Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Public Hearings in Impeachment Inquiry Kick off Tomorrow; New Details on How Democrats & Republicans Are Preparing for Public Hearings; What to Expect During Public Impeachment Hearings; Mulvaney Will Not Pursue Court Fight over Subpoena; Trump to Hold Press Conference with Erdogan Tomorrow & May Release Summary of 1st Call with Ukraine President; White House Held Up Missiles over Concerns of Russia Reaction; Newly Uncovered Trump Encounters with Indicted Giuliani Associates; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) Discusses Laying Out the Case for Impeachment. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 12, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.
It's 23 hours and counting until history will be playing out. And this time, that is no exaggeration, friends. This time tomorrow, public impeachment hearings will be under way. And the question before the Congress, did the president commit impeachable offenses?
This morning, there are new details on how the hearings are likely to play out. Why the format is so unusual this time around, and how Democrats and Republicans are preparing. What they are going to try to accomplish with the witnesses that will be before them?
Speaking of the witnesses, this week Bill Taylor, the current top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, and Marie Yovanovitch the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was recalled by the president.
Let's begin with CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill.
Manu, in terms of Republican strategy going in, it's no surprise. It would be almost malpractice if Democrats and Republicans didn't have strategies going into these hearings.
What's been revealed is this 18-page memo that Republican staffers put together about the defenses that they have for the president. What is the strategy?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're trying to move from this process argument they've been waging for weeks and now looking at the substance. And what they're trying to argue is that nowhere on the phone call
between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine in July was any pressure, in their view, levied by the president against Zelensky to open up these investigations.
While the president very clearly in those remarks did urge the President Zelensky to look into the Bidens and also look into 2016 election interference and pursue this conspiracy theory of sorts that Ukraine is the one that be interfered in the U.S. elections, they're saying there was no pressure.
And also they're saying that this aid that had been withheld, there's lots of questions about this aid that eventually it was released in September.
Now, this comes as the Republicans also, Kate, are looking at trying to undercut Bill Taylor, the top diplomat from Ukraine, who will testify tomorrow.
He will say that he was told that President Trump wanted to withhold aid, wanted to withhold a key meeting with Ukraine until after those investigations were announced.
They plan to make a case that he had no clear understanding of what President Trump actually wanted and called this essentially a game of telephone, I'm told.
So watch for that line of argument to play out even as a number of witnesses have raised serious concerns about what happened -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: So then what are you hearing from the Democrats today?
RAJU: Well, Democrats are planning to huddle behind closed doors through the day today and try to make their case clear to the American public about why they believe this is a clear abuse of power by this president.
How witness after witness has backed up the clear narrative that the president enlisted Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, to carry out Ukraine policy, essentially push the Ukraine government to open up these investigations.
They're going to contend that is why the aid was withheld and why this key meeting had been withheld, essentially make the case of a quid pro quo.
And Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, in a letter to all of his members, making clear what they expect in this hearing tomorrow.
He said, "We intend to conduct these hearings with a seriousness and professionalism that the public deserves. The process will be fair to the president, the committee members, and the witnesses. Above all, these hearings are intended to bring the facts to light for the American people." And in that letter, Kate, there's a warning of sorts to members not to
do anything to undercut or out the whistleblower, who's complaint, of course, spawn this impeachment inquiry. We'll see if lawmakers, particularly Republicans, heed those warnings -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: It is going to be -- every hearing on Capitol Hill, when it's a closely watched, is a show on Capitol Hill. Let's see how much of a show they can control it to be come tomorrow.
Good to see you, Manu. Thank you so much.
So one thing we do know is tomorrow's televised hearings will look different than what you may be used to seeing on Capitol Hill.
CNN's Rene Marsh joins us now with a look into what to expect.
Rene, lay this out for me.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it goes without saying the stakes are going to be high. There's one goal tomorrow and that's convincing the American public to either impeach for abuse of power or, in the Republicans' case, not impeach.
The hearing will gavel in at 10:00 a.m. First witness is Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. George Kent, the second witness. He is a former senior State Department official. The first witnesses will certainly set the tone for these public hearings.
We do expect the most damning testimony from Taylor. What will he say? He will say that he had a clear understanding that military aid was tied to investigations into Trump's political rivals.
Kent will say that he understood a White House meeting between Ukraine's new president and Trump was contingent on the investigation on the Bidens.
And it will all happen in this room. This is the largest room in the House, 150 seats in the audience. It has the feel of a small theater. Perhaps appropriate because expect some theatrics tomorrow.
But now the most important part of tomorrow, the questions. This hearing, as you said, Kate, will look very different from others that you've seen.
Democrats don't want this becoming a partisan circus so there will be an uninterrupted flow of questions from each side.
So chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, and ranking member, Devin Nunes, they will get the largest chunk of time for questions, 45 minutes each.
But, we do know they are expected to concede much of their time to the committee staff members. That's Daniel Goldman, on the Democratic side, Steve Castor, Republican counsel for the Republicans. I can tell you about Goldman. Former prosecutor with the Southern
District of New York.
Castor, from the House Oversight Committee, brought over specifically for this.
And, Kate, I'm going to send it back to you, but goes without saying, the members will also get to ask questions, 12 Democrats on the left, five minutes each, eight Republicans on the right, five minutes each -- Kate?
Thank you, Rene.
Knowing where it's going to begin is an important part, and how it's going to all unravel from there on, we have to wait and see.
Thank you so much.
Joining me now, Michael Allen. He's a former staffer on the National Security Council under George W. Bush, also a former staffer for the House Intelligence Committee, the committee we're talking about just now that's going to be presiding over this hearing. And Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent.
Michael, let me start with you.
How does this format change how this is going to play out, not five minutes back and forth, back and forth, but rather these big chunks of time for either side and they're expected to lean on committee staff attorneys to do a lot of the questioning?
MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER STAFFER, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL & FORMER STAFFER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is going to be very significant. I think if you were to fault congressional hearings, it's that, in general, members have three to five minutes and they can't really get many places in that short of a time frame.
To have a seasoned, experienced prosecutor with 45 minutes to go after particular witnesses is very significant. And I think it helps build -- helps the Democrats build their case and will help the Republicans build a rebuttal to have that long of a time period to play with.
BOLDUAN: I think you're absolutely right. I mean, I think we're going to -- and especially when you -- if it's leaned on with these experienced staff-level attorneys, that takes at least, one would assume, some of the theatrics, if you will, out of at least a portion of the hearing. I find it really fascinating.
Kaitlan, I want to get to what the president's doing in response, but there some news that was coming in that I want to ask you about.
We have now acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who, of course, has been subpoenaed and asked to come before the House. He declined to speak to House investigators because he wanted -- he said he was also stuck between this rock and a hard place, right, of responding to a congressional subpoena or doing what his boss tells him to do, which is to not go before Congress.
Long way of saying, he went to a judge, then he was going to file his own lawsuit, and now he's dropping the whole thing?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This entire thing has been one of the most-odd developments I think in this entire impeachment.
BOLDUAN: Extremely weird.
COLLINS: And essentially what he's doing is saying he's not going to file a lawsuit asking a court whether he has to listen to House Democrats or the White House when it comes to answering a subpoena.
That's different than what his attorney said last night when they said he was going to file his own lawsuit asking the courts to make this decision.
And that comes after another lawsuit filed by the former national security adviser, who was asking the courts what he wanted to do.
BOLDUAN: And didn't want him to join.
COLLINS: Didn't want Mulvaney to join. He was opposed to that. They went to court and it became clear they were not going to have the same arguments given the role that Mick Mulvaney occupies, still working in the White House, chief of staff.
BOLDUAN: What's the net-net? The net-net is now he's back where he was. He's just not doing it.
COLLINS: Now he's saying he's going to listen to the directions of the White House not to testify.
The question is, why wasn't that his position in the first place. Since he played a role in drafting that letter from the White House that went out and instructed White House officials not to comply with any requests, not just subpoenas, no requests from Democrats.
It's really odd. There's no explanation. It's unclear what Mulvaney's motive was. But it's gone back and forth repeatedly. Now he says he's going to listen to the advice he gave to everyone else in part.
BOLDUAN: Head spinning. Let's get our heads back on straight.
Let's talk about tomorrow really quick. As the House will -- we were going to be watching this hearing play out, we do know that the president is going to be holding a press conference with the Turkish president tomorrow and possibly also releasing the summary of another phone call with the president of Ukraine from April.
The timing of the release of that summary, let's just be honest, it's impossible that it's a coincidence.
COLLINS: And it's something they've been teasing for weeks.
COLLINS: And the president told myself and other reporters at the airport on Saturday it's coming out today. Now they're moving it, saying it's going to happen sometime this week.
Two things. The visit with Erdogan has been long planned. There were some questions on whether it was going forward after the president withdrew the troops from Syria. It's still going forward.
The joint press conference was not something we were expecting. It was up in the air. Now they say they're going to do it.
The timing is coming on the same day as these two testimonies. The president is going to be taking questions from reporters. So that's something to watch.
The release of this transcript not so how much. It is in and of itself going to be the transcript of the first call.
But if you listen to the testimony of some of these officials, including Alex Vindman, the Ukraine expert, he said that first call was cheery and good rapport between the president and the Ukrainian president.
He described that because he was describing how different the second call, the one that's under so much scrutiny was.
So there may somebody amusing parts in the first transcript whenever it does come out. We're not expecting any kind of revelations based on our reporting so far.
BOLDUAN: So we're going to see how tomorrow plays out, Michael, but I do want to ask you something more that came out in the transcripts that were released yesterday.
One broad point that came out, Michael, is that there was another instance of aid being withheld from Ukraine. The concern at that point, when that aid was withheld, was that Russia basically didn't like it.
This, according to Catherine Croft, a State Department official, who revealed this. Two quotes for you. "In a briefing with Mr. Mulvaney" -- acting chief of staff - "the question centered around the Russian reaction. Mulvaney was concerned," quote, "that Russia would react negatively to the provisions of javelins to Ukraine."
Javelins being missiles that were to be sent to Ukraine.
Should Russia have been a consideration at all in who -- in giving this aid?
ALLEN: So I think it's fair -- I don't agree with it, but I do think it's fair for the United States to consider, how will Russia react to us arming the Ukrainians.
However, given the president's seeming proclivity or willingness to work with Vladimir Putin, if it seems like we're working behind the scenes in order to pander to the Russians, that's about the only way I could think of to make this more an explosive type of inquiry. And that's that we were doing this at the behest of the Russians.
I think it's fine to ask the question, how does this affect our relationship with another major nuclear power. But, wow, if there's more to come on that score, this could get really even uglier.
BOLDUAN: That's why it sounds like, oh my gosh, Kate, you're bringing up another tidbit from another 400-plus-page transcript, but there's real information coming out at the same time that we are heading into these historic hearings. That's why it is so important to keep the broad picture in mind and also listen to what these officials are saying under oath on record in these depositions.
Michael, thank you so much.
Kaitlan, it's good to see you.
Buckle up, it's going to be a fun couple of days.
Coming up, President Trump has said he doesn't know the indicted Rudy Giuliani associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, but a new report finds that the three have met at least 10 times. Much more on that coming up.
Plus, Joe Biden takes to the CNN town hall stage in Iowa, renews his attacks and criticism on Elizabeth Warren. How is the back and forth between these two candidates playing with voters? We're going to get the view from the ground in Iowa.
We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: They are charged with illegally funneling foreign donations to U.S. political candidates. They were arrested last month at Dulles Airport in Virginia with one-way tickets out of the country. And they are very clearly associates of Rudy Giuliani's.
You will remember President Trump had this to say about whether or not he knows these men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know those gentlemen. Now it's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do. But I don't know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You'd have to ask Rudy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Doesn't know them, doesn't know them, does not know them.
As it turns out, an investigation shows there's growing evidence that President Trump actually does know these men.
CNN's Andrew Kaczynski is here with much more on this.
Thank you for running in, Andrew. Really appreciate it.
You found multiple instances of these men being with President Trump. Explain.
ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN "KFILE" SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, not just multiple, but we found 10 separate interactions with these people had with the president.
Now, the earliest is March 2015 where there's a photo of Parnas at an event at Trump Doral. It was a golf tournament and he has a photo posing with the president.
And the latest is December 2018 at a White House Hanukkah party. There's a photo of Parnas, Fruman, Giuliani and Pence. They're all posing together.
So what's really interesting is, on seven of these occasions, they actually took photos posing with the president. So they have photos --
BOLDUAN: They're not just in some room where the president was.
KACZYNSKI: Yes. It's not them talking to the president. It's them actually posing with the president. And what we found doing this story is that the interactions paint this very familiar picture.
There was an intimate dinner at the White House or at a Trump Hotel. There was VIP access to Trump rallies. There were inauguration galas, in which they're feet from the president at these exclusive events just days before the inauguration.
And it raises a lot of very interesting questions. And it certainly -- I don't want to say casts doubt, because that's not strong enough -- if it makes the president's claim to not know them very, very unlikely.
BOLDUAN: We know they were together more often than previously known. And definitely it seems that the president -- more often than the president is letting on. But do we know how deep those interactions were, though?
KACZYNSKI: So there's a couple incidents here where we know they did have some pretty deep conversations or it appears they did.
This intimate dinner they had. This was April 30th of 2018. It was a dinner at Trump Hotel for prospective donors to the president's super PAC, America First.
And what's interesting is this event was not -- you know, this is not an event in which there's a hundred people, 200 people. This is an event where we're talking eight to 15 people at a table in an exclusive suite at the Trump Hotel.
And we know from this event that the president had to have been somewhat familiar with these people.
BOLDUAN: I mean, super fascinating, as you were combing through all of this to find all of these interactions and also when you see what they're charged with and kind of how this is starting to play out with their not guilty pleas it's going to be interesting to see how this all gels together.
But it's great to have you here. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, House Democrats begin laying out their case for impeachment in full public view tomorrow. One top Democrat joins us next on what Democrats -- on what case they have to make tomorrow.
We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are in the final hours of gearing up for what is, by definition, history. Tomorrow's public impeachment hearings.
And new this morning, an 18-page memo from the Republican staff of the three committees who have been conducting behind-closed-doors interviews. An 18-page memo laying out the Republican defenses of the president, at least for now we must say, of course.
Four central defenses including this. They argue the July 25th call does not show evidence of pressure.
That both Zelensky and President Trump said there was no pressure.
That the Ukraine government was unaware of the hold on military aid during the July 25th call.
Though we must, of course, say we know they were aware of the aid being held up in August.
And we're told the aid was being held up on September 1st by Gordon Sondland. But I digress. The fourth defense is that the hold was lifted on September 11th.
So what does this mean for tomorrow's hearings?
Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman from New York, Gregory Meeks. He's also a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the three committees that had been conducting these depositions behind closed doors.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Good to be with you.
BOLDUAN: So Phil Mattingly obtained this memo from the Republican staff of the three committees and what the defense is of the president are at this point from Republicans. How do you respond to it?
MEEKS: Basically, I look at those defenses, avoid the facts, avoid the facts, avoid the facts. That's basically what it is.
The facts are that the president abused his power. And this is coming from the mouth of patriotic diplomats and their authority. Yes, we hear Trump saying Never Trumpers. Yes, they are Never Trumpers but they're Never Bidens or Democrats either. These are American patriots who have been diplomats -- they are there to do a job.
And this is them talking to the American people. Well, they'll hear that tomorrow. I heard them testify already.
So this is a drive for the facts. And any one of those defenses does not -- they try to avoid what the facts are.
BOLDUAN: So one other thing I'm hearing from Manu's great reporting is that Republicans are going to try to poke holes in, let's say, Ambassador Bill Taylor's testimony. And the of doing so is saying he that essentially didn't hear any of this firsthand, he misunderstood what the president's intentions were.