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Key Witnesses to Testify This Week in Impeachment Inquiry; Fake Video Shows Trump Shooting Media Critics. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 14, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A disturbing meme video of a fake President Trump shooting, assaulting and members of the media and his critics was shown to pro-Trump conference last week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A huge week on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, we're going to see the former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testify.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump released the entire transcript of this phone call, because there was no quid pro quo. The haters are going to hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There clearly was a strong arm. The result is the president will be impeached.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, October 14, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. John Avlon joins me.

It's a holiday for some people. Not for us.


CAMEROTA: It's a very busy morning, because we're following two major stories.

First, Congress returns from a two-week recess today, and Democrats plan to running with their impeachment inquiry. In just a few hours, the president's former top Russia advisor, Fiona Hill, will testify behind closed doors.

Hill is just the first witness this week. On Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., will testify. At least, he's scheduled to at the moment. According to "the Washington Post," he is expected to tell lawmakers there was a quid pro quo involved with the Ukraine investigation, though he did not believe it to be a corrupt one.

And there is much more happening this morning.

AVLON: That's right. New overnight, "The New York Times" obtained a disturbing and extremely violent video shown at a conference by a pro- Trump group at President Trump's Miami golf resort last week.

It shows a fake President Trump's head edited onto the body of a man opening fire in a, quote, "Church of Fake News" shooting, assaulting and stabbing critics and the media.

A spokesman for President Trump's reelection campaign told the "Times" he did not know anything about that video; and that video was not produced by the campaign, and the campaign does not condone violence.

But CNN is calling on the president to denounce the video in the strongest possible terms. We'll have much on that in a moment.

But let's start first with Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill. What's the latest?


Of course, House Democrats really jumping into it, full steam ahead. The impeachment inquiry, it is a full-packed schedule this week with key witnesses and key testimony. Those players who are going to be playing a serious role in all of this.

This at the same time that all members of Congress are now headed back to Washington after getting an earful from their constituents.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Even with President Trump vowing to stonewall the impeachment inquiry --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never thought I'd see or hear that word with regard to me. Impeachment.

MALVEAUX: Some past and present members of his administration are planning to appear before Congress.

This morning, former White House official Fiona Hill is expected to testify behind closed doors after receiving a subpoena. She will join former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, two Trump officials who have already testified. House Democrats hoping Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, will do the same Thursday, responding to a subpoena after the State Department blocked his scheduled hearing last week.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: If he's going to tell the truth, he's going to be under oath. He'll know that if he lies, there are other people that are privy to much of what will be said. MALVEAUX: Sondland in the spotlight after House Democrats released

text messages between him and other diplomats. In one exchange, senior U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor writing, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Sondland replying over four hours later, "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear. No quid pro quos of any kind."

According to "The Washington Post," Sondland will tell Congress the phrase "no quid pro quo" came directly from President Trump in a phone call. But Sondland doesn't know if Trump was telling the truth, according to a source familiar with Sondland's planned testimony.

The president repeating his claim in the weeks since the Ukraine drama unfolded.

TRUMP: The whistle-blower said "quid pro quo" eight times. It was a little off. No times.

There was no quid pro quo.

There was never any quid pro quo.

MALVEAUX: Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin calling the quid pro quo argument a fairy tale.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R): The fact that we are tearing the country in half, trying to bring down a sitting president, I have a problem with that.

MALVEAUX: House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff says he has problems, too, but with Trump's alleged conduct.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It is clear already, I think, from the text messages that this meeting that the Ukraine president sought was being conditioned on their willingness to interfere in the U.S. election to help the president.


MALVEAUX: House Democrats have also sent a letter to Giuliani associate Sam Kislin. He is a Ukrainian-born businessman who used to work for Giuliani when he was mayor. Now, they want to know what his role was in investigating the Bidens. But there is no indication that he's actually going to show up today to actually testify.

Also, the whistle-blower may not testify, as well. Chairman Schiff saying that the best evidence for the whistle-blower's case really is the record of that phone calm. So they may not need the whistle- blower to come forward -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Those are interesting developments. Thank you very much, Suzanne.

So we need to talk more about that very vile and violent video of this mass shooting that was shown at one of President Trump's resorts last week. It's a depiction. It's not real video. But it certainly has a very real message. Why would his supporters celebrate that?


AVLON: That's a good question.

CAMEROTA: We'll be right back.


AVLON: Breaking overnight, "The New York Times" obtained a disturbing and extremely violent video shown at a conference by a pro-Trump group at President Trump's Miami golf resort last week.


It shows a fake President Trump's head edited onto the body of a man opening fire in a, quote, "Church of Fake News shooting," assaulting and stabbing critics and the media.

CNN's Brian Stelter is here with more. Brian, tell us.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: This is a disturbing example of the so-called meme wars, these kinds of videos, in this case pro-Trump videos all over YouTube.

This particular video was created more than a year ago, but became very notable last week when it was shown at this right-wing conference in Florida. We know Donald Trump Jr. was there. We know that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was there. They say they didn't see the video, but others did.

It is disturbing, as you said. It is something filled with violence. It's a parody of a movie called "The Kingsmen," where it has President Trump's face digitally superimposed on top of the actual actor's face, showing him committing horrible acts of violence.

And it is something that I think has horrified a lot of people because of the bigger context of what's going on in this country with regards to violence.

So let's take a look at what we know about the video. We're obviously not going to be showing it, but it is up there. It's on the Internet. It's on YouTube.

CNN released a strong statement overnight, challenging President Trump to say something about this. Here's part of the statement. It goes -- it begins by saying, "Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the president have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining. But it is, by far and away, the worst. The images depicted are vile and horrific. The president and his family, the White House and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately and in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone." And we know the Trump campaign did tell "The New York Times" that they

didn't know about this video, didn't make this video, and it doesn't condone violence.

I did email press secretary Stephanie Grisham overnight. She has not responded to the request for comment. And I do wonder if the president will denounce this. That's the easy and right thing to do. Or if he will just let it go, let it slide as he sometimes does. Again, giving tacit permission to his supporters.

The reason why this matters is there's been a permission structure set up for -- for some Americans to not just hate, not just detest the news media, not just hate Democrats. But to dehumanize them and suggest that violence is somehow OK.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And by the way, as we know, hateful rhetoric leads to violence. We've seen it time and again with the -- Cesar Sayoc, the guy in the van that was festooned with all of the pro-Trump stickers who sent bombs to CNN and elsewhere.

But just to be clear, we can't show this video because it is so disgusting and so vile. But we can -- and I don't even recommend that you look at it, because it's so sickening. But we can tell you that it's President Trump -- it's a depiction of President Trump engaged in a mass shooting, a massacre in a church.

STELTER: By the way, over the weekend there was a shooting at a church in New Hampshire. These are not jokes. Mass shootings in America are not jokes.

CAMEROTA: Of course, they're not.

STELTER: And yet, these are the kinds of videos that tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of views online.

CAMEROTA: At the Tree of Life Synagogue, the perpetrator of that used the same violent language that we have heard from the White House. He said he liked it. We know there's a connection between these violent and acts in houses of worship.

AVLON: That's right. And Joe -- I want to bring in Joe Lockhart, CNN contributor, to discuss this. Because there's always a danger of normalization.

We see this rising tide of violence of rhetoric against the media. But to see a president's supporters put forward a video, a doctored video, obviously, that as the CNN statement said, apparently is designed to entertain them and is labelled as parody.

But it shows violent acts against the president's political opponents. Republicans, as well as Democrats, we should add. Like John McCain, in particular, the late John McCain.

STELTER: There's a lot of different politics. AVLON: And of course members of the media, including CNN. Joe, has there been anything remotely like this in American political history? Or is this something truly new and therefore, newly dangerous?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is something truly new. I mean, we -- it's -- we haven't had the Internet for that long a time if you're going over the sweep of history. And that's what allows this information to be distributed widely.

But we've never had -- we've had presidents who have denounced the media. We've had every president in the history of the country who's at times wanted to denounce them and probably had thoughts in their head about what they'd like to do.

STELTER: But kept them inside their head. Right.

LOCKHART: But kept them inside their head. And this isn't a case where some over-enthusiastic supporter did something. This -- this is Nixonian in the sense that the campaign was sanctioning dirty tricks like Nixon did.

Here the president's not blameless. He has retweeted these memes. He has retweeted memes with, you know, things hitting CNN -- CNN reporters in the head, you know, that some think are funny. But again, they're not funny.

And what really struck me from this video was the idea that this all happened in a church. The president -- the -- probably the biggest part of his base are church goers, evangelicals. And they are now making fun of someone coming in and committing vicious murders in a church.

And I just wonder -- again, I don't know what the president will do. Frankly, I don't care what the president does. He's already lost his credibility on this. I wonder what their reaction will be. People who went to church yesterday who are going to wake up this morning and see that the president and his people think it's funny to commit violence in a church.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, this was shown at President Trump's club.

STELTER: Yes, I left that out. I should have mentioned.

CAMEROTA: There is a connection. This was shown last week at this conference of the Doral Country Club, the president's club, and Don Jr. --

STELTER: You know what the conference organizers say. They say, well, it was in a side room. They say people didn't see it. But those are all the kinds of excuses. You're still --

CAMEROTA: Why would you show it if people didn't see it?

STELTER: -- showing it at the conference. It's still -- it's till in this environment. CAMEROTA: And Don Jr. and Sarah Sanders, and sitting members of

Congress who support the president were there. And so you -- everybody has to come out and denounce it, obviously.

STELTER: I mean, the point is that President Trump is responsible, ultimately, for the kind of climate that allows this kind of hostility and hatred toward journalists and Democrats. He is ultimately the one responsible.

AVLON: All right. We'll leave it there for now. Much more coming up.

CAMEROTA: All right. Coming up in our next hour, we'll speak with Maggie Haberman. She's one of the reporters who broke this story in "The New York Times" about this sickening video. Who saw it, how many people? We'll get more details from Maggie.

AVLON: That's right. And coming up, new details about this week's testimony from the ambassador at the center of the impeachment inquiry. What he's expected to tell lawmakers. That's up next.



AVLON: In just a few hours, the president's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, is set to testify on Capitol Hill. Now, she's the first of a number of witnesses who are going to testify this week, including Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., whose text messages about Ukraine are central to the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Joe Lockhart's back with us. Also joining us, Elaina Plott, White House correspondent for "The Atlantic" and CNN political analyst.

It's good to have you both with us. Joe, let's start with you. This has been a testimony that, really, a lot of Democrats have been looking at, because Ambassador Sondland is at the center of this. And what he's expected to testify to is a little -- a little odd.

Let's throw up a SOT from -- quote "The Washington Post." "Sondland is expected to say that for months before the September 9 message, he worked at the direction of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, to secure what he would call in another text message as the deliverable sought by Trump: a public statement from Ukraine that it would investigate corruption, including mentioning Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, by name. In exchange for the statement, the president would grant Ukraine's new president a coveted White House audience. 'It was quid pro quo, but not a corrupt one'" is what he's expected to say.

How do you parse that? A quid pro quo but not a corrupt one.

LOCKHART: It's impossible to parse that one. Because it was a quid pro quo designed to get dirt or, more accurately, manufacture dirt on Joe Biden and his family, a political opponent. So that is full stop, you can't.

I think the Democrats -- this is -- this is an important week. And it started on Friday. And I really think that Ambassador Yovanovitch going in and testifying sent a message to everyone else that you can go in, the president can't stop you. They've been very effective up until now in keeping anyone inside the tent from going up to one of these.

CAMEROTA: But they did stop Gordon Sondland. I mean, when you said the president can't stop you, last week they did stop Gordon Sondland.

LOCKHART: They did stop.

CAMEROTA: And then he was subpoenaed.

LOCKHART: And then he was subpoenaed, and they -- this White House has resisted numerous subpoenas. There are subpoenas out to the White House counsel, Don McGahn, you know, in the Mueller report and many others. His deputy.

But Yovanovitch proved that you can go in, that you don't need the president's permission. And now -- again, the Democrats have what they need already to promote an article of impeachment. But now they're filling in the blanks of who else was involved.

And they're -- they're going to focus like a laser on the five-hour time period between when Bill Taylor was talking to Gordon Sondland on the phone, how often and what got talked about in the Sondland/Donald Trump, the president, the center of this, and then how did they come to the place where Sondland was saying, let's -- let's take this offline. Let's take this offline. There's no quid pro quo.

But let's not talk about it on text. That's -- that is going to be a rich, rich vein to mine this week.

CAMEROTA: Elaina, in terms of who else is involved, we know that there are these two guys, Soviet-born associates, long-time associates of Rudy Giuliani. And you happened to meet with them. You happened to catch them on audio tape.

Tell us a little bit more about that meeting and what they said.

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Alisyn. So this was back in March when I was meeting with Giuliani, because the results of the Mueller probe were actually imminent.

And I wanted to talk with the president's personal attorney about what he expected that report to say and how his team was prepared to respond to the allegations therein if at all.

At that meeting, it just so happened that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, these associates of Giuliani, were also present. These are people who Giuliani told me at that meeting he had known for two years that he had gotten to know at a variety of political functions on behalf of the Republican Party and on behalf of Trump.


So, you know, listening to that recording from that meeting, Alisyn, was really fascinating to me to sort of document and show that Giuliani has known these people for quite some time now. He's been involved with them for a while.

So going forward, you know, lest he try in sort of a Trumpian manner to distance himself from them and say that, you know, his work with them, you know, was pretty recent, was temporary. That's not -- that's absolutely not the case. And that will also become important.

AVLON: Let me just -- let me just jump in here, because I agree it's going to be difficult to distance. But what do you make of the reporting that's come out, subsequently, that Rudy Giuliani himself is allegedly under investigation by the Southern District of New York.

PLOTT: Right. Well, again, documenting how his ties to these two individuals have gone back quite a few years at this point, it's important in showing that he might, in fact, have ties to these campaign finance violations that Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas have been indicted with.

But at this point, we don't know exactly what he knew about their attempts to funnel Russian money into Donald Trump's presidential campaign. But by documenting the extent of their relationship, details like that could surface.

CAMEROTA: And Elaina, as you've said, it's also just an object lesson for the rest of us, never delete your tapes.

PLOTT: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Because you never know what you might unearth from the past on those tapes as you did. Thanks so much for sharing your reporting with us.

Joe, thank you very much.

PLOTT: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: So as Turkey launched an attack in northern Syria, the commander of the Kurdish forces there has a stark warning for the U.S. You are leaving us to be slaughtered, he says. CNN's exclusive new reporting, next.