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Trump Allies Retreat To Final Defense: He Did It But It's Not Impeachable; McDonald's Fires CEO Over Relationship With Employee; Inside Ukraine's War Against Russia. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 4, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I do also see the irony you're talking about it because the notion of saying we're going to have a response that's vetted. Normally, if you're talking about the President of the United States or any other fact witness you would kind of shrink away from that and say I'd like to hear to test the person's credibility.

But the Whistleblower Protection Act -- this is really something that's very generous and magnanimous, frankly, of a whistleblower who followed the proper channels, did the proper vehicles and everything he or she was supposed to do, and now is being asked to deliver even more information than that.

And so, their offering is odd but they -- but they may actually do it. It would be a little bit odder given the fact that you've got, what, more than a dozen witnesses who have come forward already, either voluntarily or under subpoena, to the House and have said exactly what the whistleblower has said.

And the biggest corroborator in all of this, by the way, is the President of the United States, himself, through the actual transcript. The biggest parts of that whistleblower complaint about the notion of the quid pro quo, although that language is not used, can be found in the very thing the president wanted to have a fireside chat reading about just last week.

And so, it's odd to me that he'd want to do that, especially given the fact that you have this protection that says you need not be the person to testify when you have fact witnesses who were in the room, including people like the lieutenant colonel just last week who said not only was I in the room, I was on the call and I reported it to the attorneys who should have done something about it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Laura, Jeffrey, thank you very much for all of the legal expertise --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: -- that you provide. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And on top of all of this, it could be the most important development in the impeachment inquiry over the weekend. Republicans with what could be their last defense, acknowledging the president made the call, made the request -- even it could have been a quid pro quo. But in their minds, not enough for impeachment.

A closer look at where the strategy goes from here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:36:03]

BERMAN: As the impeachment inquiry enters week seven, it appears that investigators have heard from the witnesses who are willing to talk.

President Trump is pushing back against a report that a growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to acknowledge that the president admitted a quid pro quo, but that the president's actions were not illegal and do not rise to the level of impeachment.

Joining us now, "The New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. He's the author of the National Book Award winner, "From Beirut to Jerusalem," the single-greatest book almost ever written about the Middle East -- I will say that.

CAMEROTA: Or ever written, really.

BERMAN: Ever written, period.

CAMEROTA: Let's just say that.

BERMAN: So, Tom, in the intro there, basically, what Republicans, including the president in a tweet this weekend, are now suggesting is you know what? Even if I did it all -- all of it, including a quid pro quo with military aid to investigation the Bidens, it's not impeachable.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUTHOR, "FROM BEIRUT TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: JERUSALEM": Yes, I've seen this coming for a while. You know, it was very clear they were going to try to attack the process, John. That didn't work, especially when you had these independent civil servants coming out, including uniformed military officers.

So in the end, I think that they're all going to rally around he did it -- and I think it will even get to the point where it was wrong, but not impeachable. Let the American people decide.

BERMAN: What does that say about them and us that that may be an argument?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it says that -- yes, the Republican Party position is if you take advantage of an intern in White House, we will impeach you. If you abuse the country, we will not impeach you. CAMEROTA: Not a single Republican in the House even voted to look into it.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: That wasn't about removing the president -- the vote last week. It was about are we going to have an investigation. They don't even want to look into it. They don't think that that's necessary.

FRIEDMAN: You know, Alisyn, it's pretty clear we keep waiting for that moment, that event, that -- Trump told us from the very beginning and his political instincts are very sharp -- I can shoot someone out there on Fifth Avenue and my followers will not desert me. And so this has always been about at the margin.

What did we see in the 2018 midterm election? We did see Independents, moderate Republicans, and suburban women who had voted for the president. They chose between him and Hillary and said let's give this guy a try.

And to me, the 2020 election is all about can you hold those people in a national election in the swing districts because the Republican Party is not going to abandon this guy. They've made it very clear. This is a cultive personality now and they are not going to abandon dear leader no matter what he does or says.

BERMAN: If you have these impeachment calls coming up from some swings states over the last week suggesting that the battlegrounds -- people are against impeaching and removing the president.

If you have not a single Republican coming forward in the House -- and look, it seems unlikely that they'll get the 20 Republicans they need in the Senate, why then is it worth it, in your mind, for Democrats to go forward with this inquiry and ultimately, impeachment, which is where it seems to be headed?

FRIEDMAN: I don't think they have a choice John if you are loyal to the Constitution. The president has clearly violated his oath of office by trying to, in effect, extort the Ukrainian prime minister with our money, with our -- with money we appropriated to Ukraine for his own political benefit. We have no choice. We have no choice but to take this to its constitutional end.

At the same time, what we do have a choice -- what Democrats have a choice, what the country has a choice is to fire Donald Trump. We still have that choice.

I think there are about 60 percent of the country today -- I'm just guessing -- that does not feel they have a candidate for president yet to replace Donald Trump. That's -- I think about one-quarter of the Republican Party and I think a lot of Democrats are not comfortable with their choices.

And I think that's the biggest problem going forward, that can you basically get a candidate who can bring those swing Republican voters who were there in 2018 into the 2020 election. And -- CAMEROTA: There are 17 Democrats, I think, at the last count -- maybe more -- that are still running. How can they not have a candidate of choice?

FRIEDMAN: You know, you just have to look at the polls. It's clear, Alisyn, that you have -- Biden, obviously, is barely leading the race. But the fact that Biden's up there -- he's actually run a terrible campaign so far. He hasn't had one good debate.

[07:40:07]

The fact that 30-plus sort of Democrats are with him shows you how starved they are for an alternative in the center. And we know, I think -- we know that there are Republicans who will fire Trump, too. But you've got to have a candidate who can harvest those feelings. Right now, no one is there.

BERMAN: One of the interesting discussions that hasn't happened yet with some of the Republicans who seem to be willing to say bad but not impeachable -- I don't think they've been challenged as to why it's bad. If you think it's bad, explain to me why it's bad and then tell me why that's not impeachable.

So let me put that to you.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Why is it bad? Tell people who might be watching this, in your mind, why what the president did is something they should be concerned about.

FRIEDMAN: The President of the United States used money that was appropriated for the defense -- by Congress, for the defense of Ukraine against Russia. He held up that money in order -- until and unless the president of Ukraine agreed to investigate his most likely competitor in the next election.

If that had happened, John, in some Latin American country, in some African country, some Middle Eastern country, some European country -- like, we at "The New York Times" -- like, we'd be all over that story. Wow, did you see what happened in country X -- what that president did?

That just happened in our country, OK, and if we don't take that seriously imagine, John, what happens if Donald Trump gets elected for four more years and he is not restrained by the need to get elected again.

He sent 11,000 toxic tweets when he had to be reelected. He abused his power vis-a-vis Ukraine when he had to be reelected.

Can you imagine what kind of autocracy we will live in? How many subpoenas will he respond to if he's not doing it now if he doesn't have to worry about being reelected?

I think that's the most frightening thing going forward. If he behaves with this disregard toward the Constitution and his oath of office now, what would he be like if he didn't have to worry about getting reelected?

And I think the most important witnesses -- and this is, I think, critical for the -- he wants to make this Adam Schiff versus me -- Democrats versus me.

The real story here, it started with a whistleblower. It started with the independent civil service. People who take their oath of office to be diplomats, to be senior government officials, to be military officers.

This -- the real story here is a guy with a Purple Heart against a guy with a dark heart. And to the extent that the Democrats frame it that way, that will resonate with the American people.

And you know how much Republicans are worried about it because that's exactly what they're trying to obscure and deny. The whistleblower was a never -- they're trying to turn everyone into political material, basically, when in fact, these are the people --

I've lived abroad a lot and worked a lot -- wrote a lot as a foreign correspondent. What people envy most about America are our civil servants. The fact that you don't have to bribe someone when you want to get a government permission for this or that. The fact that we have military officers that go abroad and sacrifice their lives.

We have people who, every day, make the ultimate sacrifice. We have Republicans who, every day in Congress, applaud these people who make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our Constitution and these people will not make the smallest sacrifice to do the same thing. They don't want to give up their $174,000 incomes and free parking at National Airport. It is shameful.

CAMEROTA: We're one year away from the election and this morning, there were these really fascinating polls about the battleground states and that basically, they're within the margin of error.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And, Joe Biden is the only candidate who consistently beats President Trump. And so, obviously, you could say that wow, there's a lot of runway left -- we're a year away. Or you can say Iowa is -- what did you say --

BERMAN: Ninety days.

CAMEROTA: -- 90 days away.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Ninety days away.

And it does feel -- does it feel to you that people are locked in?

FRIEDMAN: You know, it does, Alisyn. As I say, this is really at the margins, I think -- this election. You know, we've become a really tribalized country.

I covered the Middle East for a lot of my life and I came home and I discovered the Middle East followed me here. We are now Sunnis and Shiites. We call each other Democrats and Republicans but we are really Sunnis and Shiites.

And there's this small floating group in the middle. They're the people who tipped the House in 2018 in the midterm, and you've got to be able to appeal to them. And I think the way you appeal to them is not with Medicare for All, it's all for one and one for all.

I think those people in the center are terrified that our country's being pulled apart and I think they want someone who will pull us together. That is priority number one.

If you want a revolution -- you want a social revolution and a Medicare revolution, I'll give you a revolution. Four more years of Donald Trump -- that will be a revolution.

CAMEROTA: Thomas Friedman, great to have you here in-studio. Always great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

[07:45:00]

FRIEDMAN: Always good to be with you guys -- thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right.

McDonald's CEO abruptly fired over the weekend. Details of the allegations that led to his sudden dismissal, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Time for "CNN Business Now."

McDonald's fires its CEO over a relationship with an employee that violates company policy.

[07:50:02]

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with details.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes.

CAMEROTA: So what is that policy?

ROMANS: A consensual relationship, but this is company policy. Managers can't have romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinates.

Steve Easterbrook is out and expressed regret over this relationship, telling employees, "This was a mistake. Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on."

Easterbrook has been replaced by Chris Kempczinski who was most recently president of McDonald's USA.

Now, McDonald's stock has roughly doubled under Easterbrook, but investors were disappointed more recently after sales grew 4.8 percent in the third quarter, down from the second quarter. Now, investors are concerned the chain is feeling the heat from rivals who are more aggressive on breakfast and plant-based menu items.

Easterbrook was paid almost $16 million last year and McDonald's said details of his separation agreement will be released in a filing by tomorrow.

Now, we don't know who this employee was or what the position was. But it is an example, you guys, of new scrutiny and awareness in the MeToo era of the power dynamic of bosses and their employees, John.

BERMAN: Indeed. And it seemed to happen pretty quickly, too, without much of a fight -- at least according to his tweet.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thank you very much.

Ukraine's war against Russia is a battle made even harder by a political fight 5,000 miles away in Washington.

CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward traveled to the front lines in Ukraine after nearly $400 million dollars in U.S. military aid was frozen for months. And, Clarissa joins us now live from Kiev with a look at what's going on there -- Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We have literally traveled the length and breadth of this country trying to get a sense of how Washington's political crisis is impacting this ongoing conflict.

We also wanted to see for ourselves how important U.S. military aid is and what the impact was of nearly $400 million U.S. dollars being withheld for months.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARD (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 his men was shot dead by a sniper 10 days ago. He says Ukraine needs all the help it can get.

PAVEL SERGEEVICH, COMMANDER, UKRAINE ARMY: (Speaking foreign language).

WARD (on camera): 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 (on camera): 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 shows us what is left of the local school. It was destroyed by Russian artillery at the start of the war.

ALEXANDER, UKRAINE MARINE'S PRESS OFFICER: (Speaking foreign language).

WARD (voice-over): It will be 10 years before people can come back, he says. All of this territory needs to be demined, but that process can't even begin until the fighting stops.

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

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

We push further north to the mining town of Torestsk. 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 (on camera): 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.

[07:55:10]

WARD (voice-over): But that hasn't flowed Filmon down. Her days are a blur of activity, distributing food to the needy and displaced.

Across the country, more than a million people have been forced from their homes, like pensioner Yelena Salaeva. She was hit by shrapnel while picking tomatoes in her garden. She fled and has been living in this care home ever since.

YELENA SALAEVA, RETIRED RESIDENT: (Speaking foreign language).

WARD (voice-over): 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.

SALAEVA: (Speaking foreign language).

WARD (on camera): 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.

CAPT. MATTHEW CHAPMAN, U.S. ARMY: They'll be engaging targets and shooting.

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

WARD (on camera): 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 (on camera): 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.

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

WARD (on camera): Do you believe that America is an ally Ukraine can rely upon.

SHPAK: Completely is, completely is.

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)

BERMAN: It's interesting how uncomfortable the Ukrainians are to talk about the U.S. aid publicly. Is there a sense that Ukraine could actually win the war against Russia without U.S. support?

WARD: I think most Ukrainian soldiers will concede privately that they don't even know if they can win this war with the support of the U.S. This is, as you heard that charity worker put it, a David and Goliath battle and they need all the allies that they can get.

And one of the concerns they expressed privately, John, was the idea that when you see the U.S. prevaricate about its commitment to Ukraine by freezing that aid for months on end that it sends a bad signal to other allies of Ukraine. They're worried that it could spook those allies.

So what they want to see is a strong and robust show of support from the U.S. not just to negotiate a -- or not just to win this war but also to win the peace because importantly John, of course, they will need the support of the U.S. to give them more leverage at the negotiating table when it comes to trying to negotiate with someone like President Vladimir Putin, John.

CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Clarissa. That is such an excellent view for the rest of us into what's going on there on the battlefield. Thank you very much for your reporting.

And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, brand-new 2020 polls show a very tight race in the all-important battleground states. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need big ideas. We need to fight for them.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am insisting that we deliver Medicare for All who want it and let you decide when and whether you want it.

CAMEROTA: New polls in key battleground states. What they mean for the president's reelection chances.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The entire country just gets engrossed in this impeachment process and then we're going to look up and we will not have made a real case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several officials are effectively planning to set up a firewall between House investigators and the president.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think that individual should come before the committee. He needs to answer the questions.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): You wouldn't call the whistleblower. What you call is the people who were actually there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, November fourth. It's 8:00 in the East.

And we have breaking news in the race for president. The series of brand-new polls from the six battleground states that determined the outcome of the election in 2016 and could very well decide it again in 2020.

END