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More Impeachment Inquiry Transcripts Released; Roger Stone Trial. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired November 6, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We continue with the breaking news here on this Wednesday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being here.
The transcript is out for the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, a key witness in this impeachment inquiry. Remember, when he was deposed last month, his testimony, according to sources, really reverberated even among a number of Republicans up on Capitol Hill.
And now we know. We're seeing the exact words America's top diplomat in Ukraine said under oath to the U.S. House of Representatives. And the transcripts show that he described a quid pro quo between Ukraine getting military aid released and that Oval Office meeting with President Trump in exchange for conducting political investigations that would benefit Trump.
So let me just read one exchange that House Democrats are highlighting here.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff asked this -- quote -- "And when you say that this was the first time I heard that the security assistance, not just the White House meeting, was conditioned on the investigation, when you talk about conditioned, did you mean that if they," they being the Ukrainians, "didn't do this, the investigation, the investigations, they weren't going to get that, the meeting and the military assistance?"
And Bill Taylor responds: "That was my clear understanding. Security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation."
Question: "So if they don't do this, they are not going to get -- that that was under -- that was your understanding?"
Taylor: "Yes, sir."
Question: "Are you aware that quid pro quo literally means this for that?"
Taylor: "I am." We begin this hour with CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju, who has been reading through the 300-plus pages of testimony here.
And, Manu, what is your biggest takeaway?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it became clearer and clearer to Bill Taylor through his tenure when he first arrived in Kiev in June that there were two separate channels for pursuing investigation -- for pursuing Ukraine policy.
There was the normal diplomatic channels of which he was a part, and there was a separate channel in which Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, played a role, as well as other people as well, including Kurt Volker, including -- who was the special envoy to Ukraine -- including Rick Perry, the energy secretary, and others, as this separate effort was under way.
And what Taylor makes clear is that he becomes more and more alarmed through the months about why exactly certain things weren't happening, one, a meeting between President Zelensky of Ukraine and President Trump, something Zelensky sought after he was -- after he won his election earlier in the year. That was not happening.
Also, why -- he was uncertain why the military aid, roughly $400 million that was approved by the U.S. Congress, why that was not turned over to Ukraine to combat Russian aggression.
He learns through the course of time that this, in his -- what he's been told -- was linked for -- until Ukraine publicly announced these investigations that could help the president politically, including into Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, the company that Hunter Biden served on the board of in Ukraine, Burisma, as well as the 2016 election interference, foreign interference, to pursue what the president had been questioning, whether Ukraine was involved in that effort at all.
Now, what's interesting, well, one extra from this transcript stuck out, is that he essentially raised concerns and did not think it was worth pursuing the meeting because of what Rudy Giuliani had been demanding.
He said this: "As the month of July went on, and some of these suggests this, I was less convinced -- I became less convinced that the meeting was worth what Giuliani was asking. Yes, it'd be fine to have the two presidents talk, but if President Zelensky, in order to get that meeting, were going to have to intervene in U.S. domestic policy or politics by investigating -- by announcing an investigation that would benefit someone in the United States, then it was not clear to me that that would be worth it, that the meeting would be worth it."
So he is raising enough alarms that the push was so intense to potentially interfere in the U.S. elections that it was not worth pursuing these efforts to bolster this alliance with this key ally at a time when Ukraine is engaged in this military conflict with Russia. And he also makes clear throughout the course of this testimony that he learns more from -- including from the president's top diplomat in the European Union, that the security aid was, in fact, linked to this push for the public declaration, that he wanted the president of Ukraine to publicly announce the investigations before the military aid was released.
So you're hearing here testimony from a diplomat, a career official who had spent ample time in the U.S. government in both administrations, raising significant alarms of multiple channels to pursue policy, one undercutting U.S. national security and Ukrainian security and preventing this alliance from being blossomed -- from improving until the president's political objectives were met -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Manu, thank you for that.
Let's analyze with these three next to me.
John Avlon is a CNN senior political analyst. And Hagar Chemali is a former spokeswoman to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. And CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney.
And can we just -- let's take three steps back before we jump into this. And Manu hit on some of this.
So this is a West -- Bill Taylor, West Point grad, Vietnam veteran, still in the job, right, top diplomat to Ukraine, and was recruited to this job by the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, just keeping that in mind and that he has served for administrations both Republican and Democrat since 1985.
Just keeping that in mind as we go through this, what are you thinking?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Two things jump out at me.
One, this very respected figure on both sides of the aisle said very clearly it was a quid pro quo. No ambiguity. No question. The other is the question of...
BALDWIN: And not just the Oval Office meeting, but on military aid.
AVLON: On the military aid specifically.
AVLON: And the who benefits question, well, clearly, Donald Trump believed there was a political benefit in having Ukraine announce an investigation against his political enemies.
But Taylor specifically raised the other person who benefited, said, Russia is loving this. Russia is loving this. If the Ukraine were to knuckle under, in effect, what he called a nightmare scenario, Russia would be laughing the whole way.
AVLON: I highlighted that. Let's come back to that just quickly on a nightmare.
"What did you mean by the nightmare? And what would the Russians love?"
He says: "The nightmare is a scenario where President Zelensky goes out in public, makes an announcement that he's going to investigate Burisma and the election in 2016, interference in the 2016 election, maybe among other things. He might put that in some series of investigations, but he had to -- he was going -- the nightmare was that he would mention these two," and he goes on and on and on, that -- worried that the security assistant wouldn't be released, and that that would be the nightmare.
BALDWIN: I'm so glad you highlighted that.
Hagar, what are you thinking?
HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, U.S. MISSION TO UNITED NATIONS: I want to add, actually, on John's point, because he made a very good point about Russia and Russia listening.
So, I want to underscore how dangerous all of this activity is, right? We already know how bad it is for a president to use a U.S. resource as his own political leverage, right, how bad that is. It's almost extortion.
But it renders us extremely weak, because he's asking a foreign country for something that he wants for personal gain. So let's say that Ukraine does come up with some kind of dirt on Hunter Biden, or the Russians and the Chinese, who listen to everything, they come to Trump -- to President Trump and say, hey, by the way, we have something on Hunter Biden, but before we give it to you, we want you to give us XYZ.
It makes us extremely vulnerable to blackmail. And it is the number one thing that security professionals in the U.S. government look for. It's just -- it's just a shame.
And to have people like Bill Taylor and other career foreign servants and civil servants come out and risk their names and have gotten stuck in this political muck and mire for having witnessed this, it's just amazing. I mean, these guys are heroes. They're really -- they're -- it's a shame they're being slandered by the conservative press.
I only hope that it doesn't risk anything for them and that they continue doing this good job.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
CHEMALI: Yes. BALDWIN: Before I get to you, sir, we know that, according to our
sources over at the White House, that the Republicans and the White House specifically, they are most worried about his testimony.
We know he is the first guy out of the gate when this thing goes public next Wednesday. He is -- he is witness number one. I guess my question to you is, will the Republicans say, he never heard anything, he never got a directive from President Trump himself, so this is hearsay, this is from A to B to Z?
JACKSON: If there were not so much evidence and information as to exactly what happened, perhaps that would work.
Brooke, at the outset of this segment, you really laid out something that I think is very significant. And I will tell you why. You spoke to the issue of his background, the service of country, the fact that this person is a career diplomat who was putting his country first, who has the background.
BALDWIN: He came out of retirement to take this job.
JACKSON: Without question. Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Bronze Star in Vietnam. Talk about the ideal person who is suited to defend and fend for the interests of this country. That's him.
Why do I raise that? Because, in law, one thing is so significant. That's credibility. And when you speak of a person like this who has the interest of the country in mind, and not only does when -- in his testimony, is he speaking in terms of what he observed, what he lived through, what he's concerned with regarding back channels, irregularities in foreign policy relating to a campaign and your personal lawyer.
What? Release the money now. We need that, right? It represents our interests with Russia, against Russia, and supporting Ukraine and what they want to do. So credibility is everything.
Number two, here's a guy who took contemporaneous notes when he was doing something.
BALDWIN: Two notebooks.
JACKSON: What does that mean?
BALDWIN: Small notebook, spiral notebook.
JACKSON: Yes. What does that mean?
It means we're going to give you even more credibility. We liked you initially because of who you are and everything you have done. But now we like you even more. Why? Because we can count on what you say. How? Because everything you say, you make notations of. We call that, in law, contemporaneous notes. And that bolsters what you say, because you have the goods. You're not thinking, what did I do last week Wednesday? What did I do Thursday? Excuse me one moment. Let me go to the videotape. You open it up, and that's what it is.
BALDWIN: So true. So true.
JACKSON: And so I think it's very compelling.
And so all the evidence and information, you could say Trump-never this, he didn't get involved. There was a specific directive from OMB. Right? Mulvaney, remember that guy, get over it?
No, we're not going to get over it, because I think all the evidence points to the quid pro quo.
CHEMALI: He made a good point.
CHEMALI: If there's anything diplomats are good at, it's taking copious notes from every level on up. It's amazing.
AVLON: But, see, I remember Donald Trump saying that he has had great lawyers who didn't take as many notes as, for example, Don McGahn, citing Roy Cohn didn't take any notes. So maybe this is a different playbook I'm unaware of, counselor.
BALDWIN: Speaking of Donald Trump's lawyers, can I bring on Michael Cohen here? Because Paul Callan was sitting in the seat a bit ago, and we didn't get to this, but he was making this point.
He was rereading on Michael Cohen transcript. And essentially what Michael Cohen was saying is in how -- this goes back to my question of, well, didn't maybe the -- we don't have it on paper that it came from Trump, is that Donald Trump speaks in code.
This is according to Michael Cohen. So he doesn't say, go bribe those people because I want the building. He just says, I want the building. Make it happen. Wink. Exactly.
JACKSON: We call that...
BALDWIN: ... the bureaucracy doesn't understand, but Giuliani does.
JACKSON: We call this circumstantial evidence, right?
And so oftentimes you have direct evidence, where directly someone says something. The other thing, like we lawyers like to say to jurors, use your common sense and good judgment. In the event that I came in and spoke with Brooke Baldwin, it was dry outside, but when I came back, there were puddles everywhere. Things were wet. I didn't see it raining.
But guess what? There was a storm going on out there when I was in here. You look at the evidence and information. It doesn't matter what you say. It matters what the circumstances show. And, boy, does it show an awful lot.
AVLON: Yes, and people understand those nonverbal cues.
It gets transmitted through the bureaucracy. One of the eternal truths is, tone comes to the top. I saw a new Scorsese movie last night, "The Irishman." It is full of mob bosses giving orders, to give hits without ever saying, whack that guy.
AVLON: Doesn't need to be said.
JACKSON: On that note...
BALDWIN: Yes, on that note, thank you all so much for the conversation. I could continue on, but we got to -- we need to get to this.
We have been talking so much about this breaking situation at Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam, where Dutch authorities said that they have been investigating this suspicious situation on board a plane. Air Europa has just tweeted that a warning that triggers protocols for airport hijackings was mistakenly activated.
So, folks, this was a false alarm. All passengers, crew, they're safe. The airline says they deeply apologize. Oof.
We will have much more on the timeline for these public impeachment hearings that begin next Wednesday, and which witness the White House is most concerned about.
Also ahead, breaking, opening statements under way in the trial of Trump confidant Roger Stone. Remember, he had food poisoning yesterday and had to bail? We're getting word now of phone calls Stone made to the president himself the same day news broke of the hack on the Democratic Party.
Whew. It's not a slow day. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: Now to the president's response to this impeachment inquiry.
For the first time, we are seeing signs that the strategy of the president is the war room may need some adjustment. Two aides are joining the team, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Tony Sayegh, a former senior aide in the Treasury Department.
We are also hearing that there is a heightened concern over the White House over the first public hearing witness, that's next Wednesday, Ambassador Bill Taylor, who we have been talking so much about, and his description of this explicit quid pro quo.
So let's get some insight with CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish, host of "SMERCONISH" here on CNN on Saturday mornings.
And, Michael, despite, I guess, these hires or whatever the White House is doing right now, there still is no credible defense.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, there really has not been a substantive rebuttal to the claim of a quid pro quo.
I think, by last count, there are seven different ways that that information has been confirmed ever since we first learned of the whistle-blower complaint. So the question is whether there will ever need to be a substantive defense.
Brooke, if you were to say to me what has been the most significant revelation relative to impeachment in the last couple of days, well, I would tell you it was the release of "The New York Times" and Siena polling data, which shows just how competitive the president remains in battleground states.
And why do I say that? Because if you're looking for any sign that there will be a crack in the armor of Republican support of the president either in the House, but more importantly in the Senate, I would say no.
They will feel emboldened by those numbers that they can remain lockstep with the president, and there's no need to abandon him as this story materializes in a public setting.
I mean, I think those who are paying close attention already know what will be revealed. Will it change when you can put a public face on it, a la John Dean in the Watergate hearings? Maybe, because maybe more members of the public will now be paying attention to this.
I just don't think the facts are going to alter that much.
BALDWIN: Got it.
You and I had a conversation in the last couple of weeks. I remember, mental note, I'm going to -- I'm going to remember what Michael Smerconish said, because we were talking after that pretty extraordinary press avail with the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, pretty much admitting in the Briefing Room that was there quid pro quo.
And you predicted this strategy. And I just want to play some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I have been saying for a while there's really not a factual dispute here as to what transpired, and the only legal avenue that I see for the president is one of owning it, and then trying to convince the American people, really trying to convince Senate jurors, that his intent was not with regard to his own reelection, but that he was operating with good faith and a good motive in the United States' best interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So I want to say you called it on so many of the Republicans and how they're now saying, all right, yes, quid pro quo, but whatever, minimizing it.
But the one person who hasn't said that is the president. And I'm wondering from you today is, does the president needs to get on the same page with the rest of the members of his party as this becomes public next week?
SMERCONISH: So I may be wrong, but I am consistent.
SMERCONISH: And, interestingly, according to the "Washington Post" reporting, including by Rachael Bade, who, of course, is a colleague of sorts here at CNN...
SMERCONISH: ... behind closed doors in the Senate last Wednesday, Republicans got together. And, among others, it was Ted Cruz, who is no shrinking violet and not a dummy intellectually, who said, hey, wait a minute.
If his motive was one of protecting American taxpayers and tax dollars and not his own reelection, then there's no harm, no foul here.
So I think they get it. Frankly, I think a lot of people get it. But whether the president can resist saying no quid pro quo remains to be seen. I'm convinced we're going to see it on T-shirts at some of the rallies soon, but it's not in his best interest, especially when Ambassador Taylor testifies.
You take a look at the addendum to the declaration that was filed this week by Sondland, who famously in the text said no quid pro quo. Let's take it offline and talk.
BALDWIN: Yes, he's now refreshed.
SMERCONISH: He's no longer saying that, probably because, candidly, he worries about a perjury trap if he continues to say that.
So whether it's Colonel Vindman, whether it's Sondland, whether it's Taylor, whether it's the whistle-blower, they're all saying the same thing. And the only person who's not on that page is the president, which now comes back to your initial report about two individuals, one of whom is Pam Bondi. And we see her. She gets a lot of face time on FOX.
Will she be saying one thing that is not echoed by the president? Or will the White House begin to speak with one voice? That's what remains to be seen.
BALDWIN: We will be watching and listening. So far, though, the president does seem to be his own coms chief.
SMERCONISH: No doubt.
BALDWIN: Michael Smerconish, thank you very much. And thanks for letting me have a little bit of fun with you from the last time.
SMERCONISH: Of course.
BALDWIN: We will talk again.
In the meantime, we are live in Washington as the first witness is called in the trial of Trump adviser Roger Stone. We have new details about phone calls Stone made to the president himself the very same day news broke of the hack on the Democratic Party.
BALDWIN: The Roger Stone obstruction trial is finally under way.
And bombshell revelations from the prosecution are already flowing. Prosecutors claim that the same day news broke that the Democratic Party had been hacked, that Roger Stone had three calls with then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
They also claim Stone lied to Congress to protect then candidate Trump.
Shimon Prokupecz is our CNN crime and justice reporter.
Shimon, we talked -- what did we talk about yesterday on day one? Food poisoning, fainting and lawyers arguing. So what does day two entail?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, much more serious business here in court this afternoon.
The first witness just a short time ago took the stand. She's a former FBI agent. She actually worked on the Mueller team. She was the case agent in charge of the Roger Stone investigation.
And, right now, she's going through phone records, Roger Stone's phone records, showing just how much he was in touch, in contact with then candidate Donald Trump as news was breaking that the Democrats had been hacked, as WikiLeaks was getting ready