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Esper Urges Trump Not to Intervene in War Crimes Cases; U.S. Moves to Make Harming Animals a Federal Crime. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00]

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Studio Seven at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, in Volker we trust. The President and his defenders cling to testimony from the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, the only witness so far who says he knew nothing about the quid pro quo.

It's the Brexit election, five weeks and 650 seats and a very shaky start from Boris Johnson and his conservative party. And U.S. lawmakers finally agree on something. Those who torture animals should go to jail.

Just this week alone, Democrats in the U.S. Congress have released more than 1,000 pages of written testimony which detail a White House pushing Ukraine for politically motivated investigations. And next week, those pages will come to light on the small screen with open public hearings. The current U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor will be the first to testify.

In the transcript of testimony he gave last month, he admits he never spoke directly with the President, but he repeatedly mentions the demands for those investigations by Ukraine in exchange for U.S. military aid.

And when this story first breaks, Donald Trump reportedly wanted his Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference and say no laws were broken in the President's phone call with Ukraine's leader. According to the New York Times and The Washington Post, but refused.

And since then, it seems the White House strategy has been a combination of character assassination, smearing reputations, and discredit the obvious. CNN's Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will begin our open hearings in the impeachment inquiry next week.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With a date set for the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, the White House is bracing itself.

SCHIFF: We will be beginning with the testimony of Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Kent on Wednesday.

COLLINS: All three witnesses on the schedule have already testified behind closed doors. But now Democrats will be making their case for impeaching President Trump in public. Sources tell CNN White House officials appear the most concerned about Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine who told lawmakers there was an explicit quid pro quo according to a transcript released today. The President has tried to dismiss Taylor's word before.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a never-Trumper and his lawyers are never-Trumper.

COLLINS: But there's no proof of that. Some say it will be difficult to discredit the West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran who is still on the job, though some allies are trying.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Now, who in the heck can follow that? Someone told someone that I told someone that someone else knew about this in a different meeting.

COLLINS: The President's allies are also seeking to discredit his ambassador to the European Union, a Republican donor turned diplomat who gave a million dollars to Trump's inauguration. Gordon Sondland revised his testimony to reveal a September conversation where he told a top Ukrainian aide the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement.

Instead, the President and his allies are now relying on special envoy Kurt Volker who told lawmakers he didn't know there was a quid pro quo.

JORDAN: Sondland in his statement is not even sure why he has the opinion he has and Volker was completely read in on everything that everybody was doing.

COLLINS: The White House believes the release of the transcripts is good for them.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: So these transcripts are actually, they're good for the President.

COLLINS: Now CNN is also learned that the White House has added two new staffers to its ranks as they are fighting House Democrats over this impeachment battle. Tony Sayegh is a former senior advisor to the treasury secretary who left the administration a few months ago, and Pam Bondi is the former Attorney General for Florida.

Both are expected to come on in a temporary capacity to help with the messaging and strategy. Two things that Republicans on Capitol Hill say the White House really needs to bolster is they're getting ready to go up against these House Democrats in public hearings. Though right now the White House has still been maintaining, they didn't need any help. Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: To Washington now and we're joined by Josh Rogan, CNN Political Analyst as well as a Columnist for The Washington Post. Josh, it's good to see you.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Likewise.

VAUSE: OK. So, Kurt Volker, he's now the man of the moment. His testimony worthy of a presidential shout out on Twitter. "Thank you to Kurt Volker, U.S. envoy to Ukraine who said in his Congressional testimony just released, you asked what conversations did I have about that quid pro quo, etcetera, none because I didn't know there was a quid pro quo. Witch hunt, exclamation point."

And for Republican lawmakers, he's you know, the lone, honest sheriff in a dirty town. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:05:19]

JORDAN: Ambassador Volker who's the guy who has the sole definitive account of what took place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems to be the one honest broker in the whole thing.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Listen to Volker. Volker said no, there was no tying to meeting to all this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Yes, let's listen to Volker because he also testified that he told a senior aide to Ukraine's new president that they could get a White House meeting if Trump was certain there would be investigation into Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, which is a debunked conspiracy theory that no one believes except for the President.

Volker also said on the record, he's saying allegations threatening Joe Biden and his son Hunter, which President Trump wanted investigated. He said that they were groundless and not credible. And that came from the Ukrainians. You know, and this is a go-to guy. This is the witness who will defend the president?

ROGIN: Yes. I think what you're seeing here is the President and his allies, cherry-picking tiny bits of testimony from the hundreds of pages of damning testimony that's coming out of officials and former officials across the board.

What they're doing is they're pre-spinning because Kurt Volker, and Bill Taylor, and George Kent, and Maria Yovanovitch are all going to testify now in public on camera, OK. So they're trying to frame that testimony by hugging these people as much as they can and trying to hold them close. But it seems clear and obvious to everyone who's not Donald Trump or

one of his allies that the bulk of their testimony will be very damning for the president and for Rudy Giuliani, etcetera. So if they're pinning their hopes on Kurt Volker, that's a bad bet.

VAUSE: Yes, that's a leaky lifeboat, I think. You know, compared especially to the testimony for Ambassador Taylor, you know, it was a firsthand account of U.S. officials negotiating a quid pro quo with Ukrainians, military aid in exchange with legal dirt on Joe Biden. You know, his testimony is being supported what, I think nearly a dozen other witnesses.

And I guess that makes it no surprise that he'll be the first witness called for public hearings next week. At this point, what are the risks though for Democrats? Could this be another Robert Mueller news fest?

ROGIN: Yes. Well, I think they're calling Bill Taylor first because he is the one who get the most detailed notes of the conspiracy and corruption as it was going on. He's got the most evidence, and he's also got the most credibility. But you know, I think what you're seeing here is that everybody has a different piece of this story, and not everybody was aware of everything at all times.

And by the time they're done, they're going to have a very rich mosaic of accusations that are, you know, linked together pretty nicely. Now, of course, the risk for Democrats is that they're going to lose control of this narrative, and that after impeachment, the President's going to get acquitted by the Senate, which is probably going to happen, and he's going to run on what he will term is a false accusation no matter what.

So it's a huge political risk for them, but it's too late now. We're going through with this. We're going to have the public hearings starting next week. It's going to be even more political partisanship and fighting than we've ever seen before.

VAUSE: I guess the Democrats would crash or crash through it at this point. There was, of course, this extraordinary moment live on cable television Wednesday. Congressman Mark Meadows, a Republican and a staunch Trump defender is walking past a reporter mid-life shot. Look what happened. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the big headline is that Republicans can continue to hang everything on Ambassador Volker? Hold on, we have Mark Meadows right here. Congressman Meadows, can we talk live? So he's walking by right now. But Republicans are really struggling to defend the President. OK, great.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): We're not struggling on anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so Congressman --

MEADOWS: So the Republicans are not struggling on anything. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: It was -- you know, it's amazing because he actually went on to claim it was getting easier to defend the President. He ignores the amended testimony coming from Ambassador Sondland who was talking about, you know, a quid pro quo and confirming it.

I guess what -- is this now the strategy which we're seeing from the White House and Republican lawmakers, just deny the facts, deny reality, pretend it never happened, try and win an information war. And if that is the case, that has some serious implications.

ROGIN: Yes -- no, I don't -- I would challenge your premise to your question. I don't see a strategy. You know, I think they're making it up as they go along and they're not all on the same page. You had Lindsey Graham today saying that the Trump administration was too incompetent to come up with a corrupt conspiracy. You have the president saying that he did it and it was not wrong.

A lot of Democrats avoiding the cameras -- I'm sorry, Republicans avoiding the cameras. You have some who were just saying it's wrong, but it's not impeachable. That's no strategy. That's just throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.

And you know, you can tell by their actions that they are struggling and they are nervous. And they should be because the more that this party ties its political faith to Trump especially considering what we saw in Tuesday's elections all over the country, the more they are risking going down with the ship.

And if Trump's political fortunes fall any further, he could bring the whole republican party down with him.

[01:10:19]

VAUSE: We also saw on Monday night at a campaign rally Senator Rand Paul beside the President demanding the release of the name of the whistleblower who made the initial complaint about you know, this phone call with Ukraine's leader. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I say tonight, to the media, do your job and print his name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, apparently, Russian media followed almost on cue. And there's also been a lot of criticism of Don Jr. who retweeted an article which also named the whistleblower. And Jr. wasn't taking any of it though. He hit back with another tweet saying this. "The entire media is triggered that I, a private citizen, tweeted out a story naming the alleged whistleblower. Are they going to pretend that his name hasn't been in the public domain for weeks?"

You know it matters because he is the son of the President, potentially now what a breach of federal laws and claiming he's done nothing wrong. That doesn't mean he's done nothing wrong. I mean, naming a whistleblower is an offense.

ROGIN: Yes. We've seen a total disregard for all of the things that Republican Party once said it used to stand for including the protection of whistleblowers, including Rand Paul himself, who's defended those protections extensively as a center and just completely changed his mind based on the current circumstances.

It's true that the whistleblower's name was first publicly written about by an American, a Web site Real Clear Politics, and then Breitbart, and also the Russians. And you could make an argument that it was going to come out. But for the President's son to promote it is not only dangerous for the whistleblower and his family, but a total contradiction of what the responsibilities are with the President.

But the President has said very clearly that he thinks people should attack the whistleblower and discredit whistleblower. So I think all the norms are just out the window and it's hard to know even where we stand.

VAUSE: Yes. Even though the whistleblower's accounts have been verified, it's something they actually taken to the --

ROGIN: Right. And it's a waste of time also because nothing that he said hasn't been corroborated five times already. And, you know, you could say that he had a secondhand account, but we got plenty of firsthand accounts. So even discrediting the whistleblower doesn't get Donald Trump out of the soup that he's in.

VAUSE: Exactly. He's spinning the wheels, I guess. Josh, we're out of time, but thank you. Good to see you. I appreciate it. Funerals will be in shortly for the victims of a massacre of Mexico. Three women and six children were killed when their convoy of cars was ambushed. Investigators still don't know just who carried out the attack and they do not know why. But CNN's Gary Tuchman reports there are new details about how it all unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN REPORTER: Tonight, authorities still trying to determine who was behind Monday's ambush that left nine people dead, three women and six children. Mexico Secretary of Security telling reporters today, a man who was arrested in the investigation is not involved in the case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a miracle any of them are alive.

TUCHMAN: This as new details are emerging from the eight survivors of the massacre. All children, two of them babies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nita and four of my grandchildren are burned and shot up.

TUCHMAN: The attack targeted a caravan of mothers and children. All people who lived in a fundamentalist Mormon community in north of Mexico where the family has been for generations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have the capacity just to imagine what these children went through.

TUCHMAN: Family members say they can't fathom how this happened.

WILLIE JESSOP, RELATIVE OF THE VICTIMS: Nobody should see their little brother or sisters in this situation or a father look and see a mother slaughtered, his children slaughtered and massacred in the most heinous ways possible.

TUCHMAN: Relative say one of the survivors, 13-year-old Devin Langford watched his mother and two brothers die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Devin has told us is that one of the three vehicles was shot up and then set ablaze. And then the two vehicles that went further on ahead, Christina was driving in front. And when our aunt Donna and her nine children came up to Christina's vehicle, she was already lying on the ground, lifeless, and these children witness this.

TUCHMAN: The children telling relatives as soon as Donna saw Christina dead, she started yelling at them to duck down, putting the babies under the dashboard to hide them. Moments later, Donna was dead. When it was over Devin hid his bleeding siblings in bushes covering them with branches before walking 14 miles for help.

The family says all five children hospitalized are Donna Langford's kids. Relative say they're all expected to survive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Our thanks to Gary Tuchman for that report. Well, it's the Brexit election five weeks from now. Voters in the U.K. head to the polls. Will they break a three-year-long Brexit fever, which has left Parliament paralyzed. Details in a moment. Also, something Republicans and Democrats can finally all agree on, the U.S. Congress moves to make animal abuse a federal crime.

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PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Finally, a busy weather map across portions of North America. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. We do have a potent front pushing right across portions of the eastern half of the U.S. And with it, cold air -- cold enough air behind it here to produce some snow showers, especially to the higher elevations of the northeastern states. And then notice, it quickly exits off towards the east and we get some rain out of it across the Carolinas onto, say, the Gulf Coast states, as well.

But kind of see the stark divide here where the cold temperatures are supporting some snow showers out of Chicago, Toronto, and to say, Buffalo, New York as well. And this is just the start of what is going to be an incredible pattern over the next seven to 10 days here, with temperatures as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit below average, which would be in line of, say, 10 to 15 degrees Celsius below average across some of these regions.

In Chicago, minus one on Thursday, warms up a little bit up to seven before we see another drop in temperatures later on into the upcoming week. And in fact, say goodbye to temps above zero for at least a few days. Chicago is cool as four below for an afternoon high, that is 16 degrees below what is average for this time of year into the afternoon hours. Montreal, some morning snow showers possible. British Columbia, beautiful, and beautiful time of year, about 11 degrees there with mostly-cloudy conditions expected. Into Chihuahua, Mexico, middle 20s we go with a few showers possible. Mexico City, also remains dry, and the tropics, very quiet as well.

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VAUSE: For the third time in just four years, voters in the U.K. will get to choose a new Parliament. A five week-long campaign is just getting underway. But this is the Brexit election. The Prime Minister calling a snap poll hoping to end Parliamentary gridlock over leaving the European Union. But will it? The details down from CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, they're out of the gate for the election now. The Prime Minister going at it on a triple track strategy, attack the leader of the opposition, promise a better future for the country, and say that only he can deliver where Parliament is failing to deliver is, in fact, blocking the will of the people to have Brexit.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: No one much wants to have an election in December, but we've got to the stage where we have no choice because our Parliament is paralyzed. It's been stuck in a rut for 3-1/2 years. And I'm afraid our M.P.s are just refusing time and again to deliver Brexit and honor the mandate of the people.

[01:20:12]

ROBERTSON: And the better Britain, the Prime Minister is promising once Brexit is done, he said, funding for 40 more hospitals, 20,000 additional police officers, improvements in education, improvements in social care. Voting for the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, he said, would amount to increase taxations, would amount to opening the door to immigration and damaging the National Health Service, a lack of protection even for children in schools. Now, the leader of the opposition responding to the Prime Minister's words and indeed, what the Prime Minister had written in a national newspaper comparing Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition to Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, said that he wasn't going to fight such a personally divisive campaign.

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY: For me, real politics isn't about shouting matches in Parliament. I'm not interested. I don't do personal attacks. For me, real politics, the politics that I stand for, is about sharing power and wealth with people who don't have a lot of money, don't have friends in high places, so they can take control of their own lives. My job as leader of my party's task is to champion those people and bring about that real change.

ROBERTSON: Well, Corbyn going on to say that he will deliver a million new affordable homes, do away with food banks, do away with tuition fees for higher education at universities, but it's the government that really appears that had been on the back foot. There are spin doctors doctoring a video of a leading opposition, figure having to walk that back. One of the cabinet members, Boris Johnson's cabinet ministers, actually having to walk back comments that he'd made that were deemed to -- by many people to sort of be quite offensive.

And on top of that, then a government minister, another government minister, Secretary of State for Wales, resigning for what appears to be something in his constituency, that he'd been less than factual about in the past. So, they're out of the gate, they're campaigning. The government, however, seems a little bit on the back foot already. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: CNN's European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas, joins us now from Los Angeles. So, Dominic, bit of a shaky start to this election campaign for the conservatives, not just what Nic was outlining, but we have the watchdog group, openDemocracy, claiming that between November 2018 and October 2019, the Tories received at least, you know, about 490,000 pounds. That's about $630,000 U.S. from Russian donors, compared to less than 350,000 pounds, about $450,000 U.S. in the previous year. There are also these allegations the government was trying to bury an official report into Russian interference in the Brexit referendum. Listen to the Labour opposition go after that. Hey, they are. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMILY THORNBERRY, U.K. SHADOW FOREIGN SECRETARY: What is Downing Street so worried about? Why would they not welcome an official report into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 referendum, whether successful or otherwise? And I fear it is because they realize that this report will lead to other questions about the links between Russia and Brexit, and with the current leadership of the Tory party, which risks derailing their election campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Yes, and then, there's that column by Boris Johnson in the Daily Telegraph, with Nic mentioned this, you know, comparing the Labour opposition to Stalin. You know, Russia, Russia, Russia, and we've only just begun. Where does it all go from here?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Oh, John, I mean, this is just incredible. The next five weeks is in the level of negativity is going to be, you know, absolutely striking. Now, the big question is who benefits from this? There's some of this was outlined in what Nic said and up -- and in the lead. Obviously, if Russia is backing this, the goal is weakening European institutions whose been at the front line of doing that. The whole Brexit process, obviously, has been undermining the whole European project. So, you can see who gets to benefit from that.

One of the other big questions around this, though, of course, has to do with the -- and we keep talking about here being an outsider interference, but what we've seen is throughout this process, both Boris Johnson, and to certain extent, even over the Atlantic in the United States, you have a sitting President and Prime Minister, who are willing to mislead, who are willing to lie, who are willing to engage in conspiracy theories, and so on and so forth. And yet, the Conservative Party's main argument throughout this whole process is that somehow rather, the referendum reflected the will of the British people. What if those people had been manipulated, undermined by outside interests and so on and so forth? That raises, obviously, huge questions about the very legitimacy of the vote.

But I think in terms of where we go from this, as far as Boris Johnson is concerned, the last thing he wants is any kind of scrutiny for his own terrible record as prime minister since he came to office, let alone the fact that for almost a decade, the Tories have been in power.

[01:25:02]

So, how does he go about deflecting this? The only issue he's got to talk about is Brexit. He's at the helm, he controls that particular narrative. And the other one, of course, is not only attacking Jeremy Corbyn around whom he knows there's a particular level of toxicity, there are divisions in the Labour Party, but that the whole opposition itself is divided on the question of Brexit. So, the more he goes down that road with this inflammatory rhetoric, the more he gets to deflect from any kind of real scrutiny of his policies or issues.

VAUSE: And what we also have is that, you know, this is a Prime Minister who's sort of campaigning not just on your, let -- you get Brexit done, it's kind of almost less enthusiastic. Then, it's like, let's just get this mess sorted out and move on. Listen to Johnson. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: I can tell you, I've got to the stage where I'd be willing to chew my own tie in frustration, because in a sense, was so nearly there. We've got a deal, oven-ready, by which we can leave the E.U. in just a few weeks. It's a great deal for this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) is out on whether -- although, it's a great deal or bad deal, but there does seem to be a certain advantage in just having a deal in place agreed to by the E.U. It puts the fear of the economic turmoil for a no deal Brexit on the back burner, so they do not have to deal with. THOMAS: That is an advantage. But the fact remains that if all Boris Johnson has to worry about is eating his tie, we can't ignore everything that's been said about the impact of Brexit on the general British population. There are many people serving here in Parliament, and in the -- in the British public, who they represent, who will be really negatively impacted by Brexit. And so, of course, that's the issue.

But, yes, when you compare his deal, which is in place, the fact that the European Union is going to be extremely reluctant to reopen negotiations, that the Labour Party solution, which I've said all along this, is part of the problem, not the solution. It's that they are not -- I'm committed to remaining in the European Union, and therefore, when you compare that position with the Lib Dems and the -- and the Scottish National Party, you do not have an organized opposition here that has a position to really counter the government, and Boris Johnson can exploit that, as well, while also having a deal in his pocket.

But the tragedy of all of this, of course, is this is a huge post- second World War decision as so many people have said for the U.K. with tremendous consequences. And it'd be a real shame if the thing that pushed Brexit over the edge or got the deal, you know, in place was simply people being exhausted and fatigued by something that has major consequences for the future of the U.K..

VAUSE: Major consequences of, you know, a fundamental, you know, point -- turning point, I guess, you know, in Britain's history. And Johnson seems to be appealing to a bare majority of voters, those who want to leave the E.U. and maybe a few others, you know, who are just sick of the whole damn thing and want it over. Ultimately, that does not seem to be a long-term solution to end the divided Parliament all across the country.

THOMAS: No. And throughout, even with Theresa May calling a snap election rather than trying to engage in cross-party consultation. There's a strong likelihood here that Boris Johnson emerges with the, you know, the party with the greatest number of votes, but the possibility of it having a majority is in question. There's a lot of uncertainty about where voters will go vis-a-vis the Brexit party, and so on and so forth.

What we have here is a Parliament in so many ways that is going to possibly reproduce everything we've been watching for the past three years, and a system that is now operating to reflect the kind of changing times. We saw in so many elections in mainland Europe the ways in which parties have to form coalitions. And rather than people in Parliament thinking in coalitions, thinking about consensus, they are becoming more and more entrenched in their particular positions. And until they are able to get beyond that, there's unlikely to be any kind of solution to this problem.

VAUSE: Yes. Dominic, it's good to see you. Thanks for being with us. One last fact about all of this, more than 60 M.P.s are not standing for re-election, which says a lot in and of itself. Good to see you. Thanks for being with us. THOMAS: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Well, up next, the U.S. Defense Secretary and senior military leaders left scrambling to stop Donald Trump from advocating on behalf of American soldiers accused of war crimes.

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[01:32:43]

VAUSE: welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Public hearings in the Trump impeachment inquiry will begin next week. And the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor will be first to testify. Transcripts of his previous testimony show repeated demands from the Trump administration for Ukraine to open political investigation in exchange for military aid.

Mexican officials have found more than 200 bullets at the scene of a massacre that left three women and six children dead. It's not known who carried out the killings or why. But officials suspect at least one drug cartel was involved. Funerals are set to take place in just a few hours from now.

The British election campaign officially underway, the third general election in four years. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes the (INAUDIBLE) vote will give him a majority to fulfill his promise of Brexit. But the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is (INAUDIBLE) recent opinion polls may have underestimated the support of the opposition.

Granting presidential pardons have been a hallmark of this White House and Donald Trump has reportedly been considering a series of pardons for American soldiers accused of war crimes. And that has led to pleas from both the Defense Secretary and top brass to allow the military justice system to run its course.

CNN's Barbara Starr has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I do have full confidence in the military justice system.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Defense Secretary Mark Esper making his first public remarks about stopping President Trump from dismissing criminal cases against service members accused of potential war crimes.

ESPER: I had the chance to have a robust discussion with the President yesterday, and I offered as I do in all matters the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations and we'll see how things play out.

STARR: An administration official confirming to CNN the President is still considering the idea, an idea first reported on Fox News --

PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: That action is eminent.

STARR: -- which CNN has learned had Esper as well as Army and Navy leaders scrambling, assembling the case files in order to urge the President to let the military justice system take its course rather than appear to endorse troops charged and potentially convicted of wrongdoing.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: You could potentially put leaders in a difficult position in terms of their ability to enact good order and discipline on their own troops, if they believe that well, they can just get pardoned by the President.

[01:35:06]

STARR: On the list of accused service members: Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was found guilty in 2013 of second degree murder for ordering his men to fire on three men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan. Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who faced a court martial for killing a wounded prisoner, and shooting a civilian. He was found not guilty but was found guilty of posing for a photo with a person and he was demoted.

And Army Green Beret Major Matthew Goldsteyn, who was charged with the murder of an Afghan man. His lawyer has maintained the death occurred during a mission ordered by his superiors. Trump tweeted last month that the case of Major Matthew Goldsteyn is now under review at the White House. We train our boys to be killing machines then prosecute them when they kill?

Trained to be killing machines -- one when young officer said to me about that -- that is not who we are.

Barbara Starr, CNN -- the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: With that we'll take a short break. Back in a moment. You're watching CNN.

[01:36:13]

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VAUSE: Amid all the rancor, animosity and partisanship in Washington, there is now one thing Republicans and Democrats finally agree on -- extreme cruelty to animals is bad. And Congress has approved a bill which makes maiming or torturing animals a federal crime.

It comes with felony, charges fines and up to seven years in prison. There are exceptions for hunting and fishing for example. It is now up to President Trump to sign the bill into law.

Joining us now from Washington is the Jeffrey Flocken, president of the Humane Society International. Jeffrey -- thanks for coming in.

JEFFREY FLOCKEN, PRESIDENT, HUMANE SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL: Thank you -- John.

VAUSE: Let's start with a positive here, ok? So, finally the U.S. Congress can actually agree on something and that is that extreme cruelty to animals is bad and it should be punished. And, you know, no matter how you dice or slice it, it is a move in the right direction.

FLOCKEN: Absolutely. The U.S. Senate passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act which has been in the making now for almost a decade trying to get it passed. But with the new leadership in the House and the Senate now passing it, this bill is on its way to the President to be signed.

VAUSE: Ok. And we should note that this is a law which is not aimed at those who go fishing or those who go hunting. It is specifically aimed at people who make these so called crush videos. And just a warning -- if there's children in the room right now who are watching, it is probably best to take them away or to avoid that just for a moment because we're going to describe what these videos are like.

"New York Times" reports it this way. "Crush videos show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated or tortured. Women often appear in these videos with their faces shielded stomping or impaling small animals with stiletto heels."

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VAUSE: It is disgusting. It's vile. I think the vast majority of people would be unaware these videos even exist. This bill means those who make them, I guess, or appear in them could be jailed for up to seven years. It really doesn't seem long enough.

FLOCKEN: Yes. You know, honestly, this type of horrific cruelty needs to be stopped and this act though is a step in the right direction and makes it a federal crime to commit these horrific acts on animal on any kind of federal land or in violation of the commerce clause.

And the types of people who do these acts are the same types of people who are seen and known to be violent against other humans so this bill is moving us where we need to be to really stop animal cruelty. And there are laws like this that are happening all over the world. It's not just in the United States.

VAUSE: I'm just wondering if seven years will be enough of a deterrent, do you think?

FLOCKEN: Well, hopefully it will. Up to now, there was nothing. It was very limited -- the scope of the bill that passed before. And with the new law is not limited just to people videoing but it's any type of act of this type of cruelty against animals. So it really has expanded the definition of the crime. And now we can really hope that they'll be getting enforcement on and stop this horrible act. VAUSE: You touched on this and it was part of a statement put out by

the Republican Senator Pat Toomey who was a cosponsor of the bill. He said passing this legislation is a major victory in the effort to stop animal cruelty and make our communities safer. Evidence shows that the deranged individuals who harm animals often move on to committing acts of violence against people.

That seems to be a point which seems to be under the radar here a lot -- you know, those who abuse animal, it makes sense, you know, go on to abuse people.

FLOCKEN: Absolutely, and this bill is passed with unanimous support. So both parties agree that we need to stop horrific acts of violence against animals. So this is the good news at a time where there is, as you mentioned, great division within the parties and people.

But everyone is standing behind this. It is time to stop horrific acts of brutality on animals.

VAUSE: And one area of real cruelty is, you know, the fur farms, the fur trade -- and that took a pretty big blow with revelations in a new book by Angela Kelly (ph) who was Britain's Queen Elizabeth's senior dresser for many, many years, and she writes in this book, "If her majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather from 2019 onwards fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm."

You know, this is done very quietly. Not much of fanfare. But it's a very stark example of a monarch following public opinion in the U.K. which is moving away from fur and it very much embraces prevention of cruelty to the animals.

FLOCKEN: Absolutely -- the Queen is a fashion icon. And she has said she will no longer where new fur when she goes out in public. This is huge. But as you mentioned, it is following the trend.

Britain is moving towards going fur free, and actually ten years ago they banned fur farms for ethical reasons in the country. They were the first country to do that. Since then, another dozen countries in Europe have stopped fur farming. And we are hoping that soon there will be a British fur free movement and they'll stop sales as well.

We are seeing that companies are jumping on board, major fashion brand names like Burberry and (INAUDIBLE) and most recently Macy's and Bloomingdale's have all removed fur from their line.

So this is the way the world is going and the Queen has stepped up as a major influencer and jumped in and said, let's go fur free.

VAUSE: Yes. It is all very significant developments. It's all good news especially if you like animals. And if you don't then there's something wrong.

Jeffrey -- thank you for coming in. Good to see you. Thanks for coming.

FLOCKEN: Thank you so much -- John. VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.

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