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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Interview With U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 22, 2019 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:17]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Foreign interference? President Trump prepares to meet with Ukraine's leader, as we're learning the president pushed him to investigate a rival.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't matter what I discussed.

TAPPER: How will Congress respond? I will speak exclusively to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff next.

Plus: maximum pressure. As world leaders gather at the U.N., tough talk between the U.S. and Iran raises global fears.

TRUMP: If they misbehave, they're on borrowed time.

TAPPER: Are the two countries getting any closer to a deal? Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin joins me to discuss in moments.

And Iowa state of mind. A new CNN poll flashes warning signs for the Democratic front-runner, as a challenger makes her move.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm looking for every vote in Iowa.

TAPPER: If Iowa is the key to the Democratic presidential nomination, is it up for grabs?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is enmeshed in another scandal involving a foreign leader.

President Trump is defending himself this morning, as his administration is facing an uproar over new reporting that he pressed Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, eight ways, according to "The Wall Street Journal," to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son during a phone call on July 25.

President Trump just minutes ago told reporters that that call was largely congratulatory and -- quote -- "a perfect 10."

And again this morning, the president raised questions about former Vice President Biden.

We should note, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

On another note, the president has not denied and continued to not deny this morning that he discussed the former vice president in his call with Ukraine's leader.

The issue of the president pressuring Ukraine to investigate his rival first came to light as part of a whistle-blower complaint that the White House is keeping from Congress, much to the chagrin of the Trump-appointed inspector general for the intelligence community.

The president has also gone from tweeting that -- quote -- "Virtually any time I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be people listening from various U.S. agencies" to this weekend approvingly quoting a FOX personality saying -- quote -- "An American spy in one of our intelligence agencies may have been spying on our own president."

All of this has now set off a fight between the White House and Congress. The new allegations are already animating the 2020 campaign trail and reenergizing Democratic calls for impeachment on Capitol Hill.

This week, President Trump is preparing to step onto the world stage. He's headed to New York tonight for the United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders, where he is expected to meet Wednesday with Ukrainian President Zelensky face-to-face for the first time.

Joining us now to talk about this and much more, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is heading with the president to the United Nations.

Thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Great to be here with you.

TAPPER: So, I do want to start with the president's interaction with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Were you aware that the president had pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens?

MNUCHIN: I was not on that call, so I'm not aware.

But I have been on plenty of other calls with the president. There is other people who listen to these calls. So, I don't expect there were any issues whatsoever.

TAPPER: Is it common for the president -- you say you have been on other calls with him -- to press foreign leaders to investigate his political rivals here in the United States? Is that something you have heard before?

MNUCHIN: I haven't heard that. And I think you're speculating on what the president said.

I would say these are confidential discussions between two foreign leaders. But I think the bigger issue is, Biden came out this weekend saying he had never any discussions with his son. His son came out and said he had had business discussions with his father.

So I really think the -- the real issue is not what the president said, but what, indeed, did Biden's son do?

TAPPER: Well, the one -- I think what you're referring to is that, in a "New Yorker" story a few months ago, Hunter Biden said that they talked about it once, and it was just Joe Biden saying to him, "I know you know what you are doing." So that is the issue here.

But the reason -- you say it is speculative, but "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post" have both reported on the contents of the call. There is a whistle-blower who is trying to bring attention to this to Congress.

And just, as a general premise, is it OK with you for a president, any president, to pressure a foreign leader, a foreign leader that wants hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States in aid, to investigate a political rival. Is that acceptable?

MNUCHIN: Well, you're -- you're speculating that the president pressured. I don't have any reason to believe that the president pressured...

TAPPER: He brought it up eight times.

MNUCHIN: ... in any way. Again, you're speculating. Just...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That is not speculating. That is in "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" that he...

MNUCHIN: So -- so, everything in "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal," we should assume, is always factual?

TAPPER: OK. So how many times did he bring it up, then?

MNUCHIN: I'm not aware. As I said, I wasn't on the call. Given everything we have going on this week in Iran, everything else around the world, I find it interesting that there's so much interest in this story, when, again, there's lots of people who listened to this call.

[09:05:08]

It wasn't a secret that one person was on and said something. Again, people know there were issues that Biden's son did business in Ukraine.

I, for one, as an individual, have concerns about that. But there is really no issue here. I was in principal meetings when we discussed foreign aid to Ukraine. Nothing ever came up that there was any link or anything else.

I think things are being implied that just don't exist.

TAPPER: Well, the reporting is that President Trump in this phone call in July brought up the need for Ukraine or his desire for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.

Nobody has denied that that is the case. There is a whistle-blower who wants to bring this information -- he has a whistle-blower complaint -- to Congress. And the White House is preventing that.

If there is really nothing there, why not just -- why shouldn't the White House just let Congress, let the Gang of Eight, the intelligence leaders and the leaders of the House and Senate, look at the whistle- blower complaint, and if it is as innocent as you say, then that will clear it all up?

MNUCHIN: I think would be a terrible precedent.

Conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential. And if every time someone, for political reasons, raised a question, and, all of a sudden, those conversations were disclosed publicly -- and when you disclose them to Congress, lots of times, they leak into the press -- then why would world leaders want to have conversations together?

So the real issue here is -- is, this was an important week. It was a very, very important week, what went on with Iran, the maximum pressure campaign.

This is a conversation between two world leaders with -- plenty of other people who weren't -- were on the call.

TAPPER: And I want to ask you about the maximum pressure campaign with Iran in a second.

But I just need to understand, is it the position of the administration that it is acceptable for politicians to pressure foreign leaders to look into and investigate their political rivals?

Because that is what is being said, being reported happened on this phone call. And it alarms a lot of people.

MNUCHIN: I wasn't on the call.

But I have no reason to believe that the president pressured or anything else any foreign leader. This was largely a congratulatory call. There will be a meeting this week.

I think this is a lot being made up about one person's speculation. And, again, this isn't the first time when the president has been attacked and things have turned out to be incorrect.

TAPPER: Are you going to be at the meeting with President Trump and President Zelensky?

MNUCHIN: Yes, I expect to be at that meeting.

TAPPER: If President Trump brings up this desire of his to have the Ukrainians investigate the Bidens -- and, again, the Ukrainian prosecutor said on the record and the Ukrainian foreign minister have said on the record there is nothing there, they did look into it, and there is no evidence of wrongdoing -- if president brings it up, will you say something?

Will you say, I don't think that is appropriate?

MNUCHIN: Again, my -- my conversations between the president and I are confidential.

But let me just say, I find it interesting that we spend close to seven-and-a-half minutes talking about a political issue, and not talking about what is the real issue of the week, which is, Iran launched an attack on Saudi Arabia, which was not just about Saudi Arabia. It's on the world economic system.

And this is a very, very significant issue. That's really been our focus this week.

TAPPER: Well, I do want to talk about that.

But let me just close by asking, if, for instance, President Obama had pressured a foreign leader, Putin or the president of Ukraine, anyone, and said, I want you to look into Donald Trump Jr. or I want you to look into Eric Trump, international businessmen, both of them, would you not find that inappropriate?

MNUCHIN: Again, I'm not going to speculate on that.

What I do find inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden at the time's son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. I, for one, find that to be concerning. And, to me, that is the issue perhaps that should be further investigated.

TAPPER: I don't understand.

So it is OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Jr. to do business all over the world, it's OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president, but while Vice President Joe Biden was vice president, his son shouldn't have been able to do business dealings?

MNUCHIN: Again, I don't -- I don't really want to go into more of these details, other than to say...

TAPPER: Well, you're just setting a precedent that the president is violating.

MNUCHIN: Again, I think there is a significant difference in what you're saying, OK, or what I was saying between Biden and his son's relationship with the Ukraine oligarch and potential business dealings that the Trump Organization has had which predated his presidency.

TAPPER: Just again, to underline, the Ukrainian prosecutor has said there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.

But I know you want to talk about Iran.

So let me ask you, you announced on Friday the U.S. is implementing sanctions that would cut off Iran's Central Bank and National Development Fund from the U.S. banking system.

You said that, with those sanctions, the administration has -- quote -- "cut off all sources of funds to Iran."

[09:10:03]

Does this mean, at this point, that the Trump administration has exhausted its ability to sanction Iran? Or are there still other avenues?

MNUCHIN: I think there are some other avenues.

I think we have now cut off all of the money. The thing we will be focusing on now is people that are violating the Iran sanctions and issuing sanctions on third parties where we see violations.

TAPPER: Including people in allied countries, including people in the U.K. or Germany or France?

MNUCHIN: If they have violated, absolutely. We expect that anybody who's attached to the U.S. dollar system will abide by these sanctions.

TAPPER: But let me ask you, because you have -- you have been doing this maximum pressure campaign against Iran for more than a year.

But it seems like tensions are worse than they have -- than they have been in a long time. Are you confident that it's working?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think the tensions are, as you said, worse because it is working.

I think what you see is, we have cut off almost all the money to Iran. I think you see Iran acting in desperation, attacking its neighbors. This is really unprecedented in that sense.

And, yes, we continue to have conversations with all of our allies about these issues. And we will be having conversations at the U.N. this week. This will be a major topic for the president.

TAPPER: President Trump has said he's willing to meet with the Iranian President, Rouhani. Does that still hold true now, even given the latest Iranian provocations?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think the president has always said he'd leave the door open.

But I think it's highly unlikely, given the current circumstances.

TAPPER: I do want to ask you another question about the U.N. General Assembly meeting.

There's a special emphasis this year on the climate crisis. President Trump is not attending the climate summit tomorrow. This will be the second gathering of world leaders talking about this topic that President Trump has skipped in the last two months.

Do you think that the climate crisis is a global threat?

MNUCHIN: Well, what I think is important and -- is the environment.

And what is important is clean air and clean water. The U.S. is very far advanced in clean energy, natural gas. So, if you look at kind of our environmental record, it's actually quite good.

The concern is what's going on in the environment in other parts of the world.

TAPPER: Yes.

So -- and, to that end, looking purely at an economic impact, because that's your area of emphasis, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the climate crisis, if it remains unaddressed, as it is today, could cost the United States up to 10.5 percent of GDP by 2100.

Is this not a serious threat?

MNUCHIN: I find there's lots of assumptions and lots of speculation in those numbers. So I don't, for one, think they're real.

What I do think...

TAPPER: You think that the National Bureau of Economic Research study on this is not real?

MNUCHIN: Again, there's lots of assumptions that go into those conclusions.

So, no, I don't support that -- that outcome.

But what I do think is important -- and this is an important issue. We are very focused on clean air, clean water, clean energy. The U.S. technology has made major progress in these areas.

And the reason why the president got out of the Paris deal, because it was an unfair deal for the U.S., relative to the rest of the world.

TAPPER: If your emphasis is on clean air, why are you not allowing California to set its own environmental standards?

I mean, you say that your emphasis is on clean air, but you're not letting states like California do what they want to do when it comes to clean air.

MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say, this is a complicated issue.

I think these are federal issues. California shouldn't have separate rules. I think that's the issue.

I, for one, drove an electric car in California. But let me just say, electric cars also create issues with batteries and how you dispose of batteries. These are complicated issues.

But I think the issue is, California is part of the -- the United States, and there shouldn't necessarily be separate standards.

TAPPER: Well, the only thing I would say is that I think climate scientists are near -- in a near unanimous position that much more needs to be done, and the Trump administration is not focusing on it.

Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, good luck at the U.N. General Assembly this week. Thanks so much for joining us.

President Trump just took questions on the uproar over his call with Ukraine's president. We're going to play that for you next, let the president speak there.

And Intel Chairman Adam Schiff will join me to respond.

And could Vice President Joe Biden lose Iowa and still win the nomination? We will break down our new dramatic poll.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:18:23]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not looking to hurt Biden. I'm not even looking to...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: ... to it, to be honest.

But he said a very bad thing. He said a very foolish thing.

Now, me, on the other hand, my conversation with the president, the new president of Ukraine, was perfect. They put out a statement last night. They said the same thing. It was a warm, friendly conversation.

There was no quid pro quo. There was nothing. It was a perfect conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump just minutes ago answering questions about his call with Ukraine's president last July.

To be clear, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by either Hunter or Joe Biden, according to the Ukrainian prosecutors. This week, Congress is set to press the Trump administration over its decision to block lawmakers from seeing a whistle-blower report that we know deals with that phone call.

Joining me now, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California.

Chairman Schiff, do you want to respond to what you just heard what the president say? He talked about how Biden had did something wrong, and that there was no quid pro quo in that conversation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, if that is the case, then why doesn't the president simply release the transcript of that call?

And I don't know whether the whistle-blower complaint is on this allegation, but if it is, and even if it isn't, why doesn't the president just say, release the whistle-blower complaint?

Clearly, he's afraid for the public to see either one of those things. And we're determined to make sure that the public does, that the nation is protected, that if the president of the United States is browbeating a foreign leader, at the same time he was withholding vital military assistance that Ukraine needed to defend itself against Russia, and trying to get dirt on his political opponent in yet a second campaign, then the country needs to know about it.

[09:20:03]

And we need to take defensive steps.

TAPPER: Well, I said that to Secretary Mnuchin just two minutes ago, why not just release this to settle the issue?

And he said, because it would set a horrible precedent, because world leaders should be able to talk to President Trump without having those conversations shared.

Your response to that?

SCHIFF: Well, not if those conversations involve potential corruption or criminality or leverage being used for political advantage against our nation's interest.

And that's what's at stake here. This would be, I think, the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office, certainly during this presidency, which says a lot, but perhaps during just about any presidency.

There is no privilege that covers corruption. There is no privilege to engage in underhanded discussions. And, again, I don't know if this is the subject of the whistle-blower complaint. But if it is, it needs to be exposed.

And we know the inspector general found that complaint urgent. We also know the inspector general found this did not involve a policy disagreement. It's one thing if you're talking about a presidential communication that involves a policy issue.

That is not a valid whistle-blower complaint. But, here, the inspector general said, this is not what is at issue. We're talking about serious or flagrant abuse, impropriety, potential violation of law.

And there's no privilege that protects that. And the reason I think that, if these two issues are, in fact, one issue, if there is a relationship between this complaint and this issue, you have not only this illicit conduct by the president of the United States, but you also have the added element of a cover-up.

TAPPER: If the president did, in fact, in that phone call push the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden eight times, as "The Wall Street Journal" reported, is it an impeachable offense, in your view?

SCHIFF: Well, Jake, you know I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment, for the reason that I think the founders contemplating, in a country that has elections every four years, that this would be an extraordinary remedy, a remedy of last resort, not first resort.

But if the president is essentially withholding military aid, at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, that is, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co- equal to the evil that that conduct represents.

We're going to hear from the director of national intelligence on Thursday why he is the first director to withhold ever a whistle- blower complaint. And we are going to make sure that we get that complaint, that whistle-blower is protected.

And we're going to make sure that we find out whether the president has engaged in this kind of improper conduct. But it may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy, if indeed the president is, at the same time withholding vital military assistance, he is trying to leverage that to obtain impermissible help in his political campaign.

TAPPER: Well, that's certainly the farthest I have ever heard you go when it comes to the possible need for impeachment.

But for some Democrats, as you know, it's not enough. 2020 candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted on Friday that by having failed to impeach President Trump by now -- quote -- "Congress is complicit in Trump's latest attempt to solicit foreign interference to aid him in U.S. elections."

And Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said something similar this morning on Twitter, that the real scandal is Democrats letting this happen.

How do you respond?

SCHIFF: Well, I would just say this. There's no chance of us persuading the Senate, the Senate Republicans, in an impeachment trial. They have shown their willingness to carry the president's baggage, no matter how soiled its contents.

But I want to make sure, before we go down this road, that we can persuade the public that this was the right thing to do. And part of persuading the public that impeachment is the right thing to do is making sure that the country understands that this was a last resort.

Now, some of the folks that you mentioned have been embracing impeachment from the very beginning. I don't think that's useful in making the case to the public that we did this reluctantly.

But the president is pushing us down this road. And if, in particular, after having sought foreign assistance and welcomed foreign assistance in the last presidential campaign as a candidate, he is now doing the same thing again, but now using the power of the presidency, then he may force us to go down this road.

I have spoken with a number of my colleagues over the last week, and this seems different in kind. And we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.

TAPPER: Take a listen to the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in an interview with my colleague Chris Cuomo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Of course, I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, there is Giuliani, the president's attorney, saying that he asked Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.

Your committee, before this whistle-blower complaint even came forward, was already investigating whether this request from the White House, either through Rudy Giuliani or some other way, hinged on withholding military aid, $250 million worth, which we should point out last week was released.

[09:25:12]

Have you found any evidence of a quid pro quo?

SCHIFF: Well, look, it's not necessary for us to find evidence of a quid pro quo.

The fact that Ukraine understands that military aid is being withheld, and the fact that Ukraine understands, as does the president, that the president, if these allegations are correct, his number one demand of Ukraine is that they dig up dirt on his opponent, that's all you need. You don't need an explicit quid pro quo to betray your country. And

that's what it would represent if the president was engaged in that conduct.

Now, we know that Rudy Giuliani was engaged in that conduct. But it's one thing when it's done by the court jester. It's another when it's done by the man who would be king.

So we're going to have to get to the bottom of this. We're going to have to fight to make sure that we can expose what took place on that call, what took place in any other conversations between the administration and Ukraine, where they were improperly using the power of that office for dirt on his opponent.

TAPPER: Ukraine's foreign minister said in an interview that he knows the contents of the July 25 phone call, and that, in his view, President Trump did not pressure Zelensky to investigate Biden. He said there was no pressure.

What's your response to that?

SCHIFF: My response is, look, Ukraine is in a very difficult position here.

They were very -- and have been very eager to get a summit meeting with the president. They know how reliant they are on American assistance in the war. They have the long-simmering war with Russia in Ukraine, in a country that Russia still occupies.

And they know that, while there has been a decision made to release this military aid, the decision to cut it off can be made at any time, and this president is nothing if not vindictive.

So I don't envy the position of the Ukraine president. What I'm worried about are the actions of the American president. And I don't think we can rely on a country that is so beholden to the good graces of Donald Trump to be able to level with us on this.

TAPPER: You said this week that you will get the contents of the whistle-blower complaint -- quote -- "come hell or high water" and that you're going to use whatever tools you can, including pursuing legal action, including potentially reexamining the funding when the director of national intelligence comes before Congress for reauthorization.

Wouldn't withholding funds from the intelligence community put the nation's safety at risk, though?

SCHIFF: Well, it depends on what funds we withhold.

In this case, you have the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that is withholding this complaint, in violation of the clear letter of the law. That law says that he shall transmit the complaint. He is the first to refuse to do so.

And there are funding requests that that office makes that don't go directly to national security that we can withhold.

Look, it's a blunt remedy and one that I'm very reluctant to use. At the same time, the inspector general has said, this is not only serious, this is not only credible, but it's urgent.

Now, we cannot afford to play rope-a-dope in the court for weeks or months on end. We need an answer. If there's a fire burning, it needs to be put out. And that's why we're going to have to look at every remedy.

And if these two issues are, in fact, one issue, and relates to deplorable conduct, a violation of the president's oath of office, and a cover-up in terms of this whistle-blower complaint, then we're going to have to consider impeachment, as well, a remedy here.

TAPPER: Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Senator Kamala Harris overheard telling a colleague that she is F'ing moving to Iowa to recharge her campaign.

But how do voters in the first caucus state feel about her? We have all the new poll numbers next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:33:01]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're willing to pay the extra taxes and you think you get much more for that, then that's good. That's good. But let's at least acknowledge, tell Elizabeth to tell it is going to cost money.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Giant corporations are going to see their costs go up. But cost for middle class families, for working families, for the people who are squeezed so badly right now are going to go down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The two Iowa Democratic front-runners sparring over health care as a brand new CNN/Des Moines Register poll shows them now neck and neck with no clear leader in the first voting state. Take a look. Twenty-two percent of voters say Elizabeth Warren is their top choice. Biden is at 20 percent. That is within the margin of error.

Senator Bernie Sanders has dropped to 11 percent with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9 percent, Senator Kamala Harris at six. Let's chew over all of this.

Karen Finney, what do you think? I mean, you have Elizabeth Warren number one with a bullet there.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY CLINTON 2016 CAMPAIGN: I think it shows that the fundamental works, right? Elizabeth Warren basically has -- she has been in Iowa, she's been very focused on campaigning, taking questions, taking selfies, doing the basics.

TAPPER: "Selfies." Quote -- unquote, "selfies." OK.

FINNEY: "Selfies." Yes. Sorry.

And I think it is part -- it shows for someone like Harris, this is why you are pumping down in Iowa for the next couple of months or so. Because, look, this is a state, as we know, where voters there, they want to see you, right?

They want to hear from you. You had a huge turnout yesterday. Which is again people are interested. They want to know, they're trying to decide. I sort of say they are dating right now. I think that is the other thing our polls show, there are still some time.

TAPPER: Right.

FINNEY: I mean, it is still open and people are --

TAPPER: A majority are still -- could change their minds.

FINNEY: Open to changing their minds.

TAPPER: Yes.

FINNEY: Exactly.

TAPPER: You've won Iowa. What is the secret?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, plant yourself there and make relationships with the people there and build coalitions that are going to -- going to produce for you in caucus day. And Elizabeth warren is doing that. I mean, Iowa Republicans are to the right of most Republicans in the country.

[09:35:03]

And Iowa Democrats are to the left of most Democrats in the country. And so it is sort of natural for me that the liberal candidates are going to go up.

I mean, Joe Biden -- look, I've said the attrition of Joe Biden started a little later than I thought it was going to start but it is starting. And I think just the drip, drip, drip of the fact that this -- he is I think in a lot of voters' minds not really up to this.

You're hearing the candidates now talk about it. It is become part of the theme. And it is a very hard thing to turn around.

TAPPER: Congressman, what do you think? Who do you think is doing this presidential campaign right?

REP. BEN RAY LUJAN (D-NM): Well I think as you take a step back we have to remember that most of the Democratic nominees or candidates at this point, I guess, are doing better than Donald Trump. And president Trump --

TAPPER: And in head-to-head match-ups.

LUJAN: In head to head match-ups.

TAPPER: Yes.

LUJAN: And President Trump has fallen in all 17 battleground states. There's only two where he's still above water but he has dropped dramatically in Texas as well.

So let's understand that. But I would agree, showing up matters. You have to get to know candidates. They have got to kick the tires. They got to get to know you. You have to be willing to make sure that you are understanding what is happening in their day-to-day lives and that is what our candidates are doing. So I'm still confident where we are with what's going to happen not just in Iowa with this poll but as we look to South Carolina and Nevada. Those are going to be two important states and I can say that based on the turnout programs that we put together in 2018 to win back the majority in the House.

TAPPER: And one other little thing, detail from the poll I want you to take a look at, which type of candidate seems more electable? This is from the CNN/Des Moines Register poll of Iowa voters, Iowa Democrats, one who speaks common ground with the Republican Party, 63 percent.

MIA LOVE (R-UT), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE: Yes.

TAPPER: One who moves the country to the left 28 percent. How solid is support for first choice -- your first choice candidate, could change my mind 63 percent. But that does seem to suggest that the stronger to the left candidates, the ones who say we want major change as opposed to we need to reach across the aisle and unite the country is still in the minority among the more liberal Iowa Democrats.

LOVE: Right. And so I think that it is important to see that the -- that you're seeing that the far left is going with Elizabeth Warren and the moderate Democrats are going with Biden. And I think they are based on two issues.

One is impeachment issue. The other one is Medicare for all where Biden is saying, look, this is going to cost -- someone needs to be honest with you and say that this is going to cost quite a bit of money. I do believe that Biden is a little bit further -- a little bit more moderate and he will do better in a general election but the connection is right, people want to know, they want to feel you, they want to -- they want you to be there. I think that in a general Elizabeth Warren is going to be -- is going to be easier to beat than Biden. Those are my thoughts.

TAPPER: What do you think about that?

FINNEY: I think that is basically the argument. If you are anyone but Joe Biden because we know that the one thing Democrats keep saying over and over again and over again is they want to beat Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Yes. That's more important than agreeing with the nominee on all major issues.

FINNEY: Correct. And we've seen -- you know, they will say, I like this candidate but I want to beat Trump, right? So I think the most important thing for all of these candidates now is it is going to be for Elizabeth Warren to make the case that she can beat Trump on that message if that is her message, right?

She has got to not just convince voters in Iowa but she has got convince them that not only can I win on this message in this state, I can win on this message in a general election. I think that's going to be a lot of the nature of the conversation that you're going to see between these candidates in the next several months.

TAPPER: I guess, the question for you from Pennsylvania, do you think -- I know you think that Joe Biden theoretically is a stronger candidate but is the idea taking away Trump votes in a place like Pennsylvania or rallying Democratic voters in places like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh which is the stronger challenge to President Trump in a commonwealth like Pennsylvania?

SANTORUM: Look, I think there are a lot of folks in the middle in Pennsylvania that swing elections all of the time and, you know, if I look at the last several elections, the Democratic Party has done a great job of getting votes out in the city of Philadelphia. And there just aren't any more votes to get in the city of Philadelphia. They have a great turnout machine. It's really a matter of are you going to be able to connect with those more moderate voters and there is an opening for a Democrat probably in New Hampshire -- there's an opening for a Democrat who could take the votes from Joe Biden, just no one is out there that's connecting who's a more mainstream Democrat at this point and that is the big problem with the party.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.

Former Vice President Biden and President Trump are both seizing on this Ukraine story to help their 2020 campaigns. Is that good politics for either of them? That is next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:44:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Trump deserves to be investigated. He is violating every basic norm of a president. Trump is doing this because I'll beat him like a drum and he's using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Former Vice President Joe Biden on the campaign trail responding to the reports that President Trump asked Ukraine's president to investigate Biden's son. Let's chat about this.

Congressman, is this an issue that we're going to hear a lot about from Democrats in Congress?

LUJAN: This is absolutely an issue. This is a concern associated with the administration, again, breaking the law. This is the first time --

TAPPER: What is the law that was broken?

LUJAN: The act that was adopted that requires the inspector general to make sure that there is an avenue for whistleblowers within the intelligence community to be able to turn over concerned complaints so that way it is not done in an open setting and then it's required by the director of national intelligence within a seven-day period to turn that over to the members -- to the leadership of the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate.

[09:45:13]

That has not happened. As a matter of fact, the first time it has not occurred and now we find out that the Department of Justice is the one that gave the advice to Acting Director Maguire not to do this. This is about the law or breaking the law. And there is clearly someone within the Trump administration who is obstructing justice and is breaking the law here. That is why we need to get this information out.

TAPPER: Congresswoman?

LOVE: I think it is problematic on some many angles. One, any time you solicit or have somebody, a foreign entity investigate the United States is just -- it is completely inappropriate and it's certainly inappropriate if there is a quid pro quo. The only thing that we know at this point is the foreign minister said that Biden didn't violate any law.

TAPPER: There's no evidence that the Bidens did anything wrong. Correct.

LOVE: Right. But he has also said that he didn't feel any pressure from the president of the United States in that conversation. Hang on a second.

So, I just want to, you know, we don't have very much information right now and I think that it's dangerous either way. It was dangerous with Julian Assange and it's dangerous to ask anybody who's a foreign entity to investigate the United States because it threatens us.

(CROSSTALK) LUJAN: But, Mia, we don't have information because the administration is breaking the law and not turning over this whistleblower complaint. That is all that we're saying. Is turn it over, let's follow the letter of the law and let's make sure that we're doing what is right by the American people and the constitution --

FINNEY: So with regard to Ukraine, we know a couple of things. We know that at this -- that there is absolutely no equivalence between Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and what this president is -- has potentially done. The things that were investigated against the Bidens showed totally debunked.

We know that actually the incident that they're talking about it was not just Biden calling for this prosecutor to be -- to step down, it was the IMF, it was the E.U. So it wasn't just one guy acting on his own.

As the congressman says, there is a lot we still don't know. We know that the president of the United States of America got on the phone and asked a foreign leader to investigate a private American citizen for his own political gain.

We also know from the Mueller report that this president has a pattern of as Mueller said, 10 incidents of obstructing justice in plain sight. I feel like this is one these examples of in plain sight. We also happen to know that this president has a penchant -- he says things like, if I do -- if the president does it, if I do it it is not illegal. Now we also --

LOVE: How do we know that if we don't have the transcript?

FINNEY: But the president said that many times. If I do it, it is not illegal. He has actually said -- anything -- he referred to him --

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: But we don't know the content of the conversation until you actually have it.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me bring in -- let me bring in Senator Santorum here.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: All the more reason --

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: -- come forward.

SANTORUM: I'm going to take issue with what Karen said because -- and what Mia said, the president if he said those things is not asking them to investigate Joe Biden. They're asking him to investigate Hunter Biden's relationship. FINNEY: It's a private American citizen. A private American citizen.

SANTORUM: Which -- who is doing business in Ukraine. And the Ukrainians have every right just like we have every right of anybody from outside this country doing business here.

FINNEY: And they investigated and they found nothing.

SANTORUM: They investigated and the investigation was cut off when that U.S. attorney -- when that attorney was --

FINNEY: No. That is not true. It had been -- it had been shown before that happened. It absolutely been shown before that happened.

SANTORUM: The investigation was -- is -- well --

LOVE: No, what I said --

SANTORUM: Again -- again, I'm not sure that is true --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The investigation didn't stop when the prosecutor was removed. The investigation continued and they didn't do anything.

SANTORUM: Yes --

FINNEY: And then the next prosecutor looked at it and decided there was no there-there.

SANTORUM: OK. So, my point is the investigator who came in was the investigator that was being advocated by Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

FINNEY: And the E.U. and the IMF -- and the E.U. and the IMF.

SANTORUM: So, let's just say this then if -- then if --

FINNEY: You don't get to just decide what the facts --

TAPPER: It is true that the E.U. and the IMF and others -- reformers in Ukraine were asking for this prosecutor to step down. (INAUDIBLE).

SANTORUM: No, I understand that is not the issue. The issue is what -- again -- I'm not saying the president did or didn't do that. But to suggest that the Ukrainians should finish the process of investigating this is not, in my opinion, that outrageous. He's not saying prosecute him.

FINNEY: But they already decided --

SANTORUM: He's not saying go after Joe Biden. He's saying, just finish the investigation.

FINNEY: They already did.

LUJAN: Rick, you agree, though, that the director of national intelligence must turn over that report to the chairs of the intelligence committee, do you agree with that?

SANTORUM: Again, I haven't read the law. So unless there's some national security --

LUJAN: It is really simple --

SANTORUM: The other -- I mean, look, this is a problem that we have in Washington which is no one trusts anybody to keep things confidential --

LOVE: Right.

SANTORUM: -- certainly not Adam Schiff --

LOVE: Right.

SANTORUM: -- and that is a problem.

LUJAN: That's why this problem setup though --

FINNEY: But you know what? But currently this whistleblower believed -- this whistleblower took a huge risk coming forward and believed that he would be protected by the law this president is obstructing --

SANTORUM: And he is being protected by law.

FINNEY: No he's not.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all.

Sean Spicer can dance if he wants to but he can't shimmy away from the lies he told to the White House podium. That is this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:54:21]

TAPPER: Welcome back. Nobody puts Spicy in a corner. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to salsa his way back from political exile this week on "Dancing with the Stars."

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think I'm in my comfort universe.

TAPPER: But as dancing got such skating reviews, Spicer might be tempted to seek out his favorite hiding place, behind the White House bushes.

For future performances we suggest that the president's former dissembler in chief he should draw from his experience. Do the twist, as when he twisted the truth.

[09:55:01]

SPICER: I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts.

TAPPER: For all those times Spicer was not willing to admit the president had told a straight-up lie even when we all knew the truth, he can do the chicken.

SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

TAPPER: Maybe given all the attention President Trump has given to Korea, Spicer could embrace a dance craze from that peninsula.

Then there is this proposed show stopper which really sums it all up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Young people around the world rallied for climate change this week. Are world leaders listening? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)