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Trump and GOP Ready Defenses On Eve Of Impeachment Hearings; Big News Today Out Of The Roger Stone Trial; Former President Jimmy Carter Is Recovering From A Brain Operation. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 12, 2019 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, Oren, thank you so much for following the story. That is it for me. "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

[14:00:11]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you very much. Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN. Thanks for joining me. You know, one of the most important days for House Democrats, as well as the Trump White House is now just hours away with the first public hearings on impeachment set to begin tomorrow.

But today, both sides hunkering down and preparing to make their best arguments for or against the allegations that President Trump has abused his power in office.

CNN White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins is with me here today. And so we learned that one central figure in all of this, Mick Mulvaney has decided to drop this last minute bid to have a court decide whether or not he should testify before Congress. He says now he is taking the direction from the President.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is really unusual, head spinning at times because Mulvaney has made and taken so many different positions on this.

Just last night, his attorney said he was going to file this lawsuit, essentially asking the courts to decide does he have to answer the subpoena or should he listen to the White House and President Trump's orders not to cooperate? Now, they say he is not going to do that. Instead, he's going to listen to that letter that he played a role in drafting, that eight-page letter, you remember that the White House put out basically instructing White House aides not to cooperate with any request from Democrats.

BALDWIN: Right.

COLLINS: Now, he is relying on that even though just last week, he was trying to join this lawsuit with the former Deputy National Security adviser where he was asking the courts to decide what he has to do, who he has to listen to here, in a way pitting Mick Mulvaney against the President in some sense, because instead of just taking his orders here. Now, he is going to do that. Now, they've reversed course today.

It's really confusing, and so far, no one has been able to explain the motive behind what got started by that lawsuit on Friday and why Mick Mulvaney was doing that.

One thing we should know is that there has been this feud between the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone and Mick Mulvaney going on for several weeks now that CNN has been reporting about, but it's interesting because Mick Mulvaney got his own private attorney as he was handling all of this, deciding whether or not to follow this lawsuit, instead of relying on the White House counsel to handle it, even though not that long ago, he said he didn't feel like he needed a lawyer.

BALDWIN: Let's get back to the President because we are on the eve of this, you know, momentous occasion in Washington tomorrow, and I'm just curious what you're hearing behind the scenes about the President's mindset going into the public testimony.

COLLINS: White House aides are bracing for it. They're worried that some of it could be damaging. They're not sure. The President said publicly just a few moments ago, while he was giving a speech here in New York that he is not worried about it. He doesn't think Democrats are going to be successful in these efforts.

He said that it is a delusional hoax and that they're essentially wasting their time. We actually know behind the scenes, the President is watching all of this really closely, and he does have a little bit of concern about what exactly tomorrow is going to look like.

Some of that concern is helped by the fact that some of these hearings in the past that he's been told could potentially be really explosive. Haven't been so much.

White House aides are saying this time, it could be different because these aides are going me saying these things that on paper do not look good for you except they're going to be saying it on person in television. That's really going to be a determining factor here.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you very much. The specter of impeachment certainly has been talked about for months now. But how exactly did we get here and what could happen once these hearings wrap?

CNN's Tom Foreman explains it all -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, any effort to impeach your President must begin in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Constitution says so and even though such efforts are exceedingly rare, certain procedures are more or less standard.

Most often the Judiciary Committee kicks it off, although other committees may be involved by investigating allegations that have been raised against the President.

Now, this can happen with or without a vote to authorize an Impeachment Inquiry. We've had such votes and other impeachment proceedings, but the law does not require it.

In any event, what comes next is lawmakers from both parties, listening to witnesses, reading documents and reviewing evidence to see if the President might have engaged in treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors such as seeking personal gains for the office or abusing power.

If they think he has, then those committees can push for a full House vote on Articles of Impeachment and a simple majority can impeach the President.

Does this mean that he is guilty? No, not necessarily. Does it remove him from office? No. All this really does is formally charge him and move the process over to the Senate, where the Constitution says there must be a trial.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts would sit up front, House impeachment managers would present their case and the President's lawyers would be allowed to refute the charges. Witnesses can be called and questioned and senators sit and listen to all of this like jurors.

Many procedural pitfalls could short circuit the process, but so far, Republican leaders say if it gets this far, any trial would be allowed to run its course.

[14:05:03]

FOREMAN: At the end, each senator must deliver their verdict and if two thirds say guilty, then the President is convicted and removed from office.

Something that despite three serious pushes toward impeachment has never happened in this country -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Tom, thank you very much. Let's analyze all of what's to come tomorrow. Elie Honig is a former Federal and state prosecutor and a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He is also a CNN legal analyst.

And Samantha Vinograd is a former senior National Security official on President Obama's National Security Council and she is a CNN national security analyst. So we welcome them.

All right, you guys want to run through the Republican talking points, the issues that they have with this entire Impeachment Inquiry, and so let me just begin with you Elie on the issue of corruption.

So as evidence that Trumps call and efforts on Ukraine where we're above board, they write in part quote, "President Trump had a deep seated genuine and responsible skepticism about Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption." Your response is what?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So this would be a really effective defense, if only it was remotely true. If you actually -- if you actually look at the facts, if you look at the July 25th call, there's only two things Donald Trump asks for there.

One, he wants an investigation of Crowdstrike, which is, of course, this sort of conspiracy theory about the D.N.C.; and two, he asked for investigation of the Biden's.

And when Trump was asked recently, well, what other investigations have you ever had an interest in, corruption investigations other than your political rivals? His response was telling. He said, we'd have to look. I think they're still looking.

BALDWIN: Wow. Okay, that's just not odd -- yes.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, corruption is not a synonym for conspiracy fishing. We have devoted millions of dollars to fighting corruption in Ukraine. We have officials that the State Department, Department of Justice and the MSC Kiev. We have F.B.I. people in Kiev working on corruption issues in Ukraine.

We have benchmarks that have to mean that before security assistance is dispersed, to guarantee that Ukraine is not using it for corrupt purposes.

President Trump didn't go through these official channels because this had nothing to do with actual corruption. If it did, he would have used and not abused the U.S. government resources.

BALDWIN: Let's go to the next point. The thing that also stood out to you, Elie was the Republicans claim of no conditionality. The memo states, "The summary of the July 25 phone call conversation showed no conditionality or pressure on Ukraine to investigate the President's political rivals."

First of all, what does no conditionality mean? And what's your issue with it?

HONIG: It's another way of saying there is quid pro quo. There was nothing -- A it was not dependent on B -- but again, if you go back to that July 25 call, if you look at the sequence, right?

First, Donald Trump says we're very good. I'm paraphrasing here, but we've been very good to Ukraine, and it's not necessarily reciprocal.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes.

HONIG: And then -- and Zelensky knows right where he is going. He is saying, the defense aid that you send us is crucial. He said, I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense and then Donald Trump responds and this is the conditional part, the famous line, I would like you to ask --

BALDWIN: Favor.

HONIG: I would like you to do us a favorite, though.

BALDWIN: Yes.

HONIG: So I don't know how you look at that and say no conditionality.

VINOGRAD: But this is also just one data point, right? I mean, we have evidence of a sustained pressure campaign using various actors over a period of time. We have Ambassador Sondland linking investigations to a White House visit back in July.

Even after this call, we have Laura Cooper testifying that Kurt Volker was linking a statement on investigations directly to the security assistance and you just kind of have to wonder, if President Trump applied this kind of sustained effort to an actual foreign policy objective, what kind of situation we'd be in. This was a devoted effort over a series of months to apply pressure.

BALDWIN: Republicans' point number three, House Republicans wrote the following, quote, "Both President Zelensky and President Trump have publicly and repeatedly said there was no pressure to investigate the President's political rival."

HONIG: So I've done a lot of extortion cases; almost always the victim denies there was pressure. You know why? Because he is scared of the person who extorted him. He doesn't want to further agitate that person, and what's important to note here is there was really unequal bargaining power if you look at the two parties.

And I thought it was an interesting tidbit, Alex Vindman, the witness last week testified that that money that we sent to Ukraine is 10 percent of Ukraine's annual military budget. That's how desperate they were to get this money.

VINOGRAD: And I just wonder what are Republicans basing this claim on? Have they deposed Ukrainians and been told that the Ukrainians weren't aware about what was going on, and that Zelensky wasn't aware that he is being put in this kind of scenario.

But Brooke, more broadly, Zelensky is between a rock and a hard place. If he does not placate President Trump, he knows that President Trump is willing to do things like cut off assistance, but also if he is too eager to please President Trump, he is probably worried the Democrats are going to view him as really a campaign surrogate for the President.

This is a nightmare scenario for Ukraine while they are trying to deter Russian aggression at the same time.

BALDWIN: What about the point on the $400 million military aid -- let me -- this is point number four for House Republicans, they spotlighted this issue in two different ways.

[14:10:05]

BALDWIN: So, Sam, they wrote, "The Ukrainian government was not aware that U.S. security assistance was delayed at the time of the July 25 phone call." But you say testimony from a former Ukraine expert contradicts that.

VINOGRAD: Well, again, I don't know what Republicans are basing this claim on. I don't believe they've spoken directly to Ukrainians who said they weren't aware that this aid was on hold, but even if they didn't know about it on July 25, they knew about it soon after.

Laura Cooper has testified that they found out about it. Catherine Croft, as well said that she was approached by two Ukrainian officials from the embassy. They knew that this aid was on hold well before it went public, and everyone was concerned that this was going to become public, because it would signal a wavering support for Ukraine.

The worst case scenario was that the world would learn that President Trump had put this assistance on hold.

HONIG: So Republicans need to be careful here because there is rock solid evidence that at a minimum, Ukraine knew that the White House visit was conditioned on investigations.

There's a text from Kurt Volker back in July where he says straight up, he talks about how, let them know, I heard from the White House, they know -- Ukraine knows -- that the White House visit is conditioned on investigations.

That White House visit, it's not $400 million, but it's incredibly valuable to have the newly elected President come in and get the legitimacy of sitting with the U.S. President.

BALDWIN: Okay, so we wanted to go through some of the Republican points, but I want to look ahead just to tomorrow, and you know, Daniel Goldman who will be asking questions for the Democrats.

So we know as Tom pointed out, it is 45 minutes from one side, 45 minutes from another and then we'll hear the members five, five and five. What should we be looking for from him?

HONIG: Look for a prosecutorial approach to this. Look for a methodical, organized, evidence-based approach. I don't think we're going to be seeing the histrionics and the fireworks that we saw for example, when Corey Lewandowski testified a month or so ago.

They have 45 minutes to make their case. It's a lot more time than five minutes, but it's really not that much time in the prosecutorial world.

So I think they're going to go right for the biggest points right up front, you've got to get it out there right away, sort of no frills. Let the witness be the star, not the questioner.

BALDWIN: Quickly Sam, what's the number one thing you're watching for tomorrow?

VINOGRAD: I'm watching me here about direct links to the President. The missing link right now is Mick Mulvaney. He has not agreed to testify, but I'm waiting to hear if any of these officials can directly tie the President to this month-long abuse of power.

BALDWIN: Okay, Sam and Elie, thank you very much. Big news today out of the Roger Stone trial. We are learning how the

Trump team reacted to the information dumps from WikiLeaks. A former aid describes it as quote-unquote "state of happiness."

Plus former President Jimmy Carter is recovering from a brain operation today. We'll talk to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta about how it went and what's ahead for President Carter.

And Nikki Haley, leaving no doubt about her loyalty to President Trump. He latest comments about his ability to tell the truth.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.

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[14:17:46]

BALDWIN: The prosecution has rested in the Roger Stone criminal trial and Stone's defense team says it has no plans to call the longtime Trump associate to the stand.

But the President and his connection to Stone were indeed the focus of key testimony today from former 2016 Trump campaign aide Rick Gates. Prosecutor zeroing in on a phone call that then candidate Trump took at the height of that whole WikiLeaks dump.

So Shimon Prokupekz is our CNN crime justice reporter. He heard every bit of the testimony today. He is there outside the Federal Courthouse and Sara Murray is with us. She is our CNN political correspondent, and she has more reporting about Stone not taking the stand.

So Shimon, let me just start with you. What did Rick Gates say about the President's knowledge of WikiLeaks back in 2016?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: While he basically has said that the President, then candidate Donald Trump knew everything that was going on concerning WikiLeaks and what Roger Stone was doing and how he was offering what he was claiming was inside information on what WikiLeaks was doing, and this described the excitement by the campaign, knowing that perhaps they were going to get information that was damaging for Hillary Clinton.

And all of this happening really at the end, the dramatic moment happening at the end of Rick Gates' testimony and prosecutor asking him about a phone call that he was present for inside an SUV with Donald Trump on their way to LaGuardia Airport in New York City in July of 2016.

It came at the end of the month and there was a phone call he could see on Donald Trump's phone, the caller ID and it was Roger Stone calling Trump telling him that more information was coming, that WikiLeaks was going to put out more information.

That phone call lasted several minutes and it was after that phone call that Rick Gates says Trump said more information was coming. Now, obviously this is significant for the Roger Stone case who

prosecutors say lied to Members of Congress about his communications with Donald Trump and the campaign, but more significantly, this goes to what Donald Trump said to Robert Mueller during their investigation when he was asked in written questions if he recalled ever having these conversations with anyone inside the campaign with Roger Stone, and we all remember what Donald Trump said, he said that he didn't recall having these conversations.

[14:20:09]

BALDWIN: Right.

PROKUPECZ: So significantly different in some ways, because we now have Rick Gates saying, you know what, I remember. I remember Donald Trump having a conversation with Roger Stone, specifically about WikiLeaks -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: So on your Mueller point, Sara, here's my question for you, does the testimony in this Roger Stone trial connect the dots in a way that maybe the Mueller investigation didn't?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, in some ways it does, because it does really put Donald Trump and candidate Trump at the center of what was Roger Stone's, you know, alleged attempts to try to get Intel from WikiLeaks and share those with the campaign.

And it puts candidate Trump sort of in the middle of that in a way that the Mueller report kind of didn't, but prosecutors are not able to prove or able to answer this key question of whether Roger Stone was actually in touch with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange, whether he actually was able to get any information from WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and hand that over to the campaign.

That's the piece of this that is still missing that we don't expect is going to be answered, even at the end of this trial. And, you know, it wasn't answered in a way that the Mueller team felt was at least provable in a court of law when they got to the end of their investigation.

BALDWIN: Sara and Shimon, thank you very much on Roger Stone today.

Meantime, no complications. That that is the word on former President Jimmy Carter. The 95-year-old had an operation on his brain just this morning. We will talk to Sanjay Gupta about his recovery ahead.

And news in from the campaign trail as two more candidates are considering jumping into the 2020 fray, a new -- brand new poll out of Iowa shows a surprising new top tier.

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[14:26:32]

BALDWIN: Former President Jimmy Carter is recovering this afternoon from a brain operation at Atlanta's Emory Hospital. The 95-year-old was admitted to the hospital last night. We're told this delicate procedure to relieve pressure on his brain took about an hour.

The good news is there were no complications. The pressure was most likely caused by bleeding in Carter's brain, the apparent result after a series of recent falls.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon over at Emory. And so Sanjay, how is he? How did it go?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like it went well, just as according to plan. About an hour long of an operation first thing this morning, Brooke, he came into the hospital last night. And they planned to do this this morning. So everything went as scheduled.

As you mentioned, it's basically a procedure to take pressure off the brain. And we have an image here, Brooke that you can take a look at in the upper right corner. That's the blood. That's the blood collection that is pushing pressure on his brain. This is obviously just an animation.

But you can see what's happening there, and the goal of the operation is to remove that blood collection and decompress that pressure on the brain.

And I can just show you quickly here, Brooke, with the skull, it is the front of the skull, obviously, but that blood collection is in this area over here, left side of his brain. They basically put -- opened up the skull on a couple of areas, by doing that, it allows that fluid to escape and make sure it's all gone. And that's basically the operation. It takes about an hour.

Big question, you want to make sure that this blood does not re- accumulate for some reason, and that's part of the reason President Carter will stay in the hospital to be monitored and followed for that reason.

BALDWIN: So what does recovery look like for someone that -- I mean, he is 95. He is our oldest living President.

GUPTA: Yes. Well, you know, it's interesting. Recovery can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and you're right, age plays a role.

Although, Brooke, I think you and I've talked about this, I mean, age is measured -- should be measured physiologically rather than chronologically, right? I mean, there's people who are 95 years old ...

BALDWIN: Amen. Amen to that.

GUPTA: ... but more like 60-year-olds, right? It's very inspiring. I mean, remember, this is a guy four years ago who had metastatic cancer to his brain and is building houses still, you know, so it's a pretty remarkable guy.

Having said that, there's no question that the impact of that blood collection on the brain could have caused some weakness on the opposite side of his body, the right side of his body. He may need some rehabilitation for that, some Physical Therapy may be at home.

My guess is just because of his age and because they want to monitor how his brain is doing after the operation, a couple of days in the hospital still, and then we'll probably hear about him being discharged before the end of the week.

BALDWIN: We wish him well and I agree with your point about age, especially I believe someone here had a big birthday recently. So happy belated and you are walking the walk, my friend, so thank you.

GUPTA: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Dr. Gupta, I appreciate it. Just in to us here at CNN. As Nikki Haley's new defense of the President gets some backlash, Condoleezza Rice is coming out to criticize him in this impeachment scandal, and why that is significant.

And a new poll shows a new top tier in the first state to vote by Pete Buttigieg is surprising in Iowa. We'll be right back.

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