Return to Transcripts main page
NYT: Ukraine's President Was Set To Bow To Trump's Demands; France's President: Trump Causing "Brain Death" Of NATO; Graham: Trump Team Too Inept To Pull Off Quid Pro Quo; Students Warned Ahead Of Trump's Visit: No Disruptive Behavior; George Kent's Impeachment Inquiry Testimony Released. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired November 7, 2019 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: So that part of it, none of us knew.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: When you found out it would have been with you, what did you first think?
ZAKARIA: Well, you win some, you lose some. I would have loved to have had it. He's a fascinating guy. I still would love to have be on. His office acted very professionally throughout the process.
But I have to say, I had no idea the pressure they were under. They were acting pretty cool considering all of the pressure they were under, and very good about sometimes as foreign leaders you do get them trying to figure out or demand a list of questions which we don't do.
BALDWIN:: We don't do that.
ZAKARIA: But they were not like that. They were very professional and they asked broad parameters for the interview but everybody asks that.
BALDWIN: Sure. The "New York Times" undermines the argument it isn't quid pro quo if Ukraine -- the other side, Ukraine, in this case, doesn't know. Clearly, Ukraine knew.
ZAKARIA: At this point, we have so many confirming pieces of evidence on that, that, yes, this is one more.
Now you have essentially all top officials involved, from the ambassador to Ukraine, ambassador of the E.U., the special representative to Ukraine all saying, yes, military aid was frozen and it was not going to be resumed until there was a public commitment.
Now we know that the public commitment had to be on an American news network, CNN. As I say, it wasn't clear -- the president wasn't asking for CNN, just it had to be in some very public news format.
BALDWIN: One more on this. I'm fascinated, that Ukraine came so close to publicly announcing what this White House wanted all along, and had it not been for the leaks and Congress I guess ultimately getting this White House to release the $400 million, Ukraine would have done it. They were days away.
ZAKARIA: Think about the asymmetry of power here. Right? The White House is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars and not just that aid. If they were to feel as if they were to, you know, to annoy this White House and refuse to do what they're doing, it's this aid, it's further military cooperation.
Ultimately, it's what happens if the Russians actually do more? Would American come to Ukraine's assistant? It all hung in the balance. And in return, he had to dig dirt on Trump's political opponent.
I can understand. I mean, the president of Ukraine was in a very tough spot, because the asymmetry of power is so great.
That's why, by the way, when he says, look, I didn't feel any pressure, one has to take that with the context of knowing, again, the president of Ukraine at this point cannot afford to alienate the president of the United States.
BALDWIN: To this. The French President Macron raising thoughts about NATO. What he said to "The Economist," in an interview, quote, "What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO. I argue we should re-assess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States."
I mean, his words, "turning its back on us." Where does that leave NATO?
ZAKARIA: It's unfortunate he said that, because I think that what European countries should be doing is trying to strengthen NATO even if the Trump administration, Donald Trump himself, lacks much of a commitment to it. I'm not sure how this helps.
Look, what he's doing is frankly revealing something we know. Donald Trump doesn't care much for America's allies. He hasn't cared about them from the start. He has fulfilled that -- he has stayed true to his word in that sense.
So that's the reality we're dealing with. A president who does not believe in America's call line. I don't think it helps for the French president to highlight, underscore, rub salt in that wound. It would have been better to try to figure out for a way for the rest of NATO to stay together. And Congress is very committed to it.
But it shows everyone in the world is trying to figure out what is this world looking like without the United States as the anchor that it used to be?
And do we need to freelance? Go our own way? Make other arrangements. It's not something Americans will be happy with when it happens. All of a sudden, we will find the world is a much less pleasant place and much less amenable to American interests, ideals and values.
BALDWIN: Fareed, thank you. Fareed Zakaria.
We watch you, Sundays, 10:00 a.m., "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," here on CNN.
Coming up, Lindsey Graham is known for his transformation from Trump critic to big time Trump ally and had quite a few ways to defend his phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. Wait until you hear his latest argument.
BALDWIN: Pull out your score card. Senator Lindsey Graham has a brand-new way to defend the Trump White House against allegations of quid pro quo with Ukraine in exchange for a possible impeachable favor.
First, let's hear how the host of "FOX & FRIENDS," described quid pro quo as a bad thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS:" If the president said, I'll give you the money but investigate Joe Biden, that is really off-the-rails wrong. If you're looking for a circumstance where the president of the United States was threatening the Ukraine with cutting off aid unless they investigate his political opponent, you would be very disappointed. That does not exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Now Senator Graham has evolved a bit on that saying the Trump team is too inept to pull off quid pro quo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What it tells you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent. It depends who you talk to. They seemed to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So let's hear from Chris Cillizza on this one.
How do you describe this? Is this the evolution of Lindsey Graham?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I mean, so you call it an evolution is like the nicest possible way to show --
BALDWIN: How would you say it?
CILLIZZA: You're a kind and charitable person, Brooke. Look, this seems to me a moving of the goal posts. Not just further down the field but into the stands and then out of the stadium entirely as it relates to Lindsey Graham.
I wrote about this yesterday. That last thing you played. The -- this administration is too incompetent to possibly do anything wrong. Man, I wish I had that excuse to give my parents. I'm a total moron. I would never do that. It's striking.
We have another clip of the evolution, wink, wink, of Lindsey Graham on this issue. Changing his position on what constitutes a plan, which he would take these threats against President Trump's presidency seriously. I think we have it. Play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: If you are looking for a circumstance where the president of the United States was threatening the Ukraine with cutting off aid unless they investigate his political opponent, you would be very disappointed. That does not exist. If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call that would be very disturbing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CILLIZZA: Keeps tells me the phone call was perfect. I'm saying, Mr. President, the phone call was OK with me. I've written the whole process off. I've written him off. I think this is a bunch of B.S. I'm not going to read the transcripts. The whole process is a joke.
What I can tell you about the Trump policy with Ukraine, incoherent. Depends who you talk to. They are incapable of forming a quid pro quo.
BALDWIN: To impeach anybody president over a phone call like this would be insane.
CILLIZZA: Yes. You get the idea. Shout-out to producers and video editors. That's 50-ish seconds of Lindsey Graham saying it better than I could, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Chelsea Cook, shout-out to you.
The evolution of Lindsey Graham leads me to the evolution of Trump supporters changing their tune on Ambassador Sondland now that Sondland has refreshed, revised, his story.
CILLIZZA: Yes. Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, also has evolved as relates to his testimony behind closed doors where he says, well, actually now, in early September I did, in fact, tell a top Ukrainian official I thought that the aid, military aid was tied to opening an investigation into the Bidens.
Which complicates a lot of explanations from Republicans.
Play how they've handled it from a few.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Sondland's opening statement he says, exactly what President Zelensky said and President Trump said. No quid pro quo whatsoever.
You all want to make a big deal out of Mr. Sondland's presumption. He said it was his presumption.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Gordon Sondland sends a text to Taylor saying, I think you're wrong about this. This was no quid pro quo.
I don't think his latest revisions change that. Far as I can see, Ambassador Sondland said he presumed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CILLIZZA: Again, Kellyanne Conway, Jim Jordan's work speak for powerfully than anything I'd add. Watch them, ask your brain, does this make sense?
Brooke, back to you.
BALDWIN: Chris, thank you.
President Trump is planning to attend another big sports event this weekend. He will be there when the Crimson Tide hosts LSU. There's controversy about a warning to students issued by a student leader at the University of Alabama.
BALDWIN: The University of Alabama student government warns against disruptive behavior during this Saturday's big game against LSU. Normally, that may not be too questionable.
This time the warning weighed more than that, igniting a backlash because there's a special guest coming to Saturday's football game in Tuscaloosa. That guest being President Trump.
So that letter that the Crimson Tide forcing its governor to backtrack.
Savannah Bullard, editor-in-chief of Alabama school newspaper "The Crimson White" here to explain how this all started.
Savannah, nice to have you on.
It's my understanding the email went out then backlash quickly followed. You tell me, how did this student government association make this decision in the first place? What inspired them to say that? SUMMER BULLARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA NEWSPAPER "THE
CRIMSON WHITE": I honestly wish I could tell you. It's been very interesting here with this letter. I believe that they were trying to tell the people who had block seating, special seating in the end zone, that they need to be careful about being disruptive in any capacity just because of heightened security. We know games can get a little rowdy. Where the sentiment started I think but then took this whole spin.
BALDWIN: Since this all came out, SGA reversed course. Revised statement from the vice president of students affairs: "By disruptive behavior, we are asking students to be respectful to all students and staff and avoid altercations. My e-mail has nothing to do with anyone's First Amendment rights. Sorry for any confusion. Please, express yourself and especially your pride for the Tide."
How much of that do you think was due to the public outcry?
BULLARD: Probably most of it, I would guess. SGA is really good at handling P.R. affairs and quick to go back and back up on their words a little bit. I kind of expected that rebuttal a little bit.
BALDWIN: How did you feel just as a student to basically be told, you know, be careful how you behave or your football seats will be yanked?
BULLARD: Not only as a student but also just as a reporter. I was very, very shocked that they even issued that, because obviously that's a first amendment violation, and I obviously want my right to cheer or boo or do whatever I want or anything at a game. So they can't infringe that upon me and I thought out of line they even thought that would be OK.
BALDWIN: You saw what happened when the president attended one of the games of the World Series. The chants, the booing. He was here in New York recently at a UFC match, some crowd noise there. How do you think students there in Tuscaloosa will handle this?
BULLARD: I think people are going to be very shocked. University of Alabama, we have 38,000 students who attend this campus and obviously do not all think the same. There's going to be a decent mixture of people for and against the president.
BALDWIN: Savannah, thank you soap much
BULLARD: Thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Breaking news in the impeachment inquiry. We're about to get our next transcript of testimony from a key witness as the House may finish impeachment they say by Christmas.
More drama in the trial by Roger Stone. Why references from a movie "Godfather II" worked its way into testimony today.
[14:57:35] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BALDWIN: And here we are top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Breaking news. Forty-eight days is how soon the impeach impeachment inquiry could come to a close. Democrats fast-tracking their investigation with a goal to complete by Christmas Day.
The House impeachment inquiry released another batch of witness testimony from George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state of foreign affairs, who felt cut out from conversations about Ukraine.
And go to Manu Raju just handed this transcript.
What are you learning here?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just going through it. Several hundred pages long. This is a day-long deposition that happened behind closed doors last month.
And what we do know already going into this, that he did have concerns essentially was cut out of the decision-making process going on as the president enlisted his former, current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to carry out Ukraine policy.
But he also makes clear in one section that I just saw in the opening statement of this testimony that he gave behind closed doors, he was concerned about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine.
How she was ousted from that position in the aftermath of a severe campaign of sorts being launched by Rudy Giuliani, and Rudy Giuliani's associates, who, according to Yovanovitch and George Kent, also believed they were unfounded claims and should not have been removed from the post.
Remember, Yovanovitch is the one who raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani's efforts. Raised that to the highest levels of the State Department.
President Trump himself bad-mouths her on her phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. Ultimately she was removed from the position and that's a source of a lot of concern within the State Department.
And of George Kent, as well, in the passage I'll read.
Says in his opening statement, "I fully shared concerns of Ambassador Yovanovitch's statement Friday expressing her incredulity the U.S. government chose to move her based on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives in an especially challenging time in our bilateral elections with a newly elected Ukrainian president."
[14:59:58] This will be a theme we will hear when George Kent testifies in a public session next week, when the Democrats will ask a lot of questions about this so-called parallel foreign policy, shadow foreign policy, if you will.