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CNN NEWSROOM

Pence's Senior Adviser to Testify in Impeachment Probe; Trump and Allies Escalate Demands to Unmask Whistleblower; White House Responds to Envoy Describing Quid Pro Quo in Testimony; Nine American Family Members Killed in Highway Ambush Near Border; FBI Arrests White Supremacist in Synagogue Bomb Plot; Roger Stone Leaves First Day of Trial Over Food Poisoning. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 5, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- was on that July call with the Ukrainian President. Something that we should note Mick Mulvaney was not on the call. She was on in addition to Pence's national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, who do not believe has been called to testify and she's more likely to go than someone like a political appointee would be and that would be really notable.

Because so far there have been a lot of questions about what the Vice President knew. That role that was part of this scandal and so far, the Vice President in the most recent interview he did with CBS refused to answer several questions about what he knew about these conditions, this deal that the President wanted the Ukrainians to move on before he released to that aid. That's something we could find out as soon as Thursday. So Jennifer Williams is a potential possible witness that people need to keep their eye on.

BALDWIN: We will. Kaitlan, thank you very much. And just also keeping in mind this inquiry began after that whistleblower complaint and the President and his allies are escalating their demands that that individual be unmasked despite a right to an anonymity under federal law.

And at a rally in Kentucky last night, Republican Senator Rand Paul joined the call for the whistleblower's name to be released.

(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)

BALDWIN: Liz Hempowicz an is expert on whistleblower protections. She is the Director of Public Policy at the Project on Government Oversight. So Liz, thank you so much for being with me and let's start with what we just heard there from Senator Paul. You know, this notion that he's asking the press, do your job, because he wants to unmask this whistleblower. Just first and foremost, is that against the law?

LIZ HEMPOWICZ, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: That's a difficult question to ask but I would -- to answer. But I would say the identity of the whistleblower is irrelevant here. I don't know what Senator Paul was talking about when he is saying he must be a fact witness. We know that the facts that he alleged in his complaint have been corroborated. They've been corroborated by this White House, they were corroborated by the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. They've been corroborated by testimony given to the House already. I'm not quite sure what more light the whistleblower can shed on this and I think it's just really dangerous to be focusing on his identity as if it's something relevant here.

BALDWIN: But I guess one other question you could ask just listening to the Senator is, well, if he thinks it's so important, why wouldn't he out the whistleblower himself? Why call on the media to do it?

HEMPOWICZ: Right. That's a great question. You know, he said that he knew the identity of the whistleblower but calls on the press to do it. To answer your earlier question, I apologize. I think it is technically illegal. It would constitute reprisal against this whistleblower who qualifies for protections under the law, because he followed the procedures laid out by Congress to afford himself those legal protections.

And one of them says you can't do anything that would cause a substantial change in the working conditions of a whistleblower. And I think outing them would first of all greatly increase the chance of them suffering more reprisal but also would constitute reprisal in and of itself as a change in working conditions.

BALDWIN: You are the expert. But it's my understanding that it's actually only illegal if the intelligence community inspector general cannot identify the whistleblower. Is that true?

HEMPOWICZ: Yes, no. That's true. That's explicitly, the inspector general can't release the identity of the whistleblower. But my point is that, under the protections that this individual has, you can't do anything that would constitute a significant change in working conditions. So while it doesn't explicitly say in the law that you can't release their identity, I think, I do think that this individual would have a strong case to make that that would be a significant change in working conditions.

BALDWIN: Got it. Liz Hempowicz, thank you so much.

HEMPOWICZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, nine members of this American family, mothers, their children, killed in this horrific attack near the Mexican border. Was this a case of mistaken identity or was this a targeted attack? We'll take you there, live.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, all this we've been discussing in the last nearly two hours, the White House has now weighed in, they just responded to the release of these testimonies in the impeachment investigation. So let's go back to you, Kaitlan Collins, at the White House. And so, what exactly is the White House saying?

COLLINS: So, Brooke, I'm going to read you Stephanie Grisham's statement and then I'm going to point to what we saw in that testimony that was released today from Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union.

First, Stephanie Grisham, the Press Secretary, says quote, both transcripts released shows there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought. She says Ambassador Sondland squarely states he did not know and still does not know when, why or by whom the aid was suspended. She said that he presumed there was a link to the aid but cannot identify any solid source for that assumption. She then goes on to points to other testimony from Kurt Volker that released today.

But Brooke, when you're looking at Gordon Sondland's testimony today you actually see that he updated that testimony and it is a pretty explicit acknowledgement that a statement that they wanted made by the Ukrainians especially the Ukrainian President was tied to the release of that military aid by this White House.

[15:40:00]

So in Sondland's addendum, he says, and this is what he updated from when he testified, quote, I do now recall a conversation that he had with a top aide to the Ukrainian President on September 1, 2019. Where he says in that one on one with the top aide to the Ukrainian President, I said the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we have been discussing for many weeks.

So that is September 1st that Gordon Sondland now is saying he recalls a conversation with a top aide to the Ukrainian President where they said the statement about investigating Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and that energy board, that company he sat on the board of, that was tied directly to release of that military aid. So that seems to refute what exactly the press secretary is saying in this statement as they are trying to dismiss the transcripts that come out today -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right. Kaitlan, thank you for that.

Let's talk about this family of nine Americans. Nine who all live in Mexico, they were murdered while traveling in the northern state of Sonora. The victims include little babies, not even a year old, several other children, three women, killed. The family was traveling in this three-car caravan when Mexico authorities say they were ambushed, some of them were burned alive. The FBI has offered to help with this investigation. Matt Rivers is our CNN international correspondent in Mexico City, and

so, Matt, Mexico's President says this looks like a possible case of mistaken identity. Is that what they're saying?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, and they're looking at context clues too as well, Brooke. I mean when you consider what this region is known for. This is one of the most lucrative drug smuggling routes in all of Mexico. And as a result you have had drug cartels essentially waging war over those routes in the state of Sonora and Chihuahua, directly to its east, for decades now. Except it's gotten worse over the past several years.

And so what authorities are saying might have happened here, as these families were traveling down the road, this could be a case of mistaken identity where cartel gunmen see this caravan, mistake it for some rival group and then open fire as a result.

However, I've also talked, Brooke, today to family members of the people who have been killed, and one of them specifically told me, look, it wouldn't surprise me if we were specifically targeted. Because this community, where hundreds live in Sonora, people who are both American and Mexican citizens, they don't always toe the cartel line, they kind of make the cartels upset from time to time. He says maybe it was targeted, but ultimately right now, Brooke, we just don't know.

BALDWIN: Awful for this family. I talked to an aunt of several of the children and the lives lost. And she was talking about how they were just such, such good people. Several of the kids I know were in the hospital recovering from all of this. We'll stay on it. Matt, thank you very much.

Just into us, on the very first day of his trial, Roger Stone asked to be excused complaining of food poisoning. We will tell you what happened inside court today.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We are learning more today about the suspect accused of plotting to bomb an historic Colorado synagogue. The FBI says 27- year-old Richard Holzer espoused white supremacist ideology. The feds say that they first spotted him online talking about killing Jews. Undercover agents reached out in September. By October, the feds say they met with him to plan bombing this 119-year-old Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. This individual allegedly visited Temple Emanuel multiple times after he hatched his plot with these undercover agents.

The ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, says this latest plot marks the 13th time in the past year of a white supremacist targeting the Jewish community. And with me now, Michael Atlas-Acuna. He is the President of Temple Emanuel Synagogue's Board of Directors. Michael, thank you so much for joining me, and my goodness. I mean, when did you first learn that the FBI had stopped this plot to bomb your synagogue and what was your reaction, sir?

MICHAEL ATLAS-ACUNA, PRESIDENT OF BOARD OF DIRECTORS, TEMPLE EMANUEL: Well, I first found out about it at 10:00 in the morning when the FBI contacted me that they wanted to meet with me regarding something involving the Temple. But they didn't disclose to me exactly what that was. So we scheduled a meeting for 2:00 that same day, which was yesterday, and then when they told me, I guess my first thought was that it's amazing that they stopped this from happening. So complete gratitude to the FBI --

BALDWIN: Yes.

ATLAS-ACUNA: -- and the federal police department from keeping this from happening. That was my first thought.

BALDWIN: Do you have an indication as to why this person wanted to do this?

ATLAS-ACUNA: I mean, obviously, this individual is, has looked into the white supremacist ideology, and we don't have that kind of atmosphere here in Pueblo. This guy was a transplant from California and he'd only been here a very short time. So I feel like this is a bad reflection on Pueblo, Colorado because that's not what the community is.

[15:50:00]

BALDWIN: And when hear this detail that this individual had visited your synagogue several times, what did you think?

ATLAS-ACUNA: Well, I guess, I hear that he had visited but we don't recall ever seeing him. We know who comes in through the door. Our congregation is only 35 families so we know who comes through the door. And I don't -- none of us recall ever seeing him unless he changed the way he looks.

BALDWIN: I was reading, Michael, that there is a sign in the front of your synagogue that reads "this is not a gun-free zone." Why do you feel that sign is necessary? Prior to all of this?

ATLAS-ACUNA: Well, I think it's necessary because of the very obvious, churches and synagogues have been shot up, and I think for somebody to put a sign that said this is a gun-free zone is asinine. You're only asking for trouble. And we refuse to be a soft target so we're going to defend ourselves. We're going to have the security that we need, we have armed guards and I come to find out that after the Pittsburgh occurrence that a lot of our members -- well, not a lot, but several of our members are carrying weapons. So I just think we have to defend ourselves.

BALDWIN: Wow, and that is where we are. That is where we are.

ATLAS-ACUNA: I know that is not a popular stance with a lot of people. But that is a reality we live in today.

BALDWIN: Michael Atlas-Acuna, thank you so much, and I'm so glad we're talking on tv about how the FBI stopped it and that you and your 35 families are OK.

ATLAS-ACUNA: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

ATLAS-ACUNA: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Just into us here at CNN on the very first day of his trial, Roger Stone asked to be excused from court. Hear why.

[15:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: So we were expecting the unexpected in this Roger Stone trial but on the very first day, that is exactly what we got. Of course, you remember Roger Stone, he is the long time Trump ally and former adviser charged with obstructing justice and making false claims to Congress investigating Russian interference in the election. So with that, we go to Shimon Prokupecz, he is following this for us. Shimon, day one, food poisoning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, apparently, Roger Stone ate something, we don't know when, maybe this morning, maybe last night but he walked into court today not feeling well. And was around 10:15 or so that he was excused to go to the bathroom and he came back after lunch not feeling well. He asked the judge if he could be excused. The judge wanted to let him know, it's important that you're here. We're starting the trial today. The jury selection part of the trial.

He understood that and he said that is fine. You can go ahead. I don't want to delay this any further. You can go ahead and proceed and with that, he was excused for the day. And the judge continued with jury selection.

We don't know what this means for tomorrow. We don't know how he's doing today. But that wasn't the only thing that happened in court today. You talk about what a way for this trial to get started. There was a juror -- a potential juror that got sick as well. They had to call an ambulance for that person.

BALDWIN: They passed out sick.

PROKUPECZ: Passed out.

BALDWIN: Hit the floor.

PROKUPECZ: Hit the floor. And may have had seizures, that person was taken away, and then outside of all of that, there was an argument between two Roger Stone associates in the hallway. They were arguing over something. So it is going to be interesting. I'm going to be there every day and I'm sure every day we'll have something interesting that occurs. Because Roger Stone, of course, as he does with most things, it is always dramatic. He's been quiet in court. We haven't heard from him. He was there

yesterday. I saw him, he sat there with his attorneys. A pretty big, large legal team, that he has, about four or five attorneys. And so hopefully by today they'll have the jurors and then tomorrow we get underway with opening statements and perhaps the prosecutors first witness.

BALDWIN: OK. So witnesses. Who should we expect to hear from?

PROKUPECZ: So, a lot of people we know and have heard of during the Mueller investigation. People who have worked at the White House and know the President. So we have people like Steve Bannon, other folks, Michael Caputo, of course, another friend of Roger Stone. Someone who obviously was involved in the campaign, knows Roger Stone very well. We'll hear names come up in this trial like Paul Manafort obviously, Rick Gates, that may be a big witness in this investigation, in this trial. He's been cooperating with investigators, so we may hear from him.

We're going to hear a lot about Julian Assange, obviously, and WikiLeaks that's going to come up a lot. And then Randy Credico who is a comedian, someone that the government has charged Roger Stone with trying to intimidate during the Congressional testimony during the Congressional investigation. That is someone that Roger Stone, the government said, tried to intimidate and tried to obstruct justice into getting him not to cooperate. So we're going to hear from him. He certainly is a colorful character.

So it is going to be interesting. We may hear from a Manhattan madam, of course. She's a close friend of Roger Stone. She had come in and testified in the grand jury. So we're going to have quite a list of characters come in and out of this courtroom in the next few days. The trial is expected to go on for about three weeks -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, wow, lucky you. We'll be talking a lot. Day one is any indication, we'll going to be talking a lot. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very -

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