Return to Transcripts main page


Democrats Win Big in State and Local Elections; U.S. Ambassador Links Ukraine Aid to Investigations; Nine Mormon Family Members Killed in Mexico. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 6, 2019 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: -- in this off-year state and local elections, Democrats have scored two significant wins and Republicans have seen their support in the suburbs crumble. First, in the deep-red state of Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear has declared victory in the race for the governor's mansion. He leaves the incumbent Republican Matt Bevin by razor-thin margin, but there was heavy turnout of voters which helped the Democrat challenger Beshear. And he addressed supporters just a few hours ago.


ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, voters in Kentucky sent a message loud and clear for everyone to hear. It's a message that says our elections don't have to be about right versus left. They are still about right versus wrong.


VAUSE: As of this hour, the incumbent Matt Bevin has not conceded even though the Fed officials have cold the result. Kentucky is Trump territory with high approval numbers there for the President. It's a state he won in 2016 by nearly 30 points. Matt Bevin tie himself closely to Donald Trump who campaigned for him on Monday at Lexington. But it seems a popular President may not have been popular enough to secure a win for an unpopular governor.


GOV. MATT BEVIN (R-KY): This is a close, close race. We are not conceding this race by any stretch. Not a chance. And here's the thing, understand this, though, understand this. We want the process to be followed and there is a process. We know for a fact that there have been more than a few irregularities. They are very well corroborated and that's all right. What they are exactly, how many, which ones and what effect if any they have will be determined according to law.


VAUSE: A different story but no surprise in Mississippi where CNN is projecting the Republican lieutenant governor Tate Reeves will win the governor's race over the Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. But Democrats are claiming another big win, this one in Virginia, where they've managed to flip both chambers of the state legislature taking back control of the State House and the Senate for the first time in more than 20 years. We get very latest data from CNN's Ryan Nobles.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are declaring victory in both the House and the Senate here. It looks as though they are on their way to having the Democrats control both the House and Senate for the first time in more than two decades. And this was a pretty convincing win for Democrats across the board winning some key Senate races in the Richmond suburbs and also in Northern Virginia, and picking off House races across the Commonwealth in a way that even defied some of the expectations leading into the night.

And Democrats that I talked to, many of the Democratic leaders here tribute their big gains in part to a unified Democratic Party, but also deep opposition to President Trump. They said it's difficult to ignore the impact that President Trump has had on this race and the energy and enthusiasm that that has created with the Democratic voters here in Virginia.

Now, it's important to keep in mind that Virginia was a state that just a couple of years ago was a pretty reliable Republican vote. In fact, before Barack Obama won here in 2008, you have to go back more than 40 years to see a Republican lose a presidential race here.

Now, Donald Trump has said he thinks he can win Virginia in 2020. Based on the results here tonight, in 2019 it looks like that will be a very uphill battle for President Trump and the Republican Party. Back to you.

VAUSE: Ryan Nobles, thank you for that. Joining me now from Los Angeles is Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson and from San Francisco former Public Policy Director for a Republican Senator Mitt Romney, and that would be Lanhee Chen. So thank you for sticking with us for the next hour.

Let's start with a big picture here because obviously, you know, this is two good results for Democrats in Kentucky and Virginia. So Jessica, just to start with you. You know, is there a danger reading way too much into this, the President is unpopular, they got to win Kentucky, they got to sweep the pool here. Red states will turn blue. It's all over. The impeachment inquiry will move ahead. You know, the Democrats can overreach on all of this. 2020 is in the bag.

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Yes, absolutely, and yes, yes, yes. So there is a full year that you could potentially overreach in this case, and that you could potentially say, look how great this is. It's an off-year election. We have huge turnout. Donald Trump's support is cratering.

But the truth is, we have to look at you know, the specifics. The devil, of course, is always in the details. When it comes to what happened in Kentucky, with a deeply unpopular governor, Republican governor who looks like he lost, when if we look at what happened in Virginia, the demographic trends there for the last that decade have been trending Democratic, excuse me.

So if you look at what happens, even taking Donald Trump out of the equation, there's something kind of predictable about this. This still doesn't tell us exactly what's going to happen to the voters that we care about, the swing voters in the swing states.

VAUSE: Lanhee, if there is sort of a common thread here, I guess it's what happened to the Republican support in the suburbs in both Virginia and Kentucky. It seems that that is where the Republicans crumbled, and that is what costs them these two races.

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR FOR MITT ROMNEY: The decline of the Republican Party -- support for the Republican Party, John, certainly in suburban and exurban areas, is a big concern for Republicans as they look toward 2020 not just in terms of the presidential race, but also in terms of potentially what might happen in contested U.S. Senate races, U.S. House races. So this is a longer-term trend to watch.

But you know, I think absolutely you can definitely read too much into what we saw here tonight. It's not entirely generalizable. So I think we have to be careful when we draw conclusions about what 2020 might look like because of what happened in Virginia and Kentucky here tonight.

VAUSE: Well, the president is drawing his own conclusions about the results in those three states. He has not mentioned Virginia. He has not mentioned Kentucky. But he is talking about Mississippi, at least tweeting about it. "Congratulations to Tate Reeves on winning governor of the great state of Mississippi. Our big rally on Friday night move the numbers from a tie to a big win. Great reaction under pressure, Tate," exclamation point.

Jessica, I guess you know, in many ways, Donald Trump does move the numbers. He's proven that in the past. He can move them both ways for and against you know, a particular candidate. Why is it that he managed, I guess, in his view, move the numbers in a positive direction for him and the Republicans in Mississippi but maybe they'll say much in Kentucky?

LEVINSON: Well, I think in Kentucky what you had, again, it's a deeply unpopular governor. So even Donald Trump, in that case, I think when he can move the numbers couldn't move the numbers for this particular person. People do vote not just on the issues, but they vote based on whether or not they like somebody.

So I think you add something in Kentucky that was unique, which was a uniquely unlikeable person. I don't think again, we can necessarily generalize that to all the other states that will be in play. But what we certainly saw is that President Trump was an enormously motivating factor, I think, both for Democrats and for Republicans.

And he touched on something that's so important in Kentucky, in Virginia, and in Mississippi, which is what is happening to the suburban voters. If there is a general cratering of support for President Trump, with those suburban voters, if they are the most likely to be dissatisfied, then we can generalize. At that point, we can say Republicans are in real trouble for 2020.

VAUSE: And what was interesting about the race in Kentucky is that just how closely tied the incumbent Governor Bevin basically ran this race in connection with Donald Trump. He sort of made this almost a referendum on the President and the impeachment process and the airwaves was flooded with ads. Here's part of his campaign ads for the Republican governor.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Matt is proudly pro-life, against sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, and against impeaching our president.


VAUSE: And so Lanhee, to you, in you know, Virginia, the Democrats you know, embrace their candidates for president, but the Republicans walked away. Trump didn't turn up there. In Mississippi, presumably, it was on local issues as well. In Kentucky, the Democrat focused on local issues as well.

So you know, in hindsight, wasn't it a bad move by the Republican governor to you know, campaign on a national issue for state vote?

CHEN: Yes, it's a good point, John. But I think that was Matt Bevin's only hope at winning that race. The only way Matt Bevin was going to win that race is with very high Republican turnout, people that generally support President Trump. He had to wrap his arms tightly around the president. That was the only way he was going to get across the finish line. Because when he talks about local issues, I think it made him even more unpopular, quite frankly.

So he took the pathway that he thought was going to get him across the finish line. The President, I think helped him, but clearly did not help him enough in this situation. And again, you know, in Kentucky, it was interesting because you had Matt Bevin losing by very small margin. You also had the first Republican Attorney General elected in Kentucky since 1948. So obviously, in other places, the Republican brand did just fine.

VAUSE: And Jessica, to that point, if you look at the results in Kentucky, last time I checked, at least, it seemed that, you know, all the other Republicans who are on the ballot who are running, that we're heading towards a win. So the Republican Party, in and of itself you know, is not sort of being rejected by voters. It's either you know, Bevin or Trump or both.

LEVINSON: I think in this case, it really was Bevin because I don't think it was a wholesale rejection of President Trump. For the reason that you talked about, other than Bevin, the Republican Party is doing just fine in Kentucky and that's essentially what we see from the voter registration numbers from the other demographic numbers.

So I think that you know, President Trump from here on out even when he's not on a ballot is on a ballot. And when you have a candidate, in this case, Governor Bevin, who's essentially, you know, taking the Trump flag and wrapping himself around it, then certainly you have President Trump on the ballot.

But I think that, look, he did move the needle in that case. It wasn't enough. But I don't think in Kentucky we can look and say, oh, there's a deep problem with Republican voters. It's more of what we see in the suburban districts in Virginia. In other states where we see is there a pattern we can look to, but I agree that in that case, Governor Bevin, there weren't a lot of lanes for him to take.


VAUSE: And certainly Donald Trump is on the ballot. That's the point which he kind of made fun of or made light of when he was campaigning in Lexington on Monday. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're sending that big message to the rest of the country. It's so important. You got to get your friends. You got to vote. Because if you lose it sends a really bad message. It 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 get 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.


VAUSE: You know, Lanhee, it's all about the President. It often is. If Democrat -- sorry, if Republicans are trying to find out, you know, a lesson out of the results in Kentucky, if they going to look for spin, if they look at the results in Kentucky and Virginia, what do you think the big takeaway will be for them as they head into 2020?

CHEN: Well, you know, I think there's a couple. First of all, the President's coattails can be long, but in many cases, they may not be long enough. So I think, you know, folks who are running in states that are a little bit more like border states, purple states, places like Colorado and North Carolina, I think the question is how closely do you hug the president versus trying to separate from him, I think, that as the data gets parsed over the next couple weeks, that will be one major question they'll have to consider.

And then a second issue, quite frankly, is to return to this question of the suburban voter. How did the suburban voter look in Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi? Was there degradation of support amongst suburban and exurban voters in all three of those states? If there was, that could be a challenge going into 2024 for Republicans and President Trump in particular.

VAUSE: OK, even though the Secretary of State in Kentucky has called the result, the governor is refusing to concede. And this is what he told supporters. It's worth listening to again.


BEVIN: This is a close, close race. We are not conceding this race by any stretch. Not a chance. And here's the thing. Understand this though, understand this. We want the process to be followed and there is a process. We know for a fact that there have been more than a few irregularities. They are very well corroborated, and that's all right. What they are exactly, how many, which ones, and what effect if any, they have will be determined according to law.


VAUSE: So, Jessica, this is the first time I think we've heard this question about irregularities in the voters because he, I guess, he hasn't won. Also, we've had the Secretary of State declare it. It's done. Why is it now this talk of irregularities?

LEVINSON: Yes. So two things. One, there's no more process to follow. In a close race where the secretary of state doesn't call it, then yes, you wait for the returns, you wait to see if there's going to be an automatic recount. But when the Secretary of State calls it, the process has finished.

I mean, and frankly trafficking and these types of at best misleading statements is deeply disturbing for the integrity of the vote. So to say basically, I heard about irregularities. We know that there's facts about irregularities. We don't know what they are if they affected the vote. This is so harmful when you're -- it's a great way to try and suppress voter turnout.

If you're looking at reasons that people don't show up to vote, they typically don't understand or think about why their vote matters to their daily life, they -- or they don't like either the candidate, or they think there's something rigged about the process. That's exactly what this comment goes to that there's something fundamentally that we've lost the integrity of the process.

When politicians who lose traffic these types of lies, it is the reason that we have low voter turnout, that we have a representative democracy. We're not all of us are represented.

VAUSE: Lanhee, we going to have a short break, but I want to give you the last word on this issue before we come back and look at Virginia. So what do you think of the governor's statement?

CHEN: Yes. I mean, look, the reference to irregularities is highly problematic. And, you know, processes one thing. But obviously, saying there are irregularities, and saying they're proven probably is not the most responsible way to bow out of a race.


VAUSE: OK. Stay with us. I said -- as I said we will get to the Virginia race and what that all means in just a moment. Also still to come. You know that the quid pro quo defense by the White House is looking shaky by the day. A senior U.S. diplomat and Trump supporter now say, that's right. I do remember. There was a quid pro quo. How about that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: All righty. Pushing through the first week of November. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, CNN weather watch and the pattern has been generally quiet across much of the United States with the northern tier, seeing what they typically begin to see this time of year very much on the colder end of the scale and also some snow showers working its way across the Great Lakes but a little too warm to produce anything significant across the northeastern United States.

But a front end system beginning to develop here later on into the week, could bring in some heavier rainfall towards portions of say the State of Oklahoma on into Texas and notice where the cold air cut off is right there into the northern states where some snow showers are possible. But really the general trend here going to be for flash flooding farther towards the south, at least the next couple of days.

But the big story develops as we go into the second week of November because a significant blast of colder air puts temps some 30 plus degrees below average Fahrenheit, about 15 or so degrees will average Celsius across some of these regions. And you notice Minneapolis highs of only two degrees -- minus two degrees and then warms up a little bit beyond that the next couple of days but the long-term trend here is going to be a much colder one.

So you think it's cold in Chicago, and then the bottom drops out to four below which sits well below the average of 12 for this time of year, the trend across Dallas, Texas, 23, Los Angeles, California sits at 25. We leave you with area so the South Managua high is around 32.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. 1:19 here on the East Coast. We have more now on our breaking news. Some important wins for Democrats and key election races across the U.S. First in Kentucky, the Democrat, Andy Beshear declaring victory in the state's governor's race. He leads the incumbent Republican Matt Bevin by razor thin margin. President Trump one that saved by nearly 30 points in 2016. So far, though, the incumbent Bevin refusing to concede.


VAUSE: In Virginia, CNN projects Democrats will flip both chambers of the state legislature taking back control of the House and the Senate. It's also Democrat governor their clean sweep. It's a different story in Mississippi, CNN projecting Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves will win the governor's race over the Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. Back with us more this in Los Angeles is the Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson.

And in San Francisco, former Public Policy Director for Republican Senator Mitt Romney, Lanhee Chen. So, Virginia, this was a state race where Democrats embrace the presidential candidates, Republicans, you know, were sort of running away from the president. So Jessica, why is it that that strategy works for Democrats in Virginia and, you know, it didn't work for Republicans? LEVINSON: Well, I think it's largely a story of demographics. And I know I keep saying this, but if you look at the voter registration, if you look at how the parties are trending, who the likely voters are in Virginia. I think who they embraced in terms of the Democratic candidates as part of the story, but who they are is a huge part of the story.

Virginia has been trending to more -- to be more Democratic. And if you look at who was elected, this is a pretty young and liberal group, we have a few first, I believe we have the first transgender state legislature, first Muslim state legislator, first Indian-American immigrant who's a state legislator in this case. And so, I think that what we're seeing is partly based on what's happening in 2020 race.

I mean, it is the, you know, 800-pound gorilla in the room. But I think it's partly what's happening on a state by state level. If you look at the difference between, for instance, Virginia and Mississippi, it's largely who lives in those states. And so this is still a story for 2020 that it's so important for the candidates to get the unlikely voters to come out and to get those swing voters to come out and vote for them.

VAUSE: And Lanhee, you keep saying, this is an off-year election that then only sort of sleepy elections, you know, there's any state measures on the ballot. And if there is part of that story for 2020. Is it the level of enthusiasm among Democrats, which seems to be almost precedented especially if you look at Virginia?

CHEN: Yes. I mean, look, I think Virginia is a -- is a challenging state for Republicans. It's been trending away, you know, you look at Donald Trump lost the state by five points back in 2016. So, you know, there are a lot of reasons why I think Republicans will try to look at Virginia and maybe discounted a little bit but the challenge here again, though, is where Republicans are losing in Virginia is a potentially troubling sign in terms of the kinds of places.

So you think about the Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. suburbs, their Republicans have been losing market share in the same way they've lost market share in Norfolk and Virginia Beach which are areas that are traditionally very heavy military. In those areas, Republicans have also been losing ground. So the question is, how much of this is a Virginia story and how much of it is a story that's transferable to other states.

Republicans having challenges in suburban areas and areas that formerly were quite solidly Republican.

VAUSE: And just get part of the Virginia stories that Democrats put a ton of money into Virginia to try and get this result. And so the result they wanted, it was a record-breaking amount of money they spent, but that now comes with, you know, the bonuses here you have a Democratic governor who was almost run out of town, you know, a couple months ago, and, you know, the House is controlled by Democrats.

It gives them control over what? Stuff like measures like gun control, minimum wage, but crucially, districting, redistricting for 2020.

LEVINSON: Absolutely. So if you want to think of one of these really important ways that candidates and political parties lock in their power before anyone ever walks into the ballot box, it's redistricting. It's these levers of controlling the election machinery and redistricting, the way you draw legislative district lines is a big way to make sure that you can maintain and/ or increase your political power.

So now that we have basically the trifecta where we have a Democratic governor, both houses of state, people who draw those lines were really be in a sense, unfettered, they'll draw lines that are very favorable to Democrats, not just now, but going forward. And that's important for Congressional races. That's important for presidential races. And I think that you'll see throughout the country, people will start to key into this idea of who is controlling the drawing of these legislative district lines.

Just this last June, the Supreme Court said, federal courts have no business when it comes to partisan gerrymandering, when you basically try and really keep your power or increase your power by how you draw the lines. I think that's going to hugely emboldened state lawmakers to say, this is now no holds barred. We're really going to try our best again to affect your vote for any voter even walks into the ballot box.

VAUSE: And Lanhee, just very, very quickly to that point, because, you know, under the eight years of the Obama presidency, Democrats lost more than a thousand safe seats across the country. You know, do you see that that is now sort of where a lot of this battle will play out at the state level because that's where the redistricting happens.


VAUSE: And that's where you get influential power for years to come.

CHEN: Well, not just entrenched your power, John, but also frankly, make changes that affect people's lives in a very real way. If you think about the kinds of policies that state legislatures and state governments have control over everything, from infrastructure, to education, to healthcare, to corrections, taxation, all of these areas affect people's lives. And so if you're able to entrench power, you're also able to effectuate policy change in a way that affects not just a few years, but potentially decades and generations.

VAUSE: Yes. And control the Congress as well in many ways. Thank you, guys, for being with us. We know it's been (INAUDIBLE) but it's a very significant night in the election. And I guess there's a lot of lessons here that will be looking at and trying to work out the days to come. But thank you for being with us, Jessica and Lanhee. Appreciate it.

CHEN: Thank you.

LEVINSON: Thank you. VAUSE: A short break. And when we come back, remember, no quid pro quo? No quid pro quo but yes, there was. A key figure in the Trump impeachment of inquiry. Just remember. Yes, there was that time when that guy said to me. More on that in a moment.



VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It's just gone 1:30 here on the East Coast.

Our breaking news this hour. Big wins for Democrats in state and local elections seen as a potential bellwether for President Trump's chances for reelection in 2020. The race grabbing headlines. Democrat Andy Beshear claiming victory in the Governor's race in Kentucky, a deeply red state.

But the Republican Governor Matt Bevin says he is not conceding. President Trump campaigned with Bevin on Monday and earlier he tweeted "Matt Bevin picked up at least 15 points in the last few days but perhaps not enough."

In Virginia, CNN projects Democrats will control the state house and senate for the first time in more than two decades.

No surprises though in Mississippi where Republican Tate Reeves will win the governor's race over Democrat Jim Hood. President Trump had endorsed Reeves and held a rally for him on Friday.

Now to the clearest indication yet that the Trump administration withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Joe Biden and his son as well as the 2016 election. It comes in newly released testimony in the House impeachment inquiry.

We get details now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Gordon Sondland is trying to walk back some of his congressional testimony. The ambassador to the European Union releasing a three-page addendum to the nearly 400-page transcript of this ten hours long interview with House impeachment investigators in mid-October, saying, "I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, an aide to Ukraine president where I said resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti corruption statement that we have been discussing for many weeks."

Sondland now confirming his involvement in laying out a quid pro quo scenario to Ukrainian officials -- something he did not previously acknowledge during his testimony on October 17th when he told investigators he did not know why military aid was being held up saying, "I could never get a straight answer out of anyone."

The transcript released today revealed Sondland told lawmakers that Rudy Giuliani's efforts to get Ukraine to launch an investigation into the Bidens kept getting more insidious, and then suggested Giuliani's scheme may have even been illegal.

"I'm not a lawyer, but I assume so," and added, "I don't know the law exactly, it does not sound a good."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's illegal. You cannot look at a foreign power to investigate American political parties or your American political rivals.

SCHNEIDER: Sondland also testified that Giuliani's interference was well known around the State Department and that officials were fully aware, disclosing he discussed Giuliani with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Sondland said "Pompeo rolled his eyes and said, yes it's something we have to deal with."

Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker's testimony is also now public with the transcript relaying more detail about a May 23rd White House Meeting where the President directed his aides to talk to Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine.

The President dismissed recommendations he meet with the Ukrainian president saying, "they are all corrupt. They're all terrible people," Volker recalled. "I don't want to spend any time with that."

Volker also said he became aware of the hold on military aid July 18th, one week before the Trump-Zelensky call. But nobody ever gave a reason why.

And now with this new testimony from Gordon Sondland, it only adds to Democrats' evidence that the President would only releasing military aid for Ukraine if Ukraine announced investigations into the 2016 election and former vice president Joe Biden.

Now more transcripts are expected to be released in the coming days when even more details will come out. That's all before public hearings on Capitol Hill, which could start as soon as next week.

Jessica Schneider, CNN -- Washington.


VAUSE: With me now from La Jolla in California, former U.S. attorney Harry Litman; and from Los Angeles, former assistant U.S. attorney for Los Angeles David Katz. Thank you guys for being with us.

For some reason the President, his family, his supporters, they cling to this belief that the transcript of the call with Ukraine's leader which is not a transcript but a summary is proof of innocence. Listen to Don Jr.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: My father put the transcript out. Read it. Everything else is opinion. Read the transcript and make a decision from there. (END VIDEO CLIP)


VAUSE: And on Monday night at a campaign rally, supporters were wearing those "read the transcript" t-shirts which seemed kind of odd.

So Harry -- first to you. Just to be clear, the summary of the call does not exonerate the President, right? And now Americans actually have for real transcripts under oath to read, more than 1,200 pages of testimony from administration officials, Trump supporters, career officials and they seem to be painting a very clear picture of exactly what happened.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: That is exactly right. And by the way, the transcript itself paints a fairly clear picture. That is where Trump says we need a favor though, and proceeds to say what Zelensky has to do. So it's this funny kind of brazen move to say, read the transcript when I guess they're thinking nobody will, it's just another kind of slogan that will keep people revved up.

But you're right, a much fuller version is all the much more damning. And today, the source matters. So Sondland first of all is correcting what was obviously a lie, and that always brings attention to it, brings it into neon light.

But more importantly he is a political supporter of Trump. Others have been state department career professionals. And now he has had to say this is a quid pro quo having previously testified that it would be wrong when he was forgetting he had said it, he stuck with the testimony and stuck with it saying that they did something illegal and immoral and in his own words -- insidious.

VAUSE: Yes. And here is how the White House responded to another day of evidence which blows up another impeachment defense and continues to thwart the allegations at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. This is how statement read.

"Both transcripts released today show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought. No amount of salacious media bias headline, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative change the fact that the President has done nothing wrong."

So David-- to you is this best described as a Disney defense? If you can dream it, you can do it? Just create your own reality?

DAVID KATZ, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, LOS ANGELES: Well, it is Trump's own reality because today was devastating news. This is the one witness who supposedly helped him in the impeachment inquiry and that witness, a political appointee who gave over a million dollars to Trump to buy that ambassadorship, he jumped ship.

There is nobody defending Trump on the merits. Do you remember the lieutenant colonel who came to the proceedings? He was a direct witness to the phone call. Why are these Trump supporters at a rally talking, about read the transcript?

First of all, as you say, John, it is a rough summary, but on top of that we have a direct witness. We don't need the whistleblower anymore. We don't need the notes that Donald Trump Jr. says his father released. We have a direct witness, a man in uniform who's given his life for this country, a man who won the Purple Heart, who has come to the Congress and he said, I heard that conversation. What I heard was improper.

So now stripped of having any defense on the merits, all there is, is noise, all there is, is sloganeering and we have a situation right now where because they know all the evidence is going to be bad and against the President, now they have been committing more acts of obstruction of justice, more articles of impeachment, by directing people like Mulvaney and Bolton not to come when their testimony is obviously relevant to this inquiry.

VAUSE: And this seems to be a problem for the Republicans, obviously. Here's the Trump loyalist Senator Lindsey Graham. You know, he's taking this sort of similar approach of, you know, just ignoring these latest revelations? Here he is. Listen to this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I've written the whole process off. I've written him off. I think this is a bunch of BS. I think this is a sham process. I think the substance is not worthy of an impeachment discussion.

Read the phone call for yourself. I don't care what anybody else says about the phone call. The phone call, I have made up my own mind, is fine.


VAUSE: Harry -- that is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is also a potential juror in an impeachment trial, you know, saying -- la, la, la, la -- don't tell me anything approach. If a potential juror in a criminal case made a similar comment, wouldn't they be recused?

LITMAN: Sure, but in fact, that has actually been the latest excuse that Republicans have proffered to keep their head in the sand and avoid saying anything about Trump. They are not jurors. It is not a criminal trial.

It is a political proceeding and they have to make a political decision. And Graham here is of a piece, this sort of baffling well, nothing wrong here, keep moving along as this, you know, ten-car pileup wreck is, you know -- carnage all over the street.

And Trump has made it difficult for them now. You would think, remember back in Clinton's day, there was some attempt among Democrats to maybe give a half measure of acceptance say he did wrong.

[01:40:02] LITMAN: Trump is insisting, in his words, this was perfect, perfect, perfect and he wants Republicans to defend him on those terms.

And nobody who wants to have any credibility in the future can do that so they're not -- there doesn't seem to be a strategy afoot to actually take some middle ground. Instead, they are in the Disneyland defense, exactly as you described -- John.

VAUSE: And something which hasn't received a lot of attention though is that if you look at these transcript closely, they revealed that Republicans have been fully engaged in these depositions. They have been questioning witnesses --

KATZ: Right.

VAUSE: -- clashing with Democrats. And rollcall added this detail. Most GOP lawmakers on the three panels at the center of the probe have simply not shown up. Republican questioning during these private interviews have been driven by a handful of President Donald Trump's allies and GOP staff.

So David to you -- there goes another Trump line of defense that, you know, this is a process which lacks transparency and the Republicans had no access.

KATZ: Well because they did not have a defense on the merits, they went to this process argument.


VAUSE: It does not going to hold either.

KATZ: It doesn't hold at all. I worked in the U.S. Attorney's office with Adam Schiff. Adam Schiff is doing a tremendous job of putting this together. He's going to be one of the managers of the impeachment trial in the Senate. That is what Lindsey Graham was. Lindsey Graham was saying that it was an impeachable offense and that Clinton should be removed from office when Graham was a manager and that was for an alleged lie about private sexual conduct.

For Graham to say that this is not impeachable conduct -- and once Adam Schiff and the other impeachment managers get a hold of this in the Senate and there are televised hearings that are going to start maybe in as soon as a week, I think the country is going to have a different view.

They say that once one televised proceedings started against President Nixon, there was immediately a 10 percent turn against him. If that happened, there would be 60 percent of the country in favor of impeachment.

And Adam Schiff knows how to present a case. I saw him present them back in the late eighties. And I think this is going to be devastating. And with no one defending the President on the merits, how can you, even Sondland, right, had to say that his testimony the other day was not true. I mean, his whole defense now is that he retracted in time that he is free of alleged perjury. That is the defenders of Trump. This quid pro quo conversation took place. It took place abroad by someone who did not even have a charter, an ambassadorship to cover Ukraine because Ukraine was not in the European Union.

It is all a farce -- John. It is all falling apart.

VAUSE: Very quickly -- Harry, last question. We're almost out of time but if this ever does get to public hearings and all the testimony is being played out on television, how devastating will that moment be for the administration?

LITMAN: Well we will see. It looks pretty devastating but he has dodged bullets before. One thing to note, and this is shat David said, we are not just talking about a phone call. We are talking but a three-month course of conduct that just is pushing to get him to investigate Burisma.

VAUSE: Ok, Harry and David -- thank you so much. Appreciate you being with us.

KATZ: Thank you -- John.

LITMAN: Great to be with you.

VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, there are new details on who was behind the brutal killing of three women and six children in Mexico.



VAUSE: In Mexico, police have arrested a suspect in the horrific killing of three women and six children. The victims were all dual U.S.-Mexican citizens.

Investigators believe (ph) a newly-formed drug cartel may be responsible for their massacre. Relatives of the victims believe the family was specifically targeted.

Brian Todd has details.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A shell-shocked family patriarch films the burned up vehicle where his daughter-in-law and grandchildren were murdered.

KENNETH MILLER, RELATIVE OF VICTIMS: This is for the record. Nita and four of my grandchildren are burnt, and shot up. Right on the road out of Mamorta (ph).

TODD: The indescribably brutal attack is resonating throughout Mexico and the U.S. Nine members of an extended family, three women and six children, two of them less than a year old were shot and burned to death in their vehicles.

MILLER: None of my grandchildren made it out. They're burnt to a crisp. And my daughter in law, and they're about as innocent as they come, and I'm not saying that because she's gone.

TODD: At least seven children survived the assault which occurred Monday afternoon as the family was traveling in a caravan of three vehicles near their home in La Mora (ph), south of the Arizona and New Mexico borders.

Criminal groups are suspected of carrying out the attack, but it's not clear if the family was targeted or if they were mistaken for rival drug traffickers.

Analysts say several cartels are battling over drug routes in that region of Mexico and it's getting increasingly lawless.

DUNCAN WOOD, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: It seems as though the organized crime groups feel as though they are highly empowered at this point of time. They feel as though they have the upper hand in that area of Mexico against federal forces.

TODD: And the victims were at the center of that chaos. They're all part of a Mormon community in northern Mexico, many of them with dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship. They are not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The extended LeBaron family, which moved to Mexico in 1924 after splitting off from the Mormon Church is no stranger to cartel violence. In 2009, when teenager Eric LeBaron was kidnapped by suspected members of a drug cartel and held for a million dollars, his brother Benjamin led protests. Eric was released, but Benjamin and a relative were dragged from their home and killed for standing up to the cartel.

Now the family is hinting it might be on the verge of taking a stand again.

KENDRA LEE MILLER, RELATIVE OF MEMBERS: We will not stand by and watch this happen any more. The cartels have taken too many of our family members.

TODD: But with so many powerful cartels surrounding them, what recourse does the family have?

WOOD: I think that what we're going to see, and what we've seen in the past in many parts of Mexico and actually in that part of the northwest of Mexico, we've seen society arming itself, protecting itself.


WOOD: At the moment, they feel as though they are not being protected by the federal government, so they are going to find ways in which they can protect their loved ones, their families, their communities. TODD: In a tweet, President Trump said it's time for Mexico to wage

war on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. And Trump offered more American help to do that. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador politely declined saying it's Mexico's responsibility.

But analysts say don't expect Obrador's government to get a handle on that any time soon. Last year saw a record 33,000 homicides in Mexico and 2019 is on pace to eclipse that.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.


VAUSE: Our last break coming up. More now on our breaking news here on CNN when we come back.

Two key victories to Democrats in state and local elections in the U.S. What this could all mean for Republicans and Donald Trump in 2020.



VAUSE: Back now to our breaking news.

Democrats took home two big victories in state elections around the United States. First in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear is declaring victory in the governor's race. It is a razor thin margin and the incumbent -- Republican Matt Bevin is not conceding yet. Devin had tied himself closely to Donald Trump during the campaign. The President won Kentucky by nearly 30 points in 2016.

In Virginia, CNN projecting that Democrats will flip both eh state house and the senate for the first time in more than two decades.

In another key race, CNN projecting Republican Tate Reeves will be the next attorney general of Mississippi. His opponent, Democrat Jim Hood, has conceded.

Thank you for joining us this hour. I'm John Vause at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon is coming up next for our viewers in the United States. And for everyone else around the world, CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church starts after the break.