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AT THIS HOUR
Federal Judge Rules McGahn Must Testify; Democrats Move Ahead On Impeachment As Trump Saying "I'd Like For People To Testify"; Mike Pompeo Answers Reporters' Questions; CNN Poll: 50 Percent Say Trump Should Be Impeached & Removed. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 26, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
We're watching and waiting for a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He is expected to take questions from the press. And with so many questions swirling about what he knew and when with regard to aid to Ukraine. We will bring you those answers when they come in.
We did get this answer from a federal judge, which simply, presidents are not kings. That is coming from a federal court ruling declaring that former White House counsel, Don McGahn, is not protected from congressional subpoenas and must testify before House investigators.
It's a major win for Democrats, a setback for the White House. And it could mean quite a lot for the other White House officials who have so far refused subpoenas from Congress in the impeachment inquiry. Officials like former national security adviser, John Bolton, and acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
Despite those possibilities, Democrats are moving full-speed ahead right now on Capitol Hill.
Let's get to it. CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House. Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill.
Boris, the president is not being quiet this morning, talking about all of this, rather writing about all of this, what is he saying?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, the president tweeting out moments ago a response to this decision regarding McGahn and his requirement to testify before Congress, the decision by this judge that he should be forced to compel to testify before Congress.
Look at what the president tweeted: "The D.C. world and fake news media are reading far too much into people forced by courts to testify before Congress. I'm fighting for future presidents and the office of president. Other than that, I would like people to testify."
The president goes on to mention some people he'd like to testify, Don McGahn, John Bolton. He mentions Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney, and many other he's like to see testify about the phony impeachment hoax. He continues to say it's a Democrat scam adding that, "Whatever happened to me should never happen to another president."
It's a dizzying level of spin from President Trump considering that this decision by the Judge Brown Jackson relies on a tremendous amount of precedent. He specifically mentions a judge, P.A. district judge, deciding that officials in the George W. Bush administration were not exempt from testifying to Congress because of executive privilege.
We will likely see this White House continue to try to block and delay despite what the president says on Twitter.
Keep in mind, this appeal filed by the Department of Justice could take weeks if not months to resolve, likely long after this impeachment process ends -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Talking about precedent. She goes back to the "Federalist Papers, so there's some precedence for you.
Boris, thank you so much.
We will be keeping an eye, a reminder, on the tweets of what Mike Pompeo says and is asked in that State Department briefing.
Let's go over to Capitol Hill.
Phil, Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, he sent a letter to other lawmakers yesterday about the likely road ahead when it comes to impeachment. The president, we'll see if it changes this road ahead now that the president says he would love for his cabinet members and others to testify.
But what does that road look like right now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look. I think you hit on it at the top. This is important. It's full speed ahead right now.
The ruling that came out, Democrats are looking at as a very happy manner because they believe for lack of a more nuanced legalistic term, it laid waste to the administration's absolute immunity argument, they repeatedly argued official after administration official.
But the reason they're happy is not that they expect people toed into in. Boris mentioned there's an appeal in the McGahn case. They don't expect the flood gates to open with John Bolton or Charles Kupperman, because of this ruling.
What they expect is it will play a role into the likely obstruction articles of impeachment. Anybody that chooses not to come in will be finding their names in the articles of impeachment, which should be drafted by the Judiciary Committee in the next couple of weeks.
That doesn't mean Adam Schiff is not appealing to the patriotism, I guess, if you will, of those who haven't come in yet.
He said in a statement after the ruling, "The witnesses who defied Congress at the behest of the president, will have to decide whether their duty is to a president or to a president who believes he is above the law."
The bottom line is the House Intelligence Committee is working on a report. They expect that report to be done around Thanksgiving when lawmakers come back next week. It will go over to the Judiciary Committee.
There's no stopping or holding up. Schiff said they could have more hearings if new evidence or witnesses comes forward. Nobody up here expects that to happen.
Pretty soon it will be a Judiciary Committee and pretty soon they will draft articles of impeachment and soon, likely before Christmas, Kate, the House voting to impeach the president of the United States, regardless of who decides to come in on the witnesses table.
BOLDUAN: Soon, Phil Mattingly will have more sleepless nights, not because of babies at home but because of your job.
Great to see you, Phil. Thank you so much.
Joining me now a former federal and state prosecutor, CNN Legal Analyst, Elie Honig, and CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.
Before we go into tweets, I would like to go into ruling on my math papers on this table because it's a lot. And it's really interesting.
From the judge with regard to the Don McGahn ruling: "Stated simply, the primary take away from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings." Also putting in, "This means that they do not have subjects bound by royalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the people of the United States."
Elie, the Department of Justice is saying they'll appeal. What does this decision really mean?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Kate, there will be appeals. No, it's not over. That said, this is a really important ruling.
As you saw, the judge uses some soaring rhetoric, much more than a tweet.
HONIG: I saw here in action. She's sharp. She understands the stakes here. I think she's talking to two audiences. One, to the court of appeals and potentially the Supreme Court. And what she's saying, this is not even a close call. This is fundamental to our system of checks and balances.
Second, she's speaking to other judges who may hear cases relating to Bolton, Mulvaney, Pompeo, at some point down the road.
BOLDUAN: Then it comes to what the president is deciding to interject today, Sam, saying a couple of things. Claiming that he would like all of his friends to testify. Then claiming still that the reason he held up aid was because he considered Ukraine corrupt and he wanted to know why European countries weren't putting up money also, which obviously his own words fact checked that. He says he wanted them to investigate Joe Biden.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Certainly, also he's making the claim that he is really worried about the office of the presidency and his successors. It's not something POTUS has been concerned with or he would have, for example, not abused power and not abused his National Security Council and the Department of Justice to do his own personal bidding. The benevolence argument needs to be put to the side.
As you mentioned, Kate, he specifically cites Ambassador Bolton and he makes Bolton a compelling witness. He says Bolton may know why he held up aid to Ukraine. As you mentioned, he cites Ukraine had corruption problems and he wanted the Europeans to do more.
We now have more information as to why he actually did hold up the aid with respect to the investigations. We've witnessed testimony, documenting that. And we also have the fact again from Laura Cooper and from other witnesses that Ukraine had already met anti-corruption benchmarks.
What the president is doing here, Kate, throw as many lies as possible as he can into one tweet I think to try to confuse the American public about what's going on.
BOLDUAN: Or slow things down slightly.
VINOGRAD: That's actually -- Elie and I were discussing this moments ago. Regardless of what happens with the McGahn ruling, regardless of what happens with the other Kupperman ruling later in December, this has been an effective strategy by the White House in the sense it has slowed things down. You think of the McGahn subpoena, which originally came in April.
VINOGRAD: We are now months after the fact and this is being litigated. Charles Kupperman's case is not happening until mid- December. The timeline the House is using --
BOLDUAN: The appeal -- when you talk about April, would the appeal for the McGahn case be that many months away?
HONIG: It would take too long. The appeal would take more time than they have for impeachment. You have to go through the court of appeals, potentially the Supreme Court. The only thing I would say there's a rarely used mechanism you can jump from the district court right up to the Supreme Court. It's almost never used. But it was used originally.
BOLDUAN: Elie, we are living in the moment of rarely used.
BOLDUAN: In American history right now.
Additionally, there's with all of this going on, there's this debate that is now going on behind the scenes among Democrats eyeing multiple arguments of impeachment. Not with regard to Ukraine but folding in some from the Russia investigation.
I'm interested if both of your takes on there. Do you see, do you think the good idea or a better idea to have it be all of it or to keep it narrow with simply focusing on Ukraine?
HONIG: As an American citizen, I would like to see Mueller in there, because the president obstructed justice. It's outrageous he can do that without consequences. As a strategist, if I was in the room with Adam Schiff I would say leave it, you need to keep your message straight and clear.
BOLDUAN: What do you think, Sam?
VINOGRAD: I agree with Elie. I think it is deeply important people understand this is a pattern of behavior. The president's abuse of power, his conspiracy with foreign actors did not start with Ukraine. It may not end with Ukraine. The president is still in office.
So looking at the pattern of behavior of obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress, conspiracy with foreign actors, looking at that continuum is deeply important for the American people to understand because it so impacts our national security and how the president acts going forward.
That said, I think, keeping it narrow, from a strategy standpoint, has a better chance.
BOLDUAN: I am deeply concerned you as an American is different from U.S. strategy.
How does this even -- does this appeal -- does this moment change anything for John Bolton? I mean, his -- just his calculation, right, because he's been teasing out things.
VINOGRAD: Via Twitter. I can't understand.
BOLDUAN: Writing a book. I don't know, that's how the president operates. Maybe that's how he acts. I have no way or desire to get into either of their heads. With the president's tweets now, which I think by and large we can put to the side because he has also said he would be very interested in testifying, which we know he's not. Does what has happened, does this moment clang the calculations for a John Bolton?
HONIG: So Bolton is waiting for something. He's made that clear.
BOLDUAN: What do you think?
HONIG: I don't know what it is. If he wanted a reason to say, OK, now I've changed my mind, he could point to this decision and say we have a clear decision from a federal district court judge in compliance with that, I am now willing to testify.
VINOGRAD: Though Kupperman's lawyer recently before the show said this ruling had no impact on Charles Kupperman, this ruling had nothing to do with national security information. It appears that John Bolton --
BOLDUAN: It's a big note to note that including national security information.
HONIG: The judge knew this was coming. The judge knew all these other witnesses will find some way to distinguish and say it's different. She tried to anticipate and head that off. They are making that argument as we speak.
BOLDUAN: Stand by, friends. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Coming up for us, a new CNN poll shows whether two weeks of open hearings have changed public support for impeachment. We will break it down. The numbers, the impact. That's coming up next. It's interesting.
Later, locked up as teenagers, they spent 36 years behind bars. They are free, exonerated for a murder they did not commit. What they're saying now. That's coming up.
BOLDUAN: We're going to go straight to the State Department where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was answering questions from reporters as we speak, let's listen.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We still have Russians in the Donbass. We still have president in Ukraine making sure we move through the challenges they've had with corruption for an awfully long time now. The State Department has been working on that for a year- and-a-half now-plus here and we'll continue to work on it. And every action that I took and have taken will continue to be driven towards that objective.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Hi, the Voice of America. So reporters without border strongly condemn today the Iranian intelligence threats against journalists working against media like voice of America, BBC Radio Free Europe with intimidation on social media and relatives in Iran, some interrogation. What's your take on it?
POMPEO: I've seen those reports, I've certainly seen the Iranians engage if activity that's fundamentally at odds with the central understandings we have here in America how the press ought to be treated.
I don't know I have much more to add other than the entirety of how the president has thought about the Middle East --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: All right. We're going to continue to watch the secretary of state and bring you highlights as they happen. We will continue to monitor him at the State Department.
But this is what we are following. Five days of marathon hearings, hours been hours of questioning, featuring a dozen witnesses. The impact on members of Congress not yet clear because we haven't had a vote.
The impact on the American pubic we're getting a new look. A new CNN poll shows 50 percent thinks the president should be impeached and removed from office, 43 percent do no. Here's the important thing. You can see about those numbers -- they haven't moved an inch, exactly the same as a month ago before the public hearings began.
So if public hearings didn't move public opinion either way, what impact do the numbers have?
Joining ne now, CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst, Harry Enten, my co-host of "Forecasts" podcast, and CNN Political Analyst and White House and Politics Editor at Axios, Margaret Talev.
Great to see you.
Harry, start us off if you will. I showed that top line. What did you see here?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER & ANALYST: You hit it right, Kate, in terms of the top line. These numbers overall, impeach, fairly steady, 50 percent if October, 47 percent if September.
One other note they want to look at is Republicans. Republican lawmakers are only going to move if the Republicans and the electorate move. What do we see here? We see they're also steady, 10 percent of Republicans want to impeach/remove Trump from officer, same in September and October when it was 6 percent and 14 percent.
One other sort of key number that I want to keep an eye on is Trump's interactions with the Ukrainian president. Did Trump use the presidency properly or improperly? Only 42 percent say properly, 53 percent say improperly.
Trump's motive when he was dealing with the Ukrainian president, was it to fight corruption in Ukraine or to benefit himself politically? And 36 percent say it was to fight corruption in the Ukraine, 56 percent, the vast majority, say it was to benefit himself politically.
So those are not good numbers for the president.
BOLDUAN: Not good numbers for the president.
Margaret, when you look at the takeaways here, do you think it is more support is holding steady for impeachment after these hearings or is it more impeachment hearings didn't convince more people or both?
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes, Kate. These top line numbers certainly suggest what Democrats were hoping to do, which was to move the needle on Republican Senators who might be willing to convict by changing public opinion demonstrably in those parts of the voting public, that that has not happened over the course of the public hearings.
But it does suggest that, to the extent that the impeachment fight affects, thinking going into re-election season, that this could be having an impact.
The other thing I would look at is there wasn't a pivotal time for polling in late September, where the public opinion changed. The public opinion changed clearly in favor of impeachment rather than kind of like, I don't know.
And that was after the revelation about the notes from the call with Zelensky. After the Ukraine matter became public, there was a big demonstrable jump in public opinion saying they're not comfortable with what the president's done. They may lead more towards impeachment.
After that, these hearings going from behind closed doors to the public, that has not made the difference the Democrats hoped that it would.
BOLDUAN: And I continue to pose the question and there's no way of knowing, but is this a situation where it was is up an inundation of information in a short period of time with regards to hours and hours of testimony that these things knead to like set in. People need to digest the information and they kind of need to marinate on it before anything changes.
Because, right now, Harry, and the impeachment hearings, though, as you point out, you are holding steady, 50 percent impeach to remove, 43 not. They don't seem to be hurting the president in terms of his approval rating. Overall. it remains at 42. Can you put that in context? What are you seeing?
ENTEN: Yes, yes. If you look at our poll, 42 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove, it's not a good number. We should continue to point out. It's not a good number.
But it's a very steady number. If you go back over the last few polls, what do we see? We see continuously it's around that 41, 42, 43, sometimes it drops in the upper 30s, mostly in the low 40s areas.
As Trump is heading into re-election, that is a precarious place to be for an incumbent. It's not moving. The president is in a bad place, he's still in a bad place.
BOLDUAN: Margaret, can you hold on. I'm being told Secretary of State Pompeo answered a question about Ukraine. There are a lot more questions to be answered about this. We'll jump in and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But do you believe the U.S. Ukraine should investigate that Russia hacked the e-mails in 2016?
POMPEO: So I'll take the second question first.
Any time there's information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down.
And I served as a CIA director for the first year-and-a-half of this administration. I can assure you, there were many countries that were actively engaged if trying to undermine American democracy, our rule of law, the fundamental understandings we have here in the United States.
And you should know we were diligently, diligently working to make sure that we addressed each of them with every tool of American power that we had.
So whomever it is -- by the way, it's not I said nation, it's not just state actors. There are non-state actors, too, acting deeply inconsistent with what we are trying to do to protect our election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So, Margaret, as we are listening to that together, is that Mike Pompeo leaving open the door the Ukraine conspiracy story with the regard to the DNC hack in the server is still out there?
TALEV: I mean, I heard that as Mike Pompeo trying very artfully not to publicly shut down the idea of a Ukraine investigation with the president watching him on television, without actually validating the theory because the intelligence agency is the people we saw testify last week said this is a conspiracy theory. Mike Pompeo, if you compare him with the way Senator Kennedy answered
that question, for example, the other day, this is a little bit more of an artful way of not answering the question.
BOLDUAN: And then cleaned it up last night on Chris Cuomo saying he was wrong.
Let's jump back to the Secretary of State.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: With live ammunition and the Lebanon clashes between Hezbollah, what steps are you considering here to help the peaceful demonstrations in both countries? And in Lebanon and the dates on the military aids to the Lebanese Army, one more on Iran, would the U.S. be able to provide Internet access to the Iranian people soon?
POMPEO: So, let's see, as for Internet access, it's come back on just a bit. We've encouraged the leadership of the Islamic Republic regime to turn it back -- regime to turn it back on. It's been noted, while that was done to tamp down the protest and deny the world access to see some of it. It's not working.
Indeed, it's working across the 20,000 messages we've received, which we believe all came from inside the Islamic republic of Iran. We expect we will get thousands and thousands more over the coming days as well. So there's the capacity for Iranians to communicate outside the country.
The second piece is, it shouldn't surprise me people when you turn the Internet off, the little bit of commercial activity taking place inside Iran is diminished. Lots of commerce all around the world takes place through electronic communications.
And the inability to speak there will further decrease the Iranian economy, which will further deny them to have the resources to conduct terror campaigns around the world.
You, the second question -- the first question was about Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Lebanon.
POMPEO: I don't have anything to say on the Lebanon funding issue today.
But as for Iraq, we've been in contact with all the various elements inside of Iraq that we have to deal with. Our mission there's largely a counterterrorism mission and that's what our troops are on the ground for.
That's who the vice president went to visit this week. He went to the Kurdistan region as well, all in an effort to help the Iraqi people stand up for a free and independent and sovereign Iraq.
That's our goal for the Iraqi people. We're prepared to work with the Iraqi leadership, all of the Iraqi leadership to try an deliver that on behalf of the Iraqis.
We've made no -- we have no qualms in talking about the fact that we think the Iranian presence there's harmful to that. Decreases the risk the Iraqi people can have the sovereignty they so richly deserve. And we're confident the Iraqi leadership wants the same thing we're helping them work towards.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you.
POMPEO: Great, thanks, everybody. Have a --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any significance to that?
POMPEO: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.
BOLDUAN: All right. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as you heard taking final questions.
We will take a quick break.
Harry, Margaret, thank you so much for rolling with me on this breaking news.
We will have much more coming up, including this. It's not just the polling. Voters are speaking out about impeachment to members of Congress as well. We will show you what happened when one member of Congress went back to his district and got an earful from constituents on both sides of this specific issue.