video played over the weekend, the president has not yet seen the video, but he will see it shortly. But based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video.

Congressman, we really appreciate you coming on NEW DAY and giving us your perspective on all of this and we certainly appreciate that statement from the White House.

Thanks so much for being with us.

DAVIS: Thank you.



The search resumes this morning for one person missing in the collapse of a Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. At least two people are deadly.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in New Orleans.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, good morning.

This has been a race against time as search and rescue teams rushed to the scene to try to save lives and families rushed here, praying that their loved ones had made it out alive.

Take a look over my shoulder and you'll see that there is a black crane in the distance. It weighs 110 tons. It was brought in to stabilize the structure to allow crews to further their search.

As you said, there is one missing. There are two dead. And on Sunday the body of one of those deceased was recovered. Now, the dramatic moments of that partial collapse of the Hard Rock

Hotel in downtown New Orleans were caught on camera Saturday morning. You can see, it shows that floors flattened, debris flew off the building, landing on the street, creating a cloud of dust. And if you look closely, you'll see that workers were running for their lives. According to the builder, there were 100 workers at the site at the time of the collapse.

Now, the cause of the collapse has not been determined yet, but OSHA is on the scene.

John, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Rosa, I'll take it. Thank you very much. God, what horrible video and aftermath there.

All right, now to this. Eighty-two years after she disappeared, a renewed search for flight pioneer Amelia Earhart. We speak with two leaders of the expedition, next.



AVLON: It's one of the world's most enduring mysteries, what happened to Amelia Earhart? The pioneering aviator went missing 82 years ago. But a new expedition, led by the man who found the Titanic wreckage, is trying to find some answers. And it's all being captured in a new National Geographic documentary.

Joining us now, two heads of the expedition, Bob Ballard, National Geographic explorer at-large, and Allison Fundis, chief operating officer of the Nautilus Live.

Welcome to NEW DAY.

This could not be more fascinating.

So, you folks have been on the ground searching.

Bob, kick it off. Give us the headline. What did you find?

ROBERT BALLARD, EXPLORER AT-LARGE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: We found where she's not, which is really critical. As you know, Titanic took four expeditions. Bismarck took two expeditions. This is a tough one. This is even tougher than those two.

AVLON: Even tougher?

BALLARD: Yes. And so we're at full court press. This is the first episode you're going to see, followed by the next one.

AVLON: Stay tuned.

All right, Allison, I want you to tell us about the next steps in this ongoing search. Before we do, I want to play a clip of the show real quick.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shedding new light on one of the world's most captivating people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In ship number six, it's the world famous Amelia Earhart.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It exists. It's not Loch Ness monster. It's not Bigfoot.

That plane exists, which means you can find it.


AVLON: So, Allison, have you crossed off one of the prime suspects off your list? And, if so, what's next? Where are you headed next?

ALLISON FUNDIS, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, NAUTILUS LIVE: We've made a good effort. You know, we've covered a large space that we know that she's not now. But we didn't cover it all. So we're funded by our government to continue exploring in the area. So we're going to keep at it. We're going to be returning to Nikumaroro Island and also expanding the search out to Halland (ph) Island as well.

AVLON: And there's still forensics to do on Nikumaroro Island.

BALLARD: Correct. On the soil they collected. You'll see that in the show.

But, yes, this is a full-court press. This is working in two areas simultaneously.

AVLON: All right, you know, before we go, because I could talk to you guys for hours.

Bob, when you were looking for the Titanic, it later came out that you were doing some secret work for the U.S. government at the same time under that cover. Have you done any since?

BALLARD: No, this is not a cover operation. The Titanic was. But, no, this is a full-court press by National Geographic. And, fortunately, also we're being funded by the government to be in that neck of the woods anyway.

AVLON: Allison, give us your best hunch about what you might find. Do you feel like you've got a -- you've got the thread here? You're going to find Amelia?

FUNDIS: Absolutely. I think we both have the itch. We're going to keep at it.

BALLARD: Yes. AVLON: It's such a fascinating adventure. It's such a purposeful mission at a time when it feels like there are not a lot of mysteries left on planet earth at least, this is one of the big one.


BALLARD: This is a tough one.

AVLON: So, good luck in finding Amelia Earhart.

BALLARD: Thank you.

FUNDIS: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Great stuff, John. Thank you very much.

All right, we are set for a very big week in the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow is next.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Monday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has the day off.

And the House impeachment inquiry is now accelerating as lawmakers return from their two-week recess. This week they will hear from some key figures in the Ukraine whistleblower scandal starting next hour. Fiona Hill will be testifying. She is the president's former top Russia adviser. Then later this week, according to "The Washington Post," the EU ambassador, Gordon Sondland, is expected to testify.


Remember, he didn't a week ago. Now he's going to respond to a subpoena. And he's expected to say that there was a quid pro quo in the president's dealings with Ukraine.