Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Zelenskyy: World "Must Act" To Defeat Russian "Aggressor"; IRS, FBI Officials Cast Doubt On Whistleblower's Allegations About Hunter Biden Investigation; House Panel Plans 1st Impeachment Inquiry Hearing On Sept. 28; Evangelical Support Behind Trump Remains Strong; Police Investigating Death At Patriots' Home Game. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 14:30   ET



LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: More importantly, it would be a huge hit for U.S. democracy here at home.

This would be an effort not to just cut support for Ukraine, but it would overturn, you know, the future way that U.S. would operate, including peaceful transitions of power in the future.

Good order in government with, you know, professionals filling the ranks, like myself, versus politicized figures. So I think we have, frankly, bigger issues at home.

Of course, as you well know, I think the war in Ukraine is the most important geopolitical fact of the day.

That doesn't supersede the fact that we need to preserve our democracy at home. And that's what keeps me up at night.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: And perhaps other changes, from America is back, as President Biden said when he took office, to America First, which is a whole host of changes in terms of how U.S. would relate to Russia, China, other powers around the world.

Alexander Vindman, thank you so much.

Of course, Richard Roth with me here at the U.N. today.

Back to you, Brianna and Boris, on a day that the American president says marks an inflexion point, as Boris was saying early on, not just for the U.S. and Ukraine but for the world.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: A significant moment, no doubt.

I wanted to touch on something with you, Ambassador, on something that David mentioned or brought to mind a moment ago when he mentioned the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

President Biden, this time around, is the only leader from the members of the Permanent Security Council who is actually there at the U.N. Is there anything to read into that? Does it seem to you that the

United Nations perhaps, an effectiveness is waning? Because Biden alluded to that in his speech for a moment.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: As he should. Because the United Nations Security Council has failed. It failed to do the basic role, mission of the U.N., which is to stop or prevent wars.

And the reason it failed, one of the five that could hold that hold a veto is the aggressor. So, yes, the U.N. Security Council has lost credibility.

KEILAR: I wonder, we heard him talking about the weaponization of food, energy and children. But time is also a big weapon for Volodymyr Zelenskyy, David.

And I wonder what you think right now about, as you have the U.S. considering these long-range missiles, as you have the patience, of course, domestically here in the U.S., about support for Ukraine being tested. And we have an election here around the corner.

You know, what is the landscape of that for Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his calculus?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's a great question, Brianna. I think as you and Boris and I have discussed before, time is not necessarily on Zelenskyy's side here.

If you're Putin, you're thinking to yourself, I win this if the Ukrainians run out of ammunition. So far, the U.S. and the allies have not let them do that. But obviously, if this funding falls apart over time, just sustaining their regular ammunition is a part of it.

I'm sure that Putin thinks, if the Europeans crack, I win this. And so not having the French and the Germans and other big NATO leaders, even the British there -- they may have many reasons for not coming to the U.N. General Assembly, doesn't usually accomplish a huge amount, but just as a show of solidarity, interesting.

Then the third way he wins -- Jim alluded to this before -- is, if we elect a president who simply says this is not America's conflict. The exact opposite of what you heard from President Biden today.

And at that moment, not only does the support collapse, but the U.S. will have looked like it is once again in a big zigzag. And there's nothing that destroys alliances faster than that.

KEILAR: That's why he's saying, actually, America, this is your conflict. And not just yours, it's everyone's.


SANGER: I don't know how much Americans believe that right now.

KEILAR: I mean, that's the truth, right, David? I mean, that's the difficult sell that he has as you have skeptical Americans.

SANGER: You do. However, so far, Brianna, what we've seen Americans are supporting Ukraine. They expose the big-bully nation attacking a smaller nation. Americans have that basic theme.

SANCHEZ: One aspect of the weaponization that President Zelenskyy alluded to in his speech was food. And there was some discussion of whether the Black Sea grain deal, the initiative, would come up at the United Nations.

We know there have been discussions behind closed doors about it. But not much optimism coming and some kind of resolution to offer that grain to the world once more.


SANGER: So there are alternative ways they can run the grain, by train and so forth. None of them have seemed to be satisfying reproductions of what you can do by running this across the Black Sea.

And the Russians, you know, control those waterways pretty well. And no one is really willing to take the risk of doing that.

Now we're seeing the attacks on the ports as well. I'm not even sure the ports are in condition to load that grain if they would have it.

So the collapse of that deal is one of the weaponizations he was discussing.

And it's the one really that the rest of the world, but particularly countries most dependent on Ukraine's grain, are feeling most acutely.

KEILAR: Yes. It's something so many -- and he alluded to that -- across the world they are feeling this, sincerely.

David, Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Still ahead, a new wrinkle in the Hunter Biden investigation. Witnesses are raising doubts about two IRS whistleblowers who testified about the president's son.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a date set for the first hearing in Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

All of those stories and more still ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



SANCHEZ: An update for you now in the Hunter Biden investigation. Several witnesses are now raising doubts about the allegations made by an IRS whistleblower. Remember, Gary Shapley claimed there was political interference in probe of Hunter Biden's taxes. But there's new testimony from several FBI and IRS officials that run

counter to that claim. And they could undercut part of the Republican Party's impeachment probe against the president.

CNN's Kara Scannell has been following all of this.

Kara, let's rewind and go back to what the allegations actually were and how they're being refuted?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is an interesting development, Boris. Gary Shapley, the IRS whistleblower, had testified before the House Republicans saying that he attended this October 2022 meeting with a bunch of law enforcement officials, including U.S. Attorney David Weiss.

He said, at this meeting, Weiss said he didn't have the ultimate decision-making authority on whether or not to bring a case against Hunter Biden and asked for and was denied status as special counsel.

So now they've talked to a number of agents, including the agent conducting the investigation against Hunter Biden, his number two, and also Gary Shapley's former boss at the IRS.

These officials have testified they don't remember it the way Shapley does. Specifically, the FBI supervisor said, "In my recollection, if he would have said that, I would have remembered that."

That's specifically talking about Weiss saying he doesn't have decision-making authorities.

Those other officials also saying they don't recall that coming up in meetings.

Shapley's lawyers say, unlike the others, Shapley took handwritten notes during the meeting and he memorialized those notes in an email to the supervisor. They're holding firm in their position.

Now, these officials don't discount everything that Shapley said. In fact, they say there's some things that Shapley testified to that they recall happening as well.

That is that Weiss couldn't get the attorney's office in Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles to team up with them in order to bring this case.

Of course, this is not the end of the road here. The committees are also subpoenaing other officials to testify.

And Merrick Garland, the attorney general, is on Capitol Hill tomorrow where he will certain will face questions about this -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Kara Scannell, thanks so much for the update.

Let's take you to Capitol Hill with CNN's Melanie Zanona who is there for us.

Melanie, these allegations are central to part of the impeach inquiry of President Joe Biden. A date has been set to start that process. What can you tell us?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this is going to be the first public-facing step that they take since House Republicans launched their impeachment inquiry a week ago from today.

We know the hearing is going to be held at the House Oversight Committee on September 28th. We're told it's going to focus on allegations of corruption and abuse of public office.

While the witness list has yet to be finalized, Chairman James Comer told my colleague that he wants to bring in two witnesses.

He wants to bring in a financial expert that can speak to the bank records pertaining to the Biden family business deals and also a constitutional expert who is going to speak to why they think an impeachment committee is warranted.

And meanwhile, the committee is going to issue their first subpoenas potentially as early as this week. They want to obtain personal and business records from Hunter Biden and James Biden, which would be the first outreach from Republicans to members of the Biden family.

But the White House is emphasizing that Republicans have yet to directly link President Joe Biden to those family business deals. And they also see this effort as a distraction from all of the House's GOP problems right now.

I want to read you a statement from Ian Sams. He is a White House spokesperson.

He said, "Staging a political stunt hearing in the waning days before they may shutdown the government reveals their true priorities. To them, baseless personal attacks on President Biden are more important that preventing a government shutdown and the pain it would inflict on American families."

And no doubt, Congress is barreling towards a government shutdown right now. Kevin McCarthy has warned that could slow down their investigations. But, as of right now, it's full steam ahead -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: They cancelled the vote on potentially funding the government. So a lot of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's plate right now.

Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.


KEILAR: It appears that Americans are united by at least one thing and that is an unrelenting negative view of politics. That's according to new numbers released by Pugh Research Center.

This is a report that found 65 percent of Americans say they feel always or they often feel exhausted when thinking about politics. And 55 percent say they feel angry. And the numbers reveal the reasons why. According to Pugh, just 14

percent of American adults believe that most elected officials care about the thoughts of people like them.

Only 15 percent think all or most currently serving elected officials ran for office, even in part, out of a desire to serve the public.


A majority say they think most were motivated, instead, by the desire to, quote, "make a lot of money."

Chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is back with us from Iowa.

Well, that is a bleak view right there.


KEILAR: Right? So you actually went to Iowa looking at evangelical voters who have traditionally gone for former President Trump. I wonder, are they feeling negative? Are they feeling negative on him? What did you find?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, about the government overall. And it's no surprise, right? The news you hear from Washington, is the government going to shut down? Are they going to get anything accomplished.


ZELENY: You can understand the negative views here.

But the Pugh poll is voters overall. But the voters who are participating in this Republican primary contest and watching it very carefully are actually optimistic and excited about this race because, of course, these Republicans are eager to move President Biden outside of office.

But as the former president goes to Iowa tomorrow to Dubuque County, he's testing the resilience of these all-important evangelical voters.


MIKE DEMASTUS, EXECUTIVE PASTOR, FORT DES MOINES CHURCH OF CHRIST: The fact that Trump is leading in polls -- he is -- but you can't take it for granted. There's so many unknowns with Trump right now.

ZELENY (voice-over): For all of the unknowns in the Republican presidential race, Pastor Mike Demastus does know this. Donald Trump's grip on many evangelical voters in Iowa remains firm, for now at least.

DEMASTUS: There's a loyalty with Trump you can't just peel that away from some. I think many people in the evangelical community right now are willing to hear from other people. (CHEERING)

ZELENY: Whether Iowa Republicans are willing to hear from or actually vote for one of Trump's many challengers is the question.

The answer could rest in Iowa churches were evangelical voters hold considerable sway and candidates are going to great lengths to win them over.

But the former president's latest comments on abortion, calling a six- week ban a terrible mistake, gives Demastus pause.

DEMASTUS: For evangelicals, there are four issues that matter. Life is usually right at the top.

I know most people, the way they evaluate presidential elections is what the gas price is. That's it. But for an evangelical -- no.

ZELENY: Four months before Iowa opens the presidential contest, nuances on abortion policy will be at the center of the debate here.

DEMASTUS: We ask this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.


ZELENY: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stood in the middle of a prayer circle during a weekend visit to the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.

For Demastus, its pastor, it's part of the campaign's pressing appeal to Christian conservatives.

DEMASTUS: Our rights are endowed by God. They do not come from the government.

ZELENY: South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has long been highlighting his faith, often weaving in Bible verses on the campaign trail.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Alleluia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, by the way. Thank you.

ZELENY: With fall harvest season soon at hand, a fresh sense of urgency hangs over the race.

While many Republicans are hoping for a fresh start --

SALLY HOFMANN, EVANGELICAL VOTER: I think we need new leadership. So I'm eager to see that happen.

ZELENY: -- a deep Trump loyalty remains among evangelicals.

HOFMANN: I love everything he stands for.

ZELENY: Sally Hofmann sees and hears both sides.

HOFMANN: To me, it's huge to have three Supreme Court justices during his term. I'm a big pro-life proponent. I like a lot of what Trump has done in office. His personality concerns me a little bit. But I like Nikki Haley and I like DeSantis, too. So it's kind of in that range.

ZELENY: In 2016, Iowa's evangelicals made up nearly two-thirds of Republican caucus attendees and helped lift Ted Cruz to victory over Trump.

While hardly a monolith, these are voters that could slow of solidify a Trump march to the nomination.

For now, Demastus echoes the sentiment of some others, saying he's undecided, waiting and watching.

DEMASTUS: Trump, with all the litigation going on, what's going to happen with that, with the future? Is he going to receive a felony conviction or not?

It does wide open the race for everybody. And I think that's why a lot of these people are still in it.


ZELENY: And, Brianna, there are still so many unknowns hanging over the race. And the pastor said directly there, all of these indictments and, of course, the former president's comments on abortion.

We are seeing and you can feel this contest really starting to pick up in its intensity, because these candidates are running outside of time to sort of introduce themselves but also catch on with these voters.

The former president goes back to Iowa tomorrow. We're told he's trying to squeeze out the oxygen for other candidates in the race. Really paying more attention to that.

But I thought there are a lot of open minds out there. We'll see. Less than four months before this process finally starts in January.

KEILAR: That will be interesting. How open are those minds? I'm very curious.


KEILAR: We'll see very soon.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you.


SANCHEZ: The death of a man at Sunday night Patriots/Dolphins NFL game is now under investigation. What we're learning when CNN NEWS CENTRAL returns.


[14:54:27] SANCHEZ: We're following a developing story out of Massachusetts where state police say they're investigating, quote, "the sequence of events" before a man died following what one witness described as a violent confrontation between fans at Sunday's New England Patriots- Miami Dolphins game at Gilette Stadium.

CNN correspondent, Brynn Gingras, has been following this story for us.

Brynn, bring us up to speed on the investigation.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris, so police were called to the 300 section of Gillette Stadium there, as you said, during the game of the New England Patriots and the Dolphins for someone needing medical attention.


That person was 53-year-old Dale Mooney, who eventually died later at the hospital.

And as you just mentioned, according to at least one witness, who had video of this incident, said there was some sort of altercation between fans before police were called to that area of the stadium.

According to this person, who spoke to our affiliate, WCVB, they say he, being Dale Mooney, the victim, grabbed another fan and they started tussling around for a few minutes.

At one point, another fan walked over and he punched him. And the man went out. It was pretty hard to watch.

Now, our affiliate also spoke to Mooney's wife, now widow. She said her husband is a 30-year season ticketholder of the New England Patriots.

Went to the game last night with his three friends and they described to her that they were being verbally assaulted or taunted, rather, by some fans.

So getting to the bottom of exactly what happened is still in the hands of investigators right now. Not just with the state police, but also the D.A.'s office, who is waiting for the autopsy of Mooney to come back before they can figure out exactly what went down.

As of now, Boris, no charges have been filed.

SANCHEZ: A tragic incident.

Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for that.


KEILAR: After about a day and a plea for the public's help, a $100 million military jet, it appears to be found. But this, quote, "mishap" is really putting the focus on a program with a complicated history.