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Top Diplomat Directly Ties Trump To Ukraine Quid Pro Quo; Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Arrives For Capitol Hill Testimony; CNN Poll Shows Biden Widens Lead Over 2020 Democratic Rival. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 23, 2019 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


A lot of moving parts right now in Washington. The president just announced he will give a statement on Syria at the White House. It will happen in one hour. We'll see it here. We'll hear what he says about that and if he has anything to say about the shocking testimony from America's top diplomat in Ukraine. That is Bill Taylor detailing congressional investigators -- two investigators, the Trump administration's shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Taylor says, under oath we should note, that multiple senior administration officials informed him that the president personally blocked military aid to Ukraine and refused to meet with that country's new president, unless, and this is key, Ukraine agree to investigate Joe Biden and a conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 U.S. election.

Meanwhile, aides are telling the president to accept that he will likely be impeached, and now is the time to start attacking the impeachment process itself. Although it seems that's already started.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. I think it bears repeating why and how Taylor's testimony, a Trump appointee, a military veteran, served both Democratic and Republican administrations, why his testimony particularly -- in particular, was damning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he is a top diplomat for the president in Ukraine who had visibility about everything that was happening, about why military aid had been withheld. His concerns that he had raised for some time about pushing, allowing this military aid to be provided to Ukraine, which he said, people's lives were on the line. People are at risk of dying if they were not provided this aid that have been approved by Congress because of a military conflict, that Ukraine is in with Russia. They needed this money desperately. And he learned through the course of his time serving as the president's top diplomat that the reason why this had been withheld was because the president had been seeking the public declaration from the Ukrainians that they were investigating the company that was tied to the former vice president, Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, as well as the 2016 elections as part of an effort to undercut the Intelligence Committee's findings that Russia interfered to help in the election to help President Trump.

Now, what he said in this testimony yesterday was that the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told -- he said this. He also told me that he now recognized he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials, to whom he spoke at a White House meeting with President Zelensky, was dependent on a public announcement of investigations. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.

And just moments ago, right now, currently, guys, Republicans, House Republicans are right outside where the meeting is taking place, where Laura Cooper, a top defense official, is testifying about military aid, attacking the process. So expect those comments, those criticisms by Republicans to intensify as they try to side with the president amid these damning revelations. Guys?

HARLOW: Manu, thank you very much for that reporting. I appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She sit on the Judiciary and Budget Committees. Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Thanks, Jim. It's great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So let's talk about Bill Taylor's testimony, a Trump appointee, a respected diplomat, served Republican and Democratic administrations, served, I should note as well, in the 82nd and 101st Airborne in Vietnam. He says he was told by multiple officials in his position that the president personally ordered the aid connected and withheld pending an investigation of the Bidens. In your view, does that give you sufficient evidence for an article of impeachment on abuse power by this president?

JAYAPAL: Well, Jim, it is certainly damning testimony. I think what is most damning though is the president's actions. And this is an unusual case, Jim, where we have the number one witness early in the process, and that was the president of the United States himself saying exactly what he did, admitting it in public.

And, you know, the Republicans are not attacking what is actually being said. They're attacking the process because it's very difficult to attack numerous piece of corroborating evidence to what the president said at the beginning, that he abused the power of the White House, that he betrayed the Constitution, that he betrayed our values and our national security. And I think Bill Taylor was the perfect example of a career diplomat with tremendous credibility actually testifying to exactly what happened.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about the process for a moment, because these interviews are being discussed -- are being held in private.


And I know there is precedent for that in the early stages of both the Nixon and Clinton impeachments. But I want to ask you this. Should Democrats commit now to calling witnesses such as Bill Taylor back to testify in a public setting when impeachment hearings begin? Do you believe that's a commitment Democrats should make?

JAYAPAL: Well, as you know, the chairman has said all of these depositions will be released. There is just a process to make sure that the witnesses themselves approve those deposition transcripts. That will happen. The American people will get a chance to see all of that. I do think we will have some public hearings.

I hope that the Republicans don't turn it into a show for the president. That's pretty much what a lot of these public hearings have been, have been an opportunity for them to just turn this into a show.

But, yes, I agree that we need --

SCIUTTO: But they have a right to ask questions. Every hearing can turn into a show. But they have a right to ask questions.

JAYAPAL: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: And, frankly, I imagine Americans at home want to see rather than read, see this testimony.

JAYAPAL: Yes. But, Jim, don't forget, they are asking questions. There were what 72 people in the room when Taylor was testifying. That is a quarter of Congress. And there were absolutely Republicans in the room to do that. Because remember, these are committees where we have Republicans and Democrats in the same process.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And that's fair, it's sort of a -- it's kind of a silly point because Republicans aren't granting that they are being allowed to be asking questions. But still I want to be clear here, are you saying that Democrats are not going to calling some of these key witnesses back to public testimony?

JAYAPAL: No, not at all. I think there will be some public piece to this, of course, and there should be. I do think that the question here is how long are the Republicans going to continue to try to defend the president in the face of absolutely outrageous behavior where the president betrayed our national security, our Constitution and asked a foreign ally to interfere as their -- you know, as the reason for releasing aid that Congress has already appropriated. That is the question. How long are Republicans going to continue to tolerate that behavior?

SCIUTTO: Will the president's lawyers have the opportunity to cross- examine witnesses at a later stage in the impeachment inquiry?

JAYAPAL: Well, as you know, if the House impeaches, it goes to the Senate for the trial. And, of course, that trial is presided over by the Supreme Court Chief Justice. This is a very serious process. None of us want to have any kind of a process other than one that really allows the American people to see what happens and to be able to come to terms with the tremendous betrayal of a president. And I think people need to be able to do that.

SCIUTTO: Final question. You know better than me that Democrats need broad public support for this to proceed with political backing, but also to have a chance, if this is your intention to have, the president removed in the Senate.

And let's look at this latest CNN poll. 50 percent of Americans now for impeachment and removal from office, that's up three points from last month. But when you look at these polls across the board, they've stabilized around that level, ours and other outlets. And if you look at swing state polling, swing state polling shows a minority, only a minority supporting the president's impeachment and removal from office. Does that crate to you that Democrats have more to prove to voters to move forward on this?

JAYAPAL: No. I mean, I respect looking at polls. We all do it. We need to do it. But this is about our Constitution. We were sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution. And the framers of the Constitution made it very cheer that if you have a president that is violating the Constitution, it is Congress' responsibility to take that on and to protect our republic, to protect our democracy.

And so polling moves, as you know, and Donald Trump certainly knows this, polling moves based on what people in elected office say, how they use that platform. And that requires Republicans standing up for the Constitution.

But I'll tell you, I think if you look at the Nixon polling, you know, it was 19 percent when those impeachment hearings started. By the time the House impeached, and it went -- you know, it was at the end of the process, it was so inevitable that Nixon was going to be impeached that he resigned.

So public polling is not a static thing. It moves constantly. I think it will continue to move. But the most important thing here is that we uphold our responsibility.

SCIUTTO: And the Nixon poll, what really moved the voting in the end was those tapes. And we'll see if there is a moment like that here or maybe not.

JAYAPAL: I think we've had it.

SCIUTTO: Well, maybe. To some, it was certainly a consequential testimony. Congresswoman Jayapal, thanks very much. JAYAPAL: Thank you so much, Jim.

HARLOW: All right, great interview. Also a busy morning on Capitol Hill. Take a look. We've got live pictures. That is the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. He just arrived on the Hill. His testimony is about to begin before the House Financial Services Committee over the next several hours. Lawmakers will grill him on a host of critical issues, including election interference.


Zuckerberg expected to face a lot of questions also about whether or not Facebook should censor or allow false political ads to run on its platform.

Brian Fung, our Tech Reporter, is all over this. This -- I mean, he actually did a good job last time he testified. He impressed people, right? Remember the last time he was on the Hill? The questions now to him though, I think, are even more pressing, right? They're about the future of the Democracy and the role that Facebook plays in it.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Yes, this is going to be a major test for Facebook as it tries to or rebuild confidence and trust among policymakers. Facebook is going to face questions ranging from, you know, its handling of digital currency, Libra, to its impact on the housing market.

But given some of the concerns about Facebook's stance on political advertising, lawmakers say that Zuckerberg should really be prepared for anything.

Here is what Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia told reporters yesterday. She said, when you're here as a witness, you've got to be prepared to answer whatever questions come. There are serious concerns in light of the news within the last 24 hours. And the news she's referring to, of course, is Facebook's announcement on Monday that it suspended fake accounts linked to Russia and Iran. Those accounts, Facebook said, are seeking to divide Americans ahead of the 2020 election.

And that's not all. Facebook is now facing anti-trust scrutiny from 47 state attorneys general who are investigating the company for competitive concerns. And you know this is -- this ups the ante considerably for Zuckerberg. And this is the first time Zuckerberg is testifying in front of Congress since 2018, but it's his third visit to D.C. since -- just in the last two months alone. It just goes to show how significant Facebook sees this.

HARLOW: Totally. In the face of Democrats and Republicans, you know, including Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, who says Facebook has too much political power. How will he answer those questions? We'll watch. Thanks, Brian, we appreciate it.

We have a lot ahead this hour, more on that explosive testimony from a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, as sources tell CNN, White House aides are pushing the president to accept the fact that impeachment is coming. We'll talk about that next. SCIUTTO: Plus, a new CNN poll shows Joe Biden has his biggest lead since April. We're going to breaking down all the numbers.

And prosecutors announced new charges in the college admission scandal against several parents, including actress Lori Loughlin and her husband. We're going to will have an update more on that remarkable story, coming up.



SCIUTTO: More now on the dramatic testimony from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine and a respected diplomat who served both Democratic and Republican administrations. Taylor undercutting President Trump's insistence there was no quid pro quo, revealing to House committees under oath that he was told by multiple officials that the U.S., the president specifically, would not release millions of dollars in crucial military aid to Ukraine unless the Ukrainian president publicly announced a politically motivated investigation.

HARLOW: Now, sources tell CNN White House aides are pushing the president to accept that he will be, they believe, impeached by the House.

With us now to discuss, Asha Rangappa, Jackie Kucinich, and Jim can say it better than I.

SCIUTTO: Oh, Renato Mariotti. I mean, she's got to respect my Italian roots when given the opportunity.

HARLOW: All right. So, Jackie, let me begin with you. How significant is it, two things, the way that McConnell responded to all of this yesterday, Mitch McConnell, and, two, the fact that the most damaging testimony for the president in all this has come from his guys, people that he hired, people he brought on, like Bill Taylor?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's highly significant. I mean, Bill Taylor was brought in from Pompeo out of retirement to hold this position. So this is Pompeo's guy, as you said. This is someone -- this isn't the shady deep state that the president likes to point to. So that is very significant.

Now, McConnell, the fact that he chose to distance himself from the president when he usually tries to keep this middle ground shows just how serious this is, that he's not willing to put his neck out for the president and there isn't a coordinated response on the Hill right now. The Republican senators have kind of been left on their own to figure out what to say as all of these rolls out. And it seems like as of yesterday, McConnell wasn't going to have it anymore.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Asha, help me out legally here, because there is still something of a firewall around Trump himself. Bill Taylor says he was told by multiple administration officials that the president ordered this aid to be held back until this investigation happen. But so far, we haven't had a John Dean moment, say, someone who said, yes, the president told me, I was in the room, I got an email, I was on the phone with him, he said, hold this aid back. From a legal perspective, short of that direct witness, is there a legal case here for abuse of power?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, I think there is. You know, I don't think that you need an email or a phone recording of Trump, you know, literally telling someone to withhold the aid.


Bill Taylor's opening statement actually states that he was told by the OMB that they received direct orders from the president to withhold the aid. They weren't told the reason. But the individual who received that order could clearly come in and testify. And it looks like there was that kind of order.

But even without it, we know from basically all of these different people testifying that this was the intention, that this aid was, in fact, being withheld, that Ambassador Sondland said that everything rested, that is the public declaration of investigating the Bidens and the 2016 campaign was conditioned on the release of this aid and that Taylor was aware that if it wasn't released, that it would expire at the end of the fiscal year. So I think it's a pretty strong case.

HARLOW: Renato, again, on the legal due process frontier, the case that the White House is making, they says this is just totally unfair. Jay Sekulow says every American is smart enough to know when somebody is being denied due process, not the president but the presidency. Do they have a case to make that the process is not fair?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly not a legal case to make. There is no due process that applies to impeachment proceedings. And in any event, this is really like a grand jury. When there is grand jury that -- prosecutor and panels, the defense doesn't get an opportunity to present witnesses, the defense doesn't get an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. The prosecutor builds their case.

And then here, in this context, the jury would be the United States Senate. And I imagine that Mitch McConnell will give the president a very fair hearing in the United States Senate. I don't see any reason why he would not.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, the politics, of course, impeachment is a political process, politics are going to drive decisions on this for many. The polling seems to have stabilized. We have a new CNN poll, again, a majority. 50 percent, I believe, is the figure now supporting impeachment and removal from office, and that's key, not just the impeachment inquiry but removal from office. But it has, in several outlets, polling recently, it stabilized around that point. I mean, that's significant. We should not underestimate how significant that rise is since March. That's notable.

But Harry Enten made the point that now pretty much in line with Trump's approval/disapproval ratings. And I wonder if, politically, that support has to cross some sort of Rubicon, higher than where it is now for a significant number of Republicans to say, listen, this ain't right.

KUCINICH: I think that they're looking back home. And the people I am watching are these senators that are in states that are in blue or purple states that have these very tough races, how they're moving, what they're saying. Because Those are -- that's where they're going to be the canary in the coal mine when you start seeing people like Susan Collins, Corey Booker, Joni Ernst, some Republicans that don't necessarily go in line with the president on every issue but are facing some pressures at home.

So while these national polls are important indicators, I think looking at what's happening in the states is also going to be very informative as we go forward in this process.

HARLOW: You know, Asha, it strikes me that one tie that has not been fully made yet that leaves a lot of holes and questions is Rudy Giuliani and his association with the two men that are about to have a pretty big day here. The two Giuliani associates that are going to be arraigned today in just a matter of minutes on campaign finance charges, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas in Giuliani's meetings with them, et cetera. I mean, what questions does that still raise for you in this entire conversation about Ukraine and the president's dealings?

RANGAPPA: It raises a whole host of questions. Now, we know that these men were working at the request of one or more Ukrainian officials to further their interests by influencing U.S. policy kind of in this shadow way. And they were not involved, you know, they weren't doing this at the direction of the president.

Meanwhile, Giuliani is being kind of deputized and enlisted by the president for this kind of shadow foreign policy. But Giuliani is also involved in this kind of private negotiation or with these people associated with them. So how this all ties together in terms of, you know, trying to influence U.S. foreign policy both at a shadow level with the government and just in a private capacity, I think, remains to be seen and could be deeply problematic.

SCIUTTO: All right, guys, thanks so much. I feel a little smarter. Asha Rangappa, Jackie Kucinich, Renato Mariotti, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. New CNN polling this morning shows Joe Biden with his lead widening over his Democratic rivals. There is one red flag for his supporters though, that is giving his opponents a boost.



HARLOW: All right. A boost this morning for Joe Biden, a new CNN poll shows the former vice president expanding his lead over his 2020 Democratic rivals.

SCIUTTO: Rumors of his demise greatly exaggerated perhaps. 34 percent of likely Democratic voters say Biden is their top choice. That's up ten points from September, firmly ahead, we should not, of both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have actually seen their support hold steady there.

Joining us to discuss, CNN Politics Reporter And Editor At Large, Chris Cillizza.


So credit where credit is due, this is a strong lead, he's kept the lead virtually since the beginning here.