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Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) is Interviewed About Former Trump Adviser Testifying Before Congress About "Wrongdoing" In Ukraine Efforts; Hunter Biden Gives Interview on Taking Board Position for Ukraine Oil Company; Democratic Presidential Candidates Prepare for Debate in Ohio; U.S. Forces Consolidate Position after Leaving Northern Syria. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- son of the former vice president tells ABC News he used, quote, poor judgment in serving of the board of a Ukrainian gas company, but he insists he did nothing improper. Here's just some of that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you and your father ever discuss Ukraine?

HUNTER BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S SON: No. As I said, the only time was after a news account -- it wasn't a discussion in any way. There's no but to this. No, we never did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your dad said, I hope you know what you're doing.

HUNTER BIDEN: I hope you know what you're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you said, I do.

HUNTER BIDEN: And I said, I do, and that was literally the end of our discussion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?

HUNTER BIDEN: Because my dad was vice president of the United States. There's literally nothing as a young man or as a full-grown adult that my father in some way has influence over. It does not serve either one of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Hunter Biden's comments come hours ahead of tonight's Democratic debate in Ohio. Will Joe Biden address this? And what else will happen at this debate? Let's bring in April Ryan, CNN political analyst, Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator -- he has endorsed Kamala Harris -- and Angela Rye, CNN political commentator. So the Hunter Biden thing just came out, so we will address it right

now. Do you think, Angela, that this is something that Democratic voters want to hear more about? Do you think that they will hold this against Joe Biden? What did you think of his explanation for why he did this?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this was a foul for the Joe Biden camp. This interview should not have happened, and I think it's ill advised.

CAMEROTA: Shouldn't have happened today, or should never have happened?

RYE: I don't see the purpose. And the reason I'm saying that is I just believe that there are so many other more pressing issues. For starters, to be fair, Hunter Biden is not Joe Biden. And if we're to use the same standard that is applied to Donald Trump, albeit not fair, not transparent, not authentic, and not ethical, if we're to use the same standard, this shouldn't even come into question. Donald Trump directly benefits financially from his presidency financially. We know there are tons of ethical challenges, tons of conflicts of interest. So I'm over this. I would rather be talking about impeachment and the debate tonight and the candidates and the issues than this.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bakari Sellers, you are working with one of the candidates. Is she, Kamala Harris, over this?

RYE: What was that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Working with --

BERMAN: You're supporting Kamala Harris. It's a fair thing. You're on the campaign.

SELLERS: I think that all of the candidates for the most part have already spoken out and leave Joe Biden alone is something you hear the mantra over and over again. And I think many of the candidates really want to move beyond this. The problem, though, is that Hunter Biden did an interview that's released today, the morning of the debate. Nobody up here wants to be talking about Hunter Biden. I've been getting hell since our 6:30 morning hour when I say he should not have worked that. Why do I say that? Because he literally said that. It was poor judgment in doing that. And we should not be having this discussion today. This is an opportunity, and the people who have to hate this the most are Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard, those four people who need to actually have a breakout moment tonight.

RYE: It's more than four that need --

SELLERS: I'm just saying who don't stand a chance of making it to the next debate.

BERMAN: Let me just add one thing, the Biden campaign was aware, we are told, that Hunter Biden was doing this, but this was not orchestrated, we are told, by the Biden campaign, which might explain --

RYE: It should have been, though. There needs to be better coordination.

BERMAN: This is a different story. But this is something that Hunter Biden apparently wanted to do on his own.

RYE: Hunter shouldn't get to do everything he wants to do.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's the problem. Here's the problem. They wanted to get ahead of the story before tonight because they realize that the candidates were going to once again see blood in the water with Joe Biden and go after him. So in efforts to get ahead of it, you made it worse. You made the problem worse. You start stirring in mess, the mess is going to smear you.

So there is an issue tonight beyond the impeachment inquiry, beyond Bernie Sanders and is he fit to keep going and be president? Now Hunter Biden and this connection with Ukraine, as we are looking at the president and nepotism, now you've got Joe Biden once again going into another debate with blood in the water.

And here's the issue. What candidate is going to be bold enough to go after Joe Biden, because we've seen candidates, every time they go after Joe Biden, their numbers slip. So let's see who is going to be the one who gets out there, gets bold, gets mavericky as Sarah Palin --

(LAUGHTER)

RYE: Come in on a white stallion.

RYAN: He's got another knee.

SELLERS: There is a slightly -- there is a chance that Tulsi is not just working for the United States of America, but I digress.

RYAN: Wait a minute, what?

SELLERS: No, I firmly --

RYE: That's a hell of an allegation.

SELLERS: That's not just an allegations. I firmly believe that --

RYAN: Message is coming now.

(LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: I firmly believe that Tulsi Gabbard stands on that stage and is the antithesis to what the other 11 individuals stand for, especially when it comes to issues such as foreign policy. There is no question, there is no question that Tulsi Gabbard, of all the 12, is a puppet for the Russian government.

[08:05:08] RYAN: Whoa, whoa, that was strong.

CAMEROTA: How is there no question?

SELLERS: I think that you look at her relationship doing the bidding, her relationships and affection for people like Bashar al Assad, her admiring somebody we know to be a war criminal, propping them up. I think that those are questions that are going to have to be answered.

CAMEROTA: Obviously with Syria in the news, obviously this will come up tonight. I don't know that it will be framed the way you are.

SELLERS: I don't think the moderators will frame it as such.

CAMEROTA: I don't either.

RYAN: That was very strong.

CAMEROTA: But Syria will. And so what are you watching for? You really think that some of the outer tier candidates are going to go directly at Biden. What about Elizabeth Warren?

RYE: They definitely have to go at Elizabeth Warren -- Jesus -- if their camps advise them properly --

BERMAN: Not on the debate stage.

RYE: Yes, Jesus, I hope he makes it somewhere.

RYAN: He's in the building somewhere to keep it calm.

RYE: But I would say that one of the candidates I am watching for tonight, it's the first time on the debate stage for Tom Steyer. And what a time for him, because he has been calling for impeachment on this very network with commercials for a very long time. And to the point where I would see him and I would be like, this commercial is getting on my nerves, but I stand with you brother. So I cannot wait to see what Tom Steyer does. I told you all so and I've got some other things for you all to pay attention to. That's why I need to be your commander in chief. I think he might have a good moment tonight.

SELLERS: And the Beto, the undercurrent --

RYE: You know it's Beto. I did a podcast with him, and was promptly corrected. It's Beto.

SELLERS: OK, the Beto-Buttigieg -- I got that right --

(LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: The Beto-Buttigieg little war of words is going on. What we're noticing, though, is that I think a lot of these candidates are getting tired of the nitpicking that Buttigieg has been doing at their heels. And I think that the interview that Pete Buttigieg did with Peter Hamby recently when he was talking about the small donors of Elizabeth Warren. So I am looking forward to seeing Beto and Buttigieg go at it a little bit.

And listen, Elizabeth Warren hasn't had any fire, none whatsoever.

RYAN: But she's one, two, one, two, depending upon the poll.

SELLERS: And I know that candidates and Democrats are saying let's stay away from a quote-unquote circular firing squad, but I think tonight she's going to get some fire.

BERMAN: On what?

RYE: On being too liberal. I think there were poll numbers that you all showed earlier on the network that says she gets -- she has a ton of liberal support. There are Democrats right now who support Biden and they're saying it's for practical reasons, right? He can win. He's the most electable --

RYAN: I don't know with those gaffes. That's one thing to watch out for tonight.

RYE: This is the moderate Dems talking. There's no way Elizabeth Warren can win, she's too to the left, it's too much. But anyway --

RYAN: But there's also sexism that's built into this.

RYE: Absolutely. No question.

RYAN: But let me say this, you are absolutely right. There is campaigning fatigue. As a reporter, I'm fatigued. All of us are fatigued. We need to just sit back and --

BERMAN: I'm raring to go.

RYE: He's fired up and ready to go today.

RYAN: You're fired up and ready to go. But there are a lot of people out here that are like, oh, my God, I just wish it will be over. But at the end of the day, my eye is going to be on the underdog, and the underdog is the one who is under five percentage points, and that's a lot of them. They have to come up, show up and show out today to move on. Like Cory Booker who was begging for $1.7 million. He got over $2 million to stay in the game. He realizes that he has to show up to get people to come to him. Also Buttigieg, also Kamala Harris, your candidate. Also Klobuchar. I mean, all of --

BERMAN: Are you running away?

SELLERS: I'm not. No, she's going to do well.

Can we go back to Elizabeth Warren real quick, because I think there are two questions that Elizabeth Warren has to answer.

RYE: You better stay on message, Bakari Sellers.

SELLERS: I'm trying to get back.

(LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: The two questions that Elizabeth Warren has to answer, she has a plan for everything except health care. She's only the top tier candidate who has not released a health care plan.

BERMAN: She has Bernie Sanders' health care plan.

SELLERS: When you ask her, what is your health care plan, I'm with Bernie, right. And I think the people want to flesh that out. I think her friends like Harry Reid recently said that she's going to back off Medicare for all. The question is, is she going to be able to pass that litmus test that's set forth by the left? That's first.

And the second thing is, all of these plans do not take into account Mitch McConnell. All of these plans that she has, the wealth tax, et cetera, do not take into account Mitch McConnell. So there are people like Pete Buttigieg, the Beto O'Rourkes, the Steve Bullocks who are going to ask the question, what happens if this pan does not pass? How do you play for all of this?

RYAN: I want to get back into something that we have not talked about at this panel this morning, Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders and his health, that is a real issue. And people want to dismiss it. You have to understand, he's 78 years old. He's had a heart attack. And when you become a presidential nominee, you pick someone, a second person on that ticket in case you cannot fulfill your duties. So the question is, and fitness -- physical fitness is a real issue. And that is a question. I want to see how the candidates handle that. And I'm not saying this to down Bernie Sanders, but this is a real issue.

[08:10:06]

RYE: It just happened, right. It's not like he had a heart attack years ago. This is two weeks ago.

RYAN: Yes, this is a real issue. This is a very real issue.

SELLERS: It's not just an issue for him. It's also going to be an issue for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and other candidates.

CAMEROTA: And President Trump, may we add.

SELLERS: And President Trump.

RYAN: So you're talking age. We're talking about age now. We're talking about --

SELLERS: Yes, but I'm saying that everybody is now going to have to -- this is something that we haven't talked about as Democrats in our party. We haven't talked about the fact that Bernie Sanders --

RYAN: Health, let's talk about health, not talk about age, because I don't want to get into the age thing, because when you say Trump, when you say Bernie Sanders, when you say Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, we're talking age. I'm talking health, because any of the candidates could have, God forbid, anything happen.

SELLERS: I agree with that.

RYAN: So let's look at it. The age thing is going to be there, but it's not necessarily age. It's the message. It's the message.

CAMEROTA: And people will definitely be looking at Bernie Sanders. Obviously, he says that that he's on the mend. His campaign says --

RYAN: He's on the mend, but he's not mended.

CAMEROTA: Who knows?

SELLERS: Let me just say something. People know that I've been a Bernie Sanders antagonist for a very long period of time, but there's been no harder campaigner.

RYAN: He's going intoday.

SELLERS: There's been no harder campaigner of all the Democrats for the past two cycles than Bernie Sanders.

RYAN: It's about stamina, and it's about his health as well. You have got to take care of your health as you're trying to take care -- but these presidents age. These presidents age when they're on the campaign trail and when they're --

RYE: Barack Obama, that hair turned.

CAMEROTA: Well, Bernie Sanders' hair will stay the same.

(LAUGHTER)

RYAN: No, no, no. He's got a little hair spray on it. It stays down a little bit now. He's not the nutty professor anymore.

CAMEROTA: You really can never see where these panels are going to go.

BERMAN: Thank you all.

RYAN: That's why you love us.

BERMAN: We know you're all as energized as us for tonight's debate.

RYAN: I'm fatigued.

BERMAN: CNN-"New York Times" Democratic presidential debate live from the battleground state of Ohio tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

CAMEROTA: OK, President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria may have sparked a bipartisan backlash in Washington. But the top priority for the Pentagon is getting those troops out safely now. And CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What's the latest there this morning, Barbara? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. The

Pentagon says they want to do this in an orderly and deliberate fashion. But it is a battlefield in northern Syria, so we will have to see if they are able to do that.

U.S. troops already out of the key city of Manbij that is west of the Euphrates River. They are consolidating their positions already, troops moving into fewer locations so security can be better provided for them. Now there will be air cover, armed aircraft overhead, every U.S. position. They are telling the Turks exactly where they are. They don't want any mistakes, they don't want any accidental firings, and they are making it clear if forces approach them, they will state that they are the U.S. If they keep approaching, they will fire in self-defense.

The evacuation plan calls first for the equipment, the heavy equipment, the heavy weapons that have been there for years, including some radars, classified equipment to be packed up and shipped out either by air or land, and then it is the troops that will follow. And once again, it's an interesting thing. The Pentagon says it could take days or weeks, but it's not at all clear that they will have a lot of time to get out if the security continues to deteriorate.

How do the troops feel about all of this? My colleague Ryan Browne has been talking to a number of U.S. special forces that have served in Syria, and I want to share with you one of the comments he got from one of them. And this person told Ryan "It's pretty messed up what's happening out here. We want to offer support. We do not want to leave them in this situation." These are U.S. special forces who have been with the Syrian fighters for years now. They feel very strongly that they are being forced to desert them. John?

BERMAN: Barbara Starr, thank you so much for your reporting. Again, all this has happened in basically eight days since the president's decision to pull U.S. troops from that border.

All right, other major developments overnight -- shadow foreign policy, a rogue effort. This, of course, the explosive testimony from a White House insider talking about Rudy Giuliani as a hand grenade. We're going to speak to a key Democrat on this committee, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:18:32]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, CNN learned that President Trump's former top Russia adviser told impeachment investigators that both she and president Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton, they were alarmed by a shadow foreign policy campaign allegedly being orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani and reportedly for the president's personal, political benefit. Sources tell CNN that Bolton referred to Giuliani as a, quote, hand grenade that's going to blow everybody up.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He sits on the Oversight Committee, which was part of that hearing yesterday with Fiona Hill.

When you hear some of the terms tossed around. Let me throw this on the screen so we can see them, from Fiona Hill -- wrongdoing, hand grenade, going to blow everything up. A drug deal was how Rudy Giuliani apparently described the goings on between Rudy Giuliani and the ambassador to the European Union.

What's important to takeaway from this, Congressman?

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Well, I think it's all -- it corroborates a lot of the other information that we had previously about mayor Giuliani freelancing as president Trump's private attorney, freelancing in areas that are reserved for the State Department. And also, his association with some characters there that are of some concern who apparently were trying to undermine our ambassador's position in Ukraine.

[08:20:06]

So, we have several witnesses scheduled over the next few days that will look at other aspects of that relationship. But it's deeply concerning that Giuliani was allowed to conduct this negotiation with the Ukraine government.

BERMAN: So concerning why? I think I want to -- I want you to help viewers and maybe voters understand why what you think is wrong with that? What's wrong with Rudy Giuliani conducting shadow foreign policy?

LYNCH: Well, it's against the law. Number one, he's not authorized, he's not accountable, he's not elected. He's a private attorney.

You have a whole set -- so President Trump is the executive. And he has a whole department that is qualified, trained and empowered by the Constitution to conduct those type of negotiations. The private attorney for the president does not.

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. That's against the law as well.

So there are multiple levels of misconduct here. And, look, there were 12 people on that call that the president made to the Ukraine president. And so, now, we're hearing from individuals this week who are actually on the call and people who talked directly to people on the call.

So there are far too many witnesses to what went on here for the president to cover this up. Even trying to put that conversation in a private server will not work because that involved a whole other group of people.

BERMAN: Absolutely. The idea of a cover-up here. We've seen the rough transcript of the phone call. We've seen in some ways the final act here. We have the rough transcript, the log of President Trump asking the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, get in touch with William Barr and Rudy Giuliani to do so.

What, in addition to that, with all this testimony you're hearing, and some of the language I heard from Fiona Hill, we heard reported from Fiona Hill is explosive. And from last week, from U.S. ambassador, former ambassador to Ukraine as well, and Kurt Volker as well.

What does that add? How does that either increase or decrease your argument to ultimately impeach the president beyond the transcript of what the president actually asked?

LYNCH: Well, this is direct evidence. It fills in any gaps that might be there. Plus, it's, you know, a corroborating witness of what the transcript actually says.

So, you get -- you get a more -- a richer context for that letter because we've already seen the president and his attorneys try to explain away the transcript. But by having a dozen or so people who are on the call, having them put under oath, you know, and having them testify, I think will go a long way to proving the case, but also convincing the American people that the impeachment inquiry and possible impeachment might be necessary to protect and preserve the Constitution.

BERMAN: If John Bolton, the former national security adviser, is describing Rudy Giuliani as a hand grenade, do you want to hear from John Bolton himself?

LYNCH: Yes, think about that. You know, Mr. Bolton was explosive himself on occasion as part of the White House. I believe he was dismissed by the president because of his aggressiveness.

When he calls Giuliani a live hand grenade, that says something. He speaks from experience. He's someone who should know.

So, yes, we would -- we would want to talk to Bolton. We understand that he did leave the White House under stressful circumstances. But I think he had a good read on what was going on in Ukraine and his testimony would be very desirable as far as the committee goes.

BERMAN: Just finally, beyond, again, the transcript of the phone call and what we know the president asked the president of Ukraine, what's the most surprising thing you know in this week and a half of closed door discussions that your committees have had with witnesses?

LYNCH: Think about this. This call, this call was supposed to be a congratulatory call to Zelensky for, you know, winning his election.

[08:25:02]

That's why there were 12 people on the call.

And then in the midst of that call, the president, who is highly undisciplined, asks a foreign leader to put a political hit on his opponent. And then his whole staff goes into cover-up mode trying to hide that information, hide that transcript.

It surprises me that there's only one whistleblower. Only one person stood up for the Constitution. Only one person in that circle so far.

Now, there are others that are coming out now, but one lone, courageous American decided to come forward and say, this is not right. This is not right. This violates the Constitution. The president should not be doing this.

I was surprised that there was only one whistle-blower. Now others are coming forward and we're getting much more evidence. So I'm relieved over that fact. But, yes, I was surprised that we only had one whistleblower under the circumstances.

BERMAN: Well, Congressman Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts, we look forward to speaking with you again as maybe more people do come forward with more information. Appreciate it, sir.

LYNCH: Thank you. Good morning.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. NBC is responding to claims of a Matt Lauer cover-up and Ronan Farrow's new book "Catch and Kill." And Ronan Farrow is here to tell us the latest with Matt Lauer and the accusers. All of that, live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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