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White House Gives Little Guidance to Republicans on Impeachment Defense; Andy Beshear Wins Kentucky Governorship but Bevin has Yet to Concede; California Transit Employee Saves Man. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 6, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- were killed. Now, earlier today, we talked with two relatives of one of the mothers who was shot and killed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAFE LANGFORD, FAMILY MEMBER OF VICTIMS: We're still looking for answers and praying for answers, the heroic actions of these kids, the loneliness that they felt in those mountains for hours and hours, all shot up and wounded, carrying each other in their arms.

And just -- the effort by these six children, to survive and come home to their -- to their father, is something that we just want to world to feel with us. We're just blessed to have survivors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Three of the children were not hurt. One of them, Jake (ph), who is six years old, walked 13 miles to ask for help.

The hospital's not giving much information about the children or the conditions. We are talking to family members, though, and they do say all the children are in stable condition.

Now, we're being told by sources that authorities in Mexico do not believe that these children and these mothers were shot by mistake. They do believe it was deliberate. Why would that happen?

One theory is that these people are members of a fundamentalist Mormon group who live in Sonora State. They have spoken out vociferously against the drug cartels and this may have been seen as revenge. Jim and Poppy, back to you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: My goodness, Gary. I mean, Jim and I were just saying, the way that you laid that all out brings it home to every single person --

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes.

HARLOW: -- who is listening and watching right now. You know, you say some of them weren't hurt, but we know -- right, Gary? -- the mental impact that they must have felt will be with them forever, watching their little siblings -- babies, mothers -- being murdered. TUCHMAN: I mean, could you imagine that, Poppy?

HARLOW: No, no.

TUCHMAN: As parents?

HARLOW: No.

TUCHMAN: Having your children see something like that? I mean, how do you survive that mentally, psychologically, emotionally your entire life? That's a nine-month-old baby inside that hospital, who went through that. Shot purposefully. It's absolutely incredible, and I've covered a million stories over all these years, but still can't get over something like this.

HARLOW: No, (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: Just heartbreaking. They need their family around them. Gary Tuchman, thanks very much.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:36:50]

SCIUTTO: President Trump says that his call with Ukraine was perfect, but the strategy to defend that call and the alleged quid pro quo? Not so perfect. Here's a refresher on those shifting, sometimes contradictory strategies. The first defense, of course, was to dismiss the whistleblower's complaint entirely as false.

HARLOW: Well, then the president and his allies made it clear, no quid pro quo whatsoever on the call. But as more details began to appear, including the White House's own rough transcript, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says the opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time with foreign policy.

And I have news for everybody. Get over it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, Mulvaney almost immediately walked those comments back. But as more damning testimony emerged -- sworn testimony -- Republicans took a new approach: attack the process. On October 23rd, they stormed a closed-door hearing where a key witness was about to testify.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARK WALKER (R-NC): It is a sham and it's time for it to end.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): What is happening here is not fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: The next tactic? Discrediting key witnesses. The president's allies attacked a decorated lieutenant, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, also of course a White House official, questioning his allegiance to the United States. Vindman was awarded a Purple Heart for his service to this country.

The president also launched attacks against the U.S. top diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, calling him a Never Trumper in a tweet. Of course, no evidence that Bill Taylor is a Never Trumper.

TEXT: Donald J. Trump: Never Trumper Republican John Bellinger, represents Never Trumper Diplomat Bill Taylor (who I don't know), in testimony before Congress! Do Nothing Democrats allow Republicans Zero Representation, Zero due process, and Zero Transparency...

SCIUTTO: Then the message from the White House took yet another turn this weekend, when the president's senior counselor, Kellyanne Conway, said she, quote, "didn't know" if there was aid held up. But even if there was a quid pro quo, it doesn't matter because -- her argument -- doesn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: It is OK for the president of the United States to ask a foreign --

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It's not impeachable. Ask (ph) where we are now, is it impeachable?

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: Is it a high crime or misdemeanor?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: The president himself, repeating that argument later that night, which brings us up to yesterday, when Trump-appointed European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, reversed his testimony and said, yes, there was a quid pro quo. Let me read to you from this revised testimony that he submitted through his attorney.

Quote, "I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks." And I will note, importantly, the date here. He says that conversation happened on September 1st.

SCIUTTO: So here's what Senator Lindsey Graham had to say in response to that. Quote, "I've written the whole process off... I think this is a bunch of B.S." HARLOW: And this morning, Kellyanne Conway told reporters that the White House maintains, still, after all that, that there was no quid pro quo, despite this three pages of Sondland's revised testimony.

Let's talk about it. CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is here; Sabrina Siddiqui, national politics reporter at The Wall Street Journal, joins us. OK, Phil. I don't know, the White -- I mean, so much testimony and revised testimony from a Trump appointee, a total Trump loyalist, saying there was a quid pro quo. But still, explain the White House strategy to me, saying no quid pro quo.

[10:40:11]

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't think I'm of the position to explain the White House strategy to anybody right now. I think what I -- what I was smiling about, when you came out of --

HARLOW: Yes.

MATTINGLY: -- where you guys kind of just ran through, is you now have a really good understanding of why Republicans on the Hill quietly have been very frustrated, right? They don't understand, they're not getting a lot of information, they're not given solid defenses.

Just yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence was in a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, and he really harped on two things, I'm told by a person who was in the lunch. One, this is a very partisan investigation, kind of stay with our team, don't go to their team, this is a Democrat-driven issue. And, two, that just stick with the transcript. Stick with the transcript, the president's transcript of the call, the July 25th call. That's what you should focus on. You should not focus on anything else.

I think you talk to Republicans, and they're a little bit frustrated, saying, look, stuff keeps coming out. There's more testimony, there's more details and they want firmer guidance on what to actually do.

But what you saw, yesterday, is what we've seen repeatedly over the course of the last couple weeks, where something new comes out and really takes apart a central defense.

And the Sondland testimony, what you're seeing in the wake of that, what you're seeing in the revision is Gordon Sondland is now being kind of summarily tossed under the bus even though he was a big donor to the Trump inauguration and was a selection who was very close inside this Ukraine policy. And people are saying it was just his opinion, he didn't get it from the president.

So you're seeing this back-and-forth, but it's just a constant shifting narrative --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MATTINGLY: -- shifting defenses. And I think that's why it's difficult up here --

HARLOW: Sure.

MATTINGLY: -- for Republicans to really figure it out, and that's why I think you saw Lindsey Graham do what he did yesterday, which is just say, you know what, I'm writing the whole thing off. Let's -- I don't even want to deal with this anymore.

SCIUTTO: You know, so Sabrina --

HARLOW: But you got -- fine.

SCIUTTO: -- yes. You hear --

HARLOW: You've got to deal with it.

SCIUTTO: You hear this frustration from Republicans. We've heard it. But they still keep spouting the talking points, right? I mean, they're defending the president. If you do stick your neck out -- think of Francis Rooney with my colleague here -- they leave the party. You know, he said maybe there is -- you know, I'm open to impeachment. He's gone, right?

So despite the frustration, no one is making a political calculation here that they can say in public, I see something wrong here.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think that there is a growing rift among Republicans on Capitol Hill when it comes to how to push back against this impeachment inquiry and how far the party should go in defending the president.

There is a faction of Republican lawmakers -- most of them the president's most ardent supporters -- who want to embrace a more combative tone. Some of them are now calling for Republicans to launch a counter-investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

You've heard other calls from some of the president's defenders, suggesting that they out the whistleblower. And that hasn't sat well with some other Republicans on Capitol Hill, who would rather try somehow to keep their head down and just see where this investigation leads.

But the biggest challenge for Republicans has been and remains that a parade of witnesses, most of them career diplomats, have come forward and testified on Capitol Hill, and essentially corroborated much of the whistleblower's complaint.

And I think as this investigation nears its public phase, it's going to be more and more untenable for Republicans to simply ignore the allegations against the president or to pretend that these witnesses are not credible.

They're trying to move the goalposts and suggest that his actions don't amount to a quid pro quo. But although testimony, of course, suggests otherwise. HARLOW: Phil, to you, Kaitlan Collins has some interesting reporting

that just crossed, that apparently, you know, at a meeting call yesterday with Republican senators on the Hill, the vice president, Mike Pence, his message was, stick with the transcripts, the White House-released transcript of that July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky. That is your defense, stick with the transcript. Have you gleaned anything from that?

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's actually -- that's spot-on. And frankly, when you saw it, we talked to senators coming out and, frankly, going into that lunch yesterday. They were -- a lot of them were very focused on that.

And here's why. And I think -- people who read the transcript would say, I don't understand why this is exculpatory evidence --

HARLOW: Right.

MATTINGLY: -- necessarily, because Joe Biden was mentioned, because Burisma was mentioned, the company was mentioned. Because 2016 and CrowdStrike were mentioned. Here's the rationale that I've picked up from talking to Republicans who are kind of following that path.

And that is, that is the only evidence of direct -- directly from the president. That is the only thing that comes directly from the president's mouth. Gordon Sondland, there's no evidence, there's no paper, there's no text messages, no e-mails coming directly from the president to Gordon Sondland. So they're saying he's presuming.

Kurt Volker's saying he wasn't aware of a quid pro quo, he wasn't aware of what Gordon Sondland was doing on his own. William Taylor never spoke directly to the president. So that's where that's coming from. This idea that, look, all of this may have been happening underneath the president, but there's no evidence that the president directly ordered this.

I think it's a little bit tenuous to assume that people were doing this is a rogue manner, but that's where people are right now and I think that's why you're going to hear a lot more of that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You've got to believe that Gordon Sondland, the president's -- you know, appointee to that position, who donated a million dollars to his inauguration, was acting freelance here, right? To make this connection.

[10:45:05]

A GOP source close to the White House -- to I believe our Jim Acosta -- describes the results of this Kentucky election, where Republicans lost in something of a surprise, a bad omen for impeachment. I mean, we've talked a lot about how Republicans are not going to move in any numbers to go public with criticism or to even consider voting against the president in an impeachment trial, a trial in the Senate, until public sentiment moves significantly.

We're not there yet, let's be honest. But are you hearing the same? That they looked at those numbers there and said, hey, wait a second, we've got to pay attention? Sabrina, to you.

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that when they're looking at public opinion, there is growing support for at least the impeachment inquiry against the president, and that's something that Republicans, particularly those who are in competitive districts, or Republican incumbents who are in vulnerable positions in the Senate have to contend with.

The president has a base, but he doesn't have a coalition. And so when they look at those independents or those suburban women who helped propel the president to the White House in 2016, how are they reacting to the allegations against the president? And are they just frustrated to the point where they want to see a change?

But I think what Republicans right now are largely basing their calculation off of the base, the Republican base, which is still -- is overwhelmingly with the president. But as you point out, in Kentucky, the Republican candidate, incumbent there, he tried to really wrap his arms around the president and make a big show that he was against this impeachment inquiry. And at the end of the day, it wasn't enough.

So I think they are realizing that the president has a -- he has a base, but he may also have a ceiling.

SCIUTTO: Sabrina, Phil Mattingly, thanks very much to both of you.

There is a lot going on today. Here's "What to Watch."

TEXT: What to Watch... 1:30 p.m. Eastern, Defense Secy. meets with Qatari Deputy P.M.; 3:00 p.m. Trump speaks at White House; 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Trump holds rally in Louisiana

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right. In just a few minutes, Kentucky's Democratic attorney general, Andy Beshear, set to speak after claiming victory in the governor's race last night. We'll take you there, live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:52:04]

HARLOW: All right. Democratic attorney general Andy Beshear of Kentucky, set to speak in just moments after he claimed victory in the state's governor's race.

Matt Bevin, the unpopular incumbent Republican governor, has so far refused to concede. Of course, this is a state that the president won by 30 points, but this upset could spell trouble for the GOP in 2020.

SCIUTTO: CNN correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro, he's in Louisville. He's been covering this campaign. So what's the next step here? It's 0.4 percent, about a little over 5,000 votes. Doesn't seem like folks think that would be over (ph) wrong (ph) by what we know about the recount process there, not quite a recount. What's the next step for the Democrat? EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, people who have witnessed close elections before are going to recognize what's about to happen here. At this press conference I'm standing at, Andy Beshear is going to announce the race is over. It's done, I'm moving forward with my transition to be the next governor of Kentucky.

But the Republicans say it's not over. They have a process they can go through, re-canvassing the votes, and they can eventually ask a judge to recount the votes if they want to. And this is that thing that happens in these close races sometimes, where both sides are going to argue it's over, it's not over, it's over, it's not over.

Democrats say it is over. And that is what this press conference is about, and that's the message coming out of Democrats in Kentucky today.

HARLOW: You know what I want to know, Evan? All the pundits that we've had on for the last two hours have their own opinions about whether this says anything about President Trump or anything about 2020.

I don't really care so much what they say. I want to know what the people in Kentucky say. Is this about the president? Is this about the party? Is this about 2020 or is this about Matt Bevin specifically?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, it's actually a fascinating moment on that issue. Because I was with Andy Beshear on one of his last campaign stops, Monday night in Bowling Green. And I asked him, a bunch of times, abut the national implications of this election.

And Democrats kept saying, look, this is not a national race, this is a local race, this is about Bevin, this is about teachers, this is about health care.

HARLOW: Yes.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But, look, the moment the race started to come in last night and the results started to go the way of the Democrats last night, Democrats are very excited. And they're excited because they think that they scored a victory against Republican Party, against President Trump.

So, you know, if you go with what the Democrats said on Monday --

HARLOW: Right.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: -- this race is a local race. But if you go with how they're feeling today, the elation they have today, it's about Trump.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, there's a message you say to voters, and then there's what you're actually thinking in your head sometimes --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- right? Evan McMorris-Santoro, great to have you there. We're going to continue to follow that story.

[10:54:44]

For the first time this week, a witness called by Democrats in the impeachment inquiry is showing up, and this high-ranking State Department official could shed light on why the State Department did not back one of their own.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: This is a happy story. A California transit employee who saved a man -- watch this video -- from an oncoming train --

HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: -- within seconds of his life. He's going to be honored during tomorrow night's Oakland Raiders game.

Last Sunday, a man who officials say was intoxicated, he fell onto the tracks -- you can see it happening there -- at the Oakland Coliseum after a game. John O'Connor pulled the man up just before the train sped by.

[11:00:00]

HARLOW: You know, that's the first time I've seen that video. That's amazing, that --

SCIUTTO: It's like right out of Hollywood.

HARLOW: -- now the Raiders will recognize him at this week's hometown hero. O'Connor has --