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Trump's Changing Stories on Ukraine Call; Trump Tax Fight; Yovanovitch Transcript Released. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 4, 2019 - 15:00   ET



EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the importance of Marie Yovanovitch is that, if there was a crime committed in any of this, she is one of the key witnesses.

She is at the center of it, right, the removal of this ambassador, apparently in retaliation for her work to try to fight corruption in Ukraine. That is one of the important things that I think prosecutors, people at the Justice Department are going to be taking a look at, certainly her deposition that is being released today by the Democrats.

But, as you mentioned, she describes this shadow policy that was being driven by Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, by other people around Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine who were spreading essentially smears, trying to get her out of Ukraine.

And she makes the connection simply to her own efforts that she was making in Ukraine to fight corruption. And so one of the things she talks about is that she learns in November, December of 2018 from Ukrainian officials that Rudy Giuliani and others were going behind her back spreading these stories.

And she says in her deposition that she never actually got anybody from the State Department to approach her and say, are these things that people are saying true or not? She said she had to essentially defend herself behind the scenes.

Nobody ever approached here or asked her about this. She did say, however -- one of the more interesting things that comes out in the definition -- that State Department officials were talking about reaching out to Sean Hannity, the FOX News host, because they saw that he was covering some of the smears against Yovanovitch, and they wanted to try to figure out exactly where those were coming from, whether they were true or not.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let me add to all of this with we have also discovered that Mike Pompeo is directly contradicted by McKinley the issue of the State Department making a public show support for Marie Yovanovitch.

What happened, Evan?

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. In his deposition, he says that there were at least three occasions in which he goes to Mike Pompeo and goes to senior officials to try to press them to put out some kind of public backing of Yovanovitch, to show support for her. And he says that it didn't go anywhere.

That is in contrast to what Mike Pompeo said in an interview on ABC. Take a listen to what he had to say.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, from the time that Ambassador Yovanovitch departed Ukraine until the time that he came to tell me that he was departing, I never heard him say a single thing about his concerns with respect to the decision that was made.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So, you were never asked to put out a...

POMPEO: Not once, not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say something to me during that entire time period.



PEREZ: So now we have Mike Pompeo and Mike McKinley, who was a very close aide -- according to the deposition, they shared essentially a wall there. They could walk into each other's office unannounced, essentially, very close aide to Mr. Pompeo, who resigned in protest because he feels that not enough is being done to provide backing to career diplomats, to what he said was concern that diplomats were being used to carry essentially domestic political gains of the president through foreign policy.

Again, some -- very interesting deposition there from Mike McKinley.

BALDWIN: Yes. And this is just the beginning of it. We're going to continue on.

Evan, thank you so much.

With me now, Kaitlan Collins. She's our CNN White House correspondent. Dana Bash is our CNN chief political correspondent. And Kevin Carroll is a former senior Homeland Security official under Trump and former CIA case officer.

So, so great to have all of you on. I have about a gazillion questions. We will see how many I can get through, starting with just round-robin to -- Dana, starting with you.

You know, your biggest key takeaway from the transcripts.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, that this is the beginning of the sort of realization from the ambassador who was there that there was some, you know, in her words, kind of a shadow foreign policy, a shadow diplomacy going on, and that that was apparently, according to her testimony.

And McKinley sort of backs that up -- is that that is because there was a political interest by Rudy Giuliani and perhaps other allies of the president to align themselves with people in Ukraine who, according to Yovanovitch, effectively were trying to play them, were trying to play them by suggesting that things went on in 2016 that -- in an effort to hurt Donald Trump that did not.

That was my overall takeaway from her, that she felt that she was getting hurt because she didn't go along with that. And she was not going to partake in those political games.

BALDWIN: Kevin, same question to you.

Your big aha in reading all this?


The thing that stood out to me the most was that the transcript read more like grand jury testimony from an organized crime case than your usual congressional hearing testimony.

It was just remarkable. I mean, the ambassador is saying that she's being told by her liaison counterparts that she should watch her back and that something is going to happen to her, the rug is going to be pulled out from under her.


And then, at the end, she's told to catch -- literally, the next thing smoking out of Kiev, to tell a senior U.S. ambassador, career State Department official, you need to be on the next plane out of town, as if she committed criminal misconduct or something like that.

It was really quite incredible to read.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, what about you?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Something really notable was the lack of support that Yovanovitch received from the State Department.

Here she is, when she was still there, this embattled ambassador. And at one point, she testified that she reached out to the State Department after she was being attacked by the president's allies, including his own son Donald Trump Jr., and said she wanted to get a statement of support from them, from the secretary of state, because she wanted the Ukrainians, who were confused, understandably, at the time, to know that she was the one speaking, not only on behalf of Secretary Pompeo, but also the president and the United States.

She testified that, though she reached out for one, she pushed the State Department to issue that statement of support, it never came, because she was told that, after there was discussion amongst senior State Department officials, they were concerned about issuing some kind of statement like that, because, Brooke, they feared that the president would undermine it or undercut that show of support.

She said she didn't know if that would come in a tweet or what form of undermining that would be. But she said that was the fear and that's why that statement of support for her never came.

BALDWIN: Let me stay with you, Kaitlan. You cover the White House for us.

Yovanovitch also said that she heard Mike Pompeo or his senior aides were reaching out to FOX News host Sean Hannity to figure out why he was criticizing her and calling for her removal from Ukraine.

I mean, the State Department had to call Sean Hannity to figure out what was going on in the White House?

COLLINS: Yes, and she doesn't know who it is that reached out to Sean Hannity, but she said there was a call made because Sean Hannity was making these claims, calling for her ouster of that position. And essentially they wanted to know about the allegations he was making about her that he was repeating, wanting to know what they were based in and if he had evidence of them.

And if not, essentially, the advice that she believes he was given was to stop making those claims. She testified to lawmakers that, after that call happened, things simmered down, meaning they kind of relaxed a little bit, the tensions that had been high, that had been escalating, she said.

But it is really notable of the influence that someone like Sean Hannity has on a job of a career ambassador, someone like Marie Yovanovitch, while she's overseas, essentially not knowing whether or not she has the support of the White House.


Dana, to you. I wanted to talk about Republicans here. We know that they have criticized the process. Now you have Democrats releasing these transcripts. And key to watch too is how the Republicans in the room are -- were asking some of these questions, right, when you really go through line by line in these transcripts.

Did they put a dent into this? Did they see something wrong that that was happening vs. something perhaps the president wanted? And so Trump's Republican allies pressed Yovanovitch during her deposition on which presidential candidate she supported in the Ukrainian election this year.

And so Congressmen Meadows and Jordan, two Republicans, seemingly suggesting that she had a political bias. Yovanovitch pushed back, said that she didn't have a dog in the fight, that she was there to represent the interests of the United States.

So what does -- what do those questions tell you about how Republicans view this?

BASH: Yes, that they have been doing in private what they have been doing in public, which is to try to discredit the witnesses, and to make them political figures, as opposed to people serving this country, regardless of party.

So that's one thing that it's clear that they were doing in private, as well as public.

The other thing that Republicans are -- according to -- as we're starting to go through these transcripts, were trying to hone in on are the core questions here. And one of the core questions is a quid pro quo. And did the ambassador at the time, was it her understanding that military aid was being held up because of the political investigation?

And I just want to read a part of the transcript.


BASH: Lee Zeldin asked her the following.

"Are you aware of a policy where aid from the United States to Ukraine was linked to investigating the Bidens?"

Yovanovitch: "No, I'm not. An official policy? There's no official policy."

"Are you aware of an unofficial policy?"

"Well, I mean, reading the texts and so forth made me wonder whether there was an unofficial policy."

So she didn't give him what -- she gave him what he wanted in terms of trying to say for the record there was no official quid pro quo. But she also made clear that there very much could have been, she just wasn't aware of it.

BALDWIN: Let me move to just Mike McKinley's testimony. We focus so much on Yovanovitch.

And, Kevin, this is for you. He testified that there was -- quote -- "no discussion whatsoever, at least in my presence, by senior State Department leadership on what was developing." This is after the whistle-blower account became public.

My question to you is just, how was there no discussion at the senior levels of the State Department?


CARROLL: Brooke, it's very odd.

I read his deposition testimony. And he said that he asked Secretary Pompeo three times about the concerns about the ambassador, and there was no response. He said that he brought to the attention of the senior-most officials in the State Department the memorandum from the deputy assistant secretary which stated that there might have been false statements made to Congress by the State Department, and there was no response to it.

So, what you would have to surmise is that the discussions were going on, but just not with the career officials. They were being kept among the political officials. And they weren't including a career official, like the 37-year veteran Foreign Service officer, Ambassador McKinley.

BALDWIN: Here's my last question.

Dana, I'm just going to come back to you. This is just day one of these transcripts becoming public.

BASH: Exactly.

BALDWIN: These are only two people. There will be two more testimonies, two more transcripts released tomorrow.

It's a lot to take in. It's a lot to take in for all of us, for people watching at home. How do they begin to make sense of this?

BASH: It's going to take time. I mean, each of these transcripts is over 300 pages. It is a lot.

BALDWIN: It is a lot.

BASH: And you made an important point, that these are -- this -- the ambassador and this very important and close aide to the secretary of state who resigned in protest were among the first.

And we haven't even gotten to the people who actually did apparently corroborate the whistle-blower's allegation from the get-go, which is that he -- he did something -- he, the president, did something inappropriate, in his view or her view, which is to ask for political dirt from a foreign leader and then maybe even more importantly, if it happened, held up aid waiting for that.

Those are the transcripts of people apparently corroborating that we are going to hear probably from later this week.

BALDWIN: Dana, Kaitlan, and Kevin, thank you all so much on day one of these transcripts. Stay tuned.

Meantime, more breaking news. President Trump's long fight over releasing his tax returns just suffered a big legal blow today. An appeals court ruled that he cannot keep them secret anymore.

Plus, columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused President Trump of sexual assault, is trying to take him to court -- more on the lawsuit she just filed against the president.

And, also, a head-spinning explanation of the Ukraine call from President Trump, four different defenses, 74 words, all in one day. Do not miss this.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Back in just a moment.



BALDWIN: We're back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. This is CNN.

The president's defense often changes over time, but they rarely change at the head-spinningly fast pace as they did Sunday, when Trump told White House reporters that his July phone call with Ukraine's president was perfect.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And all of those many people that listened to the phone call, why didn't they have a problem with it, because they didn't have -- many people listen to calls between -- I know that.

For instance, the secretary of state, Pompeo, was on the call. Nobody had -- with all of those people, very few people that I know came forward. And they only came forward when you asked.

And some of them are never-Trumpers.


BALDWIN: CNN's Daniel Dale is with me.

And, Daniel, you counted. This response is 74 words' long. He made four separate arguments. And then the last one actually contradicts the first one. Can we parse through this, please?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Brooke, I think we need to.

So this is either the spaghetti strategy, throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, or the president was just making it up as he went along.

So let's go sentence by sentence or clip by clip.


DALE: He was the first part of what Trump said.


TRUMP: And all of those many people that listened to the phone call, why didn't they have a problem with it, because they didn't have -- many people listen to calls between -- I know that.

For instance, the secretary of state, Pompeo, was on the call. Nobody had...


DALE: So, Trump is unequivocal here. A bunch of people were on this call. Pompeo didn't have a problem. Nobody had a problem. He was -- so, 100 percent everything is fine.

Now listen to the second part of what Trump said.


TRUMP: With all of those people, very few people that I know came forward. And they only came forward when you asked.


DALE: So now we have gone from, nobody had a problem to very few people complained about the call. And, oh, by the way, those very few people were prompted by you asking.

It's not clear who you was here.

So we see the shift from the first clip to the second clip.

Now let's listen to the third clip.


TRUMP: And some of them are never-Trumpers.


DALE: OK, so we have gotten from, nobody had a problem with this, to very few people had a problem with this and they were prompted to come forward, to, oh, by the way, the people who did come forward have animosity towards me. They were never-Trumpers.

And so Trump again changes his mind quickly. He changes his defenses quickly. It rarely happens in the span of 74 words, Brooke.


Daniel Dale, a man who dreams in Trumpisms, I am sure, thank you for doing all the hard work.


BALDWIN: Daniel, thank you.


DALE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We will talk again.

Breaking news this afternoon: A court has ruled that the president must turn over his tax returns. And now the fight is likely heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. We will talk about that.

Also, columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused President Trump of rape, is now suing him for defamation. The question we're asking is, does she have a case? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BALDWIN: Once again, President Trump finds himself on the losing end of the battle involving his finances, this time at the hands of a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court.

Just weeks after a federal judge rejected Trump's claim that blanket immunity meant he didn't have to hand over his tax returns in New York investigations, an appeals court agreed.

And now team Trump says the next step will be the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kara Scannell is a CNN reporter. And Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst.

Greetings to both of you.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You, sir.

Let me quote Jay Sekulow, says the Trump administration is taking this to the Supreme Court. He says -- quote -- "The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our republic. The constitutional issues are significant."

What are the constitutional issues here?

JACKSON: Listen, I don't see a constitutional issue.

What I see is an investigatory story subpoenaed by grand jury. That investigatory subpoena, Brooke, was issued in the capacity of the president before he became president. These are private tax returns. The court points that out very clearly.

And that's a major distinction, for two reasons. Number one, we're talking about not a criminal proceeding involving the president. We're talking about an investigation where the president, of course, is involved.

We're also talking about this not relating specifically to the president. He wasn't subpoenaed. A third party that has his tax returns was subpoenaed.

BALDWIN: His accounting firm.

JACKSON: There's no issue of executive privilege here regarding issues that he engaged in, in his executive capacity.

The court also points out that the last six presidents, going back to Carter, have released their tax returns voluntarily. So that's another issue. So all these issues of vast constitutional dimensions really are -- I'm lost on. The other brief thing is that, look, these issues with decided in large measure, right? We had in the Nixon era, 1974, the issue with the tapes, him claiming that, as President Nixon, executive privilege.

Again, this has nothing to do with executive privilege, to be clear. He lost, unanimous vote. And then, of course, we had the Paula Jones issue. And this doesn't even rise to that level, where you're talking about a civil lawsuit or civil conduct, for which -- really private conduct of a president.

And so obviously that's the president's tack. His lawyer has to spin it that way. But I don't think there are these major constitutional issues. I think there are issues where you have a state investigation. They want tax returns, persistent and pursuant to that investigation, and, according to the district judge, and according to now an appellate judge, he needs to provide them.

BALDWIN: So when might the Supreme Court take this up?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, in advance of this hearing, because everyone on both sides agreed this was likely to go to the Supreme Court, no matter how the appeals court came down, Vance's office and Trump had reached an agreement where Vance would not move to enforce the subpoena for 10 days.

That's the window that he would give Trump's lawyers to appeal to the Supreme Court, which they have indicated today with Jay Sekulow that they would. And under this agreement, Trump's team agree that they would seek to have the Supreme Court hear it this term. So that puts it at least on a track for this term coming up.

It can't get pushed out in other year or so. And then from there, Vance's office had agreed that they won't seek to enforce the subpoena until either the Supreme Court agrees that they're going -- that they're not going to hear the case, that they don't think it rises to their level.

Then Vance's office would move. Or if they do agree to hear it, they won't -- Vance's office won't seek to enforce the subpoena until a decision is reached . So we're probably looking that they will not -- it won't become a live issue until next year, the early part of next year.

BALDWIN: OK. OK, which, of course, we know what happens next year, politically speaking.

Let me ask you, sir, just about something else involving magazine columnist aging E. Jean Carroll and how she's suing Trump for defamation over her what she says was his lies when Trump denied her accusation in June that he sexually assaulted her back in the '90s.

Does she have a case?

JACKSON: She very well may have a case.

So, remember what defamation is, right? It's saying something defamatory that is untrue, that is injurious. It affects someone's reputation. And what she's essentially saying is that the president says didn't know her, doesn't know of her, she was doing it for a book, it should be published in the pure fiction section, and completely, in essence, said -- called her a liar.

And so what do you do in a defamation case? In order to establish you have been defamed, you have to establish that the assertion that she's making in terms of the rape was true.

And there's indications that, although she didn't report it -- many people don't, I should hasten to add -- there were recent outcry witnesses. So it's important to note, in these rape cases and other cases, people don't report for numerous reasons, but they may tell a friend, they may tell a family member, they may tell someone, I can't believe what happened.

And those issues are all relevant to go to show that it occurred. And so, therefore, to the extent that the president totally dismissed her and is calling her a liar, she's claiming, you know what, I have the goods, it's true, and I can prove it.

BALDWIN: Well, here's what the White House is saying.

I need to read the statement.

They say: "Let me get this straight. Ms. Carroll is suing the president for defending himself against false allegations. I guess, since the book did not make any money, she's trying to get paid another way. The story she used to try and sell her trash book never happened, period.