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John Bolton Deputy Kupperman Won't Testify Until Court Decides; Key Witness Who Was On Ukraine Call Defies House Subpoena, Doesn't Show Up For Hill Interview; Donald Trump: Democrats Just Want To Hurt The Republican Party; Donald Trump Announces U.S. Raid Kills ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi; Rep. Kate Hill Resigns Amid Allegations Of Inappropriate Relations With Staffers. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: I really appreciate it. And thank you all so much for joining me today. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John Containing. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The House impeachment inquiry hits a road block. A former top Trump National Security aide defies a subpoena, telling Congress he will not testify unless a judge decides whether the impeachment proceedings are legitimate.

Plus freshman Congresswoman Katie Hill is resigning amid allegations of inappropriate relationships. She flipped her California district blue last year after 26 years of Republican control, so brace now for a bruising special election.

And the President says the death of the ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, makes America safer. He defends his decision to give only Republicans a heads up about that raid saying he doesn't trust top Democrats.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we had a great weekend for our country. We captured a man that should have been caught a long time ago, so that was a big, big day and a big weekend, and we're very happy about it.


KING: Back to that story a bit later, but we begin this hour with a no-show. A key impeachment witness Charles Kupperman failing to appear this morning for deposition with the investigation committees on Capitol Hill, this after he filed a law suit on Friday asking the federal judge to rule whether or not he has to comply with the House subpoena.

His attorney sending this letter last night to the Committee's Chairman, we want to assure you your clients, again, that it is not Dr. Kupperman who contests your clients' constitutional claim. It is President Trump and every President before him for at least the last half century, who has asserted testimonial immunity for their closest constitutional advisers.

If your clients' position on the merits of this issue is correct, the letter goes on to say it will prevail in court. And Dr. Kupperman I assure you again will comply with the court's judgment. Kupperman served his Deputy National Security Adviser until just last month. He worked closely with the former top National Security Aide John Bolton. The two even shared a lawyer.

Committees want to talk to Kupperman mostly because he was on that July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's President. Kupperman refusal to comply now one of the first major road blocks facing Democrats. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the Democrats will not be deterred.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: A private citizen cannot sue the Congress try to avoid coming in when they serve for the lawful subpoena. We expect that the court will make sure thrift that argument. In terms of how we will use litigation or not use litigation. We're not willing to allow the White House to engage us in a lengthy game of rope open the courts. So we press forward.


KING: CNN's Manu Raju live for us on Capitol Hill. Manu, how big of a setback do the Democrats think this is?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats really hoped that he would come forward because he had taken part in that infamous July 25th phone call with President Trump and President Zelensky which President Trump urged Zelensky to open up that investigation into Joe Biden in Ukraine. He had listened in on that phone call.

And he also who had involved in some of these discussions that to concerns raised by John Bolton about the push to investigate the Bidens, the decision to withhold money for the Ukrainians, how this related, whether there was any quid pro quo? All those key questions Democrats wanted to ask this witness.

What Schiff is indicating right here this morning is that they're not going to get involved in what they call a lengthy court fight, lengthy game of rope a dope? Meaning, unlike we've seen in past fights in which the White House has not complied with subpoenas, where they've went to court to fight for say the testimony of Former White House Counsel Don McGahn in the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee in this part of this impeachment inquiry does not want to engage in some of that could delay this investigation for weeks and weeks at a time.

They do expect several more witnesses to come forward this week, including Alexander Vindman, who is a member of National Security Council on Ukraine that's tomorrow, also three witnesses are scheduled at the moment to come on Wednesday. That includes a State Department official - sorry, two State Department officials and a Defense Department official, and then on Thursday a big event with Tim Morrison who sits on the National Security Council, someone who could potentially corroborate some key claims from the top diplomat of Ukraine last week.

So they are pressing ahead. The question, John, is when do they wrap up the closed portion of this investigation? We do expect that to happen sometime soon, and then phase 2 begins, which is public hearings the report and decision on whether to impeachment this President. John?

KING: Sometimes soon but still a little bit of wag to that. We will watch as the week goes out whether we get more specifics. Manu Raju live on the Hill, I appreciate that. With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Abby Phillip, Michael Bender with "The Wall Street Journal" Melanie Zanono with "POLITICO" and Molly Ball with "TIME".


KING: The question is number one you have Mr. Kupperman but he also has the same attorney as John Bolton. Rick Perry the Energy Secretary telling "The Associated Press" the United States Congress is not following both their own rules and precedent with this, and until they do that, I don't intend to be a participant in what I consider to be not only illegal but improper. They need to have a vote.

So on the one hand Democrats have been very successful eight or nine Trump Administration officials despite the President saying don't cooperate cooperating. But bow as they try to go up the food chain, they're having issues with higher level officials. How long are they willing to wait, how long are they willing to fight in court?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: You're exactly right, up until this point we have seen witnesses willing to come spill their secrets to fight the White House this non-cooperation strategy, but executive privilege doesn't apply in those cases, and as Democrats are closing in on Trump's inner circle, they are less willing to comply.

Democrats are going to start running into these roadblocks that is going to get harder and harder for them as they go on, and at some point they are going to have to decide, is it worth it? Do they want to bring John Bolton in? Do they want to wait for this have to get wrapped up in the courts? And I think what you have heard from Adam Schiff today was really telling, they're not willing to do that, they want to move on and they're just going to add it to their obstruction of justice of article.

KING: Because the courts can take forever and then you could enter the political argument which is we're getting closer and closer to a presidential election year a lot of Republicans say you shouldn't impeach leave it up to the voters. Let's say you win like they did in the Justice Department lost in U.S. district court last week. The judge said, give them Mueller documents. The judge said the impeachment inquiry is legitimate. Now the Justice Department appeals and you go to circuit court then you can go to the full circuit court then you can go to the Supreme Courte. We could be at this if you stay - if the Democrats fight it in court that's what Chairman Schiff says no rope a dope. Just that process could take us into the election year.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: It seems like it's likely to, so the decision is going to be do they wait for it or not? This is exactly what hampered the Mueller investigation on the part of Congress was that they were waiting for these court battles to be resolved, and during the time that Speaker Pelosi was trying to fend off going down the impeachment road, this is what she was telling her caucus, was look, this is important, we will win and once we win we'll get these witnesses we'll get this information that we need.

Even if they do win those fights as they just did last week, it can take a long time. So the question is, how long is it going to take, and then do they have enough information to make a persuasive case on what they think is important and move forward, anyway? I don't think that they've decided completely whether they want to wait on courts in some of these cases and not others, or whether they're just going to completely put that off and go with what they have.

KING: Maybe at a better sense by the end of the week as they try to get a judge to rule quickly in the in the Kupperman case. The President was interesting this morning. He is in Chicago right now. I'll bring you some of that later speaking to association police chiefs meeting. But I joined by Sanders before he flew out.

Republicans has been arguing about the process saying why the Democrats doing this behind closed doors, the Democrats have never had a full vote of the House to authorize an impeachment inquiry. The question to process the President is saying this morning number one, they should fight the substance.

Now the Republicans don't want to do that, because unlike the President, they don't think that Ukraine call was perfect. They know what a lot of these other witnesses have said about holding up aid, holding up a potential White House visit for the President of Ukraine until he agreed to investigate the Bidens, et cetera but listen to the President here. As this goes on one of the key test is can he keep Republican loyalty? The President saying this isn't just about me.


TRUMP: Frankly I told Republicans who are really being taken advantage of, they're really being maligned and I think it's a horrible thing. They're really looking to hurt the Republican Party, and it's turning out to be just the opposite. So one thing I said, I would rather go into the details of the case rather than process.


KING: They don't. MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, for a number of reasons. One is kind of what you said the facts that are out there, a lot of Republicans aren't comfortable with. But as Molly was alluding to before, this is part of the White House's Mueller's playbook. And Trump's focus on branding here, he knows what is going to resonate outside the beltway and wants to stay focused on no quid pro quo, witch hunt and this all hoax.

But the - aside from the phone call and the facts we do know, this sort of conflicts with the White House's messaging so far in that we don't know a lot of what has been said - we don't know everything that been said behind closed doors. We definitely know a lot of that's been said in this process so far, but you're asking Republicans to put themselves out on a limb for details that we don't know everything that has been said yet, so there is a lot of uncomfortableness with not just Republicans but also inside the White House with asking your allies to do that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's also a self-defeating comment from the President that seems to in some ways be the President reacting to what he knows is being said about the White House's strategy on cable TV, which he watches regularly, but it's self- defeating, because if he wants to go and talk about the substance, it really undermines the argument that there should be no cooperation until there is a process that is fair to the President.


PHILLIP: So the lawyers wrote that eight-page letter that basically said this process is a sham and we're not going to cooperate until perhaps the process starts being more fair to the President, while the President is saying, maybe the process doesn't really matter because I did nothing wrong and let's go to the mat over what I said in that call. It really complicates not just the messaging for Republicans but even the very thin legal strategy that his lawyers put out a couple weeks ago in that eight-page letter to Democrats.

KING: And that was put out by the White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and it's interesting because that letter was put out saying, don't cooperate, you don't have to. You're right most legal scholars, most people in town said it was pretty thin it was more of a political argument rather than a legal argument.

But they did put it out, so Steve Bannon the President's Former Top Councilor remember? Steve Bannon saying why are these people and why to the White House? This is the message to them. You look weak, why aren't you stopping these people from testifying?


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Pat put out this letter a couple weeks ago to say no more information and no more people going forward. I don't know why that hasn't been enforced. I think it will start to be enforced this week. I think this thing ought to be fought I think it all will be fought all the way up to the Supreme Court. As this process becomes more visible, you'll see this is much ado about nothing. This is Schiff and a radical group of Democrats sort of throwing the country into a constitutional crisis over the Christmas holidays.


KING: He's trying to make a political argument at the end, but there is a message there that he hopes the President sees essentially that, you guys have been weak right now letting these - in his view letting these people testify. Now the witnesses are saying I've got a subpoena. My lawyer says it's a good subpoena. I'm going to testify. But I think he is right about this week with the Kupperman testimony, Kupperman saying I'm going to wait on a judge. This week could be the push comes to shove.

BALL: Well, we'll see. I think the Kupperman law suit really points to this whole issue for all of these witnesses is they are worried about consequences whether they cooperate or not. When they've got these conflicting directives from the White House and from the Congress, they're worried about legal exposure on both ends.

If they testify, could there be some kind of punishment? Could the administration through the executive branch try to crack down on these current government employees, try to find some way to sanction or punish them or remove them from their posts. And if they don't then cooperate, are they then worried about legal consequences on their end? There could be condemn charges, there could even fines down the road, there could be other things that come down.

So I think a lot of people in this situation, a lot of the potential witnesses, are in a very tight spot and are probably waiting to see what happens with the Kupperman lawsuit because that could be very clarifying for wide-range of potential witnesses who have had to decide what to do?

ZANONA: Including John Bolton by the way--

PHILLIP: He hasn't been.

KING: John Bolton, who shares the same lawyer. We'll see how that one plays out. Up next for us, the big foreign policy win for the President. The world's most wanted terrorist is dead.



KING: Today a corner stone Trump foreign policy achievement competing with the sound and fury of the President's grievances and score settling. The Trump approved raid that ended with the death of the world's most wanted terrorist you can see here above the fold on the front page all across the country this morning, two U.S. defense officials telling CNN that Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi's remains were buried at sea.

But the President stay after focus has been less on the American heroes who carried out this mission and more on those he views as obstacles, like the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. One of the top Democrats the White House decided not to loop in on the top secret raid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you concerned that Nancy Pelosi and others can't be trusted?

TRUMP: I think Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington. You know that, I know that, we all know that. I've watched Adam Schiff leak. He's a corrupt politician. He's a leaker like nobody has ever seen before.


KING: Even as the President announced the news, he could not avoid constant comparison with his predecessor.


TRUMP: Bin Laden was a big thing, but this is the biggest there. This is the worst ever. Osama Bin Laden was very big, but Osama Bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center. This is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it, a country, a caliphate and was trying to do it again.


KING: CNN's Kimberly Dozier joins our conversation. The President has every right to be proud here, he has every right to take some of the credit here. I guess it's just the nature of him that we get involved in some of these side shows, like Bin Laden was known before the World Trade Center. There is a difference between Al-Qaeda and ISIS, without a doubt, you know this better than most of us here at the table. Where was that going?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, he can't take joy in just being part of a mission that took a major terrorist off the globe. With him it's always got to be the superlative, that he is the very best of all. I have to say though his speech was received pretty well by special operators because they felt like President Obama said I too many times.

Talked about how it was tough for him to make this decision. Whoever crafted those remarks that the President read off the teleprompter very carefully led with the operators and their mission a lot of the use of the word "We" and only if the President had stuck with that and not gone on with the Q and A, he really would have been much more widely celebrated in the National Security Community.


KING: Right, because he did start off, you're dead right, with a very strong tribute to the operation, talking about what a dangerous raid it was, what a mission they undertook and how perfectly they performed? The President also noted that no one was hurt, which was a great thing is one of the canines. Just moments ago in Chicago the President again going back to his predecessor, Barack Obama, saying that he, President Trump, just finished a job that his predecessor should have.


TRUMP: Should have been killed years ago. Another President should have gotten him.


KING: You were in the room yesterday when the President was taking those questions. It is what it is, I guess.

BENDER: Yes, I mean, it was definitely a remarkable morning. For the number of times that Trump has used the diplomatic room for these types of remarks, usually they're limited to just that, just remarks, and he gets his message out and leaves. It's one of the few places in the White House he's done that.

Yesterday was obviously a lot different. I actually tried to ask him a couple times about giving credit about where credit was due, and to the President's credit, he talked about the intelligence officers, he talked about his own team, which was kind of a rare moment for him. Obviously he departed from that and wanted to get into the Obama comparison, and now we're seeing, as he gets out of the beltway, this is going to become a much more political talking point for him in the weeks and months ahead.

KING: I think a giant question, especially in the National Security Community, is does the President take any lesson from this in the sense that you cannot have the intelligence to do what those special operators did yesterday without help of allies on the ground. Without the CIA on the ground, without help from the Kurds, without the help from others at the time the President was trying to poll most if not all he would like all the Pentagon was convinced to leave some U.S. troops in Syria.

Listen to Defense Secretary Mark Esper here saying, yes, this was a giant success. However, there's much more to do.


MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it's a physical caliphate and defeat, and it's hard to defeat an ideology, so what we're going to have to do is stay on top of this. We're going to have to make sure we have the capability to go in and again destroy targets as they arise.


KING: The language there is interesting, the capability to go in, meaning in his head he understands his Commander in Chief wants him to get out, get as many as you can out. Again, the President would like all out. They convinced him to leave some in. It does change the mission if you have to go in. It changes your on-the-ground intelligence it changes the quickness of your capabilities. BALL: It does and I think that that's a case that we're already hearing made by the many opponents of the President's decision to pull those troops out. On the other hand, at the time when he initially made that surprise decision, his claim was well ISIS is already defeated. We already beat them, we already destroyed the caliphate, therefore, we don't need to be there, and you could imagine him using the death of Baghdadi to bolster that case, to say not only is the caliphate destroyed but we got their leader.

Why do we need to be there anymore? What is left of ISIS now? And, you know, the fact is there is some left. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear the President make the opposite case.

KING: There is some left and often what this security committee worries about at this moment is that those left will try to make a statement right now, right?

DOZIER: Yes, and also what they're worried about is since the President talked about there being a treasure trove of intelligence taken from the compound that that this is going to cue all the ISIS sleeper cells in the field to move into action for fear that maybe their names, maybe their phone numbers are somewhere in that trove, and if they don't act now, they'll get captured and their mission headed off.

BENDER: I think it's also important to note here that even before yesterday's news the President was already starting to reverse himself in the region and starting to keep troops there to secure the oil, as he says. And he's made clear that - I don't mean this to sound like a question of motivation, I think he believes it's important for America to reduce its footprint in that area, but he has made clear that this is a political talking point for him. Every time this comes up he says this is what he promised in his campaign, he needs to deliver.

KING: All right, we'll watch how this is plays out. As we go to break, more from the President in Chicago this hour where he just compare the Democratic impeachment inquiry to a home town police scam.


TRUMP: Then you have the case of this wise guy Jesse Smollett and he said Maga country did it. It's a hate crime. That's a hate crime. And it's a scam




KING: From rising star to fall from grace. The freshman Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill is resigning and now the special election for her seat will offer us an early test of the 2020 political terrain.

The California Democratic announced her resignation late last night, calling her decision, "The hardest thing she's ever had to do but she says the best thing now for her constituents and the country. The resignation followed a publication of racy photos in the launch of House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that Congresswoman had improper relationships with staffers.

The 32-year-old Hill won that seat just last year flipping it after 26 years in Republican hands. So you have two big stories sort of playing out at once.