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Televised Impeachment Hearings Begin Next Week; Trump Asked Barr to Hold News Conference Clearing Him on Ukraine; Roger Stone Trial Links Trump to 2016 Effort to Get Stolen Emails. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired November 7, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will begin our open hearings in the impeachment inquiry next week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White House officials most concerned about Bill Taylor, who told lawmakers there was an explicit quid pro quo.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm not going to read these transcripts. The whole process is a joke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His testimony will confirm the underlying narrative, which is that the president betrayed his oath of office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the immediate aftermath of the transcript being released, he wanted the attorney general to have a public appearance. Bill Barr declined.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a measure that he sees the gathering storm clouds on the horizon.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, November 7, 6 a.m. here in New York.
And in a few hours, impeachment investigators are expecting to hear from one of Vice President Mike Pence's staffers for the first time. A source tells CNN that Jennifer Williams, a senior adviser to the vice president, is willing to testify this morning if she is subpoenaed. Williams was on that phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's president, and we are told that she was concerned by what she heard.
The big question is whether former national security adviser John Bolton will appear today for testimony. There are new questions this morning about Attorney General Bill
Barr's role in the Ukraine controversy. "The Washington Post" is reporting that President Trump wanted Barr to hold a news conference, to declare that the president had not broken any laws during that July phone call. Well, Barr refused. And the president denies this entire story.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And this morning we know it's all going public. The first televised impeachment hearings will begin next week. The first witness to testify will be Ambassador William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine.
In his closed-door testimony, Taylor said it was his clear understanding that U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine was directly tied to President Zelensky's publicly announcing an investigation of the Bidens.
Taylor also testified it appeared Rudy Giuliani was the mastermind of this alleged shakedown, acting on behalf of President Trump. And this morning, we're told that ambassador Taylor is a witness who has the White House very, very nervous.
Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live this morning on Capitol Hill. Everything behind closed doors until now. Pretty soon the curtain goes up, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I think a lot of people are anxiously awaiting that for next week. We have at least five witnesses who've testified that President Trump tried to press Ukraine to launch these investigations for his personal political gain.
And at the same time, we've been speaking to many Republicans whose defense strategy has been changing from day to day. All of this while the world will get a chance to see and hear from some of these witnesses next week.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): House Democrats announcing televised public impeachment hearings will begin on Wednesday, starting with top diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor and deputy assistant secretary George Kent. Then next Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was fired from President Trump.
SCHIFF: Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves.
MALVEAUX: It comes after House investigators released more than 300 pages of Taylor's testimony from his bombshell deposition, where he revealed it was his clear understanding security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation.
Taylor also discussed his concerns with Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani's, involvement with Ukraine policy, calling it a nightmare. House Democrats hoping Taylor's public testimony will help shape their abuse of power case against President Trump.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): If you want an initial hit, someone to describe exactly what took place, I don't know if anyone is better than Ambassador Taylor.
MALVEAUX: Sources telling the White House worries what Taylor will say in public testimony. His earlier deposition was seen as damaging, alleging an explicit quid pro quo with Ukraine, with Trump freezing military aid in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations against the president's rivals for political gain.
Trump's Republican allies continue to change their defenses, including highlighting this part of Kurt Volker's testimony, telling lawmakers, "I didn't know that there was a quid pro quo."
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): His account is consistent with the fundamental facts. There was nothing wrong on the call transcript.
MALVEAUX: Other Republicans taking it a step further.
GRAHAM: What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.
MALVEAUX: Meantime, "The Washington Post" this morning reports that Attorney General William Barr rejected a request from the president to hold a news conference publicly declaring he did not break any laws during his July 25 phone call with Ukraine's leader. Despite the report, some House Democrats still remain cautious of Barr.
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Perhaps it is a measure that he sees of the gathering storm clouds on the horizon and he's being just a tad bit cautious here. But frankly, I'm not terribly trusting of Attorney General Barr, so we'll see.
MALVEAUX: Jennifer Williams, who's a senior adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is scheduled to testify this morning, a source telling CNN that she will actually show up to do that. She is key, as well, She was on that July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president.
Also, the first staffer from the vice president's office may be able to shed some light on his role, as well. The former national security adviser, John Bolton, who's also scheduled today. But Alisyn, we do know that he would be a no-show.
CAMEROTA: Oh, OK. Thank you for that reporting very much, Suzanne.
As Suzanne just reported, the American public will soon hear directly from the witness -- witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. So how will this play out? All of that is next.
[06:09:32] CAMEROTA: OK. Developing story overnight. There's a new report in "The Washington Post" that says that President Trump wanted Attorney General Bill Barr to hold a news conference to declare publicly that the president had broken no laws during that July phone call with Ukraine's president. Barr, for some, reason declined to do so.
Let's talk about it. Joining us now, we have CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.
BERMAN: The knowing look you just gave me indicated that you think something is going on there. That he declined to do so. What does that mean?
CAMEROTA: Well, here's why I have that knowing look. He's done it in the past. Of course, President Trump thinks that Bill Barr would come out to defend him. With the Mueller report, Bill Barr was the first to release that misleading summary that was -- that ended up giving people the wrong impression about the Mueller report.
So why wouldn't President Trump think that Bill Barr was going to do it again? And furthermore, why didn't Bill Barr want to come out and do that?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's really the question, is why didn't he do it? Because he has, at other times, seemed willing to go kind of as far as President Trump wants him to go on this.
But what's been interesting about his involvement in this whole saga is that he's been trying to say I have nothing to do with this from the beginning.
He was mentioned in the transcript multiple times. The president seemed to be roping him into this effort to get dirt on Joe Biden. And then after that was released, the State Department had to -- I'm sorry. The Justice Department had to put out a statement, basically saying, we don't know anything about this. We are not involved in this in any way. Bill Barr has never investigated Joe Biden or has never been asked to.
And then subsequently, when Mick Mulvaney claimed that this effort was part of some kind of legitimate Justice Department investigation, the department put out a blind statement saying we don't know what he's talking about.
So there's clearly a line here that Bill Barr doesn't seem to want to cross. And it actually shows -- goes to show just how inappropriate some people think this whole saga is. It is clearly not something that is on the up and up, that everybody is perfectly cool and happy with.
BERMAN: You see that? JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was under the impression
that there was a perfect call, and there was nothing wrong. Are you saying some people in the Justice Department may have a problem with this?
Look, I think you're exactly right that part of the problem is that Trump was floating Barr along with Rudy in the transcript. And that would normally -- you know, a normal human with a sense of shame would say, hold on, don't bring me into your mess.
But remember, the Justice Department got involved with this in the beginning by looking at the whistle-blower, saying basically there was no thing of value. Therefore, the president broke no laws. The DOJ already had that with regard to the whistle-blower's report. It would seem, though, there is a limit to how far Bill Barr is willing to go to sully his reputation on Donald Trump's behalf.
BERMAN: It raises questions about that. It raises questions if there's a line between Barr and Giuliani. And maybe, you know, Barr won't lift a finger to help Giuliani.
AVLON: Watch that space.
BERMAN: I want to talk about these public impeachment hearings that will begin next week. Let's throw up on the screen who we're going to hear from. The first witness will be Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine. And then we're going to hear from George Kent, the State Department official and then the most recent U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who lost her job, Marie Yovanovitch.
Bill Taylor is the witness, we are told, the White House fears this morning. Because he tells a very clear story of what he saw as a shakedown, an American shakedown of Ukraine to get an investigation of the Bidens.
And in his written transcript, he says, "That was my clear understanding. Security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation."
And he's going to say that out loud, I guess, next week. Will that change things?
PHILLIP: Will it change things? Unclear. It's not clear what it's going to take for real change to happen, which is -- which is defined by Republicans in the Senate changing their view on the situation.
However, what it will do is put what is in these voluminous transcripts out there into the world, coming out of the mouth of a real person and coming out of some -- the mouth of someone who the White House is going to have a much more difficult time disparaging than the way that they've tried to disparage the whistle-blower. And disparage even Colonel Vindman as some kind of "Never Trumper."
I also think that what Taylor does is really important for the Democrats in terms of putting it in the context of American foreign policy and American national security. He outlines why he believed that that -- such a quid pro quo was damaging to American interests. And that's a critical part of the -- I think, the sort of public facing part of this. Just convincing the American public it's not just that this was inappropriate. It was also dangerous.
AVLON: Right. And one of the things we learned from testimony is that he's saying, look, Russia is happy about this. You want to know who benefits? The president may think he may benefit politically from this, but Vladimir Putin is benefitting geopolitically. And those are sort of the stakes whenever you're dealing with Ukraine.
Look, with regard to the televised hearings, when the American people see something as well as read about it, it's going to have more impact. It will escalate the partisan food fight around all these witnesses. The Republicans are in a tight corner. Doesn't mean they'll be forced to that critical threshold where enough senators are going to vote to remove. I wouldn't have anyone hold their breath about that.
But this is going to ratchet up pressure dramatically on the president and elevate this even further in the mind of the American people.
CAMEROTA: I mean, I have, coming up in the program, a voter panel with some swing voters. And they just say, very candidly, that they don't have time to read hundreds of pages of transcripts.
BERMAN: They could be senators from South Carolina. That qualifies them to be Lindsey Graham, who will not read the transcript.
CAMEROTA: You make an excellent point.
AVLON: That is such an important point. The absurdity of the defense.
BERMAN: We'll talk more about Lindsey Graham in a second.
CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you, guys. Stick around for a second.
BERMAN: Also, one year after being fired by President Trump, former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is going to announce he's running for his old Senate seat. So how will the president respond to that?
BERMAN: New questions this morning about President Trump's involvement in the effort to obtain Democratic stolen emails by the Russians in 2016. Telephone records released at the trial of the president's longtime friend and political advisor, Roger Stone, show that Stone spoke with the president, then-candidate, three times the same day that news of the DNC hack broke.
This comes as prosecutors have announced that Steve Bannon and Rick Gates are expected to testify against Roger Stone. Back with us, Abby Phillip and John Avlon.
John, I was struck yesterday by the reporting out of the Roger Stone trial. He's on trial for lying to Congress about what he communicated to the campaign and others about the WikiLeaks break in.
He's not on trial for his conversations with the president. So the fact that the prosecutors came out with that information, that we did not know. We did not know that he had three phone calls on one day, two phone calls on another day with key -- with the president on key moments during this hack. That was news to me.
AVLON: That is news. And it fills out the picture of a president who, behind the scenes, was obsessed with trying to get Hillary's emails by any means necessary.
And we've seen more details with the Mueller investigation notes that have come out, showing he was much more actively inquiring about them in private. But now we've got a specific timeline.
And who's the apparent conduit? Roger Stone. A notorious dirty trickster. That's what he does. And their defense, notably, is that, you know, he was up to no good, but he wasn't very good at it. It's sort of an incompetent defense. He was fronting more ability to get those emails than he perhaps actually did.
But the president's getting brought into this. And the members of the team are now firing on each other within the context of this trial.
BERMAN: I guess I was just surprised. The prosecutors didn't need to bring the president in, in order to make their case against Roger Stone. So I'm very curious as to what else we'll hear.
CAMEROTA: Well, you should be curious. Because Steve Bannon is a wild card. I mean, we have no idea if Steve Bannon shows up and is a hostile kind of reluctant witness, or if he shows up and gives prosecutors what we want.
What we do know is that Steve Bannon and Roger Stone had all sorts of conversations during the campaign, in which one of them, reportedly, was Roger Stone saying to Steve Bannon, basically, I know how to get the president to win, but it's not going to be pretty.
What does that mean?
PHILLIP: Yes. And I think this is the point at which everybody starts throwing each other under the bus.
But I mean, Roger Stone has been the notable dirty trickster or whatever. He -- this is what he -- he prides himself on, is going a little further than everybody else is willing to go on behalf of his friend Donald Trump.
So the extent to which Steve Bannon is going to sort of distance himself from that by testifying against him will be interesting to see, especially now that Steve Bannon seems to be trying to work his way back into Trumpland.
PHILLIP: He has been publicly out there defending the president. He had been on the outs for a long time.
So it's coming at an interesting time for Steve Bannon, as he's trying to regain favor in Trump world.
BERMAN: Rick Gates, former deputy campaign manager, will also testify. They're holding off sentencing on Gates until after he testifies. So he may even have more relevant things to say, as well.
Abby, quickly, Jeff Sessions, former attorney general, former Alabama senator, going to announce today or tomorrow he is going to run for his old Senate seat a year to the day-ish after he was fired as the attorney general. The question here is, is the president, who has been relentless in his criticism of Jeff Sessions over the year --
BERMAN: -- we have some things he says.
CAMEROTA: "He was a disaster. He's an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama." I think --
BERMAN: Just a total -- yes, exactly. He's just gone after him. Is he going to do it again?
PHILLIP: Well, clearly his aides think that he is so upset about this that they've been trying to warn Jeff Sessions don't do this, because the president has been raving about it behind the scenes, saying that he doesn't -- you know, that he still hates Jeff Sessions, essentially. That, you know, it's not water under the bridge.
I still think it's an open question how much does the president want to regain that Senate seat? I think he really does care about whether or not he holds onto Senate seats.
And if Jeff Sessions is the only path forward to taking that seat away from Doug Jones, the Democratic senator, then maybe Donald Trump will put it aside for now. But there's also the prospect that Sessions will have a primary challenger. Will Trump put his thumb on the scale there? I don't know.
But it's -- what is clear, the president is not over this. He is still angry. He still hates Jeff Sessions.
CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about Senator Lindsey Graham.
AVLON: And other mature emotions.
CAMEROTA: And what Lindsey Graham is now saying about the ask of investigations into President Trump's political rivals, in exchange for military assistance. Listen to Lindsey Graham yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: But 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)
CAMEROTA: That's a new one. And by the way, if one thing the ask wasn't, it was incoherent. Because every single person has said, from Bill Taylor to Colonel Vindman to, now, Gordon Sondland, to Marie Yovanovitch, everybody saw the same thing. Everybody had the same message.
AVLON: This is the descent of man being acted out by Lindsey Graham. A few weeks ago, it was, look, if there's any objective evidence of quid pro quo, I'd be real concerned.
Now we have basically consensus evidence of quid pro quo. And instead, Lindsey Graham is saying, "I'm not going to read the transcripts." A literal no-nothing position, as opposed to confronting the facts. And now this.
And what I love about this is it's the -- it's the perfect encapsulation of what a lot of the last line of Donald Trump's defense is. Which is he's incompetent. He's a large malevolent child. You can't hold him to the same standards as other humans, let alone presidents.
And so there just -- there's no way they could have even executed this. Stop beating up on the baby. This is the argument one of his staunchest defenders in the Senate is making. And it's nuts.
PHILLIP: It's just so untrue. I mean, and how would he even know? He hasn't read the transcripts. He doesn't know what all these people have testified. But had he read the transcripts, he would see that the testimony is strikingly consistent. Everybody says the same thing. This was U.S. policy, and the thing that Rudy Giuliani was doing was not U.S. policy.
So it's kind of a sort of a non-starter argument. Lindsey Graham is also on an island. I think there are not that many other people joining him here.
CAMEROTA: I'm still laughing. Stop beating up on the baby.
PHILLIP: Don't put Baby in a corner.
BERMAN: Look, as they say in "Spinal Tap," it's not your job to be as confused as Nigel. Like, if you're the president, it's not your job to be as confused as Nigel. That's not an excuse.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, you guys. Thank you very much for helping us attempt to analyze all of this. Abby, John, thank you, guys, very much. All right. Now to this really grisly story that we've been following
for you. The Mormon community is -- in Mexico, they are in mourning, of course, after the murder of nine Americans. CNN is at the scene of the massacre. And we bring you what we found there, next.