Return to Transcripts main page


John Bolton in Talks to be Deposed Behind Closed Doors; White House Official Morrison Expected to Corroborate Diplomat's Testimony That Donald Trump Pressured Ukraine to Investigate Biden; Bill Taylor's Testimony Expected to be Corroborated by Morrison; Donald Trump Takes Questions Amid Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The House impeachment inquiry reaches out to John Bolton for possible testimony. The President's Former National Security Adviser reportedly called Rudy Giuliani a hand grenade and likened his meddling in foreign policy to a drug deal.

Plus a major flip-flop for Joe Biden. He began the 2020 campaign with a promise to not to accept help from big money Super Pacs. But now his cash dark campaign now flashes a Super Pac green light and his leading rivals cry hypocrisy.

And an all hands on deck very well for Congressman Elijah Cummings at today's funeral in Baltimore among those on hand several 2020 contenders, two Former Presidents and the Former Secretary of State.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His integrity and character, his can-do spirit made him a guiding light in the Congress. He pushed back against the abuse of power. He was unwavering in his defense of our democracy. He had little tolerance for those who put party ahead of country or partisanship above truth.


KING: Presidents Clinton and Obama to speak at that ceremony, that funeral. We will take you there when that happens. As well, President of United States Donald Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House. We'll bring you that as soon as we can. We begin the hour though with the impeachment inquiry witness list and the prospect of adding a formidable west wing insider the Former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

CNN confirming now a "New York Times" report that Bolton's lawyers have had talks with investigating committees about a possible deposition other witnesses place Bolton at or near the center of several key conversations about security aid withheld from Ukraine. Bolton Deputy Fiona Hill notably saying that her boss, Mr. Bolton, called Rudy Giuliani, "A hand grenade" and compared his foreign policy to, "A drug deal".

Bolton would be powerful ads to a witness list that already includes more than a half dozen current administration officials. Those inside accounts so far have been damning and they are urging efforts at the White House now to put together a better defense strategy. The President also urging Congressional allies to help some are but their strategy is telling.

Senator Lindsey Graham, for example sponsoring a resolution that calls the House inquiry unfair a process argument not a defense of the President's conduct.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm not here to tell you that Donald Trump has done nothing wrong. I'm not here to tell you anything other than that the way they're going about it is really dangerous for the country and we need to change course while we can in the House, because what's happening in the House, in my view and the view of at least 41 Republicans, is not acceptable.


KING: Graham now says 46 Republican Senators have signed on to his resolution. That's just short of a majority. Democrats are moving quickly and aggressively on the House side. There are depositions this weekend and throughout next week, including from another Bolton Deputy, Tim Morrison.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us live from Capitol Hill a number of administration officials from the State Department. Why are people saying they believe Mr. Morrison could be a special impact?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are hearing from multiple sources that Tim Morrison could corroborate key elements of testimony that the House investigators heard earlier this week from Bill Taylor, who is the President's top diplomat in Ukraine.

And Taylor of course testified that he had been told that the President had sought to withhold vital aid to Ukraine, aid that was needed to combat Russian aggression until Ukraine announced investigations into the Bidens as well as into the 2016 election interference and investigation.

The President and Rudy Giuliani probe pursuing to undercut the findings that the Russians interfered in the U.S. elections to help President Trump. In Taylor's testimony, there have been at least 15 references to Morrison's name because they had multiple conversations about why this aid had been withheld.

And in one conversation, Morrison reads out a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland there, the Ambassador to the European Union, in which Morrison said he had a sinking feeling about that call according to Taylor's testimony, because what the President apparently wanted was for the Ukrainian President to go out to the microphones and publicly declare these investigations just as that push for aid had intensified.

Now what we are told from those sources is that he will corroborate to what Taylor has testified to. We're also told that he does not necessarily view what the administration did as wrong in any way, but will have some nuance to his testimony, but he will head what will be a very busy week of witnesses coming behind closed doors as the investigators move to try to wrap up this investigation in the coming weeks. John?

KING: Manu Raju live on the Hill a very busy time. I appreciate the reporting from there. With me in the studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Paul Kane with "The Washington Post," Jackie Kucinich "The Daily Beast," Maggie Haberman with "The New York Times."


KING: Morrison a National Security Counsel insider Fiona Hill, the top Russia hand on the National Security Counsel. She is the one who quoted her former boss John Bolton is calling Rudy Giuliani a hand grenade who is going to blow us all up likened what he viewed he didn't like apparently at least to Fiona Hill a Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani the shadow foreign policy said like a drug deal. Do we believe it is a viable prospect that the President's Former National Security Adviser could become an impeachment witness?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I do believe that - it seems like a certainty his lawyers and discussion with House Democrats about the terms of a potential testimony that I do wonder the question remains what does John Bolton say when he's under penalty of perjury, and that I don't know.

I think there's been a lot of agreement about the basic facts of this, all right? We've seen central overlapping details from several witnesses. The question seems to be on intent. Fiona Hill, we know, gave a pretty grim picture of the President's intentions and she described John Bolton is sharing that to Morrison, who has yet to testify, according to CNN's reporting, is expected to say he didn't see a problem with what the President was doing?

And so I think this gets back to a lot of what we saw with say the Mueller investigation as it goes back to Donald Trump's state of mind because the facts don't seem to be that in dispute.

KING: And we know, and you know from your days of covering the White House, that Bolton and the President disagreed about a lot of things. That doesn't mean John Bolton is going to go up there, to Maggie's point, and say that this was some sort of crooked enterprise. He could just say that the President wanted Rudy Giuliani. He wanted somebody he trusted, because he doesn't the bureaucracy of the State Department. I didn't like it, but.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is some to be different about the way in which a lot of these Senior National Security officials were responding to what was going on with Ukraine. They seemed to be more bothered by it than other things President Trump that has done that might be untraditional or bothersome to them or maybe mucked up a normal bureaucratic process.

It could be that what holding up the Ukraine funding represented was effectively an emboldening of Russia. It is a sort of major geopolitical step that Rudy Giuliani was trying to kind of get in the way of that I think a lot of these senior officials were really bothered by that.

So I think the question about Bolton is how bothered was he about that? He clearly believed that he wanted to create some kind of paper trail, some kind of reporting process where he instructed some of his deputies to go ahead and tell the White House Counsel, tell various other officials within the White House about their concerns.

He created that structure, and it could be because he was worried about what this meant for the United States' broader foreign policy, which is a little bit different from other scenarios which clearly these officials were able to work with President Trump and stay in this administration and not be totally bothered by all kinds of other things that President Trump has done in two and a half years in the White House.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, I think Bill Taylor said as much during the testimony that we've seen, is that there were lives at stake here. Particularly these diplomats who had spent so much time in Ukraine, really believed in Ukraine felt a connection to Ukraine because of their experience there.

He describes looking across into Russian fighters and thinking, Ukrainians are going to die if they don't get this funding. Because of the lives at stake, I think, is why you see the urgency of that some of these officials and the whistleblower felt like he needed to act.

KING: And we'll bring you the President a bit later in the program against a lot of moving parts today, but he just told reporters outside the White House of Bill Taylor the top Ukraine diplomat because he had recalled the Ambassador. Here is a problem he is a never Trumper that's so - this is a constant presidential strategy.

When somebody says something that could be damaging to the President, he immediately attacks their character or questions their political motivations. So there is no evidence I think one of the lawyers that Bill Taylor hired has a history of being against the President - I don't want to call him a never Trumper - but saying things against the President.

But this is they say a typical strategy in a sense that we'll see if John Bolton testifies. We know Mr. Morrison is going to go up, and the reason Mr. Morrison is important is Republicans have said, well a lot of Bill Taylor's second hand. He was on phone conversations or he says somebody told him. And my understanding is Taylor gave them detailed notes about other people on the phone calls, emails and cables that were sent. And says you want to corroborate by stories here is where you should go and look. So Mr. Morrison is key to that and again he is talking about a phone call. This is in his opening statement, during the same phone call I had with Mr. Morrison, he went on to describe a conversation that Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak at Warsaw.

Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation that is the energy company Hunter Biden worked for. I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about that conversation, this was the first time I had heard the security assistance not just the White House meeting was conditioned on the investigation.

So if you're the Democrat trying to build an abuse of power corruption case, you're trying to counter the Republicans and say this is secondhand. Mr. Morrison is key I assume his boss, Mr. Bolton, would be even more key.


PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: John Cornyn, senior Senate Republican the other day looked at a couple of us and said I don't know Bill Taylor from Adam and that's where their defense. We don't know who he is, some career guy, some career diplomat who lives overseas.

They know John Bolton really well. This is someone they've worked with for 20 years in foreign policy. If John Bolton testifies corroborating all these things, this is somebody that they can't just deny, like, I don't know who he is. They've worked with him going back to the George W. Bush Administration. That's why he is so key to these Senate Republican voices.

HABERMAN: It's also this whole I hardly know the guy defense that we have now seen people in Congress adopt is straight out of the Donald Trump playbook. I don't remember seeing that on the Hill before this presidency and that is what Donald Trump has typically done when anybody who has been close to him is critical.

Michael Cohen, though you know Paul Manafort, the list goes on where suddenly they were with me for a short period, they handled specific matters, I don't really know them. So the idea that members of Congress saying or Senators are saying, we don't know him, that's irrelevant, frankly. It has nothing to do with whether they offer credible testimony or not.

KING: It's whether what they say can be backed up and we shall see. And as we know you see in the bottom of your screen though that is the funeral for Elijah Cummings in Baltimore. Presidents Clinton and Obama due to speak at that we're going to bring that also the President of the United States just finished a conversation with reporters. Impeachment was one of the issues there. When we come back, we'll bring you that as well. Plus, the return of the Russia probe. This time it's a criminal investigation presumably into the investigators.



KING: We're now are waiting to hear from the President of the United States. He spoke to reporters moments ago outside the White House. And we're also waiting for two Former Presidents of the United States, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to speak soon at the funeral of Late Congressman Chairman Elijah Cummings, we'll bring you that as we can a lot of moving parts here. We indulge your patience there.

There is word today as we wait for all this, the Justice Department Inspector General now close to releasing his long awaited report on whether there were surveillance law abuses at the beginning of the Trump-Russia probe and we're to second review of those same issues and perhaps more is now a criminal investigation.

The veteran federal prosecutor John Durham now has grand jury and other powers for that second investigation because Attorney General William Barr asked for it, the Durham investigation is viewed suspiciously by Democrats. Not long after "The New York Times" was the first to report the shift from internal department to criminal review.

Two House Democratic Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler said they worry it is "A vehicle for President Trump's political revenge". It's important to know that we and those Congressmen don't really know the focus of Durham's work and why he thinks he needs grand jury power nor presumably just the White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway that she was happy to offer her take.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The point of the investigation is to make sure that the DOJ and FBI under Obama Administration in 2016 was not being used as a tool to influence the elections, so I would actually fact check it by taking out the Trump Administration and putting in the last administration.


KING: Former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin joins our conversation but as he does let's listen to the President of United States just moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Said the stock market is doing very well, the economy is booming. We have a new record in sight, could happen even today, but we have a new stock market record. I think it will be about 118 times that we've broken the record. Jobs look phenomenal.

We're doing very well in Syria with Turkey and everybody else that we're dealing with. We have secured the oil. We have a lot of oil. We've secured the oil. We have a couple people that came knocking. We said don't knock. And I think I would say that things are going very well. I know people are still in a basement, in a secure room in the basement trying to make us look as bad as possible, but that's not working too well.

A lot of things are happening very good, and I appreciate Republicans are just outraged that the American public is outraged but the do nothing Democrats are doing nothing. They are doing nothing. This is such an opportunity to get things done.

We need USMCA passed. It's a great deal for our country, our farmers, manufacturers, unions; it's a great thing for our country. So we need USMCA passed.


TRUMP: Well, it's a word that many Democrats have used, it's a word that many people have used over the years, but that is a word that's been used many times. Let me tell you something, the level of unfairness for a perfect conversation with the President of Ukraine, this was a perfect conversation.

And frankly, had they known what the conversation was, they wouldn't have even wasted everybody's time. But this was a perfect conversation with the President of Ukraine. The President of Ukraine and his Foreign Minister separately came out and said there was absolutely nothing wrong with the conversation.

The President of Ukraine and the Foreign Minister came out and said there was no anything. There was no - he used the word no blackmail. They said there was no pressure, there was nothing done wrong. This is a hoax just like there was no collusion after two years, they found out, and wasted $45 million.


TRUMP: This is a disgrace that this could happen in our country. But remember - wait, wait. The President of Ukraine right now, the President of Ukraine said no pressure. The President of Ukraine and his Foreign Minister said again, no pressure, no blackmail. They don't even know what you people are talking about.

It's a hoax. It's a hoax. It's just a continuation of the Russian witch hunt which turned out to be phony, the Mueller deal was phony, and now they have this. And all it is very simple. It's one conversation that I had with the President of Ukraine that was perfect, that Adam Schiff defrauded everybody and he made up the conversation in the halls of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you at all concerned about the growing criminal investigation into Rudy Giuliani?

TRUMP: I don't think so, because I think Rudy is a great gentleman. He's been a great crime fighter. He looks for corruption wherever he goes. Everybody understands Ukraine has big problems in that regard. Rudy Giuliani is a fine man. He was the greatest Mayor in the history of New York and he's been one of the greatest crime fighters and corruption fighters. Rudy Giuliani is a good man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to see the Justice Department still investigate Biden?

TRUMP: Well, I think what Biden did and his son, and now I guess they're also finding also Rumania that just came out today or some other country, and I'm sure there are more than that. When a man walks away who has no talent, no skill, no experience with $1.5 billion out of China, when he walks away with 168,000 a month for him and his friend from Ukraine, when Ukraine supposedly gave him $3 million, whatever the numbers are, and he's got no experience in oil and no experience anywhere, and now other nations are coming out.

I heard one today - I won't embarrass the nation - all he's doing, and in my opinion, that's a payoff. Because you don't pay that kind of money for any other reason, and then you look at what the father did with oil. And let's get oil, and then all of a sudden, let's not get oil. Now he's a great environmentalist because the Ukraine benefits by that and other places benefit by that.

No, I consider what they did to be an outrage to our country. I consider that to be an outrage to our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think about Lindsey Graham saying they're not doing enough and what you think about the 98' --?

TRUMP: Well, some them weren't even spoken to yet. They got 40 very quickly I think there were 47 and some them don't even know about it yet. It only took place yesterday afternoon. So they had a great response. We have great support. We had 185 out of 185 the other night, the Republican Congressmen. I think we had 185 present and we had 185 positive votes, and with the Senators, we're doing great, too.


TRUMP: We're doing very well with China. We're moving along nicely. We're dealing with them right now. A lot of good things are happening with China. They want to make a deal very badly.


TRUMP: What?


TRUMP: We're moving with Afghanistan. We're doing well in Afghanistan. We're slowly bringing things down to a certain level, but we're doing very well with Afghanistan. Things are moving along.

UNIDENTIFIFED FEMALE: It is said you held up military funds because you wanted Ukraine to investigation 2016 and Burisma the company on which Hunter Biden is at? Are you calling him a liar?

TRUMP: Well the problem is he is the problem. He's a never Trumper and his lawyer is a never Trumper and the other problem is - hey, everybody makes mistakes. Mike Pompeo, everybody makes mistakes. He's a never Trumper. His lawyers are the head of the never Trumpers. They're a dying breed but they're still there. And here's another problem. You'll see an end and your fake news. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: They have to do USMCA, they have to do guns, they have to do many things. We want to reduce drug prices even more. We can go so far, but the reduce drug prices even more. The Democrats, the do nothing Democrats have no time to do it.



TRUMP: Which one?


TRUMP: We have a great Republican plan, and if we take over the House, which we should, especially because of what they're doing with impeachment, I think we'll take over the House by big numbers. You'll have health care, the likes of which you've never seen much less expensive. Deductibles will be much lower. You'll have great health care. We have to take over that because the Democrats don't have any time to do anything.


TRUMP: Well, I know he made the speech yesterday. I went over the speech. The speech was fine. No, the speech was fine. But I'm also working very closely with China on a deal, but the speech was fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you trying to intimidate the whistleblower?

TRUMP: That's true. We're doing very well with China. We're very good with the farmers. The farmers are going to do better than maybe anybody, but everybody is doing well. China wants to make a deal. They would like to see some reductions in tariffs they would like to see some tariffs that are scheduled to go on very soon.

They would like to see them not go on, but - look, you know it. They really want to make a deal. They'll be buying much more farm product than anybody even thought possible.


TRUMP: Only for one reason. I did nothing wrong. The only reason I had a perfect conversation with the President of Ukraine, perfect. Had they seen that conversation before they made up the story - they made up the story about that conversation. Had they seen it, we wouldn't even be talking about it right now. The conversation has been perfect. And for that reason I have tremendous support.


TRUMP: So they've started and it's been going on a long time. And I thought that some I read the papers probably in greater detail than you do, actually, and I try to sift out the fake news from the real news.

But as you know, there's been a long-term look-see, and it looks like it's becoming very serious from what I'm hearing, investigate the investigators. Whether it's Strzok and Page, whether it's Clapper and whether it's Comey and all these people, because terrible things went on for our country and we ever a great Attorney General, a highly prestigious man, a very honorable man, and they've been looking at it for a long time.

I can't tell you what's happening. I will tell you this. I think you're going to see a lot of really bad things, and a lot of people think, and they know they have problems because they were very dishonest, and again, I leave it all up to the Attorney General, and I leave it all up to the people that are working with the Attorney General who I don't know.

But I will say this. I think you'll see things that nobody would have believed. This was the worst hoax in the history of our country, and a lot of people say that the phony deal on impeachment where I had a perfect conversation with President of Ukraine, and they're using that to impeach one of the most successful Presidents.

We're going to hit another stock market high, we have the best jobs report, we ever the best unemployment numbers, we have the best employment. More people working today in the United States than ever before. I've rebuilt the military. We're strong. We just did a great thing in Syria where we're getting our troops out. We took over oil.

A lot of great things are happening in this country. I will say this. If anything ever happened with this phony witch hunt that the Democrats are doing, the do-nothing Democrats, I really believe that you would have a recession depression the likes of which this country hasn't seen.

Now, a strong statement was made by a very highly respected man this morning on "Wall Street", a man who is very respected about that. That if anything happened to Trump, President Trump; you would see repercussions in the market like you haven't seen before. But here's the thing. I don't have teams. Everyone is talking about teams. I'm the team.


KING: We take you straight from the South Lawn of White House to Baltimore, Maryland. This is Former President Bill Clinton speaking at the funeral of Elijah Cummings.