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AT THIS HOUR
House Democrats Move Closer to Articles of Impeachment; White House & GOP Senators Strategize for Senate Impeachment Trial; Trump Lashes Out After Hearings: "I Want a Trial"; Team Trump's Shifting Defenses. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 22, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: But according to some administration sources, the president was also told that such a ban would be unpopular with his base. We can assure this is something we will follow very closely.
Thank you for joining us all day and all week. We'll see you next week. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Erica Hill, in for Kate Bolduan today. Thanks for joining me.
Democrats moving closer to impeaching President Trump. Five days of public hearings, more than 30 hours of testimony, 12 public witnesses all make the case that President Trump directed a campaign to pressure Ukraine for his own political purpose.
Withholding millions of dollars in critical U.S. aid and an official White House visit while pushing for announcement of an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
A move the president's former top Russia adviser described as a, quote, "domestic political errand."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy. Those two things had just diverged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: In response, President Trump this morning releasing a fiery and, frankly, well-worn rant on FOX News, attacking the witnesses, the whistleblower, the Democrats, and insisting he wants a trial.
Sources tell CNN that Democrats are preparing a report of their findings that will serve as the basis for articles of impeachment.
CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what are you hearing this morning from Democrats?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what they're doing. They're drafting that report that will detail the findings of the investigations that have been happening since late September.
That report will serve as the basis of articles of impeachment that will likely be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee as early as the first couple weeks of December, before we expect a full House to vote on that rather momentous vote to impeach President Trump, which would be the third time in American history that that would happen.
All signs are indicating they are going that route, in part, because Democrats have decided not to pursue some key witnesses who have not come forward and try to fight them in court to get their testimony after people like Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton have refused to comply with their requests. Democrats say they have enough evidence to move forward.
What they are looking for in terms of article of impeachment, they're still debating the exact scope of how the articles of impeachment would work. But they're looking at abuse of power, obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress and bribery among the articles they are discussing.
There's still a question about exactly how this will be structure, in part, because the report still needs to be drafted.
But make no mistake, Erica, Democrats are moving ahead to the next phase of this investigation, and it could happen rather quickly, just a matter of weeks before moving to the next step, which would be a Senate trial that the president apparently wants -- Erica?
HILL: Which we'll be looking toward.
And just quickly, too, what are you hearing from Republicans this morning, Manu?
RAJU: Republicans are indicating they're following in lockstep behind the president. I spoke to Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, last night. He told me he expected to lose zero Republicans on impeachment. He said he did expect to pick up some Democrats, too. We'll see if that happens.
We'll also see how Republicans in the Senate deal with the trial that's almost certain to happen. At the moment, the White House is working with the Senate Republicans trying to structure a trial.
There's still some debate about how long that trial would last, what witnesses they want to call, but those conversations will intensify in the weeks ahead -- Erica?
HILL: Manu Raju with the latest for us. Manu, thank you.
Let's look at the evidence about what we learned in terms of this case against President Trump.
Joining us now, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, CNN political analyst and congressional editor for the "New York Times," and Shan Wu, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
Shan, based on what you heard from these witnesses, what changed this week?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think what changed this week is the Democrats put out a steady amount of evidence -- they're good prosecutors -- to build the case.
What changed was the American people got to hear firsthand just how the Trump administration has used the State Department, used foreign policy at the expense of national security to further political ends.
I think that was made plain as opposed to us hearing bits and pieces being put out.
HILL: Julie, in terms of Capitol Hill, what's your sense of what changed, if anything, this week?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Shan is right, there's a much more precise and detailed narrative out there, much of which had been given behind closed doors, but the public had not gotten a chance to hear it.
Frankly, many lawmakers had not had a chance to hear firsthand what this pressure campaign looked like, the fact than not only did it exist but people at the highest echelons of the administration new that it existed, took it as an article of faith this is what the president wanted and had repeatedly asked for it through Rudy Giuliani and other senior members of his team.
And also that there was quite a bit of pushback and alarm inside his own administration about it. That has all been made very plan.
But in terms of the political dynamic, I think Manu is right, it hasn't moved any votes that I can see.
You've heard from Republicans, even some questioning the president's conduct, and some of what he did hear, and said it might not have been appropriate, saying they still didn't think this was impeachable conduct.
You see Democrats going even more aggressively toward just that place of drafting the articles of impeachment. So a vote seems inevitable since Democrats are in control of the House, so there's very little doubt in my mind that it would pass.
But I don't see Republicans really changing their minds based on what they heard the last couple of weeks.
HILL: The divide is there and perhaps even growing in some ways.
When we look at what we learned, what we saw, what we heard, there's also who, I should say we didn't see who we didn't hear from. These are central figures, Shan, to the narrative we heard from all of these witnesses. We're talking about Mick Mulvaney, Secretary Pompeo, John Bolton, even the vice president. We are likely not going to hear from them.
Do you think Democrats are risking anything by potentially wrapping this up too soon? Are there more people to hear from?
WU: Well, you know, I think, to Julie's point, there's no budging on the Hill. If they were to delay by trying to fight longer to get these people, that's not going to budge anybody, either. I think they're making a smart move by trying to push forward.
From a trial perspective, as a trial lawyer, when you have an empty chair, you can do a lot things with it. You can point to it, blame them. Both sides can do that a bit. But there are big advantages for not having them there, too. And that's something for us to keep in mind.
HILL: Julie, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pointing out what we heard from both of you, but she was clear I'm not going to wait for the courts to fight there out in terms of other folks they want to hear from, making the case it's just not worth it.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Right. Time is definitely not their friend. In this case -- you heard Manu likely lay out one of the articles. One of the articles I don't think is in dispute is there will be an article of impeachment against President Trump for obstruction of Congress.
The fact these top officials will not appear, the fact that they have not been willing to furnish a bunch of documents that we now know from firsthand witnesses and other witnesses are crucial to understanding what went on here, what was happening with the aid, with the White House meeting, key conversations and records and e-mails and the like, that the committee would need to actually reach some factual conclusions are not being furnished.
That is one of the bases that the House Democrats will use to essentially charge the president.
So not only does it not make sense for Democrats on a calendar perspective to push for people they won't get, most likely, but it also strengthens their case potentially for impeachment.
HILL: Shan, we're now hearing from John Bolton, obviously. He's back on Twitter after an absence, cryptically. So apparently, he's OK to talk on Twitter in his mind.
But also recently, instead, first, there was, "Stay tuned for the back story," earlier this morning. If you have something to say, you could just say it.
Then he goes on to say a short time ago, "We have now liberated the Twitter account previously suppressed unfairly in the aftermath of my resignation as national security adviser." Once again, "More to come."
When you see something like this from a person like this who knows full well that many would like to hear from him, what is your gut -- as a former prosecutor, what does this say?
WU: It says two things. My gut is he's just doing a marketing campaign to push his book. I think there's some ego involved, too. He's still mad about having to leave the administration.
From a prosecutor's standpoint, from a kind of trial standpoint, for the Democrats, I don't really want to see that. I don't want the witness out there in public making their statements, not able to control what they're going to say, not knowing what they're going to say. And he may say something that's damaging to the Democrat's case, and there's no way to rebut it right now.
But I think he needs to be careful, because when you're making these public statements, you may have a hard time putting the genie back in the bottle and then claim, oh, I can't talk in public, there's privilege or some other reason when you're actually already tweeting about it.
HILL: It all comes back to say Twitter, obviously, doesn't it?
Shan, Julie, thank you both.
WU: Thank you.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Thank you.
HILL: Coming up, after two weeks of battering testimony on Capitol Hill against President Trump, the president says, yes, he wants a trial. So is this part of the latest White House strategy?
Plus, GOP support for President Trump remains solid, as we just discussed, even as impeachment witnesses repeatedly poked holes in Republican talking points. What could change as the process moves forward?
HILL: Public impeachment hearings are over for the week, possibly for good. President Trump is now firing back. Speaking to FOX News for nearly an hour this morning, the president blasted the week's witnesses, and also welcomed the possibility of a Senate trial if the House votes to impeach, calling on both Congressman Adam Schiff and the whistleblower to testify.
[11:15:06] Throughout the interview, the president once again repeatedly bringing up debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House.
Boris, clearly, the president had a lot he wanted to talk about this morning.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Eric. Between peddling these conspiracy theories, talking about the situation in Hong Kong, the situation with John Bolton's Twitter account, the president certainty had a lot to say. Specifically when it comes to impeachment, too.
The president dismissing the testimony that we've seen over the past two weeks, again arguing that he's done nothing wrong, that his actions on Ukraine have been perfect.
The president also suggesting he does not expect to be impeached because, in his words, Democrats have nothing. The president, though, saying that if, in fact, he is impeached, he welcomes a Senate trial.
We know that behind the scenes, the White House counsel has been meeting with Senate Republicans, trying to chart out the best course forward to defend the president.
We've also heard from a number of White House officials who say they are confident the president is in a good place right now, though one official acknowledges that the equation could change if we were to hear testimony from other officials, like former national security advisor, John Bolton, the acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
However, the possibility they would testify seems highly unlikely. So they're confident right now that the president is not in danger of being removed from office.
Notedly, I did want to point out, in this FOX News interview, the president also strongly defending his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, saying that Giuliani, quote, "Is a great crime fighter and a legendary figure."
Of course, this comes after weeks of some Republicans trying to put distance between the president and Giuliani, suggesting that the president's personal attorney went rogue on Ukraine policy. The president here with a full-throated endorsement of the former mayor -- Erica?
HILL: Yes, making it very clear.
Boris Sanchez, appreciate it. Thank you.
From the beginning, the president and his supporters have used a number of arguments to defends his actions.
CNN's John Avlon, in "REALITY CHECK," counts at least a dozen different positions, which ultimately shifted to something else, beginning with this.
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And with that damning bit of testimony, Ambassador Sondland killed off one of the Team Trump's biggest talking points.
His very presence undercut another defense because this million-dollar Trump donor could never be credibly called a Never-Trumper.
Let's go back to the beginning. It all started with denial. The president tweeting: "Is anybody dumb enough to believe I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader?"
And Trump's own release of the transcript knocked that one off.
The next move? Just clam up.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you discuss Joe Biden, his son or family --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't matter what I discussed. I don't even know exactly who you're talking about.
HILL: That couldn't be sustained forever, so it became a perfect call.
TRUMP: It was a perfect call.
And absolutely perfect phone conversation.
It was perfect.
AVLON: If that's the case, then the whistleblower had to be wrong, right?
TRUMP: The whistleblower is very inaccurate.
AVLON: When Trump released the transcript voluntarily, it basically backed up the whistleblower's account.
Then there was this. Get over it, Snowflakes.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
AVLON: And then America's crass course in Latin.
TRUMP: No quid pro quo. No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
AVLON: When appeared that Ukraine didn't know military was being withheld, well, there goes the quo, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't have a quid pro quo with no quo.
AVLON: Well, it turns out Ukraine did know, so scratch that.
Then came the testimonies.
The GOP complains that they were being held behind closed doors.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court and Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo.
AVLON: OK, Captain Kangaroo has nothing to do with kangaroo courts, but once we enter public hearings that would have went away, right?
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: This would have been better off if we had taken care of this behind the scenes.
AVLON: So much for that.
But it's all secondhand information, right?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I've seen church prayer chains easier to understand than this.
AVLON: Then witnesses with firsthand information testified the same way. The White House is blocking the testimony of more senior officials with firsthand knowledge. So kiss that one good-bye.
As long as we're on Jim Jordan, by the way, call this the brick camp.
JORDAN: If I'm asking you a simple question, when did that happen?
AVLON: Never did.
JORDAN: It never did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what we're yelling about!
AVLON: When all the testimony is basically said he did it, it was time for this defense.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Attempted bribery isn't in the Constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abuse of power is not a crime.
AVLON: That man briefly ran our Justice Department.
And solicitation of bribery is literally part of the statute. So then they tried to let Trump off the hook, because he got caught
before he could pull it off.
There's also plenty of project-and-deflect on Hunter Biden, and the idea that it was Democrats who were colluding with Ukraine, for which Fiona Hill said.
FIONA HILL: This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves.
AVLON: So here we are, back to denial, as the official position of the White House. And FOX News, at least judging by this giant banner.
As this heads to the Senate, it looks like there's one defense left. OK, he did it, it's bad, but it's not impeachable.
And whoever signs on to that defense will be giving the green light to all future presidents to use foreign powers to investigates domestic political rivals.
And that's your "REALITY CHECK."
HILL: Thank you, John Avlon.
Where do Republicans go from here?
Joining me now, former Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich.
Always good to see you. Good morning.
KASICH: Good morning.
HILL: So we're hearing there, it's bad but not impeachable. How is that going to play?
KASICH: Erica, we have to see where the public opinion polls are over the period of the next view days. Members are going home to their districts now. I don't know how many of them are doing town hall meetings. Town hall meetings may have turned into shouting matches.
I don't know how many are doing that or having an occasion to sit down and not just talk to their friend but talk to a wide variety of their constituents.
I think a large part of where members come down is on the basis of what their constituents say. Right now, the party is ascendant. And -- we've become -- let's think about our country now. It's a much different time from when I was in Congress. I was there for 18 years, a long time. We've just become more tribal.
Back in the days when I was there -- and it was not when we were using candles to light the room. It wasn't that long ago, actually. You know, the situation was you always had outliers in our party, always with three or four or five that would go their own way. Sometimes I might even be one of those people at times. But you don't see much of that now.
It's odd to me. If you put a lot of people on an island, there's always an outlier. Right now, we're not seeing an outlier. It seems as though a party affiliation, a party loyalty means more than anything else. But constituents can disrupt that. People's consciences can disrupt that. We just have to wait and see.
HILL: To your point, Will Hurd, of Texas, is retiring. He has criticized the president at times. He's basically in that camp of, it's bad, but not impeachable. To your point, if even he is not going down that road, is there a sense that there will be any cracks in the wall? Can they only come from those conversations, to your point, with constituents?
KASICH: I don't want to talk about individual members. I can't get inside their head and judge them. Everybody has to look at the facts and decide for themselves.
But there are many things that can be a state of play. For example, what about my political future? Will I have a political future? Am I going to be drummed out of the party?
And this is not just related to Republicans. If the shoe was on the other foot, Erica, we would be seeing the same thing out of the other side, because we've become so tribal.
What I think will happen at the end is you will see -- and I don't know in this case -- but at some point that will change in the Congress of the United States. At some point, people will say, I've got to be my own person. I can't tell when you it would happen, but I think at some point it will.
What interesting is a lot of the retiring members, ones who are never going to seek public office, keep an eye on them. We'll have to see what they do.
Right now, party loyalty is ascendant. It's sort of like a football game. You watch Alabama and LSU, you have some on one side of the field, others on the other. Politics is reminding me more and more of that kind of a football game approach. I hate to say it. And, again, it makes you sad.
HILL: I think there's a number of Americans who would agree with you.
I know you said earlier in the week that there were moments for you that you saw that you thought could potentially, as people digest them, as voters -- take lawmakers out the equation for a minute -- as voters start to digest this, it could perhaps shift the needle for them.
Was there anything you saw, specifically yesterday, because there's been so much made of what we heard from Fiona Hill, anything that you saw that you think could break through, could perhaps speak to someone who is watching this and saying, I don't think I can be moved?
KASICH: I think, Erica, the national news has been carrying this story aggressively. I think they still attract. People want to say the national news broadcasts, it's a dead man walking. I don't buy that. There are still many Americans who get their news there.
I think that the preponderance of the testimony, starting with Yovanovitch and the president attacking her in the middle of her testimony, when you look at Sondland. I know the afternoon apparently didn't go well for him.
But I saw the morning headlines, the headlines on the news that night. Fiona Hill coming across in a strong way and respected way. It's a preponderance. It won't be one thing.
We still don't know where the public is. You've got to give them a few more days. We're going into the holiday season. Then we'll be in a position to know if anything's changed, in my opinion.
HILL: As we head into the holiday, specifically, you know, there are certain things you don't talk about, at least where I grew up. You don't talk about politics, money or religion. Because you know it can go bad.
KASICH: You talk about the Macy's Day Parade.
KASICH: Exactly. Exactly.
HILL: But that being said, you were saying earlier in the week, this may be something that does come up this year at Thanksgiving. I'm curious, how does that conversation go? In every family, you have people who disagree. Those disagreements over the last year have become more and more colorful, I think for a lot of families.
Is this, in talking about the testimony, is that part of the conversation you see that could be happening that could, in fact, lead to more thoughtful discussion?
KASICH: Erica, you've been around a while. You're a very smart woman. You've got your finger on the pulse. I could ask you that question if I were doing the questioning.
Don't you think, Erica, Americans are willing to discuss this, but they're kind of tired of the yelling? They don't want a Thanksgiving dinner like in previous years where, you know, Uncle Joe is saying something, there was a fight -- I don't mean a fist fight, but an argument.
I think, this year, it would be more calm. I think people are tired of the chaos. And what some may say is, regardless of what he did or whatever, we're going to have an election in a year, why don't we let the people it.
I don't believe people want to live in chaos. I've never believed that. Human beings can get revved up but, at the end, we come together. That might be the sense of what we hear, discussion, important discussion, thoughtful discussion, but maybe less antagonism, and more appreciation for somebody else's point of view. At least that's where I hope we get to.
I can't be arguing with lots of people, but I've decided, in my life, you're entitled to your opinion. I can make a point but, at the end, I'm not going to beat you into submission, I'm not going to change you, so why don't I listen and show a little respect.
HILL: It's a novel concept, listening and a little respect.
KASICH: What do you think?
KASICH: Do you think I'm right about this?
HILL: I'm a fan of listening and respectful conversations always.
HILL: Governor, always good to talk to you. Thank you.
KASICH: Thank you, Erica.
HILL: And if I don't see you, happy Thanksgiving.
KASICH: Same to you.
HILL: Thank you.
Still to come, Fiona Hill's testimony debunked the GOP conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. So what is the impact of these consistent false narratives? An expert on Russia and Ukraine is here to break it down, next.