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Interview with Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA); Another Fire Ignites in California Overnight; Interview with Steve Bannon. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 1, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


REP. AMI BERA (D-CA): -- listening to career foreign service officers, career national security folks kind of lay out what they saw, what alarmed them, et cetera.

I do think moving this to a public phase and letting the public and the media kind of hear that testimony and hear the witnesses, will start to shift some of that.

I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that this will lead to articles of impeachment. Obviously, it looks like it's heading in that direction, but we're still in that investigation, now it's a public investigation.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You're saying, you've been -- and I don't want you to violate any confidential testimony that you've seen or heart -- have you heard sufficient evidence today for an article of impeachment against this president for abuse of power?

BERA: Sure. I there's plenty of evidence in the public domain as well, that suggests he's committed impeachable offenses.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Because Tim Morrison, a -- President Trump's top Russia and European expert, served in this administration -- he testified yesterday. And there's been some back-and-forth as to whether his testimony helped or hurt your case.

The Republicans are saying it helped their case, and I think they're zeroing in on a line from his opening statement, after which he said, listen, a lot of stuff I heard wasn't right, politically dangerous et cetera, but not illegal.

Based on what you heard in there, does he stand up the argument that there was abuse of power, or undermine that argument?

BERA: Well, he corroborated a lot of what we heard previously from Ambassador Taylor, from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, et cetera, and corroborated that this was a president who is withholding funding in order to push Ukraine to do an investigation into political --

SCIUTTO: So you're saying --

BERA: -- appointees (ph).

SCIUTTO: -- he corroborated the charge that there was a quid pro quo? BERA: Yes, so. And in my mind, that is an abuse of power. Now, do we proceed with articles of impeachment on that? Do we move in that direction? You know, we'll see after we do these public hearings.

SCIUTTO: OK. I want to ask you on a different topic. Because you have Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates -- of course, a Democrat like yourself, although you have not endorsed yet -- coming out with a proposal to pay for a $20.5 trillion Medicare for All plan here, without any taxes on the middle class.

You look at that plan, do you think it's a viable plan?

BERA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: You're a doctor, I should point (ph) to viewers.

TEXT: Warren's Plan to Pay for Medicare for All: $20.5 trillion price tag. Employer contribution: $8.8 trillion; Taxing additional take-home pay: $1.4 trillion; Cracking down on tax evasion and fraud: $2.3 trillion; "Targeted taxes on the financial sector and large corporations": $3.8 trillion; Beefing up the wealth tax: $1 trillion

BERA: As a doctor, we all want America's patients to have coverage and, you know, be able to just go see a doctor if they get sick. But we've already got this massive deficit. Another $22 trillion or so? I'm not sure how you're going to pay for that.

And, frankly, I don't think you could get 218 votes in the House of Representatives, let alone 60 votes in the Senate. So, yes. I would go back to strengthening the Affordable Care Act, building off of hard-fought gains that we've made. You know, in California, we are getting to almost full coverage.

And then, yes, there's still ways to get the rest of the people into the system.

SCIUTTO: By staking out positions like this -- and again, this was a position that was way out there in previous election cycles. Now, two of the leading candidates, Sanders and Warren, are on this. You know, they're on this page, the same page now. Does that risk alienating independent and moderate voters in the 2020 election?

BERA: Well, I think it's a tough position to defend in a general election. Because you're going to have to go into great detail and, again, I don't know how you pay for something like that without raising taxes. And, you know, that's worrisome.

SCIUTTO: A trillion there, a trillion there. Eventually, you're talking about real money. Although that quote, I think, used to be just a billion. Anyway.

BERA: Right.

SCIUTTO: That's where we are today. Congressman Ami Bera, thanks very much for taking the time. BERA: Thanks, Jim.

[10:33:22]

SCIUTTO: A new wildfire, starting overnight in Southern California, already raging across thousands of acres. I mean, this is just incredible to watch. We're going to have a live update from very close to this new fire, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: What has now been dubbed the Maria wildfire in Ventura County, California is breaking out overnight, raging out of control across more than 8,000 acres this morning. Look at this incredible video, firefighters and residents working together to beat back a wall of flames approaching homes. It's pitched battle here, trying to protect lives and property.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez is in Santa Paula near the Maria fire. Tell us what you're seeing on the ground there. I feel like every time we see you now, Omar, there are flames or smoke, you know, raging behind you.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good sign right now for firefighters is the flames that were right by me before are basically a smoulder right now on the outskirts of the Maria fire. You can see the direction that it's moving with the wind right now.

But one thing that's remarkable about that, is that it's almost going straight up. The wind speeds have dropped dramatically, and that is what crews are hoping to take advantage of today.

But when you talk about the flames that were just in this region alone, just look at the canyons. You see how black and scorched this grass was and this vegetation.

At one point, when we first got to this area a few hours ago, literally this entire canyon side was engulfed in flames. And at one point or another, they were attacking this by air and by ground, flying their night choppers in with their night vision to make sure that they really couldn't take a break from this, otherwise it would have gotten out of control.

Though one note that they did put out in the midst of this is that they had to pause their firefighting efforts multiple times because people were flying drones. It was so serious, to the point where police were actually circling around, even questioned our crew, trying to find where those flights were coming from. And obviously, you can imagine how complicating that is.

But when you look at the perimeter here that they're having to deal with, you come to this side, you see some of the chemicals here that were at play. They tried to protect these as much as possible. And even off in that direction, you see black smoke as well.

[10:40:05] And so these are complicated scenes. This is one of 11 active wildfires burning across the state of California, half of which popped up in the last five days. And even our crew, we've been to the Getty fire in Los Angeles, the Easy fire that was threatening the Reagan Presidential Library. Over in San Bernardino, the hillside fire; now, here, the Maria fire as well.

Again, all of those, the common denominator are the high wind speeds that crews were preparing for -- it's part of why they prepositioned resources in different parts of this region -- but this part of the country has just been whacked by these wildfires, and they're hoping to get these under control as quickly as possible.

SCIUTTO: Can't believe people are flying drones, get in the midst, get in the way of the firefighters there. Omar Jimenez --

JIMENEZ: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- thanks very much.

He was, for a time, the chief strategist for President Trump. But when Steve Bannon was pressed by my colleague Anderson Cooper, if it was OK for any president to demand a foreign government investigate a political rival, Bannon had a very interesting answer. Hear it, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:45:50]

SCIUTTO: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, defending the president's Ukraine call -- of course, led to the impeachment inquiry. His argument? Well, hear for yourself. Here is Bannon with my colleague, Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: What do you make of the White House's strategy thus far?

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Look, I think this, as a strategy, President Trump believes he didn't do anything wrong. He's adamant about that.

I think he's busy running the country. Remember, he's got USMCA, the Chinese, what's happening in Syria. He's got a day job. I think he feels, you know, he's got the team, he's -- I think it's a solid team, it's a good team.

COOPER: Do you think he's not focused on this? You think he's running, I mean --

BANNON: I think he's focus -- I --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- he seems very focused on this in the Twitter world.

BANNON: I think -- I think he's focused on this the way he focuses on it. He didn't feel he needed a war room, he doesn't feel like he needs additional personnel right now. I think that's fine.

COOPER: But doesn't it --

BANNON: I think it's incumbent upon people, that's why we start this outside war room with -- one of the people was Jason Miller who is, you know, a former CNN contributor --

COOPER: Right.

BANNON -- was our communications director on the campaign in the transition.

Other people are starting to volunteer and come in. We've got Reince Priebus on our show tomorrow, former head of the RNC. We're going to have Bossie and Corey come on and do hits on this.

I think it's incumbent, I think for people that support President Trump's program and President Trump, to gather around and do this. The campaign's doing things, the RNC is doing things. I think he's got enough cover.

COOPER: Do you believe that phone conversation with the Ukrainian president was perfect?

BANNON: Here's -- the bid and the ask is he says it's perfect and Morrison said it could have been better. It's either perfect or it could have been better, you know. Slightly --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Other people say --

BANNON: Well, I know. But I'm saying Morrison --

COOPER: -- it was totally inappropriate.

BANNON: I know, but Morrison is Fiona Hill's relief. Look, I look at --

COOPER: Right. Fiona Hill, though, does not see it the same as Morrison.

BANNON: I looked at -- I looked at -- and reasonable people can disagree, because this is a policy. To me this is a policy difference. I think when you look at what President Trump -- I haven't seen anything in the transcript, I haven't seen anything in the drive. I looked at Mike Pompeo's speech today. I haven't seen anything he's done that I think is wrong or inappropriate. And I think --

COOPER: So just in general, is it OK for a president, any president, to ask a foreign leader of a country fighting a war against our adversaries in need of aid to do a political favor and investigate --

BANNON: It's -- but this is -- this -- this is where your premise --

COOPER: -- his political opponent and hold aid over it?

BANNON: This is where your premise is wrong. Number one, one of the things that started this was "Secret Empires," the book that Peter Schweizer did, that went after "The Permanent Political Class." This is where Biden and Mitch McConnell and others, they were talked about, you know, where they get their money from. And Biden -- and both China and --

COOPER: But is that OK?

BANNON: Hold on, and China and Ukraine, and the issues were when he was vice president. I don't buy the assumption -- see, you have this premise that it's about a political opponent. What he's -- what they're investigating is the corruption --

COOPER: Oh, come on, give me a break --

BANNON: No.

COOPER: -- you're a smart guy. You know very well --

BANNON: -- corruption -- corruption --

COOPER: -- that that's his goal.

BANNON: It's not.

COOPER: It is.

BANNON: No, it's a -- as a constitutional office --

COOPER: Right. If you're concerned about --

BANNON: OK. Number one --

COOPER: Hold on, if you're concerned --

BANNON: -- Joe Biden should be more -- Anderson, should be more investigated, I think, about China --

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: -- and what he did at the time in China with his son --

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: -- how he got the billion (ph) dollars --

COOPER: Well, the President agrees with you and has asked China to investigate.

BANNON: Hold it. COOPER: But, no --

BANNON: Now, islands in the South China Sea --

COOPER: OK. But on the question --

BANNON: So I don't buy your premise.

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: And I'm not putting you on. I'm not kidding.

COOPER: No, OK.

BANNON: I don't buy the premise.

COOPER: But how can you say -- if he's -- if you're concerned about corruption -- if you're concerned about corruption --

BANNON: Ukraine -- it's -- Ukraine --

COOPER: -- in Ukraine -- look, I've been there. There's a lot of corruption. The only example of corruption in Ukraine the President can state is Joe Biden, the guy he happens to be running against --

BANNON: No, no, no, no, no.

COOPER: -- and this conspiracy theory about CrowdStrike.

BANNON: He talked about the 2016 campaign.

COOPER: Right.

BANNON: He also talked --

COOPER: Right, the conspiracy theory about CrowdStrike and the server being in Ukraine.

BANNON: Remember, what Pompeo talked about today, that nothing that the President has done is the outside --

COOPER: But you haven't addressed, though, what I just said, which is he's talking about a conspiracy theory and Joe Biden, that's conspiracy.

BANNON: Ukraine -- Ernst and Young says that Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in world.

COOPER: Right, yes, yes.

BANNON: Hold on.

COOPER: But you're telling me that Joe Biden and CrowdStrike, that's corruption in Ukraine? The President has access to U.S. intelligence --

BANNON: By the way -- by the way, we have no earthly idea, and that's what this process is about.

COOPER: We do actually have a lot of earthy (ph) idea about who is corrupting Ukraine --

BANNON: We do not. No, no, no.

COOPER: -- and because we actually have diplomats who've been working on it, because that's been U.S. policy. And the President cannot name any other Ukrainian official who's corrupt who he wants investigated?

[10:50:02]

BANNON: Well, hold -- hold it. That's what -- that's what --

COOPER: The only one he can name is Joe Biden?

BANNON: That's why this process is starting now. You know, and now we're going to have an impeachment process. We're going to have an impeachment process and you're not going to have a Starr chamber --

COOPER: Right.

BANNON: -- down (ph) the SCIF.

COOPER: That doesn't make any sense.

BANNON: I was there for 20 hours, OK?

COOPER: Right. The President has access to -- we have corruption fighters in the Treasury Department. He could have called up Steve Mnuchin and said, you know what, give me a list of the most corrupt players in Ukraine. I'll talk to the President about it. He didn't. The only thing he cites as a favor is --

BANNON: First off, we're going to see -- first off, first off, first off --

COOPER: -- CrowdStrike server, Biden.

BANNON: You're going to see -- you've seen a select curated group of witnesses, and you haven't seen the transcripts. We don't know what they said.

COOPER: We've seen the transcript.

BANNON: Of their opening statements.

COOPER: No, we've seen the transcript of the President's phone call and it says a favor for us. The favor is servers, and another one, Biden.

BANNON: We're going to get to see, in this process, you're going get to see all the information. It will all be laid --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: OK. Let me tell you honestly what I believe. I think you're an incredibly smart guy. I think you believe --

BANNON: Well, thanks for the compliment.

COOPER: No. I'm not saying that as --

BANNON: Right.

COOPER: -- and I respect your positions, but I think you believe you got to circle the wagons, just like after the "Access Hollywood" tape. You're either with us or against us.

BANNON: You're so cynical.

COOPER: No, I'm not.

BANNON: You're so cynical. But it's not. No, because here's the thing.

COOPER: I think you're willing to overlook --

BANNON: This is --

COOPER: You know what? So he lies, so he's -- no, no --

(CROSSTALK)

BANNON: -- Anderson -- Anderson

COOPER: -- he's doing good things in your mind and you support him.

BANNON: Anderson.

COOPER: Why can't people argue that? That I understand.

BANNON: Anderson, I am arguing the fact that I don't think he's done anything wrong here. I think this is a huge opportunity cause for the country.

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: Now we're going spend the next 12 weeks instead of focusing on Hong Kong, instead of focusing on the U.S. --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: That's a valid argument, I totally --

BANNON: This is going to engulf. You know your show. This whole network is going to be overwhelmed in a firestorm covering this between now and the end of when they impeachment him, and they're going to impeach him. They're going to bring two charges, OK, and then we go trial. It's going to consume that.

It's going to consume much of the political world, to the -- to -- hurting the United States, OK? which could be doing other things right now. And all I'm saying is that I've set up a war room so that we can get the information and people can weigh and measure. We're going to have Democrats on there.

COOPER: Democrats would argue with you saying, you know what hurts the United States is using taxpayer money as a weapon against an ally who's fighting our enemy. And it's not like its Donald Trump's money, saying -- buying information about the Bidens.

BANNON: Was Joe Biden a constitutional officer when China happened and when it happened in Ukraine? Was he not the point man for President Obama in Ukraine?

COOPER: Yes, yes, he was.

BANNON: Should that -- should China and that not be investigated before you give money of corruption, at least, American corruption in Ukraine, helping corruption?

COOPER: Right. If you can cite some specific thing, there's been no evidence. The President hasn't cited any evidence. He's just throwing this out.

BANNON: And China --

COOPER: Well, he's not. He's just -- all he said is, oh, and in China too. He hasn't cited anything. There is no facts.

BANNON: I'm sure that will come over time. But in China we have the facts.

COOPER: OK, all right.

BANNON: You know that the private equity firm, which his son was not an expert in, got funded --

COOPER: Listen --

BANNON: -- around the time of 2013.

COOPER: -- I'm not defending the --

BANNON: You are defending.

COOPER: No. I think a kid being on a board, I think it's shady. I think it makes no sense.

BANNON: It's shady? It's corrupt.

COOPER: Well, I don't think Joe --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: There's no evidence Joe Biden benefiting anywhere. I'm not --

BANNON: No, his son -- this is where his son is --

COOPER: You can give the evidence. Give evidence. But there's no -- nobody has given evidence so far.

BANNON: Have you read "Secret Empires"?

COOPER: I have not.

BANNON: Have you read Peter (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: No, I have not.

BANNON: We've got to sit down and talk about that.

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: I would love to come back and get -- and start giving you the evidence.

COOPER: You do not agree the premise of my question. So, let me just give you just in general --

BANNON: I don't. And it's not circling the wagons.

COOPER: No. OK.

BANNON: It's not circling the wagon.

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: This is this (INAUDIBLE) --

(CROSSTALK)

BANNON: -- for the good of the country.

COOPER: If a president does in fact have a quid pro quo for a counterpart in a country that's badly in need of aid and is fighting a war and says --

BANNON: You're asking a hypothetical (ph).

COOPER: No. Just -- I'm not asking about Trump. I'm just saying, is it OK for a president of the United States to ask a foreign president to investigate a political rival?

BANNON: No, no. There's -- first off, there is no evidence -- there's no evidence at all that there is a quid pro quo here.

COOPER: I'm just -- OK. I'm not saying --

BANNON: And if there was a quid pro quo --

COOPER: So you won't answer just a hypothetical of, is it OK for a president, any president --

BANNON: No, but I think -- COOPER: -- to ask a foreign president for to investigate a political

rival?

(CROSSTALK)

BANNON: I think Andy McCarthy and other constitutional scholars are coming out now --

COOPER: OK.

BANNON: -- and saying this whole concept of not even having -- not making your foreign aid or your military system contingent upon some acts is wrong.

COOPER: I just don't understand why Republicans will not ever answer that question that I just asked you. Like, OK, any president asking another president, investigate my rival and I'll give you aid, is that OK?

BANNON: It's not rival. He is a constitutional officer at the time. That's what -- that's what (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: OK. So that's OK.

BANNON: American --

(CROSSTALK)

BANNON: No. American involvement in corruption in either China, Ukraine, or any in the -- anywhere in the world should be investigated.

COOPER: All right, still --

BANNON: I'd love to come back here and walk you through the evidence on China and the Ukraine.

COOPER: All right. Well, nobody's presented real evidence. Steve Bannon, I appreciate it. Thank you for coming in.

BANNON: Thanks, thanks, thanks.

COOPER: Really do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Anderson Cooper, there, with the president's former chief strategist.

[10:54:48]

President Trump says that impeachment or not, he will win re-election in 2020. Do voters in key swing states agree? We'll let you know. Thanks so much for watching today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan will start after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

[11:00:00]

It's the first day of November, it is also the first full day of the next chapter in the impeachment inquiry. The House, holding that historic vote, landing almost entirely along --