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AT THIS HOUR
Soon House to Release Transcripts of Key Witness Testimony; Key to Testimony: Witnesses Confirm Whistleblower Complaint; State Department Official Appears to Contradict Pompeo in Testimony; Sen. Rand Paul Tells Media on Whistleblower: "Do Your Job, Print the Name"; 9 Americans Kills Near U.S.-Mexico Border. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 5, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: -- seem behind the ball on a lot of these issues. It's moving faster than they can do it.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We'll watch where this goes.
Brian, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Scuitto.
"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for being with me.
Any moment now, hundreds of pages of testimony are about to drop, transcripts from the closed-door testimony of two of the so-called three amigos who were running President Trump's policy toward Ukraine, current U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, and former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. What details will emerge? We will see.
But a large focus is likely to be on the contradictions Sondland's testimony have already presented, contradictions on whether he knew Trump wanted investigations into the Bidens specifically. And whether he knew that military aid was part of the quid pro quo. And whether anyone involved in these talks raised an alarm to the ambassador in real time.
Plus, a short time ago, the Justice Department is weighing in on another aspect of all of this testimony, issuing a new memo to say that witnesses called to Congress that currently work for the administration must be allowed to bring a government attorney along.
What does that mean for the list of officials who are refusing to appear before Congress this week? Again, we will see.
So let's get to it. Let's begin with CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what are you hearing about the transcripts set to be released today and also the fallout already from the transcripts released yesterday?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of interest in what Gordon Sondland said behind closed-doors. In his opening statement, he made clear that he was disappointed by the president's ask to involve Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, as part of this effort on Ukraine.
Sondland said in that closed testimony that he tried to push for a meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine, but President Trump essentially said deal with Rudy Giuliani instead.
And he says in his testimony, Sondland, that he didn't learn until much later that Giuliani was working on something that, quote, "involved Ukrainians that may directly or indirectly affect the president's 2020 campaign."
And also, contradictions of other witnesses who have said things differently than Sondland, namely what happened in a July meeting over the push apparently by Sondland to push for these investigations that could help the president politically, complaints that were raised directly to him. He denied all of that.
So it will be interesting to see the exchanges there and how he interacted with the president, how he described interactions with the president.
Now, Kate, today, there were two other White House officials who were scheduled to come behind closed days today. Neither have appeared yet. One was supposed to come this morning. Wells Griffith, National Security Council official. This comes after four White House officials did not come behind closed-doors and talk to impeachment investigators yesterday.
So emerging from the closed-door session in which the witnesses were supposed to attend, I asked a Democrat Jamie Raskin if they are prepared to go public despite these officials not testifying, not providing information that the committee needs. And he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If a bank robbery takes place and you have eight or 10 witnesses to it, that is great. It is better if you have 20 witnesses to it. But if you have eight or 10 witnesses who are telling you the same thing and it is uncontradicted, that will be enough to ascertain that there was a bank robbery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So Democrats are signaling with the release of these transcripts with the push for public hearings as soon as next week that they are ready to move to the next phase. Even though a number of White House officials continue to stonewall the request to defy subpoenas and not show up behind closed-door, something that Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, says could be used as evidence of obstruction of Congress -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Let's see how those mount up.
Manu, great to see you. Thank you so much.
So it is easy to get bogged down in the hundreds of pages of transcripts that were already released from these closed-door interviews. But do not lose sight of a key part of the story that is unfolding here. At the core of it, witness after witness is backing up the claims first laid out in the whistleblower complaint.
CNN's Tom Foreman is joining me with a closer look at that.
Tom, connect the dots from these transcripts to the whistleblower complaint. What do they show?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They show that the who and the how are really there. That there's proof of this.
Let's start with the first claim that was raised about Giuliani. "The president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well."
This effort meaning this effort to get Ukraine involved, to put pressure on U.S. officials dealing with Ukraine.
Why do we know this? Because Yovanovitch in the testimony on Giuliani, said, "Well, in retrospect, that characterization seems to be correct. At the time, we weren't seeing all the pieces. You could feel there was stuff out there but we had to put it all together."
Remember, this is a woman who lost her job, according to her and the whistleblower, because of pressure from Rudy Giuliani to get her out of there because she was interfering with some kind of deal they were trying to strike. So she has confirmed that part of it.
BOLDUAN: And to what you were just saying, the whistleblower complaint also focused in on the reasons why Ambassador Yovanovitch was abruptly removed and obviously Yovanovitch was asked about that. What did she tell lawmakers?
FOREMAN: Exactly. Let's look at another part of the whistleblower's statement.
The whistleblower said, "On or about the 29th of April, I learned from U.S. officials direct knowledge of the situation that Ambassador Yovanovitch had been suddenly recalled to Washington by senior State Department officials for consultations and would most likely be removed from her position. Several U.S. officials told me, in fact, her tour was curtailed because of pressure stemming from Mr. Lutsenko's allegations."
And Mr. Lutsenko is a Ukrainian official tied to the two men arrested a short while ago who were clients of Rudy Giuliani.
So it gets complicated but the bottom line, again, we have a witness saying, look, this is what happened. Yovanovitch herself responded to what the whistleblower said by saying, "There's a lot of concern for me, that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington. So I was like what happened? And she said I don't know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. And she, physical security?"
And on and on it goes. The bottom line, you can see the confusion that Yovanovitch was raising, saying, I don't understand why I'm suddenly being yanked out of this job.
But you pair that with what the whistleblower says, and says, yes you're being yanked out of that job, if you believe, their account, because she was standing in the way of something that the people's people wanted to do in Ukraine.
Again, supporting the idea that there was this sort of shadow State Department action going on through his private attorney, not through the official channels that are sanctioned by the government and by proxy by the taxpayers -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And side note on all of this, just an aside, is, by all accounts, Ambassador Yovanovitch was doing the job of trying to push Ukraine to root out corruption. I need to remind folks of that.
But at the core of the impeachment inquiry is one question, was military aid withheld from Ukraine to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals of Donald Trump. When it comes to the aid, do these interviews offer clarity?
FOREMAN: They do. Look at what the whistleblower said about the aid. "On 18 July, an Office of Management and Budget official informed departments and agencies that the president earlier that month had issued instruction to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine."
The White House, of course, will say, well, this isn't really related or it is related in a different way. They have given a lot of different explanations.
But listen to what Michael McKinley, who is an aid to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, listen to what he said about it. "I'd say release of assistance has a very irregular pattern around the world. Question, there's always prospect of a hiccup with release of aid, isn't that fair to say? He said, there is, it is just a fact."
But then he goes on to say in regard to this, "My concerns aren't put in the context of our policy toward Ukraine, whether we should give aid, who we should work with and so on. It is the way the system was used in the context of Ukraine." Sweep all of that aside, Kate, and what you have here is the
whistleblower saying, look, I think that the White House pushed a U.S. official out of her position in Ukraine to promote a private agenda that was being pursued through Rudy Giuliani. And these testimonies are saying, yes, we think so, too.
BOLDUAN: So important to break it down in this way.
Tom, thank you so much --
BOLDUAN: -- for offering that clarity.
Again, we are waiting to see what the next batch, if you will, of testimony transcripts will be. When they have them, we will of course bring it all to you.
But joining me now is former spokesman for the State and Defense Departments John Kirby, Max Boot, a CNN global affairs analyst and senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, and former U.S. attorney, Harry Litman.
Great to see you guys.
John, you heard there that we know from this -- these transcripts when it comes to Michael McKinley that he asked the secretary of state these times to speak out in defense of Yovanovitch and the ambassador to Ukraine.
I want to play what Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, told ABC about this on October 20th. Because this is critical.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: 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 --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So you were never asked --
POMPEO: Not once. Not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say something to me during that entire time period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: I don't know if saying time period is a key kind of -- I don't know. Out there? But I mean, is this evasive, straight up lying? What does it mean for Mike Pompeo?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It is hard to say what is in Pompeo's mind when he delivers a statement like that.
You're right, I picked up on the time period thing too wondering if he is sort ever dancing on a dodge there.
But regardless, only one of the two men testified to Congress about this exchange over the ambassador's further. Only one of two men, McKinley, who resigned in protest over the silence of the State Department to support Ambassador Yovanovitch. So the weight of evidence is clear on McKinley's side.
What I worry about larger, Kate, for the State Department, Pompeo's silence and his clear indication that he will go all in on Trump now, he has really moved way over into Trump's camp on this whole impeachment inquiry and Ukraine business, once again, that State Department officials will feel undermined and won't have the support of the front office the way they thought they would when Mike Pompeo came in. And that's a real shame.
BOLDUAN: And, Max, to John's point, I always wonder if that is in the back Pompeo's mind. Why is this a problem for Mike Pompeo? He is asked to speak out in her defense. He does not. No matter if the ambassador deserved to keep her post or not, if Secretary Pompeo didn't want to speak out, why didn't he just say so, what is the sensitivity there?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Clearly, Secretary Pompeo realizes that he should have spoken out. This is the right thing to do when you have a career ambassador under assault by these political goons with a shady agenda. The secretary of state needs to stand behind his people.
But Pompeo is, above all, a political survivor. He is somebody who is said to have higher ambitions, including possibly the Senate or even the presidency. And he knows for his own political survival.
He needs to stay on Donald Trump's good side and so he could not speak out to defend somebody who is being assailed by Donald Trump's own personal attorney. So he put his own personal ambitions and his desire to stay on Trump's good side above his duty to the men and women that he leads in the State Department.
And, you know, something I would have never thought I could say after Rex Tillerson's tenure, but I think that Mike Pompeo is actually a worse secretary of state than Rex Tillerson, who was disastrous.
You don't get the since that Mike Pompeo is trying to do the right thing. You get the sense that it is all about him.
BOLDUAN: Harry, another thing that comes out in these hundreds of pages of transcripts that we've seen is the Republican concern about the process. But I would put this way, not in the way that they have been talking about the process publicly.
You see this kind of line of questioning concern even from some key Republicans that the private proceedings be kept private. From Mark Meadows and Michael McCaul, both voicing concern about keeping the confidentiality of the proceedings, which is so contradictory when you see Republicans who staged that protest saying. let us in.
You pair that with the number of questions that you do see Republicans asking in these transcripts, can they still argue that they aren't getting a fair time?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Can they argue? I mean they really couldn't before, but it didn't keep them from doing it.
But this is as you say really a validation of the process. You're seeing the prosecutor, his art in practice here, these long winded 10 hours of testimony. You wouldn't ever want them in public. And you couldn't have them because otherwise people could dovetail their stories.
Pompeo would have said something different had he known what McKinley said. You talk to witnesses, comprehensively. You get the main strokes and also many nuggets here. And that is when you come forward to the public and present it. It is always like that in any prosecution and any congressional investigation.
So this really serves to validate and give credence to exactly the way the Democrats and Republicans, together, as you say, went about talking to the witnesses in the first instance.
BOLDUAN: John, what are you looking for then, what are you keying on in Sondland and Volker's transcripts here? It is almost with Volker he kind of laid the groundwork releasing the text messages, it has gone so far past that at this point. But what are you -- what is key about this?
KIRBY: For me, I'm looking for two things. Obviously, I want to see differences and mismatches between Sondland and Volker, between themselves, but also between them and the other witnesses.
I mean, we've seen almost everything coming out has verified the whistleblower's complaint. And it will be interesting to see the degree to which it lines up with Volker and Sondland.
And number two, I'll be looking for how much detail and context is there in these testimonies about the role of Rudy Giuliani and what is clear some sort of shadow foreign policy. So how much did they know about it and, more importantly, how much did they enable it?
Just initially. it looks as if both of them weren't just trying to sort of bound Giuliani in and sort of gain intel from him. It seems like they were actually trying to help him further his support for the president.
And so that is obviously very troubling, and that's what I'm looking for, the degree to which they were enabling Giuliani.
BOLDUAN: That is interesting, John.
Max, the president has been harping on exposing the identity of the whistleblower for quite in time. Rand Paul, Republican Senator from Kentucky, he took it a step further last night. Let me play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): The whistleblower needs to come before Congress as a material witness because he worked for Joe Biden at the same time Hunter Biden was getting money from corrupt oligarchs. I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do your job.
Max, when it comes to exposing potential wrongdoing, does the identity of the whistleblower matter when things -- as I'm looking at it, you've got claims in the complaint that are being vetted, that are being corroborated as we're seeing in transcripts that are coming out and the witnesses that are coming forward.
BOOT: No, the identity of the whistleblower does not matter because, as you say, everything that the whistleblower has said has been amply corroborated not only by this parade of witnesses from Donald Trump's own administration, but by Donald Trump's own words in the rough transcript that was released of his phone call with President Zelensky.
So there's only one reason why Rand Paul and Donald Trump the whistleblower's name out there, so they can smear this individual in the way that they have smeared other witnesses who have come forward to tell the truth.
So they just want to drag the person through the mud. And what you are seeing is the transformation of the Republican Party into the party of banana republic. They are attacking the rule of law because what they are suggesting is in violation of the Whistleblower Identity Protect Act.
So they are proposing to violate the law in order to smear and intimidate the president's critics and to smear and intimidate, in this particular case, a truth teller within the zika virus whose CIA whose testimony has been amply vindicated.
This is just a disgusting assault on the rule of law and it is tragic to see this being done not just by President Trump but other Republicans like Rand Paul.
BOLDUAN: And it is yet to be decided if any of the claims and corroborations and facts that come out rise to the level of impeachment.
Let's put that aside for a second. But the whistleblower complaint is basically, don't believe me, believe the seven other officials who have come out to corroborate quite a few or all of the elements of the complaint. It seems just kind of ridiculous journey, jaunt, red herring, a
distraction to be harping on one person when it is now at least five who are saying the same thing.
John, it's great to see you, Max, Harry. Thank you guys.
BOOT: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Coming up, a horrific attack near the U.S.-Mexico border. Americans ambushed, burned alive. We're talking women, children and babies included. New details on how it happened. And what Mexico is promising to do about it now.
BOLDUAN: Was it a tragic case of mistaken identity or a targeted attack on a family? Either way, it is horrifying. An American family traveling near the U.S./Mexico border attacked, leaving nine family members dead.
Video of the aftermath is just as disturbing as the details, a charred car still smoldering. Women and children as young as 10 months old were killed by what is suspected to be a cartel. Why?
CNN international correspondent, Matt Rivers, is in Mexico and he spoke to the sister-in-law of one of the women who was killed.
You've been gathering details. What did she tell you, what are you learning?
MAX RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What the family believes -- and we just finished this interview less than 10 minutes ago -- what the family strongly believes, it is either a targeted attack, which is something that -- this is a community that has been in the area for decades. They are well aware of the cartel activity that happens in this part of Mexico.
And yet, they say over the past several months they have noticed a lot more aggression from the cartel because they say the government has allowed them to operate with impunity. So it could be a targeted attack or a case of mistaken identity.
The sister-in-law is heartbroken.
And I talked to the father-in-law of the woman driving the car in the video that you showed and the grandfather of the four kids. He took that video on his phone and he is devastated.
He told me that you cannot understand what it is like when you watch the news and you hear from victims and you see terrible things happen. He says I watch the news like everybody else. I had no idea what it would feel like when it was me. And he started crying. It was heartbreaking to hear.
So this family is incredibly angry. They are concerned about the cause of all of this, why it happened. But in the meantime. less than 24 hours after it happened, they are still reeling with the shock of it all.
BOLDUAN: And of course. the president of Mexico held a press conference this morning, but they have been facing an escalating amount of violence in just the last month. One has to just wonder if this is all linked in some way.
Regardless, that does not matter to this poor family after seeing nine people killed, young babies. Just truly horrific.
Matt, I know you'll stay on top of it. Matt, thank you so much. Look forward to hearing more from that family in an interview as you get it together. I really appreciate it.
Coming up, it is Election Day in America. And while President Trump's name is not on the ballot, he could be on the minds of many voters as they go to the polls for three big elections will be happening today. What today's vote in these key states could say about next year.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Kentucky. It is critical that we --
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