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State of the Union

Interview With Former Gov. John Kasich (R-OH); Interview With Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg; Interview With Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 13, 2019 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Heating up. House Democrats subpoena more top Trump officials, ahead of a busy week of testimony in their impeachment inquiry.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president is violating the constitutional separation of powers.

TAPPER: But as Democrats rev up their presidential probe, are Republican senators standing by the president?

We will talk to red state Senator Kevin Cramer ahead.

And going low. President Trump steps up his campaign schedule, using rowdy events to exercise his rage.



TAPPER: Will the politics of division work a second time around?

I will speak to former Republican presidential candidate and Governor John Kasich ahead.

Plus: debate strategy. 2020 candidates get another chance to change the race on stage this week.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I have got a vision that is just different from all of my competitors.

TAPPER: But, as the primary fight closes in on the first votes, will it be enough. Presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg joins me to discuss in moments.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper, where the state of our union is just trying to keep up. President Trump is attempting to defend himself on two fronts this

weekend. First, he's railing against the impeachment inquiry led by Democrats in the House.

And we have breaking news on the conflict in Syria. The defense secretary, Mark Esper, announced this morning that the president is now ordering most of the remaining U.S. forces to withdraw from the northern part of that country in the wake of unrest caused by the president's initial order for some U.S. service members to pull back from the Turkish border in Syria.

That move, which affects 1,000 service members this morning, comes as the president is already defending himself against criticism from some of his strongest supporters over the initial withdrawal, which essentially gave Turkey a green light to attack America's strongest allies in the region, the Kurds, who have been stalwart and lost thousands in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey claims it is targeting terrorists, but the current situation has become increasingly desperate. Civilians have been killed. According to the U.N., more than 130,000 people in the region have been displaced.

And horrific videos are circulating that appear to show Kurdish innocents slaughtered.

CNN has additionally learned, in exclusive reporting, that the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Army told a senior U.S. diplomat -- quote -- "You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered."

Joining me now, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and veteran who served in Afghanistan, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Mayor Buttigieg, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

I want to start with President Trump's move to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria. You called the move shameful, but you have also said that the U.S. needs to -- quote -- "put an end to endless wars."

Now, I understand you don't like the way President Trump has done this, but if you were to pull troops out of Syria, how could you ensure U.S. allies, such as the Kurds, that they would be protected?

BUTTIGIEG: That's just the point. Putting an end to endless war doesn't mean ending American engagement around the world.

Often, it means making sure we do our part to stabilize or help keep the peace, so that full-blown conflicts don't break out.

Look at what's happened here. This isn't even a strategy or a policy. It is the president systematically destroying American alliances and American values. And that makes America worse off.

Look, the 21st century is going to be filled with these kinds of messy, asymmetric conflicts, and we need to make sure that the U.S. is in a position to defend our interests and to live up to our obligations to our allies.

And, right now, we're seeing the reverse. It is horrifying to see what is emerging not just in terms of what is being done to Kurds, but in terms of ISIS fighters now being released, exactly as we were warned would happen.

And we're seeing the first reports of atrocities too.

And what's even more disturbing to me as a veteran is hearing from soldiers who feel that they have lost their honor over this, who feel that they're unable to look in the eye allies who put their lives on the line to fight with us.

And if you take away a soldier's honor, you might as well go after their body armor next. That's what the commander in chief is doing right now.

TAPPER: So, under a President Buttigieg, U.S. service members would stay in Syria; is that right?

BUTTIGIEG: If that's what's needed in order to protect American interests and avoid a repeat of ISIS emerging, sure.


Think about it this way. It's very clear that the way for us to get out of an open-ended, open conflict with ground troops forever in Afghanistan is to reposition and end up only with a very limited special operations and intelligence presence.

That's exactly what we had in Syria. And the president is pulling it out, for no clear or good reason, in a way that is not going to serve American interests, especially not with ISIS fighters now being liberated as a consequence of these militias being betrayed.

TAPPER: The Syrian Democratic Forces are calling on the U.S. government to intervene and stop these Turkish attacks against them in Northern Syria.

Reports from the region suggest that Turkey is even bracketing U.S. forces with artillery.

If you were commander in chief, would you be willing to threaten or even use military force against Turkey, a NATO ally, to protect the Kurds?

BUTTIGIEG: If I were commander in chief, we never would have allowed this situation to emerge in the first place.

And this is also an example of how the total lack of leadership from the White House has caused not only our strategic adversaries, like Russia or in many ways China, to be able to do things that they wouldn't have if we were showing more leadership, but also our allies.

You look at the behavior of Saudi Arabia, you look at the behavior of Turkey, which is supposed to be a NATO ally, and, clearly, when the president green-lights bad behavior, that's exactly what you get.

As an ally, we have leverage. And we could have stopped this. Indeed, we were stopping this, until the president made this reckless choice, for no clear reason, that is undermining American credibility.

And one more thing that's happening is, it's undermining the idea that America has a leadership role. Under this president, America is being turned into just another country, just another country out there scrapping for advantage, not showing leadership, not in an exceptional position to shape outcomes around the world.

And the consequences of that are terrible, both for American values and for American interests.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the House impeachment probe.

A new poll this week shows that nearly six in 10 Americans think that the future of President Trump's presidency should be decided at the ballot box next November and not through the impeachment process, 58 percent at the ballot box.

Given how close we are to a presidential election, how would you explain to the majority of Americans why they shouldn't get to be the ones to decide the future of Trump's presidency?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, there's also a majority of Americans who support impeachment and removal.

Look, this is not something you can do by poll. This is a constitutional process to protect the integrity of the presidency itself. It's not just about holding Donald Trump accountable for abuses of power. It's about making sure that a future president 10 years or 100 years from now looks back at this moment and draws the lesson that nobody is above the law.

And in a moment like that, public opinion is just going to have to follow the lead of the Constitution, instead of the other way around.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about Hunter Biden.

And before I do, obviously, I want to make clear that President Trump and his allies are lying about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. And, obviously, the conduct of President Trump to ask, push, whatever, foreign countries to investigate the Bidens has been deemed to be impeachable by Democrats in the House.

But, that said, Bloomberg is reporting this morning that Hunter Biden is stepping down from the board of a Chinese company and promising to forego all foreign work if his father is elected president.

Is that not a tacit acknowledgement from Hunter Biden, if not the Biden campaign, that there was at least an appearance of a conflict of interests issue here that was valid?

BUTTIGIEG: I think it demonstrates the difference in standards relative to the White House. I mean, here you have Hunter Biden stepping down from a position in

order to make sure, even though there's been no accusation of wrongdoing, doing something just to make sure there's not even the appearance of a conflict of interests, while, in the White House, the president of the United States is a walking conflict of interests.

You got family members -- you want to talk about family members? In the White House right now, you got Ivanka Trump benefiting from patents from the Chinese. You got the president's son-in-law texting with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, while, meanwhile, the president's sons go around the world pretending like the fact that their father is the president of the United States has no impact on the international business dealings that they do.

We don't even know whether Trump financial interests in Turkey contributed to the decision to betray American allies and American values.

And they want to talk about conflicts of interests? It is a radically different standard.

And we cannot allow this president to be able to change the subject, especially with unfounded allegations.

TAPPER: Your 2020 opponent Beto O'Rourke said at the CNN forum on LGBT rights on Thursday night that he thinks religious institutions that do not hire or provide services to LGBTQ people, such as charities or colleges, even churches, that they should lose their tax- exempt status.


Do you agree with that?

BUTTIGIEG: I agree that anti-discrimination law ought to be applied to all institutions.

But the idea that you're going to strip churches of their tax-exempt status if they haven't found their way toward blessing same-sex marriage, I'm not sure he understood the implications of what he was saying.

I mean, that means going to war, not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do, but also, because of the separation of church and state, are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country.

So, if we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely, they should not be able to discriminate. But going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country, I think that's just going to deepen the divisions that we're already experiencing, at a moment when we're actually seeing more and more people, motivated often by compassion and by people they love, moving in the right direction on LGBTQ rights, which is obviously extremely important to me personally. TAPPER: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: If the House did vote to impeach President Trump, the 100 members of the U.S. Senate would get to determine his future, as a sort of jury.

I'm going to -- I'm going to talk to a Republican senator about the impeachment inquiry live next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

In the coming months, the president's Republican allies in the Senate may be forced to weigh in on the allegations against him and be called as something like jurors in a potential impeachment trial.

Right now, however, many of those normally supportive Republican officeholders are expressing disappointment, if not opposition, to President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. service members from the Syria-Turkey border, paving the way, essentially, for a Turkish offensive against the Kurds.

Let's discuss with the man joining me now, Republican Senator from North Dakota Kevin Cramer. He is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

A Kurdish military commander told a senior U.S. diplomat this week -- quote -- "You have given up on us. You're leaving us to be slaughtered" -- unquote.

The Kurds have fought alongside U.S. troops in the battle against ISIS for years.

Do you support the president's decision?

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Well, Jake, I wish it had been different, I can tell you that, but I'm not sure the president had a lot of choices.

I know we like to sort of oversimplify these complicated relationships. But I think the logical question is, were we prepared to stay there and fight the Turks, given the fact that the Turks seem to be committed to coming across the border and establishing this militarized zone, with or without our staying there?

So I think the president at that point has a -- not so much a binary choice, as a decision to make as to which -- which friend, if you will, do we stand with in this circumstance?

Clearly, the Turks are not the type of ally that the Kurds are, but they are a NATO country, as you have pointed out, and it's not -- it's never quite as simple as just a binary choice.

TAPPER: Well, I'm not sure that Turkey would have attacked if the U.S. had remained there. They have wanted to attack for years, and they haven't done so.

But, beyond that, even -- even positing that what you're saying is accurate, you're voicing support for the United States military retreating, you know, surrendering, in the face of Turks.

CRAMER: Well, we're retreating -- sure, we are retreating from that particular area.

And I think, again, the Turks, while they're not the Kurds, are -- are also a NATO ally. And we can't be in the middle of every skirmish in the neighborhood.

And the circumstantial alliances are -- standard of the enemy -- my enemy is my friend, is fairly common over the decades, maybe centuries in the Middle East, and it's an unfortunate one.

But I do think President Trump ran on the promise to get us out of endless wars. This skirmish between the Turks and the Kurds is one of those -- you know, one of those conflicts that has been going on for a long time. The Turks are not -- or the Kurds -- I'm sorry -- "...are not a monolithic group, as we know, we -- another thing that we tend to oversimplify.

And so I think, yes, the question becomes, what is in America's best interest at a given time or in a given circumstance? And while I don't -- while I'm not all on board necessarily, I'm one of the 70 that voted, for example, earlier this year -- we oftentimes forget that too, Jake, that the president just didn't wake up a few days ago and decide to withdraw.

TAPPER: Right.

CRAMER: He announced a withdrawal nine or 10 months ago that led to some of the same type of pushback.

TAPPER: Right.

Well, Senator, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced this morning that the president is now ordering most of the remaining U.S. forces in Syria to withdraw because the situation in the border area has gotten so dangerous, after he ordered that smaller withdrawal earlier this week.

You're on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Were you informed of this? Did you -- were you briefed about it?

CRAMER: No, I was not. No, we were briefed, again, after the -- the last withdrawal

announcement and received more information. I felt, at that time, more comfortable than I did prior to the briefing.

I hope that I feel better after I get briefed this -- now this week when we return to Washington, and learn more of the details, because, while there's a withdrawal, what I'd like to know is, a withdrawal to where?

As you know, we have several bases in the region. We -- even though we know a little ways, we don't necessarily go far. What are -- what -- you know, what is the strategy should we need to reengage?

I am pleased that the president has put up, I think it was yesterday, $50 million for humanitarian assistance, stabilization funds, if you will.

I also think the president's doing the right thing in once again demanding more from our European allies in this situation in Syria, because the last thing we need is, of course, for a reemergence or a re -- you know, reorganization of a ISIS caliphate in the area.

And we need to -- we need to watch it. It is complicated. There's lots of factors. But I'm looking forward to being briefed and hopefully comforted.

TAPPER: Sir, with all -- with all due respect, I mean, if you're worried about the ISIS caliphate, I mean, nobody has -- no group has sacrificed more to fight ISIS than the -- than America's Kurdish allies.


CRAMER: Right.

TAPPER: And there are reports that ISIS prisoners are now able to escape because of this decision by President Trump.

I mean, I understand the idea of wanting to avoid endless wars, but this decision by President Trump to withdraw the U.S. Special Forces from the region, I mean, this has created a war now.

I mean, it was much calmer two weeks ago than it is today.

CRAMER: Well, it didn't create the war. The war has been going on for a very long time.

TAPPER: I'm talking about the current military action.

CRAMER: And I think it's unfair to suggest that the president created -- well, sure, but, every day, you make decisions that have an effect for that day.

This conflict between the Kurds and the Turks has been going on for decades, if not centuries. And so we're not going to solve it by staying there forever. And I think that's the issue. What is in America's best interest?

And -- and I think the president is -- while, again...


CRAMER: ... Jake, be clear, I support the Kurds, and -- but I also don't want to oversimplify it and make it a binary decision, which, at this point, if you're against Donald Trump -- that would be 100 percent of the Democrats -- you're going to take the opposite position of his, and some -- some Republicans the same.

There are a lot of thoughtful Republicans and Democrats, I think, that are considering all the aspects of this. And I think we need to.

But, yes, nobody's been more faithful than the Kurds, particularly with the war on ISIS and -- and holding the ISIS fighters. And therein lies, in my view, I think the other problem.

TAPPER: Right.

CRAMER: And that is, what about our European allies? When are they going to step up?

Why aren't they taking, for example, the ISIS fighters that come from their countries? The president's right to push that issue. And this may be the only way that he can.

TAPPER: I want to turn to the impeachment inquiry in the House, the president obviously under fire for asking Ukraine and China to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his top political rivals for reelection.

As a hypothetical, just because I think there are a lot of people concerned about the precedent this is setting, would you have found it acceptable if, ahead of the 2012 election, then President Obama had asked a foreign leader to investigate one of Mitt Romney's sons? Would that be OK with you?

CRAMER: Well, I think if -- if the corruption involves a former vice president or a former president, an administration official, rooting out corruption in other countries was something that Democrats thought they were doing with the Mueller investigation.

They were pushing hard for this kind of thing.

TAPPER: But there's no -- but there's no evidence of corruption in -- there's no evidence of corruption in this case.

CRAMER: Well, other than the president -- the vice president bragging in front of a video camera about holding up a billion dollars' worth of military assistance to Ukraine, unless and until such time as they call off an investigation into his son's relationship with a gas company.

TAPPER: That's not what happened, sir. Sir, but that's not what happened. I mean, Joe Biden, and the Obama administration, and the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, and anti-corruption crusaders in Ukraine all wanted this one prosecutor, who was not moving on corruption, they all wanted him fired. And Vice President Biden did say that he wanted him fired.

But that wasn't -- there's no evidence that had anything to do with the gas company that Hunter Biden was advising. So there's no evidence of corruption.

I understand that there's an appearance of impropriety or an appearance of a conflict of interests. And that's a fine allegation for people to say, but that's not what you just said.

CRAMER: Well, I -- I think that we could probably understand why President Trump, after a couple of years of Mueller investigation, $30 million, with zero, zero evidence as well...

TAPPER: Zero evidence of what?

CRAMER: ... of collusion with the Russians, would be a little bit frustrating.

TAPPER: Well, but I guess my question is, do you think it's appropriate for a politician to use his position in foreign policy to push a foreign leader to investigate a political rival?

It's just a yes or no. Is it appropriate or is it not appropriate?

CRAMER: Well, if the political rival happened to have been the vice president of the United States, and this corruption was being investigated even prior to his bringing it up -- and, by the way, it's not like Donald Trump has been exactly covert about this.

There's great integrity in his authenticity, which is something that people out here in the heartland appreciate about him. So he has these discussions in wide open. He released the entire transcript of this supposed phone call that supposedly had all of this quid pro quo, which once again proved to not be true.

There was no quid pro quo in the -- in the phone conversation. So, no doubt that the haters are going to hate.


CRAMER: And they're going to try to create this narrative for forever and ever, but ignore the fact that, for two-and-a-half years, we had to endure a Mueller investigation or, you know, a Russian collusion investigation that proved to...

TAPPER: But...

CRAMER: ... actually exonerate the president.

TAPPER: I'm just -- I don't know that it exonerated him.

But, beyond that, I'm just talking about this precedent that a lot of people are concerned about.


TAPPER: And in terms of the quid pro quo, I don't think it's been established that there was no quid pro quo. We're going to have testimony later this week from the ambassador to the E.U. about whether or not there was a quid pro quo.


There's a -- the charge d'affaires in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, a guy named William Taylor, texted -- quote -- "Are we now saying that security assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?" to which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, wrote back: "Call me."

So there was at least a concern that there was a quid pro quo.

I don't know that it's been established one way or another that -- you're just asserting that there isn't one. I certainly think it's worth investigating. Don't you?

CRAMER: Well, if it is, then it's certainly worth investigating whether Hunter Biden used his status as the son of the vice president to fly around the world on Air Force Two and -- and gaining all kinds of government contracts and -- or positions with companies that he has no qualifications to serve for, and getting a large paycheck as a result of it.

TAPPER: Are you really not...


CRAMER: So, maybe it's always worthy of investigation.


TAPPER: Are you really not capable of answering a question about whether or not it's acceptable for a president to ask a foreign rival to investigate his political rivals, to ask a foreign nation to investigate his political rivals without bringing up Hunter Biden?

I'm not defending Hunter Biden getting these gigs.

CRAMER: Right.

TAPPER: I'm just saying, can you say that this is a precedent, and now, in American foreign policy, it's going to be OK for a Democratic president to push China or Russia or whatever to investigate the children or the family of his political rivals?

Is this now the country we're going to live in?

CRAMER: Well, I would say this much, Jake.

I appreciate that -- that we have a president who's very transparent about -- about his opinions, and he's very clear about them. He doesn't -- he doesn't try to do it covertly.

Now, is he -- is he pushing them to do it? I don't get the sense that he's pushing them to do it at all. I think he talks. He thinks out loud. He expresses whatever's on his mind. And people can take that and twist it any way they want to.

But the new precedent for impeachment is that we don't like this president that just got elected, so we're going to spend all four years trying to impeach him.

And, no, I think we have a far too divided country that is reflected in our politics. And I'd much rather see us have a more balanced approach to things, obviously more dialogue, more things like what you and I are doing right now, than -- than these rallies that are -- that are surrounded by riots.

We have a problem in our country in terms of our dialogue. And we need to get -- we need to fix it. Whether that comes from the top down, I suspect it's probably more likely to come from the bottom up. And I hope that's what happens.

TAPPER: Well, the one thing you and I agree on, sir, is that Carson Wentz is a great quarterback.

So I appreciate your time today.


CRAMER: Yes, he is.

TAPPER: Thanks...

CRAMER: The best.

TAPPER: Thanks -- thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

CRAMER: It was my pleasure.

TAPPER: Coming up: So, how are voters in battleground states reacting to the impeachment inquiry?

I'm going to ask a former Republican governor if his swing state could flip in 2020.

That's coming up next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Republicans in Congress seem to be having a difficult time addressing the allegations against President Trump. And some have gone to great lengths to avoid having to weigh in.

The same, however, is not true for former Republican lawmakers.

Joining me now, former Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich, the author of a brand-new book. It's called "It's Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change."

It's kind of an explanation for people on how they can try to bring about the kind of change that they're frustrated that they're not experiencing.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH): Well, Jake, I mean, all power comes from the bottom up.

So, when you think about civil rights, it was bottom up, not top down. When you think about women's suffrage, it's bottom up, not top down.

And people today feel like they don't have much power. And I'm saying you do. You're made special. You can live a life bigger than yourself. And that's what matters today in America, not all these -- I mean, we -- of course, we are focused on the politicians and what's happening in Washington.


KASICH: But, at the end of the day, it's what happens where you live.

And I think it's a book that can inspire the young, the middle-aged and our senior citizens to say, don't retire. Make a big difference. Live a life bigger than yourself.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask...

KASICH: It's not political.

TAPPER: Let me ask you.

But I want to drag you back into the political...

KASICH: Yes, sure.

TAPPER: ... even though your book isn't political.

And that is, you just saw my interview with Senator Cramer of North Dakota. I was just trying to get a simple answer to a question.


TAPPER: Is it acceptable for a president, any president, Democrat, Republican, to use his office to ask foreign countries to investigate their domestic political rivals?

It doesn't seem to me to be that difficult a question.


KASICH: I can't figure it out, Jake.


KASICH: I don't understand it.

Of course it's wrong. And I don't know what they're -- I don't know what they're afraid of. Nobody's asking them, are you for impeachment inquiry? Are you for impeachment? Nobody's asking them.

They're just saying to them, look, is this right or wrong? And they won't answer it. And it's a mystery to me.

Look, I -- I just went -- you know, when I went through reelection, I had expanded Medicaid, you know? And so I was out there telling people, this is why I did it. I'm not afraid of things. I'm going to tell people what I'm for.

It is true I don't hold office today, but I suspected that this president was going to engage in this kind of behavior. That's why I didn't go to the Republican Convention. It's why I didn't vote for him.


KASICH: And I don't intend to vote for him again.

But we have got a long way to go to see where this whole movie is taking us.

TAPPER: One of the things that's incredible is that this phone call with the Ukrainian president took place the day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress.


TAPPER: What is your message for Republicans in the House and Senate, who -- the ones who -- who know that using your office, whether it's House Foreign Relations chairman or president, know that using it to try to get even with political opponents is wrong?


TAPPER: What is your message to them? Because, obviously, a lot of them are afraid of President Trump.

KASICH: Jake, look in the mirror and figure out how you want to be remembered later and how do you feel about yourself today. There's nothing wrong with telling the truth and sharing your real feelings.

I have got a couple things, though, the Democrats should do. There should be a vote on the inquiry in the House. I don't understand why they don't do that.

And I'm also looking for the testimony of Sondland, the special envoy, And I'm looking forward to all of that conversation, all about those text messages that we saw, because I think we want to get established in our minds whether there really was a quid pro quo.


Of course, it's dead wrong for the president to ever talk to another leader to bring up dirt on his political opponent. That's wrong, in and of itself.

TAPPER: With or without the quid pro quo, yes.

KASICH: Oh, it's just dead wrong.

But if you go to another level, and there's an establishment of a quid pro quo, maybe that many Republicans, if it's established, that Republicans would say, yes, this is a step too far.

TAPPER: So, CNN's presidential debate on Tuesday is going to be in your hometown.


TAPPER: Not just in your home state, but...

KASICH: But I'm on a book tour. I won't even be there.


TAPPER: ... but in Westerville, Ohio.


TAPPER: President Trump won your state by more than eight points in 2016, as you know.

Polling over the summer showed that former Vice President Biden leads President Trump in a hypothetical matchup by eight points, Senators Warren and Sanders within the margin of error, although Trump is above them.

Do you think Ohio, which went twice for Obama and then went to Trump, is Ohio in play for the Democrats in 2020?

KASICH: Yes, I don't think it should be ignored by the Democrats.

What's happened Jake, is, Ohio has prospered. I mean, we had a successful eight years. It continues. The unemployment is down. The number of people who are uninsured is down.

So, when people have that -- jobs are up -- when all that's going on, it's hard for people to look around and say, well, I better change this -- the sauce. I mean, I like kind of what I'm eating.

And that's the question. And can Democrats -- if they're going to win, it's all table issues, in my opinion. It's about wages. It's about the affordability of health care. It's about concerns about the environment.

TAPPER: Are you hearing that from Democratic candidates?

KASICH: Right now, I'm not. I don't hear a lot of that.

And I have had arguments with people. When you have a candidate says we're going to take away private health insurance, it scares the living daylights out of people.

By the way, I'm going to take your private health insurance away, but don't worry about it. We're going to give you a government program.

It's like, are you kidding me? That is not going to work.

But if you can get -- look, I believe the country is basically center- right, center-left. And you have to appeal to the basic challenges that families have. I mean, of course they're concerned about this. Is Trump -- you know, what did he do? There's concerns about that.

But, at the end, it's about what happens when people are sitting around the dinner table and about their financial future and the security of the family and their children.

TAPPER: The man, the author is John Kasich. The book is "It's Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change," available this week.

Thank you so much for joining us.

KASICH: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

Congratulations on the book.

KASICH: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Your fifth.


TAPPER: And it's going to outsell all of the other four combined. I know it is. Thanks so much for being here.

Is the target of President Trump's constant attacks going to get a bit of a break on the Democratic debate stage? That is next.




SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, there is a saying in my community you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?


TAPPER: Three attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden in previous debates. Some successful, some not so much. Let's talk about all of this.

Let me start with you. We're learning this morning that Vice President Biden's son Hunter, who has been attacked quite a bit by President Trump and we should note lied about by President Trump and his allies. Whatever you think about the conflict of interest, how he portrays it, there's full of lies. And anyway, Hunter is saying that he will resign from his position at a Chinese company.

According to the statement from his lawyers he's also pledging a -- quote -- "Under a Biden administration, Hunter will readily comply with any and all guidelines or standards a President Biden may issue to address purported conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such conflicts, including any restrictions related to overseas business interests. He will continue to keep his father personally uninvolved in his business affairs."

Let me ask you a question. Do you think that it is fair for Biden's Democratic opponents to bring up this potential conflict of interest that took place in the past? Regardless of the fact that President Trump has told lies about it, regardless of the fact that President Trump according to House Democrats has engaged in conduct that's at least worthy of an impeachment inquiry about it, is it the issue itself fair?

LINDA CHAVEZ, DIRECTOR, BECOMING AMERICAN INITIATIVE: Well I do think that -- you know, when you're in a race for the top job you're going to do what you have to do in order to get the nomination. So, there's no -- whether it's fair or unfair, they're going to raise it. But I do think that Biden is doing -- Hunter Biden is doing this at this point is absolutely appropriate.

And by the way, maybe they could make a challenge that anyone who runs for president ought to make sure that their children are not involved in companies overseas because the current occupant of the White House not only had they been involved, they are currently involved. We have patents being given to Ivanka Trump. We have the Trump boys running around the world including to India and taking part in events with President Modi, promoting the Trump business.

So yes, I think it's -- I think people should make sure that they don't have even the appearance of the conflict of interest.

TAPPER: Congressman?

REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D-MD): Yes. I'd say, look, yes, during the debate I actually think it's not fair to bring it up.


I think the -- Biden -- Hunter Biden has been inappropriately thrust into the middle of a presidential campaign. False accusations made by President Trump. They've been debunked, fact checked, they are false, it doesn't exist.

Now issues should be raised about conflict of interest and as Linda mentioned there is plenty of that in the Trump administration, the Trump world. Whether it is airmen who are staying at Trump hotels in the United Kingdom, whether it is emoluments clause violations at Trump hotel here Washington, D.C. with foreign government officials spending a lot of money at his properties. There are some real conflicts not to speak about that conflicts that exist with President Trump's children. So if that issue is going to come up during the Democratic debate, conflict of interest there is plenty to focus on in terms of what's happening and should not be happening in the Trump administration.

TAPPER: Scott, given the response of what we've heard here about this hornet's nest of issues having to do with Trump --


TAPPER: -- regardless of the ones having to do with Biden, was this maybe a mistake for President Trump to bring up?

JENNINGS: No. I think they don't want to run against Biden. They want to run against somebody else, probably Elizabeth Warren. So the decision to try to implode Biden looks like it is working. I mean, he is sinking. Warren is going up right now.

The idea by the way if this is debunked or nonexistent or -- if that were true, Hunter Biden wouldn't be taking the steps that he's taking this morning. The Biden people know that this is an issue. And to do it today I guess it's fine but somebody on that debate stage might say, why didn't you do it back in 2014 when you were the sitting vice president?

I think these are fair game. It is been fair game to question the Trump children for the last two years and I think what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: That's just laughable when it comes to Hunter Biden. These are lies and I think what unites us in the Democratic Party is whether it is Pete Buttigieg earlier today or Kamala Harris, everyone has spoken out against these lies and good for Hunter Biden. You know what I mean?

He is going out there and he is saying -- and he is putting his foot down and he's like, I don't want a perception of a conflict of interest. I am not the Trump children. And so -- and right now you have over 100 foreign officials who have gone to Trump properties and that is a sitting president of the United States. So when it comes to the debate stage, I actually think Democrats are united that these lies against Hunter Biden are unacceptable and you'll see that on the debate stage.

TAPPER: Scott.

JENNINGS: If they are lying -- if it is all lies and it is purely made up why did Hunter Biden make the decision he made today?

BROWN: Well, the reason why he made the decision, he doesn't want to be a distraction either for his father's campaign or the entire election process.

JENNINGS: So, you admit that it is a distraction?

BROWN: No. What I'm saying is that it certainly is not a tacit acknowledgment of a conflict of interest. He does not want to be a distraction. He was wrongly thrust into this. You had the president during a rally speech this week use very inappropriate language at the son of a presidential candidate. I mean, he has gone low. And he's dragging this entire campaign low --

JENNINGS: But if it is inappropriate language --

BROWN: And I think that Hunter Biden did the right thing by saying I'm not going to be a distraction.

JENNINGS: If it's inappropriate and it's all lies why is it the response to Hunter Biden today -- it is inappropriate language and it's all lies instead of, well, I'm going to take a step back from this?


CHAVEZ: Scott, it all -- it all has to do with perception. And what is being charged against Hunter Biden has nothing to do with whether it is right or wrong to sit on the board of a company when your dad is vice president or president. It has to do with he's been charged of having been involved in corruption and the vice president having stopped the corruption investigation. That is not true. That is a lie.

TAPPER: All right. And we're going to leave it there. Thanks so much one and all.

It is funny how lawmakers' feelings on oversight seem to change when their party is in the White House. We're going to play the tapes next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

The White House sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week suggesting that President Trump is not going to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry seemingly thumbing his nose at the very notion that the U.S. government was designed with three co-equal branches specifically to offer checks and balances on each other.

When President Obama was in the White House, the Republican led House of Representatives conducted lots of oversight on the fast and furious scandal, on the Benghazi tragedy, and more. We covered it.

There were whistleblowers. We covered them. Journalists who covered and citizens who followed Benghazi may find it stunning to see Republican members of Congress trash talking whistleblowers and inspectors general, and trash talking the oversight responsibilities of the House. Stunning.

After all during the Obama years, in the trenches pushing to conduct oversight were many of the same House Republicans such as then Congressman Mike Pompeo from Kansas.


REP. MIKE POMPEO (R-KS): It's deeply part of the American tradition and our constitution that the Congress perform this oversight.


TAPPER: Yes, it is. And Congressman Pompeo fought the good fight and demanded answers.


POMPEO: We now know that the president didn't turn over all of the documents in response to a congressional subpoena and that's just unacceptable.


TAPPER: It is unacceptable and one wonders what that congressman would make of the secretary of state who has the same name whose department is ordering state department officials to ignore congressional subpoenas.

Likewise, earlier this year Senate judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham told Donald Trump Jr. to ignore a congressional subpoena.


A far cry from Graham's views of oversight back when he was in the House presiding over the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.


REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It is not your job to tell us what we need. It is your job to comply with things we need to provide oversight over you. The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment.


TAPPER: Similarly during the Clinton impeachment Rudy Giuliani made it very clear where he stood on the matter of avoiding subpoenas.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R-NY): All the Watergate litigation resolved the fact that the president is not above the law, is not able to avoid subpoenas.


TAPPER: Now, that Giuliani's enmeshed in the Ukrainian scandal, however Giuliani hasn't even made it clear whether or not he is going to honor the congressional subpoena aimed at him.

The arguments that Democratic presidents needed to comply with congressional oversight were correct. That's how the system was setup. If you only apply constitutional standards to the other political party and not to your own, then those aren't principles. They're tactics.

Fareed Zakaria starts next.