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Impeachment Resolution Vote Set to Be Held on Thursday; House Democrats Unveil Impeachment Resolution Text Ahead of Vote; Los Angeles Area Under Extreme Red Flag Warning Amid High Fire Danger; Two State Department Ukraine Experts Testify in Impeachment Probe. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired October 30, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. There is an impeachment inquiry underway. Only the third time in the country's history. And today, two more witnesses expected to give two more accounts backing some of the alarming testimony we've heard so far in this investigation.
The first, Catherine Croft, a special adviser for Ukraine. She has just arrived on Capitol Hill. Those are pictures there just moments ago. She will describe a meeting in which staffers were told that Ukraine aid was put on hold at the direction of President Trump. The second witness, Christopher Anderson, a career foreign service officer. He's expected to tell lawmakers about a warning from ex- National Security adviser John Bolton that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, was leading a shadow foreign policy operation towards Ukraine.
They are both widely respected diplomats who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
HARLOW: And they are following yesterday's testimony from this man, a decorated war veteran, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who told House investigators that he raised a red flag immediately after hearing President Trump's call with Ukrainian president on July 25th and he said that looking at the White House transcript that was released and what he heard it appears parts of it were edited which the White House denies.
Today the White House -- the House, rather, will be fine-tuning the rules surrounding tomorrow's impeachment vote in the full House, as Congress gets ready to open the closed doors and start the public stage of this impeachment inquiry.
So let's begin with today's testimony. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins us on Capitol Hill.
So two names today but let's begin with Catherine Croft. She starts in just minutes.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we're expected to hear or the lawmakers will hear today is more concerns being raised about the role that Rudy Giuliani played which has been a consistent theme throughout that the president's personal attorney worked outside of official channels to pursue Ukrainian policy, to push for those investigations into the president's political rivals. even at a key time when these career officials were trying to strength relations with a key U.S. ally.
Now we have obtained the opening statements of both of these individuals who are going to testify today. And Catherine Croft testifies about efforts -- what she was told about this aid being put on hold for Ukraine. She said, "On July 18th, I participated in a sub-policy coordination committee video conference where an OMB representative that the White House representative reported that the White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had placed an informal hold on security assistance to Ukraine. The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the president."
Now we also are expecting to hear from Anderson testifying later this afternoon. Christopher Anderson is a career foreign service officer, and he is expected to say, according to this opening statement, that John bolt Bolton, then National Security adviser, cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement.
And we're expected to learn a little bit more, too, about the efforts to try to get rid of that ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, someone who had been ousted, targeted by Rudy Giuliani and others, recalled from that post after pressure from the president. Someone with a lot of career officials had concerns -- had been removed from the post.
We expect Croft to say that there was actually a push by lobbyists Robert Livingston to get rid of Yovanovitch, and we've reached out to Livingston, CNN did last night. Livingston declined to comment about his efforts to ouster the Ukrainian ambassador.
SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, listen, one consistent feature of this, right, is people outside the normal policy process with political roles and motivations interfering in Ukraine policy here.
I do want to ask you because I think folks at home may have trouble keeping track of the testimony every day. But one key takeaway from Vindman's testimony yesterday, was it not, was -- that this effort was not just about the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky. There was a meeting two weeks prior on July 10th when Gordon Sondland, the president's appointee, E.U. ambassador, again brought up, made this tie between the presidential visit, meeting and an investigation of the Bidens here.
I mean, it seems that what we're seeing from this testimony is this was a continuing effort over time. It was not just about one phone call. MANU: Yes, no question about it. And what's significant about that
testimony, about that July 10th meeting, is that it flatly contradicts what Gordon Sondland had said in his own sworn testimony in which he said no concerns were raised, Jim, about the specter of investigating, raising those investigations into the president's political rivals in exchange for a meeting between the Ukrainian -- incoming Ukrainian administration and the president. He said that never came up. No concerns were raised.
Well, that is flatly contradicted by Vindman's testimony and also Fiona Hill. Separate witness have testified about concerns that they had raised.
John Bolton, we are hearing from multiple witnesses, had concern as well. So that is absolutely a consistent theme that these -- the idea of anything prior to bolster relations with Ukraine tied to that push to investigate the president's rivals and that's what Democrats, of course, are zeroing in on here -- guys.
HARLOW: All right. Manu, thank you, on both fronts. We'll see what today brings.
Let's talk about all that we know so far. CNN military analyst, retired Major General Spider Marks is with us. Also joining us, our political analyst Molly Ball and CNN legal analyst Ross Garber, who knows a whole lot about impeachment law.
Good morning to all of you. Molly, let me begin with you on what a crucial part of Vindman's testimony yesterday, which is that he had a different understanding about some parts of that July 25th call than the White House transcript release shows. And he was on the call so that matters. And he was under oath when he said these things. Namely, you know, those ellipses and that he believes there was a mention of the Biden tapes, about comments made last year.
During Watergate, the Nixon administration, of course, gave House investigators edited transcripts of those White House tapes. It did not match the full versions of the recordings. Is that similar to this or is this minor because many would argue that what the White House did release about the July 25th calls was damning enough?
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that we don't know quite yet how major this is because while we are hearing, you know, snippets, bits and pieces of what was said, we don't have the call in its entirety. It's not clear whether we ever will get it. But I do think that this is significant in part because it does puncture that talking point from the administration that the transcript proved that there was no cover-up. They have been saying, well, if we were trying to cover this up, would we have released the transcript and the president trying to say, I told you this was a perfect phone call.
You can see that in the transcript. Plenty to disagree with about that statement but if, in fact, that transcript was not complete, was edited, things -- important things, material things were left out of it, that calls that whole talking point into question as well because it would indicate that, in fact, the transcript was cleaned up.
SCIUTTO: General Spider Marks, always good to have you on. I always like to bring the conversation back to why this aid matters. And it's not just a political question. Here's Ukraine. It's at war with Russia. 13,000 Ukrainians have been killed.
Tell us, in the simplest terms, why does it matter in this ongoing conflict that that aid was delayed apparently for political reasons. How would that undermine the Ukrainians? And I'm just curious, would Russia seek to take advantage of such a delay?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, I would think they would take advantage. Look, the larger picture here is Russian -- I would say constant pressure where the United States has either vacated by influence or is trying to establish what its role, the United States' role, might be in some region. So what we see is really kind of a containment in reverse from what our policy used to be over the course of 60 years. What we see the Russians doing now which is pushing back in terms of where the United States seems to be engaging.
So you look at Ukraine. The activities that occurred in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea. Now an ongoing civil war with participation from Russia in the Donbas, which could be, you know, completely (INAUDIBLE) net portion of Ukraine off, and it could go the way of Crimea. So it is a big deal that the United States to state emphatically its role vis-a-vis what's happening in that part of the world and then you get all into all the economics and the oil and gas and all of that.
But it is critical of the United States to establish its influence. Military aid is one of those elements of power by which we do that routinely.
HARLOW: Of course. Ross, to you. How -- what does it mean for Charles Cupperman, who has now asked the courts to decide if he should come forward and talk, and by the way he shares a lawyer with John Bolton. What does it mean for him and perhaps Bolton that all of these other witnesses including Catherine Croft today and Christopher Anderson are complying with the subpoenas and coming to testify? Will the courts consider that in their consideration of Cupperman's argument?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, maybe and maybe not. I mean, you know, Cupperman is the guy who was subpoenaed and instead of coming like many witnesses have.
GARBER: Or having his lawyer write a letter, as some witnesses have, saying I'm not going to come, he took an unusual step. He actually went to court and said hey, look.
HARLOW: Right. GARBER: On the one hand I've got the House telling me to show up, on
the other hand I've got the White House telling me not to. I don't know what to do. I want to do what's right. Court, you decide. And it's unclear right now whether a court actually will get in the middle of it or just say it's not -- it's sort of not for courts at this point.
HARLOW: Our job.
GARBER: At least to decide, you know, what to do. You know, let the executive branch and the House sort of work it out themselves. You know, I think it's sort of a move of somebody who cares, I think, about, you know, how they appear in public and who wants to sort of telegraph that they're trying to do the right thing.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Let's wait for the White House and the House to clear it up themselves.
SCIUTTO: I mean, put some money on that.
Molly Ball --
SCIUTTO: Let's ask about the politics here of Democrats having this vote tomorrow. Seemingly in an attempt to take away some of the fire from Republican criticism here about a closed process, et cetera. Does this do the trick?
BALL: Well, yes and no. I think for one thing, I think the reason that Democrats didn't do this before and hold the vote before is because they always viewed the Republican criticisms, this particular Republican argument, as disingenuous, and they always assumed that if they did hold a vote, Republicans would just find something else to object to and that is in fact exactly what we see happening, moving the goal post rather than saying oh, well, all we wanted was the vote and now that you're holding the vote, we view the process as legitimate, they've just on other arguments to continue to argue that it's illegitimate.
I don't actually view this primarily as a public relations move by the House Democrats. I think it's an attempt to seize control of the process. They're saying to the White House, this is our House. We make the rules, we are the ones who are going to decide how this process unfolds. And you don't get to dictate it or you don't get to tell us how to do our business.
BALL: We've seen not very much respect for that from the White House but that is -- but it is the House's jurisdiction and this is --
BALL: And this is the message that they're sending.
HARLOW: Well, it's so clearly laid out, right, in Article 1, section 2. I mean, it's right there. But, you know, the White House, of course, is still going to weigh in on it.
SCIUTTO: You can go see the -- you can see the document, yes.
HARLOW: Although we have seen the Constitution being pressed by the White House.
SCIUTTO: That's true.
HARLOW: And the president questioning the -- what did he call -- the phony emoluments clause?
All right, just quickly General Marks, so you help us understand how Vindman, being the position he is, an Army LTC, in the room on the call with President Trump and the Ukrainian president. The role of that. Because the White House knew he was on the call.
MARKS: Sure. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is what we call a foreign area officer. Very personally identified early on in his career with a number of skill sets. Look, he's probably a native Russian speaker, was born in the former Soviet Union. Grew up here in the United States, gets a commission. But he has these immense skill sets and the Army requires everybody who is in that role to prove yourself as an Army officer. So he has the credibility of being in combat. He wears the combat infantryman's badge having earned that in combat. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
So, look, this guy is an unimpeachable representative of an incredibly unique capability. So it's not unusual that he would be in the room. He's got a very narrow, limited view. He's a Ukrainian specialist. But he's working in the National Security Council which means he's risen through the ranks, has been identified by a number of bosses. So of course the president knew he was in the room. Maybe the president didn't know but certainly he was in the room by invitation. He could understand the conversation on the other end. Didn't have to go through a translator.
So he has a perspective that many in the room did not have. So his voice is very, very credible. Plus, based on the education that Army officers get, if I can give this just a couple of secs. Look, we're trained at the earliest levels to not only develop ourselves as individual leaders but leaders within organizations. So he has a very clear picture of what right looks like and when he heard the conversation, he raised his hand and said something seems amiss here.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And folks, don't buy the character assassination. He's a soldier. He's an American. He's proved his loyalty.
MARKS: It's lunacy, it's lunacy. It's lunacy to go down that path.
SCIUTTO: It is lunacy. But has shown you that, listen, there are no rules in the current conversation. And -- anyway, he bled on the battlefield as John Kirby said. He fought for this country.
Retired General James Spider Marks, Molly Ball, Ross Garber, thanks to all of you.
MARKS: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: More on what is shaping up to be a showdown in the House. A key vote tomorrow on a resolution that lays out the rules in the impeachment inquiry. Will it be enough for Republicans?
HARLOW: Also, Southern California under the first ever extreme red flag warning as fire sweeps across the state. Our Omar Jimenez is there again for us this morning.
What are you seeing?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An extreme red flag warning. The first time this terminology is being used. Coming up, I'll tell you why. This could be a particularly devastating week for California. That and more when NEWSROOM returns.
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: A showdown on Capitol Hill as Democrats take steps to go public with impeachment proceedings. In a matter of hours, a key house committee will mark up a resolution that will lay out the rules for public hearings as well as the direction of the inquiry.
Lawmakers will then take it to a floor vote tomorrow, that's key, They will have to be on the record now.
POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. I mean, it's pretty obvious Nancy Pelosi doesn't go to a vote without knowing the numbers here, but you do have at least one hold-out Democrat from the state of New Jersey. Any objections or changes expected at the mark-up today?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Poppy, we don't expect any changes at this current moment. Of course, it's several hours to the mark-up, and a lot of things can always change on Capitol Hill when we're talking about this impeachment inquiry. But I will tell you that many lawmakers are saying this is a welcome announcement.
The fact that this is going to expand the rights of the Republicans on the committee, at least, give them the opportunity to request documents as well as witnesses with consultation from the chairman or a vote of the full committee.
That, of course, gives Democrats the advantage there, given the fact that they do control the House of Representatives. But it also expands the rights of the president of the United States to defend himself in these proceedings. It gives his counsel an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, to have objections to what is going on during these public testimonies.
And I think that's going to be a key change in what we've seen in these closed door depositions. Now, Democrats are saying, you know, this is not a reverse in our position. We had to do these closed-door depositions because we are undertaking an investigation. But, obviously, this is a welcome development for many Democrats who were arguing they wanted to take that public vote on the floor.
SCIUTTO: Stay there, Lauren because we're going to bring back CNN legal analyst Ross Garber. Before we go to Ross, Lauren, very quickly, I imagine you've been canvassing Republican members of the house. Lauren, do you believe -- do we think -- well, we'll get back to Lauren in a moment. My question to her is --
HARLOW: I know what you're going to ask and it's a good one.
SCIUTTO: OK, there she is. Lauren, any Republicans likely or possibly going to vote for this resolution, vote in favor?
FOX: Well, I think a lot of Republicans are arguing this is just a little too much, too late. And I think that that's basically the argument we've heard from many of them is that, look, this doesn't really give Republicans the opportunity to issue subpoenas or request witnesses if you have to do this with consultation from a Democratic chairman.
I mean, you have to either vote of the full committee where Democrats already control that committee. So they're arguing that's just a Democratic talking point. This really does nothing to establish the rights of Republicans. And I think that leadership is basically saying we're united behind this.
You saw that, that was something that Republican lawmakers were tweeting over the last several hours, saying that after meeting with the president last night during that fund-raiser, they are walking away feeling very united as a party, that they're going to stick together on this vote.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
FOX: But of course, we're going to be watching if there are any --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
FOX: Republicans who cross the aisle.
SCIUTTO: I mean, it's a little rich of a point if you're asking for the right to cross-examine witnesses, call your own witnesses, et cetera. You get those rights to say, well, it's too little, too late. I mean, it's sort of -- yes, somewhat predictable.
HARLOW: OK, thanks, Lauren. Ross, give us the Intel. Compare this to the Clinton impeachment for us, if you could, in terms of the rights of the minority party -- SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Here --
ROSS GARBER, TULANE LAW SCHOOL: Yes, so the comparisons aren't direct because, remember, in Clinton, the Starr investigation happened --
HARLOW: Was done, yes --
GARBER: You know, the Starr report was done and submitted to Congress. But notably in both Clinton and Nixon, the rules allowed a role for the president's lawyers, and specifically to cross-examine witnesses. And here, I think what the Republicans are saying is -- what they were demanding are three things, a vote, they were demanding that things happen in public, and they were demanding that the Republicans and the president's lawyers get some rights.
HARLOW: Yes --
GARBER: I think what they're going to argue here is that the rights for the president's lawyers and for the Republicans actually don't happen until they are too late because they are only applicable to the Judiciary Committee. And the public hearings that are coming up are going to be with the three committees that are already doing the investigation.
And by the time things get to the Judiciary Committee, everything is already going to be done. There's going to be a report that, you know, the rules provide that these committees are going to produce a report to the Judiciary Committee. And so, the way that rules look, it doesn't look like there are going to be witnesses that actually testify before the Judiciary Committee.
So, it's probably going to be too late for the president's lawyers to actually do anything even if they could. I think that's what we're going to hear from the Republicans. And it's a fair point, I think, that the Clinton rules and the Nixon rules actually are different.
HARLOW: I know we're running short on time, but is that the case if we still have Lauren here, that Intel does not -- all right, we don't have her. We'll address that later.
SCIUTTO: Continue your conversation --
HARLOW: Yes, Ross, thanks --
SCIUTTO: Ross Garber, thanks very much.
GARBER: You bet.
HARLOW: The National Weather Service issuing its first ever extreme red flag warning. We'll explain what that means and how significant it is as hurricane-force winds are expected to bear down on parts of the fire-ravaged state of California. We'll have a live report on the Getty fire, next.
SCIUTTO: As wildfires rip through California, the conditions about to get even worse there. Hurricane-force winds, strong enough to down power lines and trees expected in Los Angeles. This of course fuel to the fires, literally.
HARLOW: The National Weather Service has issued something for the first time ever, and that is an extreme red flag warning. They're predicting winds between 60 and 80 miles an hour, 26 million people could feel the effects of that warning. Our Omar Jimenez is back in Los Angeles with us again this morning. So, what does that mean, Omar, extreme red flag?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, a normal red flag warning for example means that wind, temperature, humidity, conditions are creating a risk for a fire. Now, the extreme red flag warning -- again, for the first time we're seeing this terminology. Meteorologists just want people to understand the threat, the level of threat we are seeing, and the fact that this has not been reached in at least recent history.
Now, part of what they fear in this, let's just start with winds. Well, when you talk about the Getty fire that is still burning, winds have the potential to take these embers far outside containment zones that these firefighters have being working so hard to make and start fires in places there weren't to begin with.