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Key Testimony Expected from Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine; Men Tied to Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine Efforts Arrested; Interview with Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) about Impeachment Inquiry. Wildfires Explode Across Los Angeles; CNN Gets Access to U.S. Base in Syria Near Frontlines. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:08]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good Friday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

President Trump once called her bad news. Now the major question this morning, will he let her testify to Congress as part of its impeachment inquiry. The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a respected diplomat of many decades, as of right now expected to arrive on Capitol Hill at any moment. But will she be blocked like the E.U. ambassador was at the last minute?

HARLOW: Her testimony could be especially intriguing due to the way that Yovanovitch was treated by the White House. Forced from her post early, then attacked by Rudy Giuliani and his allies and the president for an alleged Trump bias. We'll see if she's going to talk.

We're also following new developments about the president's personal lawyer and his two close associates who were arrested holding one-way tickets out of the country. Two Soviet-born men arrested just before boarding a plane to Europe were indicted on charges of illegally funneling money into donations to Republican campaigns. Those two are central figures also in Rudy Giuliani's efforts to dig up dirt on President Trump's political rival Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: Of course their tickets to Europe were one-way tickets notably. Now Congress wants to talk to them. The president denies knowing them despite pictures with him and his son that say otherwise.

So much to get to. Let's begin with CNN's Lauren Fox. She's on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, so we're down to the wire here now. If she is not blocked, she would be the second official interviewed as part of the impeachment inquiry and a central witness to this investigation.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jim. And I will tell you that right now aides and members are operating under the assumption that she will show up. I just saw Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, just a few minutes ago. He didn't answer my questions about whether or not he still expected her to be here but the fact that he's here, members and aides are operating under the assumption that she will show up. Of course we will let you know if she's ultimately blocked at the last minute like Gordon Sondland was earlier this week.

But obviously Democrats have a lot of questions for her about what she knew about the hold-up of that Ukrainian military aid as well as any other foreign policy issues that were going on in the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. What she knows about Rudy Giuliani's role in the foreign relations department when it came to Ukraine. All of that is expected to be key topics that Democrats want to talk to her about later this morning.

HARLOW: Well, one interesting development just this morning as well, Lauren, is that Sondland is now going to talk. He was subpoenaed. The former U.N. ambassador. And it sounds like he's going to appear I think next Wednesday. Is that right?

FOX: That's right. So October 17th, he will appear on Capitol Hill. He says he's going to comply with that subpoena. And that comes, of course, just days after ultimately, he was blocked when he was going to come voluntarily. So a big week up next week on Capitol Hill. Fiona Hill will come testify on Monday before these committees. She was a former top adviser to the president on Russia. So a very big week ahead next week.

It just shows you the break-neck pace for which Democrats are moving forward with their impeachment inquiry -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Lauren Fox, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

In just a few minutes, I guess we'll know, Jim, if she's going to testify.

SCIUTTO: We will. And a change.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: It would be by the administration. Connected to all of this, this morning we are learning that the reason why a top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is resigning. The source telling CNN that Michael McKinley resigned from his post because of concerns over silence in the top ranks of the State Department specifically. The lack of a defense of the former Ambassador Yovanovitch. That source said that McKinley had been considering resigning for weeks.

Now with more on the two men indicted on charges of illegally funneling foreign money into GOP campaign donations, let's go to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

I mean, this is really a remarkable story, is it not, Jessica, of foreign money going directly to a U.S. candidate for office in exchange, it seems, for a favor.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. A lot of funneling of money here, Jim, like you said. Foreign money as well. And really the dramatic arrests of Rudy Giuliani's two associates. It is still sending shockwaves through Washington, all amid these questions about how this arrest, how these two men will play into the impeachment inquiry.

So Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, they could be key in all this especially because Rudy Giuliani has said that these men helped him dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine and that they introduced Giuliani to current and former Ukrainian officials.

Plus, this indictment alleges that they asked a former U.S. congressman, who we know to be Pete Sessions, for help getting Marie Yovanovitch fired, which of course she eventually was in May. Interestingly, Rudy Giuliani now saying he was planning to fly to Vienna, Austria on Thursday night. That was the same city where those two associates were headed with one-way tickets before federal prosecutors in New York got wind of their plans and then the FBI moved in quickly to Dulles Airport just outside D.C. to make those arrests.

[09:05:06]

You know, you saw that they are now charged with funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. And that includes more than $300,000 to a Trump aligned super PAC. That PAC we have learned has since said that it has separated the money. It has not been used.

The men also in this indictment allegedly saying that they received $1 million from an unknown Russian national. That was used to funnel money to state political candidates. And, of course, now the questions are swirling in regard to Rudy Giuliani. You know, top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer saying that Giuliani needs to testify before Congress, especially since he's now clearly connected to these two men.

And interestingly, we've also learned that Giuliani's financial dealings with the two men are under scrutiny by the fed. So how this pertains and what we saw in court yesterday, we did see Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, they made their initial appearance in Virginia federal court. They are now being held on $1 million bond.

But of course, Jim and Poppy, they will ultimately be extradited to New York where they actually face those charges in the Southern District of New York and Manhattan -- guys.

SCIUTTO: Listen, the brazenness of all this, how direct that foreign money was coming into U.S. politics, just remarkable.

Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Joining us now to talk about this, Congressman Denny Heck, Democrat of Washington, of course a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Heck, thank you for being here.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): You're welcome. HARLOW: So you are, as I understand, planning to question Marie

Yovanovitch in just short order. You still think she's going to show up?

HECK: In just a few minutes I'll head down to what we call the bunker, Poppy, which is the secured compartmentalized information facility in which all Intel Committee deliberations are held. I do expect her to show up. Every indication is that she will.

HARLOW: So, let's see if that happens and the process plays out. What do you want to hear from her? Meaning, what are the key questions you'd like to ask her specifically about her time in Ukraine and of course, Congressman, how it ended.

HECK: Well, frankly, at the risk of sounding like I'm channeling Senator Baker from the Watergate era --

HARLOW: Yes.

HECK: -- I would like to know what she knew and when she knew it. But, you know, Poppy, it was hardly a week ago when we were all being asked, what else do we need to learn? Don't we have enough information with the record of the call the president engaged in when he said, I need you to do us a favor, though. When he betrayed us. What else did we need to learn? And of course in that ensuing week, we've learned a lot. We saw the Volker texts, and now we've seen the two associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested.

So, the answer to your question is, that's why we have them in. That's why we depose them. That's why we ask them questions to learn more that we didn't know ahead of time.

HARLOW: OK. So stand by. Let's see if that actually happens. Moving on to the issue of impeachment. You've been calling for the president's impeachment since July 28th in the wake of the mueller report in his testimony. But at this point, one of the key questions is whether or not House Democrats will actually take a formal vote on an impeachment inquiry. Do you think they should?

HECK: A formal vote is not required in the Constitution, in federal law or in the House rules. Let us remind ourselves of that.

HARLOW: But do you think they should, even despite requirements or not?

HECK: Poppy, I think that the president has put that line of thinking out in order to distract us from his underlying crime, that is soliciting foreign assistance from a foreign national government which is a clear violation of federal law. It matters not to me whether a vote is taken or not. The committees themselves still have the same authority with or without that vote.

So, frankly, Poppy, listen, do you think there is a single human being on the face of the planet who believes that the president will stop obstructing if that vote is taken? That is an (INAUDIBLE). HARLOW: Yes. Here's why I ask. And I hear your argument, but let me

get your take on this because it's not just the White House or the president calling for this or that letter sent to Democratic leadership this week. It's also some of your fellow Democrats in Congress. Listen to Congressman John Garamendi of California who we had on just earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): It's time for us to put a vote on the floor. A resolution for the inquiry structured in such a way that it can move forward with full power of the Congress behind it. I think that's probably going to come in the next week or so.

HARLOW: What tells you that?

GARAMENDI: Well, the letter from the White House. Absolutely. They want a fight. OK. Then let us arm ourselves completely and totally with the full power of Congress. The votes, I'm sure, are there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: He said it would arm you more. Is he wrong?

HECK: Well, of course, I love John. He's a dear friend of mine. But the fact of the matter is, as I indicated earlier, Poppy, there isn't one additional lever or one additional power that any of the committees will have if that vote is taken. In fact, we're spending our time talking about this, not the fact that the president violated federal law.

[09:10:01]

Not the fact that he betrayed his oath of office. Not the fact that he has compromised our national security by his behavior. So, if we take the vote, I'm fine. If we don't take the vote, all the committees have the same powers they would had we taken the vote.

HARLOW: Except it would also help set rules. For example, Republicans arguing that they should have subpoena power. Do you think that they should?

HECK: OK. If we want to get into the weeds, I'll go there with you, Poppy. The reason that these votes taken by the full House were taken historically is because that was the manner in which committees were given subpoena power. But when the Republicans were in the majority, they changed the House rules to give committees --

HARLOW: In 2015.

HECK: To give committees subpoena power.

HARLOW: So, your point is this is unnecessary. This is a distraction?

HECK: Yes. Pure and simple. HARLOW: So, as you wait for this testimony from Marie Yovanovitch and

you wait for the testimony that is supposed to come next week, are you encouraged by the fact that former -- you know, that Ambassador Sondland is going to appear on Thursday due to the subpoena?

HECK: Generally speaking, Poppy, I'm encouraged that evidently an increasing number of people are willing to come forward and to speak truth to power. We have a personal adviser to Secretary of State Pompeo resigned basically in protest over this. We have the second whistleblower come forward. Now we have the information about Ambassador Sondland being willing to come forward.

I think there is a steady drumbeat that is increasing in its loudness, frankly, and in its breadth and depth. And I'm encouraged by that. I've said all along that there were patriots throughout the administration that are deeply bothered by this illegal behavior and are increasingly willing to speak up. So you bet I'm encouraged by it.

HARLOW: Congressman Denny Heck, we know you have a very busy morning with this coming up. Thanks for taking the time before that.

HECK: You're welcome.

HARLOW: We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: He's about to hear some important testimony.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: This morning another story we're following. Firefighters are scrambling to save homes in the Los Angeles area. This after an explosive wildfire skipped two freeways racing towards neighborhoods. It is one of several fires right now burning in southern California.

The mayor has now issued some mandatory evacuations as dry conditions and ferocious gust winds continue to fan the flames. More than 15 million people across the region are under red flag warnings.

Nick Watt, he is live in L.A. with the latest.

You know, Nick, you're right there on top of this. You know, key question, how fast are these moving and can people get out of the way to safety?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim ridiculously fast. This fire ignited about 9:00 p.m. last night. Within three hours it was 1600 acres. Last estimate we got, 4600 acres. And we have seen it moving at pace ever since then. You can see behind me we're in this valley in Porter Ranch. The fire has moved down here in the past 20 minutes, and it is just burning, burning, sending embers into the sky. Carried by those gusts of winds. Igniting hot spots further down the valley.

Now you mentioned the people getting out. There are mandatory evacuations. People have been streaming down this road. But, Jim, part of the problem was that this fire started late at night. By the time those mandatory evacuations were issued, many people were in bed. So some people were having to go around their neighborhoods knocking on doors telling people to get out. But the conditions here are just perfect, unfortunately, for a wildfire.

Very low humidity, the Santa Ana winds that we get this time of year that blow offshore, and this is what's burning. Very, very dry undergrowth. Now they have here in California since last year have teams dedicated just to cutting this stuff back but still there is so much fuel here and there are also so many people who live here, Jim.

And the police are telling them, authorities telling them to get out as these 450 firefighters try to get a handle on these flames. It's still not yet sunrise. When the sun does come up, we may get a better indication of just how many homes have been lost. We ourselves have seen many burned to the ground -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Listen, and if folks are watching this from out on the West Coast, listen to those warnings and get to safety.

Nick Watt on the story, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Wow. Incredible.

All right, still to come, we are watching Capitol Hill, of course, for the arrival of former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Her testimony expected to be key in all of this. We'll bring you her arrival as soon as she gets there.

Plus, for the most part, Republicans have been silent on President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president. Could that be about to change? We will talk to someone who is challenging the president for the Republican nomination. Former South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, is here.

SCIUTTO: And covering this story in the way only CNN can. We're going to take you inside an American base in northern Syria. This as the Turkish military invades the region. That invasion entering its third day.

[09:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: In just a few minutes, the former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is expected to testify to Congress' part of its impeachment inquiry. But will the White House block her testimony at the last minute like they did earlier this week with the EU ambassador.

SCIUTTO: Just minutes away, we're going to know very soon. Let's discuss now with Sabrina Siddiqui; she's national politics reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", Alex Burns; national political correspondent for the "New York Times" and Renato Mariotti; former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst.

[09:20:00] Renato, if I could begin with you. So if Ambassador Yovanovitch goes forward today, if we believe that Ambassador Sondland based on his statement to CNN just moments ago that he'll testify next week, plus, you have Fiona Hill who used to run Russia policy in the NSC for this White House.

Their testimony, does that give house Democrats enough evidence to complete that end of this inquiry here? I mean, do they need more testimony beyond that?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They'd like to have more, but given the tight schedule that they say that they're on -- I mean, we've had lawmakers say that they want to get this done by the holidays. I think they're going to take that evidence and move forward. That gets them the story around Ukraine and, frankly, the president's own statements and the transcripts that was released, the rough transcript, the read-out, that's sufficient to prove what the president did. So, I suspect that's going to be enough.

SCIUTTO: That's pretty remarkable to imagine, you know, what that --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Testimony, move forward on that timeline.

HARLOW: Alex, politically-speaking, you have some reporting and you know that the Giuliani developments, especially what we've seen in the last 24 hours have rattled Republicans more than anything else this week. How so?

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think when you look at the last couple of weeks, Republicans are clearly in a pretty tight political box where they're not really comfortable criticizing what President Trump has definitely done and what he is alleged to have done.

And they're also not really fully comfortable defending it either. So, they have been moving into this space where they are essentially trying to, for the most part, this is not true of all Republicans, but for the most part, trying to side-step the substance of these --

HARLOW: Right --

BURNS: Of these investigations and just talk about Democratic partisanship. It is very difficult to describe what happened yesterday in the Southern District as a result of partisanship of any kind, let alone Democratic partisanship. And it is a reminder to a lot of folks who are inclined to defend the president as a general matter, but wary of it under these specific conditions that they really have no idea what the overall total scope of these issues is going to be.

SCIUTTO: Sabrina, I've got to shake my head at that. You know, that phenomenon, because here you have the most direct evidence you could imagine of foreign interference in a U.S. election. Foreign money routed to a U.S. political candidate. It appears in exchange for a favor getting rid of this ambassador who is about to testify.

I mean, that's a remarkable thing, is it not, for even supporters of the president or other GOP lawmakers to stay silent on?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think Republicans and the president's supporters are wrestling with the fact that what separates this investigation from, for example, the Mueller investigation is the president's conduct is very much out in the open.

There's no doubt that the president did, in fact, ask his counterpart in Ukraine to investigate his own political opponent. That's something that the president has already acknowledged and, obviously, there's a summary of the call that the White House has itself released. You've since seen testimony, text messages that were released to Congress by Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine showing individuals who are acting on the president's behalf, suggesting that a meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky was contingent upon the Ukrainians launching an investigation.

So, it's really difficult for Republicans to defend the president on this substance. And that's why what you see them doing is trying to go after the process and accusing Democrats of a witch-hunt and just trying to go after the way in which some of these complaints have become public knowledge.

I don't know how long they're going to be able to stay within that line of reasoning because you have these very uncomfortable clips now doing the rounds of vulnerable Republican Senators like Cory Gardner in Colorado, like Joni Ernst in Iowa really not even being able to respond to the basic question of whether or not it's appropriate for the president to seek foreign interference in investigating his --

HARLOW: Yes --

SIDDIQUI: Political rival. So, they're certainly feeling a great deal of pressure, and I think as more and more individuals testify on Capitol Hill, we'll see if some of these Republicans who have concerns do, in fact, break with the president.

HARLOW: So, let's listen to that Cory Gardner sound for a moment because I think it exemplifies what you just laid out. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the question is, is it appropriate for a president to --

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): Look, I think we are going to have an investigation --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To ask a foreign governor to --

GARDNER: And it's a nonpartisan investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To investigate -- but, senator, it's a yes or no question --

GARDNER: It's a nonpartisan investigation -- it's an answer that you get.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it OK for you to ask a foreign rival to --

GARDNER: You know what I've said before. You know what I've said before --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it OK --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're not answering the question -- we want to hear from you. You're a smart guy, you know the debate.

GARDNER: This is about the politics of the moment. That's why they're trying to do this now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Alex Burns, yikes.

BURNS: Yes, yikes is right. And that is sort of -- I think you see there the real basic impotence of these process arguments when you're being asked in a persistent way by a group of reporters a pretty simple, straightforward yes or no question.

[09:25:00]

There's no reason outside of political strategy why a senator as smart as Cory Gardner couldn't just answer that question. And look --

HARLOW: Yes --

BURNS: We all know, Republicans all know that if they were in the privacy of their own homes talking to their friends, they all think it's inappropriate to solicit foreign help in an election. That's why you see them in public when they're afraid to antagonize the president especially someone like Cory Gardner who could face a competitive primary in Colorado.

It's why they end up in these hair-splitting, really excruciating arguments about whether the democratic investigation is proceeding exactly according to the procedure that they would prefer or whether, as Cory Gardner said in a sort of longer section of that clip, this is all about going after senators in states like North Carolina and Arizona and Colorado.

This stuff sounds really esoteric to voters when they're watching a clip of a senator getting asked a pretty straightforward question like --

HARLOW: Yes --

BURNS: Is it appropriate to solicit help from a foreign government in an American election? SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, the difference between public and private

comments is -- I mean, you could call that the definition of political cowardice, right? I mean, it's -- and we're seeing a lot of that lately. Renato, from a legal standpoint and an impeachment standard standpoint here, you know, there was a lot of debate during the Clinton impeachment whether his behavior rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

When you look at this as a lawyer and what we know about the president's participation in this, and frankly, what we don't know about in terms of his pressure on Ukraine, can you make a judgment as to whether it approaches that standard of high crimes and misdemeanors?

MARIOTTI: Well, it's certainly close to the core of what the framers were concerned about. You know, the framers of the constitution, the founders of this country were very concerned about foreign interference. So, you'll see a lot of other provisions in the constitution that are focused on keeping foreign influence outside of our government.

And so, this is really the core of what the framers thought impeachment was about. Now, obviously, whether or not that meets the standard here, I'm sure senators are going to make that political judgment. But this is certainly compared -- when you compare it, for example to the last time there was an impeachment, this is more to the core of what the concern was regarding potential presidential wrongdoing.

HARLOW: Sabrina, looking ahead, Bill Taylor, the U.S. diplomat, top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine has now been asked to testify. Of course, he is the one who said -- and I'm paraphrasing here, it's crazy, right, to trade sort of, you know, a political investigation for defense funding for Ukraine. He went out of his way to put that on the record by writing it in text messages --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HARLOW: Which is when Sondland replied, you know, call me and you're getting it wrong, and that's not how this is working. How significant is it that lawmakers get that testimony from him?

SIDDIQUI: It's incredibly significant. I think you are seeing now Democrats appearing to have at least some more success in getting some of these key witnesses to appear on Capitol Hill. We're still waiting of course, to hear from Marie Yovanovitch, and it appears that George Sondland himself who made his preference clear to have these conversations over the phone and who appeared to be advocating on the part of the president with respect to his pressure campaign in Ukraine is going to testify next week.

Now, I don't know to what extent any of these witnesses are going to turn over documents. That's something that some of their attorneys have said they're going to defer to the State Department on in terms of guidance. But it's really important for Democrats to piece together this puzzle because as we mentioned, the substance of the allegations, they feel they've already confirmed by the president's own public statements by what the White House has put out in terms of the transcript of the call.

They now want to get a clearer picture of what this pressure campaign on Ukraine entailed in terms of withholding aid. And the conversations between career diplomats and others in the administration with respect to concerns that they were trying to exert for U.S. foreign policy for political gain.

Who all had knowledge of this effort and who may have been involved in efforts to withhold it from the American public and from --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SIDDIQUI: Members of Congress.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, just to put a marker there. Here we are, you know, three weeks ago, impeachment seemed a long distant and unlikely possibility. Here we are talking about, you know, a vote and possibly having the -- at least the testimony -- Democrats believe they need to proceed to a vote. Remarkable, it's moving quickly. Sabrina Siddiqui, Alex Burns, Renato Mariotti, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, the GOP has stayed mostly silent as we were saying, as a flood of headlines have emerged over the past week from the White House. But one outgoing Republican congressman says that he's heartbroken over the president's latest move on Syria.

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