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Trump Privately Discussed Biden Impeachment With GOP Lawyers; 2,900+ Dead After 6.8 Magnitude Quake in Morocco; Kim, Putin Meet As U.S. Warns Russia Seeking Arm Deal. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 11:30   ET



KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Republican House strategy would be going into this Impeachment inquiry. Now, I've talked to a number of Trump advisors, and they do acknowledge about Trump's talked to various House members about them -- about this. It is not just Stefanik and Marjorie Taylor Greene, that it's not something that he is obsessed with and hyper focused on.

But they can't push back on the sense that this is something that he has brought up, something that privately and publicly he says he would like to see happen. And even if he is not pushing directly, by saying he's something that he would like to have it. He is still really -- if you look at the poll numbers, the head of the Republican Party.

And there are members within the House, who wants to do what makes Donald Trump happy. And so that's where you really see this disconnect. Whether or not it is that he is obsessed with it, he is pushing it, or whether or not it is that he's just mentioned it but these House members, they want to placate him. He really is at least in part at the center of all of this.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much for this new reporting, as always. We appreciate it. Keep us posted.

SARA SIDNER: All right. With us now is the former Communications Director for Vice President Kamala Harris, Jamal Simmons. He is now a CNN Political Commentator and Republican Strategist Joseph Pinion. Thank you so much for being here this morning.

We just -- I want to go back to whether or not, we just heard this new reporting. Is it any surprise? And I'll start here with you, the Donald Trump is somehow involved in this idea of going forward with an impeachment. It serves him politically, certainly.

JOSEPH PINION, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, look, I think that impeachment is inherently a political process. I think that certainly action of President Trump speaking about it with members of Congress, there was certainly an appetite for Republicans to see if they could move forward with some type of impeachment procedure. I would also mention that again, he's not necessarily doing anything on towards.

But if people are bothered by it, they should also be bothered by the fact that we now know from the former Deputy Director of the CIA, Michael Morell. That there were conversations with anti-Blinken, at the time working with Joe Biden's campaign, about what was happening with those accusations Trump campaign was making about them.

Which led to that, 51 members of former intelligence signing that letter. So, yes, I think that it is fair to ask the question, but I think that fair play has to be fair play. And I don't think it is on towards to expect. Other the members of Congress would be consulted with President Trump about how they're going to be proceeding with this impeachment.

BERMAN: Again, we need to say that up until this point, House Republicans, including the ones pushing the Impeachment inquiry have not presented any evidence that President Biden himself when he was Vice President or President, President Biden himself. No evidence that we have seen yet.

PINION: I would just -- I mean, I've wanted to give time here, obviously, for our friend here (INAUDIBLE). But I do think, again, if you're looking at the pillars of the Biden defense, when he stood on the debate stage and made his case for the nation to become President of the United States.

SIDNER: But that was about Hunter Biden. He said he didn't believe his son gotten money from China. He said he did not. And then we know that.

PINION: He specifically said that his son did not get money in China.

SIDNER: Right.

PINION: He specifically said that his son did nothing wrong in Ukraine. He specifically said that the only person that got money on that stage was a man named Donald J. Trump. And so, if you're looking at what has transpired now, the fact that there are email correspondences using aliases where Hunted Biden's C.C.

There's no reason for that to be occurring if what he said on that stage is accurate. There's also no reason for us to be sitting here asking questions about the money that Hunter Biden has admitted under oath that he did receive from China.


BERMAN: Hunter Biden Can't be impeached, and it is not being -- and Joe, I just want -- I just want to bring up you all --


BERMAN: -- into this conversation here. Again, this inquiry is happening. I'm just bringing people up to speed on what we have seen to this point here. The politics of this, Jamal, I asked you, you know, as a Democrat, who has been, you know, tangentially involved and seen a few of these impeachments play out. What are the risks for the Republicans here? Why are there Republicans in these four districts that are nervous? SIMMONS: It's very risky. This is an Impeachment inquiry in search of a high crime and misdemeanor. They just don't have the goods here. There's no missing tapes about Watergate break in. There's no blue dress, there is no dossier from the Russians. There's none of these things that have happened in the last time where at least people had some grain of fact. They wanted to go after and pull on to see what was there, there's nothing there.

What do we know? What we know is the President son, Hunter, last name Biden, right? Told people that his father was the Vice President when he was going out pitching business. Now, you guys have been on the inside or gotten pitches from P.R. people who are trying to get stories done. Sometimes there's too much English on the ball.

And maybe that's what happened on Hunter. Is inappropriate? Probably. Is it impeachable? Probably not. And the second thing perhaps, Joe Biden talked to his friend, his son's friends when he called them and said, hello, that's it. Those are bombshells. Those are bombshells. 2/3 of Americans know what it's like to have an addicted person in their family, right?

And they know the bad decisions that addicted people make. The President United States is standing by his son who is admitted having an addiction problem. The Republicans go after an addiction problem in a family, at their own peril, and I think they are in jeopardy of losing moderate Republicans all over the country if they do it.

PINION: Well, look, I think just to unpack a lot of what happened there. First and foremost, yes, I would -- I would urge Republicans to proceed with caution. I would go back in our time machine to February 6 of 2020, with the headlines across the Nation was Trump acquitted, USA Today, Trump acquitted.


New York Times, Miami Herald, Trump acquitted. And so, if you're an American who was suffering with half a million of you, not being able to pay the actual debt on your car is not able to deal with the fact that we got $5.5 million missing from savings. If that is the tale of the tape for Republicans, you try to make sure we take back the House and take back the Senate.

It is arguable that all you have done here is shrink the timeframe that you have to make the case about what has happened here with Hunter Biden, and does it actually impugn the integrity of the Office of the President. Because if you can't say concretely that he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the average American will simply read the headlines and think nothing to see here.

When in reality, to your point, we're not talking about addiction. Hunter Biden's problems with lying to get a gun is not my concern, in many ways, not the concern that the American people. What is of concern to the American people, is the fact that if you're looking at the tale of the tape, it's not just someone getting FaceTime with the White House. It is the fact that there are emails that say that they required that

FaceTime as the good faith effort to make sure that money could release from Foreign Nations that the President told us no money was made. That we have White House logs that confirmed that those meetings occurred.

That we have CC'ed emails using secret aliases that say that the President was C.C. and his son on materials that the Hunter Biden did not work for the White House. And the President maintained that he did no business with his son. Which would mean that there's no reason for him to be C.C. on matters that are related to official business. So, I think those are pertinent issues -- oh, you can laugh about it.

SIMMONS: Because this guy up for this since 2018, trying to figure out this connection between them and the connections not there. You know, how do we know that connection is not there? Because the connection was there this would be in the -- in the items that we're talking about in order to get the Impeachment inquiry going. And you wouldn't have so many Republicans who are pulling back from signing up for the impeachment.

BERMAN: I don't think, how did he get --


SIMMONS: Why is he not signing on to this? Why is it somebody like Mitt Romney not signing out of this? They're not signing on to it, because there's nothing there.

PINION: They're not signed on to it, because they -- as many Republicans would say, want to make sure that if you're going to allege high crimes and misdemeanors, you better make sure you can prove it beyond the reasonable doubt.

SIDNER: But they have been -- but just that they have been saying this (INAUDIBLE) have been coming out and making these accusations and saying they're going to find the evidence. I do want to ask you, why you think that McCarthy did not let this go to a vote? Did he think that he wasn't going to get a vote to go forward with an inquiry or why did he go ahead and just ordered this when 12 days ago, he was like I'm going to go for a vote?

PINION: I think that McCarthy is smart enough to realize he's not going to force his members to marginalize themselves for the benefit of the Democratic Party. When we can't even get people to acknowledge the fact that whistleblower after whistleblower have come forth making allegations against the President. And in an era where we say whistleblowers who believe somehow, we think that the whistleblower speaking about President Biden, somehow have lost their mind.

So, I think if we get back to the issues, yes, we should follow the facts wherever they lead. I think with impeachment, we have curtailed the timeframe that we have to be able to discover those facts, finding out where the money may be if the money trail does exist. But again, to your point, it does provide the opportunity for individuals like yourself to stand here and say, where's the gun? And when we can't find a latent fingerprint.

BERMAN: Well, the inquiry is happening. That's into what? We'll find out, I suppose. Joe, Jamal, thank you both very much for being with us.

SIDNER: Thank you, both. All right. Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin met and talked for hours this morning. What the two authoritarian leaders discussed and what world leaders are saying and worrying about this particular summit at this particular time as Ukraine is in the midst of a major war?



BERMAN: This morning, emergency crews continue to work through the rubble of the devastating earthquake in Morocco. The death toll has already passed 2900 with 5500 hurt. The death toll will almost certainly rise. Our Sam Kiley is on the ground there and, of course, that aid efforts are underway.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I'm in Amizmiz town in the early foothills of the Atlas Mountains. And it's a town that was devastated by this earthquake. This is a scene here on this street, but you could be almost any street in this town. Hall buildings collapsed into the street and the Moroccans as ever showing incredible signs of resilience.

So, here in a building that is threatened with collapse itself, somebody has opened a shop already trying to get life back to normal. And that has been something that, of course, the Moroccans have had to do because even though there's 2,900 people dead so far, some 5,000 injured, life has to go on. But for many this is what life looks like now, John. Whole communities have been utterly laid to waste and this is now what they call home.

Tents donated by the government. Mostly living on food and water donated so far by private citizens. As the government continues to try to reach up into those High Atlas Mountains, those far-flung villages that have been completely flattened by this earthquake. Most of them or many of them in accessible only by helicopter.


And that means that they had to airdrop a supplies to isolated villages, because these are villages that in the first place are accessible only by foot. And a lot of the tracks and roads, of course, have been destroyed by the earthquake. Now, the Moroccan government has received some criticism for not accepting more foreign aid.

They are insistent that they're getting the aid that they need and trying to target exactly where it should go. Because they know it in the longer term, this humanitarian emergency is going to shift into something much more expensive and long term and that is how do you rebuild the homes for many, many tens of thousands of people, John.

BERMAN: It will be a huge effort. Our thanks to Sam Kiley on the ground there. Sara?

SIDNER: So hard to watch that. All right. Another place where it's difficult to watch, what's happening overnight. Ukraine, launching a missile attack on a repair base for Russian warships in Crimea. We will speak with former CIA Director General David Petraeus who just returned from a trip to Ukraine about the progress on the front lines that's ahead.



SIDNER: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged his country's full support to Russia during the more than five hours he spent talking and negotiating with President Vladimir Putin today. The summit the West had feared will lead to a fresh supply of weapons for Russia in its war on Ukraine. Putin welcome Kim to a Russian space launch site in the Amur region where Kim got a tour of Russia's space center and rocket complex.

Now, Kim is headed to another city in Russia's Far East where he is scheduled to visit factories that make civilian and military equipment. Watch a showcase of Russia's Pacific Fleet and visit to educational institutes. The visit comes of force as North Korea launched two short range ballistic missiles off the Eastern Coast of the Korean Peninsula this morning. Just hours before that summit took place.

With us now, former CIA Director and Former U.S. CENTCOM commander, General David Petraeus. He has recently returned from a trip to Ukraine. I want to first start with what you are hearing -- what we -- what you learned from your trip. What is the thing that you took away that was the most important you felt after visiting Ukraine, sir?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTCOM: Well, Sara, the mood was more sober than when I was there, say three months ago before the start of the counter offensive. As we all know, counter that counter offence, no plan survives contact with the enemy. They had to make adaptations, they have though. And they have been grinding out progress, it has been accumulating has been impressive but it's slow. It's tough, it's costly.

The Russian defense is much more formidable, I think, than any anticipated, but they have gotten through the first line of defense in the south in Zaporizhzhia. They have taken a town called Robotyne and they're expanding the breach. But again, at a pace of say 500 to thousand meters a day. So, that's the reality. What's interesting, though, is that because this is not as dependent on armored vehicles as was the original expectation.

The Ukrainians are saying they're going to fight all through the winter. Again, people are slowed by the onset of winter rains and the mud and so forth, anywhere near as much as track armored, track vehicles are. For the determination, that commitment, the National resolve is still very, very strong. But as I said, there's -- it's a bit more sober, of a mood, than it was, say three months ago. And beyond that, there's a bit of apprehension about U.S. politics, about whether Congress can be as forthcoming as they'd like it to be, with the additional assistance, given the dynamics on Capitol Hill. There is hope, also, though, that the U.S. will finally approve the army tactical missile system, which would double the range of the precision munitions provided for the rocket systems that we've provided.

And that perhaps, the F-16 will arrive more expeditiously, there might be cluster munitions for rockets, as well as artillery, noting that those artillery delivered cluster munitions have proven to be very, very helpful to this offensive. I think the question now is, can they start to crack maybe to achieve a bit of crumbling of the Russian defenses? Now that they're into the second line of these defenses.

There are three belts essentially, the first being the most formidable and they have certainly penetrated that. And then, can they get close enough to that critical logistical line of communication that runs from Russia along the southeast coast of Ukraine, so that they can interdict it, degrade it, and interrupt the flow of support that the Russians are providing to their fortress in the frontlines?

SIDNER: General, I do want to ask you look, this war started unprovoked Russia went into Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. We are now a year and a half or just over a year and a half, since that war. And in it is grinding on and you did make you alluded to what is happening in the United States.

There is fatigue, not only, you know, here, but in other places, but we are hearing some of the leadership in Congress, particularly the Republican leadership that they are starting to walk away from wanting to fund, give more money, give more munitions to Ukraine. What is your biggest worry there?


PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, I'd hoped that everyone would listen to the Republican leader in the Senate, who has been, I think, the most forceful and most eloquent in describing why it is critical that we continue to support Ukraine. He points out with less than 3 percent of our defense budget. You know, the Russian military has been taken down very considerably. And, of course, this is a longtime enemy of ours, it is the enemy of NATO and so forth.

Ironically, of course, Putin has done more for NATO than any other individual. He set out to make Russia great again, and he's made NATO great again. But we need to continue to lead this effort. Noting that the Europeans have actually been coming online, very substantial in the latest calculation show that even in the area of security assistance, the Europeans pledged more than we have provided, noting that we have provided a very substantial. Now, this is --

SIDNER: General David Petraeus, I think that we're going to -- we're going to have to leave it there. But I really appreciate you sort of talking us through all this. We appreciate your time. The next show has to take over or I'm going to be in big trouble. So, I appreciate you coming on and explaining all that to us. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: You got to pay the bills. Thank you all for joining us. Quite a morning here on CNN NEWS CENTRAL. "INSIDE POLITICS" up next.