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Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) On Senate Democrats' Request For Attorney General's Recusal On Ukraine; Military Officer To Testify Against President Trump Today; Great White Sharks Disappearing From South Africa. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 07:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- you called him no different than Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway who -- or any other people who once sacrificed their once-decent reputation. You also said to him you should resign.


CAMEROTA: You and some of your colleagues have called for him to recuse himself from all Ukraine matters --


CAMEROTA: -- as well as the investigation into the origin of the Russia investigation.

He responded yesterday on Fox. Here is what he said about that.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I initially discussed these matters with those countries, then introduced them to John Durham and established a channel by which Mr. Durham can obtain assistance from those countries. But he is in charge of the investigation. I'm not doing the investigation.


CAMEROTA: Does that put your mind at ease?

HIRONO: Of course not because he's the attorney general, supposedly, of our country but it becomes clearer every day that he's the lawyer for the president.

He's the one who okayed this investigation now into his -- into his own department, which is really untoward, and all this in the service of some kind of a conspiracy theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered with our elections, contrary to what our national security agencies have said.

And yes, I did sign on. All the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee signed a letter asking the attorney general to recuse himself from all things Ukrainian because note that the somewhat transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukrainian president mentions Bill Barr in the same breath with Giuliani a number of times.

CAMEROTA: But I'm mostly interested in what he said here and how it makes sense. He says I'm not doing the investigation. But he just previously spelled out all of the steps that he did where he says I initially discussed these matters with those foreign countries.


CAMEROTA: Then I introduced them to John Durham, who is the attorney general who is doing -- or the investigator from Connecticut who is doing the investigation. I established a channel by which Mr. Durham can obtain assistance from those countries.


CAMEROTA: How is he not involved?

HIRONO: You point out very rightly that he's been busy flying all over the place in this attorney general plane that he has, and he's been talking to all of these people regarding this, basically, conspiracy theory. So, yes, what he's done and what he's said belies what he just mentioned and talked about yesterday.

So, as far as I'm concerned it is really hard to trust what comes out of this attorney general's mouth, especially when it comes to the president. Very clear that he's the president's lawyer and not the lawyer for the people of America.

CAMEROTA: I don't think he's heeding your call to resign.

HIRONO: Sadly, not. In fact, none of them do because as I -- as I've said, they've entered what I call the moral dead zone that is Trump and his White House.

CAMEROTA: Sen. Mazie Hirono, thank you very much for your perspective --

HIRONO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- on this important news day. Thanks a lot. We'll talk again soon -- John.

HIRONO: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans in Congress have criticized the impeachment process, so how will that strategy change once the House actually makes a vote on the inquiry?

We're joined by two former Republican members of Congress, next.


[07:37:32] BERMAN: In just a couple of hours, the latest official to testify in the impeachment inquiry that he was troubled by the president's actions, is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He is an active-duty military officer. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman writes in his opening testimony today, quote, "I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics."

Here with me to discuss, CNN political commentators and former Republican members of Congress, Sean Duffy and Charlie Dent.

Congressman Dent, I want to start with you. An active-duty military member, part of the National Security Council, so concerned with what he saw that he reported it twice to NSC lawyers.

What does that tell you?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, SENIOR POLICY ADVISER, DLA PIPER GLOBAL LAW FIRM: Well, it tells me John that Col. Vindman is going to corroborate and basically support what Bill Taylor and Fiona Hill, and perhaps Ambassador Yovanovitch all have said.

So, I -- and, of course, this man was on the phone calls, I understand -- the original phone call that set off this whole investigation. So if I'm the president and I'm the White House, I'm very concerned.

I mean, look, this behavior may or may not be impeachable but I think we can all agree that it is wrong. And now, we're going to have a full investigation to see whether or not this merits impeachment.

BERMAN: Congressman Duffy, Charlie Dent says we can all agree it's wrong. Do you agree?

SEAN DUFFY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I agree with him that it's not impeachable, that's for sure.

Here's my --

BERMAN: Well, he didn't say that.

DUFFY: Here's --

DENT: I didn't say that. I didn't say that. I just said -- I didn't say that. I just said, look, there's going to be a debate about whether it's impeachment conduct or it's wrong.

DUFFY: Let me get back -- let me get to Vindman.

Mr. Vindman -- he is a -- he is a -- he's an adviser to the president. He is a former Ukrainian. He wants to make sure that taxpayer money goes in military aid to the Ukraine. He's entitled to that position. BERMAN: I'm sorry, I'm sorry -- why does it matter -- why does it matter where he was born? I'm sorry, Congressman Duffy. Why does it matter where he was born --

DUFFY: I'm going to explain that to you.

BERMAN: -- because that came up on Fox News. He's an active-duty military member. An American who was awarded the Purple Heart.

DUFFY: Well, you know what? I'm a -- I'm of Irish descent. I still love the Irish. And he has an affinity, probably, for his homeland.

That's not my point though, John. My point is that he gives advice to the president. He doesn't set policy.

So, the president has a lot of advisers who give different opinions and different views, but the president is elected by 60-plus million people to actually implement the policy, and that's exactly what he did.


And so, that you have Mr. Vindman who says I don't think that we should look back to the 2016 election and hold up military aid unless Ukraine cooperates with us -- well, listen, we spent two years on that investigation. We have every right to know all the facts we can about foreign influence in our election.

And then, number two, he said well, I don't think that we should investigate a foreign citizen. Well, if a foreign citizen -- a foreign -- a former vice president was involved in corruption we do have a right to investigate it because that's exactly what Barack Obama did to Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

So, I just -- I disagree with his assessment. I don't have any problem with his opening statement, I just don't -- I think it's a nothing burger.

BERMAN: All right, let me just -- so our viewers know --

DUFFY: Well, I --

BERMAN: Number one -- number one --

DUFFY: Well --

BERMAN: -- there has been no credible accusation against the former vice president for corruption, period, full-stop.

DUFFY: Well, his own statement, John -- I mean, even his statement is saying he had a quid pro quo. That he had a prosecutor fired --

BERMAN: Listen, Congressman Duffy. It's wasting --

DUFFY: -- who was investigating who his son worked for and he held up a billion dollars. BERMAN: Congressman Duffy -- Congressman Duffy, we're wasting time on that because there was no active investigation of Burisma at the time, number one.

Everyone, including Republican senators, wanted that prosecutor --

DUFFY: The prosecutor was (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: -- fired, including the World Bank international actors and Republican senators. That's a diversion.

DUFFY: But of all the corruption, he had only one prosecutor fired.

BERMAN: I have to say -- I have to say -- I have to say, though -- I have to say and I want -- I want -- I want -- I want Charlie Dent to jump in here.

This colonel, Col. Vindman, talked about how much he loves America. And the very first thing you brought up was where he was born. He's a decorated American war hero.

Congressman Dent, what does this say to you that that's apparently a criticism?

DENT: Well, he's Ukrainian-American. We have Polish-Americans, German-Americans, Irish-American, Chinese-Americans.

DUFFY: Thank you.

DENT: What does it matter? The point is he's proud of his -- he's proud of his ethnicity.

OK, he's an American patriot. He serves us.

And like many of -- many Americans, and I suspect particularly Ukrainian-Americans, they want Ukraine to be independent, free from under the Russian boot.


DENT: That is the American policy. It's consistent with Ukrainian government's policy.

You know, I -- you know, Sean mentioned the policy. Well, this man, Vindman, and Taylor, I think have articulated what America's policy is -- at least what I thought it was as a former Republican member of Congress who wanted to put a check on Vladimir Putin, who wants him out of Crimea, who wants him out of the Donbass in Ukraine. I thought that was American policy.

Why would the President of the United States be doing anything to undermine that policy to please Putin, just as he did in Syria by withdrawing in the Kurdish areas?

DUFFY: Charlie, to please Putin?

DENT: Why did he do that? He's playing right to Putin.

DUFFY: Vindman wasn't elected by anybody.

DENT: He's -- he is advancing --

DUFFY: Vindman was elected by nobody.

DENT: Sean, he's advancing --

DUFFY: The policy changes with the new president.

DENT: No, but --

DUFFY: A new president changes the policy.

And by the way, if you want --

DENT: Well --

DUFFY: -- different results --

DENT: No --

DUFFY: -- you have to do different things, and that's what President Trump has done.

I mean, come on, Charlie -- I mean, Vindman doesn't set the policy. The president sets the policy.

And so --

DENT: I'm a traditional --

DUFFY: -- that we think there's some set foreign policy that exists from administration to administration, there's new policy with new administration and that's the president's prerogative to set it, not Vindman's.

And by the way, I salute --

DENT: Well --

DUFFY: -- his service to our country and so do you.

DENT: Why would --

DUFFY: I mean, I appreciate that. But also, when did you ever see Gen. Flynn --

DENT: I can't -- hold on. I cannot believe --

DUFFY: When does Gen. Flynn ever get you as a decorated war hero and we can't impeach his credibility? Everybody went after Gen. Flynn when it suited their political purposes. But all of a sudden, Mr. Vindman -- he gets --

DENT: Sean --

DUFFY: -- a certain --

DENT: Sean --

DUFFY: -- air of untouchability --

BERMAN: Charlie?

DUFFY -- because --

BERMAN: Gen. Flynn -- Gen. Flynn was convicted --

DENT: Sean, can I --

BERMAN: -- of lying --

DENT: This is a (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: -- under oath. Gen. Flynn was convicted of lying --

DENT: Sean --

BERMAN: -- under oath.

So, go ahead.

DUFFY: He's a -- he's a -- he's a decorated general.

DENT: Sean --

DUFFY: And so, again --

DENT: Sean, as a traditional -- as a traditional Republican -- as a traditional Republican, I thought we stood for a strong national security.

We recognize Russia as a strategic threat. They need to be out of Ukraine. Yet, why would the President of the United States take a position --

DUFFY: I agree with you, Charlie.

DENT: -- contrary to what Congress wants?

Why wouldn't -- why wouldn't he do that? Why would the President of the United States bash NATO --

DUFFY: This is not a position. It's contrary to that.

DENT: -- as he does? Why does he bash NATO? NATO is something that --

DUFFY: But, does the president --

DENT: -- Vladimir Putin would love nothing more than to see NATO go away.

DUFFY: So, hold on a second. Does the -- does the president have a right to say --

DENT: He would want nothing more than America out of Syria. He would --

DUFFY: Does --

DENT: He does have policy --

DUFFY: The president has the right -- Charlie --

DENT: -- and as Republicans, we should be standing up for what --

DUFFY: The president has the right --

DENT: -- we've always believed in.

DUFFY: Charlie, the president --

DENT: We were right before. The president is wrong on this.

DUFFY: -- has a right to say if we're going to give money to the Ukraine so, too, should Europe help out.

If -- with regard to NATO -- you bring that up -- the president says why are we defending the whole world?

DENT: They do.

DUFFY: NATO allies should spend their two percent of national defense to help with our unified defense.

DENT: The president held the price of everything and the value of nothing.

DUFFY: And he was affected by that. So it makes sense that the president would say I might hold up aid. I want Europe to give a little -- a little money to support the Ukraine and their independence as well.

Why is it just the taxpayer dollars that have to go to Ukraine? Everyone should chip in and make sure that they are free, safe, secure --

DENT: Every --

DUFFY: -- exactly what Vindman wanted.

But, Vindman is entitled to his opinion.

DENT: The president --

DUFFY: He can give his advice but the president sets the policy. You can disagree with it -- so can I, but the president is the one who is elected by the people, not you or me and not Vindman.

BERMAN: Charlie, go ahead. I want to get a question in. Charlie, you go ahead and then I want to get a question in.


DENT: He does. The policy -- the policy -- the policy of the United States has been, I thought, on a bipartisan basis was to -- just to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. That's what we wanted to have happen.

The president, on his own, he withdrew that support. For what reason? Because he wanted the investigation to be opened up on Burisma.

DUFFY: No, he didn't.


DUFFY: Charlie, the weapons --

DENT: That's what he wanted.

DUFFY: The weapons went.

DENT: Yes, after this was -- after this was bi-fold (ph).

DUFFY: So, Charlie, let me ask you this.

DENT: After this whole scheme.

DUFFY: If you care -- if you care so much about --


BERMAN: Guys, guys -- hang on, hang on.

DUFFY: Don't you care that -- don't you care that --

BERMAN: Hang on, hang on. Hang on one second.

DUFFY: -- Joe Biden is the vice president withheld a billion dollars --

BERMAN: Congressman Duffy -- Congressman Duffy --

DUFFY: -- of aid --

BERMAN: Congressman Duffy --

DUFFY: -- to the Ukraine?

BERMAN: -- hang on one second.


BERMAN: I do want to go back to the beginning here because it's been nagging at me the whole time here, which is that when I asked you about Col. Vindman, the very first thing you said was he was Ukrainian.

So, yes or no, do you -- do you trust Ambassador Bill Taylor more because he was born in the United States? Where does the location of his birth matter?

Mark Meadows, who I think you agree with, was born in France. Is he pro-French by definition?

That's a pretty stunning comment you made just there and it's remarkable and notable given that Laura Ingraham, last night in her apparent talking points, brought it up as well.

DUFFY: So, I read his statement John and I'm sure you did as well, and 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. I understand that.

We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from. Like me, I'm sure that Vindman has the same affinity. Or like Mark Meadows from France. He probably has an affinity.

And so --

BERMAN: But I'm just -- sorry, are you suggesting you would -- you would put Irish defense -- Irish defense over U.S. defense? Is that what you're saying, Congressman Duffy?

DUFFY: So, are we saying -- are we saying that by giving this money to the Ukraine that absolutely is the money that's going to secure American national defense against Russia? I mean, I just -- I don't -- I don't believe that.

And so, he is entitled to his opinion. He has an affinity, I think, for the Ukraine. He speaks Ukrainian. He came from the country and he wants to make sure they're safe and free. I understand that.

But the president is the one --

DENT: That's an asset for his country. It's an asset.

DUFFY: Well, my point is the president is the one who gets to set the policy and he is the one who looks out for America first and the American taxpayer and the American citizens. And he'll take a bite from all kinds of people, including Vindman.

BERMAN: Are you saying -- are you saying that Col. Vindman, a decorated war veteran, isn't looking out for America first? Yes or no?

DUFFY: I don't know what he's doing. I don't -- I think what -- his testimony --

BERMAN: You can't say yes that Col. Vindman and -- DUFFY: -- and I would encourage all your viewers to read it.

BERMAN: You can't say that he's looking out for America first? You can't say that Col. Vindman, a decorated war veteran is looking out for America first?

DUFFY: He had tied the Ukrainian military money from U.S. taxpayers together for American national defense. And I think that that can be debatable and that policy can differ based on what kind of money the Europeans give, the kind of corruption that's involved in the Ukraine. And I think that's all relevant consideration.

And so, I think there's a broader perspective that President Trump has on putting our country and our taxpayers first. And I think reading the statement that Vindman had a concern for --

DENT: Sean --

DUFFY: -- Ukrainian national defense. That was the --

DENT: Sean --

BERMAN: Congressman Dent -- Congressman Dent -- what do you think of a Republican defense that does not think that a U.S. colonel would put America first, Congressman Dent?

DENT: Look, Sean, I have to ask you a question, Sean. Do you think that the United States should be supporting Ukraine to get the Russians out of their country? Do you think that should be our policy?

DUFFY: Yes -- no, I do.

DENT: Do you think the president is -- OK, you do. So I'm glad to hear that because when I hear this, I mean I get the sense --

DUFFY: I'm not the president though, Charlie.

DENT: Many times --

DUFFY: And they've got the money. So what are we arguing about?

DENT: Well, I understand. But the president's the commander in chief and we -- well, Congress -- I thought Congress was trying to help set policy. Congress provides the funds to support and implement our national security strategy.

DUFFY: The president sets the foreign policy. The Congress doesn't set foreign policy.

DENT: I thought we were all on the same page.

There is a -- there is a shadow --

DUFFY: But here's what --

DENT: -- of Ukraine policy being run here by people who had, I think, a different agenda --

DUFFY: But maybe back to John's point --

DENT: -- than what I had and what apparently you had.

DUFFY: I never heard of Mr. Vindman before last night and I'm sure, John, you hadn't and I'm sure, Charlie, you hadn't either. So I don't know anything about him but for the resume that I read. I don't know -- I don't know anything about him so I can't judge whether --

BERMAN: Right.

DUFFY: -- he puts America first.

I spent --

BERMAN: Well --

DUFFY: -- the last five years looking at Donald Trump fighting for the American people --

BERMAN: You know what?

DUFFY: -- and so I know he's trying to put them first.

BERMAN: I got to --

DUFFY: I can't judge him because I don't know him.

BERMAN: We've got to go. We've got to go.

Congressman Dent, Congressman Duffy --


BERMAN: -- I thank you both for being with us. I heard about his name last week.

DUFFY: Yes, I like Charlie, too, by the way.

BERMAN: You what?

DUFFY: We're friends.


DUFFY: I like Charlie, by the way. We're friends. We just disagree.

DENT: We're good buddies.

BERMAN: You guys seem like chums.

I can just say when I looked at Col. Vindman's resume what jumped out to me was American war veteran, Purple Heart, and lieutenant colonel part of it. That's what jumped out to me first.

And I speak French. It doesn't mean I put French first.

Congressman Duffy, Congressman Dent, I do appreciate you both being with us.

DUFFY: Thanks, John.

CAMEROTA: Is your French good enough?


BERMAN: It's terrible.


BERMAN: I got a D in French.

CAMEROTA: Right, so I don't know if that's a good credential --


CAMEROTA: -- that you should be bragging about.


I -- that he led with Col. Vindman was born in the Ukraine and speaks Ukrainians speaks volumes to where we are.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, let the streaming wars begin. Details on the big debut of HBO Max, next. We'll tell you what to expect.


CAMEROTA: There's a mystery in the waters off South Africa. The famed great white sharks in Cape Town have suddenly gone missing. There have been no sightings this year. Normally, there are more than 200.


CNN's David McKenzie went out into the water with scientists and shark spotters to try to solve this mystery. He joins us live from Cape Town. What did you see, David?


Yes, False Bay, behind me, should be full of these great whites. It's extraordinary because you see those surfers in the surf. But over the past year, shark spotters and cage divers haven't seen any of them.

You remember those extraordinary images of sharks flying through the air. This is where those images were taken.

We headed out to an island just in the middle of that bay to try and solve this mystery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can throw the cage off the back of the boat.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): We've come to dive with an apex predator --

MCKENZIE (on camera): Seal Island is probably the world's most famous location for seeing great white sharks.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): -- and we see plenty of sharks.

MCKENZIE (on camera): They're incredible. Great white atras. Check this out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, right there -- right there -- right there.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): But no great whites.

These sharks are scavengers, not the iconic hunter that made this bay famous. After millions of years, in 2019, the great whites of Cape Town have vanished.

CHRIS FALLOWS, PHOTOGRAPHER, CONSERVATIONIST, ADVENTURER: For me, the loss of the great white sharks is losing part of my soul. This is an animal that shaped my life. It's given me some of the greatest highs of my life.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Chris Fallows, the photographer who put these sharks on the map, is forcing himself to speak in the past tense.

MCKENZIE (on camera): The first time you saw this, what was it like?

FALLOWS: It was unbelievable. I mean, everybody's fascinated by great white sharks, but flying great white sharks? To see this incredible super predator taking to the air showing off its athletic prowess, it was fantastic.

SOLOMON SOLOMON, FISHERMAN: This past season, they haven't seen a single shark.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): On the cliffs above, shark spotters used to take these sightings for granted. This year, they've recorded zero great whites -- not a single one.

MCKENZIE (on camera): What if they don't come back?

SOLOMON: Yes, we're just going to have to wait.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Fisherman like Solomon Solomon say there are more seals now, too, competing for their catch. It seems the ecosystem is already feeling the effects.

SARA ANDREOTTI, MARINE BIOLOGIST: The impact of losing an apex predator for the marine environment is going to be huge. MCKENZIE (voice-over): Biologist Sara Andreotti says the zero sightings is alarming but not surprising. She predicted the collapse years ago. In 2012, by studying genetics, she found that the population was smaller and more vulnerable than anyone imagined.

MCKENZIE (on camera): What were your reaction to the population of great whites in South Africa?

ANDREOTTI: Concern, mostly, but also shock. We were expecting to find 1,000 or more in the (INAUDIBLE) around here.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Overfishing, shark poaching, and the weak gene pool have all contributed.

ANDREOTTI: People don't like to listen to sad stories and it is difficult to realize that humans could have had such an impact on such prehistorical iconic predators.

FALLOWS: Unless we really step up our efforts to conserve what we have left, South Africa's once bountiful shores are becoming more and more empty by the day.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): If there's any hope for the great whites to return, he says the focus should now be on what needs to be done, not about what once was.


MCKENZIE: Well, Alisyn, it was extraordinary being in those cages in the bay behind me witnessing these creatures' millions of years of evolution, but there were no great whites.

And it's not just tourists and fishermen and others who are impacted by this. The apex predator leaving the scene has a knock-on effect here for the entire ocean ecosystem.

And, Sara Andreotti, that scientist, is now looking globally, particularly in Australia, at the genetic health of those populations and the early signs is that it's not good -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It definitely sounds --


CAMEROTA: -- like an ominous warning for something.

David, thank you very much for that great piece.

BERMAN: You know, they've gone from Cape Town to Cape Cod. I mean, they're right off the coast of Massachusetts constantly.

CAMEROTA: Maybe that's where they all are.

BERMAN: Constantly.

CAMEROTA: You're right, good point. Well, we'll send him there next. BERMAN: All right. Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, the most direct evidence yet from someone listening to President Trump's phone calls confirming the whistleblower's complaint. NEW DAY continues right now.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": In just hours, the first White House official on the president's July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president will testify.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would be the first White House official who would actually be defying the White House's orders not to cooperate. So his testimony is very important.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The process that's going on in Congress today is a disservice to the American people.