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Critical Week As House Gears Up For Public Hearings; Pompeo Says, We Wanted To Reduce Ukrainian Corruption. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 11, 2019 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. I hope you had a nice weekend.

It is a busy week ahead. We're just days away from the impeachment inquiry going public. The testimony will now play out in hearings on live television.

SCIUTTO: The first witness is up. Democrats will call three key State Department officials. Let's get to Capitol Hill with CNN Congressional Reporter Lauren Fox.

Lauren, tell us about these three that are going to begin this week and why these three.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, Democrats really preparing in a way that they haven't in a very long time. A senior Democratic aide telling me that these preparations have been even more intense than what they did when Robert Mueller was coming to Capitol Hill. So that gives you a sense of just what is at stake here. It's going to be the American people's first time to understand the story behind what Democrats have been probing for the last month or so.

First up, on Wednesday, they'll hear from Bill Taylor, the top Ukrainian diplomat in that country, then they'll also hear from George Kent, a career State Department official. And on Friday, they'll hear from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

And a senior Democratic aide telling me that the story on Wednesday will be about what has occurred over the last several months, they'll be able to tell the American people exactly what events transpired. And on Friday, of course, Yovanovitch will be able to tell her story about being ousted from her post. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Lauren, you have this request list for witnesses from the Republicans. I have in front of me eight, at least, that they want to hear from some of them who have already testified behind closed doors, some not, right? You've got people like Nellie Ohr on this list, Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, former board member of Burisma. I thought it was interesting, we heard from Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democratic congressman on Fox yesterday, saying, we can see calling some of them, obviously, not people like Hunter Biden or Nellie Ohr. Where does this thing go?

FOX: Well, Democrats have been very clear, they are not going to be calling the whistleblower, which has been a key point that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting about. And, you know, it's very interesting, because Lindsey Graham, who is the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, he said, look, if you don't call the whistleblower as part of your impeachment inquiry, this whole thing will be dead on arrival once you send articles -- if you send articles of impeachment over to the Senate.

But Republicans and Democrats, obviously, are going to continue to be fighting about that witness list. Republicans, of course, can continue to fight about this process, saying, it hasn't been fair, they haven't been given the witnesses that Democrats tried to promise them as part of that resolution. Of course, the chairman has the ultimate say in who can be called as part of this inquiry. Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox on the Hill, we know you're going to be there on Wednesday. Thanks very much.

This week's impeachment witnesses expected to testify about a campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens while withholding crucial military aid in their war against Russia. And now an associate of the man implicated in that campaign, the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is backing those witnesses up.

Lev Parnas, who is now under indictment, we should note, says that Giuliani directed him to threaten Ukraine, warning that if the investigation did not happen, the U.S. would freeze that military aid. And in addition, Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the Ukrainian president's inauguration. Giuliani strongly denied that report. There are some contradictions from Parnas' own business partner. But as we know, the aid was frozen and Pence did stay home.

Joining me now to talk about this, CNN Legal Analyst Michael Gerhardt. He's a law professor at the University of North Carolina. Michael, always good to have you on.

Let's talk for a moment about Lev Parnas. Questions, I imagine, about his character, credibility and that he's under indictment now past business dealings. That said, oftentimes, in cases like this, do you have people flip in this way under legal pressure?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, flip sometimes. But in this case, at least what we're hearing so far from this person is quite consistent with everything else that we've been hearing from every other witness whose testimony has been made public so far. There is a very consistent, even coherent story that's emerged about the president putting together a systematic effort to pressure the Ukraine leader, to make a public statement about investigating the Bidens. SCIUTTO: Right. And that is the core, of course. This is what the Democrats will attempt to do, is match up all this witness testimony to paint a consistent picture here.

Public hearings are a big step in this case. I ask you this when you appear. Based on what you've seen now, particularly the transcripts that have come out since we last spoke, do you see sufficient evidence here from a legal and political standpoint to move forward with an article of impeachment on abuse of power?

GERHARDT: There's certainly evidence to support that the president has committed an impeachable offense. This may not be the only impeachable offense that the House is looking at right now. But for the president to put together this scheme, so to speak, to pressure the Ukraine leader again to make a public statement, to open an investigation into the Bidens, to help his re-election, is a classic impeachable offense.


He's used power that only he has to put together this effort and everything, again, that we're hearing so far is consistent with that. There's at least a strong case for the House to look into this. There's certainly a credible case for the House to formulate an impeachment article based on all of this.

SCIUTTO: Legally, and some of this is about the language here. You have some Democrats saying, now, let's forget this whole quid pro quo, the Latin phrase meaning, this for that. Let's call it bribery. And bribery, as you know, is cited specifically as an example of a high crime and/or misdemeanor that would justify impeachment. From a legal standpoint, holding back military aid in exchange for an investigation that would benefit you politically, does that fit the legal definition of bribery?

GERHARDT: It fits the constitutional definition of bribery. It's important to keep in mind that impeachable offenses do not have to be actual crimes or felonies. Every example that the framers gave in the constitutional convention in describing impeachable misconduct was something that was not an actually felony or crime. It was an abuse of power or a breach of the public trust.

So in this circumstance, we can think of very common language to capture what the president is doing. We don't need to use criminal language or the language of a criminal statute to do that. So bribery, as understood as an illicit exchange that the president has arranged in order to use his power for something that will help him personally or illicitly, in this case, help his re-election, that fits the classic definition of an impeachable offense.

SCIUTTO: Well, it might be a phrase that folks at home are more likely to understand as well.

I want to ask you about this because Mick Mulvaney, of course the president's acting chief of staff, is seen as a loyalist to the president, in this case and other issues, he's now taken an unexpected step of joining a lawsuit by Charles Kupperman, deputy to John Bolton, other witnesses who it seems actually want to testify, want to get kind of a legal pass to testify here, a judge ruling on this, Mulvaney seen as not actually wanting to testify. Tell -- can you read this as a lawyer here to understand what Mulvaney is up to here?

GERHARDT: I think what Mulvaney is up to is trying to find a way to delay his testimony and maybe even to avoid it. So there's been a pattern of people seeking judicial involvement to rule on whether or not they need to comply with a subpoena. It's very obvious they need to comply with the subpoena as a legal matter, but they're seeking the court's advice, so to speak, or the court's declaration. And I understand that as simply an effort to delay, which actually works in the president's favor.

SCIUTTO: Michael Gerhardt, thanks very much. Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay. Let's bring in National Security Commentator, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. Thank you, Chairman Rogers, for being here. And just for a moment, thank you, it's Veterans Day, you served in the army, thank you for that, for this country.

MICHAEL ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Thank you very much. And thanks to all those veterans out there. Thank you.

HARLOW: The ultimate sacrifice, absolutely. Thank you very much.

So let's begin actually with John Bolton, because you've got the same legal argument from his lawyer that Mulvaney is now signing on to. We're not going to decide. The courts decide who's right, the president or the House.

But what John Bolton's lawyer did on Friday in that letter saying, my client was in really important meetings and he knows things that have not been testified about yet and the way that he ends it, I think, is so striking, the letter. He says, quote, if the House chooses not to pursue through testimony the testimony of Dr. Kupperman and Ambassador Bolton, let the record be clear, that is the House's decision.

Does that make it a more difficult argument for Democrats to move forward and try to wrap this thing up before the holidays without hearing from Bolton?

ROGERS: well, and you know, again, I'm a traditionalist. Due process is a really important thing, especially if you're going to undo the votes of $60 million people across America.

So I wouldn't put an artificial date of the holidays. If it takes a little longer, the judge has said that he would review that case. If I were with the Democrats, they've got other -- you know, they can continue to bring witnesses throughout this week and into next week. They have plenty to do. I would wait.

I think that no stone should be unturned in this, this notion that we're going to pile it all on, we're going to show you our side of the story and then we're going to say, we're going to impeach. I think it's really dangerous just because it's so splitting to America.

If you believe you have the evidence that you need to do it, then present it and let the Republicans have their say, as well, just as we would in any other due process where the government makes allegations against you. I just think it's really important to get that piece right.

HARLOW: So to your point about being a traditionalist and giving things time and due process, let's talk about Mitch McConnell. And if this goes to a trial in the Senate, how he would or should handle that? There was something interesting that we heard from Hugh Hewitt over the weekend that struck me.


Listen to this.


HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: I don't think the Senate should take it up. I think they should reject the motion to proceed and never touch it. Otherwise, we will have this done again and again, secret hearings, ex parte contacts, just a bad precedent.


HARLOW: I should note that in September on CNBC, Mitch McConnell himself said the Senate would have to and would take up an impeachment trial, if you will. But then he said, quote, how long you're on it is a whole different matter. How should McConnell handle this?

ROGERS: Well, listen, I think what Hugh Hewitt was describing is this notion that there are all of these other meetings, they're not giving access to the whistleblower, who by the way, the I.G. did determine that there was political bias, but he thought the facts of the case overweighed that. That's great, except that you should give access to Republican investigators to make that determination as well. So all of those little things give the Republicans an opportunity to say, this wasn't fair. It was absolutely a railroad, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And that's why I think, do it right --

HARLOW: They're just not taking up -- they're not, for example, on the whistleblower point, the whistleblower's lawyer offered Republicans to bypass Democrats and directly submit written questions to his client and they didn't take him up on that.

ROGERS: Yes, I would have taken him up on that, but I also would have requested access. They need to have -- the investigator -- now, I don't think that they should disclose the whistleblower, but I think investigators should get access to the whistleblower because of all the other context that they have. Any investigator would like that option to say, okay, I'd just like to know what other things that maybe we didn't talk about that didn't fit in that 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper in his complaint. There's other facts there and I would like to know what those are.

So, again, my whole point of this, Poppy, is to say, if you're going to do this, then do it right. Allow all of that. If you think your case is strong enough, you don't have to exclude access to the whistleblower, you don't have to seclude Republicans from certain depositions. You don't have to exclude their witness list. Just do it right, present your case, allow a defense and then make your vote.

HARLOW: Okay. But you know the opposition to having the whistleblower testify in public is to the whistleblower's safety, which is a major concern right now.

So, listen, you can respond to that in a moment, but listen to what Republican Congressman Will Hurd said he thinks may be a solution to that. Here he was yesterday.


REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): So if you want to protect the identity of the whistleblower, I think it's important for Chairman Schiff to answer questions about his interaction with him.


HARLOW: Solution?

ROGERS: Listen, I think the solution is, and I didn't say that the whistleblower should testify, I did say that the investigators should get access to the whistleblower so they can do their own deposition of the whistleblower in the context of an ongoing impeachment hearing, if you will, inquiry that the House is doing.

I don't believe yet that that whistleblower should be forced to testify. I do believe that whistleblower -- this, to me, is the solution. Give them access to Republican investigators or members so that they can have a full accounting of that application by the whistleblower. It doesn't mean that that whistleblower's identity should be disclosed.

What they might find is there's material case that later, because it was so material to the defense, that would require that person to come testify.

But, again, I think there's a way to do this to keep the whistleblower safe, but there are lots of questions. And that's my point, Poppy. Let's get those questions aired out there. Again, if you're going to vote to impeach and the railroad -- the train is blowing its whistle and leaving the station, I think we all get that, but then do it right and so that Americans can make an honest assessment.

What they're doing is giving Republicans and half the country that thinks this thing is a little fishy, you're feeding into that split America down two again. And I think that's really unhealthy.

HARLOW: Except you've got so many people that have testified, corroborating what the whistleblower wrote in their complaint. We're out of time. You know you'll be back.

ROGERS: Yes, I know.

HARLOW: Thank you. Thank you for coming. And, again, thank you for your service.

ROGERS: Thanks so much, Poppy. Enjoy it. Thanks.

HARLOW: You got it. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Still to come, former Vice President Joe Biden focusing on his own healthcare plan as he gets ready to take questions from Iowa voters during a live CNN town hall tonight. Will that message resonate with voters there?

HARLOW: And the president is set to speak in just a few minutes right there. A beautiful morning here in New York and that is where the president will be for this 100th anniversary of Veterans Day parade and ceremony in New York. We'll bring you his comments live.



HARLOW: All right. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo backing up the president's argument that the administration was just trying to fight corruption in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: This in an interview conducted just a short time ago. He says, quote, I was part of America's Ukraine policy. We were very clear. He wanted to make sure that the corruption that has been existing in Ukraine for an awfully long time was reduced and President Zelensky had the capability to do that.

Joining us now to discuss this and other things, Daniel Strauss, Politics Reporter for Politico, and A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics.

A.B., what's interesting about that line from Pompeo is he's basically owning it, saying, we did do this, but it's justified because we were trying to fight corruption.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. So the new thing is, as Dana Bash said earlier, it's okay, but. Everyone says, this is what happened but we're cool with it. The problem is what they asked for was for President Zelensky to do an interview on CNN with Fareed Zakaria, announcing an investigation.

The announcement was more important than the investigation, which meant that the purpose of it was to dirty up his potential rival, the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, the former vice president. It was always about that. He is not in front of the cameras been able to name another case of corruption in the Ukraine that they were concerned about, or any other country. But Mike Pompeo has been so deeply exposed by this entire scandal that he has to start talking more bluntly about it.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, particularly, he goes on to say, and then this president wants to make sure too that Vladimir Putin wouldn't be able to inflict hardship on the people of Ukraine, which is rich to say considering is it not that you suspended crucial military aid to Ukraine in the midst of a war with Russia to get this investigation on your political opponent.

DANIEL STRAUSS, POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. I mean, look, this is what Mick Mulvaney himself in that press conference made a similar argument, which is that things like this happen all the time in diplomacy. It's ugly, it is not the idealized version that you might see on the west wing, but these things actually happen.

That's the argument of the White House right now. It doesn't seem to be flying and there's a disconnect between that argument and why there's an impeachment inquiry anyway, because it does seem like ransom.

HARLOW: To both of your points, listen to this from Mac Thornberry.


REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. Now, it leads to a question, if there's a political rival with a family member who's involved in questionable activity, what do you do? Just let them alone. But set that aside, I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.


HARLOW: Will Hurd, A.B., went a little bit further yesterday on Fox with Chris Wallace, saying, when he was questioned about whether it's -- whether it's impeachable. So, I guess the question becomes what might change that from it was wrong but not impeachable, to, oh, yes, this is really serious, in the public testimony that we're going to hear this week?

STODDARD: That is a critical question in terms of both of those members, Poppy, they're both retiring. For Will Hurd, he's been skeptical and at times critical of the president, and his misconduct, this is -- you know, a very strong defense, to say that it doesn't cross a line and he doesn't think that it's illegal. Whether or not, I think, this week changes things for those Republicans, I don't know.

I think the testimony of someone like National Security Adviser John Bolton could be very much a game changer for senators who are taking a look at this and asking the question, not what President Trump is asking them to ask themselves, but the questions of whether or not the president violated his oath of office and abused his power and engaged in attempted bribery, which is impeachable by the Constitution.

SCIUTTO: I mean, one reason that Bolton's testimony is so important because he clearly disapproved of what was going on here, he referred to it as a drug deal. But you have this case now, Kupperman, Bolton's deputy, asked a judge for permission, Mulvaney now jumping on to that. I mean, it looks like Mulvaney is looking for a way out, Bolton may be looking for a way in to talk here. How long does it take for this judge to figure this out?

STRAUSS: I mean, not long, I assume. You have to understand how shocked Bolton and his aides are by the fact that Mulvaney wants to get into this and wants to be involved in this testimony. And it's pretty clearly a stalling tactic, I think. I don't think that there is any other reasonable argument here for why Mulvaney would want to do that. He remains on opposite sides of John Bolton.

I have to say, also, Jim, like it is weird to have two very senior aides to the president in this situation, diverging in where their intents seem to be right now.

SCIUTTO: Although you have had other aides, like we learned, Poppy, from Nikki Haley's book that we're talking about removing him from office. I mean, it's an incredible reality that we're describing inside this administration now.

HARLOW: Yes, 100 percent. Guys, thank you so much, Daniel Strauss, A.B. Stoddard, nice to have you.

So at any minute, the president is set to speak. He is here in New York City. Of course, he is honoring our veterans. We'll bring you his comments live.



SCIUTTO: Well, that's pretty amazing. A special Veterans Day treat for basketball fans. That was a 96-year-old World War II veteran Pete DePre performing the national anthem on his harmonica at Madison Square Garden last night before the Knicks/Cavaliers game.


DuPre has performed the anthem on his harmonica across the country. He's even released a Christmas album.