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Evidence Mounts Against Trump as House Prepares First Impeachment Vote; Los Angeles Under 'Extreme' Fire Threat Due to High Winds. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired October 30, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vindman's testimony is testimony about a coverup. What was presented to the American people as an official record of this phone call, this witness is saying was, at the very least, incomplete.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president's allies would like nothing better than to help the president out this whistle-blower.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We're trying to get information on him. Schiff won't let the witness answer questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats unveiled their new resolution. They will vote on Thursday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an attempt to dress it up a little bit to try and give it the sheen of legitimacy.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Republicans haven't been very cooperative as it relates to what we've been trying to do in the context of presenting the truth.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, October 30. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is on assignment. Erica Hill joins me this morning.
Great to have you here.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.
BERMAN: You were up until just a few hours ago, watching game six of the World Series, no doubt?
HILL: Obviously. I'll give you a full recap later.
BERMAN: Fantastic. We have breaking news for you this morning, new details on what witnesses will tell the impeachment inquiry in just a few hours; and it all paints the same picture of a shadow foreign policy to benefit the president and the testimony tells the same story about concerns from within the administration.
CNN has learned that Christopher Anderson, a career foreign service officer, will tell lawmakers that during a meeting in mid-June, national security advisor John Bolton cautioned officials about Rudy Giuliani's influence on U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
Catherine Croft, special adviser for Ukraine, will describe a meeting that happened one week before President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president. During that meeting, Croft learned that an informal hold was put on Ukrainian security assistance money, and that hold came at the direction of President Trump.
HILL: We also have new details about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman's testimony, some ten hours behind closed doors there. "The New York Times" reporting Vindman tried to correct the transcript of the president's call with Ukraine's president and gave his edits to his boss. The transcript was never updated.
One of those edits was an ellipses that you may have seen in the rough transcript, where Vindman says President Trump was actually discussing former Vice President Joe Biden. Well, the White House said back in September the ellipses did not represent missing words or phrases.
All of this as the House gears up for the first vote on the impeachment resolution tomorrow.
A lot to get to this morning. Let's start with CNN's Lauren Fox, who is live on Capitol Hill.
Lauren, good morning.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.
In a few hours, two State Department officials are expected to come before investigators and answer questions behind closed doors. This comes just a few hours before we expect the House Rules Committee to meet this afternoon to debate a resolution that will set forth the procedures for future impeachment proceedings. That full vote will happen in the House of Representatives tomorrow.
FOX (voice-over): In just hours, two State Department officials will testify in the House's impeachment inquiry. Foreign service officers Christopher Anderson and Catherine Croft are scheduled to appear behind closed doors in two separate sessions.
According to Anderson's opening statement, he will tell Congress about a June meeting with John Bolton, where the then-national security adviser, quote, "cautioned that Rudy Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine, which could be an obstacle." Croft will testify that in a July 18 video conference, an official
with the budget office informed her that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, quote, "placed an informal hold on security assistance to Ukraine." She added, quote, "The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the president."
That's one week before President Trump's now infamous call on July 25 with Ukraine's new leader, where he repeatedly pressured him to investigate his political rivals.
On Tuesday, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who listened in on the president's call with Ukraine, telling Congress he was so concerned by what he heard on that and an earlier meeting he alerted his superior twice.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was an extraordinary witness, a person of incredible integrity.
FOX: "The New York Times" reports that Vindman told lawmakers he tried to correct certain details in the White House summary of the call, but two key changes were never made, according to three people familiar with his testimony. A source confirming to CNN, one of the edits was replacing this ellipses. Vindman says President Trump referred to tapes of Joe Biden, but that was left out of the White House summary of the call.
Vindman's account also contracts the White House's explanation that ellipses were just pauses, not missing words or phrases.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): We're going to have to get this evidence directly from other sources, rather than trust the White House on a transcript.
FOX: Sources tell CNN that Democrats and Republicans engaged in a shouting match during Vindman's ten hours of testimony after House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff objected to what he believed were GOP questions attempting to reveal the whistle-blower's identity.
SCHIFF: The president would love to punish the whistle-blower. The president's allies would like nothing better than to help the president out this whistle-blower. Our committee will not be a part of that.
FOX: House Republicans say that isn't the case.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): Guess what happens when you read that transcript? You don't find that question asked.
They're trying to frame the narrative. Adam Schiff is trying to write the world's greatest parody ever.
FOX: And the president and his allies have long pushed to reveal the whistle-blower's identity. CNN has also learned that the FBI has investigated threats against the lawyers representing the whistle- blower, who remains anonymous -- Erica.
HILL: Lauren Fox with the latest for us this morning. Lauren, thank you.
Developing overnight, fire conditions now so severe in Southern California. The National Weather Service has issued its first ever extreme red flag warning. Firefighters bracing for hurricane-force winds that could make the already dangerous situation even worse. Some 14,000 homeowners have been forced to evacuate.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Los Angeles this morning with more -- Omar.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, already a red flag warning means wind, temperature and humidity conditions are ripe for a fire. So an extreme red flag warning indicates the threat for fire conditions is at a level that nobody has seen in recent memory here in the Los Angeles area.
Now, primarily here in L.A., we've been dealing with the Getty Fire that exposed in the early morning hours on Monday. We learned from investigators that it was an accidental start to the fire, meaning a branch from a tree flew off in high wind conditions and slammed into a power line. And that's what's sparked the blaze that has now burned more than 650 acres and destroyed 12 homes in this.
Now, ahead of potential new fires, So Cal Edison Power has said that they're now, potentially, going to have to shut off power for more than 300,000 people in this. And it comes as they now acknowledge for the first time they may have been involved in the start of last year's Woolsey Fire here in Southern California that destroyed more than 1,600 structures and killed three people.
Now, in this fire in particular, more than 700 fire personnel are responding to this. It's just about 15 percent contained, though that's a number that could go up as they make their daytime assessment.
But for those fire personnel that are working really hard, LeBron James, who was among those who had to evacuate himself in this, sent a taco truck to them to help keep them going and also a part of his ongoing love for Taco Tuesday on that front.
And so, we are at their home base where many of them are waiting to get deployed to find out where they're going to be needed the most. And ahead of these potential -- potential deadly and devastating wind conditions, the L.A. Fire Department says they are trying to strategically place their resources at locations all across the region so that they can respond as quickly as possible when these fires pop up, as they're expected to later this week -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Omar. Thank you very much. Please keep us posted throughout the day, because they are very, very concerned about the conditions there. I have to say, LeBron James, what a solid, right? Those firefighters are stretched, extended. A taco can make the difference.
HILL: That can make a big difference.
BERMAN: It was Taco Tuesday, or is that --
HILL: Taco Tuesday is every Tuesday
BERMAN: Taco Tuesday is every Tuesday.
HILL: Especially in our house.
BERMAN: All right.
President Trump has insisted that his phone call with Ukraine's president was, quote, "perfect." So why were some words reportedly missing from the transcript? We have new details about the mystery of those ellipses next.
BERMAN: Breaking overnight, CNN has obtained the opening remarks of two State Department officials who will testify today in the impeachment inquiry. Both officials will describe Rudy Giuliani's influence on U.S. policy with Ukraine. And one of them will say that she was told that President Trump directed the freezing of aid to Ukraine.
Joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary under Bill Clinton.
The testimony today will largely color around the edges of what we know about the shadow foreign policy. The testimony yesterday from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman really brought up something new that we hadn't heard before, which is that the rough transcript of the phone call that we've all seen between President Trump and President Zelensky was missing stuff. It was missing stuff. There was ellipses that everyone wondered about. Well, Colonel Vindman told a story of what might have been in there,
including direct references to the company that Hunter Biden worked for and also a tape of Joe Biden talking about aid.
Let me read "The New York Times" what they say here. The rough transcript also contains ellipses at three points where Mr. Trump is speaking. Colonel Vindman said the White House transcript of that call had left out Mr. Zelensky saying the word "Burisma" as well as Mr. Trump saying there were recordings of Mr. Biden.
Now members of both party say this doesn't substantively change the content of the call, but the fact that Vindman says the transcript was missing stuff -- Joe.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think if you look at it in -- alone, you know, this isn't the smoking gun that changes the thing. But if you look at it in the context of everything else that was going on, it is important.
What we don't know yet, and we won't know until we see the transcript is how upset Vindman was about this. And how much he thought -- how important he thought it was.
But if you look at it in terms of if this was a perfect call, you'd have everything in it. If this was a perfect call, you wouldn't have moved it to a secret server. That shows that people on the call, particularly the lawyers, felt like this is a problem; we have to -- we have to bury it some place.
So, this is a piece of the puzzle. I don't know at the end of this, they will think this is the smoking gun.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I do think we need to know a little bit more, though. It seems to me we need to know when the changes were made.
Because there is this process, and it's kind of complicated by which this summary or transcript gets cobbled together. And it's a combination of notes and recollections from multiple people who were on the call.
He -- Vindman was one of the people. So we need to know about who was the person who said, no, actually, we're not going to include this information.
And then secondly, you know, I am kind of intrigued by the idea that President Trump was -- was pushing this idea that there were tapes of Joe Biden talking about -- about something as it relates to Ukraine. It sounds very much like the kind of conspiracy theory that the president is often pushing around the White House and around world leaders.
And -- and, you know, it -- it seems like one of those things that has almost no basis in truth. Which is -- which could be why people within the White House were like, let's not include that, because we have actually no idea what it references.
BERMAN: I think he's referring to the tape with Biden talking to the Council on Foreign Relations, when he talks about the pressure on Poroshenko. But I see your larger point here, which is a concern within the White House maybe, or the White House lawyers, that by having the president on tape talk about it, or in transcript talk about it, it shows a level of specificity there in his ask to Zelensky. Very hard to say, oh, it was just in passing, if he's being that specific.
PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I do think, though, that you know, it's interesting, because I mean, if that is, in fact, what he's referring to, President Trump has talked about that so-called tape a lot.
Publicly, he's talked about it. You know, he's sort of alluded to it, actually, in other parts of the call. So it would be interesting to see why, exactly, that reference was removed. And whether or not it was clear to people at the time that that's what President Trump was talking about.
I don't think this really changes a ton. It just also clarifies that Vindman, being someone who was actually on the call is a different kind of witness in this -- in this investigation. He changes the game, because he -- he heard first-hand, not only what President Trump said, but he also understands what Zelensky said in the original language. And so has, actually, a lot more context behind the meeting of what was said on that call.
HILL: And to your point, it will be interesting to see, so you know, how much we learn when Tim Morrison, who's scheduled to testify on Thursday from him, because Vindman says this was part of his job, right? He went through the transcript. He went through the voice recognition software to fix any issues.
He gave those changes to Morrison. So what does Morrison have to say about that? That will be interesting to see.
The other thing that sticks out, too, Joe, is that when we look at this, the initial word from the White House when they were asked about these ellipses was -- and I'm just going back here. A senior White House official telling reporters they do not indicate missing words or phrases. It's simply the a trailing off of a voice or a pause. If there were missing words or phrases, those would be replaced by brackets or redactions.
So this directly contradicts what we were told.
LOCKHART: Yes. Again, if you look at the broad context here, there was clearly an effort to bury this information. Whether changing words, putting it on the server. They knew in real time, contemporaneously, that there was a problem with this, and that this was a problematic call.
And we're going to find out, you know, why, as they sort of ladder up to the more important players in the White House. And -- and, you know, when we see the depositions, we're going to understand more. The transcripts of the depositions.
BERMAN: All right. Joe, Abby, stick around. Much more to discuss.
HILL: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell going to extraordinary lengths to avoid answering questions about the allegations facing President Trump. We'll take a closer look at that and why more Republicans aren't speaking up against the smears against Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
HILL: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dodging questions about the attacks on the patriotism of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient, who testified against President Trump yesterday. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman says that what he heard on the president's call, that conversation with the Ukrainian leader, was so concerning that he worried that it might undermine U.S. national security. Does it concern you? Are you worried about the president's behavior at all?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I'm not going to question the patriotism of any of the people who are coming forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Those remarks, of course, as the first vote on impeachment is set to take place in the House tomorrow. Back with us, Abby Phillip and Joe Lockhart.
I mean, Abby, in a lot of ways, what we're seeing play out in Washington is this really remarkable dodge that has me -- I don't know about you but rewatching sound bites just to see the way questions are answered or not answered.
How much is there a sense that the heat is really being turned up under the feet of Republican lawmakers at this point?
PHILLIP: Well, there are disagreements among the president's supporters about -- about how far to go with this. And how much they're willing to go -- to put their neck out to defend him.
And you see it starting sort of in the cable universe, with FOX News anchors who are very close to the president saying things that -- that other allies of the president pick up. And on Capitol Hill, they're just not willing to go that far. They think that that has really crossed the line.
And -- and it might be fine for some of the president's allies to go too far and on Capitol Hill for them to try to rein things back in. But I think Republicans are in an incredibly tenuous position right now. This is getting into a danger zone.
I think the reason you see someone like Liz Cheney speaking out is because Liz Cheney is from a very conservative state, Wyoming. She understands that there are some lines that you do not cross. And when it comes to seeing a military officer walking into the Capitol in full uniform to testify, denigrating that person's patriotism is a lie that is too far. She knows that.
The reason she said it is, as a member of leadership, to offer a signal not just to lawmakers but to the conservative ecosystem. This is too far. Whether they'll listen, I think, is a different story.
BERMAN: Yes, look, I don't think Mitch -- Mitch McConnell dodged a question about the substance of Vindman's testimony, he went out of his way --
BERMAN: -- to back up his patriotism there, which I think was most notable about McConnell's comments there. And Liz Cheney, let's play that sound from Liz Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We're talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation who have put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You know, to me, you know, it seems like whatever the Trump allies were trying to do yesterday blew up in their face. Because they now have character witnesses for Colonel Vindman, who I would think would be a key public witness in the impeachment inquiry. When he walks up to testify in public, he's now got Liz Cheney, the No. 3 in the House. He's got Mitch McConnell, you know, the Senate majority leader, vouching for his character.
LOCKHART: Yes. I think you're seeing a split in Republicans. There are a group, and probably the best way to describe the group in the House is the people who stormed the SCIF. They will do whatever they think the president wants. They don't always know what the president wants, because he has trouble making up his mind. But they're going to do whatever. They're going to be the -- you know, sort of the hooligans who run around the Hill screaming.
But then you have Republicans who have an interest beyond the president. They have an interest in their own future trying to win back the House and keep the Senate. That's McConnell and Cheney. This was an unforced error. It was Laura Ingraham getting out and questioned and calling this espionage. Was unforced. And they spent yesterday trying to clean that up.
HILL: What's fascinating to me, too, is when you watch this reaction -- Abby, you've spoken about this, just based on your sources in the White House who told you from the very beginning, one of the thing we all know the president needs is some sort of a foil and wants some sort of negativity out there, even if it's negativity coming at him, because it helps him try to dictate this narrative. Is that still working?
PHILLIP: It's becoming incredibly difficult. And you're hearing it in the way that the president talks about what's happening around him. The president often needs a person in front of him that he can say, I'm fighting against that person. That person, for a long time, was the whistle-blower. But the whistle-blower doesn't have a name. The whistle-blower doesn't have a face. And -- and the whistle-blower may never be known. And now there are all of these other people who do have names and who
do have faces who are coming out, and they have characters that can be defended. And it's becoming very difficult for the president to make them the enemy. So there's a level of frustration about this.
And in some ways, that's why there are some questions about whether Republicans on -- in the House are trying to ferret out the name of the whistle-blower. They know, to Joe's point, that that's what the president wants. They are not sure if they'll be able to do it. But they're trying their best to sort of get a little bit closer to that, because that is something that the president believes will be helpful to him.
At this point, though, I don't know that it will be, because there is all this other information out there that is so much more informative about what is happening around this Ukraine situation.
BERMAN: The Democrats will have a vote on moving forward with the House impeachment inquiry, Joe. Is this as hard of a vote as it might have been a month ago?
LOCKHART: No, I think a month ago, they -- the Democrats, the majority of them, the ones -- the vulnerable ones made their decision when they came out. You remember the seven national security freshmen writing the op-ed for "The Washington Post." That was a hard decision.
It is not a particularly hard decision now, since they will be attacked anyway. They know it. And the case has gotten much stronger.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Lockhart, Abby Phillip, thank you very much.
The Washington Nationals, they have done it. They have forced a game seven in the World Series. This was a great game. A controversial game. "Bleacher Report" is next.