Return to Transcripts main page


Democrats Prepare for Next Phase of Impeachment Investigation; Sources: White House Ramps Up Outreach to GOP Senators Amid Probe; President Trump Proposes "Fireside Chat" to Read Transcript of Call with Ukraine's President. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 1, 2019 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this Friday morning. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

She had the plan but now she's telling us how she will pay for it. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiling the $20 trillion -- that's trillion -- proposal just moments ago and she is still pledging there will be no middle-class tax -- tax hike, rather, necessary to fund it.

CNN political correspondent MJ Lee has more on this.

MJ, explain the details here. $20 trillion. How does Warren plan realistically to pay for that without a middle-class tax increase?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, this is an issue that she has been being asked about for weeks now and has been criticized a lot for not having an answer to how she plans to pay for Medicare for All. And now she has put out a plan detailing how she planned to do that. And the big question that she has been asked since she hasn't been able to answer is will middle class tax goes up under Medicare for All?

Today she is saying no. She writes, "We don't need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All."

Now politically speaking, this is a very interesting split screen because, of course, Medicare for All is written by Bernie Sanders and Sanders himself said this week that he doesn't believe it's yet necessary to put out a full detained plan explaining how to pay for it. Warren now saying it's important to fight any misinformation that's out there by putting out this detailed plan.

So now let's talk about the numbers. She says that the price tag is $20.5 trillion of new federal spending over 10 years. She is saying that this will be paid for in a number of different ways as you see on the screen there, including employers continuing to make their contributions. That accounts for at least around half of the total. And then there are things like cracking down on tax evasion and fraud and targeting the financial sector and large corporations with more taxes. And then beefing up the wealth tax. This is her signature plan on

taxing the wealth of some of the wealthiest Americans. She's already put out that plan and now she is saying, actually I amend that and I'm going to have the billionaires pay a little bit more than what I initially imagined. So there are a lot of numbers here that analysts and experts are going to chew over and her critics will certainly say this is still not realistic. You can't really get to that number, but again, politically speaking, it's significant that she has finally put out a plan trying to answer questions about how she plans on paying for all of this.

And Jim, just one quick final note and an important note at that, she says that she's going to put out yet another plan in the coming weeks on how she wants to transition to Medicare for All. This is significant because Bernie Sanders imagines the transition period being four years. So if she's going to put out a plan of her own on transitioning to Medicare for All, perhaps she could envision a scenario where that transition is longer than what Bernie Sanders envisioned. So we just don't have the answer to that yet.

SCIUTTO: $20 trillion. That's a thousand billion for each of those trillions.

MJ Lee, thank you very much.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans and senior political analyst Ron Brownstein joining me now along with MJ.

Christine, first, help me with the math here. What sticks out to me is more than half of this $20.5 trillion figure is going to be covered by corporations it looks like, if you can put the numbers back on the screen.


SCIUTTO: $8.8 trillion from employers. $3.8 from financial companies and big corporations, large corporations. First of all, they're not going to like that.

ROMANS: No, they're not.

SCIUTTO: But when you -- but when you look at these numbers, is this realistic? Does this math add up?

ROMANS: Well, this is why she's not popular along the sort of the C suite elites. Right? Is because they look at her trying to remake capitalism and remake health care and they are the ones who are going to have to pay for it. You look at that cracking down on tax evasion and fraud. She's very clearly points out this is going to be focused on wealthy Americans. She talks about her wealth tax which is, you know, 3 cents on every dollar of net worth above a billion. She already had that.

She's going to add another 3 cents for people who have net worth above a billion. She also talks about the investor class here where she wants to -- she wants to change the long-term capital gains and have those taxed annually, not just at point of sale, and she wants that rate to be much higher than the current, you know, 20 percent for long-term capital gain and way up at 37 percent for the richest Americans who do that. So this is clearly a populist positioning.

All right. Do the numbers work out? You're going to have everybody, you know, crunching those numbers all day today. Certainly the $20.5 trillion, you're right, is less than some of the other plans that we've seen but she puts this -- the burden on the backs of investors and companies here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. A trillion here. A trillion there. Eventually you're talking about real money.

Ron Brownstein, we should note the big picture here as well, right, that Medicare for All, which was an idea that was from the fringes of the far left. Now you have two of the leading candidates, this as a central part of their platform.


And if we can show the numbers from the latest Iowa polling which just came out today.


SCIUTTO: Iowa, of course one of the early voting states, look at where Warren and Sanders are. It shows that these kinds of proposals have appeal among Democratic voters.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Yes, there's a piece of the Democratic audience that liked this. But there's another a couple other realities here. First, Jim, this is a very plausible (INAUDIBLE) to raise, $20.5 trillion. The problem is $24.5 trillion is at the very low end of estimates of what Medicare for All will cost. I mean, the Urban Institute just estimated it will cost $32 trillion over 10 years. And you know, she -- maybe the transition plan helps keep down the cost but a lot of the way she keeps down the cost, I was just reading through the plan, deep in the plan, she severely cuts rates, reimbursement rates, for providers, including hospitals down to about what Medicare now pays which is a lot less than private insurance and there's going to be a lot of questions about -- even with some adjustments that she talks about, whether hospitals can survive at that level of reimbursement.

And of course if you raise the level of reimbursement you raise the cost and you raise the tax that you have to then, you know, summon. By the way, even $20.5 trillion is nearly as much as the personal income tax, the total personal income tax, is projected to raise over the next decade. And on the politics it's worth noting that support for this idea is -- does exist in the Democratic caucus, but it's stalled out at about half of House Democrats. Only about half of House Democrats are supporting the legislation to do this.

And I was in a group of columnists that interviewed Nancy Pelosi earlier this week. And she said maybe Medicare for All is a destination but it's not a place to start. So the prospects of this, even with a Democratic president, would remain very, you know, uncertain.

SCIUTTO: Listen, a little more than a year ago, or less than a year, the whole government was shut down over the issue of Obamacare which was a --

ROMANS: Right.

SCIUTTO: You know, a smaller issue. The government shut down a number of years ago but then of course you had another attempt, which failed very narrowly in the Republican-led Congress.

MJ Lee, this establishes a clear difference between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders here in terms of how this will be paid for without taxing middle class at all. Is that a deliberate move by Elizabeth Warren to distinguish herself there?

LEE: Absolutely. I mean, this kind of collision course is really politically fascinating. The fact that Medicare for All is entirely Bernie Sanders' idea and a whole bunch of progressives have gotten behind that idea but now Warren is almost sort of saying what you've put out and the details that you've put out clearly isn't enough. She's very aware of the fact that the last debate, the CNN-"New York Times" debate, she got a ton of criticism from her rivals.

She has been getting asked this question by reporters on the road, by some voters as well. I think we've reached a point where we saw the position that she was taking to be politically untenable. Right? For her to get asked over and over again, well, how are you going to pay for this? Will middle class tax goes up? And for her to not have a clear answer when, I think, her brand has so much become the candidate that has a plan for everything.

I think she quickly realized or actually I shouldn't even say quickly. It's actually taken her a long time to realize that that positioning was not tenable. And I think the fact that now she has a plan for paying for Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All while at the same time Sanders is saying, I don't think it's actually necessary to put out those full details yet, is really pretty fascinating.

SCIUTTO: MJ Lee, Ron Brownstein, thanks very much.

Christine, if I could ask you to stay.


SCIUTTO: This, of course, the other breaking news. Highly watched. 128,000 jobs added in October. This is higher than anticipated particularly in a month where you had a major strike going on. Of course, the GM strike now resolved. How did those numbers manage to stay up despite losing tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs to the strike?

ROMANS: Yes, you can see that GM strike, that six-week GM strike, and the manufacturing numbers, but the overall numbers were stronger than expected and showed still steady hiring. And what's interesting, what the president is tweeting about this morning is that you had upward revisions for August and September.


ROMANS: August had more than 200,000 net new jobs. And September was stronger as well. So the end of the summer was stronger than we had anticipated. But manufacturing was a weak spot because of that GM strike. Manufacturing has been faltering in recent weeks. In less than an hour we're going to get a really important manufacturing number here. Food services, though, strong hiring in restaurants and bars and in business. Health care had another 15,000. The segue from health care, by the way, 400,000-some health care jobs have been added over the past year.

So this is a very important part of the economy to get right whoever is trying to tinker with health care here. And then manufacturing again losing 36,000. That is definitely 100 percent of the GM strike here.

The unemployment rate, Jim, 3.6 percent. That's up just 0.1 percent. Look, I'm not worried about that movement and the reason why is because 325,000 people came into the labor market. That means 10 years into a jobs recovery they're starting to believe it and they're starting to go out there and look for jobs.


So now they're being added into the labor market. That's why you saw that number go up a little bit. Still, I mean, the average pace of hiring, it's not as robust as it's been the past few years but still holding in there -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it is. And we do have another number coming out in a little less than an hour on manufacturing.


SCIUTTO: We'll be watching that.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: As the House prepares for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry, we're going to soon see public hearings. You and I are going to be able to watch these as well as full witness transcripts released.

Next, a new poll shows the high stakes and the real split evident here for Democrats.

Plus, a fast-moving fire breaking out overnight forcing thousands from their homes in California. This happening across the state. Fire crews nearly trapped in the flames in this one. We're going to be live there.

And racial slurs, threats, bullying. Think that will get you kicked off Facebook? Think again. The stunning findings of CNN's six-month- long investigation. It's worth watching. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: The House is now moving forward to a public phase of the impeachment inquiry. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the first transcripts of witness testimony compiled so far could be released next week.

Then, after several more closed-door interviews, including what could be testimony from former National Security adviser John Bolton, that will be key. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the first public hearings will begin. You and I can watch these. This is all happening as a new "ABC News"-"Washington Post" poll shows the country split right down the middle over whether the president should be impeached and removed from office.

CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill. Manu, as we look at events today and in the coming days, I mean, certainly a partisan split here up on the Hill, but we are entering a second phase with high stakes for both sides.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, Jim. But next week will be an interesting one because it's a busy one scheduled for -- it was a number of key witnesses behind closed doors. And there's a significant chance that none of these witnesses actually show because the people they have asked to come interview are, say, a high up within the food chain of the White House and the State Department, former officials, people who have yet to commit to come.

That includes on Monday a busy day with four people behind closed doors, including John Eisenberg, who is a National Security Council attorney, someone who had heard those complaints about the president's phone call with the Ukrainian President Zelensky as well as a top deputy for Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, and a former Chief of Staff for the Energy Department Brian McCormack as amid questions about the role the Energy Secretary Rick Perry played in all of this.

And yet to get commitments for those individuals, and then later in the week, top officials from the Office of Management and Budget, when the Office of Management and Budget has indicated they have no interest in complying with the Democratic request.

And then the big one later in the week in John Bolton. Someone who has been -- said to have been very concerned about the efforts to push for -- to withhold Ukrainian aid to push for these investigations into the president's rival. Someone who has been mentioned throughout these closed-door depositions, but he has yet to commit to coming through an attorney, and said that he would only come if he were to get a subpoena.

But the attorney is yet to confirm that he would definitely come if he got a subpoena. So, there are questions about that -- so, if the Democrats don't get any cooperation next week, Adam Schiff is warning that this could ultimately all get rolled into -- add more evidence in the Democrats' view of obstruction of Congress before they move into that public phase which could happen the week after.

So, we are heading into a new phase, Jim, but potentially next week, we can see a lot of stonewalling from the White House and Democrats pushing back.


RAJU: Jim --

SCIUTTO: Although it's been notable that many of those officials and current ones have ignored the White House stonewalling and gone ahead and spoken. Manu Raju, thanks very much. For more on how the White House is reacting to all of this, let's speak to CNN's senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns. He's outside the White House this morning.

Joe, we saw House Republicans, they stuck together yesterday under enormous pressure from the president and the White House here. Does the White House believe its strategy is working?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's clear that the White House is happy with what happened over on the House side. Of course, the Senate is the big deal for the president of the United States because if the president is impeached, the Senate is going to hold a trial and it's important for him to keep all the Republicans together over there.

And a question, of course, is how is he going to do that? Well, one way to do that is certainly to reach out to the public and try to shore up your support there. The president suggesting in an interview with the "Washington Examiner", an 80-minute interview by the way, that he might actually hold a fireside chat and read the partial transcript of that telephone call he had with the president of Ukraine on July 25th, which is the basis for a lot of the stuff that's going on in the impeachment inquiry.

And so the question is, why would he do that? Well, it's pretty clear the president is very skillful at creating a few different little catchphrases which he uses to impart his message on a particular issue. The president has said again and again the call was perfect, no problem with the call. And, of course, as you know, Jim, if you do that in a situation like that, and you have the megaphone, the president of the United States, your supporters are going to listen.


And so, the president is hoping people won't talk about the questions of self-dealing and $400 million being held up from Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Right --

JOHNS: Back to you --

SCIUTTO: Speaking of self-dealing, and perhaps intentionally, the president snuck into the news cycle yesterday, a confirmation that he is moving his permanent residence from New York to Florida. Of course, notable, Florida has no state --

JOHNS: Right --


JOHNS: Right --

SCIUTTO: Was this about taxes?

JOHNS: Well, good question. What he did was he -- in September, filled out a declaration of domicile, stating that Palm Beach, Florida, which is where his Mar-a-Lago Club is, would be the place where he intends to stay. His home in other words. And we do know that the taxes are very high in New York and New York City, and all told for this president, something like 16 percent.

Now, if he moves to Florida, at least as domicile, certainly it will be reduced. But also important to point out that the president has taken a lot of heat in New York City recently. Cyrus Vance; the Manhattan DA going after his tax returns, and he's not widely liked in New York City either.

So, he is closely associated with New York nonetheless, moving to Florida he says --


JOHNS: Jim --

SCIUTTO: So closely associated that he's lived there for decades. There's also that bare fact. Joe Johns, thanks very much --

JOHNS: That's right --

SCIUTTO: Joining me now to discuss this, Jackie Alemany; author of "The Washington Post" "Power Up" and CNN National Security and legal analyst Susan Hennessy, a former NSA attorney. Jackie, the GOP played up the fact, it's a fact that yesterday's vote, at least on the procedures of an impeachment inquiry was very much party line.

In fact, two Democrats leaving their party to join with Republicans in voting against. Do Republicans have a point here when they say this shows this is a partisan impeachment inquiry?

JACKIE ALEMANY, AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST'S POWER UP: No, they don't, because what we haven't seen here yet is the public aspect of this hearing --


ALEMANY: Which is what the resolution accomplished yesterday. If anything, the fact that they're seizing on that argument shows just how little strategy there is here for the GOP going ahead, because what Democrats did yesterday did really strengthen their hand politically.

The GOP had been clamoring for weeks to hold a vote in order to make this an official --


ALEMANY: Non-secretive inquiry. And Nancy Pelosi did just that. And what yesterday's vote also showed is that Democrats actually believe that they do have a substantive case here, that they have enough to make this a public -- to make a public argument as to why the president should be impeached.

SCIUTTO: Fair point, I get it. And, of course, things could change when you have the public testimony. When you see, for instance, an Alexander Vindman in his army officer uniform testifying as to what he witnessed firsthand on this -- I mean, you could see that change in public opinion.

But we did have a sample, Susan Hennessy, of what faces Republicans who step out of line. Francis Rooney on this broadcast a couple of weeks ago told my colleague Poppy Harlow, his mind was open to impeachment. Have a listen.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's clear to me you're saying at this point, you are not ruling out the possibility that this is an impeachable offense for the president.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): I don't think you can rule anything out until you know all the facts.


ROONEY: Every time one of these people testifies, we get more information about what was going on over there.


SCIUTTO: Well, in the immediate hours after that, he was harangued by people in his district, elsewhere and within 24 hours, he announced that he is retiring. That gives you an example of when you stick your neck out as a Republican, whether now or even in the face of a public inquiry, does it not?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NSA ATTORNEY: I think it's one reason why we saw so much pressure being brought to bear on Republicans in the House to ensure that this was a pure party line vote. That they really couldn't afford even one or two people crossing the aisle and having them forfeit this talking point.

That this is a purely partisan endeavor. And that's because the Republicans lost their other major talking point yesterday, which is they've spent the past five --

SCIUTTO: Yes -- HENNESSEY: Or six weeks clamoring about sort of a --

SCIUTTO: Proceeding --

HENNESSEY: Procedural unfairness.

SCIUTTO: I mean, they're still complaining that they don't have the -- and you and I have talked about the history here and it is not entirely true, but they're still complaining that they don't have all the leeway they would like.

HENNESSEY: Yes, that said, the bare fact is they've still said the past couple of weeks claiming they wanted more process and procedures, claiming they wanted --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HENNESSEY: A vote, then unanimously voted against that -- you unanimously voted against that. Have been claiming that they wanted open hearings --


HENNESSEY: That these closed proceedings were unfair, now have to be very --


HENNESSEY: Abruptly make this shift to suddenly oppose open hearings. And so, that is a really difficult position --


HENNESSEY: For Republicans to maintain.

SCIUTTO: OK, let's look at how the polling is, a new "ABC News- "Washington Post" poll shows the country split right down the middle. And we should note this is on impeachment and removal which is different from just impeachment. But in there, Jackie Alemany, the number that stood out to me was independents evenly split, and with a slightly -- and then granted, that's within the margin of error -- margin of error though against impeachment and removal.

How concerning should that be for Democrats as we head into the 2020 cycle?

ALEMANY: Well, look, while this feels like it's been going on for practically years already, we are really still at the beginning. The public part of this impeachment inquiry is going to be really important.


And what Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats really showed yesterday is that it's all but inevitable that this is going to be a public trial, it's going to make it to the Senate. We're going to see this on television, six days a week, up through potentially the New Hampshire primary.

And when you have people like Alexander Vindman, you know, a very decorated Iraq war, really sober-minded --

SCIUTTO: Injured --

ALEMANY: Veteran, publicly, you know, agree to publicly testify before Congress and before the public, you know, that doesn't bode well for this president, especially when all the arguments they've made so far have been on a --

SCIUTTO: Right --

ALEMANY: Procedural, tactical standpoint and not on substance.

SCIUTTO: OK, so here's a new argument you're starting to hear -- by the way, the "Wall Street Journal" had this in their editorial yesterday. Put the quote up on the screen, I'll paraphrase just for time. But he says Democrats want to impeach Mr. Trump for asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival for corruption, though the probe never happened and for withholding aid to Ukraine that in the end wasn't withheld.

What we're seeing here is in effect a trial balloon on an argument that, OK, this was bad. It was an attempted abuse of power, but it didn't happen, therefore, it's not impeachable. Does that argument stand up?

HENNESSEY: Yes, so it doesn't stand up. Of course, attempting a crime is itself a crime. I think one reason why we're seeing Republicans resort to this is because it was successful and yes, after the Mueller report came out, that showed that the president very clearly attempted to obstruct justice, but Mueller said, look, he was thwarted a lot of the times --


HENNESSEY: He tried to do it, but people didn't follow his --

SCIUTTO: So, also was willing to accept foreign help for the investigation in the Trump Tower meeting, but it didn't happen, and therefore, that was, you know, defense there. I mean, they're going to try it whether you think it's substantive or not.

ALEMANY: Yes, look, I think it's not a particularly strong argument. The fact that this is sort of the best that they can come up with, I think is an indication that the substantive defense --


ALEMANY: Here just isn't there, if the only thing you can say to defend someone's conduct is, well, it didn't work --

SCIUTTO: It fails --

ALEMANY: He didn't get away with it, and that's your -- SCIUTTO: Yes --

ALEMANY: Defense to abuse of office. That doesn't sound like a winning strategy moving forward.

SCIUTTO: All right, well, Susan, Jackie, great to have you on. Hope you have a weekend -- a good weekend. House Republicans stand united on impeachment as we said, while two Democrats did stray away from party lines. We're going to ask one House Democrat what that means for the future of this impeachment inquiry, that's coming up.