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House GOP Lays Out Defense Strategy Ahead of Public Impeachment Hearings; 'Anonymous' Book Excerpts Detail Trump's Score- Settling. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired November 12, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a critical week heading into these public hearings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laura Cooper testified that the aid was being held up.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This argument that the Ukrainians didn't know, this testimony would undermine that argument.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't want to admit that the president had that kind of leverage on them and made them look weak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your response to those Republicans that say that Hunter should speak to the country?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is zero rationale for that to happen. The attitude that we know better than ordinary people, the attitude is elitist.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So sad that they might have to pay $0.02 out of their bazillion dollars.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, November 12. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is away. Erica Hill here with me this morning.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The day before.
BERMAN: It really is the day before, and 24 hours before one of the most perilous moments for the Trump presidency, the White House is in the middle of a fierce battle with itself.
"The Washington Post" reports that the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and the White House counsel's office are at each other's throats, and congressional Republicans are concerned the White House does not have a cohesive impeachment defense.
Also this morning, we're getting our first look at new excerpts from a book by an anonymous Trump administration official, stating that the president will, quote, "abuse any power he has -- he is given." CNN has obtained exclusive excerpts, and we'll bring you those in just a moment.
And all this comes as we're getting new details about how tomorrow's historic public impeachment hearings will unfold before our eyes.
HILL: And we do have breaking news this morning ahead of those hearings. The Republican staff of three House panels involved in the impeachment inquiry has just sent a memo to members, detailing the defense they plan to use to make the case for President Trump.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with those new details this morning.
Suzanne, good morning.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Congress is back in session as lawmakers wake [SIC] -- make their way back here to Washington. And as you mentioned, Republicans trying to get ahead of that public testimony, releasing this 18-page memo obtained by my colleague, Phil Mattingly.
These are the four talking points here that they're going to use to defend the president, saying that the July 25 call shows no evidence of pressure, that Presidents Trump and Zelensky have said there was no pressure on the call. The Ukrainian government was not aware that the aid was being withheld during that call, and that the military aid was ultimately provided by [SIC] Ukraine.
The big question is whether or not the public will also see it the same way.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): The impeachment countdown ticking closer to public hearings tomorrow. First, the public will hear from top diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor and deputy assistant secretary of state, George Kent, Wednesday. The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testifies Friday.
Their testimony is expected to detail explosive claims, alleging President Trump pressured Ukraine to launch investigations for his political benefit.
So how will this week's hearings work? House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff and Republican ranking member Devin Nunes will lead the Sessions. They'll have 45 minutes each to question witnesses, with staff lawyers likely playing a big role. All other committee members will get five minutes each to do the same. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our strategy is to focus on the facts.
MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, House investigators releasing three more transcripts from their closed-door depositions, including former Ukraine aide Catherine Croft, revealing the summer hold on assistance wasn't the first time the Trump administration delayed military aid for Ukraine.
Croft telling lawmakers that in 2017, then-budget-director Mick Mulvaney held up plans to send missiles to Ukraine, saying he was concerned that Russia would react negatively, despite claiming all of the policy agencies were in support of providing the equipment.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): What's Mick Mulvaney doing making that decision when he's the head of OMB?
MALVEAUX: Croft testifying Mulvaney was involved in Ukraine policy, making this year, working alongside Trump mega donor turned U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.
The claim corroborating top Russian advisor Fiona Hill's testimony. And, according to Croft and Laura Cooper's testimonies, Ukraine was aware about the hold on security assistance earlier than previously believed.
Cooper, the only Pentagon official to testify in the inquiry so far, recalling a conversation with then-U.S.-envoy-to -Ukraine Kurt Volker in August, saying he gave "a very strong inference that there was some knowledge on the part of the Ukrainians."
In that same meeting, Cooper says Volker explained "an effort that he was engaged in to see if there was a statement that the government of Ukraine would make that would somehow disavow any interference in U.S. elections," adding "the path that he was pursuing to lift the hold would be to get them to make this statement."
MALVEAUX: Trump says that he's going to release the transcript of a second phone call that he had with the Ukrainian president, which he believes will exonerate him. But it is really going to be the fallout of that -- the July 25 call that will set the stage for the impeachment hearings that are going to go public in just more than 24 hours, Erica.
HILL: All right. Suzanne, thank you.
Well, now that we know the GOP's plan to defend the president, the next question, of course, is will it work? We'll ask our legal expert next.
BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, CNN has obtained this internal memo circulated by House Republicans, outlining the four main points Republican lawmakers plan to push to defend the president as the impeachment inquiry goes public tomorrow.
I want to bring in Jeremy Diamond, CNN White House correspondent, and Jennifer Rodgers, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
And I will always issue this disclaimer. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think I need to be one to be astonished by how weak these four main assertions are by the congressional Republicans here.
No. 1, the July 25 call shows no conditionality. Well, you don't need conditionality. You only need to read the president pushing or coercing the leader of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Plus, mountains of evidence suggest there was conditionality, well- known and implied, over the two months of the summer.
Zelensky and Trump said there was no pressure on the call. Donald Trump not a reliable witness in this case. And Zelensky not either. He needs the United States as an ally.
The Ukrainian government was not aware of the hold of aid on the July 25 call. That may be true. However, they were aware into August and also, they were aware that a meeting was being held up by the two leaders.
And No. 3, the -- No. 4, the security hold was lifted on September 11. Yes, after the White House knew about the whistle-blower report.
Now, I've been looking at this, Jen, and it is the most comprehensive defense that Republicans have issued. That, in and of itself, is interesting. And they have some interesting evidence and arguments here. But if those are their four main points, they don't have a lot to argue.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I agree. I mean, as we were discussing earlier, to me it seems like what they're really doing is more saying, you know, listen, the Mueller report kind of collapsed upon itself because it was too complex, too complicated, too many facts, too many different tangents. I think they're trying to do the same thing here, right?
All these witnesses are testifying. Each has a different view, is bringing different facts to the table. The more they can throw out there a bunch of different facts, and well, you know, that's not true. This other thing is true. We're worried about corruption. We're worried about all this stuff. It kind of complicates and muddles the narrative, which had been very simple at the start.
I think that's part of what they're doing here.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it's also partly about making it all about the call. And this is where I think it's interesting, because President Trump and Republicans are kind of on the same page now for once, which has not always been the case throughout this impeachment proceedings. I think Republicans -- and I've heard this from my Republican sources
from White House officials I've talked to, think that the call is less damaging than the overall pressure campaign that took place over months and months and months, which is, again, a lot harder to understand by piecing together the testimony from different witnesses versus saying, OK, but maybe you can interpret the call this way, right?
And the other thing that I've heard from Republicans is that you don't have, as of yet, in this testimony direct evidence of the president telling one of his officials, we are going to carry out this quid pro quo involving security aid for Ukraine and the pressure for this investigation, right? Even Gordon Sondland, for example, says I presumed that this was the case.
We haven't heard yet from Rudy Giuliani, of course. We haven't heard yet from Mick Mulvaney, and so that, I think, is a big part of this.
BERMAN: We do, however, have the transcript of the call.
BERMAN: We have the loose transcript of the call.
HILL: You should read the transcript.
BERMAN: Which was the first piece of evidence we got here, and the president says, "Do me a favor." And then he later says, "There's a lot to talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution. Talk to the attorney general. That would be great."
DIAMOND: But Republicans will argue that is open to interpretation whether that is a quid pro quo. Whether that is direct military security assistance.
BERMAN: I understand they'll make that case, but you don't necessarily even need a quid pro quo to make the case that you were coercing a foreign leader to do something.
HILL: It's also interesting, too, though, because it speaks, right, to what we know is the way that the president does business. And we know this from Michael Cohen, and we know this from repeated officials, is that they will point to it and say we -- I didn't do anything directly here, and as long as there's no record of me, President Trump, telling Rudy Giuliani to do this, my hands are clean.
RODGERS: Yes, and of course, you know, the reason that we don't have that evidence is that all of the people who are holding that evidence inside of them are refusing to testify, because the White House is stonewalling. So, you know, that's part of this, as well, and they're going to have a big obstruction count in the impeachment articles, but it's still not as good as getting that evidence, of it coming from --
BERMAN: I will say, we do have tweets from Rudy Giuliani saying that everything I did, all of my behavior, was on behalf of the president. So there is that evidence. Meanwhile, we're waking up to this reporting in the "Washington Post"
-- and the "New York Times" has a version of it, too -- of disarray inside the White House, just hours before the public impeachment hearings, infighting.
Let me read you part of this: "The White House is bifurcated into disjointed response to the Democrats' impeachment inquiry has been fueled by a fierce West Wing battle between two of President Trump's top advisers, and the outcome of the messy skirmish could be on full display this week, according to White House and congressional officials."
This has to do with a fight between the acting chief of staff and the White House counsel's office.
DIAMOND: Yes. And this is something that we've borne out in our reporting, as well, over weeks and weeks. This has been a consistent theme in this White House during this impeachment proceeding, that Mick Mulvaney and Pat Cipollone, the White House, counsel have not been on the same page.
And a lot of this is fueled by Mick Mulvaney's press briefing room appearance, where he admitted to a quid pro quo for the entire world to see before attempting to walk it back. And there's also been some frustration with Pat Cipollone, who again, is focused kind of on the legal strategy of this. And he has kind of siloed off a lot of what he has been doing. Like the review of the circumstances around the call, kind of piecing together doing this internal review.
He has kind of kept that to himself, not necessarily shared it with the messaging side of the White House. That has also provoked some frustrations.
BERMAN: All right. Jeremy, Jen, stand by. We have much more to discuss, including we're getting new excerpts from this book by an anonymous Trump administration official with new insight into the beginnings of this whole Ukraine scandal. That's next.
HILL: A toxic environment where President Trump uses the power of the office for political gain. That is how Anonymous describes the White House in new excerpts obtained by CNN from the forthcoming book, written by an anonymous author who claims to be a senior official within the Trump administration.
The author also discusses the administration's back-channel's Ukraine policy, writing, "Those of us who have seen these sort of reckless actions again and again wanted to slam our heads against the wall. The explanation that he wanted to help combat corruption in Ukraine was barely believable to anyone around him."
Let's bring back now Jennifer Rodgers and Jeremy Diamond. We look at it from this excerpt -- these excerpts, as well, that CNN obtained where Anonymous notes that "We learned that, given enough time and space, Donald J. Trump will seek to abuse any power he's given," saying, "It's a fact of life we've been taught inside his administration through repeated example. No external force can ameliorate his attraction to wrongdoing. His presidency is continuously jeopardized by it and so are America's institutions."
A lot of people at the White House going to be very excited to read this book, I'm sure, Jeremy.
DIAMOND: Yes. And you know what's interesting, is it would be easier to undermine the credibility of this author, had we not heard this story so many times before. Right?
This is something that has been borne out in the Mueller report, when you think about the instances of President Trump attempting to get Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself, attempting to direct Don McGahn to end the investigation, directing Corey Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions, essentially, to unrecuse himself.
There are so many instances where we know -- and not only from the Mueller report but from our reporting, from "The New York Times," "Washington Post," where the president has clearly put his personal interests above the interests of the country. And that is something that has been borne out repeatedly.
And so it's -- it's hard to say, look, he's just an anonymous official. Discount it.
BERMAN: It's in the witness testimony. We'll hear a lot more of in public in the impeachment proceedings. It's in the new Nikki Haley book, Jen, where Nikki Haley, from her perspective, it was inappropriate for these other officials to ask her to work against the president.
But really, the headline there might very well be that the secretary of state and the chief of staff and Anonymous here thought the president was a threat to the country.
RODGERS: That's right, and a threat to himself in a way, right? Because here we are, again, in his second major scandal; you know, the Republicans mired in this thing. If he had listened to some of his advisers about what he ought to be doing, he wouldn't keep getting himself into this kind of trouble over and over, so I think that's right.
HILL: Which is fascinating, too, because there's also, you know, an editorial in "The New York Times," where they point -- where it's pointed out, looking at all of this, right, that had happened, the fact that they felt they had to do this, which I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stated -- "it's a weak excuse for propping up a president who continues to erode Democratic norms and the rule of law."
There's that argument there, as well, Jeremy. That OK, we may be upset about it, and maybe you tried to say something, but did you really do what you needed to do if you cared that much about the country? DIAMOND: That's right. And again, I think that it's going to be
so important for this testimony that we have seen in recent weeks to actually be borne out in public, because it will bring these pictures to life, of course.
At the same time, one of the concerns at the White House is the extent to which the president will be consumed by this, because we have seen this before in the congressional investigations of Russian interference, during the Mueller report.
When there were these public hearings, right, this is the president who was in the residence watching these testimony all day long or in the dining room outside the Oval Office watching the television, and it will take his focus on this impeachment proceeding to another level.
And that will affect all of the White House because, again, the president's whims affect how everybody at the White House's day-to-day is.
BERMAN: And tomorrow when he's watching in the residence, he will see things that, really, few Americans have seen over the last few decades. The way these hearings are going to work is different, Jen. We can put up on the screen here a graphic which explains.
But the chair and the ranking member are each going to get these 45 minutes where they can hand it over to lawyers, to counsel. And you know the Democratic lawyer who might do a lot of the questioning, Daniel Goldman, what do you know? He worked for you. So if he doesn't do well, it's your fault. But -- but tell us about him. And tell us how he's likely to go at this.
RODGERS: So Dan worked with me at the Southern District of New York, and I supervised him in two units. He's great. Very smart, very aggressive, tenacious, and I think he gets the point here, which is it's different from a criminal trial, right?
You don't have a captive audience of 12 jurors listening to every word you say for as long as you want to say them. He has a limited amount of time, so he needs to be very, very focused. And I think that's what they'll do. They'll find out what these people know, when they knew it, and why it matters. Because I think this last point is very key.
It's really important that there are reasons why what President Trump was doing with Ukraine is a terrible idea for U.S. policy, for U.S. national security, and it's part of the same narrative of helping Russia at the expense of anyone and anything that's been going on through this entire administration so far. And so those points, I think, are the critical ones that Dan, I think, will do a very good job of getting out.
BERMAN: If you look at the witness list for -- for tomorrow, it's William Taylor, the top-ranking diplomat. He's more of a fact witness. He's the guy who tells everyone what happened. But then George Kent is the State Department official, who based on
his transcript, his deposition about why it's all bad. Just what you were saying. He's someone who says everything that was going on was sketch in a big way.
RODGERS: Sketchy, so it's important for us all to understand why. But it also just goes to show you why these defenses from the Republicans are completely bogus. Because he wasn't out there trying to fight corruption in the Ukraine. That doesn't make any sense based on what was happening. He's, in fact, making that problem worse.
So all of the reasons that they are saying the president was obsessed with this and Ukraine and trying to fight corruption, trying to do it through investigating two U.S. citizens in the Ukraine, that would never, ever, ever happen. So all of this is a way to both say, this is why all of this was really bad and why the president's defense is nonsense.
DIAMOND: And to the point about why this matters, this is also, I think, an opportunity for Democrats to say, look, this is a norm that President Trump has broken, and here is why this is significant. Because President Trump, of course, has broken so many presidential norms. Here, there's a question of legal norms that he may have broken, and -- and those norms have been broken without much fanfare sometimes, right? Because there are so many that he has broken.
This is an opportunity for Democrats to say, hold on. Let's examine this and explain to the public why we think this is an abuse of power, why this is important.
BERMAN: Jeremy, Jennifer, thank you very, very much.
HILL: Jimmy Carter hospitalized overnight, what we know about the medical procedure he is set to undergo. That's next.