Return to Transcripts main page


Republican Senator Calls Speaker Pelosi 'Dumb'; New Impeachment Testimony Revelations. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 15:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, this will be a theme that we will hear when George Kent comes and 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, to pursue these matters relating to help the president politically push the Ukrainian government to announce these investigations into Joe Biden and his political -- his political rivals, look into the interference campaign that occurred in the 2016 elections.

And the concerns raised by people like George Kent, who served in the State Department, worked directly on Ukraine issues, and concerns about the motivations of people like Rudy Giuliani that was not based in the best interests of the United States that undermined U.S. policy towards Ukraine.

And, here, we're getting a glimpse of his concerns about the removal of a key diplomat from that post, Ambassador Yovanovitch, who he says should not have been pushed out amid this smear campaign.

But, Brooke, again, we are just getting going through several hundred pages of documents that will undoubtedly shed new light about the role of Rudy Giuliani, how this individual appears to have been sidelined amid this push by the president and his allies for Ukraine to launch these investigations that could potentially help the president politically -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And as we're reading through all these transcripts, as we have in the last couple of days, this is all key, right, because they're opening up this -- making the testimony public next Wednesday.

And you also are reporting that now they -- they being the House Dems -- are expediting this whole process, and they hope to have this thing wrapped by Christmas?

RAJU: Yes.

And that's within the realm of possibility at the moment because of the several steps they have taken. It is very clear how they plan to move forward in the coming weeks. They will have those open hearings next week. We will probably expect another week of open hearings after that.

And after those public sessions, we expect the House to go into recess at that point. That's the week of Thanksgiving. And, at that point, expect the House Intelligence Committee to start to put together a report, along with two other committees mounting this investigation.

That report will detail findings and recommendations that will lead to the House Judiciary Committee likely taking up articles of impeachment. That could take place in the first and second week of December, in which they would actually have probably a public hearing and then a public vote in the committee on those articles on impeachment, before it goes to the full House in December the week before Christmas, having a vote there to impeach President Trump.

It would just be the third time in history that this could -- this would happen to an American president. But several steps this week make it clear that they're moving quickly, not just on the public hearing push, but also deciding -- the Democrats have decided not to mount court fights to get some key witnesses to testify, including one top National Security Council official who left recently, Charles Kupperman.

They decided to withdraw a subpoena after he filed a lawsuit on that. And, today, they made the decision -- they announced that they would not subpoena John Bolton, the former national security adviser, someone who could be a star witness in this probe, given what he has witnessed about this Ukraine matter all along, concerns he apparently raised along the way.

But they don't want to issue a subpoena, because Bolton's attorney indicated it would fight this in court, and they don't want these proceedings to drag along.

So take these all together, and Democrats are signaling they're moving ahead. They're not going to let this drag out, and this could be done by years's end -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Manu Raju, thank you so much on Capitol Hill for us.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst Sarah Isgur. She's a former Trump Justice Department spokeswoman. And Jim Baker is back with us today. He's former general counsel for the FBI. And he's also a CNN legal analyst.

And so welcome, welcome to both of you.

And, Jim Baker, first to you just on Manu's second point, this expedited timeline, having this whole thing wrapped by Christmas. Is that feasible?

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's feasible if they have set their expectations accordingly.

I mean, it strikes me -- as a former prosecutor, it kind of makes me think about, you have a trial date, you get ready for the trial, and you have to do what you need to do. You make strategic and tactical decisions about your case. You cut witnesses, you decide not to put in certain types of evidence because it's too complicated. You can't get ready before trial.

So it has the feeling, as they prepare to bring charges, as a group of people getting ready for a proceeding, and they're just going to have to cut and shape and focus the case as they get ready for a self- imposed deadline.

But it's not a crazy deadline, because it seems to me it's in their interests to move quickly with this while the public is focused on it, and while we -- while the evidence is going in the direction I think that they want it to go.

BALDWIN: Sarah, what do you think?

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they have to consider that their jury here -- to borrow Jim's metaphor, their jury here is twofold.

One, it's the American people. And so you need to put on a case for them. You can't have 10-hour hearings that you expect people to watch at work. That's not a reasonable expectation for most Americans.

And on the other hand, you also have the Senate Republicans. And those two are linked, obviously. Public opinions sways the Senate Republicans, to a large extent. And so I think the number one thing that they need to concentrate on is putting together and case, but putting that case in a way that is easily digestible, frankly, is TV- friendly, but it's a message that simple and easy to grasp by voters.


BALDWIN: Let's switch gears and move ahead to the whistle-blower. Jim, back over to you.

Actually, before I do that, we have just gotten some news in from "The Wall Street Journal." We have confirmed here at CNN this report out of "The Journal" that the Government Accountability Office is now conducting this legal review of the Trump administration's freeze of the $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

So this is obviously the center of this inquiry. Remind us what exactly would be illegal.

BAKER: What exactly would be illegal is not spending the funds in accordance with federal law.

And that's why, in terms of the appropriations law that Congress passed, the -- Congress has forbidden for a long time sort of goofing around with -- the executive branch goofing around with money that they have appropriated for certain purposes, and the term that's used sometimes is impounding the money and holding onto it, not spending it the right way.

As I recall, there were allegations that President Nixon was trying to do this, and Congress back in the '70s tried to stop that from happening. And so that's the main problem, that, in some way, shape or form, the funds were not being spent in accordance with federal law.

Either they were not being spent at all or that other funds in connection with, I don't know, the Giuliani foreign policy effort, were being spent improperly.

BALDWIN: On to the whistle-blower. This is what I wanted to get to, Sarah, for you.

If -- or maybe when, we should say, when Republican Congressman Jim Jordan formally requests this whistle-blower to publicly testify -- and, again, just a reminder, ultimately, it's the Democrats who approve any of the witnesses that Republicans want.

But with regard to the whistle-blower, how do you see this playing out?

ISGUR: Republicans, obviously, at this point see it as in their advantage to make the whistle-blower out to be a partisan figure.

I'd say that the number one problem with that is that time has passed. As someone pointed out, it's like someone called 911, the police have shown up, they have interviewed a lot of witnesses about the crime, and we're now going to talk about who called 911.

The problem is, we have all moved on. We have all these witnesses. We have the rough transcript, whether it's correct or not. Who the whistle-blower is will be an important talking point for the Republicans. But will it be enough to overcome what all these witnesses have said in the transcript and Jim's point about impoundment?

I don't think it's actually relevant.


The other huge headline today was this, that this CNN source confirms that President Trump actually asked Attorney General Bill Barr to hold this news conference, clearing him of any crimes regarding the phone call with the president of Ukraine.

Jim, this is to you. We should mention the president vehemently denies this. Bill Barr did release a statement that prosecutors had found no wrongdoing by the president. He also said that the I.G. was not required to turn over a whistle-blower complaint to Congress.

Either way, does the A.G. seem to be doing some legal maneuvering on behalf of the president of the United States?

BAKER: Well, he may be doing it on behalf of the president. He may be doing it on behalf of himself, because he's kind of in a pickle here.

I think he probably has it in his mind that he's trying to avoid the fates of Attorney General Sessions and Jim Comey also, who -- Sessions on the one hand recused himself, and Jim Comey refused to state publicly that the president was not under investigation when we were conducting the Russia investigation.

It may be the case. I don't know exactly why the attorney general didn't give the press conference. It may be that it would force him to address the recusal issue head on. Maybe he's recused himself already. I have no real facts to support that. But it just strikes me that that's an issue here that's lurking.

And in addition, like, with...


BAKER: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: No, I was just going to say, is it -- should it be a pickle, the president, the Constitution?

I'm just saying.

BAKER: Well, in terms of you know what the press conference was supposed to say, if in the press conference, all the attorney general was going to say was that certain lawyers within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, certain prosecutors, looked at this matter and assessed that, with respect to the president alone, and only looking at federal election law -- and that's what we understand the case to be -- then there was no case, now, that's a pretty narrow statement.

And, to me, I do think that it's -- it calls out for, it really cries out for further investigation, I think, to understand exactly what was going on here. And I don't know how the inspector general of the Department of Justice doesn't get involved in this at some point, given all the statements that are going on and so on.

BALDWIN: The president laments in a tweet, Sarah, for you, that -- quote -- "It was just explained to me that, for the next weeks, I get no lawyer and no due process."

And we saw that tweet, just sort of wondered, it was just explained to him? What's going on here?

ISGUR: Well, of course, we borrowed Jim's metaphor earlier, getting prepared for trial. But this isn't a trial.


The impeachment process is a political process at its core. And what the Democrats in the House are doing right now is very different from a trial in that sense.

I think the president is probably exaggerating that someone just explained that to him. My guess is that that's been explained, because he's been using that talking point for weeks at this point. But, again, it's not a bad talking point for the Republicans to say, we're not able to make our case yet. You will hear our case later. We're not able to make it right now. They won't let us make the case right now.

It was part of their talking point when the Democrats were holding closed-door depositions. We're now getting those transcripts. And so we're seeing the talking points on the right shift. We're also going to see the talking points on the left shift.

BALDWIN: Sarah and Jim, thank you so much for all of that.

We are getting more on our breaking news. Let me come back to this. We're reading this new transcript from a key witness, George Kent, several hundred pages. We're starting to pore through it. We will tell you what we're learning.

Also, a judge just ordered President Trump to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit against his charity. Hear how he's responding to that.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We have come to expect intense partisanship at Trump rallies, but last night, in Louisiana, that partisanship took a nasty personal turn. And the person spouting the insults was not the president. It was Louisiana Senator John Kennedy.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): And you know what our Democratic friends have done for him?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him.


KENNEDY: I don't mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb!



BALDWIN: It's not just what he said. Listen to the cheers.

Saw that young boy in between the two of them standing behind them.? I think we all know we're really living in partisan times, but this is a sitting U.S. senator disrespecting the speaker of the House, the person who is third in line to the presidency and the most powerful woman in our government.

Mr. Senator, you don't have to agree with Speaker Pelosi, but you should respect her.

Matt Lewis is a senior columnist for The Daily Beast and a CNN political commentator. And, Matt, you were just as angry as I was. Tell me why.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, not only is this a senator disrespecting the speaker of the House. This is a grown man disrespecting a lady in public and being cheered for it.

So I think it speaks to civility. And this is very common. We saw the other day Rand Paul at a rally, very similar, playing to Donald Trump standing beside him, playing to this Trumpian crowd, calling for the media to unmask the whistle-blower.

And here you have a U.S. senator, not to be disrespectful, of course, but calling Nancy Pelosi dumb. And he was really just -- it was a caricature of a demagogic populist politician. It was like Huey Long.

The whole reason that I never -- as someone who's a conservative center-right journalist, sort of being a caricature of a Huey Long populist is not exactly what the -- what I signed up for in political parties.

BALDWIN: I just -- I -- to your point, grown man, and -- but I also am not just looking at him. And I'm not just looking at the president standing next to him.

But I'm looking at the crowd behind him. And I'm listening to how the crowd responds and the cheers. And I see this young man that you can see standing behind them who, I don't know, could be a teenager, and -- right there, in one of the white hats, standing between the two of them.

I mean, not...

LEWIS: Yes. Well, this is...

BALDWIN: I'm almost, like, out of -- it's like behavior and language raising a generation of bullies, giving the signal that it's OK to talk like this.


BALDWIN: To a woman or a man.


LEWIS: Well, first of all, it's the madness of crowds. There's a crowd psychology, where people in these mass movements get swept up and say and do things.

They lose their anonymity. They say and do things that they normally probably wouldn't say or do. It's a mob mentality, dare say.

The other thing that I will say about this, I was sitting in my Sunday school class at church this past Sunday, and the Sunday school class is about parenting, specifically how to parent.

BALDWIN: Yes. LEWIS: And all the -- all the advice that we were hearing about

making sure that our children are prepared for the real world and that they know that there are consequences to the things that they do, Donald Trump breaks everything that we would teach our children of how to behave, never mind as devout religious Christian, whatever your religion is, people, just as decent human beings.

Donald Trump goes against almost every single thing. And I think this is a microcosm of that.

BALDWIN: Well, good on you, Matt Lewis, for spending your Sunday doing that. Good for you.

LEWIS: Sunday morning.


BALDWIN: Sunday morning. Sunday...

LEWIS: Football comes -- football is important.

BALDWIN: I got you. I got you.

How about Lindsey Graham? Lindsey Graham is now, like, reaching into the archives, trotting out this familiar defense of allegations against President Trump.

Let me play this clip. This is what he -- this is what he's now saying about quid pro quo.


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

So, no, I find the whole process to be a sham, and I'm not going to legitimize it.


BALDWIN: I mean every day, Matt, there seems to be a new Lindsey Graham explanation.

Jim Jordan, the Trump Republican friend in the House, is now calling for the whistle-blower to testify in a public hearing. Democrats so far reject the outing of an anonymous figure.

If you were counseling the Republicans, what would you tell them about this battle?

LEWIS: Well, look, and going back to John Kennedy earlier, this is -- if you look at any of these Republicans, I don't know how -- they don't seem like normal people.

I think that there's a reason why they're losing the suburbs, which I think is going to be a long-term big problem.

BALDWIN: Some of them. Look at Mitt Romney.

LEWIS: Yes, that's true.

BALDWIN: Some of them are.

LEWIS: Some of them are -- some of them are -- so, what did Donald Trump say? And I assume some of them are good people?


LEWIS: But the case of Lindsey Graham is especially egregious.

This is someone who knows better. He's not just a partisan hack, right? At least, he didn't used to be. This is someone who was John McCain's best friend.


LEWIS: This is someone who was the House impeachment manager during Bill Clinton, who has completely flip-flopped.

And now he is at the point where he has literally said -- I think because the cognitive dissonance is so great, he has said he just simply can't or won't read the -- won't read the transcripts, won't do it.

BALDWIN: Yes, they're calling for all this transparency, yet he's not reading the transcripts?

LEWIS: Yes, I guess he's afraid of where the evidence may take him if he actually reads it.

It's just -- it's stunning.

BALDWIN: Matt Lewis, thank you. Good chat.

LEWIS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Back to our breaking news.

The transcript just released from this key State Department official's testimony to Congress, we will bring you the most important sections as we read it.



BALDWIN: All right, we're following breaking news.

The House impeachment inquiry just released another batch of witness testimony, this time from George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. We know he felt sort of cut out of decisions regarding Ukraine. Jim Baker is back with me.

And, Jim, let's just -- I have just little, little nuggets. So let me just read this to you.

This is from Manu Raju up on the Hill, that Kent offers more corroboration that Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, asked Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to write a -- quote -- "tweet declaring full support for the foreign policy of President Trump, which Kent said was an ask for her to defend herself, as opposed to having the State Department defend her."

Right. We talked about this the other day, but actually seeing this now in the testimony, that that was Gordon Sondland's solution, was to have Yovanovitch tweet this public support, right?

Of course, of all ways to speak to the president of the United States, is via Twitter. And so this is corroborating what we heard from Gordon Sondland. What do you think about that?

BAKER: Well, I mean, it's just -- it's bizarre. It's not normal. It is just the strangest sort of management structure I have ever heard of.

I mean, I guess, just thinking about this whole situation and how the administration has managed both the personnel and the policy with respect to Ukraine, I thought one of the benefits we were to get from a business person president was good, solid management.

And this does not look like that, either from a substantive perspective, how they were developing the policy, how they were handling relationships with the government of Ukraine, and then how they managed their people, who knew what, it was just confusion.

This kind of personnel thing, tweeting out something to placate the president to make him happy in order to keep your job is just bizarre and inappropriate.

BALDWIN: OK, here's the second. Here's the second nugget, Jim.

The headline is, Kent says Volker reached out to Giuliani because he -- quote, unquote -- "had influence over President Trump's thinking on Ukraine."

One of the quotes is: "And I think, by that moment in time, that was self-evident to anyone who was working on the issues, and, therefore, it made sense to try to engage the mayor," meaning that Rudy Giuliani had influence on President Trump on all things Ukraine.

And, again, this just -- as we have had so many conversations, Jim, just about how it was Giuliani, it was Giuliani who was seemingly running the show or putting these ideas in the president's head with regard to Ukraine and dot, dot, dot.

It was the president's personal attorney.

BAKER: Exactly.

It was the president's personal attorney, and it was -- it seems that it was clear to everybody who was working on this issue, as more testimony comes out, that Mr. Giuliani played a central role in running the United States foreign policy with respect -- with respect to Ukraine.

And everybody knew that he was the president's personal