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Democrats Speak After Public Testimony in Impeachment Inquiry; Republicans Speak Also After Public Testimony in Impeachment Inquiry; Yovanovitch Says Trump's Attacks, Very Intimidating; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) About Trump's Obstruction of Justice. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired November 15, 2019 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- public testimony will be the last public hearing that your committee will hear in these impeachment proceedings.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, we as you've seen, we've combined witnesses from time to time on different panels, depending how long we think the testimony of any one witness may go. We've also tried at times to accommodate schedules but mostly the witnesses have accommodated us. In terms of whether Ambassador Hill did a final testimony I'm not prepared to say. But as we have endeavored all along, we are moving expeditiously but we are trying to move methodically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman -- on the issue of witness intimidation. There's been talk today that this could potentially be considered impeachable. Is it more obstruction of justice or abuse of power in your view?
SCHIFF: Well, I would say that the President's attack on a witness today is not something that we view in isolation. This is part of a pattern the President of the United States. A pattern that goes back to praising Paul Manafort for not cooperating, condemning Michael Cohen as a rat, because he was cooperating with authorities. Attacking other witnesses who come forward suggesting that we ought to treat those like the whistleblower who exposed wrongdoing in his administration as we treat traitors and spies and we used to execute traitors and spies.
This is a part of a pattern to intimidate witnesses. And it's also part of a pattern to obstruct the investigation. It was also a part, frankly, of the pattern to obstruct justice. And so we need to view the President's actions today as part of a broader and incriminating pattern of conduct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Well that was the chairman of the committee Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. Talking about how he thinks the day went and obviously a highlight or lowlight rather for him was when President Trump, on Twitter, attacked the witness, Ambassador Yovanovitch. What she said at the time was intimidating.
Let's continue with our panel. And Elie, so there's a theory, right, that Giuliani and President Trump wanted Yovanovitch gone. So that this rogue foreign policy where Ukraine was being encouraged not just on that phone call, but in all sorts of other conversations, to publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens. There's this theory that she was removed because she was getting in the way of that.
Where is the evidence for that? That's a theory and certainly it's not one that I think anybody at this table would have any difficulty believing is actually the case. But where is the evidence that that's why it happened?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So it's a good question and the evidence may ultimately have to be circumstantial. Unless Rudy flips or one of these inner circle --
TAPPER: I'm sorry to interrupt. Here's Congressman Jim Jordan. I'll come back to you.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): -- it's supposed to be the focus of this entire inquiry. Third witness who never talked to the President, third witness who never spoke with Chief of Staff Mulvaney, third witness who was not on the call. Third witness who wasn't even as I said in Ukraine when the relevant -- during the relevant time frame. Wasn't even there which President Zelensky, left before he was even inaugurated as the new President. So, again, four facts, I say it every time. But it's the truth. Four facts have never changed, will never change.
We've got the call transcript. There was no conditionality or linkage on the call between an investigation, security assistance, we have the two individuals on the call. Both said that there was no pressure no linkage. We know that the Ukrainians didn't even know aid was withheld, or on hold at the time of the call, and most importantly the Ukrainians specifically, President Zelensky, never took any official action to get the aid released. And so those facts never change and will never change. I'll let Ms. Stefanik say a word and then we'll take a question.
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R -NY): OK. So this was day two of an abject failure of Adam Schiff and his regime of secrecy. As we saw today, he is making up the rules as he goes. He did not let Republicans put forth any unanimous consents, he did not let us with our own time, Republican member's time. I think I was interrupted about six times throughout the hearing. So this is just more of the ridiculous abuse of power that we're seeing from Adam Schiff. I think one of the most important facts that came across today, Ambassador Yovanovitch testified that the President can appoint ambassadors at will. That is important. The President has a right to pick who his or her ambassadors are.
And then in my line of questioning I just wanted to highlight the Obama State Department was so concerned about conflicts of interest with Hunter Biden sitting on Burisma's board that the Obama State Department, that was the first instance where Ambassador Yovanovitch had ever heard the word Burisma.
That's an important fact to note for all viewers here today. So we're going to continue asking about Hunter Biden's role on Burisma on behalf of the millions of Americans who want to know the answer to that question.
And then on the whistleblower, it is important to note that Adam Schiff and I listed all the instances of this. Adam Schiff initially in September said he was adamant about hearing from the whistleblower and it only changed when it became clear there was coordination between Democratic staff and the whistleblower before the whistleblower complaint was issued.
JORDAN: Let me say two other real quick things. First, I thought we were in the public stage of this so-called impeachment inquiry but yet here in just a few minutes we're going back to the bunker in the basement of the Capitol for another deposition that the American people won't get to see.
What they also haven't seen yet, are four transcripts of people who've already been deposed. Which means under House rules we cannot use that testimony in these proceedings. We would like to use parts of the testimony from Mr. Morrison as an example in the open hearings but we're prohibited under House rules from doing that. So great question for you all to ask Mr. Schiff is, when is he going to release those transcripts so we can actually use that information in the public hearings?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once the President sent his tweet, didn't that completely undercut anything you were trying to do in the hearing today?
STEFANIK: Chad, we're not here to talk about tweets we're here to talk about impeachable offenses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's the most important thing that happened in the hearing today.
STEFANIK: Let me answer your question. These hearings are not about tweets. They are about impeachment of the President of United States. This is a constitutional matter. You can disagree or dislike the tweet but we are here to talk about impeachment and nothing in that room today and nothing in that room earlier this week, nothing rises to the level of impeachable offenses.
This is wishful political thinking by the Democrats. This is not the first or last tweet they're going complain about but we are talking about impeachment and there is not a single fact that is impeachable in terms of this President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that tweet intimidating? Would you consider it intimidating?
STEFANIK: No, the witness was able to answer questions. As you saw the only people that were limited from asking questions were Republican members because we were muzzled by Adam Schiff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Congresswoman, you agree with the tweet? Earlier today you say you didn't agree with it.
STEFANIK: I said I disagree with the tone of the tweet. But again, when we're talking about impeachment, we are talking about impeachable offenses. You can disagree or agree with the tweet, I happen to disagree with the tweet. But again, as we know the Democrats want to continue making this a political food fight. They
are going about this in a partisan way. This is a very serious matter when we're talking about impeachment. This is a constitutional matter, it's not about tweets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congresswoman, do you worry what the President's decision to recall Ambassador Yovanovitch based and what you learned today?
STEFANIK: I agree with Ambassador Yovanovitch's testimony where she said she thinks it is good policy that the President of the United States can determine who serves as their ambassador.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But do you agree with his decision ultimately?
STEFANIK: I agree with the President's ability to pick and choose who his ambassadors are and those that are nominated and voted on by the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think of the President's decision to recall Yovanovitch?
JORDAN: The President can have whom he wants in diplomatic positions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- [INAUDIBLE]
JORDAN: But that's the President's call.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): But what we do have, is we have what President Zelensky, we have a new administration in Ukraine that didn't have the same confidence in this ambassador. And so isn't it appropriate with all the foreign service diplomats we had to put someone in with a new regime in the Ukraine that can actually work on the President's behalf or on behalf of the American people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it appropriate for the President to tap his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to mount which he testified to was a smear campaign against her. Why is that OK?
JORDAN: As is said, the President can have whom he desires doing diplomatic work for the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's diplomatic work she says was smear campaign.
JORDAN: There's been all this talk about the irregular channel. I think it's important that folks in the, quote, irregular channel, were Senate confirmed Ambassador Sondland, Senate confirmed Ambassador Volker, and Senate confirmed Secretary Perry. So you all want to make a -- some of witnesses want to make a big deal about that and you had the President's lawyer also part of that group. I think Presidents are allowed to have whom they want doing the work of the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said it was a smear campaign under oath. She testified it was a smear campaign of false attacks against her. Do you believe her?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, Democrats say the President is intimidating the witness. Is it appropriate for the President to be attacking a witness while she is testifying?
JORDAN: I think --
MEADOWS: I don't know that it's -- excuse me. I don't know it was an attack on the witness. It was really characterization of her resume and when you look at this, when you look at this, you guys want him to go in with no attorneys, no witnesses, no Twitter or no anything. At some point you've got to say, when is it going to be a fair process? And today was not a fair process in there. It's not going to be a fair process in the bunker that we're about to have to go to. And it was not a fair process when they muzzled the gentlewoman from New York over and over again. It's not fair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it fair to attack on policy on Mogadishu?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's a fair process for the witness?
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): Listen, the second sentence of that tweet, for example -- one example, Adam Schiff never brought this up. The second sentence of the tweet goes back to the July 25th call transcript. And in that President Zelensky is saying to President Trump that he's concerned Ambassador Yovanovitch is a, quote, bad ambassador. And that President Zelensky believed that Ambassador Yovanovitch had a loyalty to President Poroshenko.
Now, ADAM SCHIFF when posing the question to Ambassador Yovanovitch to respond to the tweet never even mentioned that. Because this is what Adam Schiff does. When he had the Acting Director of National Intelligence in front of the committee, in his opening statement, he made up a fictitious call transcript of July 25th. Because the real one doesn't have the bribery that he wants to allege.
So just like that make-belief what he called parody, instead he created a parody version of the tweet. A partial rendition where he left that out and then asked Ambassador Yovanovitch to respond. I think it would have been more responsible if Adam Schiff wants to ask that question to let Ambassador Yovanovitch read the entire tweet to digest it and then respond.
And by the way, if you want to talk about what President Trump said to President Zelensky about Ambassador Yovanovitch? Why would he cherry pick out, once again, he loves to withhold key facts. That's how he rolls. He withholds information, he outright lies and cherry picks leaks. In this case, he took a part of a tweet. It was the entire approach to it. The fact that they never asked Ambassador Yovanovitch about what President Zelensky said about her. Plus not providing her the full information in the tweet.
That is how about he rolls with all of this. Why is the President Trump putting out information and fighting back? It's because Adam Schiff only wants only wants the American public to have three percent of the information and connect dots that aren't actually connected to write the world's greatest parody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why didn't you ask here then?
ZELDIN: Donald Trump -- well, I'm not on the House Committee. I'm saying this right now -- by the way, we have asked Ambassador Yovanovitch and anyone out there can go back and read her deposition. Because we've spent seven, eight, nine hours, and that's now public even though Tom Morrison's isn't. But President Trump is right to want to want to defend himself and make ensure that the other 97 percent of the story gets out there. Because Adam Schiff is only going to the American public, three percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still think the identity of the whistleblower should be known publicly.
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH): Is the impeachment about withholding aid? Because that's really what I thought it was all about. And I find it pretty interesting. We heard from somebody who's is the inter- agencies today who recommended that we give Ukraine lethal aid. We heard her say that. She said it. Even in the previous administration. This is what they wanted. OK. And Congress approved it. OK.
This is about providing the aid or not. Right? The previous administration against the inter-agency, against Congress, denied Ukraine lethal aid. This President provided and for this he's getting impeached? What about the previous President who denied the interagency and denied Congress? Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any way you guys can characterize this as a good day today for Republicans? You said this was an abject failure? I mean we had --
STEFANIK: This is an abject failure for Adam Schiff. Let me be clear. An abject failure for Adam Schiff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it was not a good day for Republicans?
TAPPER: So that's the House Republican response talking about the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiry today. In which you heard from Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York and many others talking about how they think the process is unfair, and you heard from Congressman Wenstrup at the end there talking about how ultimately the aid to Ukraine was released, so where's the scandal? We should point out of course the aid was only released after the whistleblower complaint was filed with the intelligence community Inspector General.
But let's continue to talk and I cut you off before, and here was the question. The question was, if the theory of the case that the ambassador was fired by President Trump on advice from Rudy Giuliani. Because somehow, she was getting in the way of his desire to have this foreign policy that would ultimately end up with Ukraine announcing public investigations into the Bidens. Where is the evidence that that was the reason?
HONIG: So this is the problem with all the missing witnesses we have all over this case. Because the people who'd be able to give you direct evidence of that, who interacted directly with President Trump are John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, we heard a lot about today, he's even more relevant now, still missing in action.
The Democrats have not been able to access those people because the White House has put up this stone wall. So instead they're doing the best they can and they're building it off circumstantial evidence not as strong from Ambassador Yovanovitch, from George Kent who we saw the other day, from Fiona Hill who we'll see next week, who could tell you things that could be to that conclusion.
This was unusual. It was contrary to our national interests. There was a smear campaign by Rudy and we, as the public or the factfinders, can put the dots together but this is the problem with not having access to full information.
TAPPER: And I want to just note that the impeachment hearings are continuing right now although behind closed doors. About to testify behind closed doors, David Holmes. David Holmes is the diplomatic aide who according the number one ambassador, or number one diplomat in Ukraine right now, Bill Taylor. Holmes overheard a call between President Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland and was told that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Bidens -- the Bidens, than he does about Ukraine.
That interview was going on behind closed doors right now. We assume that has been, as has been the case with all depositions behind closed doors, it will ultimately be released to the public after the counsel goes through it and redacts any names and information that should not be public.
And in fact, after Congressman Jordan asked Congressman Schiff where are these four depositions that have not been released? I asked the House Intelligence Committee and they said they're being released on a rolling basis. They expect more to be released soon. But ultimately one of the things holding it up if not the only thing holding it up is the House counsel going through and redacting information that would otherwise put individuals whose names should not be made public. But let's continue our conversation. Gloria, let me start with you.
You're joining our panel now right now. First of all, what's your impression? What's the headline do you think from today's hearing?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think to me the President threw a grenade into any Republican effort to try and discredit the Ambassador in any way, shape or form. I think the Republicans had a couple goals here. One was to say, if you're irrelevant to the story, because as you yourself pointed out, you were not serving during the July 25th phone call. And so why are you even here?
They wanted to talk about that a little bit. And then they also wanted to make the President into a somewhat sympathetic figure. There are people in Ukraine out to get him during the election. Don't you think that he has a real reason to be a little paranoid about what the Ukrainians were trying to do? And you, Ambassador, did nothing about that. You didn't try and defend the President against people in Ukraine who were on Hillary Clinton's side in this election. Those are two points they wanted to make.
TAPPER: Can I just interrupt for one second and come back to you. Because during one of the breaks I looked at one of the op-eds that Congressman Jordan was citing as evidence of the Ukrainians trying to interfere in our election. And what it actually was, was the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States noting that candidate Trump had just said he was thinking about, if he became President, allowing Crimea, which the Russians illegally seized from Ukraine, just considering that to be Russian territory going forward.
TAPPER: And that would be -- and the Ukrainian ambassador understandably wrote an op-ed saying he thought that would not be a good idea. So it was not Ukrainian interference in the election the way that the Russians interfered in our election. It was somebody saying we shouldn't hand over our territory to Russia. That would be appeasement.
BORGER: And these are Republicans by the way defending that? The world is upside-down. Right?
TAPPER: Because the only allegiance is to President Trump in some people's minds.
BORGER: So, the world is upside down because these are Republicans saying, OK, it's OK to say we're going to give back Crimea, right, to the Russians. So and then the President drops this grenade into the middle of the hearing and suddenly they have to pay homage to the Ambassador, because they couldn't believe what they heard from the President. And Adam Schiff I think was very smart to read this tweet to her. She was clearly shocked and offended by it, and I thought she handled it with a great amount of dignity and I think the American public got to watch it.
TAPPER: Yes, it was very interesting. A possible article of impeachment happening in real time before our very eyes. We're going to take a very quick break, when we come back, we're going to talk to somebody on the House Intelligence Committee about what she just saw. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tampering is when Schiff doesn't let us have witnesses, doesn't let us speak. I've been watching today for the first time I started watching and it's really sad when you see people not allowed to ask questions. Nobody's ever had such horrible due process. There was no due process. And I think it's considered a joke all over Washington and all over the world. The Republicans are given no due process whatsoever. We're not allowed to do anything. It's a disgrace what's happening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, do you believe that --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- your tweets and words can be intimidating?
TRUMP: I don't think so at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: President Trump just moments ago asked about allegations of witness tampering after he launched a Twitter attack on ousted U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch while she was testifying today.
She said that she did feel intimidated when asked by Chairman Schiff, the Democrat who leads the committee.
Joining me now is Congresswoman Jackie Speier who's on the House Intelligence Committee as well and she questioned Yovanovitch. Congresswoman, first of all, your reaction to the President there both about the witness tampering, how his tweets don't intimidate people. And also, about the fairness of the process?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): So this was another bombshell today just like there was a bombshell on Wednesday when David Holmes had overheard Mr. Sondland speaking to the President. And the President kind of talking once again about wanting the investigations. Today, the bombshell was the President in realtime tampering with a witness, intimidating a witness. And it is so consequential that you saw the Republican members of the committee that I think we're going to interrogate the Ambassador more than they actually did, absolutely do a 180 and talk very you know, respectfully to her.
I think Jordan was the only one, Congressman Jordan, who wanted to try and challenge her on why she didn't speak up when there was the op-ed that was printed that was seemed to be from their perspective, promoting one candidate over another.
As to the word, due process, this is not a trial. The members on the Republican side are not being given due process where each side is being given equal time. Equal time. Every member has 5 minutes. Each side has 45 minutes to have their counsels ask questions and five minutes for each of the members both chair and ranking to speak. So the President once again spewing out lies because it's in his interest to do so.
TAPPER: What do you think the odds are that assuming there are articles of impeachment, what do you think the odds are that what the President did today and how Chairman Schiff referred to it as witness intimidation, what do you think the odds are that that would appear in the articles of impeachment?
SPEIER: Well, I think the obstruction of Congress article is gaining more momentum by the day. Not one piece of documentation has been provided to the committee from the Secretary of State even though many of these witnesses have turned over sheaves of documents, reams of documents. We have not been able to have people like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo come before the committee to testify. Who have firsthand knowledge of so very much? So I think that article of impeachment has a deal of great validity.
TAPPER: What do you make of the articles -- I'm sorry, of the moments earlier in the process in the hearing when Congresswoman Stefanik tried to speak and was told several times by Chairman Schiff that she was out of order? What's going on there? Are the Republicans -- are they rebelling against rules that they think are unfair the Democrats imposed on them? Help us understand it.
SPEIER: Well, I'm not quite sure why they wanted to mess with the sequence. They knew what the sequence was going to be. They also have the opportunity at the end to make motions, unanimous consent motions to have documents placed into the record, so I'm not sure what that was about. But over the course of the day as it turned out, people were able to yield time to each other and the Chairman made that available to them.
TAPPER: We should point out that we have asked Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee to come on the show and talk about the hearing and they have declined to appear at least in the 3:00 and 4:00 hour on CNN.
Ranking member Devin Nunes, the Congressman from California, said that House Democrats are ignoring real business in favor of a partisan process of impeachment. That you're pursuing Watergate fantasies, the closed-door depositions downstairs are he says, a strange cult. What's your response to that?
SPEIER: Well, Jake, you know, I kind of respond strongly when he uses the term, cult. Because I witnessed a cult in operation back in 1978 with Jonestown, and I find his use of that quite offensive. But I what I will say is that these depositions take place in closed doors as they did in the Benghazi hearings. There were 107 closed door interviews that took place during the time that the Benghazi hearings were going on that the Republicans were in charge of.
So put that aside. As to the rest of the business of the House, there are 21 committees in the House of Representatives. This is only one committee that is focused on the impeachment right now. 20 other committees are having hearings, taking votes. We have been having floor votes. We just passed a bill on the restoration of funding for the EXIM bank today. And there are only 21 members who serve on this committee, so there's over 400 members doing all kinds of work within their jurisdiction and under their job description right now.