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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New York Times: Trump Suggested Shooting Migrants In the Legs, Putting Snakes or Alligators In Water-Filled Trench At Border; State Department IG Requests Urgent Meeting On The Hill, Comes After Pompeo Accuses Democrats Of Bullying. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 1, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from Washington.
We begin tonight with breaking news, and it has all the signs of being something big. CNN has learned that State Department's inspector general has sent what sources describe as an urgent email requesting a bipartisan congressional staff briefing tomorrow related to documents on Ukraine.
One congressional aide called the email, quote, highly unusual and cryptically worded. This comes at the end of a day that saw the State Department and three House committees battling over depositions from some of the key players in the Ukraine story, with allegations of administration stonewalling and signs late today that at least some parts of that stonewall appear to be crumbling.
Also tonight, a remarkable new look inside President Trump's vision for the U.S.-Mexico border. The story in "The New York Times" citing multiple White House and administration officials saying the president often talked about a border trench filled with snakes or alligators and spoke of shooting migrants in the legs. We have the two reporters in the byline of the story on broadcast tonight.
But, first, the Ukraine story, the very latest on this email from State Department inspector general, CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us with that.
So, what do we know about this?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, this is a pretty shocking urgent request from the State Department's inspector general. They came to Congress today and they said that they do want to discuss Ukraine and the State Department. We really don't know many details of what they're coming to Congress with.
But as you said, it was described to me by a congressional aide as highly unusual and cryptically worded. They are not sure what they're going to discuss tomorrow. But what we do know -- an aide explain to me that the request said they had the inspector general of the State Department received documents from the acting legal counsel, the legal adviser at the State Department. It's not as if the inspector general is operating on its own here. It
had interactions with the State Department before in request went forth. And it's also noteworthy that it came to Congress an hour after Secretary Pompeo sent a letter to Congress alleging that these depositions leading up to the requests for depositions of five current and former State Department officials amounted to bullying and intimidating State Department officials.
So, we'll have to see how it plays out and how this new information impacts the impeachment inquiry.
COOPER: And Secretary Pompeo essentially seems to be playing for time or making the argument this is happening too fast, that they need more time in order to figure out how to comply or not.
ATWOOD: Yes, that's what he said. But he didn't actually say that we're just going to pick new dates and this is going to happen. He said that they want to review some of the legal and procedural questions that he had.
I also think it's highly important, some of the questions he had here. I mean, he said that the committees had been sending intimidating communications to career State Department officials. He himself did not provide evidence for that. But that is what he alleges here.
He also said that the committees told the State Department officials they couldn't come with counsel from the State Department. So, Pompeo there frustrated that Congress is trying to cut out the executive branch of their conversation with current State Department officials.
COOPER: It's also a little rich that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is accusing those investigating, the whistleblower complaints, as bullies and intimidating when it's the president of the United States who is -- was bullying and saying terrible things about the ambassador to the -- U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a career foreign service officer who Secretary of State Pompeo -- I mean, he has not defended the career foreign service officers in the State Department really much at all.
ATWOOD: No, he hasn't. I mean, he has taken any opportunity to defend that ambassador who you just referenced. That's the current -- the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled early. She wasn't supposed to come back. Folks on the Hill called it a political hit job, said the Trump administration was trying to get her out.
Pompeo didn't come to her defense. She is a career State Department official. She is one of the folks, however, who has already agreed and rescheduled to date to speak with Congress. That's going to be October 11th. It was supposed to be tomorrow, but they pushed it back a little bit.
COOPER: All right. Kylie Atwood, appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
Lots of fast moving developments tonight. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine caucuses with Democrats and sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee whose staff is expected to hear from the State Department inspector general tomorrow.
I spoke to the senator just before air time.
COOPER: Senator King, I want to start by asking about the State Department inspector general requesting this briefing tomorrow on Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee is among those expected to be briefed. I'm sure you can't say much. I'm not sure how much you know or anybody knows at this point.
I'm wondering what is your initial reaction?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, inspectors general are very important people in the United States government. Their job is to be a watchdog. Their job is to be independent of politics, of the people who are running the agency.
And so, the fact that the inspector general at the State Department as well as, as you know, this all started with the inspector general at the intelligence agency has something to say to the committee. That's important. I don't know what it is. I haven't been briefed on it. But it certainly is something that sounds significant, particularly because he stated that it's urgent, that he wants to do this meeting right away.
COOPER: And just, again, a lot we don't know and as you said you haven't been briefed on it. Is the inspector general at the State Department free to, you know, this came shortly after the secretary of state, you know, was had a lot of pushback, said they are not going to be intimidated, things like that. Is the inspector general free to contradict what the -- the secretary of state has said publicly about not cooperating?
KING: Well, I don't know specifically about the inspector general law with the State Department but generally inspectors general have wide latitude, particular will in reporting things to Congress. That's their job. And so, I would say it's likely that this inspector general has every right to go to Congress. That's what -- that's how the statute was designed across the government.
And, by the way, Anderson, it's really interesting. The first whistle-blower statute was in 1778 in the Continental Congress with where they set up a whistleblower statute saying anyone who knows of malfeasance in the government has a duty to report it. And we've got continuity for 240 years on that principle that certainly coming into important play right now.
COOPER: The context of it is also incredibly important. You know, people pointing out, well, there's not a direct quid pro quo hanging over the head of the Ukrainian president, the new Ukrainian president, the young Ukrainian president doesn't have a career as a politician or as leader -- is this fight with Russia that is going on, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid that will aid that fight. And is the context with which the president is asking for a favor. KING: And the president unilaterally cut off the aid without any
consultation with anybody that I've ever heard of. Apparently, State Department was against it. Defense Department was against it.
He did it. It was his order through the Office of Management and Budget about a week or two before the phone call. And he starts the conversation -- the first sentence is, you know, we have done a lot for you. And then later on, of course is the famous exchange where Zelensky says, we are ready Mr. President to buy the javelin missiles for our defense. And the president said, yes, but first I have a favor though. And -- that's pretty powerful evidence.
The other thing, Anderson, I had a hunch about this so-called transcript. I had two staff members of my office the other day read it aloud. And we timed it. They read it in normal speaking pace. It took 10 minutes and 40 seconds. The phone call was 30 minutes.
COOPER: Well, that's interesting.
KING: Now, we don't know what's missing. It may be there was a translator involved and that made it go much longer. But the president of Ukraine speaks English.
If there was no translator that raises a question of what's in the other 20 minutes of that discussion. So, that's the point, I think. And that's why I've been very conservative on impeachment and haven't been pushing for it.
But that's why I think there has to be an inquiry to get to the facts surrounding this -- what looks like at least an attempted transaction.
COOPER: Would -- and you're right the transcript is just -- it's from the recollection of people I believe in the Situation Room. And some other potential audio that may be out there, I think.
Is there -- would there be a recording of the phone call from intelligence agencies from -- is that -- is there more out there, do you think, details of the call?
KING: Well, I don't know. But my understanding is that the practice would have been to simultaneously not record the conversation but we have -- we see people with this mask. And they talk into it and say all the words. And it makes a literally a transcript. I would be surprised if that doesn't exist. And I think that's obviously one of the pieces that we have to -- we have to find occupant more about.
The other thing, Anderson, that's really bothering about this is this tossing around of the word "treason". Treason is the only crime specifically defined in the Constitution. Article III, Section 3, defines treason essentially as siding with an enemy of the country in a war. And to throw it around in this situation, the problem is the president feels that he is the state, you know, like Louis the XIV, I am the state.
So, criticism of him is treason against the United States. That's not true. That's just not the way it works.
And whistleblowers are people that come forward -- by the way, the whistleblower doesn't decide the case. He or she is brought forth a set of facts which are now in the hands of Congress. And they have the opportunity to investigate it to find out whether the whistleblower is right or wrong.
But the whistle-blower -- the whistle-blower did a public service, which is exactly what people are supposed to do. If they see what they believe is abuse of power in the federal government, they are supposed to report it. That's what this whistleblower did. And now we have a chance to get to the bottom of what those allegations were.
COOPER: Are you confident Congress can protect this whistleblower's identity.
KING: I certainly hope so. Because, you know, the president is using words like interview. But last week, he was using words like spy and implying execution. That's a threat.
And, you know, those were the words he was using last week. If this goes -- if the articles -- if articles of impeachment come from the House, I'm a juror. So I'm -- although you've heard me express real frustration about what's going on, I'm going to rest my final decision if it comes to that on what the facts are and what's actually presented for the Senate in a trial, which we would be presided over by the chief justice.
COOPER: Senator Angus King, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
KING: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: More next on what to make of the breaking news as White House lit up pink for the breast cancer awareness. We'll get perspectives from two former insiders, veterans of State, Justice, and the White House on what this could mean.
Later, two "New York Times" correspondents talk about moats on the border with snakes and maybe alligators, shooting migrants in the legs -- things that White House insiders were willing to dish about the president.
COOPER: Tonight's breaking news at the State Department inspector general wants urgently to brief a string of House and Senate committees on something Ukraine-related. That story is unfolding as we speak. We'll continue bringing you a late development as we learn about them.
We're now lucky to have with us, former State Department spokesperson, Obama White House communications director, Jen Psaki. Also, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, with us as well is Elliot Williams, who served as deputy assistant attorney general during the Obama administration, is currently a CNN legal analyst.
Jen, just from what you -- I mean, from your experience, is it possible -- you were talking about this before we came on air -- is it possible this inspector general is going to be saying something that supports Secretary of State Pompeo?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we don't know. We don't know what he is going to say. I will say there is some history though with Secretary Pompeo and the political appointees in the State Department.
One, there's a lot of bad blood back to the Benghazi investigations, where Secretary Pompeo was leading in the House. He dragged a lot of civil servants and Foreign Service officers, many of whom are still there before congress. He also hasn't been known as somebody who has been a big defender of the institution or the people serving there, including some of the ambassadors who are asked to testify. So, that's important context.
And he is also a subject of this entire controversy. So, we don't know what he is going -- it's highly unusual. I think that's clear. We don't know what he is going to present.
But I think it's also likely that there is information related to the letter Pompeo sent today, related to unhappiness within the State Department about how this has been handled. These are career civil serves who are used to abiding by asks of Congress, by the institution. And this is a bit out of the norm for them.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no. And Kylie mentioned this earlier, the fact that Pompeo's letter to Congress, which he tweeted simultaneously, that I have no intention of letting my people talk to you and, by the way, Congress is brow beating members of my staff, and members of the State Department.
The fact that that came not that long before the inspector general called Capitol Hill and said, I want to talk to all of the committees, suggests that maybe it's not the I.G., you know, that we saw at the -- the DNI where it's like I'm going to represent a whistle-blower. It might be, OK, guys we understand where you're coming from you want information. But slow the roll a little bit here.
It could be the opposite, too. It could be -- I had these people come to me who want to talk to you. Don't feel comfortable because of what Mike Pompeo said. I want to help. It could be either way. We just don't know.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And, you know, one of the broader questions about in impeachment investigation in its entirety is, will the Trump administration allow anyone from any party of the government, from the White House, from the Justice Department, from the State Department to testify? Because as the oversight committees have been going forward, basically they haven't.
TOOBIN: They have stonewalled almost everything.
COOPER: And it's effective. I mean, it's been effective.
TOOBIN: It's effective. And, you know, the Congress has had to go to court, which is a very laborious process, slow not resolved.
COOPER: Right, and the Democrats want this to be relatively quick.
TOOBIN: And the one thing that's different from the oversight problems versus impeachment is that the members of the -- particularly the intelligence committee have said, if we get no access, we are not going to court.
We are going to list this -- this obstruction from the committee as part of the impeachment investigation, that they will basically say, look, your stonewalling is evidence of why the president should be impeached.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, what was striking today was Secretary Pompeo's letter where he essentially uses the word browbeat and he's accusing Congress of trying to shake down State Department employees. He didn't use the words presidential harassment because ultimately he's adopting the president's playbook, which is to accused any institution that is investigating the president or anyone around him of being illegitimate and wading into territory that they absolutely shouldn't. So --
COOPER: But also, isn't it a little bit rich for Secretary of State Pompeo to be suddenly a defender of the career foreign service officer in the State Department in which he is on the call in the president is denigrating the ambassador, career foreign service officer to the president of the Ukraine?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely, and the kinds of things he's laying out in his letter. This is the kind of stuff you would negotiate when counsel can appear who comes how long they sit for. But the tone was striking, and again, striking for someone who is himself the subject of the inquiry. He was on the call.
TOOBIN: And the only people it looks like the intelligence committee are going to be able to get to at least in the short-term are Mr. Volker, who has left the State Department and the former ambassador to Ukraine who was all but fired from --
PSAKI: And they have a good reason to tell their own story behind closed doors and in whatever negotiation they can make. I mean, they have been dragged through the mud threw this whole journey by Giuliani, by the Trump administration, even by Pompeo's silence. And so, while it may be true that Congress has been aggressive, I don't know. You know, there is more to hear from these individuals, who have a lot -- they know a lot about --
COOPER: Right. But can the former ambassador who I believe is still with the State Department --
COOPER: Although -- stateside, can she go and talk if Pompeo has said, no?
PSAKI: I mean, you know, that's a tricky question that goes back to Jeffrey's question. You know, I think she -- there has been reporting I think she is going to be meeting with.
BASH: She said she'll do it but not until next week. That's where we are right now.
COOPER: Right. But is that a stall -- I mean, given what Pompeo said, is this like you know, I'm not sure I'll do it, but I'll just say it's next week? I mean --
BASH: Possibly. Did you u but I think Volker is going to be key, because regardless what the I.G. will say from the State Department tomorrow, on Thursday, Volker who did resign, who has the ability and will to talk behind closed doors to Congress and Thursday, he was named. And not only named, he was named as somebody who tried to help the Ukrainians navigate the political pressure that they felt from the president. And that is really key.
COOPER: Although according to Giuliani, he was the guy who helped set up Giuliani's meeting.
PSAKI: I will say having worked with a lot of career foreign service officers, that is hard to believe. I mean, Giuliani is seen as a proxy for President Trump. Volker -- obviously, he has a long history. But, you know, he's a -- he is a public servant. The likelihood of him roguely setting up meetings for Giuliani of all people with the government he is sitting in the country and representing the United States for, is so unbelievable.
COOPER: It doesn't have to be rogue. Pompeo knew about it, he heard the call.
PSAKI: But the likelihood of him taking that upon his own self --
PSAKI: -- and making that decision, reaching out without there being engagement or direction from Pompeo and the White House seems hard to believe to me.
WILLIAMS: But I wouldn't even be convinced that we know what Rudy Giuliani's role is, like is he the president's lawyer? Is he an official arm of the State Department? Is he to be regarded as a federal employee? I know the answer is no.
But the point is -- this is going to come up when they start trying to claim that he can assert -- the president can assert executive privilege over communications he had with Rudy Giuliani, we just don't know what he did and so it's sort of odd to judge him in the context of these State Department employees. That will be the subject of litigation. Who -- what is his role and how is it legally significant?
TOOBIN: I don't think it's going to be the subject of litigation. I think if they don't get cooperation from Giuliani as they have said from the letter, we are going to view that as obstruction.
BASH: It's more on the impeachment --
TOOBIN: Yes, that they are not going to court. I mean, they want this over by the he said of the year. If they go to court --
COOPER: But doesn't that then sacrifice, I mean, any attempt to get Republicans in the Senate to come onboard? I mean, if they are just seen as moving forward, not hearing from Giuliani, not hearing from -- giving Republicans the opportunity --
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, they -- I think they will make an effort to talk to Giuliani. But they will not get it. And I don't see how that could be held against the Democrats trying to get.
COOPER: Well, it could be used as cover, no? I mean, they could say you were bullying Giuliani.
TOOBIN: I mean, potentially. I'm sure that's true.
WILLIAMS: I mean -- right, and I think as a general matter, they have to at least file the lawsuit to make it -- you know, to appear that they are at least going through the proper processes and so on.
Yes, I mean, I don't think they could just move on from Giuliani. For instance, if they think they have a basis for bringing him in to testify, slap him with a subpoena. If he doesn't appear, sue him appear and then see, or then just move on.
BASH: I also think there is no newsflash in saying that there aren't many Democrats who think they have any chance of getting enough senators to convict in the Senate.
PSAKI: That's true.
COOPER: What about Senator Grassley's comments about the whistle- blower? I'm just wondering how someone who knows the Hill well --
COOPER: How significant is that? Because some people are saying, well, it's sort of a break from the president. He's essentially saying the whistle-blower should be listened to and it should go through.
BASH: I was surprised Grassley didn't say it last week when the whistleblower came out. He has historically for decades been probably the biggest champion for whistleblowers in the government.
And the fact that he -- when he was talking to Manu in the hall last week, I was shocked by the fact that he seemed to be siding with the president. It wasn't until he saw the -- the comments that the president made not only last week but this week saying, I want to interview the whistleblower did he seem to wake up and go, oh, yes, I'm the guy protecting whistleblowers.
I don't necessarily think he is kind of a canary in the coal mine when it comes to Republicans that this is a specific issue about protecting --
PSAKI: Democrats I think are clear-eyed in the Senate and I talk being to staffers they know there has to be 20 Republicans that would come and vote for impeachment at that point in the process. That is enormous hill to climb, but this call transcript, the whistleblower pushed a number of opposed to impeachment over the edge, that they needed to do something. And they needed to be out there.
They're hoping that this process in the House will bring some -- maybe there are some cracks in the armor here. But, you know, they are clear-eyed about their, quote/unquote --
WILLIAMS: Call me a cynic. I'm sorry, Jen.
TOOBIN: I call you a cynic.
WILLIAMS: Call me a cynic, you can call me whatever you want. But call me a cynic.
BAHS: Just to call you're late for dinner.
WILLIAMS: There you go.
But I'm not surprised at all it took Grassley as long as it did just because he has two forces. Number one he is the whistle-blower guy. But number two, he is a Republican senator with a Republican base that finds the president very popular. And until Republicans start turning on the president --
WILLIAMS: -- people like Senator Grassley are just going to continue lining -- falling in line.
COOPER: Yes, I want to thank, everybody.
Up next, more breaking news. A blockbuster report from "The New York Times" on some pretty staggering proposals put forward by President Trump, apparent repeatedly to stop immigrant -- stop migrants from crossing the border, everything from alligators to snakes and shooting them in the legs.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More breaking news tonight, an exclusive report in the New York Times documenting the lengths to which sources say President Trump was prepared to go to stop migrants crossing the southern border. Just a few of the remarkable details the White House insiders told the New York Times, the President they say wanted a water-filled trench filled with alligators or snakes to be constructed as a barrier in addition to the wall. And apparently, talked about it so much that White House personnel actually went and tried to price it out, also suggesting that migrants be shot in the legs to slow them down or stop them.
The story is incredible fascinating. The details remarkably reported to the Times as Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear share this. It's a new book that's coming out October 8th. The book is called "Border War: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration". Again, it comes out October 8th, both are CNN Political Analyst and they join me as well.
I mean, this reporting is just astonishing. You've been working on this for a long time. Just -- if you can, just kind of broad-strokes, how serious was the President talking about shooting migrants in the legs and, you know, alligators and snakes?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, he was definitely very serious about being enraged really that he couldn't get his arms around this problem. And the conversation about shooting migrants in the legs came, you may remember, after he suggested publicly that if migrants threw rocks at border patrol agent who were there across the border that they should treat it as a rifle and essentially shoot to kill.
He was quickly told by the staff that is not legal. We can't use lethal force unless we are defending ourselves. And so, instead of dropping the idea he was so desperate to try to figure out some way of holding people back that he then pretty seriously raised the question what if we just shot them in a non-lethal way, just to slow them down, just to deter them.
He was looking for ways to slow people down, to stop them from coming, to deter them from even trying. And I think importantly, the people that we spoke to really told us that it was hard to tell when he was serious about some of the things. He did keep asking about a trench filled with water. He would raise the possibility of having snakes or alligators, or other sort of countermeasures as part of that. And they never really knew is he musing, is he just angry, or is this really something that we need to seriously consider?.
But in the case of the trench, they did end up pricing it out and finding that it would be three times as expensive as a wall.
COOPER: A trench with -- is that including the snakes or the alligators, or just the trench?
DAVIS: I'm not sure they ever priced out the animals.
COOPER: OK. I would sort of hear, how would they actually -- who would they call to price out? But, I mean, it's not just either -- he talked about electrifying the fence, is having sort of flesh piercing stakes on top of the electrified fence, and even painting it matte black.
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The matte black, he would call it flat black and he would raise this all the time with Kirstjen Nielsen, with others in the DHS. The idea was that, the fence would get so hot that it would be too hot to touch and would, you know, burn people who tried to climb up it.
I think the big picture here is that, from before he became president, he was obsessed with the idea of stopping migrants from entering, and he has been frustrated at every step of the way partly by logistics and practicality. Some of the things are just not practical.
But also by his own staff, and the frustration that build over the first two-and-half years of the administration was as much with the people around him who were raising the practical problems. No, Mr. President, it would cost three times more. No, Mr. President, it's not practical, we don't have the -- the materials wouldn't work or --
COOPER: You can't take the people's land to build on.
SHEAR: Exactly. And so, one of the things that we talk about in the story today and in the book more broadly, is the -- the way in which all of this led him to get rid of the people around him. I mean, ultimately the week that we document in the paper today ends with him firing Kirstjen Nielsen who was his Homeland Security Secretary in, you know, over a very tumultuous and troubled sort of a year-and-a- half or so. But did that with a lot of other people but it was because they didn't want -- because some of them challenged internally what he wanted to do and that frustrated him.
COOPER: And (inaudible) Kirstjen Nielsen based on your reporting, then it was a slough of people, Steven Miller and others believed weren't sort sufficiently supportive. But this is a corner that the -- I mean, this is a trap of the President's own making. I mean, he made promises obviously during the election which, you know, saying that Mexico is going to pay for the wall and it's going to be as big beautiful wall with a beautiful door in it.
And, you know, all the various promises he made without any, you know, there were many other Republicans on those debate stages saying this is not going to happen. What you're talking about is made up. His aides were the ones who had the unfortunate job of actually saying those same things to him of, you know, the rubber hit the road. You can't actually build it like you're talking about.
DAVIS: Right. And this is one of the themes throughout the book and that, frankly, why we wanted to do this particular book is because this is kind of a theme that keeps coming back in Donald Trump's presidency. That he made all the promises.
He talked in the grandiose ways about things he wanted to do when he was in office. But then, he comes in and confronts the reality of governing. A lot of the logistics and practicalities as Mike said weren't working. But also, the law would not allow him to do a lot of the things that he was -- that his impulse guided him to do.
So for instance, the story talks about how he wanted to completely shut down the border, the US border. And he repeatedly talked about wanting to use the US military to essentially police the border, which you can't do. But even when we talked with him in the Oval Office at the end of the process of writing this book and asked him about it, he still seemed very disappointed.
He said, you know, I could have 100,000 of the best military of the world and I still can't stop people from coming. So he continues to be really angry and frustrated with the limits of his power as president.
COOPER: And one of the things he said, down once on a trip to the border, is he actually told border agents and, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong in your reporting, essentially that they should just stop allowing anybody in, nobody in. And that, you know, whatever trouble they got in he would, you know, they would be OK. To the point that as soon, as soon as he left the border patrol agents, their boss told them, look, ignore what he just said, you don't have the right to just --
SHEAR: Right. This was a moment where the phrase that the president started using that day, in that trip, and we were both down at the border that weekend, was that the country is full. That the country is full and so, we told the border agents in this sort of room, this sort of backroom after he had done a photo op in front of the wall.
Just say that the country is full, how you turn people away, you don't have to approve them. And it was a striking moment that underscored everything else in the story, which is that, you know, administration officials were constantly having to kind of walk the President back from the precipice, walk him back from the edge of what could be a crisis. Whether it's, you know, the actually closing the border, which they got, you know, Republicans and business types, and others to say this would destroy the economy, or whether it's legally saying to people, you know, that he works for, you can't do that.
COOPER: Yes, it's fascinating, it's incredible reporting. I look forward to the book. Thank you so much, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Michael Shear. Again, the book coming October 8th, right?
COOPER: All right, look forward to it.
With Capitol Hill anticipating a surprise appearance from the State Department inspector general, we'll talk with two former White House advisers, David Axelrod and David Gergen, for their take on what happens next.
COOPER: Our breaking news from the top of the hour, another inspector general trying to present what they say is urgent information to Congress, this time, the State Department inspector general who'll speak to senior congressional staff members tomorrow.
It's important to point out, we do not know the subject matter. Only that the sudden request for an urgent briefing appears unprecedented that it comes on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushing back on Democratic demand to turnover documents and depose current and former officials at the State Department.
Joining me is CNN Senior Political Analyst and former Adviser to four presidents, David Gergen, also CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.
David Axelrod, what's your reaction to the request from the inspector general over at state? I mean, it seems like it's urgent. We obviously don't know but it's fascinating.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the timing of it is very interesting. First of all, my feeling is this is like a fast-moving locomotive. It seems like there are developments every hour. This one is particularly interesting because it came right after Secretary Pompeo basically stiff-armed the Congress and said they need more time to put materials together. And that, he wasn't going to let his people get intimidated and bullied, and so on.
And then, this outreach came from the inspector general who apparently has documents he thinks are of importance to the committee, urgent -- on an urgent basis. So it's really intriguing and I don't know what to make of it other than that. There are things that will be in the committee's possession that perhaps the Secretary of State did not anticipate.
COOPER: And, David, I mean, this inspector general, correct me if I'm wrong, can operate essentially independently like the inspector general in the Intelligence Community who insisted on forwarding the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, that's the whole point of having an inspector general. It's an independent body or person within the government agency to be there as a watchdog and keep Congress informed if there are misbehaviors under way there.
We don't know what's going to be happening tomorrow, but I would assume that if it were good news for the President, it would be out by now.
COOPER: I guess, the question is could it even be another -- somebody else having given the documents to the inspector general? I mean, there is no -- would the inspector general, David Axelrod, have access to documents without somebody giving the inspector general those documents?
AXELROD: Well, we know that in the case of the whistleblower, there was a set of procedures and it could be that someone in the Legal Counsel's Office was approached by a whistleblower and then transferred some of the materials to the inspector general. I think that's the pattern that was followed with the DNI. So it could be the same thing here.
One thing we should point out here, Anderson, is that we do have these checks and balances built into our government. I don't think any President loves inspector generals, Inspectors General. Every president has been stung by an inspector general's report. But the fact that they are independent and they have traditionally maintained the independence is really important to the function of government.
COOPER: David, David Gergen, I mean, how much knowledge at this point could the White House possibly have about whatever is going on over at the State Department? I mean, would the White House be aware of what the inspector general is meeting with them about tomorrow?
GERGEN: Well, they should be. Especially, you know, in the case of what we just saw with the intelligence community when the inspector general got the report and understood it, he did let Maguire know, you know, who is the boss of the department, the acting boss. And I would assume before the inspector general speaks tomorrow that there will some notification.
But that -- it looks to me they are doing it in a way that Secretary of State Pompeo who stopped others from going up and teaching has an end run performed on him. The inspector general is going around him. And I'm sure Pompeo is extremely unhappy.
AXELROD: You know, we can speculate on some matters that may be a part of this. We know for example that the ambassador was summarily dismissed, a career diplomat in Ukraine for apparently at the instance of Rudy Giuliani because she wasn't -- perhaps because she wasn't playing ball in his maneuverings there.
And then, there's Giuliani himself who is traveling around the world as the President's lawyer, but apparently being squired by employees of the State Department, which is highly unusual because he is out there performing essentially political chores.
There are many, many things that -- there are many exposures here for the State Department and one suspects that they know what their exposures are. They just may not know which particular aspect of it is covered by this inspector general, you know, meeting.
COOPER: And, David Gergen, Volker is still set to testify on Thursday. The testimony of the ambassador, the former ambassador who as David Axelrod just pointed out, was forced out, was supposed to be I believe, it was supposed to be tomorrow, it's been moved to next week. Is it possible for Pompeo to stop her from actually appearing before Congress?
GERGEN: Well --
COOPER: I mean, she still, I guess, works for the State Department.
COOPER: If she -- as long as she work for the State Department, I think she still does. I think he feels and his letter certainly, made it clear that he believes that she can be stopped and has been stopped. But it does suggest that the other person involved, Volker, who became sort of a go-between may well have resigned from government employment.
So he could testify. You know, he is now free to testify. Pompeo can't stop that. But I do think that this whole thing is, there's a sense from the Trump point of view that he is losing control of events, which is one place he hates to be. And it's starting to cascade against him. He fell -- I'm not sure if a dam is breaking, but you do begin to feel their cascade of bad stories, and that really could move the public opinion even more than it's moved already.
COOPER: David Gergen, David Axelrol, thank you very much, I appreciate it.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next more on the surprise briefing expected tomorrow Capitol Hill from the State Department inspector general.
COOPER: It's certainly a big night for breaking news. Let check in with Chris and see what he's working on for "Cuomo Primetime". Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Every night and so many nights, it gets weirder and weirder. I don't know what this means.
So what we're going to do tonight is have some people who worked in the FBI and in the State Department, talk to us about what kind of protocol is this, where the inspector general of the State Department says they have to talk to certain high-ranking members of Congress. They had to know it was going to leak, you know, and that the only vague guidance is that there are some documents that were obtained by its legal counsel. So we don't know what it means.
And obviously, the only pitfalls, you don't want to speculate about it, but it's more news on our watch. Also tonight, we have two people coming on to make the case about what's wrong with the impeachment inquiry.
COOPER: All right. Chris, we look forward to that about five minutes from now. We'll see you then. We'll be right back.