Return to Transcripts main page


Third Highest Ranking State Department Official Testifying; Democrat Declares Victory In Kentucky Governor's Race; Arrest In Mexico Possibly Linked To Deadly Attack On Americans. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 6, 2019 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Right now, the third highest ranking official at the State Department is behind closed doors. He is testifying on Capitol Hill. David Hale is the only first witness so far this week to show up.

According to the Associate Press, Hale is testifying that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not defend a former ambassador because he was worried about what President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would think and he was worried that that could stifle the efforts to get military aid to Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: And in fallout from testimony already released this week, a source says that Trump's former Foreign Policy Adviser Fiona Hill is furious at diplomat Gordon Sondland, saying he tried to discredit her and he lied about their communications in his sworn testimony. This is coming a day after the release of Sondland's testimony showed three pages of revisions he made. He won. Sondland said he did remember that he was or had delivered a message about a quid pro quo to Ukrainian officials.

Let's get to Capitol Hill with CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju on key testimony underway.

So, Manu, Hale tying politics again, not to the military aid in this case, it seems, but to the firing of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we'll see how much defense he ultimately gives to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, because it's come under withering criticism for not defending his ambassadors in the field. And that's one reason why a separate witness, Mike McKinley, who was a top aide to Mike Pompeo, ultimately resigned because of the failure of Mike Pompeo to offer that statement of support for the ousted Ukraine ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who had been targeted by Giuliani and others as part of that smear campaign, as Giuliani was pursuing, the Ukrainian announcement into investigations that can help the president politically.

Now, we were told from testimony from McKinley that was released early this week. It's clear that Hale was at least notified of some of these concerns that were raised of the Yovanovitch ouster, McKinley, as he was pushing the senior levels of the State Department to issue a public statement of support. He sent an email to various State Department officials, including to Hale. Hale he did not respond according to the released transcripts.

So we'll see what he says about that. We'll see what else he ultimately reveals, whether he gives a defense to Mike Pompeo in the holding up of the military aid. So this just got on the way right now. And as we can see, this could take for several for hours, as many of these witnesses have been behind closed for the duration of many of days.

HARLOW: Yes, of course. Manu, what else do we know about Fiona Hill and her reaction to what Ambassador Sondland testified first under oath and then also said in that revised bit of testimony?

RAJU: Yes. She is apparently not happy with what Gordon Sondland testified to about their actions that they had, that, frankly, her attorney says are completely fabricated in his words. So according to Sondland's testimony that was released yesterday, he told lawmakers that he had coffee with Fiona Hill in July and that she was, quote, pretty upset about her role at the administration, about her superiors, aabout the president. She was sort of shaking. That's how Sondland described Fiona Hill.

Well, in a tweet this morning, Fiona Hill's lawyers pushes back and says that Sondland has fabricated communications with Dr. Hill, none of which were over coffee. Dr. Hill told Sondland where she told lawmakers a lack of coordination on Ukraine was disastrous and circumstances of the dismissal of ambassador Yovanovitch shameful.

And we're also told from a source who spoke to our colleague, Gloria Borger, that Hill was concerned about the notion that she was pretty upset. She said that she's mad about the notion that she was upset and especially calling her emotional. So we are hearing pushback from the corner (ph.)

And also it's important to note that Sondland's testimony has been contradicted now by several different witnesses. So, ultimately, we'll see how the lawmakers respond to these apparent contradictions on a different front, including on this one, apparently. Guys?

SCIUTTO: And if you've ever dealt with Fiona Hill, I think you'd be far -- out on limb to describe her as anything but tough.

HARLOW: There you go.

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, thanks very much.

I want to bring in now Ross Garber, CNN Legal Analyst, who teaches political investigations and impeachment at Tulane University, and Jim Schultz, CNN Legal Commentator. He previously served as a lawyer for the Trump White House. Thanks to both of you, Ross and Jim.

Jim, let me begin with you? So Gordon Sondland, the president's appointee, E.U. ambassador, says he saw a quid pro quo and that, in his words, was likely illegal.


Bill Taylor, who was special representative to Ukraine, he was concerned about a quid pro quo, raised it repeatedly. Kurt Volker, he had text messages that are on the record where he raised that question as well amidst these discussion over weeks. Can the administration still credibly argue there was no quid pro quo on this military aid for investigations?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: So I think this goes back to the problem with the investigation as a whole, Jim, is that in a real grand jury investigation, what happens is that all this occurs in secret. Now, if the Democrats wanted to do it in secret and to protect the process, as they claimed, then we wouldn't hear -- this witness will testify to and then get bits and piece of transcripts or leaks as to what they did testify.

SCIUTTO: Well, these are the whole transcripts and they're not leaked. They're posted on the website. But I thought the argument from Republicans was that there wasn't enough transparency.

SCHULTZ: No, I get that. But we just heard -- I was disturbed by the first thing with the testimony that's going to take place today. We expect him to testify too. That doesn't happen in a grand jury situation. And that's precisely what's happening here. The folks in the news media are announcing what witnesses are going to testify to. It becomes a real problem when (INAUDIBLE) pushback.

SCIUTTO: It's posted on the website, Jim. You and anybody in America can just look at the full transcript.

SCHULTZ: No, I get it. But I'm talking about before the testimony even happens. We start talking about what they will testify to.

HARLOW: Well, I get it.

SCHULTZ: It's strikingly different from what we get. They said they want an open process, let's have an open process. That's what we should be talking about is we should be having all of this in open air and having real testimony before the Judiciary Committee and we wouldn't have all these problems.

HARLOW: All right. Well, we're about to. So, Ross Garber, let me try a different line of questioning here to get to, I think, a key point that Jim is making. Just take Sondland, okay, because nothing -- this is not what he will say. This is what he said. We have his transcripts in the initial testimony and we have his the three pages of revised testimony. I guess he remembered something important from September 1st. So which of those are we to believe, Ross? ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, Poppy, and, you know, I agree with much of what Jim is just saying about the process. On the substance though, yes, you know, Sondland is now saying that there were conditions on military aid that he acknowledged and expressed and that's the story. And, honestly, that is actually now consistent with what we have heard from other people, including the White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

So I think, you know, right now, we know there were conditions on various things with respect to Ukraine. I think, you know, the question I have now is what were the conditions specifically and why? Because if those conditions were relatively routine and if those conditions were motivated by public policy, you know, that's all fine, you don't get impeached for that.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, Jim, the connection. The alleged connection here is denying crucial military aid to an ally, Ukraine, which is at war, a war that's killed 13,000 Ukrainians over the last five years, at war with Russia, a much bigger adversary, denying that aid for weeks while demanding a statement on an investigation that would help the president politically. I just wonder if that connection is one you are comfortable with.

SCHULTZ: Well, just because it will help the president politically doesn't necessarily mean that it's not a policy statement as was said here just a moment ago, so a policy decision that was just said here a moment ago. This whole idea that it's just dirt-digging on a political opponent just is patently false here. The fact that a United States government official asks an official of another country to conduct an investigation of something that was so public and something that everybody raises an eyebrow to as to whether this individual is qualified for that position isn't uncommon as it relates to what happens in the United States government all the time.

SCIUTTO: Why did it begin only after Joe Biden declared his candidacy for the president, because, presumably, if corruption was such a priority for the president, he would begun two-and-a-half years ago?

SCHULTZ: I can't answer why on the timing of this. You'll have to ask the appropriate folks as to why that's happening in terms of the timing. All I'm saying is it doesn't appear on its face to be just a dirt-digging expedition. There were real questions as to whether -- and a lot of folks are raising eyebrows to this on both sides of the aisle.

GARBER: Jim and Poppy, I think that's the challenge, is, you know, so far, we haven't yet heard a sort of cohesive coherent story, explanation from the White House about this. I think what they're probably doing is waiting to see what the testimony shows so they don't get in over their head or ahead of their skis, depending on the metaphor you want to use. I think that's what's going on. But what we haven't seen is that explanation from the White House for what was really going on here.

[10:10:05] HARLOW: Ross, to that point and until we do have all these transcripts and the public hearings are under way or finished, do you think that House Democrats, because you've been through four impeachment proceedings, representing four governors going through impeachment, do you think House Democrats need to be careful about how much they rely on Sondland's testimony given the fact that he had to go back and revise it and sort of re-remember a really crucial meeting?

GARBER: Well, so things are happening on a few different levels. One are the facts that we all and Jim are talking about, sort of what's coming out. The second is sort of the ultimate question of impeachment. And for that, sort of the way that the House Democrats are presenting things are going to -- that's going to matter a lot.

And so, yes, I think, you know, sort of relying solely on what Sondland says or primarily or largely on that, I think, may be difficult. What I'm going to be very interested to see is how things do play out in these public hearings.

I think the House Democrats may realize they've made a mistake by how they've ruled this out, by doing sort of the private hearings then releasing the transcripts and then later holding public hearings. I'm not sure that's going to be the most effective way to drive a message home with the public.

HARLOW: Interesting. All right, well, Jerry Nadler is going to join us on the program tomorrow, so we'll ask him about that.

SCIUTTO: A good point, for sure.

HARLOW: Thank you, Ross.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to both of you, Ross and Jim.

HARLOW: Still to come, big victories for Democrats in Kentucky and Virginia. A source close to the White House says those results don't bode well for impeachment of the president in 2020.

SCIUTTO: Plus, an arrest in Mexico now that could be linked to the brutal murders, just horrible murders of nine Americans, including children. Coming up, why the victim's family say they were actually targeted.

And he saved a man who fell in front of an oncoming train. Now, California transit worker will be honored in front of a packed football stadium. Wow.



HARLOW: Overnight, Democrat And Beshear claiming victory in Kentucky's race for governor, a state the president won by whopping 30 points, and competitor Matt Bevin won by 9 points. The president also rallied for the embattled extremely, though, rather unpopular incumbent Matt Bevin with that rally this week, apparently not enough plum over the finish line, combine that with a clean sweep for Democrats in Virginia, winning majorities in both the state House and state Senate for the first time in decades.

That is one source close to the White House to speaks to the president regularly saying that Republicans are underestimating voter intensity and enthusiasm against the president and call it a, quote, bad omen for impeachment.

It's worth noting though that CNN projects Republican Tate Reeves winning the governor's race in the State of Mississippi.

Joining me now is Doug Heye, former communications director for the RNC, and Bakari Sellers, former South Carolina State Representative. Good morning, one and all.


HARLOW: Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: Okay. So, Doug, you say Democrats are wrong to call Bevin's loss a referendum on the president. Obviously, you are pointing to the fact statewide in Kentucky, the Republicans won five of the six races with a nice majority there. But does it tell us anything about Trump, Bevin's rhetoric, any of that?

HEYE: No. I think it might have -- Trump's late-minute visit might have pulled it a little closer, not drastically so but a little bit. You call him embattled and unpopular, I'd add to that, didn't run a great campaign, didn't raise a lot of money, he was on everybody's radar screen for a long time. I don't think this has a whole lot to do with Donald Trump. This is about Matt Bevin not being a governor that Kentucky wanted to re-elect.

And, again, as you mentioned, if you look at the other statewide races, Republicans did very well, including electing the first Republican attorney general since the 1940s, the first African- American attorney general in the state as well.

HARLOW: I do want to talk about that because that is significant. So, Bakari, let me toss that to you. Daniel Cameron winning as attorney general by 16 points, again, as Doug just laid out, he's making history, the first African-American attorney general. He is so young.

Let me read you something from the Louisville Courier Journal Political Reporter Philip Bailey who writes, Mitch McConnell did what no Kentucky Dem was able to do, and that is getting non-white Kentuckian elected as statewide office, a serious feather in the cap for team Mitch. What do you think?

SELLERS: Yes. I don't know about all of that. I am very proud of the new attorney general of the State of Kentucky. As someone who ran statewide in the south came up short, I can tell you that that is an awesome, awesome accomplishment. He joins the ranks of people like Tim Scott, who are black Republicans who have achieved that level of success. So my hat's off to him.

But I have to take some umbrage to the Republican Party all of a sudden championing their diversity, having one African-American elected statewide on that level in Kentucky and wining last night is not indicative of any vast change in the Republican Party or their policies, which we know are policies that do not do well for black and brown communities throughout this country.

I do also want to push back on Doug since this is an indictment on Donald Trump.


Because the fact is, you had an unpopular governor who just raided the healthcare system in Kentucky, who shredded the public education system in Kentucky, and that sounds just like what Donald Trump is doing to the United States of America.

And so I think there are a great deal of similarities, and I think Democrats have to keep their foot on the gas. It was a good night for Democrats all in all.

HARLOW: I want you to weigh in on what the suburbs tell us. I mean, Doug, obviously, you worked for suburban Richmond, Virginia for Eric Cantor. You know a lot about this, and I just wonder how much you think, if you think Republicans should be pretty worried about the suburbs and what we saw play out yesterday in both Kentucky and Virginia?

HEYE: Yes, I'd also add Pennsylvania to that, where we saw some results that also should be troubling in suburban areas for Republicans. You know, Bakari wrote a piece for CNN that I recommend to people about how Democrats shouldn't have litmus tests.

Republicans, for a long time, have had litmus tests. This pre-dates Donald Trump. It's part of what I dealt with when I worked for Eric Cantor in the House of Representatives. And I think Republicans need to ask themselves, do you want to nominate Eric cantor or do want to nominate Dave Brat? Because, ultimately, one may be successful in the general and one may not be.

And this is why we are seeing Republicans doing very poorly in the suburban areas of Richmond and suburban Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia and those districts outside of Philadelphia, where we've seen Republicans retire, it's why we've seen Republicans retire in suburban areas in Texas.

Republicans have a real existential problem in suburban communities and that's due in some part to Donald Trump, obviously, and his unpopularity in those areas, but also in the direction the party has gone pre-Trump, the candidates that they've nominated. And that's why they're in this real trouble. It's not one thing, it's actually more than one. HARLOW: Bakari, listen to this from Donald Trump, Jr., he was on Laura Ingraham's show on Fox last night. Here's how he sees it.


DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SON: I think he's done a good job, but Matt Bevin has picked some fights. So this has nothing to do with Trump. Again, they swept the rest of the ticket. They did great in Mississippi, et cetera, et cetera, the other election today. The two, really, I don't think have that much to do with each other.


HARLOW: His point is you can't look at this race and make it all about the president, which is what we saw the president saying, you know, two nights before. Does he have any point at all when you look across the State of Kentucky, when you look at, of course, Mississippi, a deep red state, but it at least was close enough there for a lot of national reporters to head there to see what might happen?

SELLERS: No, he is not making any valid points. Donald Trump Jr. very rarely makes any valid points. Anytime your argument as a Republican is look at how well we did in Mississippi, you're usually not winning that argument. The fact is even Attorney General Hood in Mississippi got to within five points of winning the governor's race there. So, no, you can't look to Mississippi for some similar success.

But I will say this, Democrats have to -- as Doug was saying, we can't fall prey to these purity tests. And that's what I wrote about on We cannot fall prey to these purity tests. Because while we had a very unpopular governor, while we had a very unpopular president in Donald Trump, and, yes, it was a rebuke against him, we had amazing candidates last night run on issues that mattered to their electorate.

Andy Beshear did not run through or stump through Kentucky waving a flag of I can be further left than anyone else, he ran on the issues that mattered to Kentuckians. And what may work in the Bronx or Brooklyn doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work in Paducah or Louisville.

And so I just think that as a party, we have to shy away from litmus tests and choose the best candidates under our big tent matched with this unpopular president and we can have some success.

HARLOW: Bakari Sellers, Doug Heye, thank you both. Interesting night for sure.

HEYE: Thank you.

SELLERS: Thank you.

HARLOW: We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, officials in Mexico say they have made an arrest possibly connected to the brutal killings of nine Americans, including children. The big question this morning, were they the targets of this attack? We're going to have the latest on that investigation, just a horrible crime, coming up.



HARLOW: We are learning more about that brutal massacre of nine Americans in Mexico. Officials in Mexico now say that a suspect has been arrested, possibly connected to the murders.

SCIUTTO: Look at that family there. This comes as some of the survivors were taken to a hospital in Tucson, Arizona.

CNN's Gary Tuchman, he's outside that hospital. Gary, do we know what condition the survivors are in?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, let this soak in. For a minute. Here at the here at the Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, there is a nine-month-old baby boy named Brixon (ph),who is too young to walk, may have just learned to crawl, and he's right now in a hospital bed shot in his chest and his wrist.

There are four other children ranging from ages 4 to 14, three boys and girl, shot in their back, shot in their jaw, shot in their wrist, shot in their foot, and it may have been done on purpose.

We are being told by family members that these children will survive. And that's the good news. But three mothers who are in the three vehicles driving through Sonora State in Mexico and six other children were killed.


Now, earlier today, we talked with two relatives of one of the mothers who was shot and killed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still looking for answers and praying --