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Trump Allies Question Patriotism of Purple Heart Recipient; Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) Interviewed about House Vote on Impeachment; In Testimony to Congress White House Official Claims Parts of Transcript of President Trump's Call with Ukrainian President Missing. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 30, 2019 - 08:00   ET


BERMAN: Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump continues to insist his call with Ukraine's president was perfect. So why then were some words and phrases missing according to someone who listened to that call and reportedly tried to add some of that back in? We'll discuss.


HILL: Two more State Department officials scheduled to testify before House impeachment investigators today as questions are raised about the White House's rough transcript of the president's July phone call, the official transcript that they put together after that call with the president of Ukraine on July 25th.

Joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN political analyst David Gregory, and CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, first to you on this, because there is some discrepancy, right, that we're seeing now. The official White House reason for why there were these ellipses in the rough transcript that they put out there publicly, which at the time they said these are just pauses, this is what happens. If there were words missing, that would be in brackets. And yet what we heard, what we saw in the opening statement and what we reportedly heard in the testimony according to "The New York Times" is that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman said as he was piecing this together to clean it up, he actually wanted words put in where those ellipses were, and that didn't happen.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he didn't say why it didn't happen, which is going to raise questions. And the White House is going to have to try to answer some of those on why this is a contradiction. He is someone who was not only on the phone call but was in charge reviewing this transcript. So the fact that there are these dot-dot-dots that the White House dismissed, said they weren't anything noteworthy, was just simply a pause in the conversation, when actually we're finding out they had several phrases or words from the president or the Ukrainian president, is going to raise a lot of questions.

Now, based on the reporting so far, these omissions do not change the fundamental understanding of this transcript. However, that raises the question even further of why they were left out of the transcript, something that is done from software by people in the room, we should note. And the White House has, in the transcript, maintained it wasn't the exact thing, even though the president has said over a dozen times, yes, this is an exact transcript. So those are going to be the questions going forward of why they left it out if, as they insist, this call was appropriate and what the president said was above board.

BERMAN: Dana, I'm struck by how Colonel Vindman walked in yesterday in full uniform and, to an extent, how he walked out after 10 hours, and after 10 hours of having Republican leaders vouch for his credibility to defend against what were really truly scurrilous and gross attacks by some allies of the president. Listen to Liz Cheney, the number three in the House of Representatives, talk about Colonel Vindman.



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.


BERMAN: So looking forward, one might think that Colonel Vindman might be a witness in the public part of this testimony that we now know will be part of the rules voted on today and tomorrow. So what kind of a witness have these allies of the president now made Colonel Vindman and Ambassador Bill Taylor for that matter?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They've elevated him. They have shined a spotlight on his tremendous service to America and the fact that he won a Purple Heart while serving in a war zone in Iraq on behalf of America.

So what they were doing on another network, where the hosts don't call out people for the crazy that they say, that they probably find somewhere on the web that we don't surf, that has done a disservice to the president because there's no question that having Liz Cheney come to his defense, having other senior Republicans come to his defense, including Mitch McConnell who that was all he would say yesterday when he was asked about this. He didn't go into any other detail.

It's a big deal, and it's a reminder of how messed up the Republican defense is. The president again this morning saying, oh, I'm so happy that my fellow Republicans are focusing on the substance, not the process. But they're not. They are still focusing on the process which did win them a vote tomorrow in the House because despite Democrats saying it wasn't because of Republican attacks, there's no question that that played into it.

But big picture, it is a reminder to Republicans to be a little more cautious. A lot more cautious in how they just kind of willy-nilly make up their defense as they go day-to-day.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: David, in terms of the House vote that we will see tomorrow, John just asked Hakeem Jeffries, what about GOP support? You know, can you tell us, who is behind this? He was noncommittal on the answer. How important will that be in terms of messaging when we see how much support there is or is not for this resolution? Because, obviously, they're going to take it and --

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, both sides will have an argument to make. The Democrats want to call out Republicans who say we just got to make this legitimate with a vote and they'll call them out if there's no support for what they're doing at all saying that they met that standard. Republicans will say this is simply an about-face and still a sham process. That will all play out the way it has been.

I think what's interesting about where we are this morning is that you have two things happening. You have this initial whistle-blower. Now you have all the supporting detail that is creating this damning portrait for the president and for the White House on Ukraine. And all of these details are being filled in.

Now we're to the point of ellipses and missing portions of the transcript that may be explosive. At the same time, you have a White House that was at a starting point of, yeah, we did it. And we did it because we thought it was OK. What's wrong with it?

And working backward from that with the details being filled in, that's where their biggest problems lie -- the fact that they are lying, they're changing their story, they're smearing veterans. It's such a bad look for the White House, but at the end of the day, the president, as confused as their strategy is, is counting on Republicans, even Liz Cheney who would not ultimately have a vote as a member of the House. Even if Liz Cheney, who I think was appropriate to step forward yesterday, condemns some of the tactics, are not moving on the big piece, on the war, which is, would you vote to impeach him or not.

BERMAN: It's interesting. That's why I brought up Rob Portman with Hakeem Jeffries just a few minutes ago, David, because, you know, Rob Portman is -- he's not seen as the most fire brand senator by any means. He listens and he considers his actions.

He says he doesn't like what the president did. He said his actions were bad. He condemns the president's actions but then goes on to say, but not impeachable. So, it doesn't seem --


BERMAN: -- like there are any -- or very few movable votes there.

GREGORY: Well, and I think you're going to see Republicans, if it gets worse, look for a different off ramp. Do they censure the president or do they say, as I've mentioned here before, if we're into an election year trial where you have numerous senators who are running for president who are part of that trial, do Republicans, even if they're critical of the president say, you know what? I think this was inappropriate. It was bad policy. But we're in an election year, and the voters should decide this question.

BASH: And can I just add one thing? And that is that as much of the focus is on what the numbers will be for this vote tomorrow, we learned a lot on the substance of how the House Democrats are going to conduct these public hearings, how they're going to conduct the articles of impeachment, and how the Judiciary Committee moves through that.


And the fact is that the Democrats have kind of laid the groundwork for understanding how important it is to make that case and not do it in the way we usually watch house hearings, which is, a lot of us are on set wanting to bang our heads against the wall because it's a member of Congress speaking for five minutes, five minutes, sometimes speechifying and not even asking questions. That's all gone now and the chairman is going to have 45 minutes. He can defer to staff, which oftentimes asks more direct, more blunt questions, and same with Republican leader.

And so, the fact is that they're already thinking ahead about that, and it's all about trying as hard as they can to get public support behind this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's why what Dana says is so interesting because this morning the president is telling Republicans, urging them, don't focus on the process here which has been their main defense. He's saying instead, defend me on the merits. Defend my actions on the call, and that is something Republicans have been hesitant to do, including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell himself who yesterday, as our colleague Ted Barrett (ph) brilliantly pointed out, was asked directly about this. Had a chance to defend the president on the merits here and instead he shifted, answered a question he wasn't asked about those people who were questioning the patriotism of Alex Vindman.

And it really goes to show exactly the bind that you're seeing some Republicans feel that they're in, in this situation.

BERMAN: John Bolton, is he going to talk? Let's take a vote. Raise your hand if you think John Bolton will ever testify before the house committees?

BASH: Oh, gosh.

GREGORY: I think he will. I think he will. Yeah.

BASH: I think -- to me, he's just being very quiet, and he's going to pick his moment, and it's going to be, you know, revenge testimony.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, break the tie.

COLLINS: I can't. I truly don't know. I've learned a long time ago not to predict anything with this White House.

BASH: There's no tie. I agree with David.

GREGORY: John, he's going to be the Anthony Rendell (ph) of these proceedings.

BERMAN: It's very good. And there will be no interference, no matter what.

GREGORY: Go Nats! Game seven.

BERMAN: All right. David, Kaitlan, Dana, thank you very much for that.

HILL: I'm glad we finished with the important thing today. There's a big game.

BERMAN: Honestly, can I tell you, in Washington --

HILL: Oh, totally.

BERMAN: -- everything else that's going on, the only important thing is game seven of the World Series.

HILL: I've fully jumped on board as has my fourth grader. So, we're right there with you.

Meantime, how does a fellow Iraq war vet feel about President Trump's allies attacking the patriotism of a Purple Heart recipient? We're going to ask Congressman Seth Moulton, next.



HILL: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House's top expert on Ukraine and a Purple Heart recipient spent more than ten hours testifying before a House impeachment investigators.

Well, allies of President Trump attacked his patriotism.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the president's interest and usually they spoke in English.

JOHN YOON, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTORNEY: You know, some people might call that espionage.

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We also know he was born in the Soviet Union, emigrated with his family, young. He tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine.

SEAN DUFFY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He has an affinity probably for his homeland.


HILL: Joining us, Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, who served in the Armed Services Committee. He is also an Iraq War veteran.

Good to have you back with us this morning.

Listen, we heard a lot of the negative. I should point out, though, there has been pushback, notably from Liz Cheney. I'm going to play that sound for you right now for folks who may not have heard it.


CHENEY: 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.


HILL: We should point out Senators Roy Blunt and John Thune also pushing back on this, basically saying absolutely not. No reason to criticize this guy.

I mean, just talk to us as a veteran at this point. When you hear these kinds of attacks, and when you hear the subsequent pushback, what is your thinking?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): First of all, it's a rare moment when Seth Moulton agrees with Liz Cheney, but she's absolutely right on this.

You know, when I served in Iraq, it was the officers who actually had the courage to speak truth to power, to step out of line when their bosses told them to do something wrong. They were the most patriotic Americans I served with because that's what takes courage. To speak truth to power, to stand up for the Constitution when your boss, this case, the president of the United States, is telling you to do something different.

HILL: There's been a lot made of just the image that we saw yesterday, of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman arriving in his uniform and he was essentially reporting for duty. But just talk to us about what it means for this man to come in and to testify, essentially against the commander in chief, and in his testimony from what we learned in the reporting from "The New York Times," to contradict the White House.

MOULTON: It's a big deal because, you know, as a military officer, you respect the chain of command. But you always remember that your oath, the oath that you take is to the Constitution of the United States. Not to your commander. Not to your boss. Not to the commander in chief.

And that's something that we all know. It's the same oath I took as a member of congress. Same oath I took as the United States marine. And that is exactly what I'm sure was on this colonel's mind.

HILL: As we're moving forward, I know you were early on calling for an impeachment investigation. This House vote, of course, it is scheduled for tomorrow.