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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Impeachment Testimony Revelations. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Of course, all of that moving into the public sphere. Once you have these public hearings, that's going to be a very significant change for the American people who are going to be watching at home -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: That all starts on Wednesday.

Lauren, thank you.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being here.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Could impeachment be the Grinch that steals Christmas?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking just minutes ago, new testimony released in the impeachment probe, a State Department official who worked directly on Ukraine issues talking about Rudy Giuliani's continuing campaign of -- quote -- "lies."

Also breaking today, the spotlight now on Vice President Pence and what he knew, as a top aide to Pence who was on the Ukraine call just finished testifying in the impeachment inquiry.

Plus, harsh words echoing around the world. The French president blaming President Trump for causing NATO to go brain-dead. What might Putin be thinking right now?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with this breaking news, a new transcript released just minutes ago from the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Trump, George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees U.S. policy on Ukraine at the State Department, providing even more corroboration that those working on foreign policy regarding Ukraine had been told by U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland that President Trump -- quote -- "wanted nothing less than Ukrainian President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say, investigations, Biden and Clinton." Kent also referring to the -- quote -- "snake pits" of corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors who worked with Rudy Giuliani, who then would carry on a -- quote -- "campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch.

Kent also testifying that it was wrong of the president's lawyer, Giuliani, to conduct this shadow foreign policy, that Giuliani's efforts undermined U.S. policy in Ukraine and -- quote -- "After Giuliani attacked me, as well as Ambassador Yovanovitch and the entire embassy in his late May interview, I was told by a senior State Department official to keep my head down and lower my profile in Ukraine."

The testimony is nearly 400 pages' long. One of the dynamics that comes out, comes out clearly, the divisions between people on the Trump team pushing Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and those within the U.S. government pushing back, because they thought it was wrong and corrupt, and ultimately would undermine U.S. national security.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill for us now.

And, Phil, George Kent makes very clear in his testimony he was not on board with what he described as President Trump wanting Ukraine to commit publicly to investigating the Bidens.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not on board, Jake, and so unsettled that, on August 16, he actually drafted a memo laying out concerns that there was -- quote -- "an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S."

What George Kent, a career diplomat, lays out actually jibes a lot with what we have seen from other career diplomat, serious concerns about the administration policy, an administration policy that was oftentimes being run ad hoc and from outside of things.

He was asked bluntly, what was his view on the requests or the efforts to get a statement from Ukrainian officials pledging investigations into political rivals of President Trump?

He said -- quote -- "I do not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in politically associated investigations and prosecutions."

The testimony, in full, more than 400 pages, lays out a sweeping and kind of systematically almost damning review of the State Department's efforts, of the Trump administration efforts as it comes to Ukraine.

But, most notably, he goes in-depth on the effort to oust Masha Yovanovitch, the Ukrainian ambassador, who was eventually removed, largely, almost entirely because of the efforts of individuals outside the department, led by Rudy Giuliani, other officials tied to Rudy Giuliani, including one congressman.

He says, at one point, in total, they were engaged in an effort to -- quote -- "undermine her standing by claiming she was disloyal."

He makes clear in the testimony there was no evidence of the alleged disloyalty or the alleged problems that she had, and yet it still persisted. He also noted that he and others close to him lobbied the State Department, lobbied leaders at the State Department to put out a statement of support, saying that was the only way to help her.

It's now known there was no statement of support. Marie Yovanovitch was summarily dismissed shortly thereafter.

Jake, why this is all important, this paints a picture that we have seen repeatedly over the course of the last couple of weeks as depositions have come out, and a picture that, in a very short while, is going to become public.

George Taylor (sic) testifies, one of the first people to testify next week on Wednesday, along with William Taylor. You can expect Democrats will be trying to highlight all of these issues and more in that hearing -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right, George Kent and Bill Taylor testifying next Wednesday.

Thank you so much, Phil Mattingly.

Let's discuss.

And, Jackie, let me start with you, because one of the things that really comes across here is that, in the eyes of George Kent, Kurt Volker, who the Republicans and the Trump administration have been leaning on, is really an enabler of the Trump policy.

[16:05:10]

And there's this really striking passage, Kent said that envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, now former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker he planned to start reaching out -- he told Kent: "He planned to start reaching out to the former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. When I asked him why, he said that it was clear that the former mayor had influence on the president in terms of the way the president thought of Ukraine."

And then Kent goes on to say: "When I raised with Kurt, I said about what, because former Mayor Giuliani has a track record of asking for a visa for a corrupt former prosecutor. He attacked Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch. He's tweeting that the new president of Ukraine needs to investigate Biden and 2016 campaign. And Kurt's reaction or response to me at the time was, 'Well, if there's nothing there, what does it matter? And if there is something there, it should be investigated.'"

"My response to him, "Kent says, "was asking, another country to invade litigator prosecution for political reasons undermines our advocacy of the rule of law."

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So Kurt Volker was part of this -- the three amigos, as they call themselves, of Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., and Rick Perry, who we haven't heard from.

And the three of them were kind of part of this ploy to get the president of Ukraine to execute what the president and Rudy Giuliani wanted, to get the president of Ukraine to make a statement that he was going to investigate the Bidens.

So, and we have seen throughout these testimonies, Kent's testimony really bolsters what we have heard from Taylor and what we know from Fiona Hill. We haven't seen her transcript yet, but we have seen the first part of her testimony.

The narrative has stayed the same, unless you're talking about Gordon Sondland, who might be in a little bit of trouble for his testimony.

TAPPER: Yes.

And another thing that's interesting, Melanie, is that at no point do we have any of these people who are enabling what Trump and Giuliani are doing, the Sondlands and the Volkers of the world, understanding that maybe there's something wrong or corrupt about what they're doing.

It's just, oh, this is what we're going to do.

MELANIE ZANONA, POLITICO: Right.

And that's where you're starting to see the split between the Kents of the world, who are these career diplomats, who were put there in charge of the Ukraine policy. Keep in mind, this was supposed to be his domain. And yet he had to go through these three amigos. He had to go through Rudy Giuliani, who also he testified that Rudy Giuliani had sway over the president's thinking.

So the reason why Democrats want him to testify is because he can really illuminate just how backwards the Ukraine policy was being carried out in this administration.

KUCINICH: He was actually told to lay low at one point, yes, because of Giuliani.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: And Kent's deputy assistant secretary state. He's here in Washington. Taylor's over in Ukraine, and seeing it from that side.

But Kent was here and he was in an awful lot of meetings. And for me, what's really striking is, we can talk about the three amigos vs. the career State people, but Kent describe as being on the videoconference.

And this has been reported before, I think, but he was explicit. It was very fascinating, incidentally, his testimony, really.

TAPPER: No, definitely.

KRISTOL: I think, in a way, the most compelling and maybe the most damning.

And listening as the representative of OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, says that Mick Mulvaney, who was both director of OMB and the acting chief of staff, had -- at the direction of the president, had put a hold out our security assistance to the U.K.

TAPPER: And they don't get an answer as to why.

KRISTOL: They get no answer why.

It's not like, because the president's really decided we need to have a serious investigation of corruption, if you go back to the State Department and you have them a report on what is going on in corruption.

But at the direction of the president. So it's not about competing forces within the U.S. government squabbling. It's the president of the United States personally directing Mulvaney to put a hold on the security assistant, when the rest of the U.S. government had signed off on it and when it was congressionally appropriated funds.

I think that's really going to make it hard for people to say, oh, this is just some bureaucrats fighting. The president put the hold on.

TAPPER: Yes.

And, Karine, one of the things it's very interesting is how concerned Kent is about what this does for the standing and the image of the U.S. in the world standing against these kinds of political prosecutions.

At one point, Kent testified about what he said was an awkward part of a conversation, a Ukrainian government official, an aide to Zelensky meeting with U.S. officials.

"Special Representative Volker made the point that the Ukrainians who had opened their authorities under Zelensky had opened investigations of former Ukrainian President Poroshenko. He didn't think that was appropriate. And then Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak: "What, you mean the type of investigations you're pushing us to do on Biden and Clinton?"

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Exactly.

So I think, as young people say, Kent has the receipts, right? He came forward. You read this transcript, and it's mind-blowing. And, basically, it lines up what we already know, what everybody's been saying, which is, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani were running their own policy, and not in the interest of the U.S., but in the interest of Donald Trump.

And this is what we keep learning.

KUCINICH: And Rudy Giuliani.

JEAN-PIERRE: And Rudy Giuliani's pocket, right?

It was almost like the pseudo State Department that was happening that Rudy Giuliani was leading.

[16:10:01]

And so it is surprising also that Republicans would want these testimonies to be out, because they are devastating to Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Yes. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

JEAN-PIERRE: Be careful what you wish for.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

Also breaking on the Hill, the vice president's top aide who was on that July 25 phone call just finished testifying. She said that call was not normal for a very specific reason.

Then, from an arena to living rooms -- an inside look at the strategy to reelect President Trump. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:12] TAPPER: And we are back with the politics lead in the pas moving impeachment inquiry. So fast that Democrats could theoretically impeach President Trump as soon as next month.

Today on Capitol Hill, Democrats tried to shine a light on vice president Mike Pence and his potential role in the Ukraine scandal as one of Pence's top national security aide who is listening in on that July 25th Trump-Ukraine phone call and was concerned by it according to sources while she just finished testifying.

And Jessica Schneider joins me now.

And Jessica, this aid, her name is Jennifer Williams. What did he have to day? What did she reveal today?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. She revealed quite a bit in about four hours of testimony. And she said that she came away, viewing it as unusual because it was political in nature and did not leave the normal tone of a diplomatic call. That's what we are told from sources.

And she didn't raise those concerns. But her comments come as their continuing questions about the vice president and what he knew.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): For the first time, the spotlight of the impeachment inquiry is on vice president Mike Pence. His top national security aide, the first from his staff to go behind closed doors and answer lawmakers' questions.

Jennifer Williams was nearly a dozen officials listening to President Trump's July 25th phone call with president Zelensky. Sources say she was concerned about what transpired on the call but there's no indication she voiced her concerns to Pence or others. Williams though could clarify what the vice president knew about plans to withhold military aid in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens which Pence was asked about today.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 historical pattern of corruption in Ukraine.

As for Trump's call with Zelensky, which clearly shows him asking the Ukrainian leader to look into the Bidens, Pence mimicked the President's talking points.

PENCE: The American people have the transcript of the President's phone call and they can see there's no quid pro quo. And the President did nothing wrong.

SCHNEIDER: But questions continue with Pence's interaction with the Ukrainian president. On September 1st, Pence replaced President Trump on a trip to Poland where he held a bilateral meeting with Zelensky. Pence has insisted the two did not discuss an investigation into the Bidens but has acknowledged corruption and military aid were on the agenda.

PENCE: 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.

SCHNEIDER: While Williams was cooperating, former national security adviser John Bolton was a no-show on Capitol Hill, despite being invited to testify today. Democrats never issued a subpoena for his appearance, as they have with other witnesses. And Bolton's lawyer previously said he wouldn't testify without one.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are lining up a list of witnesses they want at the public hearings next week. Top on that list, the whistleblower.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is the guy that started it all. We think he should sit in front of us, under oath, answer our questions and do that in person.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now under the rules, Democrats have the ultimate say on that witness list. And they don't have to accept all the witnesses that Republicans propose, including, of course, the whistleblower.

Now the public phase starts next week. And once the committees complete the evidence gathering portion, it will be compiled and then sent to the Judiciary Committee, which will then decide whether to draft and debate articles of impeachment and, of course, when and if they do, Jake, it would be sent to the house floor for a full vote. TAPPER: I don't think there's much of a mystery as to whether or not

they will.

Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Paging attorney general Bill Barr, the request from President Trump that the attorney general refused to carry out, sources say. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:23:54] TAPPER: The politics lead, a source confirming to CNN that President Trump wanted attorney general Bill Barr to publicly declare that the President did nothing wrong in the Ukraine scandal. A source saying that the President discussed to Barr potentially holding a news conference to say that the President broke no laws in his phone call July 25th when he asked Ukraine's president Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Now the President denies this story that he requested Barr to do this first reported in "the Washington Post." But it has been matched again and again by other news outlets. And of course, we should note the President often tells lies.

As CNN Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, the Barr news conference that President Trump wanted, it did not happen. The Barr's justice department did try to shut down an investigation into the President's phone call with Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats must be accountable for their hoaxes and their crimes.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump so infuriated by the impeachment inquiry, sources now tell CNN he wanted attorney general Bill Barr to hold a news conference, declaring he did nothing wrong.

TRUMP: It's all a hoax. It's a scam.

[16:25:00] COLLINS: Trump wanted Barr to say publicly he broke no laws when he pushed president Zelensky for an investigation into his political rivals. Though Trump denied the report today saying Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine, adding the justice department already ruled that the call was good.

While it's unclear if the two discussed the move directly, Barr hasn't denied that trump wanted him to clear his name. It comes as House Democrats are preparing to take their case public.

PENCE: What's going on in Washington, D.C. is a disgrace. I think the American people see through it.

COLLINS: Republicans are still struggling to coalesce around a defense for the President's actions. And one Trump ally is chalking it up to incompetence.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What I can tell you about the Trump policy to Ukraine, it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.

COLLINS: Another Republican, Senator John Kennedy going after House speaker Nancy Pelosi in his home state.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb.

COLLINS: Democrats say comments like that are a sign Republicans are scrambling.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): So they have to decide whether they want to keep coming up with one new desperate, you know, sound bite after the next or whether they should take their oath of office seriously.

COLLINS: Though, the President's frustration is clear, his son says he is just being a counterpuncher.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, Bill Barr may not have held the press conference that the President wanted but the justice department essentially gave him what he did ask for when they issued that statement alongside the release of the transcript saying that criminal division prosecutors have looked at the call, determined the President hadn't done anything wrong, at least as it is related to keep violating campaign finance laws.

But one thing to watch over the next few weeks as all of this is playing out is how the attorney general has distanced himself from this whole Ukraine saga.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this.

And before I do, Karine Jean-Pierre, we are only allowed to have you on the show if we plug your book her "Moving Forward, a story of hope, hard work and the promise of America." It is about your time in the Obama White House and campaigns before. Congratulations on that.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me on, Jake.

TAPPER: Of course. It's great to have you.

Now, let us turn to our present, if you don't mind.

JEAN-PIERRE: Moving forward.

TAPPER: The President denies this story. But it does fit into a pattern, remember? He wanted Comey to declare publicly he was not under investigation? He wanted Mueller to do the same thing. He got mad that Jeff Sessions, then attorney general, recused himself. So he does seems to think of national security officials as his own little praetorium guard.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right. It is the loyalty -- it is his personal guards as you just said. But I have to tell you. This doesn't surprise me he asked Barr to do this. It actually surprises me that Barr said no. Because Barr has certainly behaved as Donald Trump's fixer. He has been the Michael Cohen inside of the White House, inside of the administration. So that is actually the question that I have. It is like, what is -- why -- what is going on that Barr is actually saying no? Because he mischaracterized the Mueller report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

JEAN-PIERRE: That's a huge thing that he did that basically helped the President and we couldn't even go into impeachment or have impeachment conversations in a real way because the messaging was gone, it had left Democrats.

ZANONA: But DOJ has been distancing itself from the white House throughout this Ukraine saga. If you remember during infamous press conference where he said there was no quid pro quo, the DOJ came out and said, well, that's news to us. We don't know about it. So maybe there is a line here for attorney general Barr.

TAPPER: You know, one of the things that is interesting also is the degree to which people are willing to supplicate themselves to the President. I mean, there is the argument like look, I don't like this. I need to find out the information but it's not impeachable. And then there are some of the things we are hearing from Republican senators who will be jurors. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: I have written the whole process off. I think this is a bunch of BS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you plan on reading the transcripts that were released?

GRAHAM: No.

KENNEDY: Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him, but it must suck to be that dumb.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: First of all, Nancy Pelosi is not dumb. But beyond that, I mean, these are not like very convincing defenses of the President, just cursing and insulting people.

KRISTOL: It's unbelievable. John Kennedy is not -- Vanderbilt law graduate, pretty well-educated guy, not a bad senator, I think a lot of people said, kind of has a folksy manner but a fairly impressive guy. To stand up and say something vulgar and stupid like that, I mean, just to cater to the President, to the crowd? It is really --. This is the speaker of the house. If you want to say she's a terrible

speaker, policies are awful, it could ruin the country, fine. But I mean, it is Trump isn't corrupt. Jonathan last wrote this way back 2016, Trump isn't corrupt and late-stage Trumpism and totally, you know, abject wish to be in good graces with Trump. And Trump is everywhere really corrupts absolutely.

KUCINICH: But Kennedy being sophomore comes after Rand Paul, which is a similar podium in Kentucky and called for a crime essentially for the whistleblower to be outed. And this is something --.

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