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Trump focuses anger at whistleblower as impeachment inquiry deepens

President Trump acted as his own defender in chief on Monday, criticizing a whistleblower complaint, as some of his allies tried to argue that Democrats are rushing an impeachment inquiry. But not all Republicans are defending the president, including his former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert. Lisa Desjardins reports, then joins Yamiche Alcindor and Judy Woodruff for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    From President Trump today: new accusations and threats over impeachment. He all but accused a key lawmaker of treason, and declared that publicly identifying a government whistle-blower is fair game, all this as new allegations emerge and a new subpoena landed.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Outside Washington, President Trump, the commander in chief, today formally welcomed the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Back in the Oval Office, he played the role of his own defender in chief about a July phone call with Ukraine's president.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I made a call. The call was perfect. When the whistle-blower reported it, he made it sound terrible.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Mr. Trump also stormed out more than 90 tweets about Democrats' impeachment efforts since Friday, many retweeting thoughts from FOX News.

    In one tweet Sunday, he quoted a FOX News contributor saying: "If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, it will cause a civil war-like fracture in this nation."

    Meanwhile, the New York Times and others reported today that the president pushed Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison in another call. The report Mr. Trump sought information for Attorney William Barr on the origins of the Mueller probe, this as the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, stated how he sees the process, should the House impeach Mr. Trump.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    The Senate impeachment rules are very clear. The Senate would have to take up an impeachment resolution if it came over from the House.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    McConnell didn't say if impeachment requires a full Senate trial, this after a weekend of rhetorical exchanges of fire.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    Salem witch trials had more due process than this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president's allies, like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, repeatedly argued that Democrats are rushing this process.

    White House senior adviser Stephen Miller went on a different attack, against the original whistle-blower who raised concerns.

  • Stephen Miller:

    The president of the United States is the whistle-blower! And this individual is a saboteur trying to undermine a democratically elected government!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The whistle-blower's identity is supposed to be protected by law, but, today, the president said his White House is trying to uncover it.

    Multiple outlets have reported that the whistle-blower is a CIA official, though, otherwise, that person's identity and motivations are not known.

    The whistle-blower set off a historic cascade of events after revealing that Mr. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden son's Hunter. The younger Biden had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

    A former Ukrainian prosecutor told The L.A. Times that Giuliani repeatedly asked him to open an inquiry, but he refused and told Giuliani it was a political vendetta.

    And, today, as part of their impeachment probe, House Democrats subpoena Giuliani for documents related to his communications with Ukrainian officials.

    Not all Republicans defended the president. His former Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert criticized Giuliani for pushing the Biden story.

  • Tom Bossert:

    That conspiracy theory has got to go. They have to stop with that. It cannot continue to be repeated.

    I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All this as the Intelligence Committee in the House, led by Chairman Adam Schiff, ramps up its action, with depositions and a closed hearing this week about the phone call and aid money kept from Ukraine.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    We're going to find out why those funds were withheld, who was in the know about it. We're going to find out what other communications were also improperly hidden in this classified system that's meant to contain the most highly sensitive, classified information involving covert action, not the president's misconduct.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    On "60 Minutes" Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the White House to cooperate.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    And let us work together to have this be a unifying experience, not a dividing one for our country. Don't make this any worse than it already is.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Schiff says his committee has reached an agreement with the whistle-blower and expects that person will testify soon in a closed hearing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This evening, both The Wall Street Journal and CNN are reporting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among those listening to President Trump's phone call with the leader of Ukraine.

    And just moments ago, the Justice Department released a statement confirming that President Trump has contacted other countries to have them connect Attorney General William Barr with appropriate officials to investigate the 2016 election.

    And Lisa joins me now, along with our Yamiche Alcindor, to help keep up with this fast-moving story.

    Thank you.

    And it is fast-moving, these developments just in the last few minutes.

    Lisa, I'm going to start with you, though.

    What — you have been talking to Democrats today. What should we expect them to do in coming days as they move this inquiry forward?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I don't know that we have had a busier day or that I have ever put on a more complicated story at the top of the newscast as we have just now.

    So, this is something that has crystallized what's happening this week. We're going to have three major depositions or days for the House Intelligence Committee.

    First, let's look. We're going to have Wednesday, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. She was the ambassador of Ukraine who was asked to leave and now still works at the State Department.

    After that, Thursday, House Intelligence Committee will be hearing from Ambassador Volker, who used to be the U.S. envoy to Ukraine for President Trump. He stepped down just last week, at the end of the week.

    Friday, that is a deadline for Secretary of State Pompeo to hand over documents that the House Intelligence Committee is seeking. Also, Friday is when the House Intelligence Committee will hear from the inspector general, who basically led this whole whistle-blower investigation over the department for the DNI and intelligence agencies.

    But, Judy, I think a bigger date might be October 15. That is when Rudy Giuliani has been given a deadline to turn over all of the documents he has about his — any of his conversations with Ukrainians.

    And, Judy, that subpoena categorizes 23 different types of documents, different dates, meetings that Giuliani had with many Ukrainians, purportedly on behalf of the president.

    And even the mayor of Kiev, a famous boxer named Vitali Klitschko, some of our viewers may know, he's in that subpoena. So it is a narrow issue, but a very wide-ranging investigation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many strands that they are pursuing.

    So, Yamiche, meantime, President Trump today seems very focused on this whistle-blower, the person whose document we saw last week.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, as this impeachment inquiry deepens, President Trump is really focusing his anger on this whistle-blower and saying now that he's going to be looking to figure out who this person is.

    Now, that would be a violation of federal law. And the attorney for the whistle-blower felt compelled to tweet about that today and said, look, if this — my whistle-blower, my client needs to be protected and not be retaliated against.

    We also are talking to lawyers, and I talked to some lawyers that were involved in the impeachment hearings for President Clinton. And that person says, let's look at all that the White House is dealing with.

    So I want to kind of walk through just the last couple of hours. There's Rudy Giuliani being subpoenaed. There's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now revealed to be on the call with the Ukrainian president.

    There's President Trump pressuring the Australian prime minister to essentially be part of investigation to discredit the Mueller report.

    So this lawyer who worked for President Clinton, he said this White House doesn't have a strategy to handle this. They might have a messaging. They might want to put out TV ads. But they need a legal strategy to figure out how to deal with all of this and to really make the case that these are not impeachable offenses.

    And, right now, the White House is not doing that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We also know, Yamiche, the White House, the president very focused on Joe Biden, one of his chief Democratic rivals, his son Hunter.

    How is the Biden campaign — you have been talking to them. How are they responding to this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump and Republicans are making the case that Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden were engaged in unethical behavior as part of their Ukrainian business dealings — really Hunter's Ukrainian business dealings.

    The Ukrainian prosecutor who was working at as a part of all this, he's saying that Rudy Giuliani was trying to pressure him to look into the Bidens, but that, in fact, he saw no reason, no wrongdoing on any part of the Bidens to do that.

    And Ukrainian officials are essentially saying that Joe Biden's in the clear here. So what Joe Biden is doing is saying, I'm in the clear, and all of these things that they're saying about me are simply not true.

    But I put the question to the Biden campaign, how are you dealing with the idea that some people see this as a conflict of interests, that Hunter Biden was profiting off of the fact that his father was vice president of the United States?

    And they essentially say, it's ridiculous to compare Joe Biden's children to President Trump's children Ivanka Trump and Don Jr., and that really this is about the president being completely not transparent and that, essentially, Joe Biden is in the clear here.

    So that's their plan of attack as of now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Separately, Lisa, we know you have stepped back a little bit to look at — put this in some historical perspective.

    As this impeachment process moves, you have looked at President Clinton, what happened under his presidency. Do you see parallels?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats have a lot of choices to make in terms of how they go forward. They have not made all of those decisions yet.

    But here's what we know about how Democrats are moving forward now. The House Intelligence Committee is gathering evidence, as we see right now. Then, after they're done, they feel like they have got their case to make, they will present it to the House Judiciary Committee, which will vote on articles of impeachment, I'm told.

    Then those articles of impeachment would move to the House of Representatives. OK, that's a big process. How long could that take? And here's where the Clinton case comes in handy. It's interesting. The Clinton — the House Judiciary Committee began their inquiry October 5 of 1997.

    In just three months, it had moved all the way through the House and a Senate trial had begun. So — I'm sorry — '98 and '99. So, at that point, we see that this could happen pretty quickly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I remember it vividly.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Maybe by Thanksgiving, even, I should say.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It didn't feel quick at the time, but you're both…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It feels quick today, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For sure. So much going on.

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

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