Return to Transcripts main page


Analysis of Key Allegations from The Whistleblower Proven True; NBA Commissioner Speaks Out and Support Rockets General Manager on Free Speech; Ellen DeGeneres Defends Friendship with George W. Bush; Judge Defends Giving Ex-Cop a Hug and Bible After Murder Trial. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 8, 2019 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: CNN's Tom Foreman is with me now with a CNN analysis of what we know. Hey, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Brooke, let's just take a look at five of the complaints from the whistleblower here. The first one, the key one being that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. Specifically, going after one of the President's mown domestic political rivals, Joe Biden, and his son who did some business with Ukrainians.

We now we know that the whistleblower said that, and from the transcript of the President's call, yes, the President's talking about Biden's son here and Biden and saying, yes, whatever you can do to look into that, that would be great. So first complaint, that checks out.

Let's look at the second complaint from the whistleblower here. One of the second ones here. The President pressured Mr. Zelensky to assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election originated in Ukraine. This sounds a little bit convoluted. But basically what's being pushed here is this conspiracy theory that it wasn't the Russians who interfered with the 2016 election. It was a plot that started in Ukraine and it wasn't to help Donald Trump. It was to help Hillary Clinton. That's what the complaint is saying. This was being pushed out there.

And yes, look at what the President talks about, I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. And he mentions this CrowdStrike, which is one of the key groups and words that come up in this conspiracy theory. So second complaint checks out.

Third complaint from the whistleblower here. Senior White House officials had intervened to lock down all the records of the phone call especially the official word-for-word transcript moving it to a classified computer normally used for classified state secrets. The White House has admitted, yes, that happened. And CNN has subsequently found out the same was done for some phone calls with Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Fourth complaint. If you go beyond that, the Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, U.S. Ambassadors, reportedly provided advice to Ukrainians on how to navigate the demands of ends to navigate the demands of the President. The idea that he wanted something on Joe Biden in exchange for his support in some way. Well, when you read some of these transcripts that have later came out particularly from Volker, you do find out that there was a lot of talk here about, OK, so this what you need to do, Ukrainians. This is what you need to do to satisfy what the President wants before you can get a one-on-one meeting with the White House, that sort of thing.

And beyond that, here's the fifth one, the one of the really big ones there. They stated explicitly in this interagency meeting 23rd of July and the 26th that there were instructions to suspend military assistance to Ukraine and that these had come directly from the President, but they were still unaware of a policy rationale. The White House, the President himself, has said, yes. I put a hold on the aid to Ukraine, but he has given different reasons. He said that it was partially because they were worried about a corrupt government and then he was worried that Europe wasn't giving enough to this although Europe gives a tremendous amount to this.

The bottom line is, when you look at this, Brooke, even though the President and his Republican allies have said this whistleblower cannot be trusted, you cannot put up with this, one after another, the things the whistleblower has raised have been checked out and they have proven to be true.

BALDWIN: Thank you for lining all of that up and for providing those facts, Tom Foreman, good to see you. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, the NBA commissioner now says he is willing to deal with the consequences if people in the league speak out in favor of those protests in Hong Kong. How this whole thing between the league and China shows us the difficulties of doing business in a communist country.



BALDWIN: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is defending American free speech and retreating from the league's initial apology for this controversial tweet by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey. Morey had tweeted about the political protest over in Hong Kong with the quote, fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong. He quickly deleted it and Morey's tweet so upset China and now the communist nation is refusing to air two of the NBA preseason games set to take place there this week. Today the NBA Commissioner is not backing down, he said the league is quote, an American-based company whose mores and values travel with them.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression. I regret, again, having communicated directly with many friends in China that so many people are upset including millions and millions of our fans. I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech, and, you know, we will have to live with those consequences.


BALDWIN: Here is what China is saying to us here at CNN. It is not going to work if you want to have exchanges and cooperation with China but don't understand Chinese public opinion.

CNN political commentator, Catherine Rampell is a columnist for the "Washington Post." Good to see you. Just first out of the gate, I mean I guess eventually Adam Silver and the league got there, right, 24 hours later?


BALDWIN: Maybe, what do you say how he's handled it?


RAMPELL: Well, it does seem like their having trouble figuring out how to handle this, initially. Right, on the one hand, initially, their response, their public response did seemed to be apologizing for one of the NBA General Managers. Saying something that was relatively anodyne in the context of American discourse --

BALDWIN: But not for China.

RAMPELL: But not for China. And if you look at the statements that the NBA put out in English versus in Chinese. Actually the Chinese one was much harsher in a sense than the English one. Now the NBA says that that was not deliberate. That that was just a translation issue. Who knows? But basically the English one said it was regrettable. The Chinese on Weibo, basically Twitter like site said it was an inappropriate comment, something to that effect.

And now, of course, after they got a backlash here back in the United States, maybe that did something to appease the Chinese. We don't know. But after they got a backlash here you see the Commissioner saying, no, no, no, no. We weren't actually apologizing. We would never apologize. We would never censor our own employees. So they kind of can't have it both ways. They can't appease both audiences.

BALDWIN: What is the general understanding? If you're a U.S. business doing business with a communist country like China? What's that understanding?

RAMPELL: Well, there are a lot of compromises that American companies have had to make in order to have access to that market. Some of those compromises are financial or economic. They have to do with giving up intellectual property, some of them have to do with freedom of expression, of other politically sensitive issues. You have a number of companies like Marriott, Cathay Pacific Airlines. I'm trying to remember some of the banks have gotten either in trouble for explicitly referring to places like Taiwan as a separate country or have instructed employees not to do so. So there is some sensitivities there that they basically are not going to fly here in the United States but have become a condition of doing business in what is an enormous market.

BALDWIN: You add to all this the fact President Trump is restarting trade talks with China this week. We have CNN reporting that the President told China he would stay quiet on the Hong Kong protests as they try to reach a deal. How will all of this factor into those talks?

RAMPELL: I'm not sure if that the NBA kerfuffle if you want to call it that will necessarily factor into the U.S./Chinese trade talks. Who knows.? I mean Trump has a way of dragging in all sorts of issues that are not necessarily supposed to be the focus of whatever is at hand. But you could imagine that there will be greater scrutiny of how United States leadership handles these kinds of politically sensitive questions going forward, and what we as a country are willing to sacrifice in the name of, for example, cutting a trade deal.

You know, just as the NBA has to figure out how much is it worth for them to keep access to those 800 million NBA fans in China? Are they willing to sacrifice their commitment to social justice and other things they have avowed support for?

U.S. government leadership, political leadership has to decide, are we going to stand up for the same American values that we have stood up for over the years with regard to human rights, with regard to liberal democratic values like freedom of expression or are we going to toss those by the wayside in the name of selling more soybeans to China?

BALDWIN: I am just so interested to see in the coming days what these American players, right? So many stand so strong for social issues here in American but when they're asked about all of this over in China as they are playing, how they respond to that. I know we'll be covering it. Catherine, thank you very much.

Back to our breaking news this afternoon. House Democrats plan to subpoena that ambassador who defended Trump in his dealings with Ukraine. This after the White House blocked his testimony to Congress just this morning.

Plus, Ellen DeGeneres responds to the backlash she has received from sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a football game over the weekend and it is something we all probably all need to hear right now.



BALDWIN: Ellen DeGeneres is friends with former President George W. Bush. So what, she says. Many were surprised to see the comedienne and talk show host sitting next to the former President at Sunday's Dallas Cowboys game. It caused quite the uproar on the twitters, but Ellen says she will not be twitter-shamed.


ELLEN DEGENERES, COMEDIENNE AND TALK SHOW HOST: People were upset, they thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican President, didn't even notice I'm holding brand new iPhone 11. And -- but a lot of people were mad and they did what people do when they're mad. They tweet and but here's one tweet I loved. This person says, Ellen and George Bush together, makes me have faith in America again.


And -- exactly! Here's the thing. I'm friends with George Bush. In fact, friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs that I have. We're all different and I think that we've forgotten that's OK we're all different. For instance, I wish people wouldn't wear fur. I don't like it but I'm friends with people who wear fur and I'm friends with people who are furry, as a matter of fact. I have friends who should tweeze more and I have -- but just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean I'm not going to be friends with them.


When I say be kind to one another I don't mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.


BALDWIN: CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel is with me now. I know, we could we just have a moment for Ellen DeGeneres. Like, thank you.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Breaking news. This when we have breaking news. I don't go on Twitter very often but when I saw that, I tweeted it and I said this is perfect. Because I think especially in the time, right now when everyone is so polarized, to have civility, to have someone talk about kindness is just so important. And actually I worked in Washington, D.C. most of my career, it's not that unusual. It's just we don't expect it anymore.

BALDWIN: Yes. We should all have friends who don't look like us, don't espouse the same beliefs, all of those things. You have a reaction from the President himself?

GANGEL: Yes. Yes. We reached out to President Bush and his chief of staff, Freddy Ford, immediately -- you know Freddy.

BALDWIN: I know Freddy.

GANGEL: Said, President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia, and they appreciated Ellen's comments about respecting one another. They respect her. BALDWIN: And just going back in the archive of photos of President

Bush with the Michelle Obama moment, was it the hug or the mint passing? We have a couple of photos and videos to share. I mean --

GANGEL: Right. So I --

BALDWIN: Hillary Clinton.

GANGEL: There is a real romance between President Bush and Michelle. They get along very well. He gave her a cough drop I think it was at something. Bono, at every concert Bono begins by doing a shout out to President Bush because of his work in Africa. We have pictures, there is a hug. It's not as unusual as people think. I like to -- I'm sure other people have said this, but the very liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to say about really the person she called her best buddy on the court, Justice Scalia, you don't -- I'm going to get it wrong. You don't need to be disagreeable to disagree. Wait a minute. You can disagree without being disagreeable. And I think we all need to remember that.

BALDWIN: Yes, read that. I had breakfast with Stacey Abrams a couple of weeks ago and she said to me, people don't realize that one of my best friends is a white Republican. There you go. So Jamie Gangel, thank you very much.

Coming up next, CNN sits down with the judge who sparked a major controversy after she hugged a former Dallas police officer convicted of murder and hear how she explained that emotional moment in her courtroom.



BALDWIN: In Texas the judge in the Amber Guyger murder trial is defending her Decision to give a hug and Bible to the former Dallas police officer

convicted of murder for killing her neighbor. You remember, Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean who was unarmed while he was sitting in his own apartment, an apartment Guyger says she mistook as her own.


JUDGE TAMMY KEMP, PRESIDED OVER AMBER GUYGER TRIAL: You can have mine. I have three or four more at home. This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month.


BALDWIN: The judge's actions came under quick criticism with one group calling for a judicial misconduct investigation but here is what the Judge Tammy Kemp just told CNN's Ed Lavandera about that moment.


KEMP: She asked me, she said do you think my life could still have a purpose? And I said I know it can. And she said, well do you think God will forgive me? I said I know he will. And she said, well I don't even have a Bible. I don't have a Bible. I don't know where to begin. And that's when I went and retrieved my Bible. And gave it to her. And told her, will you can begin here at John 3:16 and we read that together. And then I said now read it again, and when you get to the point of whosoever, you put your name in there so you'll know God did this for you.

And she said could I have a hug. I just kind of froze. And I kind of thought about my responsibilities as a person. I just heard a sermon on treating the loss with love and compassion. And ironically, I was standing in a spot where I had been standing when I was inducted as a judge in this courtroom. And I remembered that one of the charges that I was given was to do just -- to love, mercy and to walk humbly. So I was like, and she asked me again and I said of course, of course. And so we got up and she hugged me and I hugged her back.


BALDWIN: How incredible to hear from the judge like that. Ed Lavandera, thank you for that.

And also, we have learned that Amber Guyger will be serving her sentence at Mountain View Prison in Texas, that is the same facility where the woman who killed Grammy award winning singer, Salina, is housed.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.