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CNN Reports, Democrats Could Wrap Up Impeachment By Christmas; Source Says, Anonymous Book Claims Senior Officials Believe Vice President Pence Supports Use Of 25th Amendment; GOP's Defense Of Trump In Ukraine Scandal Changes Daily. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I don't think I'm fire, but I know I'm out of time. Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS today. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Check our podcast and some Twitter questions.

Dana Bash in today for Brianna Keilar, and she starts right now. Have a great afternoon.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: I'm Dana Bash live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, we're standing by for the release of even more transcripts in the impeachment inquiry as we wait for closed-door hearings. As we wait that happening, closed-door hearings are continuing. And right now, Jennifer Williams, one of Vice President Mike Pence's top aides, is being questioned by lawmakers specifically about what Pence may have known about a quid pro quo. And Williams was on that July 25th call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.

We also know she traveled with the vice president to Warsaw, Poland where he met with President Zelensky in early September.

I want to get straight to CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. And, Manu, I know you've got some news to tell us about. Go for it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, we do. The Democrats in the House are now signaling they're on a fast track

on their impeachment probe. And they made a number of new steps they have taken that show that President Trump could be impeached by the end of the year in just a matter of weeks.

And you're seeing these steps taken in a few different ways. One, the move to public hearings next week, two, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff made clear in a letter to his Republican counterparts today that they were not going to bring back all of the witnesses in closed-door depositions to come for public hearings. And also two actions that could delay potentially prolonged court battles. One, they withdrew a subpoena for a top official, a National Security Council official who used to work there, Charles Kupperman, because they were concerned that could drag out in court, and also today the decision not to subpoena the former national security adviser, John Bolton, because Bolton's attorney informed the committee that if he got a subpoena, they would fight that in court, and the committee said they were not going to get dragged into a long term of, quote, rope-a-dope that could delay their proceedings for months.

So now what this is looking like is this, Dana, that Democrats expect public hearings will begin next week. It could carry on to the week after. Then we head into a recess week, which is going to be the Thanksgiving week. At that point, that's where a report will be drafted up by the Intelligence Committee along with two other committees detailing their recommendations and their findings of their probe.

At that point, the House Judiciary Committee would take up the proceedings from there. That's the first week of December that Judiciary Committee proceedings could take one to two weeks. They could have a public hearing. And they could then move to vote on articles of impeachment in the Committee, kicking it up to the full House to take it up the week before Christmas.

Now, that would essentially also historically be in line with the timeline of President Bill Clinton, who was impeached in late December, in 1998, 31 years later. It's still unclear, it could still evolve, it's fluid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declined to put a timeframe explicitly on this, nor she shared her thinking with her colleagues. Democrat sources say this is going to certainly change.

But at the moment, these steps that have been taken show that this new phase of this investigation is taking shape, it could happen rapidly, and the president could be just third in history to get impeached in just a matter of weeks.

BASH: That's so interesting, Manu. That's great reporting.

And on the public testimony, which does start next week, as you mentioned, Republicans are able to request their own witnesses. Not sure they're actually going to get it because it would require a full committee vote. But who do we expect them to request?

RAJU: Well, Jim Jordan, the top Republican in the House Oversight Committee, made clear this morning that they plan to request the whistleblower to come and testify publicly. They have a deadline until Saturday to make that request.

They have been demanding for some time for the whistleblower to come forward, to identify himself or herself, align himself with the president's demands to out the whistleblower. But, of course, we don't expect the Democrats to agree with that. Democrats, ultimately, will make that decision on who to bring forward.

But after the three witnesses they have scheduled for next week, we do expect some more witnesses. But as I said earlier, we have probably not more than two weeks of public hearings at the moment, although that could certainly change, and we'll see what Adam Schiff ultimately agrees to in allowing which Republican witnesses to come forward. Dana?

BASH: That's going to be one of the next big fights, for sure. Manu, thank you so much for that reporting.

And now we're going to turn to a peek inside a highly anticipated book reportedly written by an anonymous senior White House official. In it, the author claims that top White House aides were certain that Vice President Mike Pence would support an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would remove a president from office due to mental incapacity.

Now, today, in New Hampshire, the vice president was asked about this. Let's listen to what he said.

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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When those rumors came out a few years ago, I dismissed them then.

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I never heard any discussion in my entire tenure as vice president about the 25th Amendment. And why would I?

I have to tell you, the very notion of this anonymous who wrote an editorial and now it's reported they've written a book is just appalling to me. If there's someone in our administration or serving in our administration that doesn't support this president, doesn't support his agenda, they should do the honorable thing and resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: CNN Anchor Jake Tapper joins us now with more.

Nice to see you. You have been talking to sources about this. What are you hearing?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all, we should note that what is in the excerpt is not actually what the vice president is rebutting there. It doesn't say that Vice President Pence discussed the 25th Amendment.

What I was told by a source close to the publishing of this book is that the Huffington Post's Yashar Ali, who first broke this story last night, that his reporting is accurate. And that reporting says that according to anonymous, this senior Trump administration official, we don't know if he's current or former or if it's a he even, says that highly-placed White House officials did a back of the envelop tally of which cabinet officials might sign off on the 25th Amendment to get rid of President Trump. And, quote, according to anonymous, there was no doubt in their minds of these senior officials that Vice President Pence would support invoking the 25th Amendment if the majority of the cabinet signed off on it.

Now, we should point out these discussions were never formalized. The cabinet was never polled on this issue in a formal way and it never came to Vice President Pence. So when he says he never discussed it, that's entirely possible but not at all inconsistent with this excerpt.

BASH: Exactly. Both could be true. They could have assumed, which it looks they did, that he would sign off on it but never brought it to him.

Let's talk about the 25th Amendment in general, because Congress passed it after JFK's assassination, because it became clear to the Constitution it didn't actually have a path for what happens if a president or vice president dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated by any kind of illness, including mental illness or injury.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, that happened to Woodrow Wilson. He had a debilitating illness and the first lady, basically, took over. What's interesting about this is that this is not the first time that this has been discussed.

Individuals in the administration talking about the 25th Amendment when it comes to President Trump's, I guess, mental health, I don't know what's in the minds of these individuals who discussed it, but you might remember The New York Times reported, and then James Stewart, the reporter, also reported in his book, Deep State, that there were discussions at the Department of Justice by then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and others about whether or not the 25th Amendment would be invoked and whether or not then Chief of Staff Kelly or Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, or others would go along with it.

Rosenstein has said that the stories are not true. But in any case, this is not the first time we've heard a similar story, people at high levels of the Trump administration discussing the 25th Amendment. And it all seems to have been around the same period of time, which is when President Trump had James Comey, then the FBI director, fired and then Mueller was appointed and President Trump had a period of time where a lot of his aides even thought that his behavior was rather unhinged.

BASH: Fascinating. That's an important point. There were a lot of people panicking, obviously.

Thank you so much for that reporting.

TAPPER: Of course.

BASH: Good to see you, Jake.

And Republicans are test-driving two new defenses of President Trump, including that he's too inept for a quid pro quo.

Plus, the president is denying that he asked Bill Barr to clear him of wrongdoing in a public press conference. Plus, chilling remarks from the French president bluntly saying President Trump is killing NATO, which he describes as brain dead.

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BASH: Back to our breaking news. CNN reporting this hour that the start of public hearings next week starts a timeline that could lead to a Christmas impeachment.

With us to talk about that, former DOJ prosecutor Joseph Moreno, former CIA officer Kevin Carroll and CNN National Security Reporter, Kylie Atwood.

Let me start with you about this timeline. You worked on the Hill. You understand how this works. What does it tell you?

KEVIN CARROLL, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I think it's a doable timeline. it depends how many witnesses they actually choose to call for live testimony, if they're going to have rebuttal witnesses, for example, for the president. And also it depends on if they're willing to cut their holiday short. There's typically a lot of recess on Capitol Hill around Thanksgiving.

BASH: Well, you know lawmakers.

CARROLL: Yes, they want to get back home from the district.

BASH: Yes.

CARROLL: So it's doable but it's a tight schedule.

BASH: And, Kylie, I know you're in touch with sources who are in touch with the people who will be the witnesses in this public testimony. What are you hearing about this and how much of a spotlight this is?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. I mean, I think it's important to recognize that the three people that are providing open testimony next week are all career foreign service officers, right? So these are folks that are connected to the State Department and they are also key witnesses because they kind of speak to one another.

So you have the top U.S. diplomat, Bill Taylor, who is in Ukraine.

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He gives the version of events that happened while he was in Ukraine over the summer. And then you have George Kent, who was a top State Department official that was speaking to him. He gives the Washington version of events. And so they kind of mirror one another. They fill out what the other one doesn't know. And then, of course, we have Ambassador Yovanovitch, and she is really a key player here because she was forced out. So I think it's important to recognize that they're all State Department officials and that they are folks who have come forward and provided full testimony. They're not like Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who went back and revised what he initially said. They came forth and provided everything they had when they were asked.

BASH: Yes, okay. So those are the witnesses that the Democrats who are in charge have officially called. We know that's going to happen. The rules of the road are such that Republicans can say, wait, we want our own witnesses. It has to be a full committee vote, which means it's pretty doubtful that they'll actually be successful. But Jim Jordan, the Congressman who is involved in this, says that they could call the whistleblower. Is there any chance that they could be successful?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I mean, they could try, but you're really playing with fire here.

I mean, in the corporate world, there are laws like Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank that provide extensive protections for whistleblowers. And the government hates it when corporate America retaliates against whistleblowers. The same goes here against the government whistleblower.

So I think -- I bet --

BASH: But does it -- I'm sorry to interrupt. But do government whistleblowers have those same protections as corporate whistleblowers?

MORENO: Well, you have protections against retaliation. Now, you don't have protection against being subpoenaed. So, ultimately, Republicans could try this. My though is that they're really playing with fire because the perception could be that they're outing this person not because he or she has firsthand knowledge just as a form of retaliation to say, you know what, we're going to make an example out of him or her or anybody else who tries to do the same thing.

BASH: And, Kevin, on that note, Senator Lindsey Graham was arguing that whistleblowers aren't promised anonymity. They're just promised protection from being fired.

CARROLL: He's narrowly correct, but there's aspects to it that he's missing. One, if the whistleblower is a member of the CIA Clandestine Service, then anonymity would be a criminal violation of the Intelligence Identity's Protection Act.

Even if they're part of the more analytical bits of the CIA, you would still be really restricting that man and woman, that officer in their career going forward, as far as foreign travel. You'd be exposing them and their family potentially to violence here at home given the overheated political environment we're in.

BASH: And so I just want to say this, because we are, in some ways, playing into the Republican red herring here by even talking about the whistleblower, because the whistleblower was the initial source of this, right? But we're way beyond that, right, Kylie?

ATWOOD: Completely.

BASH: I mean, the whole argument that he or she made has been proven or at least discussed in actual depositions by the people he or she was apparently talking about, right?

ATWOOD: Yes. So the whistleblower provided the outline for what we have seen, but now we're seeing the essay they've actually written, right? We are seeing these folks who are the characters fill in the details, give us more details that the whistleblower didn't even know about because that person wasn't as intimately involved as the folks that we have now heard testimony under oath from. So we are really beyond the point of the whistleblower being a key player here just because we know a lot more now than we did then.

BASH: Well, it's easy politically, and you were on the Hill. I'm guessing you're nodding your head to put the blame on a nameless, faceless person rather than deal with the facts in front. Kylie, Kevin, Joseph, thank you so much, all three of you, for that discussion.

And a sobering warning from the French president. Emmanuel Macron says NATO is brain dead and allies can no longer rely on the U.S.

Plus, Lindsey Graham is pushing back on the president saying Senate Republicans will be the ones to decide whether the Bidens will testify in the impeachment inquiry.

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BASH: As House Democrats sprint ahead with their impeachment inquiry, Republicans are testing out potential defense strategies in plain sight.

CNN correspondent Tom Foreman is here.

And, Tom, it's really remarkable, we're watching Republicans real-time throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly true. And just look at some of the things we've heard. Early on, one of the first claims we heard was that this was a perfect call. The president said over again, there was nothing wrong with it.

The whistleblower was wrong about what he said about it. That's been proven not to be the case. It doesn't seem so perfect with all that we've heard about it. No quid pro quo, there was no one thing for something else. The evidence says that's not really the case. And then there's the joker defense, basically, that the president was just fooling around about some of the things he said.

Now, we've heard, well, the whistleblower is a partisan. No evidence of that. This is basically the work of a spy and this is all hearsay, that people are just making it up. We have people who were on the call who knew about it first firsthand. It's not all made up. And now, we hear all this talk about it's all a secret process. There are Democrats and Republicans involved and has had been from the beginning, and now it's moving into a public phase. There is nothing secret about it. Just opinions, no, some these are facts. People are saying what they saw, what they knew.

And then we come to this latest range that has come up lately. The idea that this is not impeachable in part because the Trump White House has an incoherent policy, they effectively don't know what they're doing with Ukraine.

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Listen to what Senator Lindsey Graham said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: That is just an amazing claim. But, Dana, here's the only thing people really have to remember if you're looking at it. I don't care if you're for Trump or against him. Look at all these things that the Republicans have said, and what you don't see here are clear answers in a broad way to two main questions.

Is it correct for a sitting president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political foe who, in fact, seemingly coerce them into doing it? And the second question, if it's not proper for that happen, what is the proper punishment for that president? The Republicans are not answering those questions.

BASH: That's exactly right, Tom. And it's so important to keep focus on those core questions. Thank you so much for that. I appreciate it.

And joining me now is is Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly, who sits on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees.

First, your reaction to Senator Lindsey Graham suggesting that the Trump administration is just too inept to bribe a foreign leader.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): It's extraordinary. The only thing missing in Lindsey Graham's defense is an insanity plea, which actually might work better than an incompetence plea.

One is just struck with the complete collapse of even the pretense of a defense of the president's behavior. And I don't think that serves him well in the face of an impeachment inquiry and likely articles of impeachment to be voting on by the House.

BASH: Well, let's look at something that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, tweeted in the last 24 hours. He tweeted that the Ukrainian investigation was done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges that kept changing as one after another was disproven.

So what he's saying is the request that he was making of Ukraine were to advance his client, the president's personal interests. What's your reaction?

CONNOLLY: Well, I mean, Giuliani is all over the place and is himself in legal jeopardy. He is apparently the subject of a federal investigation, and two of his cronies have been indicted for crimes. So I hardly think Giuliani is the dispositive source for enlightening us.

BASH: True, but what does that tell you, the fact that he is saying, explicitly, he was trying to advance the president's personal interests while dealing with government officials and directed to deal with government officials by the president?

CONNOLLY: I take that as an admission that he was furthering the purpose of the original phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky which was to extort the Ukrainian president give him political dirt on a prospective political opponent in exchange for military aid that was held and a prospective visit between the two presidents, which was highly desirable by the new president of Ukraine.

BASH: Congressman Connolly, I want to talk about what my colleague, Manu Raju, just reported, which is that you and your fellow are Democrats have signaling that you are now fast-tracking the impeachment proceedings, avoiding a court battle, which are clearly starting to and by and about people who don't want to comply with a subpoena, limiting the number of witnesses at public hearings and that the impeachment could be done in the House as soon as this month. Is that a strategy that you support?

CONNOLLY: I certainly support expediting the process. I don't think it needs to be dragged out. I think we have the facts and the basic narrative in front of us, and have for quite some time. And we need to remember, this is preceded by a very extensive report and investigation by Robert Mueller, public hearings with respect to Robert Mueller, including his own testimony, as well as other public hearings related to these issues.

So it's not like this is being done on, you know, the cheap and dirty. This is a two-year process that's being culminated in the articles of impeachment the Judiciary will draw --

BASH: Well, that's interesting. You just talked about the Mueller investigation. Will that be part of the articles of impeachment?

CONNOLLY: I certainly hope so. I don't believe we can proceed without addressing obstruction of justice, which was very carefully documented and described by Robert Mueller in his report.

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