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Televised Trump Impeachment Hearings to Begin. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired November 13, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In just hours, public impeachment hearings set to begin against President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump and President Zelensky both said it was a perfectly fine call. There was no pressure, no quid pro quo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't actually know what was really said when you're relying on third-, fourth-hand information.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to have second or third persons talking to the president. The president released the transcript. There's ample evidence is there.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): The facts are not really in dispute. The question we have to ask ourselves is this what we want our president to do: to cheat an election on the inside and asked a foreign government to participate?
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. It is Wednesday, November 13, 6 a.m. here in New York, and you're watching CNN's special live coverage of this first day of the impeachment hearings.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Look, as journalists, we always have a front-row seat on history. But this morning, all of Americans do. I mean, all of the world. Whoever tunes into this, you have a front-row seat as history unfolds.
BERMAN: And it really is history. It's just the fourth time in the nation's 250 years that we will see public impeachment hearings into the actions of a sitting president.
The first two witnesses are scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill in a matter of just hours. Bill Taylor is the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent is the deputy assistant secretary of state. By the way, they're both actively serving members of the diplomatic community. Then on Friday, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie
Yovanovitch, will testify. Another eight witnesses will testify next week. We just learned about them overnight. They will discuss how the president of the United States allegedly pressured a foreign government to investigate his political opponents.
CAMEROTA: CNN has learned that Democrats and Republicans have been preparing for this critical day by holding closed-door practice sessions. Democrats will try to lay out evidence that President Trump tried to bribe or extort Ukraine to investigate his rivals in very simple terms.
Republicans are expected to try to distance President Trump from the allegations that he's facing. The president is expected to watch from the White House before his meeting with Turkey's president, which will include a news conference this afternoon. So it will be a very interesting day.
Let's get right to CNN's Jessica Schneider. She's live in Washington with her preview of what we can expect -- Jessica.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this first set of televised public hearings, it really signals the high stakes for both Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats will finally display all of the work they've been doing behind the scenes to the likely millions of Americans who will be watching.
Republicans, meanwhile, they've been holding those mock hearings. They've also circulated that 18-page memos -- memo with ways to hit back on what will become this first phase of the impeachment inquiry in the public sphere.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In just hours, the impeachment inquiry into President Trump goes public. Starting at 10 a.m., top diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent will testify, sitting side-by-side.
The nationally-televised hearings helping House Democrats bring their case against Trump to life, arguing he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to begin investigations for his own political gain.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): The facts here are so powerful. Let people just hear what happened.
SCHNEIDER: Taylor, a star witness for House Democrats after testifying it was his "clear understanding security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation."
Kent also denouncing the Trump administration's efforts, calling it "injurious to the rule of law." House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Republican ranking member
Devin Nunes will lead the hearings. They'll each have 45 minutes to question witnesses.
And both sides will have some help, their staff lawyers likely taking charge and questioning. Former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman for the Democrats and Steve Castor, an attorney for House Oversight, will assist the Republicans.
After that 90-minute block, all other committee members will get five minutes each for questions.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): We are trying to do our best in the majority to have a fair process.
SCHNEIDER: The president downplaying the upcoming hearings.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats in Washington would rather pursue outrageous hoaxes and delusional witch hunts, which are going absolutely nowhere. Don't worry about it.
SCHNEIDER: But for Trump's GOP allies, it's a serious matter.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What's happening in the House is basically un-American.
SCHNEIDER: House Republicans shaping their counterargument against Democrats' claims, providing this 18-page memo to party members outlining how to defend the president, including the Ukrainian leader and President Trump "have both said there was no pressure on the call."
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): President Trump and President Zelensky both said it was a perfectly fine call. There was no pressure applied. There was no quid pro quo.
SCHNEIDER: House Democrats' plan: relying heavily on key elements, such as the rough transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call, the president's own statements, and testimony from star witnesses like Taylor to help tell the story of Trump's Ukraine scandal.
SWALWELL: The facts are not really in dispute here. The president, in his own words, asked the Ukrainians to investigate his political opponent.
We're going to be prepared for the seriousness of these proceedings.
SCHNEIDER: And we've learned that President Trump will be keeping a close eye on these hearings. They will stretch throughout the day.
The White House communications team will also be in play -- in place, watching for those key moments that might help the president's case, and they'll be sending out the messaging and the clips on that in real time. And we also could hear from the president himself. He's scheduled to
hold a news conference at around 3 p.m. with the president of Turkey, Erdogan, who is visiting the White House right now -- John.
BERMAN: No doubt he's trying to pull focus there and will spin this.
But today and this week, Jessica, as you know, not really about spin about the facts, about the witness testimony, and about this evidence.
Jessica, stand by. We'll come back to you in just a minute. That point, who will we hear from first? What will they say? And what will this all look like?
CNN's special live coverage of these historic impeachment hearings continues right after this.
BERMAN: Welcome back. This is CNN's special live coverage of the first public impeachment hearings. And after weeks of closed-door testimony, Democrats are bringing the first two witnesses into the public eye in just hours.
I want to bring in Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent; Bianna Golodryga, CNN senior global affairs analyst; and Anne Milgram, former New Jersey attorney general and a CNN legal analyst.
Let me set the stage for where this is happening. It's in the 1100 Longworth House Office Building, a big hearing room. It's a first- floor conference room where the House Ways and Means Committee meets. So big this is where the full Congress met, the full House in 1949 and '50 when they were renovating the Capitol.
CAMEROTA: And very telegenic room, we're told. Beautiful columns, spacious. They chose it specifically because it's telegenic.
BERMAN: Seven cameras. So a big room for a big moment, Anne. And the first witnesses they will hear from, well, one is Bill Taylor, the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. Why him? Why does he fit this moment?
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So I think Bill Taylor is so important as the first witness. He's the narrator of what happened. And he's going to be able to give testimony way before the July 25 call. He's going to give this whole story about how, starting really early before the summer, even, the president and Rudy Giuliani were trying to put pressure on Ukraine to withhold a White House meeting in exchange for these investigations into 2016 and the Bidens.
And what becomes so important to me about Taylor is that he can have a conversation about the entire range of what happened and the abuse of power. And he was at the time saying this was wrong. So I think he's important as -- as the narrator of the whole story
that's about to come next.
CAMEROTA: If he repeats exactly what he said behind closed doors, it will be quite compelling. Here is a little bit of that testimony from October 22.
Bill Taylor says, "That was my clear understanding. Security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigations," meaning of the Bidens and of the DNC, basically.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And he really laid out why this was a life or death issue. He talked about going to the Donbass region where the war was taking place, where Ukrainian soldiers were dying. Over 13,000 have been killed over the past five years.
And he explained in his testimony, which I'm sure we'll hear from him again today the consequences of withholding that military aid. And the president dangling it in exchange for his own personal favors.
Meantime, these soldiers had no idea. They thought America was clearly on their side and helping them. Now you have a situation where you have a Ukrainian president, who may not want to get involved in U.S. politics and policy, but knowing that his troops are on the line there and much weaker than -- than the Russians and their adversaries. So this really gave Vladimir Putin the upper hand.
So setting that picture up and that narrative for the American public to really see why U.S. foreign policy, why -- why Ukrainian lives were at stake, that lays it out, as well.
BERMAN: And he has receipts, too. He has the text messages. He has his notes. He has the cables. Just one of the text messages -- this is P-113. Bill Taylor wrote, "As I said on the phone to Gordon Sondland, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." So that's Bill Taylor.
George Kent is going to be sitting right beside him. This is the senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy. And he's going to talk about this, too, Abby. One of the things he is going to say about Rudy Giuliani -- this is P-111 -- "Mr. Giuliani at that point had me carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies."
The reason I wanted you to see this is because George Kent is describing something he clearly thinks is wrong. I feel like that's important for the Democrats to get out.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's part two of a two-part strategy. One is, what were the demands exactly? Was it that, you know, no meeting, no aid in exchange for these investigations? And then the Democrats have to establish what exactly was -- were the nature of these investigations. The Republicans are going to claim that this was all about corruption, that Ukraine is a corrupt country. The president was pursuing American interests by asking them to pursue these investigations.
But what both Taylor and Kent can speak to is the degree to which it was -- it is clear to people who are subject matter experts in this area that the push for investigations into Burisma and into 2016 were entirely political in nature. That's what they can speak to.
They can talk about how unfounded some of the -- the information that they believed was getting to President Trump about Ukraine was and how they seemed to be driven by the personal -- the personal financial interests of some people who were interested in denigrating, for example, the former Ukraine ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, denigrating other -- other officials around this -- this -- around this situation.
And they're -- they're going to be able to establish clearly that this was all about politics and not about anything related to corruption more broadly.
GOLODRYGA: And can I just jump in on George Kent in particular? Because what struck me in his testimony is his knowledge and explanation as to who these former corrupt prosecutors in the Ukraine were.
Because what you're going to see Republicans do is muddy a lot of the water. You've seen even Nikki Haley in her book release has been using this -- this line of rationale, as well. And many others. Rand Paul. They're starting to say, well, what was Joe Biden doing there? We really need to investigate.
Mike Pompeo even is going down this route. Why was he wanting to fire this prosecutor? And they're making these prosecutors sound legit.
What George Kent was able to do and what we'll see him do today, again, is deconstruct why these were not good prosecutors, why they were very corrupt. He describes one as drunk, one as not cooperating, the IMF threatening to withhold aid --
CAMEROTA: One had bags of diamonds when they went to his house.
CAMEROTA: When investigators went to his house? He was being paid in --
GOLODRYGA: One was not a lawyer.
GOLODRYGA: So they're able to -- he'll be able to really debunk that -- that rational that you're going to see from Republicans.
CAMEROTA: OK. Anne, we have many more questions for you. Stand by, if you would, because we're just a couple of hours away from the first public impeachment testimony.
Today's hearing will look very different than anything else we have seen on Capitol Hill. We'll explain that next.
CAMEROTA: This morning, the first public hearings begin in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The opening statements start at 10 a.m. Eastern. Then the chairman and ranking members and staff attorneys will have 45 minutes to question these two witnesses. After that, the other 20 members of the House Intel Committee will get five minutes each.
So let's bring back Abby Phillip, Bianna Golodryga, and Anne Milgram.
So Anne, you know one of the staff attorneys, Daniel Goldman. He's been described as a straight shooter, no nonsense. That alone will be novel in watching some of these congressional hearings. The style that both of these staff attorneys are described that way. So what are you looking for this morning?
MILGRAM: So I think this is so important. We've seen hearing after hearing where each member gets five minutes. It's -- it's speechifying. They never ask the right questions. It's really, to me at least, as a lawyer, incredibly unsatisfying after we watch those types of hearings.
This is different. They're going to have a chunk of time for professional lawyers who are used to questioning witnesses, knowing how to get information out, to just get a momentum and a focus going. And having enough time really matters. And also, being able to ask the follow-up questions really matters.
And I think we'll see that from both of -- both of the lawyers. It'll be clear what the narrative is for both sides really early on. And then the members will get to do the more political part of this.
BERMAN: So 45 minutes each in blocks. And by the way, you can have more than one 45-minute block. It's up to Chairman Schiff to decide how long they go with that. It's not a courtroom, though. It's a hearing room. So how would you approach this? If you're Daniel Goldman trying to make this case and present this evidence, what do you do?
MILGRAM: So one of the huge advantages that they have here that we also haven't seen in other -- on other hearings is that they have testimony already. So they know the information they're trying to get to.
And what's most important for someone like Dan Goldman or for the Republican -- the Republican lawyer is to know where they're going and then to be able to ask the witness questions. These witnesses have answered these questions before. We shouldn't hear a lot of new surprising information. So it's mostly about staying focused and making sure that they're able
to get out what they need to get out.
I would expect that both sides are respectful of one another for those 45 minutes. And if that's the case, we'll learn a lot today.
CAMEROTA: We've been hearing that behind closed doors, both sides, that lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, have been engaged in these marathon prep sessions. They're walking around with huge binders of information. What do we know about what they plan to do?
PHILLIP: Well, as they should, because often there, they seem to be somewhat ill-prepared for these hearings.
But, I mean, I think both sides are going to head into their corners but, particularly, on the Republican side. The objective today for Republicans is going to be these people who are testifying today do not have direct knowledge of things that came out of the president's mouth. They do not know what President Trump wanted explicitly, and that maybe they were freelancing or maybe they were using supposition to figure out what was going on.
So they're going to be, really, talking repeatedly about a lack of knowledge from Taylor and Kent about the president's motivations and his desires.
And on the Democratic side, I think they're going to be really leaning into the kind of this for that. The quid pro quo. The -- the meeting will not happen unless certain things also happen.
So I'm not sure that the -- that it will be sufficient for Republicans to focus on what President Trump didn't know, because there's plenty of other information that is actually incredibly damaging, but that's basically what they've outlined as their objective for today.
BERMAN: And we also have what President Trump did say on the summary of the phone call right here.
CAMEROTA: That is helpful.
BERMAN: Right here. It's helpful.
CAMEROTA: That's really helpful.
BERMAN: To read out loud.
CAMEROTA: To have the transcript of the call.
BERMAN: I can do it. I can read it. I can read it. "Call the attorney general. Whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me." That was said out loud and recorded.
PHILLIP: But he said it incredibly nicely.
BERMAN: And recorded.
GOLODRYGA: It is the perfect call.
BERMAN: You know what I'm watching and who I'm watching today, is Jim Jordan. A Republican from Ohio who wasn't on the Intelligence Committee a week ago. He was put there by Republican leadership for a purpose.
Now, in theory, he gets his five minutes in the afternoon. But you would think, just by the fact that they went through these back flips to get him on there, that they want him to have a bigger role.
GOLODRYGA: Look, he's a fighter. He does well in front of the cameras, and he can muddy the waters, which is exactly what Republicans are aiming to do.
They are going to approach this by digging deep back into years' worth of corruption in Ukraine, start questioning the Obama administration's policies in Ukraine, start asking these witnesses, Tell us more detail about some of the corruption including regarding Burisma. And constantly going back to Biden.
So whenever the Democrats are going to be focusing on the here and now in the Trump administration, watch for Jim Jordan and other Republicans to want to dig deeper back to the Obama administration. And also point out that Trump has given more aid and Trump has been more willing to help Ukraine than their narrative is going to be than the Obama administration was.
Stand by. A lot more to discuss.
Come up in our next hour, we will speak to two congressmen who will be in this hearing room. They are both on the Intelligence Committee and they will have a chance to question witnesses.
That will be great to get a preview of what they are doing from them.
During all the drama at the capitol, President Trump is hosting Turkey's president at the White House today. This as new evidence surfaces about possible war crimes during the Turkish invasion in northern Syria.