Return to Transcripts main page
Investigation Enters Critical Week Of Public Testimony; Attorney Says John Bolton Has Details "Not Yet Discussed" In Testimony; Mike Pompeo To Public Impeachment Witnesses: "Be Truthful"; Republicans Plot Strategy In Final Days Before Public Hearings; Nikki Haley Recalls Top Aides "Offensive" Undermining Of Trump. Aired 12- 12:30p ET
Aired November 11, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this Veterans Day with us.
A critical new impeachment chapter, public hearings this week plus a rare holiday court hearing to help determine if the President's Chief of Staff a Former National Security Adviser can be compelled to testify.
Plus the President draws a line for fellow Republicans. Do not, he says, say that quid pro quo in Ukraine was wrong but doesn't warrant impeachment. But some Republicans are making that case. The key now is whether public hearings cause even more GOP jitters.
And Joe Biden takes voter questions tonight in Iowa the CNN Town hall comes as the Former Vice President holds a strong national polling position but struggles in some of the early states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIFED FEMALE: Are you trying to win the primary by talking about the general?
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason I'm running is because of the general. I'm not running against anything having to do with the character even of the candidates are running. What I'm doing is trying to make the case that Trump is a gigantic impediment to this country moving forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We begin this hour and this week on Capitol Hill where Democrats and Republicans alike now preparing for the impeachment inquiry to go public in real time with two days of public hearings later this week. Wednesday the witnesses are Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, as well as George Kent, the Senior State Department official.
Friday it is the Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. We have the transcripts to their private depositions. All three worried that the President was putting political vendettas ahead of urging U.S. policy goals. The President is well aware of the mistakes kicking of his critical week by urging Republicans to keep in line.
Tweeting this morning "Republicans don't be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but it is not impeachable". No, it is much stronger than that nothing was done wrong. Those are the President's words. More proof, this week his huger.
Federal courts of course closed for Veterans Day, and yet a judge this evening will hear arguments over whether Active Chief of Staff can join a lawsuit asking the federal courts to rule on whether Congressional impeachment subpoenas must be honored another party to that suite the Former National Trump Security Adviser John Bolton.
Mulvaney and Bolton, of course, have firsthand knowledge of key impeachment inquiry events. CNN's Lauren Fox joins me live up on Capitol Hill. Lauren, Veterans Day normally a day off for lawmakers busy, quite what's it like up there today?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John here is a bit of a false sense of calm, and this is before a blockbuster week on Capitol Hill with those two big days on Wednesday and then on Friday where the America public will see for the first time and hear testimony from Bill Taylor, George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch.
Behind the scenes though Democrats doing their bit of preparation which one Democratic senior lawmaker excuse me one Democratic senior aide told me it was even bigger than what they did for the Mueller testimony, in part because they feel like the public momentum is on their side. They've been releasing these transcripts day by day. They've also just had multiple leaks coming out of these depositions, and there is the sense that this is just all building for these public hearings.
Of course they have to have a big moment in these hearings in order to keep the movement going ahead. Democrats behind the scenes preparing questions, preparing for rebuttals from the Republicans, and of course preparing a social media strategy in real time to try to build all of this as the country, will of course, be watching. John?
KING: Lauren Fox, a very busy week up on Capitol Hill. I appreciate the live reporting. With me here in the studio to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev with "AXIOS" Carl Hulse with "The New York Times" Rachael Bade with "The Washington Post" and Laura Barron-Lopez with "POLITICO".
And let's get to the stakes for the Democrats right out of the box. So Lauren mentioned the Mueller hearings, the Democrats did not get what they expected out of that. How prepared are they? What are they doing differently to get ready not only when they have these three key State Department officials in the chair, but to convince people watching at home. You need to pay attention to here follow the dots?
CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think they learned a lot from the Mueller hearing and the one is that people get used to - they think they know the information already, so when it comes out, it's not surprising. I think the Democrats their real challenge is going to be capturing the public interest right out of the box, honestly, and say here's why we think this is serious.
Here's the accusations against the President and why they're important. I think they are prepared. I think they've gone back, looked what they did wrong with Mueller and they're trying to correct that.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And here's the reason that they have the line-up that they have. They feel as though Bill Taylor, who is first up, will be a really compelling witness. They'll only have about two weeks of public hearings because they want to keep this ball moving forward.
KING: It will be interesting to see. And as this starts the President understands the stakes of this big week.
KING: Right now, he has for the most part pretty good Republican unity. You do hear privately a lot more criticism of what happened than you hear publicly. But listen here, these are two Republicans on the Sunday shows both happen to be retiring, meaning not running for reelection next year. They're making a case a lot of Republicans say privately what but these two say publicly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD, (R-TX): I think if you're trying to get information on a political rival to use in a political campaign, is not something a President or any official should be doing. I think everybody has most Republicans have said that would be a violation of the law.
REP. MAC THORNBERRY, (R-TX): I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The challenge for the President is to keep it to a few handfuls that say that because if that momentum grows, even if a big number of Republicans come out and say, it's not impeachable but it's wrong, A, it angers the President. And B, it puts pressure, whether it's in the House or the Senate, for some Republicans to stand up says I move to center, to block impeachment.
MARGARET TALEV, POLITICS AND WHITE HOUSE EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes, the President sees this as a foot in the door, a slippery slope whatever kind of cliche for what this could be they would want to use. The Republicans who are making this point see it as their best compromise.
They're personally deeply offended by what the President did under different circumstances may be they be leaning little harder into it. This is like where they meet him in the middle. Though for the President he sees this as something that could dampen enthusiasm and turn out during his reelection effort, or something that could make it okay for other Republicans to step out and take an even stronger stance.
RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I also think it's pretty telling that you know those two Republicans you just highlighted both of them retiring and they are not even willing to say that they're looking or perhaps even going to consider voting for impeachment.
I mean, you had William Hurd in the same interview basically suggested it was fine that Republicans want to call in Hunter Biden, which is sort of like blessing a strategy that you know the hard core Trumpees want. And I thought - personally I found that surprising giving somebody who he has leaving and he is exiting.
And you know the Democrats are not going to publically get anybody else to testify, firsthand account that Trump told them personally to do X, Y and Z on Ukraine. I mean, the people, the things they have now, they're going to be presenting them in public, but they're not going to probably get any more proof than they have now, and so if Republicans are not willing to open the door to impeachment right now, they're not going to probably do this--
KING: Which makes a 5.00 pm on Veterans Day hearing in federal court very important and interesting that the judge deciding we're going to do this on a holiday. But the judge knows what week it is. The judge knows public hearings are starting. The judge could have waited till Tuesday, he could have waited until Friday, he could have waited until next month.
He decided Mick Mulvaney has now portioned to join, this is an interesting one. The President's Acting Chief of Staff trying to join a lawsuit filed by John Bolton's Deputy, first, and then joined by John Bolton essentially saying, we've been subpoenaed in the case of the deputy. There is this subpoena, Judge, tell me, do I have to testify? The President says no, Congress say yes, let the courts decide.
Mick Mulvaney trying to join this now and that's what the judge will consider now. If this judge rules on the power of a congressional subpoena, it could put them in the witness chair and both of their lawyers say interesting things. John Bolton's lawyer to Congress last week, Ambassador Bolton was personally involved in many of the events, meetings and conversations about which you have already received testimony and here is the good part as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimony so far.
So what is John Bolton teasing? And then Mick Mulvaney trying to join this lawsuit which the President of the United States is one of the defendants in the suit, Mick Mulvaney going to court saying, both in his capacity as the Acting White House Chief of Staff and as the Director of Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney met with and advised President Trump directly on a frequent and regular basis and implemented President Trump's plans. The question would be if you were an impeachment witness including the plan to stop the aid to Ukraine until they gave the public commitment to the investigations.
HULSE: Well, Bolton looks like to me he's trying to be forced into the hearings, that he kind of wants to testify, has things to say, but he wants to be ordered to do it. I know the courts have a hearing today. The courts still grind pretty slow in these kinds of cases, and the Democrats really seem as you said a quick timetable. I don't know if there is enough time to get decisions to force Bolton to do this.
KING: It's fascinating in the sense that if you believe the testimony of Bolton's Deputy Fiona Hill he was harshly critical of Mulvaney who is not trying to join his lawsuit saying it was part of - it was a drug deal that's what they were cooking. He inclining it to a drug deal meaning something corrupt in Ukraine.
TALEV: Yes, they might have something very different to offer if both Mulvaney and Bolton were so how compelled to testify. You know it's interesting, all the people I talked to on both sides the conventional wisdom tends to be that Mulvaney is trying to slow down the process and that Bolton doesn't really want to testify.
But both of those things could be wrong. We don't really know what's in their heads and here are some complicating factors.
TALEV: Mulvaney, on one hand, is a staunch supporter of the President, and on the other hand, has always known when you're Chief of Staff in this White House, you're part of the team until you find out from Twitter that you are no longer part of the team which is why he built up his own communications team, his own foreign policy advisor like.
Mick Mulvaney has to protect himself and that may be part of what's going on. John Bolton has got a very lucrative book deal who is going to want to put details in this book that perhaps won't be out already and part of what he may be doing is trying to kind indemnify himself against being able to put some of that stuff out that in the book by saying, hey, I offered to talk about that with Democrats, they didn't subpoena.
KING: All right. You're right the courts normally go at a snail's pace. The question would be will this one, if not because the Democrats say they're not going to delay die, they're going to move forward if not, but I do think having a holiday evening hearing tells you the judge at least wants to stir things up a little bit.
Up next for us, we will continue the conversation the Secretary of State's message to the State Department officials at the center of this week's testimony but as we go to break, the President pausing this morning to honor American veterans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This morning is more than 30,000 patriotic Americans line the streets of Manhattan. We carry on a noble tradition that began one century ago. We must uphold with supreme vigilance our sacred obligation to care for those who have borne the battle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: An interesting new twist today from the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. You will remember he failed in an effort to keep State Department officials from cooperating with the impeachment inquiry. This week's public witnesses Bill Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch are current or former State Department officials. So now Pompeo's advice is get it over with and tell the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I hope everyone who testifies will go do so truthfully and accurately. When they do, the oversight will have been performed and I think America will come to see what took place there. I was part of America's Ukraine policy. We were very clear. We wanted to make sure that the corruption that had been existing in Ukraine for an awfully long time was reduced. The President Zelensky had the capability to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I get it. They have to testify. You might as well tell them get it over with, tell the truth. The part about the corruption, his words may have always been like that, but again take the President's advise, read the transcript. The president says, Biden. We need a favor. The President is not talking about broad, deep, systemic democratic or political or legal corruption. He talks about Biden.
BADE: Yes, I mean, this is an argument that we're going to see Republicans make potentially Wednesday I mean, saying that, oh, we always hold up foreign aid and put strings on it to make sure we're rooting out corruption and making sure that you have good democracy in these countries that we're supporting, et cetera.
But you're right. I mean, clearly this is B.S. because they have to look specifically at - he was asking about the Bidens. He was asking about investigations that helped the President politically in 2016. I think Pompeo, it's interesting to hear him say be truthful, because behind the scenes, he was telling people not to go. There is a little nuance there.
We found out in these transcripts that the State Department, while telling people not to show up last week or in the previous weeks, never gave any advice on subpoenas and if they came - if they got subpoenaed, the State Department never told them not to show which it will be interesting to see how the White House reacts to that given that they said nobody show up.
KING: You're right. At the White House, let's make it more personal. The President of the United States, when he's watching these hearings next week, to people on Mike Pompeo's payroll saying the things they say in their transcripts and may be more. It will be interesting to see how the President reacts.
You mentioned the Republicans are debating amongst themselves how to do this? To your question on the character of the witnesses like the President has that's dangerous. The lead witness happens to be a Vietnam War Veteran. If Colonel Vindman on the White House that was a Purple Heart veteran. These are people who have served for a long time.
Listen to Rand Paul here, who essentially says Mr. President drop the whole argument about quid pro quo. Say, yes, you asked Ukraine to do things and everybody does it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R-KY): And I would make the argument that every politician in Washington other than me virtually is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes. Menendez tried it, Murphy tried it Biden tried it Trump's tried it. There are doing it, they are all trying to manipulate Ukraine to get some kind of investigation to either ended investigation or started investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Some interesting throw at all at the wall. The Democrats that he mentioned there, Menendez, Murphy and Biden, would tell you, no, they were asking Ukraine to clean up corruption within its borders, to have a judicial system that works, to have Democratic political reforms not to investigate domestic political rivals.
LOPEZ: Right and that's a big difference. This is also, clearly as Rachael pointed out, an attempt by Republicans to normalize what Trump has done to make it seem as though multiple Presidents have done it, that the U.S. does it on a regular basis, and that's just not accurate. We've already seen Republicans try to attack the witnesses, attack their character, so it remains to be seen whether or not they think that will be an effective strategy during the actual hearings.
We expect that they will attack a lot of Democrats' process, still, continue to call it a sham investigation. But, again, Democrats are pretty hopeful that they can effectively sell this as these public hearings start. It won't be any new information, but that finally the public will start to tune in and see things that they haven't before.
KING: But can Republicans just stir up enough dust, raise enough doubt, distract? To Rand Paul's point everybody does it, as one of his arguments there.
KING: With their witness list it has Hunter Biden, not going to testify Devin Archer who was one of his partners, Hunter Biden's partners. Then it goes on to have a former DNC staffer Alexander who is not involved in this at all. It is if you have a Republican conspiracy theory in your head about who meddled in the election in 2016. Nelly Orr goes back to the Steele dossier. This is the Republican witness list. The Democrats are going to say no to just about everybody on the Republican witness list, to what end?
HULSE: I think you're going to see a lot of Republican efforts to disrupt and distract as you just said. They're going to try to do a lot of things to grab headlines, make it look partisan and you know this witness list obviously reflect that. It shows no seriousness, really, in trying to refute what the Democrats are doing.
I think that's just how it's going to play out, especially in the House. I think if it gets to the Senate, you'll see a different kind of proceeding, but the House guys, you know, they added Jim Jordan to that committee for a good reason. He's been good about getting out there and trying to divert attention from what the Democrats say is really happening.
KING: Right, there are three witnesses on a Republican David Hale, Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker, all diplomats, all involved in this policy. If the Republicans can call them and make a factual - there is difference of opinion here or different facts that would be one thing but that's how the witnesses may be not so much. We shall see a big week ahead.
Up next, Nikki Haley is back with her own stories of disarray in the White House. Again, as we go to break, it's a very special day across the United States live pictures here from the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial as we honor those who have served and continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces.
KING: Coming tomorrow to a bookstore or tablet near you, another inside account of chaos and turmoil of the Trump presidency. This one, though, has the President's Twitter endorsement. It's from a top official who says she resisted efforts to undermine presidential authority.
Nikki Haley's new book is "With all due respect: defending America with grit and grace" "The Washington Post" says this excerpt about Haley's time as Trump's Ambassador to the United Nations. Then Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the President, they weren't being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country. Haley told CBS, she disagreed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER UN AMBASSADOR: Instead of saying that to me they should have been said 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 ask quit if you don't like what he's doing. But to undermine a President is really a very dangerous thing. It goes against the constitution and it goes against what the American people want and it was offensive.
(END VIDDEO CLIP) KING: What do we make of this? Timing is everything in politics. I know the book publishing is on a schedule, but the week of impeachment she pops up. Number one, it does confirm chaos in the administration. Number two, she's taking the President's side here saying if you disagree, you're supposed to go tell him you disagree, you're not supposed to undermine him. But?
TALEV: I mean, overwhelmingly, Republicans and many Democrats that I talked to think that Nikki Haley has a good chance of being the first female President. Probably not in 2020, but these are the things that you say when you're trying to distinguish yourself from the people who broke with the President but also trying to clear a lane for yourself to have differences of opinion with the President.
And consistently, both while she was inside the administration and throughout her exit and departure, she has managed to keep this politically, managed to keep this lane for herself where she is still a darling of many fans of President Trump but also respected by people who have issues with Trump inside the Republican Party. She's been a shrewd politician and that was a shrewd interview.
KING: And to that very point, number one, on other issues, she said she disagreed with the President - Charlottesville, for example but she told him that in private she didn't tried to undermine. Other examples where she could be more of a mainstream centrist Republican on the question - in Washington on impeachment, she told to NPR, it's not a good practice first to ever ask a foreign country to investigate an American. So there she's saying what the President did was wrong, right those are her words but on impeachment, she said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: You're going to impeach the President for asking for a favor that didn't happen and giving money and it wasn't withheld? I don't know what you would impeach him on.
The Ukrainians never did the investigation and the President released the funds. When you look at those, there's just nothing impeachable there. More than that, I think the biggest thing that bothers me is the American people should decide this. Why do we have a bunch of people in Congress making this decision?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOPEZ: It's a stunning response or logical reasoning that she's trying to give. Impeachment doesn't need - the act doesn't need to have been carried out for Congress to impeach a President. If they find his conduct unbecoming, which is the act of asking for this favor, then the House can proceed as they see fit.