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Vindman Expected to Stay at NSC Despite Ongoing Attacks from Trump; Pence Aide Testifying Raises Questions on What He Knew; Jim Jordan: Republicans Wants Whistleblower to Testify Publicly; Pence Speaks on Ukraine as Democrats Push Forward with Public Impeachment Phase; Steve Bannon, Rick Gates Set to Testify Against Roger Stone; 2 Twitter Employees Charged with Spying for Saudi Arabia. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the more remarkable and, quite frankly, sad twists in the Ukraine saga so far has been the efforts by the president and his allies to discredit and disparage one of the witnesses, Colonel Alexander Vindman.

He's a current White House official, a top expert on Ukraine. A man who received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained while deployed in Iraq. The president, after he testified, called him a Never-Trumper. Others question his patriotism. Yes, seriously.

We're learning, despite all of that, Colonel Vindman is been back at work and has been every day since his testimony to Congress. According to officials, he has no intention of going anywhere.

CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, has this great reporting just coming out.

Kaitlan, after raising such alarm about the actions of your boss, how do you go back to work, especially for a man with a temperament like President Trump? What have you learned?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And he was one of the few officials who actually returned to work. He works right next door to the White House.

Bill Taylor also did, but he's in Ukraine, so pretty far away from a lot of the political heat.

But Colonel Vindman has been at work. And we're told by multiple sources the he's not expected to leave his role at the National Security Council.

He's an Army officer, detailed to the NSC. His time there -- sometimes those go from one year to two years. We are told he's expected to stay in that role until next summer when his tenure is up. That raises a lot of questions about whether or not the president will

seek his ouster. So far, we have one senior official who wouldn't rule that out.

Because the president behind the scenes and publicly has been implying that Colonel Vindman has political motivations when he went to Capitol Hill and testified for more than 10 hours about the alarm he raised after that call happened, a call he was on. He was the first official on the call to testify.

Now, the president has implied he is a Never-Trumper, meaning he's a Republican who doesn't fully embrace the president and his policies. But we are told by sources close to Vindman that they don't believe those claims have any merit. The president hasn't provided any evidence of such.

Of course, Vindman has signaled privately he's not concerned about any information that the president says he has privately that may be coming out soon.

One of the questions about Vindman is whether or not he will be one of the officials who testifies publicly. Democrats have already signaled they're going to start calling people. He is one they saw as key to make their case against the president and for impeaching him.

And we're told, of course, the president has tried to imply he has political motivations.

There's one key detail we've learned about Vindman. He carries around the three-by-five notecards and a meticulous and thorough note taker of all of the events essentially of his day in and day out work. Which does raise questions about what his public testimony could look like.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating, Kaitlan. A fascinating detail to come out. Really amazing he's back at work there today, one can assume.

Great reporting. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Joining me now, former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Director, thank you for being here.


So Colonel Vindman is the only current White House official to testify and still staying at his post, has no intention of leaving. What do you think of that?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think, from the outset, the colonel has been extremely impressive. I mean, his career in the Army, his background coming here as a refugee. I think he was like 3 years old.

And for him to have done what he did I thought was courageous. It was exactly the right thing as a soldier to do.

I'm just trying to imagine what it must be like for him, continuing to try to perform his assigned duties there at the National Security Council. You know, the fact he's trying to carry on as normal I think is a great testament to him and his character.

BOLDUAN: Happening on Capitol Hill right now is a senior aide to Vice President Mike Pence testifying right now, which raises new questions about what Pence knew about holding up aid for investigations against political rivals.

Here is something that I find intriguing that I think needs to be explored. We know that Pence met with the Ukraine president on September 1st in Warsaw, Poland. He's acknowledged that. He's said they talked about corruption, rooting out corruption.

We know, from Ambassador Sondland, in his revised testimony, sworn testimony, that right after that exact meeting, that is when Sondland delivered the message to the top Ukraine officials that the resumption of U.S. aid was conditioned on announcing these investigations.

I'm left wondering this, do these two things happen or exist in two different universes, this broader meeting only about corruption, and after the meeting, Sondland delivers a message, you won't get the aid unless you announce these investigations?

CLAPPER: Kate, there's no way to know except for the participants that took part in these discussions. But it's certainly curious. If it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it's probably related. I have no way of knowing.


CLAPPER: But it seems to me that they were related.

BOLDUAN: Jim Jordan, the Republican congressman, this morning, said that Republicans will be requesting that the Intelligence Committee, in the public hearings, that they request to have the whistleblower testify publicly.

I'm going to read the case that Jim Jordan has made in the past, one reason, Director. He says, "Part of determining someone's motivation, credibility, potential bias, is to be able to see the, look them in the eye, see how they react to me asking them questions."

What do you think of the efforts to force the whistleblower to identify themselves publicly?

CLAPPER: Well, I think it's very disturbing to do that. The whistleblower, he or she, explored this before the fact about just how to do it. And one of the conditions of the law under which he submitted his complaint is anonymity. That's one of the major reasons for having this.

And the other is to protect up classified information, which he -- took he or she took great care to protect. So I think it's regrettable that now the president and his supporters and others are advocating his unmasking, which I think is a breach of faith and trust.

And it will have a chilling effect clearly on others who might -- who observe wrongdoing, what they think is wrongdoing, and have a mechanism now where they can be protected as they report it.

If that's going to be removed, that doesn't bode well for the future of the Intelligence Community, in my opinion.

BOLDUAN: And beyond that point, this is far beyond the whistleblower and the complaint at this point, when you have Alexander Vindman confirm elements of the complaint, a slew of officials.

I keep returning to this. This was past the whistleblower, a complaint to be verified. It's been verified to the extent of those details by these multiple officials on the record, but still this drumbeat continues among some Republicans.

It's good to see you, Director. Thanks for coming in.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.


Coming up for us, prosecutors are focusing in on President Trump's inn circle. Two former aides set to testify against longtime Trump associate, Roger Stone, against Roger Stone. The details on that next.



BOLDUAN: Just into CNN, while in New Hampshire, Vice President Mike Pence just spoke with reporters. He was asked about whether he's ever asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or any other American.

Let's listen to this together.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Turning back to Washington, your aide, Jennifer Williams, is appearing before Congress as House Democrats continue their impeachment inquiry.

During your reported calls and meetings with President Zelensky, did you suggest or implore him to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, election interference?

Was there any role you had in the discussions with Zelensky regarding corruption and aid? Or do you feel that the president's call was perfect, as he has said many times.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people have the transcript of the president's call. They can see there was no quid pro quo. The president did nothing wrong.

The president's focus has been, as my focus was in my meetings with President Zelensky, on supporting President Zelensky's efforts to deal with a historic pattern of corruption in Ukraine, and also to enlist more European support.

Frankly, it was a frustration of the president, since we took office, that the United States was standing with Ukraine for their territorial integrity, opposing Russian aggression, but too many of our European allies were not providing the kind of support that Ukraine needed.

From early in our administration, President Trump, unlike the last administration, made military support available for Ukraine. And I'm very proud of the way we have stood with Ukraine against Russian aggression.

But in all of my discussions with President Zelensky, we focused exclusively on President Zelensky's efforts to end corruption in Ukraine and also enlist more European support.

But look, you know, what's going on in Washington, D.C., today is a disgrace. Behind closed doors, there's a so-called impeachment inquiry that I think the American people know is nothing more than a partisan impeachment.

It's the latest effort by Democrats to try to overturn the results of the 2016 election. And I think the American people see through it.

For people that have questions, again, they can look at the transcript, they can see what the president said to President Zelensky.

I know, as the facts continue to come out, people will see that the president did nothing wrong, that the focus of our administration and all the -- of my contacts with President Zelensky -- were in the national interests and in strengthening our relationship with Ukraine, strengthening Ukraine's position against Russian aggression and moving forward the agenda that President Zelensky advanced.


BOLDUAN: That from Vice President Pence just now. A similar line he has used when facing direct questions about what he knew and when with regard to any pressure on Ukraine.

I will note this, remember, it is not a full transcript. That is one thing we know. It is a rough -- it's a rough transcript at best, rough notes on that call. We do know that.

We also know that Colonel Alexander Vindman, in his testimony, said he wanted to offer changes to the transcript, had been prevented from doing so. That is part of his testimony. Let's be honest, it goes far beyond the call at this point. It goes

to what else we have heard from others who have testified.

I'll repeat this again, what Ambassador Taylor testified, his transcript, these sworn testimony before the House committee was this: "It was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president committed to pursue the investigation."

There's that.

All right. Moving on to this. Roger Stone is back in a federal courtroom. You see him there heading into court. It's day two of his court for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing justice during the Robert Mueller investigation.

Scheduled to testify against Stone is President Trump's one-time chief strategist, Steve Bannon. He's not the only high-profile witness that prosecutors are intending to call in this wild trial.

Shimon Prokupecz is outside the courtroom. He joins me now.

Shimon, what are you getting a sense of when Bannon could testify and what it could mean?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: We've been told that Bannon does not know when he's going to be called.

Interestingly enough, he's being subpoenaed, being compelled to testify. He did not want to testify. We're told he was trying to fight the subpoena, but prosecutors say they do need his testimony.

They have already told this jury they're going to hear from Bannon. It's expected he will come in.

It's all about e-mails, e-mails, exchanges that he and Roger Stone had over WikiLeaks and how Roger Stone was saying, I know how to help this campaign. I know how you can win. That is what that is about.


Same with Rick Gates. Rick Gates has been cooperating with the government. He's expected to come in and talk about Roger Stone's efforts to help the campaign get this WikiLeaks information.

As for this morning, I have to say it's been a very colorful morning inside the courtroom where the prosecutors are laying out some of the text messages that Roger Stone was sending to a witness who is going to be coming in and testifying here.

That FBI agent is still on the stand, so a lot more to come later today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Much more to come. We'll stick close to it.

Shimon, thanks so much.


BOLDUAN: We'll be right back with more.



BOLDUAN: Two former Twitter employees are now charged with spying for Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say they used their access at the social media giant to collect sensitive and private information on people speaking out about the Saudi kingdom.

Dan Simon is live in San Francisco with more.

Dan, what more are you learning about these employees and, honestly, what is Twitter saying about this?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. What we know is these two former employees allegedly used their positions within the company to try to obtain private information about Saudi Arabia critics.

And according to the charging documents, they essentially mined Twitter servers to get this kind of information, really, on thousands of users, and it ultimately wound up in the hands of the Saudi Arabian government.

Really, what the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco is trying to make clear is he is not going to allow U.S. technology companies to be exploited by repressive regimes.

And for its part, Twitter did put out a statement. I want to read it to you.

It says, "We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work. We are committed to protecting those who use our service to advocate for equality, individual freedoms, and human rights."

The bottom line here, Kate, is that these companies, even with all of their safeguards, companies like Twitter, they have employees all over the world, and then when you have repressive regimes who are willing to incentivize this kind of behavior to get into servers and provide large sums of money, which happened in this case, their systems can be exploited.

It's not just a problem for Twitter but other technology firms -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And a reminder of the glowing things President Trump has said about the kingdom, about MbS, saying he's a friend of mine and complimenting him on everything he's done in the last years to open up the kingdom, and then you have this.

It's good to see you, Dan. Thank you so much. Still ahead, Congress gears up for the first public hearings of the

impeachment investigation as Republicans are -- you can say, struggling, you could just say evolving in their defense of the president at this point.

What's the plan now and can Democrats convince the American public with these hearings that the president committed an impeachable offense?