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Ambassador Yovanovitch to Testify in Public Impeachment Hearings Today; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) is Interviews about Impeachment Hearings; No Motive Yet in California School Shooting; Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is Interviewed about Ways to Curb Gun Violence. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 15, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE HARMAN (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: -- Ukrainians resist the Russian is something they would like.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Congresswoman, Jane Harman, we really appreciate your expertise in all this. Thanks so much.
HARMAN: Thank you, Alisyn.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I really don't blame you for Ambassador Sondland making that phone call, even --
CAMEROTA: Well --
BERMAN: -- though you took the fall.
HARMAN: Thank you, John.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
All right. Another key figure in the impeachment hearing heading to the witness stand today. NEW DAY continues right now.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch set to testify this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An effort by Rudy Giuliani and others, including his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery.
Impeaching is a divisive thing.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans have really stuck together. It's a beautiful thing to see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard the one shot and then four after. And we just started running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the whole don't take my guns, don't take my life.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to this special edition of NEW DAY and of CNN's coverage of the impeachment hearings.
Just two hours from now, we will hear public testimony from the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Here is a look right now live inside the hearing room as people prepare for this big day.
So Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch claims that she was the target of a smear campaign allegedly orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent told lawmakers about this very thing on live TV Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I became alarmed as those efforts bore fruit. They led to the ouster of Ambassador Yovanovitch and hampered U.S. efforts to establish rapport with the new Zelensky administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. So stay tuned for all of that. Then this afternoon, House investigators will go behind closed doors to question a State Department aide who reportedly overheard President Trump ask Ambassador Gordon Sondland about the status of these investigations in a loud cell phone call in the middle of a restaurant in Ukraine.
BERMAN: And if you listen closely this morning -- you didn't even really have to listen that closely -- You will hear just how carefully Democrats are choosing their words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I am saying that what is -- the president has admitted to and says it's perfect -- I said it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Bribery. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making the case the president's actions constitute bribery.
Now, that is a very specific word, explicitly listed in the Constitution as an impeachable offense. "The Washington Post" also reports that focus groups in key battleground states have told Democrats they find bribery to be the most compelling description of the president's conduct.
We want to start with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, who is live inside the hearing room this morning. The room where it will happen in just two hours -- Suzanne.
You're right, John. This is where all the action is going to take place. Josh and I will give you a sneak peek inside of the room. It is largely empty but you can see that the media throughout. I mean, this is an international story. It has captured the world's attention.
You just have to say outside of this room, you had people who were saving their spots, sleeping overnight to make sure that they had a position, a camera position to cover this story.
Marie Yovanovitch's testimony should be fascinating, because we've read those depositions to the transcripts. Just a little bit about her. She, as a career diplomat, she worked under both Republican and Democratic presidents. She served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2016, abruptly recalled in May. She was brought in to fight Ukrainian corruption and had joined the diplomatic corps back in 1986.
Now, what is critical from her testimony is really how she felt she was treated while she was in Ukraine, this smear campaign that was being conducted against her. She was very worried and concerned, fearful for the words of the president, President Trump on that phone call with the Ukrainian president, calling her bad news, saying that things were going to happen to her.
She was advised by the ambassador to E.U., Gordon Sondland, to make the president happy by tweeting nice things about him. And there were even senior Ukrainian officials who were in touch with her while she was in the country, telling her she had to get out of the country, that they feared for her safety, as well.
Also, John, you should know that she was emotional during her closed- door deposition, and that might be something that would be interesting for the American people to see how she presents herself, the emotions that might come today from just the harrowing experience that she had inside Ukraine -- John, Alisyn.
BERMAN: We will all get to see that in just a couple hours. Suzanne Malveaux in the hearing room. We'll check back in with you shortly.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. He will participate in today's impeachment hearing as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Explain to me the role that you think Ambassador Yovanovitch plays in this story. What do you want to hear from her today?
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Well, it's a sad story and an -- and an infuriating one. Because this is a person who was doing the right thing. This is a person who was, no kidding, fighting corruption. And they fired her for it. She was in the way. They had to get her out of the way for their corrupt scheme to continue.
This was the person who is the senior American foreign service officer in Europe, who has had a 30-year career, an exemplary public servant. Everyone you speak to praises her skill and a professionalism. And she was told she should suck up to the president by that tweet you just mentioned by Ambassador Sondland.
But her job isn't to suck up to politicians. Her job is to fight corruption and to advance the national security interests of the United States. And they fired her for it.
BERMAN: So she did not have any role in the phone call that President Trump made to President Zelensky. She was gone by that point. So when you say she was in the way of a corrupt scheme, what exactly are you talking about?
MALONEY: Well, you saw in the first day of testimony witnesses who can provide an overview of the entire course of misconduct.
Ambassador Yovanovitch is going to be, in some ways, the beginning of that story. Remember, she was asked in April to renew for another year. And then she was fired a month later. In fact, she was fired in the middle of the night, told to get on the next plane. Couldn't guarantee your security. They said get on the next plane, and they meant it literally.
So what happened? What happened is that this grimy political and financial scheme that the president himself and Rudy Giuliani cooked up was beginning to be put into place. And they knew that they couldn't do it with her there.
She was the one, remember, who's instrumental in hounding the corrupt prosecutor, Lutsenko, out of office. And she was the one who was clear-eyed about what was right and what was wrong. And they partnered with Lutsenko to smear her, to plant stories in American media outlets, favorable stories to their corrupt scheme, on FOX News, in a newspaper up here on Capitol Hill. They -- they funneled illegal contributions into the American political system to get people like my former colleague, Pete Sessions, to write a letter. To again call for her removal.
All of this was designed to get an honest person out of the way, because their corrupt scheme couldn't go forward if she was there. And you're going to hear her testimony, which is the beginning of this whole scheme which unfolded over those months between May and September.
BERMAN: One of the things we heard on the first day of testimony from some of the Republican members doing the questioning is that U.S. ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, and they can be withdrawn for any reason. What do you say to that argument?
MALONEY: I say that's absolutely correct. But the president cannot remove an ambassador for a corrupt purpose. The president can remove ambassadors at his pleasure, but he cannot be corrupt. And he cannot do so in the furtherance of a corrupt scheme.
BERMAN: I've been trying to count how many times you've used the word "corrupt" this morning, and I lost count. But I think it's well over a dozen at this point. So that is a word that you have settled on, clearly, this morning.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi, was using the word "bribery" yesterday to describe the president's actions. Why are these words important?
MALONEY: The speaker is absolutely right in her characterization of what occurred. This was a bribe, a solicitation of a bribe, an effort to get a thing of value and to trade away your official office and your duties in exchange for that.
Remember, the founders themselves put two crimes in the Constitution warranting impeachment, treason and bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. But the key about treason and bribery in the mind of the founders was that you were selling out your country. You were selling out your honor for a personal gain. And that is precisely what happened here. She's right to use that word. It is bribery.
BERMAN: The Republicans are saying, well, Democrats were using "quid pro quo" for a while. That didn't serve the purpose that you all wanted, so now they're trying to use new terms. How do you respond?
MALONEY: Well, that's absurd. It was the Republicans who said there was no quid pro quo. When that defense was detonated by the facts and the evidence, they stopped asserting there was no quid pro quo.
But of course, "quid pro quo" is just a Latin term that basically means bribery. So if it helps people understand what we're talking about, bribery is the right word.
But you can call it a variety of things, Mr. Berman. You can call it corrupt. You can call it bribery. You can call it extortion. You can call it theft of honest services, fraud under 18 USSC 1346. You can call it a felonious violation of the campaign finance laws.
You know what I'd call it? I'd call it a violation of your oath. I call it selling out your country for some grimy political interest. It's beneath any president, and we cannot allow this president or any future president to engage in this conduct. It's wrong, and he should be held accountable. And Ambassador Yovanovitch -- thank God for her -- is someone who knows right from wrong. And that's what you're going to hear her describe today.
BERMAN: You will hear for more than just Ambassador Yovanovitch today. She will testify in public.
Behind closed doors, your committee will hear from David Holmes, who CNN has reported is the embassy official who overheard the phone call that Ambassador Taylor testified to between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland. And in that phone call, Ambassador Taylor testified President Trump was asking about the investigation into the Bidens. Ambassador Sondland then said that Trump cares more about the investigations than Ukraine.
What new information do you expect to hear from David Holmes today?
MALONEY: Well, we want to understand precisely what he heard. It's wonderful that Ambassador Taylor was able to provide that new information. Obviously, it's a major development.
It's another indication that the president was laser-focused on investigating the Bidens. This was not some general concern for corruption.
What he was calling, speaking to Ambassador Sondland about the very day after the famous phone call between the two presidents, was an investigation of the Bidens.
This foreign service officer could hear it himself. This is not second hand. He heard the president's voice, because he was speaking loudly enough on that phone, we understand. We're going to ask him that today.
And then, of course, Ambassador Sondland characterized it. He said, according to Mr. Taylor, at least, that the president cared more about investigating the Bidens than he did about Ukraine.
And of course, this is one more conversation that Ambassador Sondland has yet to recall under oath. And we'll have an opportunity to ask him about it, as well.
BERMAN: I have to let you go, but just on that last point, Ambassador Gordon Sondland will testify next week. He's already had to revise his previous testimony to you. Do you trust him?
MALONEY: It's not about trust. It's about surrounding him with other witnesses who can force the truth out of him. Not just the penalty of perjury, although that's clearly a pressure he's under. But also, we have other witnesses. We have independent corroborating evidence.
By the way, Mr. Berman, the State Department is sitting inappropriately on a mountain of evidence. All of these witnesses took copious notes. They all have said that. Those are with the State Department right now this morning. Emails, text messages, calendar entries, phone records. The State Department is sitting on a mountain of evidence and you better believe if it helped the president, we would have heard about it.
They need to produce that. It has been subpoenaed. They've gathered it up. They've taken it from these witnesses. I hope the media keeps the pressure on the State Department to get the facts out.
BERMAN: Congressman Maloney, thank you very much for being with us. Thank you also for making me feel old and being the first person ever to call me Mr. Berman. Thank you for your time.
MALONEY: Sorry, it's the way my parents raised me. But thank you.
BERMAN: Appreciate it. Thank you. CAMEROTA: It's a very nice touch.
BERMAN: My kids don't call me dad. And my kids' friends don't call me Mr. Berman.
CAMEROTA: What do your kids call you?
BERMAN: "Hey you." No, you know what they call me?
BERMAN: They call me Berman.
CAMEROTA: They call you Berman. That's awesome.
All right. President Trump once called Marie Yovanovitch bad news. So what will that former ambassador say under oath today? That's next.
CAMEROTA: Our coverage of the impeachment hearings continues this morning. In about 90 minutes, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine will testify in this very hearing room, where you see media crews setting up right now.
That former ambassador says she was the target of a smear campaign, allegedly orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani. So let's break down what we expect to see today with Elie Honig. He's our CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
Elie, let's start with Marie Yovanovitch. What do we know and what do we expect?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Alisyn, so Marie Yovanovitch, in a lot of ways, is sort of the epitome of a career public service professional.
Now, she served in the United States Foreign Service for 33 years over six administrations. Four of them Republican, two of them Democrat. Two different presidents appointed her ambassador: George W. Bush and Barack Obama. So it's going to be hard to attack her as being partisan or political.
She was removed from office by Donald Trump as ambassador in May of 2019. Now, look at some of the things that Yovanovitch's State Department colleagues have said about her publicly.
One witness in this probe called her "an extraordinarily competent and skillful diplomat."
Another called her "excellent, serious, and committed."
And this is important. Another person said she is "someone who has never been hungry for the spotlight."
So when we're watching her testify today, if she looks nervous or uneasy, it's not necessarily that the questions are putting her on her heels. She may just not be a spotlight type of person.
CAMEROTA: So Elie, if she was so highly regarded, then why was she recalled?
HONIG: Good question. So Yovanovitch made her name as an ambassador as an anticorruption advocate and crusader. First, she took on a corrupt prosecutor, Yurry Lutsenko. She tried to get him to clean up his prosecutor's office.
George Kent testified earlier that Lutsenko, as prosecutor general, vowed revenge and provided information to Rudy Giuliani, important, in hopes that he would spread it and lead to her removal.
Also another corrupt former prosecutor from Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, tried to get a U.S. visa. Now, Yovanovitch blocked that on recommendation from the State Department. And she testified that Shokin, he was denied before he was known for corrupt activities. And she testified. Next thing we knew, Mayor Giuliani, there he is again, was calling the White House.
CAMEROTA: Is there any evidence, Elie, that she did what President Trump's allies in the media are claiming that she did?
HONIG: Short answer is no. So George Kent put it well. He said, "You can't promote principled anti-corruption activities without pissing off corrupt people." That's from his testimony the other day.
Now, who are some of the people who went after Yovanovitch? Rudy was really leading the pack, but he was also assisted. We have testimony both from Yovanovitch and Kent that these two guys, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, worked with Rudy to try to remove her.
Now, you may recognize those names, Parnas and Fruman, because they were indicted last month by the U.S. Department of Justice in the southern district of New York for illegally funneling foreign money into the United States.
Now, the Democrats are going to argue today that she was removed because she was perceived as a road block to the Trump and Giuliani agenda. Fiona Hill testified there was no basis for her removal. The accusations against her had no merit whatsoever. This was a mishmash of conspiracy theories.
And Kent echoes that. He says, "My reference to 'snake pits' would have been in the context of having had our ambassador just removed by the actions of corrupt Ukrainians in Ukraine, as well as private American citizens back here." That's a reference to Rudy Giuliani.
CAMEROTA: It's very interesting. Some of the people, some of her loudest critics have been charged with crimes here in the U.S. What has President Trump said about her? VAUSE: So Donald Trump spoke about her in the famous July 25th call
he had with President Zelensky. Here's what he said. Here's what Donald Trump said to President Zelensky.
"The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news, and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news. So I just want to let you know that."
And look what he says next. Next sentence Donald Trump says, "The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son. That is the one and only reference in this entire call where Trump specifically talks about the Bidens. He does it right after he tells Zelensky that he was the one who got rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Zelensky later says, "It was great that you were the first one who told me that. She was a bad ambassador."
And the president said, "Well, she's going to go through some things."
Now, the attack plans, I think the Republicans today are going to argue first the president has the right to choose his own ambassadors. She was not removed for bad purposes but because she was unwilling or unable to implement Trump's foreign policies.
They're also going to argue second-hand information. You don't really know why you were removed. You just heard sort of whisper down the lane.
Democrats are going to argue she was targeted by Rudy as an anti- corruption crusader, and she was removed to clear the path for Trump and Rudy's corrupt agenda in the Ukraine.
CAMEROTA: Elie, so helpful. Thank you very much --
HONIG: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: -- for setting the table for what we're going to see today.
HONIG: All right.
BERMAN: A teenager opens fire at a California high school, shooting five classmates in 16 seconds, killing two of them. What are lawmakers doing right now to stop gun violence? We're going to speak to a congressman in the fight, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIE PEARLMAN, SAUGUS HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: : I mean, with politics so tight, there's the whole don't take my guns. But after you're in something like this, don't take my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: That's a high school senior in Santa Clarita, California, who says she and her classmates barricaded the door and had to hide inside their classroom after a gunman opened fire. Two students were killed in that attack, three others gravely wounded.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida. He represents Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were gunned down at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. He is part of the Gun Violence Protection Task Force.
Congressman, you and I have spoken, you know, way too often about the epidemic of school shootings across this country. And after Parkland, I know that you were praying, as were so many people, that Congress would take some action.
And after Parkland, President Trump vowed to help fix this. In fact, he told Parkland parents in a meeting at the White House that he would help try to fix this. So -- so what has happened to -- what has the Trump administration done to try to solve the school shooting epidemic?
REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): Well, Alisyn, thanks. It's -- it's good to be with you. I'm sorry to have to be back to talk about another shooting like this.
The administration hasn't done anything. The question is how have things changed since -- since Parkland? Well, there is a -- there is a rising up of students all around the country and their families, who are sick and tired of seeing this happen over and over. And they delivered a majority, a gun safety majority in the House of Representatives. And we passed a background checks bill, universal background checks bill, which is one significant piece to try to save lives. And the administration has done nothing.
But the legislation is important. But Alisyn, it's just worth taking a moment to realize that, again, this morning, really all over America, there are parents who are taking their kids to the bus stop. They're getting their kids dressed to go to school, and this news is ringing in their ear. And they're scared. And they don't know what's going to happen to their kids.
And they feel that way, because this is another example of the scourge of gun violence that -- that the president refuses to deal with, that Mitch McConnell refuses to deal with. This doesn't need to be a partisan issue. There's nothing partisan about protecting our kids and protecting our public.
CAMEROTA: I'm one of those parents, Congressman. I think about this all the time as I send my three kids to school every day. I mean, how could you not? There's a feeling, and the Parkland students have described this themselves, that kids are now sitting ducks in their classroom. About this case in particular, this Santa Clarita one, this shooter
had a .45-caliber pistol. Sixteen-year-olds in California cannot buy guns. So how do you think he got it?
DEUTCH: I don't -- I don't know, Alisyn. And we'll find out the details.
But what tends to happen is after -- after a horrific event like this is we -- and it's understandable, we want to know the facts. We want to know exactly what happened. We want to figure out if -- if there's some fix that will address this and every -- every bit of gun violence in America. And there isn't. There isn't.
But that doesn't mean that we do nothing. And that's the frustration.
And for people who say, well, background checks may not have prevented this. Background checks may not stop every -- every school shooting. That's right. But if it stops some, if it saves some lives, you ought to do it.
And Alisyn, the other thing we need to take a moment to realize is that there is gun violence that happens every day, every weekend in our country.
I was with some -- some folks from Milwaukee a couple weeks ago who told me about the little baby who was shot on her grandfather's lap in just a random act of gun violence. It disproportionately impacts communities of color. We need to be focused on all of this. There is just no way that this should be acceptable.
CAMEROTA: Of course. I mean, Congressman, there's also an opioid epidemic in our country, as you know. And nobody says, oh, well, I guess there -- there's nothing we can do about that.
I mean, the helplessness that lawmakers seem to feel about this epidemic of gun violence is so different than any other epidemic.
DEUTCH: It's not -- it -- respectfully, Alisyn, it's not helplessness. It's not -- the House isn't helpless. When we passed a background checks bill that simply takes the background checks law that's already in place and requires that everyone who buys a gun be subject to it.
I was at an event last night celebrating 25 years since the Brady background check bill passed. All we want to do is make sure that everyone --