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Dems Eye Mid-November for Public Hearings; Republicans Storm Hearing as Evidence Mounts Against Trump; Trump Lawyer: Trump Can't Be Prosecuted for Crimes in Office, Including a Shooting. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2019 - 06:00   ET



REP. JULIAN CASTRO (D-TX): They came in the room and started disrupting the proceeding.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have every right to hear the testimony, to see the evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bunch of Freedom Caucus members having pizza around a conference table, pretending to be brave.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: "The Washington Post" reports House Democrats now say public impeachment hearings could begin by mid- November.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If you want to impeach a duly elected president, you better be sure the American people is able to see it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a tension now that is really undermining the halls of Congress.


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 Thursday, October 24, 6 a.m. here in New York. Another busy morning.


CAMEROTA: Yes, it never stops.


CAMEROTA: The pace never slows.

BERMAN: Thank goodness it's Friday.

CAMEROTA: Gosh. We begin with several big developments in the impeachment inquiry.

"The Washington Post" reports the Democrats are hoping to finish private depositions of key witnesses in early November. Then hold public hearings in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, two dozen House Republicans stormed a secure room -- you can see it here on your screen. This is where a Pentagon witness was being deposed. They brought their cell phones, which they know is a big no-no. Many of those GOP lawmakers were actually free to attend the hearing and ask questions without causing that spectacle.

BERMAN: And the key is to ask yourself why. Why are the Republicans screaming about the process? What they're not talking about, the facts, the evidence, the testimony. Why not?

Well, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate admits the picture emerging from the testimony is, quote, "not a good one." The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine directly implicated the president in alleged quid pro quo. And CNN has learned that even before he was sworn in last May, Ukraine's president knew his relationship with the Trump administration could be at stake if he did not launch an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

This refutes the new defense from the president that there couldn't be a quid pro quo if the Ukrainians didn't know what was going on. The reporting this morning, they knew. Hence, storm the hearing room.

Let's get right to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill where so far this morning, Suzanne, a little bit quieter than yesterday.


House Democrats started this impeachment inquiry just four weeks ago. Already, they have gathered an astounding amount of information. Republicans from the very beginning have been very frustrated with the process, but they are now using new tactics to either slow or stop the investigation.

But this public testimony that they have been calling for may be happening soon.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): House Democrats signaling the impeachment inquiry against President Trump may be moving from behind closed doors into public hearings as soon as mid-November.

"The Washington Post" reports that Democrats hope to have open sessions before Thanksgiving, featuring testimony from top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor; former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; and former national security advisor John Bolton. It comes after two dozen GOP lawmakers stormed Wednesday's closed-door deposition with Pentagon official Laura Cooper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to try to go in there, and we're going to try to figure out what's going on.

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): By golly, if they're going to do it, do it in public. Don't hide it from the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is Adam Schiff trying to hide?

MALVEAUX: Stalling her testimony for nearly five hours.

REP ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): In these desperate times for the president and his defenders in Congress, they took desperate distractionary measures. But it didn't work. We're not going to let it deter us. We move forward.

MALVEAUX: House rules only permit members of the committees involved from being in the secure area where Cooper was being deposed. CNN has learned that President Trump had advanced knowledge of the Republican plan to try to halt the impeachment inquiry deposition.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): It was more than a publicity stunt. I mean, in this country, we have the rule of law, not a rule by mob.

MALVEAUX: Three top Republicans sending a letter to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, demanding a public testimony from the whistle-blower, writing, "You had earlier committed that the employee would provide 'unfiltered' testimony 'very soon,' only to reverse course."

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Adam Schiff knows who the whistle-blower is and who those more than half a dozen U.S. officials who gave him the information that formed the basis of his complaint. Why don't we know? We're so frustrated. They reached a boiling point.

MALVEAUX: All this comes as we're learning about the political pressures on Ukraine. A sources tells CNN that two weeks before taking office, Ukraine's new president and his team discussed the pressure they were already feeling from the Trump administration and President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to publicly launch investigations that would benefit Trump.


MALVEAUX: House Democrats are eager to keep up the pace of the investigation. They'll continue to call these witnesses in the weeks to come. They will also work over the weekend. So Saturday State Department official Phil Reeker will be called to testify to answer questions behind closed doors -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Suzanne Malveaux for us. Thank you very much.

So how will the public hearings work? Who will be called, and what is to be learned from past closed-door investigations on Capitol Hill like, you know, the ones Republicans ran just a few years ago.


[06:09:23] BERMAN: New this morning, "The Washington Post" reports that House Democrats are moving closer to taking their impeachment public and soon. We're talking within a few weeks.

This comes after the spectacle on Capitol Hill yesterday where House Republicans stormed a closed-door deposition. trying, we think, to shift the focus away from the evidence mounting against the president.

Joining us now, Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary; and Charlie Dent, former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.

And Congressman, I want to start with you, because your nose is a heat-seeking missile for the truth this morning. So we're glad you're with us. Why -- why do you think Republicans are doing what they are doing? Why the obsession with the process?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, John, my view is any time you're arguing process, you're probably losing on policy or substance. That's always the case. So it's a distraction.

Because let's face it. It's very hard for Republicans to defend the substance. Not only on this issue, particularly the Bill Taylor testimony, which was very compelling. But on these other issues, the withdrawal, you know, from Syria. You know, the Mulvaney confession on the quid pro quo. I mean, there are just so many issues here. Or the original whistle-blower complaint. The facts are really bad. So if you can't win on the facts, you might as well argue process.

CAMEROTA: Charlie, I have one more question for you before we move on to Joe. What is your impression of the rank hypocrisy -- and I don't know any other way to describe it -- of the Republicans who are now so outraged about these hearings happening -- I should say these meetings, these depositions happening in private when it's exactly how they handled it during the Benghazi hearings three or four years ago. I mean, what do you make of your former colleagues and their outrage now?

DENT: Oh, Alisyn, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, as they say.

And the only thing I would say there is I do think the Democrats should try to bring as much of this into the public as possible to take away the talking point. I get why they have to do some depositions, some depositions behind closed doors. But I'd start bringing some of this out into the public. And frankly, as a matter of form, I would have a vote on the impeachment inquiry, too. I get it. They've already declared themselves. Why not take the

vote, take away the talking point? I get it they don't have to. But if I were the Democrats, I'd try to minimize this, that they're not being transparent.

But you're right. Republicans are being hypocritical. I've seen a lot of these stunts before. So I'm not shocked by anything anymore.

BERMAN: We have to go in the way-back machine. Way, way, way, way back.

CAMEROTA: Three years ago?

BERMAN: Three years ago, three and a half years ago. To Trey Gowdy, who at one point was going to run the president's impeachment defense. This is what Trey Gowdy says about the utility of holding these closed-door depositions.


TREY GOWDY (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN: I can just tell you that, of the 50-some-odd 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.


BERMAN: So there you go.

Joe, let's move on, then, to the actual substance of this and how it will be laid out. It is interesting, "The Post" reports, that this will be in public soon. We're talking weeks. What do you think the Democratic strategy will be to bring this to the American people?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I agree with Trey Gowdy, and I can't believe I just said that. But there you go. It's early.

But I think what the Democrats need to figure out is how to present this very simply. And it's, you know, the old Joe Friday. So you're going way back. Of just the facts, ma'am.

And they have -- they have to decide who are the best witnesses to bring this forward, and they have to keep in mind that the Republicans will try to make this a circus. So that, you know, they --

BERMAN: Will try to?

LOCKHART: Yes. They already have and when we get into the hearing room, there'll be lots of distractions. There'll be lots of screaming. There'll be, you know, theatrics of all kinds.

So what they need to do is present, in very simple terms, here's what the issue is. Here's what the problems are, and here's where the president has, you know, culpability.

So again, I think they can do that quickly. I don't think they need more than six to eight witnesses. But it will be a circus.

CAMEROTA: But I'm just curious. I mean, after the Corey Lewandowski spectacle, why do you have confidence that they're going to be able to rein it in and keep it sort of controlled and only those questions. Are you concerned that this is going to run off the rails?

LOCKHART: Well, I'm -- I'm concerned that this will become a spectacle. And again, I think it will. But the difference between Corey Lewandowski and who the Democrats are going to bring --

BERMAN: Bill Taylor.

LOCKHART: Bill Taylor. You know, any of the -- Fiona Hill. Any of these people who have 40-, 50-year careers of public service measured against the kind of public servants that go into a skiff with their cell phones putting our national security at risk. And look like a bunch of, you know, second-grade cry-babies.

BERMAN: So Charlie, one of the things that's been interesting to me is how the president and his allies have consistently drawn these lines and said, well, as long as this didn't happen, then it's not so bad.

But every time they've drawn a line, it turns out that it has surpassed -- reality has surpassed the line they've drawn. So the president said the call was perfect. He never pressured the president of Ukraine. Well, he did pressure the president of Ukraine.

Everyone said there was no quid pro quo. Well, it turns out now Bill Taylor's testifying there was a quid pro quo.

Just yesterday, they were suggesting that there could be no quid pro quo if the Ukrainian president didn't know. And now the reporting overnight is that the Ukrainian president knew about U.S. pressure from practically the week he was first elected.


CAMEROTA: Well, he knew that he wasn't getting the money. I mean, they were already concerned, as was Bill Taylor. And he kept testifying that where is the money? Why isn't it being held up?

BERMAN: So have the Republicans and the president blown the messaging here when they've set these bars that are consistently surpassed?

DENT: Yes, their messaging is blown up every day, because there's a -- there's always a new fact that undermines the previous day's narrative. And I think Republicans know they're in a position where they can't -- they can't defend any of this on substance.

And I think there's -- I think many congressional Republicans, House and Senate, are extremely frustrated and disgusted by -- by all this. I do think that there are a lot of cracks in this dam right now.

And the president better be very -- very, very careful. Because I think members are starting to speak up more. I mean, you can just sense how angry they are. Because they know they just could not walk out and defend anything because, you know, like I said, when Mick Mulvaney went out last week and said that, you know, basically said there was a quid pro quo, I mean, what's the Republican argument? That there wasn't?

Well, they admitted it. They confessed. So they're in a horrible position. And that's why they keep distracting and moving towards process and procedure as a way to not have to talk about any of the facts.

LOCKHART: I think -- I think one of the things we're seeing here is the limits when the White House, you know, they said they don't need a war room because they haven't done anything wrong.

They aren't giving members on Capitol Hill the talking points and the guidance. The White House knows what the -- where the facts are. The people on the -- the Republicans on the Hill are guessing. And every day they find out, they guess and they've guessed wrong.

BERMAN: Maybe the facts don't help. Maybe that's one reason why the White House isn't presenting the facts. Who knows?

CAMEROTA: Joe, Charlie, thank you very much.

So the president can apparently shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. That's what his legal team argued in a federal courtroom yesterday. How is that possible? We discuss, next.



CAMEROTA: Could President Trump murder someone and get away with it? Well, in a federal appeals court on Wednesday, President Trump's lawyers argued that, even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, as he said he could during the campaign, he could not be charged while in office.

Back with us, Joe Lockhart. Also joining us former FBI general counsel and CNN legal analyst Jim Baker.

Jim, true or false? President Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not be charged while he's in office?

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He could not be likely indicted while he's in office. That is true.

CAMEROTA: Even for murder? A president is above the law for murder?

BAKER: A president is not above the law for murder, absolutely not. He could --

BERMAN: But what was extraordinary yesterday -- and this is where I think the point really is -- is this lawyer wasn't making the case, just that he couldn't be charged. This lawyer was making the case that he couldn't be investigated.

BAKER: That's wrong. That's clearly wrong. He could -- he could be investigated. The murder, the crime could be investigated. The president could be investigated. And that information, then brought to the Congress of the United States.

And the way it should work is that he would be quickly impeached, convicted, removed from office, and then prosecuted, and then jailed. That's what -- if somebody murdered somebody, and it was clear beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the standard, proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

CAMEROTA: But his lawyer was saying that you can't even begin the process of investigation.

BAKER: That is just clearly wrong. I don't understand where he gets that idea.

BERMAN: And this is coming up. because New York is investigating or wants to get ahold of the president's taxes, basically.

BAKER: His tax records, in connection with a criminal case they're engaged in. And it is pretty clear, it seems to me, that that can go forward. That the -- that the law enforcement apparatus of the United States needs to have this information, under the supervision of the courts, as they issue subpoenas and conduct grand juries and so on and so forth. And the president cannot just claim that that can't happen.

CAMEROTA: It seemed -- it seemed pretty clear to the judge also. Did you get that sense?

BAKER: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: That from the questions that the judge was asking, that the judge found that somewhat laughable?

BAKER: It is a legal position that was -- is without support, in my view. Yes, that's right. That's a very lawyerly way to say it. But it is not a sustainable legal view. And if the court of appeals goes for this, then I just don't even know where that leaves us in this country.

BERMAN: Because it creates, not to put a fine point on it, this extraordinary -- there aren't enough adjectives to describe it -- level of immunity for the president.

It's not just that he can't be prosecuted, which is the DOJ standpoint. It's that he can't -- you can't begin to do anything.

The murdering on Fifth Avenue. There really -- Can we play the sound here? Because I think it's really interesting to hear a lawyer say that the president can't be investigated for shooting somebody. So listen.


JUDGE DENNY CHIN, U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: What's your view on the Fifth Avenue example? Local authorities couldn't investigate, they couldn't do anything about it?

WILLIAM CONSOVOY, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think once a president is removed from office, any local authority -- this is not a permanent immunity.

CHIN: Well, I'm talking about while in office.

CONSOVOY: No. CHIN: That's the hypo. Nothing could be done. That's your position?

CONSOVOY: That is correct. That is correct.


BERMAN: Nothing could be done at all. It stretches the mind just in common sense grounds, and it also stretches the mind in terms of constitutionality.

BAKER: Yes, exactly.

Now, look, the idea that a president can't be indicted, I think that's the prevailing view of the law. But there are lawyers that disagree with that. Lawyers, law professors and so on. So it is not the uniform view of the law, just to be clear.

But what -- part of the problem is they're kind of mixing in these concepts of immunity with the idea of prosecuting a president. A president has absolute immunity from civil liability, so they can't be sued for official acts while he's in office. We don't -- or he or she. We don't want a president being vexed by law -- by a bunch of lawsuits, either during or after office, by people who just don't like the official decisions that he made. That makes sense. Right?


But committing a murder, committing a crime, that's a totally different story. And it just -- it is, again, I think it's a legal position without support.

CAMEROTA: Well, this one is about getting the president's financial records in -- as it relates to the hush-money payments paid to Stormy Daniels. And so it's possible that this is bound for the Supreme Court.

LOCKHART: It's possible. It's possible it'll stay in the circuit court, and the Supreme Court will say it's just not interesting enough for them, and that's legal.

I'm going to go with laughable. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm going to go with laughable.

This is a real problem for the president politically. One of the -- the weakest arguments we made during the Clinton administration was on the Paula Jones civil case, where we argued that the president, under the Soldiers and Sailors Law, is too busy to deal with these things. It was an awful political argument. Turns out it was an awful legal argument, too, because we lost 9-0 in the Supreme Court.

But the Democrats have been going around and, if you look for one consistent talking point from Democrats, it's the president is not above the law. And in court, in front of a bunch of judges, his lawyer said the president is above the law. That's easy for people to understand. They don't like that.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Jim Baker, Rudy Giuliani, CNN's reporting, is hiring a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer, or looking for one. Why?

BAKER: Because he needs one, that's why. Because he's got lots of exposure, and it is a smart decision that the former mayor has made.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Baker, Joe Lockhart, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Any other questions?

BERMAN: No, no.

LOCKHART: I agree with that one, too.

BERMAN: All right. President Trump is celebrating the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, insisting that ISIS has been defeated and that the U.S. has brought peace to the region. But the reality on the ground tells a very different story. We have a live report, next.