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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) Is Interviewed About Trump And Impeachment; Trump Family Explores Selling Washington D.C. Hotel; Biden On His Opponents: "I'll Flat Out Beat Them"; Obama, Clintons, Among Notables Honoring Rep. Elijah Cummings At Funeral Today. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:08]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Trump today attempting to defend his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, using his go-to description of the conversation, perfect.

Senator Kennedy thanks for joining us, as always we appreciate it.

So I want to dive right in, here are the facts that we know -- we know that the president asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. We know that there are individuals in the White House and the State Department, and the larger diplomatic court who were alarmed by the request.

I guess just, whether or not there's a quid pro quo proven, do you think it's wrong for a president -- any president -- to ask a foreign leader to investigate one of his domestic, political opponents?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): It depends on the circumstances, and let me explain, Jake, what I mean by that.

Here's what I think the entire case is going to come down to. Did the president ask for an investigation of a political rival? Or did the president for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival?

There's a difference. One would be in his self-interest. The other would be in the national interest.

If the president, for example, had asked for an investigation of Senator Elizabeth Warren, that would have been over the line, because her son or daughter did not receive a lucrative contract after she was put in charge of the affairs of Ukraine.

I think this entire case -- I mean, put all the bovine waste, and the spin, and the innuendo aside. I think it's all going to come down to motive, intent -- mens rea.

Did the president have a good faith basis --

TAPPER: So --

KENNEDY: -- for asking for this investigation?

TAPPER: Can you point to any other time in the Trump presidency where this president seemed alarmed at potential corruption in any country? Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan -- any other country?

KENNEDY: Oh, I think the president is against corruption, I think we all are.

TAPPER: No, but any -- I just mean like, again --

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: There have been other instances --

TAPPER: Any time that he specifically pointed to and pressed a foreign leader to cut down and crackdown on corruption?

KENNEDY: Well, I don't know about a foreign leader, because I'm not privy to those calls.

But for example, the president puts together a proposed budget with his office of management and budget, and they send it to us. And there are many suggestions that they make to try to reduce programs that are, in their judgment, wasting money and possibly have roots of corruption in them.

TAPPER: Well you -- you're a pretty savvy guy. You really think it's just a coincidence that the person that President Trump was pressing, who had alleged corruption -- and we should point out that Ukrainian prosecutors have said they have seen no evidence of any legal wrongdoing by Hunter Biden or Joe Biden.

But you think it might just be a coincidence that it happens to be the current Democratic frontrunner to run against him in 2020 -- it's just that he heard about it and was actually legitimately offended by it, and not because this is the person who could be best able to beat him in 2020?

KENNEDY: Oh, I think it's more than a coincidence. Here are the facts that we know -- I'm not making any allegations.

But Vice President Biden was put in charge of the foreign affairs with two countries by President Obama -- China and Ukraine. His son, Hunter Biden, walked away with lucrative contracts from both.

We know that the Ukrainian government charged Mr. Zlochevsky who owns Burisma, on which he put Hunter Biden as a board member -- charged him with giving himself natural gas operating licenses while he was secretary of natural resources in Ukraine.

That matter has never been investigated. Right now it is sitting in front of Ukraine's anti -- National Anti-Corruption Bureau. I'm not making any allegations, I'm just saying I suspect the president's going to argue, and I think he actually believes, Jake, that he has a good faith basis for asking about an investigation of these circumstances before he commits hard earned taxpayer dollars to Ukraine.

TAPPER: Well you're sure willing to give him the benefit of the doubt there --

KENNEDY: Now -- the --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I mean, it's -- that seems --

KENNEDY: The proceedings -- well the proceedings -- excuse me, the proceedings are ntirely different story.

I'm very disappointed in Speaker Pelosi's and Chairman Schiff's directive. I mean, I think the judicial philosophy of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff is guilty.

I think that these proceedings -- these impeachment proceedings are rigged --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Well why do you say that?

[16:35:00]

KENNEDY: They're being held in secret, so they can --

TAPPER: Well, let's talk -- let's talk about that if we could?

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: Well let me -- I want to --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to --

KENNEDY: I'm not done, let me -

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to this --

KENNEDY: Yes, go ahead.

TAPPER: Because -- you signed on to this resolution in the Senate from McConnell and Graham. And one of the issues it takes -- takes issue with, and you just noted is, these closed door depositions.

House Democrats and House Republicans are both participating in this, but the depositions are in private. This was standard operating procedure when Republicans controlled the House.

I want you to take a listen to this quick clip from then Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, just one year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Public hearings are a circus, Margaret (ph). I mean, that's why I don't like to do them -- I don't do many of them.

I mean, it's a freak show. I mean, the private interviews are much more constructive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's how Republicans did it.

KENNEDY: That's not how I said it. I don't agree with Congressman Gowdy.

Here's my personal opinion. I think that the hearings are purposely being held in secret so they can control the narrative. Chairman Schiff can leak selectively parts of the transcripts that reaffirm his prejudice --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: We have no idea who's leaking, just for the record, we have no idea who's leaking anything (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: Who's -- who -- OK. OK. I think he intentionally leaks certain parts of the transcript to friendly members of the press who suck it up like a Hoover Deluxe.

I think it's a mistake to close the hearings off from the American people, and -- so they can't judge the evidence. I believe that democracy dies in darkness.

The -- there are no opposing witnesses. If you're a member of the committee, you don't get access to all of the documents.

The president's counsel cannot be there, the president's counsel cannot challenge evidence --

TAPPER: It's -- but it's -- that's what this trial will be for in the Senate. The trail in the Senate, that's when the president's counsel will be there, that's when opposing witnesses will be there.

And let me just ask you, because we're running out of time. But, the Senate Intelligence Committee, run by your colleague Republican Senator Richard Burr, also has a great many hearings and depositions completely in private -- completely in private.

KENNEDY: That's true, that's true.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And I -- and Democrats are allowed to participate --

KENNEDY: You're dealing with classified information.

TAPPER: Well not always, not all of the information is classified --

KENNEDY: They're dealing with classified information.

TAPPER: Not everything that they --

KENNEDY: Almost all of it is. There's no -- there's no classified information here.

Look, Jake, I respect your opinion. I'm just telling you how I see it, and I think how the average fair-minded American sees this, not the well-intentioned crazies on each wing.

I think the average American is looking at this, and they're saying, look we're going to annul an American election.

We're going to impeach a president of the United States, and we're going to do it in total secret and not let the American people see the evidence --

TAPPER: But sir, you know that's -- sir, that's not what's happening though --

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: How many -- can I just finish this thought?

TAPPER: Sure.

KENNEDY: Yes, it is -- yes it is -- yes it is.

I mean, how many members of Congress suffer from mental illness? None. They seem to enjoy it, that's what the average American is thinking.

I mean, this is going to annul a presidential election, and you're going to do it behind closed doors? What happened to democracy dies in darkness?

TAPPER: So just two points and then I have to bid you farewell.

One, this is just the beginning of the process, right?

KENNEDY: Sure.

TAPPER: I mean there's going to be a public part of this and then there will be a public vote on impeachment.

And then it goes -- and then it goes, assuming that the impeachment passes -- the resolution passes, then it goes to the Senate, and then there will be a trial.

So this is not the entirety of the impeachment process, this is just the beginning.

And then, second of all, it just seems like there are different standards when Republicans are in charge -- whether it's Senator Burr or Trey Gowdy -- they can have depositions in private.

But when Democrats do it, then it is nefarious and conspiratorial, even though House Republicans are in there too.

KENNEDY: Well I think it is -- well, I wouldn't use the word conspiratorial, Jake.

I think that Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff have decided that they're going to give the president a fair, an impartial firing squad.

And they want to keep the proceedings secret so they can selectively leak portions that support their predisposition and make it available to friendly members of the media, who I said -- they suck it up like a Hoover Deluxe.

TAPPER: As they did when Republicans were in charge during Benghazi, et cetera.

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, thank you so much, we always appreciate having you on.

KENNEDY: Thank you, Jake. Have a good weekend, man.

TAPPER: You too.

It's been the subject of scrutiny since it opened, and President Obama took office and now the Trump family may be seeking to get rid of the D.C. hotel and wait until you hear the Trumpian reason why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:44:25]

TAPPER: In our money lead, the Trump administration is considering selling the rights to license the Trump Hotel right here in Washington, D.C.

I want to get right to CNN's Cristina Alesci.

And, Cristina, what's the rationale behind the potential sell?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Trump Organization is saying because of the controversy that surrounds this hotel, but that is just part of this story, Jake. In a statement, Eric Trump who runs the Trump Organization on a day to day basis tells us, quote: People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel and therefore we may be willing to sell.

[16:45:00]

But let me set the record straight here. It's not because the, quote/unquote, "hotel," they are making so much money that ethics officials have a problem with this hotel. They really see any dollar made as problematic when it comes to this hotel, because it potentially could be a conduit to curry favor with the administration. That is the problem.

It is also subject to at least -- it's also included in at least three lawsuits about potential violations of the Constitution's anti- corruption clause, Jake. And as for the allegation or the statement, rather, that this hotel was making so much money, that bears further investigation, as well.

Look, I've covered this property for years now and I know that after the ignoring inauguration, there was a slight bump in business. But since then, and all of the scrutiny since then, it's unclear how well the business is doing because a lot of companies that go to D.C. for conferences or have their executive stay in D.C. that take meetings, they want to avoid the hotel.

So that business may be going to competitors and also the Trump Organization has to be very careful about marketing to foreigners, Jake. So lots of questions. I will be on the story and bring you more when I have it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Christina Alesci, thank you so much. I appreciate it. While all eyes are on his son, Joe Biden is going after somebody in President Trump's family. Who is it? Well, that's next. Stay with us.

[16:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have less than $9 million in the bank, Bernie Sanders has 30 -- nearly $34 million in the bank. Senator Warren has $26 million. How do you compete against that?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just flat beat them. We're on the course to do extremely well. I'm not -- I'm not worried about being able to fund this campaign. I really am not truly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Former Vice President Joe Biden is striking a presumptuous tone when comparing himself to his Democratic opponents in an interview with Norah O'Donnell. Let's discuss. And Nayyera, recent polls show Biden his statistical tie with Elizabeth Warren in Iowa, New Hampshire. First contest coming up in roughly 100 days. He's not doing well with the fundraising and that is an important part of this. I mean, I know he's putting on a good face there, but must they not be worried?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, WHITE HOUSE: Well, the key part of this actually is name recognition. And they certainly have that after having served eight years as the nation's Vice President and a long career prior to that. So that's the easy way for people to identify with him is the fact that he is former Vice President Joe Biden. That's part of why everybody else needs so money is that they can play catch up.

TAPPER: David, you've raised money. This is a -- not a good sign.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's not a good sign. So apparently the vice president raised gobs money at the early outset, right, big donors, big chunks of change. The other candidates have raised $25.00 from other donors. They go back over and over and over, right.

This is -- this is a sign about enthusiasm. The fact that Joe Biden has less than $9 million in the bank shows that the grassroots in the Democratic Party just doesn't want Joe Biden as their nominee.

TAPPER: It's interesting. And Biden also said if elected president, his children will not work in the Biden White House. Biden was also asked about President Trump's son in law, Jared Kushner, who does work in the White House as does Ivanka Trump. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe President Trump's children have acted properly and avoided conflicts of interest?

BIDEN: Look, I wouldn't raise to go after the children. Their actions speak for themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think Jared Kushner should be negotiating a Middle East peace solution?

BIDEN: No, I don't. I don't. What credential does he bring to that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is that a contradiction? He says I wasn't raised to go after the children, and then he says Jared -- well, the son -- the child in law, Jared Kushner.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, yes, in some ways it is. But I do think there's obviously a contradiction coming from the Trump campaign and the Trump or a bit to going after Hunter Biden. I think Brad Parscale released a state then basically praising the work that Ivanka has done, praising the work that Jared has done. Of course, they've gotten their jobs because of their last names and their family affiliation.

So this is I think, a tricky area, both for Trump and for Biden, and they're trying to -- particularly Biden, is trying to see his way clear of it.

TAPPER: And one weird kind of development this week has to do with Tulsi Gabbard and what she is doing. She has been going on Fox a lot, which is not where there are a lot of Democratic primary voters. She has said she's not running for reelection for a House seat. She's not going to run as a third-party candidate. Do you have any idea what's going on? TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's hard to tell what she's doing or what our end game is. She definitely is a different kind of candidate. And that's part of the reason that the Fox News crowd likes her because she's different from the normal Democrats.

A lot of times she goes on conservative media and she gives talking points that are in line with what is popular there including earlier this week she said that she's not on board with the impeachment process. She basically was on board with what the Republicans were saying that impeachment was not going forward in the right way.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all and have a great weekend. A presidential farewell to the master of the House and that's next.

[16:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: A packed House in Baltimore today for the funeral of late Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democratic of Maryland. 2020 candidates, congressional colleagues, Democrats, Republicans, family, friends all paying tribute to Cummings and his legacy. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama delivered eulogies. Obama saying this about the Honorable Elijah Cummings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office. But Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected office. There's a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Cummings died last week due to long-standing health challenges. He was 68 years old. May his memory be a blessing. Be sure to tune in this Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests include Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and the top Republican on the House Arms Services Committee Congressman Mac Thornberry. You can see it 9:00 and noon Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.