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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Is Interviewed About What They Are Going To Ask The Witnesses In Tomorrow's First Public Hearing; President Trump Ordered To Oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; "New York Times:" Trump Considered Firing Intel Watchdog Who Shared Whistleblower Complaint; GOP Puts Out Talking Points On Eve Of Impeachment Hearing; Trump Campaign Reaction To 2016 WikiLeaks Dump; Trump's Written Response To Mueller. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 12, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And remember, we'll be with you every step of the way at night to make sense of the day that has passed. Right now, "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I changed -- I had to change my tie because we would have been twins again today. I had on a dark tie, and I said I can't do it because I look like Chris.
I -- but listen, I sit in my office, and I watch you, and I feel like sometimes I need to be your angry translator. You know how Obama had Keegan key was --
CUOMO: Why? What got you tonight?
LEMON: Matt Schlapp got me tonight. When Matt Schlapp was talking, he was like, listen, no Republican witnesses -- he did not mention that so far, John Bolton, who is a Republican, is a no-show. So far, Mick Mulvaney is a no-show as a witness.
So far, John Eisenberg is a no-show. So far, Michael Ellis. These are all people who work at the White House. These are all Republican witnesses. These are all people who could corroborate the president's side of the story if it were so, but they're not showing up. So what is he talking about?
CUOMO: Fair point. However --
LEMON: He's talking about people on their witness list. I get it.
CUOMO: I was singing a different ax at him.
CUOMO: Now, look, you can have your own witness list.
LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: Here's what I don't like or I don't appreciate. This process is the same damn process that they put in place for Clinton and modified thereafter. It was the exact same, Don.
LEMON: But and if you look at Clinton --
CUOMO: The only witness they called was Ken Starr in the --
LEMON: I wish I had a graphic.
CUOMO: Because the Republicans wouldn't let them call anybody else.
LEMON: I wish I had a graphic. I should have thought about it. But if you look at the impeachment proceedings for Clinton, the impeachment proceedings for Nixon --
CUOMO: It's the same.
LEMON: -- and these -- actually these are more transparent. They have. The Republicans have more rights in this. Check this out, Mr. Lawyer. I do believe that is right. And I've seen it before written somewhere.
I think that they actually have more opportunities than the Democrats did during other impeachment proceedings or Republicans did, whatever side that you're on, during other impeachment proceedings.
So, I don't know where they're coming up with these talking points about, you know, they don't have the rights, and none of the witnesses are being called. Listen, when they were storming the SCIF, they should have been in there questioning the witness.
CUOMO: Some of the people storming the SCIF had the right to be in the hearing.
CUOMO: So not only were they interrupting their own party members in there.
CUOMO: But look, they were pulling a stunt. I'm OK with stunts. It's politics. What I don't like is poisoning people's minds about fairness.
CUOMO: This process -- look, I don't like the process. I don't like it. It's got politics all over it. It always has, which is why they put that two-thirds vote in the Senate, because they knew you can't play politics and get a two-thirds vote. LEMON: Yes.
CUOMO: Because you need to have buy-in from both sides. The founders were pretty smart. But it is not true to say the Republicans are being screwed here.
LEMON: Not at all.
CUOMO: It's not true. Just read the rules of the last one.
LEMON: Yes. Momentous time. I've got a big, big show, so I'm going to run. I'll let you go. Have a good night. I'll see you tomorrow.
CUOMO: Precipice of history, brother.
LEMON: Thank you, sir.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
And we are less than 12 hours away from an event -- are you listening to me? This will change American history. And that is no overstatement. The biggest moment of the impeachment inquiry so far.
The first public testimony from witnesses tying the president of the United States to the effort to shake down Ukraine, to force them into investigations that could help him politically here and at home -- here at home, I should say.
A blockbuster live TV event with millions of people hanging on every word. And here's the irony right here. The master showman, the first reality TV president, who spends hours and hours every day in executive time, watching TV, can't control what happens. He cannot produce it. He cannot script it. He can only watch along with the rest of us.
So, here's what to watch for. Stay close. It all kicks off at 10 a.m. in the grandest hearing room in the House, the chambers of the Ways and Means committee. The hearing taking place before the 13 Democrats and nine Republicans on the intel committee, surrounded by TV cameras, broadcasting the whole thing to an audience of millions.
The chairman, Adam Schiff, gives the first opening statement. He usually writes his own and is expected to focus on the stakes and why all of this matters to the American people.
That is followed by the opening statement from the ranking member. That ranking member is Devin Nunes. Then the made-for-TV moment when the witnesses raise their hands and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
And opening statements from State Department official George Kent, who described what he called Rudy Giuliani's campaign of lies to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. And the top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, whose bombshell closed-
door testimony based on detailed notes may make him the star witness in all of this. He is a highly respected veteran and diplomat who has served this country over five decades and was called out of retirement -- called out of retirement by guess who? The Trump administration to serve in Ukraine. And now he's testifying about them doing something wrong.
Democratic aides say that they are -- they paired Taylor and Kent together because both, quote, "were witnesses to the full story line of the president's misconduct."
But it all comes down to the questions and answers really. The very first chance for all of us to hear from Taylor and Lent in their own words, laying out what they saw and heard and exactly why it disturbed them so much.
And that is on top of a mountain of evidence from 3,065 pages so far of closed-door depositions. What we've learned from those depositions and from the White House's own rough transcript of the call tells a really crystal-clear story.
The president kicking out the ambassador to Ukraine, freezing some $400 million in desperately needed military aid to a country that is still fighting a war with Russia, and using his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to set up a back channel, all in an apparent shakedown intended to get investigations that could help his re-election campaign.
And it goes back to that July 25th call, a 30-minute conversation that set off alarm bells in the State Department and the White House and now threatens the Trump presidency.
Remember in that rough transcript right after the president of Ukraine says he'd like to buy more anti-tank missiles from the United States, President Trump says, "I would like you to do us a favor, though."
Then he goes on to ask him to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory, debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine was behind the 2016 election interference, not Russia. And then pushes for an investigation of the Bidens even though there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
I have said it before. It is right there in black and white. It was so disturbing to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the decorated army vet, Harvard-educated Ukraine expert, on the National Security Council, who was on the call, that he immediately went to the top NSC lawyer, who told him to keep quiet.
He tried to fill in the ellipses to the transcript, ellipses he testified were references to Biden and Burisma. But he wasn't allowed to do it.
And now we know that the Ukrainians were aware in August that the military aid was being held. We learned that from testimony from Pentagon official Laura Cooper. That testimony released just yesterday.
And then there's Gordon Sondland, a million-dollar Trump donor, ambassador to the E.U., who admitted last week that he told a top Ukrainian they wouldn't get their military aid unless Ukraine publicly announced the investigations the president wanted.
No ambiguity there. No investigations, no money. And let's not forget the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who openly admitted the quid pro quo on television before trying to take it back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. That's why we held up the money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do -- we do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He said it out loud on live television. Let's not forget the president himself admitted he wanted those investigations from Ukraine, and he admitted it right on the White House Lawn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call? Exactly?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It is very simple. And it sure sounds like it adds up to a shakedown. Adam Schiff saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): On the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: In the face of all that and with tomorrow's public testimony
looming, the Republicans are circling the wagons and pulling out their talking points.
We got a hold of the copy of the memo that circulated, Republicans on all three committees. It claims a rough transcript of the calls shows no conditions and no evidence of pressure, and says President Zelensky and President Trump have both claimed there was no pressure.
But you just heard Mick Mulvaney. He is the president's own acting chief of staff admitting that the money was held up to pressure Ukraine. They have said it out loud. It's in the transcript. It's in black and white.
Another Republican talking point, the claim that Ukraine's government didn't know about the freeze of aid at the time of the call. Well, they certainly knew about it in August. Laura Cooper told us that. And the aid wasn't released until September 11th.
And as far as the Republican talking point that Ukraine got its money without the investigations the president wanted, that's true. But it only happened after the whistleblower made a complaint and after Bill Taylor raised the alarm internally.
And it happened just as President Zelensky was about to knuckle under and announce the investigations in an interview. How do we know? Because it was CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
And all of that, that mountain of evidence, comes before Bill Taylor and George Kent testify in a matter of hours. Now you know what to watch for, the substance, the facts. It's more important than ever that you keep your eye on the ball and focus on what matters.
This is about making the case to you, the American people, so listen carefully. Watch, listen, don't be distracted by sideshows, by shiny objects, red herrings. There will be plenty of them.
The president's defenders are going to throw everything they can at the wall to see if it sticks. Look over here. Look over there. What about the origins? What about this? Who did that? We don't have -- they're going to try everything. Woo, dancing around. Pay attention to the facts. Like I always say, do not fall for the OK-doke. Now more than ever, facts first. You hear me?
Next, I'm going to talk to a member of the intel committee who will be asking questions in tomorrow's hearing on live television. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is here. Congressman, after the break.
LEMON: We are less than 12 hours away from the opening of the historic public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. The House intel chairman Adam Schiff says members will have to evaluate whether the facts show evidence of bribery, treason, high crimes and misdemeanors. I want to bring in now Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois
Democrat, who will be asking questions in tomorrow's hearing. Congressman, thank you. I know it's a big day tomorrow, so we appreciate you joining us this evening.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Sure thing.
LEMON: Historic. The hearings start with two key witnesses, live testimony. Make your case of what the president did here and why it's impeachable.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, first of all, the witnesses that we're going to see tomorrow, especially Ambassador Taylor, are some of the most compelling, credible, careful witnesses I've ever seen testify in Congress.
Just taking Ambassador Taylor for one moment, he's a career public servant, a West Point graduate, a Vietnam veteran, and he served his country for 50 years. And he was indeed appointed by the Trump administration to his current post. But he decided he'd put his career on the line and come and testify out of conviction to tell the truth.
And as you can see from his deposition transcript, what he lays out is basically a scheme that lasts over several months to basically pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Donald Trump's political rivals here in the U.S.
And this is extremely disturbing for two reasons. One, involving a foreign power in our politics. And then, two, you know, using the office of the president to investigate any private citizen, really for any improper motive, in this case a political motive, is probably perhaps the biggest fear that any private citizen has about his or her government.
LEMON: This evening we heard that your committee announced eight more witnesses are going to testify publicly next week, including Pence's aide --
KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's true.
LEMON: -- Jennifer Williams, NSC official Tim Morrison, top Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman, and top Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker and others. The inquiry is full steam ahead.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: It is. And we have a lot of witnesses coming over the next two weeks. As I said, the vast majority of these people are career public servants, and even some of these witnesses are ones that the minority requested to be called.
So, we are trying to do our best in the majority to have a fair process and one that's focused really on the witnesses and the substance of their testimony because it's so important that the American people see for themselves what these people have to say. LEMON: Yes. Listen, the president has said -- they sent out the
talking points. Jim Acosta got a hold of some yesterday. There are other ones that came out today. But the president is basically saying do not relent. Don't say the call wasn't perfect. He did nothing wrong.
But some Republicans are arguing, Congressman, that what the president did was wrong, doesn't -- but doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. So, explain how the evidence tomorrow adds up to impeachable offenses.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sure. Well, as you know, impeachable offenses are high crimes and misdemeanors among others. And, you know, abusing the office or engaging in what congressman -- Chairman Schiff mentioned today, potentially bribery or extortion would certainly amount to the types of offenses that the framers or founders of this country envisioned when they talked about impeachable offenses.
You know, one of the biggest concerns that they had was that a foreign power would somehow influence the politics of our internal affairs in our democracy. You know, when we started out as a country, that was one of the biggest fears.
And even today, after 2016 when we saw what the Russians did, we should have that fear now. And yet the president may have persisted in trying to involve a foreign power.
LEMON: I've got to run because I've got a lot of folks coming up. But I just want to ask you will tomorrow's testimony from Taylor and Kent directly connect the shakedown to President Trump, not just the people around him, but to the president himself?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I believe they will be laying out evidence of that. That being said, I respectfully request all your viewers to tune in for themselves. And judge these people's credibility for themselves.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I found them to be credible, but now it's time for Americans to decide.
LEMON: Congressman, big day. Get some rest. Thank you, sir.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you.
LEMON: We've got a lot more on the historic hearings happening just hours from now.
Plus, new reporting, it's from the Washington Post tonight. That reporting links the president to someone he's been trying to distance himself from, and they allegedly talked about Ukraine.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is here, and he'll weigh in next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, here's the breaking news tonight. It's from the Washington Post. It's reporting that Lev Parnas -- Lev Parnas is one of the indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani. He told people that he spoke with President Trump about Ukraine at a dinner last year. He reportedly told the president that the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was unfriendly to him and his interests. According to Parnas, Trump immediately said she should be fired.
So, joining me now is the former Director of National Intelligence, Mr. James Clapper. Director, thank you. Tomorrow is a huge day. What do you make of the fact that for the second time -- and then we're going to talk about the Washington Post reporting.
But what do you make of the second time in Trump's presidency we're faced with the question did this president accept help from or shake down a foreign power for personal political gain, whether he cheated?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's -- you know, that's the issue, and I believe as you and Chris were alluding earlier, that we're going to get away from the Latin expression and be more direct.
I expect the Democrats will be more direct in describing, you know, the picture that's emerged of what the president did in his conversations, which actually significantly extend beyond just the one phone call on July 25th.
So, I think the hearings are going to be extremely interesting. I will listen carefully to Chairman Schiff's opening statement, and I think, you know, they've got some prettying compelling witnesses coming up.
LEMON: So, let's get to that. I mentioned the Washington Post reporting as I led into you here, that Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas said that he talked to Trump about Ukraine last year. Trump denied knowing him then and that they discussed issues at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. How concerning is that?
CLAPPER: Well, it's -- to me, it kind of adds to the plot here, that this fixation on things Ukrainian has been going on for a long time. You know, it wasn't just this one phone call. This has built up over a period of months, and this meeting was, I guess, a dinner at the Trump hotel not far from the White House in which, I guess, these two characters complained about the ambassador. And so, this whole plot is, you know, thicker and longer than we might have been led to believe previously.
LEMON: Give me your reaction to the New York Times report that Trump considered firing the intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson for bringing this whistleblower complaint to Congress.
CLAPPER: Well, you know --
LEMON: I mean that's just outrageous. If that is true, that is -- think about it.
CLAPPER: It is and, if this is true and I'm sure -- he probably did consider it at least initially when the whistleblower compliant first broke. To do it now would be -- frankly, actually irrelevant, because the whistleblower complaint and the actions that the I.G. took -- kind of been OBE, overcome by events.
I think it reflects either failure to -- ignorance about how I.G.'s are supposed to work, their independence, their autonomy, or he understands that but doesn't care. And the first requisite for him is loyalty. Well, that is not the objective, not the point of an Inspector General. It just -- it doesn't work that way.
And this Inspector General, Atkinson did, the best I can tell, exactly what he was supposed to do and comported with the law. And the whistleblower complaint -- complainant, himself or herself complied meticulously with the law.
LEMON: The State Department -- the State Department aide's name is Chris Anderson, testifying that Trump complained to John Bolton after seeing a CNN report that a U.S. Navy vessel entered the Black Sea to push back on Russian aggression there. And here's what Anderson said. There was a news report on CNN, and then the White House asked the Navy to cancel that. What does that signal to an adversary like Putin?
CLAPPER: Well, it signals, to me, weakness. The Russians like to think of the Black Sea as a Russian lake, it is not. It's international waters, and the United States has had a long practice of validating and reinforcing freedom of navigation. And this is just another instance of this mysterious deference to Putin personally and Russia generally.
And you know, I couldn't help but watch the image of Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia laughing and joking during an interview about interfering the election 2020, just as President Trump joked about it with Putin. And it just shows you the Russians aren't taking us seriously, and Putin has to be clicking his heels right now because of all these victories. And in his mind, he is, you know -- he's transcendent over President Trump.
LEMON: Sad. Thank you, Director.
CLAPPER: It is.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, sir.
House Republicans are putting out their talking points ahead of tomorrow's hearings, and we've got a hold of the copy. But will any of their defenses stand up to what's expected to be incredibly damaging testimony?
LEMON: So, the president's Republican defenders putting out their talking points ahead of the first live impeachment hearing in just a matter of hours. And CNN has a copy of the memo. But do the facts support their defense? What do you think?
Let's discuss now. Catherine Rampell is here, Scott Jennings. Hello to both of you. Catherine, let's talk about the GOP, the impeachment strategy. We have four main points. No conditions outlined in the call, and Ukraine's president said that he didn't feel any pressure. Do you think that stands up to the scrutiny?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: No, of course not.
RAMPELL: I mean, the condition is in the transcript. When the president of Ukraine asks for legal military aid, Trump says, but do us -- we need you to do us a favor, though. Of course not. It's funny, because Trump keeps on saying read the transcript, read the transcript. People at his rallies are chanting read the transcript. They're wearing shirts that say read the transcript. But it's not clear that any of them have actually read the transcript given that it does not actually support his defense.
LEMON: OK. So let's see, Scott. Looking at some of the things here, other points. That Ukraine's government -- that Ukraine's government didn't even know that the aid was being withheld and that Ukraine got the money in the end. Is this, you know, like saying, well, I only tried to rob the bank, but I didn't actually pull it off?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, what Republicans are going to argue on that Ukraine got the aid was that whatever delay there was, was very short-lived compared to the fact that the Obama administration didn't send javelins to Ukraine for two years. And there was a lot of debate then and no one questions the Obama administration's state of mind or you know, what their motives were for withholding legal aid from the Ukraine. So, I think that's -- one of their strongest points. The other one is they had Zelensky's own word.
LEMON: Scott, let me ask you this -- come on, be honest. What does this have to do with Obama? Isn't that a shiny object?
JENNINGS: No. You're asking me what I think of their points.
LEMON: They're conducting foreign policy.
LEMON: No one -- there is no evidence that anyone in the Obama administration or that the president himself said, I would like to give you this aid, but you need to do me a favor before I give it to you.
JENNINGS: No, but what I'm arguing to you, Don, is what Republicans are going to argue tomorrow, which is that there's a lot -- they're trying to throw out a president of the United States over a brief delay in aid that was ultimately delivered when the previous administration, you know, debated for two years for some reason.
And I think that's what Republicans are going to argue is that these kinds of foreign policy debates, these conversations and these sorts of decisions over aid happen in every administration, and yet this is the only president we're trying to impeach over it. The other point I think --
LEMON: Do you believe that argument? Do you believe that -- because they weren't -- because it wasn't just the delay? It was that he was trying to get a foreign power to investigate a political rival.
RAMPELL: Right. It wasn't just about the delay. It was a shakedown so that a foreign leader would smear a domestic political rival. I would say that substantially different.
JENNINGS: Well, that's what the Democrats are arguing, but we don't -- that's what the Democrats are arguing.
LEMON: But that's what the transcript says.
JENNINGS: But of course that's what the point of the witnesses are. That's what the point of the hearings are. And that's why, you know, the Republicans are going to try to pressure test this. I think of the other four points, the one that's the strongest is point number two, which is that they've got Zelensky in his own words in an interview saying I didn't feel any pressure, nobody pressured me.
And so, I assume what Republicans are going to do is to continue to say that A, the transcript in our opinion doesn't show the pressure, and B, Zelensky himself has said publicly, I didn't feel any pressure. It's probably, of these four points, to me, one of their better arguments.
RAMPELL: Yes, but Zelensky said that basically with a gun to his head, I mean, almost literally a gun to his head. He still was dependent on the United States to help in this struggle with Russia. And so, of course he's going to say whatever he needs to say to keep Trump on his side, because he's seen what happens if Trump is not on his side or if Trump doesn't think that Zelensky is sufficiently loyal and will do whatever it takes to basically stay in hock to Trump.
LEMON: So, if I'm trying to rob you but you don't understand that I'm trying to rob you, does that mean that I'm not trying to rob you?
RAMPELL: I don't think that's actually what happened here.
LEMON: But you know what I'm saying?
RAMPELL: But -- no, I don't think that is exculpatory.
LEMON: Or if I'm trying to steal your access to your phone or your private information, but you don't know that I'm doing it, does that mean that I'm not doing it.
RAMPELL: No, of course not, but I don't actually think that any version of that is what happened.
LEMON: OK. So, listen, your latest column Catherine in the Washington Post is called, we thought Trump was the biggest conman and we were all wrong. And you write, Trump claimed once upon a time that he was recruiting the best people to the White House and senior ranks of the executive branch.
He now claims he got conned into hiring a cabal or cabal, whatever you want to say it, of covert never Trumpers. Four of the five sitting Federal Reserve governors for instance where Republicans handpicked for the current position by Trump, and yet Trump now says that they represent the biggest threat to his presidency and are an enemy to America.
He has similarly accused his own cabinet members, White House counsel, FBI Director and other senior officials of allegedly plotting against him. He'll see conspiracy everywhere, even in his own administration with the people he appointed.
RAMPELL: Right. This is a guy who is supposed to be great at spotting talent, who surrounded himself with the best people. He's the boss. He's the leader. And yet somehow he's been duped by everyone around him.
You know, it's like this long con that has been going on apparently for years because now allegedly Gordon Sondland, who is a longtime Republican donor, who was a bundler for Trump, who was handpicked to be Trump's E.U. ambassador, even he allegedly changed his testimony, because he might be in cahoots with the Democrats.
I mean, it's just so bizarre. But the reason why Republicans and Trump included need to be telling these bizarre stories is because the simpler version, the (inaudible) racer version that Trump was in fact trying to shake down a foreign country in order to smear a domestic political rival, is just -- it's too obvious, right? So that they need to come up with something crazier, including these crazy conspiracy theories.
LEMON: Scott, I'm out of time but in fairness, I'll give you a quick last word, please, please.
JENNINGS: Yes, look. I think one of the better arguments Republicans are going to be able to make is that whether you think nothing bad happens, something bad happened, bad judgment, whatever you think, that we are in the cuss of and we'll be in the midst of an American presidential election by the time this thing hits the Senate.
Previous impeachments happened in second terms. This is happening in a first term during an election. So, no matter what you think of this, maybe the verdict of the American people ought to be the final word on this instead of the judgment of a partisan Congress. I think that's what Republicans or maybe have the most success with tomorrow.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Explosive new details coming from the trial of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone. Testimony by former Trump campaign official Rick Gates raising new questions about the written answers the president gave Robert Mueller. CNN's Sara Murray has the story.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: For the first time, then- candidate Donald Trump is linked in open court to his former confidant and adviser Roger Stone's efforts to get Intel from WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. Former Deputy Campaign Chair Rick Gates, testified he was riding with Trump to New York's LaGuardia airport that summer when Trump took a phone call from Stone lasting several minutes.
Gates says the two men apparently discussed WikiLeaks' plans to release Democratic emails which were hacked and stolen by Russians. After Mr. Trump got off the phone with Mr. Stone, what did Mr. Trump say, the prosecutor asks Gates. He indicated more information would be coming, Gates responded today at Stone's criminal trial. Gates testified that prior to WikiLeaks' first email dump, for months information had been talked about. After the July release, Gates said the campaign was in a state of happiness.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This just came out. WikiLeaks -- I love WikiLeaks.
MURRAY: Gates' testimony flies in the face of denials from both Stone and Trump that the two ever discussed WikiLeaks.
TRUMP: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing.
MURRAY: In written responses to Robert Mueller's team, President Trump said, I do not recall any communication between Stone and WikiLeaks. But the phone call and Trump's reaction described in court today puts into sharper focus how much Trump allegedly knew about how the Russian hack and release of emails could boost his campaign. This revelation was ultimately redacted from the public version of the Mueller report, because Stone's case was ongoing.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Stone bragged about his contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next (inaudible) pertained to the Clinton Foundation, but there's no telling what the October surprise maybe.
MURRAY: He later walked those claims back and said, he never communicated directly with Assange. When he testified before the House Intelligence Committee, he claimed he used intermediaries. In January Stone was arrested in a predawn raid at his Florida home.
He was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee. Obstructing Mueller's proceedings and witness tampering. He pleaded not guilty to all seven charges he faces.
Now, Roger Stone decided not to take the stand in his own defense. He told the judge that was his decision. Instead his attorneys played a portion nearly an hour of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee where he's accused of having lied. In the portion that his attorneys played, he insisted repeatedly that he did not collude with any Russians to try to interfere in the 2016 election. The case continues on Wednesday when both sides will present their closing arguments before the jury. Back to you, Don.
LEMON: All right. Sara, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Joining me now is former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe. Mr. McCabe, thank you so much for joining us.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, and FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Absolutely. Rick Gates testifying that after a phone call with Roger Stone, Trump told Gates more information would be coming from WikiLeaks. I mean, that seems to contradict what Trump told Mueller in his written answers when he was asked about the communication with Roger Stone. Here's what Trump said, and I quote here, I spoke by telephone with Roger Stone from time to time during the campaign. I have no recollection of the specifics of any conversation I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016. I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with him nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign. Did Trump lie there?
MCCABE: Well, it's almost impossible to know, Don. Because as you -- I'm sure you know I do not recall is the preferred answer by every defense attorney for their client to deliver under almost any circumstance. Because it's almost impossible to prove that somebody lied when they are simply saying I don't remember.
The thing that I find remarkable about the president's written response to that question and what we now learned in the Stone trial is that he didn't just say I don't remember ever talking to Roger Stone about WikiLeaks. But he says, I don't remember ever hearing about essentially anyone in my campaign talking to Roger Stone about WikiLeaks.
What we heard over the course of the trial was that, Stone had numerous conversations with many people in the campaign as early as April of 2016, about WikiLeaks, about dumps of e-mails that were coming out. So, it was clearly an item that was pervasively discussed among a group of folks in the campaign. Makes it really hard to believe that none of that ever made its way to candidate Trump.
LEMON: Andrew, Mueller knew what Gates had to say when he filed his report. And he also knew Trump's answers to the questions. So, why didn't he do anything about it?
MCCABE: You know, that's a great question. And it gets really into the kind of legal technicality of what the Mueller team was looking for. As we know, the Mueller team was looking to see if the campaign had colluded with the Russians. And they define that as a criminal conspiracy. OK, so, to prove a criminal conspiracy, you have to have evidence that shows an agreement between two or more people to do something illegal and also that they have taken a step in furtherance of that agreement.
Ultimately, Director Mueller concluded that he could not -- he didn't have evidence to prove that the campaign had entered into an agreement with the Russians. So, all of this really fascinating stuff we have learned about Roger Stone and his likely involvement with WikiLeaks and his claims of being involved with WikiLeaks. Although it's interesting stuff, none of it goes directly to the question of whether or not the campaign entered into an agreement with the Russians. So, I don't think it fundamentally disturbs the conclusion of the Mueller report.
LEMON: let me ask you about Steve Bannon, who testified that the Trump campaign saw Stone as a conduit to WikiLeaks. Do you think the investigators were concerned that they couldn't prove Stone was really connected with WikiLeaks or wasn't just blowing smoke?
MCCABE: I think, Don, that's really what it comes down to. And interestingly enough, Stone's lawyers kind of took that position even in the as early the opening statements in this trial, where they essentially portrayed their client, Mr. Stone, as a liar. A guy who frequently boasted about things that he didn't do or claimed knowledge of things that he really didn't know.
And so, you know, it seems hard to believe that you ever want to portray yourself to a jury as a liar. But under this circumstances, I think it's Stone's benefit to kind of say, well, you know, I said that I was in contact with WikiLeaks, but I was really making all that up. So, we don't have perfect clarity on that. A lot of it gets back to whether or not Stone was communicating in ways that could be concealed or maybe destroyed after the fact. This is something else we don't know at this point.
LEMON: Thank you, sir. I appreciate your time.
MCCABE: Sure. Thanks, Don.
LEMON: We are just hours away from a historic day on the Hill and us -- how did we get here? What to expect tomorrow? And what's still to come? All of that is next.