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Member of National Security Council to Testify to Congress on Phone Call between President Trump and Ukrainian President; Former National Security Advisor to President Trump John Bolton May Testify to Congress in Impeachment Inquiry; Pence Calls NBA "Wholly Owned Subsidiary" of China; Soon: Funeral Services for Rep. Elijah Cummings; Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) is Interviewed About "Master of the House" Elijah Cummings. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday, October 25th, 8:00 in the east.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You sounded like you sure about that.

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

New this morning, a string of breaking developments in the impeachment inquiry. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported just moments ago that the White House is struggling to form a cohesive messaging strategy. We're learning about disagreements over how to proceed and a feud between the chief of staff and legal counsel that have complicated efforts to push back against Democrats.

This as CNN has learned there will be corroboration of some key elements of Ambassador Bill Taylor's explosive testimony directly implicating President Trump in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Next week, Tim Morrison, an adviser, top adviser on the National Security Council is scheduled to speak with Congress, and we have new details on what he will say. And remember, he's a key player. He was on the phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment investigation.

Also this morning, "The New York Times" reports that former National Security Adviser John Bolton is in negotiations to testify. Bolton has been described by many as alarmed with the alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. He called it, of course, a drug deal. And this morning, CNN has learned that Democrats are already discussing the scope and scale of potential articles of impeachment. We'll tell you how wide they will cast the net.

CAMEROTA: And yet another major development. A source tells CNN that the Attorney General Bill Barr's investigation of the origins of the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation is now a criminal matter. And that designation allows federal prosecutors to subpoena witnesses and file criminal charges. Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler responding overnight, saying it also raises profound concerns that the Justice Department has lost its independence and is being used for President Trump's political whims.

Joining us to talk about all of this, we have CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, she's the White House correspondent for "The New York Times," and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, let me start with you in terms of Kaitlan Collins' new reporting. No surprise from what we've seen all week that they are struggling inside the White House with a cohesive -- to find some sort of cohesive message. But I think what is really interesting is apparently there's a feud between the Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, and the White House Counsel about how to play this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is a feud that has been going on for some time. Kaitlan and I have been reporting on it since the beginning of last week, but I can't keep track of time. But clearly that has escalated. And it has escalated in a very dangerous way for the White House, according to a lot of people who are concerned, because what it means is that they're kind of -- they're just not moving. The feud means that they are not doing what they need to do.

And what we have seen is because of that, congressional Republicans kind of taking over the message. The president has been sending up flairs saying, do what you need to do. Defend me more. And so what they've done on Capitol Hill is, because they don't know what's coming next, they don't know what they don't know, and they will admit that privately. They've been attacking the process. And so they are doing that in large part because there is no direction, and there hasn't been for a month since this started from inside the White House.

BERMAN: It's very important. It's very interesting to know what's going on behind the scenes, because it informs our view of all of this. But, Maggie, it's not just that the White House has a bad system to deal with this. They have a bad fact pattern here.


BERMAN: And that might be overwhelming the process.

HABERMAN: Correct. Look, we actually reported several weeks ago that Mick Mulvaney and Pat Cipollone have been at odds. It exploded publicly over the possible hiring of Trey Gowdy to help advise them not just about a communications strategy but possibly to help fight an impeachment trial on the hill. Cipollone and Mulvaney were on opposite sides of that. Mulvaney ended up bearing a lot of blame when that fell apart. They have been at odds since the transcript, that bad fact set that you're talking about, of the president's, or the rough transcript of the president's conversation with the president of Ukraine came out. It was Cipollone's decision to release it. Mulvaney had objected, as had others.

The transcript itself, a lot of people within the White House and a lot of people on the hill will say is, as you put it, just not a great set of facts to explain or defend. And so because of that -- because of that, because of what Mick Mulvaney said last week from the briefing room podium, and because of the president's decision to -- which he then pulled back, to hold the G7 next year at his own personal club in Miami, you have folks on the Hill feeling like there's just a bridge too far in what they can defend here. So they're talking about process.

But there's basic agreement among witnesses who have gone to the Hill on what took place around this Ukraine controversy. And none of that is beneficial to the president. Just on its face it's not.

CAMEROTA: And of course next week we will -- we expect to hear from two people who were on that phone call, though we have the rough transcript, I'm not sure what more they'll provide, but they were on the call.


So it sounds also, Dana, as one of the debates inside the White House right now about their strategy is whether to hire more communications people and to set up a war room. That's something that Joe Lockhart on our air has been recommending because he lived through the Clinton impeachment. That's something that he's recommended. All of this is obviously sort of inside baseball, but it matters because if they do all of that, next week the messaging may change.

BASH: Maybe. Except there's one difference. The impeachment process during Joe Lockhart's time had Bill Clinton, had bill Clinton without Twitter. Had Bill Clinton who was convinced, stay focused on issues that you can control and not this. He didn't talk about impeachment. It is the opposite of this president who, by nature, always wants to be his top communicator, thinks he can do it the way nobody else can. He can communicate with his base like no one else can. And so no matter how big a war room or how small a war room, you still have a president who is going to overtake whatever it is that they decide to do.

Now, there have been times in Trump's political history, as short as it is, where his back is up against the wall and he's convinced -- they've convinced him, just take a breath. The end of the campaign in 2016, they convinced him, please do not tweet, and he didn't, and he won. There were lots of other factors there, but that is a time they convinced him. It's just hard to see that happening right now.

BERMAN: So we've already heard so much key testimony that ended up being bigger than we thought it would be. And next week if you look at the calendar, Maggie, there's some potential explosive testimony as well, including from Tim Morrison, who is a top national security adviser on the National Security Council who CNN reported overnight will corroborate key elements to Bill Taylor's testimony which got to the idea of whether there was a quid pro quo.

And I'm just going to read the end bit of the transcript of Bill Taylor's opening statement here. And Taylor testifies, I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison, Tim Morrison, told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation. This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance, not just the White House meeting, was conditioned on investigations. So Morrison was the one who told Taylor the facts about what Taylor believed was a quid pro quo. Interesting in and of itself. Also interesting that Tim Morrison, who works inside the White House, Maggie, is going to go and testify and apparently corroborate some of this.

HABERMAN: John, I think that's exactly right in terms of him going ahead. Look, we have seen the White House has tried to put a blanket, nobody should cooperate with this message out. And you have seen not everyone, but a number of people still going up to the Hill under subpoena and testifying anyway. I think they might be being careful about certain things they can't talk about because of possible executive privilege. But for the most part they're not adopting the stance of we're just not going to take part in this.

I do think -- the CNN report was terrific on Tim Morrison. I do wonder whether he is going to say that he saw a problem with this, because based on the CNN reporting, he's not going to say that. And some of this, John, comes down to, and the defense the Republicans have had, this is their issue with the process. Transcripts are not being released. Their argument is that details are being cherry- picked. Now, again, I still think this is objectively not a great set of facts. Their argument is that it is in the shading of those facts, and so it sounds like Morrison is going to corroborate a fair amount of what Bill Taylor said. But it also sounds, if the CNN report is accurate, as if Morrison is going to say he didn't see a problem with this phone call. And then we get down what the Republican argument has been, which is that it's basically in the eye of the beholder.

CAMEROTA: One of the people who did see a problem with it that we also might hear from next week, or at least we hear from the reporting is in negotiations, is John Bolton. And so Dana, John Bolton is also at the center of all of this. And from the reporting behind the scenes, he did have a problem with it. He was the person telling some of these folks, you should actually take notes of this. You should actually send this to Mike Pompeo. You should actually perhaps contact the lawyer back at the State Department about some of this stuff. So it would be obviously instrumental to hear from him soon.

BASH: No question. It's hard to imagine that he hasn't been quietly talking to people on Capitol Hill, some of his friends, as this has been going on. And we talked about this last hour. He's somebody with an ax to grind. He has no allegiance to this president at all given the way that he was thrown to the curb, and words were passed from both he and the president. And so that is one reality.

The other reality is the facts, and what you were saying, that he isn't somebody who -- it's hard to imagine, based on his real experience and convictions on foreign policy, would be OK with this kind of behavior. Whether he wants to be that guy, whether he wants to be the guy who comes out, not just says it in private but says it in public, this was unacceptable, what I saw was not OK, that's an open question.

[08:10:06 ]

Because what Maggie was saying about Morrison and others who have come out, particularly Morrison, who we expect him to say, to corroborate the idea that this was a quid pro quo for the money, if he doesn't say I saw a problem with that in a public hearing, Republicans are going to do -- going to sort of dance all over that when it comes to forming and shaping public opinion.

BERMAN: On the issue of John Bolton on that subject, I have to say, Shakespeare couldn't have written it. Alisyn Camerota and --


BASH: There is a reason you always have that here.

BERMAN: But no fiction author, no fiction author could conceive of a moment when Democrats were counting or depending on or leaning on John Bolton to help them make a political argument? Maggie, it stretches the imagination.

HABERMAN: Look, again, like Dana, I want to wait and see what Bolton actually says, because it's very easy for other people to characterize what Bolton was saying based on anonymous quotes. It's quite another thing when you're under oath. And I'm looking forward -- or at least under penalty of perjury. And I'm looking forward to seeing what he actually says. But, certainly, John Bolton as resistance hero was not part of the bingo game that I had seen heading into this.


BASH: Quote of the day.

BERMAN: Maggie, Dana, thank you very much.

So Vice President Mike Pence. He went after the NBA because of how it has addressed the issue surrounding China. It's interesting because Mike Pence has one message for the NBA but a non-message for his boss. This morning we have a new response from Beijing, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, China is slamming Vice President Mike Pence for his support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The foreign minister calling it, quote, arrogance and hypocrisy after the vice president criticized the NBA for its part in this free speech dispute with China.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And some of the NBA's biggest players and owners who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China. In siding with the Chinese communist party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of that authoritarian regime.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us is Ian Bremmer, the president and founder of Eurasia Group and G-Zero Media.

Ian, it's great to have you here.

And Mike Pence -- he said that before. He's said that before. And the criticism of the NBA, I know it's one that you share and has been out there.

But President Trump hasn't exactly been a vocal defender of the protesters in Hong Kong.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Human rights generally has taken a back seat in this administration's foreign policy. Trump specifically has said that he's not going to bring up Hong Kong as long as the trade talks are ongoing. Getting that done is something that feels more urgent for him right now with the U.S. economy softening and the impact of the trade deal on the U.S. economy growing.

But there's no question, Pence was out there loud and proud on the Uighurs, on NBA, on Hong Kong. It's different than the message you'll be hearing from President Trump directly.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But chastising the NBA, but not having your own boss say anything about China, is that hypocritical?

BREMMER: Well, I mean, Pence's point historically has been that these American companies should be more patriotic. And to be fair, the NBA isn't just not taking a position, they forced the Houston Rockets Morey to take his tweet down that was supporting the Hong Kong demonstrators. The owner of the New Jersey Nets sort of three-page pro-Beijing communist screed against Hong Kong, it's still up today, right?

So, I mean, this is -- the equivalent would be, if the NBA was only writing about Trump in a positive way, only talking about Trump in a positive way and never letting their players or management say anything negative about the administration. It would be inconceivable for them to do that in the United States, and yet that is the position de facto in China, which is kind of extraordinary.

It would be weird for the administration not to be calling that out, frankly.

BERMAN: Interesting also -- just how far the reach of this has gone and how much we hear about this discussion now that we're two or three games into the NBA season. Charles Barkley commented on Mike Pence's remarks last night.

Listen to this.


CHARLES BARKLEY, RETIRED NBA STAR: Vice President Pence needs to shut the hell up.

These holier than thou politicians -- if they so want to worry about China, why don't they stop all transactions with China?

I think it's unfair for them to do all their business in China and just because this thing happened, try to make the NBA and our players look bad. All America's companies do business in China.


BERMAN: So, what do you think of what Sir Charles had to say there?

BREMMER: Well, I mean, if that was on TNT, I want to see what Shaq said back to him because Shaq is the one person out there affiliated with the NBA that's had the willingness to go out and say, I support Morey. He shouldn't have taken that down. It was the right thing, it was courageous for him to do.

While LeBron is like, no, no, no, he wasn't educated on China. LeBron, of course, is very educated on China. Give me a break.

Now, the reason LeBron can do that -- I mean, Shaq can do that is because he's not a current player. Current player can't do it.

I understand Barkley completely. It's hypocrisy in Trump on human rights on this issue. But to say that the NBA shouldn't be open to criticism given their position in the U.S. and the position in China, we've got a much bigger problem which is that American companies that like to have global values, they like to say we're about democracy and free speech, but suddenly, the -- one of their biggest markets in the world and soon to be the largest economy in the world, is a country that says if you want to play ball here, quite literally, you are going to have to change your view of those values.


And most of these companies are absolutely willing to do it. But in my field, we don't take money from Chinese companies, right? And if we did, my ability to get on with you guys this morning and have this conversation would be seriously constrained. My analysts would be under pressure.

They'd say you want to keep working with us? No way. The banks have this problem. The big consulting firms have this problem. This is not limited to the NBA, but the NBA has really stepped in. Let's put it that way.

CAMEROTA: Can't Shaq just say whatever he wants?

BREMMER: I think Shaq can say whatever he wants. I think Barkley can, too. These are big boys.

CAMEROTA: They are. I've interviewed Shaq once. I came up to like his thigh.

BREMMER: Yes. I mean, like, if he was saying this directly on his show right now, I'd be, yes, sir. Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: I'm glad we know where your allegiances lie. OK, Ian, thank you.

BREMMER: Great to see you, guys.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you, too.

OK. A final farewell today to the "Master of the House", Congressman Elijah Cummings. We'll take you to Baltimore, next.



CAMEROTA: The casket of Elijah Cummings arriving moments ago in Baltimore after lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. You can see all of this on your screen. The longtime Maryland congressman and chair of the House Oversight Committee will be laid to rest today.

Former Presidents Clinton and Obama will be among those eulogizing this political giant.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is live in Baltimore with more.

Tell us the scene, Kristen.


Well, that's right. We're also going to hear from the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But what's perhaps more remarkable than those big names is this long line of people that's just started moving behind me. You can see here, people, members of the public, who came just to pay their respects to the late congressman, people who got here as early as 4:00 in the morning just to line up. They wanted to make sure that they were able to see him during this public viewing that started at 8:00 a.m.

And this really goes to show you the kind of politician that Cummings was. He was the son of a share cropper, someone who never forgot his roots. Not only a staunch defender of Baltimore but a champion of the people, somebody who people believed went to Capitol Hill to fight for the people and did so with class and grace.

We heard from Democrats and Republicans who said that Cummings never conflated politics and personal, something, of course, we know from his unique friendship with Republican Mark Meadows.

Take a listen to what Meadows said about his friend yesterday.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): He's defined by the character of his heart, the honesty of his dialogue and the man that -- the man that we will miss. Perhaps this place in this country would be better served with a few more unexpected friendships. I know I've been blessed by one.


HOLMES: You can hear that emotion there in his voice. He will be very missed.

I do want to note, of all the names we justice mentioned that are coming, we're also going to see a lot of the 2020 candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to be here, along with Elizabeth warning -- Warren, excuse me.

But one person not expected to be here today, President Donald Trump -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Kristen, thank you very much.

Among the powerful speakers at yesterday's ceremony on Capitol Hill, Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver. He's the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Listen.


REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): Our hearts are made heavy by the transition of our colleague, our family member, our loved one, the mahogany Marylander, Elijah Cummings.


BERMAN: What lovely words.

Joining me is now Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us today.

CLEAVER: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: And yesterday was so deeply moving to watch that. And I think one of the things that made it so moving to so many of us was it was people in both parties, both chambers coming together as one.

Just talk to us about the emotion in the room.

CLEAVER: Well, there was a lot of emotion because for many people there, Elijah Cummings was a symbol that we never thought we would have leave us. And the symbol was this -- extremely intelligent, Phi Beta Kappa, able to work with anyone. The people who clean the halls, the people in the cafeteria, they all loved Elijah Cummings.

And I think there were probably 120 people in there at least who thought he was their best friend. So, it was a powerful, powerful, but painful moment for almost all of us. And, I mean, we're going to miss him.

I mean, how many people do you know would be working, sitting on the side of their death bed and not giving any signs that they're in pain or complaining at all? He worked his last few hours on the earth, and all of us could just hope we could go out like that. BERMAN: Look, I saw the courage in the work ethic of Elijah Cummings

myself on the streets of Baltimore during the protests there. He put his body on the line, his health on the line again and again. One of the things I was surprised by, frankly, is that Congressman Cummings, the first African-American to lie in state.