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Whistleblower: Trump Tried to Get Ukraine to Interfere in 2020 Election & White House Tried to Cover It Up; Trump Threatens Retaliation Against Whistleblower, Calls It "Treason"; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) Discusses Whistleblower Complaint, Trump & Ukraine, Coverup, Rudy Giuliani, the Acting DNI. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 14:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.

While the president is trying to discredit this whistleblower at the center of an explosive report, one section that makes the complaint extremely credible is the account of that July 25th phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.

What the whistleblower lays bare mirrors a lot of what was in the rough transcript released by the White House.

CNN special correspondent, Tom Foreman, is with me now to parse through all we've learned.

Tom, when did this all start?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look at the timeline. Tells you something. Imagine yourself as Ukraine President Zelensky. You need the support of the United States. And yet back in May, look what was happening.

Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, said he would come visit Ukraine. Next day, no, cancelling that trip. Few days later, Trump tells Vice President Mike Pence to cancel this trip to the Ukraine. And a month later, on ABC News, he would accept damaging information on his political rivals from a foreign government.

We don't know if Zelensky knew about that. Probably did. He has his own intelligence people there.

What came next, Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine. He's offered different explanations for that. All people knew was it came president and they were unaware of a policy rationale. That's the set up.

Then comes the phone call on July 25th, according to the whistleblower, where the president pressured Mr. Zelensky to initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Exactly what he said he would take from a foreign power just a little while before,

And here is, here's Ukraine under pressure, not getting money, trying to get a relationship here.

Well, what happens after that? The White House, of course, according to this whistleblower, locks down all of that information suggesting that there were people there, according to the whistleblower, who knew there was something improper about this or worried there was something improper about this.

But then the next step, just as the president suggested, then these meetings start occurring. These people go and meet with Zelensky and his people from the administration to essentially coordinate their efforts into this investigation.

That timeline tells you an awful lot, Brooke. You cannot say this is necessarily a cause and effect all the way through. But when you look at it that way you can look at that phone call and you can say, if you're a critic of the president or skeptical of his explanations, this sure looks like you set this guy up, you made him want something, then called him and said, you know, I just need a favor, if you'll give me that favor, maybe we can work something out.

It's not proof. But that timeline tells you a lot.

BALDWIN: So far into the weeds of this complaint and important to talk to you and just a 30,000-foot view of the start to finish.

Tom Foreman, thank you for that.

FOREMAN: You're welcome, Brooke.

As we hear about the alleged cover-up of the president's actions, do his reported comments about the whistleblower in just the past couple of hours constitute witness tampering or obstruction?

Stand by. It's CNN special live coverage.



BALDWIN: For three hours, Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, faced off with members of the House Intelligence Committee today.

Lawmakers sat there and grilled Joseph Maguire on not just the substance of the whistleblower complaint alleging President Trump abused his power to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and the White House tried to cover it up, but also how he handled that complaint.

When it's all said and done, Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that the House Democrats have more reason to move swiftly in their investigation.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA) When the inspector general found this whistleblower was credible, he was right. Because what this whistleblower said about the nature of that call has been borne out in great detail by the call record that has now been released.

Whether the other allegations that go beyond this specific call will be borne out, as yet to be determined. And that will be the subject of our investigation. This whistleblower has given us a road map for our investigation.


BALDWIN: Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a member of the House oversight committee and former head of the National Democratic Committee.

Congresswoman, welcome.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you. Good to see you.

BALDWIN: Before we get into the whistleblower complaint itself, your reaction to the president this morning essentially threatening retaliation to the, quote/unquote, "spies" who gave the whistleblower the information?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I mean, I'm wondering whether there was a raspy voice and cotton stuffed in his mouth when he said that. It's just more examples of the colossal abuse of power and corruption that President Trump really feels completely comfortable operating in.


Whistleblowers under the law are protected..

And let's underscore the sound you just had from Adam Schiff. The office of inspector general has to certify that a whistleblower's report in this instance is serious and credible, and they don't do that almost ever. The fact this was forwarded as serious and credible to the Congress is very important.

And another important thing to note is that these are not -- these are not staff member who were spying on the president and illicitly reporting information they shouldn't have been. It's their job to make sure that the conversations that the president has with world leaders are documented.

They keep transcripts and information, which is why we have one, on those conversations, so that we can make sure we know what's been said, and we have an ability to follow-up on any conversations that were had.

He apparently got caught red-handed, not only obstructing, attempting to obstruct justice but to use the dangle of foreign aid and withholding it as -- holding it over the head of a vulnerable, new president of a country in which we need to make sure we can keep Russia -- help keep Russia at bay.

BALDWIN: Given what you just said, is what you've seen and read in this whistleblower complaint, in the transcript released yesterday, does anything in any of this warrant impeachment in your opinion?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, that's why we -- and I came out for impeachment inquiry and expeditiously moving through that process, because now that I've read the whistleblower's report in full as well as the transcript of the phone call, it's clear there's an abuse of power, obfuscation, obstruction of justice.

Just the very fact they tried to hide the transcript of the phone call in a -- in a database where they require code words normally, you know, so that no one, or fewer people would see it, shows you that they knew that this was very problematic, an abuse of power

And we have to get to the bottom of this and that's what the impeachment inquiry will, hopefully, have us do.

BALDWIN: There are multiple White House officials mentioned in this complaint.


BALDWIN: Also, of course, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. So Giuliani, Congresswoman, just did an interview with "The Atlantic," shouting to journalist, Eliana Plott, on the other end of the phone.

What he said to her, quote, "It is impossible that the whistleblower is a hero and I'm not. I will be the hero. These morons, when this is over, I will be the hero." And then goes on, "I'm not acting as a lawyer but acting as someone who has devoted most of his life to straightening out government. Anything I did should be praised."

A bit of color, Congresswoman, Elaina Plott tweets she took this call with Rudy Giuliani in the back of an Uber. Hung up the phone, the Uber driver asked her if everything was OK.

Your reaction to what Rudy Giuliani said?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I -- I think Rudy Giuliani has lost his way, has lost his mind, and has run amuck.

I mean, the fact that he was going around our lawful policies and procedures as it relates to our foreign policy, undermining the president's own staff and trying to attempt to get the president of Ukraine to investigate the president's primary political opponent, and being involved in enabling the president to withhold foreign aid that Congress appropriated, and he signed into law, is absolutely outrageous and, to me, I think, borders on treason.

So if Rudy Giuliani thinks he should be praised for that type of activity, I think the -- the history will shine a light and reflect quite differently.

BALDWIN: Regarding the other officials here mentioned, who specifically do you think should be subpoenaed?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, certainly, Attorney General Barr, because he's being implicated here and, apparently, was involved in this obfuscation and in the process of allowing the president to use that aid to hold over the Ukraine president's head.

I think he needs to recuse himself from anything related to this matter and certainly we should bring him in front of the committees and hear from him.

There are others that we're going to need to hear from.


First and foremost, we need to make sure the whistleblower is protected. That is a true patriot. Someone who lived up to the oath they swore, unlike Donald Trump, who apparently feels comfortable violating that oath or doesn't feel beholden to the oath he swore on any given day.

BALDWIN: Last question, Congresswoman, about the man in the hot seat today. Joseph Maguire, former Navy SEAL, three-star admiral. A colleague of his told CNN, quote, "He's not a lifelong intelligence official but a lifelong national security official."

Do you have faith in him as an acting DNI?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I have no reason not to have faith in him. Actually, I have had contact from some of my constituents at home who will have a relationship with the DNI and they know him to be a man of integrity. He certainly served the United States of America with integrity.

And, you know, if the reports are true, he threatened to resign if prohibited from fully testifying what he knew to be true, that demonstrates that he has integrity.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I appreciate you taking time. Thank you very much.


BALDWIN: Our breaking news coverage continues. President Trump is now attacking the whistleblower sources, saying they may be spies, and suggesting a punishment from the old days. Bob Baer joins me live to respond.



BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news on the president and his apparent threats of retaliation. The "New York Times" is reporting that President Trump spoke in front

of this crowd this morning from the U.S. mission to the United Nations that he wants to know who provided information to this whistleblower about his phone call with the president of Ukraine, calling whoever did it, quote, "close to a spy" and that, quote, "in the old days, spies were dealt with differently."

Bob Baer is former CIA operative and CNN intelligence and security analyst.

And, Bob, remind us how spies were treated in the old days and what you think the president is suggesting here?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: Of course, he's referring to spying for foreign countries. And they were hanged, summarily hanged. You know, he is -- he's really gone all the rails here.

Yet, Brooke, on the other hand, you look at this complaint, this whistleblower's complaint, and it is well put together with multiple sources all across the White House, the State Department, probably the CIA. He --


BALDWIN: You've seen your fair share of whistleblower complaints. Right, Bob?

BAER: I have. And I have never seen them this well put together where the law is cited, the classifications are right. The argument is impeccable.

To me, Brooke, it looks like a bill of indictment aired by several people, but that's speculation.

BALDWIN: And when you look at, it's this -- this classified appendix and they write about -- i'm curious. I know you've been out of the Situation Room dealing with these situations.

So this transcript of this phone call, according to this whistleblower, was placed into a computer system managed directly by the National Security Council director for intelligence programs. It's a stand-alone computer system reserved for code word-level intelligence?

Can you talk a little about that and why this would be put in there?

BAER: Well, it's for compartmented information. There's no reason to put it in there other than -- there's -- look at the conversation that Trump had with Zelensky. There's nothing in there classified. Nothing. Zero. To put that into that computer system, stand-alone, air-gapped, you know, well-guarded, is very unusual.

But, Brooke, I mean, how did this guy know that? When you go down to the Situation Room, there's a couple guys down there. You certainly, if you were a visitor, you wouldn't ask them, hey, what did you do with that conversation?

That's what I find remarkable, is that this whistleblower knew about that, this attempt to cover up. This is a couple people. It just isn't one.

BALDWIN: And on the couple people point, if the allegation is true, Bob, what does it say that White House officials, lawyers, wanted to cover it up?

BAER: You know, my guess, it's a palace coup against Trump. And who knows what else they know at this point.

But, you know, this is not an ordinary whistleblower complaint. It is, like I said, well put together, well thought out, and handled exactly right within the limits of the law. And this is what has the president scared. These people know what they're doing.

BALDWIN: Bob Baer, you are excellent, as always. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.


And, of course, our breaking news continues. President Trump, he's back home in Washington. He is at the White House, as the impeachment investigation heats up.

You're watching CNN special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to a special edition of "THE LEAD," the White House in crisis. I'm Jake Tapper.