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Transcripts Of Key Testimony Released In Impeachment Probe; Ex- Ambassador To Ukraine Testified Giuliani Undercut U.S. Policy. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 4, 2019 - 13:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Have a good afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

And underway right now, Democrats in the House are officially moving to the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. They're making testimony public on the same day that four witnesses are refusing to testify. Democrats are releasing transcripts of the depositions given by two witnesses, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed at the behest of Rudy Giuliani, and also Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

From Yovanovitch's testimony, we're getting a new timeline here, we've learned that Rudy Giuliani reached out to the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, in late January or early February to talk about Vice President Biden and the 2016 election. That's certainly long before the phone call and before President Zelensky's election.

At that time around February, Avakov expressed concerns to Ambassador Yovanovitch that, quote, getting into U.S. politics, end quote, would be, quote, a dangerous place for Ukraine to be. Here is the testimony.

Question, what were his concerns as expressed to you? Yovanovitch, 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, into U.S. domestic politics was a dangerous place for Ukraine to be.

Question, why did he think he would be getting into U.S. domestic politics by speaking with Mr. Giuliani? And Marie Yovanovitch said, well, because 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 was just a very dangerous terrain for another country to be in.

Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, these things we're reading are pretty extraordinary to get into the details here. What else can you tell us about these transcripts and this decision to release them now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really showing the extent of this effort to mount this parallel foreign policy to the actual official diplomatic channels to the State Department. Instead, Rudy Giuliani, with the support of the president, pushing these investigations that could potentially help the president politically at the same time as that vital military aid for Ukraine had been withheld.

And we're learning a lot more about the former Ukrainian ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, someone who was been sitting in that position for some time and had been targeted by Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani launching a smear campaign of sorts to try to oust her from that post. And the president himself had raised her name, singled her out in that now infamous July phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. And according to that rough transcript, she's named in there and she's asked about the president singling her out and the phone call.

And this is this is what she says, according to the transcript. She's asked, at the top of page four, 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. When she's asked, do you see that? She said yes. He said what was the question -- what was your reaction when you saw that? Yovanovitch replied, 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.

And then the question is, at the bottom of that same page, President Trump says, well, she's going to go through some things. And the question to her was, what did you understand that to mean? She says, I didn't know what it meant. I was very concerned. I still am. She was asked, did you feel threatened? Her response is yes. The ambassador to the Ukraine -- former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine saying that she was threatened by the president's remarks, what she saw from that phone call.

She is still a career foreign service officer working for the State Department, and there were concerns that Mike McKinley, who was former top adviser for Mike Pompeo, about the refusal to show support for her through this whole process. McKinley, according to the transcript that was released today, raised concerns that Mike Pompeo did nothing to show support for her amid this pressure campaign to oust her from that post and also said he resigned in part because he believed the U.S. ambassadors were being employed by the president to push a political agenda that could help him domestically.

[13:05:11] So these are some significant statements from career people who have served in government for much of their careers saying what they saw was highly unusual, using the levers of the U.S. government to help the president politically, and we expect to get more transcripts coming out in the days ahead, at least two more tomorrow. The Democrats shift gears to provide information about what's been going on behind closed doors and as we get into that public hearing phase as soon as next week. Brianna?

KEILAR: As soon as next week. All right, Manu, thank you so much, live from the Capitol for us. Joining me now to discuss this, we have A.B. Stoddard. She is the Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics. Kim Wehle is former Associate Independent Counsel in the Whitewater investigation and she's the author of, How to Read the Constitution and Why. And we have CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez.

Okay, let's talk about the timeline first, right? Okay. So, Evan, we've heard this timeline of as far back as February, you had Giuliani talking about the Bidens, and we've also learned from this transcript that Giuliani was talking to Ukrainian officials, really, into late 2018 as well.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is from Marie Yovanovitch's testimony in her deposition. She says in late 2018 is when the first time she learns that Rudy Giuliani is running this shadow campaign behind her back, essentially trying to smear her. It appears that there are other people in Ukraine who want her gone.

And keep in mind she viewed one of the most important parts of her job, fighting corruption in Ukraine. There were certain people in Ukraine who were not happy about what exactly she was doing. So the smear campaign took off and certainly got to the president's ear.

I'll read you a part of what she says, the reaction from Ukrainians certainly who were talking to her. She says that what Giuliani did cut the ground from underneath us. And she said, it hampered the U.S. embassy's efforts to represent what was the official U.S. policy at the time. She says Ukrainians were wondering whether I would be leaving, whether we represented the president, U.S. policy, et cetera. And I think -- she said, it really cut the ground from underneath us.

You can see at the time, certainly, Ukrainians are coming to her. She is trying to figure out exactly where she stands and what really is the policy, is it the official policy or the one Rudy Giuliani is producing (ph).

KEILAR: Why does this matter, Kim, when you're talking about February, Giuliani is discussing the Bidens with Ukrainians, and then you go all the way months later, and we knew even publicly months after that that this was something Rudy Giuliani was trying to do, he was trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden as it pertained to Ukraine, and then the phone call happens well into the summer. So what does that tell you then about the potential of wrongdoing on this phone call?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, factually, we are not hearing any counter-narrative from the White House or from Republicans who sat in on these closed-door depositions. That is, we're not hearing a different story other than there was an ask of the Ukrainians to start an intelligence investigation or a criminal investigation of American citizens who also happen to be political rivals.

So we have to continue with that being basically the base of the facts. And the question really becomes, who cares, politically? And people should care, but that's, I think, the fight right now is the president amd Republicans saying, well, it doesn't matter. And it does matter for another reason that I think these transcripts read together can demonstrate, which is that we're talking about career- experienced public officials, public servants that spend their lives serving the government versus a private lawyer who is not actually a government employee, he doesn't take an oath of office, he's not bound by the rules and regulations and limitations to ensure that government officials actually act with integrity and ethics for the American populace.

Basically jumping in from the side and starting a separate foreign policy, it's hard to wrap our brains around how that could possibly could be one that benefits the American public when it was at odds clearly with what not only have been done for this president but for presidents before him, multiple administrations.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: I think this is a huge failure of the Democrats' messaging actually, is the role of Rudy Giuliani and a black ops, rogue foreign policy outside the official channels as an unaccountable private citizen who Mike Pompeo gave the State Department over to, with goals that ran counter to our Ukraine policy and the interest of the president's political future and not our actual national security goals and our values with our allies, like Ukraine.

This is something Republicans are never asked about. They focus on the whistleblower and everything else.


This is -- Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is exposed, Mick Mulvaney is exposed. Vice President Pence knew about this, Rick Perry who is within the Energy Department as secretary. This is at the highest level of government, people are at least complicit in knowing this if they were not participating in this. These transcripts are going to make clear to the public in more detail for the first time just how deep into this government Rudy Giuliani's tentacles went at the direction of President Trump.

PEREZ: But it goes beyond the politics, really. I mean, there is possibly a legal violation here. You can see that the ambassador, right, is in charge of a policy which is to fight corruption. And we know that she was there for several years overseeing this public policy that the United States has.

If somebody is running an operation essentially to retaliate against her for rooting out corruption and trying to root out corruption, there are U.S. laws that apply there, and whoever was part of that, if it's Ambassador Sondland, if it's Ambassador Volker, if it's Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, whoever was doing that, there are U.S. laws that apply and very much so. I think that's why her testimony is so important for the legal part of this.

KEILAR: Let's talk also about connecting the dots that indicate that's very much the case. Rudy Giuliani is not paid by President Trump. He's doing apparently pro bono work for the president who is a wealthy man. He was getting paid by a Ukrainian-American and a Belarusian-American who had received funding from a Russian businessman, and these gentlemen did not like Marie Yovanovitch, right? And so in that regard, their goals align, Rudy Giuliani and these two associates of his who have since been arrested.

I do want to read something from Marie Yovanovitch's -- this is one of the excerpts, just to your point, Evan. The question was, and from your staff members or your own conversations, what did you come to learn about Mr. Giuliani's interest in Ukraine? She responds, that basically there had been a number of meetings between Mr. Lutsenko and Mayor Giuliani and that they were looking -- I should say that Mr. Lutsenko was looking to hurt me in the U.S. I couldn't imagine what that was but now I see. And the question was, what do you see now? She answered, well, I'm no longer in Ukraine.

Lutsenko was then the prosecutor general. So put this into context for us.

PEREZ: Well, the complaint against Lutsenko by not only the United States, but the Europeans and groups inside Ukraine was that, essentially, he was corrupt, that he was sometimes targeting people, bringing cases against people and then taking money to let those cases go away. So he was not viewed by a lot of people involved to be an honest prosecutor. And so she was part of the effort to sort of make that public and make that -- make him essentially leave his position.

And so for him to be then retaliating against her and for Rudy Giuliani and some of these characters to be carrying that water I think really, really raises some legal questions, and I think this is why the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are quietly going through these things, they're going to look at these transcripts, they're going to see every one of these depositions and then they're going to see what else they have and what else they need to be able to tackle what exactly went on here. Because, again, you can see just from the part you just read, you can see that what she is describing is essentially retaliation for going after people who were corrupt in the Ukrainian regime, the previous regime.

KEILAR: And as you mentioned, A.B., this stretches, right, into the State Department, obviously. They're complicit as they understand what Rudy Giuliani is doing. One of the key parts of McKinley's testimony, who was a former top adviser to Pompeo, is just -- and this is why he resigned, was the retaliation that was happening within the State Department.

STODDARD: Which makes the Secretary of State complicit because he allowed it to happen, he didn't work against it, he knew it was happening. I don't know what kind of documents we're going to eventually -- Congress is going to eventually receive from the State Department on this issue. But I think that this testimony, as I mentioned, will be more revelatory about the details how far back this goes, how deeply it goes and how much --

PEREZ: And he was behind it, right, the money that went into this is significant. And I think -- you've got to think --

STODDARD: And that's why the problem for Mike Pence, who is supposed to be at President Zelensky's Ukrainian presidential inaugural ceremony, but he was pulled as a snub and Rick Perry was went instead. Everyone is at the table knows about this, even if they weren't part of Rudy and President Trump.


KEILAR: Can you speak to something as -- you've written this book about the Constitution. We see all these facts in plain sight, all of these witnesses who have things they're saying that are converging, and it paints, quite frankly, a horrifying picture of how this was all being conducted, and yet you see Republicans defending President Trump. I mean, what is the effect of as this goes along if there is really -- there's nothing -- there are no consequences for the president behaving this way, what's the effect of that?

WEHLE: Well, that's absolutely crucial. You mentioned potential crimes by some of these people. Attorney General Barr is a high level person that's involved in this and he is in charge of the entire Justice Department, he is in charge of the Southern District of New York, which is, so far, it looks like doing its work. But he, under his rule or his word, the whistleblower complaint was pulled from the process, didn't go to Congress, was put on the server.

So there are two ways to hold wrongdoers wrong in government. One is through the judicial branch, which requires prosecutors. So if that's not functioning by virtue of this particular attorney general and his decision-making, it has to go to the Congress, and we're seeing obstruction of Congress, and understanding -- I think a misunderstanding amongst many people in the public that this is somehow abusing the president, this is an abuse of process, this is an harassment, this is unfair.

But all Americans have to understand that the office of the presidency has to have checks and balances. Someone else has to hold this job. And if we allow that office to essentially have no limitations, no boundaries, eventually, the framers understood it, it's human nature to abuse power and to ultimately use it against regular people. That's why, however this impeachment process turns out with this particular man, Congress has to pull the lever of oversight that the Constitution sets forth as foundational to ensure we don't have an unlimited quasi monarchy in the White House.

KEILAR: We have so much more to talk about. If you all can stand by for me, we're going to show some more damning excerpts from this testimony.

Also, we have more breaking news. The president just lost his appeal to keep his tax returns secret. This is CNN special live coverage.



KEILAR: And we're back now to our top Story, the release of transcripts in the House impeachment inquiry. And among the highlights is former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch saying she was shocked that President Trump called her bad news in that phone call that he had with the president of Ukraine, Zelensky. And when she came under attack from some of the president's allies, including his son, Donald Trump Jr., she pressed the State Department to issue a statement supporting her.

I want to bring in our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. And, Kaitlan, I mean, we should stress, we just got these transcripts. We're reading through them. Tell us what else you're learning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And there are hundreds of pages here that we're waiting through, Brianna. But one really notable one is where it says that the ousted ambassador reached out to the State Department, pushing them to issue a statement supporting her as she was coming under attack by some of the president's allies, including his own son.

And what she testified to lawmakers was, quote, what I wanted was the secretary of state to issue a statement that said that, you know, I have his full confidence or something like that, to indicate that I, in fact, am the ambassador in Ukraine and that I speak for the president, for the secretary of state and for our country.

Brianna, that's a show of support that never came, because Yovanovitch testified that she was told after discussions with other senior State Department officials, there was concern that if they did put out a show of support for her, that it would undermined by the president.

Now, didn't say exactly how they thought it could occur that undermining of that show of support, but she said she predicted it would be a tweet or something, and it soon became quite clear they were not going to issue any kind of support for her, which is really notable. This is someone who works for the administration, someone Mike Pompeo was in charge of, and because she was facing attacks from people outside of the administration, it essentially left Ukrainian officials wondering who was in charge of the U.S. policy there, and she said she could not get a show of support from the State Department at that time.

KEILAR: All right. Kaitlan, thank you so much for outlining that for us. We appreciate it.

I want to talk now with Virginia Congresswoman Elaine Luria, a Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, important to note, you served for two decades in the Navy retiring as a commander. You have had an important voice when it comes to impeachment. You waited to get behind it coming out with several other freshmen who have backgrounds in national security after we learned of this Ukraine phone call, something that was really seen as a turning point, as Democrats decided to move forward with the impeachment inquiry process.

So this is just coming out, these transcripts. I'm not sure if you have been able to really delve into any of this so far. I know you're down there in Norfolk. But what is your reaction to hearing just these outlines of what it was like to be this ambassador on the other end of what she describes as a retaliation campaign against her where she wasn't getting any support from the State Department, even though she was upholding U.S. policy in Ukraine?

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Well, Brianna, thanks for having me. And like you said, these are late-breaking.


And I have had a chance to peruse some brief summaries of them, and obviously listened to the remarks that were made by the White House correspondent right before I came on, and it's very concerning, because it shows a complete breakdown in our system, our system of diplomacy, and it just reiterates what was so evident to me when I joined with my colleagues and we came out as a collective voice to say that it is Imperative that we move forward with an impeachment inquiry. Because this phone call between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine, where he is leveraging foreign aid in exchange for personal benefit, in order to start an investigation that's going to find dirt on his potential political opponent, to re-litigate the results of the 2016 election.

Foreign policy is not designed for the benefit of one person. It's designed for better world order, it's designed to further the goals and objectives of our country and our allies, and this did not do that. And it shows that there was truly a breakdown within the State Department and between the administration and the people speaking for our country on behalf of the administration and their goals did not align. And in this case where I find the lack of alignment concerning is that I believe that the president had different goals than our representatives who are speaking on our behalf to Ukraine.

KEILAR: What does the -- what do the details about the timeline change here? For instance, we've learned from the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, that Rudy Giuliani, she says, was talking with basically Ukrainian government officials, she said, probably around November/December time frame of 2018. And then she knew that as early -- at least as early as February, Rudy Giuliani's shadow campaign was -- and Rudy Giuliani, in that capacity, was discussing the Joe Biden investigation element of this.

Of course, it was into the summer when we saw the aid held up, we saw the phone call with the president after that. Does that do anything in terms of how it maybe should change minds?

LURIA: Well, what it says to me is that this plan was in motion for much longer than we may have previously known until we became aware of these statements and this testimony. And it could have been much more pervasive and much more built up to the point when the phone call happened. So the idea of whether there was a quid pro quo on that one particular call, this evidence may just show that that had existed over a course of time as it built up to this particular moment when it was stated on the call.

KEILAR: There are several witnesses so far who have indicated there was a quid pro quo. President Trump still says there wasn't. But now, there are some Republican defenders who are having a hard time, clearly, taking that line and trying to defend him and say there was no quid pro quo. And now, they're essentially saying it's not illegal if there was. Let's listen.


REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): Look, if I believed everything the Democrats were saying, I would still say this isn't an impeachable offense. Now, we're going to do this on a phone call? I mean, I just don't think this rises to the level. And I think my friends on the Democratic side are putting America through a terrifically bad experience.


KEILAR: That was Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. What do you think of that argument?

LURIA: Well, I think it is a terrifically bad experience for the American people. None of us came to Washington to be in this situation or to want to impeach the president or move forward with an impeachment inquiry. So I think it's two things. One is that the Democrats didn't put us here, the president of the United States' actions put us here. And secondly, moving forward, the only defense that seems to be coming from those who don't agree with this inquiry is an attack on the process.

And I do see people backing off on standing behind the actions of the president, the president himself, and, truly, when I speak to my colleagues across the aisle, feel like the only thing that they have to say now is some sham attacks on the process.

And we voted last Thursday for a process that is going to be clear and transparent and provide information to the American public, which we have seen with these very transcripts we're discussing right now. And so as we move forward, the more that people can see and learn and get into the details of what happened, and they can see that it is clear and transparent, that argument is going to go away as well.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Elaine Luria, thank you so much for joining us from Norfolk. We appreciate it.

LURIA: Thank you.

KEILAR: We're going now through these pages and pages of transcripts that just came out from two key testimonies on Capitol Hill.

[13:30:00] Also, the president is facing another setback in his fight to keep his tax returns private, and now this fight is headed to the Supreme Court.