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Former Advisor Testified about 'Wrongdoing' in Ukraine Efforts; 12 Democrats Face Off Tonight in Critical Ohio Debate. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fiona Hill telling lawmakers about her concerns with Rudy Giuliani's shadow foreign policy.

[05:59:27]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point might we see Rudy Giuliani arrested?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats should provide Republicans and the president exactly what they would insist if the roles were reversed.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Twelve candidates will be on the stage for the CNN/"New York Times" Democratic debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden seems to have plateaued.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Elizabeth Warren steps on the stage and perhaps as the frontrunner in the race.

LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I don't want to get into a feud with Daryl, but I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand.

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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, October 15. It's 6 a.m. here in New York.

And breaking overnight, major new developments in the impeachment investigation. A former White House insider describing a shadow foreign policy, a rogue effort to personally benefit President Trump.

Overnight, CNN learned the former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, told Congress she witnessed wrongdoing inside the White House concerning Ukraine. In fact, Hill and former national security adviser John Bolton, they were so alarmed that Bolton urged Hill to report the concerns to a White House lawyer. Bolton compared the push to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats to a quote, "drug deal."

Hill also told lawmakers Bolton was furious about Rudy Giuliani's politically-motivated activities in Ukraine, referring to Giuliani as a quote, "hand grenade that's going to blow everybody up."

"The Washington Post" reports that investigators are now weighing whether to question Bolton personally.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That sounds like important language.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And we will talk a lot about that in the program.

BERMAN: It's like the worst kind of vocabulary quiz for the White House this morning.

CAMEROTA: It really is.

Also, tonight will be a critical night for the leading Democratic candidates. Twelve of them going head to head in a debate in Ohio. That's the most candidates on one stage in U.S. history, John. But you knew that.

Lots of things to look for. How will Joe Biden address the unfounded attacks that he and his son have endured from President Trump? And will Biden take on Elizabeth Warren more aggressively as she tries to cement her frontrunner status?

This will also be Bernie Sanders's first debate since his heart attack two weeks ago. So we'll have more on the debate throughout the morning.

But let's start with Suzanne Malveaux. She is live on Capitol Hill with all the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, yes, Congress is back in session after a two-week recess. All lawmakers returning to Washington. They have gotten an earful from their constituents. They have avoided questions regarding the impeachment inquiry, as well as the cameras. Well, now they're going to have to face both this as the impeachment committees have been very busy listening to testimony that is damaging to the president.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your message to congressional investigators?

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Fiona Hill testifying for nearly ten hours behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, providing House Democrats with more information for their impeachment inquiry into President Trump's Ukraine scandal.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): When witnesses actually just show up, it advances our investigation. The arrows continue to point in just one direction. MALVEAUX: The president's former top Russia adviser telling Congress

she raised red flags, concerned about wrongdoing in U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine. One of her biggest issues? Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani's, involvement, and she reportedly shared other concerns with former national security adviser John Bolton, sources tell CNN.

Hill describing a meeting attended by Bolton and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. The meeting on July 10, just 15 days before Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president. A source telling CNN Hill said Sondland discussed investigations at that meeting, interpreted as a reference to President Trump's call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Hill discussing what she called a rogue operation carried out by Sondland and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. A source telling CNN she said Bolton characterized it as being like a "drug deal," urging Hill to report the July meeting to the National Security Council's attorney.

In another conversation, a source familiar with the testimony says Hill claimed Bolton expressed disregard for Giuliani. As first reported by the "New York Times," Bolton describing him as a "hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up."

Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin slamming Giuliani's actions, saying he's working against the State Department.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Rudy Giuliani has clearly been a leading force for the administration in defining a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.

MALVEAUX: House Republicans taking President Trump's lead, focusing on attacking House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff's handling of the impeachment inquiry.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): Yes, this was another day in Adam Schiff's kangaroo court. The Democrats should provide Republicans and the president exactly what they would insist if the roles were reversed.

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MALVEAUX: And looking ahead, a very important week. On Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the United -- European Union, rather, will be here. He was a no-show last week.

Tomorrow Mike McKinley. He's a former State Department adviser who resigned just last week, and now there are questions whether or not to call for John Bolton -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Gordon Sondland now seems to be one of the key people that investigators want to hear from. So we'll see what happens this week. Suzanne, thank you very much.

So 12 Democratic candidates take the stage tonight for a make-or-break debate in Ohio. For some, it could cement their frontrunner status. For others, it's about survival.

CNN's Abby Phillip joins us live from the debate hall in Westerville, Ohio. Preview it for us, Abby.

[06:05:03]

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alisyn.

Well, it is a big night coming up tonight for these 12 Democratic presidential candidates. It will be a pretty full debate stage, and it will be tough competition for many of them who, as you mentioned, are just trying to break through in this race.

But we're looking tonight at Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who suffered a heart attack just under two weeks ago, and this will be his big debut back on the campaign trail.

But also center stage, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, who have been duking it out for that top spot in many of the polls both statewide and at the national level for several weeks now. Elizabeth Warren in the latest Quinnipiac poll just out this week at 30 percent, just edging out Joe Biden. Will this be her moment to really solidify that status as this -- this campaign's frontrunner, after Joe Biden has held that spot for so long?

Of course, there are questions for Joe Biden surrounding Ukraine and his son Hunter Biden. But we'll also be looking at other candidates who will be on the farther edges of the debate stage, many of whom are just trying to break into that top tier; candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor; Kamala Harris, the senator from California, both of whom are trying to present a more moderate alternative to a Joe Biden.

So lots of dynamics tonight on this debate stage. But it's a pivotal moment for some Democrats, because the going is going to get tougher from here on out. Many of these folks trying to get the attention of 2020 voters in the Democratic primary as we come up on some of the first primary contests in just a few months -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Thank you very much for that preview.

So the fourth Democratic presidential debate airs on CNN live from the battleground state of Ohio. That's tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: All right. New words in the vocabulary quiz of the impeachment investigation. Shadow foreign policy, rogue effort, a drug deal. All this characterized by the president's own national security adviser. More of our brand-new reporting about what a former White House aide told impeachment investigators, next.

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[06:11:44]

BERMAN: All right. New this morning, CNN has learned that President Trump's former top Russia adviser told impeachment investigators that both she and President Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, they were alarmed by what they call a shadow foreign policy campaign allegedly being orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani. And a source tells CNN Bolton referred to Giuliani as a, quote, "hand grenade that's going to blow everybody up."

CAMEROTA: Is that bad?

BERMAN: I think that's not good.

CAMEROTA: Not good, got it.

BERMAN: Joining us now David Gregory, CNN political analyst; and Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator, a former Clinton White House press secretary.

I feel as if I need to do a dramatic reading from CNN's reporting here. Because the vocabulary that's been added to the discussion here is vivid.

Again, "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" has a version of this, too. CNN says, "The source goes on to say that Hill testified that former national security advisor John Bolton referred to President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as a 'hand grenade' that's 'going to blow everybody up,' something first reported by 'The New York Times.' Hill went on to testify about what she described as a rogue operation carried out by U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney which Bolton characterized as being like," quote, "'a drug deal.'"

So David Gregory, Fiona Hill testified for ten hours. Apparently, she has a near photographic memory and a vivid use of the English language there. What does this describe to you, and what does this add to the investigation?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we know the original piece of this, what the president and Rudy Giuliani have admitted they were doing, and they say it was fine to try to get to the bottom of corruption and pressure a foreign leader.

What's becoming evident in the investigation is that piece by piece you started with a whistle-blower, and now some of these confirmation strands of people who are political appointees and who are career people, both groups saying this was way out of bounds. This was over the line.

And you had an outside political lawyer who was trespassing on all of these areas of foreign policy in ways that the expert thought was completely inappropriate. I think that is the picture that's emerging.

And we still don't know the full picture of what the testimony is, what other pieces may be there. We're seeing some of the highlights.

CAMEROTA: House investigators need to talk to John Bolton. He's the one who referred to Giuliani as being like a hand grenade and having this shadow State Department. So I'm sure he's on the top of their list now.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure he is. I think one of the things this does is it raises the stakes, if they needed to, on Ambassador Sondland's testimony. Because in some of the reporting on the -- Fiona Hill's testimony, it appears that he's the one who, after Bolton stopped the meeting because it was inappropriate, went to another room and continued the meeting and pressed -- and at one point in the meeting said, I'm running this. And when Hill says, by whose authority, he says the president's.

So I think she has set up Thursday as a very dramatic day of testimony.

BERMAN: And it's also interesting, first of all, David, that people are talking, as we said from a, you know, 1980s Boston television series.

CAMEROTA: People are squawking. Yes.

BERMAN: People are talking. And these are people who have stories to tell inside the administration and want to talk, despite White House efforts to keep them quiet. Fiona Hill, Kurt Volker, you know, we heard last week from the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. People want to tell this story, because it seems they were alarmed with what they saw.

[06:15:15]

GREGORY: Yes, and again, I just -- I stress that people who are breaking ranks, who were -- who were brought in as political appointees, in addition to career experts and diplomats who had been there who thought this was out of line.

And I think to Joe's point, obviously, the link with the president in ascertaining the level with which he was involved beyond what we know, which is making the phone calls, making the demands, a fact that -- that his ability to confer legitimacy on Ukraine and Ukraine's new president becomes critical.

But how much of a web was this within the West Wing, within the State Department, the entire administration that was being orchestrated by him, the president, and outside by Rudy Giuliani? I think that's what raises the stakes.

And just to come back to John Bolton, obviously, he would be a huge figure here who could speak to somebody like Gordon Sondland who is not an expert, who is a hotelier and was brought in as a donor to play -- and again, unusual, because most times donors don't get substantive diplomatic roles. So he's being brought in very much to carry the president's political water here.

CAMEROTA: So for people following along at home, let's pull up the schedule of who's going to be testifying to House investigators this week. There are two that jump out at me as being particularly intriguing. So tomorrow, Michael McKinley -- he's the former senior aide to

Secretary Pompeo, who my source, my State Department source says was really instrumental, was -- was well-respected, was even-keeled. And his leaving abruptly would have a real impact on morale at the State Department.

BERMAN: He quit last week.

CAMEROTA: He quit last week abruptly, unexpectedly.

BERMAN: He's talking to investigators this week.

CAMEROTA: Correct. Then Thursday, what we've all been talking about is Ambassador Gordon Sondland, because he seems to be the link to President Trump. And as we know, Joe, he in fact, consulted President Trump before he responded in that now-infamous text that seemed worded very carefully. There was no quid pro quo.

Our reporting is that he will now testify, if he decides to testify, on Thursday. There was a quid pro quo, but he didn't believe it was a corrupt one.

LOCKHART: Yes, listen, I think today's testimony will give the committee a full sense of the disarray at the State Department, and I think he resigned, according to the reports --

CAMEROTA: That's tomorrow.

LOCKHART: I'm sorry. Tomorrow. He resigned, according to sources, because he felt that Pompeo no longer had the back of anyone at the State Department. So I think it will fill in that picture.

I think Sondland's testimony will fill in the picture of how instrumental the president was in all of this. You hear a lot of talk about Rudy Giuliani doing a shadow foreign policy. Well, Rudy wasn't acting on his own. He was acting at the direction of the president.

We have heard now in a number of reports that Ambassador Sondland was talking directly to the president. That's very unusual. Normally, ambassadors go through the State Department. They go through the channels.

The fact that the president and this novice diplomat sitting in Brussels were running foreign policy in Ukraine is unusual, even if there wasn't this attempt to dig up dirt, adding the political element to it is what, I think, really is central now to the investigation.

BERMAN: That's what "The Times" and "The Post" have this morning, is that it's not just a shadow foreign policy but a shadow foreign policy for the president's personal political gain. That's a heck of a connection to make right there.

CAMEROTA: OK, guys, stick around. We have many more strains on all of this, not only are we previewing what else is to come, but just what all of this means to the House impeachment inquiry.

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[06:23:32]

CAMEROTA: We're following new developments in the impeachment inquiry. So let's bring back David Gregory and Joe Lockhart.

Let's just take the pulse of how people are feeling about the impeachment inquiry as best we can from these national polls. Here's one from Quinnipiac. This is the most recent one.

Do you support the House's impeachment inquiry? Fifty-one percent of respondents say yes; 45 percent say no.

Then there's this part of the Quinnipiac poll. Is it acceptable for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival? Sixty-six percent say no. Only 24 percent say yes. That's, I guess, among everybody and then among Republicans, 53 percent say yes and 34 percent say no. So you see the numbers switch there.

So Joe, I mean, the numbers and polls are going the way the Democrats in the House want them to, but obviously, not everybody feels this way. There are all sorts of swing voters who feel that it's a distraction and would rather politicians work on their pocketbook issues.

LOCKHART: Yes, listen, I think the polls have, I guess, maybe stalled is the right word. I think the move towards an impeachment inquiry moved -- I don't want to say 10 percent, maybe plus or minus a few points. But they've now kind of settled in.

And I think there is a risk, and I think Nancy Pelosi held back for as long as she did because there is a risk, because people have bigger concerns in their day-to-day lives than impeachment, and Democrats have to address that.

I think one of the ways they have is the way they've gone about this. There is no longer these kind of open heroes -- hearings to turn into a circus, with Republicans and Democrats yelling at each other and members making statements on both sides.

[06:25:09]

This is being done very methodically behind closed doors, doing depositions, building brick by brick a case. And I think it's being done, in large part, because the Democrats want to make sure that this doesn't become more political than it already is. I think there's the -- as they move to a more public setting of laying out these facts, then I think it will be really interesting to watch where the numbers are.

BERMAN: But the facts and the reporting right now are driving the conversation, where the polls -- the polls may follow. They may not. But the pace at which the information is coming out, David, just take Rudy Giuliani. You have Fiona Hill talking about Rudy Giuliani, quoting John Bolton calling him a hand grenade, conducting a drug deal. "The Wall Street Journal" piggybacking on CNN's reporting, saying the

Southern District is investigating Rudy Giuliani. And "The Journal" reports they're looking at his bank records to figure out his connections in Ukraine and these two people who have already been arrested and indicted for shadowy campaign operations and were also investigating Joe Biden.

So where are we in our daily "Rudy Giuliani is in trouble" file this morning?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, the specter of corruption and Rudy Giuliani and then the additional link to the tie to the president is what is so potentially damaging. And that's what I think these investigations show.

There's a lot more documentation now that surrounds the testimony that we're learning about, and of course, what the president has already admitted to and provide a partial transcript of.

And that is the one cautionary note in all of this, is that we know what the payoff was. We know what the end point is. Is it going to become more shocking or less shocking if we fill in all the blanks that get to the place that we already know we're at, which is that the president did this thing that everybody's saying he shouldn't have done?

And that to me is the political question. Because of where we are in the political calendar -- we've got a huge debate on tonight for the Democrats. We're right around -- we're in the middle of a presidential contest, and we're going to become in the year of the contest faster than we can believe.

And so for voters who were taking this in, you know, there is an option, which is you could vote the president out of office if you think it's really inappropriate. Do you really need to remove him from office?

And all of these polls, I don't think it's that hard, given the fact pattern for people to say, wow, that seems really inappropriate, but it's a separate question as to whether the president should be removed for that. And obviously, Republicans are pretty divided on that section.

BERMAN: All right. David, Joe, thanks. Stand by.

On another front, because there is other major news. "The New York Times" reports this morning rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences. This morning the White House scrambles to undo a calamity. This morning, the White House scrambles to undo a calamity. We have a live report from the ground next.

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