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Michael Bloomberg Prepares to Enter Presidential Race; Roger Stone Associate Denies Direct Contact with WikiLeaks Founder; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed about Mulvaney Subpoena. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 8, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bloomberg has opened the door to a 2020 run for president. Bloomberg is expected to file the necessary paperwork to get on the Democratic primary ballot in Alabama today. That's because the deadline is today.

[07:00:14]

So what moved him to reconsider after declining to jump in months ago? Aides say Bloomberg has grown skeptical that Joe Biden can win the Democratic nomination. And he does not see the two leading liberal senators, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as strong enough to beat President Trump in the general election.

So what are his chances? What will Michael Bloomberg's chances be to win the Democratic primary and, ultimately, the general election?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST/ANCHOR: We're going to talk more about that coming up in the show, but we also have major developments in the impeachment inquiry as investigators prepare to hold televised hearings next week.

The next scheduled witness, acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is not expected to appear despite a subpoena. Also, a lawyer for the whistle-blower sending a cease and desist letter to the White House, demanding that President Trump stop attacking his client.

And "The Times" reports in September when crucial military aid was being held up by the Trump administration. Ukraine's president was prepared to bow to President Trump's demands and announce an investigation into Biden in an interview with CNN's own Fareed Zakaria.

BERMAN: All right. We've got a ton to talk about this morning, so let's bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's "The New York Times" White House correspondent. And David Gregory, CNN political analyst.

Maggie, I want to start with you. Before you covered the White House, you were a decorated political reporter. And you covered Michael Bloomberg here in New York City.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I did. BERMAN: I just awarded you multiple decorations.

HABERMAN: Yes, I appreciate that so much.

BERMAN: What do you see going on here? This seems to be in direct response to what Bloomberg sees as the strength of Joe Biden's candidacy.

HABERMAN: Yes. I think you described it correctly on what it is that he's thinking. We know that Mike Bloomberg has wanted to run for president for a long time.

The only other person with nearly as many floats for the presidency without doing it was Donald Trump before Donald Trump actually ran for -- for president.

I think that he is concerned about Biden's difficulties. He's clearly concerned about Warren. He's been a critic of Warren's approach toward the wealthy for a long time. He does have a story to tell about being the New York mayor, and he does have a story to tell on two issues that will matter in this primary gun control and climate change.

But as you noted, I covered Mike Bloomberg for a very long time. I remain something of a skeptic that this is going to go as well as we think. We already have a really rich person in the Democratic race, Tom Steyer, who has spent a lot of money.

And that is not the only way to win is flooding the air with television ads, which is what I anticipate he'll do, just based on his past, doesn't necessarily move voters to your side. And Mike Bloomberg as a candidate has always had difficulty, shall we say, connecting with voters.

Now, he was able to compensate for that in '05 and '09 in his mayoral candidacies. In '01, he was on his way to a loss before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

And so, look, there's a lot that could happen. Mike Bloomberg was not supposed to win the mayor's race in '01. Donald Trump was not supposed to win the presidency. Never say never at this point. We all know that. But I do think he has a lot of hurdles, and I think that this is going to get very ugly very quickly.

GOLODRYGA: And David, Mike Bloomberg is also another white septuagenarian who is entering the race, as well. Many asking if that's something that we need at this point.

And when it comes to name recognition and popularity, I want to bring up a FOX poll of late entrants to the Democratic race. Because if he's concerned that Joe Biden isn't popular enough, I'm wondering how he responds to this.

If entering the race, would you vote for them? Again, this is among Democratic voters. Definitely vote for Mike Bloomberg, only 6 percent. Never vote for him, 32 percent. How does he answer to that?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he tries to turn it around. I think, as Maggie suggests, by spending, by exposure and by -- by trying to build on timing. I think the timing here matters. And it's perhaps what makes this the most attractive aspect of his potential candidacy, which is that he can be a mild, pragmatic alternative to Donald Trump.

One data point. Think about it. Again, this would be in a general election race. Suburban voters, white-collar voters who are Republican but don't like Trump, where are they going to go? Are they going to go to an Elizabeth Warren? Probably not. They could go to a Mike Bloomberg. I'm sure he's looking at that data saying, that's where I have a path forward. In the primaries, again, climate change, guns are issues where he's going to have some bona fides with the left.

But the biggest play here is revenge of the middle. It's saying to Democrats, look, we have to keep the focus on what's wrong with Trump, and a quieter, better, more pragmatic alternative, rather than turning the focus on the radical left, which is what Trump will do, which is a lot of Democrats are worried about when they look at Sanders and they look at Elizabeth Warren.

So I think that's what he represents. I think there are a lot of hurdles. I think it's a very interesting idea for Bloomberg to get in. I think there's room. And he's wanted to do this for a long time.

[07:05:06]

BERMAN: There's no great love for Michael Bloomberg among the African-American community and voters in New York.

HABERMAN: Right.

BERMAN: And of course, they make up a huge voting bloc in the Democratic primary. And also, a huge bloc of Joe Biden supporters. So I just don't know yet. I just don't know how that will all break down.

HABERMAN: I'm with you for that -- that reason, among others.

BERMAN: Can I just put up, Maggie, because I think you'll find this particularly interesting, given whom you've covered and how -- this is the net worth of Michael Bloomberg versus another billionaire president, Donald Trump. Bloomberg, worth roughly $52 billion. Must be nice. And the president of the United States, a meager $3.1 billion. What is Donald Trump --

GOLODRYGA: Obviously, not very relatable, but there's a big difference.

BERMAN: What does Donald Trump think of this picture? HABERMAN: Look, so I mean, a couple of things. Donald Trump and Mike

Bloomberg have known each other in New York for a long time. They were never friends traveling in the same social circles, but they did know each other.

This is where I do think that Bloomberg is going to get under Trump's skin. Bloomberg is all of the things that Donald Trump has tried to make himself in the telling of his own story, which is, you know, self-made. A billionaire worth many, many billions.

We know that one of the things that has always rankled President Trump about Jeff Bezos is that Jeff Bezos has a ton of money in comparison to Donald Trump. So I think that that is going to be something that is going to needle him. I think just looking at that graphic, what will likely be a lot in the next couple of months. It's going to bother him.

The question, as always, is going to be how does he react to it? I don't think that Republicans think it's a terrible thing for Donald -- for Mike Bloomberg to be entering the race. I'm not sure how Donald Trump will see it.

GOLODRYGA: Let me ask you about what some Republicans are saying that should be the other option for Mike Bloomberg instead of just running. And Olivia Nuzzi tweeted this actually. She asked for reaction to the Bloomberg news of Joe Walsh. And he told her that "Bloomberg should instead put $100 million into a Michael Bennett [SIC] or Amy Klobuchar super PAC," if in fact, he is so concerned about the moderate vote and Joe Biden perhaps not living up to that.

HABERMAN: I mean, OK. Sure. That's -- I'm sure that they'll -- they'll listen to that advice.

I mean, I think that Mike Bloomberg has wanted to run for president, certainly, as long as I've covered him. In the book that he wrote about his own life shortly before he got into the mayor's race in 2001, he listed the remaining jobs that he would want. And among the two was president of the World Bank, and the other was president of the United States.

So no, I don't think that he's eager to float a Klobuchar super PAC.

Look, Mike Bloomberg has never lacked for confidence. He clearly does believe in his own abilities. And I think you are going to see that going forward. But what I also think you're going to see is all of the things that Donald Trump says that have, you know, fallen in the category of things that -- that rich candidates say, people that are not quite as in touch with people who don't have money. Mike Bloomberg is very prone to those and always was. And so we'll see.

GREGORY: But -- but I do think it's worth pointing out the biggest picture -- the biggest part of the picture here is that this is a -- you know, Mike Bloomberg has looked at running many, many times. And this is not a shot in the dark. He has pulled out before. He has decided not to run because he's concluded in those rounds that he cannot win. Here, he sees an opportunity to be a more centrist Democrat. I mean,

this is what is the big power play on the left right now, which is what is the future of the Democratic Party? And there's a real split about that. And he represents that split and sees weakness in this lane, this more moderate lane.

HABERMAN: He's always seen weakness in that lane. I think he sees this as his last chance to actually run for president. So I'm not sure that it's because he really does see that there is a clear path there. I totally hear everything you're saying.

GREGORY: Yes.

HABERMAN: But I remain really skeptical that this is the moment where the waters are parting.

BERMAN: Let me, if I can, because we're just a few days away from the public impeachment hearings beginning. And I want to touch on something "The Washington Post" is reporting this morning. This is as we heard from George Kent yesterday, talk about why he thinks it's wrong, what he saw going on at the State Department and with the efforts to lean on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

"The Washington Post" is now reporting that one new possible defense from Republican allies of the president will be, you know what? It wasn't the president who did all the wrong stuff. It was Rudy Giuliani, Ambassador Sondland, and also Mick Mulvaney, right?

Here's the quote from that. "As Republicans argue that most of the testimony against Trump is based on faulty second-hand information, they are sowing doubt about whether Sondland, Giuliani and Mulvaney were actually representing the president or freelancing to pursue their own agendas. The GOP is effectively offering up the three to be fall guys."

HABERMAN: Right.

BERMAN: You think that'll be effective?

HABERMAN: I mean, look, I think it could be, honestly. I mean, I think it worked for Donald Trump during the Mueller probe to basically say, that was all of these people. It wasn't tied to me. You don't have anything directly tied to me.

The difficulty with that is that there's a transcript of a phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. So it's harder to move it away from him. That's the big picture here.

But I do think that, if Republicans can confuse people and muddy this up enough, that's probably their best bet. We discussed this before. I'm not sure how many actual people, voters are tuning into this the way we are.

[07:10:02]

GOLODRYGA: All three of these men have said that they all tie this back to the president, working on his behest, as well.

If I could just lastly, David, get your response to the latest excerpts out of this Anonymous book that's going to be released in just a couple of weeks. Just one example, because we can't get enough of quoting from this book: "It's like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food as worried attendants try to catch him. You're stunned, amused, and embarrassed, all at the same time. Only your uncle probably wouldn't do it every single day. His words aren't broadcast to the public, and he doesn't have to lead the U.S. government once he puts his pants on."

What's your reaction?

GREGORY: You know, I mean, there's a lot of quotes like this that draw attention. It's not particularly new. Because we don't know who this senior official is, I think it loses some of its punch. You know, it's -- it's shaping up to be a damning portrait, for sure.

But we have the real thing with names attached in this impeachment inquiry about behavior that is alarming to large sections of the government. So I think it's going to feel familiar in its reaction.

And just one other point about Trump. I think the difficulty of casting blame on others is how central Trump is to the entire operation of the government. The idea that he's got command, that he is the center point, makes it harder to foist blame off onto other people.

I think the biggest point, as Maggie says, we have a transcript. We know the outcome when the investigation starts, which is the defense says, yes, I did this, and there was nothing wrong with it.

GOLODRYGA: And we also have George Kent testifying that "POTUS wanted nothing less than Zelensky to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden, Clinton." That's coming from the president of the United States.

All right. David, Maggie, thank you. Great to see you.

GREGORY: Thanks.

GOLODRYGA: Well, big revelations in the Roger Stone trial. It's his long-time friend, President Trump, that has been a focal point so far. So what have we learned? So much news this morning. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:38]

GOLODRYGA: Well, it has been a rough week in federal court for President Trump's longtime friend, Roger Stone, in a case that has actually focused more on the president than anticipated.

Prosecutors exposing a number of lies Stone told in texts and emails, and their effort proved Stone lied to Congress and tampered with witnesses.

Joining me now is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

Elie, great to see you. Wow. A lot to talk about here. A lot of drama in this courtroom. I guess we shouldn't expect any less given that we're talking about Roger Stone here.

But let's get right to these text messages at the heart of this controversy. Because over a series of text messages, Stone's friend, Credico, asking him to cover Stone's alleged percentage. Credico pointed out to Stone via text that he wasn't a back channel, but Stone had told the House committee that he had a back channel.

"Stone responded, 'What the "F" blank is your problem. Neither of us has done anything wrong or illegal.' Credico then wrote, 'You open yourself up to the six counts of perjury'."

What does that tell you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This whole case, Bianna, is a string of lying liars lying to one another. And -- and it's hard to even know what's truth and reality as between Roger Stone and Randy Credico.

The bottom-line charges against Roger Stone are actually fairly straightforward and fairly benign. For example, Roger Stone lied to Congress about they asked him whether he had any emails or texts or any other communication about Julian Assange. He said no. He has dozens.

He was asked whether he ever communicated with Randy Credico, the person we just saw the communication with, electronically by email or text about Assange. He had communicated with Credico that very day.

So Roger Stone in the end here is charged with fairly straightforward lies to Congress.

GOLODRYGA: So he lied to Congress to protect the president is the point that you're making?

HONIG: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: Let's also talk about the accusation of the witness tampering.

HONIG: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: What does that mean for him?

HONIG: So that's real trouble. But a lot of the penalty that Roger Stone is facing here relates to his efforts to get Randy Credico to change his story to lie. I mean, it's very straightforward.

If you look at the texts between the two of them, Stone is telling him -- he's threatening to kill him. He threatens to kill the guy's dog. I mean, don't threaten to kill a guy's dog. Jurors hate that.

GOLODRYGA: He brought the dog with him, too, right?

HONIG: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: To the courtroom.

HONIG: Yes, right.

GOLODRYGA: The dog survived.

HONIG: That's a compelling visual for the jury. But ultimately, Donald Trump is taking on a lot of what we call collateral damage here.

What we've learned for sure through the indictment, and we'll flesh out through this trial, is "A," people in the Trump campaign asked Stone to connect with WikiLeaks. "B," the reason -- the prosecutors said the reason Roger Stone lied to Congress was to protect Donald Trump and his campaign.

And "C," it's really sounding the same general theme as we're seeing in the Ukraine impeachment inquiry, which is Donald Trump and the people around him were eager, willing, and encouraged foreign countries to come in, foreign actors and interfere with our elections. So what we're seeing in the Roger Stone trial is really reinforcing what we're seeing in the Ukraine inquiry.

GOLODRYGA: And talk about some of these cooperating witnesses, in particular Gates and -- and Bannon.

HONIG: Yes, so big contrast there. Rick Gates is a classic cooperating witness and a good one. He came in early. He admitted what he did. He's already testified at the Manafort trial. He withstood cross-examination. That case resulted in a conviction. So he's a standard, I think, fairly reliable cooperating witness.

[07:20:06]

Bannon is a wild card. I mean, this guy is a conspiracy theorist. I would think twice and a third time and a fourth time, if I was a prosecutor, about putting Bannon on the stand.

What it tells me is the prosecutors must be confident they have hard evidence, documents backing up whatever Bannon is going to say. Because otherwise, the guy's a time bomb.

GOLODRYGA: Can you imagine I had to look down at my notes to remember Bannon's name. That was such a blast from the past. That was so 2018.

HONIG: Right.

GOLODRYGA: This does spell like potential trouble for the president, though, correct? HONIG: Yes. Look, this is bad news for Donald Trump. I mean, we

know he's not going to get charged criminally based on Mueller's conclusion, based on the DOJ policy. Based -- based on having Bill Barr at the Department of Justice.

But there's a lot of bad news for the president here. Ultimately, he's not going to be able to hide from the fact that senior people in his campaign and, potentially, the president himself asked Roger Stone, try to get whatever information you can from WikiLeaks.

That's really bad. That is -- that is trying to deal with foreign actors to get information to influence a campaign.

GOLODRYGA: Elie Honig, I don't think he gets more than an hour of sleep. Thank you so much for being here with us this morning.

HONIG: I'm find. I'm good.

GOLODRYGA: So much color. We appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Bianna.

BERMAN: All right. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney knew this morning he was given a subpoena to come testify to House Democrats. He's not going to show up this morning. We'll talk about what they wanted to hear from him. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:52]

BERMAN: New this morning, House Democrats issues a subpoena for White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify in the impeachment inquiry this morning. He's not coming. Adding to the list of White House officials who have defied these subpoenas.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna. He sits on the House Oversight Committee part of these hearings.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

Mick Mulvaney, I don't anticipate that you actually believed he was going to show up, but what did you want to hear from him?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): We wanted to hear whether he made the decision to withhold the aid or did the president order him to withhold the aid? The reality is that Republicans are trying to pin this on Mulvaney, arguing that the president may not have been involved. I don't believe that, but Mulvaney could clarify the president's role.

BERMAN: So that is a new Republican strategy as of this morning, according to "The Washington Post." Yet a new one after Lindsey Graham suggested the president wasn't smart enough to do a quid pro quo. Others are saying maybe he did it, but it's not a bad thing.

Now a new strategy might be that, even if there was a shakedown of the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens, it wasn't the president, some Republicans might suggest. It was Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ambassador Sondland.

Why is that, or is that not an effective argument?

KHANNA: It just seems hard to believe. I mean, the person who was going to benefit was Donald Trump. He was concerned that Joe Biden was the leading candidate at the time against him. And it defies plausibility that all these people around him would try to sabotage Joe Biden when the person benefitting was Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Have you seen or heard direct evidence in this testimony that President Trump ordered the holdup of military aid in Ukraine until there was a public pronouncement to investigate the Bidens?

KHANNA: Well, based on the public reporting, there are a number of people, including Ambassador Taylor, who have testified that the president put pressure on Zelensky to order a public announcement of the investigation into Joe Biden and that there were suggestions that he would not take a meeting with Zelensky unless Zelensky did that. And that Zelensky wouldn't get the aid unless he did that.

And that, I think, will hopefully become clear during the public testimony.

BERMAN: But as far as you have heard, I'm not hearing you say someone testified the president ordered the holdup of the aid.

KHANNA: Well, John, as you know, I can't talk about what happened in -- behind closed doors. But I think, based on the public testimony, that narrative is going to emerge.

BERMAN: One of the I things we've heard over the last day is that Democrats hope to wrap up maybe all the impeachment proceedings by Christmas. Do you think that timeline is reasonable?

KHANNA: I do. I think the evidence is overwhelming. We need a few key witnesses. I think the American people will understand how blatant this effort was. And we should wrap this up before the end of the year.

BERMAN: Which witnesses? Is less more, do you think, in terms of what we hear in public over the next few weeks?

KHANNA: I do. I think Ambassador Taylor will be key. I mean, the facts here are very simple. We need someone to establish that the president pressured Zelensky to announce a public investigation into Biden. We need someone to establish that the president directed that he wouldn't take a meeting or wouldn't give aid.

And I think those facts are really all that need to be established, and a few key witnesses can do that.

BERMAN: And do you anticipate that obstruction will be among the articles of impeachment that you vote on? KHANNA: I do. There has been an effort of a cover-up in this White

House, both in terms of not letting people go through the process of notifying the national security lawyers, not notifying Congress.

But I don't think that's the central issue. The central issue is why do you have a president of the United States compromising our national security?

BERMAN: You, I notice, are in Manchester, New Hampshire. And I can only imagine --

KHANNA: I am.

BERMAN: -- perhaps that's the campaign for Bernie Sanders, who you have endorsed for president of the United States. There is a new entry, it seems, or about to be, into the presidential campaign. And that's former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Senator Sanders said of that, "The billionaire class is scared, and they should be scared." What's your reaction to the -- what seems to be probably entry of Michael Bloomberg?

END