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Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Presidential Candidate is Interviewed about His Debate Performance; State Department Official Was Told 'Lay Low' After Complaining about Giuliani; Beto O'Rourke (D), Presidential Candidate is Interviewed about Gun Control Stance. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- who were on that debate stage in the next two hours. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidates made that case on health care and foreign policy, impeachment.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president. How we talk about each other actually really matters.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a country that loses 40,000 Americans to gun violence. This is a crisis. We've got to do something about it.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is the most consequential process the House can engage in. Yet, House Democrats have wasted no time to throw fairness and precedent to the wind.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is not a game for us. This is deadly serious.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, and the dust is settling somewhat from last night's CNN debate in Ohio.

And Elizabeth Warren is learning that life as a frontrunner comes at a price. She was attacked by nearly every candidate last night, especially for avoiding questions or answers about the cost of her Medicare for all plan.

For several of the lower tier Democrats, last night's debate, well, it may have been their last. There's less than a month left to qualify for the November debate in Atlanta. And the field will almost certainly be whittled down before then. Five of the Democratic candidates will join us live this morning from

Ohio with their big takeaways from last night.

BERMAN: Also, significant new reporting in the impeachment investigation this morning. So many revelations from witnesses within the administration that CNN has learned the White House is growing frustrated.

Yesterday, a State Department official testified that he was told to lay low after complaining about Rudy Giuliani's efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. That's when acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reportedly intervened to change control who was -- of who was overseeing the Ukraine relationship; and Mulvaney was reportedly a key player in withholding funds from Ukraine.

Also, new legal jeopardy, possible criminal jeopardy for Rudy Giuliani. CNN has learned that a grand jury has subpoenaed former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions on matters connected to Giuliani and his two associates who were arrested last week.

All of this together paints a picture of a months' long effort to implement what witnesses describe as a shadow foreign policy, not necessarily for national interests, but the president's personal political gain.

A lot to get to, but we're going to start with the debate ended just a few hours ago. One of the people on that stage, Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey, who joins us this morning.

Senator Booker, thank you for getting up early after being awake late.

BOOKER: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: I want to play some --

BOOKER: Appreciate being with you after a few hours of sleep.

BERMAN: At the outset of the debate, you issued many warnings, frankly, throughout the three hours. One of them was on the subject of discussing impeachment. So I want to play that moment.


BOOKER: I'm having deja vu all over again, first of all, because I saw this play in 2016's election. We are literally using Donald Trump's lies, and the second issue we cover on this stage is elevating a lie and attacking a statesman. The only person sitting at home that was enjoying that was Donald Trump.


BERMAN: This is in response, first to questions about the state of the impeachment inquiry. And second, to what Hunter Biden said on TV yesterday, which he said that he made a mistake when he took that board position in Ukraine.

So why did you feel it was important to make that point?

BOOKER: Well, you know, as I said, I saw this in 2016. Donald Trump would level something that was demonstrably a lie, as CNN has debunked exactly what this sitting president is saying. But yet, we still elevate it. We give it oxygen. We allow his lies to be used, to make everyone respond.

I think we could have made news last night by not even giving that lie life. But yet again, in the second series of questions last night, we were suddenly reliving Donald Trump's lies. And frankly, making -- making Joe Biden respond to them. And that's just wrong.

And I think it hurt us in 2016. And it's going to hurt us in 2020 if we allow it.

BERMAN: You don't think Joe Biden will have to respond to this if he is the nominee?

BOOKER: Again, this is a sitting president who used his office for his own personal gain, compromising U.S. national security. And he is trying to distract from that by attacking Joe Biden with something that has been thoroughly debunked. No wrongdoing whatsoever.

So when you elevate that kind of lie and attack and give it some kind of parity with what this impeachable offense is that Donald Trump is doing, you are serving Donald Trump and allowing him to yet again distract from what is relevant, important, urgent with scurrilous lies and attacks.

BERMAN: So that was one of the warnings you gave last night, which seemed more directed perhaps at the media, at the overall political environment.


But you had repeated warnings, I think, for your fellow Democrats on stage about the tenor, of how they were addressing each other and perhaps the tone with which they were addressing the issues. Why did you issue that warning more than once?

BOOKER: Well, look. I'm running for president, because I think we need a president that's not only strong on the issues but can unify our party.

We weren't unified when we were going into the 2016 contest. We were divided in some ways. And a lot of the attacks that we saw that came in from the primary went into the general election, undermined our ability to win the general election.

So it's fine to delineate your differences with other primary candidates, but the way we do it matters. It cannot be personal attacks, tearing folks down, doing so in a way that wounds us as a party.

At the end of the day, we have to show that unity that's necessary to develop the kind of strength it needs to defy -- to beat Donald Trump. And again, I'm running for president not just because of my ideas but

because I believe, after this president, we need someone who can heal, that can bring us together again to a common purpose and common cause. If we can't unify the Democratic Party, you're not going to have a great success in even trying to unify the nation.

BERMAN: One of the things, and I think you would agree, that is key when you're running for president, to be clear about your ideas and how you would implement them.

In one of the questions -- and I think this was where you were critical of the response or the way that other candidates were addressing it. One of the questions was Elizabeth Warren, how she would pay for Medicare for all and whether it would mean raising taxes on some middle-class Americans. And she didn't answer. She didn't answer that it would or it wouldn't raise taxes.

Does she need to answer that question? Bernie Sanders has.

BOOKER: Yes. Look, everybody is going to have to defend their record. Everybody should speak to the issues. But again, we cannot do that in a way that tears people down personally, that becomes sort of ad hominem attacks.

So yes, I've done this on the debate stage. Distinguished myself, my ideas, from others. We all have to answer to that. But we can do that in a way that elevates our party and not -- not divides it.

BERMAN: We heard from a panel of voters not too long ago who reacted positively to your debate performance. They mentioned you, along with Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren; and they did like the message of unity.

How far can that take you, though, is my question. Because you've been consistent with that message to date. And you are where you are in this race. Which, you know, was on that debate stage, which is more than a lot of other candidates can say. But not yet seeing that big bump in the polls.

BOOKER: Well, I've been grateful that focus group after focus group, debate after debate, people talk about me winning the debates. And we see this in the early primary states. In Iowa and New Hampshire, in fact, we're leading all other candidates in endorsements from local elected officials. And especially in a place like Iowa, where we have a strong team. Getting people like local mayors and state legislators to caucus for you in those rooms really makes a difference.

BOOKER: And that's why I'm feeling really strong. From Bill Clinton to John Kerry, people who were considered behind and then surged, even won in Iowa. We are showing the same pathway to the presidency that everybody from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama showed.

But look, I'll be clear. We have to keep raising money. And that's why you've heard me from the debate stage make an appeal for people who believe in this theme, unifying theme, call to civic race for us to heal and show that the lines that divide us are not as strong as the ties that bind us.

If people believe in that, we're hoping they'll go to Cory, keep us in this race. Help us to grow our teams in those early states so we can upset and win.

BERMAN: This was the first debate since the House began its official impeachment inquiry of President Trump. How did that affect the dynamic on that debate stage last night?

BOOKER: Well, I think this -- there's so much to talk about in these last couple weeks of -- that is just developing since the last debate. I mean, not only is the impeachment proceedings and more testimony coming out, it's not just casting a shadow that, in many ways, is damning this president's actions.

But you have on top of that what this president's doing in Syria. Pulling the rug out from under our troops, really endangering them. Attacking -- allowing the Kurds to be attacked. Driving them into the hands of our enemies. The Assad regime, the Iranians. Allowing Russia to have an advantage, endangering the state of Israel.

There are so many things that this president has done that continue to demonstrate the kind of godawful president he is.

And so there was a lot to talk about on that debate stage. And especially when you hear the comments of Democrats on that debate stage being echoed with Republicans, from Lindsey Graham to other foreign policy Republican leaders, who joined Democrats in the full- throated condemnation of this president.


So these were a lot of relevant issues we had to discuss last night. And it only fires up my sense of urgency in the general election to stand mano-a-mano with Donald Trump and beat him by exposing him for the failure of a president he is. Someone who has endangered our national security, both with his foreign policy disastrous moves, all the way to his violation of his oath of office.

BERMAN: So it is my understanding that this was the first of the debates that Rosario Dawson, whom you are dating, was at -- was there. How did that change it for you, and what did she think of your debate performance last night?

BOOKER: She's a working -- she's a working mom, and so she's been on the set of "Briar Patch" that wrapped in New Mexico very recently. And it makes a huge difference for you to have your significant other there just about in the front row.

So she was -- she's the best. Because she lifts me up, and she also gives me some incredibly good constructive criticism at the end. We were up late last night talking about it. But she loves everybody on that stage and has a great relationship with them.

So it was good to have her there last night. And I'm excited that she'll be there in November. We're even, again, on, having a contest to have a meal with her and I at the Atlanta debates.

BERMAN: You don't care to tell us what the constructive criticism was that she gave you, do you?

BOOKER: I -- I actually wouldn't mind telling you some of the constructive criticism if you're really that interested.

BERMAN: Yes. Yes, give me one.

BOOKER: Yes. Look, she wants more of me. In the same way that those of us who like "The West Wing," she said let Bartlett be Bartlett. She says I'm at my best when I show my humor, let people feel my spirit, because the issues are really important. At the end of the day, this country needs someone who brings a spirit of civility and a spirit of, frankly, unity. And she just said, have more fun, relax even more and let people see that spirit.

BERMAN: Well, that might be a positive message not just for a candidate but a boyfriend. Any time you have someone who tells you they want to see more of you, that's a good thing.


BERMAN: Senator Booker, thanks for being with us this morning. I appreciate it.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right. Still ahead on NEW DAY, we're going to speak to Senator Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

CAMEROTA: That was really fun. That is a great question.

BERMAN: Well, you know, he led with the most positive of the constructive criticism. I'm wondering if there was anything --

CAMEROTA: I doubt it. Just what I was going to say to you. More of you.


CAMEROTA: That's exactly right.

BERMAN: Literally something you've never said.


Meanwhile, there are more witnesses testifying in the impeachment investigation. How does that change the president's strategy? We discuss next.


[07:17:10] CAMEROTA: A senior State Department official told congressional lawmakers that he raised red flags about Rudy Giuliani's efforts on Ukraine more than six months ago and was told to lay low. Today, there's another round of testimony on the Trump administration's Ukraine policy or at least Rudy Giuliani's.

Let's bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN political analyst David Gregory.

So Jeffrey, we now know this went -- this stretched back further than we knew. It was well before the whistle-blower lodged his or her complaint. This is six months ago that George Kent tried to sound the alarm about what Rudy Giuliani was doing.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: What, you know, all the witnesses so far have been talking about is, you know, what was the guiding principle of our relationship with Ukraine. You know, was it the United States' national interest, or was it this extended months- long attempt to get the Ukrainian government to produce dirt on Joe Biden.

And what seems to be coming out is that, thanks to Giuliani, there was this long effort to basically make our relationship hostage to Donald Trump's political gain, political ambitions.

And you know, the question is how much of that can be tied to Trump directly and whether the Congress thinks that's an impeachable offense.

BERMAN: Well, the end of it can be tied to Trump directly, because Trump tied it to himself directly.

TOOBIN: Well, but that's -- that's what's so interesting about this, is that you -- you have the phone call which still looks like a smoking gun to many people. But what we're learning now is that was not an isolated incident. It fit in with a larger pattern.

BERMAN: And Alisyn Camerota dubbed it Rudy Giuliani's foreign policy, which is interesting, because it doesn't seem to have been America's foreign policy. It seemed to have been a foreign policy being implemented to help the president politically. And those are two very different things.

GREGORY: And that is the organizing principle. And so one of the questions that Jeffrey just alludes to is, what's the direct tie to the president? We know Rudy Giuliani has the president's ear directly.

Gordon Sondland, who's the ambassador to the E.U., a political appointee, a donor to the Trump campaign, he's speaking directly to the president about it. That's what I think is so interesting about these witnesses so far. That this initial whistle-blower complaint was so fulsome in saying there were so many people who thought this was inappropriate. You have career people, you have political people saying this was way out of bounds. It was separated. It's run by Rudy Giuliani, and there's a direct

link to President Trump. There's no way to believe, given how Trump operates, that he is not orchestrating what's going on. He is. He runs foreign policy. He runs his press shop. He does everything. And that's what it seems to be the threads are pointing to here.

CAMEROTA: You know, one of the problems with parsing President Trump's phone calls or speeches is he says a lot of things. And so in the transcript or partial transcript of that phone call, he talked about a lot of stuff.


So when he says, I talked to him about other European governments paying more. I don't think the United States should have to shoulder everything. What about Angela Merkel? He did bring that up.

And he brought up CrowdStrike, which is this debunked conspiracy theory. And he brought up Joe Biden. There's a ton of stuff. And so is that making it tough for congressional investigators, because he casts such a wide net, or are they zeroing in?

TOOBIN: I don't think that makes it tough. You know, the transcript is so direct, I mean, "You have to do us a favor, though," the president says. In effect, if you want our money, you have to do us this favor of --

CAMEROTA: But that was not about Joe Biden. You have to do us a favor, though, is about CrowdStrike. You have to look into this thing. There's this thing. There's a server.

I mean, he -- Again, he speaks in these sort of words that aren't full, coherent sentences. So this thing -- you know what I mean. You've been very bad to us, but sometimes good and do us --

BERMAN: He said look into Joe Biden. Talk to Giuliani and Barr.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. This is my point.

BERMAN: So there's no ambiguity there.

CAMEROTA: And the second part, he says, I'm going to have these guys look into Joe Biden. And I'm just wondering, if it's so -- if it's such an open and shut case --

TOOBIN: If -- But if the transcript -- partial transcript were the only piece of evidence, you could certainly argue it away.

But what these other witnesses are showing is that it's all pointing in the same direction. It's all suggesting, perhaps proving, that our foreign policy with Ukraine was built entirely around getting dirt on Joe Biden. That's why it's so important.

BERMAN: I want to tell you two things. First of all, Gallup just came out with a poll moments ago. Fifty-two percent, according to Gallup, favor impeaching and removing the president from office; 46 percent say it shouldn't happen. In line, roughly --

CAMEROTA: That's just like the FOX News.

BERMAN: In line with other polls we've seen.

I want to talk about Rudy Giuliani, if I can. And I'm not the lawyer that Jeffrey Toobin is here, but when you read that there is a grand jury issuing subpoenas to former Congressman Pete Sessions to find out what was going on with Giuliani. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting, is that this is about the investigation into Giuliani, which CNN has reported on. They're looking at his bank records, also. This seems like he's in trouble, David.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it does seem like he's in trouble, certainly being investigated. And questions about whether he was lobbying illegally. Questions about being a conduit for illegal campaign donations. All of this doesn't look good.

And we know that Giuliani's not cooperating with the congressional investigation, refusing to testify and produce documents. So this becomes one of the major areas beyond what the president might have done to abuse power, say, with regard to Ukraine aid. What he was specifically up to that may have been illegal.

TOOBIN: I would still be very cautious in suggesting any sort of criminal activity by Rudy Giuliani. If you look at the indictment of his two associates, it's a campaign finance case. It's not a lobbying case. And he's not mentioned in the indictment. There is no suggestion that he was involved in these campaign contributions. That doesn't mean they won't be investigating him for that.

But -- and the illegal lobbying or failure to register, those are very unusual cases. They have not -- this is not a record of great success in prosecuting those cases in the Justice Department.

BERMAN: Recently, it is something that they've gone after.

TOOBIN: They've gone after. But Greg Craig, the White House counsel, was investigated in that area. He was completely acquitted, exonerated. It was a false statement case, not exactly a lobbying case. But that was a cautionary tale about how juries view those cases.

I just -- you know, Rudy Giuliani has been so reckless in what he said, and now his associates have been indicted. It's tempting to say the, you know, sheriff is coming for him soon. Let's be careful about that.

CAMEROTA: We appreciate that.

TOOBIN: All right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

TOOBIN: A little careful. It's not bad. CAMEROTA: Thank you. Very nice. David, thank you very much.

OK. So last night several candidates were hoping for a standout performance to, of course, boost their chances of making the next debate stage. What about former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke? How does he think he did? He joins us next.



CAMEROTA: One of the more pointed clashes in last night's debate came between Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. This was over O'Rourke's plan for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You just made it clear that you don't know how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets. If you can develop the plan further, I think we can have a debate about it. But we can't wait. People are dying in the streets right now.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those students who marched for our lives, who in fact, came up with this extraordinary, bold peace plan that calls for mandatory buybacks, let's follow their inspiration and lead and not be limited by the polls and the consultants and the focus groups.

BUTTIGIEG: Problem isn't the polls. The problem is the policy. And I don't need lessons from you on courage. Political or personal.


CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now is 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. Good morning, Congressman.

O'ROURKE: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. So let's -- let's dive into that exchange, in particular. Because it sounded like what Mayor Buttigieg was saying was that your plan was not fleshed-out enough. Can you flesh it out more? How do you plan to get assault weapons away from people who don't want to give them up?

O'ROURKE: It's pretty simple. As with any law in this country, we would expect our fellow Americans to follow the law. It's one of those things that distinguishes us from so much of the rest of the world. We're a nation of laws, and no person is above the law. No matter how much they may disagree with a given law.

We also have the precedent of Australia, which took the bold step of having a mandatory buyback of these AR-15s and AK-47s. As you know, weapons that were designed for war, to kill people on a battlefield, that have no use for hunting or self-defense -- [07:30:00]