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AT THIS HOUR

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) Discusses Mike Pompeo Talking Conspiracy Theories On Ukraine, Lawmakers Confronted At Town Halls On Impeachment; Americans Divided Over Impeachment; Pete Buttigieg Struggles With Courting Black Voters; Three Men Exonerated After 36 Years In Prison. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:33:26]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

We told you about the new CNN poll revealing that the country remains divided on whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. And 50 percent say yes after two weeks of public hearings, 43 percent saying no. That's unchanged from before.

We are also seeing the same dynamic playing out as lawmakers head home to their districts.

I want you to watch what happened during a town hall with Democratic Virginia Congressman Don Beyer just a few days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've been way too easy on him. Why haven't House Democrats used the power of contempt to compel Trump's henchmen to answer the subpoenas or punish them for their failure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have not yet found a crime under the chapter 18 of the United States code of quid pro quo abuse of power. Not a crime. It may be terrible but not a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is basically operating like a dictator. That is wrong and frightening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since Trump has been in office there has been an ongoing coup against him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Congressman Don Beyer is joining me now from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Thank you, Kate. Happy Thanksgiving.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. I want to get to the town hall in a second.

I must play for you what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just said when he was asked about the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that hacked e-mails in 2016 and what the United States should do about that. Please listen to this.

BEYER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you believe that the U.S. and Ukraine should investigate the theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the DNC e-mails in 2016?

[11:35:04]

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: 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 the 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 just -- I said nations, I think. It's not just state actors. There are non-state actors, too, who are acting in ways deeply consistent with what we are trying to do to protect our elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That from the secretary of state. That from, as he noted, a former CIA director. Noteworthy because it's the Intelligence Community who concluded, said it was Russia, not Ukraine, who hacked the e-mails in 2016. What's your reaction to this?

BEYER: Well, I this I the secretary of state was trying to be very careful not to upset his boss. Much has been written in the last couple weeks how Pompeo's status with the president has plummeted. And we also know that this president demands absolute loyalty. He doesn't give loyalty. He demands it.

I think Mike was trying to answer the question in the most artful opportunity that he could.

BOLDUAN: Not taking an opportunity to state fact about a debunked conspiracy theory from the State Department, not taking that opportunity. I'm sorry, I don't care who your boss is.

BEYER: I know, it's incredibly disappointing. We have been disappointed for a couple of years by people that should have the patriotism, the gravitas, the sense of integrity to stand up to this president and don't. This is another example.

Maybe Richard Spencer's firing over the weekend added to that a little bit. But it is disappointing.

I was glad to see Senator Kennedy first admit it and then he realized the Intelligence Community goes back on TV and says, no, I was wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

BEYER: That's something to be respected.

BOLDUAN: He did make that correction on CNN last night and that should be noted.

Let's talk about where things stand in terms of what you are hearing from constituents, what the public is felling you. We played kind of that very mixed reaction that you received at your town hall a few days ago. What is your takeaway within have you meetings with constituents like that on impeachment?

BEYER: Well, Kate, I've got a greater Washington suburban districts, which I think is probably 4-1 for impeachment and approval. I think it was 19:1 at the town hall. We had 400 to 500 people.

But we started it saying, everyone with respect, we're here to listen, and that one in 20 that wanted Trump to stay, they took advantage of the microphones. So it seemed a little less balanced.

I thought it was interesting that virtually none defended the president's behavior. They made the argument impeachment was divisive. The country was so divided. Can we let it go? Let the election handle it.

(CROSSTALK)

BEYER: No one was saying that he didn't, you know, try to do the quid pro quo, the bribery with Ukraine and the president.

BOLDUAN: Speaking of election, Congressman, I was struck that you candidly noted during that same town hall last week that you thought that some Democrats, in your words, would probably lose their seats as a result of this as a result of impeachment. Why do you think that?

BEYER: Well, I don't know that they'll lose their seats. I certainly know it took a lot of courage to do it in jurisdictions that Trump won or Trump still has a positive approval rating.

I had pointed out, our two Virginia women, they were reluctant come to it. I know they didn't run for election so they could impeach the president. They ran for election because they want do infrastructure bills and health care pricing and all this really important stuff. They also realized they took an oath of office to defend the

Constitution and this president has, I think, for most of us, really violated his oath of office.

BOLDUAN: So, all signs right now, Congressmen, are that the House Intelligence Committee will send this report to House Judiciary essentially right after Thanksgiving.

You also now have this federal judge saying that the White House doesn't have the right to stonewall witnesses from coming, being suspended to come testify, like Don McGahn, like John Bolton that might even apply.

Do you see value in slowing down the process to get these witnesses up?

BEYER: It's mixed. We shouldn't slow down the process to go through a whole subpoena process for a witness that we'll never see. But if we could get Don McGahn or John Bolton, I think it would add a great deal it to.

I was thrilled for the courts once again to say the president's executive privilege does not extend to everybody that works for him. And McGahn would be a fascinating witness.

[11:40:12]

BOLDUAN: I second that motion. Absolutely be a fascinating witness, on multiple fronts.

Congressman, thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate your time.

BEYER: Thank you, Kate, very much.

BOLDUAN: Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. I really appreciate it.

BEYER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up still, Pete Buttigieg surging in some early primary states. But he also is struggling to win over one large very influential, very important voting bloc, African-American Democratic voters. Why? And how is his campaign addressing this?

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[11:45:29]

BOLDUAN: Right now, 2020 Democratic hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg will soon be meeting with voters at a town hall in Iowa, a state where he is surging and, for the first time, took the lead in the polls there.

But in another crucial early state, polling tells a different story. Buttigieg receiving 6 percent support overall in in the state of South Carolina among Democratic voters but zero percent support among African-American voters there. A problem there that has dogged the candidate throughout his campaign. Why?

CNN's Abby Phillip went to the state to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SINGING)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's Sunday morning in South Carolina. And this is Isaiah McCall's church.

Isaiah is young, black, gay, from the south, and he supports Pete Buttigieg.

ISAIAH MCCALL, PETE BUTTIGIEG SUPPORTER: When Barack Obama did it, he was the first black president. So he inspired other African- Americans, you know, to take the step. So, like with Pete Buttigieg, he's inspiring other LGBTQ individuals to, you know, run for office so you can change laws that needs to be changed.

PHILLIP: His flock is small but committed. A little bit like the South Bend Mayor's support among black voters here, which right now doesn't even register in some polls.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & SOUTH BEND MAYOR: Good morning.

PHILLIP: Buttigieg is the front runner in Iowa and a top contender in New Hampshire.

But he's hitting a wall with black voters, which presents a crucial challenge for him. No Democrat has claimed the party's nomination without winning black voters in more than 30 years.

BUTTIGIEG: The majority of black voters in South Carolina say they don't have an opinion of me right now.

PHILLIP: If he's going breakthrough here, it might start with voters like Isaiah.

MCCALL: He has to find what makes us tick in South Carolina. He got me so that's why I'm out here spreading the word about him.

PHILLIP: Isaiah says he is drawn to help openly Buttigieg's talks about his faith.

MCCALL: Back in the day, for most African-Americans, we got together in the church. So, if he can connect with the faith community, that will be a strong way to get the African-American vote.

PHILLIP: That's something the campaign is ready to seize on.

BUTTIGIEG: It's time for a White House where no one ought to look on the news and ask themselves whatever happened to the scripture that says whoever oppresses the poor (INAUDIBLE) their maker.

PHILLIP: Here in South Carolina, the message from voters to Buttigieg is simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spend time in the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come up to our events.

PHILLIP: Buttigieg has been slow to organize here. Only recently building up senior staff in the state.

City councilwoman, Nikita Jackson, hasn't endorsed in the race. But she introduced Buttigieg at a recent rally here in Rock Hill.

NIKITA JACKSON, (D), CITY COUNCILWOMAN, ROCK HILL, S.C.: This is an exciting day --

PHILLIP: That wasn't attended by many black voters.

JACKSON: Sometimes you need to meet people where they are, if you want to get your message across to them.

PHILLIP: And this year, more than ever, voters are hesitant to take chances, says Jamie Harrison, a Democratic running against Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham.

JAMIE HARRISON, FORMER CHAIR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: But you also have to understand these voters. They are extremely pragmatic. The driving force is we have to get rid of Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Another concern?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess, his personal life might come into play. It might throw them off a little bit and make them a little stand offish about it.

PHILLIP (on camera): And by his personal life, you mean, because he's gay and married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Because he's gay.

PHILLIP (voice-over): But for a supporter like Isaiah, he is proof that change is possible.

MCCALL: How can you expect to move forward if you don't embrace the new? You have to embrace the new.

Abby Phillip, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Abby, thank you so much for that.

[11:49:17]

Coming up for us, three men from Baltimore will be home for Thanksgiving, the first time in 36 years after they spent that entire time behind bars for a murder they did not commit. We're going to take a look at the new details that came out to help set these men free.

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BOLDUAN: They were behind bars for 36 years for a crime they didn't commit. Last night, these three men were finally able to walk free. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were given a full pardon for their wrongful convictions in Baltimore back in 1983.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has their amazing story of incarceration, survival, and freedom.

Brynn, it is impossible to imagine what these men went through. And probably cold comfort to them and their families that they're going to be home for Thanksgiving and they were arrested three decades ago on Thanksgiving Day.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Thanksgiving Day, taken. One of the mothers was like, I haven't hugged my son for 20 years. She was crying as he walked out of the prison.

Let's back up to 1983. Three men accused of killing a 14-year-old inside a Baltimore school. Essentially the cops say their smoking gun and the motive was those three teenagers at the time, one of these kids had a Georgetown University jacket. The smoking gun was one of these men had a similar jacket inside his home.

[11:55:00]

Even at the trial, there's evidence the mother receipted a purchase of a jacket similar. There was no blood stains, no gunshot residue. That was at the trial. Let's put that aside, OK?

Now these men are growing up in jail. They have mentors. And Alfred Chestnut files an information request to get information about his case and uncovered insane exculpatory evidence that he is able to present to a Baltimore state's attorney's office.

Some of that included some of the witnesses and suspected were interrogated by police in the same room. They were told to get their stories straight. There was an anonymous phone call saying, no, those guys didn't do it, this guy did, and there's evidence that he was wearing that jacket.

All this stuff was coming out and basically they were finally able to get this heard by the state's attorney's office and set free.

I want you to listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANSOM WATKINS, EXONERATED AND PARDONED AFTER 36 YEARS: We went through hell. It wasn't easy. You see us out here, we're smiling. We happy that we're free. But we've got a lot to question (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

WATKINS: This should have never happened to us. Us, three, standing here, it should have never happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Absolutely never should have happened. But today they are free and now they can tell their stories.

Thank you so much, Brynn, for bringing that.

GINGRAS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much. We'll be right back.

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[12:00:03]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to "INSIDE POLITICS." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A majority of Americans believe President Trump improperly used his power and put politics ahead of country in his Ukraine policy.