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Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) is Interviewed about Impeachment Hearings; Next Historic Steps in Impeachment Process; Witnesses Tie Trump to Ukraine Pressure in Impeachment Hearings. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 14, 2019 - 07:00   ET



BILL TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT TO UKRAINE: A member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing about that. First time I've heard it.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): The president's defense is that this was a perfect call, and I don't hear any Republican on the committee saying this is a perfect call.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I understand the facts and the facts are squarely, strongly on the president's side. And I think, again, the American people see that.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's the sunrise. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY, CNN's coverage of the impeachment hearings.

And there was a surprise revelation in the very first minutes of public testimony that might show this direct link between the president himself and this coordinated effort to get a foreign country to investigate his political rivals.

By that, I mean directly beyond the rough notes from the phone call where the president himself pressured the Ukrainian leader. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified about another phone call. This one was made just the day after the president asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate the Bidens. Listen to what Ambassador Taylor said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TAYLOR: In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden which Giuliani was pressing for.

BERMAN: All right. No one knew about this testimony until Bill Taylor arrived yesterday. President Trump was asked about this newly- revealed call yesterday. This is what he said.


TRUMP: I know nothing about that. First time I've heard it.


BERMAN: So the aide who allegedly heard this phone call, David Holmes, he will testify behind closed-doors tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: And fair to say that Gordon Sondland will undoubtedly be asked about that call. He is one of four witnesses scheduled to testify next week who have first-hand knowledge of President Trump's involvement in the Ukraine controversy.

Republicans were critical yesterday of the second-hand information that they claim was provided by Taylor and Kent.

Former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will testify tomorrow about the alleged smear campaign against her, allegedly engineered by Rudy Giuliani. So we have a lot to talk about.

Let's bring in Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She was in the hearing room during the historic proceedings yesterday.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here. Not only were you in the room yesterday, you also sit on two of the committees that are key in investigating all of this Ukraine controversy.

So tell me what did you think when you heard the revelation from Bill Taylor about this previously undisclosed phone call?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, first of all, I think it's shocking on so many levels. It's shocking that -- that the ambassador could pick up the phone and call the president in a restaurant. You remember, the president said that he didn't even know the ambassador. It's shocking he could be overheard.

And so, my Republican colleagues complained that there's no first-hand knowledge. It's all hearsay. It's all second-hand. Well, that's pretty first-hand. And so we will hear directly from the gentleman, as well as Ambassador Sondland next week. And so it will be interesting to see how they move the ball further when we do hear from two people with first-hand knowledge.

CAMEROTA: And so in the room when that was disclosed, just give me the vibe. Were you stunned? I mean, what happened inside the room there?

BASS: Well, I absolutely was stunned. And I was stunned, because I was in the SCIF when the ambassador testified the first time. And I thought that his testimony the first time was shocking, but to hear this added in, absolutely. I'm very glad that he did.

I think the two gentlemen are absolute patriots and we need to thank them. I was ashamed of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle with how they treated them, how they regarded them.

CAMEROTA: What part? What part did you find shameful?

BASS: Well, you know, the way they have ridiculed. The way they have tried to minimize the hearings, you know, the ranking member, his opening statement. They don't have anything to say on the substance, and so they attack the process.

You remember they were upset we were having closed-door depositions. The transcripts weren't released. OK, so we've done all of that, and they don't really have anything to say to challenge the substance so they keep attacking the process. They look rather desperate.

CAMEROTA: I suppose. I think they've moved on beyond -- what I hear is that they're now saying this is hearsay. This is not first-hand.

BASS: Right.

CAMEROTA: So they say that both of the witnesses yesterday only had hearsay. It was their opinion, they basically kept saying. So they also say -- many of them say that there's nothing -- there's nothing wrong with a president applying pressure to a foreign president. That that happens all the time, you hear them say.


BASS: Well, I do not believe that the United States is corrupt like that. And I also think that you heard from the ambassador that that is completely out of the ordinary.

Of course, we put pressure on countries. Of course, we attacked issues like corruption. But that is clearly not what the president was doing. The president was trying to pressure another country for his own personal political gain.

And to me, what is so startling about this is that, when we were going over the Mueller report, the Mueller report is talking about the past.

What is happening in this instance is the president attempting to impact the current election process. And there is absolutely, positively nothing normal about that.

And also, the fact that this is an ally that we withheld military assistance from while they were under attack. You heard the ambassador -- Ambassador Taylor talk about how he's in Ukraine. He was there recently. He talked about people who have been killed.

And so the idea that we would withhold military assistance and try to force a president to go out publicly and say he's going to investigate the opponents of Trump is really just shameful.

And this happens on the world stage. So the whole world is looking at us. And I think it's a very important moment in our history. I was honored to be there, but I do look forward to this process being over.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, there were many questions raised about the disclosure of this phone call yesterday. And some possibly problematic for Democrats. If it happened on July 26 and Bill Taylor's staffer heard it on July 26, why did Bill Taylor only learn of it on Friday, as he says in his opening statement?

BASS: Well, that, I have no idea. And perhaps we'll learn when the gentleman comes before the committee in the closed-door session in the next couple of days and also from Sondland.

So I don't know why he just learned about it. He seemed to be surprised, as well, remember.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, and again, that does beg a question. Did the staffer not think it was important? Had the staffer forgotten about it? Was the -- I mean, you know, obviously, you need to know more about this.

BASS: Right. And who knows? And considering that the administration has been trying to do everything they could to cover up the details, you know, there are complaints that this is no, you know, first-hand knowledge.

Both the ambassador and the other gentleman that spoke said that they have detailed notes. But the State Department is holding onto them and will not allow them to release them.


BASS: So when there is an opportunity for first-hand information, my Republican colleagues and the administration don't want to see it come forward.

CAMEROTA: But to be clear, you and/or your committee will get a chance to question that staffer tomorrow.

BASS: Yes. Yes, we will. We will. But we're still waiting to see if we're going to get the notes from the ambassador and the other information that the State Department and the administration is holding onto.

There's also the other witnesses that have first-hand knowledge that the administration won't allow to come forward. So on the one hand, don't say that this is just hearsay when the administration that you guys are so adamantly defending will not allow more first-hand information to come forward.

CAMEROTA: So congresswoman, I know that you were one of the more reluctant Democrats --

BASS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- in terms of impeachment. You certainly weren't pressing for it to begin with.

BASS: Right.

CAMEROTA: So where are you today and what do you think changed yesterday, if anything?

BASS: Well, not so much yesterday. What changed for me, fundamentally, was the whistle-blower coming forward. And like I mentioned before, it's one thing to talk about what happened in the past, and believe me, I don't dismiss that.

I think the Mueller report giving ten examples of obstruction of justice was very, very serious. But the fact of the matter is, is that what was going on this summer is impacting the current election and also one of our allies.

So not only did it -- well, was there the potential to interfere in the election in 2020 but also our international standing and compromising an ally. Those are very, very different things.

CAMEROTA: But quickly, do you think something changed yesterday in terms of the understanding of what happened?

BASS: I do. I mean, I think the hearing about that phone call and then, you know, hopefully the public hearing from these two American heroes coming forward and saying that they have put in decades of public service. And that never in their career that they ever experienced anything like this.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Karen Bass, we look forward to hearing what you all learn tomorrow. Thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

BASS: Thank you.

BERMAN: That big revelation, that new phone call we just learned about yesterday, that members of Congress just learned about yesterday morning. It's just one part of this fast-moving impeachment picture. We're going to break down what you can expect to see going forward. Next.



CAMEROTA: This week marks the start of the historic public impeachment hearings. These are, of course, public events that Americans can watch in real time. So what will happen next?

Joining us now, we have Elie Honig. He's a former federal prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst and Magic Wall driver extraordinaire.

Elie, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: OK. More witnesses are coming up.


CAMEROTA: Who are we expecting?

HONIG: So good news. If you found yesterday's hearing as riveting as I did, plenty more to come, starting tomorrow with Marie Yovanovitch. Now, Marie Yovanovitch was the former diplomat to Ukraine, who was unceremoniously bounced, because she was seen as a road block to Rudy Giuliani's agenda.

She testified previously about this scene where she's learning that she's in trouble, and she was told, "This is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come home on the next plane." It's like a Tom Clancy novel.

Next week, we have a full slate of witnesses, including Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who will talk about his understanding of this corrupt exchange. Quid pro quo, if you will.

He has testified before. This was about getting a White House meeting. It was a demand for him to fulfill this particular prerequisite in order to get the meeting.

Also next week, we'll hear from Gordon Sondland. Stakes are up now with this new conversation that he had in the restaurant with Donald Trump. Sondland has testified about how this whole thing was sort of a continuum. It kept getting more insidious as the time line went on.

And finally, Kurt Volker. And it's interesting, because yesterday the Republicans embraced him as their star witness. But they need to keep in mind, he sent this text to Andriy Yermak, who's a top advisor to Ukraine, really pretty clearly setting forth a quid pro quo. "Assuming that President Zelensky convinces Trump he will investigate -- we will nail down date for visit to Washington. "

So if that's the star witness, they may be getting into a little bit of trouble.

CAMEROTA: I mean, that really spells it out right there.


CAMEROTA: And in terms of the schedule --


CAMEROTA: -- and next steps, I mean, is next week the end?

HONIG: No. It looks like -- that could be the end of the live witnesses. But there will be further proceedings in the House of Representatives.

Of course, the Constitution gives the House the sole power of impeachment. Last month, Adam Schiff's committee passed this resolution which sets forth what's going to happen after the hearings. After the hearings, the Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, will put together a public report of his findings and recommendations. I think it will be like the Mueller report. Hopefully shorter.

And then that report goes over to Judiciary Committee, which is headed by Jerry Nadler. They will then recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. And the full House will vote at that point. I think the expectation is this should happen before Christmas.

Now, of course in the House of Representatives, a majority vote. Simple majority is required in order to impeachment. Our current breakdown in the House, we have a Democratic majority: 233 of the current seats are Democrat. So they have a handful of Democrats who they can actually lose and still impeach.

CAMEROTA: OK. What happens then in the Senate?

HONIG: Then we go to the Senate if there is an impeachment. The Senate will hold a trial. That is a mind-boggling possibility to me, the idea of having an actual trial in the Senate. We had one in 1999 for Bill Clinton.

One of the features of a Senate trial, unique features constitutionally, is the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides. Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided over the Clinton trial. And Chief Justice John Roberts, not ordinarily a public figure, will come down with his robe and preside over the Senate trial.

Who prosecutes the case? The House gets to appoint a team of managers who essentially serve as prosecutors. I think you'll see Adam Schiff and others on it. The president can choose whatever lawyers he wants.

This is not a criminal trial. Let's remember that. And of course, Republicans control the Senate. So they will set the procedural ground rules.

CAMEROTA: And do they have to have a trial? Is there any way for Mitch McConnell to just shut down the process and not have a trial?

HONIG: There is an argument that, because the Constitution gives the Senate full power to try impeachments, McConnell could say, OK, I'm exercising that power not to.

That said, McConnell has said he feels like he has no choice. And I think politically, it would be really tough for him to shut it down.

Interesting feature. The senators serve as jurors. Some of them have said already where they intent to vote. Others have said, I'm a juror, I need to see all the facts. That, of course, the -- in the Senate, you need two-thirds of the senators, 67 votes, in order to convict.

Right now, the Republicans hold the majority with 53. So we would need to see 20 Republican senators flip over to vote for a conviction in order for the president to be convicted.

And if he is convicted, he would be removed from office and disqualified. People ask sometimes, can he be convicted at the Senate and then run again in 2020? The answer under the Constitution is no, because he's disqualified from future office, as well.

CAMEROTA: Elie, fascinating. Thank you for all the information. That was really helpful.

HONIG: All right.


BERMAN: All right. So there's this previously undisclosed phone call between ambassador Gordon Sondland and the president of the United States that is now a major factor in the impeachment hearings going forward. What that means, what the big takeaways were from these first days of public hearings and what's next. Stay with us.



BERMAN: So this is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment hearings, and there was this major revelation on day one.

CAMEROTA: Just when you think there can't be any more surprises, because we've already seen the written testimony. And so we were not prepared for any surprises. Then there was one.

BERMAN: Republicans said there weren't going to be any a-ha moments. There was. There was this call that we did not know about. William Taylor testified that he had an aide who overheard a phone call between President Trump and the ambassador of the European Union. Listen.


TAYLOR: Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Mr. Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.


BERMAN: Now this aide, David Holmes, who overheard the phone call, allegedly, will testify behind closed doors tomorrow. He overheard the call in a packed restaurant in Kiev, which is interesting in and of itself. Joining us now Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press

secretary and a CNN political commentator; Bianna Golodryga, CNN senior global affairs analyst; and Anne Milgram, former New Jersey attorney general and a CNN legal analyst.

We've been talking about that phone call and that new piece of information. I want to step back and talk about the day as a whole, Anne. And there was a moment that I think summed up the testimony from William Taylor and George Kent, these career diplomats with decades of service to the United States of America, and how they felt about what they saw. So listen to this.



DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: In your decades of military service and diplomatic service representing the United States around the world, have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the president of the United States?

TAYLOR: No, Mr. Goldman, I have not.


BERMAN: So where are we this morning?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, that is a terrific summary of what we saw yesterday. In my view, both Taylor and Kent did an extraordinary job. They came in. They were forthright. They answered all the questions. And they made a really powerful case that the president had done exactly this, had basically conditioned foreign aid and a White House meeting on his own political and personal advantage.

So to me, yesterday was a home run for getting across the evidence.

The other piece is that they talked about, in a way that I thought was -- excuse me -- really powerful, this phone call, this connection to the president. And the idea of the investigation of the Bidens being the overriding driving force.

And to me, you know, they seemed truthful, because they were truthful. And so I think they now set the stage for the rest of the investigation. There are a lot more witnesses to come, but they have literally framed this as the president's abuse of power. And in my view, they were not impeached at all yesterday. So that's where, I think, we sit, at least today.

CAMEROTA: Joe, you've lived through an impeachment before. So I'm told. I was too young. But -- what's so funny, John?


CAMEROTA: What's so funny about that? So give us the big picture. What did you see happen yesterday?

LOCKHART: I agree with everything that Anne said. And if this was a criminal trial and you had a -- you had 12 jurors who were carefully selected, it was a slam dunk. And you know, I don't know that you would need the rest, but they would go and just pile up.

It's not a criminal trial. It's a political trial. And the real jury here is of -- is the group of people who Donald Trump thinks he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and they'd say the guy or the girl deserved it.

So while they made a compelling case that Donald Trump abused power, extorted the Ukraine government, I don't know that this alone will push the MAGA people enough.

I think we have at least two more weeks. Eight or nine more witnesses. So something can come. We have a new witness that brings it.

But I think without Mr. Bolton, or without Mr. Mulvaney coming in, it's very hard to see that group moving.

I do still think the House will impeach him. They believe strongly in their case. They're making that case. The politics in the Senate right now still, among Republicans, favors the president. You know, we have to see more to see that dynamic change.

BERMAN: Just one dispute there. I don't think, necessarily, the important audience here is the hard-core Donald Trump supporters. It's probably the Republicans who don't necessarily love him but tend to vote with him or support him loosely. It's people like Will Hurd who was in the committee. Elise Stefanik, who's in that committee. And both of them yesterday indicated they will stay loyal to the president. So I think they perhaps are the more important audience there.

LOCKHART: Yes. Well, yes, but I think the bulk, and if you look at the dynamic of any senator who's up, it's that 20 or 30 percent that if you cross -- it's a cult. You cross the leader of the cult, they'll turn against you.

So I think there is a soft part of the Republican Party, and we've already seen it move, where the ABC poll had Republican support of the president at 74. It used to be at 90. So you're -- This is having an impact.

But to get the votes in the Senate, you're going to have to take that base and really peel off some of it. And we're going to have to see more to see that happen.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: What I thought was reassuring was you had two people who are not political. When they spoke, you saw no politics, right? You saw professionals who were highly skilled in their area of expertise.

CAMEROTA: In fact, Bill Taylor said that he preferred President Trump's policy on Ukraine.


CAMEROTA: And giving the defense weapons over Obama.

GOLODRYGA: Right. Right. And they've worked with both Democratic and Republican administrations.

And for Americans, they should be proud that we have diplomats like this serving our country abroad. And not only Ukraine. Right? Imagine all the other countries where there are unknown diplomats that are doing the same kind of hard work that these two are.

And my takeaway, especially when you hear their opening testimonies, because there's a big difference between reading it and hearing them. And they carried it with the gravitas that maybe we didn't see in the Mueller hearings.

But what we heard from them was dedication to this mission, right? And we heard expertise as to why the U.S. should care about U.S./Ukraine foreign policy; why it was so important for Russians to know that we were supporting this turn towards western civilization, western democracy for Ukraine; why it was so important for Russia to know that we were on Ukraine's side.