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Men Tied to Giuliani's Ukraine Efforts Arrested Trying to Leave U.S.; Wildfires Explode Across Los Angeles, Thousands Ordered to Leave. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- scheme to get foreigners to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. The two men were charged, indicted, for illegally funneling foreign money into donations to Republican campaigns. According to a 21-page indictment, there were also part of push to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Now, that ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to speak to Congress in two hours. This is all coming together in one really crazy story. Now, it's unclear whether the president will try to block his testimony this morning as he did earlier this week with another State Department official. We're waiting for word on that every minute that passes.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We also have new details about that July 25th phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president and the quid pro quo allegations in the whistleblower complaint or even just the request for a favor. "The Washington Post" reports at least four national security officials were so alarmed by that phone call, by the president's attempts to pressure the Ukrainian president for political purposes, that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer before and after the president's call. "The Post" also says it was political appointees in the White House budget office who intervened to freeze that military aid to Ukraine.

So just a lot to talk about. Let's bring in Susan Glasser, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and CNN global affairs analyst, and David Gregory, political analyst. David, it's just -- it's so jaw-dropping to watch these two guys. Let's start with the guys who have now been arrested and charged. They were trying to head to Frankfurt last night, and they were grabbed at the airport. Here's a picture of them with their buddy, Rudy Giuliani. There's no other way to explain how these guys have socialized with him. There's pictures of them. They've been together now for years. And they are now charged with this laundry list of things from campaign finance violations, because they're trying to funnel foreign money into these U.S. elections, and accused of also being involved in this whole Ukraine scandal to dig up dirt.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The tangled web of Rudy Giuliani. This is really what the story is. Somebody who wanted to be secretary of state, was passed over, but ended up getting his own pass passport to have carte blanche within the administration, within the White House, and overseas, with one purpose, to dig up dirt on the president's opponents, to pursue his agenda. And it appears he's been doing that for months with the president's approval, whether direct or tacit.

And this just raises more questions about who and what was actually involved in trying to dig up dirt from Ukraine on the Bidens in anticipation of the 2020 election. It also runs counter, of course, to the president's primary defense, which is that the call with Zelensky of Ukraine was because President Trump wanted to root out corruption in Ukraine. That's what he's been so concerned about, when this all looks so corrupt. So the investigation continues and gets even more interesting.

BERMAN: Susan, I want to get back to this in just a second, the Giuliani web here. But you were in the middle of what I think is a pretty important development over the last 24 hours in terms of who is speaking out in which ways now. You are interviewing H.R. McMaster, former national security adviser, general, and I want to play this exchange where you asked him whether or not he thought that what the president did, and we saw him do in that transcript with the president of Ukraine, was right or wrong. So let's listen to that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it is appropriate for the president of the United States to solicit foreign interference in our political process? Thank you.

H.R. MCMASTER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Of course, no. No, it's absolutely not. And, of course, what has to happen here is seeing our democracy play out, the separation of powers play out, and for the American people, through their representatives and the representatives in Congress to make a judgment as to whether or not that happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The two things that jumped out at me were the "of course, no," and then when he suggested the process should play out. That seemed as if he was saying, this impeachment process, let's let it go.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's right. That was my interpretation as well. And in particular, the "of course," leapt out to me. This should not be complicated. And I think in the end that's what's so astonishing about this moment of time in Washington is that you have Republicans contorting themselves in many cases because the president has made impeachment an existential threat. It is an existential threat potentially to him. And so they are not even allowed to say the sky is blue if the sky is blue. And you have this crazy gotcha game now.

What's interesting is that H.R. McMaster is the second of what is now four Donald Trump national security advisers. The turnover has been breathtaking inside his White House.

[08:05:03] And yet, interestingly, and I think notably, very few of these former officials, even very senior officials who have their own independent standing, have chosen to speak out. Many of them perhaps are background sources for stories, but they have not been public figures telling us what they know about the president's volatile temperament and character, what they might know that would shed light on this alarming fact situation that's emerging not only with Ukraine but more broadly with the shadow foreign policy being run by Trump and Giuliani.

And McMaster is one of them, too, by the way. He has not taken a course of aggressively speaking out. So I thought he spoke with crispness and clarity and said essentially what is a simple truth. He doesn't know the facts of the situation. Just saying, yes, of course it's wrong.

GREGORY: Can I just add, I think there was one point and at the end of McMaster's answer to Susan's question that is an invitation for this inquiry, saying that, of course it would be wrong to interfere, or to request an interference, if that's what happened. So he raises the question, we know what the call was based on this partial transcript. We know what it appears to be. What more is there to the story? That's what this investigation is about.

And you raise a specter of national security officials being so alarmed by this call, and of course why would they put it on a secret server? John Bolton would be a very interesting person to talk to, the former national security adviser, to get to the bottom of this. But the point is there's so much more to learn about what else was behind this conversation and this effort to enlist the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.

CAMEROTA: And that leads us to President Trump. As we know and have seen time and again and experts and analysts have seen and illustrated, the president, when he's accused of something, projects. He projects and he accuses other people of the thing that he's being accused of. And so last night with all of this in the ether about Rudy Giuliani globetrotting around the world, trying to dig up dirt, the president at his rally did an interesting riff on Hunter Biden. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where's Hunter? Hey, fellas, I have an idea for a new t-shirt. I love the cops, but let's do another t-shirt. Where's Hunter? Where is he?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Where's Hunter? OK. So where is Hunter? I want to see Hunter asked these questions. Hunter, you know nothing about energy, you know nothing about China, you know nothing about anything, frankly. Hunter, you're a loser.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: There were some mumbling there so it was hard to follow along with the train of thought, but the "you know nothing about energy, you know nothing about China," we're talking about Ukraine. But, in any event, the former vice president Joe Biden responded to this last night. He put out a tweet. He says, "I spent my night at the HRC forum talking about the fundamental respect every human being deserves. You spent yours," he's talking to the president, "showing how little respect you have for anyone else. America is much stronger than your weakness." David, your thoughts?

GREGORY: Well, it's striking that the playbook for President Trump is remarkably consistent. What he did to Hillary Clinton was to hammer away at this idea of corruption, and where's the emails, taking a weakness of hers, a credibility issue for her, and making it so much bigger. And that's what he's done. It's quite clear that he feels the primary threat from Joe Biden, and he will stop at nothing apparently. There are no limits to how he'll seek to destroy him or his son.

And in the process of all of this hyperbole are some questions that Biden will have to answer out of all of this. Just because there's no evidence of wrongdoing, they raise the question about why Hunter Biden was paid so much money to be on an energy company in Ukraine when his father was vice president. That's going to be uncomfortable for Joe Biden, and that's the heat, with all this other garbage around it, that the president wants to turn up.

BERMAN: Yes, of course Democrats will say when are the questions coming about how Ivanka Trump got patents from China while she was working in --

GREGORY: Right, but those questions have come. Those have been raised.

BERMAN: I understand. I understand. It's just the corruption that he's alleging there is -- there's not just no evidence of it. There's evidence to the contrary when it comes to the idea of corruption.

Susan, and it's also clear the president is trying to deflect and distract. I want to put up the screen P-101 here, the who's who in the Ukraine case right now in regards to these two arrests that happened yesterday with Rudy Giuliani. If we can put that up. There we go.

[08:10:02]

So, you see Rudy Giuliani there. The two men to the right there are the two guys who were arrested yesterday. There's the president of the United States, and over there on the right is the former ambassador to Ukraine who is scheduled to testify in less than two hours right now. The four people on the left, they all have one thing in common. They wanted her out of her job. The four people on the left, they all have one thing in common. They were trying to get Joe Biden investigated by Ukraine. Now the charges that were filed yesterday aren't exactly about that, but there are connections to it. GLASSER: Well, that's right. I think it's very significant that you

put Ambassador Yovanovitch up there in that graphic, and the reason why is that, to me, it's a breathtaking aspect of this unfolding scandal, and we still don't know a lot of information, that Giuliani teamed up with this pair, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and what we know was part of their agenda, apparently acting on the behest of Ukrainian officials from the former government of Petro Poroshenko. Their agenda was to get this pesky U.S. ambassador who was bothering them about too much corruption in the Ukrainian government, to get her out. And they tried. They went to a congressman. I believe that was former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions in the summer of 2018. He then produced a letter complaining about Ambassador Yovanovitch. Then at some point they teamed up with Giuliani, and who executed their plan.

But the president of the United States, we know that President Trump is the one who ordered Ambassador Yovanovitch to be forced out of her position. So he is carrying out their mission, essentially, of getting rid of the U.S. ambassador. I find that to be an extraordinary aspect of this unfolding story and very significant.

So I'm interested to see whether she's allowed by the State Department to testify this morning. I think she's an important witness. And again, remember, the career of a foreign service official who has been an ambassador in multiple countries, she's not political. And she gets trapped essentially in this unfolding mess that the president is directly involved in.

BERMAN: Again, we are waiting to see what happens there. Developing as we speak. Susan Glasser, David Gregory, great to have you on this morning. Thank you both so much for being here.

We've had legal analysts on this morning suggesting one thing -- Rudy Giuliani better hire a lawyer. What kind of trouble is the former New York City mayor in, and what exactly is his role now in this increasing international web? Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:50]

BERMAN: All kinds of new developments in the impeachment inquiry.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports that Rudy Giuliani, he was having lunch with these two guys who ended up being arrested. He lunched with them at the Trump Hotel in Washington just before they were nabbed at the airport about to leave the country.

Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were taken to the custody at Dulles Airport. They were on their way to Vienna, where Elaina Plott of "The Atlantic" reported that Giuliani was also planning to travel basically at the same time.

What does this all mean for Giuliani?

Let's get insight from CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers, and also CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, who worked for Giuliani in different capacities. So, we have a legal and a personal view of this.

I want to start with the legal side here. What kind of trouble is Rudy Giuliani in this morning?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know yet, but I think he's sweating bullets because his two close associates in the whole Ukraine scandal are now arrested on other charges that appear to be unrelated to Giuliani. But they're now going to be looking at their situation and thinking, what can I do to get myself out of this or make it less bad than it is. It's a felony offense, a five-year statutory maximum prison term. So, they're going to maybe be looking to cooperate and make a deal and then have to give up what they know about other things, most notably, the Ukraine scandal.

BERMAN: Not related to Giuliani so far, but not completely unrelated to what's going on in this broad impeachment umbrella because these two guys were involved with investigating Joe Biden. Now, again, that isn't charged here but one of the things that's mentioned in the indictment is their work to get rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. And we know that Giuliani wanted that and the president wanted that.

RODGERS: That's right. Factually, it's all intertwined, but the charges -- the criminal charges facing Parnas and Fruman don't seem to involve Giuliani. I don't think he's expecting to be arrested on those charges but, yes, of course, he's concerned because of the other inquiries going on.

BERMAN: So, John, Maggie Haberman was on a little while ago, and she was saying people close to Giuliani have been worried for a long time about his connection to these two characters.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's fair and accurate. Look, there's a terrible irony here in that somebody who came to prominence as a crime fighter, somebody who was tough on corruption has fallen with folks who seem like transparent thugs. I mean, these two guys have a company that's literally called fraud guarantee --

BERMAN: Because corruption inc. wasn't available.

AVLON: Exactly right, so you can't make that stuff up. And I think what's concerning and sort of certainly painful for many of us who those of White House worked with him even if we disagreed with him politically and respect deeply the job he did in New York City is that he is not showing anything remotely like the judgment we saw working with him closely. In fact, he's exhibiting the opposite.

He may have always had a weakness for characters, but these are transparently self-evidently bad characters. And now, they stumbled into something with massive geopolitical implications. And it's a tragedy.

Rudy's always loved opera. Opera sometimes end in tragedy. I'm concerned that's where we're headed here. BERMAN: Perhaps, and again, but these are two guys he has chosen to

work with.

AVLON: Yes.

BERMAN: Again, I just want to make this --

AVLON: There's culpability. That's explanation, not exoneration.

BERMAN: I totally get it, and I'm just trying to make the case so that the audience understands here. When this news came out that they were arrested, most people's reaction was, oh, my, these aren't bit players in everything that's happening right now.

[08:20:06]

These are the guys who were in Ukraine trying to stir up the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden.

AVLON: That's exactly right, and I think two things are really important. First of all, who -- they may have been acting on Giuliani's behest and with the president's knowledge, but what other agendas were they being motivated, because in this little conservative ecosystem, this hot house media bubble where articles, conspiracy theories percolate because they really resonate with confirmation bias, these cats are not, you know, anything resembling professionals.

They seem to be just Ukrainian thugs pursuing an agenda, an interest that may or may not have dovetailed with what Rudy thought he was getting involved in. But it's also an example of how these conspiracy theories percolate, ending up distorting people's judgment.

BERMAN: So, Giuliani needs a lawyer. The question now, Jennifer, is, what does the president need as it connects to all of this? He was making the case yesterday, even though there are photos of him and his children with these people, he barely knows them. Maybe that's true. Presidents and their kids take pictures with a lot of people.

But it really seemed like he was trying to separate himself from Rudy Giuliani yesterday. I want to play you back-to-back the sound of the president sort of distancing himself from Rudy Giuliani and compare it to some other distancing we've seen before. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. No. What else?

REPORTER: Why did Michael Cohen Make this if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen, Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael.

I don't know how he knows these people. REPORTER: They're his clients.

TRUMP: What?

REPORTER: They're his clients.

TRUMP: OK, well, then they're clients. I mean, you know, he's got a lot of clients. So, I just know. I haven't spoken to Rudy about it. I don't know.

I don't know those gentlemen. Now, it's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do.

But I don't know. Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You'd have to ask Rudy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I don't know, but Rudy does. Rudy sure knows him and I'm not sure how much I know Rudy Giuliani anymore it seemed to be what the president was saying there.

RODGERS: Yes, of course. I mean, this is what he did with Michael Cohen. This is what he does. Oh, Michael Cohen is a great guy until he's a liar and the worst guy in the world and we may see the same development with Rudy.

But the president should be worried. I mean, to the extent that Southern District of New York is going to go after the potential crimes in this Ukrainian scandal and maybe ensnare Rudy Giuliani. The president is right there.

AVLON: Rudy, of course, ran the southern district. The fact that Trump is singing from the same script means that's the sound of the bus backing up. And there's something terrible about the potential that Rudy Giuliani, who has really lit his legacy on fire in service of a president who he was never close with particularly in the past, and who stands for a lot of the things he opposed politically in the past. That he may be thrown under the bus not just by the president but enthusiastically by the State Department who are going to scapegoat him and blame it all on Rudy, when I've got a feeling the conversation around conspiracy theories and trying to flip the script and influence the next election go a lot deeper and a lot higher than Rudy Giuliani freelancing.

BERMAN: We'll see. And we may find out more at 10:00 if the former U.S. ambassador is allowed to testify.

John Avlon and Jennifer Rodgers, thank you both for being here.

CAMEROTA: OK. John, we have to get back to one of our top stories and that's these wildfires that are raging out of control in southern California. This was sparked overnight. A big emergency is unfolding at this hour with more than 1,200 residents now forced out of their homes. We have all the breaking details from the scene, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:08]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: We're seeing terrifying images now from California. The breaking news is these wildfires that have exploded across the southern part of this state. There have been evacuations for thousands in the Los Angeles area.

Our Nick Watt has been on the ground all morning long in Porter Ranch all morning long.

Nick, we hope you are safe where you are. Please tell us what you're seeing.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are, John, but we just got a firsthand look at the speed with which this fire is moving. We tried to drive up into the subdivisions higher in the hills in Porter Ranch, and we had to turn around. We had fire on both sides of the road. And what -- I can't even find a word to describe, just thousands upon thousands of embers bouncing along the road, flying through the air. You could see them hit. You could hear -- see the spot fires ignite.

This fire is moving extremely quickly, and in front of those embers, hundreds of people in cars evacuating this area.

Jordan, if you just push in now, this you can see right now is the hillside by the golf course here in Porter Ranch. This is how the fire is moving down in off these hills. Pushed by these Santa Ana winds which we're told are going to continue into this afternoon. So, firefighters are going to have to deal with these horrific, gusty conditions all day. Hopefully later today they will die down and some respite.

But, you know, as we have said already, this fire up to 4,600 acres and counting. Listen, that was the last estimate they gave us. We have seen it with our own eyes moving faster and faster. You can see the cars. People leaving Porter Ranch, trying to get out.

A lot of people are just leaving the irrigation systems on in their house in their yards hoping for the best. But this is not looking like a good situation right now, John.

CAMEROTA: No, I'll take it, Nick. It's not a good situation. We know how quickly those things can spread and even jump the freeway, et cetera. So, please be careful. Thank you very much for your reporting from there all morning for us.

WATT: Yes.

CAMEROTA: OK. Now to this story, Ronan Farrow's --

[08:30:00]