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Federal Judge Rules Former White House Counsel Dan McGahn Must Comply with House Subpoena to Testify in Impeachment Inquiry; Rudy Giuliani and Associates Reportedly Subpoenaed for Information on Numerous Items Including Violations of Federal Election Laws. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A federal judge rejecting the administration's claim that top presidential advisers can ignore congressional requests. The judge's message was, quote, presidents are not kings, end quote. The ruling means that former White House Counsel Dan McGahn must comply with a House subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry. But the Justice Department says it will appeal.

The second case, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocking the immediate release of Mr. Trump's taxes and financial records. The justices want to hear from both sides next week to determine whether they'll even review this case. Either way, Democrats say they are moving forward with impeachment with no plans to wait for the courts.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A brand-new CNN poll this morning on what America thinks about the impeachment inquiry, and the poll undermines an argument the president and his allies have been making. They've been claiming that impeachment is losing support. They are wrong. Fifty percent of those polled support impeaching and removing the president from office, 43 percent oppose. That's exactly where it was last month. So no drop at all. No gain either. We're going to dig into those numbers in just a moment.

First, though, this major court decision that does have implications on impeachment. Joining us, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's White House press secretary.

Let me read you a piece of this ruling from Judge Jackson. It says "With respect to senior level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist. Indeed, absolute testimonial immunity for senior level White House aides appears to be a fiction that has been fastidiously maintained over time." Absolutely immunity is not a thing, Judge Jackson says. Now, Jeffrey, before we get to appeals, before we get to what might not happen, just as a legal document, the significance of her finding.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: What's significant is the White House's claim that for a broad array of senior advisers to the president, not only don't they have to testify about conversations with the president, they don't even have to appear. They have, as the opinion said, absolute immunity. That is, they don't even have to show up.

And Judge Jackson completely rejected that theory and said, yes, they do under Article Two of the Constitution, the president does not have that right. Under Article One, Congress does have the right to investigate the president and people around him. She did recognize that certain conversations may be covered by executive privilege, and that dispute may yet take place before the courts. But certainly, when it comes to Don McGahn, who is White House counsel, and certainly the implication is John Bolton, the national security adviser, they have to show up and at least start answering questions.

CAMEROTA: Do you know how the White House is responding?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're pushing back. We saw the statement from Stephanie Grisham last night essentially saying that they disagree with this, of course. But they saw this coming behind the scenes, because of course you could look at the Harriet Miers case, the former counsel for President Bush, and they essentially saw this roadmap playing out. But still, they thought they were going to make this argument.

The question now is, what do they do going forward? But we've seen a lot of their legal arguments not really have a ton of merit, not only this one with the sweeping rebuke from this judge, but also when Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, put out that eight-page later telling no one to cooperate with the probe, saying they were covered, and you saw people didn't know how much that was going to work, how reliable that was. And that's why you saw so many people end up coming forward to testify.

BERMAN: And it is interesting, because the judge went further than she had to. She didn't just rule on Don McGahn. She made the point that it's not just domestic advisers. It's foreign policy advisers, too, which clearly is a reference to John Bolton who is wondering whether he should testify in the impeachment inquiry. We don't know what he's going to do, Joe Lockhart. He's going to sell books. That's his primary goal.

But there is a question about what Democrats do now, because they see this ruling. They would see it as a positive legal ruling for them in the impeachment inquiry. But should they be tempted to wait for more rulings before voting on impeachment?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think Democrats look at this as a mixed bag. Obviously, the legal precedent is set here with this judge. But in many ways, the White House strategy is working. They have neutered Congress by refusing to appear. They have used specious political -- legal arguments in the courts. They lose 95 percent of their cases before the courts on a vast array of issues. But they're running out the clock, and that's what they're trying to do. And the ultimate backstop for the White House is the Supreme Court where they stole a Supreme Court seat, Mitch McConnell. So you can understand that the Democrats are somewhat cynical here. So I think what they'll do is, given the fact that there's no end to

the stalling tactics, is just push forward, and push forward with the case they have and have an article of impeachment about the obstruction of Congress, about the obstruction of justice, and make the best case they can.

[08:05:12]

I also think the Democrats believe in their heart that even if all these people came and testified, Republican senators wouldn't move, that there's just no argument that would have them leave the president.

TOOBIN: I think that's such an important point. Look at the poll that came out today. We have these very dramatic hearings, received a lot of attention, broadcast on cable, on broadcast networks, and not a single percent of change in either direction. So the idea that, oh, if only John Bolton testified, the walls would come crumbling down, I think that's very hard that anyone would really --

CAMEROTA: It's just hard to know because John Bolton is more of a household name. He is more recognizable than, say, Fiona Hill.

BERMAN: Because of the mustache.

CAMEROTA: Yes, for sure. But it's just hard to know if his testimony would be more gripping. He's acting like his testimony would be gripping, but we just don't know. I understand why you're drawing that conclusion. But if John Bolton, somebody that close to the president came in to testify, isn't that kind of a bombshell?

COLLINS: The reason people think it would be so powerful is because so far the Republican argument has been no one has drawn this explicit link between Trump and the question about this leverage for the aid. They think Bolton can do that because, remember before John Bolton was pushed out of the White House, he had that one-on-one conversation with the president about this aid specifically. This is what he and Mick Mulvaney were essentially in a massive feud about to where it was making it awkward in the West Wing because they were in such a big fight over this aid which people were confused by. That's the question.

But in turn, it's not clear that he's going to be some savior for the Democrats if he did come forward. This is someone that Democrats have vilified for years. He's trying right now to raise money for Republicans. He's clearly thinking about his future with this book, getting his Twitter account back. So that's why there's still questions if he could be that helpful to them.

LOCKHART: I do think that Bolton, Mulvaney, Pompeo, if they were compelled to testify, could have a significant impact on the public. I think you can see that number move from 50 to 60 to 65. And I still think Republicans in the Senate would do nothing. They are -- they have been hijacked by Trump voters. They represent about 30 percent of national voters, but represent more than 50 percent of Republican voters, and they don't have the courage at this point to defy the president, even if all these people testified.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about the poll, and we're going to talk more about the poll in a little bit. But the numbers haven't moved -- 50 percent support impeaching and removing the president, which isn't a low number. When half the country wants you out of office now, that does tell you something. The president and his team have been claiming for political reasons that that number has been plummeting. It's not. So the president is wrong about that. However, what do you think Democrats make of the idea that it hasn't gone up at all?

LOCKHART: Listen, I think Democrats had a hope these hearings would move public opinion. We're not done yet. But I don't think in their heart they think that somehow they'll be this massive movement in the public opinion.

BERMAN: I hadn't seen that chart. Can we put that chart up again for a minute, because it is interesting. Support for impeachment hasn't moved from October, but look at where it was versus March, for instance, when the Mueller report came out. That's a big change.

TOOBIN: The Ukraine story has an impact. One of the things I've been obsessed by throughout this presidency is how little the polls have moved about most any question. Donald Trump's approval rating has fluctuated in such a narrow range, 35 to 43, in there. That's a big change on impeachment. And the Mueller report did not change people's views. But going from 36 percent to 50 percent, that's a lot, and that's the Ukraine story.

COLLINS: But the number that they're watching closely inside the White House is the Republicans' support for the president. And of course if they think that's not wavering, which so far it has not had any kind of a dramatic drop like that, they feel pretty good about it because they think his fate is in pretty good hands.

LOCKHART: And this whole story, normally it unfolds where you have a piece of evidence piled on piece of evidence, then finally -- this story started with a confession. This story started with a transcript, with the president doing what everyone was accusing him of. So I think that impacts the fact that they haven't moved from 50.

CAMEROTA: It's funny when I hear some of the president's supporters in the media say, oh, it's too confusing. Nobody can follow this. It's actually quite simple. The Ukraine one is actually simple for the public to get their minds on. People understand money. People understand the offer of a bribe.

Speaking of which, taxes, will Congress and the American public, after this court hearing, this court decision last night, ever see President Trump's taxes?

TOOBIN: Well, let me give you a ringing I don't know. I think --

BERMAN: He's going out on a limb there.

TOOBIN: Well, this is why I get the big bucks.

[08:10:00]

If the Supreme Court were the Supreme Court of two years ago, I would have said absolutely they would rule in favor of Congress here. But Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, their most passionate view is about the power of the executive. We talk a lot about abortion and affirmative action, and those are obviously very important issues in naming a new justice. But if you look at their backgrounds, an expansive view of executive power is at the core of their judicial being, and I think that certainly increases the president's chances for holding on to these tax returns.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, very quickly, I want to ask you about Rudy Giuliani because there's been reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" and CNN that there have been these subpoenas that have been asking about information about Giuliani associates and his businesses on a wide range of topics. I'm not going to read the whole thing, but it includes obstruction of justice, conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering, wire fraud. I'm not going to read the whole thing.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Violations of federal election laws, acting as an unregistered foreign agent. I'm not going to read the whole thing. How nervous, Kaitlan, is Trump-world right now about Rudy Giuliani?

COLLINS: I think the president is watching all of this closely because this has happened to him before with Michael Cohen where he was assured that it wasn't going to be that big of a deal. Things would be fine. And he stood by Michael Cohen and then we saw how that ended up, of course, and how the president now feels about him. So with Rudy Giuliani, the president and he go way back. They have a different relationship, a different dynamic than he had with Michael Cohen.

But you saw the president wavering after these two associates of Giuliani's were indicted. And now with this subpoena that CNN has seen, at least one of them, it gives you an example of how broad the investigation is for them and what federal prosecutors are looking at. And so that's the question, because they are looking into Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm, his sources of income. The question is whether that turns in to be something that's problematic for the president.

TOOBIN: Can I just add one thing. Last night on "AC 360," I said to you, a U.S. attorney had never been indicted by the U.S. attorney's office that he used to lead. And Scott Theriault (ph), the great writer and my friend, emailed me and said you're wrong. Otto Kerner, who was the U.S. attorney in Chicago, later the governor of Illinois, Kerner Commission, he was indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office that he used to lead. So now we know.

BERMAN: It's a good thing you're coming on morning and night when you talk about these things. It allows you to make these corrections.

(LAUGHTER) TOOBIN: That gets a correct --

BERMAN: We'll see what you have to correct tonight on "AC 360."

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: The ousted Navy secretary is hitting back at President Trump over his intervention in cases of military justice. We're going to speak to another former Navy secretary, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:45]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is speaking out on President Trump's intervention in a Navy SEAL's war crimes case. The president says he's protecting our war fighters.

Secretary Spencer is now breaking his silence after the firing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

REPORTER: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining me now is Ray Mabus, former secretary of the Navy.

Mr. Secretary, Governor, thank you very much.

I want to talk about the substance of that interview in just a moment but, first, the imagery there was striking. That was Secretary Spencer outside the Pentagon being directly critical of the president of the United States.

How did that strike you?

RAY MABUS, FORMER SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: Well, it struck me that this shows the chaos and confusion in this administration. I mean, the fact that you've got a Navy secretary standing outside the Pentagon criticizing the chain of command, you've got all these different narratives going on as to exactly what happened. Why was he terminated? Who did what to whom? And it all obscures a little bit the fundamental point here, and that

is that if this president had not completely inappropriately, wildly inappropriately inserted himself into this case, none of this would be happening. This is a direct result of him reaching down, throwing the military justice system out the window, throwing responsibility and accountability out the window, and fundamentally disrespecting and dishonoring the SEALs and all our troops.

BERMAN: So, Secretary Spencer said that the takeaway for service members is, you can get away with things. You can get away with things is the message that the president is sending with all of this. What's the impact of that feeling, do you think?

MABUS: Oh, I think the impact is huge because if people know that there's not going to be any accountability or that you'll be held accountable only if you don't have the right contacts or only if your politics are right, that impact cannot be -- you just can't diminish that impact because the military depends on the chain of command. The military depends on good order and discipline. The military depends on doing what's right, following the law.

And this just says, if you've got the right context, if you've got the right politics, you'll be OK and you can do anything. And the -- to make the military a pawn of politics is one of the worst and most dangerous things you can do in a democracy.

[08:20:00]

BERMAN: What's to keep the next service member accused of a war crime or accused of anything from going on Fox News and saying, hey, I'm the victim here?

MABUS: Nothing. And the fact that Gallagher went on Fox News, here's somebody on active duty going on Fox News, trashing his chain of command, and the president of the United States before he went on tweeting that he was going to go on. The message that sends to the rest of the force, not just the SEALs but everybody in uniform is terrible. That says you can get away with it as long as you have got the right contacts, as long as you've got the right connections, as long as your politics line up with the president's.

That's the worst message you could possibly send to our war fighters.

BERMAN: I want to play you the president and how he is defending the action. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I'm doing is sticking up for our armed forces. And there's never been a president that's going to stick up for them and has like I have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: What's your reaction to that? MABUS: I think what he's done shows fundamental disrespect for the

armed forces. It shows that he does not care for the tens of thousands of Americans who have gone into combat, protecting this country who have done so honorably, who have done so without breaking any laws, who have done so willingly. And to do this, to say that you can commit war crimes and get away with it, to say that it doesn't matter what you do, fundamentally misunderstands and fundamentally disrespects everybody in uniform. That's the basic takeaway from this.

BERMAN: Secretary Ray Mabus, thanks for being with us this morning. We do appreciate your time.

MABUS: Appreciate it. Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, John, a wildfire is burning at this moment, dangerously close to highways and threatening homes in southern California. We have the details for you, next.

BERMAN: Plus, hundreds of flights already canceled as heavy snow blankets the middle of the country. Your Thanksgiving forecast coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:43]

CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news. These are live pictures that you are looking at right now from Santa Barbara, California.

Look at this. I mean, obviously, we have been reporting for so many weeks on the wildfires there, and it is so hard for firefighters to get their arms around. It feels as though every week, every day, some overnights, a new one crops up, and today is no different.

So, there's this local emergency in effect. Evacuation orders have been issued for neighborhoods surrounding Highway 154. The fire has already burned more than 3,000 acres.

BERMAN: Major winter storm disrupting Thanksgiving plans. Here's a live look at Denver. Look at that. Someone is going to have to shovel out their car.

More than a foot of snow has fallen already this morning. Hundreds of flights canceled.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the holiday forecast -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, in the ballpark of 500 flights in and out of Denver already canceled. Now, that's only about 25 percent of the daily volume but it's still early to have that many cancellations.

Snow closing I-70, I-76 east of Denver. Blizzard warnings in effect for parts of Nebraska and Colorado as well.

Here is the storm, this is the simulation on where the snow will be. This is unfortunately the simulation of where tornadoes may be today. I know we think about tornadoes being a spring event but they can also be a fall event as well. And then we get some weather into the northeast for tomorrow.

We'll worry about the tornadoes today in the yellow and orange area here. Surrounding Little Rock in Arkansas, that entire area there. That's where the weather will be today. They'll be significant rainfall as well.

If you are flying tomorrow, expect delays out of the northeast through the Midwest and also San Francisco. There will be wind gusts in northern California today of 70 miles per hour. The wind gusts we're worried about for the balloons, 34 miles per hour, and that's exactly the forecast. If it goes above that, the balloons are grounded for tomorrow. It will be a game time decision, or for Thursday. It will be a game time decision.

But let me take you in advance of where you're trying to get home on Sunday. The next storm comes up here. Now we're looking at Saturday night and now Sunday morning. Upstate New York into Pennsylvania, lots of snow.

Keep those travel plans flexible. You may need to be home on Saturday and not on Sunday if this develops like this, guys. It's got to be a mess.

CAMEROTA: All right. We will keep it tuned to you, Chad. Thank you very much.

MYERS: OK.

CAMEROTA: So flu season has arrived early this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it includes a strain of flu that's particularly tough on children. Doctors say that makes it particularly important to get your kids vaccinated.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

So, tell us about this new flu strain and what it means for parents.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. So, this flu strain influenza B has been around for a long time. But this year, it's making this strong showing early in the season which is really unusual. So, all the more reason for children to get flu shots but unfortunately, many states make that difficult.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): Just before Christmas 2012, 5-year-old Caroline Miller got so sick from the flu that are the lungs stopped functioning. She had to be airlifted to the hospital and put into a medically induced coma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was clinging to life because of the flu.

COHEN: Caroline hadn't had a flu shot that year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just got busy. For all four of us to get vaccinated is, you know, four different phone calls, four different appointments.