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Transcripts of Key Testimony Released In Impeachment Probe; Big Loss For President Trump As Fight Over His Tax Returns Now Heads To The United States Supreme Court; Columnist Accusing Trump Of Rape Sues Him For Defamation. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 4, 2019 - 14:00 ET
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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being here. Here's the breaking news in this Impeachment Inquiry today, as four witnesses scheduled to be deposed today are no shows. We are learning the exact words of two witnesses who were among the first to be interviewed.
The House Intelligence Committee just released transcripts of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out of her job in May and Michael McKinley who quit as senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, partially because of the way Ambassador Yovanovitch was treated.
So Democrats are pointing out multiple key revelations here and all these excerpts and this entire transcript they've released, we've got the timeline here and how early former Ambassador Yovanovitch was aware of Rudy Giuliani's interference in the U.S. policy with Ukraine.
So it was actually November to December of last year when she said she first heard about it and not from the United States, but from Ukrainian officials. Then fast forward in February of this year, Yovanovitch mentions the concern of a Ukrainian Minister about Ukraine getting involved in U.S. politics and investigating the Biden's.
And then I just wanted to highlight this excerpt for you that was highlighted by the Democrats who obviously have the majority on this committee on Yovanovitch's reaction when she was actually mentioned on that July 25th phone call between the President and his counterpart in Ukraine, and it actually begins with a question from the Democrats' lawyer.
So quote, "Also on Page 4 at the top, President Trump said, 'The former Ambassador from the United States, the woman was bad news and the people she was dealing with in Ukraine were bad news. So I just want to let you know that.' Do you see that? She responds, yes."
"What was your reaction when you saw that?" She says, "Again, I hate to be repetitive, but I was shocked. I mean, I was very surprised that President Trump would, first of all, that I would feature repeatedly in a Presidential phone call. But secondly, that the President would speak about me or any Ambassador in that way to a foreign counterpart."
"Question: At the bottom of the same page, President Trump says, quote, 'Well, she's going to go through some things,' quote. What did you understand that to mean?" And she says, "I didn't know what it meant. I was very concerned. I still am."
And then the question, "Did you feel threatened?" And her one word response? "Yes."
CNN's Evan Perez and Manu Raju are with me now with all things transcript today coming out of Washington. So Evan, let me start with you. You've been going through these transcripts, and Michael McKinley. Let's stop there, who as I mentioned was this top advisor to Mike Pompeo, had concerns about bullying his word against himself and others at the State Department. Tell me more about that.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. I mean, keep in mind, again, you're talking of someone who is very close to Mike Pompeo who is quitting, essentially because of what he is witnessing watching before -- come out essentially before his very eyes.
And he says that at three different occasions, he brought up the idea for Secretary Pompeo and for the State Department to publicly issue some statement of support for Ambassador Yovanovitch and certainly to back her up against these allegations that were being made by Rudy Giuliani and some people in Ukraine who were viewed as corrupt and essentially got no response, got nowhere with that.
I'll read your part of what he says, quote, "The timing of my resignation ..." This is back in September. He said, "The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure in my view of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in this Impeachment Inquiry, and second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives."
He is talking of course of Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker, who were going around helping Rudy Giuliani with this shadow policy on Ukraine and I'll read you another part of it where -- a part of the deposition. He is asked the following question, "I think you've also said that part of the reason why you decided to resign was that you couldn't be blind to what was happening and what was happening was efforts to use the State Department to dig up dirt on a political opponent, is that fair, as well?"
McKinley responds, "That is fair. And if I can underscore, in 37 years in the Foreign Service in different parts of the globe, and working on many controversial issues, working 10 years back in Washington, I have never seen that."
You can see why he is one of the important witnesses, Brooke that has been -- that have been brought for depositions. And you can also see a little bit of what -- you know, certainly we were trying to figure out why he resigned. And now we can see in his own words, why was it that he decided he had to go.
BALDWIN: Yes. And so that is Michael McKinley, Manu, over to you on Marie Yovanovitch and what we highlighted off the top is the timeline, right? How far back the concern over the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani and this shadow foreign policy was happening back to February and that it was Ukraine that was first concerned.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and she made it very clear that she raised concerns about Giuliani's efforts to the State Department, and she said it was not clear what the State Department did. She was also of course, targeted by Rudy Giuliani and his associates in what she refers to as a smear campaign of sorts to try to get her out from the post.
She pushed back, tried to retain and stay in the position. She says she was very concerned about pressure. She was being told from the President on down to get her out of that position. And at the same time, she was aware of those efforts by Rudy Giuliani to push the Ukrainian government to investigate the President's political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as the 2016 election.
And you said it, she learned about this from the Ukrainian officials. She refers to a discussion she had with the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov and she says this and according to the transcript, she was asked, "What were his concerns as expressed to you?" And Yovanovitch responds, "He thought it was - so he thought it was very dangerous. That Ukraine since its independence, has had bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans all these years. And that to start kind of getting into U.S. politics, and to U.S. domestic politics was a dangerous place for Ukraine to be."
Now she was asked then, "Why did he think ..." as in the Ukrainian Minister, "Why did he think he would be getting into U.S. domestic politics by speaking with Mr. Giuliani?" Yovanovitch responds, "Well, because - well, he told me that but because of what you had mentioned before, the issue of the Black Ledger, Mr. Manafort's resignation from the Trump campaign as a result, and looking into that, and how did all of that come about; the issue of whether, you know, it was Russia collusion, or whether it was really Ukraine collusion, and you know, looking forward to the 2020 election campaign, and whether this would somehow hurt former Vice President Biden, I think he felt that it was just very dangerous terrain for another country to be in."
So she makes very clear what Rudy Giuliani was up to, the push for these investigations. Her concerns were being raised, and then essentially her being ousted after this campaign was being waged against her by Rudy Giuliani, his associates, the President himself raising her name and criticizing her on that phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine.
So you're getting a behind the scenes look at exactly what went on, and we're also getting a behind the scenes look of how these depositions are taking place, Brooke. Republicans complain a lot about the process, including behind closed doors in these depositions.
But President Trump has said they have not been allowed to ask questions. He said that repeatedly. It's pretty clear on these depositions, they were able to ask questions, equal amount of questions along with Democratic staff and Democratic members.
So both sides are getting the questions and he is pushing what they believe was most important out of here, but no doubt about it, Marie Yovanovitch is clear she was concerned about this effort to push her out from the President on down.
BALDWIN: Yes, gentlemen, thank you so much. I know for all of you watching at home, this is a lot. But it's important to get into all of the details here before all of this Impeachment Inquiry goes public.
Let's get some analysis. Gloria Borger, CNN's chief legal analyst and attorney Paul Callan is a CNN legal analyst. And so let me pick up, Gloria with you and just what Manu was throwing down there off the top. Just -- I want to just hammer home this point about the timeline, right?
So everybody knows about July 25th. Right? That was when Trump talked to Zelensky, but it goes back to at least February when there were these concerns about Giuliani's role here, and the fact that the concerns came from Ukraine. How significant is this?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's incredibly significant because you have a foreign country being asked to do Donald Trump's political dirty work, and they were uncomfortable with it, and she was clearly uncomfortable with it.
And in the big picture here, if you take a step back, the big picture here is that you see a foreign policy that has been hijacked by the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani doing the President's bidding, trying to get people in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden, and peddling these kind of conspiracy theories that have been debunked over and over and over again and a President who clearly is willing to jump his Ambassador, throw her under the bus, a Secretary of State who was spoken to three times by Mr. McKinley who worked directly for him saying, can you give her some support here? And Pompeo did not even when he knew that what they were trying to do was obviously not in keeping with what official American foreign policy was.
So you have this kind of rogue Giuliani acting on behalf of the President hijacking what is official policy and hijacking money approved by taxpayers that is supposed to go to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.
BALDWIN: To your point and everything, Giuliani, I want to stay on this. Paul, this is for you. So Yovanovitch stated that the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, this Avakov warned her that he was quote, "very concerned" about Mr. Giuliani and quote, "told me," Yovanovitch," ... I really needed to watch my back." And Yovanovitch first learned from Ukrainian officials about Giuliani's attempts to damage her reputation.
So doesn't this show as more and more details come out, as this goes public that Giuliani is at the center of the storm?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, Giuliani is absolutely at the center of the storm. He is the Minister without portfolio that's negotiating foreign policy in Ukraine, for one purpose: to dig up dirt on the President's political opponents.
And even Ukrainian officials are deeply suspicious of this and worried about it.
CALLAN: Because they're trying to pursue a bipartisan foreign policy that is they know they might have to deal with a Democratic President in the future and to be doing the dirty work for Giuliani is something they find to be very, very disturbing. And I think this is going to be very damaging.
BALDWIN: Are there legal implications of the State Department allowing him to do this?
CALLAN: Well, I think, from a legal standpoint, there's -- is this in aiding and abetting in the theory that a bribe was really being offered to the Ukrainians? That being, we will continue to give you your $400 million in military aid if you investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.
Now was Giuliani complicit in aiding and abetting that? Did officials at the State Department not like Yovanovitch, she was completely straightforward and honest. But did they aid and abet in that process?
BORGER: And --
BALDWIN: Yes, go ahead, Gloria.
BORGER: I just want to add one more thing, which was kind of stunning to me. I mean, you have this portrait of this woman, who is a career Foreign Service officer, who suddenly finds herself in the middle of this onslaught with her reputation being publicly shattered.
BORGER: And she can't figure out why. And she goes to Ambassador Sondland and says to him, well, what should I do about this? I'm just trying to figure out how can I fight back? How can I handle this? And his answer to her was, you know, you need to go big or go home.
BALDWIN: Go big or go home. Tweet support.
BORGER: You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the President, and that all of these are lies and everything else. So his response to her was to tweet. Shocking.
BALDWIN: I just read "The New York Times" piece on how many tweets. What is it? Eleven thousand plus now coming from this President and that's what they're -- that's how they're rolling.
I want to move on. We read this section of the transcript off the top where basically the picture is painted. She is this career diplomat, the point you just made, you know, apolitical, raised her hand to serve and then you know, she said something that clearly was perceived as wrong and she got yanked.
And you point out the go big or go home tweet. You know, I have to imagine the Democrats were really intentional that it was her transcript they wanted to, you know, release first. She could very well come back to testify publicly. Why is her perspective key?
BORGER: I think because she is in many ways a victim here of this entire policy. This is a woman who was doing her job, was trying to sort of implement American foreign policy, promote American business interests as she pointed out.
And at every turn, she was met with this wall of which said, you know, you're in trouble here. You've got problems here and then suddenly she was yanked and had to go home and couldn't figure out why.
So she is an important part of the story. When you look at American foreign policy, how the Secretary of State behaved in regards to her predicament, her superior in Washington, McKinley quit over this, because she was offered no support.
So I think she tells the narrative in a very important way, and then you'll be able to hear it from Fiona Hill, from the Washington point of view inside the White House, inside the National Security and Russia team apparatus, so I think they're doing the circle from outside, from the victim to inside the White House.
CALLAN: Can I just --
BALDWIN: Quickly. Yes.
CALLAN: Can I just add to what Gloria was saying, you're undermining American foreign policy worldwide with this as well. This demonstrates that he will not back up a seasoned professional, and he is just pursuing foreign policy for his own agenda, and that's going to be a big theme, I think as impeachment goes forward.
BALDWIN: Yes. And this is day one of getting these transcripts. There are more to come tomorrow. And then of course, this whole thing is going public. Gloria and Paul, thank you.
CALLAN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: We have more breaking news right now, a big loss for President Trump means the fight over his tax returns now heads to the United States Supreme Court.
BALDWIN: Plus, continued attacks on this whistleblower show you just how much the President is changing his tune when it comes to this whistleblower submitting written answers. Why? Apparently, that's not okay.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Just days after President Trump faced a full House vote approving an impeachment investigation, Trump is hit with two more legal blows today and one of them could head all the way to the Supreme Court.
An Appeals Court ruling that despite several attempts, the President cannot keep his finances under wraps and that his accounting firm needs to hand over those tax returns requested by the Manhattan DA's office. Local prosecutors are investigating whether those hush money payments made to a "Playboy" model and an adult film actress violated state laws.
And the President is also facing a defamation lawsuit that this Monday filed by E. Jean Carroll, the longtime advice columnist for "Elle" magazine, who claimed that Trump raped her back in the 1990s. Trump blasted the allegations saying it was totally false and that he had never met her.
Kara Scannell is with me along with David Cay Johnston. He is an investigative reporter who has authored multiple books on the President, including, "It's Even Worse than You Think: What the Trump Administration is doing to America." So welcome to both of you, and Kara, first, just on the reporting point. So it's a victory for New York today, but longer term, this presumably goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. When would anyone ever get their hands on these tax returns?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Right. It's a short term victory with the Appeals Court today saying that the President has no immunity to block the District Attorney's Office subpoenaing a third party, which in this case, is his accountants for his tax returns.
But Vance's office and Trump already knew that this was going to be an issue - that they would not let rest until at least it went to the Supreme Court. So in advance of even the oral arguments before the Appeals Court, they made an agreement that after today's ruling whenever it came down, which is we've got now that Vance would not seek to enforce the subpoena for 10 days. That gives Trump's team time to make an appeal to the Supreme Court.
But to do that, Trump's team agree that they would appeal this term. So that means they want to get it on the court's calendar this term. They can't push it off further into the future.
But even in that matter, now the question will be, Trump's team will file an appeal to the Supreme Court that will seek cert, which means they're going to ask the court if they will hear it. The court will either decide to hear the case or not hear the case and that's --
BALDWIN: What if they don't?
SCANNELL: So if they don't, this is part of this deal that Vance has with the Trump's, then Vance's team would move to enforce the subpoena. So those are kind of the two points whichever one comes first.
SCANNELL: But that will set the timeline for how then Vance's office could get Trump's tax returns.
BALDWIN: Okay. And then David, over to you and I mentioned this momentarily, just -- can you remind people watching just about those hush money payments? I know it seems forever ago and why prosecutors want to get their hands on Trump's tax returns?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, the investigation is much broader than those two items. But Donald Trump paid hush money payments to these two women. Were they properly treated on his tax returns or improperly?
Michael Cohen says they were handled as payments to him to disguise their purpose. And so there can be a tax crime in there and that can be election law crimes and other crimes, but asking for eight years of not just as tax returns, but the business records behind them, indicates that they are doing a broad look at Trump, his family and the Trump Organization's tax filings and business practices.
BALDWIN: Why are the business records behind them also important?
JOHNSTON: Well, the tax return is just the starting point for an audit and an investigation. But the tax returns are also important in this case, because in a previous case of one of the two income tax fraud trials Trump had and lost, he filed a tax return that was not the one prepared by his accountant, his accountant at the time.
And his accountant was the witness against him. He testified that yes, that's my signature, it was put onto the photocopy machine, but we didn't prepare that tax return. That's known in the tax world is a badge of fraud, and they're going to be looking to see if the tax returns that Mazur's, the accounting firm has match up with what was given to state authorities in Albany.
BALDWIN: Okay. And then the other point of this, David, is that, you know, the President's team claims that he has this immunity, absolute immunity from criminal probes. But the Appeals Court ruled that since his accounting firm, Mazur's, as you mentioned, was sued and not the President himself, that that argument isn't valid.
And I'm curious, just as a tax wonk as you are, could this provide a roadmap for others who may sue to get access to Trump documents in the future? Go after the entity and not the individual? JOHNSTON: Well, going after the third party entity was a smart move
here, but it has been the law in this country since Thomas Jefferson, that a President can't use his privileges and immunities to fight a subpoena like this. So there's nothing new here.
Trump doesn't have any argument as a matter of law, something I'm going to spend a whole session with my law students at Syracuse University on this spring.
BALDWIN: Sign up. We've got a lot to talk about. Kara and David, thank you both so very much. We will stay on this one.
BALDWIN: Meantime, President Trump continues to call for the unmasking of the whistleblower. We'll talk to another whistleblower in this country about why these threats are so incredibly dangerous.
Plus, the President says written answers from the whistleblower are not acceptable, even though it was apparently fine when he did it for the Mueller report. Let's discuss that. Coming up.