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Today, 2 State Department Officials Testify on Ukraine Pressure; Fallout Continues from Vindman Testimony on Ukraine Call; House Gears Up for 1st Full Vote on Impeachment Inquiry; Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) Discusses Formal Vote on Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 11- 11:30a ET
Aired October 30, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
Two new witnesses on Capitol Hill answering questions in the impeachment investigation. Two current administration officials, both with the State Department, both who are experts on Ukraine.
But the big focus this morning is still on the fallout from yesterday when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a current White House official, told investigators about the transcript of the July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky, the call at the center of the whistleblower's complaint.
The call that the president has called perfect over and over again, but the call the president has assured was precisely, exactly, and completely transcribed and released to the public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an exact word- for-word transcript of the conversation. Right? Taken by very talented stenographers.
You had stenographers. You had people that took it down exactly.
There was an compact transcription of the conversations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But Colonel Vindman revealed to investigators not only was the transcript not exact. Key references were missing he says. References to the Bidens and the name of the company that President Trump wanted investigated by Ukraine, Burisma.
And Colonel Vindman says his efforts to correct the transcript after the fact were blocked. Adding to the fallout from this, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer is
now asking the secretary of the Army for a briefing to ensure that Colonel Vindman is protected from any potential retaliation after his testimony and the criticism coming well from the White House, on down, from his allies.
So there's a lot to get to as always. Let's get over to Capitol Hill. CNN Manu Raju is there.
Manu, can you layout for folks what are you learning ability Colonel Vindman's account to investigators and what it means to the impeachment inquiry?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first White House official, first person who has testified to this committee who was actually listening in on that July phone call. Someone who said he was so concerned about what he had heard, that he reported those concerns on multiple occasions to the National Security Council's top attorney.
The reason he was so concerned, he testified, because he was worried that this could undermine national security, undermine bipartisan support for Ukraine by the president's ask of President Zelensky of Ukraine to open up an investigation into the Bidens.
Now, there are other information, information we are learning about things that came up through this day-long deposition yesterday. One of which was about that call transcript, the rough transcript the White House released. The White House said, the president said perfectly illustrates exactly what was said. It wasn't word-for-word, as the president said.
According to Vindman's testimony, now, one of the passages in which there was an omission was about a reference to the company in which Hunter Biden was on the board of, Burisma.
According to transcript that was released by the White House it quotes Zelensky as saying, "He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned on this issue." The company, of course, being Burisma.
Also, there's an omission of a reference to tapes that President Trump talked about, recordings of president -- former Vice President Joe Biden.
So on multiple occasions there were references to Biden that were omitted.
Overall, though, we are told from sources that Vindman relayed that the call transcript was mostly correct. There were those omissions.
But that undercuts what the White House has been saying for some time that this is perfectly illustrative of exactly of what happened on the phone call. The president saying it all was perfect. But there were some things that Vindman clearly wanted to get corrected and was unable to do so. So we are still waiting, Kate, for an explanation from the White House
BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely.
Manu, thank you so much.
So as the fallout is still being felt from what Colonel Vindman told investigators, two more administration officials are being interviewed.
State Department official, Christopher Anderson, who, until July, was a special adviser for Ukraine investigations under Kurt Volker. And also Catherine Croft, who took over for Anderson when he left his post.
CNN's national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, got a look at what they are both telling the committees this morning. She is here with me now.
Kylie, let's start with Anderson. What is he expected to say?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, so Christopher Anderson served as a special assistant to Kurt Volker from 2017 to 2019. So essentially he is the person who really knew everything that Kurt Volker was doing.
And what he does in his opening statement is paint a picture of just how involved Rudy Giuliani became. Now, this is no shocker to us, Kate. We have heard this again and again from each person's testimony.
But the important thing here is to note the specific conversations that were happening about Rudy Giuliani and his involvement.
And Chris Anderson points to one specific case in June where there was a meeting with himself and Kurt Volker, the special assistant to Ukraine, who has already testified before the committee, and then- national security adviser, John Bolton.
And I want to read to you his description of how John Bolton described Giuliani's efforts that were at play with U.S./Ukraine policy at that moment.
And this is what Christopher Anderson is expected to tell lawmakers today. Quote, "Bolton stated he agreed with our three lines of effort and he
also supported increased senior White House engagement. However, he cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine, which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement."
Clearly, we know that obstacle only increased over the months to follow. But lawmakers want to know more about the details with regard to Rudy Giuliani and his involvement, and what Chris Anderson can tell them, if it's anything new based on the fact that they've already heard from his boss, Ambassador Kurt Volker.
BOLDUAN: What then is Catherine Croft going to be telling them about Ukraine military aid at the center of all of this whether it comes to a quid pro quo or not?
ATWOOD: Yes. Catherine Croft picked up the baton from Chris Anderson as this special assistant to Kurt Volker over the summer.
She was on that interagency video conference in July in which there was an announcement that the OMB would be conducting a review and they would put an informal hold on the security assistance that was going to Ukraine.
And on that call, she said that she heard that it was at the direction of Mulvaney but that it was ultimately a decision coming from President Trump.
Then we are now obviously learning that there are more folks saying that this wasn't just coming from OMB. This was coming from the top. This was coming from the president, himself.
But I also think it's important to note that Catherine is also going to say she was aware that her boss, Kurt Volker, was engaging with Rudy Giuliani, was having meetings. But she was never in direct contact with Giuliani.
Kind of painting a picture for us there that she, as a State Department -- as a career foreign service officer, did not want to be involved in anything that Rudy Giuliani had his hands on -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Her description of that would be really interesting to hear and her thoughts on that kind of relationship and role of Giuliani going forward as he becomes more and more of a focus in all of this.
Kylie, thank you so much. Great work.
Joining me now, CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, and CNN political analyst and congressional reporter for the "Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian.
Karoun, we are going to wait to hear more about what these two witnesses might say. There's so much to be said about Colonel Vindman. He said in no uncertain terms the transcript of the call is not a complete transcript. How significant is this from what you are hearing?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's significant that there are things missing from the transcript. All in all, that did not seem to be the biggest and most dramatic takeaway to people in that interview.
People think the transcript and what it stands for is fairly incriminating of the president. Of course, we're talking about what Democrats think right now.
And so the minor changes and things that are missing, like Zelensky's reference to Burisma instead of a standard company and whether Biden was on tape talking about his own actions with regard to financial assistance to Ukraine, is not kind of the pivotal thing upon which this entire impeachment investigation will turn.
I think it's probably more significant that Vindman's takeaway from that call was that he was concerned by what was going on there. He did not think it was appropriate. He reported it to the national security lead counsel. And that also he was a direct first-hand witness to what transpired in that call.
There has been a lot of pushback from GOP members that everything we are hearing potentially incriminating of Trump is secondhand, third hand, et cetera. You cannot say that about Vindman. He was in the Situation Room with other NSC and officials from the vice president's office listening on that call.
He also was privy to -- even if he was not in the room for some of the more bombastic meetings that preceded that call, he was told directly by people like Gordon Sondland what their intentions were when they were having discussions with Ukrainians, especially when it came to insisting they commit to investigation before giving them a face-to- face meeting with President Trump?
BOLDUAN: The intention is now coming into focus what the real question is here.
Kaitlin, as we played at the top of the show, President Trump has banked part of his defense on the fact this is what he called a word- for-word exact, perfect transcript of the call. Now that it turns out that it's not true, add to that, and this isn't second-hand information, as Karoun is pointing out.
What is your sense you are getting from the White House and how this adds to his problems here?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, they haven't explained this contradiction at all.
And we should note that we never expected there to be a perfect transcript as it noted when the transcript came out.
COLLINS: It wasn't going to be verbatim. It's the president saying a dozen time it's exact.
And the White House went to great lengths to tell reporters that those dot, dot, dots in the transcripts weren't words left out or omitted but the president or the other president trails off in conversation or briefly paused. So that's the question we are waiting on now to explain that contradiction. Of course, the bigger picture here is going to be the merits. As
Karoun pointed out, those words left out, according to what we've been told so far, don't fundamentally change our understanding of exactly what was said on the call.
But, of course, now you are seeing the president on Twitter urging Republicans not to just defend him on the process here, this impeachment process, the Democrats have been following so far. He wants them to defend him on the merits.
Those merits haven't changed now. They are only essentially getting more damming for the White House. The question going forward is going to be for Republicans and what it is they say about the president.
BOLDUAN: And, Karoun, one of the things coming out today is, we hear from Kylie Atwood, is Congress is now hearing the hold on the military aid came from Mick Mulvaney, who, at the direction of President Trump, according to one of the folks who were testifying today.
Wasn't this -- kind of taking this in a broader look, wasn't this exactly one of the markers that a lot of Republicans were laying down on why they were, where they were, that you didn't know it came directly from the president?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, as we reported a few weeks ago, this July 18th order from -- that seems to come from Trump through Mulvaney to OMB to put a hold on the money, which keeps getting continued through this series of short-term holds, that the regular people responsible for dispersing this Ukraine military aid are not sure what's going on, is a very, very unorthodox way of conducting business.
The reason there was some confusion at the beginning is, remember, you are talking act the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, being a budget deficit hawk and has been since time immemorial.
And the year prior to this, in 2018, he had instituted a -- the Trump administration had instituted a rescissions package, which was basically putting a freeze on foreign aid as you near the end of the year and in hopes to claw back because -- I won't get into it on TV, it's arcadian --
DEMIRJIAN: -- but 45-day period in which they can do that temporarily. If you are hitting the end of the fiscal year that gives the administration a little more power.
I think when this first started, there was confusion about whether this was across the board or Ukraine, Ukraine was one of the several accounts that was frozen.
I think the reason why these testimonies matter so much for establishing what the intent was there is that it wasn't totally clear whether this was a move to freeze aid right at the beginning or this was going to become specifically about, no we want to do this because we are trying to leverage something on Ukraine. That's why filling in these gaps for this corroboration of what was
going on between the president and Mulvaney is important. The impressions started to clear up as time went on and it became clear there was more going on with Ukraine that maybe initially seemed to be the case in mid-July.
BOLDUAN: Guys, appreciate it. Thanks, so much.
Coming up for us, Democrats say they are holding a full House vote on impeachment tomorrow. Will it really change anything? Does it change the course on how this is going to play out or has been playing out? Why are Republicans, then, who have been calling for a vote on impeachment for weeks, saying that they will be voting against it?
Plus, he calls them "Never Trumpers" or "nobodies." He's always got something to say about anybody that speaks out against him. President Trump is trying to discredit key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. We will take a look at the actual real and very impressive credentials of a couple of them.
BOLDUAN: A monumental moment on the House floor expected tomorrow. The first formal vote on anything impeachment related, putting every member on the record for the first time. That's set for Thursday.
We're now learning what exactly they will be voting on. But how is it going to change the rules of the road ahead for impeachment?
Let's find out. CNN congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox, has more on this.
Lauren, what exactly does the resolution that Nancy Pelosi has announced, what does it allow and what does it call for?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats are arguing that this is a shift as they move to the public process. They want to give the minority, the Republicans, more rights in this process and they want to allow the president and his lawyers to defend themselves. So that's the biggest takeaway for Democrats.
Now, Republicans are arguing this doesn't change much because, while it does allow Republicans to request witnesses and to request documents, they do have to do that with complications from the Democratic chairman. And if there's a disagreement, the whole committee has to vote. As you know, Democrats control the House of Representatives, so that gives them an advantage in that vote.
Republicans are also arguing this does not do enough to defend the president. I talked to Lindsey Graham earlier and he said, you know, by the time
this makes its way to the Judiciary Committee, when the president and his lawyers can cross examine witnesses and offer objections, this will have already gone too far.
Lindsey Graham's argument to me was essentially was, by the point, the public's opinion will be baked in and it's going to be hard for the president to actually defend himself.
The Democrats saying this is a major step as they set forth a formal process for these public hearings -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you so much.
Joining me now for more on this is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan.
Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Good to be with you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Last time I checked, you were in a place of saying that the House didn't need any votes in regard to formalizing the impeachment proceedings. Now that that is what is happening and that is what you're looking at voting on tomorrow, are you OK with this now? Are you in support of this vote?
DINGELL: Well, first of all, it's not formalizing impeachment proceedings. It's formalizing the process by which we continue to follow the facts. So what this is going to do is set the rules by which the hearings are going to go public. The Intelligence Committee is going to have the lead.
It's trying to make sure that the Republicans have rights. The ranking minority will have the same ability to ask questions longer than five minutes than the chairman of the committee does.
I think a lot of people want to say this is about an impeachment, we're ready to impeach. We're still following the facts. And I think that's important. I think this is a really serious time for this country.
And I think it's good we're moving to public hearings, I think we need to be transparent. People need to understand what is seen.
The other thin the vote will do tomorrow, the resolution, is allow the Intelligence Committee to make the testimonies available to the public with a -- they can -- if there's something classified that would endanger our (ph) national security, that would be redacted.
BOLDUAN: Senator McConnell raised the specter yesterday that -- he said he didn't know if you all were going to end up holding the vote. Because he questioned that Democrats' had enough votes in support to pass the resolution. Is that a question in your mind? DINGELL: About whether we will vote tomorrow? We will have a vote on
the floor of the House --
BOLDUAN: And if you have -- if you have enough votes to pass it?
DINGELL: On the House tomorrow, yes, we do. I think that -- I mean, that's why everybody keeps saying, oh, they're moving to impeachment, this is an impeachment vote.
Everybody thinks it's important to establish the rules of the road. This expanded what was happening in the House the Intelligence Committee, who has the lead right now. And we'll see where the facts take us.
I think that that's -- what's an (ph) extremely important time for this country is that everybody -- we have to see where the facts take us. And it's to the extent possible, without threatening our national security, how much we can share with the American people.
I continue to be worried, Kate, about how divided this country is. And we know, it's a fact, that the Mueller report talked about Russia trying to divide us. Intelligence Agencies across the world are talking about how Russia is trying to destabilize democracies. And we've got to take protecting this democracy very seriously. So that's a part of what I take very seriously.
But no one's above the rule of law. So that's what tomorrow's going to -- let them proceed on studying the issue. And we'll see where it takes us.
And I'm also am someone that doesn't say we've got to do this fast. We've got to do it right and thoroughly.
BOLDUAN: On that exact point of how divided the country is -- and it's something that we talk about every time, really, that we have the opportunity to speak -- I want to play you what we heard Senator McConnell say just this morning about the impact of the impeachment investigation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): But the country cannot afford for Democrats and Congress to take a one-year vacation from any productive legislation just because they'd rather obsess over impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Now, Congresswoman, I know you will say that is not what is happening, you are not taking a vacation from other legislating. But if that is the message Republicans are going to be hammering from here until the election, how big of a problem is that? How concerned would you be?
DINGELL: Well, first of all, I think Senator Mitch McConnell had a lot of blank -- I won't use it on television -- making that statement when we've already passed 200 balls in the-- bills -- sorry, I used the word anyway --
DINGELL: -- bills in the House that the Senate has yet to take up.
I am not on any of the committees looking at this and I am very focused on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. I met with the secretary of HHS, the head of Legislative Affairs and Domestic Affairs at the White House, and said the president's got to do more.
I have a list of things that Richard Nixon did. The president promised the American people he would lower the cost of prescription drugs. We've all got to work together to do that. And I intend upon doing that.
I want a trade bill. The G.M. UAW workers just went off strike, they're still negotiating with other people. They've seen their jobs shipped overseas. Getting a NAFTA 2.0 that works for workers in this country is a priority for me.
Protecting the pensions of many of the workers in my districts are a priority.
I don't stop. I am working every day.
And I sincerely hope that Senator Mitch McConnell will think soon of passing the bills with have passed.
It's Domestic Violence Month. He has yet to bring up the Violence Against Women Act.
For him to say the House isn't doing anything, is just such a -- I can't even use the word. I sincerely hope that the Senate will move some of the bills that we've been trying to move.
BOLDUAN: But the fact of the matter is, Congresswoman, these aren't happening. Do you think one of the reasons is -- behind that is -- clearly, it's all -- it's politics, but the fact that the impeachment investigation is overshadowing any other bipartisan work.
We can talk about the fact that we could be running towards a government shutdown very soon. I mean, that could happen in three weeks.
DINGELL: Well, I'm very worried about that. I know that even Senator Mitch McConnell doesn't want another government shutdown. There is nobody in the House or Senate, on both sides -- there may be one or two -- but the majority of the two don't want a government shutdown. That lays with the White House and what this president's going to do.
But I will tell you, I work every day with Republicans, my colleagues in the House, on a number of bills that I care about.
You know, domestic violence is something that's very important to me. We've always had a bipartisan agreement on the Violence Against Women Act. Why can't we do something as simple -- I mean, to me it's simple, trying to protect women that are victims of violence.
I mean, we are not stopping doing our work on the House side. And I will give you a number -- I mean, I work with Mark Meadows on a lot of stuff. I mean, people on this side are still talking about getting things done.
BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.
DINGELL: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.
DINGELL: Thank you.
Still ahead, bob and weave. That seems to be -- speaking about Mitch McConnell -- Mitch McConnell's strategy when it comes to the allegations, the accusations facing the president in this impeachment probe. And it is just after the president has ordered Republicans to stand up, be unified, and go after the substance of the impeachment investigation.
We'll be right back.