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3 Key State Department Witnesses to Testify Publicly This Week in Impeachment Hearings; Trump to Attend NYC Veterans Day Parade. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 11, 2019 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, and it is Veterans Day. And this morning, we honor all the men and women who have served this country. And I know you have a very interesting segment coming up next hour.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I do. A bipartisan move to honor and memorialize the veterans from the global war on terror and memorialize the veterans from the global war on terror, which is really important.

BERMAN: OK. It all begins this week. A monumental week for the country. Public impeachment hearings beginning Wednesday, with three key State Department officials set to testify.

House Democrats hoping the testimony will help booster the case that President Trump abused his power by trying to coerce Ukraine into investigating the Bidens.

The president's Republican allies are working a different angle, pitching conspiracy theories and distractions in an effort to sow confusion over the case against him. But the president says this morning he actually doesn't like that strategy.

CAMEROTA: As of now, two key White House figures will not testify. That's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

But later today, a judge will hear arguments on a last-minute effort from Mulvaney to determine whether he has to show up and answer questions.

There is also a new report this morning that one of the men who worked for Rudy Giuliani is under -- who is under indictment traveled to the Ukraine in May, with an ultimatum to investigator the Bidens. He is prepared to tell impeachment investigators all about that.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst; Dana Bash, CNN chief political correspondent; and Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent.

Dana, I want to start with you in Washington. The curtain's coming up Wednesday morning with Ambassador William Taylor, the first witness to testify in the public televised impeachment hearings. This will just be the third time this country has ever watched impeachment hearings play out on TV. And you see the posturing now from both Democrats and Republicans to get ready for this moment.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. But they can posture all they want ahead of time. It's not going to matter once we actually see the day, see the testimony, hear the witness.

And the stakes couldn't be higher, for both sides, but particularly the Democrats. Because the whole strategy leading up to this was to find the best witnesses based on what they said in their depositions. And Bill Taylor obviously fits that bill from their perspective, because he is very open about the fact that he was uncomfortable with what was happening, described a quid pro quo.

And he is a credible witness, because he is a long-time foreign service officer. He is somebody who has the respect and the confidence of people in both parties, worked for presidents in both parties since Ronald Reagan.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Jeffrey, Republicans seem to be treating these hearings as a catch-all for anything they have any doubts about, any lingering suspicions about whatsoever. So they want to call all sorts of people, even stretching back to the 2016 election, that they think may have not been up-front about something. Is that how this has worked in the past?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's worth remembering always that impeachment is a political process. It's not a legal process. So both sides will be using techniques that are much more common in a political campaign than in a courtroom.

So anything that can help their side, whether it's technically relevant in the legal sense or simply just makes the other side look bad, is fair game.

CAMEROTA: And that's how it worked with Benghazi. That's how it worked with -- I mean, this is an impeachment. I understand. But in terms of investigations, that's often how it worked?

TOOBIN: It has. As you remember, I mean, I covered the impeachment hearings against Clinton in 1998. One of the things that the Democrats said over and over again is, this is just partisan. This is just partisan.

That's what the Republicans are saying today. And there is some justification for that. If you look at the first vote that -- that was taken in the House about the impeachment investigation, it was almost entirely partisan.

That doesn't make it wrong. I mean, some things are partisan, and the merits just favor one side or the other. But some of the arguments recur from -- from impeachment to impeachment.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting. Because there was an argument and a counterargument made this week. And Mac Thornberry, a senior Republican, went on TV, and he pitched one of the things we've heard some Republicans saying, which is basically, I'm deeply uncomfortable with the phone call the president made, leaning on the Ukrainians for his political benefit. I think it's wrong but not impeachable.

Listen to what he said. Then I want to tell you how the president feels about it.


REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): 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.


BERMAN: So wrong and bad, but not impeachable. You would think, Kaitlan, that that's the get-out-of-jail free card for the president. If he can convince enough Republicans of that, he walks.

However, the president doesn't like that argument.



BERMAN: This is what he said about that: "There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong. Republicans, don't be led into the fool's trap of saying it was not perfect, but it is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!"

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's so interesting that he refers to it as a fool's trap. Because we have heard this from a lot of Republicans, who have said if the president would come out and say, what I said, I didn't realize the implications of it. I shouldn't have said that. It's not what I meant. And essentially, apologize to a degree, they think that they would have a much more successful argument saying this is not an impeachable -- sure, censure the president and let's move on.

The president doesn't think he did anything wrong here, though. He doesn't want Republicans making that argument, because he thinks his call truly was perfect. He does not think that anything he did was wrong. And so that's essentially why he's pushing back on that argument.

But Republicans don't know what else to say. They don't really have any other kind of viable defense here except, besides arguing about the process and saying it's partisan.

TOOBIN: And the other thing you will hear, though, this week is that the testimony, particularly from the first two witnesses, was second- hand and third-hand. That people did not hear from the president themselves. Taylor, who was the leadoff witness, did not interact with the


Now, the Democrats will always respond, We have the phone call. That -- the partial transcript is the smoking gun.

You know, we'll see.

Tomorrow, we're going to get, apparently, according to the president, the transcript, or the partial transcript, of the first phone call between the two of them. Now, I don't know what the significance of that is.

CAMEROTA: I think it's significant. I think it's interesting, because in the second phone call, you hear him referring back to the conversations or agreements they had in the first call. So it's just a bigger --

TOOBIN: Certainly, you would want -- more information is always better.

COLLINS: Also, aides have testified Alex Vindman, the Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, talked about the difference in the two phone calls. He said the first one was much cheerier the second one. The second one, he described as the tones being so dour, I think is the word he used.

And that's something interesting, reading all of these transcripts which a lot of our colleagues have read every single word. The picture it paints of the president and how aides reacted to him. How they feared his tweets. How, essentially, they didn't know who it was who was in charge of Ukraine really paints a pretty damning picture of what's happening inside the White House.

BASH: And that leads to where we are right now, which is even though we are, what? A month in, more than a month in of -- we hear almost on a daily basis -- I know Kaitlan does, I do -- from our Republican sources, particularly on the Hill, that they don't have a clear White House strategy.

And every single time they try to figure one out, and they have been trying that on every level, there's so many things out there. It's like a smoke screen. The president pushes back on it.

And this "yes, but" defense, as I call it -- yes, he did something wrong, but it's not impeachable -- it is clearly, for many of these House members and, most importantly Senate Republicans, the best that they've got. Admitting that it's not ideal, but pushing off the notion of impeachment.

And the fact that the president doesn't even want to, forgive me, suck it up and allow them to say that is very telling about how dug in he is and how, you know, the warning shots that he's sending to these Republicans who still, even now, fear him with tweets and other retribution. BERMAN: One of the problems that Republicans have is there has been

new information that keeps on coming up. Now, it all paints the same picture, Jeffrey, as you point out. But you get new details. Including in "The New York Times" this morning, which is reporting that this associate of Rudy Giuliani, the guy who worked with and for Rudy Giuliani who is under indictment this morning for --

CAMEROTA: Funneling foreign money into U.S. elections.

BERMAN: As one does, apparently. He is going -- or willing to testify to impeachment investigators that he was sent to Ukraine by Rudy Giuliani and others to offer -- issue an ultimatum to investigate the Bidens. This is the exact quote.

"The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government that it had to investigate into Mr. Trump's political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said."

Now, Giuliani says categorically, I did not say that. John Dowd says there was no mention of military aid.

CAMEROTA: Well, it says, I would freeze aid. What else is that?

TOOBIN: I mean, the question is whether this witness is telling the truth.

BERMAN: But the bottom line here is, the interesting to me is that Lev Parnas is willing to talk, is willing to talk at length, apparently.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And there -- you know, there are two defendants in that case. One is sticking with Trump. One is -- one, Parnas is going the other way.

But I mean, the thing that is so extraordinary, we have now heard and read a lot of testimony. And it all points in the same direction. That Rudy Giuliani was leading this foreign policy against the wishes of the State Department and the career people. And making these ultimatums. I mean, making the -- we call it quid pro quo. We can call it extortion; we can call it bribery. All of it points in the same direction. The Parnas testimony, if that's -- materializes, would be just another point in that -- in that --


COLLINS: And here's why. It hasn't been corroborated. We should point that out. It's just Parnas saying that. Of course, he's someone who's under indictment.

If it is corroborated, it's the earliest -- one of the earliest instances of them telling the Ukrainians, essentially, the president's thinking on this. This ransom that they wanted, essentially. And that also undercuts the argument that we've heard that, during that July 25 phone call, they say the Ukrainians didn't know that aid had been on hold. So that would really change that. Because he makes pretty clear what their positions are.

CAMEROTA: This was in May, at an outdoor cafe in Kiev.

COLLINS: Right. If it's corroborated, we should note.

CAMEROTA: If it's corroborated.


CAMEROTA: So the brings up to Mick Mulvaney, who appears to be one of the linchpins in terms of what the administration was actually saying. Who knew what when?

And so he did something interesting this weekend or Friday. The joined John Bolton's lawsuit to stop him from testifying.

COLLINS: Yes. It's the deputy national security adviser, Charlie Kupperman, who has filed this lawsuit against House Democrats and the White House, saying, essentially, I'm stuck between the two of these. I don't know if I should go testify or if I should follow the White House's ruling.

Now, that Mulvaney is trying to get onto that lawsuit is really notable. And they have a conference call today to figure out more about this.

But it's really interesting. Because John Bolton is following whatever this lawsuit does. He says he'll testify if they rule in the court's favor -- in the House's favor in this situation.

It's interesting, because Mulvaney and Bolton were pitted against each other. They were barely on speaking terms when John Bolton was fired and left the White House.

CAMEROTA: So why is he joining forces with them?

COLLINS: It's notable, because essentially, he's saying, I'm going to listen to whatever the court says. He could just say the White House has directed me not to testify. I'm following that defense. But instead, he's putting it in the court's favor.

And of course, Mulvaney plays a really central role in this, is on camera talking about this, admitting the quid pro quo, which he later said comments were misinterpreted. It really is a fascinating development in all of this.

BERMAN: I mean, yes. Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: No, I would just say, knowing their -- their very poor relationship as Kaitlan just laid out, you can call them strange bedfellows right now. But it looked like what Kupperman was doing and his former boss, John Bolton, was doing with this lawsuit was saying, I'm out, guys. I'm not going to make this decision. You can make it for me, because they don't want -- they want it -- if they testify, they want to be dragged into doing it for -- for history's sake. You wouldn't think that the sitting acting chief of staff of the

president would feel the same way. The fact that he does is noteworthy in the fact that despite all of the rhetoric and the bluster about how bad this impeachment inquiry is, they're worried about the implications, legally and historically.

TOOBIN: But also, remember, the clock may run out on all of this anyway.

BASH: Yes, that's true.

TOOBIN: That, you know, the Democrats have said their proceeding with hearings this week, probably hearings next week. Then they're on to the House Judiciary Committee for actual impeachment hearings. The Bolton, Kupperman lawsuit, now the Mulvaney lawsuit, as well, may simply be irrelevant, because the time it's resolved.

BERMAN: All right. Stand by on that one. Thank you, friends.

And Dana, you're going to be back in be bit in a little bit with a really, really interesting interview with Joe Biden in advance of our town hall with Joe Biden tonight.

Also, it's not just a problem. It's a poison. It will not come as a shock how polarized we are all becoming as Americans. But just how polarized?

CAMEROTA: Very polarized, John. Very.

BERMAN: Very apparently. Eye opening.

CAMEROTA: Like a polar vortex of polarization.


CAMEROTA: Polarization is threatening to tear the United States apart. Just how polarized are we? John Avlon has the answer in our "Reality Check" -- John.


As you know, today's Veterans Day. Time to honor the sacrifice of our brave military men and women. And November 11 was chosen, because it was the day World War I ended. But a century later, it's still a good time to reflect on an old bit of political wisdom that's been lost. The idea that partisanship ought to end at the water's edge.

These days, partisanship doesn't seem to stop anywhere. It divides families, intrudes in churches and schoolhouses and offices. It's a prime driver of the overall polarization that's weakening our political and social bonds. Separating our economic portions and driving bitter cultural divides. Separating us into tribes.

And that's why we're devoting this week to "Reality Checks" about the fundamental problem of polarization. Looking at where we are, where we've been and where we're going. And ending with a look at some ideas about how we might heal our deep divides.

There are going to be essays running on -- all week on, as well.

But make no mistake: healing our divided nation is the defining challenge of our time. Because nothing less than the success of the American experiment is at stake.

But if you think polarization is getting worse, you're not alone. Exit polls from the 2018 midterm election show that 67 percent of voters believe our country's becoming more divided. Recent Pew surveys show that over 60 percent of Americans believe both parties have become too extreme.

And 87 percent of Americans say political polarization is threatening our way of life as the political becomes more personal.

Check this out. A 2017 Gallup survey found more than 60 percent of both Dems and Republicans say they want their daughters to marry members of their own political parties. While a 2019 study found that just over 42 percent of both parties view the opposition not just as mistaken but downright evil.


So it's no surprise that a sense of civic despair is starting to kick in.

Large majorities of Americans believe thaat the country's going to only become more divided in their lifetime. And I know what you're thinking. Polarization has increased and accelerated under President Trump. He's a divider rather than a uniter. But the fact is he's a symptom of our polarization, not its cause.

There's still time to redeem something positive out of this period of poisonous polarization. Because an increasing number of people seem to realize that we may have taken our democracy too much for granted. Just take a listen to the women from Alisyn's last voter panel.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's literally no compromise no.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Compromise is not a thing.

CAMEROTA: Do you want compromise?




AVLON: Subtle. But in the absence of adult behavior in Congress, more than 60 percent of Americans said, even back in 2017, that the parties were out of touch with the country.

And 93 percent of Americans say they're tired of how divided we've become, according to the nonprofit More in Common.

A first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. If we clearly name the problem afflicting our nation, polarization, then we begin to take concrete steps to overcome it. We're going to discuss this in the coming days, but we need to find ways to reunite as a nation. And we can do this armed with the knowledge that we're defending core American values. Because our national model, "E Pluribus Unum," out of many, one, is literally the opposite of us against them, the demagogue's eternal calling card.

There is no "them" in the United States. There's only us. And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: Words of wisdom, John. And I appreciate that you're going to be tackling the solutions, too. I think that that is going to be very helpful for everyone to hear.

BERMAN: I just want to say, though, that your voter panel, you played sound with all the women there being upset about polarization. Well, one of the women on the panel said the president could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and she'd be OK with it.

CAMEROTA: Well, she would need to know exactly what the circumstances were.

BERMAN: My point is when people talk about ending polarization, what they often mean is, if only one would -- everyone would agree with me, it would all be OK. The best way to end these conflicts is for everyone to agree with what I'm saying.

CAMEROTA: I told them that. I told them that. And I said do you just want everybody to agree with you? They were talking about compromise.


CAMEROTA: And they said no, no. As mothers, we often understand that you have to lose in order to win the larger battle. They made that point.

AVLON: It's what we do at home. It's what we do at work. But yes, everybody's got to get over the idea that everyone needs just to agree with them and then the country would be better off.

BERMAN: If everyone would see things my way, it would be much easier.

All right. President Trump's son sparking controversy on this Veterans Day. What he said about sacrifice. That's next.


BERMAN: That's a live look at the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, on this Veterans Day 2019. What a beautiful sight that is any day, but especially this morning.

Just hours from now, President Trump will participate in the Veterans Day parade here in New York City, which has prompted my next guest to boycott the event entirely.

Joining me now is Paul Rieckhoff, Army veteran and the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Paul, thanks so much for joining us.


BERMAN: Before you talk about anything else, you know, we want to thank you for your service to the country and also your service to veterans. You know, since you served actively overseas, just what does Veterans Day mean to you every year?

RIECKHOFF: I think it means a time of unity, cohesion, inclusiveness, patriotism, empowerment, support. It's kind of like homecoming, Christmas, New Year's Eve altogether for veterans, because we can come together in one place and be together and understand our history, all different generations. And the American public comes out to support us in a way that usually is totally absent politics. It's a time when everybody puts their partisanship aside and honors and supports and celebrates over 20 million men and women who have served of all generations.

BERMAN: So Donald Trump is the president of the United States, the commander in chief. He's speaking at a Veterans Day event, which normally you would welcome, I assume.


BERMAN: But you're boycotting this year. Why?

RIECKHOFF: It was a personal decision, right? And every veteran's going to make their own decision. I know some are going to go. Some are not. But the Veterans Day is usually about unity. It's not about politics. And right now we have the most divisive president in my life time. So by showing up, he is politicizing it.

Now, some are protesting. Some are coming out to support him. It's immediately made this entire event about him. And he could very easily go to Arlington. He could go somewhere else. We could avoid all this controversy if he just went somewhere else. So that's really, for me, what it's all about. It's about recognizing this is usually a day of unity, and now just by his arrival, even if you support him, you have to recognize he is very divisive; and with him comes all this controversy. That's what the parade is going to be now. We're going to try to make

it about other things. We're going to try to find other ways to recognize veterans. But we have to realize that this is going to make it more political than it's ever been since I got home from Iraq.

BERMAN: So your problem is with him attending this Veterans Day event, not a Veterans Day event. Because I was trying to figure that out. Because if he didn't go to a Veterans Day event, I'm sure you would find that objectionable, as well.

RIECKHOFF: Well, he's never been to this, the Veterans Day parade before. No president, since I've come home from Iraq in 2004, has been to the Veterans Day parade before. So this is unprecedented. Right? Normally, it's a good thing to have that kind of support.

Normally, the president goes to Arlington. That's usually where the formal Washington ceremony is. He hasn't been to that before either. So it just reeks of politics. And it's coming on the backs of all these recent controversies, his attacks on John McCain, just a lot of other things that have really rubbed me and many in the military and veterans community the wrong way.

BERMAN: Want to ask you about something that came out in the last week from the president's son, Donald Trump Jr. He's got a new book out that he's out trying to sell.

And in it, there's a passage where he describes walking through the graves in Arlington National Cemetery the day before the inauguration. And this is what he wrote.

He said, "In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we'd already suffered as a family and about all the sacrifices we'd have to make to help my father succeed. Voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all the international deals to avoid the appearance that we were profiting off the office."

RIECKHOFF: I mean, this is the tone.