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Republicans Storm Hearing As Evidence Mounts Against President Trump; Houston Astros Fire Executive Over Outburst At Female Reporters; Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) Discusses Talks To Deploy Tanks To Syria To Protect Oil Fields. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FOUNDER, E PLURIBUS UNUM FUND, (D) FORMER MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: -- a diverse community and everybody wants their kids' lives to be better. That is a good starting point.

But it's sobering to understand that we see the world so differently, and that's the work that we have to do. It's going to be hard and it's going to take a commitment.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Very quickly -- we have about 20 seconds left here.

Why is this important to you, personally, as a white southerner?

LANDRIEU: Well, I mean, I grew up in the south. I love the south. The people of the south are people of faith, family, and country. We love each other.

But we have a special obligation to help the country walk through this very difficult issue of race that we've, quite frankly, never confronted. And when we do it and when we get past it, we will all be better for it.

BERMAN: Mayor Mitch Landrieu, thank you for coming on this morning and thank you --

LANDRIEU: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: -- for this work. Everyone should go online and check out the work from the E Pluribus Unum Fund. It's a really interesting study out just this morning. Appreciate your time.

LANDRIEU: The report is at dividedbydesign.org. Take a look at it.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you, sir -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John.

An about-face from the Houston Astros firing a team executive after his outburst at a group of female reporters over domestic violence. What the team's general manager now says about it all, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:35:17]

CAMEROTA: Well, it's Friday and what a week it's been.

Explosive testimony from top diplomat Bill Taylor directly implicating President Trump in a quid pro quo with Ukraine to this moment when a group of two dozen Republican lawmakers stormed a secure hearing room interrupting a deposition of a Pentagon official.

There's a lot to talk about. So joining us now to go over all of these developments we have CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum. He is a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania. And, CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot, a former Republican.

All right. Gentlemen, let's just start with that moment, Rick.

Did you think -- what did you think of those Republican lawmakers storming to so-called SCIF with cell phones in hand -- obviously, a violation of House rules -- in order to disrupt the process? Did you think that that was an effective way to fight the impeachment inquiry?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR, PENNSYLVANIA: You know, I -- look, I think there's a lot of frustration on the Republican side about the way the Democrats are conducting this. It's a purely political exercise on the part of the Democrats.

I mean, they are -- they are -- they are including -- they are not following what would be the normal course of an impeachment process and their -- I think their objective is purely political. I don't -- I don't think they really believe that they're going to impeach this -- well, they're going to impeach him, but that this president will be convicted in the Senate. And so, they're seeing this as a political exercise and are controlling it like a political exercise.

And so, the Republican response is OK, if they're going to treat this as a political exercise then we will too. And we'll just highlight that by doing something outrageous -- which, by the way, they think what the Democrats are doing is equally outrageous.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Max, by definition, impeachment is a political exercise, as we've learned.

SANTORUM: Right.

CAMEROTA: What are your thoughts about what Rick is saying?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK SENIOR FELLOW FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, my thought, Alisyn, is that this week has been utterly devastating for President Trump. Bill Taylor's testimony was not just the smoking gun, it was a smoking

howitzer. He provides further evidence that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo and we saw that evidence for ourselves in the rough transcript of the call between President Trump and President Zelensky.

And by the way, let's not forget Mick Mulvaney, last week, admitted there was a quid pro quo. So what does that mean? That means the President of the United States misused military aid appropriated by Congress to blackmail a foreign country into interfering in the U.S. election to help his reelection. That is the very definition of a high crime and misdemeanor.

Republicans have no substantive defense on those issues and so they are arguing process. They don't even have a good case on process because they're trying to claim this was a secretive process. But there are 46 Republican members who are sitting in on these committees hearing these depositions behind closed doors.

And, Republicans did the same thing when they investigated Benghazi or Fast and Furious or all these other cases.

So, the ground is collapsing underneath Republican feet and they're trying to distract this from the fact that the case against Donald Trump is growing and strengthening.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Rick.

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, first off, I don't -- I don't think it's a distraction at all. I think process actually does matter and I think that --

CAMEROTA: But does it matter as much as the substance? I mean, I'm sorry to interrupt but, I mean, it does --

SANTORUM: Well, of course. Yes, it does.

CAMEROTA: -- seem as though every time we talk to a Republican they pivot to process. What about all the substance that you've learned?

SANTORUM: Well, I'm not pivoting to process. You -- number one, I'm not pivoting to process. You asked me about process.

The question you asked me about was them -- was them walking in on and I gave you an answer on that. I'm not pivoting at all.

But I am saying -- having someone who has gone through this process before, I can tell you that having been in those meetings with -- because I was, you know, involved as sort of the go-between between the House and the Senate during the -- during the Clinton impeachment -- process was everything. Why? Because you set precedent and you set a precedent that is used in the future and that -- and that is meaningful for our democracy.

So, yes, I -- the idea of the process doesn't matter. It's just wrong. It's very, very important for justice to be served, and justice in this way -- and this is my point that I was making. The Democrats, it seems very clear to me, are not interested in actually getting the conviction of this president.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SANTORUM: If they were interested in getting the conviction of this president they -- and by the way, I can go back to the -- to the 90s and I can say pretty much the same thing of the -- of the Republicans in the House in the 90s. They were not interested, really, in getting the conviction of this president.

CAMEROTA: OK.

BOOT: That's -- no.

SANTORUM: And so -- and they didn't work like they did in the 70s on a bipartisan basis --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SANTORUM: -- to try to bring people in --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SANTORUM: -- to try to get a consensus. What they're doing --

BOOT: Rick, Rick, come on.

SANTORUM: -- is a very partisan hard-edged process which is going to make --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SANTORUM: -- it hard for them to get a conviction.

CAMEROTA: OK.

BOOT: Rick, that is just so absurd. Of course, the Democrats would love to impeach and remove President Trump because we have clear -- we have clear --

SANTORUM: But they're not going through the process to do it.

[07:40:00]

BOOT: -- and overwhelming -- can I finish my sentence?

We have clear and overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump has committed impeachable conduct. More than 50 percent of the American public already agrees.

The reason they will have a hard time removing President Trump is because Republicans are not willing to judge this case on the merits. They are loyal lickspittles for President Trump. They are ignoring the evidence of his high crimes and misdemeanor. But it's hardly Democrats' fault because they have built a much stronger case than you built against Bill Clinton in 1998 when only 35 percent of the public thought that Bill Clinton should be impeached and removed.

SANTORUM: That has more to do with the president than it does with the evidence. I think the evidence against Bill Clinton was actually pretty rock-solid. He lied in -- he lied in a --

BOOT: Yes, but the offense was trivial compared to what Trump has done.

SANTORUM: Well, again, you can say breaking the law is trivial -- a president breaking the law is trivial but I think a lot of people would disagree.

BOOT: Trump has broken the law much more significantly.

SANTORUM: Well, that's yet to be seen. We have one person's -- one person's analysis of what's going on. I'm not saying that it's not serious. I think it is.

BOOT: Overwhelming evidence.

SANTORUM: I don't think there's overwhelming evidence. If you use -- the two other pieces of evidence you use, I completely disagree with it. I've read that transcript. It doesn't say what you said it says.

CAMEROTA: Which one? Hold on, let me ask you about that. Are you talking about Bill Taylor's statement -- 15-page statement?

SANTORUM: I think Bill Taylor's statement -- I haven't -- again, I haven't seen the questioning. We haven't had a privilege to see that. We've seen his statement. We haven't seen what he -- what he said under questioning.

But I think that is -- of all the things that have been brought forward so far, that's the one that I think the White House should be most concerned about. But the other thing --

CAMEROTA: That one -- you said -- just to be clear, you think that one is damning, too?

SANTORUM: I think it's potentially damning, yes. I think we have to flush it out. We have -- look, we're going to find out from John Bolton and others who were involved in this process whether what Taylor's perception of what was going on and what was in reality going on.

So you can have different people listen to different things and come up with different conclusions about what people's motivations are.

So, I'm -- so let's just take a look at it.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BOOT: Can I -- can I ask -- can I ask you a question, Rick?

SANTORUM: Yes.

BOOT: Can I ask you a question, Rick?

SANTORUM: Sure.

BOOT: If they, in fact, do determine that there was a quid pro quo -- and I believe the evidence is already overwhelming of a quid pro quo -- would you favor Trump's impeachment in that case?

SANTORUM: You know, I would -- I wouldn't say yes right off the bat. I think that's -- I think it's a very poor judgment on the part of the president.

I'm not sure that alone would make me feel that I would impeach the president. But it would -- it certainly was something I would -- I would have to think about and consider whether to remove a president, particularly right before an election, with that type of evidence.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But, Rick, just to help us understand that, why would it not be open and shut for you asking a foreign power for help with dirt on a political opponent in the U.S.? Why wouldn't that be impeachable to you?

SANTORUM: Well, look, I would just say that that would be -- in my opinion, that's a very poor judgment on the part of the president.

Whether that is a high crime, I'm not sure that I would -- I would --I would necessarily agree with that. I mean, I think it's certainly problematic. And again, I said I sort of have not made my mind up as to whether that would be sufficient enough.

But the reason that gives me pause in all of this is that we have an election coming up. I mean, this would be different in my -- in all the other impeachments prior to this were on presidents who were in their second term.

It would be different if the public didn't have recourse but here, you're in a situation where the public is going to have recourse and they're going to have all this information before them. And whether we should go through the very messy business --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SANTORUM: -- on something that, you know, is serious -- I'm not saying it's not serious -- and actually removing a president right before an election, I have a problem with that.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, it is more than --

BOOT: No.

CAMEROTA: -- more than a year. And so, Rick, you're saying that when Congress finds this information -- when the whistleblower comes forward they should not do anything? They should sit on it for 15 months before an election? That would be your preference?

SANTORUM: I -- I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is if the Democrats are serious about trying to remove this president right before -- in the middle of an election -- we're in the middle of the election right now. If they're serious about doing so they have to build a broader consensus.

And that means they have to start including Republicans because Republicans, they're creating --

BOOT: Republicans are included, Rick.

SANTORUM: No, they're not.

BOOT: There's 46 Republicans on the committee.

Let me just make another point here. You're saying this may not rise to the level of impeachment. Well, I beg to differ.

If you read The Federalist Papers, you will see that what Trump is doing is a classic example of exactly why the founders put the impeachment clause into the Constitution. They were deathly afraid of foreign influence in U.S. politics --

SANTORUM: Yes.

BOOT: -- and they were deathly afraid of a president who misuses his public authority for private ends.

And those are the two things that Donald Trump has done right here. We have overwhelming evidence that he has done it and that's why he has to be impeached and removed.

CAMEROTA: Quickly, Rick.

SANTORUM: Except if all that you've said is true, Max -- and I don't accept everything you've said is true -- the reality is that we are in the middle of an election --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SANTORUM: -- and that -- and that I think it's a better system --

CAMEROTA: But why does timing Trump -- a crime?

SANTORUM: I think it's a better system to let the public remove a president --

BOOT: There is nothing in the Constitution -- there's nothing in the Constitution --

SANTORUM: We'll let the public remove --

BOOT: -- that says you can't impeach within a year of an election.

SANTORUM: I'm not saying you can't. BOOT: That's not in there.

SANTORUM: I'm not arguing that.

BOOT: Yes.

SANTORUM: I'm saying what is in the best interest of the country is to let the Democrats bring all this out and then let the voters decide instead of going through what I think is a --

CAMEROTA: OK.

SANTORUM: -- very messy and difficult political process that can be damaging to the country.

BOOT: And let -- and let the -- and let the Republicans make a judgment on the merits, not based on their loyalty to a Republican president.

[07:45:02]

SANTORUM: Let the -- how about let the --

CAMEROTA: OK.

SANTORUM: -- voters make a judgment on the merits.

CAMEROTA: OK. We may have an opportunity for all of that to happen.

Rick Santorum, Max Boot, thank you very much. We appreciate both your perspectives -- John.

BERMAN: The Houston Astros have fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman following his disparaging outburst aimed at a group of female reporters. The team also apologized to a "Sports Illustrated" reporter whom they falsely accused of fabricating a story -- the story about the clubhouse tirade.

I want to bring in CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. It took them a long time to get here, Christine, but it happened.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, it did, John, but the bumbling front office of the Astros is on full display here.

While they have been terrible on the field so far in the first two games of the World Series, we've seen the same kind of lack of understanding of the magnitude of a problem when you're taunting -- you have an assistant general manager taunting three reporters who happen, all three, to be women in support of an alleged domestic abuser in 2019.

Now, the general manager of the Astros, Jeff Luhnow, did apologize and here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEFF LUHNOW, GENERAL MANAGER, HOUSTON ASTROS: First of all, apologies to Stephanie and to the rest of the people that were involved in the incident. His behavior was inappropriate and not representative of who the Astros are. That original reaction by the Astros was wrong and we own it as an organization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRENNAN: That said, there are a lot more questions still, John, about this. And while the Astros are playing on the field, the real question is if they are aware of the magnitude of the issues involving women in the media and, of course, domestic violence in our society in 2019 -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That's right, Christine. We need to see more talk and more action about those things. Thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: The Pentagon is considering sending tanks into eastern Syria to protect troops that are near Syrian oil fields. Does the president need congressional approval? We ask a member of the House Armed Services Committee, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:43]

BERMAN: Two Pentagon officials tell CNN that plans are being discussed to deploy tanks in eastern Syria to protect U.S. troops near oil fields. You'll remember the president announced U.S. troops would withdraw from the region.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jason Crow. He's a former Army Ranger who serves on the Armed Services Committee.

And, Congressman, look, you've been very critical of the president's decision-making in Syria. I'm wondering if you can explain what's going on here. Remove U.S. troops to protect U.S. allies, the Kurds, but put tanks in to protect Syrian oil fields which, frankly, aren't that productive anyway? How do you explain that?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yes, it's very hard to explain, actually. I wish I could but there doesn't appear to be a plan.

The president appears to be bumbling from one decision to a next -- to the next. You know, one moment he's going to leave troops in, then we're rapidly retreating and withdrawing troops to Iraq. And Iraq is telling us that the troops aren't welcome there, so now we're saying they're just temporary.

Now he's saying they're going to go back in to protect the oil fields. And as you just mentioned -- and I have a lot of background as an Army Ranger in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism missions and tanks are one of the least effective tools in conducting that mission. So, you know, the president's main priority appears to be protecting private companies and oil fields rather than actually protecting our partners, the Kurds, and making sure that ISIS is defeated. It's troubling on so many levels.

BERMAN: So you were a latecomer among Democrats to supporting an impeachment inquiry. And, CNN learned overnight that Democrats who were part of these key committees are moving forward, getting closer to drafting articles of impeachment. And there is a discussion or a debate about how narrow or broad they should be.

What do you think? How closely should articles of impeachment hue to the issue of Ukraine and this presidential phone call?

CROW: Well, you know, any articles of impeachment should just follow the facts. You know, this has to be about the facts driven by what actually happened in Ukraine. I've said that all along that this shouldn't be a political process.

We need to divorce politics from this because this is a national security issue. This goes to the core of protecting our country. It goes to the core of, you know, presidential power in the -- the abuse of presidential power, endangering our 60,000-plus troops in Europe.

So what I want to see is the facts actually driving that process and I think that's what's happening right now. We're going through a very professional, very deliberate committee process that has Republicans and Democrats involved.

We are interviewing witnesses right now with counsel -- with Republican counsel, with Democratic counsel. There are going to be transcripts of those interviews that will eventually be released. It is a very fair and deliberate process.

BERMAN: To that end, you're actually responding, I think, to some of the Republican criticism about the process that, in their words, it hasn't been transparent.

You had talked about transparency at the beginning of announcing your support of the impeachment inquiry. You said, "It has to be an open and transparent process that the American people can understand what's going on so that they have access to the facts as well. That is our obligation."

And do you feel the process has met the standard you set?

CROW: Yes, I absolutely do. And here's what we're doing and why we're doing it.

[07:55:02]

A criminal referral was made to the Department of Justice. Attorney General Barr explicitly refused to conduct any investigation and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations in that criminal referral. In the past two impeachment inquiry processes, there was a special investigator that did confidential interviews of witnesses to make sure there wasn't witness tampering, to make sure that the witnesses did not line up their stories.

The attorney general and DOJ has refused to do that so now, we have to do it. So we're going through that process right now behind closed doors to make sure that witnesses are not tampered with, that they're not comparing notes. But we are keeping transcripts.

Republican attorneys are there -- they are questioning. Republican members of Congress are in those hearings and they're questioning as well. Eventually, those transcripts will be released and the hearings will convert to public hearings.

So, we're following a process that we need to make sure that we're following to make sure the information that we're getting is good, that we're avoiding witness tampering -- that we're going through that process and then it will be public.

BERMAN: CNN is also reporting overnight that Tim Morrison, who is on the National Security Council -- an adviser there inside the White House -- when he testifies next week will corroborate some key elements of Ambassador Bill Taylor's testimony, which gets to the idea that there was a quid pro quo in terms of Ukraine military aid and also the meeting between the two presidents.

My question to you is why is it important -- why is a quid pro quo important and is it, in fact, necessary in your mind, perhaps, to impeach the president?

CROW: Yes. Well, to be very clear, there is no legal requirement for a quid pro quo. The president and his enablers and the folks around him want you to believe that there's some kind of legal requirement for a quid pro quo -- there isn't.

Just him asking a foreign power to interfere in a U.S. election is sufficient enough for us to proceed with this inquiry and it's immoral, unethical, and likely illegal. So there is no quid pro quo.

But with that said, all the witnesses -- all the information that we're seeing to date shows that there was actually also a quid pro quo, which is even worse than just the request itself.

So that's the position we're in. We can't follow this strongman argument that there needs to be some legal standard that actually doesn't exist in reality. But, as you mentioned, the information shows that there likely was one, as well, and Ambassador Taylor and other people are corroborating that.

BERMAN: And finally, again, from your experience as an Army Ranger, you look at this through a national security perspective. Why, in your mind, are there life and death matters involved here?

CROW: Yes. So let's zoom out and look at the context of what's going on in Europe right now. You know, Russia is not our friend. Vladimir Putin would like nothing more than to destroy American democracy and he's being very aggressive. He wants to dismantle NATO.

You have Ukraine that's on the front lines of the fight for liberty in Europe. They are fighting an insurgency that's being funneled, fueled, and supported by Russia.

And one of the big reasons why there aren't Russian tanks sweeping across Ukraine right now is because of the military aid and assistance that we provided them, including these javelin missile systems that I used when I was in the military. These are some of best anti-tank missiles in the world and they're preventing further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

We have 60,000 U.S. troops stationed across Europe that have mutual defense obligations with all of our NATO partners. So if the situation devolves, if Ukraine flares, up, if Russia moves further west, those troops are in harm's way.

That's the situation we're dealing with. These are our sons, our daughters, members of our community that are over there wearing the American flag.

And our president is alleged to have withheld critical security funding to our partner, Ukraine, to prevent that from happening. It's very dangerous and very disturbing stuff.

BERMAN: Congressman Jason Crow, we appreciate you being with us. Please keep us posted throughout this process.

CROW: Yes. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right.

And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, we have a lot of developments in the impeachment inquiry. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We do expect Tim Morrison will appear before House investigators next week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first time this has actually reached the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill Taylor's testimony was devastating to the president. We expect Morrison to corroborate parts of it.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN, PENNSYLVANIA: If the facts are not on your side -- well, then, you argue process and procedure. That's what's happening here. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm not here to tell you anything other than that the way they're going about it is really dangerous for the country.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): My message to Sen. Graham is you stay in your lane. It seems as though when the president says jump, they ask how high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, October 25th. It's 8:00 here in the East.

CAMEROTA: You sounded like you weren't sure about that. It is --

BERMAN: No, I want it to sink in. It's much better if you give it a moment to sink in.

END