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Michael Bloomberg Gearing Up for Potential Presidential Run; Dems Released Testimony Transcripts of Key Impeachment Witnesses; Trump Fundraises for GOP Senators Ahead of Possible Impeachment Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- team Bloomberg looks at this and says, OK, they're at 30 percent, 31 percent. Over here, they get to about 45 but they look at that and they're (INAUDIBLE) on a Biden collapse. They think, OK, the progressives are taking up about 40 percent, maybe 30 percent in this state.

That tells us there is a lot of Democrats and their gun control works tells them they're suburban Democrats who don't like these two progressive candidates, who are looking for a moderate. The predicate though is a Biden collapse. And that's to your point, do they wait and see if that happens in Iowa or New Hampshire and then jump in? Or do they have to get in sooner because if you wait until the race is underway, it seems a little -- a, it seems harder but maybe in today's age, that's the way to do it.

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I think regardless of whether or not he gets in the race, to me this is a huge public rebuke. It's a vote of no confidence in Joe Biden. And I know that we've certainly heard a lot of things, I think David Axelrod has been pretty public, you know, but a whole bunch of people has been questioning Joe Biden's ability to fundraise, his ability to stay on message in some of the debates. But to me whether or not Mike Bloomberg gets in, this was perhaps the most public rebuke of Joe Biden's candidacy I think that we've seen in the past few months.


KHALID: Not from voters, you're right.

KING: I have not worked at Bloomberg, but those who have talked about an incredibly data-driven guy. This is one place where he's going. He has a lot of data about the suburbs, he has a lot of data about Biden, he has a lot of data about gun control and climate change and immigration. Issues in which, to his credit, if you're a Democrat, he's been out ahead. He's been on the leading edge of those debates.

Here's one data point, if you look at this Fox News poll, they asked this question because there's been some questions about the field. You know, if they entered the Democratic race, would you definitely vote for them? Michelle Obama gets 50 percent, Hillary Clinton gets 27 percent, Michael Bloomberg gets six percent. So to the point about other -- our Democratic voters who vote first in a primary, are they clamoring for him, the answer is no so -- but he sees an opening, anyway.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And look, the truth is that -- you know, you ask the question, does he wait or does he get in? If he's serious, and I mean, I think we all sort of still wonder despite the filing today, he has to get in. I mean, you can't change that number. That six percent number doesn't change by sitting in Manhattan in your fancy house, you know, like waiting for it to change. You have to get into the fray, and Iowa is coming up. It's just a couple months away, you know.

I guess he could skip that, although, you know, most campaigns find that skipping things like that don't work very well in the end.

KING: Another New York City mayor sat in Florida for a long time. His name was Giuliani.

SHEAR: It didn't work too well for him, so.

KING: You make a key point. And, you know, again, one of the things they say is that, you know, Democrats say we don't like you. Well, Republicans didn't like Trump and it worked. He got in, it's such a hostile takeover of the party. Mike Bloomberg is much in synch with the Democratic base on immigration, on climate, on governance --


KING: But he also says money doesn't grow on trees which is a message to Warren and Sanders. Here, you have to be more fiscally responsible. Here's where he's out of step to a degree. Stop-and- frisk, he would have to defend that when he was New York City mayor. And he said this, remember, Charlie Rose used to do his show out of a Bloomberg studio, the weekly show. Even when Charlie was at CBS, the weekly show was on Bloomberg. And when that first came up, Mike Bloomberg -- Michael Bloomberg said this about Charlie Rose and the allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

"The stuff I read about is disgraceful. I don't know how true all of it is. We never had a complaint, whatsoever, and when I read some of the stuff, I was surprised. I will say, you know, is it true? You look at people that say it is, but we have a system where you have a presumption of innocence is the basis of it."

Now, he's not defending Charlie Rose here by any means but he was -- he's kind of saying, we'll wait -- let's not rush to judgment. In today's Democratic primary, Democratic electorate, he's going to have to answer that if he gets in.

ZANONA: I think Bloomberg can have the same problems that Biden has had in terms of people picking apart his record. You mentioned his support of stop-and-frisk, he was a champion of charter schools. And then also he is a little bit gaffs prone. And Maggie Haberman, actually, of the New York Times back in 2001 wrote an article about his gaffs and missteps. So that could be a potential challenge for him.

Now, I do think one of his probably potential benefits is that he can make the argument that he can appeal to Republicans and moderates and independents in these critical battleground states.

KING: His team has made an assessment not just about Biden, they looked at Kamala Harris, they looked at Cory Booker and they just don't think anybody has emerged as a credible alternative should Biden come down. We'll see as it happens.

There's some breaking news, we're going to get through it right away though we told you we've been waiting on two transcripts of key impeachment witnesses. Let's go straight up to CNN's Manu Raju live up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, both Fiona Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman now out?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they have just been released by the committee, we're just going through them. They are several hundred pages long each after day-long depositions behind closed doors. We already have a sense about what they have said based on our own reporting, based on some of the opening statements that we have obtained.

And it's very clear what we're going to read here are concerns that have been raised by both of these individuals in the push by Rudy Giuliani, that was led by Rudy Giuliani to push for investigations by Ukraine, the Ukrainian Government that could help the president politically. Concerns that the president had dispatched Ukraine policy to Rudy Giuliani. And concerns that other individuals in the U.S. Government were working as part of that effort.

[12:35:04] Now, one person in particular, of course, Vindman's testimony would be of high interest because he was actually on that July phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine. And we know already from his opening statement that he raised some serious concerns about that phone call and reported it to a top National Security Council attorney. He was worried that this could undermine bipartisan support for Ukraine, also hurt efforts to bolster this key alliance.

And he also re-said in his opening statement that we've already seen that he raise concerns directly to a top official, Gordon Sondland, who was the ambassador to the European Union at a July meeting, confronted him after Sondland (INAUDIBLE) that Ukraine needed to launch these investigations into the Bidens and as well as into 2016 election interference, two investigations that could help the president potentially in his re-election chances. Vindman made clear to Sondland that there was no -- this was no area to push for these investigations, it was not appropriate.

So we'll get more details about exactly how that went down, exactly what the president was saying to his top associates, and exactly what Fiona Hill was raising too. We do know already, John, from her from what we have heard is that she raised serious concerns about Giuliani's efforts. She said that John Bolton, the former national security adviser, also raised concerns about what Rudy Giuliani was up to, what Gordon Sondland were up to as well. So we'll -- we're just getting the transcripts now, they are out now, we're trying to look at through those further.

And the question too is will the Democrats bring these two witnesses forward for public hearings? We already know three are coming next week. We'll see if these two come forward as well because they underscore the consistent theme that we've been seeing all along that what was happening on pushing for Ukraine and the Ukrainian policy was outside of normal diplomatic efforts and raised some serious concerns at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.


KING: Manu Raju live on the Hill, come back to us when we get deeper into these transcripts. But to bring it back here in the room and echo the importance of these two as potential witnesses. In the sense that Fiona Hill, John Bolton's deputy, very well-known and very well- respected in Republican politics. You may not know her across America, she's insider but she is meticulous, known as a Russia hawk, known as a loyal staffer, no a never Trumper. She may not, you know, be a Trump Republican, she's not a never Trumper, she is a loyal Republican staffer who again is known for taking very meticulous notes. And she says her boss, John Bolton, another long-time -- again, not ideologically in sync with the president, we know he sparred with the president on certain issues but not a disloyal person, a career staffer.

Fiona Hill in her testimony says John Bolton called Rudy Giuliani a hand grenade who's going to explode and get all of us. Used the word drug deal to describe what was going on, this Ukraine policy going on, and told her it was fine with him and actually recommended she go report this to an attorney so that it'd be put on the record. Just as you jump in, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, Iraq war hero, Purple Heart, went to talk to an attorney as well in the National Security Council, and it's that same attorney I believe who made the decision, ultimately, to put the transcript of this call on the top-secret server to limit access to it.

SHEAR: I mean, I think it might be helpful for viewers to also understand the structure here, right? You talked about President Trump saying, oh I don't know any of these people and they're not getting close to me. The people who work for the State Department, people who work in embassies that are far away, that's one thing. The National Security Council is in the White House, right? There's another building that's right next to the White House that's sort of an annex, a lot of people work in, but the National Security Council is the core sort of brain trust of foreign policy decisions that are made by presidents, not only this one but previous presidents.

These are not people that are far-flung or distant. These are people that are in the Situation Room in the White House, a floor below the Oval Office all the time. And so the connection -- the fact that these are the people that are coming and describing these things, it's in the heart of the White House. It's in -- and that, I think is ultimately the reason the Democrats are focusing so much on these folks.

KING: And if they put together a compelling public case, the question is how do Republicans challenge people who they know are loyal public servants. They might want to disagree with him, might want to take issue with their facts, might want to take issue with their interpretations, but the president has chosen character tax on these people. It will be very interesting to see if his Republican allies on Capitol Hill follow through then.

Again, we're waiting -- we have reporters reading through these transcripts, we'll bring you the highlights as soon as we can. And as we wait for that, while Republican senators prepare to be the possible jury in an impeachment trial, President Trump on the road today offering support for some of their re-election efforts.


[12:44:36] KING: We remind you, we have reporters digging through the transcripts of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine official on the National Security Council, and Fiona Hill, she was the top Russia aide on the National Security Council who left the administration last year. Both testified in the impeachment inquiry, the transcripts have now been released. We're going through those. We'll bring you the details of the highlights as soon as we can.

President Trump as that happens is in Atlanta this hour for somewhat you might call routine campaign business, but, given the politics of the moment, also has a unique impeachment twist.

[12:45:03] One event is to debut a new Trump 2020 coalition for black voters. The other, to raise money for the Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue. The president also raised money to help Senate Republican efforts last night. A routine role of course for the party leader but the timing is very interesting because the Senate could soon be the venue of a Trump impeachment trial.

CNN's Sarah Westwood in there in Atlanta where the president is. She joins us now with more on, Sarah, I'm going to call this the president's amped-up Senate GOP outreach.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, John. This is all coming as the White House is ramping up its outreach to Senate Republicans and that comes after weeks of complaints from Trump allies, from conservative lawmakers that the White House was not providing ammunition to those who wanted to defend President Trump, that they didn't have anything approaching a coherent defense strategy, that Trump wasn't taking it seriously enough. That is starting to change, and as that is changing, President Trump is ramping up his fundraising efforts on behalf of Senate Republicans today with Perdue with a joint fundraising committee.

A first last night, he raised money alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Trump hotel for the Senate leadership fund. That's a super PAC for Senate Republicans. And just a couple weeks ago, his campaign used its massive distribution list for a fundraising appeal for three vulnerable Republicans, Senators Gardner, Tillis, and Ernst. All of this coming as the president is trying to shore up support among the potential future jurors in an impeachment trial.

Now, as you mentioned, this is routine, sort of expected for the leader of the party but it's coming as the White House is actively trying to rally these Republican senators behind a coherent impeachment defense. For example, Vice President Mike Pence was up on Capitol Hill this week at the weekly Senate Republican lunch, giving Republican senators advice on how to defend the president against the impeachment trial, and Trump has been holding court more with senators. He brought a handful with him to the World Series game five just a couple weeks ago. He also invited a different group of Republican senators to the White House after the House impeachment vote.

So, John, all of this is a signal that the White House is starting to turn its attention ahead to a potential impeachment trial after the holiday, starting to take this a little more seriously after weathering so much criticism of its inept (INAUDIBLE) of the early days of the inquiry.

KING: Sarah Westwood live in Atlanta, appreciate the reporting. I like the soundtrack too. Enjoy the afternoon, Sarah.

It is -- you know, I don't want to make anything nefarious about this because he is the leader of the Republican Party. This is an important part of the job. A Democratic president will be doing the same thing for Democratic senators (INAUDIBLE). But the collision of the timing is just fascinating because the president often doesn't like to tend to the -- he likes his own campaign but he has not been known and nor has President Obama, so I'm not making this, you know, a bad thing about President Trump. To do the little work, the hard work for the other members of his party and this president now is.

ZELENY: Well, he knows now more than ever that he needs the Senate Republicans as his allies. But look, this is his Republican Party. I mean, much, much more so than the Obama and the Democratic Party. The Trump White House and the president himself is, you know, controlling the apparatus of the Republican National Committee. The Trump victory fund, you know, it's important for his election, of course, his re- election but also holding onto the majority of the Senate. So the fact that he is doing so much outreach is interesting but not surprising. But he's clearly making a sign.

I thought the most interesting thing politically what the president said today was, he's not probably going to campaign against Jeff Sessions. He'll leave that as, you know, out there, but he also wished Jeff Sessions well initially and then trashed him out the door. So, that is one thing that he's trying to do because he knows that most Senate Republicans like Jeff Sessions, they don't want to see the president beating up on him, so that's the relationship to watch more than anything.

KING: Don't make enemies is the advice to Mitch McConnell has given him. Don't make enemies, don't (INAUDIBLE) on guys. So, you spent a lot more time with these guys so I want to get your take on this. Let's show you several of the Republican senators and the different things they have said about impeachment. Starting with Lindsey Graham who happens to be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They have a big role in this. "I find the whole process a sham and I'm not going to legitimize it." I'll come back to that in a minute.

Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the leadership. "Let the facts get assembled and try to figure out what they mean." So sort of a let's wait and see.

John Cornyn, "Important the Senate process be viewed as fair and serious." Senator David Perdue who the president is helping today in Georgia. "I want to hear both sides. Welcome an open and fulsome debate."

Senator Martha McSally, a spokesman jumped in front of reporters and said no comment the other day as reporters were trying to ask her the question.

Look, all of those except for Senator Blunt were on the ballot next year. Lindsey Graham, "I find the whole process a sham and I'm not going to legitimize it." He's the chairman of the committee. He's the guy who said he hadn't read the Mueller report. So he doesn't -- he just doesn't want to do his job, I guess. It's his job. You can read the transcripts then come out and make a factual case.

ZANONA: I think the issue here is that Republicans know that the Senate majority hinges on how they handle this impeachment. On the one hand, they can't be disloyal to Trump, they know their political fortunes are tied to him but on the other hand, they know they have to give a leash to some of these other candidates to have their own brand and to handle it how they best see fit.

[12:50:01] That's one of the reasons why McConnell told Trump lay off some of these guys who are going to be your jurors, let them go. And you haven't seen him trashing Mitt Romney as much.

But, I think, for the most part, Republicans are just trying to keep their heads down. They're waiting until it comes to the trial. We're not hearing them use the excuse that we're going to be jurors, we want to stay neutral like Martha McSally for example who's in a very tough race.

KING: The collision of the campaign and impeachment is fascinating in the sense that -- I'm going to show you some numbers here. This is from the third quarter. Most of these Republican incumbents have more money than the Democratic challengers because they have money from the past. But just looking at the third quarter, you see the energy here.

Martha McSally in Arizona, outraised by her Democratic opponent. Joni Ernst in Iowa, outraised by her Democratic opponent. Susan Collins in Maine, outraised by her Democratic opponent. Cory Gardner in Colorado, running about even with his Democratic -- one of the Democrats. He hasn't -- there's a primary there still.

Even Mitch McConnell, outraised by his Democratic opponent. Tom Tillis about the same. And you look at these races and these are Republican incumbents. We'd be covering these anyway. The stake that the ballots that have power in the Senate aren't playing in the campaign. Now the president going in to help at a time when these candidates are, a, trying to raise money, and b, trying to figure out where is the terrain going to be six months from now in the impeachment question?

KHALID: Yes. I mean, I think -- I mean, part of what I think is really interesting about the fundraising money and -- I mean, we've all seen how successful the president has been in terms of fundraising (INAUDIBLE) on a national level. Some of these contests though are in states that are just demographically shifting. I mean, we put into Arizona, with Colorado -- I mean, Iowa is always -- maybe not so much demographically shifting, but some of these states are places where the Senate race was bound to be fairly competitive regardless, right?

KING: Regardless. So you're Susan Collins in Maine, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Cory Gardner in Colorado --

ZANONA: North Carolina.

KING: North Carolina --

ZANONA: Georgia even.

KING: Anything you say today, you could be living in a different world. Which is why the no comment as much as we know, like no comment actually makes sense.

Again, we're going to take a quick break. We're waiting for more details from these transcripts up on Capitol Hill. We'll bring you more in just a minute.


[12:56:38] KING: The breaking news as details from the impeachment inquiry transcripts of two key witnesses, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Russia National Security Council (INAUDIBLE) Fiona Hill. Let's go straight up first in regards to Colonel Vindman to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, what are the highlights so far?

RAJU: Yes, significant development here that Vindman who serves on the National Security Council relays a conversation that he heard that makes it very clear that Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, was tied to this effort to push for an investigation into the Bidens at the same time that the Ukrainians were seeking a meeting in Washington between the new incoming administration and President Trump.

Saying that Mick Mulvaney was involved in this effort which would some people would call a quid pro quo. Now, this is what he says, Colonel Vindman, he says that -- he said, I heard him say that this has been coordinated with White House Chief Of Staff Mick Mulvaney. That's referring to Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who that -- raised at this meeting that there needed to be an investigation into the Bidens and into the 2016 elections, things that could help the president politically before that meeting with the Ukrainians could take place. He said he heard Gordon Sondland say that Mick Mulvaney had coordinated that ask. Now, later on, he does also say that he heard Gordon Sondland tell the Ukrainians directly that there needed to be these investigations. He said, quote, there was no ambiguity.

And also, John, we're learning now that Alexander Vindman helped prepare some briefing materials for the president on that July phone call, and on that phone call, the president, of course, asked President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, also raised (INAUDIBLE) to 2016 elections. Vindman says in the briefing materials, he did not include those asks -- for that ask for those investigations. And, of course, we know, the president brought it up anyways.


KING: So Vindman says that Mulvaney was key, the deliverable was a demand fro the investigations. Fiona Hill is the other witness whose transcripts came out today. CNN's Kylie Atwood has been going through that. Fiona Hill also served on the National Security Council. Kylie, what did she say about the same meeting?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So Fiona Hill describes that July 10th meeting that we have put so much focus on, and she describes what was said by Ambassador Sondland to -- in front of the Ukrainians. And she says, quote, as I came in, Ambassador Sondland was, quote, talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations. There, she was frustrated by that. And we now have reports that she actually went to the White House lawyers and discussed with them what had went down in those meetings.

Now, the other important thing to recognize here is that Fiona Hill had been at the White House essentially since day one as the top Russia adviser to President Trump, and she is painting a picture of how she came to know about the role of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. She was never briefed that he had a formal role with regard to Ukraine policy, but the interesting thing here is that she had a conversation with Ambassador Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., who at one point told her that he was in charge of Ukraine policy. And she looked at him as if to say, no, you're not, who told you that. And he said back to her that he had been told that because it was the president who put him in charge.

And she says, quote, well, that shut me up. She really didn't have any choice at that point because it was clear that Sondland and Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff, were running the Ukraine policy at that point.