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Trump And GOP Ready Defenses On Eve Of Impeachment Hearings; Ex-Aide Testifies Stone Told Trump In 2016 More Information Coming To Help Campaign; Jimmy Carter In Hospital After Brain Operation. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 12, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: He's really serious this time. We shall see.
Thanks for joining us today in INSIDE POLITICS. A big hearing day tomorrow, be back with us. But don't go anywhere today. Brianna Keilar starts Right Now. Have a great afternoon.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, on the eve of the public impeachment hearings, the president and Republicans ready a dubious offense, most of which can be easily debunked. But could it still work?
And in the Roger Stone trial, a former aide says the president got a heads up about information that would help his 2016 campaign and it appears to be the WikiLeaks drop.
Also, hear why the Supreme Court justices struggle today with the Trump administration's argument to end the DREAMer program.
And in the 2020 race, a prominent Democrat is weighing whether to get in the crowded presidential while yet another big name is getting closer to launching a campaign.
Also, a former president, right now recovering from a brain operation, we'll have the new details on Jimmy Carter's condition.
Historic impeachment hearings begin tomorrow and both sides are bracing for the fight of their lives. As Democrats prepare to lead the hearings, Republicans have come out on talking points to keep their members on message as they get ready to question witnesses. There are four major themes that are in this memo to House Republicans.
And we have Kelly Magsamen with us now. She served on the National Security Council under both President Obama and President George W. Bush.
So, Kelly, you're going to help us look through these points. Let's talk about the first one here.
The claim is that the July 25th phone call shows no evidence of pressure. What's your analysis of that?
KELLY MAGSAMEN, SERVED ON NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER BUSH AND OBAMA: I really think it's important to look at the July 25th call in the context of a larger picture that starts both before and after the call.
So we already know that the Ukrainians were approached by both Sondland and Volker about the White House visit. So it's not just about the assistance, it's about the visit itself ahead of that phone call. So the call itself is not just the important part, it's the preempt to the call and then what happened after call as well.
KEILAR: And then number two is that you have Presidents Trump and Zelensky, who were on this call, both saying there was no pressure on Ukraine. Do you think that this is a good defense for the Republicans to rely on?
MAGSAMEN: I think it's actually a very terrible defense. I mean, this is the president of the United States having a phone call with a leader of the country that is in a hot war with Russia that is in vital -- is in need of this vital assistance that knows that the president of the United States can make or break the future of Ukraine. So to suggest that somehow President Zelensky didn't feel any sort of pressure, I think, is a little bit ridiculous.
KEILAR: One of the other pushes they have, the third one, is that this hold on the nearly $400 million in security aid, in this military aid, it was eventually lifted. The fact this was eventually released, does that negate this pressure campaign that came beforehand?
MAGSAMEN: No, absolutely not. We know that the aid was released on September 11th. We know that the Ukrainians were actually still planning to do that statement on CNN as of September 30th. so, absolutely not. The only reason that aid was released was because they got caught. The whistleblower report had landed at that point to Congress and the White House, and a Politico story had ran right before the aid was released. So they were already getting public pressure.
KEILAR: The timing is very problematic to that part of your argument.
And then the fourth thing is that Ukraine wasn't aware that the aid was on hold. This is what they were going to say, that they weren't aware that the aid was on hold before this July 25th phone call. What exactly do we know about the timeline of what the Ukrainians knew?
MAGSAMEN: Yes. So we know that, at least on three separate occasions, there were conversations with the Ukrainians about the president's expectations around these investigations. Part of this was, again, the White House visit. Part of it was the assistance.
And Laura Cooper also testified that she'd already known the White House had already directed ahead of the phone call for that assistance to be withheld.
So the Ukrainians definitely knew what was going on. Their actions suggest that they knew what was going on and I think it's not credible to suggest they didn't.
KEILAR: All right, Kelly, thank you so much for breaking all that down. It's so important.
I want to get more now on exactly what we are going to see tomorrow and beyond, and Tom Foreman has a look at that for us.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, any effort to impeach a 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, though other committees may be involved, by investigating allegations which 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 in other impeachment proceedings, but the law doesn't 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 using the office for personal gain or abusing power.
If they think he has, then those committees can push for a full vote of the House on articles of impeachment. A simple majority can impeach the president.
Does this mean he is guilty? No, not necessarily. Does it remove him from office? No, not necessarily. All this really does is formally charge the president and move the process over to the Senate where the Senate must hold a trial, according to the Constitution. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, would sit upfront presiding while House impeachment managers would present the charges against the president so the president's lawyers would dispute them. Witnesses can be called, questions can be raised, senators sit and serve as jurors in all of this.
Many pitfalls could come up to short-circuit the process, but so far Republican leadership has suggested that any trial would be allowed to run its course.
At the end, each senator must deliver their verdict. If two-thirds say guilty, then the president is convicted and would be removed from office, something that, despite three serious pushes toward impeachment, has never before happened. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right, Tom, thank you so much.
And joining me now is Julian Epstein. He's the former Chief Counsel for House Democrats during the Clinton impeachment.
And we're going to be hearing, Julian, as you know, from committee lawyers as they take the lead as questioners at the beginning of the hearing. This is different than we've seen at past hearings where members have really taken the lead. And sometimes it's very clear that they're not approaching this lawyers might not. So how do you expect this to play out with lawyers taking the lead here?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL FOR HOUSE DEMOCRAS DURING CLINTON IMPEACHMENT: No disrespect to any of the members, but I think the lawyers will do a much better job. They are professional investigators and prosecutors, they know how to get to the heart of the matter, they know how to examine and cross-examine witnesses, they know how to not let a witness get off the hook.
Members often tend to be -- and again, no disrespect, they could be a little bit bull hardish (ph) under the five minute rule won't like to hear them self speak. So I think the staff questions will be a much more effective way of getting at the truth.
What the committees need to do right now is tell the story. And I think what they're attempting to do is tell a story of bribery, and that's what you'll hear them do with various State Department, diplomatic, White House staff and others that will be testifying in the coming weeks.
KEILAR: That's really one of the ideas that we've been seeing Democrats play out here. You said bribery, and that is the language that we've seen more and more instead of the quid pro quo which, one, is hard to say very quickly, and two, might get lost on some people and doesn't really evoke, I think, kind of the same reaction that, say, bribery or corruption or extortion does. What do you think of them moving towards this language?
EPSTEIN: Well, as you know, I've said this on your show many times. I think the Democrats should have moved here earlier. I think there is a very strong case on bribery. It certainly isn't required under the Constitution. Abuse of power, if you go back to the Old English system, it's certainly enough grounds for removal.
But I think bribery is important to make the case as to how serious -- to make the case to the public as to how serious the abuse was.
And, again, what you're trying to do in any impeachment setting or impeachment scenario, Brianna, is you are persuading the middle third of the country. And right now the middle third is still on the fence. We're at about 50-50 according to the polls in terms of whether the president ought to be removed or not.
The Democrats still have a fair amount of work to do to get into a more comfortable place of, say, 60-40 or 65-35 and presenting something that is readily understandable, like bribery, is a more effective way of describing this case, I think, than just saying abuse of power. So I think the Democrats should have probably have done this a long time ago and I think there is a strong legal basis for claiming bribery.
KEILAR: Julian, I want to talk about something else while I have you here, and that is Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. His name came up a lot in earlier testimony. He ignored a House subpoena to appear last week and the White House Counsel says he has complete immunity.
Mulvaney then wanted to join a lawsuit that would determine if he had to testify, then he was going to file separately. Now, he's abandoned this idea all together. What do you make of this?
EPSTEIN: I make this as he doesn't want to be the J.R. Haldeman of the Nixon era. Remember J.R. Haldeman was a senior White House official under Nixon who was very involved in the crimes that Nixon committed.
And I think Mulvaney is very, I think, ambivalent here about going too far to defend this presidency, and I think the mere fact that he wanted to get counsel or court guidance as to whether he had to appear or not means that he's looking for some political cover.
He ultimately buckled the White House, I think, kind of clamped down on him and got him to back off that, and now they're claiming absolute immunity. Absolute immunity is something that is not recognized under the law. Nobody has absolute immunity, particularly when you're looking at potential crimes that were committed.
But I think even his ambivalence here and looking to find cover himself indicates that, I think, that people very, very close to the president are starting to feel very nervous about going too far to defend this president because I think they realize the case is rather strong.
KEILAR: Julian, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.
EPSTEIN: Brianna, thanks for having me.
KEILAR: Just in, significant new revelations out of the Roger Stone trial and what the president appears to have known about the WikiLeaks drop in 2016.
Plus, Michael Bloomberg showing up in person to file paperwork to be on the ballot in Arkansas, as the new poll shows, a new top tier in Iowa.
And there are new details on the condition of Jimmy Carter, as the former president undergoes a brain operation.
KEILAR: Government prosecutors have rested their case in the trial against former Trump confidant Roger Stone but not without some headlines. As part of his agreement with the government, former deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates took the stand gave some new details about how then candidate Trump reacted to learning in late July of 2016 that, quote, more information would be coming that could help his campaign.
So this contradicts the denials by both Roger Stone and President Trump, who have repeatedly said they did not discuss WikiLeaks.
Joining me now from outside the courthouse is our CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz. And, Shimon, the president told the Special Counsel in his written testimony that the he did not recall being given a heads-up about information that could help his campaign. Tell us what we're hearing here, because, clearly, that contradicts this.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It does, because, in so many ways, the whole point of what Rick Gates did by coming in was that he laid out this entire situation behind the scenes that was going on in the campaign of trying to get information from Roger Stone, who was claiming to have inside information into WikiLeaks.
Not only was he communicating with people like Paul Manafort, who was the chairman of the campaign at the time, and then there was conversations with Rick Gates, that Rick Gates talked about with Roger Stone concerning WikiLeaks, but then we also learned directly from Rick Gates today that Roger Stone was communicating with then- candidate Donald Trump, trying to send him signals, give him information, indicating that WikiLeaks was about to put out more information, that conversation taking place in an SUV with Rick Gates inside and then candidate Donald Trump, as they were on their way to La Guardia Airport.
And what Rick Gates said was that Donald Trump received a call, he could see it on Donald Trump's cell phone. He received a call from Roger Stone. There was a conversation. And after that conversation, Trump indicated that more information was coming from WikiLeaks.
And what they were talking about was the July 22nd release of information. That was the first release, this phone call taking place on July 31st, because Roger Stone had been indicating to the campaign that more information was coming and we know then that in October more information was, in fact, released by WikiLeaks.
The other thing Rick Gates painted was a picture of a campaign that was excited by the information that WikiLeaks was going to put out. They felt that it was going to help them. They were trying to learn more information about it so they could learn how to react to it, building a media campaign, perhaps Rick Gates talking about how the campaign was brainstorming, having meetings about how they were going to respond to this, but most significant in all of this, the prosecution essentially ending Rick Gates' testimony by connecting everything directly to Donald Trump. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. Shimon, thank you so much.
And I'm joined once again by Kelly Magsamen to discuss this.
What do you see in what Shimon just reported, that Rick Gates was saying, actually, yes, the president got a heads-up from rick gates, he knew that there was more helpful information coming? MAGSAMEN: I see two things. First, it looks like the president of the United States was not truthful with Robert Mueller, which is a major problem.
But second, I actually see a bigger pattern here. If you look at the Ukraine scandal and this scandal around WikiLeaks, it's clear the president of the United States is going to be ruthless. He wants to vanquish his political opponents and he will use any tactic possible to do so.
So he is conveying to his henchmen, whether it's Roger Stone or Rudy Giuliani or Sondland that he's willing to do whatever it takes to get dirt on his enemies and potentially vanquish them.
KEILAR: When you see this, we're learning this new bombshell from Rick Gates in Roger Stone's trial. What does that tell you about the limitations of the Mueller report?
MAGSAMEN: Well, it's very disappointing in some ways. But I think what we're seeing and the fact that there is now this pattern, I think that the president of the United States is not showing any consequences for these kinds of actions, whether it's WikiLeaks in the 2016 election, or whether it's on the Ukraine call, I actually very much worry about the future of our democracy and what he may do if he's not impeached, frankly, because it's clear that he needs guardrails imposed upon him.
KEILAR: All right. Kelly, thank you so much for your insights.
President Jimmy Carter is recovering following a brain surgery earlier today. What his camp is saying about this operation and how long he's expected to remain hospitalized, we'll talk about that next.
And there are not only one but two potential new entries into the already very, very crowded 2020 race. Can either contender make headway this far into the campaign season?
KEILAR: Former President Jimmy Carter is recovering from an operation to relieve pressure on his brain. This was pressure that was caused by bleeding following two recent falls in his house in Georgia.
The 95-year-old was admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta overnight, and CNN Correspondent Martin Savidge is joining me now from outside that hospital.
Tell us how the former president is doing, Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Doing very well. According to what the Carter Center is saying at this point. When you hear a 95-year- old former president of the United States, especially one as beloved as Jimmy Carter, and then you hear the words brain surgery, there is a reason that people get very alarmed.
However, it seems that that surgery this morning, which started around 7:40 Eastern Time, went about an hour, until 8:40, went very well. And now, we're told that the president is recovering and that there were no complications. So, of course, that gives you a real sigh of relief.
However, he is 95 years of age. He has suffered a number of medical issues over the last month, including two falls that led to the need for sort of bleeding out this extra blood that had pooled inside of his head, I guess, is the best way to describe it. And that's done but you want to monitor.
And that's the question right now, how long will he remain here in the hospital? The doctors are not saying, they say it's based on just how he does.
So the next observation or update we should get is supposedly when he leaves the hospital. But right now, the news is all good.
We should also point out that in addition to what he's gone through in the last month, he did survive both brain and liver cancer, so he is an iron man when it comes to enduring and carrying on, as he does so well. And no doubt, it's also fueled by the prayers and thoughts of so many people not just in the U.S. but around the world who just think a great deal of Jimmy Carter. Brianna?
KEILAR: Martin Savidge, thank you so much, from Atlanta. We appreciate that report about the former president.
A just-released poll is showing that one 2020 candidate is surging in Iowa. This is two more contenders entering the race. That's right, the crowded, crowded race. But are more candidates what voters want?
Plus the fate of DREAMers in the hands of the Supreme Court, will the justices allow President Trump to end the DACA program?