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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
House Releases Text of Impeachment Rules; U.S. Colonel Delivers Damaging Testimony Against President Trump; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) is Interviewed About House Impeachment Resolution. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired October 29, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will see you back here tomorrow.
Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Republicans attacking maybe the most unimpeachable thing in this whole investigation.
"THE LEAD" starts right now.
He's the first person who was actually on that Ukraine phone call to testify. And he's telling Congress that he was so troubled by the president's actions that he reported it to lawyers up the ladder.
Appalling attacks. The president's defenders now questioning the loyalty of the active-duty Army officer, an Iraq War veteran, who still has shrapnel in his body. Why? Because he's testifying in the impeachment probe today.
Plus, a brand-new CNN poll: a snapshot of the first-in-the-nation primary, New Hampshire, one that could point to a historically tight race ahead.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin today with the politics lead, explosive testimony on Capitol Hill, where, right now, the top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council is testifying in the impeachment inquiry.
According to his opening statement, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman twice sounded the alarm. First, he raised concerns that the president's point man on Ukraine demanded that the Ukrainian government open an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for a White House meeting.
Then, Vindman raised the alarm once again when he heard that the president made a similar demand. Vindman, who prides himself on being nonpartisan, reported his concerns out of a sense of duty.
The lieutenant colonel, after all, has served active duty in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years. He was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by an IED in Iraq. Vindman was born in Soviet-occupied Ukraine.
His family fled the USSR when he was 3 years old, becoming embodiments of the American dream. He and his twin brother were featured in a Ken Burns documentary from 1985.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we went to...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mother died, so we went to Italy. Then we came here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now if you think Vindman being a decorated war veteran would make the president and his supporters more reluctant to smear him, well, then you have not been paying attention.
Seizing on "New York Times" reporting that Ukrainian officials sought advice from Vindman about how to deal with Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, Giuliani tweeted that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is a -- quote -- "U.S. government employee who has reportedly been advising two governments," which is nonsensical and not true, but of a piece of a loathsome dual loyalty smear that Trump defenders have started using.
Former Congressman Sean Duffy this morning on CNN smeared Vindman as having allegiance to Ukraine and not to the country that Vindman literally fought and bled for, the United States.
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SEAN DUFFY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don't know that he's concerned about American policy, but his main mission was to make sure that the Ukraine got those weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Quote: "I don't know that he's concerned about American policy."
Getting Ukraine those weapons to beat back the Russians was and is American policy. It was passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by the president.
According to someone who knows Vindman, this is someone who never complains about his wounds, but he still walks around with some of the shrapnel in his body.
This vile dual loyalty smear of an Army colonel comes just days after a different smear of a different decorated war veteran, the smear by President Trump of Ambassador Bill Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran and another expert witness with damning testimony. Taylor, President Trump suggested, is human scum.
The smears are, in fact, getting so hideous, House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney today said this:
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REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): We're talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation, who have put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation. And we should not be involved in that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But President Trump and his defenders are deeply involved in that process, the one Cheney called shameful, because they apparently would rather impugn decorated veterans, such as Vindman and Taylor, than address the substance of their testimony, which alleges that President Trump and his team essentially were extorting Ukraine and corrupting the national security apparatus of the United States in order to help President Trump politically.
They don't want to talk about that testimony.
So let us now turn to that testimony.
Here's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bombshell testimony on Capitol Hill.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): This is a very, very important moment. This is a person that was there.
SERFATY: From Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert telling House investigators today he was so troubled by what was happening with Ukraine, he raised concerns twice to his superiors.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We have got all kinds of opinions from several witnesses over the last few weeks. But the fundamental facts are -- are just that, fundamental.
SERFATY: But Vindman is the first witness who was actually on the now famous July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president, telling lawmakers today in his opening statement obtained by CNN that he was concerned by what he heard on the call.
"I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine." Following the call, Vindman said he reported his concerns to the NSC lead counsel. Earlier that same month, Vindman attended a July 10 meeting in Washington with Ukrainian and U.S. officials, telling lawmakers that: "Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president, at which time, Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short."
At a debriefing afterwards, Vindman testified today that he confronted the U.S. ambassador to E.U., Gordon Sondland. "Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma. I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate."
Following that meeting, Vindman says he also reported his concerns then to NSC's lead counsel, as did Fiona Hill, the president's former top Russia adviser, who was also in the room.
But that directly contradicts what Gordon Sondland told House investigators two weeks ago during his deposition on Capitol Hill, Sondland then telling lawmakers -- quote -- "If Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill or others harbored any misgivings about the propriety of what we were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me then or later."
SERFATY: And Vindman's accounting of what happened and what was said in that July 10 meeting, however, is backed up by the testimony of Bill Taylor.
He, of course, is President Trump's top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Jake, who testified up here on Capitol Hill last week.
TAPPER: All right, Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
Nia, let me start with you.
In his opening statement, Vindman wrote this about President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president, which Vindman was listening in on -- quote -- "I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen. And I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine."
This is just another unimpeachable character witness, somebody -- not character witness -- unimpeachable witness -- saying that this was inappropriate.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.
Yes, and his character, unimpeachable, right, if you look at his record. He got a Purple Heart. He served in the Iraq War. And he is somebody who felt like it was his patriotic duty to report this, right? And he reported on two different instances, first a meeting where Bolton was in the meeting and Sondland was in the meeting, and then after this phone call.
Listen, we knew this day would come that there would be somebody to come before this committee who was actually on that phone call. For all of these previous depositions and with the whistle-blower complaint, you heard the -- some of the Trump's allies and Trump himself essentially saying, well, this is all secondhand, thirdhand, fourth-hand, and therefore can't necessarily be believed.
So, here is someone who was on that phone call, and it tracks very closely with what we know what the whistle-blower said. So, listen, I think you will have the president's allies at least try to undermine him. We saw some of that today with some Republicans obviously trying to push back.
But it's another damning day for this presidency with what's coming out of these depositions.
TAPPER: And, Mehdi, are you at all surprised? Here we have somebody who literally still, according to somebody who knows him, literally still is walking around with shrapnel in his body from combat operations in Iraq, fighting for the United States Army.
He's still in the Army. And you have people -- and, look, I never served. So I don't want to -- I don't want to impugn those who haven't served, but Rudy Giuliani never served -- doing dual loyalty charges. Sean Duffy never served.
MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: To be fair to the president, he had bone spurs.
HASAN: So he couldn't make it.
HASAN: Look, you had a Vietnam veteran testify last week, Bill Taylor, ambassador to Ukraine. You have an Iraq War veteran testified today.
These are the kinds of people the Republican Party used to fetishize and say, don't you dare say anything about our veterans, our heroes.
But ever since Donald Trump took over, they attack Gold Star parents, anyone who's in the way of the Trump campaign and the Trump cause. It's interesting that he dismisses them all as never-Trumpers. He referred to Colonel Vindman as a never-Trumper, to zero evidence for it.
TAPPER: No evidence.
HASAN: Just to clarify for the president, if you work for the Trump administration, you can't be a never-Trumper, just by definition. This guy works in the White House. He was on the call. Trump also
said today, I have never heard of him, which makes Trump look stupid, because why are you making calls to foreign leaders with people in the room you have never heard of?
So the whole thing is bizarre. Obviously, it's all about taking out the witnesses, as you said.
I'm glad you use the phrase extortion at the top of the show, because we have used quid pro quo for far too long. It's extortion. I think we all understand what extortion. Vindman's testimony is the latest affirmation that it was extortion.
TAPPER: In his opening statement, Vindman also wrote in a July debrief, after they met with Ukrainian government officials -- quote -- "Ambassador Sondland" -- that's the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. -- for some reason, he was the point man on Ukraine, even though Ukraine is not in the E.U.
TAPPER: Anyway: "Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short."
That's in the meeting with Ukrainian government officials.
What does that say to you about Bolton? This happens, and Bolton cuts the meeting short.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I and a lot of people disagree with Bolton policy, but I have always believed that he is an institutionalist who will protect the institutions that he works for. He's worked in previous administrations.
And so I don't find that surprising. But what's really tough for everyone that was the White House at that moment, we are now in the phase of, what did you know and when did you know it?
Sondland is at odds with the whistle-blower and Vindman. Rick Perry has a problem. He's previously denied knowing anything about it. He was in those meetings that Bolton blew up.
How far does this go? Was Mike Pence involved? People are worried that he's not going to escape from this unscathed. Where was Mike Pompeo, Bill Barr?
So there's just a lot of places this can go. And it all goes straight to the top.
TAPPER: So now we have a testimony from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman that completely contradicts what Ambassador Sondland said.
Sondland, the point man on this Ukraine rogue operation, said that -- quote -- "I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former Vice President Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens."
And you have Vindman, in his testimony, the opening statement, he says that he went to him afterwards and said it was entirely inappropriate. And then Dr. Fiona Hill, also on the National Security Council, said the same thing to him. So assuming that Hill backs that testimony, Sondland could face some problems here.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He could.
And, of course, Bolton cut the meeting short, so which translates to me is, Lucy, you have got some explaining to do as to why you told Congress one thing, and then it's backed up by other people.
I look at people's credibility as witnesses to figure out who I'm going to believe, who I want to assign that gravitas to, based on what their expertise is. If you're a firsthand account, that's great. And also you're somebody in a position to understand why there would have been an abuse of power.
What was the leverage we're talking about? Why would it have been inappropriate? Each of the people you named, Fiona Hill, Bill Taylor, and now, of course, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, all have expertise into the compromised state that Ukraine would have been in, compared to the prowess of our American military and, of course, Americans influence.
So they have this expertise. They don't seem to have a party play and they told in real time -- I would argue, Amanda, we're even past what you're talking about. We're in the phase of, when did you know it and who did you tell?
Because every time they told somebody, somebody else on a witness list that I want a question or recall to confirm and corroborate, and that's why I think we're in this state right now, with Pelosi saying, all right, well, come before the public and tell us what you think. We want to assess your credibility in real time.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stay right there.
We have a lot more to talk about.
Coming up, breaking news: We're getting our first look at how the public impeachment hearings could play out in front of all of our eyes.
Plus, the White House trying to find a new way to attack the impeachment process, as President Trump trashes an American hero.
Stay with us.
[16:18:17] TAPPER: We have breaking news now. We're just seeing the text of the House impeachment resolution that the House will vote on on Thursday. The resolution outlines exactly how impeachment proceedings -- impeachment inquiry proceedings will go down, from public hearings to a report that will be delivered on their findings.
CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.
Lauren, walk us through the key points in this resolution.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, what we know, Jake, is that there are public hearings and they will issue the public report and release the transcript of the closed-door depositions going on for several weeks now.
But this is really about broadening the role of the minority here. The minority's rights are going to be expanded, including the fact they could now request witnesses and documents as this moves to the Judiciary Committee for that broader public hearing. Now, there is a catch to that. The Republicans only have those rights in consultation with the Democratic chairman. If there is a disagreement, then it will go for a full vote of the committee and as you know Democrats control the House of Representatives and therefore they'll have more votes in the committee.
But this also expands the rights of the president to defend himself. A few key points that are outlined in this resolution. It present -- it allows the president and his lawyer to present their case and respond to evidence, attend hearings, including those in executive session and raise objections and cross-examine witnesses.
And Democrats are arguing this really undercuts a key Republican talking point that this process is unfair and they're arguing moving forward it is officially outlining what the rules will be -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
Joining me now is Democratic congresswoman from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Madeleine Dean.
Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.
Your reaction to the resolution that just posted within the hour?
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I'm pleased with it. I think it's the right step forward. If you read the very first line of the resolution, it directs the committees, the Oversight Committee, I happen to be on the Judiciary, to continue our investigation as to whether sufficient grounds exist to bring to bear our constitutional authority of impeachment.
So, I think it's -- it's an excellent step forward. It is a matter of process and due process as your report just laid out.
TAPPER: And what kind of evidence will you need to vote to impeach the president, do you think?
DEAN: Well, that's a question down the road. That is why again I like the opening statement of this.
What we will need is the evidence from the witnesses that are being collected now. I look forward to the public hearings that we will have. I look forward to the transfer of the report to the Judiciary Committee, so that we can determine whether or not to draft articles of impeachment and then, of course, to have hearing or mark-up on drafted articles.
TAPPER: I heard a lot of Democrats complaining about the House Republicans storming the SCIF last week. Are you worried that Republicans are going to take advantage of public hearings to try to distract, change the subject, undermine, turn them into a spectacle in the view of Democrats?
DEAN: I certainly hope not. And that is what was sort of grounding about this resolution. It shows the seriousness with which our party, our caucus takes where we are headed. Speaker Pelosi has said so many times we're in a solemn place. Nobody wanted to be here. This is a very difficult time for our Congress and even more difficult time for our country.
But when you have a president who behaves as though the law does not apply to him, when you have a president who abandoned his oath of office, when you have a president who would rather compromise our elections than actually work diplomatically with Democratic partners around the world, putting them at risk, when you have a president who attempts to shakedown a foreign president for dirt on a political opponent for his own personal and political gain, we have no choice but to take this very, very seriously.
I hope my Republican counterparts on all of the committees of oversight take it that solemnly, that seriously. This should not be filled with stunts or circuses.
TAPPER: "The Wall Street Journal" published an op-ed about the decision for the resolution and for the vote on Thursday. It says, quote: This is what you say when you know your critics have been right but you don't want to admit it. Perhaps Mrs. Pelosi realized that the House process so far has looked like a partisan railroad job, unquote.
Should the public look at this resolution as a concession of sorts that the Republicans had a point that the process needed to be far more transparent?
DEAN: I think not. And here is why. I disagree with the premise of the editorial by "The Wall Street Journal" board. They said it is as though she said, yes, you were right. I should have had a vote on a formal inquiry. This is not that vote. This is a vote laying out process and due process including for the president and his own counsel, so it's actually that the premise of the editorial is just plain false.
TAPPER: And also, describe if you would -- the resolution also brings some sort of clarity to the role of transferring evidence to the committee on which you sit.
TAPPER: The House Judiciary Committee. What kind of physical evidence is there?
DEAN: Well, we will get copies of transcripts of all of the depositions, as well the American people. I think that's incredibly important, transparency is incredibly important to prosecute this case and to see whether or not high crimes and misdemeanors exist. We're going to see evidence -- obviously, you know today the very evidence of the lieutenant colonel on the Ukraine phone call and how concerned he was about what was going on.
We heard from Bill Taylor, his courageous testimony with corroborating notes that talked about he was deeply concerned about a shadow foreign policy being performed by Rudy Giuliani of all people, and that things were contingent upon President Zelensky making sure he opened up an investigation into Biden and Burisma and also that he publicly made a statement about that.
We've seen this pattern of behavior before by this president. We read the exact same pattern in the Mueller report, where the president wants somebody to do something for him publicly, that will benefit him politically and personally. That kind of evidence from these courageous folks who are coming forward to testify and others who will still come in open settings is the evidence that is important.
TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania -- thank you so much for your time as always.
DEAN: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Now, the House committee has released a draft of the impeachment inquiry resolution, the process and how will the White House respond?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: The politics lead. Democrats hope that Thursday's House vote on the impeachment inquiry process, opening hearings, providing deposition transcripts and more will quiet Republican complaints of non-transparency, even though --