Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Testimony: Mulvaney Was Point Man on Quid Pro Quo; Australia Fires; War in Syria; Berlin Wall 30th Anniversary. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 9, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome, everyone, live, from CNN Center, I am Michael Holmes, here on CNN NEWSROOM, impeachment testimony provided new details about, who all orchestrated the White House push for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

Battling bushfire, what firefighters are doing in Australia to control the flames.

And anniversary of, freedom Germany remembers the day the Berlin Wall came down and East and West came together.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: Welcome, everyone.

An attorney for the former White House national security adviser John Bolton said his client has relevant information about the Ukraine scandal but has not yet been disclosed, even so Bolton failed up to show up for a deposition on Thursday.

Meanwhile newly released impeachment testimony puts acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney squarely in the middle of the Ukraine scandal. CNN's Jessica Schneider has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Testimony unveiled from two key witnesses point to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as the one who coordinated the quid pro quo demand with Ukraine.

Fiona Hill, the White House's former top Russia adviser telling lawmakers last month that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland made Mulvaney's instructions clear when they met with Ukrainian officials July 10th at the White House.

Hill testifying, Ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with chief of staff Mulvaney for a meeting with Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations. The White House's top expert on Ukraine, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman,

echoed that, saying investigations by Ukraine were "the deliverable," coordinated by Mulvaney. Sondland just said that he had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney and this is what was required in order to get a meeting.

Vindman adding there was no ambiguity that a White House meeting was contingent on Ukraine opening an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Several witnesses have testified that the holdup of military aid for Ukraine was also directed by Mulvaney.

Hill recounted how the proposed deal alarmed then national security adviser John Bolton, who she said immediately stiffened and ended the July 10th meeting. Last month, Mulvaney admitted there was indeed a quid pro quo before he later walked it back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody, get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Vindman also discussed how he drafted talking points ahead of that July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky and said his suggestions definitely did not include anything about investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens or Burisma.

When Fiona Hill finally read the rough transcript of the president's call with Zelensky, she said she was very shocked and very saddened about Trump's pretty blatant push for politically motivated investigations.

Hill also reacted how Gordon Sondland made clear he was in charge of Ukraine affairs, describing a blow-up with him when she later asked, who put him in charge, he said the president, Hill testified. Well, that shut me up because you can't really argue with that.

Fiona Hill also disclosed that she received death threats and hateful calls during her year at the National Security Council before she left in August. And she said many of those threats have continued, now that she is front and center as a key voice in the impeachment inquiry -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Larry Sabato joins me now, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Always a pleasure, sir, Democrats don't want to subpoena people like the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton who, did not show up for a deposition on Friday. They want to get into a court battle, which could delay their impeachment timetable. But they're giving up a couple of key potential witnesses.

How do you do the Democratic strategy on this?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA FOR POLITICS: I think they are calculating that, first of all, it's obvious to just about everyone except those in the Trump base, that there was indeed a quid pro quo and it was designed to benefit the president's re-election campaign.

Like I said, just about everybody sees that emerging; it emerged a long time ago and there's a lot of subsidiary evidence now, so that's part of it.

[03:05:00]

SABATO: As you mentioned you don't want to get into a court fight that ends up stretching this, even into the fall election campaign next year, that would be a disaster, so if they've gotten enough information and they cannot get the participation of the key people like Mulvaney and Bolton, I suppose that's additional evidence for obstruction of justice.

HOLMES: Mulvaney is someone who could make that direct link, something they don't have. The other thing the interesting is, on Friday, this letter to Congress from lawyers for the former national security adviser John Bolton, after he did not show up for the deposition.

This lawyer said Bolton has all of this great relevant info, on Ukraine that has not been disclosed. It seems like teasing, I've got stuff you'd like but I'm not telling you about it, what do you make of that?

SABATO: First of all, I think they're essentially saying that we've got good stuff, let's make a deal, if it's at all possible.

Second we need to remember, Bolton, has plenty of motives. He was fired, he didn't leave voluntarily. He was fired by Trump, it was embarrassing for him, he had a lot of fights during the time he was there, he and Trump did not get along and they clearly do not have the same philosophy in international affairs, at least in some important sectors. So this is an opportunity for revenge.

And you can always say, you know, the House just demanded it.

HOLMES: Larry Sabato, good to see you. Thank you so much.

SABATO: Thank you. Michael.

HOLMES: Now India's top court says that the fiercely contested holy site in northern India should be given to Hindus who want to build a temple there and Muslims were given a separate plot of land and both groups have been fighting for the ownership of this land for decades.

It sparked deadly riots in 1992. Vedika Sud, joining us now from New Delhi.

Tell us about this decision made and how divisive this whole issue has been in India.

VEDIKA SUD, JOURNALIST: Let me start with the second part of the question here, Michael, this is a significant verdict and it's the reason the issue behind a lot of social, religious debates, feisty ones, political debates over the last few decades.

Obviously also drawing the line between Muslims and Hindus since 1992 because during the riots, after 2,000 people have lost their lives.

This finality to this entire issue will hopefully bring down the nerves of people a, lot of chief ministers have been appealing for calm. And the prime minister tweeted moments after, the decision was put out by the supreme court, said there's nothing that cannot be settled amicably between two dissenting parties.

On the ground the security situation remains the same as it was before the verdict was out. Talking about the disputed land, 2.77 acres, there will be a Hindu temple built there. The Supreme Court has asked the Indian government to ensure a trust is put in place within the next three months. February is the deadline, after which they will monitor the building and construction of a Hindu temple there.

The Muslims have nearly double of what is already existing there for the Hindus in a 5-acre piece of land where they can construct a mosque. The Muslim party is not very happy with the Supreme Court decision. There could be a review but that would be a series of meetings.

HOLMES: All right, thank you so much. We appreciate you covering this for us in New Delhi.

Turning now our attention to Brazil, the former president there is a free man after serving a year and half in prison. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known better as Lula, he's serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering. And he's able to get out, after a court ruled defendants can remain free until they've exhausted all their appeals. He has not.

Despite being in jail, he was one of the top candidates in opposing president Bolsonaro in recent elections but a court ruled he wasn't eligible to run.

Deadly wood fires are raging in south-eastern Australia, firefighters are working to contain them but more keep cropping up, we'll take you to the inferno when we come back.

Also American policy whiplash in Syria, first the U.S. withdrawal of troops, now it's expanding its presence, we will have more when we come back.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [03:10:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: You're looking at damage left behind by bush fires in Australia, fire officials in New South Wales say at least 150 homes have been destroyed. Even with more than 1,000 firefighters trying to keep the flames away, new fires keep cropping up. There are dozens of fires in New South Wales and in Queensland.

At least two people have died, seven others missing. Thanks to the intense dry heat, strong winds and an ongoing drought, the flames have been stirred and firefighters have their hands full, trying to keep it under control. Lynda Kinkade with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Firefighters in Australia drive through what looks like an inferno, smoke and flames surrounding the vehicle.

There's not much here that can be saved. More than 1,000 firefighters are fighting a record number of high intensity blazes across New South Wales. Authorities say this is one of the worst bushfire seasons they have seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately we're in uncharted territory, we've never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level.

KINKADE (voice-over): Officials say high winds are fanning the fires, making them extremely dangerous even, creating their own weather conditions, like fire clouds, which can blow embers kilometers away.

Towns have been evacuated and people have been warned to leave early, rather than risk being trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My house (INAUDIBLE) and I'll make a judgment call and I might be out of here in 10 minutes; I might be out of her in half an hour, I'm not sure.

KINKADE (voice-over): The fire is taking a deadly toll on wildlife.

Experts estimated half of the koalas at a protected koala habitat have died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a really hot, high intensity fire and left not very much, alive in its path. We managed to salvage 10 koalas from this particular fire ground.

KINKADE (voice-over): There is some relief in the horizon. Despite the ominous orange-hued skies, temperatures and winds are expected to level off in the coming days, could, give firefighters a chance to contain the fires -- Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: Donald Trump's policy in Syria continues to raise questions the U.S., is expanding its military mission there, to protect oil fields, Syrian Democratic Forces, have been responsible for guarding the oil fields in Eastern Syria. But they are stretched thin, defending against the Turkish offensive that was triggered by the U.S. pulling out troops from northern Syria, the U.S. defending this military move as part of the fight against ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN HOFFMAN, ASSISTANT TO DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our efforts in the region are preventing ISIS from taking the oil.

[03:15:00]

HOFFMAN: Keeping the oil fields in a place where the SDF is able to use them for funding for their de-ISIS efforts is part of that mission and part of the efforts, to deter and prevent ISIS from obtaining the oil field is an effort to prevent them from obtaining revenues so that they can fund their terrorist operations globally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Retired admiral and CNN military diplomatic analyst John Kirby joins me now.

I'm just curious, does, this feel a little like a whiplash foreign policy, betray the Kurds, abandoning them and saying we will bring the troops hope and then sending troops back in to protect oil, it's not a way to run foreign policy.

What's the mission?

ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It does certainly demonstrate some incoherence here in the strategy inside north Syria. There's no question about that, Michael, I think a couple of questions at play here, one is the oil field actually have been a source of revenue for the SDF, our allies. I think there's a legitimate concern about making sure the source of revenue continues to go to them, not ISIS.

Because ISIS have shown interest in having possession of those oil fields in the past not, so much anymore. Another thing at play here, the Pentagon was really looking for a way to keep a footprint in Syria. This is a way that allows Trump to say that I'm not withdrawing, I'm not quitting, I'm not abandoning the Kurds and it gives the Pentagon a chance to get more troops into Syria for counter ISIS intelligence gathering, even more broad support against ISIS going forward.

So I think it accomplishes a couple of different things. But it's a very nebulous, ill-defined mission. The Pentagon is having all trouble explaining exactly what the authorities are that the troops are going to operate under.

HOLMES: Which brings my next question, the Kurds feel very much betrayed. But the oil is in Syria and the, question is whether U.S. troops have the legal authority to, fire on Syrian, Russian, perhaps Iranian forces?

The Syrian government might want the oil back. And what is the U.S. going to say?

What if Russians want to move in, what are they going to do?

KIRBY: Yes, a very good point. They are Syrian air field. This is the property of the Syrian state. It's just that the Syrian state has not been able to execute their sovereignty in that part of Syria for quite some time.

The Pentagon will say they are not looking to fight the Syrians or the Russians but obviously they have the right of self defense and if the troops are under fire from Russian or Syrian forces, they have to defend themselves.

I think it's rather unlikely given the geography of the country and the fact the Syrians and the Russians are much more focused on the northeast and north central part of the country.

So it's unlikely we'd be looking at nation states fighting here over the oil, but it illustrates, underscores the nebulous nature of these authorities in this mission.

HOLMES: You don't want to make mistakes, either, as we know. Things could happen in that part of the world. We heard earlier sound from the Pentagon, they're saying, this is about denying oil to ISIS.

But ISIS does not have the capability to take the oil. The other thing interesting, deploying mechanized forces. Bradley fighting vehicles and so on, that requires a lot backup.

Why have them if it's just keeping ISIS at bay?

That equipment suggests something bigger?

KIRBY: We have to wait to see how this pans out. They are Bradley fighting vehicles. They're fairly low maintenance. There will be some logistics support that has to go with them.

But I think it's a way to make sure the troops that we are putting into the oil fields have mobility, they can move around, they will be able to do what they need to do. But it is definitely a reintroduction of heavier footprint forces than actually we had at the outset, which was all special operations forces, not mechanized, operating on the ground with SDF.

So it's an introduction of heavier equipment, there will be some logistics training, too, but I think it just about mobility and giving troops the chance to move around.

HOLMES: As a former military man, I wonder how you feel when you see a NATO ally like Turkey carrying out joint patrols with Russia, in areas the U.S. used to be in. It sort of defies belief.

KIRBY: Yes, I'm very sorry to see this. The Turks are now getting what they want, the chance to kick the Kurds out of northeast Syria. The Russians get what they want, diminished American presence in Syria. And I think Putin is laughing all the way to the bank here. He's got this close relationship now with Erdogan and Erdogan is thumbing his nose at NATO. It is not good for the alliance.

[03:20:00]

KIRBY: It's certainly not good, I don't think, for Turkey in the long run and I am very distressed to see it. It is yet just another indication of the degree to which the United States has abdicated our leadership role in that part of the world. And I'm sorry to see it.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Admiral John Kirby, as always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.

KIRBY: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: We'll take a short break, when we come back, the world marking the landmark event that led to the reunification of Germany and ultimately the end of the Soviet Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the moment that forever changed the course of history. That's when we come back.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: Welcome back. Dignitaries, including leaders of former Soviet satellite countries are gathering right now in German capital on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The barrier stood for 28 years, dividing the city's Communist East from the capitalist West, a symbol of the Cold War divide between the Soviet Union against the U.S. and its Western allies.

Now all of that changed, when jubilant crowds stormed the barrier. They had shovels, hammers, picks and their bare hands. They chipped away the wall, until it was no more. Take a look back now at, the sights and sounds of how CNN covered this seismic event 30 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BRAD WHITE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the largest demonstration in East German history.

The main square was packed with carpeted with a half million people, the city virtually came to a standstill. Our top story. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iron Curtain between East Germany and West Berlin has come tumbling down. East Germany announced today it is opening its borders, allowing its citizens to go anywhere they wish. The future of the Berlin Wall is now up in the air.

DOUG JAMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: East Germany's Communist leaders have now taken a symbolic sledgehammer to that wall. It's conceivable, I suppose, now the wall, the real wall with real sledgehammers, will soon be brought down on that wall. There's no longer any point of it being there, a prospect that no one could have predicted a, year ago or even a month ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been a city physically divided for 28 years but now it's come together, East and West, in a spontaneous outburst of emotion.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This could be a first move to dismantling the Berlin Wall that has stood as the most painful symbol of a divided Germany, since it was built in 1961.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One after another, drivers and passengers alike said they plan to use their new freedom to spend a weekend in West Germany and take, a look at how the other half lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every East German coming to the West received 100 marks, about $50. Many West German businesses are staying open around the clock, giving them a chance to not only spend the money but pick up goods to take home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hundreds of thousands of East Germans swarmed the streets of West Berlin. It was like a sea of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning a new hold was made in the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz. Yesterday, it was the Glienicke Bridge that opened up to many of us. These are just place names.

[03:25:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what signal do these places send to the German people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potsdamer Platz was the Times Square building before the war. I was on the Glienicke Bridge yesterday and I have never seen more grown men with tears in my eyes than any time in my life on that bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vast majority of East Germans don't want to leave homes, jobs and families to go live in the West. The question now is whether the breached in the wall have whetted the appetites of people here, not for just a little more change but a lot.

East German leaders hope that by dismantling those things that have become symbols of their past, they can encourage the return of skilled workers, of doctors, engineers and scientists needed to rebuild the country's future. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: In fact, 30 years ago, I was the European correspondent for current affairs for Australia's 9 Network, and we had heard that this moment might come. There I am in front of Checkpoint Charlie. We had heard this could happen, so we went to Berlin.

And then word came through, that, indeed, the wall was crumbling. The checkpoint near the Brandenburg Gate was opened and East German Trabant cars or Trabbies, as they were known, were coming through.

Here a woman, peering through a hole that had been made in the wall, looking into no man's land and on into Eastern Germany. The next day, sections of what was once an assailable wall, this was near the Brandenburg Gate, on top there, with the others who were chipping away at it, I had pieces at home.

This unassailable wall, pieces were removed the next day. It was extraordinary to get up, go out and see it opened up. East Germans tentatively wandering through to the West, past bewildered East German soldiers, who a day earlier, would have shot their own people for doing what they were now doing.

These men look bewildered, don't they?

These East Germans embraced each other. They embraced those soldiers and they were embraced by West Berliners, who were there to greet them with flowers.

What was equally amazing back then is most of these Germans came to West Berlin, they spent the day and then they went back home. They knew they had changed the world and that change was not going away. They knew they could come back.

We saw graffiti, in fact, which said, "They came, they saw, they did a little shopping," which kind of summed it up. It was an extraordinary day and the historical importance of what was unfolding in front of us was not lost on us. We knew this meant the Iron Curtain was being torn back.

And the world changed on that day. The Romanian Revolution followed; I covered that. The Czech Revolution, that, too. And so on. And then the unification of East and West of Germany, the first democratic elections in East Germany, the pulling back of that Iron Curtain revealed the failures of communism and repression.

That changed in the world. They were extraordinary times.

Stay with CNN, as we covered events, marking the 30th anniversary, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We will be live at the Brandenburg Gate in the capital of Germany in about 30 minutes from now, that's 10:00 am in Berlin, right here on CNN.

And thank you, I am Michael Holmes. I'll have your headlines in just a moment.