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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Former CIA Director David Petraeus; Interview With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Interview With Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired October 20, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[1200:25]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Strategic nightmare.

With top Republicans condemning his decision on Syria, President Trump touts his negotiating skills on the world stage.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's really a great day for civilization.

TAPPER: But did the president give Turkey and Russia everything they wanted? We will ask former CIA Director General David Petraeus next.

And quid pro quo. Once again, the White House does the Democrats' work for them by just admitting it.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

TAPPER: Will that strategy backfire on Capitol Hill? We'll speak with a republican who is not ruling out impeachment, Congressman Francis Rooney ahead.

Plus, middle ground? Democrats sharpen their attacks as the primary race enters a new phase.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything, except this.

TAPPER: Are voters looking for an alternative? We will talk with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in moments.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is experiencing whiplash.

President Trump is making a rare retreat this weekend, after an absolute pile-up of scandals, admissions and miscalculations that seemed to shock even his staunchest allies. Late Saturday night, the president canceled his plan to host the G7

summit at his own Doral resort in Florida, reversing himself, after harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle that he was steering government money to his own pockets.

In fact, for a president who needs the support of congressional Republicans to keep his job, President Trump seemed to be testing the limits this week. At least one Republican lawmaker didn't rule out backing impeachment after the White House acting chief of staff admitted out loud Thursday that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo involving U.S. aid to Ukraine, a confession followed by yet another attempted walk-back.

And, amid violence in Syria, the top Senate Republican declared the president's withdraw a -- quote -- "strategic nightmare," while the president touted a temporary cease-fire that many viewed as a complete and utter capitulation to Turkey.

For the fourth week in a row, the White House and top House and Senate Republicans have refused to come on this newscast to answer our questions about all of these important developments.

The invitation remains open. We hope they will come to explain all of this to the American people, because, especially at a time when the White House has ended the practice of regular press briefings, they are shirking this important part of their duty to the American public to explain what they are doing with our money and in our name.

Joining me now, 2020 presidential candidate and a veteran who served in Afghanistan, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Mayor Buttigieg, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you.

TAPPER: President Trump referred to what's happening at the Turkey- Syria border as the -- quote -- "ultimate solution" in a tweet.

And I want you to take a listen to something he said about the Turks and their border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In all fairness, they have had a legitimate problem with it. They had terrorists. They had a lot of people in there that they couldn't have.

They have suffered a lot of loss of lives also. And they had to have it cleaned out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "They had to have it cleaned out." "Ultimate solution."

What's your reaction?

BUTTIGIEG: My reaction is that those kinds of phrases have the darkest rhymes in world history.

We don't talk about cleaning out people, especially when there is an ethnic minority that has faced atrocities and appears to be facing crimes against humanity and atrocities, perhaps beginning right now.

Look, the security concerns of Turkey can be taken seriously without green-lighting the kind of thing that this president has allowed.

But the real consequence of this isn't just what's happening to Kurds or what's happening in Syria. It's what's happening to the United States of America, because when American presidents -- when an American president talks like that, when an American president pulls the rug out from under people who trusted us with their lives, that's going to have implications for American interests all over the world.

Any place in the world where we need someone to trust us, to go out on a limb, to fight alongside our troops, it's going to be harder. And that could last for decades and will make America less safe.

TAPPER: I want to turn to the Democratic race, if I can.

You attacked your 2020 opponent, Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, on stage over how she's going to pay for Medicare for all.

A Warren campaign aide subsequently told CNN -- quote -- "She's reviewing the revenue options suggested by the 2016 Bernie campaign, along with other revenue options, but she will only support pay-fors that meet the principle she has laid out in multiple debates."

[12:05:06]

Is that answer good enough for you?

BUTTIGIEG: No.

We need to see how this is going to be paid for, because, right now, whether you copy-paste the Bernie Sanders' math or do it some other way, there is a hole amounting to trillions of dollars in how this is supposed to work.

And the really unfortunate thing is, we can deliver health care to every American without that problem, and without the problem that I think is the central problem in her plan of kicking everybody off of their private plans in four years or less.

That's why the approach that I'm offering, Medicare for all who want it, is a better approach. It's better because it gives you the choice to decide whether you want in on the public Medicare option or you want to stay on your private plan. And it's better because it's actually paid for.

TAPPER: So, the attack is kind of confusing, because, as you know, in 2018, you were asked whether you supported Medicare for all and whether insurance does not belong in health care. And you tweeted back in part -- quote -- I, Pete Buttigieg,

politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare most affirmatively and indubitably unto the ages that I do favor Medicare for all, as I do favor any measure that would help get all Americans covered."

So what happened to that 2018 Medicare for all pledge?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, the substance is the same. Obviously, my tone there reflected...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You were being a little cheeky, but you are supporting Medicare for all.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Look...

TAPPER: And you no longer are.

BUTTIGIEG: I think Medicare for all means everybody can get into Medicare.

And somewhere along the line this year, politicians started saying that it's only Medicare for all if you eliminate all private coverage, which is why I now talk about my plan with the language of Medicare for all who want it.

But I think the issue here really isn't terminology. The issue is, what is it that we're going to deliver, and does it give everybody access to Medicare and choice?

My plan does both of those things. It's what most Americans want. It's what most Democrats want. It's the best policy. And I'm not having these problems describing how it's going to be paid for.

TAPPER: So you have also been accusing Senator Warren of not being straight with the people because she won't acknowledge that middle- class taxes will go up, while, at the same time, we should point out, obviously, there would be no insurance premiums and no out-of-pocket expenses under this.

And so her argument is, costs will go down. But she doesn't use the word taxes going up.

Take a listen to this exchange that you and I had during the second Democratic debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: You are willing to raise taxes on middle-class Americans in order to have universal coverage with the disappearance of insurance premiums, yes or no?

BUTTIGIEG: I think you can buy into it.

That's the idea of Medicare for All who want it. Look, this is a distinction without a difference, whether you're paying the same money in the form of taxes or premiums.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "This is a distinction without a difference, whether you're paying the same money in the form of taxes or premiums."

Isn't that the same argument that Elizabeth Warren is making?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, I'm willing to say it out loud.

And, secondly, the problem isn't just how she talks about it. The problem is the multitrillion-dollar hole.

In other words, even if you accept what she's saying, taxes go up, premiums go down, you come out ahead, fine, there's still a multitrillion-dollar hole in this plan.

That's the problem, added to the fact that, if you like your private plan, her vision will kick you off of it in four years or less. And we don't have to do this.

Look, what I'm proposing amounts to the boldest health care reform in more than 50 years. This is the biggest thing we will have done to American health care since Medicare itself was invented. And it has the advantage of preserving Americans' freedom to choose.

TAPPER: Well, if it happened, it would be bold, but it wouldn't be bolder than Medicare for all, because Medicare for all obviously would rejigger the entire health care system.

BUTTIGIEG: And that's just the point.

Here we are offering things that are the boldest action on a given issue area, like health care, in my lifetime, only to have some folks say, that's not good enough, unless you go even further.

And these purity tests, I think, run the risk of derailing us from the historic opportunity to gather an American majority around historic reforms. We can do this. We should do this. And, by the way, it's the best policy, because, if Medicare for all, if a single-payer environment is the right destination, which I think it very well may be, then the best way to get there is to give everybody the choice.

If the public plan is the best one, everybody will eventually choose it. And if it's not, then we're going to be really glad we didn't force people onto it.

TAPPER: We're running out of time, so I do want to flip to a different topic, which is the last Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, appeared to suggest that one of your fellow campaign nominees or campaign hopefuls, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, is a Russian asset.

Take a listen to Hillary Clinton on David Plouffe's podcast.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not

making any predictions, but I think they have got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate.

She's a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, because she's also a Russian asset.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

[12:10:00]

TAPPER: So, Clinton's spokesman confirmed that she was talking about Tulsi Gabbard there.

Gabbard fired back, calling Secretary Clinton the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption. It went on from there.

I know you don't want to get in the middle of these two politicians fighting. But is it helpful to have the 2016 nominee suggesting that a congresswoman is a Russian asset?

BUTTIGIEG: I'd prefer to have the conversation be about policy, about what we're going to do, and about how American lives are going to be different.

When it comes to any of my Democratic competitors, that's my focus, making sure that we make very clear the differences -- and there are very real differences among us -- and making it clear to voters what their choices are. That's where I'd like to focus to be.

TAPPER: Right. But do you think that -- do you think Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset?

BUTTIGIEG: I don't know what the basis is for that.

TAPPER: Well, I don't either.

BUTTIGIEG: I consider her to be a competitor, somebody who I respect her service.

I also have very different views then she does, especially on foreign policy. And I would prefer to have that argument in terms of policy, which is what we do with debates and what we're doing as we go forward.

TAPPER: So when Donald Trump smears people, Democrats all stand up and say, you're smearing someone. Stop it.

Why don't Democrats do that to say that about Tulsi Gabbard? It seems like an obvious smear. I don't see any evidence she's a Russian asset. It seems like a wild accusation.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I think statements like that ought to be backed by evidence.

I also think that our focus right now needs to be on the things that are actually undermining America. I mean, right now, we are being told to -- quote -- "Get over it" when it comes to the mixing of domestic politics and foreign affairs.

And the big issue today is not even whether this is happening. It's clear that it's happening. Even Republicans are being forced to admit that it's happening. The question is, will we or will we not actually get over it?

See, the problem with corruption is, it happen -- it can happen anywhere. The places where it takes root are the places where people accept it.

And the biggest question before the American people right now is, will we or will we not get over it? That problem is emanating not from anyone in the Democratic Party, but from the White House.

TAPPER: An agile pivot from Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.

Coming up next I'll speak with a Republican Congressman who is weighing impeachment because he says he'll be look at his children and grandchildren a lot longer than he'll be looking at any faces of his colleagues in Congress, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:12]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

The very first House Republican to say he would consider voting to impeach President Trump, consider is now saying he will not seek reelection next year.

Congressman Francis Rooney announced his retirement just a day after telling CNN that he could not rule out whether President Trump had committed an impeachable offense.

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): Thank you for having me on, Jake.

TAPPER: You call the Ukraine scandal very, very serious and troubling. You say you're not ruling out the possibility -- possibility of an impeachable offense. If Speaker Pelosi would call a vote tomorrow for launching an impeachment inquiry, not impeachment itself but just an inquiry to find out what the facts are, how do you think you'd vote?

ROONEY: I'm not 100 percent sure right this second. I want to hear what Ambassador Taylor has to say Tuesday, and I'm hoping to have a chance to hear from Ambassador Bolton before any of that would happen, because what I've heard so far is quite troubling. It's quite troubling that we had a diplomatic outreach of civilians delegating our paid public servant diplomat.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to the acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, essentially admitting a quid pro quo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: That he also mentioned to me in pass that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely, no question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money.

REPORTER: To be clear, what you've just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well?

MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So we all heard him. He goes on and all clearly quid pro quo.

He then issued a statement trying to say that he didn't say what we all heard him say. You didn't buy it, the walk-back?

ROONEY: I don't see how you back something that's clear. I would say, game, set, match on that.

TAPPER: And is that impeachable? I mean --

ROONEY: I don't know. That's the question. The question is it of a great enough magnitude to justify impeachment. And I want to learn a little more about that. I want to get more counsel. I want to talk to, quite frankly, some of the leadership, Democratic leadership, and what they have in mind. I think that this is a very egregious situation in the Ukraine, and Syria is even worse.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to something else that Mick Mulvaney said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MULVANEY: I have news for everybody, get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

What you're seeing now, I believe, is a group of mostly career bureaucrats who are saying, you know what, I don't like President Trump's politics, so I'm going to participate in this witch hunt that they're undertaking on the Hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So you served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy City during the Bush administration, the second Bush administration. What do you think of the way that this White House is treating the diplomatic corps and State Department employees in terms of dispersions they're casting (ph) and the motives, as well as the way that they ousted the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine?

ROONEY: I don't agree with any of it. I think it's terrible. It started with Rex Tillerson and the budget a few years ago, which portion we could put most of the money back. But they're delegating the work of our paid foreign service, those people who serve all around the world in difficult circumstances, like Ambassador Yovanovitch, who, from all accounts, was a very good diplomat. I thought that Dr. Hill testified last week and spoke a very positive way about all of her great work in her career. I just hate to see our diplomatic activities disrupted and, in some ways, corrupted by these actions.

TAPPER: What do you think of the role in Foreign Policy that Rudy Giuliani has been playing?

ROONEY: Yes, I think it's a - I don't buy having a rump amateur diplomat - diplomat out there disrupting the work of our paid professionals. That's why I want to hear Bill Taylor Tuesday.

TAPPER: And what do you think when you hear your leadership, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, defending this, denying facts that are one the page, defending the decision by President Trump since that walk-back to have the G7 at one of his private clubs?

ROONEY: Yes. I mean, like I said to the media yesterday. I'm going to be looking at myself in the mirror and my children a lot longer than anybody in the Capitol. And it's important to have integrity in what you say and do. And I can't imagine who they would say it's good to have Trump use his hotel for the G7.

TAPPER: Do they not have integrity?

ROONEY: Well, I just don't understand why they would say that. To me, it doesn't respect -- it doesn't send a very honest statement when you know what the emoluments clause is. And you're just setting yourself up for people to say he's abusing the office. Why does he want to do that?

TAPPER: You've talked about the orientations of your party right now. You're a proud long-time Republican. Are you concerned about your party right now?

ROONEY: I'm very concerned, Jake. We are self-sorting for a declining demographic, a narrowing demographic of elderly people, rural people. You've seen the statistics that CNN published last week about the economic -- socio-economics of our party, how it's changed in the last 20 years. We've got to be reaching out to young people. We've got to get back to suburban people that were George Bush and Ronald Reagan's coalition. And we've got to get back to being the party of pro-economics, pro-capitalism and reduce spending, and not all this kind of populism stuff.

TAPPER: Are you still a Republican? Do you ever think about leaving the party?

ROONEY: I don't know. I am a Republican. I believe we have the better argument in the area of economic and business regulation. But I don't think we have the better argument on gun violence than on the environment.

TAPPER: What's your message to your fellow House Republicans as they face this impeachment inquiry situation the same way you do? You seem to have a different -- you're not looking to re-election. You're not worried about your political career. You're a successful businessman before this anyway. It seems like you are looking more towards how your kids are going to remember you and then the grandkids are going to remember you than maybe they are. They seemed to be looking or more at whether or not they'll be primaried.

ROONEY: Well, we only have one thing in our life, and that's our reputation. Everything else is transitory, including life itself. And so I'm not going to ruin mine over anything, much less politics.

And I think it's very bad that the system that we have now would probably disappoint our founders. They're so oriented towards re- election, raising money and it creates a bias against action. Everybody is quaking in fear of being criticized by the president or something.

TAPPER: Congressman Rooney, it's a pleasure to have you here and we look forward to having you back.

ROONEY: Thank you for having me on.

TAPPER: This week, former Navy Admiral William McRaven told me that our republic is under attack from President Trump.

I'm going to ask the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, to weigh in.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:01]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said overnight that at least some of the 1,000 U.S. service members in Syria would reposition in Western Iraq as the Trump administration moves forward with its Syria withdrawal.

The president's drawdown decision has set off blistering criticism by top former and current U.S. officials, who have called the move a strategic blunder and an abandonment of our Kurdish allies.

Joining me now to talk about this is the former head of the CIA, CENTCOM, multinational forces in Iraq and more, General David Petraeus.

General, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Pleasure to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: So let's start with Syria.

The defense secretary is saying that this withdrawal is going to happen and 1,000 troops are going to go into Western Iraq.

But here's the big question, as somebody who worked with the Kurds when you were the head of multinational forces in Iraq. Did the United States betray the Kurds?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think we have abandoned our serious -- Syrian Kurdish partners.

They took over 10,000 losses as the defeat of Islamic State was carried out, the elimination of the caliphate that ISIS had, certainly with our advice and assistance and enabling.

And then, very suddenly -- this is not a phased, deliberate, planned withdrawal. This is a very sudden exit. And this does not end an endless war. It probably prolongs it, because this gives ISIS an opportunity for a resurgence.

Keep in mind, there's still 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters in the Iraq and Syria area. We haven't got Baghdadi yet. Now there's a chaotic situation in Northeastern Syria. As Turkey is entering, Iran, Russia and Bashar al-Assad's forces are coming in. We give them a victory.

And so this is not a strategic success. This is really what Senator McConnell has described as a grave strategic mistake.

TAPPER: So, you called it an abandonment, but is it a betrayal?

PETRAEUS: I do think it is, yes.

And I have said that publicly, actually, in the last 24, 48 hours as well.

TAPPER: OK.

PETRAEUS: Again, the Kurds, when I arrived in Northern Iraq as a two- star general up in Mosul, and would go up there, and they used to say, General, the Kurds' only friends are the mountains.

And I'd say, no, no, no, you have the Americans.

Well, I don't think you could ask that now of General Mazloum, who has also been highly critical. He's our -- the partner, the commander of the Syrian Kurds, who has also been very critical of this particular decision.

TAPPER: I'm really curious about your response to this quote from President Trump. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes, you have to let them fight. Like two kids in a lot, you got to let them fight. And then you pull them apart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He's talking about the Turks and the Kurds there. What do you make of that?

PETRAEUS: Well, again, the unplanned nature of this, the haste in which this is being carried out, means that hundreds of thousands -- this is not a couple of kids in a schoolyard fight.

This is hundreds of thousands of families of our partners who are now being displaced. This agreement perhaps gives them time without being shot at directly to move, but, I mean, they're being forced out into the desert.

[12:30:00]

And we should be doing a lot, by the way, to be on the receiving end of this in Iraq and in the Iraqi Kurdish region with humanitarian assistance, even as we try to salvage what we can, as the defense secretary has noted we're going to do by repositioning forces to still keep some eye on and pressure on the Islamic State.

But what we're leaving behind is a very chaotic situation.

TAPPER: What do you think when you hear President Trump using the term ultimate solution for the Turks and the end the Kurds and what the Turks want to do with the Kurds?

He said that Turkey -- quote -- "had to have it cleaned out" about the border area.

Do you think that the United States is sanctioning ethnic cleansing?

PETRAEUS: Well, it certainly is ethnic displacement. And, arguably, it may turn out to be ethnic cleansing.

Now, don't get me wrong. The Turks have legitimate security concerns about the Syrian Kurd partners that we had. They do have some relationship with the PKK, the Turkish Kurd terrorists that we have declared a terrorist group as well...

TAPPER: Sure.

PETRAEUS: ... and have helped fight in a variety of different ways.

And so a buffer zone that was established and that was built over time, if you will, in reconnaissance -- and we do have -- we have been doing joint reconnaissance patrols. There is a command-and-control structure to coordinate what's going on. But this has been done in such a sudden nature that, again, we are literally pulling out of our bases, trying to get everything out of them that is sensitive, and then bombing our own bases.

TAPPER: Yes.

PETRAEUS: Again, it took 10,000 Syrian Kurd losses, years of effort by our Special Forces and others -- and, by the way, our British and French allies, who are also having to pull out, because they can't stay if our infrastructure is not there -- it took all of that.

And then, in a single period of a couple of days, we are abandoning all of that on the battlefield.

TAPPER: You keep noting the rash nature of this decision.

And I can't help but observe that there doesn't seem to have been any real consultation with the national security apparatus, both in terms of this decision and also in terms of President Trump repeating Turkish talking points, like the PKK, the terrorist group, that's a Kurdish affiliate, that they're worse than ISIS and other things.

I can't imagine anybody in the national security apparatus would ever argue that the PKK is worse than ISIS.

But what are you hearing from your former colleagues at the CIA, at the Pentagon about the way this was done, and the -- and, more broadly, the national security structure?

PETRAEUS: Well, there does not seem to have been the kind of deliberative process that generally is associated with national security policy-making.

I have often reassured our audiences overseas in foreign countries and reminded them that, number one, foreign policy is not the province of just the president or the executive branch. Congress, the courts, others all participated.

TAPPER: The guardrails, yes.

PETRAEUS: And then -- and then, second, I would say, look, read the tweets. They are the unedited expressions of the commander in chief of the world's greatest power, but then follow the troops, follow the money, and follow the policy, because, oftentimes, of course, he has tested -- he's -- these are trial balloons.

In this case, the tweets have become the policy. And that is obviously concerning.

TAPPER: I want to turn to one other topic having to do with national security.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged this week that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine, 400 -- almost $400 million worth, until Ukraine committed to investigate matters that the president obviously feels will benefit him politically, whether it's the 2016 election or Hunter and Joe Biden.

What do you feel -- as somebody who feels deeply, I think, about the aid, the lethal aid, needed for Ukraine to defend themselves from Russia and pro-Russian separatists, what do you make of military aid being used that way?

PETRAEUS: Well, this is also, again, very concerning.

Look, to be fair, this administration is the one that did finally give to the Ukrainians the shoulder-launched anti-tank guided missiles, the Javelins, that were approved by Congress and appropriated for, but not delivered by the previous administration. So that was a very reassuring step.

I was in Ukraine just three months ago. Look, this is a hopeful, but fragile period for that country. They have a new president. And now he has a parliamentary majority that is sufficient to pass the real reforms that Ukraine has needed.

Keep in mind that the battle that matters most is actually not the battle in Southeastern Ukraine with the Russian-enabled separatists. It's actually the battle for Kiev. It's the battle over whether or not this government can actually deliver for the people what they want, to combat the corruption, the bureaucracy, all the different challenges that have beset these governments really since their independence from the Soviet Union.

That chance is there now. And we ought to be providing assistance in every way that we possibly can, not just in terms of military assistance.

TAPPER: When you say it's concerning, though, I mean, that's not the strongest adjective I could think of, I mean, the idea that military aid is used to force this fragile democracy to do the president's dirty work politically for his reelection.

[12:35:00]

PETRAEUS: Well, it's certainly very concerning.

And, look, I'm a -- I try to be reasonably moderate in language. This is a very serious issue, and holding up assistance that's desperately needed by those who are on the front lines.

I visited the front lines this time, in the -- in -- near Donetsk. This is World War I. It may be a frozen front line, but it's a very hot war still going on. And they very much merit and need the assistance that we can provide.

So, I very strongly -- and I have publicly, indeed, spoken about that.

TAPPER: General David Petraeus, thank you so much for being here.

As always, thank you for your service, sir.

PETRAEUS: A pleasure, Jake. Thanks. TAPPER: Just how strong is President Trump's grip on the Republican

Party?

That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are you concerned about your party right now?

ROONEY: Very concerned, Jake. We are self-sorting for a declining demographic, a narrowing demographic of elderly people, rural people.

TAPPER: Are you still a Republican? Do you ever think about leaving the party?

ROONEY: I don't know. I am a Republican. I believe we have the better argument in the area of economic and business regulation but I don't think we have the better argument on gun violence and on the environment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is Florida Republican Congressman Francis Rooney telling me earlier this morning about his concerns with his own party. Rooney is not ruling out backing an impeachment inquiry and he announced his retirement just yesterday. Let's discuss.

Amanda, what do you think? I mean, this is -- this is a problem that we hear from other Republicans that there is very little room in their party right now for any independence from President Trump.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And you see that playing out not with Syria, which I do think we've reached a breaking point in people feeling comfortable in it (ph), being able to criticize the president because Congress does have a role to play in these decisions. And President Trump made this erratic decision to pull out of Syria out of nowhere and there is no rationale provided, no briefings to Congress that I've heard about, and they're responsible for these decisions so you can't be in the position when you are responsible for decisions that you have no input in.

TAPPER: And let's bring in new CNN contributor, commentator, former congressman Sean Duffy. Thanks so much for being here and congratulations for joining the CNN family.

SEAN DUFFY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

TAPPER: What do you make of what Congressman Rooney said?

DUFFY: I respectfully disagree. I mean, if you look at the Republican Party and Donald Trump, I mean, we have expanded the party so Donald Trump won Wisconsin first time since what '84? We won Michigan, we won Ohio. We're winning the union voters, rural voters, we're doing better than we ever have.

Now, if you want to say we don't do well in the coast, in New York, New England, in the west coast of California, yes, that is true but in the middle of America where you actually have to keep the Senate and we have so many House seats we are doing incredibly well so I'll respectfully disagree with Francis and -- but the bottom line is we have a great diverse party.

We are the big 10 party. We have pro-lifers, pro-choicers, we want -- some who want open border, some who want closed borders. We have a great debate and I think it only advances our ability to win elections in states in middle of America.

TAPPER: So, Congressman, you represent Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado. That is the state that Trump did not win. Cory Gardner is a senator there who's running for re-election.

Is it true that Trump has expanded the Republican Party?

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): No. I don't think so, Jake. I think anybody who has watched one of President Trump's MAGA rallies would vociferously disagree with Representative Duffy's characterization of the Republican Party as a big 10 party. When you think in the ways in which this president has demonized Americans who are immigrants, refugees like my parents, divided us along racial lines, religious lines and so many others, I don't think he's going to do well in Colorado. He's deeply unpopular in our state.

TAPPER: Let's turn to some of the big news and, Jen Psaki, I want to get your response, Rooney was in part reacting to this new White House strategy that was quickly taken back which was admitting there was a quid pro quo. Ukrainian aid in exchange for an investigation into the 2016 election and DNC server.

Here is acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We do -- we do that all of the time with foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And he talked about how aid to the northern triangle, Central American countries came in only in exchange for those countries doing something about illegal immigration, but then he did put out a statement a few hours later after there's a lot of criticism including from Congressman Rooney saying there was no quid pro quo.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, it was complete malpractice to put Mick Mulvaney out at that briefing and having spent eight years in and out of the White House you discuss those decisions over and over again when you decide to put a chief of staff out. But I will say, there is a very dangerous kind of combination -- argument being made I should say by people like Mulvaney that there are quid pro quos in normal part of diplomacy and suggesting that looking for political dirt on your opponent like Joe Biden or anyone else and doing that through diplomacy is normal.

[12:45:09]

It is not normal. I worked in the State Department. I have the pleasure of knowing people who have spent decades in diplomacy and working in government. That is not how it works.

How it works, you do use levers like things like if you do more work on human rights and you're better on that, then we may unleash some more military assistance for you. That is in the national interest of the United States. Using it in a political -- as a political cudgel is absolutely not normal, shouldn't be accepted. And I'm actually surprised that Republicans in Congress are accepting it and being so silent as they are now around this.

CARPENTER: You talked about the G7 decision because I do think --

TAPPER: This is the decision the president made to have the G7 summit at his resort in Doral, Florida and he quickly after a lot of criticism he announced that was not going to happen anymore.

CARPENTER: Yes. Because I think this relates to Ukraine and everything that's going on internationally. There is increasing distrust of the president when it comes to foreign policy because his decisions are so erratic, if not verging on corrupt.

There is no way to stop it. People cannot be responsible for this. And as of now we're looking at everything through the lens of impeachment. If Donald Trump had gone forward with holding the G7 at Doral that would obviously been an article of impeachment about emoluments that would have been very difficult to oppose.

TAPPER: Congressman --

DUFFY: So hold on a second. So we spent two years on a Russia investigation, right? And Democrats and the media were all about what happened in 2016 election. What Mick Mulvaney said was Donald Trump said let's look and say, let's get the server, this is the DNC server that had everything to do with the Russia investigation --

PSAKI: This is the disputed absurd conspiracy theory that you're talking about right now.

DUFFY: No, no. Wait. It may be. But he said, I'm investigating the 2016 election and the DNC server --

CARPENTER: That the intelligence committee already made findings that everyone agrees.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: For some reason Donald Trump is sending --

(CROSSTALK)

DUFFY: Hold on a second. Let me speak. The FBI never got the server.

TAPPER: Right.

DUFFY: It went to CrowdStrike and CrowdStrike is partly owned by a former -- a former Russian --

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: OK. First of all what you are stating is completely inaccurate and factually wrong.

DUFFY: It's not --

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: It is a conspiracy theory on the right wing bloods (ph).

DUFFY: Why does this table disagree with the point that we should look at 2016 Russia --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Because we already know what happened.

DUFFY: It's exactly what Donald Trump did.

CARPENTER: We already know what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Well, the only thing I'll say about this is Tom Bossert, the former Homeland Security adviser for President Trump has said that this whole thing is a debunked conspiracy theory, this is a former Trump aide saying that.

DUFFY: It may be but Donald Trump can still legitimately go back and say I'm looking at 2016 --

CARPENTER: Do you think that is a waste of taxpayer money?

DUFFY: No, I don't. Not at all.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me just bring in the congressman.

NEGUSE: Look, I think -- I think it is important to take a step back. I serve on the Judiciary Committee. As a member of Congress I take the oath that I took very seriously when I was sworn in 10 months ago. This is about putting country over party. And let's not lose the big picture. We know for a fact that this president tried to get a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. We know that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Ukraine (INAUDIBLE) --

NEGUSE: We know that from the call summary notes, Sean. We know that -- hold on. We know that --

TAPPER: The third investigation into the Bidens is what he's suggesting.

NEGUSE: Correct. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

DUFFY: -- Mick Mulvaney.

NEGUSE: From my perspective I think what Representative Rooney said earlier today is pressing it. There was a reckoning developing in the Republican Party in which Republican members of Congress are going to have to choose either country or party.

I would encourage every viewer, you mentioned this, Jake, in the beginning of your program, to read the editorial from former admiral McRaven. It is a compelling editorial that discusses in detail the way in which our republic is under threat by this president. This is a former admiral who's a four-star admiral who commanded the operation --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: -- you can have the last word, Sean.

(CROSSTALK)

DUFFY: Our party --

(CROSSTALK)

DUFFY: -- of picking party and country because this country is doing great under Donald Trump. People are making more money. There's more jobs. There's more opportunity.

Our military is stronger and to say we're going to look back to the 2016 election and go after Donald Trump for trying to clear the clouds is absolutely ridiculous. You can't have a quid --

CARPENTER: I wish that were the case but it is increasingly country or Trump.

DUFFY: You can't have a quid pro quo if the Ukrainians don't know about the quid pro quo --

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, everyone, for being here.

Coming up, a special good-bye and great American story, perhaps a lesson for today's leaders. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:53:31]

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi announced that this Thursday, former Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who died three days ago, will lie in state in Statuary Hall in Congress. The son of sharecroppers, Cummings was elected to Congress in 1996 and he rose to become one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives, where he advocated for his constituents in Baltimore and advanced the cause of civil rights passionately speaking against injustice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): In the United States of America, we will not intentionally separate children from their parents. We will not do that. We are better than that!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: There are so many moving moments from Cummings' long career, but I keep thinking about this one time recently during a hearing when a newly elected Democratic congresswoman seemed to accuse Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, one of Trump's strongest supporters of having committed a racist act. And strikingly, Cummings defended Meadows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: Mr. Meadows, you know, of all the people on this committee, I've said it and got in trouble for it, that you're one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: There was literally no political upside for Cummings to say anything. You don't get points among Democrats or Baltimore residents or liberal donors for defending Mark Meadows, but Cummings thought it was the right thing to do.

[12:55:11]

Cummings tried to get all of us to think about, what is the right thing to do? Including most recently, Republicans turning a blind eye to the indecencies we're all witnessing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Chairman Cummings, it's nice to think, is dancing with the angels right now. And his legacy is intact. He will be remembered for fighting for the right thing.

It's not too late for those in Congress whom he leaves behind to also be remembered for doing the right thing. Though the clock is ticking.

Fareed Zakaria starts next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END