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Michael Bloomberg Gears Up for a Potential Presidential Run; Anonymous Author Paints Damning Portrait of President Trump. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired November 8, 2019 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What a week it has been. We made it to Friday. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And what could happen on Friday? Imagine that.

HARLOW: Who knows?

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. This could really shake things up. A battle of the billionaires. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg now considering jumping into the 2020 race as a Democrat. Potentially major reversal for him after saying he would not run back in March. A source now says Bloomberg is wavering. He's concerned over how the current slate of Democratic candidates would match up against President Trump in the general election next fall.

HARLOW: Yes. That is big. We'll talk all about that. Also this morning, add acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to the list of no-shows this week defying a House subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

No shows or not this week has been and has seen a slew of pretty damaging testimony. We could hear reaction from the president on all of it in moments when he's set to leave the White House and what he has to say about the whistleblower's lawyer's warning to the White House to stop the attacks in a cease-and-desist letter. He says the president's rhetoric could put lives at risk -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The president sent his own cease-and-desist letters through the years.

Let's start, though, with the latest on impeachment. CNN congressional corporate Phil Mattingly, he's live on Capitol Hill.

So they subpoena Mulvaney, Phil, and I imagine they did not expect Mulvaney to show up. So what's the intention here?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, I think -- well, it's twofold. One, you're right. Democrats did not expect Mick Mulvaney to show up. They subpoenaed him knowing that he would defy the subpoena. He and other top White House officials have been very clear they would do just that no matter what Democrats try to do. But you also have to remember, Democrats are building a case here. And every subpoena that is ignored will almost certainly become a piece of an Article of Impeachment on obstruction. So that's why they're pursuing things like giving a subpoena, even though they know that he's not going to come in.

The problem here with the lack of willingness of Mulvaney to show up is that there is a hole in what Democrats have been trying to do here. They have made very clear over the course and we've seen it in the transcripts of the testimony that had been released that there was a widespread understanding inside the State Department among government officials that they believed a quid pro quo was in place.

For the U.S. to release security assistance to Ukraine, they needed a public statement from the Ukrainians about investigations into political rivals of President Trump. What they don't have is an explicit direction from President Trump to his top officials. That's where people like Mick Mulvaney would be important. They haven't gotten that yet to this point. And so that remains a little bit of a hole.

But don't make any mistake about it. This will play into the eventual Articles of Impeachment but it will just be about obstruction as opposed to quid pro quo -- guys.

HARLOW: Yes. Also yesterday we saw the transcript of what the deputy assistant secretary of State, who oversaw all Ukraine policy, George Kent, actually said to lawmakers under oath. What is most striking?

MATTINGLY: I think there's a couple parts of it. One, it lines up so evenly with what we've seen from other top diplomats that have come in, career folks at the State Department, who've come in and testified. And we've seen their transcripts in the wake of that. The fact that the State Department was basically running on a parallel universe from the administration's policy on Ukraine where Rudy Giuliani was leading things from the periphery.

A campaign of lies is what was described by George Kent related to how Rudy Giuliani and some of his allies were attempting to oust the sitting Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, somebody who will be testifying publicly next week. But there was also George Kent's understanding of the alleged quid pro quo. His understanding that he believed that the administration was requiring that public statement in order to release or -- either ordered to release the security assistance or to arrange a sit-down with the president.

So there's that as well. Again, there's no direct connection to the president but it makes very clear whether it's E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, whether it's Kurt Volker or whether it's others who were in the top echelons of the administration's Ukraine policy there was a significant problem here based on how the career folks saw it. You will also see George Kent testifying next week. He'll be in public on Wednesday.

Again, Democrats trying to paint the entire picture of an administration that they believe in at least some way had gone rogue on Ukraine. That's the central thesis to things. The big question, though, is can they prove or can they make clear that a quid pro quo came directly from the president. That we'll have to wait and see on, guys.

HARLOW: Yes. That's the line that they're seeing if it's drawn or not.


Phil, thanks. Great reporting. We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Joining us now from the White House, CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns.

The president is going to walk on to the White House lawn not far from you in a few minutes. Who do we expect him to be in attack mode against today?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anybody's guess, but I can tell you the president is heading out to Buckhead, as well as Atlanta, Georgia. He's also expected to be accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence. And they're going to be attending what's being billed as a Black Voices for Trump event. A nationwide coalition to try to gin up more support for the president from African-American voters which polls suggest might be an uphill climb for him.

But if the president does stop, one of the questions of the day today, very likely is going to be that letter from the whistleblower's attorney, one of the attorneys, citing statements the president has made regarding the whistleblower suggesting he might be a spy, saying the media ought to get his name out there. And also accusing the president essentially of things like witness tampering and essentially saying the president should cease and desist. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: We'll be waiting for those comments. Of course we'll bring those to you live.

Joe Johns, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about all these headlines. Robert Litt is here, former general counsel for the DNI in the Obama administration, and Shane Harris joins us, intelligence and national security correspondent for "The Washington Post."

Good morning to you both.

Let me begin with you, Robert, just on Mulvaney. I mean, Dems knew he wasn't going to come, obviously. Was this strategic in terms of adding, you know, to another Article of Impeachment of obstructing Congress?

ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FOR DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, absolutely, it was strategic. Of course, if Mulvaney had showed up, they would have been happy with that, but they didn't expect him to. And it's also clear that they are not even pursuing the course of trying to get the courts to decide this issue because by the time that issue gets all the way through the district court and the court of appeals and the Supreme Court, we're going to be towards the end of next year.

And so what they've decided to do is just say, here are all these people. Their testimony is critical to this impeachment inquiry. The president is blocking them from testifying. That is an obstruction of Congress' legitimate function. And I do expect we'll see that as one of the elements of the impeachment.

SCIUTTO: Shane, there's one consistent point you hear and I asked Jerry Nadler the same question yesterday, is that Democrats appear confident that even without these senior administration officials who are refusing to testify, this long line of folks from George Kent to Bill Taylor, et cetera, give them enough evidence. Jerry Nadler called it damning evidence. And that they're going to proceed with a pretty aggressive timeline to have this all wrapped up by Christmas. Is that realistic?

SHANE HARRIS, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think so. I mean, in terms of actually the process we've seen going along now. It's been very regimented, very disciplined, and this narrative is not changing. Each one of these witnesses just confirms and sort of elaborates and adds some new nuance maybe to what people said before. But the story just kind of keeps going deeper. It's not fanning out and it's not being contradicted.

I think they've got a pretty tight schedule, but they can move to these open hearings next week. They're going to watch where the polls go with that. The polls clearly have been going in a favorable direction as far as Democrats would consider in terms of a majority or a plurality in some polls being in favor of impeachment and removal. And like you said, I think they feel like they've got the evidence they need. It's a fairly concise, easy to understand story. Why complicate it by dragging it out.

HARLOW: Guys, listen to this. This is a line that struck us from the testimony released yesterday from George Kent, again, who ran sort of all things Ukraine policy at State. Quote, "POTUS," meaning the president, "wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to a microphone and say, investigations, Biden and Clinton."

Shane, you are arguing this is the clearest picture yet of nonpartisan diplomats making the existence of a quid pro quo impossible, nearly impossible at this point to debate.

HARRIS: Right, right. I think he is -- Kent is unambiguous there in his statements, right? I mean, and really saying, look, as far as he was concerned, and it's corroborated by others, this is what the president wanted. And absent the president of Ukraine going out and making these commitments that aid was not going to flow. And remember these are career officials. They don't take political stances.

They're there to execute a policy and that policy of the administration was to provide that aid to Ukraine and they are saying, what is the problem here? And it's very suspicious. And when it becomes clear what the problem is, they sound the alarm.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, to echo Poppy there, the language on that line is so unequivocal. And this is a deputy assistant secretary in the State Department, that is no small position. Those DAS's as they're known have -- takes a while to get to that position. They have enormous influence over policy.

Bob Litt, what you don't have yet, correct, is someone testifying under oath like a Mulvaney or a Sondland saying the president called me and said do X. Do it on this. Now you also at the same time have a new Republican strategy, "Washington Post" has a story out today, of starting to throw Giuliani, Sondland, Mulvaney, preemptively under the bus to make the argument, oh, they were operating freelance here.


You were a lawyer at the DNI. Tell us legally what you need to make that connection between the president and this policy.

LITT: Well, the first thing is that you do not need direct evidence of the president -- of somebody who can testify the president told me X or I heard the president say X. You can infer it from the circumstances. Bear in mind we still have the transcript of that telephone call between the president and Zelensky in which he said more or less the same things, albeit with a little more subtlety.

It's also, I think, you can use your common sense and suggest that Gordon Sondland, on his own, is not going to decide that he is going to hold up aid to Ukraine to get them to investigate the Bidens. So I think that while it would obviously be helpful to the Democrats if they had a witness who would say I heard President Trump give this direction, I think they can put all the evidence forward and people can draw their own conclusions as to whether this was a bunch of people freelancing or whether they were following directions from the president.

SCIUTTO: And listen, to your point, it's almost Orwellian, Poppy, to say that the transcript exonerates you, what is Bob was saying. I mean, it says there, do me a favor. It's making that explicit connection. But anyway, that's the world we live in.


SCIUTTO: Bob Litt, Shane Harris, I know we're going to talk to you again about this in the coming weeks and months.

Still to come this hour, he ran the city of New York. Can he run the country? A move that could have seismic implications in the Democratic presidential primaries. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg could launch a bid for the White House today.

HARLOW: Yes. And draw-dropping accusations in a new book by "Anonymous." The unnamed administration official says senior members considered resigning en masse in a, quote, "midnight self-massacre." And that's not all. Plus President Trump ordered to pay $2 million to settle claims that

the Trump Foundation misused funds. We're on top of the new details ahead.



HARLOW: All right, curveball, billionaire curveball alert here. Today, the 2020 race could be hit with a major one. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg expected to file paperwork, adding his name to Alabama's Democratic primary ballot.

SCIUTTO: Remember, back in March, he said that he would not run for president, that he'd looked at the numbers, did not have a credible path. Joining us now to discuss, Cristina Alesci; CNN business and politics correspondent, and Patti Solis Doyle; CNN political commentator and former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign manager.

Good morning to both of you. Cristina, let me draw on your experience, having worked for Bloomberg. What changed his mind here? Because he made a calculation earlier, and his staff did, they didn't have a path. Does he now believe he has a path?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: He does now believe he has a path. Now, the final decision hasn't been made, and he believes he has that path predominantly because Biden is struggling. And that is the real reason. I know that they're trying to say, you know, people around him are trying to say, you know, he doesn't think their entire field is very strong.

But let's be clear, Bloomberg is a centrist, he didn't want to jump in earlier this year because he thought that it would get in Biden's way. Now he sees Biden struggling, and he thinks that there are some moderate Democratic voters who can come out and support him and get excited about him, whereas maybe they are perhaps not that excited about him right now.

He does have $52 billion, you know, that's --


ALESCI: What his net worth is, not all of that is liquid. But that's a lot of money, and that actually presents another problem for Biden because people who would have perhaps cut a check to his Super PAC may sit it out and wait to see if there is --


ALESCI: If Mike jumps in and why spend the money on Biden if you have an alternative to Biden? You know, that could be a real problem for him.

SCIUTTO: And Bloomberg might actually spend some of his own money. He's done it on other local races, the Virginia race, he was very present, and that's something President Trump promised to do, but didn't really do in his run.

ALESCI: Yes --

HARLOW: That's right. And he's got almost endless amounts of money. I mean, Patty, you have unique view on this because you actually worked as Joe Biden's Chief of Staff in 2008 when he was on the ticket with President Obama. And you look at what Cristina's great reporting on this last night, you look at what the Bloomberg team told "Axios", quote, "Michael will spend whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump."

Biden is having a hard time fund-raising right now. If you were in his camp right now, what would you be thinking?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, if I were in Biden's camp right now, I would definitely be concerned because not only does Michael Bloomberg have an enormous amount of money, he can self-fund.

But he also has some really smart people around him, political people. And he has -- you know, look, he has put some significant work and significant money behind progressive causes like climate change and guns, and he's used that work to political effect as you referenced in Virginia. But having said all of that, what Bloomberg is basically saying is Democrats have put forth -- actually, Democrats have put forth the largest, most diverse field since ever.


And I don't mean just, you know, racially diverse or gender diverse. We have governors, we have mayors, we have senators, house members, business people, philosophers even. And what Bloomberg is saying by coming in so late is none of you are good enough. And I don't think Democrats are really going to take kindly to that because Democrats are happy with their choices. And the race is sort of solidified right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a good point because there's a lot of -- kind of, you know, gnashing of teeth about the weakness of the field. It's a broad field, right? I mean, people have a lot of choice in the midst of it. Cristina, here's an issue that Harry Enten make -- made the point to us earlier this morning is that Biden has enormous and durable strength among black voters.

Helps give him a firewall in South Carolina in the primaries, but also has appeal to working class whites, a key demographic in the states that are going to decide this election. Those are not Mike Bloomberg's strengths here. So, what data -- you've said he's a data- driven guy. What data is he relying on then to make this choice?

ALESCI: You know, Jim, you make an excellent point. And when I was at "Bloomberg", one of the biggest things that we were always asked is, what is the data to support this? Every decision that's made at the company, at his own company has to be rooted in some kind of data.

And so for him to look at these poll numbers and to move forward potentially, because we don't know yet, with a potential run, then it goes to show you that he's putting the data aside to your point. But he's done this before. He's put the data aside when it came to the mayoral races, for example, you know, when he decided to run for mayor.

He was not a well-known candidate, he was not polling well initially, and he did it anyway. So, it seems like when it comes to political data, Bloomberg is more inclined to run on his gut. Now, you mentioned some demographic -- some demographics that he may not be -- that he may not be performing well with, but keep in mind that women are essentially a very important part of the 2020 election cycle.

And he already has a grassroots organization to Patti's point on gun safety, Moms Demand Action, guess what? That group is a lot of women behind him, and he already has that grassroots organization throughout the country.

HARLOW: So Patti, just finally, we talked about who this could hurt, right? Joe Biden, I think could shave away from Mayor Pete Buttigieg. But if you're Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, who, by the way, Bernie Sanders has said he hopes the day comes that billionaires don't exist in America.

So, yes, Mike Bloomberg is that, to say the least. What does this do for those two candidates? Does it help elevate them?

DOYLE: I think -- I think it actually really does. You know, there's right now --there's a moderate lane in the party, and then there's the more progressive liberal lane. And Biden and Mayor Pete and even Amy Klobuchar is taking that moderate lane. If Bloomberg gets in, he's going to shave votes from those three. And so, he'll hurt those three.

But in doing so, he's going to elevate Warren and Sanders, and mostly Warren because she has the momentum, and she has the energy and she has the organization. So, he very well may be hurting his overall cause which is, you know, beating Donald Trump with someone who is more moderate. He could be -- he could be, you know, helping Elizabeth Warren win the nomination.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to both of you --

HARLOW: It's true, yes --

SCIUTTO: I mean, really fascinating questions. No question is going to change the race. We'll talk about it more. Meanwhile, a reminder to watch as former Vice President Joe Biden, he's going to take questions from Iowa voters in a CNN Democratic presidential town hall.

Our colleague Erin Burnett will moderate, tune in Monday night, 9:00 Eastern Time, only on CNN.

HARLOW: All right, shocking new excerpts from an anonymously written book painting a damning picture of what it is like inside of the Trump White House. An unnamed author says senior officials even considered a mass exodus from the administration. We'll talk about it, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SCIUTTO: The details are stunning and frankly, disturbing. This morning, we're getting the first excerpts from a book written by an unnamed senior Trump administration official with direct contact with the president. It is called simply "A Warning", and gives a chilling description of what is really going on according to this author, inside the White House under Trump.

Here's just one of those excerpts released by the "Washington Post", and it reads, quote, "Trump is like a 12-year-old in an air traffic control tower pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport."

HARLOW: CNN reached out and obtained a statement from the White House. They are responding, saying the author is a coward and calling it nothing but lies. You read it, you decide for yourself. But let's talk about what we know from the book this morning. Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief for the "Associated Press" is with us and Josh Dawsey; White House reporter for "The Washington Post".

Good morning guys, listen to this. This is one of the excerpts that stunned me the most. The author accuses the president of attempting to put on a Hispanic accent while he complained about migrants crossing the U.S. border during an Oval Office meeting and said, and I quote, "we get these women coming in with like seven children. They're saying, oh, please help, my husband left me. They're useless. They do nothing for our country.

At least, if they came in with a husband, we could put them in the fields --

SCIUTTO: Jesus Christ --

HARLOW: To pick corn or something."