Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) Discusses Today's Impeachment Hearings; Former President Jimmy Carter Recovering From Procedure To Relieve Brain Pressure; CNN Reality Check: The Fractured States Of America. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 13, 2019 - 07:30   ET



REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): -- military aid was conditioned on investigations into Burisma and into the Biden family, and that is indisputable if you read the readout.

But also today, you'll get to hear the beginning of testimony that will go through the next week from two Foreign Service professionals who will basically drive that point home.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mike Conaway, who is a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, A Republican, says that the bar is high for the Democrats. He says that you need to have an aha moment and he doubts you will have one.

So, two questions there. Number one, is he right that you need such a thing? Is that even what today is about? And number two, will there or will there not be such a moment?

DEMINGS: Let me say this. We are here today to get to the truth.

We are here today making a very important, very critical decision whether we will write articles of impeachment because the President of the United States abused his power, betrayed his oath of office, jeopardized our national security, and thinks that it's OK for American elections to be decided by persons other than Americans.

As we begin to lay out our case and you hear from Foreign Service officer after Foreign Service officer -- people who have served in Republican and Democratic administrations -- people who have stayed under the radar just serving our country and remembering the oath of office -- you will see a pattern of behavior that occurred over months of the President of the United States execute or orchestrating a plan to basically bribe Ukraine into interfering in our election.

We don't need an aha moment. If you read the readout, I believe that's an aha moment. The best witness that we have is the President of the United States in his own words.

BERMAN: You keep mentioning that the witnesses we will hear from today, on Friday, and, in fact, the eight witnesses that we see -- most of them that we will hear from next week are career government officials. Most of them not political appointees.

Why is that so important? Why do you keep bringing that up?

DEMINGS: Because, you know, as someone in law enforcement -- I spent 27 years in law enforcement. I cannot tell you the political party of the majority of the men and women that I served with. We were just committed to public service -- committed to the mission in front of us. We didn't ask people who needed our service whether they were Republicans or Democrats before we responded.

These career Foreign Service officers are -- I believe fit in the exact same category.

Bill Taylor, who for five decades has served his country -- a decorated veteran -- of Mr. Kent, also the deputy secretary of the State Department, and Ambassador Yovanovitch and others.

They have just quietly gone about doing their job promoting U.S.- foreign policy in the most professional way. And now, they -- the times have found them as well. And I am just proud that they are willing to obey lawful subpoenas and let the American people know exactly what they witnessed.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Val Demings, you said this is not why you ran -- yet, again, you find yourself in the middle of history. We will all be watching it today. Thanks so much for being with us.

DEMINGS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.


Republicans are also shifting their strategy as the public impeachment testimony begins. So, two Republicans join us next to discuss that strategy.

BERMAN: First, former President Jimmy Carter is recovering from this brain procedure. How doctors knew they had to take action. That's next.



CAMEROTA: Former President Jimmy Carter is recovering from a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding from some recent falls. The procedure was done at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital.

And, CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now.

Sanjay, we should remind everybody, is a practicing neurosurgeon. That's his day job at Emory University Hospital when you don't see him on T.V. He is not involved with President Carter's care.

So, Sanjay, explain what's going to happen here and what his recovering might look like.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So this is the first day after the operation for President Carter, so it's still very much the acute phase of recovery.

Let me show you a couple of images, quickly here, to give you an idea of what exactly was done.

We know he had this blood collection on top of his brain. It's called a subdural blood collection -- subdural hematoma. You can see it there in the upper-right corner -- that's what it looks like. This is obviously just a graphic.

What you want to see-- you know, today, they're probably going to do another scan -- is not only that blood collection being gone because that was the operation yesterday to open the skull and remove that blood collection, but you also want to see the brain start to develop that normal shape again -- that normal expansion again. So that's really what they're going to be looking for today.

Let me just show you on this brain model, real quick, here. If the blood collection was over in this area on the left side, this area of the brain where that was sort of compressed is responsible for the other side of the body. So, left side of the brain responsible for the right side of the body.

That's important because someone may develop weakness on the right side of the body. That's going to be part of the recovery now, to make sure that strength on the right side of the body, in particular, is recovering and that he's able to walk on his own and able to do things on his own. That's going to be over the next few days.


If things go well, and it sounds like they have been going well so far, he should be discharged from the hospital before the end of the week and probably get a lot of his therapy at home, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: And what symptoms would he have been having that necessitated this?

GUPTA: It's interesting. It can be challenging to tell sometimes.

You know, in President Carter's case, what we know is that he had this fall back in October. That fall may have started a very slow amount of bleeding on top of the brain that led to that collection of blood that caused the problems.

For a lot of people, they don't have a specific fall that they remember. They maybe had been getting into a car, for example, and hit their head on the roof of the car as they were getting in. They kind of forget about it and a few weeks later they may start to develop symptoms, some of which I'll show you here on the screen.

You know, it can be mild. Mild headache, nausea, vomiting. Other people may notice a change in the person's personality. Memory loss, loss of balance. It's a -- it's a wide variety of symptoms.

But again, it can sometimes be hard to tell. It comes on slowing. It's not suddenly like a stroke, typically, although the symptoms may look like a stroke, ultimately. It comes on more slowly -- Alisyn, John.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, thank you. Thank you very much for explaining all of that.

Those pictures of him look very frightening and horrible but, yet, there he is back at the microphone and working. So it looks worse than it is, I think.

BERMAN: All right.

All week, CNN is taking on the extreme level of polarization in this country. We're calling it "The Fractured States of America." And no conversation about the division within the American people would be complete without discussing the modern American news media.

John Avlon here with a reality check -- John.


Look, America is self-segregating into separate political realities and partisan media is largely to blame. Look, we've always had partisan newspapers in America. It's a fight that goes back to Jefferson and Hamilton. But we've never had anything with this kind of scale and scope, amplifying extreme voices and even reaching into the Oval Office.

So in today's look at "The Fractured States of America," we're turning the camera back on ourselves, the news media.

Now, once upon a time, the government enforced something called the fairness doctrine, which kept partisan opinions balanced by their opposition. This was considered a public good, not just a profit center.

And there were some epic skirmishes like Ed Murrow squaring off against Joe McCarthy with detailed fact-checks and eloquent reminders that we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. But, Murrow versus McCarthy was the exception rather than the rule.

And even as conservatives began to believe there was an implicit liberal bias at the big three networks.

Jump ahead two decades and that's where Roger Ailes comes in. A one- time talk show producer turned Nixon political adviser, who pushed a political strategy called positive polarization. And while Nixon repeated the mantra the press is the enemy, Ailes envisioned the creation of an entirely conservative news network.

The game changer came when the FCC stopped enforcing the fairness doctrine in 1987 and Reagan vetoed bipartisan efforts to put it back. On radio, the impact was rapid. The most popular formats went from music to partisan opinion, becoming big business.

In 1996, Ailes finally got his wish with the launch of Fox News. The idea was simple and not a little sinister. Only explicit bias could balance the implicit bias of the mainstream media but they sold it as fair and balanced.

The launch of MSNBC later that year created a partisan opinion arms race. But sometimes what's good for ratings is bad for the country and polls showed that the rise of partisan media led directly to a decline in trust for virtually all news organizations, even C-SPAN. That means that people watching things like this became unwilling to believe their own eyes and ears.

This decline in trust was compounded by the fragmentation of the media online where more outlets pursued a narrow but intense niche strategy to keep their audience addicted with anger and anxiety. Social media accelerated the trend with bots and trolls who hijack civic debate with disinformation as we saw during the '16 election.

And, President Trump is both a product of partisan media and one of its greatest consumers, denouncing uncomfortable facts as fake news, giving interviews primarily to partisan media, canceling regular press briefings, all while tapping more than a dozen Fox News figures for his own administration.

Even this impeachment inquiry today stems from conspiracy theories that were peddled by partisan media to the president. The trickle- down effect is deep civic distrust with 78 percent of Americans now saying that Democrats and Republicans can't agree on basic facts. That's a potential death sentence for democracy, which depends on being able to reason together.

But even against this den of disinformation and hyperpartisan hate, real journalists will keep insisting on a fact-based debate because as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: And look, today, I think it's particularly important, John. I hope people listen to these witnesses over the next nine days. Listen to what these officials have to say in their testimony and what they saw with their own eyes and then make a judgment.


AVLON: That's exactly right.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it's unfiltered. It's unfiltered today. Today, because of the public hearings, you get to hear it with your own eyes without having to go through the lens of some sort of partisan media and that's the beauty of what's about to happen.

John, thank you very much. All right, so Republicans are about to get their stated wish, transparency. So what is their strategy now that impeachment hearings will be televised? Two Republicans share their ideas, next.



CAMEROTA: In just about two hours, the historic public impeachment hearings begin. Republicans are signaling that after weeks of attacking the process they will shift to a defense of President Trump based on the transcript of the July 25th phone call.

Joining us now, we have Rick Santorum, former Republican senator and CNN senior political commentator. And, Charlie Dent, former Republican congressman and CNN political commentator.

Great to have both of you. You both know well how this works and you can help us understand what to expect.

So, Rick, from your perspective, what do Republicans need to come out of the gate with that will make them successful today.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: Well, I think they obviously have to poke holes in the story. I mean, that's part of what the opposition does, which is let's have this story hold up under questioning and scrutiny. And what I've been told by folks at the White House for several weeks now is that a lot of this testimony just doesn't stand up under questioning, so let's see how it stands up.

CAMEROTA: But I'm just curious -- like -- I'm interested in that. Meaning what? Where does it fall apart?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, obviously, a big part of it -- a big part of what Republicans have been saying is that there's really no firsthand knowledge here. That this is someone who has a right to their opinion about what's going on there but it was certainly not directed to do those things. And they may surmise from all the evidence that they're looking at that this is a perspective.

But again, if you -- if you ask the right questions you can also say well, isn't it fair that it could be this way, too? And I think once you get someone saying well, yes, I can understand this is how I looked at it. Could someone else look at it differently, yes?

But once that's said, all of the sudden -- well, wait a minute. This is -- this is a little different than hey, we got the smoking gun. And I just -- I think that's one area that they're going to go into.

And look, I think the other area -- I don't know whether they'll go down this trail or not, but I think the Democrats picked the wrong issue here. I mean, if there's one area where the president has almost unfettered authority, it's in the area of foreign policy.

The president can pretty much do whatever he wants to do. There's no really constitutional limitation on him. And so, the idea that the president can't negotiate with a foreign country about a variety of different things --


SANTORUM: -- and horse trade, the presidents do that every single day.

CAMEROTA: I mean --

SANTORUM: And I think that to normalize that --

CAMEROTA: -- it depends on if you see this as policy or politics, you know? I mean, there's a whole argument that you don't ask a foreign government --

SANTORUM: Well, but everything has -- the idea -- well --

CAMEROTA: -- to go after your political rival.

SANTORUM: The idea, Alisyn, that foreign policy has nothing to do with politics is absurd. I mean, it's -- everything has political consequences back home.

So, the question is can you normalize what this -- the go -- you know, they use -- that's why they love to use the term quid pro quo because it sounds somehow -- because you use the Latin somehow there's something wrong.

Well, what -- quid pro quo means this for that, which means negotiation. So the president was negotiating. That's --


SANTORUM: -- certainly within his power to do.


Charlie, what do you think of those arguments that Sen. Santorum has laid out?


First, on the firsthand versus secondhand information. Well, it would be really nice to hear from the people who have firsthand information. That would be people like hey, John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney.

And, Mick Mulvaney -- when he had that -- when he put the -- he pulled the pin out of the grenade, put it in his mouth, and walked out to the press briefing room and said oh yes, there was a quid pro quo.

And, Bolton called this whole thing a drug deal.

So I think that the -- we should hear from the people with firsthand knowledge. And presumably, the people we're going to hear from today, Taylor and the other witness, are going to --

BERMAN: George Kent.


DENT: -- and Kent -- they were talking to people who had direct conversations with the president.

The other issue, too -- yes, of course, foreign assistance is often condition-based. But as a president or any federal-elected official, you cannot use your office for a campaign purpose.

And I can make a strong case if you're asking a foreign head of government -- you're soliciting a foreign head of government to investigate your opponent, that's a political benefit to you. You said (ph) we can't get anything of value.

CAMEROTA: But, Charlie, Rick -- you just heard what Rick said. Rick says it happens all the time.

DENT: That's an --

CAMEROTA: Don't be naive.

DENT: Well, Rick is right but --

SANTORUM: Well, I think that's not completely naive.

DENT: What Rick is right about is -- what Rick is right about is that foreign assistance is condition-based, but it's usually -- there's usually never a condition of investigating one's political opponent. That's what this is different.

SANTORUM: It's investigating -- it's investigating corruption. And look, this is not -- this is not --

CAMEROTA: Well, but only corruption based on the Bidens and Clinton. So that -- it was a very select view of corruption, Senator Santorum. Wouldn't you agree?

SANTORUM: Of course, it is. I mean, look -- yes, of course, it's a select view but -- and the president has -- but the president has every right to ask for an investigation of corruption that may have -- that may have an impact on this country.

And so, look --

CAMEROTA: But not on your political rivals. I mean, you don't seem to making --

SANTORUM: Why not?

CAMEROTA: -- a distinction because we don't ask for foreign help --

SANTORUM: I mean, listen -- I mean, this is absurd.

CAMEROTA: -- in the U.S. elections.

SANTORUM: If a -- if a member of Congress -- what the president -- by the way, what the president asked for as the favor had nothing to do with Joe Biden. It had to do with investigating the --

DENT: Rick --

SANTORUM: -- the 2016 election.

CAMEROTA: And, Hunter Biden.

DENT: Rick, if a member of the -- if a member of the House and the Senate --

SANTORUM: No, that was a different conversation.


DENT: If a member of the House --

SANTORUM: It was later in the conversation.

CAMEROTA: I have the transcript somewhere right here.

SANTORUM: I read -- I've read it. I've read it a million times.

There were two -- when the president asked for a favor, the only favor he asked for during the time that he spoke before Zelensky responded was on the 2016. It was after Zelensky responded and brought up Giuliani and the issue that the president talked about it.

CAMEROTA: OK, but on the same phone call.

SANTORUM: He did not specifically ask for the favor.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Charlie.

DENT: If a -- if a member --

SANTORUM: The same phone call but it's not the same request.

DENT: Look, if a member of Congress had asked a foreign -- or a foreign government leader to investigate his or her political opponent and it were publicly revealed, that member would be investigated not only by the House Ethics Committee, but I'm sure the Department of Justice would be crawling up their backside investigating this thing, without doubt.

I mean, you know, I was chair of the Ethics Committee. I used to see this -- I used to be aware of situations like this. This -- it's just simply wrong to use your office in this way.

And I did appropriations. I was on Foreign Service -- the foreign assistance stuff and I know how we would withhold aid. We would withhold aid to countries that were not meeting certain benchmarks. There was a process and it was all very transparent and there was no political benefit to me or the other members of the committee.

That's what's different here. There was an immediate political benefit to the president.

And the FEC rules are very clear that you cannot use your office. You cannot take anything of value from a foreign entity. I mean, that's a full-stop --

SANTORUM: Let's just be honest that the Supreme Court's held that information and things like that are not considered a benefit. So, look, there's no criminal case here.

The president has the right to ask for this. Should he have done it is a different question and that's a political question. But --

CAMEROTA: And what's the answer to that? And what's the answer to that?

SANTORUM: Look, I would -- I would not have done it. No, I would not have used a conversation -- no matter how it was brought up, I wouldn't have used a conversation to do so. But to ask for it is not -- is not illegal and it's certainly something with -- that the president could do.

I understand he's getting heat for it.

CAMEROTA: I mean --

SANTORUM: He has the right to get heat but he shouldn't be impeached.

CAMEROTA: That's your interpretation, obviously. That's what all of these hearings are about.

SANTORUM: What it comes down to.

CAMEROTA: What we're going to find out.

Charlie, if the Republicans do go after the reputation or character of Bill Taylor or George Kent, will that be effective? Do you think they'll do that today?

DENT: Well, that would be the worst thing to do. I mean, go after Bill Taylor?

I mean, decade's worth of service and Vietnam, West Point, ambassador to Ukraine. I mean, this guy has a distinguished resume and apparently, a very good notetaker. I think it would be -- I think this is almost unimpeachable as a witness.

Now they can argue that well, he never spoke to the president, therefore why should we take everything he says as serious as we are. OK, they can make that case. But good luck trying to impeach the integrity of these career people who -- you know, who have distinguished service records. It would be a terrible mistake.

I mean, Republicans should simply acknowledge -- I think as Rick was getting to, they should acknowledge that this conduct was at the very least inappropriate -- at the very least -- and that -- and that -- but maybe this does not rise to the level of impeachment. I think they're just better off acknowledging the wrongdoing and then -- and then arguing against impeachment.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that they'll do that, Rick? Do you think that they will --

SANTORUM: Well, I don't think -- I don't --

CAMEROTA: -- somehow go after the character of the witnesses?

SANTORUM: No, I -- well, I hope they don't because I think it would be a bad strategy given the -- I don't know all of the background of everybody that's testifying but certainly, Taylor and ones who have -- who have -- who've been questioned outside of the Halls of Congress and actually, sometimes in the Halls of Congress -- that's a bad strategy.

You go after -- the way you -- you say look, this is your interpretation but --


SANTORUM: -- there's a -- there's another equally valid interpretation here of what was going on based on the -- on the facts that they knew, and I think that's where you go after it.

CAMEROTA: Charlie, they -- we have the four points in this 18-page Republican memo that was circulated about how they do plan to pivot away from process now that the process is being transparent, which is what they've called for, and to go after the call.

One of the things is that President Zelensky and Trump both said there was no pressure on the call. Do you want to comment on that? I find that one to be amusing. I'm not sure that Zelensky, who needs millions of dollars from the U.S., would ever say something different than that.

DENT: Well, clearly, President Trump pressed Zelensky. When Zelensky raised the issue of needing the javelins -- the anti-tank weapons and then the president immediately turns back and says that -- but I need a favor, though. Look, they -- there was pressure here.

The Ukrainians are not stupid people. They knew what they needed. They needed those anti-tank weapons desperately and they were under incredible pressure to investigate the Bidens and Burisma. I mean, that was -- that's a fact.

And so, I think it's a mistake -- it's a mistake to suggest that there was no pressure applied. There was a lot of pressure applied here and everybody knows it.

CAMEROTA: All right.

SANTORUM: The fact is they got more aid than ever before and the Trump administration has been very, very supportive of Ukraine in this defense against Russia.

CAMEROTA: After the whistleblower came forward.

SANTORUM: Even before -- before.

CAMEROTA: After the whistleblower came forward.

SANTORUM: Even before.

CAMEROTA: The aid was on hold, Rick.

SANTORUM: That aid, but there was other aid before. They have been very, very supportive of Ukraine and their -- and their battle with Russia.

CAMEROTA: All right. Rick Santorum, Charlie Dent, thank you both for giving us a preview of how interesting the hearings will be this morning.