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Soon: Army Officer Who Heard Trump's Ukraine Call To Testify; House To Vote Thursday On Formalizing Impeachment Inquiry; Lt. Col. Vindman's Testimony To Contradict Amb. Gordon Sondland; Fox Goes After White House Aide Who Will Testify Today Against Trump. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired October 29, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerotta and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, October 29th, 6:00 here in New York. Another very busy morning. I know I say that every morning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No, every time you think there can't possibly be another big witness, there is.
CAMEROTTA: OK. And here is another one, the most damning testimony yet in the impeachment inquiry is expected to happen today. An active duty military officer, currently working inside the White House, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, will defy his Commander-in-Chief and testify that he was so concerned about the Ukraine controversy, he twice reported it to -- reported on President Trump's pressure tactics. Vindman was listening in on that July 25th call between President Trump and Ukraine's new President. And he says he was so disturbed by Mr. Trump's request to investigate his political rivals that he reported it to his superiors. He says out of a, quote, sense of duty.
BERMAN: Remember, this is an active duty member of the military still working in the White House. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled the first vote on Thursday to formalize the impeachment inquiry. The vote will force lawmakers to go on the record supporting or opposing the investigation, and will lay out rules for the next phase of the probe. Now, Republicans have been claiming the impeachment inquiry is illegitimate because there has not been a formal vote so far. So, what happens to that argument now?
Sources tell CNN that Democrats are working on a timetable that would hold public impeachment hearings before Thanksgiving, that's within a few weeks, with the final vote to impeach the President, perhaps by Christmas. Let's begin our coverage this morning with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill. Again, very potentially damaging testimony coming today from an active military member. Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An active military member, you're absolutely right, John. And potentially explosive. This is a White House expert on Ukraine who's going to testify this morning. And CNN obtained a bombshell opening statement, a copy of that statement in which he will say that he rang the alarm bells twice to his superiors expressing his concern about the President, about the President's inner circle, and inappropriate behavior regarding Ukraine.
MALVEAUX: In just hours, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman will appear on Capitol Hill and will tell impeachment investigators he was so troubled by President Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukraine's President that he reported his concerns to the National Security Council's lead attorney.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): And this would be the first White House officialwho would actually be defying the White House's orders not to cooperate.
MALVEAUX: Vindman, an army veteran who received the Purple Heart after he was wounded in Iraq, is the first White House official to testify who listened in on the phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, where President Trump repeatedly pressed the Ukrainian President to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. In his opening statement obtained by CNN, Vindman says he reported his concerns out of a quote, "sense of duty," adding, "I'm a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics."
He also affirms details U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor gave in his testimony about a July 10th meeting with Ukrainian officials, contradicting testimony by U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. Vindman claims at that encounter, Sondland, again, pushed Ukraine on delivering specific investigations to secure a meeting with Trump. Vindman, who was at a briefing on the meeting says that after this was brought up, Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short. At that briefing afterwards, Vindman told Sondland, "his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security. And that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push."
Vindman also says the President's former top brass advisor Fiona Hill, also told Sondland his comments were inappropriate. They both then reported the interaction to the NSC lead counsel, but Sondland told investigators the opposite in his October 17th testimony, noting, "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."
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): What they were seeking was to extort the President of Ukraine in exchange for the resumption of military aid --
MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled the first vote on the impeachment inquiry for this Thursday, something Republicans have been demanding for weeks. REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This resolution signals that there will be a public hearing. It signals a shift where people will start to learn what is so concerning about the President's comment.
MALVEAUX: House Democrats will continue their closed-door meetings this week into next week, and then, they will open these hearings up for the public before Thanksgiving with the hope of a vote on articles of impeachment by Christmas, John.
BERMAN: Merry Christmas indeed, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much. This testimony from Alexander Vindman, again, an active duty military. What will the impact be on the impeachment inquiry? We'll discuss next.
CAMEROTTA: In a matter of hours, a current White House employee and the first person who was actually on that July 25th phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President will testify in the impeachment inquiry. CNN has obtained a copy of Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman's opening statement. In it, he states, "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. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play, which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine US national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to the National Security Council's lead counsel."
Vindman says he already had complained once after speaking with Ambassador Sondland. So, let's bring in CNN Political Analyst, David Gregory, and CNN Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip. Abby, what I'm so struck by in this long statement of what he's going to say today is how unambiguous it was to so many people, people who are the experts, who are the Ukraine experts, who are in the National Security Council meaning national security experts. They found it unambiguous what the President was asking. It wasn't like, I kind of wondered if the President -- no. They said I was completely uncomfortable when I heard this.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they were uncomfortable with the call. They were uncomfortable with the push that Giuliani was making to denigrate Ukraine to the President, which he also says in the statement, was contrary to U.S. foreign policy and American interests. So, when he heard that call -- and I noted a couple of things. First of all, he was on the call, he was the person who actually verified the transcript. So, there have been a lot of questions about is this a transcript, is it a, you know, a summary, whatever it is. He believes the transcript is a pretty close -- has pretty close fidelity to what he heard.
CAMEROTTA: That's really helpful, really helpful.
PHILLIP: And I think it's important because -- you know, it's important for people who have questions about whether the White House may have hold -- held things back. And it also verifies that this is the -- what he saw. This is what he heard when he said this was contrary to what I think is in America's interest. And then, after some of these meetings that we -- I'm sure we'll talk about a little bit more, there was a meeting in which Ambassador Sondland made some requests of the Ukrainians. He reported that up to the chain of command. This is a sitting military officer, who he says in the statement, the chain of command is so critically important to him. He reported it up because he knew that was his responsibility because it was damaging to U.S. foreign policy.
BERMAN: And that's the thing that sticks out to me, how do you impeach -- no pun intended here -- How do you impeach, David, the testimony of someone who's an active duty member of the military? How do you impeach --
CAMEROTTA: Purple Heart recipient.
BERMAN: Purple Heart recipient. How do you impeach the testimony of someone who listened to the phone call? How do you impeach the testimony of someone who has a contemporaneous account of not one but two complaints about the content of the call? This seems like a problem for defenders of the President.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you don't -- you don't impeach that testimony. And imagine in open hearings, how this kind of witness plays to the country and to Republicans as well, not just Democrats as someone who is not just truthful, but is painting such a damning portrait of what was going on. The only thing you may be do is start to do what Republicans are talking a lot more about now, which is forget the process concerns, let's argue the case on its merits and somehow try to argue that this wasn't purely politics. That it wasn't abuse of power, that somehow this was within the realm of what was considered OK.
The problem with that, of course, is that you have witnesses like this, you have other political appointees who are uncomfortable with it. And there's Gordon Sondland saying, Well, nobody brought their concerns to me. But they did. And they brought it to the council, the National Security Council, which is important to lawyers, because even -- based on Bill Taylor's testimony and others, the National Security Adviser John Bolton is saying, go to the lawyers, make a record. And so, all of this kind of goes in his direction, as well, as probably the most senior political appointee for the President who's saying, this was completely out of bounds.
CAMEROTTA: I want to read something else from his opening statement that I think brings up, Abby, what you're talking about, which is the Giuliani influence. Here is what he plans to tell the committees in Congress today. "In the spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency. This narrative was harmful to U.S. government policy. While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine's prospects, this alternate -- this alternative narrative undermined U.S. government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine." I mean, he just couldn't spell it out any more plainly.
PHILLIP: Yes, this is bigger. This testimony is way bigger than Bill Taylor's. Remember, when Bill Taylor testified, people in that room said it was damning said that that testimony was like a bombshell. This is a lot bigger than that, because he was in the room for a lot of these things. He was on the call, he was actually in the delegation that traveled to Ukraine with the Energy Secretary Rick Perry. So, this is someone who has first-hand knowledge of a lot of this. And even while he says in the statement, he did not have direct contact with the President, he has clear knowledge of the conversations that happened under that and can verify the sequence of events here.
It's critically important that as someone who is an expert, a subject matter expert in Ukraine, he believed that what Giuliani was doing and what Sondland was doing were damaging to U.S. foreign policy. It risked U.S. national security because it really went against America's interest. That's going to be a critical part of this as we go forward, too, for the public aspect of this, which is convincing the American public that this isn't just -- this isn't just the President and his aides being -- making mistakes and being silly, they were actually, you know, risking U.S. national interest and foreign policy interests around the world.
BERMAN: And, David, I asked you the question, how do you impeach the character of Alexander Vindman, an active duty member of the military? Well, actually, the answer to that question is now right in front of me because I understand on Fox TV last night, he was smeared. He was born in Ukraine, emigrated to the United States when he was 3 years old. I want to play this for you, but viewer discretion is advised here because what you were about to see is disgusting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the President's interest, and usually, they spoke in English. Isn't that kind of an interesting angle on this story?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I find that astounding and, you know, some people might call that espionage.
CAMEROTTA: And there you have it. There is the talking point.
GREGORY: Yes. I mean, you know, we'll see if that's actually, you know, brought forward by those who are part of this process. We've seen, you know, whether it's Bill Taylor, others being smeared. So, yes, you can try to impeach these folks for any number of reasons. Most of them illegitimate, but they're going to have to get back to the substance here. And what's striking about this testimony -- look, we know from the very beginning, from the transcript of the call, that the President offers a quid pro quo.
And the problem for the White House is that their answers, their explanations have shifted all over the place in terms of what it was and what it wasn't. If they're now going to get to the place where they say, Yes, but it's OK to do this. That's a different explanation. And that's what will be evaluated at the end of the day.
PHILLIP: And they might have to get to that point because President Trump actually explicitly has said in recent days, he wants to talk about the substance. So, he's saying that at the same time that the substance becomes incredibly damaging to him. So, it's --
BERMAN: All right, standby, friends. A lot more to discuss, including the first vote is now scheduled on the impeachment inquiry. We'll discuss what that means, next.
BERMAN: So, we now understand that on Thursday, there will be a vote on the impeachment inquiry in the House. This is being called a step forward setting rules for public hearings and outlining the potential process for writing articles of impeachment against President Trump. So, Republicans who have been focused on process up until now, what will they focus on now? Back with us, David Gregory and Abby Phillip.
And David, among the things this will do is set the rules for the public testimony, it will make the depositions public, the transcripts of the deposition public, and it will figure out how to hand all the information over from intelligence to the Judiciary Committee, which will vote on articles of impeachment, but more than anything, this is a vote on impeachment, the first vote on impeachment, and we haven't had one until this point. So, what does it signify to you?
GREGORY: Well, two things. One, Democrats know they've got to get this process going, they've got to get it public. If they're going to move on putting together articles of impeachments, sending it to the Senate, they want to do it before the end of the year to keep the public's attention before the holidays, which could slip away. Two, I think they want to call the Republicans out who have been making an argument against the process being a sham process, illegitimate, they want to really make very clear what the role is for Republicans and challenging the evidence, challenging the witnesses to be able to do it in a public way, so that they can get into a public debate about what the merits of the impeachment case actually are. And I think they want to call Republicans out on that point.
CAMEROTTA: Abby, I assume that Republicans today will say, this is -- Nancy Pelosi is finally acquiescing, you know, to what we've been calling for, she's finally caving to pressure. Is that true?
PHILLIP: Well, so far, Republicans have been saying that, oh, this proves that this whole thing has been a sham all along, but I suspect that we're going to hear them complain -- continue to complain about the process, continue to complain that whatever it is that they're going to vote on is not sufficient, that it's not going to give them enough of an ability to push back on some of what the witnesses are saying. But I don't know how much longer they can continue with that argument. I mean, the point of this, it seems to me, pretty clearly on Nancy Pelosi's part, is to put Republicans in a box. They've been asking for process, they're going to get a process.
The Constitution is pretty clear that the House has 100 percent latitude to set the rules of impeachment. And that's what they're -- that's what they're going to do. And then furthermore, what it actually does is it gives Democrats a way of formerly releasing a lot of this testimony, most of which has been damaging to the President. So, Republicans may rue what they have been asking for. They've been asking for transparency, and they may very well get that, but a lot of this testimony from what we've seen so far, is not favorable to the President. It's going to actually make it harder for them to defend him once this is out in the public. It's going to put a lot of pressure on the jurors and the Senate, particularly some of these Republicans who are going to have to decide where they stand on this.
BERMAN: David, we're getting some visibility and what the calendar might look like here. Because if you follow this reasoning, as you said, you could get a vote on impeachment in the House that would come before Christmas. And by my math, that means a trial in the Senate if the House doesn't impeach the President would be in January. Iowa, the Iowa caucuses are the first week of February. I mean, that's pretty close to people actually voting.
GREGORY: Yes. Yes, I think it's -- and I think it's what's -- one of the things that's very difficult for Democrats, because if you're a Republican, first of all, we know what a lot of the substance is. And I think Republicans are going to want to be in the position even if it gets difficult to defend the President to put this out there and say, Yes, but OK, there's stuff here we disagree with but we're not going to impeach him over it. Maybe there's a vote to censure the President. Maybe there's something else, but we're not going to get in the way of voters. And I think the deeper into the political calendar you get, even Republicans who are wary, or worse, what the President has done, say, look, let's let the voters decide what the remedy should be for this.
CAMEROTTA: All right. It's going to be another interesting day. David Gregory, Abby Phillip, thank you very much for all the analysis. Still coming up, stunning new details about how officials were able to confirm al-Baghdadi's identity before the raid. And an update on how this K-9 is doing after chasing down al-Baghdadi, that's next.
BERMAN: I call him a dog.
CAMEROTTA: No, I don't. He's --