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House Set to Release Transcripts of Key Witness Testimony; Rand Paul Urges Media to Disclose Whistleblower's Identity; White House Considers Easing China Tariffs to Help Trade Deal. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired November 5, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
We begin this hour with breaking news near the U.S.-Mexico border. We're getting disturbing new details of a brutal attack that has left nine American family members dead. All nine were members of the Mormon community.
HARLOW: It is a tragedy. Three mothers and six children were killed when their convoy of cars was ambushed.
Our international correspondent Matt Rivers joins us now.
Matt, just that picture of that charred-up car empty is devastating. What do you know?
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it gives you an idea of just how violent this situation got, Jim and Poppy. This is very much a developing situation. But what we know largely comes from firsthand accounts from surviving family members who actually made their way to the scene after this happened.
What we know is that they all were living in this Mormon community that has been established in northwest Mexico in the state of Sinaloa for decades now. Three different cars going different ways actually but traveling together ultimately for security purposes. Left this compound where all these hundreds of people live.
Around 3:00 p.m., though, those cars were attacked by gunmen. And those gunmen not only did they shoot up the cars but they lit some of them on fire. And according to one family member we spoke to, some of the people who were killed were actually burnt alive.
Now in terms of the motive behind this, we don't know. We listened to a government press conference this morning with Mexico's president. He doesn't know yet. However, the speculation is that because this is an area of Mexico that has been plagued by drug cartel violence for decades now, that this could be a case of mistaken identity. One drug cartel shooting up these cars thinking it was a rival drug cartel and not cars with three mothers and 14 children inside.
We did manage to hear from a family member of one of the people who was killed. Let's play you what she has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEAH STADDON, FAMILY MEMBERS KILLED IN MEXICO ATTACK: I think a lot of us are just speechless. It's horrific. My sister could actually see the smoke from her house and they heard the gunshots. Just can't believe that this has actually happened to our family. It just seems like a bad dream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: Now President Trump has weighed in on this, this morning basically saying that now is the time to tackle the drug cartel problem from Mexico with the United States' help that he was saying that the U.S. should wipe the drug cartels off the face of the earth. He's awaiting a call from Mexico's president.
Mexico's President Lopez Obrador this morning said that he would be calling President Trump but Lopez Obrador's strategy against the drug cartels has been the exact opposite. He thinks that there shouldn't be violence used against the drug cartels so it will be interesting to see, Jim and Poppy, how that phone call goes.
SCIUTTO: Those poor children and their parents.
Matt Rivers on the story, thanks very much.
Back here, Democrats going public with key witness testimony and today get ready for more.
HARLOW: That's right. We're waiting for new transcripts to drop from two more key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. Today we will find out what exactly former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said for hours and hours behind closed doors. Both of them worked with Rudy Giuliani on a separate shadow diplomacy with Ukraine.
Today's drop follows the release of testimony from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch who said that Giuliani's efforts, quote, "cut the ground out from underneath the State Department."
SCIUTTO: And the other release from former State Department adviser Michael McKinley whose testimony appears to directly contradict Secretary Mike Pompeo's public comments about Yovanovitch and her treatment and departure.
We're not done yet. New impeachment witnesses are scheduled to testify today but will they actually show up?
CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly, he's live on Capitol Hill. And, Phil, you already have a large number of former and current
officials who have testified now under oath. But a number are seeming to heed the White House here, refusing to come.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think a good way to look at this is kind of the closer these individuals are to the president, the less likely it is that they're actually going to come in and actually testify.
Now today you have two people that were cued up for closed door depositions. One who's a member of the NSC, Wells Griffith, who worked on energy issues, and another who's a member of the OMB, Michael Duffey, who was considered a key player in the decision or at least signing off on the decision to withhold that funding of nearly $400 from Ukraine.
The expectation right now is that neither is going to show up. OMB officials have made clear none of them are going to show up throughout this process saying as many in the administration have that the process is illegitimate. We haven't heard a definitive answer from Wells Griffith yet, but the expectation talking to people here on Capitol Hill is that he's not going to show up either.
And I think what this underscores right now, you guys made a key point, with the depositions becoming public yesterday, this is moving into the public phase.
And at some point there's a level of diminishing returns when people stop showing up. You've had so many administration officials who weren't expected to show up actually did. Now they are not anymore. So you are going to keep seeing those depositions released. Probably not see a lot more closed-door testimony where people actually comply. And pretty soon, guys, that means public hearings are coming as well.
HARLOW: OK. So we're going to get two key transcripts -- I mean, big ones today, Sondland, who even some Republicans have said want to have come back to testify again, and then Kurt Volker.
MATTINGLY: Yes. So here's kind of what you want to look into in these transcripts today. You guys mentioned the transcripts from yesterday which I think were kind of an almost surreal read and seeing the behind-the-scenes of how this process played out. This, quote- unquote, "irregular channel," as William Taylor and other individuals testified behind closed doors. Referred to it, watching Maria Yovanovitch basically have her legs cut from under her because of the administration, because of an effort to oust her.
Today what's important is twofold. One, Kurt Volker, the special representative -- now former special representative to the Ukraine, Republicans have been clamoring to have his testimony out. Obviously, he was in conversations with Gordon Sondland whose testimony will also come out today, was considered one of the, quote-unquote, "three amigos." It was Sondland, it was Volker, it was Perry, who were kind of working through this irregular kind of outside shadow Ukraine policy.
But Republicans have made clear that during that testimony, what they have been willing to say up to this point, is that he made clear at least in their view that there was no, quote-unquote, "quid pro quo," which is obviously at the crux of what Democrats have been looking into as well.
You also mentioned the key point of Gordon Sondland's testimony. He has been at the center of so much of this. Obviously ambassador to the E.U. You kind of wonder why he had Ukraine so firmly at the center of his portfolio.
MATTINGLY: But witness after witness after witness who has come in and testified have identified him as being a key player in communications. And you guys hit a key point here why everybody is going to be reading his transcript very closely. There have been several witnesses that have come in and in their testimony have contradicted things Sondland said behind closed doors according to people who were in those meetings.
What he actually said, whether or not he needs to be -- things need to be corrected and more importantly whether this creates the need to call him for a public hearing is going to be what everybody is paying attention to in those depositions when they come out in a short while, guys.
SCIUTTO: You make a good point because Ukraine of course is not in the E.U. so it is irregular to have --
HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE) focus.
SCIUTTO: And he happens to be a Trump appointee.
HARLOW: Yes. And donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural fund.
HARLOW: We'll see if he does testify publicly and is called.
Phil, great reporting. Thank you very much.
Let's talk about what we know and everything that has happened so far between those transcripts yesterday and this morning. Shan Wu joins us now.
Shan, thank you so much for being here. You've got -- as Phil just laid out, you've got these witnesses more and more who are refusing to testify. Either their lawyers are writing letters and saying this is up to the courts or they're just not showing up and citing executive privilege. The courts are not going to decide, it looks like, until mid-December, January on Kupperman and then will that apply to Bolton, we'll see.
How does this all, you know, impact the broader impeachment inquiry here?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the Democrats have to go on two fronts, but I think their best strategy is to simply roll all of this delay and refusal to testify into Articles of Impeachment for obstruction because this sort of blanket refusal to have people even show up which depends on the absolute immunity is really unprecedented.
It's one thing to make that legal argument when people show up but to have them simply say no one is coming, we don't recognize the validity, is really questionable.
SCIUTTO: Let's talk about Mike Pompeo if we can because you have sworn testimony now from Michael McKinley saying that he repeatedly brought up the firing, the pushing out of Ambassador Yovanovitch to him. Pompeo has said publicly that he did not.
Now there's a little bit -- he might have some technical wiggle room there because Pompeo seemed to be referring to a particular time period that McKinley did not come to him but perhaps by the spirit of his denial it does seem to be a contradiction. Does Pompeo have an issue here?
WU: I think he does have an issue and that's a needle he'd have to thread very carefully were he to appear under oath. Generally my impression is that Pompeo just made sort of a panicky decision. We sometimes see him look kind of speechless when confronted in interviews. But he made a panicky decision to simply deny that McKinley had raised it. And while he might be able to focus on now a time period, he's going to have a tough time making that denial when McKinley was so worried about it he probably wrote a memo to that effect.
HARLOW: Well, here's the difference. You had McKinley say under oath that three times he went to Pompeo so concerned about Maria Yovanovitch that he wanted some sort of letter or a statement showing support for her from the State Department and apparently, according to McKinley, under oath, Pompeo just said, like, thank you, right, and didn't acknowledge it.
And then you have Pompeo saying, well, I did nothing like that, after Yovanovitch was let go. That's the timing thing you bring up. But that was on TV. So you basically got someone on TV and then someone else under oath.
WU: Right. And my vote goes with the person under oath because they have to take things a lot more seriously. But I think that certainly adds to the incentive for witnesses as crucial as Pompeo to really want to avoid having a sit down in that chair. SCIUTTO: Well, we're going to get a vision on two more witnesses
today as those public transcripts are released. Fascinating reads.
Shan Wu, thanks very much.
WU: Sure thing. Good to see you.
HARLOW: All right. We have a lot ahead this hour. Right now you've got voters hitting the polls in key races across the country. Today is a major test for them and for the president. Voter enthusiasm. Could the Democrats prevail in some of these races? We'll break it down and what it means for the nation.
Also the trial for Trump ally and adviser Roger Stone begins in just a few minutes. Stone is charged with lying to Congress and attempted obstruction. We could learn some new very interesting details about the Trump campaign from this case.
SCIUTTO: And a man is stabbed to death in Maryland over a Popeyes chicken sandwich. We're going to have the latest on that alarming story.
SCIUTTO: You could say we are in the public phase now of the impeachment inquiry. We're waiting for new transcripts, two more to drop from two key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. House Democrats expected to release those transcripts at any moment.
HARLOW: Joining us now is Jackie Kucinich; Washington Bureau Chief for the "Daily Beast" and CNN political analyst, good morning to you, Jackie. All right, so, it is becoming more public as Jim just said. We'll have public testimony in the next few weeks is what it --
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right --
HARLOW: Sounds like. And you have the continuing attack from the White House and Republicans like Republican Senator Rand Paul on the whistleblower. Listen to this last night from the rally that the president held to help the gubernatorial candidate, the sitting Governor Matt Bevin. Here was Rand Paul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): The whistleblower needs to come before Congress as a material witness because he worked with 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)
HARLOW: I just don't think we should pass over how remarkable that is. There is U.S. code, there is law protecting whistleblowers. And there's a sitting U.S. senator calling for the media to out -- SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: This person.
KUCINICH: Who has advocated for whistleblower protections in the past. It really is kind of through the looking glass. And his colleagues would disagree with him as someone like Senator Grassley has also done --
HARLOW: Yes --
KUCINICH: A lot of work on whistleblower protection. But, yes, advocating that the law is broken and outing this person who has -- who, through his lawyers have expressed credible threats to this individual. And his -- and the whistleblower complaint through the Intelligence Committee Inspector General has -- was deemed urgent and credible.
Not to mention, I have to also point out the "read the transcripts" T- shirts that he was surrounded by. Well, when you -- the whistleblower complaint, not only is it borne out in the transcript, also you have all of these other supporting testimonies that we're seeing more and more of through these transcripts that are being released in the coming days that have done nothing, but support the claims that the whistleblower complaint --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KUCINICH: Brought forward.
SCIUTTO: Yes, that's the thing. I mean, the whistleblower attacks have outlived the evidence, in effect, that you're seeing to corroborate the core of that complaint.
HARLOW: Exactly --
SCIUTTO: We're joined now by Mike Rogers as well; former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Rogers, thanks as always. I understand you've been spending time in recent days with members of the military getting their view of this impeachment investigation.
And I'm curious what you're hearing. I mean, is this testimony moving them or are they siding with the president?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure -- I would say almost neither. I think these folks have been really kind of down the middle. You'll have some that say, you know, I don't like it, I don't feel comfortable with where the president was, I'm not sure it warrants impeachment.
What they don't like is the sheer disruption of all of this. They have real missions in real places that put their lives in danger. And they're concerned about the steady hand on the till when it comes to national security. That's the biggest complaint I hear about all of this. HARLOW: Guys, just some news that just crossed the Justice
Department, the Office of Legal Counsel there that sort of sets guidelines and parameters. Has just come out with a -- essentially Jackie, a new defense to the White House's stonewalling of this impeachment inquiry overall. They are calling it legally invalid unless they allow witnesses to bring a government lawyer with them. What do you make of that?
KUCINICH: I just have a feeling it will be rejected by the Congress as we've seen it again and again. And they'll probably point to it as another way too, that the White House is trying to obstruct this investigation. Now, I haven't seen the details, obviously, since it just came across, but that seems to have been the pattern that we've seen throughout this process.
SCIUTTO: Mike Rogers, you've spent a lot of time in Congress. You took part in a number of investigations, of course, an impeachment inquiry is different. But one thing comes across as you read these transcripts is that Republican lawmakers inside those rooms had equal time with --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Democratic lawmakers, asked a lot of hard questions. You know the charge that you're hearing from the president and Republicans, this is a Soviet-style inquiry. Based on what you've seen, do you think there's substance to that argument?
ROGERS: I mean that -- you know, as always, it's never as bad as one party seems to think it is or never as good as the other believes it is. I do believe that they should be -- that they, that members of Congress and the Democrats should be over -- bending over backwards to make this appear to be fair and equal.
So, if you have a deposition where you're not allowing Republicans in, I think that's not a good idea.
HARLOW: But they're not having --
ROGERS: I also think it's --
HARLOW: They're not having --
ROGERS: Well --
HARLOW: Depositions where Republicans aren't allowed in. The Republican committee members are allowed in.
ROGERS: No, there have been depositions where, you know, they say that you can read the transcript, but you can't be in the room. And that -- I just think all of that is just not good forum. And I would negotiate with the White House. You know, the White House is up, you know, rattling that Saber. If the Democrats were smart, they'd go there and say, well, what do
you want it to look like special? If you want lawyers in the deposition, we're going to have them, you're going to have to participate in the investigation. The White House does not get to dictate how the investigation goes in Congress.
HARLOW: Right --
ROGERS: That to me is really very important. But at the same time, you can -- you can give a little, you can go back to the White House and say, how does it look to you if you want lawyers in the room, we're OK with that. That shouldn't change the answers of the witnesses in any way, shape or form. And that being said, I just want to say one thing on this whistleblower thing.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
ROGERS: It is outrageous for these -- any member of the Senate or the House to talk about unmasking a whistleblower. I think it's absolutely outrageous. Where the Republicans have a point is they should have access to the whistleblower to make sure that all of the information -- because there's more of them, just what was in that 8.5 by 11 piece of paper that was submitted as the complaint, that they get an opportunity to do that.
It's against the law to disclose the --
SCIUTTO: Right --
ROGERS: Identity of that whistleblower, and having somebody out in public at a rally talk about --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
ROGERS: Unmasking the whistleblower for political purposes, I think is absolutely -- I think this town has absolutely lost its mind.
SCIUTTO: A sitting senator and a sitting president, of course, both demanding that.
HARLOW: And Chuck Grassley --
SCIUTTO: Neither one are good.
HARLOW: Yes, and Chuck Grassley defending the whistleblower, but when asked, have you talked to the president about this, no, only if the president comes to me on it, right?
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: This may be the moment to go to him on this one, right --
ROGERS: Well, remember, separate but equal branches of government --
HARLOW: There you go --
ROGERS: The senators, the house does not -- do not need to go and ask the president --
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: How to conduct an investigation --
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: Matter of fact, I would argue they should not do that. They understand how this is done. It doesn't mean you can't accommodate requests and concerns by the White House. I think they should try to do that. But at the same time, this notion that we're doing it our way and you're doing it your way, and it -- because I'll tell you, this will divide America, and we should not pretend it's not.
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: Half of America thinks this thing is a big mess and a sham. The other half thinks he's guilty, let's hang him. Somehow, we've got to make -- get credibility back in this process. So, whatever the outcome is, Americans go, I can live with that.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Yes --
KUCINICH: Well --
SCIUTTO: Fair point.
KUCINICH: I just need to say we're about to have it all open up. We're about to have this be public hearings --
HARLOW: Yes --
KUCINICH: Where the Americans will be able to look at this and judge for themselves.
SCIUTTO: Right, four of the witnesses who agree to show up.
HARLOW: There you go --
SCIUTTO: Which is not -- yes, which is not --
KUCINICH: If they're here to see you --
If they show up, yes.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Thank you both very much, Chairman Rogers, Jackie Kucinich, always good to have you. So, election day 2019, yes, it is an election day today. The president is not on the ballot or is he? We're following some key races across the country. SCIUTTO: Yes, these races matter. We're also just moments away from
the opening bell on Wall Street, stocks set to start the day higher, this after the Dow hit a record on Monday. Investors will be watching the back and forth trade talks between the U.S. and China. The "Financial Times" says the Trump administration is now considering removing some tariffs to help seal a deal and end, or begin to end the trade war.
That would include some tariffs on clothing, appliances and flat- screen monitors, things that you would have seen prices rise.
HARLOW: Right now, voters hitting the polls in key elections across the country.
SCIUTTO: The outcomes of these races could tell us a lot about the political landscape right now and ahead of the 2020 election. We have reporters covering some of the high-profile contests. Let's start in Kentucky, happens to be where the president was. CNN's Evan McMorris- Santoro. Evan, tell us why this governor's race is getting so much attention there, and how much of a bellwether should we consider this?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is one of those races where it's a national politics versus local politics thing. The Democrats want to talk about local politics, they think they can eventually pull off an upset here if they talk about Medicare and education.
Republicans think they can keep this seat, keep this governor's mansion if they talk about Trump and they talk about social issues. So, it's that kind of thing we're seeing in other elections around the country.
HARLOW: One thing that I think is really interesting, Evan, is that you've got Bevin who won by 9 points, right? But then you've got some like unpopularity among him by those that aren't on board with all of his policies. But his Democratic opponent is even a little bit critical of the impeachment inquiry, right?
Beshear; the attorney general said about the impeachment inquiry that he wants to see more of it happening in public. That's interesting.