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Documents Show White House Officially Withheld Ukraine Aid On Day Of Trump Call; Subpoena Suggests Feds Are Interested In Giuliani's Business; Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), Presidential Candidate, Picks Up Third Congressional Endorsement. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We will watch that number is going to keep going like that.

Thanks for joining us in "INSIDE POLITICS" today. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Bianna Golodryga is in for Brianna Keilar. She starts Right Now. Have a great afternoon.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Brianna Keilar.

Underway right now, Mr. President, you're not a king. That from a federal judge ruling that a key witness in the impeachment inquiry must testify, which blows a whole in the administration's claim of absolute immunity.

A swing state Democrat suggests another punishment other than impeachment for President Trump and then walks it back.

Plus, the pressure builds on Rudy Giuliani as a subpoena suggests prosecutors are looking into his businesses.

And 24 hours after pedaling the president's conspiracy theory, a Republican senator admits that he was wrong but then floats another conspiracy.

Well, we begin with new details just in to CNN on when the order was carried out to hold up $400 million in military aid that was promised to Ukraine. Those details are in newly released documents from the Office of Budget and Management obtained by Congress.

Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, you have these details. What are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. According to a summary that was provided by the House Budget Committee which reviewed these documents and provides details about how the administration, how the White House placed a hold on this crucial military aid, roughly $400 million that Ukraine had sought, which had been number of questions about why that had been withheld as President Trump himself demanded the Ukrainian government to move forward on investigations that could help him politically.

Now, on the same day of that presidential phone call, where President Trump told President Zelensky of Ukraine that he wanted the Ukrainian government to open investigations into Joe Biden as well as that theory that Ukraine may have meddled somehow in the U.S. election in 2016, that same day, a career official from the Office of Management and Budget placed a hold, wrote down and placed a hold on aid that would go to Ukraine.

Now, about roughly about a week later, a political appointee came in, Michael Duffey of the Office of Management and Budget, and then he placed subsequent holds that happened for several more times, short- term holds that happened for several more times. He continually placed these holds.

And then on the day of August 29th, which is the day after a story came out in Politico revealing that this military aid had been withheld, that prompted a lot of pushback from the Ukrainian government and outrage from the Ukrainian government, that Mike Duffey then comes and he signs a document that would provide a chunk of funding on a weekly basis to Ukraine.

But the Democrats are contending that all the unusual processes violates federal law because they say that the law requires very clearly that when Congress appropriates the money, the administration is required to spend it, and the administration has pushed back on that notion.

But this is an significant or interesting development because of the fact that it happened on July 25th when the first written time they came in and notified that this money would be delayed and recalled that we've heard witness testimony that said on July 25th, from Laura Cooper, the top official at the Pentagon, one of them, she said that the Ukrainian embassy had began inquiring about the security assistance on that same day after that presidential phone call. So you can see a lot of activity happening on that same day later, the Office of Management and Budget placing a hold officially on that money. Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And that does blow a hole in the Republicans' argument that Ukraine had no idea that the money was being withheld just yet. In fact, they did on that very day of the phone call. Very significant developments, Manu, thank you.

Well, presidents are not kings. That's the message first conveyed by the founding fathers, and now echoed by a federal judge ruling against President Trump's efforts to shield his staff with absolute immunity.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson saying, those staffers, quote, work for the people of the United States and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Well, this particular case involved former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who refused a congressional subpoena to testify. The Justice Department has already filed an appeal, but the decision may still have a ripple effect throughout the impeachment process.

Let's bring in CNN Political Correspondent, Sara Murray with more on this.

So, Sara, what are the key takeaways from this what we can describe as a legal bombshell, really?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is kind of a legal bombshell. I mean, one of the things the judge made clear in this very sweeping ruling is she wasn't just talking about Don McGahn. This could spell trouble for a number of White House officials. Her ruling basically says that if you are a current official, if you are a former official, if you are an official who worked in the national security sector, none of these people have blanket and excessive and extreme immunity. They could all be potentially called to testify.

Now, this doesn't mean the witnesses are suddenly saddling up to Capitol Hill willing to help.


We know that Charles Kupperman, the former deputy national security adviser, is moving forward with his lawsuit. Mick Mulvaney still does not plan to comply with the impeachment hearing.

But all of this does potentially provide some ammunition for Congress if they want to move forward with an article of impeachment based on obstruction because this judge is making clear in her legal view that these people should be showing up and they should be testifying.

Now, it's also possible the Democrats who are reading this opinion may feel more emboldened, perhaps even try to subpoena the president of the United States. The judge makes clear in her ruling, as you said, that presidents are not kings, but also that there could be times when the president could be compelled to testify, potentially provide tell me before Congress.

Now, of course, if Democrats did decided to subpoena the president, you can bet that would be a long legal battle.

And there is another legal battle playing out. That is the one between the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives. Now, it is at the center of this. I mean, the Supreme Court has basically decided at this point that the House of Representatives is not going to get the president's financial records at this point. They have put an emergency stay on this and they are deciding whether they want to hear the merits of this case. This would obviously be a huge case for the separation of powers, and so we're waiting to see how the Supreme Court moves forward on that, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we're expecting to hear their decision on that within just a matter of weeks as to whether they will take that up. Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Well, joining me now from Memphis is Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman, always great to have you on. Thank you.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Good to be with you.

GOLODRYGA: Let me begin by asking you about the judge's ruling that McGahn can testify. Does that change the window as far as timing on an impeachment vote for you? Would you prolong that investigation if you have the opportunity to interview McGahn and other allies of the president in close contact?

COHEN: That will be a decision that Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler will make. We're all working as a team. Impeachment is a very serious power that the Constitution gives to Congress, and it's one that you have to somewhat give up your individual thoughts to work as part of a team. And we've gotten a really good team together. We're working in unison. And they'll look at it.

But I doubt that this could change our timeline. Chairman Schiff has talked about the need to go forward, and the others have as well. This will probably be appealed. We could be shocked and Don McGahn could say, I've been ordered, I'm going to come in. But I think he left it up to the Court of Appeals and to see if they would issue a stay. And if they take the case, they will issue a stay.

I'd be shocked if McGahn came in. He's got a long history of working on the federalist society, getting judges approved by Trump that are of a nature that will affect the next generation for years in judicial proceedings. I think he worked with McConnell on blocking Merrick Garland. And never was a specialist in regulatory work but he did a lot of the changes in regulation that would be harmful to our air and our water. And now, he's working in the private sector on regulatory issues.

So he knows where his bread is buttered and I doubt his bread is going to be buttered on the side of justice. But he could surprise me and I certainly hope he will.

GOLODRYGA: So you still talk about going down this path of expediting this process. And I'm wondering if one of the reasons is where the poll stands, where the nation stands right now on the issue of impeachment and whether that's emboldening the president.

After two weeks of testimony from fact witnesses, the nation really hasn't moved on where they stand on impeachment. You have only 10 percent, according to a new CNN poll out just today, only 10 percent think Republicans think that the president should be impeached or removed from office, and 50 percent of independent voters saying that they -- 47 percent actually of independent voters saying that they believe that he should be impeached. Does that concern you that the nation really hasn't moved after the past few weeks?

COHEN: Not on this issue because this is not about polls, it's not about politics, it's about our oath of office to protect our country from a president who abused his power, to jeopardize our national security by trying to get political intelligence, which is not legal, a favor from the Ukraine president in response for giving him monies that bipartisan Congress approved to protect Ukraine in the invasion of their country by Russia.

So, no, it doesn't affect me and I don't think it affects the Democrats because this is part of our oath to protect our country when it's had national security threats and our Constitution has been subverted.

Nevertheless, it concerns me that the public -- that we're so divided. The facts are clear. The evidence is strong. Republican pundits agree that the president abused his power and that this is an impeachable offense. Its numbers have changed since it started and they might have held even currently.

But the polling numbers don't matter. It's a matter of abiding by your oath.

GOLODRYGA: And I understand your point on that.


You also mentioned earlier that the party is in lock step with regards to where this process is moving going forward. But I wanted to play sound from a Michigan colleague of yours, Democrat Brenda Lawrence, who seemed to suggest the idea of censuring the president as opposed to impeaching him. She said this on Sunday. I want to play her comments straight right now.


REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D-MI): We are so close to an election. I will tell you sitting here knowing highway divided this country is, I don't see the value of taking him out of office.


LAWRENCE: I want him censured. I want it on the record that the House of Representatives did their job and they told this president and any president coming behind him that this is unacceptable behavior and, under our Constitution, we will not allow it.


GOLODRYGA: And she clarified her comments this morning saying that she still continues to support impeachment, but in her mind, she believes that what will happen with the Senate voting that the president will not be impeached and that she wants this on the order, which is why she has proposed the idea perhaps of censure. Do you think that that's a valid point?

COHEN: I raised this issue last spring with the caucus, I believe. I was the the first person to raise it in the caucus. But the response was that it wasn't a strong enough measure for the conduct of the president engaged in, even at a time when we weren't pursuing impeachment wis-a-vis the Mueller report. I think it's even more so not a strong enough measure concerning the abuse of power which he's exhibited with Ukraine where the proof is so evident and conclusive. So I think it's a mistake and I think going on the House impeaching him, even he's not convicted, is a stronger statement than censure would be and I don't think we'd pick up any Republican votes either.

GOLODRYGA: So you think censure is mistake?

COHEN: I think it's not a politically right response, yes.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Congressman, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

COHEN: And you too. Gobble gobble.

GOLODRYGA: Well, still to come, pressure mounts on Rudy Giuliani as federal prosecutors appear to be zeroing in on his businesses.

Plus, a Republican senator waits more than 24 hours to admit that he was wrong for floating one of the president's conspiracies but then he doubled down on another one.

And the third House Democrat to endorse Pete Buttigieg joins me live to explain why.


GOLODRYGA: There's growing scrutiny into the business dealings of President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. A subpoena seen by CNN shows federal prosecutors are looking now at a wide range of potential charges for Giuliani's associates, including money laundering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations. The subpoena indicates federal investigators are interested in Giuliani's consulting firm.

Giuliani hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing and recently told CNN that he hasn't heard from prosecutors.

Well, last month, his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested as they were trying to leave the U.S. and later indicted on charges of using a Shell company to funnel campaign donations to a pro-Trump Super PAC.

Shelby Holliday broke this story and she's a reporter from The Wall Street Journal. And John Philp is a journalist and filmmaker who directed a documentary on Giuliani. Thank you both so much for being here with me and congratulations on the scoop, Shelby.


GOLODRYGA: What do we know so far about the subpoena and investigation?

HOLLIDAY: Well, we reported that various subpoenas have been sent out to different people who had relationships with Rudy Giuliani as well as his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

So the subpoenas indicate a very broad investigation at this point into a variety of possible charges, money laundering, foreign lobbying violations, wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States. They are the clearest sign yet the prosecutors are looking not just at Rudy Giuliani but his consulting business, Giuliani Partners.

We know Rudy Giuliani accepted half a million dollars to consult for Lev Parnas and his associate's company, Fraud Guarantee, last year. That payment was made to Giuliani Partners so they could be scrutinizing that, because we don't really know what he did for that half a million dollars at this point.

GOLODRYGA: And we should note that Giuliani says he hasn't heard from prosecutors yet.

HOLLIDAY: Correct.

GOLODRYGA: Is that an ominous sign and should it be --

HOLLIDAY: It could be. I did a lot of reporting on Roger Stone. And as investigators were circling the log-ins and talking to all of his associates, Roger Stone hadn't heard from prosecutors. And so, certainly, in that case it was a bad sign. It could be as well for Giuliani right now.

GOLODRYGA: And, John, you really delved deep into Rudy Giuliani's past, right? And once prosecutor of the Southern District of New York, obviously, mayor of New York, he established his consulting firm shortly after he left office. So there's years worth of information to dig through.

What is he going through right now knowing that these subpoenas are out there from a former prosecutor's standpoint?

JOHN PHILP, CO-WROTE AND DIRECTED 2003 DOCUMENTARY ON GIULIANI, RUDYLAND: Well, I think he has to know how serious a situation this is and how does know it, because it's coming from the office that he used to run as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

So that's an office that he used to grab the headlines when he was a prosecutor and he knows how thorough that office is and how independent it is.


So I am sure that he knows that he's got a lot of work to do and that he has to be very careful.

And I think it's a great irony it's the same office that's now looking into him that he used to become the mayor of New York City and then America's mayor.

GOLODRYGA: And I'm wondering how much he's questioning his friendships right now, specifically with the president of the United States. I want you to listen to what the president said about him yesterday at the White House. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rudy is a great person. And I think that maybe the press isn't treating Rudy very well, and I think that that's unfair. But Rudy was a great mayor and a great crime fighter.


GOLODRYGA: So he should be relieved when he hears that, right? But we've also heard the president turned just days after saying something like that about somebody and starts saying, I don't even know who they are, I barely know the person. How concerned is Giuliani that that's where the president is going to go next?

PHILP: Well, if he was thrown under the bus, he would be the only person in America that didn't know it. Because the language that you heard Trump used there, it's the distancing that started to happen when he started to talk about his former fixer, Michael Cohen. So some of that has some --

GOLODRYGA: And Gordon Sondland.

PHILP: And Gordon Sondland and a whole host of other people in the inner circle and now in the outer circle.

So I think Rudy probably has a sense of where this might go. And if he didn't, he should.

HOLLIDAY: And let's not forget that Lev Parnas, Giuliani's associate, decided he wanted to cooperate with investigators after President Trump came out and said, I don't know this man, I don't know anything about him. And Parnas has claimed he knows Trump, he's taken plenty of photographs with President Trump, he was a supporter, he donated money, there's a lot that indicates he does know President Trump.

So when President Trump starts distancing himself from people like Lev Parnas and they want to cooperate, Parnas knows a lot about how Rudy Giuliani operated. His lawyer is claiming that everything he did was on behalf of Rudy when Rudy was working with President Trump. So if he has documents, if he has evidence to prove it, he's out there saying he's turning those over to Congress.

GOLODRYGA: It's a drip drip of information coming out.

PHILP: That's a key difference with Rudy and Trump. It's going to be very difficult for Trump to say they don't have a relationship. There's a 30-year long relationship, which is very well documented and there's a long history there.

GOLODRYGA: Which is why Giuliani jokingly said that he has insurance, right?


GOLODRYGA: I thought that was just a gimmick. HOLLIDAY: Wink wink.

GOLODRYGA: All right. John, Shelby, thank you so much.

HOLLIDAY: Thank you.

PHILP: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Very interesting.

Well, straight ahead, Pete Buttigieg gets another bounce picking up a third endorsement from a sitting U.S. lawmaker.

Plus, in, First Lady Melania Trump booed at a youth event in Baltimore. See what happened.



GOLODRYGA: Democratic Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg has picked up his third congressional endorsement. New York Congresswoman Kathleen Rice tweeted out today, I'm excited to announce my support for Pete Buttigieg. Pete represents the new voice and fresh perspective that we need in Washington. He's focused on bold yet common sense policies that will unite our country and he has what it takes to beat Donald Trump.

Congresswoman Rice joins me now for her first television interview since that tweet. Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here.

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): Thanks for having me.

GOLODRYGA: So why do you think Mayor Pete has what it takes to beat Donald Trump?

RICE: Well, if you spend time listening to him, he gives a message that resonates with people across this country. And if we made one mistake as Democrats in 2016, it was only speaking to people in certain parts of the country. And we forgot a whole group of people in the middle of country who were not hearing candidates talk about issues that mattered to them.

And I think that Pete, especially coming from someone who has been on the ground as a mayor of a Mid-western town, he knows how to speak to people, he knows how to address their issues, and he's doing that on a national scale that I think is going to resonate with more and more voters the more he gets his message out there.

GOLODRYGA: And not for lack of trying, he is speaking to the African- American community, but he's not really making any traction with them quite yet and he's not able to get the nomination without African- American support. Does that worry you?

RICE: You know, not at this point. Mayor Pete is still someone who is in the process of introducing himself to everyone across the country. You know, I have run a race. When I ran my first race in my home county, I had zero name recognition, whatsoever. People didn't know who I was. And, thankfully, I had the time to introduce myself to people. And when they get to know you, that's when they join on, so to speak.

So I'm not surprised that at this early stage, you know, Pete, he's getting to all these communities. He's going to be present in South Carolina and throughout the rest of the country. And I think when you hear his message, African-American community, other communities across this country that may not have known him before will get to know him and will support him.


GOLODRYGA: What do you hear in his message that you don't hear from Joe Biden. You mentioned the mistakes the party made in 2016.