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Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) Presidential Candidate Discusses Trump Downplaying Bloomberg's Expected Entry Into 2020 Race, Presidential Race, Medicare-for-All; Trump and Giuliani Keeping in Close Contact Amid Impeachment Inquiry; Whistleblower Attorney Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter to Trump; Vindman's Testimony the Most Damning against Trump. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 8, 2019 - 13:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:31:16]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Now to new developments in the 2020 race for the White House. Today, President Trump is downplaying news that former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is expected to join the Democratic national race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little Michael will fail. He'll spend a lot of money. He's got some really big issues. Got some personal problems. And he's got a lot of other problems.

But I know Michael Bloomberg fairly well. Not too well, fairly well. Well enough. He will not do very well. And if he did, I'd be happy. There's nobody I'd rather run against than Little Michael.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Michael Bennet, joins us now.

Senator, good to see you.

Do you think Bloomberg's admittance into this race will hurt you or Joe Biden?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): We'll have to wait and see. I think it's a reflection on how open the race is. I believe it's wide open. And I'm sure that's why Bloomberg is giving it the consideration that he is.

CABRERA: Bloomberg was mayor of New York for a decade. This is obviously a national race. Who is his constituency?

BENNET: I think he did a great job as mayor of New York, but that's a good question. He's going to have to demonstrate that as he runs. I'm the only candidate in this race who has won two national elections

in a swing state in this country. And I believe that's what it's going to take, not just to consolidate the Democratic base, which we have to do, but to win back some of the nine million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump.

I believe we put together an agenda that is going to be attracted to those folks, and Mayor Bloomberg might be trying to do that as well.

CABRERA: You've been out there on the trail. What will voters think of a 77-year-old billionaire candidate?

BENNET: I think voters are ready for a new generation of leadership. I see that everywhere I go. He may hear some of that himself.

What people are saying to me mostly is they're working really hard but they can't afford some combination of housing, health care, early childhood education or higher education. And in other words, they can't afford middle class life and they are looking for answers to that.

Just like the people I used to work for when I was superintendent of the Denver public schools, most of whose kids lived in poverty and felt that, no matter how hard they worked, they couldn't get their kids out of poverty.

This is reflective of 50 years of an American economy that hasn't worked for most Americans. And I do think they're looking to nominate somebody who can speak to their concerns.

CABRERA: Do you think Bloomberg is out of touch with those people?

BENNET: I wouldn't say that. But I do think that there are a lot of us who have been out talking to people over the last six to 120 months to a year, and that's a lot of conversations to catch up to.

CABRERA: He would have a self-funded campaign, he says. He wouldn't be accepting any money so he wouldn't be beholding to any powerful person or group.

That being said, he wouldn't necessarily have to qualify for the debates in order to get a national presidency, because he paid for advertisements all around the country.

BENNET: Right.

CABRERA: Do you think that's fair to you and other candidates?

BENNET: What I think is not fair is the rules on national debates. The DNC should not have been excluding people as early as they did. It awarded celebrity candidates who have since left the race who couldn't stay in the race.

I said earlier, I'm the only guy who has won two races in the swing state, and it's been tough not being on the debate stage. But it's a reflection of not what I've accomplished in my elections but the rules the DNC put in place.

[13:35:01]

I'm not surprised that Mike Bloomberg wouldn't want be part of these debates because they haven't been very constructive in terms of delivering to the American people a member of the Democratic Party something they'll rally behind.

The gotcha questions that kind of play into the hands of Donald Trump, who is a master of that kind of format because he never tells the truth.

And he's a reality TV star, which is a great combination if you want to do well in those televised debates. It's a much less good conversation if you actually want somebody to govern the United States as president.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about this. You said, sir, this is a Wendy's response. And that was in response to President Trump's tweet on an order to pay a lawsuit, a settlement in a lawsuit here in New York. What are you suggesting with that tweet? This is a Wendy's --

(CROSSTALK)

BENNET: His explanation for his donations to charities, which essentially come from a foundation that's basically been a criminal syndicate for the entire time he's had the foundation, his explanation is laughable. This is getting more pathetic every week.

If you look at what the president tweeted over the weekend, anyone else in America who worked in a law firm or bank or any institution in America would have been called upon the carpet by H.R. on Monday.

If he worked for CNN, H.R. would have called him to the carpet and said, stop doing that. And if you keep doing that, you'll lose your job.

If that person responded to the H.R. department by saying, don't worry about it, I'm a stable genius, I have unmatched wisdom, which is how the president talks about these things, they would be fired.

And what's even worse than that, while he spent the whole weekend tweeting out this nonsense, Iran was doubling the number of centrifuges it's using to enrich uranium and the China was accepting a trade deal with countries that represent half of the GDP of this world.

This is why Donald Trump can only be a one-term president. He is destroying the national security interests of the United States, our economic interests globally, and he's wasting our time with this -- with these tweets that no one else in America could get away with. And we shouldn't let him get away with it, either.

CABRERA: Before I let you go, I want to ask you another question about the 2020 race. This race is likely to be won and lost in the country's suburbs. Do you think it would hurt the Democrats to have a nominee who is for Medicare-for-All?

BENNET: Oh, I think it would hurt us a lot. The "Denver Post" -- or the "Washington Post" today has an editorial about that reflects how completely fanciful these so-called plans are. It's not a plan at all. It's an ideology. It would hurt us in suburbs all over the country.

By the way, I'm not making that up. Let me give you a data point for that. In 2018, when the Democrats took over the House of Representatives, 40 people flipped seats. And 39 of them were for a public option, my bill, Medicare X. One was for Medicare-for-All. And a lot of those people were running in swing districts and suburban districts. That says it all to me.

I don't even understand why Medicare-for-All is on the debate stage because it would be catastrophic for Democrats. And it's not something that this country is ever going to be willing to pass.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Then why do you think people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are so high in the polls if what you're saying is true?

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Why would Democratic voters be saying they want to support those people --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: -- who have made Medicare-for-All a huge part of their platform?

BENNET: I think they're supporting them for other reasons. They're supporting them because Bernie has run before. He's one of the most famous politicians in the country. And Elizabeth is sort of a celebrity in her own right and she's very well-known across the country.

But if you look at the polling on Medicare-for-All, the poll is terrible. It's got 30 percent support among Democrats to say nothing of Independents and Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

To me, the most important issue more than any of that stuff is I don't want to spend the next 10 years fighting a losing battle for Medicare- for-All when what we have to fight for is an economy that works for everybody, better schools for our kids, and addressing climate change and building infrastructure.

All of that goes out the window if we follow Bernie and Elizabeth over this ideological cliff of Medicare-for-All.

CABRERA: Senator Bennet, it's great to have you with us. Thank you very much for taking the time.

BENNET: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

CABRERA: Good luck on the campaign trail.

BENNET: Thank you.

More on this breaking news. White House officials testifying that acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is connected to a quid pro quo.

[13:39:57]

Plus, new CNN reporting shows this intensifying impeachment inquiry is not impacting the cozy relationship between President Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: I'll take you live right now to New Hampshire. Joe Biden live there just signing the paperwork to officially register as a candidate for the primary.

In New Hampshire, we've been seeing all these 2020 candidates go to New Hampshire and do the same this week. It is the second biggest contest in the 2020 race following the Iowa caucus. It is the first- in-the-nation primary, however.

We will, of course, continue to listen and see if he makes any comments about Mayor Bloomberg's potential entrance into the race.

[13:45:04]

After all, we know a lot of the reporting we have about Bloomberg's potential has to do with whether or not Joe Biden is a strong enough candidate to hold onto the potential nomination as the race moves forward.

Again, we'll come back to Biden and any comments he makes, if there's news to report.

In the meantime, let's go back to the impeachment inquiry because the drama is heating up. We're learning that President Trump is keeping in close contact with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is a key figure in Trump's impeachment sage. He's accused of running a shadow foreign policy between the president and Ukrainian foreign leaders.

We have CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, and CNN's Michael Warren.

Thank you, both, for joining us with your reporting.

Mike, I want to start with you.

A person familiar with this said, as late as October, Trump and Giuliani were talking about once a day? MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, and Giuliani has told CNN

that any details of those conversations he has with Trump are privileged because Trump still retains him as counsel.

We know they have a close relationship. The president sees him as a peer as they're close in age. The president is talking to Giuliani not only about impeachment and legal issues but also about politics as well. That's a conversation apparently still going on between them.

Even though, as we're learning this week with the release of these transcripts, that Giuliani is really a central person in all of these events that are leading now, we can see, to the president very close to being -- an impeachment vote against him in the House.

CABRERA: So, Pamela, if Giuliani could be a potential vulnerability and maybe even a liability to the president, why is he staying so close with Giuliani?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a big question and I'm told by a source that the president knows Giuliani is a personal liability. But as the source put it, he doesn't cut people loose at the first sign of trouble.

And the president has a feeling of loyalty to Giuliani that goes back to the '80s and '90s growing up in the ranks in New York.

And what really cemented the bond was during the campaign when Giuliani stuck by his side after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, continued to be his attack dog on television.

That is the big reason why you see the president staying by Giuliani's side as all these revelations continue to come out during this impeachment probe.

Just testimony today, Alex Vindman, the NSC official, called Giuliani a live hand grenade.

So he is at center of this, as Michael noted, at the center very much of this impeachment inquiry.

It remains to be seen, Ana, how much strain all of this will put on the relationship between the two men. As of now, our reporting indicates they continue to keep in touch. And as Michael noted, as of late October, they're talking about once a day.

CABRERA: Pamela Brown and Michael Warren, all this as Giuliani beefs up his own legal counsel.

Thank you both for that update.

Cease-and-desist. The whistleblower's attorney sending a letter to the White House demand the president stop his attacks. Apparently, Trump didn't get it. He's escalating his rhetoric.

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[13:50:34]

CABRERA: President Trump went on the attack again this morning, calling the whistleblower to come forward, wanting that person to be outed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The fake whistleblower said something about the call, many things, that were wrong. When the whistleblower came forward, he talked about this horrible call. It turned out to be a perfect call.

Everything he wrote in that report, almost, was a lie. Because he made a phony phone call. My phone call was perfect. He made it sound bad. That's why I had to release. Now -- the whistleblower is a disgrace to our country. A disgrace. And the whistleblower, because of that, should be revealed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: One of the whistleblowers attorneys is demanding the president stop those kinds of comments, and actually sent a letter to the White House promising legal action if the president ignores the request.

My next guest, Dan Meyer, has been a whistleblower four times, in fact. He used to oversee this very program the whistleblower went through in order to file their complaint about the president's call with Ukraine.

Great to have you with us. Thank you

DAN MEYER, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR WHISTLEBLOWING AND TRANSPARENCY: Thank you.

CABRERA: How effective do you think this cease-and-desist letter is? Do they have a legal case?

MEYER: It's a matter that will go and collateral efforts perhaps to the D.C. district court. A constitutional claim made for a writ of mandamus. These are things the attorneys for the whistleblower have to do to provide zealous advocacy for their client.

It's not really where the protection should from. The cease-and- desist letter, should come from Chairman Schiff on the Hill because the whistleblower is a source in their program.

CABRERA: Has a cease-and-desist letter ever been necessary?

MEYER: I don't think there was a cease-and-desist letter with regards to Ernie Fitzgerald in the 1970s when Richard Nixon uttered the famous words on the tape to fire "that bastard," what they targeted Ernie for. And I don't think there were cease-and-desist matters in the 1990s with Monica Lewinsky.

I think it's a personalization of the war on whistleblowers the non- profits referred to actually in the last administration when the Espionage Act was unleashed against the whistleblower's in the previous administration.

CABRERA: Dan Meyer, great information. I'd love to have a longer discussion. Sorry to cut this short today to go to a live event, but we'll continue our conversation another day since the whistleblower and that case is not going away.

Here now, to Joe Biden responding to the potential of Michael Bloomberg joining the race. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With regard to Michael Bloomberg, I welcome him in the race. Michael's a solid guy. See where it goes. I have no, no problem with him getting in the race.

And in terms of he's running because of me. Last polls I looked at I'm pretty far ahead. And also in all of those states that are states that are the early states that we have to win back, if I'm not mistaken. I'm doing pretty well, both relative to Trump and relative to all the people running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Much more on that with David Axelrod, next.

Plus, more on the breaking news just ahead. Release of new transcripts of the testimony in the House impeachment inquiry.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:58:36]

CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin on this Friday. You're watching live CNN coverage of the impeachment inquiry.

The transcripts are now public for two more witnesses, Fiona Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Let's begin with Vindman, who is the only staffer still at the White House after testifying before members of Congress.

Arguably, he offered some of the most damning details against the president. That's because, as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, Vindman listened in on that critical July 25th phone call, in which President Trump asked Ukraine's leader to investigate the Bidens.

Let's get straight out to CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, Vindman testified for more than 10 hours before the House committees. What are you learning from his transcript?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He had some serious concerns about the president asking to investigation political rivals. He raised those concerns up the food chain to a National Security Council attorney.

Also made clear his concerns undercut a key alliance with the Ukrainians at a time in which Ukrainians need the vital military aid to fight back against the Russians.

And we're also learning about the efforts of others in the administration essentially involved in what people would call a quid pro quo. This in reference to what occurred in July.

[14:00:00]

There was a desire by Ukrainians to have a meeting in the White House with President Trump, because a new incoming Ukrainian administration, President Zelensky of Ukraine, wanted to have this meeting but the president wasn't keen on that.