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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Rudy Giuliani to Defy Congressional Subpoena; Democrats Set to Debate. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired October 15, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I will leave it there.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" live from that debate site in Ohio starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: How much will impeachment be discussed during tonight's Democratic debate here in Ohio?
THE LEAD starts right now.
Key testimony happening right now on Capitol Hill, as the House decides whether to impeach President Trump, as CNN learns that President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani will defy a congressional subpoena for documents. And he's not the only one.
And breaking today, President Trump sending Vice President Pence to try and clean up the lethal mess made by pulling back U.S. troops in Syria, as Russians begin to fill that void.
And the main event. It is debate night on CNN, now with an impeachment inquiry and a virtual tie at the top of the group and a candidate recovering from a heart attack.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD live in Westerville, Ohio, where, in just a matter of hours, 12 Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage behind me for tonight's debate right here only on CNN.
I'm Jake Tapper.
We are going to start this afternoon, however, with breaking news in the politics lead.
CNN is learning just moments ago that President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani will defy a congressional subpoena for documents.
I want to get right to CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, what is the reasoning here from Giuliani's legal team?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is classic Giuliani bluster.
He says that this is an unconstitutional, baseless and illegitimate impeachment inquiry. And he says that the request for information from these three committees that are leading the inquiry was overbroad, that it goes into attorney-client privilege information.
And, essentially, he's taking the protection that the White House has been offering, which is that they're not going to comply with any -- with any subpoena because they believe that what the Democrats are doing is illegitimate.
Now, this letter was sent to the congressional committees this afternoon by Jon Sale, who is Giuliani's now former attorney. Giuliani is telling us that he has parted ways with Jon Sale, now that this entire -- this inquiry, this part of the interaction with Congress is over, in his view.
But we're talking to people close to Rudy Giuliani, and they're advising him that he needs a real lawyer, he needs an attorney who's going to handle this investigation that is ramping up at the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, because there's some real legal problems that he faces as a result of this investigation.
Jake, we're told that, at this point, Giuliani says that he doesn't really see the need for an attorney. He believes that he is protected, because he -- all the work he was doing, he says, in Ukraine was done at the behest of the president -- Jake.
TAPPER: Interesting legal argument.
Evan Perez, thanks so much.
There have been a number of major developments in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump over just the last 24 hours. CNN just confirmed that the Office of Management and Budget also does not plan to comply with the congressional subpoena.
That deadline was today. And this is just hours after President Trump's one-time adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill, testified behind closed doors at Congress that President Trump's national security adviser at the time, John Bolton, viewed Rudy Giuliani as a -- quote -- "hand grenade" who was going to -- quote -- "blow everybody up."
CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me now live -- Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake.
We have just gotten word from the OMB that they do not plan to hand over those documents. They're saying that they view this impeachment inquiry as constitutionally illegitimate. And it is unclear right now whether the OMB has actually sent any notice officially to the impeachment committees.
Now, Jake, we should also note that those committees were expecting or had requested documents from both the Pentagon and the Vice President Mike Pence's office. They have so far, we understand, not received those documents.
Now, Jake, as you mentioned, this comes in the wake of this explosive testimony from Fiona Hill, the former top White House adviser on Russia, who said that she was so disturbed by Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine that she went to a top White House and national security lawyer.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): It is explosive testimony that shows the president's most senior foreign policy advisers were against what they felt was a rogue drug deal-type operation in Ukraine, that operation led by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, this according to multiple senior officials, the whistle-blower and hours of testimony from multiple witnesses in front of three House committees.
Fiona Hill, the White House's former top expert on Russia, telling lawmakers Monday that former National Security Adviser John Bolton called Giuliani a hand grenade who, according to a source, was going to blow everybody up.
Giuliani's operation bothered Hill and Bolton so much that Bolton told her to speak with a White House lawyer, a source telling CNN: "She saw wrongdoing related to the Ukraine policy and reported it."
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The Intelligence and Oversight and Foreign Affairs committee are gathering a far more detailed and fine-grain portrait of everything that was taking place in Ukraine with Giuliani and with his henchmen.
MARQUARDT: Giuliani, with the help of two men who have now been indicted on conspiracy and campaign finance violations, has been widely accused of running a shadow diplomacy operation in Ukraine, even pressuring President Trump to recall his ambassador to Ukraine, who is known for her anti-corruption work.
Lawmakers are hearing today that these concerns over Giuliani's work to get the ambassador recalled go back to at least March, when top State Department official George Kent, who oversees Ukraine, came to the ambassador's defense over the conspiracies that were being pushed, before the July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president, when Trump asked for a favor, that President Zelensky work with Giuliani and help investigate the Bidens.
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): The ask that Mr. Giuliani is making to the Ukraine government is to basically put a political hit on Mr. Trump's main opponent, Joe Biden, to help him in the upcoming 2020 election. You cannot do that.
MARQUARDT: Now, what prompted Fiona Hill specifically to go to the White House lawyer, at Bolton's suggestion, was a meeting on July 10, in which the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who is one of the president's top envoys to Ukraine, talked about investigations.
Hill understood that to mean investigations into the Bidens. And Hill told lawmakers that these dueling Ukraine policies made for a corruption inside the United States -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.
Let's talk about this with our experts.
Abby, let me start with you.
So, Giuliani and the Office of Management and Budget both saying they're not going to comply with congressional subpoenas. So, obviously, the Trump strategy is just complete and utter stonewall.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It has been.
But it doesn't seem that it's been a strategy that's been successful so far, because Giuliani really, at this point, is the only one so far that has been willing to defy congressional subpoena.
Now, Congress has somewhat limited options. They could try to carry this out in the court system, which they have indicated that they're unwilling to do because of how much time it would take. It might just be rolled into articles of impeachment.
But the damage for the White House is already done. Giuliani might try to stall in this way. He might try to defy Congress, but with the other individuals testifying about this subject matter, it really puts him in a box.
And he's very lonely right now in doing what he's doing, following and carrying out the White House's orders on this.
TAPPER: And it's interesting, Maeve.
If you go back and look at what Republicans said about the oversight responsibilities of Congress when they were conducting oversight of Obama or Bill Clinton, they sounded quite different than they sound today, when it's oversight by Democrats over a Republican president.
Here's Rudy Giuliani back in 1998 talking about presidents and subpoenas. This is during the Clinton impeachment. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All the Watergate litigation resolved the fact that the president is not above the law, is not able to avoid subpoenas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But now Rudy Giuliani is trying to avoid a subpoena. And he's not even the president.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it seems the times have changed.
There's going to be so many gems like that, I think, certainly because Giuliani was such a public face through all of that. And I think it's going to be very hard for him, as more and more information emerges about his role in this and the way in which the president leaned on him, to just sort of withdraw and try to hide behind the screen of lawyers that he's bringing on to defend him.
PHILLIP: I mean, just a week ago, Giuliani was threatening to go into the Senate and testify about Joe Biden.
PHILLIP: How times have changed. It's only been a week. And it shows that the pressure is really on. These revelations are really significant.
TAPPER: And, Carrie, let me bring you in.
You worked for the Justice Department. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that federal prosecutors are examining Rudy Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine, sources telling CNN that associates of Giuliani are encouraging him to hire a personal lawyer.
What theoretically could he be charged with criminally?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what I thought was interesting about that "Wall Street Journal" report is, it described 10 years of work that he's done possibly in Ukraine.
And so I think there's a potential avenue of financial crimes that we might be looking at. The individuals that he's associated with who were charged for campaign finance violations and conspiracy, so there's a possibility that he could be linked into that part of the investigation.
But there also is a possibility that, given just 10 years of these overseas business dealings, that there is some other financial aspect, because, remember, when his associates were arrested, it was done prematurely, so that they didn't leave the United States.
And so it's an ongoing investigation. And there may be other aspects of it, particularly on the financial side, that could potentially implicate them.
TAPPER: And, Phil, let me bring you in.
When you look at everything that was laid out in Alex's piece, clearly, there was a lot of concern well before that July 25 call with the president of Ukraine about the president's approach to Ukraine.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I agree, but I think we're still missing the key piece of the puzzle.
We knew from when the transcript of the phone call was released that the president did something inappropriate, that is, encourage a foreign government to collect information about a political rival. And the president admitted that.
He later said publicly, encouraging the Chinese to do the same thing. And we have heard in the past day or two that officials said they were concerned about that.
We're still missing what I think is the key piece of the puzzle, that is, people who will come up and testify about whether that was directly linked to releasing money to Ukraine. There's just people confirming the president did something completely inappropriate politically and in foreign policy. He did. Where's the money?
That's what I want to know. This is money, lies and videotape. We want the money. We have heard the lies and we have seen people on tape already. Where's the money?
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We're going to keep talking about this.
As we learn Rudy Giuliani will ignore a congressional subpoena, new information now about how Republican lawmakers are starting to voice concerns about the president's personal attorney. Is he being set up as the fall guy?
Plus, we're live here inside the debate hall in Western Ohio for the Democratic debate that is just hours away. The candidates just finished their final walk-throughs.
Don't go anywhere. We will be right back.
TAPPER: We're back from inside of the debate hall here in Westerville, Ohio. We're just hours away from the CNN/"New York Times" Democratic presidential debate.
And we have some breaking news for you. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, has said he will defy a subpoena from Congress to turn over documents in the House impeachment inquiry. This comes as Republicans are starting to express unease about the president's personal attorney.
Let's go to CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us.
Lauren, what are you hearing from House Republicans about Giuliani and about his role in this scandal? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Jake, as you know,
Republicans are vigorously defended the president every step of the way in this impeachment inquiry, but there are growing concerns about his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and exactly what he was doing in Ukraine with this so-called shadow diplomacy.
One Republican member who we talked to, Francis Rooney, told us, quote: I worry a lot about nonprofessionals pursuing diplomacy in the name of American diplomacy. And that's a widespread view that we are hearing from not just Republican members but Republican aides. One aide told me there is a growing consensus that Rudy Giuliani just needs to go away for a little while because they are trying to craft a very specific message when it comes to this impeachment inquiry, Jake.
And the fact that Rudy Giuliani is not only involved in foreign policy in the past but the fact he's on one cable news network and talking to another reporter, it's starting to screw up the message that Republicans are very carefully trying to script -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Lauren Fox, thank you so much.
Let's bring in Ross Garber now. He's a lawyer who was lead counsel representing four out of five U.S. governors who have faced impeachment in the last 20 years.
Mr. Garber, thanks for joining us.
Of all of the information that have come out in the past few weeks, the concerns of a quid pro quo voiced by a Trump administration official, people inside the administration talking about a rogue foreign policy, the whistleblower complaint which is largely been backed up by the White House transcript or rough transcript of the president's call, how bad do you think things are developing for President Trump right now?
ROSS GARBER, IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: I think things are very serious. And up until probably the middle of last week, I saw a path toward him potentially not getting impeached by the house, notwithstanding the strong Democratic majority there. One thing happened last week that I think is very troubling and that is the indictment of two associates of Rudy Giuliani. One, because it puts the president's personal lawyer sort of in the spotlight and, two, in that indictment which was largely about campaign finance issues, there was a reference to these two guys who were indicted, to them acting on behalf of one or more Ukrainian government officials to seek the ouster of the Ukrainian ambassador.
Now we know that is something that Rudy Giuliani worked very hard to accomplish. And we know that something the president actually did. And so, in all of this, I think there is talk about quid pro quo. That's fine. That's all interesting.
I think the big question is going to be, why? Because if the why --
TAPPER: Yes. GARBER: -- the president took these actions is that he thought, even if misguided, they were good for American policy, you don't get impeached for that. If the why is something more nefarious, that's a problem.
TAPPER: And just to be clear, you're talking about the -- they were seeking the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine --
TAPPER: -- Masha Yovanovitch who was somebody who Giuliani was complaining about messing up his hope to get information or dirt on the Bidens.
I want to ask you about Fiona Hill. The adviser on Russia from the White House. She resigned a few months ago. She was interviewed yesterday behind closed doors telling the panels that the national security adviser at the time, John Bolton, called Rudy Giuliani a hand grenade who was going to blow everybody up.
That's bad for Giuliani. Does it implicate President Trump who is, of course, the man at the center of the impeachment inquiry?
GARBER: Well, it potentially does. It's important for a couple of reasons.
One, is it showed there are people inside of the White House and inside of the administration who are very troubled by what was going on and voiced those troubles. So, it's not like everybody thought what was going on was totally OK. There were people that voiced those troubles, those concerns.
And then, two, they implicate Rudy Giuliani and the question is, did -- you know, what were Giuliani's communications with the president about this in what was Giuliani trying to accomplish and what were his motives and then what did he communicate with the president about it and the fact that he is now involved in a federal investigation is very potentially troubling.
If I were the president, I would be very concerned about that because we saw what happened to the last lawyer for the president who was involved in a federal investigation. He was the guy who said he would take a bullet for the president and ultimately wound up flipping and then testifying.
TAPPER: And he's in prison. Michael Cohen you're talking about.
GARBER: Exactly, right.
TAPPER: Republicans and the president are in front of the cameras complaining about the process. Is that what you do when you don't have the facts on your side involving the actual allegation of wrongdoing? You attack the process? GARBER: Well, I actually think they have some legitimate concerns
about the process. In both the Clinton and Nixon impeachment processes, there were rights given to minority. There were rights given to the president's lawyers. Both impeachment proceedings actually had the same set of rules.
So I think it is not a bad point they're making that, hey, wait a minute, why aren't we doing it the same way now as we did it then? I think it's a worthwhile point to make. It has to probably be coupled with sort of a substantive defense. And also, it has to be presented in a reasonable way, which I'm not sure the White House counsel's letter did which sort of objected wholesale to all of the activities of the House of Representatives.
I think the house Republicans do make a good point about having a fair, open process similar to what was used in Clinton and Nixon.
TAPPER: All right. Ross Garber, thank you so much for your insight. We appreciate it.
Coming up, President Trump announced just moments ago that he's going to send his vice president and his secretary of state to Turkey to try and work out a deal on Syria after the mess that he, arguably, caused, but is it too late?
You're watching THE LEAD live from the Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: You're looking live inside of the debate hall here at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, outside Columbus, where in just hours, 12 Democratic presidential candidates will face-off.
First, though, let's talk about our world lead. President Trump just announced in 24 hours, Vice President Pence is going to head to Turkey to attempt to broker a ceasefire between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces. It's seemingly an attempt by Pence to clean up what critics are calling President Trump's mess which now has a body count.
After the president essentially gave the go ahead for Turkey to attack the Kurds in northern Syria when he pulled U.S. troops from the region. But don't take my word for it. The president's former ambassador to the coalition to combat ISIS, Brett McGurk, tweeted, quote, Trump officials are working over time to say he never gave the green light to this disastrous gift to ISIS, Russia and Iran, I don't envy them, but it's demonstrably false, unquote.
CNN's Boris Sanchez breaks down the White House's scramble over Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Facing staging bipartisan condemnation, President Donald Trump is playing catch-up and clean-up over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria as the Turkish military pushes further into the country. Following the removal of U.S. troops from the region, Trump is scrambling to project a harder line on Turkey, announcing harsh economic sanctions on Turkish officials and directly voicing his anger with Turkish President Recep Erdogan during a phone on Monday.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're asking for a ceasefire. We put the strongest sanctions that you could imagine, but they get a lot -- we have a lot in store if they don't -- if they don't have an impact.
SANCHEZ: Trump today during a Rose Garden ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champions also demanding a ceasefire following yesterday's announcement that he would dispatch Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O'Brien to Turkey to negotiate a peace deal.
But this all comes more than a week after President Trump gave Erdogan the green light, sparking ripples of bipartisan outrage through Washington. Vice President Mike Pence insisting to reporters that the administration's moves did not lead --