Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) is Interviewed About Ousted U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch's Testimony Today; White House Releases Transcript of First Call with Ukraine President Which Has No Mention of Fighting Corruption; Republicans Dodge Questions On Giuliani And Smear Campaign Against Ousted U.S. Ambassador; Yovanovitch: No Explanation Given For Why I Was Removed; More Public Testimony Set For Next Week In Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 15, 2019 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): It would be interesting whether or not cell phone records would be something he would be willing to offer as evidence of that.

[16:30:03]

That's just a thought that we ought to consider.

These facts are going to come out. And I'll tell you -- I think you made this point earlier, Jake -- Mr. Sondland ought to take a bit of a lesson from what happened to Roger Stone. The truth ultimately is going to come out and those who deny the truth or bend the truth or try to avoid the truth could end up taking the same path that Roger Stone is taking.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I was just trying to offer some friendly advice given stone had been convicted today on seven charges, one of which is obstructing a congressional investigation.

KILDEE: It's a very good point, and I think it's a good lesson for anyone.

Roger Stone is one who's also believed he can say and do anything. The president of the United States sort of falls into that same category, so maybe the president ought to take heed of what Roger Stone is going through as well.

TAPPER: Congressman Dan Kildee, thank you so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it. Have a great weekend.

KILDEE: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: President Trump released the transcripts, or the rough transcript rather of his first call with the Ukrainian president. But there's something missing in the rough transcript that was brought up in their now famous July conversation. We'll bring that to you, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- certain very talented people wanted to ask questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:31]

TAPPER: We're back with more breaking news.

In the politics lead, President Trump unloading today on the impeachment inquiry, as his want, attacking the witnesses and insisting he's done nothing wrong. In an attempt to bolster that argument, earlier today, the White House released the rough transcript of the president's first call with leader of Ukraine. The second call is the one that has gotten all the attention. This is the first call.

But as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, there's no mention of corruption in that conversation, which undermines the White House's key defense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Committee will come to order.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Marie Yovanovitch' hearing was gaveled in today, the White House released the long-promised transcript of President Trump's first call with the leader of Ukraine, which the ranking Republican Nunes then read live on television.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): When you're settled in and ready, I'd like to invite you to the White House. We'll have a lot of things to talk about.

COLLINS: The transcript immediately raising questions because it made no mention of corruption. That contradicts a readout published by the White House months ago which claims the two leaders discussed ways to root out corruption during their first call.

The White House has insisted fighting corruption was the primary reason Trump held up the military aide to Ukraine and officials didn't explain the discrepancy when CNN asked for comment.

Today, the press secretary said Trump would only watch Nunes' opening statement, but for the rest of the day, he will be working hard for the American people.

Though Trump later admitted he had been paying close attention.

TRUMP: I've been watching today. For the first time, I started watching.

COLLINS: Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch turned bad, Trump tweeted an hour into the hearing. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?

Then fast forward to Ukraine with a new Ukrainian president spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. president's absolute right to appoint ambassadors. They call it serving at the pleasure of president.

In a surreal moment, Adam Schiff read the tweet live on television.

SCHIFF: Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter and I'd like to give you a chance to respond.

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I can't speak to what the president is trying to do but I think the effect is to be intimidating.

COLLINS: After facing criticism even from Republicans for his tweet, Trump said it wasn't witness tampering and insisted he had the right to speak up.

TRUMP: I don't think so at all. I'll tell you about what tampering is, tampering is when a guy like Shifty Schiff doesn't let us have lawyers, tampering is when Schiff doesn't let us have witnesses.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, the White House just got back to us on the discrepancy between that call readout and the call transcript that we got today. They say it's standard operating procedure for the National Security Council to handle the readouts of those call, which we knew. They say that this one was handled by the NSC's top Ukraine expert who is Alex Vindman, the lieutenant colonel who testified behind closed doors about his concern over the president's second call with the Ukrainian leader and who we should note is scheduled to testify publicly on Tuesday.

TAPPER: That's fascinating b they said the individual name who wrote the readout. Thanks so much, Kaitlan Collins.

Chairman Rogers, so the White House publicly says in a readout of the first call that corruption was one of the things they talked about. They used this as evidence for the last several weeks to talk about how this is something President Trump cares about.

The rough transcript comes out, there's no mention of corruption. There is a mention of Ukraine and their contributions to the Miss Universe pageant, but nothing about -- nothing about corruption and now they're saying it was Lieutenant Colonel Vindman who wrote the readout.

Break this all down for us. What do you think?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure I could break it all down. You know, it's one of those oops kind of moments. So I think next week is going to be a rough week if Vindman comes up and corroborates that this is the exact verbiage of the phone call. You know, once again, the president's finding himself in hot water and the more he talks about it, engages about it, the more he tweets about, the closer to peril he becomes. And so again, my only advice to the White House was -- would be find something for him to do for a while.

TAPPER: Yes.

ROGERS: He is just not helping himself and the only time he's not shooting himself in the foot is when he's reloading the gun and he's just made an art of really screwing up any messaging for the Republicans to put together some notion that maybe he shouldn't be impeached. Maybe it was bad. Maybe it was inappropriate.

[16:40:02]

And I think all of those things. Their job should have been, is -- does it rise to the level of impeachment?

It's hard to do that when the president is providing ammunition for his adversaries.

TAPPER: And, Michael, you brought up something interesting and maybe this fits into it, which is a lot of questions here you think are based on Congress trying to establish a record of what the president's state of mind has been. And if the state of mind is not talking about corruption in that first phone call, the state of mind of the White House and the president the to lie about the contents of that first phone call.

Explain how this all fits in.

MICHAEL GERHARDT, UNC LAW PROFESSOR: So, for an impeachable offense, I think you need two things. One is the bad act, the other is bad faith, acting in bad faith.

So, the bad act can be -- is in the transcript of that second call. Now we see the Democrats trying to build a case, not just about the call, but about deviations from the normal procedures, that was ordered by the president, deviations from the truth which occur not just in this tweet, but other places.

The tweet itself is not fact-based. It was basically a lie about this great ambassador's background. She's been -- it's beyond reproach.

And then what we also hear from the president is suggesting about that first call about corruption. Now we learn it wasn't about corruption. Those deviations are hurting the president because they're showing exactly in bad faith with respect to the bad act that he's committed and that was to ask this country's leader to help him with his re- election.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: There is no evidence that he is ever concerned with any corruption. And part of that was evidenced today by this woman who was essentially fired while she was celebrating the life of someone who was interested in rooting out corruption and killed in Ukraine. And so, the question is, if he's so interested in corruption, why would you fire this woman who is a champion of anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine? Got awards, spent 30 years in the service of this country and most recently in Ukraine.

So, it was -- it's sort of a mixed message coming from the White House. They're interested in corruption, but yet the lady who's on the front lines doing that in Ukraine, they pull her back.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's the core question I think coming out of today. I mean, with all these hours we just watched of testimony, the core question is exactly what you said. Why did you fire her? This woman was said to be a champion of anticorruption by Democrats, Republicans, the foreign policy establishment. Why was she fired if your focus was on corruption and you didn't bring it up in either of the phone calls?

So it goes to the root of this question of what his intention was. Why Giuliani was involved. Why Sondland got the job. I mean, I think that was one of the most compelling pieces.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She showed no indication at all that she was against the president's foreign policy regarding Ukraine. In fact, she praised it. She was --

TAPPER: The lethal aid that Trump provided that Obama did not.

BORGER: Right. And she was talking about the importance of the javelins, right?

TAPPER: Javelin missiles, yes.

BORGER: Exactly. So this is not someone, and she was asked directly, are you a Never Trumper? She said, no, I'm not a Never Trumper.

PSAKI: And she expressed concerns about Hunter Biden.

BORGER: Exactly.

PSAKI: These things the White House also pushed, giving her greater credibility in many ways.

TAPPER: I think they don't understand they're doing that sometimes, when they talk about George Kent and Yovanovitch expressing concerns about Hunter Biden being on that board, which most of us would readily admit, it looks horrible and stinks, and probably there should be a law against relatives of politicians doing that.

PSAKI: And further establishes them as not being political -- political of either party. They're not affiliated with other party. They're going to call balls and strikes of who did what, right and wrong. They're for the United States.

TAPPER: So, let me just ask another question, Congressman Rogers, which is, we're all trying to get to the bottom of what happened. We still have a lot of unanswered questions. We're trying to figure out what happened.

As somebody who ran a bipartisan House Intelligence Committee when you were in Congress, are you hearing any Republicans, any people from your party trying to get to the bottom of what happened when you listen to this testimony. Are there individuals that you think, those are good questions that he's trying to get to the bottom of it all?

ROGERS: I did hear some questions and --

TAPPER: From Republicans?

ROGERS: From Republicans, and I think it's OK to question this notion that gosh, this happened before when there was some question about ethics.

TAPPER: Yes.

ROGERS: Having the vice president's son sit on this board, a company we knew to be corrupt.

TAPPER: Sure.

ROGERS: We knew to have other problems including tied to the Russia, all those problems, right? So that would be OK if they could draw it out to say, listen, what we're trying -- this was a political event to impeach the president. They wanted to do that.

They tried -- every once in a while, they try to do that, saying corruption is bad. President was saying this is corrupt, too, and maybe we should do something about this. And does that rise to the level of impeachment?

But the problem is what I find with the Republicans and where they're at, the president isn't helping them at all, number one. And number two, they don't have ha consistent message. Their message should be the same on all three witnesses. Why? Because the facts have never been challenged in any of these witnesses.

[16:45:00]

TAPPER: And a reminder that President Trump was asked several weeks ago on the -- on the lawn of the White House if he could recall any other time with any other foreign leader that he brought up the issue of corruption. Because of course, there are a number of instances in Israel, or Saudi Arabia, or Russia, or North Korea, where President Trump could bring up those things. And President Trump said he would get back to the reporter and I do not believe he has gotten back to the reporter yet.

Coming up. His name keeps coming up. So what are Republican lawmakers saying about Rudy Giuliani's role in Ukraine? That's next.

[16:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Today, the ousted Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch fired back against the alleged smear campaign that played a role in her removal which was led by Rudy Giuliani, were told. CNN's Manu Raju joins me now. And Manu, you just approached some Republicans about a person they

don't really like to talk about much Rudy Giuliani, and the role he played in all of this. What do they have to say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's really not a full-throated defense of Rudy Giuliani and his role coming from congressional Republicans. Most of them sidestepping questions put directly to them about what Rudy Giuliani did, how he was enlisted by the president to pursue these investigations that the President has sought, and also as he pushed for this smear campaign, apparently against Maria Yovanovitch according to our sworn testimony.

Now, I just had a chance to ask the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Jim Jordan, who sits now on the Senate -- the House Intelligence Committee about that, whether or not he believes that Marie Yovanovitch was the victim of a smear campaign launched by Giuliani.

Now, he would not answer that question. He was silent for a few seconds, shook his head when I asked him if he believed whether or not she was the victim of this smear campaign by Giuliani. He did defend Giuliani overall by saying that the President does have the right to choose who he wants to help pursue his foreign policy.

But, Jake, that is certainly not -- we're not hearing much from congressional Republicans about that. Instead, they were focusing today about how the President has the right to do what he wants with his ambassadors, not necessarily defending what Giuliani did.

TAPPER: Yes. There's a lot of time spent talking about the President has the right to do things and not whether or not the President is doing the right things. Manu Raju, thank you so much. And let's talk about this, guys, because here is specifically what Ambassador Yovanovitch said about Mayor Rudy Giuliani today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YOVANOVITCH: I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one at the State Department did.

What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did, from individuals with questionable motives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And, Nia, first of all, we should note, President Trump has a long and storied history of believing conspiracy theories.

HENDERSON: Yes.

TAPPER: Especially ones that benefit him politically, like the racist lie that Obama wasn't born in this country or he saw on T.V. a bunch of Muslim Americans, Arab Americans celebrating 911 in New Jersey, there's no evidence of that either, and on and on and on. Here, we have conspiracy theories infiltrating and affecting foreign policy.

HENDERSON: That's right. In a conspiracy theory around Ukraine which Putin pushed as well, right? I mean, you think about Nancy Pelosi saying all roads lead to Putin. This was brought up in the hearing today that part of this theory about the DNC server is all about to exculpate in Russia from their involvement in the 2016 and campaign and say no, it was really Ukraine.

Listen, Rudy Giuliani while all this was happening, people thought he was a problem, right? You had John Bolton essentially saying this guy is a hand grenade. He's going to blow this whole thing up. You had Pompeo -- I think he was asked by Volker about Pompeo, he just sort of rolled his eyes about Giuliani's involvement.

And you know, Giuliani at some point said he wanted to come before the committee with his charts and graphs. I don't think he's going to come before the committee with his charts and graphs.

TAPPER: And Jen, as somebody who's an expert in the State Department because you work there, and then -- and you Chairman Rogers after that, is an expert intelligence, if you know that a president can be manipulated by spreading information even if it's false about this ambassador is a never-Trump, this Ambassador is doing this, can that be exploited?

PSAKI: Sure it can. I mean, I think one of the most interesting things Yovanovitch said today was shady actors the world over have learned how little it takes to remove a U.S. Ambassador who does not give them what they want.

So the point is, anybody around the world is watching what has happened here, and they can look at it and say, we can flatter President Trump, we can suggest to him we're going to copy his brilliant tactics politically, and in exchange will get rid of U.S. ambassadors who are pushing too hard on us. Maybe we'll get some assistance. That's the lesson they're taking.

TAPPER: And very briefly, if you can, Chairman Rogers.

ROGERS: We have whole processes in the intelligence community with analysts to make sure that the -- what lands on a president's desk isn't being manipulative of A, for a decision or outcome they want, whole processes. When you have one person who's stumbling around Ukraine who looks I think a little bit more like Dennis Rodman in North Korea's efforts than he does a savvy lawyer and diplomat, you're headed for trouble. Bad decisions are going get made.

and I want to just take a quick look ahead to next week. The big testimony will be starting on Tuesday Jennifer Williams, the Vice President pants, a special advisor on Europe and Russia then and also Lieutenant

[16:55:01]

TAPPER: And I want to just take a quick look ahead to next week. The big testimony will be starting on Tuesday. Jennifer Williams, Vice President Pence's special advisor on Europe and Russia, then -- and also Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman who was on the July 25th call, Kurt Volker former Special Envoy to Ukraine, Tim Morrison and the President's top Russia advisor now.

Wednesday Gordon Sondland. Everyone is going to want to hear what he has to say. Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary Defense for Russia, David Hill Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and then Thursday, Fiona Hill Trump's former top Russia advisor who expressed concern about the shadow campaign.

Be sure to tune in to CNN this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests include Republican Congressman Mike Turner, who's on the Intelligence Committee. He's going to join me as well as Democratic Senator Chris Murphy who's been very active in the Ukraine situation. You can see it all at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday. I'll see you Sunday morning. Thanks for watching.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)