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Key Witnesses Highly Trump's Role in Ukraine Effort; Mattis Hits Back & Mocks President Trump; G.M. Announces Plan to Close Lordstown Plant Despite Trump Promises. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 18, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:33:18]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The testimony in the impeachment inquiry was behind closed doors this week. Even with that, there's a flurry, flood whatever you want to call it, of new detail of witnesses speak to lawmakers in the last five days, let alone the last two weeks.

Monday it was Trump's former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill. She told investigators that then-national security advisor, John Bolton, was so concerned about the off-the-book operation with regard to Ukraine, he directed her to alert a top White House lawyer. She also testified that Bolton also told her Giuliani was a, quote, "hand grenade," who was going to below everybody up.

Tuesday, a current State Department official, George Kent, told the Hill he was directed to, quote, "lay low" after he raised concerns back in May about Giuliani's involvement. That's months before President Trump's July 25th phone call with the president of Ukraine.

Then Thursday, U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, told Congress that President Trump directed him to go through Giuliani for anything related to Ukraine. He also testified he was disappointed the president wouldn't commit to meet with the Ukraine president until they all spoke to Giuliani. That was this week.

Next week, more key testimony, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, he is scheduled to testify. And he's at the center are the texts where he asked are you now -- are we now saying that a security -- security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations.

There's all that. Let's try to get perspective in the midst of this.

Joining me now is CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for the "New Yorker," Susan Glasser.

Susan, what do you think is the overall picture gnat information coming from the three witnesses this week paint?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think we have learned an awful lot. Remember, when we started this inquiry a few weeks ago, we really had the transcript, eyebrow raising, but the transcript released by the White House of the phone call and then the anonymous whistleblower complaint and that was it.

[11:35:08]

What's happened since then has been fairly significant. Maximum possible penalty number one the White House has tried to stop a number of officials coming forward and testifying. And have failed. And they have not succeeded in that. I think that's very significant.

For example, Fiona Hill, you mentioned, is the first White House adviser, serving until mid-July in the White House to defy the White House and come and testify in this inquiry.

And so that suggests that there will be many more and that it would be hard for the White House to stop others, such as former national security adviser, John Bolton, who clearly has important information to bear, from coming forward number one.

Number two --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

GLASSER: -- this testimony, it really tends to implicate the president very directly. I'm struck by that.

You know, in Watergate in the Nixon era, you essentially had months and months even a couple of years-worth of inquiry that was asking the question, well, what did the president know and when did he know it.

But President Trump, by contrast, in this Ukraine plot was really directing and very much involved and at the center of the action. All of these people are testifying in various ways about things that the president personally did.

For example, he personally ordered Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, the ambassador to Brussels, be involved in Ukraine policy, according to what Sondland told Fiona him. He said, well, but out because Donald Trump told me to be in charge. And --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Well, and -- the fact that -- and the -- the fact that the president tells him go through Giuliani. The Giuliani bit is fascinating as well.

If it sounds strange to everyone out there that someone who has not taking an oath to protect the Constitution, has not been confirmed by the Senate in any regard, isn't a federal employee, is running foreign policy.

Or the acting chief of staff made the case it's no big deal. Mick Mulvaney said yesterday, you may into the not like that Giuliani is involved but goes on to say it's not illegal, the president gets to set foreign policy and gets to choose gets to choose who gets to do it.

Can you put that in perspective for folks? GLASSER: Thank you for raising that. That's a key point.

Privatizing the U.S. government in Rudy Giuliani is in fact not how our system works.

We have a system of Senate-confirmed appointees for a reason. It's one of the most striking aspects of Trump's presidency, his decision to flout the constitutional prerogative and need of the U.S. Senate to confirm his appointees. He ignores that. This is a more blatant example.

Giuliani has not filed public disclosures telling us the financial interests he operates on behalf of. He has not carried out anything that would make him a legitimate public appointee to carry out American foreign policy, number one.

Number two, I think it's important for people to understand that this impeachment inquiry, at this point, it's not just a phone call. You hear that even from people -- Republicans concerned about the president's actions. They'll say, well, but in the end, it's just about a phone call.

What I'm struck by is the fact that there are so many actions by Trump and the U.S. government -- this is not about words. This is about firing the U.S. ambassador. This is about withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance approved by Congress. It's about withholding a White House meeting. All of which appear for personal political gain.

That's very different than, oh, gee, Trump said something on a phone call.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

Susan, thanks for the perspective. Great to see.

GLASSER: Thank you.

Coming up still, a rare rebuke. One day after President Trump called him the most overrated general, former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, is hitting back and roasting the president.

We'll be right back.

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[11:43:40]

BOLDUAN: Two former top military brass speaking out against the commander-in-chief. Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, who oversaw the Bin Laden raid, writing in the "New York Times" and telling CNN the country is under attack from President Trump.

And hours later, retired general, former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, poking fun at his former boss. Offering his first pointed criticism at Trump since resigning. He responded to the president calling him the most overrated general. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RETIRED GEN. JIM MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm honored to be considered that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress.

(LAUGHTER)

So I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals.

(LAUGHTER)

And frankly, that sounds pretty good to me.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTIS: And you do have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we have had some victories.

(LAUGHTER)

And some of you were kind during the reception and you asked if this bothered me to be rated this way based on what Donald Trump said. Of course not. I earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out, and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from the doctor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Why are the military officers speaking out?

Here now is CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling,

General, I was at the dinner where Mattis dinner where he spoke. A big charity dinner in New York where everyone who speaks, cracks jokes and is expected to. It was surprising to hear Mattis talk this way. Why do you think he did now?

[11:45:10]

RETIRED GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It was surprising to me, too, Kate, when I heard the clip. Truthfully, it's the two generals you're talking about it's a tale of two different approaches.

One, Admiral McRaven, in my view, was professional and pointed, outlining the strategic issues involved in national security in a thought-provoking piece in the "New York Times," which I thought, knowing Bill as I do, he probably struggled with.

That's a hard thing to do to step out and say something like that about the commander-in-chief, the elected president.

On the other hand, Mr. -- Secretary Mattis -- I'm using that word specifically -- is no longer a general. He is a former cabinet member primarily. And people are waiting to hear from him. He has refused to do that as he has gone on the book tour where he

touts his life -- good for him to do this -- touting his career in the military, lessons learned from that. But he won't talk about his time as a cabinet official, a politician. And that's unfortunate.

You know, his speech last night, he addressed some good things, quoted Lincoln. But the clip you just ran I thought was totally unprofessional and uncalled for. And it's not something a professional military member should do in my view.

BOLDUAN: You've made no secret of your criticism of President Trump as a commander-in-chief. If you don't like the platform and delivery, do you welcome Mattis doing anything to speak out if this is opening the door where he hasn't yet to speaking directly --

(CROSSTALK)

HERTLING: Yes, if I compare, my criticism -- criticism has been based on analysis of his national security or his leadership ability. So, you know, I'm stating from a approach of an analytical standpoint of what traits is he exhibiting as a leader or what is he doing from a national security standpoint.

I don't think I've ever actually insulted the man as the president. And that's unfortunately what Secretary Mattis did last night. It was insulting. That's why I consider it unprofessional.

Here is the thing, too, Kate. I spent a bit of time last week at an Army convention in Washington, D.C. The young folks in our military are constantly debating now, more than I've ever seen them do this. There's an active discussion going on with the junior leaders about the civil military relationship.

And in the time of Trump, it has deteriorated -- deteriorated to a degree where it's causing divisions in the military as well. And that's unfortunate because the military is a professional body that takes an oath to defend the Constitution.

And when an individual who is the commander-in-chief causes the divisions inside of this professional body, it's unfortunate and it's scary to me.

BOLDUAN: General, thank you. Good to have you on. We'll be right back.

HERTLING: Always a pleasure, Kate. Thanks.

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[11:53:47]

BOLDUAN: More than 800 tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. This week's "CNN Hero" is a lawyer in Dubai who took it upon himself to take that on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: The whole beach was like a carpet of plastic. For the first time in my life I didn't want to get in the water because the garbage was like five and a half feet. Pollution is created by us. With this in my mind, I decided to clean the beach.

I told myself, being one man, I knew it would be difficult to do it myself. I got other people. The solutions are simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: To learn more, go to CNNheroes.com.

Be right back.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't move. Don't sell your house. Don't sell your house. We're going to get those jobs coming back. And we're going to fill up those factories or rip them down and build brand new ones. That's what's going to happen.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That was President Trump making a promise in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2017. Fast-forward to 2019 and the president hasn't delivered and can't. A G.M. plant in Lordstown will close.

Joining ne now to discuss, CNN business correspondent, Alison Kosik.

What are you hearing about all this, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: As you can imagine, there's a lot of sadness, a lot of disappointment, because, for 1600 workers, this was their live, their livelihood.

General Motors is saying, yes, they've gone ahead and relocated 1300 hourly employees but that means they've had to sell their houses in order to get employment somewhere else.

The bitter irony to this is Trump. He zeroed in on this plant in Ohio because of his promise to working-class voters that he would revive U.S. manufacturing, keep jobs in the U.S. And it was with that promise that he won the swing state of Ohio.

So a lot of people losing their jobs at this plant, they actually heard his speech in Youngstown 15 miles down the road from the plant. He told them not to sell their houses but now they have to do just that.

Those in industrial northeast Ohio, they're not going to forget the promise Donald Trump didn't keep. As far as negotiations, the timing is unclear as to when things will

wrap up. There was a break on Wednesday. G.M. and auto workers reached a tentative labor deal. It gives workers pay -- pay increases for workers. It protects health insurance and it provides temporary employees to go on for a period of time.

[11:55:15]

But until union workers sign off on this, it's not a done deal. It needs approval both from union leadership and the rank-and-file members who work for G.M. as well.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much, Alison.

KOSIK: You've got it.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

We'll be right back.

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