Return to Transcripts main page


Dems Planning Mid-November Public Impeachment Hearings; Republicans Enter Closed-Door Hearing as Evidence is Mounting against Trump; Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) is Interviewed about Impeachment Hearings. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2019 - 07:00   ET


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN POLITICS & TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: -- sort of key to monitor and see for disinformation, so that they are not duped, like they were in 2016.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good for them. That's what it's going to take. That's obviously what it's going to take, because I don't know that Mark Zuckerberg has had great answers about this.

Donie O'Sullivan, thank you very much for sharing your new reporting, as well -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New details this morning about when the impeachment hearings will be public. NEW DAY continues right now.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Our Republican colleagues evidently have freaked out, because they have nothing substantive to say. It's a pathetic show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By golly, if they're going to do it, do it in public. Don't hide it from the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're losing the argument, and therefore, they're losing their cool.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't really want an extended process, because they can't withstand any review of the facts. I think we're on a rocket docket to impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm waiting for the White House to actually explain their version of what happened.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY and a whole new stage in the impeachment inquiry coming soon.

This morning, "The Washington Post" reports the Democrats are preparing to make the hearings public, beginning in mid-November or so. That's just a couple of weeks from now. That's soon.

CAMEROTA: The -- it has accelerated.

BERMAN: Yes. Among the possible witnesses, President Trump's recently departed national security adviser, John Bolton. Imagine that.

So this news follows the stunt on Capitol Hill by some two dozen Republican House members who crashed this closed-door deposition. These members camped out for hours, complaining their party is being shut out of the impeachment investigation, despite the fact that many of them were actually sitting members on the committee's holding that hearing. Forty-eight Republicans, a quarter of the entire caucus, sit on the three committees conducting that probe.

CAMEROTA: Well, this stunt here is what the Republicans came up with after the president told them to fight harder for him and insulted any who dared to speak out against his behavior. So Republicans are hammering the process of the inquiry, instead of the substance of the findings.

The president continues to attack and intimidate members of his own party, calling out Republicans who do not support him; in fact, calling them a gross name.

The president's press secretary is berating Trump-appointed officials who have testified, claiming they are, quote, "waging war on the Constitution." But the strategy does not appear to be working.

The second highest ranking Republican, Senator John Thune, admitting the picture coming out of the inquiry is, quote, "not a good one."

Joining us now, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and CNN senior global affairs analyst, Bianna Golodryga.

Jeffrey, we just -- The hypocrisy is stunning. Because we remember the Benghazi hearings. It wasn't that long ago. You know, for Watergate, we have to rely on --

BERMAN: People as old as Jeffrey.

CAMEROTA: People as old as you, Jeffrey, who -- to come out and tell us what happened. OK? We call Moses.


CAMEROTA: But with this one, we remember Benghazi. And they held the hearings in private. And they had their reasons. They stated them at the time. They thought it would be less of a spectacle. And now, three years later, they're storming the SCIF, the secure

room, with their cell phones, which is not allowed, to try to create a spectacle.

TOOBIN: Last night on "AC 360," there were several references to one of the congressional leaders of this ridiculous protest. And he's a congressman from Alabama named Mo Brooks. But I kept hearing "Mel Brooks." Because it's so much sound -- I mean, this whole spectacle yesterday seemed like something out of a Mel Brooks movie, this ridiculous -- You know, this protest to be allowed inside when many of the members of -- of the protest were actually members of the committee inside. They could have walked in at any point.

I mean, you know, it's a sign of desperation. You know, they captured a news cycle. But I don't know what good that news cycle did them. Because they looked like such jerks.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. You thought Mel Brooks. I thought an episode of "Veep." I mean, it really looked like a stunt. And it also, looking at these members coming in, you saw a handful of women. Other than that, you just saw a bunch of white men. And I just thought to myself, this is not what America looks like right now. Right?

And so I don't know what the point is that they were trying to make by storming this hearing. Serious issues, serious ramifications are coming out of what we're hearing from the people who are testifying, who are lifelong diplomats that have served this country. And this is what follows. And it comes as you said, two days after the president said that Republicans need to fight harder.

CAMEROTA: Right. They weren't fighting hard enough.

GOLODRYGA: This is all they have? I'm sorry, you know, the facts speak louder than these public protests.

TOOBIN: Although it may be enough. I mean -- I mean, you know, the Republican Party remains so united behind the president that, you know, the prospect for 67 votes in the Senate still seems pretty remote unless I'm missing something dramatic.

BERMAN: There's been a slight shift in the last day in terms of the way that Republicans are defending the president. John Thune, who's the No. 2 in the Senate -- I don't have the quote before me right now, but John Thune basically said the facts as we're seeing them don't look good. They don't look good. And that's just --



BERMAN: There it is.

GOLODRYGA: That's not even saying that much.

BERMAN: "The picture coming out of it, based on the reporting we've seen, I would say it is not a good one."

GOLODRYGA: And that's an obvious. Everyone should be saying that.

CAMEROTA: But it's that kind of erosion. You know, things sometimes don't have -- the whole dam doesn't break all at once, as we know sometimes.


CAMEROTA: Sometimes it's little, almost imperceptible moments of erosion, and we just can't tell if that is one of them.

GOLODRYGA: Well, and typically, and throughout this investigative process, whether it's regarding Ukraine, whether it was the Mueller investigation, it did seem like -- that Senate Republicans, at least, were more of the adults in the rooms at times than what we saw coming out of congressional members.

But don't forget what we had heard from Bill Taylor. And that's clearly what the M.O. here is to distract from what we saw and what we heard him say.

And I don't understand the logic, because if Republicans wanted what Bill Taylor said to be public, I don't know how that benefits the president's cause at all. There's no way anybody can read through his 15-page opening testimony and see it as nothing but extremely damning for the president and the administration and all those who covered up for it.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, just yesterday you were on our air --

TOOBIN: Uh-oh, no -- You can't use my words against me.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Oh, yes.

TOOBIN: I'm on cable news.

CAMEROTA: I'm using your words, Counselor, against you.

TOOBIN: We have no accountability.


TOOBIN: That's part of the rule.

GOLODRYGA: It depends on the hour.

TOOBIN: OK. OK, right yes.

CAMEROTA: You said something that I think many people agree with, and that is what's wrong with public hearings? We'd all like to hear it. What's -- you were arguing for the sake of transparency.

TOOBIN: Oh, yes, I am.

CAMEROTA: And so were -- so are Republicans in their own way. TOOBIN: Right.

CAMEROTA: Saying, we need transparency. So here's the argument against why, at this moment, transparency is not good. And I'm going to deliver it from one Trey Gowdy, who ran the Benghazi hearings. Here was his rationale three years ago.


TREY GOWDY (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN: I could 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.


CAMEROTA: The private ones always produce better results because they're not a spectacle.

TOOBIN: That may be, although I just don't buy, given the magnitude of an impeachment proceeding, that you can hold weeks and weeks of private hearings.

CAMEROTA: Well, you're going to --

TOOBIN: Especially when -- remember, remember when immediately afterwards, members of the committee come out and focus on or distort the message that was inside.

CAMEROTA: That's fine. But --

TOOBIN: And I just think let people see it themselves.

CAMEROTA: Here's my point. Your wish is their command. They're about to do that. As John just reported --


CAMEROTA: -- by mid-November, there are going to be public hearings. So it's a very accelerated --

TOOBIN: Because I get results. I said it yesterday and then it happened.

GOLODRYGA: They heard you.

BERMAN: Don't put me in the middle of your fight, by the way. Don't drag me into this. If you got a beef with Toobin, you just handle it. Leave me out.

I think there was another really interesting development last night that I think, in some corners, went largely unnoticed. And that's Rudy Giuliani, first of all, who CNN is reporting is looking for a defense attorney because, Jeffrey, he should. OK. He's looking for a defense attorney. He put out a note on

Twitter last night that I thought was -- I had to look at twice to make sure I was reading correctly.

He said, "With all the fake news, let me make it clear that everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges." And then he goes on to say some other things there. So "everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client."

Isn't that -- and George Conway noted this, among others -- isn't that basically an admission that all this testimony we've heard is that Ukrainian policy was being funneled through Rudy Giuliani? And Rudy Giuliani just told us that he -- the funnel here was working only on behalf of his client.

GOLODRYGA: Who happens to be the president of the United States.

BERMAN: But not for the United States of America.

GOLODRYGA: That's right. And I think that raises a lot more questions than we saw answered through this tweet. Once again, Rudy just sets the stage for another day of questions about what exactly his role was in Ukraine in this investigation, what the president has asked him to do, and what if in any way this implicates the president.

TOOBIN: Well, and the thing that is so outrageous about that is that, you know, what we've heard from all these witnesses, Sondland -- I mean, Sondland and Taylor conflict in some ways.

But one way they agree is that Giuliani was the key person in deciding what American policy was, American government policy toward Ukraine. Based on a guy whose only interest is the criminal defense of the president of the United States, not the taxpayers, not the national interests. I mean, that's -- that's an outrageous conflict. And he shouldn't have been doing what he was doing.

BERMAN: What about admitting it on Twitter?

TOOBIN: Well, that's -- I don't know -- I don't know if it's better to be honest or not. But I mean, it's just --

CAMEROTA: I mean, in terms of trouble, do you think that he's in more trouble?

TOOBIN: I don't think he's in trouble. I think the president's in trouble. I mean, you know, Giuliani's role, I think, is in many respects a side show here. I mean, he is -- he's engaged in dubious conduct.

But I mean, let's remember why he was involved in this at all. It's because the president of the United States told him to go get this dirt on his political opponents and was using American policy as a vehicle to do that. That's the president's fault. It's not Rudy Giuliani's fault.

[07:10:15] GOLODRYGA: And one of the president's defenses just fell yesterday when we heard reports. Remember, they were saying that it can't be a quid pro quo, because Zelensky didn't understand or didn't know why we were withholding the money.

Well, now there are two reports that confirmed that he did know. That he knew in early August why this money was being held up. That they had to get in touch with Mick Mulvaney. That they also knew in May, early May, right after he was elected before he was even inaugurated.

He had a cabinet meeting with two of his closest advisers, where he said, we have to figure out how we're going to handle this Rudy Giuliani issue, and specifically, his request that we look into Biden and the 2016 election.

BERMAN: The reason I think that's a big deal, Bianna, and I'm so glad you brought it up, is because almost every time the president and the Republicans mount a new defense, it turns out to not be true. Or it turns out to be easy to refute.

At first, you know, the president called the phone call perfect. Not so much. Then they said there's no quid pro quo. Bill Taylor says, well, not so much. And now they're saying the Ukrainians didn't know. Well, now not so much.

GOLODRYGA: Which is why the only thing you're seeing from Republicans, as far as protests, is talking about the process. Right? And not the details.

Because every time they come out one step ahead of the president, then they end up losing that argument, whatever it was. And we saw that happen with the president yesterday.

CAMEROTA: Should we talk about the border wall?

BERMAN: Go for it.

CAMEROTA: In Colorado?

BERMAN: You want to do geography.

CAMEROTA: We -- the world is going to be safe from Aspen, OK, luckily. Because there's going to be a wall around Colorado. Watch this.

Oh. OK. Oh. All right.

GOLODRYGA: But there's --

TOOBIN: A geography lesson for us all.

CAMEROTA: The joke isn't as funny without the sound.

BERMAN: But the president said yesterday during a rally, he said, "We're building a wall in Colorado."

CAMEROTA: To save it from New Mexico. No.

TOOBIN: No. Not so much.

CAMEROTA: Not so much. The point was -- this was our kicker. Are you enjoying it?

TOOBIN: It was great. I enjoyed it.

BERMAN: Do some Mel Brooks for us.

It's good to be the king. It's good to be the king.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you, guys.

Republicans taking extreme measures to fight back against the impeachment inquiry. Up next, one former top aide on Capitol Hill who was there during the Benghazi hearings and Fast and Furious explain what is is going on now.



CAMEROTA: Republicans in the White House have criticized Democrats for holding impeachment investigations behind closed doors. But just a few years ago, it was the Republicans who did the very same thing.

Joining us now is Kurt Bardella. He's a former GOP adviser for the House Oversight Committee.

Kurt, it's great to have you here, because you know exactly how it worked when you were there for Benghazi. You were the senior adviser for the House Oversight Committee for five years during the Benghazi investigation. So you've seen this movie before. OK?

And so, how -- during that time, during Benghazi, how many of the interviews did the committee conduct behind closed doors?

KURT BARDELLA, FORMER GOP ADVISOR FOR HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, Alisyn, here's the thing. All the depositions that were conducted when Republicans were having investigations into the Obama administration, whether it was Benghazi or Fast and Furious, you remember, depositions are conducted behind closed doors.

CAMEROTA: All of them, you're saying?

BARDELLA: All of them. That's the point of a deposition, is to avoid the charade of a hearing that we see, where people posture and play to the TV cameras. And in hearings, you have to alternate between five minutes for Republicans, five minutes for Democrats.

Well, in a deposition, you don't have that type of volley. You have a set amount of time where you can consecutively interview a witness so that you can actually get to the answers without having to worry about the production of television that we see the hearing kind of devolve into these days. CAMEROTA: And so when you see the Republicans, some of the same ones

who you worked with, storming the SCIF, the secure room, to make a point that this should all be done in broad daylight, what do you think?

BARDELLA: Well, here's the thing. Remember, when Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, had another member of a Republican caucus try to show up to a deposition, he kicked him out, because he wasn't a member of the committee, even though he was a Republican.

And it was my former boss, Darrell Issa, who tried to crash a deposition. So the precedent for making sure that people who aren't supposed to be there are removed was set by Republicans during the Benghazi hearings. No. 2 --

CAMEROTA: This is the video that you're talking about. That is obviously from 2015. That was Darrell Issa, having to leave, because at that time, as you say, Trey Gowdy wouldn't let just even another Republican who wasn't on the committee in.

So when you contrast that to this swarm of Republicans trying to get in, claiming they deserve to be in, it's just -- I mean, what's the word for what they're doing?

BARDELLA: Desperate. That's what it is.

The testimony that we've seen this week has been so devastating to the core excuses we've seen from the Trump administration that Republicans are resorting to these kind of clownish tactics. Rather than address the very real substance of we heard Ambassador Taylor talk about the other day, they're instead doing these publicity stunts, really, to try to distract away from the substance of the investigation.

And at the end the day, it's not going to work. Because the committees are going to continue to do their work. They're going to continue to have depositions. They're going to continue to get witnesses. And the facts are going to be made public to the American people.

So this is all a smoke screen. It's really a stalling tactic, I think, Alisyn. Because they don't know what to do about the substance of the testimony. They don't know -- they don't have an answer for what Rudy Giuliani's role of being kind of a shadow diplomat for the United States of America is. They don't have an answer for why Ukraine aid was held up in exchange for wanting a political investigation into one of Trump's presidential rivals.

They don't have answers so they're resolving (ph) to kind of juvenile students, which is this had happened during their time in power when they were investigating Benghazi. Imagine if Democrats had stormed the SCIF, trying to get into depositions.

Republicans would have been the very first to come out on television and say that this is a stunt, this is obstruction. They would have even called the Capitol police to try to have them arrested. CAMEROTA: And Kurt, what would have happened if Republicans during

the Benghazi hearing had had testimony like we saw in that 15-page opening statement from Bill Taylor? If they had had something that concrete during Benghazi, what would have that looked like?

BARDELLA: You know what? When we started any kind of investigation, we would talk privately about wanting to find that bombshell item, that bombshell document or witness testimony to really justify and validate the investigation.

And the entire time I worked at the Oversight Committee, we never had bombshell testimony like what we saw from Bill Taylor the other day. And if Republicans like Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows and Doug Collins had had that type of material during the Obama years, they would have moved for impeachment that week.

CAMEROTA: You know, as reporters this morning, we're trying to, you know, keep our heads from exploding and stay even-keeled about the hypocrisy when you can see it. You know, we have the split screen. You can see it so clearly.

But you, as someone who, again, for five years worked on the House Oversight Committee on investigations like this, what's it like for you to watch what's happened over this past week?

BARDELLA: It's mind-numbing. I mean, I remember Jim Jordan and Mike Pompeo talking about transparency. The American people's right to know just to find these subpoenas and depositions and hearings that they had, by saying that the American people, this is about justice. This is about getting to the truth.

I remember Jim Jordan saying when he voting to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress, the only path to the truth is through the House of Representatives. What's wrong with trying to get the answers?

So to watch all of these people, who were center stage for years, investigating the crap out of Barack Obama, now turn around and somehow say that, well, it's OK to ignore depositions, it's OK to ignore subpoenas, it's OK to completely reject the checks and balance system that we have, that they so vigorously fought for for so many years, it just tells you these people really don't stand for anything. They have no core convictions, and that they're far more interested in protecting their political -- Donald Trump's political chances than anything about protecting our republic.

CAMEROTA: Kurt Bardella, we really appreciate having your first-hand experience and you sharing it with us. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

BARDELLA: Thank you, Alisyn.


BERMAN: All right. Democrats, they say they're now hoping to complete the private depositions of key witnesses soon. Then this all goes public. So how will Democrats handle public impeachment hearings, which could start in a couple weeks? We're going to ask a member of one of these committees leading the investigations, next.



BERMAN: This morning we're learning the Democrats are looking to hold public impeachment hearings within a few weeks. This as the White House and Republicans in Congress attack the process but really not the revelations, at this point, implicating President Trump in a quid pro quo.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan. She serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the committees that has been doing this impeachment inquiry.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us.


BERMAN: What do you want to see and who do you want to see when these impeachment hearings go public?

HOULAHAN: Well, I think what we're doing right now is we're going through a series of depositions and getting sort of an honest truth from each one of those peoples who are speaking. And when it comes to the place where we will put it public and allow people to see the -- not only the transcripts but also the testimony, that will be the point where I think that we will try and figure out what the best combination of people to speak in a more transparent and public way would be.

BERMAN: Do you imagine Ambassador Bill Taylor --


BERMAN: -- who gave that testimony yesterday will be one of those people?

HOULAHAN: I absolutely think he will be one of those lynchpins, you know, keystones to this entire situation.

BERMAN: President Trump yesterday attacked him as a "Never Trumper" and used a phrase I don't want to use. His press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, described him as "one of these radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution."

He, of course, is a Vietnam War veteran. And I ask you as an Air Force veteran, what's your reaction to that description of someone who spent decades in public service?

HOULAHAN: I'm incredibly disappointed with that description. This is a 50-year career servant who has served bipartisanly for over 50 years for all administrations in a very, very honorable manner. And it's a career assassination, in my opinion. BERMAN: I want to talk about Syria with you, because I know this is

an issue you care deeply about, and you just returned from the Middle East.

Yesterday, the president basically declared victory in Syria. Our reporters and the facts on the ground paint a different picture to that.

But I want you to draw your attention to something that John Cornyn said, who supports the president's policy here. And the senator from Texas says, quote, "If Turkey was planning on coming into northern Syria and trying to ethnically cleanse the Kurds, and U.S. troops were caught in the middle, I'm not completely convinced that it was a bad idea to get them out of harm's way."

HOULAHAN: So I do serve on Foreign Affairs, and yesterday we had the opportunity to have a hearing about just this issue. And as you probably know, with a vast majority of Democrats and Republicans on the House floor, we condemned the actions of the president.

I am very worried about what it is that we've just enabled in the area. I am very worried about the safety of the Kurds. I am very disappointed about what we just did in terms of our message to them as our allies and also to other allies --