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Mulvaney Denies Quid Pro Quo after Admitting it on Live TV; Ambassador: Trump Ordered Diplomats to Work with Giuliani on Ukraine; White House: Trump to Host G-7 Summit at His Own Resort. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired October 18, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just described is a quid pro quo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mulvaney thinks he can put lipstick on that pig and not think it's still a pig.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is hardly an Agatha Christie novel at this point. We've got the White House chief of staff admitting to the crime.
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody. Get over it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A key figure at the figure of the Ukraine scandal testifying before Congress.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The opening statement says no quid pro quo whatsoever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of us came away believing that there was a quid pro quo. Ambassador Sondland didn't do anything to dispel that notion.
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 all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, October 18, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we begin with an overt case of whiplash in the White House.
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney walking back his very clear statement that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. The president had been denying that for weeks. A source says President Trump was not happy after that press conference.
Elsewhere in Washington over on Capitol Hill, Trump ally Gordon Sondland further implicating the president in the Ukraine controversy, telling Congress that Mr. Trump ordered him, as well as other diplomats, to deal directly with Rudy Giuliani on all matters involving Ukraine. Sondland says the directive disappointed him, but he allowed it anyway.
Now another key player in the Ukraine scandal, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, is announcing he's resigning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, breaking overnight, new video of smoke rising over the eastern Syria city of Ras al-Ayn. This raises questions about what the administration has called a five-day ceasefire that Vice President Pence brokered with Turkey.
By the way, Turkey doesn't call it a ceasefire. U.S. critics, including Republicans, are calling it a complete acquiescence or capitulation to all of Turkey's demands. The vice president agreed to accept Turkey's military presence in Northern Syria, to back off threatened sanctions against Turkey, and to facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the region. This is everything Turkey wanted when it began the military action more than one week ago, an assault only begun after the president announced the removal of U.S. troops from the region.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney is asking this morning, quote, "Are we so weak and inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America?"
A lot to discuss this morning. We begin, though, with what has been called the confession from the White House chief of staff. Lauren Fox begins our coverage live on Capitol Hill -- Lauren.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, well, the quid pro quo has been at the center of this Democratic impeachment inquiry. And yesterday, the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, seemed to muddy the water, seemingly admitting on camera that there was a quid pro quo and then quickly walking that back.
FOX (voice-over): Mick Mulvaney making this stunning admission when asked if President Trump held back military aid to Ukraine for political gain.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with fortune policy. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
FOX: The acting chief of staff seemingly confirming one of the whistle-blower's key accusations, that the U.S. delayed nearly $400 million to Ukraine, unless they started investigations at President Trump's bidding, including whether Ukraine was holding a DNC server from the 2016 election, one of the president's debunked conspiracy theories.
MULVANEY: The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden. FOX: Allegations of a quid pro quo started after Trump's July 25th
phone call with the Ukrainian president. And they're at the heart of Democrats' impeachment inquiry, something Trump has denied for weeks.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no quid pro quo.
There was no quid pro quo.
And there was never any quid pro quo.
FOX: Thursday's briefing leaving the president fuming, one source tells CNN. Trump's personal legal team and the White House counsel's office reportedly expressed concerns.
The acting chief of staff walking back his comments just hours later, writing, quote, "Let me be clear. There was absolutely no quid pro quo. The president never told me to withhold any money."
Still, Democrats not convinced.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Mr. Mulvaney's acknowledgment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much worse.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): This is hardly an Agatha Christie novel at this point. We've got Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, coming out and admitting to the crime.
FOX: Meanwhile, Gordon Sondland telling lawmakers Thursday Trump made his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the gatekeeper of all things Ukraine. The U.S. ambassador to the European Union testified that he didn't understand until later that Giuliani's agenda could involve getting Ukrainian help in Trump's re-election campaign.
Sondland becoming a prime witness in the impeachment inquiry after text messages between him and another U.S. diplomat revealed the message of, quote, "no quid pro quo."
U.S. top diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, quote, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
Sondland telling Congress yesterday, "I asked the president, 'What do you want from Ukraine?' The president responded, 'Nothing. There's no quid pro quo.'"
After that conversation, Sondland texting back, quote, "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president's been crystal clear. No quid pro quos of any kind."
And of course, Rick Perry announcing last night that he does plan to resign by the end of the year. There's a document request deadline today on Capitol Hill for Rick Perry.
Also, Laura Cooper, the acting deputy secretary of defense, is expected to not be coming up to Capitol Hill this morning. Instead, she'll come next week -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Lauren Fox for us on Capitol Hill. Lauren, thank you very much.
Let's make one thing clear, that Mick Mulvaney is trying to walk this thing back. He didn't just admit the quid pro quo. He doubled down. He tripled down. He wallowed in it. He washed in it. He rinsed in it. He danced in it. He said, "Get over it." I mean, this was not --
CAMEROTA: He devoured it.
BERMAN: He devoured -- This wasn't a slip of a tongue.
CAMEROTA: No. And I like that -- we're still couching it as seemingly. No. It was so overt, in fact, that the reporters asked repeatedly, So to be clear, you're describing a quid pro quo. He's like, "Get over it."
BERMAN: "Get over it."
All right. So what's the legal implication of all of this? That's next.
CAMEROTA: Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that the administration did withhold millions of dollars in defense funding to Ukraine in part to pressure the country into investigating Democrats. And then Mick Mulvaney said he did not.
Joining us now is --
BERMAN: Actually, it doesn't matter that he said he didn't. It's like the fact that he said he did it is irrelevant, given that for 40 minutes, he said it again and again and again and again.
CAMEROTA: Well, I'm just giving him his due, because then, suddenly he felt like he didn't say it.
CAMEROTA: But he also said -- he claims that media misconstrued it. But we have it on tape. So you can hear for yourself --
CAMEROTA: -- whether or not there was some miscommunication.
Bianna Golodryga, CNN senior global affairs analyst, is with us, as is Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
OK. We -- the reporters in the briefing, Bianna, were so gobsmacked when he admitted this that they actually asked him to clarify it and gave him multiple opportunities to rethink it.
Here is the moment where they suspected he might want to walk it back. So they gave him that opportunity. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he was ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?
MULVANEY: The -- the look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the -- into the Democratic server happens, as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: "We do that all the time."
BERMAN: Not just yes, but we do it all the time.
CAMEROTA: All right time. "We do it all the time."
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not just with Ukraine. It could be every single country we deal with, right?
CAMEROTA: I mean, we put political pressure as an ultimatum or whatever, a quid pro quo. I mean, what was that?
GOLODRYGA: And then to top it all off with "Get over it." I mean, this is the "get over it" foreign policy administration. It is unbelievable.
He listed three reasons, right? Three examples as to why they were withholding that money. As you mentioned, asked by multiple reporters, is this what you mean? Are you sure you're saying what you're saying? And he said yes, and get over it.
So clearly, he went out there freelancing. It doesn't seem like any of this was vetted by the White House attorneys. And you're wondering why they don't hold that many press briefings. And it's because they put their foot in their mouth.
CAMEROTA: Because they accidentally tell the truth.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Repeatedly.
BERMAN: He's the acting chief of staff, and the acting is more like Vin Diesel than Laurence Olivier. I mean, this is not good acting --
BERMAN: -- in terms of chief of staff.
So Elie, I am -- I am more interested in what he actually said for 39 minutes when he committed the astounding feat of journalism of pressing record on the camera and listening here.
He's suggesting that, yes, there's a quid pro quo, but there's nothing wrong with it. He's trying to establish a difference between the quid pro quo for investigating 2016, this tinfoil-hat conspiracy of CrowdStrike and investigating Joe Biden. That's a thin read. That's thin.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. He is way out there. That was -- that was really an astonishing public act of legal and strategic self-destruction that we witnessed yesterday. I've seen a lot of defense lawyers come out and say a lot of things. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone give it up that -- in such a flagrant way.
And yes, they're on -- they're on a really thin read now. It seems what they're falling back on this notion of, well, Donald Trump is this international corruption buster. He's out there cleaning up the streets in Ukraine and other countries. The problem is, it's a complete fiction.
GOLODRYGA: What other countries?
GOLODRYGA: It's only Ukraine.
HONIG: They asked him. They said what are the -- what are the cases, other than Biden's and CrowdStrike, have you ever had any interest in last week. And he said, we'll have to look. And they're still looking.
HONIG: That one is not going to fly at all. And Mulvaney, look -- the statements that Mick Mulvaney made yesterday can be used against Donald Trump. Certainly, in an impeachment proceeding, and even potentially in a criminal proceeding, because there's -- not to get too wonkish here, but there's something called statement of an agent. If someone who's authorized to speak as an agent for somebody says something, it can be used back against the principal.
CAMEROTA: So the president was reportedly not happy with what happened there. Because the president has been saying no quid pro quo. And then Mick Mulvaney came out and said, yes, of course. We do it all the time.
BERMAN: Get over it.
CAMEROTA: So now there's reporting on what led up to that. And apparently, Mick Mulvaney was briefed before that -- before he went out for that press conference. But he was briefed about Doral. That's what they thought. Because there's this possible violation of the Emoluments Clause, that they're going to be having the G-7 summit at Doral. So that's what he was most briefed on. They did touch on impeachment but didn't think that reporters were going to ask that much about impeachment.
GOLODRYGA: Well, shame on them for not thinking that these questions would come up. But it does seem like Mick Mulvaney may be on his own without corroborating or touching base with the lawyers. But he had a perfectly fine answer to that.
And it seems their strategy, given that impeachment is a political process and not a legal one, that if they can win over the American public by laying it all out there and by looking like they're not trying to hide or cover anything up, then if they just say on a daily basis, there's nothing wrong with a quid pro quo foreign policy strategy, then everything's kosher. It's not.
BERMAN: I apologize to Vin Diesel for suggesting he isn't a good actor.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Don't throw shade on Vin Diesel.
BERMAN: Because he's a much better actor than Mick Mulvaney was yesterday. If your job is acting, Vin Diesel is better at it than Mick Mulvaney.
CAMEROTA: I'm glad you issued that clarification.
BERMAN: Thank you. CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys, very much.
President Trump's chief of staff and his E.U. ambassador both put the president at the center of the Ukraine controversy. So what we've learned now about Ambassador Sondland's testimony. That's next.
BERMAN: So we have new details this morning about Gordon Sondland's testimony to impeachment investigators. And it puts President Trump and, frankly, Rudy Giuliani right at the center of all of this controversy.
Sondland told Congress that he was directed by the president to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine. And that the president wouldn't commit to a meeting with Ukraine's president until Giuliani was involved.
Giuliani, of course, was trying to encourage Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens.
Back with us, Bianna Golodryga and Elie Honig. Let me read you a bit from Sondland's opening statement that he gave yesterday. Quote, "We were disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani. Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of foreign policy. However, based on the president's direction, we were faced with a choice. We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the president's concerns."
Mick Mulvaney yesterday in his, you know, masked confession there basically said, yes, we ran it through Giuliani and there's nothing wrong with it.
Gordon Sondland is testifying the Ukraine policy was run through the president's personal attorney, who was doing political work for him to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
Let's not lose sight of just how strange it is that Rudy Giuliani was not just involved in this, but at the center of it. Because it all boils down to there was only two possible reasons the president was dealing with Ukraine the way he was.
One was he was trying to advance the best diplomatic and foreign policy interests of the United States. Two is he was trying to advance his own personal and political interests. And the fact that Rudy Giuliani was centrally involved answers that question for you.
BERMAN: And Giuliani tells us and has told us he was doing political work for his client, the president. So running foreign policy through someone dealing with political purposes, and we see months of it here, Elie.
HONIG: Yes. The fact that Rudy Giuliani was involved at all, I think, tells you, really, all you need to know. I mean, it's, again, they're being so open about it: Yes, I was advancing the president's personal and political interests. That's why he's about to get impeached. You're not to use American foreign policy to advance your own political and personal interests.
CAMEROTA: I thought it was interesting that Ambassador Sondland did not provide cover for the president. Because there was also some speculation and question beforehand, based on the texts if he was going to go in there and do that. He did not do that. And in fact, he went so far as to say that he does not believe that military aid should be delayed for any reason to Ukraine.
GOLODRYGA: Well, he has no long-held ties to President Trump like Rudy Giuliani does. He is somebody who wanted to become a career person in the White House and the administration, an ambassador to be taken seriously. He donated a million dollars to the Trump campaign. And voila, now all of a sudden, he's the ambassador to the E.U.
His story, for the most part, remained consistent with the other testimonies that we saw from other State Department officials throughout the week. Except I find it a little difficult to believe his narrative that he had no idea that this involved investigating Joe Biden. In particular, because Rudy Giuliani, as you said, was telegraphing this for months now. So had he not been following the news, I mean, that I find hard to
believe. Everything else, though, does seem to line up with what we heard from others this week. So this was damning testimony once again for the president.
BERMAN: Yes. I mean, we're going to hear from members of Congress who are part of that, who say that what Sondland was trying to do was cover his own ass. That's the language they used. I'm sorry for swearing.
CAMEROTA: I am shocked right now.
BERMAN: But that's the language -- that's the language they used.
CAMEROTA: I am shocked. In New Jersey, we never use that language.
BERMAN: We'll hear from that. I want to shift gears, if I can. Because Mick Mulvaney, the reason he went to talk to the press was to announce that the G-7 summit would be held in the president's golf course. This was the golf course that was supposed to hold the strip club golf tournament earlier this summer.
CAMEROTA: Yes, that was a good line.
BERMAN: They couldn't pull that off, so they're doing the G-7 instead. It's pretty remarkable, Elie. Because the Constitution is pretty clear about paying yourself for stuff like this.
HONIG: Yes. It really is. When I used to do Italian mafia cases, there was a thing called paying tribute. And what it meant was there was this expectation that all the members put a couple bucks in the boss's pocket now and then to stay in food favor.
And here we're saying it. And it's not the first time, by the way. There's a long history of administration officials, people putting government money in Donald Trump's pocket.
Remember, Mike Pence stayed at Trump's resort. Bill Barr did -- is doing his holiday party at a Trump hotel. We have foreign leaders.
And remember, in the Zelensky call, Zelensky goes out of his way to remind the president, hey, I stayed at your place, Trump International. It's the best hotel.
So this is -- this is going on and on. The question is what is anyone going to do about it? It's really -- Congress needs to look at this seriously as an article of impeachment.
CAMEROTA: Well, surely, they will. And therein is another irony. Just as the president is under the biggest spotlight of his presidency with all of these -- the impeachment inquiry happening in three committees. He's not shying away from provoking investigators. I mean, this is just Exhibit A.
GOLODRYGA: Between this and Syria, I mean, he is clearly just saying, I don't care. I dare you, right? I dare you to turn against me.
And look at how you've seen Republicans react. Marco Rubio said, oh, you know, this might not be a bad idea. Mick Mulvaney suggested that, out of the multiple resorts and places where they have looked into holding the G-7 next year, two of them happen to be owned by the Trump family, right? You had Mar-a-Lago --
CAMEROTA: What a coincidence.
GOLODRYGA: -- and the Doral. And again, going back to the irony not being lost, the focus on corruption and the Ukraine when you talk about just how corrupt this looks, to be holding the G-7 at your own property? It's mind-boggling.
BERMAN: Look, my suggestion was to actually hold the impeachment hearings at Doral.
CAMEROTA: Why not?
BERMAN: Why not?
HONIG: The Constitution does not limit where you have to hold an impeachment hearing, so it's in play, John.
GOLODRYGA: He goes to Bedminster, too. Why go far?
BERMAN: So if it has to happen, make a buck. Right?
CAMEROTA: That's a great suggestion.
BERMAN: New questions this morning about whether what the administration is pitching as the cease-fire in Syria is holding. Others are saying the capitulation to all of Turkey's demands. We have a live report from the border next.