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WSJ: Giuliani's Foreign Clients Included A City in Ukraine; Fired Navy Secretary Fires Back at Trump; OMB First Official Action to Withhold Aid to Ukraine Came July 25th; Three Strikingly Different Presidential Ads Debut in Iowa. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I just want to go on the record here. This is the Trump Justice Department investigating the president's personal attorney, help me counsel at first. Number one, how serious is it? But number two, close your eyes for a minute and imagine if Obama were president or if Hillary Clinton were president, wouldn't there be -- I know Rudy Giuliani doesn't really do any legal work for the president anymore but when the president is asked this question, he says yes. Wouldn't there be -- wouldn't -- either the president's perso -- current lawyers or Rudy's lawyers go to the president and say why don't we issue a statement saying this relationship is on pause. We are not doing any -- we have no contact, we're not doing any work together until this matter is resolved.

You can say you believe he's innocent, but why does the president remain in this embrace with Rudy Giuliani at this moment?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think one reason might be that they're trying to preserve some argument that they have privileged conversations.

KING: So that Rudy Giuliani wouldn't have to disclosed?

CORDERO: Yes. Now, I don't think that would be -- I think that would be a very pierceable assertion of a privilege because it sounds from all the different things that Rudy Giuliani is involved in with the president including going to Ukraine and trying to dig up political derogatory information on the Bidens, that would not actually be privileged information. But I think perhaps they like to keep him closer to the president, have the appearance of him being in the inner circle, and have at least the argument to make that his communications with the president are privileged.

KING: And so here's a little bit from the Wall Street Journal. "The subpoenas offers the clearest -- offered the clearest indication yet that federal prosecutors are examining Mr. Giuliani's consulting work. Giuliani partners had said several foreign clients including, look at that, a city in Ukraine. The subpoenas also sought information on a company co-founded by Mr. Parnas that paid Mr. Giuliani for business and legal advice." Then you look at the Washington Post, the headline today. "Wealthy Venezuelan hosted Giuliani as he pursued Ukraine campaign. Then Giuliani lobbied the Justice Department on his behalf."

And he's out on television and on Twitter saying Hunter Biden's swampy, help me.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Now, this is the height of swampiness, the idea that because you're Rudy Giuliani and you're close to the president, you can get these meetings at the Justice Department. That's not what Donald Trump campaigned on. And so I think this is a problem for the Justice Department, by the way. I mean --

KING: It's not what Donald Trump campaigned on. Forgive me more interrupting. But it is legit, is it ethical anyway whether you campaigned on it or not?

CORDERO: It is a web of conflicts.

PEREZ: Right.

CORDERO: I mean, for a lawyer -- first of all, he's doing legal work, he's doing consulting work, he's doing political work, he's doing personal political favors, and politicize hickory. It is a complete web of conflicts of interest just speaking from a lawyer's perspective.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And all of that would be interesting if it was standing alone on an island, then -- and that was all that was happening right now. But this is just like the Michael Cohen situation. It is happening in the middle of a broader scandal that the president and Rudy Giuliani are involved in, the impeachment inquiry. So the political concerns for the president as prosecutors hone in on whatever Rudy Giuliani's personal and financial problems might be, what does that do to other information that is potentially damaging for the president?

KING: One of my favorite lines the president said not that long ago is Rudy Giuliani finds corruption wherever he goes. You can read that in so many ways. I just raised that before you jump in. And I just want to get this in. I think this is Anthony Scaramucci trying to defend or at least buffer his friend, Rudy Giuliani.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: To quote him, OK, when he was a prosecutor, if it -- when you open up the window, you hear clippity-clop outside, it's a horse, it's not a zebra. So obviously there's some bad stuff that's going on. And so, look, I pray for him and I pray for his family. I mean, I'm not going to come on the show and rail about the mayor because he's been a close personal friend.

But here's what I don't like about the whole thing. We're no longer taking an objective standard to what's going on. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Law school must be much cooler than journalism classes. We don't get clippity-clop horses, zebra and journalism school.

SHEAR: I don't know.

Now, I was just going to follow where you're talking about Michael Cohen. I mean, remember what happened with Michael Cohen. The president separated himself from his former attorney and then he ended up flipping on him and testifying before Congress. I mean -- so clearly, that could also be part of the calculus in keeping Rudy Giuliani close. Because if you separate, you distance, he gets mad, he flips.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The whole thing about this that I find interesting is that it just shows that the Ukraine controversy that the Democrats are investigating right now in their impeachment inquiry, there's a whole another side of the story. And I have heard from Democrats who want to get into the financial side, the financial underpinnings, what was, you know, Giuliani doing, was he benefiting himself? But if they go down that route, you mentioned a tangle of webs, they could be doing this for a long, long time. And then there's also sort of this other political risk that if it turns out that Rudy Giuliani, you know, was doing this all himself and trying to manipulate the president, maybe it helps the Republicans to sort of say Rudy was freelancing and it doesn't help their case at all, so.

KING: The president is not in charge of his own government argument has been used before in other cases. We'll see how it plays --

CORDERO: And Gordon Sondland's testimony really counters that argument.


KING: So does the July 25th call.

CORDERO: It's not because he said he was in government, he was working with Rudy, he was out of government, and as he said multiple times everybody knew what was going on.

KING: The president says read the transcript. He told the president of Ukraine Rudy is my guy here.

Next, the fired secretary of the navy has some harsh words for the commander-in-chief.



KING: Topping our political radar today, more tension between the Congress and the Trump administration. The House Oversight Committee filing a lawsuit against the Attorney General Bill Barr and the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross today, trying to force them to hand over documents about the administration's push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The committee chairwoman, Caroline Maloney says Barr and Ross have not produced a single additional document in response to the committee's subpoenas since the Supreme Court ruled against them back in June, and the House held them in contempt in July.

A new U.N. climate report warns the 2015 Paris Agreement isn't doing nearly enough to curb global warming. In order to keep temperatures in check the report says, global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut 7.6 percent a year for the next decade. That means participating countries need to cut emissions at five times the current rates agreed to in those Paris accords.

And the ousted Navy secretary, Richard Spencer, firing back at his former boss, the president. Spencer was fired Sunday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper amid the big controversy over President Trump's push to stop court-martialed Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher from being demoted and losing his SEAL status. In an interview with CBS after leaving the Pentagon, Monday, harsh words for the commander-in-chief.


RDML RICHARD SPENCER, OUSTED NAVY SECRETARY: What message does that send to the troops?

DAVID MARTIN, CBS NEWS: Well, what message does it send?

SPENCER: That you can get away with things. We have to have good order and discipline. It's the backbone of what we do. I don't think he really understands the full definition of a war fighter. A war fighter is a profession of arms, and a profession of arms has standards.


KING: By yesterday, the Navy officially announcing the cancellation of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher's review board, meaning he will be allowed to retire as a Navy SEAL.

We talked a little bit about this yesterday too, but on the way out, normally people say and bite their tongue. Spencer, commander-in- chief doesn't understand, doesn't have standards.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: An extraordinary interview with David Martin of CBS News there outside the Pentagon. It is extraordinary. Really, one of the only former Trump officials I can think of that has given a departure interview like that. But, he might be speaking for many of them certainly with his letter.

SHEAR: And I think it underscores what we've already known since the departure of Jim Mattis, but also since reporting, you know, more broadly which is that the deep frustration in the military and in the Pentagon, especially the sort of top ranks of the Pentagon with the decision that this president makes and the things that the president then asks the military to do and tell the military to do. That's been a real tension point between -- in this administration, more than I can remember of any other. I mean, it's always there, there's always some tension between the president and military, but this is really remarkable.

KING: It is remarkable.

Well, up next, Team Trump's latest Facebook campaign has one certain topic in mind.



KING: Some new CNN reporting now on an issue central to the impeachment inquiry. The Ukraine military aid freeze. The House Budget Committee says it now has possession of Trump administration documents related to how that hold on military aid took place.

Let's get straight live to CNN's Manu Raju up on Capitol. Manu, what do the documents tell us?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It provides some interesting dates about some of the deliberations that were happening as that crucial military aid had been withheld for Ukraine, roughly $400 million. And there have been a lot of questions about why the president's demand for Ukraine to announce investigations that could help him politically. Recall that there's been testimony that said that there was a conference call on July 18th announcing that this aid would be withheld in a conference call that stunned career officials and the top diplomat from Ukraine, Bill Taylor. But we're now learning that the first time that there was actually documentation for withholding this aid came on July 25th, on the evening of July 25th.

And why is that a notable date? Because that's the same day that President Trump had that conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and President Trump of course urged Zelensky to open investigations into the Bidens and to pursue this theory that had been pursuing about Ukraine being involved in interfering in the 2016 election.

So the president has that phone call with Ukraine on July -- with the Ukraine president on July 25th. That evening, a career official comes in, signs this documentation withholding this aid for the first time. Now, afterwards, according to these documents, summary of these documents that are provided by the House Budget Committee afterwards there were more signatures that were placed onto withhold the aid going forward. That came from a political appointee who came in afterwards. That political appointee, Michael Duffey who signed off on withholding additional aid to Ukraine. And on August 3rd, there were more signatures that were placed through the course of these -- through the course of the intervening days.

And then on August 29th, Duffey signed another letter that actually released a more sizable portion of the aid on a weekly chunk. And why that date is interesting because it's August 29th is the date after that political article that came out that actually said that the aid had been withheld for Ukraine. And that prompted a lot of concerns from senior officials in the Ukrainian Government and the like, and that forced the administration and top diplomats in Ukraine to try to explain what was going on with the withholding of aid.


But the aid continued to be withheld, there continued to be questions about that. And Democrats -- ultimately, of course, the aid was released and according to this document, September 12th was the date when the information was -- the aid was released. Democrats say this is a violation of federal law that essentially requires money that's appropriated by Congress to be spent. That did not happen. You hear the OMB, of course, have said that they have followed all the laws.

So we're awaiting comment from the White House Office of Management and Budget but interesting that we're learning some more about these behind-the-scenes deliberations and the potentially tie to that July 25th call.


KING: Details that both answer some questions and yet raise many others. Manu Raju, appreciate coming in with the breaking news off the Hill.

Let's discuss briefly. Number one, the first thing it tells you is there's a week before this was verbally ordered and somebody put it in writing. That's where Congress will get its backup to understand this. So we passed a law, you can't just do this on the fly and say no. What else are we learning here?

BADE: Yes. I actually agree with you that, you know, it's more details on the time line but when it comes to raising more questions, I mean, it's just another reminder of the fact that Democrats still don't have first-hand knowledge from Mulvaney or from the OMB Director Russ Vought who actually, you know, made that direction to hold the aid and why they did so. I mean, we know that it was unusual and it was unorthodox and that, you know, testimony has shown that OMB took this decision out of the hands of a career employee, put it in the hands of a political person. But, you know, we've heard testimony, people saying they believe it was sort of leverage on this investigation in Ukraine. But we haven't heard from people like Mick Mulvaney who actually were -- he was the one who directed the aid be held or the OMB director who was very intricately involved in a legal analysis for why.

KING: You know, the president said in a tweet this morning he would love these people to testify.

BADE: So were the Democrats.

KING: It's right there on the internet.

ZELENY: You know -- I mean, of course, he doesn't want them to testify. You're right, I think it does raise more questions. This does very little to advance the public's understanding of what happened, but it does begin to show a pattern that this was a methodical decision that was being made inside the White House during that period of time.

KING: And until they can prove otherwise, it suggests it's a reflex decision. There's a reflex decision.

ZELENY: On the day of the call.

KING: And then a week later -- then a week later, they've realize we need to have some documentation. We need to get this -- you know, Somehow this has to be in writing or else we're going to get in trouble for it.

Up next, some new ads in Iowa. Guess what, we'll have elections 10 weeks from today. We'll know who won.



KING: All right, let's end the show with quick lightning round to discuss some new developments out in Iowa. Ten weeks from yesterday, Iowa kicks it all off. Ten weeks from today, we will know who the Iowa caucus winner is.

Pete Buttigieg is in the lead right now. A new ad from Joe Biden says, look at me.


JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm your leader who can on day one stand with our allies, know them by their first names, and have them know there will be no question about the word of the next president of the United States.


KING: It's not the only new ad. Elizabeth Warren says, no, look at me.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're in the middle of a climate crisis, but we can lead the global effort to face down this threat if we take bold action now.


KING: And one more, Bernie Sanders says forget those two, look at me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bernie fights for the average Joe, that's the thing I like about him the most. He's not there for Wall Street, he's not there for Hollywood, he's not there for big oil or big pharma or big anybody. It's big us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just interesting the different strategies. Biden says close your eyes, I'm a president. Elizabeth Warren issued specifics. Bernie, more of like a blue-collar.

ZELENY: I mean, all of them are trying to appeal to, you know, their supporters and trying to grow them but this is what Joe Biden is trying to do of all those. His is a bit of a -- if there's an electability argument, remember this, I don't need on-the-job training or whatever. But I think Bernie Sanders, the most interesting thing is he's not in his ad very much at all. But the validator is a man from Iowa who is a supporter, but not a typical Bernie Sanders supporter.

When I'm at Bernie Sanders' rallies, I see a younger crowd of kids who want free college and other things. He's trying to remind Iowa voters, no, no, other people like me too. It's OK if you do as well. They're hoping people watch TV during Thanksgiving. We'll see.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: The Sanders ad is interesting because it's relentlessly on message like the Sanders campaign has always been. But for the first time, I think you're hearing it not in Sanders' voice, you're hearing the same message but repeated by some -- by an average Joe as the ad says. And that could be pretty powerful.

SHEAR: And can I just say that saying all of these adds put together and all of the candidates there in Iowa, it reminds me that your optimism is wonderful about the fact that you think we're going to know the day after the Iowa caucus who wins. But, you know, I have to remind you, we could be in a recount, an Iowa recount. You never know.

KING: Well, it could be -- even if we're --or even if it's close, if there's no clear winner, that is part of the dynamic. But it is interesting now that it's this close. The candidates know we got to spend our money --


KING: -- do some business.

BADE: Yes. And I mean, clearly with Biden and Warren they're very much sticking to the message they've had the whole time. You know, Warren being this sort of policy wonk, talking about specifics and climate change, Biden saying, look, I'm already a leader. I have nothing to prove here. Keep me.

But, yes, the change with Bernie to try to sort of expand his base or at least say we're more than -- it's more than the Bernie bros that are behind me. We'll see if it works for him.

KING: Buttigieg has spent more than that. I mean, he's at nearly $5 million, Sanders at $4.2 million, Biden $1.5, Elizabeth Warren just shy of a million in Iowa spending through this week. [13:00:02]

We will watch. That number is going to keep going like that.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. See you back here this time tomorrow. Bianna Golodryga is in for Brianna Keilar. She starts --