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Ex-Diplomat Describes Giuliani-Led Parallel Foreign Policy; House Set To Release Transcripts Of Key Witness Testimony; Senator Rand Paul: Media Should Print Whistleblower's Name; Marie Yovanovitch: State Department Appealed To Hannity To Stop Attacks; Released Transcripts Put Spotlight On Mike Pompeo And Sean Hannity. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired November 5, 2019 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. More transcripts from the House impeachment inquiry set to be released today from two witnesses central to Ukraine policy also today two more Trump Administration officials defy Congress and refuse to testify.

Plus either Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or Former top aid is lying. The aide says he raised concerns about the treatment of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Secretary Pompeo says he did not. And it is Election Day, the races for Governor in Mississippi and Kentucky being watched for 2020 clues and among those watching very closely is the President.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Hello, Kentucky. You're about to reelect Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. He's such a pain in the ass, but that's what you want.


KING: Back to Election Day a bit later. We begin the hour waiting on the House Intelligence Committee and the release of testimony transcripts from two Trump Administration diplomats who are critical impeachment witnesses. Kurt Volker was the White House Special Envoy to Ukraine. Gordon Sondland is the President's Ambassador to the European Union.

Both are two of the so-called three amigos who testified to pieces of the quid pro quo at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. The anticipated release follows two other witness transcripts being put on the public record, from Marie Yovanovitch, the Former Ambassador to Ukraine and from Michael McKinley an Advisor to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In hundreds of pages of answers, both witnesses painted damning picture of how the Trump Administration works and how in their view any way top State Department officials repeatedly failed to stand up for the experts and the diplomats and instead let a parallel Ukraine policy campaign led by Rudy Giuliani run amok.

CNN's Manu Raju is live up on Capitol Hill as we await the release of these transcripts and also some testimony denied today.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, the two witnesses who were supposed to come today are not showing up to White House officials. One works with the National Security Council and Michael Duffy who works in the office of management of budget. This now is six White House officials who have defied Congressional request to come testify defying subpoenas as Democrats believe this all going to add up to an obstruction of Congress charged against the President, but the highly anticipated release of those two transcripts are bound to come out any minute.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, has high interest because of the role that he played, and what we've seen already from his opening statement in which we had it paint previously and he reveals that he was concerned that the President put on ice efforts to strengthen the relationship with Ukraine by a meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine, and the President asked the U.S. officials to talk and deal with Rudy Giuliani's efforts.

He learned later that he said later that Rudy Giuliani was pushing these investigations that could help the President politically. The question for Gordon Sondland, though, John, going forward is whether or not his testimony is consistent with what others have testified. Two others have said that Gordon Sondland's interaction, for instance, with the President were much more significant than he said, at least in his opening statement, including an interaction which the President apparently told Sondland that he needed the Ukrainians to go out publicly to announce his investigations just as that aid was being held up for Ukraine.

So how does he discuss that in the transcripts? Does that, do they get into that the decisive, did he deny it? Those are big questions that will have to answer here in just a matter of moments. John.

KING: In just a matter of moments and let me thank you in advance if today goes anything like yesterday, you're going to be running around a little bit in the hours and we'll see you in a few minutes, I suspect. Manu Raju, live on the Hill, I appreciate it.

With me in the studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip Catherine Lucey with "The Wall Street Journal" Lisa Lerer with "The New York Times" and Karoun Demirjian with "The Washington Post".

To Manu's point about the importance of Volker and Sondland two people key and two people intimately involved with the President and two people who based on what we know so far became aware of Giuliani's parallel effort, let me call it that to be polite. And at least in Volker's case, from the testimony we heard, tried to deal with it. Didn't like it but tried to figure out, can I do my job while this is still happening.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's not just the way it became aware of the Giuliani parallel affair, they were deputized to effectively run it and coordinate with Giuliani. It was the two of them and Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary. The Energy Secretary Rick Perry he has not testified in the probe.

So yes, it showed, basically, that the text messages that we've seen, the bits of testimony that we've gotten thus far show that they figured, well, what's the alternative? It may be worse. Has the President not talked to the Ukrainian President at all, because when you don't talk to the Ukrainian President that effectively means you're kind of giving something to Russia which is right now helping the occupation in the eastern part of Ukraine?


KING: And so they figured, well, worse if he doesn't actually get involved, so let's see how we can actually make this happen. You see across those text messages that Volker provided to the committee that there were then questions about laying out what seemed to be the basis of the quid pro quo the Democrats are alleging the President actually attempted, that he withheld the face-to-face meeting with Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, until he started those investigations and there were questions about whether he was doing the same with the military aid money.

Sondland and Volker are two of the few people who would know better than anybody whether that was actually the case.

KING: So they're critical to the corruption and abuse of power allegations that the Democrats are trying to build. The two transcripts we got yesterday are the witnesses who give you a pretty damning at least if you expect things to go normally, the way it normally works few of the administration. You don't get the corrupt behavior from them just yet.

I want to go back to Former Ambassador Yovanovitch. She said back in - how she lays out the timeline of oh I'm getting a sense of what Rudy Giuliani is up to essentially behind her back. She's the Ambassador. Normally you would go through the Ambassador. In late 2018, she says she's told by Ukrainian officials of Giuliani's attempt to reach Ukrainian prosecutor "Looking to hurt her standing" back in the United States, looking to undermine the U.S. Ambassador to the United States the President's personal lawyer.

February 2019 she says a senior Ukrainian official tells her to watch her back because Giuliani and his associates are angling to have her pushed from her job. In the spring of 2019 Giuliani Donald Trump Jr. tweet advocating for Yovanovitch's removal and in May she is recalled. So again as the Democrats put these building blocks out, the Ambassador is critical to the idea that again in a normal world, if there is a change in policy or an important policy, the Ambassador is looped in. She finds out that Giuliani is going around her behind her back. LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And it's not just that there is Giuliani is going around her back, there is a whole, as has been detailed in the testimony of other witnesses, a whole shadow campaign by Giuliani who is the President's personal lawyer, not a member of the U.S. government in any sort of diplomatic capacity, to run this other channel of diplomacy.

And that's problematic for her. Actually, my favorite piece that came out in the testimony was when someone advised her to go big or go home. By that they meant tweet at the President. Put out some nice tweets about the President. This is not normally how the business of diplomacy state crafts typically works.

DEMIRJIAN: It is not just anybody it was Sondland who gave her that advice, so if you want to keep your job, tweet nice things about the President which indicates - more of what that could be--

LERER: This was not in her position to do that. It really does show exactly that, that recognition of these dual tracks of foreign policy and the pressure she felt she was under and says still she feels like she is under.

KING: So part of the challenge for Republicans now and for the President, the people defending the President, is to normalize this. So you have Ambassador Yovanovitch giving her testimony. The Ukrainians were wondered I was going to be really leaving, whether we really represented the President, U.S. policy, et cetera.

And so I think it was - you know, it really kind of cut the ground out from underneath us. That is the Ambassador's view of what Giuliani was doing to her, who the Ukrainians would think it first of all, think we should listen to the U.S. Ambassador. Listen to Jim Jordan, one of the Republican Members of Congress who is about to be moved we're told at least they're trying to move him to The Intelligence Committee so that he can be more aggressive in defending the President saying, this is the President's call.


REP. JIM JORDON (R-OH): The President of the United States is the guy who is in charge, and he can have whomever he wants trying to move policy forward. They didn't particularly like that, but it's the President's call and he's the one who can decide who is going to be Ambassadors and who is going to do the diplomatic missions that he thinks need to be done.


KING: Now remember, not long ago, this was Rudy Giuliani, especially on that network, saying, I was working with them. We were all on the same page. We were all doing the same thing. Now the defense is, if the President wants to go around the foreign policy apparatus of the United States government, all the people, your tax dollars, are paying, to be in these positions instead of changing the people in the positions if he doesn't like them. He has Rudy Giuliani who can do his parallel foreign policy and I just want to put on the record while he is making money off clients in Ukraine.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is really the key. Underlying all of this is what was Giuliani doing when he was trying to push Yovanovitch out? This is kind of the elephant in the room that's going on a parallel track as there is this other investigation outside of Congress into his associates and into his business dealings.

But there are some real questions about what was motivating Giuliani to push this negative narrative as many people have testified about Ukraine and to try to undermine the existing foreign policy infrastructure within Trump's own administration. Jim Jordan is right. The President can change his policy when he wants, he can change his personnel when he wants.

The question is why didn't he do it in a normal way? Why didn't he change his Ambassador if he wanted to do that? Why didn't he change his policy if he wanted to do that? Instead what happened was that he had Giuliani moving forward with a policy that several people have testified is contrary to the United States government's position on Ukraine.


PHILLIP: So if the President wants to change the U.S. government's position on Ukraine, he can do that. Instead he had Giuliani who was seemed to be having multiple loyalties here, both his private client's and the President, moving forward with another track, and we still haven't gotten to the bottom of what was really behind that. It was politics, but there could have been other things.

KING: Like working with people in Ukraine who the Ambassador believe were part of the corruption, the very corruption the U.S. policy was allegedly trying to root out. As this plays out, the Republicans have to decide the strategy for the President. This is Rand Paul in a rally with the President last night. We are here because of a whistleblower complaint. The Democrats say we don't need testimony from the whistleblower anymore because so much of that information has been corroborated. Now they have additional information from all these witnesses, but Rand Paul says no.


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!


KING: He is part of an effort that includes the President who is standing there clapping to out the whistleblower. There are protections for whistleblowers under the law. Rand Paul also says there is a sixth amendment, that you have a right to confront your accuser which I get. However, how are we going to balance this one out here in the sense that the Democrats say, we've got 20 other witnesses, we don't need this witness, and they are willing to testify publicly. We don't need to do this to a career intelligence operative, and the Republicans say no.

LERER: I just - as someone who has watched Rand Paul's career, there is something so deeply ironic about this libertarian from the biggest press libertarian family in the country calling for more government involvement. There's something about that that just feels--

KING: The man who defended Edward Snowden's right to be a whistleblower and to reveal secrets.

PHILLIP: It's also just almost irrelevant at this point what the whistleblower has to say, because people who have more direct knowledge of what was going on have already testified. Those people are out there, their names are out there, they face questioning from Republicans as well in these hearings, and so this is a red herring. It's an effort by the President and his allies to create a boogieman who is invisible, who doesn't have a name, who is hiding in the shadows, but that person is less relevant than the people with more direct knowledge who have testified to all the facts.

KING: Less relevant in the world of facts. You use the word fact there which is important. Less relevant in the world of facts but in the political argument that is impeachment--

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: You saw how the President received Rand Paul's comments and see this is a continuation of what he and others are saying they want very much, as Abby said, to make a bad guy here.

KING: Up next, we'll this conversation, including the President's inner circle, getting pulled in a little closer to the center of the big impeachment drama.



KING: I remind you we're still waiting. It could happen any moment now for the House Intelligence Committee to release two more transcripts of witness interviews from the impeachment inquiry, two critical witnesses supposed to be released today.

Our first look at the public face of the impeachment inquiry came yesterday and it dropped a spot light on the President's inner circle Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

The Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch telling the House Committees in her full testimony, "What I was told by Phil Reeker was that the Secretary, or perhaps someone around him was going to place a call to Mr. Hannity on Fox News to say what is going on? Do you have proof of these kinds of allegations or not? If you have proof, tell me. If not, stop".

And I understand that call was made, the Ambassador said. I don't know whether it was by the Secretary or somebody in his inner circle. Last night on his program, Sean Hannity said Yovanovitch was, "Barely ever mentioned on the show" barely ever is not a very precise term. You can do this at home.

A quick Google search of transcripts shows she was indeed a topic of discussion on the show multiple times with multiple guests. Here's a clip from March about one month before Yovanovitch got the call to come back to Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marie Yovanovitch has bad-mouthed the President of the United States to Ukrainian officials and has told them not to listen or worry about Trump policy because he's going to be impeached.


KING: Mr. DiGeneva there works for a Ukrainian oligarch who was accused of corruption, who is out of favor with the Ambassador he is trashing on television right there. They don't mention that part when they put him on that network. But to this point, Kylie Atwood joins our conversation.

Pompeo not central to this, his deputies, key people in his department saying he didn't stand up for Ambassador Yovanovitch and for others when their work was being undermined by Rudy Giuliani and when she wanted a public statement, hey the President is on my side the Secretary is on my side to send a message to the Ukrainians, he doesn't like the questions about this, does he?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: He doesn't like them at all, because the reality here is that each person that we hear from implicates Secretary Pompeo more to everything that's happening here. The reality is that it's shocking that the State Department went to Sean Hannity and asked what they knew about Ambassador Yovanovitch but never went to her.


ATWOOD: She testified in the transcript that we saw yesterday that she never got direct questions from the State Department about the reality of these allegations and if they were true, and she also painted this really jarring picture of being woken up at 1:00 in the morning and being told by the State Department that she needed to immediately come home.

So Pompeo is really not wanting to discuss this, and every person that we hear from is bringing him closer and closer to the heart of the reality of what's unfolding here.

KING: And so it's a little bit more from the Ambassador. Remember, she's under attack back home, and Rudy Giuliani is telling working his own business with the Ukrainian officials. The Ukrainians are telling her, do you really speak for the President? We're not sure. She says, what I wanted was the Secretary of State to issue a statement that said you know, I have full confidence or something that to indicate that I, in fact, am the Ambassador of Ukraine, that I speak for the President, for the Secretary of State for our country.

I was told there was caution about any kind of statement because it could be undermined. Chairman Schiff asked, by whom? The Ambassador required Former Ambassador now by the President. So if the State Department, they were worried that if they put out such a statement, it would be followed as we've seen throughout the Trump presidency by a tweet or something else that would blow it up.

PHILLIP: A couple big themes in this testimony that mirror things that are true about the Trump Administration, which is, A, that people are always hesitant to get ahead of the President, because they know that they cannot always count on people around the President to know exactly how he's feeling at any given moment.

And the reason for that is because when the President takes in information, a lot of times it's from Fox News, it's from Sean Hannity, it's from people he's getting on the phone with at night or early in the morning, so it creates this dynamic within the administration where people don't really know where information is coming from, what is getting to the President, and where they can go safely without having their feet cut out from under them?

It shows also the power of Fox News in Trump's world that the State Department has to go to them to basically say, tell me what's going on here, is extraordinary. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is a direct channel for people outside of the administration to communicate with the President directly on a program that he watches regularly.

KING: And so there is also a credibility issue. There is a question of did Secretary Pompeo just go along, did he think the Rudy Giuliani thing was fine, or did he realized that the boss wants it, therefore I'm just going to bite my tongue and let it happen, and stand up for his people. And then there is the question of somebody is lying, somebody is lying.

Mike McKinley who was a Deputy to Secretary Pompeo said this in his testimony. How many conversations did you have with the Secretary about this manner, that being not standing up for Ambassador Yovanovitch? Three probably. And then presenting my resignation, I made it clear that I was looking to leave the department.

I wasn't looking to create a news story out of it, but that he should be aware that of course part of the reason people were very aware that I was concerned about what I saw as the lack of public support for department employees. So he is leaving, and the Secretary's refusal to stand up for the Ambassador, part of his reason, three times, he says. Here's Secretary Pompeo on television.


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 the decision that was made. Not once. Not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say anything to me during that entire time period.


KING: So either Ambassador McKinley or the current Secretary of State and possibly soon to be Senate candidate from the State of Kansas is lying, one of them is lying.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, it's interesting that this nobody told me they were upset, has been excuses frankly not been just uttered by Pompeo was Sondland's excuse to no one told me they didn't like what I was doing, and so that's the first time hearing. And in that case that was proven not to be true in this case it seems like that's being proven not to be true.

I think that for a long time we've been reporting about how morale of the State Department has been very low because people didn't feel like they had support from the top. I think this is the indication of the worst manifestation of that in many ways, and it shows both why so many rank and file people, when presented with a subpoena, are just ready to go to Congress and give this testimony, and it also indicates that even if you have people at the top of the chain - and Taylor testified to this at one point, that the Pompeo, Secretary of Defense, the CIA Director, that Bolton were not on board with this, but also that they didn't go and stop it.

There seems to be this fear of the President, and yet that means people in the inner circle knew what was going on and would be valuable as witnesses, and even if they don't become part of the House process, it will be interesting to see if they speak up more once this gets to the Senate.

KING: Well, not speaking up is essentially letting this happen. All right, we will come back to this story. Again we're still waiting for more of the transcripts to be released up on Capitol Hill. We'll bring you those as soon as they come up.

When we come back, it's Election Day and among the big races being watched, the race for Governor in Kentucky.



KING: Today is Election Day, and some of the November 2019 races are being watched for clues about the 2020 presidential year climate. Two in particular, the Governor's race in Kentucky today the Republican incumbent is Matt Bevin. Andy Beshear his father was a Governor before and he is running for that job there in the state of Kentucky we'll come back to that in a minute.

The other big Governor's race is down in Mississippi another red state, right? It's an open race here we have the Lieutenant Governor Republican Tate Reeves against the Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood some third-party candidates in play there as well.