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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Democrats Win Big In Elections; Giuliani's Role In Ukraine Scandal?; Public Impeachment Testimony Set To Begin; Warren, Buttigieg, Sanders, Biden In Top Trier Of New Iowa Poll; Defense Secretary Esper Says He Advised Trump On Service Members Facing War Crimes Allegations. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 6, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Beginning with the testimony of Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Kent on Wednesday.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All three witnesses on the schedule have already testified behind closed doors.

But now Democrats will be making their case for impeaching President Trump in public. Sources tell CNN White House officials appear the most concerned about Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who told lawmakers there was an explicit quid pro quo, according to a transcript released today.

The president has tried to dismiss Taylor's word before.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a never-Trumper and his lawyers are never-Trumper.

COLLINS: But there's no proof that. Some say it will be difficult to discredit the West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran who is still on the job, though some allies are trying.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Now, who in the heck can follow that? Someone told someone, then I told someone that someone else knew about this in a different meeting?

COLLINS: The president's allies are also seeking to discredit his ambassador to the European Union, a Republican-donor-turned-diplomat who gave a million dollars to Trump's inauguration.

Gordon Sondland revised his testimony to reveal a September conversation where he told a top Ukrainian aide: "The resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement."

Instead, the president and his allies are now relying on special envoy Kurt Volker, who told lawmakers he didn't know there was a quid pro quo.

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): Sondland, in his statement, not even sure why he has the opinion he has, and Volker was completely read in on everything that everybody was doing.

COLLINS: The White House believes the release of the transcripts is good for them.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So these transcripts are actually -- they're good for the president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, we have also learned that the White House is adding two new staffers to its ranks as they fight House Democrats over this impeachment probe.

Tony Sayegh is a former senior adviser to the treasury secretary who left the administration several months ago. Pam Bondi is the former attorney general in Florida. And both are expected to come on in a temporary capacity to help the administration with its messaging strategy that they have going on, or lack of, if you ask Republicans on Capitol Hill.

And this seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that the White House is going to need some help here.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

In the deposition released this afternoon, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, says -- quote -- "If President Zelensky, in order to get that meeting, were going to have to intervene in U.S. domestic policy or politics by announcing an investigation that would benefit someone in the United States, it wasn't clear to me that that would be worth it."

I became less convinced," Taylor said, "that that meeting was worth what Giuliani was asking."

What Giuliani was asking, digging up dirt on Joe and Hunter. The president's personal attorney is mentioned more than 400 times in the transcripts released this week.

I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman now.

And, Tom, everyone in these transcripts says that Giuliani had a central role in what I think most people would consider to be the Ukraine scandal.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake.

Bill Taylor, a top diplomat, was asked about his dealings with the Ukrainians. We have been talking about him for a while here. And this is part of the exchange he had during his testimony.

"And they certainly understood that Mr. Giuliani represented President Trump. Correct?"

He said: "They did."

"Because why else would they care what Rudy Giuliani thought?" meaning the Ukrainians.

And he said: "Correct."

When the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified -- now, he's been an ally of Trump -- he suggested even the State Department had to answer to the president's personal lawyer.

"Did you ever discuss Rudy Giuliani with Secretary Mike Pompeo?"

"Only in general terms."

"And what did you discuss?"

"That he's involved in affairs. And Pompeo rolled his eyes and said, 'Yes, it's something we have to deal with.'"

This has been the pattern as one witness after another has painted the president's personal lawyer as deeply involved in all dealings with Ukraine, saying Giuliani was stoking the president's mistrust of Ukraine, pushing for an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, and promoting a conspiracy theory that the Russians did not try to help Trump in 2016, but rather the Ukrainians tried to help Hillary Clinton, which has been debunked.

And, remember, according to that rough transcript of that phone call, Trump told the Ukrainian president: "Rudy very much knows what's happening. And he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him, that would be great."

They're all putting Giuliani at the middle of everything. But now, suddenly, people close to the president are saying something very different about Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't know what Rudy did. I don't know what he's doing over there. And if people want to look at Rudy, that's fine with me.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I didn't know what the role of Rudy Giuliani was. I just don't have visibility into that. I just don't know what his role was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Well, their implication seems pretty clear. It's not the president's fault if Rudy went rogue -- Jake.

[16:35:03]

TAPPER: Hmm. Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Also in our politics lead today: One of the people who ran Trump's 2016 campaign will testify against the latest Trump associate facing charges related to that campaign.

Steve Bannon, Trump's former campaign executive, will testify against Roger Stone. The prosecutor said in his opening statement that Stone, who is accused of obstruction of justice, among other charges, repeatedly lied under oath to Congress because -- quote -- "The truth look too bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump" -- unquote.

Shimon, Shimon Prokupecz, joins me now to discuss.

And, Shimon, Bannon ran the campaign, or at least was one of the leading people running it. How critical will his testimony be to the prosecution's case?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it appears it's going to be super critical, Jake.

Prosecutors, as you say, not only was he leading this campaign, they described to the jury, they described him as being the CEO of the campaign and how he and Roger Stone were in touch, that they were talking over e-mails, that they were going back and forth in their discussions.

In one e-mail that the prosecutors highlighted to the jury, this happened in the summer in the height of when WikiLeaks was threatening to issue -- to release more e-mails. He says -- the prosecutor says that Stone e-mails Bannon saying that Trump could win and then -- quote -- "But it ain't pretty."

And then Bannon replies, "Let's talk."

Prosecutors then say that Bannon and Stone were talking WikiLeaks all summer long, saying that Stone had told Bannon that he had inside information about what Julian Assange was doing.

So, by all accounts, right now, they're pointing to Steve Bannon, prosecutors are, at least in their opening statements, that he is intended to -- that they intend to bring him in, and that he's going to be a key witness in this case.

TAPPER: And, Shimon, we're also learning more about Stone's communication the day of the DNC hack. Tell us about that.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

And so this was a big point, came very quickly early on. It was the first witness in this case, a former FBI agent who actually was working for the Mueller team. And her role in this, Michelle Taylor was the Roger Stone part of this. She was investigating Roger Stone.

And she was highlighting how many times Roger Stone and then candidate Donald Trump were in communication. She went over the number of times that Roger Stone would call Donald Trump, the number of times that Donald Trump called Roger Stone on his cell phone, at his home phone, about five times in total.

And this was all happening when reports first started surfacing that WikiLeaks and that the DNC had been hacked.

TAPPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

What the elections in Kentucky and Virginia could tell Democrats and President Trump about what's to come next year. That's next.

Stay with us.

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[16:42:36]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You lose, they are going to say, Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: You can't let that happen to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That was President Trump on Monday night speaking to Kentucky voters.

I wouldn't say that it's the worst defeat in the history of the world, but they did, Republicans did lose a big governor's race in Kentucky.

And the Trump campaign is rushing to this themselves now. State officials declared the Democratic governor -- the Democratic candidate for governor having beaten the Trump-backed Republican, Matt Bevin.

Democrats also pulled out key victories in the Commonwealth of Virginia, flipping both chambers of the state legislature blue, wins the Democrats see as setting a clear path forward for 2020.

Let's discuss it.

Toluse, in the Mississippi governor's race, a Republican won that. And beyond the governor's race in Kentucky, Republicans point to the other five statewide races were Republican victories. What's the top line for you about election night? What do you see as most important?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Kentucky is still a red state, and all of those lower-level races, but the governor's race is the most important race in the state. President Trump went there the night before to campaign for the incumbent republic Republican governor. And even though he was unpopular, he lost to a Democrat. And it shows that Democrats can still win in difficult places. They can still win a lot of these suburban voters who we have seen flee the Republican Party. We saw that in Virginia, as well places like Fairfax County that no longer have any Republicans.

It's been a very major shift under President Trump, which has shown that Republicans in suburban -- suburbia no longer support the Republican Party of Donald Trump. So red parts of the country are still red, like Mississippi, but places that had been swing areas or had been home to a lot of college-educated suburban voters are no longer with the president.

And that really bodes negatively for the president in 2020 in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and parts of Wisconsin.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And, Amanda, I want to -- let me -- I'm coming right to you.

I want to show you this screen. One of the Democrats' key to success in Kentucky was winning over suburban voters, including -- let me just look at -- including the major metropolitan areas, areas around coal country where Trump has done really well, and the northern suburbs near Cincinnati, which have traditionally been Republican.

I mean, and also this happened, I should point out, in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where I come from, in some of the suburbs there, Delaware County, Chester County, Bucks County. They are increasingly, these suburban counties that used to be battlegrounds are really just becoming blue.

[16:45:00]

You're a suburban mom. Like, is this some -- is there a lesson here for Republicans to worry about?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And I'm afraid that they don't want to learn the lesson. If you ask why are they losing, they'll say, oh, well, it's just turning blue because it's suburbia. Well, guess what, if you can't win the cities, you can't win suburbs, you can't with excerpts, you don't have a winning coalition.

And I'm concerned, why can't they make an argument to suburban voters? I mean, these are usually middle-class families that care about health care, education and increasingly gun violence. These are three issues that the Republicans have no answers for. They're not even having a conversation about it and they're getting wiped out.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. But the Republican answer is we're going to take away your health care with pre-existing conditions and, you know, we're going to let Donald Trump run wild so that your kids can't even watch the news.

I mean, that was some of the things we've heard both in 2018 and we're seeing it again now in this -- as of yesterday that again, suburban voters are the ones who are saying I'm tired of the meanness. I don't like that. And I guess for them the question in 2020 will be, if you think you're doing better, like is your 401(k) better, is it worth it for four more years of this guy you really don't like to keep your 401(k).

I would say that the thing that was most interesting, from the Democratic perspective is the turnout, the size of the turnout in Kentucky, which was I think, the biggest it's been since there have been a governor's race since 1985.

TAPPER: Yes.

FINNEY: So that that was important. And similarly in Virginia. You know, part of Trump's problem is he can't grow to your point, right? There's no new voters. We have -- we can continue to grow our coalition, he can't.

TAPPER: And Laura, we could talk about this all day and it fascinates me. But I do want to turn to one other big, big poll that surprised me, a new poll out of Iowa among Democratic likely caucus-goers. It has Warren at 20 percent, Buttigieg at 19. I mean, that's basic -- that's in the margin of error.

Sanders at 17, also in the margin of error. Biden is in fourth place at 15, and that's followed by Klobuchar and Harris, and then it's just three-way time at the bottom. I mean, Joe Biden in fourth place in Iowa is staggering. And also that Buttigieg bump that people are talking about, that's real.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That is real. And when it comes to Biden, his campaign for a while now has been telegraphing that he may not come in first or second in Iowa. And now these polls are starting to show that. There's a chance that he also doesn't come first or second in New Hampshire.

And so the question is, if those numbers hold in the next 100 days or so, then can he hold on to the other areas that he needs, which is South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states or do they start to change their mind?

TAPPER: Yes. Well, exactly. I mean, a victory in Iowa tends to have an impact on what happens in New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada. I got the order wrong. Forgive me Nevadans. The President's Defense Secretary trying to stop the President from doing something that sent military leaders scrambling. That story next, stay with us.

[16:50:00]

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TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" today, top Pentagon officials including the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper hoped to intervene in a big announcement that may be coming soon from President Trump. According to CNN sources, Esper wants to stop President Trump from dismissing the criminal sentences or charges against three service members accused of various war crimes. As CNN's Barbara Starr reports for us now, the announcement from the

President could come on Veterans Day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: I do have full confidence in the military justice system.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Defense Secretary Mark Esper making his first public remarks about stopping President Trump from dismissing criminal cases against service members accused of potential war crimes.

ESPER: I had the chance to have a robust discussion with the President yesterday and offered as I do in all matters, the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations, and we'll see how things play out.

STARR: An administration official confirming to CNN, the President is still considering the idea. An idea first reported on Fox News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That action is imminent.

STARR: Which CNN has learned had Esper as well as Army and Navy leaders scrambling, assembling the case files in order to urge the President to let the military justice system take its course, rather than appear to endorse troops charged and potentially convicted of wrongdoing.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: You could potentially put leaders in a difficult position in terms of their ability to enact good order and discipline on their own troops if they believe that well, they can just get pardoned by the President.

STARR: On the list of accused service members, Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder for ordering his men to fire on three men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan. Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who faced a court-martialed for killing a wounded prisoner and shooting at civilians. He was found not guilty but was found guilty of posing for photo with a dead person and he was demoted.

And Army Green Beret Major Matthew Golsteyn who was charged with the murder of an Afghan man. His lawyer has maintained the death occurred during a mission ordered by his superiors. Trump tweeted last month that the case of Major Matthew Golsteyn is now under review at the White House. We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:55:09]

STARR: Train to be killing machines. One young officer said to me about that. That is not who we are. Jake? TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much. The mystery about the massacre of an American family in Mexico growing. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: President Trump just moments ago not responding to reporters' questions amid even more impeachment news today. He was leaving the White House on his way to a rally in Louisiana tonight. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER.