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Sources: House Democrats Could Begin Public Hearings By Mid- November; Republicans Storm Impeachment Hearing; Stocks Flat as Corporate Earnings Season Continues; Republicans Storm Hearing Some of Them Already Had Access To; GOP Stunt a Desperate Attempt to Defend Trump? Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2019 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good Thursday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto is on assignment today. You will see a great interview in just a little bit that he is doing.

This morning, though, Democrats are hoping to speed up the behind-the- scenes stage of their impeachment inquiry. Their goal, hold a vote by Thanksgiving which would tee up the trial phase of the impeachment series before the end of the year. But there are signs that the timeline may stretch out for weeks beyond that mark.

Meanwhile, the messaging battle is heating up to the point of this stunt by a group of House Republicans, roughly two dozen of them, protested the impeachment by forcing their way into the secure room where testimony was taking place. Worth noting, around half of those who supposedly stormed that room, well, they were already allowed to be in there.

They are members of the relevant committees which means that they can cross-examine witnesses as much as they want, and that means some of these members essentially broke into an unlocked room.

A source says the president was aware of the plan. He met with some of the lawmakers involved at the White House the day before. His allies in the White House are urging the president to accept the reality of impeachment and instead attack the process itself.

Let's start on Capitol Hill this hour. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins me there.

I mean, I think it's worth noting, you've got 48 Republican members of these three committees already asking questions. And then you've got about half of the folks that stormed in there yesterday who could have been in there by choice anyways. Anything other than a publicity stunt?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this was led in part by one of the Republicans who is leading the questioning, Jim Jordan, Oversight Committee ranking member, but a number of other Republicans who were on those committees, about half of those who stormed in, as you mentioned, serve on those committees.

What they're trying to make the case is that they should be open to the public, even though what they tried to do is -- what they ended up doing was delaying testimony from one key figure, Laura Cooper, who's a senior Defense Department official, for about five hours. Ultimately, they did hear testimony from her and I'm told from sources who are in the room that she'd revealed the -- how money was -- that aid, that military aid was provided, how it generally provided the process and how the military aid in the case of Ukraine deviated from that path.

And we've known from separate testimony that one of the reasons why perhaps is the president wanted Ukraine to announce public investigations into his political rivals in exchange for releasing that aid. Now this comes amid this push by the Democrats to bring in more witnesses. They announced yesterday several more witnesses could come -- are expected to come forward over the next several days, including Timothy Morrison, who's a senior official in the National Security Council. Someone who figured prominently in the testimony of Bill Taylor, the top diplomat from Ukraine who raised concerns about the president's conduct and putting preconditions on this military aid.

Apparently, Morrison they're planning to hear from. But they plan to hear from other witnesses as well. And this could stretch out through November. Potentially they could even have public hearings, if possible it could be before Thanksgiving. And possibly still after Thanksgiving and they're discussing bringing back some key figures potentially in public hearings like Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted Ukrainian ambassador who was targeted by Rudy Giuliani, and Rudy Giuliani associates and bad mouthed by the president. Maybe Bill Taylor himself.

So we'll see how they ultimately move forward but this push to impeach, Poppy, not going to be quick because there are more leads that they are learning, more witnesses they want to come in and some are being difficult to schedule -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Maybe that -- maybe John Bolton, too, after that Taylor testimony. Thanks, Manu.

RAJU: It's possible. Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: A month into the impeachment inquiry in Capitol Hill, the president is testing out different response strategies as his allies keep trying to come up with a unified defense.

Joe Johns is with us this morning from the White House. So what are you hearing, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this started out with the president saying there was no quid pro quo and it was a perfect conversation he had with Ukraine's president. And we come up today where the president just within the last 24 hours or so was out on Twitter calling Republicans who opposed him human scum. So the president's messaging has been simply all over the place. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, really sort of

summed their problem up on FOX in an interview just a little while ago indicating that the big problem is these depositions are going on in secret. She says, you know, we could use some help from the Democrats. If we could see what we're trying to fight, we'd be able to message it a little better. It's hard to message anything that's going on behind closed doors and in secret. It's like you're fighting a ghost.

So, the argument from the White House and from some of the president's defenders, as well as some of his aides is one of the key messages to focus in on is due process and fundamental fairness.


The idea essentially that the president's rights are being violated because Democrats, at least up to this stage, have not been engaging, they would say, in transparency and openness. But there's a huge problem for the White House in making that argument as everybody knows. And that is that the president has essentially fought tooth and nail against transparency and openness by not releasing his tax returns, by telling witnesses not to testify on Capitol Hill, by fighting subpoenas. So it's hard for this White House to make that argument, at least at this stage, simply because the president has not been for transparency and openness.

HARLOW: I mean, not to mention, Adam Schiff and the Democrats said they're going to release the transcripts, they're going to release a detailed report and this is essentially like a grand jury. You don't have a Ken Starr report here, right? This is the initial process of investigating.

JOHNS: That's right.

HARLOW: All right, Joe. Thank you.

Let's talk about all of this. CNN legal analyst Shan Wu is with me. Also CNN political analyst Karoun Demerjian.

Karoun, let me begin with you. You've got a great piece in the "Post" this morning along with Rachel Bade, and your reporting is that Democrats may be feeling a little pressure to move this thing into the public light and the public hearings a little bit sooner? If that's the case, is the Republican messaging that this is all just totally unfair and secret working?

KAROUN DEMERJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that when you saw that episode yesterday outside the SCIF where the Republicans were going in, there was consternation. Some Democrats were starting to feel some pressure about that. And it is making people think, at least, about the next stage of this because there's so many GOP calls for the public stage. Democrats are really thinking about, well, how do we actually orchestrate this? How do we make it work?

There hasn't been any final decisions taken about who is going to run the show, about which witnesses they will bring in, but you're starting to hear a lot of the Democrats on these three panels that are running the impeachment probe coalesce around bringing in Ambassador Taylor, bringing back Ambassador Yovanovitch. There is some interest, although not totally unanimity about what, you know, potentially bringing in John Bolton to be one of these people.

And the fact that they're kicking around the names and trying to kick around the strategy, you know, do you have the staff lawyers do this or do you let this --

HARLOW: Right.

DEMERJIAN: There's a hundred members between these three committees. You cannot do that sort of free-for-all because you get basically a few shots to tell the story to the American public.


DEMERJIAN: And they realize that that's something that is going to have to be part of this plan.

HARLOW: Shan, is this a disingenuous argument by those who say this is unfair, this is unprecedented, this is secret? I mean, Benghazi hearings. Trey Gowdy himself is the one who said I can get so much more done in these private questioning sessions than essentially in a -- you know, in a circus public hearing.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's completely disingenuous. I mean, Gowdy is the man who kicked out another Republican representative, Issa, because he wasn't supposed to be in there. Also, I think it's important to remember a deposition whether it's in Congress or in the civil court is, by definition, private. The point is, you are taking a private closed -- behind closed doors proceeding to get information.

And as you mentioned, this is not Whitewater. It's not even Nixon where there had been a long, private special counsel report. Mueller was working on something different.

HARLOW: Right.

WU: This is brand-new.

HARLOW: That's a great point. They might have an argument if this were after carrying on from the Mueller report, but this is completely different. This is a unique, separate, independent, you know, investigation about something different.

OK. So, Karoun, when you look to what the Republicans are going to be able to do, several of the Republicans, I think half of them, who stormed into that room, could have been in there anyway. And you already have 48 on the committees asking questions and our reporting is that they're very actively involved in the questioning.

DEMERJIAN: Right. I mean, there's -- actually all the Republicans on those panels are able to participate to the absolute fullest. They've been able to participate in any investigation because of the House majority rules work the way that they do. They are not the ones that are issuing the subpoenas, although if they wanted to join them with these subpoenas they could. But they are basically being given equal time. It goes either 45 minutes, 45 minutes, Democrats, Republicans, or an hour, an hour, and keep going back and forth like that until everybody is kind of exhausted of what they want to ask of the witnesses that are coming in behind closed doors.

That's standard practice. That has not changed in the structure of how these impeachment depositions and interviews are going forward. So I think Republicans are going to continue to try to make this process argument, try to take a principled stand. But as Joe pointed out earlier, it's not that principled given the fact that the Republicans and the president is not really cooperating with facilitating the whole, you know, push to have this be everything out in the open and have things be transparent.


DEMERJIAN: So you'll continue to see this sort of -- this sort of fighting happening. I don't know. I think the big question is whether the GOP continues to stage various sit-ins and walk-ins like this. They certainly occupied the morning. It delayed the testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura cooper by five hours.

HARLOW: Right.


DEMERJIAN: But they also disbanded it. They didn't come back in the afternoon to try it again. So is it that the logic the point made?


DEMERJIAN: Or that maybe it didn't work as well as they expected it would in terms of winning the political point?


DEMERJIAN: And we can only look to next week and the depositions ahead to see if the tactic will be repeated.

HARLOW: Shan, final question to you, on the different but really important topic and a pretty amazing argument I want your take on. An appeals court argument yesterday over the president's tax records. The attorneys for the president and the Manhattan DA's Office argued over the scope of the immunity. Like how broad is presidential immunity? The District Attorney's Office asked if the president pulled out a handgun and shot someone on Fifth Avenue, would we have to wait for impeachment proceedings to do anything about it?

The judge put the question to the president's lawyer who essentially said, correct, the president cannot be charged while in office. OK. So is that a correct assessment? And this is going to go likely to the Supreme Court. So will they agree?

WU: Right. Well --

HARLOW: When it comes to hypothetical murder?

WU: Right. Right. Hopefully the murder charge won't go to the Supreme Court.


WU: The -- I thought it was interesting that the president's lawyer tried to dodge the question initially by pushing forward to say, well, it's not a permanent immunity. Someday he'll leave office. But when Judge Chin pushed him and said, what's your answer to the hypothetical, he had no choice but to take this absolutely silly position that it doesn't matter what the president's conduct is, he can't be charged while in office.

If you really want to dive down into it that would be a state charge. The president is head of the federal executive branch.

HARLOW: Sure you're not.

WU: He's not even in a position there so personally.

HARLOW: That's a good point. Thank you, Shan. Karoun, thank you very much and great reporting this morning.

Republicans, as we just talked about, storming the SCIF on the Hill. Did it accomplish anything, though? I'll talk to a Republican lawmaker about their next moves ahead.

Plus, the fallout from the White House's decision to pull American troops from Syria. A new CNN poll finds a majority of Americans are worried that ISIS could gain strength because of this.

And is the Democratic race to the White House quickly becoming a two- candidate fight? A new poll this morning puts Elizabeth Warren in the lead.



POPPY HARLOW, ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. House Democrats could be prepared to take their impeachment inquiry public in the next few weeks. And this comes after roughly a dozen Republican lawmakers marched into a closed door deposition yesterday during deputy Assistant of Defense Secretary Laura Cooper's testimony.

The GOP has expressed frustration with the closed-for-now process, but more than a dozen Republican lawmakers who stormed into that room already had access to the session and could have been in there taking place in -- taking part in the first place. I'm pleased now to be joined by Texas Republican Congressman Jodey Arrington. Good morning Congressman --

REP. JODEY ARRINGTON (R-TX): Good morning, Poppy --

HARLOW: Thank you so much -- thank you so much -- ARRINGTON: You bet --

HARLOW: For being here.


HARLOW: What do you think about yesterday? Would you have done that? Did it accomplish anything for the American people?

ARRINGTON: Well, I was meeting with Ambassador Lighthizer, trying to figure out how we could get Democrats to tee up the USMCA and get a good trade deal for the American people and a 170,000 new jobs to this great country. But I think my colleagues were just trying to call attention, Poppy, to the fact that this process has been purely political.

It lacks the credibility and integrity of a real legitimate impeachment process.

HARLOW: Help me --

ARRINGTON: And until that -- yes --

HARLOW: Help -- well, would you have done it?


HARLOW: Just to that first question you would have joined them if you could have?

ARRINGTON: Well, I think I'm doing my part like my colleagues to raise the awareness of the fact that this is what I call an impeachment inquisition, not an impeachment process. And it will only be that. It will be purely political until there's openness and fairness and due process, like we've done in past impeachment proceedings with --


ARRINGTON: Previous presidents.

HARLOW: There's a lot to unpack there, sir, and respectfully --


HARLOW: Help me understand why you are arguing that this is a purely political process when 48 of the members on the three committees holding these hearings and these depositions are Republicans? Forty eight of them. And by the way, some of those Republicans who walked into the room yesterday, stormed in, they could have been in there anyways asking questions.

ARRINGTON: There's a lot of points to that, Poppy. I think from the outset, Democrats have been trying to impeach the president from day one, number one. Number two, this wreaks of a similar scenario to the collusion hoax which I believe it was a completely trumped up political deal. And then you've got Adam Schiff who says he's running this process.

And he says he didn't meet with the whistle-blower and then we find out he did. And then he --

HARLOW: He didn't meet with -- wait, no --


HARLOW: No, that's not --

ARRINGTON: OK, his staff met --

HARLOW: Factual.

ARRINGTON: OK, go ahead --

HARLOW: The whistle-blower reached out, congressman, to the staff of the Intel Committee which is totally normal, said I have a concern, what's the process? And they were pointed --


HARLOW: To the IGIC as the way to do it, Congressman.

ARRINGTON: Sure, and --

HARLOW: So let's just stick to the facts here --


HARLOW: Sir --


HARLOW: Let's stick to the --

ARRINGTON: And Poppy, let me respond --

HARLOW: Let's stick to the --


HARLOW: Let's stick to the facts here --

ARRINGTON: OK, let me respond to that --

HARLOW: But you weren't answering --


HARLOW: My first question.

ARRINGTON: Yes, let me respond to that --

HARLOW: Which is how is this political?

ARRINGTON: Though. It's --

HARLOW: If Republicans are able to do questioning in these sessions? I mean, I remember, sir, not that long ago, 2015, during the select committee on Benghazi, when Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy made this argument. Listen.


TREY GOWDY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I can just tell you that of the 50- somewhat interviews we have done thus far, the vast majority of them have been private. And you don't see the bickering among the members of Congress in private interviews. The private ones always produce better results.



HARLOW: Was he wrong then?

ARRINGTON: I don't even know the context of that. I wasn't in Congress at the time. I can only speak to this and I do think, Poppy, it's inappropriate for the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who is running this process to say that he never met with the whistle- blowers when, in fact, his staff had met with them, and for the whistle-blower not to check the box and say that they had met with the chairman's staff.

And so, I do think that's inappropriate. I think the American people believe that's inappropriate. Here's the other thing that makes this political. He's cherry-picking what he wants to release to the public. He cherry-picks the witnesses, the excerpts -- we don't know the transcripts of --


ARRINGTON: Taylor, only know his prepared statement.

HARLOW: Well, it's an hour.

ARRINGTON: We don't know the cross-examined -- well, we don't know --

HARLOW: Right --

ARRINGTON: The cross-examined questions by Republicans. So, I'm just answering --


ARRINGTON: Your first question. This is political from A to Z --

HARLOW: Congressman --

ARRINGTON: And it will be until they -- until they make this --

HARLOW: OK -- ARRINGTON: A legitimate process.

HARLOW: So, Congressman, we will know because again, we have been told repeatedly by Schiff and others that the transcripts will be released. They're waiting to check with the witnesses on all of that. They will be released and a detail report will be released. This is an investigative process, right? There's no star report here as there was in the Clinton impeachment.

I want to get you to weigh in, sir, on something you said last week. You called in to a local radio show in Texas. Here's something that stood out to me.


ARRINGTON: The president did nothing wrong. In fact, the president would be derelict in his duties if he didn't ask for presidents of other countries whom we support with a lot of taxpayer money to make sure that they root out graft and corruption.


HARLOW: Just to be crystal clear on what you were saying, because I listened to it a few times. You think the president of the United States, President Trump would be in your words derelict in his duties if he did not press a foreign country to investigate a political rival in exchange for vital military aid?

ARRINGTON: Unlike the lack of integrity to this political sham called an impeachment process, the president is absolutely right to expect that taxpayer monies will be stewarded when we give aid in any form to a foreign country. For him to expect that they root out graft and corruption and give no pass, not to a politician, not to anybody to make sure that, that money goes to where we intend it to go to help our allies --

HARLOW: Except --

ARRINGTON: Is -- yes, is absolutely appropriate --

HARLOW: The one thing -- the one question I have --


HARLOW: OK, you think it is appropriate for the president of the United States to solicit help from a foreign government to get dirt on a political rival?

ARRINGTON: No, that's no. The way you frame that is completely --

HARLOW: It's not, I played --


HARLOW: Your sound. I played your sound --


HARLOW: And you said he would be --


HARLOW: Derelict in his duties. We know, sir, from the transcript of the July 25th call --


HARLOW: And from what Mick Mulvaney said multiple times at the lectern in the press briefing last week that investigating the Bidens and Burisma was part of the deal. And --


HARLOW: Bill Taylor's testimony.

ARRINGTON: So, Poppy, unlike the second-hand cherry-picked leaks from Adam Schiff, we have the direct conversation between the president of the United States and President Zelensky.

HARLOW: Yes, I have it here.

ARRINGTON: And there was no -- yes, and there's no quid pro quo.


ARRINGTON: And even the President Zelensky said there was no coercion. I didn't feel any pressure. And this president --

HARLOW: From --

ARRINGTON: Released the direct conversation and transcript to the --


ARRINGTON: American people, not --

HARLOW: I have it --

ARRINGTON: Cherry-pick excerpts, yes.

HARLOW: You've read it, I have it --


HARLOW: For anyone --


HARLOW: Who hasn't read it.


HARLOW: On page two, Zelensky, "we're ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we're most ready to buy more javelins from the United States for defense purposes." President Trump, "I would like you to do us a favor, though." And he was the first one to bring up the Bidens, sir.

ARRINGTON: Yes, that's -- listen, it's a manner of speaking to say in the context of draining the swamp in Ukraine, those are not my words. Those are the words of President --

HARLOW: Yes --

ARRINGTON: Zelensky. And in that context, he's saying, look at everything. Don't give anybody a pass. It was -- it was Vice President Biden that was out bragging that he stopped an investigation --

HARLOW: Yes, except --

ARRINGTON: Of Ukraine into a company on which his son served as a board member on --

HARLOW: There are just a few problems --


HARLOW: With that argument, sir. First of all, Schulken's office told "Bloomberg" that the case into Burisma was largely shelved by 2014 when Joe Biden started weighing in on this. And it wasn't just Joe Biden, it was the IMF. It was really leaders in the entire western hemisphere. It was Stephen Pfeiffer who worked in the Bush administration, sir, who said virtually, everyone felt that the prosecutor trying Schulken was not doing his job and should be fired.


ARRINGTON: Listen, I stand by the excerpt from that radio interview. The president not only did what was appropriate. He did, I think, faithfully executed his constitutional responsibility as a fiduciary taxpayer resources. And he called out a couple of high-profile cases, and said make sure that we look under every rock and make sure that you root out graft and corruption before we put at risk taxpayer money to the tune of $300-plus million.

HARLOW: Sir, it's just --

ARRINGTON: I think that's more than appropriate.

HARLOW: There is no evidence --

ARRINGTON: I commend him, Poppy, I commend him for it --

HARLOW: Of any wrongdoing -- I hear you do, and it sounds like --


HARLOW: You would do, too, if you were president of the United States. Except the issue here -- one of the issues is there's no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden or by Joe Biden. And sir, it's not just Democrats who have questions, respectfully. And I appreciate --


HARLOW: You coming on and having --


HARLOW: This dialogue --

ARRINGTON: You bet --

HARLOW: You can come back any time.

ARRINGTON: Thank you --

HARLOW: It's a lot of Republicans. I want you to listen to Francis Rooney, your fellow Republican in the house.

ARRINGTON: You bet --

HARLOW: Here's what he told me.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): Yes, whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly quite clear right now. We're not supposed to use government power and prestige for political gain.


HARLOW: OK, and then yesterday, following Bill Taylor's testimony, Republican Senator John Thune, quote, "the picture coming out based on the reporting I've seen, I would say it's not a good one." Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell of Michigan called the testimony "troubling". Republican Senator Susan Collins called it, quote, "an important piece of evidence", sir. It's not just Democrats that have questions.

ARRINGTON: Well, I think if you look hard enough, you'll find anybody that will say, there's -- there are questions. But here's why -- here's why there are questions. It's because we don't have all the facts. That we don't have any visibility into the line of questions other than what Adam Schiff decides to release.

HARLOW: Wow --

ARRINGTON: And I think it's incredibly suspect that he's cherry- picking these things. Let's bring it into the sunshine. Let's take a vote. Put members on record, and then let's have this process --

HARLOW: Yes --

ARRINGTON: That's fair, that allows both sides to call their witnesses, cross-examine -- and let's give the president an opportunity to defend himself. Maybe he can't face his accusers on the whistle-blowers, but he can face the accusations --

HARLOW: Well --

ARRINGTON: And explain them. And -- but in terms of the direct conversation in the transcript, there is no evidence of quid pro quo.


ARRINGTON: And there's -- and President Zelensky corroborated that, and said I wasn't pressured in any respect.

HARLOW: Congressman, I'll let the American people re-read the transcript and make up their mind, and re-listen to Mulvaney's remarks in the press conference and make up their mind. Again, the Democrats said they will release the transcripts if this moves to a trial in the Senate. The president, his team, will have ample opportunity to do --


HARLOW: What you just laid out --

ARRINGTON: I think -- and I think that's the right way --

HARLOW: And that's how --

ARRINGTON: To do it.

HARLOW: That is how the process works. Congressman --

ARRINGTON: Yes, I agree, Poppy --

HARLOW: Jodey Arrington, thank you, please, come back soon --

ARRINGTON: Thank you, good to be with you. You bet --

HARLOW: OK. We're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stocks are looking to start the day pretty flat. Investors searching for some direction right now in the middle of corporate earnings season. Car makers Tesla and Ford, big movers overnight.

Right now watching Amazon, Capital One, Visa, their earnings reports coming after the bell.