Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RIGHT NOW
House Requests White House Chief Of Staff Mick Mulvaney To Testify This Week; Transcripts From Key Witnesses To Be Released. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 5, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Have a great afternoon.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
And underway right now, any moment now, we are expecting to see our first glimpses of another set of transcripts from the impeachment inquiry, but we are following other breaking news from the congressional committees leading this probe as well.
The committees sent a letter to the White House. They are requesting that acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney give a deposition. Remember, Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo over Ukraine aid, and he told the White House press corps, quote, get over it.
The testimony that we're expecting today is from Kurt Volker. He was President Trump's special envoy to Ukraine, but he resigned one day after the release of the whistleblower report. He was mentioned in the report. Volker revealing the existence of text messages that talked about quid pro quo and the withholding of military aid to Ukraine in exchange for public declarations about investigations.
Also from Gordon Sondland, who is the United States ambassador to the European Union, and despite the fact that Ukraine is not in the E.U., we should mention. Sondland was one of the men who was leading U.S. diplomatic efforts there, and he testified that President Trump told him to involve Rudy Giuliani and that Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's blessing.
Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, tell us what you're hearing and what you are hearing about this request for Mick Mulvaney.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Democrats have been eager to hear from Mick Mulvaney about his role in the delay of that nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, as well as his role in some of the discussions that occurred in the run-up to that July phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine and discussions about this push for Ukraine to announce investigations into the 2016 elections, as well as into the president's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Now, what they say in this letter requesting a deposition by Friday, saying Mr. Mulvaney may have played a direct role in the scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election by manufacturing damaging information about President Trump's political opponents and the efforts to cover up these activities.
Now, we should not expect Mulvaney to come. We have seen defiance from a number of key White House officials, including two today, four yesterday, more coming in the days ahead. And one Democrat who emerged from the closed-door session after these witnesses did not appear made clear that Democrats still are ready to move forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If a bank robbery takes place and you have eight or ten witnesses to it, that's great. It's better if you have 20 witnesses to it. But if you have eight or ten witnesses who are telling you the same thing and it's uncontradicted, that would be enough to ascertain that there was a bank robbery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, it's unclear how many more witnesses will come this week, including John Bolton, the former national security adviser, someone who had been mentioned throughout these depositions as someone who was concerned about that push to investigate the president's political rivals.
We are hearing one person who may come and testify, Jennifer Williams, who is a member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff. She is scheduled to testify later this week. We'll see if she ultimately does show. But in the meantime, we are waiting any minute for the release of these transcript, as you said, Brianna, could shine new light about exactly all those discussions that were taking place and what Gordon Sondland, the top ambassador to the European Union, said about his interaction with the president as well as his concerns that Rudy Giuliani was mounting this campaign to push for these investigations at the same time they were looking to strengthen that relationship with Ukraine. We should get more details about that when his testimony is released. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right, Manu, we'll be waiting for that as long as with you.
Let's listen in now to Senator Mitt Romney, who has frequently been a critic of President Trump's.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): They should remain confidential, that they have a right to be private, and then the determination is made is what the whistleblower spoken about something, which is confirmed by the facts or not. So, going after the whistleblower, I think, is misdirected.
REPORTER: Senator, have you been briefed on these Mexico attacks?
ROMNEY: I have, yes. And I have another briefing this afternoon. I got a call from the White House last night, and they told me about what they had learned at that point, that facts continue to get clarified. But, obviously it's a great tragedy when any citizens, Mexican or American, in this case American citizens, are brutally murdered. And it's moms and children. This is really unthinkable.
And I agree with the president when he says Mexico has to really knuckle down and go after some of these cartels and stop this escalating level of violence and hope that if there is a way we can help in that effort that we're called upon to do so.
REPORTER: Do you have any indication that it was targeted?
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) were targeted by mistake, that they might have been a mistaken identity?
ROMNEY: The briefings I have haven't suggested a motive, and so I really don't have an answer to that. I would be surprised if it was a targeting, frankly. I think it's much more likely to be something associated with the business of the cartels. But I don't think we'll know until a full investigation is carried out.
REPORTER: Do you think Mexican relations are strong enough to do something about these cartels?
ROMNEY: We have a good relationship with Mexico, and yet what's happening along the border with regard to these cartels and the increasing level of violence is a real concern to us, and, I think, to the Mexican government and how to deal with it. This has been something that Mexico has been working on for a long, long time, and there's still a problem and it's getting worse.
And so the president says, look, let's get serious about it, and he's indicated that he would be willing to help. And I think that's the right sentiment.
KEILAR: All right. I want to talk now about impeachment and also about the whistleblower who you heard Senator Romney there talking about. Let's bring in attorney -- impeachment attorney Ross Garber. We have April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, Kevin Carroll, and former CIA officer and former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security, and also Dana Bash, our Chief Political Correspondent here at CNN.
All right, let's talk about what we just heard Senator Romney touch upon, Dana, which is he said going after the whistleblower is misdirected. Because over and over, the president has, and Senator Rand Paul, his colleague, chimed in last night and said that the media should release the name of the whistleblower. There is a reason Rand Paul himself is not doing it.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and then you saw another one of the president's usual allies, very staunch allies on impeachment, Lindsey Graham, say he agrees with Rand Paul, not about the media releasing it, but that the president should know the name of the whistleblower. I definitely defer to the lawyers on this panel.
But just on its face, it seems to me to be such a political argument, because the whistleblower is kind of moot at this point. Right now, we are in the throes of a very intense impeachment inquiry where, yes, it was launched because of the whistleblower, but after that, the White House themselves released the summary of the call transcript and then the investigators, Republican and Democrat, have been doing depositions behind closed doors of multiple administration officials.
And so that's where we are. That's what matters, not so much about the whistleblower, except that they're looking for a scapegoat.
KEILAR: Certainly. A lot of corroborating witnesses, as you said. And some of them we're expecting transcripts, right? We got transcripts from two of the people who have been deposed yesterday. We're expecting two today. Kurt Volker was the first witness and his release of text messages set up a lot of the other questioning for other people who were deposed. Gordon Sondland is likely to appear again in a public impeachment hearing.
So let's talk about what we want to know, right? Trump telling Sondland on the phone that there was no quid pro quo, Sondland explained to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave his blessing to Rudy Giuliani to carry on this kind of shadow Ukraine policy, Volker voicing concerns that Giuliani could cause problems. What are the threads that you're most interested in, Kevin Carroll?
KEVIN CARROLL, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I would be very interested to see whether or not Ambassador Sondland or Ambassador Yovanovitch told the truth under oath, because it seems like only one of them is. So that would be the most interesting thing to me is to get people under oath and cross-examine them and see who is the more credible witness.
KEILAR: And for that detail for us where you're seeing people getting their lines crossed in this testimony.
CARROLL: Exactly. It's just going to come down to people contradicting each other and who has more corroborative information.
KEILAR: What are you guys looking for?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What I'm looking for is more damning evidence as it relates to Rudy Giuliani, a civilian. You may want to call him a kitchen cabinet member, if you will. Other administrations have had that, but it's people who were outside of the administration who offer advice. But he's not just offering advice. He's staring in the pot and that is not constitutional.
Also, I'm looking at the implications of the president, as well as Pompeo, as well as justice, if that is pulled into the case.
And we have to remember, while we're watching this, we have to look at the story, because right now, it's bits and pieces. The story has to come together for the average American to understand. And we keep talking about quid pro quo. Just say bribery because a lot of people don't understand. They are trying to figure this out, what? And that's where you lose people. So if the Democrats want this case to be told, they're going to have to have someone to really give the narrative, to tell the story in a very basic way so people can connect the dots, Rudy Giuliani here, Pompeo here, the president there.
KEILAR: Vice President Pence's -- one of his senior advisers is currently on the schedule for this week. Do you expect that we're going to hear from her, Ross?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I don't we're going to hear from very many more witnesses, and certainly not sort of senior administration officials.
KEILAR: She's not officially not complying, but you're thinking that she's not going to?
GARBER: I think it's unlikely. And notably, today, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel released a memo sort of explaining why it's not proper to keep White House lawyers out of these proceedings. That's sort of their pitch and it's sort of their pitch and it's sort of a justification, I think, for continued non-compliance with subpoenas by senior administration officials.
KEILAR: All right. All of you stand by. We're actually told that these transcripts are going to be released here any moment. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
KEILAR: We have some breaking news. The House is getting ready to release excerpts from the testimony of key witnesses in the impeachment investigation.
First though, President Trump is keeping up his attacks on the whistleblower whose complaint led to the impeachment inquiry. The president has repeatedly demanded that the whistleblower's identity be revealed and that they come forward and testify. And during a campaign event in Kentucky yesterday, Senator Rand Paul joined in.
(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)
KEILAR: So, to be clear, there is no evidence that the whistleblower was a Biden staffer, and the Intel Community's inspector general did say the whistleblower had an indicia had arguable bias toward another unnamed presidential candidate. Even so, the whistleblower's complaint has been repeatedly corroborated, including by the Ukraine call transcript that the president himself released, as well as by witness after witness testifying under oath before Congress. These are witnesses who are career civil servants, not partisans. And Rand Paul knows this and he knows also that the law is clear. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act passed in 2012 specifically says that a whistleblower doesn't lose protections because of their motive.
Joining me now to discuss this, is Leon Panetta, former Secretary -- CIA Director and Defense Secretary, I should say, former White House Chief of Staff as well in the Clinton years.
So, sir, what's your reaction to Rand Paul calling on the media to out this whistleblower?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, you know, it's an indication of my greatest fear here, which is that they are deliberately trying to politicize this whole process rather than allowing the process to take place the way it should. They're basically throwing whatever they can into this issue to create a partisan flurry. And that's what they did at the rally.
And when they use those kinds of attacks, it really undermines the law itself. The whistleblower law was designed to provide protection to those that report a crime and to protect them from any kind of retaliation. And here you have the president and a United States senator saying, we want to violate that law and release his name. Even though it's not necessary anymore, it's been corroborated by other witnesses, why in God's name would they continue to pick away at that issue? The only reason I can decide is that it inflames the politics of this issue, and that is the defense that the White House uses with regards to impeachment.
KEILAR: And at the expense of safety, because that's a real issue here. If the identity of the whistleblower gets out and their safety is compromised, would that be the fault of the president or Senator Rand Paul or anyone else who has called to out the whistleblower?
PANETTA: Well, there's no question that what they're asking for violates the law. Indeed, it might even become another article of impeachment. If you have the president of the United States deliberately violating the whistleblower law by demanding that his name be released, there is no legal justification for that.
KEILAR: So the testimony I want to talk about as we await some of the testimony coming out from two of these deposed witnesses on the Hill, the testimony that we've seen so far lays out a clear case of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ceding his authority over some state matters to Rudy Giuliani. What does that mean for his credibility as secretary of state?
PANETTA: I think it's been terribly damaging to the credibility of the secretary of state for a number of reasons. Not only the fact that he gave license to Rudy Giuliani to go out there and operate on his own in the Ukraine and try to basically represent the president's interests without portfolio. Not only that, but also I think what these transcripts show is the total failure of the secretary of state to back up the career employees who are part of our diplomatic core.
These are people who are out there.
KEILAR: And, Secretary Panetta, I am so sorry to interrupt you. I actually -- some more transcripts have come out now. So I want -- if you can stand by for me for just a moment, I want to get to Manu Raju. He's there on Capitol Hill. Manu, what can you tell us?
RAJU: Yes. We have actually obtained the excerpts from these transcripts of both Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, as well as the former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. We're still going through these excerpts that were put out by the Democrats who went through the transcripts who were waiting to see all the details. But what we can see from these excerpts is some interesting exchanges between Gordon Sondland and these investigators as they were asking about the efforts to try to build relations with the Ukraine. The Ukrainians pushed for that, as well as Rudy Giuliani's efforts to investigate matters that could help the president politically.
Now, there was an exchange here that I'll read to you from some of this from the excerpts that we have obtained.
There was a question about there were demands -- this is a question from an investigator. There were demands, weren't there, that an investigation take place in 2016 for Burisma, which is, of course, the company that Hunter Biden has served on the board of in Ukraine. The question was, ultimately, those demands -- those were demands, were they not? Ultimately, yes, Sondland replies.
And then he says, and it's fair to say that you had to navigate those demands, you had to accommodate what the president and his lawyer wanted if you were going to set up this meeting you thought very important? And then Sondland replies, I think that's fair.
Now that's significant because here they're saying to get a meeting between the Ukrainian president as well as President Trump, in order to do that, they had to do what the president and his lawyer wanted, his lawyer being Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani seeking those investigations that could hurt Vice President Joe Biden and his son could help the president politically.
Then the question goes on as this. But I think you said, Ambassador, that over time, things got more and more insidious. I think those were your words. The questioner asked, it started out with no conditions, and there was a condition for investigation into the corruption, and then there was a condition of an investigation into 2016 and Burisma, and that on the call itself became clear that condition was investigation of 2016 and the Bidens. I think you described that as becoming more and more insidious, correct? Sondland replies, that's correct. And then they go on to ask more about Rudy Giuliani's efforts here and whether or not this is all part of the conditions being set for this meeting that the Ukrainians desperately wanted. He says -- he answers, if you mean that those conditions would have to be complied with prior to getting a meeting, that was my understanding.
Now, also, there is also the question about the vital national security aid, military aid, that had been approved by Congress, roughly $400 million, why that was not getting to the Ukrainians amid this push to get security assistance. And according to another excerpt here that we're reading from what we've obtained, Sondland says he kept getting different answers from different people. He could not get a straight answer about why that military aid was withheld.
So we're still reading through all of this, but those are some early highlights here of what we're seeing. Clearly, Sondland believed at this meeting, this is effort to strengthen this key alliance between the U.S. and Ukraine had essentially been put on ice amid this push by President Trump to enlist his former attorney -- his current personal attorney to investigate matters like Burisma, Joe Biden and the 2016 elections that could help the president politically.
So, of course, that will fuel more contention that this was a quid pro quo in order to try to get the Ukrainians what they want, in order to get the president to get matters that could help him in his re- election. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. Manu, stand by for me. Those are the excerpts there of witnesses. We expect more to be coming out. And we're going to come back to you to get that Information as it becomes available.
I want to bring Secretary Panetta back in to discuss this.
So you heard that. Part of this was Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Ukraine not part of the E.U., nonetheless, he was very much involved in this shadow foreign policy that was going on, sort of in parallel to what the official U.S. foreign policy would be. And he is describing in clear terms, according to excerpts of the transcript of his testimony, a quid pro quo, a trade of an investigation of the president's adversary, even for a meeting with the president that the Ukrainian president wanted.
What do you think about this?
PANETTA: Well, Brianna, again, I think it's important to keep focusing on the basics. And the basic charge here is that the president of the United States was asking a foreign leader and a foreign government to open up an investigation on a political opponent and on a political conspiracy. And in exchange for that would provide not only a meeting at the White House but also military aid. That is the clear definition of bribery. And it's a clear definition of what constitutes a violation of the president's oath. So this is just additional evidence that when you look at the testimony, when you look at the facts here, it basically supports a charge against the president that he was deliberately misusing his office of the presidency.
KEILAR: Do you think that Democrats are making -- I mean, you just laid it out in very clear terms, the facts and what that means. Do you think Democrats are effectively doing that?
PANETTA: I think Democrats are trying to provide a process that will lay out this evidence. They've done it through the investigations and the transcripts that they're now releasing, and hopefully they will have the hearings and the direct testimony from these witnesses so that the American people can see them testify to what they did in the transcripts. That is the proper procedure.
My hope is that both Democrats and Republicans recognize the seriousness of what they're involved with, which is the impeachment process, and that this doesn't just become another political football in Washington, but that both kind of rise to the occasion and seriously look at the issues and at the truth and determine whether or not the president ought to be held accountable.
KEILAR: Secretary Panetta, thank you so much for joining us.
And stand by, we're now actually getting -- we're getting excerpts here. We have them right here. We're going to be looking through these new details about how Rudy Giuliani's shadow foreign policy operation was working. We're going to break all of this down.
This is CNN live coverage.