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Third-Highest Ranking State Department Official Testifies on Impeachment Inquiry on Capitol Hill; Gordon Sondland Revises Testimony, Confirms Quid Pro Quo; Democrat Declares Victory in Kentucky Governor's Race; Democrats Win Control of Virginia. Aired 9- 9:30a ET
Aired November 6, 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. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
The president won Kentucky by 30 points. But today, Democrat Andy Beshear is claiming victory in the state's race for governor. President Trump had tried rallying for Republican incumbent Matt Bevin just two days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- bad message. Just sends a bad -- and they will build it up. Here's the story. If you win, they're going to make it like ho-hum. And if you lose they're going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can't let that happen to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, may have happened. This morning a source close to the White House who speaks to the president regularly says that Republicans are underestimating voter intensity against Trump and that could be dangerous for them in 2020, adding that it is, quote, "a bad omen as well for impeachment."
HARLOW: All right. Let's turn to Virginia because in Virginia overnight, a clean sweep for Democrats winning majorities in both the statehouse and the state Senate. Republicans, though, can celebrate a big important win in Mississippi's governor's race. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves holding off an upset bid by Attorney General Jim Hood. President Trump as well as Vice President Pence went to the state to campaign for Reeves.
We are covering all of these key results. Let's bring in Harry Enten, CNN senior writer and political analyst.
Good morning, my friend.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Good morning.
HARLOW: So, let's start with Kentucky. I find it the most --
ENTEN: Yes. Yes.
HARLOW: Again, as Jim said, a state that Trump won by 30 points. Bevin won last time by nine points. This was a "Hail Mary" for Beshear and he pulled it off. You had the president with -- going there. You had a Mike Pence bus tour. You had major spending from national groups. What happened?
ENTEN: I mean, I think basically what happened is that it turns out candidates do matter and Matt Bevin was a very unpopular governor. The president went there to try and save him. But the fact was the president was not enough. At least, you know, obviously, we haven't called that race but at this point it looks like Beshear is most likely going to pull that out.
And I would say that there are three basic things that occurred last night in Kentucky. Two of which should be very concerning to the president. One, which I think is an interesting sort of anecdote from Kentucky. Number one, if you look in the major metropolitan areas, you saw Beshear running up the totals there.
ENTEN: That is very indicative of the Trump era overall. Number two which I think should be very concerning to the president. In the Cincinnati suburbs those are traditionally Republican suburbs in Kentucky, remember Cincinnati is just north of the Kentucky border.
ENTEN: Those flipped to the Democratic candidate in this particular case. And the third, coal country which is where Trump has -- you know, that was where he ran up the score against Hillary Clinton. There were counties there. 40, 50-point wins for the president and Beshear was able to carry those. That's ancestral Democratic territory. And that I think --
ENTEN: If you put all those together, that's why Beshear won.
SCIUTTO: That combination is notable, right, because it is not just the urban areas and the suburbs, but if you slim the margin of victory in those rural districts.
SCIUTTO: That spells trouble for 2020.
Let's talk about Virginia, because Virginia has been trending blue for a number of years now. And now Democrats solidifying control across the board. ENTEN: Yes, absolutely. Took back the statehouse, they took back the
state Senate. They made major gains in 2017 in the statehouse. And if you look at where they made those gains, again, if you're trying to create a full picture last night of what occurred, what you saw was major gains in the suburban areas. And that, to me, is so indicative of this Trump era overall where he's losing some of those voters, those key swing voters that he was able to carry over Hillary Clinton. He lost those.
ENTEN: And Virginia is a state that used to be very Republican, right? You know, you remember George W. Bush winning those suburban areas back in 2000 but that state has changed completely.
And what I will just add to that point, which is if you look at how the popular vote went in the statehouse of Virginia last night, that went for the Democrats by about nine points. That's the same as it was in 2017 and the year following that. What you see in the House of Representatives you saw the Democrats carrying the U.S. House of Representatives by nine points. That could be a tell-tale sign for 2020.
HARLOW: It's a great point.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. We're going to be watching it.
HARLOW: Don't go anywhere.
SCIUTTO: We have CNN's Ryan Nobles. He joins us now on the ground there.
Well, you've been covering this race in Virginia. Tell us what you're hearing from Republicans and Democrats in response.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, I was in Richmond up until late last night and I have to tell you here to Harry's point about the energy and enthusiasm of Democratic voters in Virginia, you know, this is what they call an off off-year election in Virginia politics. There were no statewide candidates on the ballot, no federal races at all. These were just statehouse races and local races. Generally the turnout is very, very low. Not too many people even paying attention to the election.
I remember as a local reporter barely even covering it in the local news. That was not the case last night. You saw a big turnout in numbers. Turnout numbers that were very similar to gubernatorial election years. And the Democrats and Republicans that I talked to last night attributed that to one thing. And that was President Trump. You saw Democratic voters are motivated to get out and send a message to the White House.
Yes, they were concerned about these local issues in kind of a broad sense and you can see what that led to. The Democrats taking the House now. They have a two-seat majority there. There are still a couple of seats that have left to be decided on the House side as well. A big move over. The Democrats now taking a big lead there. You'll remember that in the House of Delegates two years ago that there were -- this was decided by a race that was actually a tie. They had to draw a name out of a bowl to decide who was going to be in the majority of the Virginia House of Delegates.
This is a sea change in Virginia. As Harry mentioned, this was a state that was reliably Republican for a long time. Such is not the case anymore. And you see the demographic shift. This is something that's happening all over the country. And Democrats in Virginia believe this is something that will give us an idea of what's going to happen in 2020.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And statehouses matter. They draw the districts. OK. And then for future congressional elections has enormous effect.
Ryan Nobles, thanks very much.
Harry Enten, back with us. Also Salena Zito, national political reporter for the "Washington Examiner," and Alex Burns, national political correspondent for the "New York Times.".
Salena, I want to begin with you because you're seeing a continuation of trends we saw in the 2018 midterms here, right, which is urban areas certainly big turnout there but suburban areas.
SCIUTTO: Swinging Democratic, making a real difference in those swing districts here. How concerning for the Republican Party as we look ahead to 2020?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the -- both parties have been shifting since 2004. And this is sort of -- it's starting to now settle in. If I was the president, the last thing I would be doing is underestimating support against him. It's always -- it's always to -- it's always the best sort of plan to expect an underwhelming turnout and so that you can motivate your voters to show up.
I think what happened in Kentucky is -- I just got back from there.
ZITO: I think it was more about Bevin. He was very unpopular for a number of reasons. People thought of him as a carpet bagger. You know, not from the state. Wasn't really in tune with the culture. And in state elections, those things matter. And -- but then, like, if you look down ballot at the AG races, secretary of State race, and the agriculture race.
ZITO: You know, Republicans had great turnout, great wins.
HARLOW: Sure. ZITO: So I really think it was about being a bad candidate.
HARLOW: Well, OK, so I hear you. Right? He certainly infuriated the teachers in the state.
HARLOW: And he made some -- rolled back some of that Medicaid expansion that Beshear's father had enacted as governor.
HARLOW: But, Alex Burns, the rhetoric that he used was very Trumpy. Right? I mean, so, I -- yes, Republicans won across the state in Kentucky, statewide elections, except for this one by a pretty comfortable margin, but is it just Bevin or is it something about the rhetoric?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are a couple different currents going on here, right? That it's not Matt Bevin alone that gets you a result like this in a world where the national environment were better for Republicans, better for the president in particular. He probably could have given the narrowness of this margin, he probably would have won this race if the president was a couple points better nationally. If there was just a sense that partisanship Trumped absolutely everything.
This is the kind of state where we saw routinely during the Obama years and even the early days of the Trump administration where partisanship and the president's personality just over overrode everything else and some of this, as Salena was saying, is unquestionably about Matt Bevin in particular being a divisive governor, not a gifted politician, a guy who made a lot of bad choices almost from the start.
But he won by a very convincing margin in 2015. And in a state like Kentucky, in the Trump era, losing a nine-point win, even by the tiniest margin which does seem to be what's happening here really takes some doing and it takes multiple factors.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Harry, just come back to a point you mentioned earlier, because this strikes me as key here. In Kentucky at least it was not just big suburban turnout against the president. It was districts that he won -- he killed in, right, in 2016.
HARLOW: Those coals --
SCIUTTO: In this case, coal-mining districts that, you know, either that margin slimmed or even went the other way.
SCIUTTO: That combination has to spell trouble if you're looking at, say -- and get coal-mining issues that had economic consequences from the president's policies.
SCIUTTO: Like, say, in Michigan, where folks are suffering from the trade war. Tell us what that means for 2020.
ENTEN: Yes, I -- I think it's so important, right?
We always say, oh, did someone win a county or did someone lose a county? It's not just about that. It's about margins. And there's plenty of ground that the president can make up. Let's say he's losing in suburban areas, losing in urban areas. There's plenty of ground that he can expand his margins in rural areas in states like Pennsylvania, right? You know, in the western part of that state where districts that used to be ancestry Democratic flipped to Trump in overwhelming numbers.
But he needs to be able to do that, he needs to be able to expand upon those margins. And what's so dangerous, what the Kentucky result tells me is that that's not necessarily a guarantee. And if all of a sudden the president isn't able to expand upon his margins in rural areas like he did in 2016, then he's in big trouble because essentially both the suburban areas and the urban are going to say, nuh-uh.
HARLOW: Salena, what do you think that means? What do you think Benvin's -- what appears to be his loss means for McConnell who's on the ballot next year? Does it mean Democrats will pour more money, more effort into backing Amy McGrath?
ZITO: Well, here's -- this is how I look at it. This sort of reminds me in 2009, 2010, when Barack Obama, then president, came out for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts over Scott Brown. Did a big rally. Jon Corzine in New Jersey, did a big rally. Craig Deeds in Virginia, big rally. Arlen Specter. And all of them lost. But then the president went back and won in 2012. So a lot of it, I think, sometimes has to do with the candidate in the state. And a lot of it has to do with policy.
Barack Obama was really smart in -- in like reading the tea leaves in what those elections told him and those states went back and voted for him in 2012. I think Trump would be really wise --
BURNS: But what -- but what Barack Obama did -- what Obama did was he read those results and corrected course, right? So --
ZITO: That's what I was trying to say.
BURNS: The question is, does someone like -- does President Trump look at the results here or the results in the midterms or the results in the 2017 off-year elections, and say, gosh, I ought to do something about those suburban voters? He's had a number of opportunities. Gun legislation was one of them. Vaping was another one. He doesn't seem inclined to do that, right? It was one of the things that Obama did that really frustrated his liberal base, but it probably secured him re-election.
BURNS: Was taking that message from the suburbs in 2009 and in 2010 and really organizing his re-election campaign. Not exclusively but to a great degree around making sure that he didn't get blown out by Mitt Romney the way Democrats got blown out by Chris Christie and Bob McDonald.
SCIUTTO: Right. Smart point.
HARLOW: Good points. Smart minds. Thank you all. It's really interesting to watch what happened.
All right. Happening right now on Capitol Hill, the first witness to show up this week in the impeachment inquiry. That is David Hale. He is the third highest ranking State Department official and is now testifying behind closed doors. We're already hearing a little bit, though, about what he is telling lawmakers.
SCIUTTO: Plus, new stunning details in that horrific attack on an American family. There they are in Mexico. We're learning that a 13- year-old boy walked some six hours to get help and that this family may have even been targeted.
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, despite White House efforts, the witnesses, some of them are still coming. Right now, the third highest ranking State Department official is testifying under oath on Capitol Hill. There he is, David Hale is the first witness to break the streak of no-shows this week.
It's happening as Democrats prepare to drop more transcripts of witness testimony today after some stunning releases earlier this week. One of those transcripts revealing new evidence of a quid pro quo from a very unlikely witness, Trump appointee, Trump donor, U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland.
POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes, again, a Trump-appointed diplomat, a million-dollar Trump donor, hardly a never Trumper, and yet, he is now confirming, clarifying if you will, what he says he couldn't remember when he testified a few weeks ago under oath. And this is what it is. That he now says, under oath in this new revised statement to lawmakers that military aid was held up until Ukraine met certain White House demands, namely, a public announcement --
SCIUTTO: Right -- HARLOW: Of an investigation. Let's get to Capitol Hill, CNN senior
congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on all of this. So, obviously, a key change and from what I see, the Republican response leading -- led by Jim Jordan is now -- doesn't matter what Sondland says, Volker is the only person you can believe.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And I -- they just spoke to reporters downstairs on the way in to this closed-door hearing today. And the argument coming now from Republicans is that what Sondland said about amending his test -- in his amendment to his testimony in which he makes it very clear that he was under the belief that the reason why military aid was proposed was because there had not yet been this public declaration of those investigations that they had been seeking for some time.
Well, now, according to one Republican Congressman Scott Perry, he says, well, that's just Sondland's opinion. Republican Jim Jordan going into this testimony and said, only Kurt Volker's testimony which he said there was no quid pro quo is enough for them. They said that other witnesses were not in an authoritative position as, say, Mr. Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine.
Even though the top diplomat to Ukraine right now Bill Taylor has testified in an opposite fashion. So, you're seeing the Republican argument shift a bit in the release of these -- in the release of these transcripts, saying that there's still no quid pro quo despite increasing evidence from witnesses that there was.
And one other point on the Sondland testimony, Fiona Hill, who is a witness that also came by, the former top Russia adviser in the White House strongly objected to what Sondland said in his testimony referring to a meeting that they had. The lawyer for Fiona Hill actually tweeted out that Sondland has fabricated communications with Fiona Hill over coffee and in that exchange from that testimony, what Sondland said was that he was -- said that she was quote, "pretty upset" about her role in the administration.
That is something that she is flatly denying. So more witnesses coming out to contradict what Gordon Sondland said himself in his sworn testimony, guys.
SCIUTTO: Question, David Hale, third highest ranking member in the State Department. So, this is a significant official in the administration. What do we expect him to testify today?
RAJU: Yes, he was someone who was at least notified of this concern that was within the State Department about the ouster of the then- Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. According to testimony that had been released this week from Mike McKinley who was a former State Department official, he said that he had e-mailed a number of individuals about his concern about Marie Yovanovitch's ouster.
She of course had been targeted by Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani's associates, targeted by the president himself. And McKinley had asked for a show of support from the State Department to -- in the midst of her ouster. But, according to the McKinley's testimony, Hale was one of the people who did not respond to that e-mail. Now, we are hearing some -- from some other reports, in an "AP" report says that he also intends to tell Congress that the Pompeo -- Mike Pompeo; the Secretary of State was reluctant to defend his Ukraine ambassador because it would hurt efforts to get military aid to Ukraine. And there was concern about how it would be perceived by Rudy Giuliani.
So, we'll probably hear more about all that effort that push to get rid of Yovanovitch, the role --
SCIUTTO: Right --
RAJU: That Rudy Giuliani had and the concerns that he may have had about Giuliani's efforts, guys?
SCIUTTO: Well, the concern seem to be broad based. I mean, that's a consistent story from a number of witnesses in sworn testimony. Manu Raju, thanks very much.
HARLOW: All right, let's talk about all of these developments because they're significant. Elie Honig is here; former federal prosecutor and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Sam Vinograd also joins us, former senior adviser to President Obama's National Security Council. Good to have you here.
I mean, Sam, you worked a little bit --
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO BARACK OBAMA'S NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I did --
HARLOW: With David Hale, he's going -- I mean, his resume speaks for itself. What do you make of what we know a little bit about what he's telling lawmakers right now?
VINOGRAD: Well, I think one thing that we should expect is that the under secretary is going to tell lawmakers about the impact of this irregular channel and the impact of undermining U.S. Ambassadors like Marie Yovanovitch. We heard about that from Bill Taylor, we heard about that from Yovanovitch. And so we should expect Hale to lay that out.
Also remember, he is still at the State Department, and this was something that came up in some of the released transcripts yesterday. He was part of a meeting about how the State Department is supposed to respond to congressional inquiries.
So, there's a potential obstruction of Congress, article that could be introduced as part of the impeachment proceeding. I think he'll talk about that. And then finally, Poppy, he will get to this whole question of why Pompeo was so reluctant to defend the ambassador. He was on the e-mail chain about the statement, and finally in his role as undersecretary, he's in charge of thousands of staff.
They likely would have come to him with concerns about what was happening more generally. SCIUTTO: Elie Honig, forgive me for guessing what the next line of
defense will be from Republicans here as each of these dominos falls. What you don't have yet is a direct tie to the president.
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: In other words, the president ordering Sondland, Volker, et cetera, you don't give him that aid until they make this statement. And of course, the White House is barring White House officials from testifying and that includes Rick Perry; Secretary of Energy, Mick Mulvaney this week. Do you need that to make a credible case for a quid pro quo and to bolster an impeachment case?
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL & STATE PROSECUTOR: In an ideal world, if you were the investigator or prosecutor here, you would have that, but, no, you do not need it. You can build it through other channels. And to that point, do we have a direct link to the president?
First, I would point to the July 25th call. I think there's a case to be made that right there, he lays it out. Also, the White House needs to be really careful about putting too much on Kurt Volker who now seems to be the night and shining armor for the Republicans and Trump defenders, they're saying the statement yesterday was, well, Volker said there was no quid pro quo.
OK, I'm not sure that's an accurate characterization of his testimony, but he texted on July 25th, these are the texts we saw before, heard from White House, assuming President Zelensky convinces Trump he will investigate, we will nail down date for visit --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HONIG: To Washington. That's a quid pro quo right there --
SCIUTTO: That sounds like a quid pro quo right there --
HARLOW: I hear you, I hear you. But let me just counter with --
HONIG: Yes --
HARLOW: This, and that is his testimony from the transcript released yesterday afternoon, Kurt Volker, quote, "I was never asked to do anything that I thought was wrong."
HONIG: Yes --
HARLOW: So, the question becomes how you see it, how you weigh those statements?
HONIG: Right, so there's two things there. First of all, maybe he didn't think it was wrong. I mean, I think he's wrong to think it's not wrong. But if you ultimately have somebody who testifies to something here in November, but texted something different back in July -- look the texts back in July, it takes precedence. Much more credible --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HONIG: It's what he didn't say at the time.
VINOGRAD: And Mick Mulvaney also, he hasn't agreed to testify in front of Congress. He testified in front of the American people to a certain extent --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
VINOGRAD: When he gave that press conference. He did say that everything Sondland did was at the president's direction, and he did say there was a quid pro quo. So, I think we have to be careful when we read the White House statement, saying that the president in order of this, we have Mick Mulvaney's public words in front of the American people at the very least.
SCIUTTO: And as you say, the call, the call transcript. Before we go, Elie, this may be the extent of witness testimony that Democrats get here. If the White House effort is either, A, successful or stretches out long enough in the courts so that it doesn't happen before the timeline that the Democrats want here, your view, do you have enough?
HONIG: I think you do. I think you base it on the call, you base it on the text -- and look, you don't have an inner, inner circle witness. Ideally, you would get one. Maybe it will be --
SCIUTTO: Right --
HONIG: Bolton, maybe it will be Mulvaney, Rooney, who knows? But yes, I think you have enough with these players who are involved in the decision-making, the career military and diplomatic officials. When you look at their testimony, I think it's a compelling case.
SCIUTTO: Elie and Sam --
HARLOW: Thank you guys --
SCIUTTO: Great to have you both. Thanks so much.
HARLOW: We appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: A source close to the White House says that Democratic wins on Tuesday could be bad news for the president. We'll have more coming up.