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Appeals Court Rules Trump Does Not Have Blanket Immunity in New York Tax Return Case; 4 White House Officials Defy Impeachment Inquiry Subpoenas; Schiff Expected to Release Transcripts of Witness Testimony as Early as This Week; Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) Discusses New Polls Showing American Divided on Impeachment, Public Phase of Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 4, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
We begin with breaking news. President Trump has just lost another court battle over his tax returns. An appeals court ruling just moments ago on an issue that has been over a month's-long fight here in New York with regard to his tax return and his accounting firm.
CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me with all the details.
Kara, what is the appeals court saying this morning?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Kate, The appeals court is saying that Donald Trump's argument that he was immune from any state investigation, that includes the issuance of a subpoena for his accountants where they were seeking eight years of Donald Trump and his businesses, tax records, the appeals court says the president does not have immunity from state investigation.
Donald Trump's argument had been he had complete immunity from state investigation. They said, if he didn't that would all 50 states could open investigations into the presidency and it would be a distraction.
The appeals court today saying there's no blanket immunity from a state investigation, that means no immunity from this subpoena seeking his tax returns.
BOLDUAN: But that's not the final word, of course. As we often always have to say, of course, because the question here with this one is, were any state laws broken when the president -- this is what this case gets down tom correct me if I'm wrong -- for any state laws broken when the president and his business reimbursed Michael Cohen for hush money payments back during the 2016 election.
With this appeals court ruling, this is now just one step closer to where this eventually was very likely to end up the Supreme Court?
SCANNELL: Absolutely. I mean, this investigation is into Donald Trump's life before he became president.
And at the court hearing, the appeals court hearing two weeks ago, even the three judges that are the appeals court judges on that panel, they had talked about this in court, and said they knew this was not going to be the last place, that, ultimately, if Donald Trump had lost, it would be appealed to the Supreme Court.
And, frankly, if Cy Vance, the district attorney from Manhattan, lost, they would likely appeal.
So this is -- they're sending this technically back to the district court to see if the president is going to make a different argument. What he had sought in the first place was an injunction to stop the subpoena. So the appeals court is saying we don't see any grounds for you to stop that subpoena.
And we also don't think you'll prevail on an injunction, but technically sending it back to allow the president's team to make another move.
But, it does seem like the next step is going to be an appeal to the Supreme Court.
BOLDUAN: One step closer to where the actual real answer, final answer, on this with huge implications will be coming down like the Supreme Court.
Thanks for bringing it, Kara. I appreciate it. That coming in.
We have our focus there. But we also have our focus back in Washington where, this morning, kicks off with not one, not two, but four White House officials who are not showing up, standing up Congress, rather, defying subpoenas has they refuse to show for scheduled interviews as part of the impeachment inquiry. One siting executive privilege. The others because they can't have an administration attorney in the room with them.
So is this the new normal as House Democrats prepare to move this investigation into a new and more public phase?
House intelligence chairman, Adam Schiff, he's expected to start releasing transcripts from some of the closed-door witness interviews as early as this week, but with the House on recess and the inquiry still under way, what exactly is happening right now.
Let's again to Manu Raju is there, as he always is.
Manu, what are you hearing act these officials who aren't showing up and what it means, quite frankly, for the whole investigation going forward?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a number of officials who won't show up today but also later on this week as well.
The ultimate question is, how many more witnesses will they hear from behind closed-doors because, number of people who were scheduled to testify this week are senior officials in the administration, people who were political appointees, people lining up to the White House's defense that they should not cooperate with the House impeachment probe, even though they have been served with subpoenas.
And today, this morning, we heard from -- Democrats and Republicans had scheduled this hearing for John Eisenburg, the top National Security Council attorney, someone who fielded complaints about the push to investigate the Bidens and the president's political rivals just as the aid -- military aid, approved by Congress, had been held up and not turned over to that country.
But also Robert Blair, a deputy for Mick Mulvaney, someone who the Democrats have been eager to speak to because of the role Mulvaney played holding up Ukraine aid as well.
This afternoon, we expect two other individuals to defy subpoenas, Mike Ellis, who is a deputy to John Eisenberg, the National Security Council lawyer.
And Brian McCormack, the chief of staff -- was the chief of staff for Rick Perry in the Energy Department, now serves in the White House's Office of Management and Budget, on questions about Rick Perry's role, his conversations at some of the meetings held, the aid held up, his interactions and also the Ukrainian President Zelensky.
But tomorrow, too, there are individuals who may not show up, including Mike Duffy, with the Office of Management and Budget.
But the big question, though, Kate, what will happen on Thursday, John Bolton, the former national security adviser, someone whose name has been mentioned time and again because of his concerns how the aid has been held up, will he show up? Still questions they don't have.
But Democrats are telling me, Kate, they believe they still have enough evidence at the moment to go forward but trying to get some more -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Manu, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Go to Capitol Hill for the White House where, for his part, President Trump is trying at least to move attention away from the details of the investigation and back on the whistleblower, whose confidential complaint sparked this entire inquiry. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whistleblower should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false stories.
There have been stories written about a certain individual, a male, and they say he's a whistleblower. If he's the whistleblower, he has no credibility because he's a Brennan guy, he's a Susan Rice guy, he's an Obama guy, and he hates Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Yes, that is the president of the United States asking for folks to break the law and reveal the legally protected identity of this person. Protections spelled out in federal law.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.
Kaitlan, what is going on here?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, not only are there those laws that protect these whistleblowers, the president is implying this without any evidence. We asked White House aides multiple times what is he trying to insinuate? They have not offered any evidence.
It's notable the president's allies on Capitol Hill, including Mark Meadows, sitting in on these closed-doors depositions today, said he would not imply this person, this individual, is partisan, he said, because he doesn't know the individual's identity, so he can't imply this person is partisan.
It's just an attempt by the president, people say, to undercut this person's credibility. This is something you have seen him do multiple times, even as we're seeing these negotiations happen on Capitol Hill where the whistleblower's attorney is telling Republicans this person is willing to answer your questions in writing, something the president said today is not acceptable, that this person should go in person to testify.
Though, of course, that would affect the shielding this person's identity, as we noted, which is protected by law.
And of course, many people have noted the president thought that written answers were sufficient when he was in the middle of the special counsel's investigation since he did his own written answers.
But, Kate, the bottom line is the president is going after this whistleblower, something you have seen him start to focus on in recent days as Democrats say they're preparing to release those transcripts.
Multiple witnesses have testified on Capitol Hill to corroborate what this person said in their complaint. It's no longer just coming from this one anonymous individual who filed a complaint.
COLLINS: There are people who we know who we have seen show up on Capitol Hill, many of whom still work in this administration, that are backing up what this person has said about that president, about that phone call that the president had back in July.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And while all of this is very serious, there's just something you have to laugh about seeing the president say the written answers are not acceptable when it was very clearly acceptable apparently for him during the Mueller investigation.
BOLDUAN: Regardless, we continue reporting on.
Kaitlan, great to see you. Thanks so much.
Joining me right now, CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, attorney, Ross Garber, who is an expert on the laws around impeachment, represented four governors who faced impeachment, and White House reporter for the "Washington Post," Seung Min Kim.
Seung, we started with Manu, kind of a state of play. Does this move by the four witnesses who were supposed to be interviewed today, does it effectively stop the behind closed-doors portion of this investigation in its tracks?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly doesn't help. The witnesses, particularly John Bolton, Democrats have been eyeing for some time, I don't think it was a surprise that these handful of witnesses weren't going to comply with the subpoena. But in the last several weeks House Democrats have interviewed a number of people here.
The closed-door testimony part of this, part of the impeachment inquiry is starting to wind down a little bit and that takes us to the next phase where things do become public, that the public will have a chance to hear directly from a lot of these witnesses and have a chance for House Democrats to make their case about why -- about the inquiry, why the president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
It's the timetable is still a concern right now, but I think that this is really going to be a key point for Democrats to just continue making their case to the public.
BOLDUAN: And, Ross, Trump pushing once again to have the identity of the whistleblower revealed. I mean, this may be just, I don't know, Monday's attempt at distraction. He may call for this until he's blue in the face, but is there really anything he can do about it when it comes to the whistleblower's identity?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The big question with the whistleblower, what, if anything, does the whistleblower add? We heard from direct witnesses.
GARBER: At least the House investigative committee have heard from direct witnesses. We haven't heard from them yet. But we expect that to happen very soon. What if anything does the whistleblower add?
What we hear from the president's people, I think, well, the whistleblower talked to the direct witnesses, so he or she might have information about what those witnesses said, whether they're being consistent, whether they said anything else that wasn't in the whistleblower's report.
At this point, it seems to me very unlikely that the whistleblower will testify because the House Democrats control the process. But --
BOLDUAN: Yes but -- go ahead, go ahead.
GARBER: Yes, the big "but" is if articles of impeachment are passed, then the process moves to the Senate where the Senate Republicans control things, and the president, at that point, will probably have more influence over them, we may see, if we get to that, the whistleblower testify.
BOLDUAN: But, Sam, bouncing off of Ross, there are now -- I feel like at this point we have been past the whistleblower's complaint for quite some time. I mean, we're now -- I mean, just off the top of my head this morning I counted at least five current and former Trump administration officials who have corroborated in substance and tone elements of what was in the whistleblower's complaint.
But the fact that the president of the United States is -- this isn't just Donald Trump, private citizen, saying Russia if you can find some emails, this is the president of the United States saying let's oust somebody who is legally protected. And there are good reasons why whistleblowers have these protections. But he's saying this from the Twitter feed to the White House?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. This is a president, by the way, who has used U.S. government resources allegedly in the past to do his political dirty work. So I have real concerns about what's happening behind the scenes.
You asked Ross about what he could do to try to out the whistleblower.
VINOGRAD: I have real concerns about that based upon his past behavior.
Calling for the whistleblower to testify or for his or her identity to be revealed, Kate, it's a stalling mechanism. As Ross and you just laid out, we already have corroboration with respect to the whistleblower's account.
Let's focus on what's happening today. NSC lawyers, who are paid by taxpayers to uphold the Constitution, are bucking the system of checks and balances in the constitution. We have witnesses from the White House refusing to comply with subpoenas and refusing to testify as part of a constitutional process.
That is what the president, I think, wants to distract away from as well as his potential role in all these activities. The whistleblower is a distraction tactic because he knows that the
people on the witness slate, OMB officials, lawyers, potentially John Bolton, are at such a high rank that they would have had direct communication with him about the specific activities that the whistleblower initially alleged and wrote about -- excuse me -- complained about and they don't want that process to move forward.
Seung Min, you also been reporting from the weekend that also become a target of the president, reporting that there's a growing number of Republican Senators who are ready to say or coalescing around the idea of the new defense being there was a quid pro quo but that it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. The president was not happy about it.
But if this is what they're settling on, when are Republicans going to start laying that out?
KIM: For now, they're staying mostly quiet. A lot of Senate Republicans have used the line that they are going to be technically jurors in a Senate impeachment trial so they don't want to talk about that too much yet. Others are out there defending the president.
But for now, Senate Republicans are caught in a very difficult position. Several of them are. You have the president out there wanting Republicans, his allies on Capitol Hill, to defend him on the substance of what is going on.
KIM: But the problem for Republicans is the substance is a tricky thing to defend, which is why you've seen growing number of Republican Senators kind of coalesce around this, maybe there was a quid pro quo but it's not an impeachable offense. The question -- it happens all the time in U.S. foreign policy.
The question there, according to this private lunch that we got read outs of, did the president have a criminal intent to do something corrupt? For now, they think that's not the case. That's the case they're trying to make to the public. But it can be a very difficult argument to make.
]And a lot of other Republicans, who have heard this argument growing in recent days, are alarmed. This is the exact kind of argument that acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, got in so much hot water for --
KIM: -- just a couple of weeks ago when he made that case in front of the White House press corps and had to walk it back.
Obviously, the president himself is not going to be happy with this argument because he, himself, has said over and over, in that perfect call, there was no quid pro quo and that's the case, get over it.
BOLDUAN: It's just going to be repeated over and over again from Mick Mulvaney.
Really quick, if I could, let me get Sam and Ross if I could get you both in.
Now, Sam, we have the attorney of the whistleblower saying they would be happy to answer questions from Republicans if they're in writing. Of course, we can get to the president's -- what is it --
BOLDUAN: I think that's a word for it when he says written answers are not acceptable. That is a wild thing for him to be laying out. He blows through presidential norms all the time, but just like that kind of boldface -- it's OK -- it was fine for me but not for you is pretty remarkable.
VINOGRAD: That's exactly right. I call this is the double-standard diet. President Trump does things and says that others should not follow his lead.
But again, Kate, the macro point here, the whistleblower is a distraction. Senate Republicans, Republicans and the president are going to fixate on the whistleblower, getting the whistleblower to come testify because this is the best that they can focus on.
It's a red herring at this point. We have other witnesses and we have corroboration but expect to see more of it because it's the only game that they have right now.
BOLDUAN: At the risk of going against all the advice that Sam is giving me to get off of it, Ross, what do you think of the offer from the attorneys on this?
GARBER: Yes. There's -- I can't imagine it's going to be accepted. You know, the president and Republicans are going to say, we need the whistleblower's actually testimony. We need to see him or her, judge their credibility. We need to find out if there's something that the other witnesses told the whistleblower, something else we don't know.
And they're going to say there's no way you're going to be able to find that out from answers to written questions as, in part, we know from the president's answers to the written questions where we didn't really learn that much, right?
Great to see you guys. Thank you all so much. Really appreciate it.
Coming up for us still, as the impeachment inquiry moves toward a public phase, House Democrats are back home in their districts. What are they hearing from their constituents when it comes to impeachment at this point? One Democrat from key swing district joins us, next.
BOLDUAN: Quick update now to the breaking news from the top of the show. The attorney for President Trump is now responding to this appeals court decision in New York that struck another blow to the president's argument he shouldn't be forced to turn over tax returns as part of a grand jury investigation.
Jay Sekulow, the attorney for the president, weighing in on the ruling this way, "The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court."
So he's confirming they're going to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, as was thought.
Jay Sekulow going on to say, the issue raised in this case - "The issues raised in this case go to the heart of our republic. The constitutional issues are significant."
We'll bring you updates on that very big ruling that came in just today.
Back to the impeachment inquiry, as it enters week seven and move toward a new public phase, several new polls continue to show Americans remain deeply divided on this very issue.
Here's one from FOX News on the question of should President Trump be impeached and removed from office, 49 percent said yes, 45 percent say no. Again, a deeply divided country on this question.
Here was the president's reaction to that this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In several recent polls, more Americans want you to be impeached and removed from office --
TRUMP: You're reading the wrong polls.
TRUMP: Let me just tell you --
TRUMP -- I have the real polls. I have the real polls. The CNN polls are fake. The FOX polls have always been lousy. I tell them they ought to get themselves a new pollster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So what does this all mean on the ground as lawmakers are now home in their districts this week?
Joining me right now is Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, of Pennsylvania. She sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the committees that have been leading the inquiry.
Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.
REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): Thank you for having me.
BOLDUAN: You were among some of the last of the Democrats in the House to get in a place of supporting the impeachment inquiry. What are you hearing now that you're home in your district once again in the midst of this?
HOULAHAN: Sure. You're absolutely right. The polls reflect what's going on here in our community. I think about half of our community is in support of impeachment proceedings or inquiry, and the other half probably is not yet there.
But what's interesting, in a recent poll of Pennsylvanians, an important state obviously to this conversation, only about a quarter of them had any real information about the Ukrainian situation at all. They were basing it on not-perfect information.
I'm very, very grateful we're moving forward to an impeachment investigation or inquiry more transparent for the people to understand what it is that we have been seeing through the testimony in the closed-door settings.
BOLDUAN: As we have seen in basically every poll and as you're saying you're seeing on the ground when it comes to impeachment that the country is deeply divided, does that need to change before you decide whether or not you support impeachment in the end?
HOULAHAN: Well, I think that I am -- my job is to represent my community. My job is to listen and learn as much as I possibly can about the actions of the president and people surrounding him and understand what sort, if any, crimes that were committed, crimes or misdemeanors and make that decision very, very soberly and somberly.
Because it's an incredibly enormous responsibility that the people in my community have given me the opportunity to have.
BOLDUAN: Do you, though, think that public phase of this is going to be a difference maker here when it comes to your decision or specifically folks back in your district? Do you think having it in public is going to change their view?
HOULAHAN: I do believe so, yes. I think that what's really important is that the proceedings that have been going on so far have been with the right people at the right place.
I have had the opportunity to sit in on some of them and to read some of the transcripts. What's important for people to know is about 100 of us have had that opportunity to do that. Both sides had equal amount of time to be able to listen. Both sides had lawyers president to represent them.
But right now, it really definitely needs to get out to the public so the public can hear the same words that I've been hearing for the last seven weeks.
BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, that is an important point. You have been -- you've heard the words. You've heard the interviews. And you were -- you have also been in a place of if true, then it would be impeachable. That was at the core of your very big statement that you made along with other lawmakers when you wrote that opinion piece in the "Washington Post" back in September.
So from what you have heard, has the president committed an impeachable offense?
HOULAHAN: Well, it seems to me that the original allegations, a sitting president talking about a future election, withholding congressionally mandated dollars from an ally of ours in exchange for possible dirt on his future opponent, if all of those things are true, and largely the testimony I heard has corroborated that, then we really do have something that's very, very serious and grave.
This means that the people cannot make the decision in 2020. The votes will not necessarily be the decision of the people. Instead, they will be compromised possibly.
BOLDUAN: So, Congresswoman, are you in a place of he should be impeached -- he should be impeached at this point then?
HOULAHAN: I very much want the people of our communities and commonwealths and country to see what it is I have seen. I think it is deeply disturbing.
BOLDUAN: Do you think they will be in a place of supporting impeachment when they see it? I hear -- what I almost hear is you're there but you're not -- you're not there until -- you won't -- you won't be there publicly until you can convince members of your district?
HOULAHAN: This is a deeply destructive process. It really will divide, has already divided our nation in a very dangerous way. I don't take that light-heartedly.
So I really do want people to make sure that, with an open mind, are listening to what it is I have heard as well, making their own decisions. And I will be making the decision on behalf of my community for them as well, if and when, we come to articles of impeachment.
BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming in. It's always really important --
HOULAHAN: You're very welcome. BOLDUAN: -- to hear the temperature of what you're hearing and taking the temperature of what you're hearing back in your district, a swing, very key district in the last election in this.
Thanks so much.
HOULAHAN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, writer, E. Jean Carroll, who accused President Trump of sexual assault, is speaking out again this morning. This time, she is trying to take the president to court. What is she saying now? That's next.