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Pence Aide Testified Trump's Ukraine Call 'Unusual & Inappropriate'; New Testimony Places Sondland in Center of Ukraine Scandal; Source: Trump Hospital Visit Didn't Follow Protocol for Routine Exam. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired November 18, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Eight public impeachment hearings set for this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This last week was good for the facts and very bad for President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president lashed out at another witness, career diplomat Jennifer Williams.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Donald Trump doesn't like what he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sondland has to decide whether his loyalty is to America or the president of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a man that said, as far as the president is concerned, there was no quid pro quo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States shouldn't be on the phone with the president of another country and raise his political opponent. So this is not OK.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, November 18. It's 6 a.m. here in New York.
Hope you all got some rest this weekend, because what a week ahead in the impeachment hearings, including a witness that seems to grow in importance every hour.
At least eight current and former officials are set to testify. Each tells a key part of the story, but easily the most anticipated appearance comes Wednesday when the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, is scheduled to appear. Newly-released transcripts reveal that Sondland had multiple direct
conversations with President Trump about efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden.
Sondland revised his original testimony, a 180 as it has been called, and admitted he made clear to the Ukrainians that they would not get any aid unless they launched the investigations.
And new this morning, "The Wall Street Journal" reports there's even more. A trail of emails where Sondland kept several key Trump officials updated about all those efforts.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, President Trump is lashing out at another witness ahead of her public testimony tomorrow. What's interesting is that he is accusing Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, of being a, quote, "never Trumper."
This comes after a transcript of Williams's private testimony reveals she described the call with Ukraine's president as, quote, "unusual and inappropriate."
This all as Mr. Trump's real-time attack on the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, which sparked a debate over whether the president is guilty of witness intimidation.
And most significantly, over the weekend, there are questions about President Trump's health this morning after an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed hospital that did not follow protocol of a routine presidential medical exam.
BERMAN: There are three things about this that I think are notable. No. 1, this broke protocol, as you said. It just was very different than anything we've seen.
No. 2, we haven't seen the president since he was walking to the car to get to this appointment.
And No. 3, there's not exactly a reservoir of deep trust when it comes to things this White House says. So how do we know we can believe them that this was just part of an annual physical?
CAMEROTA: Well, of course not. There's not a lot of transparency coming from them. This is before his annual checkup would be scheduled. So we have big questions about why he went to Walter Reed, and we will ask Joe Lockhart, who explains the regular protocol for something like this.
Let's begin with CNN's Lauren Fox. She is live for us on Capitol Hill with our top story -- Lauren.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn.
And Trump's angst with his impeachment inquiry is only growing as he takes his frustration out on Twitter just days ahead of what is expected to be a big week on Capitol Hill.
FOX (voice-over): Eight key witnesses are set to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry this week, including ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, who is emerging as the most pivotal witness in the proceedings.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT TO UKRAINE: 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.
FOX: In his closed-door depositions, former national security official Tim Morrison, who is slated to testify tomorrow, said he knew of at least five direct conversations between Sondland and Trump, adding that Sondland was acting at Trump's direction.
Morrison said Sondland told him he informed a Ukrainian official the nearly $400 million in military aid in Ukraine could be freed up if, quote, "the prosecutor general would go to the mic and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation."
REP. SEAN MALONEY (D-NY): What we're talking about here is that the president of the United States used taxpayer-funded military assistance to pressure a foreign leader to help him in his re-election campaign. That is solicitation of a bribe.
FOX: "The Wall Street Journal" reporting this morning on emails that show Sondland kept several Trump administration officials apprised of his effort, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): As I've said from the beginning, I think this is -- this not OK. The president of the United States shouldn't, even in the original phone call, be on the phone with the president of another country and raise his political opponent.
But if you look at Sondland's testimony, which is also public, he says that the direction that he received from the president of the United States was no quid pro quo.
FOX: President Trump again lashing out at another witness in a tweet. In a transcript released this weekend, Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee detailed to the vice president's office, who listened to the July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. She told impeachment investigators President Trump's request for specific investigations struck her as, quote, "unusual and inappropriate.
Vice President Mike Pence's office is making a concerted effort to distance itself from Williams, who is slated to testify tomorrow, releasing a statement emphasizing, quote, "Jennifer is a State Department employee."
FOX: And this jampacked week on Capitol Hill really bringing into focus the fact that Democrats want to move quickly with this public testimony. Although Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has not said exactly what the timeline for this impeachment inquiry will be when she's been pushed -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Lauren. Thank you very much for setting all that up for us.
So Ambassador Sondland's testimony this week will be a pivotal moment in the impeachment inquiry. So we're going to break down what we've learned about his communications with President Trump and his contradictory statements. Next.
BERMAN: As we've been saying, what a week ahead. Eight current and former officials scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry, but it's Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, his testimony could have the greatest impact after new testimony by others puts him at the center of the Ukraine controversy. And he, frankly, puts the president right at the center of it.
Joining us now, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's White House press secretary.
And, look, the newest reporting regarding Gordon Sondland is in "The Wall Street Journal," which says that they've read emails that Sondland wrote to White House officials, including apparently, Mick Mulvaney, Rick Perry -- let me read this. "Mr. Sondland kept several top officials, including acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Rick Perry apprised of the push" -- this is the push to investigate the Bidens -- "according to emails reviewed by 'The Wall Street Journal' in the weeks leading up to the president's July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart that spurred a whistle- blower complaint and, ultimately, the impeachment probe."
Again, so the important thing here is that Sondland kept others in the know. And this was all happening before July 25.
The big picture here is we have this guy testifying on TV to Congress who witnesses testify was speaking to the president about investigating the Bidens. This is a pivotal moment.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's becoming just clear how critical this testimony is going to be. And people have tried to undermine him by saying he's amended his testimony in the past. It's really going to be fascinating to watch him.
And two things that this reveals is one is just how closely tied he was to some of the top officials in the administration. There had been some questions about whether or not he was overstating how close he was to the president, but seeing these emails to the chief of staff and the energy secretary really do go to show who it was he was communicating with. And that's why you can see why other people were listening to him.
The other thing it raises questions about is the timeline. Just how early were they trying to leverage this, if that's what they were doing? And if this was early July, weeks before this phone call even happened at the end of the month, those are going to be new questions that lawmakers want to know answers to.
CAMEROTA: I think "amended his testimony" is a mild word for what he did.
COLLINS: Yes, yes.
BERMAN: You called it a 180. You did.
CAMEROTA: Did I say call it a 180. You called it a U-turn.
BERMAN: No, I called it a U-turn and then you said, no, it was a 180.
CAMEROTA: It was a 180, right.
BERMAN: Because apparently, a U-turn did fully describe it in your mind, so --
CAMEROTA: My point, Joe, is he's an unreliable narrator. He had said -- so now that we know that he's one of the central figures in this, he's having multiple conversations, as Kaitlan said, with the president. All these emails show he's alerting his colleagues to all of this.
The fact that in his first written testimony, he said things to the effect of "I don't recall, I don't think so, I don't remember." How can they trust him on -- which Gordon Sondland is going to show up on Wednesday?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, the idea here is that Gordon Sondland was the witness the White House and the Republicans thought were -- was theirs.
And he went in and he testified and he, you know, sort of, you know, danced around some questions and -- because he didn't want to put the president in the middle of this. And then I think he saw some of the other testimony, and his lawyers said, you've -- you're in danger of committing perjury. You better go back in.
I think one of the things that makes -- Besides his central role, the reason that his testimony is going to be so dramatic is we don't know what he's going to say. Every other witness has come in, and we've read their deposition. So it was -- it still is dramatic. I mean, I don't want to downplay any of the drama of last week.
But we really have no idea which Gordon Sondland is going to show up. And my -- you know, there is a possibility he could take the fifth. He could tell the truth, which could be very damaging to Trump. Or he could try the original Sondland, which is going to get him in a lot of trouble.
BERMAN: I think I know which Gordon Sondland is going to show up. It's the one who watched Roger Stone get sent to jail on Friday for lying to Congress. It's the one who will be told that he's testifying under penalty of perjury before Congress.
Now, he may hold back. He may plead the Fifth, in which case, Congress would give him immunity, but it seems to me now that the need to tell the truth, the compulsion to be honest is obvious to him. And that's why I think Friday was so significant, frankly, the Roger Stone verdict coming when it did.
How does the White House feel about Gordon Sondland? And then, you know, just to put a finer point on this, Friday evening David Holmes testified behind closed doors. And we heard about this conversation that Gordon Sondland had with President Trump, and I will say it out loud. You can put your hands over your ears. Gordon Sondland told the president that Zelensky loves your ass toward the president.
CAMEROTA: That language.
BERMAN: What does the White House feel about these conversations?
COLLINS: It's striking the mood and how different it was after the first day of those hearings, when it was Bill Taylor, George Kent, really methodical, laying out the facts. Nothing really dramatic or exciting. And how differently they felt after Marie Yovanovitch testified. Because she was someone who they realized people could see that she was being genuine. She made clear she didn't have any political motivation to what she was saying. And so the mood was a lot different after watching her.
COLLINS: So the question now is how long does it stay like that, with that mentality? Does that change with Gordon Sondland? Is he someone that people find believable? Is he someone they can undermine by saying, look, yes, he did speak with the president on occasion, but it wasn't that much. He keeps changing his story.
That's essentially what they're trying to navigate right now. But you saw their mood definitely changed in between those two days.
CAMEROTA: All right. Kaitlan, Joe, thank you very much. Stick around. We have many more questions for you.
BERMAN: President Trump is lashing out at yet another witness. Jennifer Williams testifies tomorrow. This comes after the president attacked Ambassador Yovanovitch while she was testifying to Congress. Witness intimidation, a phrase you're hearing Democrats say. How much in play is that? That's next.
[06:20:17] CAMEROTA: President Trump lashing out at another witness, accusing an aid to Vice President Pence, Jennifer Williams, without any proof of being a, quote, "never Trumper." This is ahead of her testimony tomorrow.
And this comes after newly-released testimony shows that Jennifer Williams called President Trump's July phone call with the Ukraine's president "unusual and inappropriate."
Back with us, Kaitlan Collins and Joe Lockhart.
Well, this is interesting. Because Jennifer Williams is a national security adviser to Vice President Pence. And so the question I thought over the weekend was will Vice President Pence come out and defend Jennifer Williams? And what has the response been?
COLLINS: So far, no. And we kind of saw this coming. That they anticipated the president could be frustrated by her testimony. Because in the weeks before, when she was going to testify behind closed doors, we saw them distancing themselves from her, saying, yes, she works in our office, but she's the State Department employee who is detailed to our office. She's not this political appointee that they had.
But we should note, sources have said his office plays a pretty big role in picking which career staffers get detailed to their office. And she works pretty closely. I mean, she was on the call with the president. She traveled with Pence when he went to Warsaw to meet with the Ukrainian president. So she's not some low-level staffer.
However, she's also not an eager witness. She was only named -- No one even realized she was on the call until someone else who was on the call named her to House investigators. That's why she was called to testify in the first place.
But I would not expect some mounting defense. The question is does it come from the secretary of state, who she technically works for? Because they put out a statement after the president attacked her, Pence's office, just saying she's a State Department employee. But that's still a Pompeo employee, someone who is, obviously, hand-picked by the president to do this job.
BERMAN: And look, the fact the president is writing about her is notable. Because when the president tweeted about Marie Yovanovitch on Friday, that made Republicans nervous.
If you talk to Republicans, what they will tell you is the one thing they fear is the unknown here. And part of the unknown is the president's actions during all this.
And as Kaitlan was saying, the mood changed, I think, in the Republican caucus when the president did that. Because it was -- they found it to be indefensible. And treating Jennifer Williams like this before she testifies is in that same category.
LOCKHART: Yes. I mean, I think Ambassador Yovanovitch's testimony would have been dramatic without the president's tweet. But the president's tweet gave Adam Schiff a moment. And, you know, it's the moment so far of the whole -- of all of the public hearings, where he said in real time, the president just said this about you. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel intimidated?
And she -- you know, she answered it perfectly. So, you know, I have -- I understand why Republicans are worried about this. Because the wild card is always the president and his Twitter account.
I think the other thing about Jennifer Williams, and it's not getting as much attention, is she does place Vice President Pence in an awkward position. He either has to argue he doesn't read his briefing book, he doesn't listen to his staff, or I was in on this. It's one or the other. He can't -- So far he's escaped scrutiny here, but he was -- he was briefed on his way to Warsaw by her and -- and apparently, was in his briefing book.
CAMEROTA: And furthermore, there's one more thing that I think is important at that Warsaw meeting. You know, Republicans keep saying it can't be a quid pro quo, because Zelensky didn't even know that the military aid was being held up. Ukrainians didn't even know that.
The very first question at that September 1 meeting between Vice President Pence and Zelensky's people was where's the military aid? What's happening with the military aid? They did know. Of course they knew. And Vice President Pence knows they knew.
COLLINS: Well, that's the question of just what exactly was communicated. Because so far, he's maintained that he's -- these conversations were only about the aid. But of course, the questions about their aid was where is it and why don't we have it yet?
The other thing about the Williams situation with the tweet from the president, the big Republican defense after he tweeted about Yovanovitch was it can't be witness intimidation, because she's already here testifying.
Obviously, Jennifer Williams has not gotten to testify yet. So the president tweeting beforehand, I think, does give more strength to the Democratic argument, though we've seen people like Nancy Pelosi not really go as far as to say it's witness intimidation. Just that they think he shouldn't have been tweeting at her.
BERMAN: All right. The other big story over the weekend is the president's health, which we simply at this point don't know --
CAMEROTA: We don't know why he went and made that unscheduled visit.
BERMAN: He went to Walter Reed for what the White House claims was the first part of his annual checkup, except that it wasn't scheduled and broke protocol. We haven't seen the president Saturday, Sunday, and we're not scheduled to see him today.
And as we've been noting, they haven't exactly built up a reservoir of trust about things that they say, Joe.
So first of all, Kaitlan, what do we know about it from a reporting standpoint?
COLLINS: So what's interesting here is what was different about the times in the past that he's gotten a physical. Typically, we know about that beforehand. He takes the helicopter. He goes to Walter Reed.
CAMEROTA: It's scheduled.
COLLINS: It's scheduled, and he's there for about four hours. This day he went, we didn't know he was going until he had arrived there. And then the press secretary said he was only getting portions of it done, because he's going to be really busy the beginning of the year.
Typically with a physical, you don't go and get portions done now, portions of it done later. So the questions are raised how they went about this and why the president was there at the last minute, seemingly and that we're told by sources it did not follow the typical protocol about notifying Secret Service, et cetera. That's why there are questions being raised about what the purpose of the visit was.
CAMEROTA: Why is this important, Joe?
LOCKHART: Well, when I took the press secretary job, the first briefing I got was what to do in case of nuclear war, you know, an attack.
The second one was how we handle the president's health and, in particular, his annual physical from the White House physician.
It's important, because the president serves a unique role in the world. And if there are doubts about his health, then it has an impact on the markets. It has an impact on our national security.
If people think that the president is in ill health, they might do things, they might take advantage of that in ways that they wouldn't.
And the White House and the communications operation of the White House has a responsibility to make sure that there is certainty. That the president doesn't run out and, you know, do what he did on Saturday.
So if it's nothing, it's -- it's their fault. But it's hard to see that it's nothing at this point.
CAMEROTA: Joe, Kaitlan, thank you both very much.
BERMAN: Up next, we're going to speak to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about this unscheduled trip to Walter Reed and if he sees anything in it. Stay tuned.