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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Full House Vote Set On Impeachment Inquiry; Former White House Official Defies Subpoena, Refuses to Testify; Picture Of Hero Dog Used In Raid Of ISIS Leader Released. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let's go to Jake. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we're beginning with breaking news.

Just moments ago, House Democratic leadership announced that the full House of Representatives will vote on Thursday on the process by which they will conduct the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

House Democrats making a move that appears in part at least to aimed to shut down at Republican talking points complaining the impeachment inquiry, their complaint, that the inquiry is illegitimate because there has not been a formal vote on the House floor.

This resolution will address procedures for hearings, the disclosure of deposition transcripts, setting out due process rights for President Trump and more. A senior Democratic aide telling me that the resolution will be formally introduced tomorrow, Tuesday, and then again voted on the floor on Thursday.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with this breaking news.

Manu, what are you learning? What are the details here?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is significant, because it signals that the next phase of this impeachment inquiry is about to take shape, that next phase being the open hearings.

Now, what this essentially does is essentially set for set procedures for having these open hearings, also talks about how they would release public transcripts, and also, notably, ensuring that this intelligence, the evidence that they have gained through the House Intelligence Committee as part of these closed-door depositions, how that can be transferred over from the House Intelligence Committee over to the House Judiciary Committee. And why is that important? Because it's the House Judiciary Committee that will take the first step in determining whether or not President Trump will be impeached. That committee is the one that ultimately will vote on the articles of impeachment.

So this sets forth the procedures there. So, now I'm told from Democratic sources who are involved in this effort that they believe that this was necessary in order to set for these procedures, because right now there aren't really any clear procedures about how exactly that would work, how exactly the Intelligence Committee, which is leading this inquiry, would give this information over to the House Judiciary Committee, which is a big reason why.

But, Jake, a significant move, because, as you noted, the White House has resisted at all costs turning over information, in part because they said this has not been a formalized, there's not been a formal vote to authorize this impeachment inquiry.

Democrats say they don't need a vote. They say this is not a vote to authorize the inquiry, but essentially it would have the same effect because the full House is going to vote, and most likely there will be enough support to approve this resolution.

So the Democrats will argue the White House is on no grounds to stand on in deciding to stonewall their demands for information, but a significant move and a sign that this investigation is moving rapidly.

And, Jake, I just talked to Adam Schiff about this resolution. He declined to comment specifically about the resolution. And he said they're moving expeditiously on their probe. And he said he did not want to commit to a specific time frame for a public hearing, but making it very clear they're very close -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju with the breaking news, thank you so much.

And let's chat about this with our experts here.

Ron Brownstein, you were briefed on this by Speaker Pelosi?

(CROSSTALK)

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There was a session with columnists. And she did talk to us about this just really an hour ago or so, when -- as it was coming out.

And to Manu's point, the speaker was very insistent that this is not a vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry. They do not believe they need such a vote. They think they have the clear constitutional authority to proceed.

What this is -- and if you look at her dear colleague letter, there are six paragraphs in it. The key word in it is affirms. From the point of view of the speaker, this affirms the ongoing existing investigation. And as Manu said, it laid out the procedures they will follow as they move into this next stage. What is interesting that, much like Adam Schiff, she would not commit

to a time frame. Her -- the clear kind of tenor of our conversation was that this was going to be more focused than sprawling, kind of less than more, not necessarily putting every objection they have to the way President Trump has completed himself into it.

But she did not commit to a specific time frame about when they will move to this next stage, much less move an impeachment inquiry to the floor itself.

TAPPER: Nayyera, I just have to say, as a journalist, I'm happy about the fact that we're going to have open hearings, instead of behind closed doors, and we're going to be able to see the transcript depositions. I mean, more sunlight is good for the process. Right?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Absolutely. And this is a recognition that this is not just going to be a legal proceeding.

I mean, the depositions were part of getting everything on the record, but that there has to be a public messaging portion of this to really bring the American people along in impeaching the president of the United States.

I think a key part of that is not re-litigating Trump's policy, is not re-litigating 2016, but focusing narrowly on the quid pro quo, the abuse of power, rule of law, and making this a an inquiry about the national security of the country and the fitness of this president for the office.

This is also not going to be, though, the moment that everyone's been waiting for the articles of impeachment being read out loud. So this still -- this is part of a process. It won't be that emotional satisfaction that I think many on the left are looking for.

[16:05:03]

TAPPER: And, Lanhee, one of the things it's interesting Speaker Pelosi wrote what's called a dear colleague. That's a letter to every member of the House of Representatives.

And one of the things it says is: "The Trump administration has made up this argument, apparently out of whole cloth, in order to justify its unprecedented cover-up, withhold key documents from multiple federal agencies, prevent critical witnesses from cooperating, and defy duly authorized subpoenas."

She goes on to say: "We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents," et cetera, et cetera. And then it concludes, nobody's above the law.

This happens at the same day that the deputy national security adviser, former deputy national security adviser, went to court to find out whether or not he has to give a deposition. They're trying to get rid of the White House's ability to stonewall.

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Well, the battle over transparency, I guess, is kind of what you can call this.

The challenge is, there are always limits to process arguments. I think the Republicans are seeing now that they have to migrate to the substance. The president himself said, in fact, look, let's talk about the substance. Let's not talk about the process.

The challenge is, the Republicans are going to have to defend the position that the quid pro quo is not an impeachable offense. That's ultimately where they always had to get to. And now that's where the substance of this is going to go.

The challenge is, of course, if the White House continues to not cooperate, that adds another front of the battle that Republicans are going to have to fight on, not just the substance, but also now adding themselves a process argument they're going to have to push back on.

TAPPER: This might actually be in a way bad news for Republicans, because I think the process argument was probably easier.

It's easier to say, this is behind closed doors. Who's Adam Schiff? He's not Inspector Javert. I mean, how come I can't read the transcripts? Let us in, et cetera.

That's easy. I mean, transparency is good. It might be tougher to make the argument that asking a foreign country to conduct investigations into your political opponents is acceptable.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely.

And to be clear, there are also Republicans who sit on these committees who have been overseeing these depositions, so they were always in a position to ask these questions behind closed doors.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: More than 40 of them.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: But I think that this very much does rob the White House and Republicans of this talking point that the process is illegitimate.

In some ways, Nancy Pelosi is effectively calling their bluff and saying, you want to focus on the substance of allegations? Let's have that conversation. Let's bring these witnesses out in the open. Let's bring the transcript of these depositions out for public consumption.

Democrats feel confident, I think, based on the former and current career diplomats who have come forward on Capitol Hill and testified under oath about what they saw as a quid pro quo.

And I think for Republicans, now you're probably going to see them do what they have been arguing in recent weeks, which is that it didn't rise to the level of a quid pro quo. So I think, for them, it's been very challenging because it's difficult to refute what is in a transcript that the White House put out -- or a summary, I should say -- of the president's call with Zelensky, what these officials have said behind closed doors.

And we're now going to see that play out before the public.

BROWNSTEIN: To your point, the polling on whether he should be impeached and removed from office is kind of settling around 50 percent, right around his approval rating.

But when you ask people, is it appropriate, is it acceptable for a president to ask for this kind of help from a foreign government and to leverage them by withholding American aid, over 60 percent consistently say it's wrong.

So if the debate moves to the substance, rather than -- that is not good terrain for the president. It's not good terrain for the Republicans, because a clear and consistent majority of Americans say what he did, what he is believed to have done is wrong.

TAPPER: Nayyera?

HAQ: It also doesn't help that the process arguments are starting to fail and collapse as transparency happens, because that was going to buy President Trump more time to head this into towards election season or what we think of as election season in early 2020.

And then they could have pushed the argument of let's bring this to a vote to the American public. If you're going to actually move to impeachment trial, it becomes a little bit more difficult to say that this is something that can't be resolved.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We're going to keep talking about this.

As the House prepares for this full vote on the process for impeachment inquiry, that's going to be Thursday, more details now on the witness who defied a subpoena today, what that could mean for other witnesses.

Then, the amazing new details about how the U.S. track down the head of ISIS to a compound in Northern Syria, including using a pair of underwear.

And we just got a picture of the hero dog involved in the rail -- raid, rather. We're going to show you that picture of the dog. Everybody wants to see the dog.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:14:10]

TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news. The full House of Representatives is set to vote this week on a resolution outlining the process for the impeachment inquiry going forward. This comes as, today, a former White House official is defying a congressional subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry, setting off a new challenge for Democrats' attempt to wrap up this current stage of the process within the next few weeks.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A significant no-show on Capitol Hill, as Charles Kupperman ignored a congressional subpoena.

SCHIFF: Witnesses like Dr. Kupperman need to do their duty and show up.

SCHNEIDER: Kupperman was deputy national security adviser and John Bolton's number two at the White House. He filed a lawsuit Friday asking the judge to rule whether he had to comply with the House subpoena.

Kupperman saying today: "All parties would want judicial clarity."

His attorney argued Kupperman was caught between competing demands from House Democrats and the White House, which has told current and former officials not to testify, arguing the impeachment inquiry is illegitimate.

[16:15:10]

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think we can infer from the White House opposition to Dr. Kupperman's testimony that they believe that his testimony would be incriminating of the president.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are eager to hear from Kupperman who was listening to that July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky where Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Kupperman's no-show also calls into question whether testimony from other White House officials will move forward.

RICK PERRY, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: We're going to work with Congress and answer their questions.

SCHNEIDER: Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry is walking back what he said this month, telling "The Associated Press" he will not testify before Congress even though he's been subpoenaed. Now he's calling the inquiry illegal and improper.

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: We have what are called the three amigos.

SCHNEIDER: E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland has referenced Perry as one of three officials, along with Kurt Volker, who were in charge of the policy toward Ukraine. Perry also now says he asked the president to make the July 25th phone call because it was important for the country's energy needs and had nothing to do with the Bidens.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence is towing the White House line, denying any quid pro quo that predicated military aid or a White House meeting on Ukraine's promise to investigate the 2016 election or the Bidens.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I know is that the transcript of the president's call with President Zelensky shows that there was no quid pro quo. He did nothing wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And Democrats today threaten to hold Charles Kupperman in contempt for defying that subpoena and, of course, the question remains, Jake, will others who are scheduled to testify this week actually refuse -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Let's continue talking. And, Lanhee, take a listen to the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, talking about the fact that Kupperman refused to testify.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: I think we can infer from the White House opposition to Dr. Kupperman's testimony that they believe that his testimony would be incriminating of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is that fair, do you think?

CHEN: I don't think it is that simple. I think it's part of a broader challenge the White House has is how do they continue to say this whole thing is illegitimate, there are sort of legal grounds to keep privilege intact on all these other issues if we allow various officials to testify. I think this is entirely consistent for them to say, look, no one ought to testify.

The challenge is it does give the Democrats an upper hand politically, potentially, to say, look, we're not getting cooperation and the reason why is because the president is guilty of something. It is easy for the Democrats to prosecute that argument even though the merit of the argument in my mind is a little bit -- you know, it's probably less valid.

TAPPER: And, Sabrina, it was kind of interesting, because there was like, almost like this defiance. There were a number of former and even current government officials who just ignored the White House telling them not to participate. Yet Fiona Hill who used to be on the National Security Council, the current top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, and others who were actually answering questions.

SIDDIQUI: And that is what is made this wholly different from the Russia investigation where a lot of the witnesses who were subpoenaed in the aftermath of the Mueller report by congressional Democrats with part of the president's inner circle. They were members of the -- former members of campaign or of the White House and so they defied those subpoenas. Whereas as this time you have current and former administration officials who also are highly respected in their respective departments and agencies in which they have served who have been very forthcoming to members of Congress.

And so, I think as Democrats look for a so-called star witness as they enter this next public phase of this inquiry, they have someone like Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine and his predecessor, Marie Yovanovitch, both of whom have been very explicit about what they saw as a pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to investigate the president's political rival, as well as all the text messages that kind of reaffirm that narrative that congressional Democrats are building.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SENIOR DIRECTOR: And that is going to change this proceeding into one about defending rule of law, because these are people who served under this president of the United States but still felt compelled to come out and speak on behalf of the American public and national interest. And do really what the job is, which is allow Congress to conduct oversight over the executive branch. This -- it is going to be the challenge of the Trump loyalists loyal to a person, the president, versus loyalty to the Constitution and the presidency.

BROWNSTEIN: And it is worth noting today when we met with the speaker, she reaffirmed what we heard from Adam Schiff and others and reminding everyone the refusal to respond to -- honor congressional subpoenas was one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon back in 1974, and they seem more inclined to go down and toward than a lengthy court struggle to litigate this issue that these witnesses are raising.

TAPPER: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: Because, you know, even if you have a district court decision in favor the house, likely that would go to the appellate court and ultimately, many of these issues will got to the Supreme Court and I don't think they want to wait around quite that long.

[16:20:07]

TAPPER: And quickly, Lanhee, you know John Bolton I believe, right?

You served with him in the Bush administration. What is he going to do?

I mean, here's his -- here is his deputy, Kupperman, refusing to comply and, yet, you know, Bolton emerges in a lot of the narrative as something of a hero of it, objecting to what is being done with Ukraine.

What do you think?

CHEN: I haven't spoken to him but I imagine that he would want to set the record straight, you know, that there's a part of him that wants to do, certainly that he wants it to be clear what his role was or was not. But his testimony is going to be very closely watched.

This also comes in the context of him wanting to tell his own story about the time at the Trump administration. So, we'll have to see.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We've got more to talk about.

Breaking new details about the Baghdadi raid and how intelligence tracked the ISIS leader. Plus, we're getting our first look at the dog. Look at that. What a good boy.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:47]

TAPPER: Breaking news in our world lead.

CNN is learning that the piece of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's underwear and a blood sample were used to help identify the illusive and barbaric ISIS leader prior to the deadly raid and afterwards. This comes as moments ago, President Trump tweeted out a photo of the hero dog involved in the operation. Though the dog's name remains classified.

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.

And, Barbara, first of all, obviously such a good boy. But beyond that. Tell us about using the blood sample and the underwear and how that was used to track down and identify Baghdadi.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish allies that the U.S. had in Syria, say they had an informant inside of ISIS who led them to where Baghdadi had a been and were able to obtain a piece of his underwear and use a blood sample, all of this to establish a DNA identity beforehand, before they went on the raid.

All of this as we learn additional new details today about how the raid unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): U.S. aircraft using bombs and missiles and rockets to destroy Abu Bakr al Baghdadi's compound.

After Special Forces used the cover of darkness, eight helicopters carrying as much as 100 U.S. Special Operations forces landed at a compound in northern Syria. They entered after blowing holes on the side of the building, believing the front door might be booby-trapped.

The president said the special ops teams were met by local gunfire on the ground that was quickly squashed. At least two ISIS fighters were captured. According to the president, Baghdadi was chased into a tunnel by

military dogs while bringing three children with him. The tunnel came to a dead end where he eventually detonated a suicide vest that killed him and the children.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's dead. He's dead as a door nail.

STARR: Baghdadi's remains were disposed of at sea by a U.S. military aircraft, according to two defense officials. But the world may see even more of what happened during the two hours U.S. commandos were on the ground.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We do have video photos. We're not prepared at this time to release those. They're going through declassification process.

STARR: The president painted a picture that the ISIS leader was weak.

TRUMP: He died a coward, crying, whimpering, screaming --

STARR: Iraqi officials say, two months ago, they captured one of Baghdadi's closest collaborators. He has said to have provided information about one of the couriers that Baghdadi used. That courier was killed but documents led to his wife who then led them to more paperwork with Baghdadi's location.

Baghdadi who had been on the run for more than five years was eventually tracked down with the help of intelligence from the Kurds.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria had a major impact on the operation, according to one U.S. official. U.S. troops now are moving back into Syria's oil fields to keep ISIS from coming back and selling oil to finance its operations.

But for the first time, a specific nod from the defense secretary that U.S. troops could find themselves defending against other military forces.

(on camera): Does that include denying access, preventing Russian or Syrian forces which now have changed the battle space?

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: So the short answer is yes, it presently does.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: OK. So let's go back to this. Here is a picture, again, of the dog that the president said went on the raid with Delta Force commandos. They are not yet releasing the name of the dog. We can see his face or her face.

But the dog's name under Delta Force rules remains classified. The dog apparently taking off any name plate or identifying marks of his or her identity. The dog we are told suffered some electrocution injuries but is recovering. And, look, military working dogs, the U.S. military can't conduct its

operations these days without them. They are vital partners on the battlefield.