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Ex-Adviser on Russia Testified About Wrongdoing in Ukraine Efforts; Hunter Biden Speaks Out on Ukraine Controversy; President Trump Imposes Sanctions on Turkey Over Syria Offensive; Pentagon Scrambles to Safely Withdraw U.S. Troops from Syria; New Polls Show Warren and Biden Lead Democrats Ahead of CNN Debate. Aired 9:00-9:30a ET
Aired October 15, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good Tuesday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
Just minutes from now, another key witness testifies in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, and it will happen as we learn stunning new details this morning about what Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia adviser, told lawmakers. Hill said that she was, quote, "alarmed" by what she called wrongdoing in the White House and its dealings with Ukraine, and that she tried to report those doings.
HARLOW: Also, a source tells CNN this morning that Hill said that Trump's former National Security adviser John Bolton shared those concerns, and not only that, and I quote, "Hill testified that Bolton referred to Rudy Giuliani," Trump's personal attorney, as a hand grenade who was, quote, "going to blow everybody up."
Well, next hour, George Kent will be on Capitol Hill. He's a career diplomat. He oversees U.S. policy toward Ukraine and several other European countries. He will be testifying in this ongoing impeachment inquiry that the White House calls invalid.
SCIUTTO: And days after the president baited Hunter Biden, tweeting, "Where is Hunter?", Joe Biden's son responds, telling ABC News his only mistake was putting himself in a situation that could be used by others to hurt his father. That interview likely giving fuel to the Trump campaign and Biden's rivals in tonight's CNN Democratic debate.
Let's begin on Capitol Hill this morning with CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox.
This is a big day of testimony.
LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, another big day of testimony up here on Capitol Hill, Jim. And I will tell you, it is kicking off a busy week on the Hill. Members back today and in a few minutes, we expect that Kent will arrive on Capitol Hill where he will give closed-door testimony to members of those three committees. And he's not the only one expected this week.
We had Fiona Hill yesterday. Tomorrow, we expect Michael McKinley. He's the former adviser to Mike Pompeo, the secretary of State. He resigned last week citing personal reasons. We also expect Gordon Sondland on Thursday. Highly anticipated deposition happening again behind closed doors with those three committees. So a very busy week up here on Capitol Hill and members will be back this afternoon.
SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, on the Hill, thanks very much.
Joining us now to talk about this, CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser, staff writer for the "New Yorker," and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, former federal and state prosecutor.
You know, Susan, you look at what's coming out in this testimony, the headlines so far, of folks who served very closely with this president in the administration and had firsthand knowledge of the interactions with Ukraine. And it just strikes me that it corroborates, does it not, the whistleblower's complaint throughout about genuine concerns about this president using influence to force Ukraine to investigate Biden?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. You know, the evidence that's so far become public has tended to reinforce that complaint and also to add new details. I think, you know, the timeline is not just purely around the president's decision to withhold hundreds of millions in military aid at the same time he's pressuring but it goes back months earlier when Rudy Giuliani, his personal envoy, is intervening in American foreign policy and launching a crusade to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine fired because she's in his way. And what's remarkable is that the president himself personally did that.
I thought that potential news and revelations coming from Fiona Hill's testimony, as reported last night, are pretty striking. They take this inside the White House. She's the first White House -- former White House official to testify. And I think it's very significant what she's saying. Remember, Rudy Giuliani wasn't just acting on his own. He was acting at the behest of the president.
HARLOW: Again, to Susan's point, Elie, I mean, hearing from Fiona Hill and the reporting that we just laid out about her, 10 hours of closed-door testimony, the fact that she has no so-called ax to grind as you point out and is not a partisan or a loyalist, and was the president's former top adviser on all things Russia, and said all of these things, how significant is that ahead of Sondland's testimony who also -- who actually -- who is a Trump loyalist and again would have no ax to grind with the president?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's so important because it's all going to come down to credibility. You're going to have one group of people saying one thing, Fiona Hill, the Ambassador Yovanovitch, and then you're going to have another group of people, Sondland, Mulvaney, potentially, Rudy Giuliani trying to I think circle the wagons for the president. So --
HARLOW: I don't know. Not given the "Washington Post" reporting on Sondland yesterday.
HONIG: Yes, Sondland -- right. Sondland could -- it's ambiguous what he's going to say. It could cut both ways. But everyone who has something damaging to say about the president or the administration is going to get attacked. Let's be clear about that. And you look at Fiona Hill. How do you really attack someone like this? She's a career diplomat. She's not political. She's not partisan. Her testimony matches up with the other things that we already know.
So that kind of witness is someone who a prosecutor or an investigator looks at as gold.
SCIUTTO: Susan, you know, as you look at the sum total of this, it strikes me that in effect, practically, foreign help, foreign interference or seeking foreign help in a campaign has already been normalized. Has it not? And I know it's a subject of an impeachment inquiry. But the 2020 election has already started. We're in the midst of --
HARLOW: I mean, it's a great point.
SCIUTTO: We're about to go to primaries. We're in the midst of debates. And Ukraine is reopening an investigation into Burisma, this company that Hunter Biden served on, et cetera, which was the request of the Trump administration. It just strikes me that even as we have all this kind of sound and fury around it, it's happening before our eyes.
GLASSER: Well, that's right. There's a reason presumably that President Trump continues to talk about it, continues to talk about Hunter Biden. If his goal was to get us to discuss the Bidens and not his own failings, he has achieved that to a certain extent. As always with President Trump, you know, there's a sort of burn the village to save it quality to some of his political maneuvering.
But, you know, the bottom line is that he has gotten a large amount of public discussion about the Bidens and their business dealings taking the scrutiny and the heat off of him, off of his children.
Another point I wanted to make just quickly about this unfolding investigation, what we're learning so far. A lot of attention understandably to Fiona's revelations about John Bolton and how he ordered her, was concerned about this and ordered her to go to the White House lawyers. I was struck by another passage in her testimony, as reported by the "Times," where she was wondering why is the ambassador to the E.U., this wealthy donor to Donald Trump, intervening and meddling in Ukraine policy.
GLASSER: She's supposed to be in charge. And the professionals are supposed to be in charge and she confronts Sondland about it in the White House in July. And she says, who put you in charge of Ukraine? And he tells her, the president. HARLOW: Right. That's a very, very important point and you can bet
he's going to be asked all about that when he testifies on Thursday.
Elie, there were these letters that we've now learned about. Our Gloria Borger was able to obtain them. Back and forth between Fiona Hill's attorneys and the White House. That they tried to exert executive privilege. Her attorneys wrote back and let me read the part that struck me. Quote, "The deliberative process privilege," quote, "disappears," her lawyers write, "altogether when there is any reason to believe that government misconduct occurred."
The response to that from the White House was, this is an invalid impeachment inquiry anyways.
HONIG: Yes, so get used to seeing this back and forth because there are all sorts of privileges. We've already seen and heard the White House invoking executive privilege. Absolute immunity. This deliberative process privilege, which protect communications, unless they are criminal or there's wrongdoing. Right? And we're going to see this time and again. And when you have someone in -- a credible person, I believe, like Fiona Hill and her attorney saying there was wrongdoing here, A, you're going to pierce through that privilege and B, it's going to be really damaging testimony.
And this whole idea of it being an invalid impeachment inquiry is just made up. There's no legal requirement that the whole House vote.
SCIUTTO: And this is an issue, it came up during the Mueller investigation as well, right?
SCIUTTO: Broad claims of executive privilege which kind of worked, though, did it not?
HONIG: Well --
SCIUTTO: I mean, in terms of stifling the investigation, even though, I mean --
SCIUTTO: The law states it can't cover up wrongdoing.
HONIG: It worked as a slow play. It never worked in courts on the merits, right?
SCIUTTO: Yes, but practically, that works.
HONIG: Well, that's exactly what Congress has to watch out for now.
SCIUTTO: Right? Yes.
HONIG: And Adam Schiff cannot get slow-played -- cannot get slow- played the same way that Jerry Nadler did.
HARLOW: Right. So on top of all of this, Susan, you've got the "Wall Street Journal's" reporting this morning that advances a bit what the "Times" broke last week. And that is that the SDNY, obviously which Giuliani used to head, ironically, is digging deep on the money trail, following the money that may be connected to Rudy Giuliani and his associates, having to do with Ukraine. What does that tell you?
GLASSER: Well, that's right. I saw this morning Giuliani is apparently now saying that he received $500,000 from one of these associates. What was the money for? You know, the oldest adage of investigative reporting, I think, applies here. Follow the money. Again, this is someone who goes directly into the Oval Office. My question is, was Donald Trump paying Rudy Giuliani for this alleged representation? And what connection was Rudy Giuliani representing him?
What are his other associations? Was he an unregistered foreign lobbyist? If these two Ukrainian American associates appeared to be having been acting at the behest of officials from the former Ukraine government, former president of Petro Poroshenko. Again, the co- mingling, the inter-mingling of interest, the lack of transparency. That's why from the beginning people have been calling this a story about the shadow foreign policy being run by President Trump and Giuliani. You know, that comment by John Bolton just really sticks in your head. Right?
GLASSER: This idea that Giuliani is a hand grenade who's going to blow us all up.
It's a powerful metaphor when you think that Trump invited him in and gave him -- empowered him to undertake these very risky actions. It's an extraordinary story.
HARLOW: And is sticking by his side. Having lunch with him over the weekend.
HARLOW: You know, not walking away at this point.
Susan, Elie, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.
All right, this morning, former vice president Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden is speaking out on camera for the first time after being placed in the middle of this political firestorm.
SCIUTTO: He tells ABC's "Good Morning America" that he did nothing wrong by being on the board of a Ukrainian energy company but Biden says looking back on it amid all the attacks by President Trump and his allies that he would do things differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNTER BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S SON: No, in retrospect, look, I think it was poor judgment on my part is that -- I think that was poor judgment because I don't believe now when I look back on it -- I know that there was -- I did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is a -- it's a swamp in many ways? Yes. And so, I take -- I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Joining us now, CNN's Arlette Saenz. She's live from Westerville, Ohio. That of course the site of tonight's big CNN-"New York Times" Democratic presidential debate.
Arlette, how is the campaign reading Hunter Biden's performance this morning?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Jim, as Joe Biden is preparing for tonight's debate, it's his son Hunter Biden in the spotlight really giving his most in-depth and extensive comments when it comes to his business dealings in Ukraine and in China.
As you heard in that clip, Hunter Biden acknowledged that perhaps he engaged in poor judgment by serving on that board in Ukraine but insisting that there is nothing improper. No ethical lapses by serving on that board. And that's something that you've heard Joe Biden and his son now trying to hammer away at as they are pushing back against these attacks from President Trump who is suggesting that they are crooked and corrupt, though so far there's been no evidence of wrongdoing on the Bidens' part.
Now Hunter Biden also said that he had a very brief exchange with his father about this board when the news came out that he was joining Burisma. He said that his father asked him if he knew what he was doing and Hunter Biden insisted, yes.
Now one thing Hunter Biden did say in this interview is that he wishes he would have realized the political fodder that this could have provided for his father's opponents going forward. Take a listen to a little more of what he had to say in that ABC interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you regret being on the board to begin with?
BIDEN: No, I don't regret being on the board. But what I regret is not taking into account that there would be a Rudy Giuliani and a president of the United States that would be listening to this ridiculous conspiracy idea, which has, again, been completely debunked by everyone. And, you know, we are where we are.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I think people at home are thinking, how could that not have crossed your mind or you wouldn't have felt just a little bit in your gut, like, maybe this isn't a good idea to go and sit on the board of this Ukrainian company.
BIDEN: Well, I just said to you. I said to you, in retrospect, I wish that my judgment --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Right. But at the time you never -- it never -- you never thought this might not look right?
BIDEN: You know what? I'm a human.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Now Democrats for the most part have defended the Bidens amidst these attacks from President Trump. One question going into tonight's debate is, will any of his Democratic opponents try to see this as a potential opening to criticize the former vice president? And of course how will Biden deal with it as he stands on that stage in front of a national audience -- Jim and Poppy.
SCIUTTO: Indeed there will be questions. Arlette Saenz, thanks very much.
Still to come this hour, will the former vice president's fellow Democratic contenders go after him tonight on that issue of his son Hunter? We've got debate -- a debate preview coming up.
HARLOW: And President Trump imposes sanctions on Turkey for its invasion of northern Syria, but will it do anything to curb Turkey's aggression.
And also, a white Texas police officer who shot and killed a black woman in her own home, well, he has now been charged with murder. We'll take you live to Ft. Worth again this morning.
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Facing intense pressure from some in his own party, President Trump announcing new sanctions against Turkey, mostly targeting a handful of Turkish government officials as well as steel imports.
POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: The administration quickly rushing to put forward its own sanctions yesterday as harsher bipartisan sanctions were developing very rapidly on Capitol Hill. But is it enough to really have any impact on Turkey's actions? Is it going to curb their invasion and incursion into northern Syria? Let's discuss with John Kasich; former governor of Ohio, the author of a new book, here it is, "It's Up to Us: Ten Little Ways That We Can Bring About Change".
First of all, congratulations on the book.
JOHN KASICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF OHIO: Thank you --
HARLOW: We'll get to it in a minute. Your fifth book -- KASICH: Right --
HARLOW: Slacker, and it's not about politics --
KASICH: No --
HARLOW: It's about to the bottom-up change. So, we'll get to that in a moment. But at this point, are these sanctions enough? I mean --
KASICH: Come on, sanctions and tariffs --
HARLOW: But --
KASICH: Right? You know, that's ten --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KASICH: And Poppy, I mean, in all seriousness, tariffs and sanctions. What the heck? That's what he does everywhere, and it's just -- I mean, this is a chaotic foreign policy. What I have been worried about for a very long time is he has no foreign policy.
I mean, think about what he's done with North Korea. How ridiculous his approaches have been. Think about what he's done by walking away from the Iran nuclear deal without having our allies in tow. Think of what he's done with tariffs against China without involving the rest of the world that had the same grievances. And now this.
Think about this. Removing the trip wire so that people now are going to be slaughtered.
HARLOW: Are already.
SCIUTTO: Yes, it's happening.
KASICH: They're being slaughtered.
SCIUTTO: Our allies, our allies.
KASICH: And you know, the military and the Intelligence community, I dealt with them for a long time because of being on the Armed Services Committee. They're beside themselves because this was such a precipitous, irresponsible action. There was no reason to do this. We didn't have a huge presence.
SCIUTTO: Right --
KASICH: There wasn't anybody at risk and it stopped Turkey from moving.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KASICH: And it just -- of course, there's always an interest in being able to move out of that place. I don't disagree with that, but you just can't do it because you wake up one day, get on a phone call and say, let's leave.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KASICH: He didn't listen to anybody.
SCIUTTO: It strikes me, there was a momentary revolt is definitely too strong a word, but there was momentary push-back from --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Republicans. Lindsey Graham was withering in his criticism and others. But now, the sanctions, Lindsey Graham said after the president's announcement, the president's team has a plan, and I intend to support them as strongly as possible and give them reasonable time and space to achieve our mutual goals.
He knows as well as anybody that Turkey is not turning back.
KASICH: Yes --
SCIUTTO: They have a territory they want, they're allowed -- they're given free rein to knock heads with the Kurds, that they wanted to do for a long time. Has this Republican push-back or was that just a short-term thing?
KASICH: You know, I guess -- I think they were so frustrated by everything else. This gave them a legitimate excuse to blast him --
HARLOW: Yes --
KASICH: Without angering their base supporters because of the president's call with the Ukraine president. And I think this gave them a chance to do it, plus, they're upset about this. I mean, you go over there, you put your military at risk, you know what's going on.
And at the end of the day, you just pull everybody out, and all of that effort, all that work to defeat ISIS is unraveling because these people are getting out of these prisons which the Kurds were -- see, people don't understand, and sometimes the long-term implications of bad foreign policy. They don't understand we have been diminished in the eyes of many people.
We're not trusted by our allies. This is a critical part of what America is. The leader of the world and we've lost a lot here.
HARLOW: So, when you look at the sanctions that the president did put in place last night, it's on steel, but you -- like steel imports have fallen 76 percent since last year, so there's barely any steel trade with Turkey. He didn't stop arms sales which European nations have now halted with Turkey.
He could have done more, Mnuchin says look, at a moment's notice, we could stop all U.S. dollar transactions with the Turkish government. Would those actions be more sign of strength?
KASICH: No, that's just -- that's just to cover yourself. That's all that is.
HARLOW: So, then what -- then what should --
KASICH: I think we've lost it --
HARLOW: They do?
KASICH: I think I -- now, we have to go back --
HARLOW: Yes --
KASICH: And recalibrate and then we've got to figure out how we're going to talk to the Israelis. How we're going to talk to other nations in the region.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KASICH: What we're going to do about creeping Iranian influence, and you noticed that the Europeans aren't doing much because without our leadership, whether we like it or not, without our leadership, the world becomes a much more volatile, fragile place.
SCIUTTO: Yes, and under discussed result of this is that it's a victory for Iran and for Russia there. I want to talk about your book because -- and again, it's up to us, it's not about politics, this is about how you and I and all of us --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Can effect change. Tell us how because I think -- I think that hope is an endangered species right now in this country. There's a sense of angst and fear.
KASICH: Well, we have to keep hope alive.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KASICH: That's a famous quote from somebody, a political figure. Look, all change comes from the bottom up. I was in politics for 30 years in elected office. Change comes up, it doesn't come from the top down, rarely. If you think about the civil rights movement, it was the marches, and it was by simple people.
You know, a lady who got on the bus and wouldn't move. It was Martin Luther King inspiring people to just show up and march. And the civil rights came like this. The same was true when women's suffrage -- nobody was arguing, no men were saying, oh, we ought to give women the right to vote.
But it took an effort. But it's not just about political change. You know, there's a young lady, a little girl in the book, 5 years old, her name is Florence. The storm is coming to North Carolina called Florence, she goes, oh, mom, my name is not good, I've got to help these people.
She got -- her brother pulled her in a wagon, her brother was 4, she went around the neighborhood, they filled the garage with supplies for people from North Carolina because little Flo didn't want to be thought badly of. And then a tractor trailer took all the supplies to North Carolina. Did she change the world? Absolutely.
How about Greta Thunberg?
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Yes --
KASICH: Stands outside the --
HARLOW: Sixteen --
KASICH: Parliament with a sign, and all of a sudden, people around the world said, I'm with you.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KASICH: So, it's not just about big -- you know, Martin Luther King says if you can't do little -- if you can't do big things, do little things in a big way. So, Poppy, you're kind, Jim, you're kind -- you were in Dayton, you hugged people down there. Did that change the world? For the people you hugged, it did change their world. It made things better because nothing good is ever lost.
I remember being at Dayton. I put my forehead up against a young lady who was crying. She had her baby in her arms, and she said I'm so afraid my kid won't grow up. And I said, it will be OK.
HARLOW: Yes --
KASICH: Let's have a little prayer.
KASICH: So, this book is about -- it's a handbook for how to get your power back, and stop wringing your hands and start doing something --
HARLOW: Sounds like a great thing for people to read with their kids.
KASICH: Absolutely. And I'll tell you, for our seniors because, you know -- I hate to say this, but God didn't make no retirement plan. We're not to retire from life. We're to do things --
HARLOW: There you go --
KASICH: Until the very end.
SCIUTTO: That's inspiring --
HARLOW: Governor Kasich, yes --
KASICH: I love to be with you guys. HARLOW: We're filled with hope. Thank you for that.
KASICH: Thank you --
HARLOW: Governor Kasich --
KASICH: Thanks for letting me be here --
HARLOW: Congratulations on your fifth book.
KASICH: Thank you.
HARLOW: We appreciate it. We'll see you soon. A new poll shows Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren locked in a two-way fight for the top spot in the Democratic presidential race, how could tonight's CNN debate shape that? We'll talk about it.
SCIUTTO: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, U.S. futures edging higher following a lower close. President Trump had announced what he called a very substantial phase one deal, sparking hope for a resolution in the U.S.-China trade war. The preliminary agreement includes a halt on U.S. tariff increases that were supposed to go into effect this week. The two sides will still appear to be far from striking any sort of comprehensive deal.
And the latest announcement does not address some of the biggest rifts dividing those two countries. There's a long way to go.