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Nikki Haley: Top Aides Tried To Recruit Me To Undermine Trump; Mulvaney Tries To Join Lawsuit Fighting House Subpoena Power; Public Hearings Begin Wednesday On Capitol Hill; GOP Defends Trump's Ukraine Call Ahead Of Public Hearings; Sanders On Bloomberg's Potential Run: Arrogance Of Billionaires"; One Of The First Released Under New Law Charged With Murder. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired November 10, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:07]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with stunning claims from former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, on some of the President's one time top Cabinet members. In her new book being released Tuesday, Nikki Haley asserts that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly attempted to recruit her to work around the President in an effort to save the country, according to The Washington Post.

Haley writes in her book, "Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the President, they weren't being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country. It was in their decisions, not the President's, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The President didn't know what he was doing".

CNN has reached out to both Rex Tillerson and the White House for comment. And according to The Washington Post, when they reached John Kelly, when The Washington Post reached John Kelly, he said that if providing the President -- I'm quoting now -- "With the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice from across the government so he can make an informed decision is working against Trump, then guilty as charged".

All right, joining me right now, CNN Political Analyst and Assistant Editor for "The Washington Post," David Swerdlick. David, good to see you.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So in this week now, just ahead of televised public impeachment hearings. Does this add fuel to the fire of people in public office who were worried about how the President uses his power? I mean, in this published instance, you know, the now former Chief of Staff and Secretary of State were clearly worried.

SWERDLICK: Yes, Fred. I mean, it's a fascinating story by my Washington Post colleague Anne Gearan, and I encourage your viewers to read the whole thing. But in a nutshell, Governor Haley in this book is doing sort of a concatenated two situation where she sticks with the President's side but sort of salvages some of the -- her former senior -- the President's former senior advisers, her colleagues, Secretary Tillerson and General Kelly. She's able to paint a picture of chaos which is a narrative that will help her down the road, but at the same time that she was the one basically forwarding the President's agenda, not disagreeing with him.

Except when she did, like in instances where he said stuff that was sort of racist, and that's in the book and in the article. I think this adds to the drama of the week, Fred, in the sense that you already have a situation where the White House is on high alert, you have a highly partisan-charged atmosphere, and now you have someone who almost certainly wants to be President after the Trump presidency weighing in in this particular way.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And, you know, you talk about, you know, a highly charged moment, a moment, you know, where many criticize the President for, you know, siding with, you know, all the fine people. According to The Post, you know, Haley also addressed Times like that when she disagreed with the President, and this was that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest to taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park, from Robert E. Lee to another name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. So that was Charlottesville --

SWERDLICK: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- which ended up becoming a, you know, deadly, you know, protest there. Haley, you know, writes, "A leader's words matter in these situations, and the President's words had been hurtful and dangerous. I picked up the phone and called the President".

So in her book, with all due respect, I mean, she's trying to say, look, you know, he was accessible. I was able to let him know and speak my mind when I disagreed with something. She's essentially maybe challenging others to do the same?

SWERDLICK: I think she's challenging others a little bit, but I think what she's really doing, again, is trying to set out her own image as someone who was willing to speak truth to power in these types of instances like the Charlottesville instance. I mean, her brand is someone who wound up being a peacemaker after the Emanuel AME shootings in Charleston several years ago when she was governor of South Carolina. So she's saying in this book, look, I spoke truth to power to President Trump on a racially sensitive topic. But also in the article and in the book, she talks about not pushing back on the President in her role as Ambassador to the U.N. when it came to his foreign policy agenda, even though others in the administration with more experience than her or the President on foreign policy issues were sort of behind the scenes trying to steer him in a slightly different direction. Again, I think it's a skillful cake and eat it, too, type of presentation.

[15:05:05]

WHITFIELD: Yes. She's not there anymore, meaning, you know, having access to the President in the White House, but she is still defending him. This is what she said on CBS this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, FMR. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It absolutely happened. And instead of saying that to me, they should have been saying that to the President, not asking me to join them on their sidebar plan. It should have been go tell the President what your differences are and quit if you don't like what he's doing. But to undermine a President is really a very dangerous thing, and it goes against the constitution and it goes against what the American people want. And that was offensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: What do you interpret her as saying there?

SWERDLICK: Well, again, I think she wants to present herself as the loyal soldier for President Trump up to a point. She was the Ambassador of the U.N. under Trump, got that foreign policy experience on her resume, leading into what I expect will be a future presidential race. And I think that at the same time she's saying, look, I understand that there's differences of opinion, but you're there to serve the President who appointed you, which is true.

I think, though, but to say it's unconstitutional for a Secretary of State or a White House Chief of Staff to, behind the scenes, give contrary advice might be a bridge too far. I mean, ultimately, these guys did leave the administration over some differences with the administration. Secretary Tillerson was always, in my view, a bad fit for the administration. General Kelly had some problems of his own.

WHITFIELD: Yes. You would hope that any adviser would be able to speak their mind. I mean, defer to their expertise and, you know, their point of view. I mean, otherwise, why do you have an adviser?

SWERDLICK: Yes.

WHITFIELD: But then, of course, it's at the President or, you know, whoever is receiving that kind of, you know, direction, at their discretion as to whether they want to honor or take them up on that advice.

SWERDLICK: Exactly. And in either case, it's not unconstitutional to have a different opinion. Yes.

WHITFIELD: David Swerdlick, got you. Thank you so much.

SWERDLICK: Thanks. Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, the revelations in that book come as Washington is gearing up for what could be the most important week in the impeachment inquiry to date. Public hearings will begin this week as Democrats seek to lay out their case that the President, the administration, was involved in a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

So this is what we know thus far. On Wednesday, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs will testify on Capitol Hill. Well here from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch as well. And this is what we are unclear about, whether the people on the Republican submitted witness list will be called to testify.

And among the people Republicans want to hear from, Hunter Biden, and the anonymous whistleblower. Chairman Adam Schiff was quick to say the whistleblower will not be called, saying the testimony would be redundant and unnecessary. Senator Lindsey Graham, calling the idea of not hearing from those witnesses a, quote, joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn't allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid because without the whistleblower complaint, we wouldn't be talking about any of this. And I also see the need for Hunter Biden to be called to adequately defend the President, and if you don't do those two things, it's a complete joke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And then there's the Mick Mulvaney factor. The Acting White House Chief of Staff is attempting to join a lawsuit, testing the House's subpoena power over White House witnesses. If allowed, it will effectively keep him from having to testify until a federal court decides the case. Mulvaney came under intense scrutiny about his role in the Ukraine scandal following this moment in the White House briefing room just last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Let's be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: And finally, there is this wild card. Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has temporarily assigned Jordan a staunch Trump defender to the House Intelligence Committee. And that matters because it's the House Intelligence Committee that will be conducting the public hearings this week, giving Jordan a chance to directly question witnesses in public. Jordan has repeatedly pushed for the whistleblower to be outed.

All right, there's a lot to sift through here. Let's bring in CNN's Marshall Cohen to help make sense of it all and to help kind of forecast what's going to happen. What kind of testimony we might be hearing based on the testimony that's already happened behind closed doors. So, first, Bill Taylor is expected to testify, and he has already said behind closed doors, right, in his testimony that he thought it was crazy, you know, and very unusual and alarming that a U.S. military aid was being withheld.

[15:10:13]

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Fred. And the quote from Mick Mulvaney that you just played a second ago about the quid pro quo, well, Bill Taylor, the top ranking U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine also said to the lawmakers, there was a quid pro quo. He said it was his understanding that everything that Ukraine wanted, a White House invitation, $400 million in military aid that they really need for their war against Russia.

It was Bill Taylor's testimony that everything they wanted was contingent upon the President of Ukraine making those public announcements of investigations into Donald Trump's political rival. So that is a strong corroboration for the allegation of a quid pro quo.

WHITFIELD: And George Kent.

COHEN: That's the next one up. They'll be testifying together on Wednesday. He is a senior State Department official who oversaw Ukraine policy. And he kind of backed up a lot of what Taylor had to say. He said that investigating Joe Biden is not the same as anti- corruption which the President has been arguing, and he said that it looked more like a selective prosecution, kind of going against the rule of law.

You know, the types of things that the United States has been pushing Ukraine to actually do, clean up their judiciary, establish some independence. So, that's pretty critical testimony from a top State Department guy.

WHITFIELD: On Friday, then we're also going to hear from Marie Yovanovitch. She was the former Ambassador to Ukraine, and, you know, she has not held back even though the White House had discouraged State Department people and formerly State Department people from testifying, she did it, anyway.

COHEN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: What did she expected to say?

COHEN: Yes. I mean, it seems like she was more than happy to tell her side of the story, because her side of the story has been suppressed. You know, she was removed from her position.

People like Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump and their allies in the media have spread allegations against her that she was part of a deep state, that she was anti-Trump partisan. She went to the lawmakers and said those are lies. And it's not true and it's a bunch of smears. And you can expect that she's going to give that same rebuke next Friday for everyone to see on Capitol Hill.

WHITFIELD: All right. Marshall Cohen, it's going to be a fascinating week indeed.

COHEN: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Republicans are sharpening their defense ahead of the impeachment hearings. How the President's GOP allies plan to counter testimony from witnesses during this week's testimony.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:21]

WHITFIELD: With public hearings in the impeachment inquiry now just days away, Republicans are sharpening their attacks on Democrats and increasing their defense of President Trump. Senator Lindsey Graham said any impeachment would be, quoting now, dead on arrival, end quote, in the Senate if the whistleblower doesn't testify before Congress. This despite the whistleblower's own lawyer saying today that seeking to expose them puts his client in a necessary danger.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is here with more. So Jeremy, how else are Republicans defending the President?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, what we have seen so far in this testimony is increasing allegations and corroboration of the allegations that there was some kind of a quid pro quo involving security aid to Ukraine and these political investigations. Now what we're hearing from a pair of Republican senators is essentially quid pro quo, no big deal. Listen to what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think we've gotten lost in this whole idea of quid pro quo, and I think Senator Kennedy got to hit the nail on the head, is that if you're not allowed to give aid to people who are corrupt, there's always contingencies on aid. Even President Obama withheld aid. I think it's a mistake to say, oh, he withheld aid until he got what he wanted. Well, if it's corruption and he believes there would be corruption, he has every right to withhold aids.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Quid pro quo in my judgment is a red herring. There are only two relevant questions that need to be answered. Why did the President ask for an investigation, and number two, and this is inextricably linked to the first question, what did Mr. Hunter Biden do for the money?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Now, Fredricka, it's not clear that this is a strategy that the President necessarily agrees with. He posted a tweet just a little bit ago saying that the call to the Ukrainian President was perfect, that there was nothing that said that was in any way wrong.

And he warns Republicans, don't be led into the fool's trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. And that certainly could be the message that is developing from these Republicans who are essentially saying, yes, the President did commit some kind of a quid pro quo with Ukraine, but it was not an improper one, it was not an impeachable one.

Meanwhile, we're also seeing Republicans increasingly turning their focus to Joe Biden and his Hunter Biden as you saw the Senator John Kennedy doing there. Republicans are also looking to get Hunter Biden to come forward and testify publicly, but that is something that the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, has so far refused to do, and it appears unlikely that he will do so. He already has warned Republicans that this is not going to be the way that he proceeds with these public hearings. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.

So as the caucuses get closer, the field of presidential candidates may be getting larger. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is gearing up for a potential presidential run. Why he would get in at this point, and how those already in the race are feeling about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:17]

WHITFIELD: All right, I'm quoting now. The arrogance of billionaires, Senator Bernie Sanders' words to describe how he sees a possible Michael Bloomberg run for the White House. The progressive candidate went after the former New York City Mayor just days after Bloomberg filed for the Alabama Democratic primary. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I understand it, he is planning to skip the first four states we're doing. I'm doing five events this weekend right here in Iowa, we're all over New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, California, but he is still important. You see, when you're worth $50 billion, I guess you don't have to have town meetings, you don't have to talk to ordinary people. What do is you take out I guess a couple of billion dollars and you buy the state of California.

But I happen to believe the American people are sick and tired of the power and arrogance of a billionaire class which increasingly controls not only the economic life of this country but the political life of this country. We are a democracy. That means one person, one vote. You want to run for president, that's fine. Don't think you can simply buy an election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Karen Finney, a former Senior Spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and Andrew Gillum, former Florida Gubernatorial Candidate and former Mayor of Tallahassee. Good to see both of you. And both of you were now political commentators, by the way, everybody.

All right, Andrew, you first. You know, why would Bloomberg get in now? I mean, what is he saying about the current field?

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, first of all, good to be with you, too, Fred. I will tell you clearly this is going to be a challenge not just for him but also Tom Steyer that it appears being a billionaire can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is is that you can pretty well decide the base off of your resourcing that you can enter a race for president of the United States and almost at any point during the process.

[15:25:09]

The curse, however, is that most people don't want to feel what Bernie Sanders just sort of articulated, which is that they are for sale and that their votes can be bought, necessarily. And I will say, I do think that both indicates of Steyer and Bloomberg, they've got a little bit of a resume of support of getting involved and championing issues, whether it's climate change or, you know, gun reform that will give them a little bit of heft and an opportunity to talk about what it means to advocate passionately for an issue and to really put your money where your mouth is and trying to achieve world change on those issues.

WHITFIELD: Right. Andrew, it's not meant literally that they would be, you know, paying for votes, because it's not like they're actually --

GILLUM: Sure.

WHITFIELD: -- handing out dollar bills. It really means they have no money to perhaps finance themselves, their teams, you know, hotel, you know, bills and flights and all of that. But is it wise, you know, to be so critical, Karen, when you, you know, you hear, you know, Bernie Sanders, even Elizabeth Warren, who are very critical of people with a lot of money. Like that is a detriment, you know, that's a big negative to be one of possibly now four, you know --

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- billionaires either seeking to or in the race.

FINNEY: Isn't that amazing. Well, let's be clear. One, the current President is not actually a billionaire. And I think the one challenge -- he likes to say he is, though, right? You know, but think about this week we learned that Tom Steyer, a staff person for him had apparently been offering money for support. That's what I think Bernie Sanders was kind of playing up on.

And in addition to sort of that idea of big money coming in and sort of being able to spend a lot of money in California, which is a very expensive state to run a campaign in, right, but having the unlimited resources completely changes the game. However, what I think they're really touching on is the Democratic primary electorate is in a very different place even and when Michael Bloomberg was Mayor, which is to say that in the aftermath of the -- of, you know, the bank crash and, you know, the recovery from that, the anxiety people still feel, income and equality is a huge issue and a very real issue.

A lot of people, working people feel like they did not benefit from the trickle down of Donald Trump's so-called tax cut. And so that's really, I think, a big piece of this, that here are these two men who are billionaires who have made big money -- yes, they have done a great job of putting their money where their mouth is in supporting causes but they represent a very different place from where I think the majority of the party is -- and I think this may be Michael Bloomberg is miscalculating, that, you know, maybe people are having their concerns about Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax, but I don't think the vast majority of the base of this party in the primary electorate shares those same concerns the way he and other millionaires and billionaires do.

WHITFIELD: And Karen, Andrew both of you can weigh in on. I mean, it's interesting that, Bernie Sanders, I mean, about a month ago Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you know, appeared with him, endorsed, you know, him, et cetera, but you're seeing a lot more of them in terms of their pairing. It was remarkable that he is in the sit down interview and he has her next to. I mean, is there anything to read from that, Karen, you first? I mean, what does that mean?

FINNEY: I think he's trying to show, I'm so cool with the young people. You know, because she represents youthful energy and, you know, a lot of young people really relate to her. And, you know, he's been falling back in the polls behind Elizabeth Warren, so he's kind of need to shake things up.

WHITFIELD: Or if I get the nomination, this is a possible pairing on a ticket, Andrew? Am I going too far?

GILLUM: You know, first of all, we can't rule anything out. But I certainly think, you know, AOC and the squad really do represent kind of much of the visible leadership of the progressive left. And so, yes to her age, but also to what she represents for a very, very growing element within the Democratic Party. And given the fact that Elizabeth Warren has really competed for, in many cases, been able to move a good deal of that support her way, the senator is probably right to want to create the opportunity for a little bit of a pull there.

I would also just say just really quickly, Karen made a really great point.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GILLUM: What both these billionaires that are in the race, Tom Steyer and Bloomberg, we assume soon into the race represent, is an opportunity for the left to really create a foil of -- they're already fundraising around the fact that you've got billionaires in the race. And so, it's unfortunate in some sense because they may not be able to get measured on their full merit, but it certainly creates an opportunity and a foil for the left to say billionaires are working by the race.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about a couple other candidates quickly.

FINNEY: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Senator Amy Klobuchar, you know, was asked about Mayor Pete Buttigieg and whether, you know, he has the experience to be president. Here is that sentiment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:30:11]

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm also someone that has passed multiple bills as a lead Democrat, important bills in Washington, D.C. He's had a different experience. We should be able to have those debates about candidates without being accused of being negative. All this is are questions we're asked.

And the last point I made in that article was that, of the women, on the stage, I'm focusing here on my fellow women Senators, Senator Harris, Senator Warren, and myself. Do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had? No, I don't. Maybe we're held to a different standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Karen, another way in which to look at, you know, whether women are held to a different standard. Because certainly that has been a question asked to a number of -- the among candidates, you know, if they're even bracing themselves, ready to be measured differently than men.

FINNEY: Absolutely. I mean, having work for Secretary Hillary Clinton in a number of different races, and Stacey Abrams, other female candidates, women candidates particularly when they're running for executive office, are always held to a much higher standard. They constantly have to remind candidates of their experience and their qualifications.

For most voters, men enter a race with the sort of expectation that they're qualified in their experience. Donald Trump has changed that impression a little bit I will say, but there is definitely a stereotype. But the other point that she raised, I think, is really important and we're seeing this. We saw this in our own CNN poll.

People do want someone who understands the way Washington works. And I think part of that is because whereas some voters thought, well, maybe Donald Trump will go and shake things up and that's a good thing, there is this sort of underlying narrative about incompetence and this sort of inability to work with Congress and understand how to get things done. So I do think that's a good argument for her to be making. We've heard Biden make it.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

FINNEY: Bloomberg made it, so I think we're going to hear that, and it's one that where, quite frankly, Mayor Pete still has to prove himself, no question.

WHITFIELD: All right, Andrew, can you --

GILLUM: Well, I just -- I mean, just a quick part of it. I think, first of all, we all acknowledge that Senator Klobuchar is right. There is no doubt about it that the standard for women pursuing higher office, whether it's public office or whether it's in the corporate boardrooms, the standards oftentimes are very, very different. And I know a lot of conversation collude into Mayor Pete's problems with the FM (ph) community and the absence of support there.

What hasn't really been put out there is that a little bit of what Klobuchar is talking about there is some of what I have heard myself within the black community, and that is that many of them would feel that under no circumstance could they show up and be able to compete for the highest office in the land with a similar kind of record. And I think --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GILLUM: -- a little bit of that is coming out in this whole issue with the Mayor.

WHITFIELD: We're going to leave it right there for now. Karen Finney, Andrew Gillum, always good to see you. I'll be back soon. Thank you.

FINNEY: Take care.

WHITFIELD: All right. Be sure to tune in tonight when billionaire Tom Steyer makes his case to the American people in a CNN Democratic presidential town hall live from Iowa. That's tonight 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:37:23]

WHITFIELD: The impeachment inquiry is set to go public this week. Three key witnesses are scheduled to testify publicly in Congress for the first time starting Wednesday. But his won't be the first time that House investigators have heard from them. They have all given lengthy depositions behind closed doors.

With me now is Shan Wu, former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst. So starting this Wednesday, this is the phase of the impeachment hearing that will be broadcast live on television, CNN included. So, most of these lawmakers might only have about five minutes of their designated time. How will they use that most constructively, especially since they have the depositions? They know, they have a general idea where these witnesses can go.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Democrats are really going to use their time to highlight what they think is the most damaging testimony. And that big advantage to them is they've done the depositions, they know what they want to put out there to tell the story. On the other hand, the Republicans are going to use that time possibly to eat up some time, actually, but they're going to look to undercut the testimony.

Ideally, they would look to perhaps place blame elsewhere on Mulvaney, on staff, maybe even Giuliani. They want to get the focus off the President, and of course, they may try and attack the credibility or the nature of the testimony, saying it's hearsay or it's not directly related to the President.

WHITFIELD: And then Democrats are investigating, you know, to see whether the President committed impeachable offenses in his dealing with, you know, Ukraine, bribery being one of them, abuse of power. But will this process also explore whether holding up U.S. military money appropriated by Congress is a violation in and of itself?

WU: Yes, it's an interesting question, Fred, because of course the whole impeachment, abuse of power revolves around the holding up of the money, and the Democrats are going to show how the intent of doing that is the impeachable offense. It may be a campaign finance violation, it might be bribery, it's certainly an abuse of power type situation. The GOP, on the other hand, will say the holding up, the impounding doesn't mean anything because, a, they eventually got the money, and b, their best argument that they should make is that foreign policy is involved.

This is the heart of the President's powers as Commander in Chief. He's doing foreign policy, so he can hold up aid. It happens all the time. So they'll use that argument, I think.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shan Wu, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

WU: Good to see you, Fred. Thanks.

WHITFIELD: President Trump's second act law was sweeping criminal justice reform legislation. But after the release of thousands of convicted felons, we'll tell you why the bill's critics say a recent incident shows the whole thing was a bad idea.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:44:03] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump's first up act was one of the most sweeping changes to the federal criminal justice system in decades. Since it's bipartisan passage nearly a year ago, it's led to the release of more than 4,000 inmates. But a recent murder has some of its critics raising new questions.

Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY CHATTELLE, VICTIM'S NEPHEW: It doesn't feel well. It just doesn't -- nothing -- it feels like a bad movie right now.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jay Chattelle and his family are devastated. They're mourning the loss of Troy Pine, Chattelle's uncle, who was stabbed to death the night of October 2nd. It happened at this popular Hookah Lounge in Providence, Rhode Island. The motive still unclear, the suspect 41-year-old Joel Francisco now behind bars.

CHATTELLE: My family wants the answer, my brothers want answers.

CARROLL (voice-over): This past February, Francisco was released from federal prison. He had served 14 years of a life sentence for selling drugs like crack cocaine.

[15:45:01]

But his sentence was reduced to time served and he was let out. Why? Francisco was released under their First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill signed into law by President Trump last December. Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle calling the act a way to address those nonviolent offenders serving unduly harsh penalties.

According to the Department of Justice, more than 4,700 federal inmates have been released early since the First Step Act was ushered in late last year. Federal officials say it appears Francisco's case is the first example of someone released under the act going on to be accused of murder.

CHATTELLE: It's a flawed system. It's a beautiful program to get people to come home that don't need to be dying in jail. There's got to be more steps. Some people have to be held accountable.

CARROLL (voice-over): Nearly three months before Pine's murder, police in Providence had a run-in with Francisco. This police report shows he was arrested and charged with domestic violence and attempted breaking and entering. This after police say Francisco, armed with a knife, attempted to break into his ex-girlfriend's home. And attorney representing Francisco in that case has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

(on-camera): Francisco's ex-girlfriend says she has concerns about her safety and did not want to speak on camera. She went on to say that Francisco should not have been released, and she said that anyone who has been incarcerated and then released should then have to check in with mental health experts.

(voice-over): Francisco was scheduled for court appearance on October 15th regarding that incident involving his ex-girlfriend. Nearly two weeks before that date, Pine was killed.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton, an outspoken critic of the First Step Act said, "This case is upsetting but it's not a surprise. Letting violent felons out of prison early as the First Step Act did leads to more crime and more victims." But other lawmakers who helped pass the law stood by it in the wake of Pine's death.

REP. KAREN BASS (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The bill doesn't attempt to address all the ills within our current system.

CARROLL (voice-over): Congresswoman Karen Bass cited the Pine case during an oversight hearing on the law.

BASS: I hope that this does not detract from the need in our country to really examine our criminal justice system.

CARROLL (voice-over): Rhode Island State Senator Sam Bell, who represents the district where Pine was killed, says the problem is not with the new law but a failure to reintegrate Francisco.

(on-camera): Was it a failure to reintegrate great him into society or was it a failure in terms of he never should have been out in society?

SAM BELL, RHODE ISLAND STATE SENATOR: Look, I mean, once you've served your time and serve for a fair period of time, we should give people second chances.

CHATTELLE: That smile, and that's him.

CARROLL (voice-over): Jay Chattelle says despite all that has happened, he still supports the idea behind the First Step Act, but he also says more steps should have been taken to stop the man who was charged with a murdered of his uncle.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Providence, Rhode Island.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:51:47]

WHITFIELD: Declassified untold stories of American spies is back tonight with an all new episode. This week, we get a look inside the case of Viktor Bout, he's a notorious arms trafficker whose weapons deals intensified some of the bloodiest conflicts around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIS MILIONE, FMR. GROUP SUPERVISOR, SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION, DEA: After the meeting, Carlos said, hey, he pulled me aside when we were walking back from a meal and said who we went to see.

ANDREW SMULIAN, STAR WITNESS AGAINST VIKTOR BOUT: I'll tell you t he name of my friend so that you know, but this is just between you and me. It's Viktor Bout.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did he do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. He was trying to impress me.

MILIONE: But also in his mind, showed that he had a righteous arms trafficker that could supply to them and he would get some percentage of whatever the deal was going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once Smulian said Viktor Bout, then we knew that we were in, but that's only part of it. We can have all the meetings with And Smulian, but if we don't have a sit-down meeting with Viktor Bout, we're not going to get what we need.

MILIONE: All their efforts from that moment on were to get Viktor to come in and have a meeting with Carlos and Comandante and that's where we countered some curve balls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. As you saw right there, the DEA carried out a bold undercover operation that led to Viktor Bout's capture.

And Louis Milione joins me right now. He was at the center of this sting. So first, tell us more, Louis, about this Viktor Bout, and why he was, you know, really one to capture.

MILIONE: Well, that Bout was probably one of the biggest arms traffickers from the 90s up until we captured him in 2008. His weapons fueled mass atrocities across Africa and other parts of the world. He inflicted tremendous death and destruction in those places by arming and surging groups, arming rebel groups and really destabilized areas that already had fragile societal framework. Families were destroyed. Child soldiers were inscripted and it was all really for profit but it was his weapons that spread that across the continue

WHITFIELD: Wow. So the United States and the U.N., you know, knew that Bout was providing weapons to war-torn countries, throughout Africa and Asia, but it was hard to enforce any kind of restrictions on him. Why was he such, you know, a hard one to track down?

MILIONE: Well, look, he's a brilliant entrepreneur. Speaks multiple languages. Someone like Viktor Bout, any of these really sophisticated transnational criminals, they're very insulated. They have corrupt contacts. They're able to operate below the radar. It's difficult to get to them.

And one of the chilling things is they present a very outward facade of legitimacy, but then you have to be able to use sources and sensitive investigative techniques to get to these people to be able to deal with them directly and to develop the evidence so that our prosecutorial partners can bring a case against them.

WHITFIELD: So after the DEA, you know, really started to go after Bout, you had to come up with an elaborate plan to gain his trust, get information about his whereabouts. Tell us about this plan and the people who would help carry it out.

[15:55:00]

MILIONE: So what we -- we wanted to focus on finding someone that could get us close to Bout. We knew that we'd have to have a sit-down with him to engage in some recorded conversation. So we developed some contacts, some sources that led us to a close associate of Bout, Andrew Smulian.

And what we wanted to do with Smulian was use Smulian to get to Bout. And what we used were undercover operatives posing as the FARK (ph), a designated terrorist organization, drug trafficking group that had kidnapped Americans and moved against American interests in Colombia for many decades. So we used those -- that source to get to Andrew Smulian, introduced our undercover operatives and eventually presented a weapons deal for Bout that ultimately went to Bout and led to our meeting with him in Thailand.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Super fascinating. We're going to watch more of it tonight.

Louis Milione, thank you so much.

MILIONE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And be sure to tune in for an all new episode of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies" that airs tonight 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. And welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

A flurry of developments as the House enters a critical new phase of the impeachment inquiry. We're just now days away from the first public testimony in the House.