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Public Trump Impeachment Hearings to Begin Today; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) is Interviewed about Upcoming Hearing. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 13, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Wow.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Really interesting to see that profile. Adam Schiff will be in the middle of it all today.
CAMEROTA: So the historic impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill begin this morning, and NEW DAY continues right now.
CAMEROTA: Hours away from the start of televised hearings, with the fate of Donald Trump's presidency at stake.
MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: For those of us who have read the transcript, it is not as some of these people made it out to be. I think it's a mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really clear that this phone call wasn't just a one-off. It was an entire pressure campaign to get the Ukrainians to influence our election.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think it is a threat to the presidency. It's un-American. It denies the basics of due process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not just one phone call. The facts here are so powerful. Let people just hear what happened.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
CAMEROTA: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY's special live coverage of day one of the impeachment hearings. We are now just hours away from the start of televised impeachment hearings, with the fate of Donald Trump's presidency at stake.
First up, veteran diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent. They will take the stand at 10 a.m. Eastern. And for the first time, the American people and, really, anyone in the world who tunes in will see and hear for themselves how diplomats believed that President Trump was trying to pressure Ukraine's government to investigate political rivals in exchange for military aid.
BERMAN: You can see and hear the evidence for yourself today. And CNN has learned that Democrats and Republicans have been preparing for this critical day by holding these closed-door practice sessions.
Democrats want to lay out the case in stark, simple terms that the president tried to bribe or extort Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Republicans are expected to try to distance the president from the allegations he's now facing.
We know that the president will watch this morning. And we do expect to hear from him this afternoon at a news conference at the White House alongside the Turkish president.
Today it's only the beginning. The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine will testify on Friday. And we learned overnight that eight additional witnesses have been scheduled to appear next week. Again, this is history unfolding before our eyes this morning.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live in the impeachment hearing room, 1100 Longworth Office Building.
What do you see there, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, we're going to give you a little bit of a sneak peek here behind the scenes. Pull back the curtain, if you will.
They chose this room. It is the House Ways and Means Committee room. It is a hearing room, and they chose it because it is big. It is spacious. It is TV friendly. My photographer, Josh, and I will give you a little bit of a tour of what you're going to see.
Behind me here in that big, big chair. That is where the chair of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, will be sitting. Beside him will be his Republican counterpart, Devin Nunes.
To the left here, the Democrats will sit on the Intelligence Committee. To the right will be the Republicans. And then they will face off here. The two witnesses, George Kent and Bill Taylor, here right in the middle at the witness table. This is where they'll sit together. And they will be confronted by the committee that will give those questions.
Now, it's a very different format here. It's going to be 45 minutes for Schiff. He may use his attorney, as well. And then for the Republicans, 45 minutes. And then each one of the committee members will have five minutes to ask their own questions.
And this is a very unique format. The Democrats believe that this will paint a story, paint a picture very quickly, cohesively to the American people to grab their attention and make their case for a possible impeachment -- John, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for the preview. And joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut.
He will be asking questions at the hearing.
Congressman, great to have you here. As I understand it, you will be the second Democrat to ask questions after Chairman Adam Schiff. So what's your angle? What are you specifically going to drill down on?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes, I think as one of the first members to ask questions in this whole hearing, my job will partly be about the big picture. Not -- not the details of a -- of a particular phone call or the details of -- of what a text exchange was.
But really, trying to get at the question as to whether or not the phone call and the president pushing a new and vulnerable foreign president to investigate his political opponent, the Bidens, Burisma, Joe Biden. Is that what it appears to be, a massive abuse of power? Or is it, as the Republicans say, oh, gosh, just another in the long series of things we do to combat corruption in Ukraine?
So my guess is that, as an early questioner, I will be sort of focused on -- on the big-picture themes.
CAMEROTA: And Congressman, what does success look like for Democrats today? How, at the end of today, will you know if you all succeeded in your purpose?
HIMES: Well, I think what will be different about today relative to sitting there and reading transcripts, because there's now thousands of pages of transcripts out there. What will be different today, versus listening to Bob Mueller in the Mueller hearing.
And remember, Bob Mueller was a government employee who was in the position to have to be completely impartial and in the weeds of all kinds of legal things.
The American people today are going to hear from two, and then another on Friday, person who will tell their personal story. And having listened to all of them behind closed doors in the depositions, they will tell the story of how concerned and outraged they were by what they saw.
Now, remember, the American people need to remember and understand that these are not Democrats. These are not people who have done anything other than serve their country, under both Republican and Democratic administrations for a very long period of time. Extraordinarily articulate and competent people who have devoted their lives to their country.
And I think them telling their stories and them telling the story about how they've never seen anything like what President Trump has done in Ukraine is going to be a very powerful story to the American people.
CAMEROTA: As you know, I think, Republicans circulated this 18-page memo of the points that they want to bring up. And here are the four main points. No. 1, the July 25 call summary shows no conditionality or evidence of
No. 2, Presidents Zelensky and Trump both said there was no pressure on the call.
No. 3, Ukrainian government was not aware of the hold on U.S. military aid during that July 25 call.
And No. 4, U.S. security assistance hold was lifted on September 11.
So how do you tackle those today?
HIMES: Well, it's the classic, you know, who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?
I mean, let's just take your first point, that in the transcript there's no evidence that -- that anything was being, you know, held hostage. There was no quid pro quo. I mean, first of all, set aside that the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went on national television and said, of course, there's a quid pro quo; we do it all the time.
If you actually read the transcript, as I suspect most Americans have, what you see is a supplicating Ukrainian president talking about Javelins, how important it is for the aid to come to Ukraine.
And then you can read this like a Hollywood script. The president says, but we want you to do us a favor, comma, though. We want you to do us a favor, though. You know, that might not have been the passing of a contract to be signed with, you know, Javelins for dirt. But the meaning is not in any way mistaken to anybody who reads that transcript fairly.
So again, these -- these counterarguments that the Republicans have offered up are very simply not true. And I think that fact is going to come out in the hearing -- in the hearings to come.
CAMEROTA: You just said that you think that most Americans have read the transcript. Do you think that most Americans at this point have read the transcript of the phone call?
HIMES: Well, since the transcript is only a couple of pages long, since it's pretty darn good reading, and since both the president repeatedly and his opponents have said, Read the transcript, I'm guessing that more Americans have read that so-called transcript -- of course, it's not a transcript; it's a recounting of the call -- than have read the many thousands of pages of transcripts that are out there.
CAMEROTA: Here's where Republican Congressman Mike Conaway thinks that you all will go wrong. Thinks that Democrats will not achieve what you set out to do today. So listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R-TX): The burden of proof, obviously, is on the Dems. They've got a much bigger risk factor tomorrow than they do. Because the president, all of us, are innocent until proven guilty. Our Democrats colleagues have got a big issue or to try to create some aha moment that it's going to be hard to do. And with an American public that's used to one-hour "Law & Order" segments, where it all gets done in one hour. I don't think we'll be getting warmed up in the first hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Do you expect an aha moment today?
HIMES: Well, I think with all due respect, because Mike's a good friend, I think he's wrong. Again, the so-called transcript leaves very little doubt about what was going on. We just talked about that.
It's not just we want you to do us a favor, though. Later on in the document, when he's talking about Ambassador Yovanovitch, who you will hear from on Friday, he tells the Ukrainian president that she's a bad person. His ambassador to Ukraine. And she's going to, quote, "go through some things."
I'll tell you what. If, you know, if somebody says that to you, you -- that is a threat, right? And so that, in combination with the fact that any number of people, who were selected by this president to be in the White House helping him, are the ones who are raising their hands here and to a person saying, yes, this is not right. I've never seen it before; this is a quid pro quo.
The president's own people will be saying that. Not Adam Schiff. Not Nancy Pelosi. Not Jim Himes. The president's own people will be telling a story of abuse of power and rank corruption here. And the American people are going to see that.
CAMEROTA: As you know, Congressman Jim Jordan, who's not normally on the Intelligence Committee, has been put on there, specifically to ask questions during this process. What do you think his role will be? Do you think some of your Republican colleagues will cede their time to him?
HIMES: Well, what you're going to see this morning, I think, is going to be two -- well, first of all, opening statements. That's going to take some time. A significant amount of time, quite possibly in the case of Mr. Taylor, who in the deposition, gave a very lengthy and very powerful opening statement.
But then, I think, you will hear primarily from the counsel, the lawyers for both sides. And then, yes, members will have a chance. I'm not quite sure how the Republicans are going to play this.
But look, Jim Jordan is their favorite attack dog. And I actually am going to be really interested to watch that. Because it's one thing to attack Hillary Clinton, you know, as they did in Benghazi. Go after her, you know, tear her apart. That is pretty satisfying to attack somebody who lives in the political arena. Ambassador Taylor and George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch have spent a
lifetime not being in the political arena, being diplomats, serving their country, serving Republicans and Democrats. And I think there's a huge risk of Jim Jordan, who is -- again, he's got kind of one speed. Take off the coat and start tearing people apart. If he does that to these people, it's going to be a very bad look.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Jim Himes, we really appreciate you taking time on this very busy morning to give us your preview of what you expect. We'll talk to you again soon.
HIMES: Thank you, Alisyn.
BERMAN: And side-by-side with Congressman Himes there, we see pictures from inside this hearing room. This is the House Ways and Means Committee room, 1100 House Longworth Office Building there. Big room. You can feel the weight of the moment there.
And when we come back, we're going to explain what each side will do. We'll lay out the strategies for this questioning, ahead.
BERMAN: Welcome back. This is CNN's special live coverage of the impeachment hearings. A real moment in history. Just the fourth time in the history of this nation we have seen this happen. And this morning, it will be different than most congressional hearings you've all seen. Lawyers will be doing most of the questioning, which likely means more direct and focused questioning. What will they try to get out?
Here to break it all down with us is Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Lay out the procedure this morning. It all begins at 10 a.m.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John. So here we go. The stage is set. The two witnesses we know, Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state.
Now, they'll be testifying simultaneously, sitting next to each other at the table. We will start after the opening statements with 45 minutes of questioning each side. Democrats, then Republicans. That's the testimony we're just talking about will be done by attorneys. I expect that to be really substantive and focused.
But then, we go into the five-minute speed round, where all of the members of the committee will have their five minutes with the witnesses. I expect that to be maybe a little less substantive and focused but also, potentially, more dynamic.
BERMAN: One of the things we just learned from Jim Himes, Jim Himes told Alisyn, by the way, that Bill Taylor's opening statement could be long. I'm not sure we anticipated that. That'll be interesting to see.
When the lawyers -- when Daniel Goldman starts his questioning this morning, what do you think this Democratic attorney will try to get at from these witnesses?
HONIG: So strategy point No. 1 for the Democrats. Quid pro quo, what the Republicans are now calling conditionality. What I think is best termed just as a corrupt deal. They need to drive this home. These witnesses are strong on that.
Bill Taylor testified previously, That was my clear understanding. Security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation. Of course, Bill Taylor said the same thing at the time this was happening.
These are his texts. We will see these texts today. "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
And Kent is similarly strong on this point. He testified that POTUS -- he heard from Sondland, POTUS, president of the United States, wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton. That is point No. 1.
BERMAN: And that is what will be laid out in the first 45 minutes, no doubt. Now, Republicans gave us a preview of what they will go for today. What is that?
HONIG: Yes. So the first thing for Republicans, in their defense, will be this idea that this is all secondhand information. And look, this is an effective and, I think, fair line of cross-examination with these witnesses. I think you'll hear a lot of cross-examination of these two witnesses, You heard that from somebody else. You heard that from another bureaucrat. You never talked to Donald Trump. Donald Trump never told you that.
So watch for that line of cross-examination. And I think the other line of defense we're going to see. This comes from a strategy memo. The Republicans are arguing the Ukrainian government was not aware. They didn't know that security assistance was delayed at the time of that call.
And in fact, what they're going to rely on, and we'll see this. This is a piece of testimony from Bill Taylor himself. They asked him, based on your knowledge, nobody in the Ukrainian government became aware of a hold on military aid until August 29. And he said that's my understanding.
Now, there's other evidence suggesting to the contrary. And really, if you think about it, why would Bill Taylor know exactly what the Ukrainians said?
BERMAN: We will have other witnesses next week who will testify the Ukrainians knew much earlier about this. By the way, when we're talking about Kent and Taylor here, they're also going to make the case that this is serious. These are matters that affect the American national interest.
HONIG: It's such an important point. I think it's the most important job that the Democrats have to do today. Explain to the public why does this really matter? What was the harm that was done? These witnesses are so strong on that.
Taylor testified: "The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of longstanding U.S. policy to stop it, to hold it for no apparent reason that I could see was undercutting longstanding U.S. policy."
That is a really strong statement, and Kent is very strong on this, as well: "I had concerns there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions to the rule of law, both Ukraine and the United States." That's a really strong statement. That's what's going to resonate with the public.
BERMAN: Because they need to make the case this is bad for America, not just the fact pattern here.
All right, Elie. We're going to hear these witnesses today, and it may put some other people in stark relief. Who are you looking at?
HONIG: Yes, John. Any good investigation, any witness will always lead you to questions for more witnesses. So who's in the suit next? Gordon Sondland.
Kent testified he, Gordon, had talked to the president, and POTUS wanted nothing less than Zelensky to go to the microphone and say investigations Biden and Clinton. He'll be testifying, Sondland, next week. Let's watch for that.
John Bolton, Taylor and Kent both say Bolton sort of threw a flag at the time. He said, this is wrong. We need to stop it. We don't do politics here. Bolton has resisted testifying. I think he needs to come forward. Look, he called it out then. Why not call it out now? He's got a book coming out. He's willing to tell all in a book. Tell all to Congress.
And finally, Mick Mulvaney. A lot of fingers pointed at Mick Mulvaney. Taylor said the directive had come from the president to the chief of staff, Mulvaney, to OMB.
Kent also directly talks about Mulvaney's involvement. He also is hiding from a subpoena. If he doesn't come forward and testify, people are going to be asking, maybe for history, Mick Mulvaney, what are you hiding?
BERMAN: We have a week or so to figure out what Democrats want to do with John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. We'll see.
Elie Honig, this was great. HONIG: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Thank you so much for being with us this morning.
HONIG: All right.
CAMEROTA: OK, John. What questions will witnesses face on live TV just a few hours from now? One of the Democrats who will be asking those questions joins us to share that. Next.
BERMAN: We have pictures to show you now from inside the hearing room. This is where the public impeachment inquiry will begin in 90 minutes, or an hour -- two hours and 30 minutes, I should say. Ten o'clock a.m. That is when you will hear the opening statements. Just the fourth time in our nation's history that we have seen a public impeachment inquiry. We will all be watching.
One of the people in the room doing the questioning, Congresswoman Val Demings. She joins us now. She's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Good morning.
BERMAN: I've heard you say you did not run for Congress to impeach a president. Nevertheless, you find yourself in the middle of this historic moment. What will you try to get at today?
DEMINGS: Well, let me say this. I did not run for Congress to impeach a president. Of the list of reasons why I decided to run, believe me, that one was not there.
But you're absolutely right. The times have found us, and I took an oath, like other members of the Congress did, to uphold the Constitution. We will do that today.
We're going to hear from two amazing career foreign service officers today who will step forward and allow the American people to hear what they already know, what they witnessed, what they heard, what they saw. As they saw this month-long campaign to -- this shadow foreign policy campaign that was being orchestrated and executed by Rudy Giuliani that really had absolutely nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy as we know it but had everything to do with trying to get President Trump re-elected.
BERMAN: I've heard Chairman Adam Schiff make the case that when the evidence is laid out, it could point to bribery or extortion. Why would those words be apt here?
DEMINGS: Well, as a former law enforcement officer, I think those words are absolutely appropriate.
When we think about Ukraine, a strategic partner of the United States who's extremely dependent on the United States as they try to defend themselves every day against Russia aggression. When President Zelensky mentioned the word "Javelin," that he's almost ready to purchase new Javelins to defend themselves, President Trump said, "I need you to do me a favor, though." If you do this, then I will give you the aid that has already been approved by Congress.
To me, as I said as a former law enforcement officer, that is clearly extortion. That is clearly a bribery.
BERMAN: The words Republicans use this morning are conditionality. They say that the notes from the phone call don't show conditionality. You believe they're wrong?
DEMINGS: You know, it is sad, but they are wrong. And I'm -- I'm just hoping that before this impeachment inquiry is all over, that the Republicans, my colleagues who I work with every day, many of them I have the utmost respect for, that they will remember the oath of office that they took to uphold, support, and protect and defend the Constitution and not the president.
If you read the readout that was released by the White House, it clearly shows that receiving the military aid was conditioned on investigations into Burisma and into the Biden family. And that is indisputable if you --