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CNN NEWSROOM

More Than A Million People Displaced in Ukraine; Mueller Background Notes and Interviews Released; Higher Court Upholds Release of Trump Tax Returns. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 4, 2019 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[10:32:21]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, welcome back. So the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is primarily focused right now on that now-infamous July 25th phone call that he had with the president of Ukraine.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And here's a key question here, because it has consequences. Was nearly $400 million of military and security aid held up for political gain? This is still to be determined. But what's sometimes lost in all of this is the very real, the very dire situation on the ground in Ukraine, which is at war with Russia. Thousands of people have died, they need this aid.

HARLOW: Our Clarissa Ward went to the front lines to see the impact of this war. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the front line of Ukraine's war with Russia, conditions are basic and the enemy is near. This position? Just 600 yards from Russian-backed separatists. Soldiers stand guard in dirt trenches, reminiscent of the First World War.

Commander Pavel Sergeevich tells us one of this men was shot dead by a sniper, 10 days ago. He says Ukraine needs all the help it can get.

PAVEL SERGEEVICH, COMMANDER, UKRAINE MARINES: (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN)

WARD: So he's saying that when he heard the news that President Trump had frozen the military aid, he was unhappy because he says America is our most important, our strongest ally.

WARD (voice-over): That aid was released in September, but the temporary freeze left a chill.

The nearest village, Shyrokyne, used to be a popular seaside resort. Now, there are no people left, just devastation. Even the church was hit. In war, nothing is sacred. WARD: After five long years, the world's attention has basically

moved on from Ukraine. But the war here is not over yet, and Ukraine is still very much dependent on the support of the U.S.

WARD (voice-over): Ukrainian Marine Alexander (ph) shows us what is left of the local school. It was destroyed by Russian artillery at the start of the war. It will be 10 years before people can come back, he says. All this territory needs to be de-mined. But that process can't even begin until the fighting stops.

WARD: Our guide has asked us now to put on our helmets because, apparently, the separatists have actually been using drones to drop ordinates (ph) on some of the soldiers here.

WARD (voice-over): Alexander (ph) says it's time to move on, concerned we may have been spotted.

[10:35:00]

We push further north to the mining town of Torez (ph). Once under the control of Russian-backed separatists, it was taken back by the Ukrainian army in a bitter battle in July 2014.

TERESA FILMON, AMERICAN CHARITY WORKER: You can now see the flames shooting out of the top of the building.

WARD (voice-over): Teresa Filmon watched it all from her home. The Florida native runs a Christian charity called His Kids Too, and has lived here for many years.

FILMON: I mean, we were shelled for days on end. And, you know, I would go to sleep and I'd literally just lay there and just say, God protect me.

WARD (voice-over): During the worst of the fighting, she would bring home-cooked meals to Ukrainian troops on the front lines.

FILMON: So when you start knowing those people and putting a face -- putting a name and a face together, I mean, I have friends that were killed. It's not -- I'm not going to minimize this.

WARD: Were you aware of the fact that the White House had temporarily frozen military aid to Ukraine? And what was your reaction?

FILMON: Probably frustration. Because as far as I'm concerned, we're in a David and Goliath situation, that we are outmanned and outgunned.

WARD (voice-over): That hasn't slowed Filmon down. Her days are a blur of activity, distributing food to the needy and displaced. Across this country, more than a million people have been forced from their homes.

Like pensioner Yelena Salvaeva. She was hit by shrapnel while picking tomatoes in her garden. She fled, and has been living in this care home ever since. What can I do? I can never go back, she says. It's five years since we left. Like so many here, Yelena no longer cares who wins this war.

WARD: So you just want peace, you just want an end to the war?

WARD (voice-over): Ukraine's president is trying to make that happen, but peace is best negotiated from a position of strength. And having the U.S. as an ally is key.

In the west of the country, far from the front lines, Ukrainian forces carry out military exercises under the watchful eye of their American trainer.

MATTHEW CHAPMAN, CAPTAIN, U.S. ARMY: Like, they'll be engaging targets and shooting.

WARD (voice-over): Captain Matthew (ph) Chapman (ph) has been working with this unit for two months.

WARD: Can I ask what your reaction was when you heard that military aid had been frozen to Ukraine?

CHAPMAN: Personally, I don't pay attention to U.S. domestic foreign policy or politics while I'm here. We are solely focused on the mission at hand.

WARD: And it didn't create an awkward atmosphere at all with your Ukrainian fellow soldiers?

CHAPMAN: It has not even come up in conversation with our O.C.s.

WARD (voice-over): His Ukrainian counterpart agrees.

NAZAR SHPAK, LIEUTENANT, UKRAINE ARMY: You know, I don't like to speak about politics. My mission and my main role is to protect my land, my country. That's all I want and it's all I know for myself.

WARD: Do you believe that America is an ally Ukraine can rely upon?

SHPAK: Completely yes, completely yes.

WARD (voice-over): Privately, some Ukrainian soldiers admit to feeling uneasy. They fear that the White House's fickle behavior may strengthen Russia's position. But all agree that, with or without America's help, they have no choice but to continue this fight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WARD: When you talk to Ukrainian soldiers and also civilians, there's a sense that this isn't just about winning the war. This is about trying to win the peace. And for that, they also say they need the support of the U.S. They need the leverage that having the U.S.' support gives them at the negotiating table when it comes to sitting down with someone like President Vladimir Putin -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Remarkable reporting.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Great to have her on the ground.

HARLOW: Yes. Clarissa Ward, thank you very much.

[10:39:01]

Coming up for us, CNN has obtained hundreds of pages of notes and e- mails from the Mueller probe. What do they reveal? That's next.

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SCIUTTO: For the first time, we're getting a behind-the-scenes look at Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

HARLOW: That's right. CNN has obtained 270 pages-plus, including extensive detailed notes and e-mails of the Mueller team's interviews with President Trump's campaign officials. They're giving us a clearer picture of the steps taken to gain access or try to gain access to those stolen Democratic e-mails from WikiLeaks in 2016.

SCIUTTO: Of course, stolen by Russia with the intention of influencing a presidential election. CNN's Jessica Schneider, she's here with more. Jessica, you know, beyond Mueller's somewhat muddled conclusions on bigger-picture issues, this evidence behind it taught us a lot.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we're seeing this document dump bit by bit here. And in this -- what we've seen over the weekend, we can see that the president and other top campaign officials repeatedly discussed, during the campaign, how to get those stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks. That's all according to these interview notes we're seeing from Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chairman at the time.

Gates, of course, was cooperating and he told Mueller's team that then-candidate Trump said, quote, "Get the e-mails," when he was on board his campaign plane. And that Michael Flynn, who of course later became the short-lived national security advisor, said that he could use his intelligence sources to help get those e-mails.

[10:45:05]

So Gates talked about how Flynn had the most Russian contacts, and also how Trump's advisors and family members, as well as Trump himself, really pushed this effort to get those stolen e-mails.

Of course, we saw that the Mueller report exposed how the Trump campaign was in fact interested in getting the hacked documents from WikiLeaks. But really, guys, these interview notes, now obtained by us, CNN, shows really a much more in-depth effort and how this was a constant subject of communication and talk in the campaign, for those -- for those few months in 2016.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Clearly a priority, yes.

HARLOW: Yes. And, Jess, in these 270-plus pages, Paul Manafort is mentioned a lot. What's the significance about that? SCHNEIDER: Yes. And they detail how Paul Manafort really pushed that conspiracy theory, way back in 2016, that it was the Ukrainians who hacked the DNC computers during the campaign, rather, of course, than the conclusion from U.S. intelligence that it was in fact the Russians.

So what we're seeing in these documents, these interview notes, putting it this way, saying "Gates" -- who was Rick Gates -- "recalled Manafort saying the hack was likely carried out by the Ukrainians, not the Russians." And this, of course, is a conspiracy theory that the president has been pushing publicly. It was a big part of that July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president, and of course that is all the heart of the impeachment inquiry now --

HARLOW: Right.

SCHNEIDER: The documents really also unveiled how involved Paul Manafort was in the campaign, even past when he left in August 2016, and then how Steve Bannon warned that they should avoid Manafort's influence.

In one e-mail in particular, he wrote to Jared Kushner, "We need to avoid this guy like the plague. They're going to try and say" -- probably the opposition -- "the Russians worked with WikiLeaks to give this victory to us. Paul is a nice guy but can't let word get out he is advising us."

So we're seeing a lot of the inner workings of the campaign, revealed in these documents, guys. And you know, a lot revealed about what they were pushing for, including the Ukrainian conspiracy theory back in 2016.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, for three years and up to today, the president pursuing a conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact, and it's still out there. Jessica Schneider --

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- thanks very much.

President Trump said the ISIS leader killed in a U.S. raid spent his last moments whimpering -- Trump's words -- but top defense officials do not confirm that detail. That's raising new questions. We're going to have a live report from the Pentagon, next.

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[10:52:15]

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. A crucial court ruling in the case of President Trump's tax returns as they relate to an ongoing New York State investigation. Kara Scannell has been following the story. Looks like a loss for President Trump, but perhaps not a final one?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Jim. I mean, this opinion just landed a few moments ago. And this is about whether the district attorney in New York County could get Donald Trump's tax returns. This is something that they have sought from Trump's accountant, and they want eight years of records of his tax returns, into (ph) his personal and business conduct.

So the president had moved to squash this subpoena, effectively --

HARLOW: Right.

SCANNELL: -- and what the appeals court -- so the district court, the first-level court had said that the president couldn't block this. And then -- so the president appealed. And so this decision that just came out now says that the president does not have blanket immunity -- which he had argued --

HARLOW: Right.

SCANNELL: -- for any state grand jury investigation, and that includes this subpoena for his tax returns.

Now, the judge is very clear on that, completely affirming the lower court's decision. But says he's going to send it back to the lower court in case the president wants to argue it further.

But I do want to note that as I was reading this, as we were -- you know, just before air, I mean, the appeals court is saying that, you know, because the president was seeking kind of this injunctive relief, which means, stop it, right? Stop the subpoena?

And that they're saying that they don't think that he's really going to win on the underlying merits, it's very possible that Trump loses this whole battle. But he's giving it back to the district courts, giving them -- the president and his team -- an opportunity to come back and --

HARLOW: With a different argument?

SCANNELL: -- see if (ph) -- with a different argument or a different request for relief. But it does seem like this is going to be a big loss for the president.

HARLOW: And that would then shoot it up to the Supreme Court?

SCANNELL: Yes. I mean, both sides in this, even during the oral arguments two weeks ago before the appeals court, had made it clear -- and the court there, the three judges, even acknowledged, like, this is going to end up before the Supreme Court. So that seems like that would be the next step in this case.

HARLOW: Wow. That's fascinating.

SCIUTTO: Do you have any sense of where the Supreme Court is on this issue, of the president having blanket immunity?

SCANNELL: You know, the courts have previously -- the Supreme Court has previously said that the president does not have immunity from civil investigations. We saw that with Bill Clinton. And then the Monica Lewinsky, and those matters.

They have not weighed in on whether the president is immune from any criminal investigation. Like, let's not forget, the Mueller investigation was a criminal investigation. The president was in the orbit of that. They looked at the question of obstruction of justice.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCANNELL: DOJ, the federal government, you know, sort of works under this guideline that they don't indict a sitting president. But they have never said that they don't investigate --

HARLOW: Look into --

SCIUTTO: Right.

SCANNELL: -- a sitting president. And Mueller in fact, in his report, goes into details about why he was doing it: to preserve evidence while memories were fresh and while documents were available.

SCIUTTO: In case there was one after he left office?

SCANNELL: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Kara Scannell, obviously something we will continue to follow. Appears like a loss for the president.

[10:55:02]

And there's a lot going on today.

HARLOW: Here's "What to Watch."

TEXT: What to Watch... 11:00 a.m. Eastern, Funeral for Rep. John Conyers; 1:30 p.m. Eastern, Washington Nationals at White House; 3:00 p.m. Eastern, Pete Buttigieg Town Hall in Iowa

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HARLOW: All right. Still ahead, several White House officials -- four of them -- supposed to show up today to testify in the impeachment inquiry, four -- all of them -- not showing up. We're on the very latest. Stay right here.

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