tv Washington Week PBS September 21, 2019 1:30am-2:01am PDT
♪[music] m ukraine to iran. the's preside handling of foreign policy has washingtonn edge. i'm robert costa. welcome to "washington week." questions and a confrontation with congress over a whistle-blower complaint. what did president trump say in a hone call a foreign leader? >> i had conversations with many leaders that are alway apopriate. it's just another political hack job. >> the complaint is reportedly about ukraine, which has clashed with russia, and sought u.s. aid. frustrated democrats speak out. >> we can't get a answer because the department of justice and the director of national intelligence will not authorize the i.g. to tell u >> and president trump considers his options on iran following an attack o saudi oi oil fields,
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>> once again from washington, moderator robert costa. >> a whistle-blower complaint made by a member of the intelligence communis raisingis sharp questions about president trump's conduct withon foreign leaders. and tonight, i'll open my own notebook to start our discussion. two weeks ago, i stood in a windowless conference room at a hotel in warsaw. i was the pool reporter for vice president pence's meeti with the new uainian president, volodymyr zelensky, a 41-year-old former f comedian ad actor. the atmosphere was tense. zelensky was bouncing his knees and national security advisor john bolton, looked b on, stone-faced. zelensky was eager for pence to release $250 million in military aid that president trump had held up. funds ukraine said iteeded to deal with russian aggression. but thebu v.p. did not make any concrete promises. krstead, he echoed trump and
saidne must take steps to address corruption in its country before t u.s. hands over the cash. that meeting was af snapshot o an uneasy standoff that had i i lingered for months with 2020 politics swirling. according to reporting by both the washington post and the new yorkpr timesident trump's hendling of ukraine this summer, including a phone call with a foreign leader, raisedsea red flagith at least one unnamed intelligence official, who filed a formal complaint. eventually released, the trump administration is now intense scrutiny about whether it pressured ukraine to investigate former vice president joe biden's son hunter, who once worked for a ukrainian company. president trump's lawyer, rudy giuliani has calle repeatedly for an investigatif the biden family. but the looming question is this. what did president trump say in private? the wall street joatnal reported late fridayhat trump, quote,
repeatedly pressured zelensky aboutes eight t to work with giuliani. but the source did not believe theresident offered any quid pro quo. here's what he said friday at aa news conference. >> it doesn't matter what i discussed. i ll say this. somebody ought to look into joe biden's statement becauset was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars tt he's not giving to a certain country unlessta c prosecutor is taken off the case. so somebody ought to look into that. and y wouldn't, becausee's a democrat. >> joining me tonight, kayla tausche, wasngton correspondentor cnbc. michael crowley, white house correspondent for the new york times.sa desjardins, congressional correspondent for the p newshour and vivian salama, white house reporter for the wall street journal. michael, you're a national security reporter, white house reporter athe new york times. what else have we learned about this complaint? >> well,e knowhat it involves a conversation the president had with a foreign
leader. and we know it also involves ukrain and tonight the new york times is also reporting that present trump did pressure ukraine's president zelensky to son might have, you know, done something inappropriate in ukraine and whether joe biden ght have intervened. really the underlying facts thereon't bear out the president's theoryhat there was something sinister going on. but we still don't have theull contours of what this whistle-blower complaint consisted of. someone in the intelligence community filed a complaint and it has multiple comnents to it. ukraine is one part o it. there's a c to a foreign leader. we don't know if that's the same thing as the ukrai complaint. congress by law ought to be seeing this complaint by n b n is not. so another aspect that is happening here is an assertion of executive authority by the yrump administration to keep this complaint a from congress. still, a lot of unanswered question
but there's funny sme to it, that's for sure. >> why does it matter that presidt trump urged ukraine to deal with corruption and w potentially to investigate joend biden ais family? >> well, it's very troubling for to go and ask a foreign country for help, especially when that help involvesny kind of interference with a u.s. election or any otif thent govern process in general. so for the president to have gone and requested to t themo investigate or requested for them to get involvedow som in any kind of investigation that would involvenv his potential rival in the 2020 election, that could be a serious, serious incident that would raise a lot of hair on capitol hill and potentially start, you know, rallying a lot of people who have maybe been sittingut with the impeachment battles to this point, to reallyet involved. >> in a sense -- since trump took office, we'vead this phrase, constitutional c crisis, but not the firing of an f.b.i.
director, not the moving of congressly appropriated funds er a natnal emergency. that hasn't done it. but this honestly, robert, it seems on capitol hill this is in a no man's zone in the law, because it's complicated. but essentially while the law says that this kind of complaint shall be submitted to the intelligenceommittees, itays director of national telligence is supposed to do that. but there's not a claty in t law if the director of national intelligence thinks that it's inappropriate. so it's al jum ball. i think this is headed to courts and it could be very complitted. jhe fact that there was even a whistle-blower complaint filed formally c abo thisl. i spoke to an official who frequently has access to these calls. he says there has been some sort of desensization. a lot of these transipts were aked. there was some shock value about the caslty with which the on some of these calls.
that went away over time as people got to know hisop stylele liore. but this official said the fact that there even was a complaintw when tl street journal reported that he mentioned this investigation eight timit, that would have to be something that glaring to lead an official to actually raise their handua d say, i'm going to go tosp the tor general about this. he question here is, president trump, was he seekingu pro quo or not? was he using his executive power in anmproper way? >> exactly. i'm not sure youly have to demonstrate there w a quid pro ngo to feel that what the president was d was inappropriate. one possibility is the president is htoring theeader of a foreign country to connect an investigation that could damage one of president's political opponents. that in and of itself seems inappropriate. >> would that be considered election interference? >> i thinkt could be. you know, joe biden a democratic candidate. information that hurt hisp with candidacy, why not? i mean, absolutely.
it would have a real impact on the race if something were to come out. the oth piece of it, though, t president trump manipulating the levers of american foreign po mcy? thitary assistance to ukraine, which has a kind oftr geegic rational to help check russian aggression, for his own kind ofal petty polit puoses that takes it to a whole new lel. even the better case scenario is pretty bad. the worst case scenario, you could see a strong argument for high crimes and misdemeanors. >> the democrats on capitol hill are going to have to make a desion about how to proceed. housepeaker nancy pelosi has vowed to push congress toeview theomplnt. she said the episode raised grave concerns about national concern. adam schiff said that his committee was expring all gal options but admitted the months to move through thes, evn courts. and while campaigning in iowa, rmer vice president biden said this, i have no comment except the president should start to be presiden b he then issued a really criticizing president
trump's possible conduct on tcas . what kind of strain does this cause with congress? you already have a white hou on the brink of a major confroation on a range o issues. what does this do to the relationship between the white house and capitol hill? >> well, you've had congress very splirkts even within the - split, even within the democratic party, in terms of whether or not impeachments the right path forward. speaker pelosi has been very reluctant to go down t when you have evidence like this, whether or not there was a quid pro quo, whether or notid e prt said, hypothetically speaking, i will reinstate any aid cut that i was gng to do for your administration, any notatter at this point,it because just the idea of the president allegedly trying to tell them, you y know, we want e to investigate my competitor, that b itself maybe enough to get some of those democrats who are on t fence to really rally behind the impeachment clause.
it's the republicans who are going to be the question. >> the phone call with zelensky was the day r aftert mueller testified on capitol hill, completing his report involvingn eleceddling by a foreign power. >> is this a president who feels like he can shatter almost aeg normdless of what he exactly said in a phone call with a foreign leader? >> it'sertainly one of t that if he is emboldened, he is prone to these unforced errors. helely felt like he was on his backk feet here andd nee something about it. so that's one of the frustrations. i will say, to theut point a capitol hill a the relationship between the white house, i do think that the white side here, even internal on its democratic polling shows that only one in 10 voters thinks ths that congress should be spending timing invesgating president ump. the new cycle, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and we -- >> lisa was in the rm when corey lewandowski came to the
use judiciary committee. do you see speaker pelosi and airman nadler, are they on the same page as they process what happened withcehe president wit ukraine, with coreyewandowski and the muell report? what their next step? >> they're on a totally same page! no, not at all. [lauy'ter] >> t behind the scenes. nadler is much more aggressive. he wts to move to impeachment. i think that nadler and those around him, meaning h core staff, whi is probably as key as anyone in ihese decisions, they're ready to move to impeachment. i think it looks t likelyt this could happenishis year. however, something to bring into this wbole conversation this whistle-blower complaint, pleas a lot of -- there's lot of talk about the actual substance of the phone call. democrats are looking at this in two layers, even with lewandowski. the lewandowski hearing they knew he was gonna try and outsmart them.it they kne was going to be sort of a rope-a-dope. the democrats arrae auilding a case thatight knew the
president is obstruction of allowing their official to testify and that was part of the original articles of impeachment againsn. president ni they're making a case that obstruction is happening now because of their t o investigat. >> what can democrats do or whas can the con do to learn more, to try to find out if that's aio, will the whistle-blower testify? are there any options here? >> i would defer d to my colleagues. but my quick response is that congress can make aot of demands, as it has been doing for months, andmp the t administration will say, that's nice, we'll thinkbout, no, we're not going to give that to you. this io going to wind its way through the courts and take forever, probablyot until after the outcome of the election. >> does it matter that rudy giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, was working on a foreigicyroject, perhaps with the suggestion of president trump, the encouragement or not, but he was out there? >> of course. it's his personal lawyer,cting on behalf of the president. that's obviously very troubling. he's not reallyeh hidden the fat
that he was in some capacity going out there to perhaps make thiseal on behalf o the enesident. he has spoken pretty honestl abt it,to definitelhe wall street journal and others. it's really a question of maybe they'd require him to testify, to some -- you know, to some excellent, but without transc wrihout a recording, it's going to be difficult. it's not just that the white house has pubnc opinion o their side. they have the senate on their side too. i can't really see the senate entertaining any idea o afpe hment or anything else with the election 14 months away. >> what about the republipan y? is this a breaking point or not for them? >> which one, the ukrainian whistle-blower? does theresident conduct or possible conduct -- when you talked to sources today, in the republican party, arehey aghast at what psibly happene here or a they standing firm >> i think they wish it hadn't knew thefines of the office he a little better or at least observed them a little bit
better. frustration with incidents maybe not to ts extent bt t are similar. but they understand that he is the candidate. he has extremely well-lined pockets at this point. he isng gun full swing into the election next year. and i think they are choosing to get in line. >> it's tou, especiallt' for members of the senate intelligence comttee, which by the w we talk about the house so much and adam schiff. the senate intelligence committee is also hsing a hearing next where they expect to talk to the inspector general and the dni. >> will the white house let the y'i -- >> t going to ask. certainly at least the inspector general. you're going to have republicans at have been uncomfortable and have had a difficult time with this president having to deal face-to-face. >> this isn't the onlyrehallenge thatdent trump is confronting this week. following attacks on saudi oil facilities last weekend, the u.s. now says iran is aehind thosacks and announced new sanctions today on t iranian central bank.
iran denies responsibility. on friday,us later, before the show went to air, defense secretary mark esper announced that the president has approved the deployment of u.s. forces to saudi arabia to provide defeive support. according to the associated press, that was among thees options pentagon officials presented the president for how to rpond thethers were military strikes inside iran. cyber attacks. and early in the day, the president said he would exercise restraint. in my opinion, i, shows strength, because the easiest thing i could do, go ahead, knock out 15 different major things in iran. i sink itws far more strength to do it the way we're doing it. the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit ofestraint. >> kayla, when you're reporting at cnbc on the marketar andnd business you're following these sanctions, it's already been maxum pressure fro the u.s. on iran. what are these new -- what does aew sanctions mean for the
iranian economy leadership? >> essentially the u.s., to ert any morressure tn it already has, would essentially have to barny country from iran.any business with we're not there yet. clearly there seems to not quite a coalition behind president trump here. this is going to really come up next weekt t u.n. general assembly. aeuropean countri trying to extend a financial lifeline to iran. president trump is beten a rock and a hard place. h he doesn't really have a military option here. gas prices would sk. skyrock you'd have a recession going in on o ending military and he n conflict, notmincreasing tary conflict.fl so he's really in a difficult position. it appears that iran with these various strikes is trying to call his bff. >> you've been a bureau chief in baghdad. saudi arabia and the crown prince, salman have a spotty
record on human rietion, -- hum, righ including the death of o jamal khashoggi. why is -- >> money. explanati brief behind it. president trump said it bluntly this week. he sai the saudis pay cash. that is literally how he looks at it. he saye listen, w can overlook some of that human rights stuff, because at the end o the day, they're gonna buy america products, they're gonna pump money into our economy and that's going to be our priority. ev as all the stuff was going on,e was saying, the saudis pay cash. we nee to stay connected with but when asked, have you promised saudi arabia tt you're going to dend them i it comes to war? he said, iai never promised anybody anything. that's the thing. even with thatp, relationshi he's reluctant to get involved in a war. >> before he wasna president, trump had this long record of saying, you know, saudi arabia is ripping us off. we defd them.
they don't pay enoh money. it's not our job to defend saudi arabia. now he sees we do a lot of business with saudi arabia. he's got good relationships. his son, jared kushner, is very close to the crown pri and then, you know, ias struck by what kayla was saying, which i think is exactly right. d hesn't have good military options here. i think he very much does not want a militar conflict that could rattle the globals. econom but at the same time, he loves the power of the presidency. what a display at the white house today where he's signaling i'm gonna be patient, g i'mna show restraint, but he can't resist talking aboute modernized our nuclear forces. who is talking about nuclear weapons rig now? why is he saying this? >> if i wanted to, yeah. >> he said, i could order a strike. in fact, i could do it in one minute, with all of you rht here, almost like he was fantasizing about starting a war in front t of press corps. but i don't think he'll do it. >> yet, he's interventionist to this point and he's not listening to some of his top
allies on capitol hill, like senator lindsay graham. is that because even though he sometimes hires people like john bolton and plays golf with graham, is he a non-interventionist? is that how republicans see him? >> i think so far, he has shown himself in action to be a but i think republicans don't know the answer to that. with is rand paul, who is gol decidedly a non interventioerst. this was a right where rand paul came out -- it's reallyst integ. in this whole saudi arabia area, it's fascinati to me because th t is the area where president has the greatest divide with republicans and coress. they d not trust saudi arabia. they do not want us involved in yemen. the president has pushed forward. they voted four times to tryo override his saudi arabia poism. his veto -- policy. his veto power allows it to continue. it's a very precarious area for >> what has this done, the u.s.
is on the brink of war with iran, meant forlo thel economyhis week? has that been a factor for the adminiration as the fought throh this decision tonight? >> sure. when you see major correspoents for the nightly skyrocketing price for u.s. consumers, that's exactly the scenario that the president wants to avoid. he's talked abo energ deregulation, how prices are getting lower for people. clearly we saw the saudi economy able to jump back very quickly.l they r got their production levels, i think back in record time everne was surprised that all of a sudden, everything was ok. i do think it raises real questions what, w what does the u.s. do with this strategic r petroleumerve? the administration was going to sell off a bunch of that to raise cash, to try to plug parot of the deficit.he now maybere reconsidering, do we need that just in case this gets worse? >>hat about the new national security advisor, robert o'brien? whats his involvement in these foreign policy a for u.s.
discussion with iran? what's more a question of john bolton's absence from these conversations does. obviously his precessor was very hawkish on iran, probably more so than most. he was very much viewed an aggressive approach to iran as the right approach. what little w know about robert o'brien's global vw is he is also -- in his book, he said iran is ehe swornmy of the united states. but he's probably much more moderate than john bolton was. and so it will be interesting to see what he does. the question is, where does president trump go from here? termsin of we're t going to the u.n. next week. he wants to form a coation. he's been skeptical about the u.n. he's condemned the e.u. and he'sot meeting with any gcc leaders. the russians are notre t the raelis are not there. the french are not meeting wit him. who is left? >> the architect of his previous iran strateg is also not there. >> he is meeting with the
ukrainian president, zelensky. >> and boris, who has his own prhelems. >>uestion i heard is not what do we know about o'brien but who is he going to choose for his staff. that will send the clearest signal about t direction of this recalibration, if we should call it that, on iran and whoe chooses to essentially signal fhere his policy is going. >> as part it, the rest of the world is engaging with iran. china has its own relationshi withran. europe wants to see the iran deal come back. >> china in particular haseen movi forward with some really mar investments involving iran. and, younow, one risk heres that trump isolate the united soes and the rest of the world kind of moves in. trump is in this show down with china economically. but it's n clear that we can prevent the iranians andpo ntially the russians and other couries from kind of taking advantage of this opportunity a building our relationship.la
if there comes a point that iran's oil comes back that's very profitable on that side of the world and the u.s. is left out of it.s the president playing a dangerous and risky game here. robert o'brien is really personally well liked. the new national security advisor. he does not have deep, shall we say, strategic credentials and experience within feder bureaucracy. so the president, there's a lot going on, and he doesn't have necessarily the most experiencer team you'd want. >> final thought. congress, if there is action take will there be a push, pressure to t have authorization >> oh, absolutely. not from everyone. but from many members. they're very uncomfortle -- >> republicans? >> i think there will be a few republans but i want to s how they vote. in the past, we saw republicans, like maybe a bob corker, say something, then sort of vote with the from the, get cowed down. therot a tremendous amount
of bravery inlihe p but certainly senator cain from virgia -- there will be others. congress is supposed to declare war. if there is military action, we'll hea about it. >> we must leave it there. we'lleep our eyes ongr cs. coming up on the "washington week extra," we will discuss the president's battle with california. the state is n the epicenter of a showdown over federal and state power. but before we go, r weember cokie roberts. on npr, who died september 17 at age 75. cokie was a trail-blang journalist there and a terrific. writ her books on american women brought history toshife. appeared on programs over the years, along with her husband, steve roberts. we willll miss herraling smile, probing mind and endearing spirit. i'm robert costa. good night. ♪[music]
>> corporate funding for unashington week" is provided ... financial servicesic fir james.nd additional funding is provided by the yuen foundation. committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by b contributions to your s station from viewers like you. thank you! >> you're watching pbs.
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