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Four Witnesses today in the Impeachment Hearings; Trump's Doctor Refutes Questions; Public Testimony Today. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 19, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees. They spent a whole lot more. I did it to make O'Brien's life miserable, which I'm happy about.
And that's your "Reality Check."
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Really enlightening. Didn't he also sue Bill Maher for Bill Maher saying that he looks like a chimpanzee?
AVLON: An orangutan, but, yes.
CAMEROTA: Oh, sorry.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Facts matter.
CAMEROTA: Facts matter.
BERMAN: Facts matter right there.
CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you for fact checking that in real time.
BERMAN: John Avlon, thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.
BERMAN: All right, a pivotal day in the impeachment investigation.
NEW DAY continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next round of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry just hours away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jennifer Williams.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kurt Volker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tim Morrison will testify today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His testimony from over a dozen witnesses makes it
clear that the president was using a meeting at the White House and taxpayer dollars in order to try to get a foreign government to benefit himself politically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vindman himself had so many problems. Whether he comes in dressed with all the medals or not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is truly a mind boggling corruption of U.S. foreign policy. This is well beyond anything that Richard Nixon or any other U.S. president ever possibly did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY.
And CNN's coverage of the House impeachment hearings. Four important witnesses will take the stand today in a week that could change the legacy of Donald Trump's presidency.
This is a live look, our first one, of the morning of the hearing room where it will happen today. We will hear from these witnesses who have firsthand knowledge of that July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's president. One of the witnesses, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman previously testified behind closed doors that he was concerned about President Trump's efforts to enlist the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden.
Vindman is up first today with Jennifer Williams. She's an aid to Vice President Mike Pence. Then this afternoon they will be followed by Timothy Morrison and Kurt Volker. Volker, you'll remember, is the special envoy to Ukraine whose text messages provided insight into the core allegation that a White House meeting and military aid were connected to investigations of President Trump's political rival.
BERMAN: That comes this morning.
Overnight, Congress released brand new transcripts of closed door testimony from two other key witnesses, one of whom David Holmes is a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, he's the guy who overheard President Trump, on the phone, in a restaurant in the middle of Kiev, asking Ambassador Gordon Sondland about the investigation into the Bidens. He heard it. Other people at the table heard it. And Holmes said he told lawmakers he never saw anything like it.
A source tells CNN this morning that several Republican lawmakers were shaken by that testimony.
CNN Suzanne Malveaux is live now inside the hearing room, which the testimony begins in just two hours, Suzanne. What are you seeing there?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's the anticipation is building here. Obviously the momentum as well. There were staffers who were doing mic checks behind us here as the media gathers. They'll kick us out in about an hour or so. But this is where all the action is going to take place in less than two hours.
And these are critical witnesses, four witnesses. It's going to be a marathon day. The first two witnesses being called this morning back to back at 9:00. They are two who were listening in on that critical phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. They were also actually criticized by the president for being called never Trumpers. Neither one of them says that that is true.
The first one, Jennifer Williams, as you said, works for the State Department, advises the vice president. She was on that call. She's traveled with the vice president, but she testified behind closed doors that she was concerned this request for investigations she found unusual and inappropriate. The president has hit back on her hard on Twitter trying to minimize her role saying in a tweet, tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read both of the transcripts of presidential calls.
And then you also have Alexander Vindman. He is the top Ukraine expert on National Security Council, a retired colonel. A Purple Heart. He also went to superiors as well as to attorney to ring the alarm bells regarding that call. And it will be a very interesting moment today because it was behind closed doors that members of the Republican Party questioned him, asked him, who was he talking to? That is when House Intel Chair Adam Schiff cut down that line of questioning, accusing them of trying to unmask the whistleblower. That is something that you might see unfold and develop in the explosive testimony that we're expecting later this morning.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for giving us a preview from the very room.
Joining us now to talk about it all, we have CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent from "The New York Times." And CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's White House press secretary.
OK, it's going to be a very interesting day.
Maggie, for the first time we're going to hear from people with direct knowledge. So just what the Republicans had -- their outcry about some of this has been what they call hearsay. Today it's not.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
CAMEROTA: Today it's people who were on the very phone call.
Do you have any sense of how the White House is going to be responding today? Will the president be watching? Will the president be live tweeting? What's the plan? HABERMAN: As you might recall, last week we were told very
emphatically the president is not watching, and the president proceeded to tweet about the hearing and watch it. So my assumption is generally that he is watching it. I think he didn't watch the first day. I think he is going to tune in here because Vindman in particular is somebody there has been so much discussion about.
How the Republicans want to handle this, they're in something of a wait and see mode. They need to see what Vindman says. They need to see what Williams says. They are going to try to question things like Vindman's loyalty to the president. That becomes harder. He's a decorated war hero. He is somebody whose credibility is extensive just in terms of service to the country. And I think that Republicans, in a related but different way as they were last week with Yovanovitch, are in something of a box on trying to go at him too aggressively.
BERMAN: I think they will go after him aggressively.
HABERMAN: We'll see.
BERMAN: We'll get to that in just a second.
HABERMAN: We'll see.
BERMAN: They've already previewed that to some extent.
But I do want to shine some light on what it is we expect they will say, Joe, and the importance to all of this overall. And one of the reasons it's important, as Alisyn was alluding to, is they were on the phone call. They heard the phone call between President Trump and Zelensky and they both didn't like it. They both thought it was inappropriate. Colonel Vindman testified behind closed doors, I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine. He then went and reported it to NSC lawyers. This happened twice.
Jennifer Williams, aide to Vice President Mike Pence, says, I would say it struck me as unusual and inappropriate. What does this do in terms of telling the whole story?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it gives us firsthand, as Maggie said, the -- you know, from people who were on the call, but it gives you a window, I think, into people who were not necessarily involved in the back channel, in the Rudy Giuliani, and they were finding out things in real-time. Can -- I mean I can imagine sitting on a call like that and saying, what is he doing? You know -- you know, and so I think there was real alarm, and it set off, I think, an effort from these people to find out what was going on.
I think the other thing that Vindman in particular brings is -- goes to the cover-up, which is he went to the NSC lawyer twice. This, by accident, got onto the secret server. That's going to be, I think, a big part of what the Democrats, when they -- when they come to writing articles, will be a big part of it. CAMEROTA: To your point that Vindman will actually be able to say when
the pieces of the puzzle started coming together, here's another moment from his closed door hearing that I want to read. He says, on the 10th of July, it became completely apparent what the deliverable would be in order to get a White House meeting. That deliverable was reinforced by the president. The demand was, in order to get the White House meeting, they had to deliver an investigation.
So Zelensky really wanted a White House meeting and, of course, he really wanted those $400 million in aid.
So here's the moment on July 10th. That's early when Vindman puts the pieces together and figured out that it is, quote, completely apparent.
To your point, Maggie, the Republicans, it seems like, will go after him. And the reason that John said that we have a preview of that is because Senator Ron Johnson, who was involved in lot of Ukraine meetings, this was one of his issues, sent a letter yesterday to House Republicans sort of spelling out his take on all of this. And what he suggests without presenting any evidence, I mean truly baseless claims, is that it's possible, he says. He even uses the words it's possible, that Vindman was somebody who didn't support the president's agenda.
HABERMAN: Right. Right. To be clear, I didn't say they're not going to go after Vindman. I said they're in a box on going after Vindman. And there's a big difference there in terms of the challenges that they face for trying to attack his credibility.
I think what you're going to see them do is areas where they can suggest that Vindman doesn't have firsthand knowledge and is going beyond what he knows on putting pieces together. They're going to suggest that that shows an agenda. A lot of this is going to come down to how credible a case Vindman can make as he is sitting at that table and talking about it from what we have seen of the transcript of his closed door testimony, and certainly what Democrats have said about it, it came across credibly. It came across as somebody who -- whose story was consistent on what he knew, that everything he described is something that he reiterated again and he could back up. But they are going to try to poke holes in areas where they're going to say, this is you're feeling about the president, this is not based on fact.
LOCKHART: And I think what Dan Goldman will try to establish right at the top is the distinction between helping the president implement his policy, which he has every right under the Constitution to pursue, pro-Ukraine, anti-Ukraine, and the president abusing the power to have personal gain. And I think that's important for Goldman to establish, or Adam Schiff, before the Republicans go after him.
BERMAN: Yes, I do think it's interesting. And one of the reasons I said I suspect we will see the Republicans be more aggressive is that the witnesses to date, George Kent, Bill Taylor, Marie Yovanovitch, very difficult to try to impeach their character. And I'm not suggesting Colonel Vindman's character is any way easier to impeach, but they started much earlier trying.
HABERMAN: They did. And I think they're also going to try to tie him to the whistleblower.
HABERMAN: We have seen that before. They have tried to suggest that he was a source for the whistleblower. He has said to his knowledge he is not. And it's going -- it's something I'm watching for is how he handles that line of questioning.
BERMAN: But I think that's a great point. I think that maybe Republicans think they couldn't get under Yovanovitch's skin at all.
HABERMAN: Correct. Correct.
BERMAN: I mean the opposite of that. Unflappable to say the least. George Kent and Bill Taylor, the same thing. I think Republicans think maybe, maybe they can, you know, they can provoke Vindman a little bit.
HABERMAN: They think they can provoke Vindman a little bit, and I think they -- they're hoping that there's going to be some flare of temper or, again, there will be some inconsistency, although that certainly did not occur before when he testified. I think they're also hoping they can find some daylight between Williams, the Pence aide, who was on the call, and Vindman in terms of what they say about it.
Personally, what I'm watching for mostly is, does the president tweet again? He did himself real damage -- privately Republicans and some of his own advisers will admit -- by tweeting about Yovanovitch during the hearing as she was testifying that she felt threatened. So we'll see how this is handled today.
CAMEROTA: And what was that damage? What does that damage look like to the president?
HABERMAN: Look, at minimum it raises the questions of bullying temperament and so forth that we have had raised with this president repeatedly. It could also add an article of impeachment. It could contribute to a witness tampering allegation.
One of the things that we know that Mueller considered in his many considerations of obstruction of justice incidents or potential obstruction of justice were tweets. And there were more than one. And it was tweets aimed at Michael Cohen, for instance, or tweets talking about other people who were before the Manafort probe. I think that if he does that here, I think it is just going to raise the bar higher again.
BERMAN: The thing is that Republicans, while in public, try to laugh off or brush off tweets in general from the president, what truly worries them is the unknown. They just don't know what's around the next corner or around the next 280 characters. And when that came out on Friday, that was an oh blank moment from them. HABERMAN: Well, it was also the opposite of what their strategy had
been. Their whole strategy had been to handle Yovanovitch very carefully, and it was somebody coming in with like a baseball bat and just take a swing, and that was not the plan.
LOCKHART: Yes, they -- they really, the strategy from my vantage point on the outside, really looks like, let's see what the president tweets and then run in to support afterwards. And that's not a strategy.
HABERMAN: I think they were trying to get him not to tweet --
HABERMAN: And I think he just did it anyway.
LOCKHART: Exactly. And -- but I think sort of allowing Trump with his temperament to drive strategy and to change it day after day has to frustrate them.
HABERMAN: I think -- I guess the only asterisk I would put on that is "allow." I don't think that there's anybody who's been able to keep him from doing it. I think that he's going to do what he's going to do and they're just behind him kind of cleaning up.
CAMEROTA: Joe, Maggie, thank you.
BERMAN: Stand by, right?
All right, new this morning, President Trump's doctor is trying to refute rumors and questions about the president's health after his sudden, unannounced visit to a Walter Reed Medical Center on Saturday that CNN has learned did not follow protocol for routine presidential exams.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now with much more on that.
And, Sanjay, the doctor's letter, what does it say?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So they did release this letter late last night because they were getting a lot of questions about this. The letter, and we can put the letter up, you can take a look. It basically talks a little bit about what happened that day. The fact that it was just a scheduling issue more than anything. There was a relevant quote, which I want to show you because, again, the medical teams have been asking questions about this. In this letter they say, despite some of the speculation, the president has not had any chest pain nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues. Specifically he did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurological evaluations. So that's what they say in the letter.
They also released his cholesterol numbers, which have come down as expected in response to his medications. They didn't talk about really anything else, John. They didn't even talk about his height and his weight, because we know he was clinically obese at his last exam. They don't talk about that. They don't talk about the status of his heart overall, which is obviously important because we know that he has a form of heart disease.
So it's -- it's -- it was very interesting. I asked specific questions of the White House yesterday, and this was the statement that we got back.
Now, remember, John, I mean, it goes without saying, in previous doctors of President Trump have said that they took dictation from him to make these letters. Previous doctors of Trump have said he could live to 200 years old is and he's the healthiest president ever. So now we're getting another statement which, frankly, just doesn't jive with everything that was just saw transpire.
CAMEROTA: I'm sensing skepticism from you, Sanjay.
I mean, to me, as a layperson, hearing that there wasn't chest pain and there wasn't a cardiovascular event, I'm comforted, OK, and I mean -- I mean at, you know, that the American president didn't have a heart attack it sounds like. But you're not -- you're not all in on believing that.
GUPTA: Well, now, what I'm saying is it doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up. I -- I -- when you look at what happened, you see, you know, them going all of a sudden for an unannounced visit on a Saturday to Walter Reed to get things done that could have easily been done at the White House. That's just -- that's just true. So it just doesn't add up.
I talked to doctors who used to work at the White House, called them. I talked to doctors who are currently in touch with the White House. They are also very skeptical. I mean it just doesn't add up. It's hard to find the logic in this.
And, frankly, I'm a little -- like I'm curious which doctors are advising the White House doctors right now? Who are those doctors? Because it almost seems like maybe you need more people involved here because the doctors have shown very clearly in the past that they cater more to the president's whims than to his health. And that is a huge concern if something's going on here.
I'm worried that sometimes executives actually get worse care because their doctors aren't always honest with them. They don't always tell them what needs to be told. And, you know, they're catering to their whims instead of their health, and that -- that could be a problem.
BERMAN: That is really interesting. I'll tell you what made me suspicious is, from a public relation's standpoint, whenever someone comes out and tells you what tests did not happen --
GUPTA: That's right.
BERMAN: Instead of telling you what tests did happen, there's a reason they're controlling that information. That's what raised my radar right there.
CAMEROTA: Well --
GUPTA: No question. And let me just point out again, in the past, in 2018, it was about tests that he had had that they did not disclose, right? So there's all sorts of opaqueness going on.
I asked about a specific heart test in 2018, a coronary calcium scan. The doctors didn't reveal that test had even been done. They revealed basic labs, things like that. A very important test, they didn't even reveal that it had been done. I found out that it had been done. I asked about it. It revealed he had heart disease. It said that based on that level of heart disease, within the next three to five years, he had a moderate risk of having a heart attack.
So doctors need to be open about that in order to best treat this and prevent that from happening.
CAMEROTA: Really helpful context, Sanjay, thank you. Obviously this story isn't going away. We will continue to get dribs and drabs of information about what happened with the president this weekend.
Thank you very much.
GUPTA: You got it.
BERMAN: So, this morning, damning testimony from an embassy official claiming that officials in Ukraine were aware of the pressure to get investigations on the Bidens. How will that play in today's hearings?
BERMAN: The most jam packed day yet in the public impeachment hearings, and what could very well be the most contentious day yet. Why?
Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig to go over what we are expecting to see.
Elie, what's the lineup this morning?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: All right, John, we got a double double feature today. In the morning, we're going to hear from Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, alongside Jennifer Williams. They'll be testifying simultaneously. Then the afternoon feature will be Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison.
BERMAN: Let's go through it one by one.
Colonel Vindman here, he may very well be sort of the marquee witness today.
HONIG: Yes, he's going to be a crucial witness. Now, the crux of Vindman's testimony has to do with Gordon Sondland, who we know was in direct contact with President Trump. Vindman has testified before that Sondland discussed what the deliverable would be. That's an important word, deliverable would be in order to get the meeting. And he talked about the investigation into the Bidens that the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens. That goes right to the quid pro quo. Watch how many times he says that word "deliverable."
Now, also, of course, Vindman listened to that July 25th phone call live. And his reaction was that this was about getting a White House meeting. It was a demand for him to fulfill this particular prerequisite in order to get the meeting. Again, that goes to the central corrupt exchange here.
Now, Vindman also gives us a couple really interesting and I think important details. First of all, he talks about the power disparity between the United States and Ukraine. He says here's how important, here's how desperate Ukraine was for that foreign aid. It was 10 percent of their annual military budget. Imagine that.
He also tells us that he reported his concerns up the chain not once but twice to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg, who, by the way, is refusing to testify, so we don't know what happened with those complaints.
And Vindman says he tried to correct the July 25th transcript. He said there was a mention of the company Burisma that did not make it into the final version.
Now, what are Republicans going to do? They're not just going to sit back and take it. They're going to argue that he's dealing in secondhand information. But, remember, mostly because he also firsthand heard that phone call and they may do what they did before, which I think is self-defeating, which is to question his patriotism. Donald Trump has called him what he calls everybody who testifies against him, a never Trumper. I think that's a ridiculous and self- defusing (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
BERMAN: I just want to point out what he's wearing right now, which is his uniform.
HONIG: Yes, take note.
BERMAN: Which he will be wearing today.
BERMAN: Jennifer Williams.
HONIG: Yes, so Jennifer Williams will be testifying alongside Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. Now Lieutenant -- now Williams also listened to that July 25th call. And she testified that the mention of these specific investigations seemed unusual as compared to other discussions with foreign leaders. I believe those references to be more political in nature, and so that struck me as unusual.
Now, Williams interesting fact, said my notes did reflect that the word Burisma had come up in the call, consistent with the same thing Vindman said. When you see two witnesses who have overlapping testimony like that, I think it tells you something.
Now, she said that she -- this is also another interesting detail.
She placed the July 25th call summary in Vice President Pence's briefing book that same day. Vice President Pence has been bit of a mystery man throughout this whole thing. What did he know? How much did he know? When did he know it? Jennifer Williams may be able to give us some insight into that.
Now, Republicans are going to make the same argument, she lacked access, she lacked knowledge, and they're going to attack her, or they already have. Donald Trump, never Trumper. And he sent this really despicable tweet calling her out a few days ago that I think has no place in these proceedings.
BERMAN: Yes. The president attacked her that way.
HONIG: Yes, he did.
BERMAN: Don't know yet if other Republicans, particularly on the committee, will take that line.
HONIG: Yes, so Kurt Volker is actually on the Republicans' witness list. Now, I think they may want to think twice about this. Donald Trump has embraced Kurt Volker. He sent a thank you tweet to Kurt Volker quoting Kurt Volker accurately as testifying during his deposition, you asked what conversations did I have about that quid pro quo, et cetera, none, because I didn't know there was a quid pro quo.
But, Kurt Volker himself sent a text back in July that lays out a quid pro quo. He texts, heard from White House. Assuming President Zelensky convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down a date for visit to Washington. So they need to be careful in embracing Kurt Volker.
Volker also gives some other policy details. He basically says, everyone on the policy side of the administration thought it was so important to deliver this foreign aid.
BERMAN: Quickly on Tim Morrison.
HONIG: Yes, so Tim Morrison, also Republicans have listed him as one of their witnesses, but, again, I think that may be a tactical mistake because -- now, he said he heard that July 25th phone call. He said he felt there was nothing illegal or nothing improper. But this is strange. What does he do? Immediately after the phone call, he brings it out and suggests we restrict access to it within the White House because he was worried it would be damaging. So he's not worried it's improper, but he's worried it would be damaging. I don't know how that is going to square.
And Morrison also gives other testimony that could be a problem. He, again, talks about how problematic it would be. He said, what could help them move the aid is if the prosecutor general would go to the mic and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation. That was the first time something like this had been injected as a condition -- condition on the release of assistance. Again, quid pro quo. He could be a witness that supports the idea of a quid pro quo.
BERMAN: It will be interesting. I think the counsels, you know, Goldman and the other guy, they will have their work cut out for them today. They may do a lot of the heavy lifting, even more so than they have before.
HONIG: Yes. A more active role for the lawyers today for sure, John.
BERMAN: All right.
BERMAN: OK, John, thank you.
A member of the House Intelligence Committee is going to join us next to tell us what the Dems are planning to do today.