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CNN "Erin Burnett Out Front" - Transcript: "Interview with Rep. Beto O'Rourke"



BURNETT: Breaking tonight, CNN learning President Trump brought up Joe Biden in a call with the Chinese president back in June, a president, of course, with whom he is involved in a trade war.


The White House moving the record of that call to the highly secret codename-only server. We understand talked about Biden and Warren's polls. And this reporting comes as the president publicly asked China and Ukraine to investigate the Biden family today.

Joe Biden firing back in a tweet, quote: Mr. President, you cannot extort foreign governments to help you win reelection. It's an abuse of power. It violates your oath of office and it jeopardizes our national security. I know you want to rig the primary and pick your opponent, but I'm not going anywhere.

And that is the state of that back and forth. I want to go now to Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman, Beto O'Rourke. Congressman, I want to give you a chance to react to the new

reporting. We understand the president raised Biden's polls on a call put on a secret server. Today, the president publicly asking Ukraine and China to investigate the Biden family. Your reaction to that?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is another criminal effort on the part of the president to involve a foreign power in our elections, and to do so by offering a quid pro quo. Unprompted, the president today brought up the trade deal, the tariffs that have been imposed on China, and seemed to imply that if China were willing to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, then those tariffs would be eased. Perhaps a trade war could end.

He did the same thing with Ukraine with $400 million in military aid. And nothing about the fact that he is doing it out in the open for all the public to see makes it any less criminal. So, we've got to hold him to account. There has to be impeachment, or else there will be impunity, and that will set the precedent that some people are above the law in this country.

The moment we do that is the moment we lose democracy and lose this country. So, full speed ahead for those investigating the president and holding him to account.

BURNETT: Do you think any Republicans in Congress will vote for his impeachment? So, it's not all Democrats?



BURNETT: -- politically. You do?

O'ROURKE: I do, because I believe in their constituents, the people of this country, who are going to put America before any loyalty to party, their personal careers, the next election. They're going to do right for their kids and for their fellow Americans at this defining moment of truth.

We saw this before in 1974. No one thought at the outset of that investigation of Richard Nixon that it would lead to impeachment. But when the writing became clear, Republican senators sat down with the president and helped him to make the decision to resign. We need that kind of leadership right now from Republicans, from our fellow Americans at this moment of truth.

BURNETT: You are explicitly now I know taking on Pete Buttigieg for opposing your mandatory assault weapons buyback plan. You tweeted: To those in our party worried about polls and listening to constituents, and I'm thinking about Mayor Pete, let me tell you that assault weapons buybacks are supported by the majority of Americans.

He, of course, called your idea, mandatory buybacks a quote, shiny object, and he said it could distract people from things that really could be done on gun control, in his opinion.

What do you say to him, shiny object?

O'ROURKE: I just find that term and that kind of calculating politics the way that you triangulate your position based on which way the wind is blowing so offensive to those who have lost a family member to gun violence, or who live in constant fear of being shot and killed by a weapon of war that we freely sell in this country and we allow our fellow Americans to possess so that there are 10 million of these potential instruments of war, offensive to March for Our Lives and those student leaders who survived gun violence and now have a very bold peace plan to ensure that we save the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow Americans.

They're deciding that this is possible. They're deciding that we're going to be able to do this. A majority of Americans agree with us. So, let's find the right thing and then get after it and do it. That's what I want to do as president. That's what I'm doing as a candidate now.

BURNETT: You've supported Joe Biden and how he has handled this situation with the president with Ukraine, now with China. He released his plan. It doesn't call for mandatory buybacks of assault weapons either.

Given that, you know, you feel not doing so is going to the wind in the polls. Is Joe Biden also doing that, guilty of that weakness?

O'ROURKE: Here's the distinction. When Mayor Pete is taking potshots at a plan proposed by the student leaders in March for Our Lives, when he is disregarding the very real pain that the people of El Paso, or Midland, Odessa or Sutherland Springs, or Sta. Fe High School in Texas, just to name four communities that have suffered mass shootings, acts of terror in one state alone, that's what I find to be so offensive and so galling.

And for someone who said that we should decide what the right thing is to do and just pursue it, regardless of Republicans and what they say, to allow the talking points to be defined by the NRA and the Republican Party, to limit us in what we are able to the and the lives we're able to say, that's what's offensive to me.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Congressman O'Rourke.

O'ROURKE: Thank you, Erin.