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Syria Crisis; Rudy Giuliani Under Fire; Interview With Former Gov. John Kasich (R-OH). Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Two, you have Rudy Giuliani and Defense Secretary Mark Esper facing subpoena deadlines to produce documents.

And three here, and maybe even most critically, another career diplomat is going before the House committees conducting the impeachment investigation.

Assistant Deputy Secretary of state George Kent oversees U.S. policy in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. He is testifying right now, despite a direct attempt by the White House to block his appearance.

And moments ago, we got a couple of details of what he has said so far. Democrats are telling our own corresponded there, Manu Raju, that Kent is backing up what Monday's witness, Fiona Hill, has disclosed.

And speaking of Fiona Hill, she sat on Capitol Hill testifying for 10 hours yesterday before those three House committees, and her details about her time as Trump's top adviser on Russia were pretty explosive.

She told lawmakers there was this shadow foreign policy for Ukraine that was basically run by Rudy Giuliani Rudy Giuliani and others. That's according to a source.

What's more here, a source says Hill described how the president's then National Security Adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by what was happening, that he pushed for an attorney to get involved.

CNN political correspondent Sara Murray is with me now.

And so give me the full story on what Fiona Hill told House lawmakers.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what she really did was, she shed light on how there were concerns about these various channels of diplomacy in the Trump administration weeks before President Trump spoke to the Ukrainian president on the phone in July.

And one of the big headlines that came out was she said that her boss at the time, John Bolton, then the national security adviser, described Rudy Giuliani as a hand grenade that was going to get everyone blown up because of these essential back-channel diplomacy efforts that he was engaged in. Now, during her time she was the president's top Russia adviser,

before she left the administration, she revealed to lawmakers that there were concerns both from her and John Bolton about what they saw as wrongdoing in U.S. policy-making when it came to Ukraine.

And, at one point, Bolton, then her boss, actually encouraged her to go to the National Security Council lawyer and report her concerns. And some of those concerns were this talk of investigations going on, this idea that the Bidens should be investigated as somehow part of this U.S. policy.

Now, of course, a lot of this traces back to the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. He was running diplomatic relations in sort of this shadow way, where he was feeding the president misinformation, essentially wrongdoing on behalf of the Ukrainian ambassador at the time, Marie Yovanovitch.

None of that has proven to be true. He was also, of course, encouraging the president that he should press for dirt on the Bidens, all of this in the run-up to the president's call with the Ukrainian president.

But Rudy Giuliani wasn't the only one who had sort of permission to go rogue here. Fiona Hill told lawmakers and sources are telling us that she described to lawmakers Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and his efforts with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, sort of this spinoff operation that John Bolton said was akin to a drug deal, because it was these guys sort of going rogue, creating their own U.S.-Ukraine policy, separate from the traditional policy apparatuses, and, again, pressing for dirt on the Bidens.

So this just gives you a look, Brooke, at how concerned everyone was in the administration even before President Trump got on the phone with President Zelensky in July.

BALDWIN: No, I appreciate the full picture and what happened prior to July 25.

Sara, thank you.

Let's get now to some breaking news on Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney and the focus, as Sara pointed out, of this ever- widening Ukraine scandal.

With me now, CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz.

And so what do we now know about Giuliani?


So, his current lawyer, who he was -- who he hired to represent him through the congressional process, through this impeachment process, is no longer going to be representing him. That lawyer, Jon Sale, says they're done. He did what Rudy asked them to do. And Rudy says he's now done with this lawyer. The big news, from what we're hearing, is from people close to Rudy

Giuliani, is that they're very concerned about Rudy. They're concerned that there's something serious going on here out of the Southern District of New York.


PROKUPECZ: You have this FBI investigation. And they're urging him, his friends, people close to him -- and I spoke to someone just moments ago -- all urging him that he needs to hire a criminal attorney, someone to represent him.


PROKUPECZ: They're worried. They think that once the Southern District of New York certainly starts to focus on you and investigating you for financial potential, some kind of financial wrongdoing, they're concerned that he could be in a lot of trouble.

And they're all advising him to hire a criminal attorney. And we're told right now he's resisting it, and he's confident that he's going to be OK. But his friends certainly are very, very worried, and people close to him all urging him to hire a lawyer, criminal lawyer specifically, right now.

BALDWIN: OK, Shimon, thank you very much.

Let's talk about that and so much more.

With me now, Susan Hennessey. She served as an attorney in the Office of General Counsel at the National Security Council. She is now a CNN national security and legal analyst. And she's also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where Fiona Hill, who testified yesterday, works and is currently on leave.


Michael Allen served in several senior roles at the National Security Council in the Bush 43 White House. He is now managing director at Beacon Global Strategies.

So, welcome, both, to you.

And, Susan, first, just off of Shimon's scoop here on Rudy Giuliani and how his friends are worried and how they say he needs a criminal attorney, should he hire one?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Rudy Giuliani is someone who actually used to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. So if anybody should be in a position to understand how serious it is to find yourself in the crosshairs, the subject or potentially even the target of an SDNY investigation, it should be Rudy Giuliani himself.

Clearly, he is attempting to kind of tie himself as closely as possible to Donald Trump, to the State Department, disclosing those text messages between himself and representatives of the State Department. So, certainly, it would be good advice to hire a criminal defense attorney.

That said, Rudy Giuliani should be well aware of that at this point.

BALDWIN: OK. So you say listen to -- he needs to be listening to his friends.

Michael, let me pivot back with you to Fiona Hill's testimony yesterday, right? So she's sitting there and she's telling these House committees what she saw, what she heard from her time working at the White House.

And she's talking about the then National Security Adviser John Bolton.

And a couple of quotes I just want to highlight with you. She said, Bolton said: "Giuliani is a hand grenade. He's going to blow everybody up."

And he said: "I'm not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," obviously, metaphorically speaking.

But what do you think of this sort of shadow foreign policy huddle that apparently has happened between Giuliani, Sondland and Mick Mulvaney, and also that it's John Bolton who was sounding the alarm?

MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER BUSH NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFFER: Well, John Bolton, as national security adviser, his number one job is to try and be an honest broker.

He may have been more of an adviser to the president. But, look, that job is to referee between competing views of the Department of Defense, the CIA and the State Department.

And to have somebody out there with a separate channel trying to advance ideas and policy ideas is completely inappropriate and outside the scope of what the National Security Council is supposed to be doing.


BALDWIN: Is it illegal or against procedures? Or is it just a big no-no?

ALLEN: It's certainly a big no-no.

I know that a lot of people are citing the Logan Act as a particular statute. I think Susan will be able to comment on that more.


ALLEN: That sort of disallows private individuals from conducting the foreign policy of the United States, but I'm not sure it's been particularly prosecuted in our nation's history. But, at a minimum, it's inappropriate, and I'm not sure that it really serves the country well to have a private agenda, rather than the considerable business that the United States government does and should have with another sovereign state.

BALDWIN: Susan, can you respond to that, what Giuliani did?


So, certainly, I don't think it actually is going to end up being covered by the Logan Act. The president is allowed to send essentially private emissaries to carry messages to foreign governments. So to the extent that Rudy Giuliani really was acting at the president's direct behest, that's going to end up being a problem for the president in potential impeachment hearings, not necessarily for Rudy Giuliani legally.

Now, that said, it does appear that there was sort of freelancing going on here, that, in the midst of this, Rudy Giuliani was also entangling in his personal financial interests, potentially raising some questions about campaign finance violations by his business partners.

And so to the extent that we're talking about a very narrow lane, which Rudy Giuliani is acting at the direction and at the behest of the president of the United States, that's usually not what we think of as criminal conduct.

That said, if he's freelancing to line his own pocketbooks, he may find himself in a lot of trouble.

BALDWIN: What about just going back to John Bolton, Susan?

If he was that concerned -- and, of course, Congress and these investigators basically had to wait until this whistle-blower came forward, right, to blow this wide open. Could John Bolton have done more?

HENNESSEY: Well, certainly.

I do think the fact of Hill's testimony and reportedly what Bolton did at the time really undermines the president's claim here that this was just about being concerned about anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. It's pretty clear that officials inside the government at the time, not just after the fact, at the time believed that this was contrary to U.S. interests, that this was detrimental to U.S. foreign policy.

And they were so concerned about it, that they actually felt the need to involve lawyers. Now, the only reason that somebody like John Bolton would tell Fiona Hill to go to the National Security Council's legal adviser is if they were concerned about criminal wrongdoing.

And so I think what we're seeing now is evidence, very clear evidence, that the president was not pursuing the national interest here. He was pursuing his own personal political interest, and that people around him at the time were very, very concerned about the harm to U.S. national security and also whether or not potentially laws were being broken.


BALDWIN: And we will just keep in mind -- and we will put the period at the end of this on Giuliani -- is that while this was all apparently happening, Giuliani was working for Trump for free, while collecting major money from shadowy figures to conduct policy.

Giuliani told Reuters it was half-a-million dollars.

Michael, I want to -- I want to leave with this, just looking ahead to tomorrow. Sources say Michael McKinley is testifying. He's just resigned as senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, ending a 37-year career, this amid growing concern among career diplomats over how the administration has handled this whole inquiry and how it's treated career civil servants who've been asked to testify.

What would you be listening for from him? What are key questions for him?

ALLEN: I think the key question there is, from his vantage point at the top of the State Department, is he aware of more evidence of a quid pro quo between the president the United States and the foreign leadership in Ukraine, be it for foreign aid, be it for military aid, or be it for some other topic that would bolster the evidence around the transcript?

The transcript is considerable, in and of itself. Of course, the president's trying to sort of disavow the transcript. But I'm going to be listening to see what else he brings to the table to strengthen the case that the Democrats are making that impeachment is in order.


Michael Allen, thank you soon. Susan Hennessey, nice to have you back.

On Giuliani, will Giuliani comply with the subpoena deadline today? Stand by for news there.

Also, CNN and "The New York Times" are hosting the Democratic debate tonight in Ohio. And Joe Biden is taking the stage hours after his son's revealing interview about his business ties in Ukraine that he is now calling a mistake.

Plus, within 72 hours, Russia has moved into Northern Syria, and now sudden whiplash from Republicans who blame Democrats for the invasion, instead of blaming President Trump.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Breaking news out of Syria now. What many have been fearing ever since Turkish troops surged across the border with Syria, U.S. troops now being put in danger.

A U.S. official telling CNN forces backed by Turkey came very close to American soldiers on a coalition base in Northwestern Syria near the town of Ain Issa. The Americans responded with a show of force to defend themselves.

And all of this is coming in as top Republicans who slammed the president for his handling of the Syria crisis, they're now changing their tune, praising him, and they are now blaming this impeachment inquiry.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): What the Democrats are doing themselves to try to weaken this president is part of this. There's -- it was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border.

And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they're doing with the impeachment proceedings.


BALDWIN: Congresswoman Liz Cheney's message now very different from what she tweeted just a week ago.

Let me remind everyone of that. She wrote: "Impossible to understand why Donald Trump is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS."

And, remember, just a couple days ago when Trump's good friend Senator Lindsey Graham warned of a disaster in the making, lamented the Kurdish allies had been -- quote -- "shamelessly abandoned at the Trump -- by the Trump administration" and urged him to change course.

And this is what the South Carolina Republican is saying now:


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The good news is, President Trump is going to intervene with the Congress in a way to punish Erdogan, unlike any time in Turkey's life.

Erdogan misjudged President Trump and he sure as hell misjudged me.


GRAHAM: And what he's going to see is a -- he's going to see a united front that I haven't seen in a long time, where Republicans and Democrats, working with the administration, are going to come down on him like a ton of bricks, Iranian-type sanctions.

And he deserves it.


BALDWIN: Former Republican Governor of Ohio, author John Kasich.

Show everyone your book. Let's go there, Governor.

John Kasich, "It's Up to Us."

We will talk about that in just a second.

But just the news of the day, we were just talking to Nick Paton Walsh in the Middle East, who was describing how all of this violence in Northern Syria has come precariously close to U.S. soldiers, which many had already worried and warned about.

Your thoughts on that?

JOHN KASICH (R), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Well, I mean, it's just terrible.

And tariffs and sanctions are not any answer. If we had not moved those people at that point in time, and thought about a way to get out over time and coordinate with a lot of people and figured out the timing, we wouldn't have this now.

And to say that somehow this happened because there's an impeachment inquiry, I mean, it's ridiculous. I don't even -- I mean, you got to really be like in a pretzel move to figure out how to do that.

BALDWIN: But they're doing it.

KASICH: I know, I know.

But the problem is the damage has been done, Brooke. And, you know, I heard today -- I just saw Jim Sciutto in the hallway -- the Russians are now walking into one of our base, talking to each other about, wonder what the Americans ate and wonder what they did?


I mean, can you imagine that? This has just been just a terrible thing. And in the middle of all this, we're now more aggressive towards Turkey, which is what just occurred to me here.

Now we're after them. Had the president never given them a green light to go, things would have been stable. We wouldn't have people running. We wouldn't have people killed. We would not have increased the influence of Russia.

We would not have improved the situation for Iran. And we wouldn't have put Israel in a weakened position, all that because of the green light.

And we're not going to fix it just with sanctions and tariffs.


BALDWIN: How do we fix it? How is there a course correction?

Isn't it too late?

KASICH: I don't think there is a course correction now.

I think that we just got to see what the heck is on the ground. We don't need to precipitously move those people from where they are now. Protect them, obviously, but not be in a position of where we act too quickly.

And this is all about -- look, it's not just about this. The president and North Korea has not been wise. Ask John Bolton, OK?

The situation with Iran, where we just unilaterally left. With our allies, we could have put pressure on Iran to back them off how they have involved themselves in the Middle East and developing ballistic missiles. It could have been done as a group.

And we could have as a group come together to work to make sure that China started living up to trade rules. We have been doing it all alone, and the implications and the damage are going to have to be calculated over a few years.

It's unbelievable.

BALDWIN: Adding to that is this impeachment inquiry.

And you have these career officials who are now coming out and they're testifying. And how much does it bother you, anger you that it took a whistle-blower speaking up and out to blow the lid off this thing?

KASICH: Well, I mean, the call was -- maybe it would have been shelved, but it wasn't.

And so we have whistle-blowers because they can come and do things. And they need to be protected. If all of a sudden everybody knows who they are, and their lives are turned upside down -- and I know people say, if you're going to challenge the president, people ought to know who you are.

Well, somebody ought to know who they are in the Congress. But we don't want to reveal them, because whistle-blowers are important. It doesn't mean they're always right. But this -- in this case, they showed a telephone call that was a terrible exchange between our president and the president of Ukraine, who is a -- it's a vulnerable country with Russians in their territory.


BALDWIN: And that call, by the way, wasn't just shelved. It was put in the vault.

KASICH: I know. And I wonder if there's others.

That's why we need to have the impeachment inquiry. And what Republicans should be saying is, this was wrong. And they don't want to say it. But Democrats should force a vote on the impeachment inquiry. What are they waiting on, Brooke? What are they afraid of? Just take the vote.


KASICH: Make it fair and open.


KASICH: And then people can decide.


As the governor of Ohio, this battleground state, this is where our debate is being held tonight. And I know you're talking to people back home.

I want to play some sound really quickly, because I'm curious what people you're talking to think about this impeachment inquiry.

KASICH: Yes, sure.

BALDWIN: But, first, Democratic and Republican parties, this is what they're saying about suburban voters.


DAVID PEPPER, CHAIR, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: There are areas of the state that only six and eight and 10 years ago were reliably Republican, big population centers that are now blue.

And that makes the starting point of the 2020 election a lot closer from the get-go.

JANE TIMKEN, CHAIR, OHIO REPUBLICAN PARTY: Those messages don't really resonate in Ohio. And I don't think suburban voters are going to buy it.


BALDWIN: What are you hearing?

KASICH: Well, suburban voters are definitely trending away from the president because of the rhetoric of division.

Rural voters are sticking strong with him at this point in time. And for Democrats to win Ohio, they have got to talk about bread and butter, rising health care costs and how their family can't afford some of the prescription drugs or the treatment or the co-payments and all that, that push them right on the edge.

And they're worried about, am I going to get to keep my job? And are my wages going to go up?

Trump figures into all this in terms of impeachment. But, Brooke, you know, when you gather around with your family, it's about what's happening to your family and how you feel about the future and the security that you want to have.

BALDWIN: It is more immediate concerns.


BALDWIN: And that's what you're saying they need to be talking about.

John Kasich, "It Up to Us" is your book.

KASICH: Look, it's a handbook for how people can get their power back.

BALDWIN: "Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change."

KASICH: And not just wring their hands that things in Washington are not working right. It's about what you can do. Everybody's made special. People have gifts. Use them.

That's what life is all about. It's not political. We don't talk about politics. I want people to have hope and to believe in themselves.

BALDWIN: I appreciate that, Governor. Thank you very much.

KASICH: All right, thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Congratulations.

At the center of the president's attacks here, Joe Biden's son Hunter. He's now speaking out in a new interview, slamming President Trump's sons, denying any wrongdoing, but making an admission.


We will share that with you next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bring our soldiers back home after so many years.

And they're the greatest warriors in the world. They're policing. They're not a police force. They're a different kind of a force. We want to bring our soldiers back home.

And we're being very tough on Turkey and a lot of others.