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Corey Lewandowski Appears Before Congress; Israeli Elections. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this is one of the most crucial, one of biggest moments of the night, when the main three TV stations here broadcast their exit poll projections on what the results may be.

And let's review quickly before we look at the results what these exit polls are. They are certainly not a definitive answer. They are but a possibility, a suggestion of what the outcome might be, based on a small sample of voters asked who they voted for when they step out of the ballot box.

Because of that, first, there's a margin of error. And, second, there is, frankly, a history of these being wrong, of these being accurate -- inaccurate, and sometimes wildly so.

And we need to keep that in mind when we look at these. The question then, why do we even look at these at all? Because Israel takes these very seriously. The public is looking at these exit polls, as are the politicians and the political parties.

And they go a long way into determining the mood, the atmosphere here behind me at Likud headquarters and at the other party headquarters, as well as who may or may not be celebrating tonight.

And there are two key numbers we want to look for, as my producers here are checking and making sure they have the right numbers to hand to me.

One is who came out with the bigger party. Was it Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, or his rival, Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party? But that's only half the political calculus here.

The other crucial part is, who is it that has a more likely chance of forming a coalition? Because that was where this all fell apart in the middle of May that sent Israel for the first time in the country's history back to new elections for the first time after Netanyahu was unable to form his government following the elections.

I'm waiting now for the exit polls here. And we will take a look at them and get a sense of what they say. I apologize. My team is reviewing those numbers before they hand them to me because we want to make sure we have the exit polls correct. And because of that, I will issue a word of caution one more time.

These are not definitive results. They are merely a projection of a possible result based on the three main TV stations in Israel, the two commercial stations, as well as the public broadcaster here.

I will turn to my team here. I have not yet gotten the -- I have not yet gotten the result from my team, and I apologize for that. I'm waiting for an answer here.

We do know that one of the big questions in this election was voter turnout. And although voter turnout started high, and then ebbed back a little bit, it ended up being about 2.5 percentage points above what voter turnout was in last April's election, suggesting that such a tight race has in fact pulled more voters to the ballot box.

The question is, where did they vote? I apologize, Brooke. I have not yet...

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Oren, hang...

LIEBERMANN: Well, I have just gotten the exit polls.

BALDWIN: Oh, you have gotten them. OK. Go ahead. Go ahead. I was going to give you a minute. Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

LIEBERMANN: I have just received the exit polls right now. And this race, frankly, is too close to call, based on all three TV stations' exit poll results.

I'll go through these quickly.

For Kan News, the public broadcaster, the projection is that Likud and Blue and White tied at 32 seats, once again a tie like in April's election. Channel 12 projects a slight lead for Blue and White, 34 to 33 for Netanyahu's Likud Party. That is within the margin of error. So we need to see those actual results.

And Channel 13 News, the other commercial station, also suggests Blue and White has eked out a small lead of 33 seats to Likud's 31 seats. Again, those are within the margin of error. So there is a word of caution here. That will not be the results they want to see here at Likud headquarters.

But they will wait for the actual results to start coming in, which they will do in the next few hours.

BALDWIN: OK, Oren, stand by.

Let me go to Aaron David Miller.

And you and I were on TV talking through all of this back in April. Here we are again. Netanyahu wants his fifth term. Do you think Israelis want change? What are you watching for? AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, there's a

high exhaustion factor with Netanyahu, there's no doubt. And it's a do-over election, Brooke.

So the pollsters -- frankly, all of the polls that we had watched in the weeks leading up have essentially turned out exactly right, that it's almost a dead tie between the two major parties.

And Oren is right. One thing I would add, though, is that it is possible for the party who pulls the largest number of votes to actually not be in a position to actually form a government. That happened in 2009, when Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party fell behind, but still was able to form the government.

So the magic number here really is not 32, 33 or 34. It's 61. And that is going to depend on how the other parties did, the Arab parties. Was there a big turnout? How did you Yvette Lieberman, the guy who spoiled the elections the last time around?

If you were the president of Israel, though, you would be thinking right now that Israel cannot afford to go through yet another election. So you -- regardless of the outcome, you're going to appeal to these parties to try to figure out, if no party can actually form a government, then how to create a government of national unity.

But, Brooke, that's only going to become clear in the days and weeks ahead.

BALDWIN: What role do you think Netanyahu's close relationship with President Trump, Aaron, may play in this outcome?

MILLER: We have interceded -- I was a part of two efforts, once under a Republican administration, Bush 41, and twice under Bill Clinton, to actually intercede and pick a favorite.

The first time, we succeeded under the Republicans. We failed under the Democrats.

[15:05:03]

And I would say at this point, this election will be determined largely by internal factors, divisions, personalities But like my grandmother used to say about her chicken soup, Brooke, it couldn't hurt.

So Trump's intervention, recognition of the Golan, Jerusalem, his tweet about forming a mutual defense pact, all of this stuff will partly -- partially resonate in a country in which Donald Trump is quite, quite popular.

BALDWIN: OK. Aaron David Miller, thank you very much. We're going to come back to this.

But let's return to the hearing there on Capitol Hill.

And, Gloria Borger, Corey Lewandowski is already plugging his Senate run on Twitter during this recess.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What a shock -- not.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: I think he's -- I think he's speaking directly today to Donald Trump. I also think he's speaking directly to potential constituents and voters in the state of New Hampshire, those base voters who are probably thrilled that he's been stonewalling the committee, that he's been making Democrats quote the Mueller report, that he has given Republicans an opportunity to say what they have been saying over the last couple of years about how this is a hoax and a witch-hunt and how there was no collusion.

So I'm not surprised that he's using this as, effectively, free media. But I also think the Democrats have been able to make a couple of points here, Brooke. I do. I think...

BALDWIN: You do?

BORGER: Yes, I do.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: It kind of depends on how they're asking the questions, right? I mean, if you're kind of going at him, he's not really responding well to that.

But, like Hank Johnson, he was getting yes and no's, something.

BORGER: Well, Congresswoman Bass was pretty good, because she was making -- she was making the point, look, you knew enough about this.

Lewandowski said nothing the president did was illegal. But her point was that, you knew enough about this to do this -- to draw outside the lines. You didn't want to meet with Sessions in his office. You didn't want to have any record of the meeting. You wanted a dinner, which Sessions then canceled, but you wanted it to be kept private and off the books, if you will.

So why would you -- the question is, then, why you want to do that if you're delivering a message that's perfectly legit and above board, and, hey, the president, let me go meet with you at the Department of Justice because I'm delivering a message to you from the president?

Instead, he was really surreptitious about it. And her point was, why do you think that was?

BALDWIN: Right.

Do you think this -- like, this is being dubbed as the first official impeachment hearing. Do you think -- and we know that Nancy Pelosi has been on the sort of the slow roll on impeachment. Do you think that this will just add more fuel to the fire for the Democrats?

BORGER: Right. BALDWIN: Or because Corey Lewandowski is jamming this up, might that

put it on the slow train?

BORGER: Well, and Corey Lewandowski, by the way, never even worked in the White House. So if he can jam up the works, how are you going to deal with people who actually did work in the White House and are being kept from testifying?

I mean, it's not a great look for the Democrats if they intend to go forward because they're not eliciting any information.

BALDWIN: All right, let's go back in to the hearing.

Thanks, Gloria.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): ... ensuring that Americans would want to tar and feather the president, run him out of Washington a rail, deprive the American people of the president that they duly elected.

Well, that didn't turn out to be the case. So then it was all about bringing the attorney general in, Bill Barr. He was certainly going to point out the consistencies and flaws in the analysis.

Well, that didn't happen, because the majority wanted to insist that their unelected staff ask questions to the attorney general of the United States. But, no, they said, we will go to court, we will win, we will force Bill Barr and Don McGahn to come testify.

They're not winning in court. They're not here. It's a joke. For the last four months, the path the majority has taken us on has rambled from disorganized to just downright dizzying.

In June, Speaker Pelosi said the House Democratic Caucus was -- and I'm quoting -- "not even close to an impeachment inquiry." That was to CNN.

In July, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said -- quote -- "An impeachment inquiry is when you consider only impeachment. That's not what we're doing. We're investigating all of this."

But then in August, in a CNN interview, Nadler said this is a formal impeachment proceeding. Then, in September, when asked if the Democrats are engaged in an impeachment inquiry, the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, answered, no.

It was the gentlelady from Washington who said just recently, Ms. Jayapal, "We have been in the midst of an impeachment investigate." She said to Politico.

[15:10:01]

But then, in the very same story, the gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Himes, said, no, we're not an impeachment investigation. Then the gentleman from New York, Mr. Gregory Meeks said, when asked

if the House was investigating impeachment, he said, "Well, maybe there's -- we don't know whether an impeachment investigation has become."

It's just dizzying. Last week, it was the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, who said: "What we're doing is very clear. It's been very clear. It continues to be very clear. The speaker has backed us at every point along the way."

This process has been about as clear as Joe Biden's last answer to race relations that involved turning on the record player. We don't know where we are or what we're doing.

Now, Mr. Lewandowski, I am not allowed by House rules to impugn the motives of my colleagues or to speculate as to what might be animating this bizarre circumstance.

But those rules don't apply to you. So, Mr. Lewandowski, do you have a thought as to why we continue to engage in a charade that is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people and fundamentally misunderstood by my Democrat colleagues?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You know, Congressman, I think they hate this president more than they love their country.

GAETZ: Mr. Lewandowski, Mr. Lewandowski, you were the campaign manager for the president's campaign when the Obama-Biden administration was notified that there might be efforts by the Russians to interfere with our election, isn't that right?

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes.

GAETZ: And can you describe for us the briefing you got as the campaign manager to ensure that our system was resilient and American democracy was protected?

LEWANDOWSKI: There was no briefing provided by anybody from the Obama-Biden administration, members of the intelligence community or the FBI to our campaign when I was present or during my tenure as the campaign manager.

GAETZ: That's just baffling to me.

I mean, our democracy is so precious. We have to cherish it. We have to protect it. And yet when the Obama-Biden administration knew that there might be nefarious efforts to interfere or co-opt or in any way disturb our democracy, they didn't say anything to you.

Now, as you sit here today, having watched these facts unfold, do you have any rationale as to why maybe the Clapper Brennan, Comey, Obama, Biden team didn't want to give the Trump campaign a fair defensive briefing about the threats that we were facing?

LEWANDOWSKI: It's actually unfathomable to me that they didn't contact the major political nominee for president of the United States and inform them of potential threats against the election process in 2016.

GAETZ: And we could be finding that out now. I mean, we could have those people before our committee to figure out what in the world happened that didn't allow us to get those answers.

One final question for you, Mr. Lewandowski. Has an inspector general employed by the United States government ever accused you of breaking the law?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

GAETZ: No, but they have done that with James Comey. And yet the leadership of this committee will not bring James Comey before, even though the inspector general said that his work impaired the credibility and efforts of over 35,000 FBI agents and the brave people fighting for our country.

It's a shame that you're here, Mr. Lewandowski. Jim Comey should be sitting in that chair. He should be answering questions about why he did so much damage to the FBI and our country, including not giving you the briefing that you were entitled to.

I yield back.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): The gentlemen yields back.

The gentlemen from New York.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Nadler.

Before I begin, let me remind you, Mr. Lewandowski, that this is not a Republican primary campaign. You are not on the campaign trail yet. This is the House Judiciary Committee. Act like you know the difference.

You have never worked for the Trump White House in any official capacity, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: That's right.

JEFFRIES: But you do speak with President Trump with some regularity? True?

LEWANDOWSKI: I think it's a fair statement.

JEFFRIES: In fact, during the summer of 2017, according to testimony to the special counsel, you were summoned to the White House by President Trump on at least two occasions, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't believe the report says that, Congressman.

JEFFRIES: OK, well, you met with the president 101 on June 19, 2017, and then again on July 19, 2017, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, I believe that's accurate.

JEFFRIES: OK, let's try to get some clarity on what exactly you do for Donald Trump, since you're not a government employee.

You stated during the 2016 Republican National Convention that: "I got the reputation as a tough guy. That's my reputation."

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Do you recall making that statement, Mr. Lewandowski?

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't.

JEFFRIES: OK. It's in the public record.

Your job is to be Donald Trump's political enforcer, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, I don't believe so.

JEFFRIES: Let me ask the question another way. Are you the hit man, the bagman, the lookout, or all of the above?

LEWANDOWSKI: I think I'm a good-looking man, actually.

JEFFRIES: OK.

President Trump told you on June 19, 2017, to personally deliver a message to Attorney General Sessions that would have ended the criminal investigation into the Trump campaign, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't believe that's what the Mueller report states, no.

JEFFRIES: President Trump wanted Attorney General Sessions to limit the special counsel's investigation to future incidents of election foreign interference. True?

LEWANDOWSKI: Which page is that on, Congressman?

CICILLINE: That's in the public record. It's in his hearing. It's in the Mueller report.

Now, the White House has a legal protocol for presidential statements. Under the Presidential Records Act, they must preserve all memos, letters, e-mails, papers, like the note he dictated to you. So you wrote down the president's message, which you then stored in a safe in your home. Is that correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, it is.

JEFFRIES: OK.

You told the special counsel that was your standard procedure with sensitive items. Correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Where's that reference there? (CROSSTALK)

JEFFRIES: Volume two, page 92.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWANDOWSKI: Let me just reference that one second, Congressman.

JEFFRIES: You don't have to reference it.

The president asked you to...

LEWANDOWSKI: Did you say page 90, Congressman?

JEFFRIES: The president asked you to -- reclaiming my time. The president asked you to record a message from him on June 19, because he wanted to hide his message from eventual disclosure.

Isn't that right?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

JEFFRIES: OK.

But you never delivered the message to Jeff Sessions after that June 19 meeting. True?

LEWANDOWSKI: That's accurate.

JEFFRIES: Instead, you testified that you went on vacation, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: I did.

JEFFRIES: How long was your vacation, Mr. Lewandowski.

LEWANDOWSKI: Oh, it was lengthy, I think at least two weeks.

JEFFRIES: At least two weeks.

But you were summoned again to the White House on July 19, 30 days after the original June 19 meeting. True?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe that's accurate, yes.

JEFFRIES: So you weren't on vacation the entire time, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Oh, I didn't say I was on vacation the entire time. I was on vacation for two weeks, Congressman.

JEFFRIES: Right, but you still failed to deliver the message, and it had nothing to do at least impart to your so-called vacation.

Now, the July 19 meeting occurred just a few days after new information came to light about Russian operatives meeting with high- level Trump campaign officials. When you're summoned to the White House after that July 19 meeting, by that time, you still hadn't delivered the message to Jeff Sessions.

You said to the president you would do it soon, according to volume two, page 93, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: If that's what the report says, that's accurate.

JEFFRIES: OK.

LEWANDOWSKI: President Trump also asked you to the deliver a message to Attorney General Sessions that, if he didn't do what was requested, he would be fired, correct? Volume two, page 93.

LEWANDOWSKI: I think that's what was reported, yes.

JEFFRIES: OK. President Trump wanted you to intimidate Attorney General Sessions, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, you would have to ask President Trump that.

JEFFRIES: OK.

Now, you stated earlier today that President Trump asked you to take down dictation -- quote -- "many times." Is that correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: It is.

JEFFRIES: But on page 91, volume two of the Mueller reported, it states -- quote -- "The president then asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to Sessions and said -- quote -- 'Write this down' -- close quote. This was the first time the president had asked Lewandowski to take direct dictation," the first time.

LEWANDOWSKI: Those are not my words, Congressman,. Those are the investigators' word.

JEFFRIES: Right. Did you lie to Bob Mueller or are you lying to us?

LEWANDOWSKI: I didn't lie.

JEFFRIES: OK. You're not really here to tell the truth. You are here to participate in a continuing cover-up.

Russia interfered with this election in sweeping and systematic fashion. The Trump campaign welcomed that assistance at the highest level. There was subsequent acts of obstruction of justice with respect to the investigation.

The American people deserve to know the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER: The gentleman yields back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that was 19 seconds over, to help you, Mr. Chairman.

NADLER: The gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank, Mr. Chairman.

BALDWIN: All right, quick break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:24:15]

BALDWIN: All right, and we're back to the House Judiciary hearing.

This is Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in the hot seat.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): ... went on vacation.

And also during that time, there was public reporting about the Trump Tower meeting, correct? This is on page 92.

LEWANDOWSKI: If it's in the report, I believe it to be accurate.

CICILLINE: On July 19, when the president for a second time asked you to deliver the message to Sessions, you said -- and I quote -- "The message would be delivered soon," page 93. Correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Page 93?

CICILLINE: But you didn't. You didn't call Jeff Sessions. You didn't try to meet with him. So the president asked you twice in the Oval Office to deliver a secret message to the attorney general of the United States, a message that you quickly wrote down word for word, at the president's direction, correct, sir?

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LEWANDOWSKI: I believe I wrote it down.

CICILLINE: And when you worked for the president during his campaign, did you ever ignore or disobey directions from candidate Trump?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, I didn't believe it to be an order.

CICILLINE: Just to be clear, although you were not working for the president in any capacity, you wanted to give the president the impression that you were going to follow his orders, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

CICILLINE: Well, you said, I'm going to take care of it.

LEWANDOWSKI: Is that referenced in the report?

CICILLINE: Did you tell the president you were going to deliver the message? LEWANDOWSKI: I can't comment on private conversations. The president

has reserved executive privilege.

(CROSSTALK)

CICILLINE: I'm sorry.

LEWANDOWSKI: I can read you the exact statement again, if you would like me to.

I said, the White House has directed that I not disclose the substance of any discussions with the president or his advisers to protect executive privilege confidentiality.

(CROSSTALK)

CICILLINE: Reclaiming my time. You're not going to stonewall me and my questioning.

LEWANDOWSKI: Would you like me to answer your question?

CICILLINE: Your head must have been spinning.

You're hearing the president the United States in the Oval Office. He's directing you to deliver a message to the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, which you understood would effectively end the ongoing investigation into this president and his campaign.

So you told the president that the message would be delivered soon. But then -- this is on page 93 -- you immediately -- following the meeting with the president, you gave Dearborn the message the president had dictated to be delivered to Sessions, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe that's what the report says.

CICILLINE: And you didn't tell the president that you had already asked Dearborn to deliver the message. You just said it would be delivered soon. This is on page 92. Correct?

It's on page 92.

You didn't want to tell the president that you were passing off his message to someone else, did you? You knew he wanted you, someone he had described as his enforcer, a loyal soldier, to do it, because the president trusted you, isn't that right?

LEWANDOWSKI: That's a question for the president, sir.

CICILLINE: Then -- well, why didn't you then deliver the message to Mr. Dearborn -- to Jeff Sessions directly? Why did you give it to Mr. Dearborn to do?

LEWANDOWSKI: I think I have testified I was out of town.

CICILLINE: For two weeks.

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, sir. I don't live in town, Congressman, unlike you. Unlike you, sir, I don't live in town.

(CROSSTALK)

CICILLINE: During your second meeting in the Oval Office, the president told you that, if Sessions wouldn't meet with you, to tell him he was fired.

Did you, Mr. Lewandowski, ever threaten the attorney general that if he didn't meet with you, he would be fired?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

CICILLINE: Did you tell Mr. Dearborn to tell Sessions that he would be fired if he didn't take this meeting, as the president directed?

LEWANDOWSKI: Congressman, the White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any discussion with the president or his advisers to protect executive branch confidentiality.

CICILLINE: The reason you didn't tell the president that was because you know that it was wrong.

And the president -- isn't that correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

CICILLINE: Well, the president wasn't aware that you ignored his directive to tell Jeff Sessions he was fired if he didn't meet with you, was he?

LEWANDOWSKI: I'm sorry. What was the question?

CICILLINE: I'll move on.

In fact, to prove to the attorney general that the threat was real, four days later, on July 22, the president directed Priebus, his chief of staff, to obtain Sessions' resignation. That is on the slide in front of you.

The president told Priebus that he had to get Sessions to resign immediately. Did you know that?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

CICILLINE: This evidence as a whole strongly suggests that the president was reinforcing to Sessions that his job was on the line, at the same time as the president believed you were delivering the message to end the investigation into the 2016 campaign.

All of this made everyone very uncomfortable, including Mr. Dearborn, which is on page 93. And he told you that he was uncomfortable being a message -- a messenger to Sessions, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: No.

CICILLINE: Well, were you aware when you asked Rick Dearborn to deliver this message to the attorney general on behalf of the president of the United States, it created the same legal culpability for you as if you delivered the message yourself?

Are you aware of that?

LEWANDOWSKI: Congressman, the president didn't ask me to do anything illegal and he never asked me to keep anything a secret.

CICILLINE: Are you aware that when you asked Mr. Dearborn to deliver this message to end the investigation and just focus on future investigations, you thought you were protecting yourself, but you were in fact committing a crime?

Rick Dearborn knew delivering the message was wrong. You knew it was wrong. That's why, even after being asked to deliver it and saying you would handle it soon, you passed it off to him, and you never followed up.

And guess what? I also think it's very, very wrong. In fact, I think the president asking a private citizen to try to scare his attorney general into ending the investigation into the president's conduct is obstruction of justice, plain and simple.

I yield back.

NADLER: The time of the gentleman has expired.

The witness may answer the question.

BALDWIN: All right, we're going to take a quick break.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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