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Donald Trump: Impeachment Investigators Getting Testimony From "Never Trumpers"; Donald Trump Says He Is Not Concerned About Testimony So Far; Soon: Democrats Release Transcripts From Two Key Impeachment Witnesses; White House Transcript: Donald Trump Told Ukraine's Press To Call Rudy Giuliani; Bloomberg Not Likely To Qualify For November Debate Stage. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 8, 2019 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

An angry President Trump rails against the impeachment inquiry. Much of what he said today is simply not true, but his combative tone reflect the stakes now that public impeachment hearings are just days away.

Plus the President's Chief of Staff defies an impeachment subpoena. The President says letting Mick Mulvaney testify will legitimize the inquiry. Democrats say it's more obstruction and that Mulvaney is central to the Ukraine quid pro quo. And Michael Bloomberg flirts a new with a 2020 Presidential bid many Democrats scarf saying the field as is looks just fine.

The team Bloomberg season opening President Trump sees a long time New York rival angling for his job.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know Michael. He became just a nothing. It was really a nothing. He's not going to do well but I think he's going to hurt Biden. Little Michael will fail. He'll spend a lot of money. There is nobody I would rather run against than little Michael.


KING: Back to 2020 and to the Bloomberg bid in a few minutes. But we begin the hour with an angry, combative President and his parallel impeachment universe. He says none of the testimony so far has damaged him. You can read it yourself. Most of it is very damning.

He says the Democrats went out and have found people who hate him. All the witnesses so far work or have worked in the Trump Administration and almost all of them were hired or appointed by top Trump aides. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not concerned about anything. The testimony has all been fine. For the most part, I never even heard of these people. I have no idea who they are. They're some very fine people. You have some never Trumpers. It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge. There is no first-hand knowledge. And all that matters is one thing, the transcript. And the transcript is perfect. In no cases have I been hurt. In no cases that I see have I been hurt.


KING: The President gets the facts wrong a lot. But the strategy is crystal clear. Project that all is well as the impeachment inquiry shifts now from private to public. The President says those hearings scheduled for next week should not happen and he says they're part of a hoax.

It's important to note that as he insists the witnesses so far are people who don't like him. The President is refusing to let those close to him testify the White House just this morning stopping the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney from testifying despite a congressional subpoena. The President explained the decision this way.


TRUMP: I don't want to give credibility to a corrupt witch hunt. I'd love to have Mick go up, frankly. I think he'd do great. I'd love to have him go up. I'd love to have almost every person go up when they know me. What I don't like is when they put all these people that I never met before when they put the head of the never Trumpers on the stand. And even those people were OK, they were fine.


KING: With me this day to share their reporting and their insights, Melanie Zanona with "Politico," CNN's Jeff Zeleny Michael Shear with "The New York Times" and Asma Khalid with "NPR." If he thought Mick would be fine, he would have let Mick Mulvaney go up. Well, he saw that Mick Mulvaney's public briefing in the - that he had a pullback in the briefing room, where he said yes, there was a quid pro quo. Get over it. So what?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, that's exactly what an official with the committee suggested today, that the assumption that they're going to make is that if the President had - if the advisers to the President who have not been allowed to come forth and testify had exculpatory evidence, had something to say that would really clear the President of some of the accusations the Democrats are bringing, then why wouldn't the President have allowed them to come?

So they're going to make the assumption and build that into their case for not only the abuse of power but for obstruction of Congress. Then they're going to march forward and go ahead and put on their own witnesses. It will be really interesting to see once the public hearings start both in the Intelligence Committee and then later in the Judicial Committee whether or not the President and his allies decide, you know what, actually we do want to have some of these people who are our loyalists come forward because they may get grilled on the other side but at least they will be able to sort of put on some kind of defense.

KING: Well, they would have that opportunity to call him as defense witnesses I guess if there is an impeachment hearings and impeachment trials, but we're told that the President just said the testimony so far is just fine. It's kind of a circular argument. He says these people hate me but it's been fine and no damage has been done.

Again, I urge you at home if you listen to the President, you don't trust the news media, read them yourself and if they're fine and in that context we're being told now that two more transcripts are going to come out shortly today.

Fiona Hill, a Republican Trump hand in the Security Council. Not a never Trumper, not somebody the Democrats went out and found.


KING: A key John Bolton Deputy on the National Security Council, Fiona Hill's transcript and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman who also works on the National Security Council who has a purple heart from serving in Iraq, still has shrapnel in his leg. He's an American hero, he is not a never Trumper, and so these transcripts will come out later.

But to the point what the President was making and we'll go through those transcripts in a bit. As we go through the program, we'll go through the other transcripts. It's highly damning. Is it impeachable? That's up for the American people and for the Congress to decide.

But it is highly damning but the idea that these are people I don't know. These are people hired either by John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney in the White House or by Mike Pompeo at the State Department. Some of them are holdovers career officials but they were moved into these jobs or kept in the jobs by team Trump.

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": And Sondland was the GOP mega donor. He donated to the Trump's campaign, he was Trump appointee, but I think what you're seeing is what the GOP line of attack is going to be is mostly when these hearings seed up which is they going to try to place distance between them and some of these people that have testified and Republicans have really seized on the fact that so far none of these diplomats have said directly, this came from Trump's mouth.

And I think that is going to be the challenge for Democrats in these hearings is to show that this quid pro quo was directly coming from Trump, and with Rudy Giuliani as his agent.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And it's absolutely irrelevant if he knows them or not. This is not the small Trump organization that this President was used to leading before he was elected. Where he knew everyone, everyone was very much in the inner circle. This is the big government. They are all people, though, either Republicans or people who his top people hired.

So that is relevant. But he's done a very consistent job in some respects successful as of now branding this as just another witch hunt, hoax, you name it. But when the American people see these hearings next week, we'll see if there are any open minds left to make the case. Democrats have a burden here as well to make the case here that what happened, happened.

But really, the facts are not that much in question now after seeing all these transcripts. The question is, is it impeachable or not, and as you said, John, it's up to the Congress to decide.

KING: Yes, it's up for the Congress to decide. You mentioned Ambassador Sondland. He was not a Trump supporter early in the 2016 campaign. But he saw what was happening, he got on board, he gave money to the Trump inaugural, he was a hotel executive. He was named the Ambassador to the European Union.

Then oddly to the career people, he was put in charge or put in the central row for Ukraine policy even though that's not under his jurisdiction on paper, anyway. The President this morning saying, who?


TRUMP: Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman. But this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo. And he still says that.


KING: He does not still say that. Ambassador Sondland went back and amended his testimony to Congress. And this is why - sorry, Mr. President, you have to call it out - he's trying to tell people things that aren't true. This is what Gordon Sondland said in his amended testimony.

The presumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks. He went back and amended his testimony to say, yes, now that I've listened to the other witnesses and thought more about this, it's pretty clear. They must do this or they don't get the aid.

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NPR": I mean you can see a clear - I can prove you of exactly you were saying, that the sort of Republican line of defense which is this distancing that President Trump is trying to create between himself and some of these folks who have clearly suggested that there was a quid pro quo.

I think the difficulty for him is if we compare this to, say, the Mueller investigation. He had a very clear you could argue whether or not it's factual but a very clear common line, which was no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. I think in this situation what we found is that Republicans are constantly sort of maneuvering their line of defense and it's an ever-evolving strategy. It's not sticking because it's kind of ever-evolving at this point.

SHEAR: But you know one thing that helps them, right, is that the if the overarching effect of all the different Republican statements by the President and his allies on Capitol Hill is to sow doubt about the facts on the ground, about the interpretation of those facts, that's probably all they need him yet, right?

This isn't a criminal trial where you need to sort of get past a certain threshold. If they sow enough doubt and kind of muddy the waters enough, that's probably enough--

KING: You need to hold your Republican Senators. That's really all you need to do. We'll see what happens with the American people and whether that could impact the coming election. Assuming the House impeaches which seems likely at the moment if not a certainty the question is can you hold, keep your Republican Senate Majority most of them if not all of them in line, it's a great point.

But again the President and now as we watch this it is similar to Mueller. The facts here, the Democrats are trying to keep the facts here contained in the Ukraine policy box, if you will. Among the stories that came out recently was that the President asked the Attorney General through intermediaries to go out and give a press conference and say he said nothing. President's ally said no didn't.


TRUMP: They're not saying anything. Let me just say you, I never asked for a press conference. If I asked Bill Barr to have a press conference, I think he would do it. I never asked him to have a press conference. Why should I? You know why I do it, because the phone call was perfect.


TRUMP: Just read your transcript of the phone call. No one has to have a press conference. I think if I asked him, and by the way, we confirmed. I never asked him. I think if I did ask him, I haven't said this yet and I don't think I will, I'm sure I won't. But if I asked him to have a press conference, I think he would.


KING: In "The Washington Post" headline, Trump wanted Barr to hold a news conference saying the President broke no laws in the call with the Ukrainian leader" you see it there other news organizations including CNN have reported the key elements of this story. There has not been a statement from the Justice Department has there from Bill Barr saying nobody at the White House told me that President want me to have a press conference so it would one way to clear this up?

ZANONA: And what you have seen is the DOJ has put some distance between the self and the White House throughout this Ukraine scandal. If you remember when Mick Mulvaney had that press conference and said, yes, there was a quid pro quo, walked back, the DOJ said, that's news to us, we don't know about this. So I do think that there is a line that Barr is carefully trying to tow here.

KING: As we go to break in a moment. I just quickly though want to show people when the President talks to reporters on the south lawn, he's very transparent about his mood. Sometimes he is very pleasant, sometimes he is delightful. He often picks fights with reporters he doesn't like. His mood today was combative.


TRUMP: I have got to come over and see the fake news. Let's go. What do you have, John? Let me just say - be quiet. Quiet. Quiet.


TRUMP: When you are ready? I never spoke to them about anything.


KING: Just an interesting snapshot. Next week is a big week. We are going to get more transcripts today, next week we're into the public hearings again. We're waiting to get the full transcript of the testimony of Fiona Hill. She worked on the White House for the National Security Council. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, he did as well. We're waiting to see these transcripts. And next Melanie touched on this, Asma as well. Republicans now shifting their strategy little bit is Rudy Giuliani about to become the fall guy?



KING: Welcome back we want to remind you we're waiting on two very important transcripts from the impeachment inquiry. Fiona Hill worked on the National Security Council. She is the one who told the Committee that her boss John Bolton thought Rudy Giuliani was "A grenade" and with his disruptive rouge Ukraine policy. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who complained about the call was on the call with the Ukraine President and was worried about President Trump's tone in that call. His testimony also to come out any moment we'll bring to you both of those as soon as we get it.

If you listen to the President this morning, he says this whole thing is a hoax and there should not be public hearings. But if you listen to his allies talk about impeachment, their explanations are shifting a little bit. Listen to Mark Meadows here of North Carolina, one of the Congressmen on Capitol Hill most loyal to the President.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Any time there was direct conversations with the President, there was no linkage. Any linkage that has been alleged obviously is based on many times second or third hand information, either Rudy Giuliani or people believing that they understood what Rudy Giuliani might have wanted.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: In other words, maybe people did things they shouldn't have done, but nobody can directly tie it to the President. Maybe it was Rudy Giuliani, but no linkage just not that never happened? And what Rudy Giuliani might have wanted is not that everything was above board.

But remember what the President always says, he says, look at the transcript. Let's look at the transcript and let's read the President's own words. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he's a very capable guy. If you could speak to him, that would be great.

Later on in the same call, I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call. So as the Republicans try to disconnect Rudy Giuliani or disconnect anyone who talked to Rudy Giuliani and then followed his advice or try to counter him, they're trying to say well this wasn't the President. Again, follow the President's advice. Read the transcript. He made clear Rudy is my guy.

ZELENY: He is trying to brand this way the transcript. It's actually to believe something that's not in the transcript which doesn't work very well on the shirt that Trump campaign is selling. But the reality here is the President from the very beginning, after releasing the transcript which led to the inquiry in the first place which gave Speaker Pelosi the comfort, I guess, to do this. We'll see how it plays out.

The transcript, again, is what we should focus on, not the distractions of who the interpretations of things. The President said it in his own words there. So that is the prelude that begins the public hearings next week. That's where it continues from there. Never mind what they're saying about it, just read it yourself it is right there. The question is, is it impeachable or not and that is a question not for us to answer.

KING: And to that point, the President keeps saying, I don't know these people, or they hate me. We're waiting for two transcripts from people who work in the west wing on the National Security Council who at times were close to the President as we are at this table. Not all the time, but on these key calls or in some key meetings are as close to the President or close to the President's key deputies involved in this policy as we sit at this table.

So this is just hogwash the idea that who are these people who hate me coming out. Somebody who was overseas most of the time who acknowledges he was never in President's presence is George Kent who was one of the diplomats involved to all this but he is on the call, he is getting direction from one point the office of management and budget about the aid being cut off.

At other times trying to manage what Giuliani was asking for. He says POTUS, meaning the President of the United States, wanted nothing less than President Zelensky go to the microphone and say investigations Biden and Clinton.

[12:20:00] KING: If George Kent testifies to that in a public hearing, the question is, will the American people - will any Republicans in Congress be swayed by the idea that if you can prove that to be true, it is just the President boldly putting his domestic political agenda over national security, right in the middle of a key national security issue.

SHEAR: Well, in addition to what you read from the transcript of the Zelensky call where the President connects himself to Rudy and to Barr on this issue. There are other connections, there is a meeting in May that many of these people have testified to some of whom were actually in and witnessed in which the President gets very angry about all this and says, just talk to Rudy, just talk to Rudy.

And then we have the public displays over and over again during this period when Rudy is on television on this network and elsewhere talking about this stuff and President is asked about that - and the President says and he says I'm working on behalf of Trump and Trump distance himself from Rudy, and in fact connects himself to Rudy. So that if you're the investigators in any case and you're trying to build those linkages between the Lieutenants and the bars the linkages are there, they have been built by the bars. You can't undo that.

KING: There is a - there - jump in, I just want to put one more from George Kent in the record and then please jump in. Mr. Giuliani at that point had been carrying out a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch. So this was a continuation of his campaign of lies.

KHALID: And I think what we're beginning to see from President Trump and he's really I would say masterful at doing this sort of spinning narratives out of thin air and changing essentially the court of public opinion. And to me I mean, there was obviously the impeachment hearings and we'll see the public hearings next week and there is the matter of was this an impeachable offense and we don't have a say in that but I think the President for his matter, really seems to be focused much more on where public opinion stands at this point as he often does and I would say that's why we're sort of continuously hearing him tell things that are just factually not true and we have transcripts to suggest that is true.

KING: And a lot Republicans privately tell you that's it they assume that's where this is going, which they could not be able to say the President wasn't close to Rudy Giuliani. That you are going to have to say OK, a lot of this is very distasteful, but is it impeachable? That will be, think we'll see how the hearings go next week but that's what a lot of Republicans privately think. Eventually that's where they end up and they're trying to prepare for that.

I want to remind you we're waiting for two critical transcripts from the impeachment inquiry, Fiona Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. We're waiting on those we have reporters standing by to bring you the highlights as soon as we get them. When we come back, if they're not out yet 2020 politics, Michael Bloomberg says Democrats must, "Finish the job and beat President Trump". And team Bloomberg seems to thinks he's just the man to do it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: A potentially disruptive wow today in the 2020 Democratic race. The Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking steps towards joining the Democratic field. The filing deadline for the Alabama primary is today, and team Bloomberg says he plans to submit the paperwork just in case he plans decides to jump in.

Now back in March remember Bloomberg said he would not run but his spokesman says no, "We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated". But Mike is increasingly concerned that current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are already urging Democrats to make clear they don't need a billionaire to come to the rescue. Another Democrat say they're big in diverse field is just fine, thank you, Mr. Mayor. But team Bloomberg sees an opening, both in the current Democratic 2020 polling and in the results of this past week elections where Bloomberg's gun control group played a big role. What do we make of this? It is a wow!

ZELENY: It is a wow! We know that Mike Bloomberg wants to be President. That is not news here. The reality is they are looking at this very seriously. I think we'll know a week from today if they file for the New Hampshire paperwork. That is their deadline. It will be even more serious and then a couple big states at the beginning of December.

Look, one problem remains for them, one challenge. This is a Democratic primary in a party that's shifting leftward. Yes, he is there on guns, on climate, on immigration and other matters but is there a clamoring for Mike Bloomberg?

Even if he does get in, I think we have to have both conversations at the same time, how viable is he in this Democratic Primary? I'm sceptical that he's viable, but there is one constant, Democrats want to find someone who can win. Is it him?

Again, I'm sceptical of that, but it's a gift for Elizabeth Warren today who is not talking about how she'll pay for her health care plan, she's talking about her wealth tax on Mike Bloomberg.

KING: So a couple things as we go through this. Number one, let's look at some polling. I just want to show you this at the bottom here. These are battleground state polls New York Times Siena College. There are a lot of Democrats who still don't know. That's one thing team Bloomberg look at.

These candidates have been in race for months, they have been moving around the country, they've been getting a lot of attention on national cable programs like this one, and you know roughly a third of the Democratic Electorate in most states says, I still don't know. Here is another thing they look at, you mentioned Warren and Sanders, they are going to beat up on the billionaire. We don't need a billionaire in the race especially a billionaire who's never raised money for his campaigns. He funds them himself. Team Bloomberg looks at this and says, OK, they're at 30 percent 31 percent.

Over here they get up to about 45. But they look at that and this is predicated on a Biden collapse. They think OK, the two progresses are taking up 40 percent, maybe 30 percent in this state that tells us through a lot Democrats.