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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Nikki Haley's New Book; Public Impeachment Hearings Set to Begin. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 11, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm talking to myself as well.

Omar Jimenez, thank you very much there in Chicago. Good to see you.

That is it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Dana Bash is in for Jake today. "THE LEAD" starts now.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Strap in. It's a critical week for the country and the future of a presidency.

THE LEAD starts right now.

In front of the nation, public impeachment hearings set to begin, as President Trump prepares for them with more misleading claims.

And the resistance from within. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says, when she was with the Trump administration, two of the president's top men tried to recruit her to -- quote -- "save the country from Trump." A warning or an audition?

Plus, pointing out a double standard. Senator Amy Klobuchar takes a shot at Mayor Pete Buttigieg, saying a woman with his resume wouldn't be near the debate stage. Is that fair?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper on this Veterans Day.

And we begin with the politics lead, a monumental week for the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Democrats are looking to make their case for impeachment to the American people with televised hearings, as the president tells Republicans to abandon an increasingly popular line of defense involving the Trump-Ukraine call.

And, as CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, we may soon learn about another key presidential phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The impeachment inquiry bursting into the open this week, historic appearances by witnesses who gave damning testimony behind closed doors about quid pro quo in Ukraine now set to do it in front of the TV cameras for the world to hear.

Democrats hoping the hearings will make their case the inquiry is necessary.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses.

MARQUARDT: Up first, Wednesday, the most senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Ambassador Bill Taylor, and his boss, George Kent, followed Friday by Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom the president pulled out of Ukraine after what she called a concerted campaign against her by Rudy Giuliani and others.

All three have testified to the shadow Ukraine policy that Giuliani was leading on behalf of President Trump.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn't make it any less of a sham.

MARQUARDT: Republicans have slammed the process for its secrecy. Now they're allowed to call witnesses, but Democrats have the final say. One big request from Republicans? The whistle-blower.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It is impossible to bring this case forward, in my view, fairly without us knowing who the whistle-blower is and having a chance to cross-examine them.

MARQUARDT: But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff rejecting that request, writing that testimony from the whistle-blower whose identity is still unknown, would be redundant and unnecessary and only place their security at grave risk.

The other main Republican request is Joe Biden's son Hunter, showing that the GOP intends to keep pushing the widely discredited line that the Bidens did something wrong and that this was all about corruption in Ukraine.

Another line Republicans are working on is their defense of the president, which for many on Capitol Hill has evolved into admitting he did something wrong, but not impeachable.

REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.

MARQUARDT: President Trump not pleased with any concession, tweeting that Republicans are falling for a fool's trap, saying: "It is much stronger than that. Nothing was done wrong."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: We have already seen the White House transcript of the now infamous July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky, when President Trump asked the new president of Ukraine for a favor.

And, Dana, now the president is saying that the White House will release another transcript tomorrow of another phone call that the president had with President Zelensky. That one is from April, the first time that they spoke, right after Zelensky won that election -- Dana.

BASH: Too bad there is no news this week.

Alex, thank you so much for that report.

Here with me is a wonderful panel.

And, Ray Suarez, I want to start with you just broadly about what to expect this week. The Democrats need these public hearings to go well, to make the case that the president should be impeached. What are you looking for.

RAY SUAREZ, CO-HOST, "WORLD AFFAIRS": I'm looking for the Republicans who are present on the panel to holler and ask aggressive questions that sometimes take us off the line of narrative that the Democrats might be able to build with their questions.

They want to throw sand in the gears. That is part of the whole reason for being in the room and their demand that the hearings be public. Now that they got what they want. It is going to be wild.

BASH: And on the flip side, it is incumbent on the Democrats to make the case through their questioning, which, historically speaking, doesn't always go the way the majority party wants on either side, depending on their goal.

[16:05:10]

JACKIE ALEMANY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That is exactly right.

What is a little different, though, this time around in these public hearings is that Democrats are going to have the first 45 minutes to question these witnesses consecutively.

That's Bill Taylor and George Kent on the first day of these public hearings. And that allows them a good chunk of time to tell a straightforward narrative in order to get a more direct picture painted here, because, with these 2,500 pages' worth of transcripts, it is easy for Republicans and Democrats to cherry-pick what they want people to pay attention to.

But here they are going to ask pointed questions that are going to be asking these senior White House officials, some of them Republicans, trying to directly connect the quid pro quo, this extortion scheme, directly to President Trump.

BASH: OK. So let's go back to that and to your point about Republicans.

President Trump just won't let his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill stick with the defense that they clearly feel most comfortable with, most people -- not always -- which is, yes, but. Yes, what he did was not wrong, but it's not impeachable. Here's what the president tweeted: "Republicans, don't be led into the

fool's trap of saying it was not perfect, but it's unimpeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. Nothing was done wrong."

Warning shot.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, he's just putting them in an impossible position, because I think anybody with eyes can see that, obviously, there was something highly problematic with what happened?

And so he should have, I think, let them make that argument and continue to make the defense they don't think it's impeachable. I do think what you're saying is exactly right. They're going to be just trying to throw sand in the gears. They're trying to distract.

They're going to try to focus on the fact that the whistle-blower isn't there, and we can't pay attention to this because the whistle- blower isn't there, even though everything that whistle-blower said has been corroborated a lot of it corroborated, frankly, by Donald Trump's own explanation of what happened.

But they're going to try to distract. That's going to be the only thing that they can do to try to just sort of distract from what's going on there and be pointing at things that are extraneous, but they might be able to convince viewers aren't.

BASH: Antonia, you're the Republican communicator on the panel. I got to know you because you were working in the House for leadership, in the Senate for leadership.

If you were still there, what would you be doing to prepare for this when it comes to the Republican defense?

ANTONIA FERRIER, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, SENATE REPUBLICAN COMMUNICATIONS CENTER: Trying to sleep a lot tonight.

But I would say I think there's also something we have to step back and remember here, which is, what do the American people actually think? Are they going to be watching? Yes, House Democrats are trying to give themselves some time to build a narrative.

But are most people going to be watching? This is not the early '70s, when America was transfixed by Watergate. So I think the times are different, and I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: But, in some ways, it's easier. They can watch clips on their phones.

FERRIER: Sure.

BASH: But both sides will pick the clips that they want.

So I think that, for Democrats, they want this to be serious. Republicans want to make it a show. And I that's going to be the challenge for Democrats to keep it being serious, because I think partisans on both sides view this as being partisan.

And there's going to be pressure from both left and right to perform. That is the House of Representatives in its best and its worst. And I think we will see a lot of performance art this week.

It is really a question of whether House Democrats are going to be able to change any anyone's minds. I got to tell you, I'm skeptical of that.

BASH: OK, so let's listen to Senator John Kennedy trying to come up with and articulate a defense for Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): If it can be demonstrated that the president asked for -- and had the requisite state of mind, that the president asked for an investigation of a political rival, that's over the line.

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": OK.

KENNEDY: But if he asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival, that's not over the line.

BRENNAN: So, over the line, does that mean impeachable?

KENNEDY: Yes, probably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: OK, Ray, if he were on your show -- your face.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: What would your follow up to that be?

SUAREZ: Probably? I'm stunned that he said it in quite that way.

It seemed like he wasn't prepared for the question, which is only the most obvious question to ask next.

I think, normally, the legendary message discipline on that side of the aisle will come to the fore. They're still finding their talking points at this point. But, one by one, these straw men fall. Who's the whistle-blower? They -- Zelensky didn't know we were withholding the money.

One by one, they're falling, so they fall back to new rhetorical positions. If he did it, it's over the line, and I don't know, is a stunning line. I think I would have a good talk with him after that appearance.

(LAUGHTER) BASH: Well, yes, right, if you were working for -- all right, we're going to take a break.

But I just have to say, you're so right. Republicans, historically, they were the people who are on message. Democrats, historically, struggled a little bit more. But that was before the era of Donald Trump.

[16:10:03]

And I'll let that sit with you while we take a break.

The president endorsed her new book. Does he know Nikki Haley kind of dissed him in it?

And I spent the day in New Hampshire with one of the Democratic front- runners, Joe Biden. His view of Trump's attacks on him is not what you may expect.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Sticking with the politics lead: internal White House concern about President Trump's conduct.

In a new book, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley recounts then Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson telling her that when they resisted the president, it was to save the country.

[16:5:01]

Haley called their actions offensive and said they should quit.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, this all comes as President Trump insists to Republicans, there's nothing to see here on impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the White House braces for the first public testimonies, President Trump is attempting a new defense, now claiming the transcripts of the testimonies behind closed doors are doctored by Democrats, tweeting: Republicans should put out their own transcripts.

Despite his claim, Republicans who were in the room haven't disputed the accuracy of the transcripts which witnesses spent hours reviewing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is truly an honor to come back to New York City.

COLLINS: In New York on Veterans Day, Trump railed against the inquiry from behind his keyboard.

Just days before the hearings begin, some Republicans are saying the call was wrong but not impeachable.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): If the president asked for the investigation of a political rival, that's over the line. But if he asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival, that's not over the line.

COLLINS: That's ignoring Trump's advice not to use that defense. The White House insists they are in lock step.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In terms of messaging, we're all on the same page.

COLLINS: But as Trump and his allies dispute the testimonies of current and former aides, their accounts of a chaotic White House run by an impulsive president are confirmed. In the new memoir, Nikki Haley claims John Kelly and Rex Tillerson tried to recruit here in undermining and ignoring Trump's demands in an effort to save the country.

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: Instead of saying that to me, they should be asking that of the president. Not asking me to join them on their side bar plan.

COLLINS: Kelly didn't refute Haley's claims but said: If providing the president with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice is working against Trump, then guilty as charged.

Haley, who may have political ambitions of her own, steered clear of criticizing Trump as she argued against his impeachment.

HALEY: Do I think that is good? I think it is not a good practice for us ever to ask a foreign country to investigate an American. I don't. But did the Ukrainians call for an investigation? No. Did the president hold up aid? He released the aid as he should. I don't see it as impeachable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Dana, in the next hour, a federal judge is going to start hearing arguments about whether the Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney could join the lawsuit filed by the former deputy national security adviser, essentially asking if they have to listen to House Democrats or the White House when it comes to testifying on Capitol Hill.

Charlie Kupperman has signaled he doesn't want Mulvaney to be able to join that lawsuit and instead file his own. But it's also notable for another reason. Mulvaney, the chief of staff, has played a part in drafting that eight-page letter from the White House instructing White House officials not to comply with any request from House Democrats. But now, he seems to want to rely on the court's decision about that.

BASH: Talk about intrigue. We might get the decision from the court at the top of the hour.

Thank you so much for that report, Kaitlan.

Back with our panel.

Let's talk about the big news that we know of out of Nikki Haley's book which is that Tillerson and John Kelly said, we need to save the country. They're not denying that she said that. What is really remarkable is that I'm sure you heard and I heard at the beginning of the administration that there was a sort of a pact among the top national security cabinet officials that they needed to stick together to do just this.

Nikki Haley is confirming that that was accurate.

POWERS: Yes. She is. But also it is very -- she's doing it for her own benefit, right? I mean, she's really selling people out as far as I could tell. I mean, I think the assumption is they were coming to her in confidence out of concern for things that were going on in the White House. And now she's turning around and using it to her benefit to try to curry favor with President Trump.

And I think her argument that, well, if they had a problem, they should have gone to President Trump, how does she know they didn't? I'm assuming they probably did discuss their complaints with Donald Trump and if they had serious concerned and they went to her. These are people that let's remember Donald Trump held up as his sort of pre-eminent appointments. I mean, they were the crown jewels of his --

BASH: The generals.

POWERS: -- of his administration, right? That he has held up, and these were the best people and now, suddenly, I think -- I think if they had concerns I think that is the story. It's not -- and the fact that --

BASH: Exactly.

POWERS: And the fact that she's trying to make it out they are doing something wrong and I'm the good girl.

BASH: I'm glad you said that because that is the story.

[16:20:00]

POWERS: Yes.

BASH: The story is we have her saying and them not denying that the secretary of state, that the chief of staff and maybe even others were trying to protect the country from the president they work for.

SUAREZ: Well, Dana, this confirms what is coming out in book after book after investigative piece. There have been so many in only three years of the presidency that showed pattern of people trying to work around the president or simply ignoring his direct orders, simply taking the order and doing what they intended to do in the first place, in effect, running a parallel presidency. This lines up beautifully with that story which people denied at the time. ALEMANY": It also confirms what Rex Tillerson and John Kelly have

both publicly said. John Kelly said if left to his own devices the president would do something that would amount to impeachable defenses. That's why I think what Nikki Haley is going after low hanging fruit.

These are two people who left the administration with a really deteriorated relationship with President Trump. Going after them and sets her up to be a pro-Trump candidate in 2024 or 2028 when, you know, a bunch of Republicans still think that maybe someone like Jeb Bush can come in and be the GOP standard bearer. Nikki Haley realizes that she needs Trump if she does have political ambitions.

BASH: Exactly right. That's exactly right. The Republican Party has changed so much.

Having said that, "The Washington Post" obtained another part or the whole book but they wrote about another part of her book where she said, quote, she went privately to the president with her concern that he had ceded authority to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two leaders met in Helsinki in 2018 and with her objection to what she called Trump's moral equivalence in response to a deadly White House -- white supremacist, rather, march in Charlottesville the year before.

So, she's being protective of him. She's walking a line to say that she's all in on Trumpism but that she's calling out the things that almost everybody saw as a you-got-to-be-kidding me moment.

FERRIER: I feel like I'm going to have a little bit of a defender of Nikki Haley position here at the table, which is I think I do appreciate that the first year of the Trump presidency, you can dislike what it is that he was doing, but he was new to this job, right? And he had a lot of people who were telling him what he thought. And that was the first year of the Trump presidency.

You had in various books as Ray mentioned, Gary Cohn who took a tariff order off of the president's desk and threw it away. I mean, you could never imagine another presidency, someone taking away directives that the president was going to sign. They treated him as if he was not the president of the United States.

BASH: Does he speak to -- and the next question is why? That we didn't see.

FERRIER: I mean, look, there is a lot to be critiqued under this presidency and I won't defend a lot of the things that he's done and I'm a far more sort of traditional, but in defense of the president, I think he got rid of a lot of people because he wanted to be the president of the United States and there were so many people that were not listening to him.

He was duly elected. So I have some sympathy for him in that perspective. Now what are Nikki Haley's motivations? I think we've cover that here but -- BASH: I guess on that, we're going to have to take a break. But it

is kind of remarkable how she more than I think anybody else who worked for him and has left has walked that delicate almost invisible line of supporting him and criticizing him in a gentle enough way that she maintains credibility.

All right. On that note, we're going to take a quick break. And the list keeps growing. Another Republican congressman announced today that he is not running for reelection, but what is really going on with this GOP exodus. We're going to talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:42]

BASH: In our 2020 lead, just hours ahead of his town hall, a new Quinnipiac poll just released puts former Vice President Joe Biden with a narrow lead among New Hampshire Democratic voters at 20 percent, followed closely by Senator Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent and Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 15 percent.

I spent the day on the campaign trail there in the Granite State with Biden where he told me president Trump's attacks are actually helping him and some voters seem to agree.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It's the right of passage for anyone running in New Hampshire, filing for the primary in person.

And for Joe Biden, a chance to show passion behind a candidacy that leans into the practical.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Eight years of Donald Trump will forever and fundamentally change the character of this country and that's why I am running.

BASH (on camera): Do you feel that people are saying, you know what, I'm thinking about Joe Biden because they love you and they want you to be president or is it more you're the guy who can beat Donald Trump and is that OK?

BIDEN: I think it's both.

BASH (voice-over): Spending the day with him on the trail, we saw both.

PAUL REMUS, NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY VOTER: He has the best chance of beating Trump.

BASH (on camera): Is that what matters most?

REMUS: Yes. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think Joe Biden is just an excellent man.

BASH (voice-over): Out here, he's fighting a two-front war against Democratic rivals and the president.

TRUMP: Oh, I think Sleepy Joe might be able to limp across the finish line.

BASH (on camera): Are Donald Trump's attacks on you --

[16:30:00]