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U.S. May Move Tanks into Syria; Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) is Interviewed about the Impeachment Inquiry; Book on Private Trump Conversations. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: White House saw across two administrations as the most effective force against ISIS. And so now this has all come to a head and really, I mean, I was having people sending me videos, Poppy and Jim, of just horrendous things, including a female politician who was taken from her car and murdered. And it was all captured on video. You know, watch what happens with the NATO defense minister going on right now. The U.S. has had very harsh words for Turkey. Congress is still considering sanctions. And everybody is trying to find this goldilocks between keeping a NATO ally on side and calling it to account.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: In the simplest terms, Gayle, by pulling out summarily, would the U.S. be held responsible? Should the U.S. be held responsible for allowing Turkey, in effect, to carry out those war crimes?

LEMMON: I mean I do think that the U.S. did not allow in the sense of -- you know, I mean people were trying very hard to mitigate. I was talking to folks on the ground who were trying very hard to keep this -- the worst of this from happening. And, Jim, I mean, I was talking to dads who had no idea if they were going to get through the day when all of this were happening. You know, dads who fled to Manbij and then came back to Kobani and were terrified that Turkish-backed forces were going to get there first.

So I think this whole question of accountability, who holds whom accountable and for what, I think we're going to see play out.

MALVEAUX: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, thanks very much.

A White House official who listened to President Trump's controversial call with the Ukrainian president is now set to testify before impeachment investigators next week. We're going to speak to a Republican lawmaker who once referred to himself as a firewall against impeachment about the implications, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:36:25] SCIUTTO: House Democrats could soon hear from someone who was on the line during President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian President Zelensky. Tim Morrison, top Russia and Europe adviser on President Trump's National Security Council, he is reportedly scheduled to appear on Thursday. Sources tell CNN he is expected to corroborate key elements of what lawmakers heard from top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor on Tuesday.

At the same time, we've learning that impeachment investigators are negotiating a private deposition date with attorneys for the former national security adviser, John Bolton. These are all significant witnesses.

Pleased to be joined now by Nebraska Republican Congressman Don Bacon, who's a veteran as well.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Thank you, Jim. It's good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So I want to start on the process of the impeachment inquiry. You have said the process is unfair. Your colleagues, in particular, in the GOP, zero in on the private nature of these initial depositions and interviews.

I just want to play a comment from Trey Gowdy last year regarding House hearings with former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Well, our private hearing was much more constructive than the public hearing. I mean public hearings are a circus, Margaret. I mean that's why I don't like to do them. I don't do many of them. I mean they're -- it's a freak show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Why was it OK to do private hearings then but not OK to do them now as an initial step in an investigation?

BACON: Well, I think investigations are one thing, but when you're going to do an impeachment inquiry, I think the American people want to know what's going on, what's being said. So 75 percent of the House members, they have no access to the transcripts. The only thing that I read is what's leaked. And so the people ask me, what's your view on Ambassador Taylor's comments or this or that comment. All I'm getting is leaked material from the chairman of the committee.

Investigations are one thing. This is an impeachment inquiry, according to the speaker, that we never voted on. And to have secret hearings where the president cannot bring in his attorney --

SCIUTTO: Well --

BACON: Unlike President Clinton was able to and Nixon. And we can't bring in our minority witnesses. I think it's a unfair process.

SCIUTTO: Well, you do know, as you know, there are Republicans in the room, one. And, two, the rules of these inquiries have changed since the Clinton and Nixon impeachments, giving the opposing party rights that they didn't have prior.

I'm just wondering, if Republicans are, you know, in effect creating a sense of secrecy that doesn't actually exist. I mean there are Republicans in the room after all. They're able to ask as many questions as they want.

BACON: All right, so 25 percent of the Congress -- or the House is able to go to these meetings, but they're not allowed to share, by agreement, they're not allowed to share what was said.

But we are reading some targeted excerpts that Chairman Schiff is putting out there. So he's taking the worst material that they can hear and they're leaking it out. And I'm hearing that it's not very -- it doesn't represent the real basis of the hearings themselves, that there are a lot more favorable toward Trump, but you don't get that.

And so, in the end, I can't make a judgment because 75 percent of us are not allowed to read what's going on. So I'll have to wait and see.

I think it would be much better to have -- to release the transcripts and be much more transparent. I think Americans want fairness. They're -- not only -- in our district, about 62 percent do not want impeachment, but many of those think the president did act right. It's not impeachable. But without the information, how can you make that determination?

[09:40:02]

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, he's --

BACON: So I think we need to hear the information.

SCIUTTO: You have said that you're a firewall against impeachment if there is no law broken. Is your mind still open to a law having been broken here if you learn more? Because, after all, I'm just curious, are you comfortable with -- and we do have, even based on opening statements that we've seen, corroboration of the whistleblower's core complaint, which was that the president held not only military aid over the Ukrainians' head as he pressured them to investigate the Bidens, but also a presidential visit and now, according to "The Washington Post" story, favored trade status.

If that is corroborated via public testimony, is your mind open to impeachment under those circumstances?

BACON: If someone could prove to me and show me that a law was broken, which I have not seen, there's been no credible evidence that an actual law is broken, I don't condone the judgment of asking, you know, the Ukrainian leader about Biden. I don't think that was right. I think the president should have foresaw (ph) that this was going to cause problems. But there was no law broken. And what I do hear is that -- I've read the transcript of the

conversation from between Trump and the Ukrainian leader. There was no quid pro quo in that conversation. And what we are hearing is that the Ukrainian president didn't think he was being pressured to do it or he didn't think there was a quid pro quo for aid. And when he actually received the aid --

SCIUTTO: I don't know if that's true, congressman. With respect, it's our reporting, and other outlets reporting, that, in fact, Ukrainian officials were struggling with how to respond to the president's pressure here. They felt -- as you know, you're a veteran, you served in Europe, Ukraine, in the midst of this, is at war with Russia. A war that's killed 13,000 Ukrainians. And as this pressure is coming in, the Ukrainians are scrambling, like, how do we respond to this while we wait for the essential aid to fight a Russian invasion. I mean is that a position you would want to be in?

BACON: But there was roughly a week and a half where the Ukrainian leader knew the aid was stalled and then a week and a half later it was turned back on. So he, in the middle of that period was longer, he only knew about a short period. And there was -- he did nothing new to get that aid. So, in other words, people are saying there's quid quo pro. The president was pressuring for investigation but there was no quo. The Ukrainian leader did nothing different to actually get the aid.

So I think the other side of the aisle is going to have a very hard time proving a quid pro quo case because there was none. And -- but I would say this, I favored aid to Ukraine. I think, you know, the previous president did not provide lethal aid. He was providing meals ready to eat. We -- you know, they're non --

SCIUTTO: No, that's fair -- fair criticism.

BACON: We need to provide -- I think we should have provided aid to Ukraine. We need to help them because they are -- they are a target of aggression from Russia. And I didn't favor the delay. I actually wrote a letter to the president.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BACON: I hear there's a delay. And it should -- it should not have happened.

SCIUTTO: Fair enough. And folks -- probably many folks don't know it as well as you having served in Europe. You're aware of the Russia threat to Europe.

Congressman, we appreciate you joining the program and thanks very much for your service to the country.

BACON: Thank you. Thank you, sir.

SCIUTTO: Tonight, CNN's Fareed Zakaria investigates impeachment and its role in our democracy today. Watch the CNN special report "On the Brink: When a President Faces Impeachment." That's at 9:00 Eastern Time only on CNN.

HARLOW: All right, ahead, alleged details of some of President Trump's private conversations about to go public in the anonymous Trump administration official's new book. We'll have more on that, next.

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[09:48:13]

HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

So an anonymous senior Trump administration official is going to reveal what they claim are explosive details of the president's private conversations.

Jim, all of this in a new book.

SCIUTTO: That's right. The author saying, took notes in these conversations.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: The new book called "A Warning" promises to use the president's own words to paint a picture of chaos and incompetence in the White House.

Joining us now, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Brian, I mean the circumstances of this were unusual enough as an anonymous author of an op-ed. Now an entire book here raises questions. But anything we know more about this insider, how high level, what they know, et cetera?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think there's an indication from the publisher that this is a high-level official because the person claims to have had a number -- been in a number of meetings with the president and will be quoting the president in this book.

It's coming out in about four weeks. It's already in the top ten on Amazon. As soon as this was announced, people started pre-ordering it.

And the back cover has just been shared for the first time this morning. And this is what the back cover says. There's some interesting details that are being shared for the first time. On the back cover of the book, as obtained by CNN's Jake Tapper. And we can read it to you and describe what exactly it is saying.

This is -- quoting from the writer here, it says, I realize that writing this while the president is still in office is extraordinary stuff. Some will find it disloyal. But too many people have confused loyalty to the man with loyalty to the country. The truth about the president must be spoken, not after Americans have voted or after he's departed office.

Now, this anonymous author goes on to say the following about their own experiences working with the president. They say hopefully others will remedy the error of silence and choose to speak out. In these pages, in this book, you will not just hear from me, you will hear a great deal from Donald Trump directly. There is no better witness to his character than his own words and no better evidence of the danger he poses than his own conduct.

[09:50:10]

So that's a pretty clear hint about who this person is, that this person was in the room, maybe still in the room with the president. It's notable that the publisher is not saying if this person's still working for the White House or not. I know some people are saying he's a coward, he or she is a coward by staying anonymous. I think what's most important is what's actually in the book.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

STELTER: Let's judge the contents when it comes out November 19th.

SCIUTTO: True. Although you could probably guess the White House pushback might involve the anonymity of the author, which is a tactic they've used before.

STELTER: That's a good point, yes.

SCIUTTO: Brian Stelter, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Bri.

STELTER: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, so ahead for us, the former head of one of the nation's most prominent, biggest banks, rich guy, says yep, the rich should pay more in taxes. My conversation with Lloyd Blankfein is ahead.

SCIUTTO: And House Democrats are about to get their first chance to speak to a White House official who has firsthand knowledge of President Trump's controversial Ukraine call.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:55:43]

HARLOW: All right, so yesterday CNN held a fascinating event called "Citizen by CNN." Jim and I both sat down with newsmakers. We're excited to share clips with you this hour and next.

Here's part of my conversation with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who says capitalism has to be more fair. The rich, including himself, should pay more in taxes, and what he thinks a Trump impeachment would actually mean for the stock market. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Marc Benioff, Salesforce founder and CEO, told me last week, unequivocally, capitalism is dead.

Is it?

LLOYD BLANKFEIN, FORMER CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: Unequivocally, no, it's not dead. It's not dead. It's -- we're -- we're in the envy of the developed, and, frankly, the underdeveloped world in terms of our system. There's no doubt in my mind, it has always needed to be tinkered with. There's no purity of classical capitalism. There needs to be regulation. You have people striving. They shouldn't be allowed to win and monopolize. There have to be a lot of treatments and a lot of tinkering and a lot of potentially redistribution and making things fairer always, always, always, but capitalism is not dead.

HARLOW: Do you want to pay more taxes? Should you?

BLANKFEIN: Do I want to pay more taxes? No, I'd like to pay no taxes. But I would like to live in a civilized world where people aren't -- people aren't coming with torches and rakes trying to, you know, kill each other.

HARLOW: Should you pay more taxes? Should people that have made as much money as Lloyd Blankfein, in the way that you made money, pay more in taxes?

BLANKFEIN: Should I pay more tax? I sure as heck would be willing to pay more tax if I could buy a more -- you know, a happier and less polarized society, for sure.

HARLOW: Would that help?

BLANKFEIN: Would help? Yes. I think it would help the mood of the country and I think it would get some focus on real initiatives that we should be doing and grappling with real problems and real opportunities instead of everybody hacking at each other all the time.

HARLOW: Do you think that President Trump's temperament is a net positive for the country right now?

BLANKFEIN: No, it's not a net positive. I don't think anybody thinks his temperament is a net positive.

HARLOW: OK. So how much is it hurting this country on the world stage? Christine Lagarde just told "60 Minutes" that the U.S. is at serious risk of losing its leadership position, its reputation in the world.

Is she right? And if she is, is it because of President Trump?

BLANKFEIN: Well, Christine Lagarde, and a lot of other influentials in Europe, if they are not showing followership, then, of course, we're losing our leadership by -- you know, by definition. So the answer is -- the answer is yes. I'd say that -- and I'm not putting words in the president's lit. He

says it himself. He has a nationalist agenda. Ranks America first. And I don't think number two is -- I think number two is way behind number one in terms of his ranking. I think we get a lot of benefits from our leadership position and the influence we have and our ability to have everybody exceed to our wants because we display that leadership, both in turn, you know, politically, culturally.

The dollar is the instrument of reserve currency. We're huge beneficiaries of that. And I think we get great benefits from that. I know you wouldn't want to -- I wouldn't want to lose that. And I realize that everybody in the world is -- our enemies and our friends are trying to figure out how they can be less susceptible to the whims of the United States. So that's not a good thing.

HARLOW: President Trump says if he's impeached, the stock market will crash. Will it?

BLANKFEIN: This is not the be all and end all. I'm not saying that the stock price should guide everything in our lives. But I guess if there was a lever that was pulled -- and I'm sure this would unfold over a period of time -- but if there was a sudden removal of Trump, my bet -- my bet is that the stock market would go down.

HARLOW: What happens to the stock market under a president Warren?

BLANKFEIN: I'm not entirely -- I'm not entirely sure. I know that she probably thinks more of cataclysmic change to the economic system as opposed to tinkering. It's riskier, particularly risky since, frankly, our economic system is probably -- I'm sure is the envy of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right, you can hear that full conversation from "Citizen by CNN." It's on my CNN podcast "Boss Files." And today it's our 100th episode.

It is the top of the hour. Happy Friday, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

He was on the Ukraine call, and he works inside the White House.

[09:59:58]

Next week, Tim Morrison, a top adviser on the National Security Council, is scheduled to speak under oath with Congress. Sources say he will back up top diplomat Bill Taylor's explosive testimony