Return to Transcripts main page


Democrats Win in Virginia State Legislature, Kentucky Governor's Race; Ambassador Revises Testimony, Confirms Quid Pro Quo in Ukraine; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed about Election Results. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 6, 2019 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- Andy Beshear declaring victory over the incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin. The president held a rally for Governor Bevin on the even of the election, but it appears his coat tails came up short.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Because they were caught in the grass that's blue.

CAMEROTA: Make a banjo. Some banjo music, I hope.

The governor still, though, has not conceded.

And over in Virginia, a stunning night for Democrats. They flipped the House and the Senate to gain full control of the state government for the first time in nearly three decades.

BERMAN: So what does this setback for the president mean for the 2020 election? Listen to this. A source close to the White House gave a grim assessment to our Jim Acosta, calling it a bad omen for impeachment. We'll have much more on that reporting ahead.

Today, more depositions are scheduled behind closed doors with additional transcripts, set to be released from previous witness testimony. And in a significant blow to the president's impeachment defense, the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, he has revised, reversed, changed his testimony on a really important matter. He now says it was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Investigate issues surrounding the Bidens or don't get this military aid.

We begin with the election results now. Joining us now, David Gregory, CNN political analyst; Chris Cillizza, political reporter and editor at large; and Bianna Golodryga, CNN senior global affairs analyst.

Can I just read Jim Acosta's reporting? Because there's more nuanced and more developed than we just said there. Jim Acosta says a source close to the White House who speaks to Trump regularly offered this. "Totally bad. Kentucky and Virginia are signals to GOP. They are underestimating voter intensity against Trump, and it could be terrible for them next year. Bad omen for impeachment." A separate Trump advisor pointed fingers at some of the Trump political team who decided to help them.

So David, how do you see this? The implications of these election results?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Kentucky is a really good state to look at. You had an unpopular governor. But the president put his own on the line, by going down there and campaigning for him.

Republicans did well elsewhere in the state down the ballot. Which is important to point out. But this is a big Trump state. And a couple of things stuck out to me. One, in those more progressive areas, they had big turnout, which shows you the Trump factor, impeachment. The fact that it's going to be a real turnout model in 2020, in part.

The other piece of it is, if you look where Beshear did well in some of the rural counties where Trump was so strong, what was he talking about? He was talking about health care, access to health care. This is where Democrats won in 2018.

So there's two pieces to national politics: the toxicity we talk about. The question of who we are and where the country's going. The question of impeachment.

And then there's still this issue of what people are struggling with. Where are they finding pain in their life? Will their -- will their insurance company cover their prescription drugs? Or access to medical care? Those are states that are still going to be battlegrounds for the two parties.

CAMEROTA: I also think it's interesting, Bianna, you know, I have a voter panel coming up from swing voters in swing states. And what they just remind us all is that a lot of people vote for the person, not the party.


CAMEROTA: And Matt Bevin in Kentucky was the most unpopular governor in the country. And so we can't overlook -- I mean, I think that -- I'm struggling this morning to figure out what was the Trump factor, because that has obviously swept people into office. And what was the Matt Bevin factor last night?

GOLODRYGA: And I think you could argue that there's a factor of both, right? So Matt Bevin was actually above by a few percentage points before the president came and campaigned for him recently. The president, and now many of his associates, including his son are arguing we hardly knew him. We don't know who he is. It has nothing to do with us. He was a bad candidate.

But it does raise the question, as you mentioned, about what voters are focused on right now. The Trump factor did not play a huge role for them. In fact, it may have been a setback for them. Because they want to focus on pocketbook issues. They want to focus on the economy. They want to focus on health care. And there was nothing that this president could do that could change their mind from what they were seeing their governor campaign on, which had much more to do with a national level and support for the president than support for local issues.

BERMAN: I would say that when you take Virginia in combination with Kentucky, that paints a fuller picture here, Chris Cillizza.


BERMAN: Maybe about places and not people. You look at northern Virginia where, all of a sudden, elected Republicans don't exist anymore. The suburbs have significantly moved over the last several years.

CILLIZZA: Ten years ago, when I moved to where I live now, which is in that area, it was Republican central. Democrats had begun to make gains, but in places like Fairfax County, Loudoun County, these are -- Prince William. These are counties that were suburban and getting into exurban, John.


And the idea that you would see what we saw last night, David Wasserman, "The Cook Political Report," tweeted out, at the congressional and the state level, there is not one Republican left in Fairfax County. Which was once the whole of country club establishment Republicans. I -- to me, that's the big story here. I think David touched on it.

Big turnout in urban and -- urban areas in Kentucky. And then look at where the Virginia state Senate and state House was decided. Where did Democrats flip it? Suburbs of Richmond, suburbs of Virginia Beach, suburbs of D.C., which by the way, isn't new. That's exactly what happened in 2018. All the gains in Pennsylvania were in the Philly suburbs. Right?

So you see a trend here that I think is telling. It's necessarily about Donald Trump, whether he was on the ballot or not. It's more about what the modern Republican Party, fronted by Donald Trump, how it's playing in the suburbs.

GREGORY: But Chris, don't you also think there's a piece of this that is -- so you look at these suburban areas. This is where established Republicans say, enough already with Donald Trump.

It's easier to do that in an off-year election, which we're still talking about. That's what this is, as opposed to enough with Donald Trump so I'm going to go to who? We just always have to remember that. I mean, if it's Elizabeth Warren, a lot of those establishment Republicans are going to go, don't like Trump. Like her less. Probably going to stick with Trump. That's a dynamic that -- you know.

GOLODRYGA: Which is why in Kentucky you didn't see the Democratic candidate really align himself that closely with the Democratic nominees running for president, right? They were focused on specific issues related to his constituents.

But I would go back to Virginia and talk about the implications of what this vote means, because now you can have significant change across that state.

CAMEROTA: Redistricting.

GOLODRYGA: Redistricting. Gun legislation. Health care. Minimum wage. That's where you're going to see the huge impact. And that's why, yes, Kentucky is a big story, and Kentucky not only impacts the president but Mitch McConnell, right? He -- that's a negative slight for him, as well, in his own state.

But you look at Virginia, and you see how other states, potentially Texas, at some point, could follow suit. Once a very red state, now turning more and more purple and blue. And now you're going to see the fallout of that and change, legislation-wise.

CILLIZZA: Just to add to that very quickly, I remember in 2008, there was some talk. Well, Barack Obama's numbers in Virginia look pretty good.

And everyone said, well, no Democrat can win statewide in Virginia. Because none had won since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Now, yes, we will talk, I think, about Virginia in that group of 10 to 12 swing states. I don't know how much of a swing state it is. Look, it's not as blue --


CILLIZZA: -- as Massachusetts, but recent results suggest it's going -- it would be hard for any Republican, particularly one with Donald Trump's profile, to win there. And that's a massive swing in a decade.

GOLODRYGA: Newtown significantly -- every town, excuse me, outspent the NRA in this election in Virginia.

BERMAN: And Michael Bloomberg -- Michael Bloomberg put it all on --


GOLODRYGA: That says something.

BERMAN: Can I read something that I think plays into this discussion you're all having here on the implications in 2020?

Joe Biden wrote an op-ed in "Medium" yesterday, which I think touched on some of these issues. And he was talking about what is seen as a purity test in the Democratic primary. He wrote, "Some call it the my way or the highway approach to politics, but it's worse than that. It's condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view. It's representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: 'We know best; you know nothing'."

Was he speaking, David, to some of the concerns you were just voicing there?

GREGORY: Well, I'm not sure. Is he talking about a liberal purity test?


GREGORY: So I think he's also betting on the idea that there is enough enthusiasm to get rid of Trump among Democratic voters that they will be less pure in their interpretation of these candidates. And that there is still a more moderate way, that there are core Democratic voters who don't buy into Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders' prescription for overhauling Medicare and that there could still be a more -- There could be more evolution on some of these approaches to health care, for example.

I think that's what he's counting on. A kind of pragmatism instead of this bold liberal progressive approach that Warren thinks is --

GOLODRYGA: And that's the difference this time around. Because it's not just what we've seen in the past, where progressives typically go after raising taxes and fighting against the rich in the country. This is a change in health care. This is something even in Kentucky, in this election last night, we saw the ramifications of what voters wanted. They did not want their health care taken away from them. This still goes back to 2018.

So the question now is a debate within the Democratic Party. Do we work with the system as we know it and fix it and give that a try, or do we revolutionize it? And that's going to be the issue going forward. Not necessarily just a debate on raising taxes.


CILLIZZA: One other -- one other thing I just want to add very quickly is I do think that whole elitism attack against Elizabeth Warren, I'm very interested to see how much it hurts her. Because you know if she is the nominee, you are going to hear from Donald Trump socialist, Harvard, academic, elitist, East Coast liberal.

So it's interesting that Biden is previewing that. Because it is -- it's what is the real face of the Democratic Party now? Remember, the Democratic Party for years and years and years, it was Scranton, right? Joe Biden, hardscrabble, working class. And now it has moved much more to an academic policy-based Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. This is what that fight in 2020 is about.

GREGORY: And his voters are more the former, which he's hoping to speak to there.


BERMAN: Although I will say that Paul Begala notes it's African- American women that are the actual face for the spine of the Democratic Party. A whole different discussion. Thank you all for being here this morning.

All right. We've had a major reversal. I called it a U-Turn. You called it a --

CAMEROTA: A 180-degree turn.

BERMAN: Right. We're going to discuss the difference between a U- Turn and a 180. Also, just this major tectonic shift from a key witness in the impeachment investigation. What he is now saying about a quid pro quo after denying it.



BERMAN: All right. Later this morning, perhaps we are expecting more transcripts, still more of witness depositions in the impeachment inquiry. This follows the explosive revision, flat-out reversal from the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.

Joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Sondland before had testified before he didn't see a quid pro quo.


BERMAN: He now says he did. It seems like a big reversal, Jeffrey, because it is. Let me just read what he said there. He talks about a meeting he had with the Ukrainian official, where I said the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks. The investigation into the group connected to the Bidens.

TOOBIN: What makes this so significant is that every witness except Sondland had said, in substance, I saw a quid pro quo.

But Sondland had said, no, no, no, I didn't really see that. But then he comes out with this supplemental statement, this sworn statement, and says, Now that you mention it, I -- I did see it.

CAMEROTA: Not just saw it. Excuse me. I -- I actually mentioned it to President Zelensky's top aide. He's the one who's actually proposing the deal.

TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, it is a little peculiar that he didn't remember it. But, you know, I also don't think we should throw around terms like perjury and prosecution --

BERMAN: We're not.

TOOBIN: You know, I've seen that in some of the news coverage. You know, people change their minds about testimony. And, you know, it's embarrassing, but they are almost never prosecuted if they come forward on their own and say, you know, by the way, I now -- I now remember.

But this is significant also, because one of the arguments that the president's defenders have made is that, well, we may have thought it was a quid pro quo. But the Ukrainians never understood it was a quid pro quo.

Here, Sondland is saying, I was telling the Ukrainians it was a quid pro quo. So basically, every defense that the Trump supporters have put up about this incident keeps falling apart. And all they are left with, really, at this point -- well, it happened, but it's just no big deal. And that seems to be where a lot of the direction is going.

CAMEROTA: He also admitted that it didn't sound good when he was saying this to the Ukrainians and what he was hearing and that he sort of assumed it was illegal. So the fact that he revised --

TOOBIN: Oh, that. Yes. No, I mean, it's --

CAMEROTA: Well, the fact that he revised it yesterday, does that signal to you that he or his attorneys felt that he was in trouble because he was the sole voice saying, no, I hadn't seen it?

TOOBIN: Right. Well, I mean, if you recall the news coverage, I mean, this has all come out so quickly. Even when his opening statement and the reports about his testimony came out, it was puzzling that he seemed to be disagreeing with virtually everyone else, including people who talked about conversations with him.

So it's not -- it's not surprising that he changed his -- his tune, because he was so out of line with all the rest of the evidence.

BERMAN: Now, the language he is choosing in his reversal or his 180 or his U-Turn is interesting. He says, I presumed there was this quid pro quo. He's not saying that, Donald Trump told me there was a quid pro quo.

TOOBIN: This is another area of defense that you are going to start to be hearing a lot of. Many of the witnesses who talked about quid pro quo, like Ambassador Taylor, for example, did not have direct conversations with -- with Donald Trump.

The -- the argument that everything, all this quid pro quo evidence is hearsay. Now, it's not all hearsay. Of course, it all starts with the partial transcript, which seems to lay out a quid pro -- quid pro quo. But the -- you know, the argument is, well, he may have thought there was a quid pro quod, but Donald Trump never told him there was a quid pro quo.

CAMEROTA: Is that a good argument?

TOOBIN: You know, it makes no sense, really. Because where else was this coming from? But, you know, it is -- it is an argument you can make.

But if this is American policy and, you know, it comes from Rudy Giuliani, who is the president's lawyer, what -- you know, where else did it -- you know, where else did it originate?

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, thank you very much.

OK. The Democratic victories in Kentucky and Virginia flipped red seats to blue. What does that mean for the 2020 election? We ask Democratic Senator Chris Coons next.



BERMAN: Breaking news. Moments ago the Turkish president announced that Turkey has captured the wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria. Turkish President Erdogan made the announcement, calling the arrest and intelligence gold mine. They had previously announced the arrest of al-Baghdadi's sister and brother-in-law.

Baghdadi, of course, killed himself during a U.S. military raid last month in northwest Syria. The U.S. military says he blew himself up after he was cornered in his compound.

CAMEROTA: OK. Now back to politics here. Big victories for the Democrats in the Kentucky governor's race and the Virginia state legislature. So what does that tell us about 2020? Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Good morning, Alisyn. It's good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you. So your reaction to the Democratic victories in Kentucky and Virginia last night?

COONS: I think this was a good night for Democrats, and it shows that there's a lot of enthusiasm on the -- across the country, in states that have long been Republican strongholds, for us to move forward on policies that will tackle prescription drug prices, deal with gun violence in our communities and schools, and deal with stagnant wages and find ways to strengthen the economy for Americans.

This was a very close margin of victory in Kentucky. But Kentucky has been an elusively deep red state in recent years. It was a significant win in Virginia, taking back control of both chambers of their general assembly, their state legislature. And frankly, because of opposition to President Trump's policies.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, the fact that Governor Matt Bevin, the Republican there, was the least popular governor in the country, given -- I mean --

COONS: That takes work.

CAMEROTA: -- judged by polls, does that tell you something about 2020? Or is that an aberration?

COONS: It tells you that slavishly following President Trump's policies, having President Trump come down and campaign for you just the day before the election is not a path towards winning.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what's happening in the impeachment world. As you know, Republicans have called for the transcripts of closed- door meetings to be released. They said that there -- you know, there wasn't enough transparency, and they were really calling to -- for the public and for them to be able to see what was going on in these interviews.

Well, now --

COONS: They got it.

CAMEROTA: -- they got it, and now the transcripts have been released. And interestingly, yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham was asked if he had read the transcripts. He said no, and he said he didn't have any plans to. And he basically said that he was writing off Adam Schiff, the chairman of Intel. Here's what Lindsey Graham told the reporter.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I've written the whole process off. I've written him off. I think this is a bunch of B.S. I don't care what anybody else says about the phone call. The phone call, I made up my own mind, is -- is fine.


CAMEROTA: So they wanted to see these transcripts, but now they don't want to read them. Can you explain that?

COONS: Well, Alisyn, among lawyers, there's an old saying. If the law's on your side, argue the law. If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither the law nor the facts, just pound the table.

That's Lindsey Graham essentially pounding the table and saying, I've written off the whole process. I've written off Adam Schiff. The telephone call was fine.

What we learned through these transcripts and, in particular, Ambassador Sondland's addendum to his testimony was that this was a campaign. This wasn't just one phone call by President Trump in which he, I think, clearly made a quid pro quo offer to the new president of Ukraine, desperate for American military assistance in the face of Russian-supported separatist attacks in eastern Ukraine.

This was a broad scale campaign, where the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and a number of his appointed choices for ambassador, like Sondland, ambassador to the E.U., a major Republican donor, engaged in a side foreign policy campaign that was fueled by right-wing conspiracy theories and designed to help President Trump's re-election by forcing Ukraine and its government to open a flawed investigation into his most likely Democratic opponent in 2020.

CAMEROTA: As you know, after the impeachment inquiry will, at some point, move to the trial phase in the Senate. And apparently, there was this private lunch last week where Republican senators hatched a plan or at least desire for, during that time, they'd like to call Hunter Biden. And maybe Joe Biden. And this was Senator Rand Paul and John Kennedy who were floating this idea. Does that worry you? COONS: What concerns me is that we have senators who continue to fuel

an utterly baseless theory, that somehow, what Vice President -- then Vice President Joe Biden was doing in Ukraine was anything other than carrying out both United States policy and combatting corruption in the Ukraine and E.U. and allied policy in Ukraine.

They're continuing to feed this narrative that somehow, this was inappropriate, what Joe Biden was doing, when every legitimate investigation into this has shown there was nothing to it.

They're trying to distract from what was clearly an inappropriate abuse of power by President Trump, at least according to all of the interviews, and the transcripts, and the allegations that we've heard so far.

CAMEROTA: But can they call them? Do you think that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden will be called as part of this Senate trial?

COONS: I certainly hope not, but I think that may very well happen.