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CNN RIGHT NOW
Historic Week As Public Impeachment Hearings Start Wednesday; Nikki Haley Says Kelly And Tillerson Felt Need To Undermine Trump; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, IN), Women Held To Different Standard. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 11, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: -- as Congress.
There were 23 Republican retirements. The Republicans started with 241 at the beginning of that Congress. Republicans, obviously, have the minority now with 197 to start this Congress, 17 retirements so far. Again, there are other Republicans trying to get out of a rough start.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Democrats are excited about this -- King retiring, because they already have a Democrat running, Jackie Gordon. So --
KING: I've got to stop you there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's okay.
KING: We'll ride along because we love this conversation. I'm sorry, Brianna, I'll give it back to you tomorrow.
Brianna starts Right Now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, a monumental week for the fate of the presidency, and Republicans are mounting their defense with public impeachment hearings set to begin in two days.
A surprising move by the White House chief of staff, why Mick Mulvaney is trying to join a lawsuit filed against the president and House leaders.
Plus, as the scrutiny intensifies around Rudy Giuliani, his indicted associate reportedly makes an explosive claim about what Giuliani told him to do.
And former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley out with a new book where she says two top cabinet officials felt the need to undermine the president over his behavior.
This will be a historic week. The American public getting to witness something rarely seen in the country's 243 years, public impeachment hearings. Three career diplomats will describe under oath the president that he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine as he and his associates pushed the country for investigations, including one into a political rival of President Trump, and the role of the president's pro bono personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, running his own shadow State Department.
First up on Wednesday is going to be Bill Taylor. He's the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. And in previous testimony he said that he, quote, observed and ordered to move forward on the security assistance, the Ukrainians were told by Ambassador Sondland that they had to pursue these investigations.
Then after Taylor comes George Kent. He's the deputy assistant secretary of state. And he said that he didn't voice his concerns about Rudy Giuliani because he was told to keep his head down.
And on Friday, we'll see former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed at the urging of Rudy Giuliani. She testified behind closed doors that she was told by Ukrainian officials to watch her back.
Meanwhile, Republicans are using a host of justifications to try and defend President Trump from calling out the whistleblower to saying the administration doesn't have the smarts to orchestrate a quid pro quo. But there is one defense that the president will not accept, and that is saying that the phone call was improper but not an impeachable offense.
In the meantime, one of Rudy Giuliani's indicted associates seems to be turning on the president and reportedly corroborating key testimony from witnesses in the process. According to The New York Times, the attorney for Lev Parnas is now claiming that Giuliani instructed Parnas to issue an ultimatum to a representative of Ukrainian President Zelensky earlier this year, warning that if Ukraine did not announce an investigation into Joe Biden, then the U.S. would freeze military aid and Vice President Mike Pence would not attend Zelensky's inauguration. The Times says Parnas believed that Giuliani was acting on behalf of President Trump when he carried that directive out.
I want to bring in Kara Scannell to talk about all of this.
Kara, tell us how is Rudy Giuliani responding.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Brianna, Giuliani is denying that he ever directed Lev Parnas to make this threat in that meeting. Giuliani has told The New York Times categorically, I did not tell him to say that. He added, he, quote, never authorized such a conversation.
Now, this meeting is not in doubt. No one involved in it has denied that it took place. It was a meeting between Lev Parnas, his business partner, another Giuliani associate, who was also indicted, Igor Fruman, and aide to the incoming president of Ukraine, Zelensky.
At this meeting, this is where Parnas says that he had delivered this threat of no aid, no Mike Pence if they did not announce that they were going to investigate the Biden family.
But what we are hearing now from The New York Times is that both Fruman has denied that this threat was ever made in the meeting and so did the aide who attended, that is the representative of the incoming president of Ukraine. He told The New York Times that they did not raise the issue of military aid.
But what this does show is that Lev Parnas has broken ranks from Giuliani and the president. He does to want to tell his story. His lawyer made that clear last week. He wants to work with the congressional impeachment investigators to tell his side of what happened. And this is a little bit of a taste of what it is that he might have and what information he might be able to provide congressional investigators.
Now, it's not clear the investigators will hear from him. They are moving forward with this public testimony. But as you can see, this is going to be a little bit of a he said-he said as this investigation goes forward, and just the types of information that Lev Parnas might have for investigators.
KEILAR: All right. Kara, thank you so much for that.
The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney will try to join a federal lawsuit later today that will decide whether he and other current and former White House officials have to appear before Congress. Mulvaney skipped his scheduled deposition last week. He defied the congressional subpoena on orders from the White House which claims that he's legally immune from testifying.
Mulvaney's name came up several times in the newly released impeachment inquiry transcripts, and he confirmed at a press conference a while back that a quid pro quo had actually taken place, although later he tried to walk that back.
Jessica Schneider is following this. And, Jess, it's kind of surprising that Mulvaney is trying to do this.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It might be, Brianna. But, really, the strategy could be to stall here since this lawsuit that Mick Mulvaney is looking to join likely wouldn't even be decided until mid-December at the earliest. And by then impeachment hearings could be over, they could be winding down.
But House Democrats, they're also asking the question and making the point, if Chief of Staff Mulvaney had information that could potentially help clear the president, well, wouldn't he be eager to testify? That's what they're asking.
So the question the federal court here in Washington will have to decide is who did these White House officials listen to? Do they follow the orders of the White House who have said they have absolute immunity and do not have to testify or do they obey these subpoenas issued by House Democrats?
Now, typically, in situations like this, the White House and Congress, they strike some sort of deal. But obviously here, with such high stakes, they are both at a stalemate.
Now, this particular lawsuit, it was first filed by the former deputy national security adviser, Charles Kupperman. He said he needed clarification about whose orders to follow. And, crucially, his attorney also represents John Bolton, who is also unwilling to testify until the court rules in this Kupperman lawsuit.
Now, Mick Mulvaney now wants to join that lawsuit. In fact, there will be hearing later today about whether he can join. And, of course, it was just a few two weeks ago that Mick Mulvaney admitted a quid pro quo in the press briefing room of the White House in front of cameras and then later reversed course, issuing a statement saying that his comments were misconstrued.
So, really, if his testimony, if this case is decided soon, if it's compelled, this could have big implications, Brianna, for the impeachment inquiry as a whole here.
KEILAR: All right. We'll be watching with you, Jess. Thank you for that.
I want to talk about all of this now with Dan Meyer. He's a former federal whistleblower who now advocates for whistleblowers. We have A. Scott Bolden with us. He is a former D.C. Democratic Party Chairman and former prosecutor as well. We have CNN's Pamela Brown with us as well.
Okay. So let's -- look, Pamela, what is Mulvaney doing here?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question, right? In the court on Friday, the explanation was, look, he didn't want to be held in contempt of Congress, that this is something that the courts should decide, this dispute over the House subpoena and the White House assertion of privilege and immunity.
But if you take a step back, it is certainly an interesting move because if the court does rule that they don't have standing, that, basically, if they lose this lawsuit, then that puts the White House in a difficult spot because Mulvaney is a current top official in the White House. Kupperman and Bolton are former officials. So it's going to make it harder for the White House to block other testimony from current officials too who have defied the House subpoena.
It also raises the question just given the developments recently where it's become more and more clear in testimony of Mulvaney being part of the pressure campaign and reporting out there that maybe Republicans would put the blame on him to deflect from the president, whether he realize he's going to be the fall guy here. And so that's why he lawyered up pretty late in the game, according to what we have been told.
It certainly raises a lot of questions and also this dynamic between and Bolton, who sort of described the drug deal between him and Giuliani. And according to the --
KEILAR: Not BFFs, is that your point?
BROWN: Not BFFs, yes.
The Washington Post have described their reaction Bolton and Kupperman is being flabbergasted.
A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes, absolutely.
Well, as a practicing white collar criminal defense lawyer, let me add to that and say, yes, he's lawyered up. But the reality is Mulvaney and Kupperman are very different because they're former officials. Mulvaney has defied the subpoena already. Normally, what happens is Mick would show up, invoke the White House executive privilege, and then the Democrats would go to court and try to compel his testimony.
So Mulvaney has violated the subpoena already. This is two co-equal branches of government here. And so now what he's trying to do after the fact is give me guidance. Well, the problem is you've taken a position on this. You don't need guidance from the court. You need to sit down for a subpoena. You either invoke it, invoke the privilege or not invoke the privilege. It will be interesting to see what the judge does here.
KEILAR: It certainly will be.
And, Dan, I want to talk to you about something to do with the whistleblower, which his that Senator Lindsey Graham has said that this impeachment investigation is going to be dead on arrival in the Senate if the whistleblower does not testify.
We've talked a lot about this. You clearly say, and there are many who agree with you who say the whistleblower doesn't need to testify. But while you have the Intel chairman, Adam Schiff, saying, this is just going to be redundant or unnecessary, I wonder when you look at what Lindsey Graham is doing, what do you make of that?
DAN MEYER, FORMER FEDERAL WHISTLEBLOWER: Well, there is a danger of bringing what I call courthouse legal logic into a constitutional impeachment proceeding. So all of the procedures that attorneys are used to when they file local lawsuits, or in the case of Lindsey Graham when he's judge advocate, general attorney, may not apply in a trial in the Senate.
The bottom line is Chairman Schiff's actions are the investigations. Investigations across the board and federal government do not always bring every source forward. And they bring forward the sources, I think, are most credible. And they have corroborated the facts. And that will flow to the Senate chamber and into trial. At that point, there will have to be witnesses for the trial to be cross-examined. And that's when they will see the witnesses that are required to defend that report. And that may or may not be the whistleblower. KEILAR: What about in the House, Scott, where Republicans actually want Hunter Biden to testify? I mean, it seems that is unlikely to happen because Democrats will have to go along with it. But Republicans do control the Senate. I mean, what is the motive here, as you see it?
BOLDEN: And regarding to Hunter Biden, it's a distraction, if you will. Chairman Schiff has said this impeachment process is going to focus on three things, right? Did you offer guns for dirt, did you pressure and use your office to pressure the Ukrainians, and did you -- the third component that's kind of within that rubric. The reality is, Hunter Biden, even if you believe he is the worst guy in the world, even if you believe that he did something illegal, inappropriate, unethical in Ukraine, it is completely irrelevant and not dispositive of whether this president pressured Ukraine to investigate to investigate the Bidens in exchange for the 400 million that was on hold already.
And so it's a distraction. I think Schiff has got to make sure that this impeachment proceeding is narrowly focused and laser-like on those three issues. If you bring Biden in, if you start to test conspiracy theories that the Republicans test on another network almost every night, then you're going down a rabbit hole and you're never going to get done. And not getting done helps the Republicans, not the Democrats.
The Democrats have the pressure to keep control of these hearings, to do their -- go about their business on a day-to-day basis and either bring articles of impeachment or not. And it's going to be nearly focused on the president's conduct or misconduct here.
KEILAR: Thank you so much, Dan, Pamela and Scott. I called you a former prosecutor, but you are --
BOLDEN: I'm a white collar criminal defense lawyer but I am a former prosecutor.
KEILAR: Defense -- okay and former prosecutor. We need to mention what you currently are though. That's important, right?
All right, thank you so much, guys, I really appreciate it.
Nikki Haley naming names, saying that Rex Tillerson and John Kelly tried to recruit her to undermine President Trump. Did she just confirm what the anonymous official has said all along?
Plus, what happens is Senate Republicans call the Bidens to testify in an impeachment trial?
And Donald Trump Jr.'s book tour hits the UCLA's campus, but the protesters were actually not who he expected.
[13:15:00] KEILAR: Another former member of the Trump administration wants a place on the best-sellers' list. Nikki Haley has a book coming out, and The Washington Post reports that in this book by the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., she talks about being recruited by then Chief of Staff John Kelly and then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to undermine the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N. UNDER TRUMP: 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 it was offensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, John Kelly responded. He said that if providing the president, quote, with the best and most open legal and ethical staffing advice from across the government so he could make an informed decision is working against Trump, then guilty as charged.
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin is joining us now. He is a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sir, thank you for joining us.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Brianna, it's good to be with you.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about what Nikki Haley says here, but also just what do you think about the fact that there were these top officials who felt that they needed to do this to kind of create these bumpers, if you will, of legal and ethical boundaries, as you just heard John Kelly lay out there?
What do you think about that?
CARDIN: Well, I don't know the specifics of Ambassador Haley's conversations, but I do know that there were people in the White House that were doing their best to protect our national security. They wanted the best information from our Intelligence Community, from our Department of Defense and the Department of State for the president to at least listen to and consider before making decisions. So I think they were acting in the best interests of our national security, and it's something that we should applaud their independence at trying to get that information to the president.
KEILAR: Do you see this as any difference than some of the jockeying for influence that you might have witnessed in other administrations?
CARDIN: I think that President Trump has presented challenges to those who want to serve our country. You have people who might agree with what the president is trying to achieve but disagree with the methods he's using and want to make sure that he gets the best advice. The president does not take that lightly. And it's difficult to get his ear on important information. And then he makes decisions by the use of tweets rather than in a deliberative manner.
So it's very frustrating if you're trying to serve our country and our national security interests to serve a president that really doesn't use a process that allows you to have the type of input that you should have.
KEILAR: We're awaiting right now of these first public impeachment hearings in the House this week and we're getting new information about one of Rudy Giuliani's indicted Soviet-borne associates. Lev Parnas' lawyer told The New York Times that Giuliani, who Parnas believe was the mouthpiece of President Trump , specifically told Parnas to tell one of President Zelensky's aides that military aid was directly tied to investigating the Bidens. What do you think about that?
KEILAR: Well, there certainly have been a lot of now public testimonies that have been made public that link the aide being released to President Zelensky starting an investigation on Biden. So there is plenty of information out here. That's what the impeachment inquiry is now looking at to see whether they can connect the dots. So there is certainly a lot of information out there.
The president's conversation and the transcript -- it's not the transcript but the summary of a transcript that we read shows the president's inappropriate action with President Zelensky of Ukraine trying to influence his decision for partisan political reasons here in the United States to get involved in our partisan politics. That should have no place in American politics.
KEILAR: House Republicans say they want Hunter Biden to testify. We can see in the House that is likely going to be blocked by Democrats who are running this investigation. But what if Senate Republicans want to hear from him?
CARDIN: Quite frankly, it is a distraction. It is to try to change the subject matter. President Trump is pretty famous for doing that. And here, you find Republicans that are now talking the same language. This has been thoroughly vetted. There is nothing that is here that would affect the inquiry that the House is looking at right at this moment. So that's clearly an effort to get some sensational type testimony to try to distract from the main allegations.
KEILAR: Before I let you go, I want to talk a little bit about Veterans Day, because I know you advocate for veterans and for military families in your state. What are you reflecting on on this really important day?
CARDIN: Brianna, thanks for bringing that up. Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to collectively express our appreciation for the men and women who served our nation to protect our liberty, particularly in these times when the service is so difficult. We owe it to our service people to not only honor them with our words but also our deeds to make sure they have that our military has adequate resources and that we honor our commitments to our veterans. Thank you, vets, for everything you've done for this country.
KEILAR: All right. Senator, thank you so much. Senator Ben Cardin, we appreciate you being with us.
CARDIN: Thank you.
KEILAR: Donald Trump Jr. is on a book tour. And during a recent stop at UCLA, he got heckled but it wasn't from those that you'd expect, it wasn't from those he would expect. We'll have details ahead.
Plus, as some 2020 candidates mark Veterans Day, Senator Amy Klobuchar is under fire for comments about her rival who happens to be a veteran, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. And now a prominent veterans group is responding.
KEILAR: Democratic Candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar said on CNN's State of the Union that there is a double standard when it comes to the experienced level of candidates running for the presidential nomination, and she singled out Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Here is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the one from the Midwest that's actually won in a statewide race over and over again, and that's not true of Mayor Pete. That's just a fact.
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)
KEILAR: Now a veterans group is responding --