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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY); Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 24, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Game, set, match? Democrats set to move to the next stage of impeachment, after two weeks of public witness testimony.
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.
TAPPER: But with no House Republicans apparently on board, have Democrats convinced the American people?
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff joins me next to discuss.
And preparing for battle. Republicans on Capitol Hill remain in lockstep against impeachment, as the president says he's ready for a trial.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're doing something that the founders never thought possible and the founders didn't want.
TAPPER: Can President Trump do no wrong in today's GOP? I'll speak to Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin next.
Plus: Cash is king? Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg opens his wallet, preparing to drop tens of million dollars on campaign ads.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is a lot of dough.
TAPPER: 2020 Democrats are accusing him of trying to buy the nomination. But could it work?
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the State of the Union is looking ahead.
House Democrats appear to be moving forward in their impeachment inquiry after two weeks of historic public testimony on Capitol Hill.
The clear picture that has emerged, the Trump administration was pushing Ukraine for political investigations, while holding up military aid and a White House meeting that Ukraine wanted.
A key witness, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, testified that, when it came to withholding the White House meeting in exchange for the Biden investigation -- quote -- "Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But even after 12 witnesses testified in public for more than 30 hours, the hearings do not seem to have changed the political dynamics in Washington.
President Trump continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong, and there are still no Republicans in the House or Senate that we can tell are in favor of impeachment.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are expected to spend the next week drafting a report for the House Judiciary Committee, which will then make a determination on articles of impeachment.
If the House moves forward, sources say a vote on impeachment could happen before Christmas.
Here with me, the man leading the impeachment inquiry, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman Schiff, Chairman Schiff, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): My pleasure.
TAPPER: Do you think that that was the most important moment of the testimony, Ambassador Sondland saying there was a quid pro quo when it came to the Ukraine meeting and the Bidens investigation?
SCHIFF: I think it was one of the most important moments.
I also was particularly struck by Dr. Hill's testimony, when she acknowledged -- and I think she came to this conclusion watching the evidence during the hearings -- that this irregular channel that had been described many have been the regular channel.
The national security efforts, the efforts to drive our foreign policy in ways that the entire national security infrastructure believed was in U.S. interests, that may have become irregular in a presidency that was driven by the president's personal political errand, his interests.
SCHIFF: And, sadly, in this presidency, what matters this president -- and I think Mr. Holmes made this point quite eloquently -- he...
TAPPER: David Holmes, the Ukrainian -- the U.S. Embassy ambassador -- U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine.
SCHIFF: Yes, yes, that, as Sondland told him, this president only cares about the big stuff.
And when he said, well, there's big stuff going on here, there's a war with Russia, Sondland explained, no, big stuff that helps him personally, like this Biden investigation that Giuliani wants.
Some conversations really tell it all. And that is the story of this presidency. What matters to Donald Trump is what matters to him personally and politically. The rest, our national security, our allies, none of that matters, compared to what this president thinks is good for him.
TAPPER: So those are the three moments, then, in your view, that are most important.
Is there no -- you have no more public testimony scheduled that we know of. Your committee has begun writing the report. So is that it? Are there going to be any more hearings, any more witnesses, or are you done?
SCHIFF: We don't foreclose the possibility of more depositions, more hearings. We are in the process of getting more documents all the time.
So, that investigative work is going to go on. What we're not prepared to do is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of rope-a-dope in an effort to try to stall. We're not willing to go down that road.
And what's more, the evidence is already overwhelming. The remarkable thing about this -- and we have done this with almost -- well, literally no documentary production from the administration -- is, the facts are really not contested.
It's really not contested what the president did.
SCHIFF: What is open to question is whether members of Congress are going to do their duty, and whether there will be anyone like Howard Baker, anyone on the Republican side that is willing to put their country, their Constitution above the party, or even the person of this president, because I don't think he really represents at least what the Republican Party used to stand for.
TAPPER: So, if the facts aren't contested, and your committee is writing up the report, and you don't, at least as of now, have any scheduled witnesses or depositions, do you think President Trump should be impeached?
SCHIFF: I want to discuss this with my constituents and my colleagues before I make a final judgment on it.
But there are a couple really important things we need to think about. And one is, are we prepared to say that soliciting foreign interference, conditioning official acts, like $400 million in taxpayer money, White House meetings, to get political favors is somehow now compatible with the office?
Because, if we do, it's basically carte blanche for this president and anyone who comes after him. But are we also prepared to say that Congress will tolerate the complete stonewalling of an impeachment inquiry or our oversight? Because, if we do, it'll mean that the impeachment clause is a complete nullity and, more than that, our oversight ability is really an ability in name only.
TAPPER: But if that's your view -- and you have also said that this week's testimony -- quote -- "goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery," and you have also said that what you have seen is -- quote -- "far more serious than what Nixon did," explain to me how you have not come to the conclusion that the president should be impeached.
I mean, it sounds like you think he should be impeached.
SCHIFF: Well, I certainly think that the evidence that's been produced overwhelmingly shows serious misconduct by the president.
But I do want to hear more from my constituents, and I want to hear more from my colleagues. This is not a decision I will be making alone.
But, at the end of the day, this is a decision about whether the founding fathers had in mind this kind of misconduct when they gave Congress this remedy.
And I have to think that this is very much central to what they were concerned about. That is, an unethical man or woman takes that office, uses it for their personal political gain, sacrifices the national security to do so.
If that wasn't what the founders had in mind, it's hard to imagine what they did.
TAPPER: So, it is uncontested that President Trump asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He said so on the call and he said so in front of cameras when asked about the call in -- in early October.
The other question, though, is whether or not the $400 million in aid for Ukraine and the White House meeting was directly ordered by President Trump to have -- to be withheld until they did these investigations.
And, so far, there are no witnesses -- that's not to say there are no people, but there are no witnesses who have said that they heard that from President Trump. In fact, here's Gordon Sondland asked about this very issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CASTOR, REPUBLICAN COUNSEL: The president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released?
CASTOR: The president never told you about any preconditions for a White House meeting?
SONDLAND: Personally, no. I'm not testifying that I heard the president tell Mr. Giuliani to tell us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Have any witnesses testified that the president himself explicitly linked a White House meeting or the $400 million in aid to an announcement about these investigations?
The president's own chief of staff, the person who meets with the president every day, on live camera admitted exactly that vis-a-vis the most serious, and that is the military aid.
But, look, what Ambassador Sondland did say is, everyone was in the loop on the preconditioning of the meeting that Ukraine desperately sought for its recognition that it had the -- that the United States had its back, that everyone was in the loop on this, there was a clear quid pro quo.
And with respect to the military aid, in the absence of any other explanation, and in light of the president's own record of pressing for these investigations, two plus two equals four.
What every judge tells every jury -- and it's no different here -- is, you don't leave your common sense at the door. Everyone understood this was merely pressure to get the president's investigations. And even more than that -- and I thought this was notable about Ambassador Sondland's testimony -- he wasn't even as interested in the investigations as he was the announcement of the investigations.
That gives the lie to the whole idea that this was ever about corruption. It wasn't. It was about the reelection campaign of the president.
TAPPER: So, you just referred to a public statement made by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, in which he did, in fact, say that part of the reason the military aid, the $400 million in aid, was held up was because they wanted this investigation into Ukraine in 2016.
Absolutely, he said that on the record. But you have not had -- you and the committee have not had Mick Mulvaney testify, or Vice President Pence, or Secretary of State Pompeo, or former National Security Adviser John Bolton, or the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Now, I understand you would welcome their testimony. You have asked for their testimony. And they have not given it.
"The New York Times" editorial board, hardly a Trump-supporting organ, said this week that it's a -- quote -- "mistake" not to call any more witnesses, saying it's essential to hear from key figures and the process -- quote -- "should not be rushed."
And yet you're not going to go to court to compel them, because you say it's rope-a-dope, it's going to take too much time.
But is that really a principle, the idea that it's just going to take too much time, as opposed to, look, there are three branches of government, here's the legislative branch doing oversight of the executive branch, guess what, the judicial branch gets to weigh in as well?
SCHIFF: Well, the "New York Times" piece was interesting in two respects.
First, they acknowledge that the evidence is overwhelming of what the president did and the presidential misconduct. And they give no remedy for the fact that the administration will draw this out for months and months if we choose to litigate this matter.
Yes, we'd love to have these witnesses come in, but we're not willing to simply allow them to wait us out to stall this proceeding, when the facts are already overwhelming.
We're going to continue our investigation. We are going to continue to pursue the documents.
TAPPER: Even after you have handed in the report, you're going to continue?
SCHIFF: Yes. Oh, yes. The investigation isn't going to end.
But this gets back to, I think, something the inspector general said, which is, this is an urgent concern. This president has now twice sought foreign interference in our election.
And that election is coming up.
TAPPER: The first time being with Russia.
SCHIFF: The first time being with Russia, when he invited the Russians to hack Hillary's e-mails, and, later that day, they attempted to do exactly that. There is a sense of urgency, when you have a president who's
threatening the integrity of our elections, that we need to act now, if we're going to act, and we can't allow this obstruction to succeed.
The other point I would make is, the case in terms of the Ukraine misconduct is ironclad, but so is the case of the president's obstruction of the Congress.
And there was no discussion of that, really, by "The New York Times" or others. And we do need to consider that, if we allow this obstruction to succeed, if we allow them to draw us out endlessly in the courts, then it does make the impeachment clause a nonentity.
It means Congress will forever be incapable of doing any oversight. Why should any future president answer a congressional subpoena?
The Republicans who take this position today, I guarantee you...
SCHIFF: ... will rue the day they did.
TAPPER: But what do you say to people who say, well, look, you're accusing the president of using his office for political reasons, right, and abusing it, and you are making a decision based on politics itself in the timing of this, that it's going to take too long?
I have never heard you say it, but other Democrats have said they don't want to get in the way of the six Democrats in the Senate running for president. They don't want to have 2020 be the year the Democrats are known for only impeaching President Trump, as opposed to legislation, political arguments, essentially.
SCHIFF: I don't subscribe to those political arguments. I don't think people should be making them, and I don't think people should be thinking of them.
What we ought to think about is, what does it mean to this office if we don't impeach the president based on the facts before us? What does it mean if we do impeach the president? What will this tell future presidents about what they can get away with?
What does this tell the American people about what they should now expect in their chief executive?
TAPPER: What about the idea -- I have heard this legal theory posited -- that, if you took Bolton and everybody to court, Mulvaney, et cetera -- and the Supreme Court has never really weighed in on whether or not such a thing -- they have accommodated here and there, but they have never really made a decision about where executive privilege ends and where it begins when it comes to people in the White House testifying, being forced to testify before Congress.
It would go before the Supreme Court. Who knows how they would rule, and that's -- all of a sudden, we're in 2020. But if you do it the way you're doing it, which is, it goes -- presuming that you impeach the president, the House Democrats vote to impeach the president, it goes to the Senate, Chief Justice John Roberts presides, and he could theoretically compel John Bolton and others to testify.
I have heard that as a legal theory as to why you're doing it that way. Is there any merit to that?
SCHIFF: Well, I think there's certainly merit to the idea that we may get a quicker ruling from a chief justice in a Senate trial, if it ever came to that, than we would get by going months and months on end litigating the matter.
There's no guarantee of that, but I think that it's entirely possible.
Ultimately, though, one thing is clear. Because we have adduced so much evidence of guilt of this president, so much evidence of serious misconduct, any privilege the president would have would be vitiated by this crime-fraud exception.
So, that will give way. And if it doesn't, to quote my colleague Chairman Nadler, it will mean that either Justice Roberts or the Supreme Court itself is not really a conservative justice or court, merely a partisan one.
And I have to hope that that's not the case for the country's sake.
TAPPER: So John Bolton's lawyer says that Bolton knows about -- quote -- "many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far."
Do you know what he's talking about? Has your committee been in touch with John Bolton and his lawyer?
SCHIFF: We have certainly been in touch with his lawyer.
And what we have been informed by his lawyer -- because we invited him to come in, and he did not choose to come in and testify, notwithstanding the fact that his deputy Fiona Hill and his other deputy, Colonel Vindman, and Tim Morrison and others in the National Security Council have shown the courage to come in -- is, if we subpoena him, they will sue us in court.
SCHIFF: Now, he will have to explain one day, if that -- if he maintains that position, why he wanted to wait to put it in a book, instead of tell the American people what he knew when it really mattered to the country.
TAPPER: Although it sounds like you're saying that there is the possibility that he could be compelled to testify in the Senate, theoretically?
SCHIFF: Well, he could. He could.
TAPPER: Would you be a House impeachment in the Senate?
SCHIFF: But the thing is -- the thing is, Jake, that doesn't relieve him of the obligation right now to show the courage that Dr. Hill did.
SCHIFF: She was told not to come in. She was told that, if she came in and testified, it could contravene this privilege or that privilege. She made the decision this is the right thing to do.
John Bolton should make the same decision.
TAPPER: So, as you know, if the president -- if there is a trial in the Senate, the president will be allowed to call his witnesses as well. The Republicans will be allowed to call their witnesses as well that probably include Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, the whistle-blower.
And President Trump just yesterday said that you yourself should be compelled to testify if the House moves forward and it goes to the Senate.
Would you be willing to do so in the House Judiciary Committee? Would you be willing to do so in the Senate?
SCHIFF: There's nothing for me to testify about, Jake.
And I think, if the president or his allies in the Senate persist in this, it really means they're not serious about what they're doing. And...
TAPPER: Well, they would -- they would cite -- sorry for interrupting, but they would cite David Kendall, who was President Clinton's attorney during that impeachment. He got to cross-examine Ken Starr.
Now, I know understand you're not as independent counsel, but you did lead the investigation.
SCHIFF: Well, but this -- this is not an insignificant distinction, Jake. I'm not a special counsel. I don't work for a separate branch of government. I'm not in the Justice Department.
I am more in a position that Henry Hyde was during the Clinton impeachment, or Peter Rodino during the Nixon impeachment, or Sam Ervin. They were not fact witnesses.
What would I offer in terms of testimony, that I heard Dr. Hill in open hearing say such and such? That's not pertinent.
The only reason for them to go through with this is to mollify the president. And that's not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness.
TAPPER: But you would acknowledge that there are questions you could answer about your staff having been approached by the whistle-blower before he filed his complaint and other matters, things that you could shed light on or explain.
Would you -- would you refuse to go if the Senate wanted you to come as a witness?
SCHIFF: I don't want to comment on it, except to say that, if they go down this road, it shows a fundamental lack of seriousness, a willingness to try to turn this into a circus, like the president would like. And I hope they don't go there.
There are others who are fact witnesses. We didn't call in Senator Johnson. We're not calling in Devin Nunes. We didn't call in Senator Graham.
There's a far stronger case for people like Senator Graham, who talked to the president, or fact witnesses than the chairman doing the investigative committee work in the House.
TAPPER: You just brought up Devin Nunes, who is your Republican counterpart on the committee.
He is now denying an allegation made by the attorney for Rudy Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas. And the -- and Lev Parnas, according to his attorney, says that he -- that Nunes met with the former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in Vienna last year, in part to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
Now, that's a lot of layers of people who I don't know how trustworthy they are, a lawyer and Lev Parnas and Viktor Shokin. But that allegation is being made by this individual.
Did you know anything about these allegations? Do you find them credible?
SCHIFF: I can't get into what I know at this point. I don't want to go into those specifics.
I can say that we have subpoenaed documents from Mr. Parnas. We have had discussions with the Southern District of New York in terms of Mr. Nunes' conduct. If he was on a taxpayer-funded CODEL -- and I say if -- seeking dirt on a potential Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, that will be an ethics matter. That's not before our committee.
Our interest in -- is in what this president ordered through his legal counsel Rudy Giuliani, what efforts he made to condition official acts on the performance of political favors. That's where our focus is.
TAPPER: Is it credible, Parnas saying that? You have information. You have knowledge. Is it a credible allegation?
Is it worth -- let me put it this way? Is it worth the House Ethics Committee looking into, or is it just nonsense that should be ignored?
SCHIFF: I don't want to comment on what the Ethics Committee should do, particularly vis-a-vis the ranking member of my committee.
I will say we have subpoenaed, and did before these allegations were in the public domain, we have subpoenaed Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman for their records. We would like them to fully comply with those subpoenas.
We may go beyond those documentary requests, but we first want to see the documents. And we have seen time and time again the importance of getting documents before witnesses testify, as we saw during the hearing, when Sondland, Ambassador Sondland, brought in documents showing the secretary of state was implicated in this.
SCHIFF: It would be nice to have those documents before we question people like the secretary of state or question people like Mr. Parnas.
TAPPER: So, your committee will come up with a report and then send it to the House Judiciary Committee.
Your counterpart there is Congressman Jerry Nadler, Chairman Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York.
Take a listen to what he had to say just before he took over the chairmanship, laying out his standard for impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): You don't want half the country to say to the other half for the next 30 years, we won the election, you stole it from us.
You have to be able to think before -- at the beginning of the impeachment process that the evidence is so clear of offenses so grave that, once you have laid out all the evidence, a good fraction of the opposition voters will say -- will reluctantly admit to themselves they had to do it.
Otherwise, you have a partisan impeachment, which would tear the country apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I understand you think the evidence is there, but do you think you have reached that level of a good fraction of the opposition reluctantly admitting that you have to proceed with impeachment?
SCHIFF: Well, there's certainly a number of leading Republican voices outside the Congress that are saying that this is impeachable conduct.
And you can now add the former Senator and former Secretary Chuck Hagel to the list of those that are saying the Congress really needs to seriously consider impeachment. And that doesn't mean just Democrats, but Republicans. So there's a growing list of people, opinion leaders, in that
But, as I mentioned before, at the end of the day, we have to decide what our constitutional duty is, even if our colleagues in the GOP and Congress have decided they're more committed to the person and the president than their constitutional duty.
We're going to still have to do our duty. And...
TAPPER: Even if it costs you support, Democratic support in the House of Representatives? Ultimately, you could lose the House? Even if it means it actually makes President Trump stronger?
Take a look at this ad, because -- this poll, rather, because public support hasn't really changed. And, nationally, there's a narrow majority in support of impeachment. But in the battleground states, it's different.
A new poll out this week shows a majority of Wisconsin voters -- that's a key state that Democrats need to win in 2020 -- 53 percent oppose impeaching the president and removing him from office; 40 percent support it.
I don't know that the American people, especially in the battleground states, are where Chairman Nadler said they need to be.
SCHIFF: Well, look, the public support for impeachment has grown fairly dramatically in the last two months.
So, whether it is now essentially at a plateau, or whether it will continue to grow or shrink, I don't think is really the question we should be asking.
I think, in the first instance, we should be asking, what's our constitutional duty here? And if we decide our duty is to impeach, then we need to make the case to the American people. And we have to hope that we will be successful in making that case.
But this shouldn't be driven by what we think helps us in 2020 or hurts us in 2020. There are good arguments by commentators in either direction. I don't think that's the question I should be asking myself.
And, as I mentioned it in my closing statement the other day, Jake, what brought me from an opponent of going down the road to impeachment into someone who felt it was necessary that we do this inquiry is the fact that, the day after Bob Mueller testified about Donald Trump's invitation to the Russians to intervene, his willingness to make use of it in his campaign, the lies that he told about it, and the obstruction of justice in terms of the investigation into it, the day after that, Jake, Donald Trump was back on the phone asking yet another foreign leader, Zelensky, for yet more foreign help in another election.
And I don't think we can turn away from that. If there is not some deterrent, even if it doesn't mean that the Republicans provide the kind of support for the Constitution that they should, if there isn't some deterrent, we can darn well be sure this president will commit even more egregious acts in the months ahead.
TAPPER: And, once again, it sounds like you're ready to impeach President Trump. But I know you're going to talk to your constituents first.
Just a couple housekeeping questions in terms of what's going to happen next.
How much time does the House Intelligence Committee needs to complete the report? Will it be released by the time Congress returns in early December, for example?
SCHIFF: You know, we will take the time that's necessary.
And we're at work on compiling that report right now. But, again, we have continued to learn more information every day. And I think that's going to continue. So, we may have file addendums to that report. We may have other depositions and hearings to do.
But because the evidence is already overwhelming and uncontested, we want to provide that to the Judiciary Committee to make sure that we protect the country in the election that's yet to come.
TAPPER: Do you think it's possible that there will be other parts of the articles of impeachment that do not have to deal with Ukraine? I know that this is just -- let me put it this -- let me put it a different way.
If it were up to you -- and I guess -- I get it's up to Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee, but if it were up to you, would the articles of impeachment, should they be written, focus only on Ukraine?
SCHIFF: Well, within our committee, what we're focused on is obviously the constellation of issues around Ukraine, as well as the blanket obstruction of Congress vis-a-vis the Ukraine investigation.
Now, there's been more obstruction of Congress that goes beyond Ukraine. There's also the obstruction of justice that Mueller wrote about so extensively. And there are other violations of the Constitution that we will need to consider.
I'm not at this point, Jake, prepared to say what I will recommend.
TAPPER: And, ultimately, if only Democrats vote to impeach the president, Trump -- President Trump, and Republicans and maybe a couple Democrats do not vote to impeach him, vote against that, doesn't that suggest that this is a partisan impeachment?
Wouldn't that hurt the credibility of the impeachment, that only Democrats vote to support it? SCHIFF: I think what it will mean, if we decide that we cannot accept
this kind of conduct in the president of the United States, and the Republicans decide that, because of the president's party, or because they're afraid of a primary, or for whatever reason, they cannot vote to support impeachment, I think it'll mean a failure by the GOP to put the country above their party.
And it will have very long-term consequences, if that's where we end up. And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.
TAPPER: President Nixon resigned, rather than be impeached. He was never actually impeached by the House. It was going through the process, and he resigned before it could happen.
Do you think President Trump should resign?
SCHIFF: Well, I certainly think that he's committed the most grievous misconduct.
I have no illusions about Donald Trump doing what's right for the country or what's best for the country. That's never been where he's coming from.
What my Republican colleagues, I think, need to decide and to search their own conscience about is, why was it that, in the past, Republicans were willing to put country first, why were there people like Howard Baker then, but not now?
I would hope that there will be Republicans who will be willing to step forward and say, whatever the political consequences, if this was Barack Obama had done this, they would have voted to impeach him in a heartbeat with a fraction of the evidence.
It shouldn't matter this is a Republican president. I hope to hell, Jake, if this had been a Democratic president, I would be among those leading the way and saying, we need to seriously consider impeaching this president.
TAPPER: Chairman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: The impeachment inquiry has revealed serious allegations against President Trump.
Next, I'm going to talk to one of the president's top defenders in the House of Representatives to respond.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Over the past two weeks, you have heard damning allegations about the president and his administration from various government officials in the impeachment inquiry.
To respond, we invited the top Republican leaders in the House and in the Senate, as well as the president's legal team and officials from the White House, to join us on the show today. They all declined our requests.
But joining me now is one of the president's strongest supporters in the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York's First Congressional District. He's also a veteran and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, good to see you, as always. Thanks for joining us.
I want you to take a listen to what Ambassador Sondland said on Wednesday about his view of the existence of a quid pro quo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo?
As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, Chairman Schiff just said that's one of the most important moments from the hearing, Sondland saying that there was an explicit quid pro quo.
What's your response?
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): Well, first of all, President Trump was going to be meeting with President Zelensky on September 1 in Warsaw.
Hurricane Dorian ended up putting off that trip. Vice President Pence went in President Trump's place. The president did meet with President Zelensky in the United States towards the end of September at the United Nations General Assembly.
When Ambassador Sondland was talking with regards to a quid pro quo, linking aid to an investigation, he used words like presume and guess.
What do we know? And this is part of the other 97 percent of the story that Chairman Schiff likes to leave out. The July 25 call, President Zelensky, in his own words, he said there was no demand, no pressure, no quid pro quo. He didn't know about a hold on aid to Ukraine. The readout from Ukraine after that call, there's no reference to a
quid pro quo or a hold on aid. On July 26, President Zelensky meets with Ambassador Sondland and Volker. He makes no reference to a quid pro quo and a hold on aid.
For the weeks that followed, the Ukrainians made no reference to a quid pro quo or a hold on aid. It's not until after they read it in Politico on August 29 that President Zelensky and his team received confirmation that there's a hold on aid.
The aid -- the hold on aid got lifted shortly thereafter. Ukraine didn't have to do anything to get the hold on aid lifted. There's one deposition transcript that still hasn't been released. Mark Sandy came to testify from the Office of Management and Budget to answer a question as to why they were hold on aid to Ukraine, and that we still haven't seen that transcript.
TAPPER: That's true.
ZELDIN: I was there for that deposition.
ZELDIN: And his answer was very important.
TAPPER: So, Sandy -- I asked about that off camera, and Sandy's transcript, the deposition is going to be released. It's going through the redaction process right now.
But I guess a couple points.
One, it came out in testimony this week that the Ukrainians did know that the aid was on hold before the phone call. I don't know what Zelensky knew or didn't know, but the Ukrainian government did know. That's one.
And, two, we already had Mick Mulvaney come out and say, in front of the cameras, that there was an explicit quid pro quo, that the aid was being held up until -- in part, one of the reasons that it was being held up was because President Trump wanted the Ukrainians to commit to an investigation into Ukraine in 2016.
I mean, Mulvaney has already said that that was one of the reasons that the aid was held up.
ZELDIN: So, first off, on Mark Sandy deposition transcript, that is important for that to come out.
Ambassador Taylor testified with regards to his interactions with President Zelensky and his team. Ambassador Volker testified with regards to his interactions with President Zelensky and his team. And even Yermak from Ukraine, who is the chief under President Zelensky, he has said that it wasn't until after they read it in Politico on August 29. There's a new story that came out over the course of the last couple
days where even Yermak is quoted.
That's why, even on August 27, Ukrainians were having a conversation with Ambassador Taylor, and they didn't yet know that there was a hold on aid.
So what you have from various people who have testified, not just during the depositions, but also during the open hearings, as well as President Zelensky's office himself, they did not get the confirmation until after they read it in Politico on August 29.
ZELDIN: So, it's important that we get all the facts, including what President Zelensky said himself.
TAPPER: So I hear what you're saying, but let's take a step back, because we know for a fact that President Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, not -- he didn't say Burisma. He said the Bidens.
He said it in the call. He said it when asked about the call in early October in front of the cameras.
Is it OK with you -- forget the quid pro quo part of it for a second. Is it OK with you for an American president to ask a foreign country to investigate his political rivals? Is that acceptable?
ZELDIN: So, let me answer that.
So, there's two different investigations that President Trump asked for. With regards to the July 25 call transcript where he references the Biden, he's asking President Zelensky to work with the attorney general.
That case, the Burisma-Zlochevsky case, is an actual corruption case. It's a corrupt Ukrainian gas company run by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch, who hired the son of Vice President Biden for over $50,000 a month, without any Ukraine experience, without any energy experience. And, by Hunter Biden's own admission, he was only hired because of his last name.
It just so happened that Vice President Biden was the point man for the Obama administration for Ukraine, even though he was literally the most conflicted person out to be running point.
And we all know about the conversation that Vice President Biden had with Ukraine with regards to the firing of Viktor Shokin. But at the heart of this, Burisma-Zlochevsky is a history of corruption, an actual corruption case.
ZELDIN: And -- and with regards to the Ukrainians interfering in the 2016 election, there was some testimony this week that was creating it like -- like there was some type of a choice here.
I believe that Russians interfered in the 2016 elections.
ZELDIN: It's the consensus right of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
It's also true, it's indisputable that there were Ukrainians who interfered in the 2016 election.
TAPPER: Well, they certainly -- I don't know about interfered. They voiced opposition to candidate Trump and support for Hillary Clinton. That's absolutely true.
But that's not the same thing as the kind of nefarious intervention that the Russians did involving hacking and the like, right? I mean, they're very different levels.
ZELDIN: So, they're -- absolutely.
But with regards to what Ukrainians actually did in the 2016 election, whether it's Ambassador Chaly and his op-ed, it's the black ledger that helped bring down the campaign chairman for President Trump, you have the origins of the Steele dossier. You have Ivankov's comment. You have Yezniek's (ph) comment. You have multiple people who were connected to...
TAPPER: But these are all investigations that would help President Trump. These are political investigations.
I mean, I could -- I guess the question is...
ZELDIN: Let me...
TAPPER: Go ahead.
So, I mean, you have -- I mean, you have Kenneth Vogel's reporting from January 2017 in Politico. I'm not sure of anything that you -- you might refute that -- that's in there.
You do have Ukrainians who weighed in, who interfered in the 2016 election. There -- there is no equating that with -- with Russia interference.
I believe that foreign interference with the U.S. election is something that, whether it's 2016 or looking forward to future elections, it is an issue that is in U.S. national security interests to get to the bottom of.
But you also point to, for example, about hypocrisy? May 4, 2018, you have three Democratic senators who write a letter to the state prosecutor for Ukraine, asking for Ukraine to help dig up dirt against President Trump, working with special counsel Mueller.
TAPPER: No, to cooperate with -- to cooperate with a Justice Department investigation.
ZELDIN: So, listen...
TAPPER: Before you go, though, Congressman, I do want to ask you a question in -- due to your status as a combat veteran and a paratrooper. You served in Iraq.
And I do want to -- I'm really curious as to your opinion on this. President Trump made headlines this week when he tweeted that the U.S. Navy should not strip Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher of his status after he posed for a photo with a dead body in Iraq.
Now the secretary of the Navy says that military review of Gallagher's status is going to continue anyway, and that he doesn't consider President Trump's tweets to be a formal order.
Because -- in honor of your service, I really am curious, what would you advise the president to do on this?
ZELDIN: Well, first off, one point, Jake.
One thing that you do that really has been hugely important for those who have fallen in combat and our veterans -- and more Americans need to do it -- every time that someone informs you about someone who is being buried, and they have no family or friends anywhere in America, your call to action, which results in thousands of people showing up from local communities to honor that World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan vet and others is usually to be commended.
The -- the president of the United States is the commander in chief. It is not easy to earn that trident to become a Navy SEAL or an Army Ranger or Green Beret, a Marine, and so on so forth. A lot of people have taken -- it's great pain, great sacrifice to be able to gain that type of experience, that combat experience, as well as those training badges.
And for President Trump, or whether it's a past president or a future president, as the commander in chief, it is their prerogative, if they want to defend somebody like -- like this, who has really gone through a lot to earn those types of awards, if he or she wants to weigh in as commander in chief, that is their prerogative.
And that's something that I certainly have a deference to and I have great respect for anyone who's been through, whether it is basic training, and they're a private right now and they're just starting their -- their military experience, or it's someone who's served for 30 years or has spanned across multiple wars, or might have 4,000 jumps as a paratrooper at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
I do have great respect for people who are able to get to that point where they're a Navy SEAL. And the president, as commander in chief, it's his prerogative to weigh in like he did.
TAPPER: Congressman Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York and a combat veteran, thank you so much for your time. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving, sir.
ZELDIN: Thank you, Jake. You too.
TAPPER: So have congressional Democrats made the case against President Trump or could the impeachment inquiry end up hurting the Democratic Party? That is next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): We've been able to present to the American people a compelling argument for moving forward with a review of whether or not we should have articles of impeachment brought to the floor of the House.
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous. I've not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier saying that Democrats have enough evidence to move forward. Retiring Republican Congressman Will Hurd who many thought might back impeachment, not particularly a Trump fan, says he was not convinced. Let's discuss.
Governor Granholm, let's start with you and then, Senator Santorum, I'll go right to you. I just know everybody wants to -- did the Democrats make their case?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they did so and they did so overwhelming. In fact I'm a former federal prosecutor, former attorney general, if I had this case I would take it to a jury and beyond a reasonable doubt I would get conviction if I had an unbias jury. We do not have an unbias jury in this case which is the Senate.
They have already made up their mind. So in this case I think it's important that we consider as Democrats slowing our roll just a little bit. I was glad to hear that Adam Schiff saying that there is other information, that this isn't necessarily going to be the end of things.
There are some people who are saying, hey, before you toss it over to the Senate, why don't you take your vote on what you've heard and just hold it. Seal it, if you will, like a sealed indictment. Don't forget to trial just yet until you've gathered what you really think will be necessary to convince the jury that has already made up its mind. I don't think we're there yet.
TAPPER: Senator, what do you think?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think they've made their case. I would point people if they haven't read it to Ron Johnson's letter, I thought it was a very important letter where he laid out really the underlying reason that I believe President Trump wasn't doing this. But I won't get into the details of that. I want to really focus on what Jennifer said.
Sitting here listening to Adam Schiff brought back horrible memories for me because the words he used were almost verbatim what I used and so many Republicans use which is we have our constitutional duty to do when it came to Bill Clinton back in 1998 and 1999. And in that case all Democrat agreed with the facts. Everyone, every Democrat agreed that what the president was -- did was illegal, he perjured himself.
Everyone agreed with that. Everyone agreed that he had done a whole bunch of other things that were wrong and went, in fact, went to the Senate floor -- Joe Lieberman, I remember, and called for censure of the president. That it just -- yes, it's illegal but it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment.
And I think what the Democrats are doing the same and unfortunately folly that Republicans did back in the 1990s which is it is our duty and, you know, this is a bad guy and we got to hold him to the highest standard. Instead of saying, you know, what he did was wrong. There obviously is not -- there's no compelling -- there's no compelling case to move forward in the Senate.
The Senate is not going to do this, and should we take a step back and say maybe if we move for a censure, we might get some bipartisan support.
TAPPER: So, let me just ask you, Congresswoman Love, because that's a fair criticism from Senator Santorum about the Democrats. But could you also apply that to the Republicans? Because there are very few Republicans on Capitol Hill, Will Hurd is among them, the vast minority, who are even saying that what President Trump did was wrong.
MIA LOVE (R-UT), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE: Right. So what was really interesting is that Will Hurd who has -- he's been a critic of the president. He has parted ways on immigration on so many different issues. And for him to actually sit through all of these hearings and to say the phone call was inappropriate, he found some issues with it, he believes that the president was way out of bounds, he said in order for him to be able to support impeachment, the evidence has to be overwhelming. And I think that that's where it is right now.
When you look at what's happening in the polls, 538 actually had a poll that said impeachment support has actually gone down from 50.3 percent down to 46.3 percent. And among independents which is where, I think, we really can see how much the Democrats have made the case for impeachment, it's gone from 47 percent in late October to now 41 percent.
Have they made the case? I don't think that they've made the case. Are the phone calls inappropriate? Was he completely out of bounds? Did he cross some lines? Absolutely.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But that's the problem here. And I actually agree with everyone on this stage this morning. That's the problem here, because the Republican Party but for a few people like Mia Love and others, will not even admit that there was an abuse of power. They will not even admit that they're obstructing justice right now by not actually allowing individuals to get the State Department documents, to get those documents from the Department of Justice et cetera.
So, there are -- there are some fundamental issues right now comparing it to 1998. One of the differences that we were talking about is the fact that right now Republicans won't even say this president committed something that was wrong.
SELLERS: I hear you. But the behavior of this president was wrong. To get to where you're saying, the clear and convincing evidence, what I believe the Democrats need to do is take a path that will allow Bolton to testify and Mick Mulvaney to testify. You cannot have a complete impeachment process without those two.
Mick Mulvaney has blown this entire thing up. We forget -- you mentioned it to Congressman Zeldin -- Mick Mulvaney admitted that there was a quid pro quo which isn't -- is not even necessary. He admitted what we're all saying the behavior was, and the behavior is not that indicative to the president of the United States.
Is that worthy of impeachment? Each sitting member will have to decide, but Democrats have to continue to build the case.
GRANHOLM: I completely agree. And tomorrow there will be a district court decision on this very issue. Does the president have absolute immunity to prevent his witnesses, his staff from testifying? If that court rules in favor of Congress, then there is no reason why we shouldn't subpoena Mulvaney, subpoena Pompeo, subpoena Giuliani, subpoena those who have knowledge --
SELLERS: If I was --
GRANHOLM: He's going to take the fifth -- I know. He's going to take the fifth, as he should.
TAPPER: Let's bring some Republicans -- (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. Because what I'm hearing from Democrats here on the panel is like Democrats in the House need to make their case a little bit more. And it sounds like what I'm hearing from Republicans is that Republicans on Capitol Hill need to acknowledge this is not acceptable.
SANTORUM: Yes. I would say --
TAPPER: Do you agree with that?
SANTORUM: Yes. The Democrats --
SANTORUM: Yes and no. Because I don't think even if the Democrats made their case more that this thing would rise to the level where Republicans should feel comfortable impeaching the president. There's too many other reasons. Let's get to some of the details.
Look, Ron Johnson's letter lays it out clear. The president cared a lot about the corruption in Ukraine and they felt (INAUDIBLE). The president cared about NATO --
GRANHOLM: This is why he cut money to Ukraine to fight corruption.
SANTORUM: He also cared a lot about NATO not contributing. And those are long standing positions of presidents. They were --
TAPPER: Europe actually gives more money to Ukraine than the United States does.
SANTORUM: But he -- they have not given lethal defenses.
TAPPER: Not lethal defenses. Correct.
GRANHOLM: He did not even use the word corruption in either of the phone calls, Rick.
SANTORUM: If you look -- if you look at what -- again, read Ron Johnson's letter. And look at the May meeting. The president cares about these things. So did the fact that he cares about these things and it maybe helped him politically?
SANTORUM: OK. But --
TAPPER: You think it's a coincidence?
(CROSSTALK) SANTORUM: Look there are lots of reasons people do things. And some -- some are -- some are good reasons. Some are not so good reasons.
SELLERS: The president of the United States, Burisma equals Biden, period.
SELLERS: There is no way that we are going to sit here and make viewers believe that all of the sudden this president believes in rooting out corruption around the country.
LOVE: And the phone call was not perfect. I mean, I think (INAUDIBLE) about the phone call it was not a perfect phone call. I think that that -- when you've got a president that -- there was a lot of -- I felt a lot of covering your rear end toward the end.
There was a lot of, you know, and Sondland, when you get a complete testimony where somebody at the top of it says, there was a quid pro quo and then it's like well, I --
SANTORUM: He presumed.
LOVE: And I never --
LOVE: -- and I assumed. But --
TAPPER: Let's just bring in Governor Granholm.
LOVE: All I'm saying is that it is important. I think that Republicans might have gotten themselves in this situation by not being able to go out and tell the president hey, step back a little bit on this. Step back a little bit on this. Which has created an environment where I think not good for the American people, not good for the president where you feel like you can do whatever you want without consequence.
GRANHOLM: So, the audience really now is not going to be the Senate. Because what I heard you say is that no matter what kind of evidence comes forward, even if you have the president on tape, it's not going to be enough for the Senate Republicans. So the audience is really the citizens.
The poll that you showed earlier, the Marquette poll, that was done through November 17th, before all of last week's testimony. So yes, the Democrats have some more work to do to bring out all this information, but honestly, if we don't think that intervening in an election that causing a foreign country to intervene in an election, to tilt the election in the president's favor is not a violation of his oath of office, then what is impeachable?
LOVE: Do you think -- do you think it's impeachable though?
GRANHOLM: Absolutely. I think it's impeachable.
SELLERS: But I also --
GRANHOLM: You don't think so? You don't think that --
LOVE: I do not -- they have not made --
GRANHOLM: -- asking a foreign country to interfere in our most sacred process --
LOVE: I'm sorry.
GRANHOLM: -- is impeachable.
LOVE: They have not made the case to --
GRANHOLM: No. But I'm asking you --
TAPPER: One at a time.
GRANHOLM: In the abstract -- but in the abstract do you think that if it were proven, which I think it has been. You may not. But if it were proven that a country was asked by our president to interfere in our most sacred process, that -- to tilt the election in his favor, that that's not impeachable?
LOVE: It's -- it's absolutely inappropriate. Absolutely --
GRANHOLM: You don't think it's impeachable?
LOVE: There has not been any evidence.
GRANHOLM: No. But I'm asking if it were proven?
LOVE: I'm sorry. I have to go on evidence and facts.
TAPPER: Bakari, 10 seconds -- 10 seconds.
SELLERS: Yes, it's impeachable, to answer the question, but I also need to -- we need to acknowledge that there is no reason and that this may be ancillary, that all of John Bolton's staff had the courage to come and testify over the last two weeks, but he's being a coward and he's not doing so. He'd rather write a book than actually testify.
TAPPER: So, a well informed preview of your thanksgiving dinner. We just had it right here.
SELLERS: You're not invited to thanksgiving.
GRANHOLM: Are you pointing at me?
TAPPER: Lots of -- lots of President Trump's defense in the impeachment debate is based on falsehoods, false accusations about the whistleblower, about Congressman Schiff, about conspiracy theories detailing -- dealing with Ukraine and much more. Tonight we're going to take a deeper look at the impact of the president's propensity to lie. The effect in the economy, on his ability to get Congress, on allies around the world and on the American psyche. It's a brand new CNN Special Report. Take a look.
TRUMP: This is a scam. It's a whole hoax.
That defeated ISIS.
TAPPER (voice-over): We all know he does it.
TRUMP: The whistleblower has been very inaccurate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the Babe Ruth of lies.
TRUMP: Windmill. They say the noise causes cancer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a drug for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no president that lied as if it were a form of breathing except Donald Trump.
TRUMP: Nobody has been more transparent than me.
TAPPER (on camera): This isn't a partisan thing. He just empirically says a tremendous number of things that are just completely wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In recent months it's been about 22 a day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump lies about every conceivable topic from the weather, the infamous Sharpie gate. You can't make this stuff up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't make this stuff up.
TRUMP: Stronger, bigger, cheaper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To immigration and trade.
TRUMP: We're not paying for the tariffs. China is paying for the tariffs for the one-hundredth time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's wrong.
TAPPER (voice-over): So we wanted to know, what is the impact of all these lies? In the U.S. --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Research shows that repetition increases the belief in false news.
TAPPER: -- on Capitol Hill --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was a factor in my decision not to run again.
TAPPER: - in science --
TAPPER (on camera): What's at stake?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lives.
TAPPER (voice-over): -- and the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president stands up and basically says --
TRUMP: What a great outcome. Congratulations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, that's not the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American credibility has been shredded.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of what he says should probably be presumed to be false until it's proven to be true.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a conservative Republican. Never did I imagine I would be pointing out the gross flaws of a Republican president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People say to me all the time, well, what am I supposed to believe?
TAPPER: What should we believe? Who can we trust?
TRUMP: Just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
TAPPER: "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S LIES" airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight only on CNN
"FAREED ZAKARIA" starts right now. Have a great Thanksgiving.