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FOX Host Jeanine Pirro Visits White House for 2 Consecutive Days; 2 OMB Staffers Out After Voicing Frustration about Ukraine Aid Freeze; NYT: Trump Knew about Whistleblower Complaint Before Releasing Aid; White House Unsure Whether It Will Send Counsel to Impeachment Hearing; Trump Denies Giuliani Was Acting on His Behalf in Ukraine; CNN Poll: Biden Maintains Lead as Buttigieg Surges. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 27, 2019 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: In the last two days, the White House has had a frequent visitor, FOX News host, Jeanine Pirro.

CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, is here with us.

Is it odd Pirro has been there two days in a row?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: It certainly raises some eyebrows that she's been at the White House the past couple days. We spotted her there yesterday and she was there earlier this week for this Conan war hero event.

And we don't know why. We asked the White House and they're not commenting. FOX News isn't commenting on what she's doing there.

That said, she has a very good relationship with the president. This goes back decades. They've both known each other in New York circles. So they're both big supporters of each other.

She's a huge Trump supporter on cable news and he's a big supporter of hers. In return, he'll tweet out her clips and promote her show. He came to her aid when she was briefly suspended from FOX. He was lashing out at executives on his Twitter account.

It raises the possibility of perhaps maybe he's interested in bringing her into the White House.

CABRERA: That's been something he's thought about in the past, right?

DARCY: Right. According to reports, he's dangled positions, talked about possibly bringing her into the White House, into his administration, perhaps some sort of federal judgeship. It's really unclear.

But this is really just another example, another page in this long book of examples showing the very close relationship between FOX and the White House.

You know, they talk about a revolving door. At this point, it seems there's no door perhaps. It's just the same room. This is just another example in that.

CABRERA: An additional mystery to see where this could be headed.

DARCY: Right.

CABRERA: Oliver Darcy, as always, thank you.

DARCY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Happy Thanksgiving.

We are one week away now from the next set of impeachment hearings. Democrats say the White House is welcome to send its own defense team. Will they?


And Joe Biden proves he's got staying power, topping yet another 2020 poll as another candidate makes big gains.


CABRERA: Newly released impeachment interview transcripts reveal two people working in the Office of Management and Budget quit their jobs, at least in part, over concerns of withholding Ukraine aid.

This is interesting, especially in light of what acting chief of staff and head of OMB, Mick Mulvaney, said back in October.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF & DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: No one raised any difficulty with me on the call at all. I understand, in fact, no one on the call in here thought there was any difficulty with it.


CABRERA: Joining me now is Julian Epstein, former chief counsel for House Democrats during the Clinton impeachment, and A.B. Stoddard, the associate editor and columnist for "Real Clear Politics."

Julian, that was the same press conference Mulvaney acknowledged there was a quid pro quo in the July 25th phone call and there's political influence in foreign policy so get over it.

Do these resignations at OMB, the expression of concern at that time completely undermine the narrative the White House has been pushing about this Ukraine aid?

[13:40:00] JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL FOR HOUSE DEMOCRATS DURING CLINTON IMPEACHMENT: I think it undermines the narrative, but I think the narrative has already been undermined.

You've had testimony over a dozen witnesses from the State Department, the diplomatic corps, the National Security Agency inside the White House, White House staff, e-mails, phone calls. I mean, the evidence here is just overwhelming.

There just is no longer much of a question that there was a prescribe bribery scheme at hand where the president was holding up foreign aid in exchange for political dirt on his rival that would be found by the Ukrainians.

You kind of have to be the most loyalist flunky at this point be sticking your head in the sand and denying this. I sort of think the fat lady has sung on the factual questions here. I think the evidence, as I say, is just overwhelming.

And the question is, you know, will the Republicans be able to kick up enough smoke in an era where we're constantly digitally distracted on our telephones. There really isn't the kind of public square there was in 1998 and 1974. People might not be paying attention. That's the only question left is, how much of the public will really be engaged in this.

But on the facts, there really is no serious debate anymore.

CABRERA: Every single day, sometimes by the hour, we're learning more information that seems to point this story in the same direction, A.B. Now we have, according to the "New York Times," President Trump releasing the hold on this aid only after he learned of the whistleblower's report.

The president, we know, also knew the whistleblower's report was coming when he suddenly said he wanted no quid pro quo on that phone call that we've heard mentioned with E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

Isn't this just more evidence that Trump knew withholding the aid was wrong?

A.B. STODDARD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh yes. I mean, I think that's the more powerful reporting, is that not only were the people involved in the process on the interior very concerned. We knew about that before the impeachment hearings started. There was reporting that officials at OMB were asking questions about why this was happening and how long it had gone on.

But this notion that somehow this is all a coincidence, that he's trying to give Gordon Sondland his talking points after he learns that a whistleblower complaint has been filed and Congress has started an investigation, that the whistleblower's complaint was deemed credible and urgent by the inspector general of the Intelligence Community.

I think that, to Julian's point, though, Republicans continue to tell us, even the most loyalist flunkies, that this really is all fine with them, it's not impeachable behavior. They mostly try to talk about process and how Americans are concerned with the cost of drugs and everything else and they don't want the Democrats to do this.

But I don't really find anyone still pretending on the Republican side that this didn't happen.

What it points to, Ana, though, is the fact that the revelations just keep coming. There are new ones about Rudy Giuliani today --


STODDARD: -- in both the "Washington Post" and the "New York Times."

This is what Senate Republicans fear the most, if they're held as jurors to a vote in the trial about articles of impeachment, how much more will they learn about this by the time that date comes around. That's the big anxiety.

CABRERA: We are going to perhaps learn more as we move into this next phase. There's a new date for hearings in the Judiciary Committee as they prepare the potential articles of impeachment.

Julian, the first hearing is scheduled for one week from today, December 4th. This time, under these rules, the president's lawyer will be allowed to participate. We have new reporting today the president likely won't send anyone.

Is that smart? And if the president did send someone, what could his attorney do?

EPSTEIN: I think that's a mistake. What the Judiciary Committee hearing will be next week on December 4th is a hearing on the constitutional standards of impeachment. They will bring in law professors and other legal experts who will explain why this was, in fact, a bribery scheme, why any prosecutor would be able to get an indictment on a bribery charge under this set of facts, and why, under the Constitution, it's impeachable conduct.

This is very important, because I don't think the case about why this is impeachable, why these set of facts, in fact, constitute bribery, I don't think that kind of case has effectively been made yet by the Democrats. The factual case has been made very, very well.

That's going to be very important. It's going to be very important for the Democrats to prosecute that effectively.

If I were the White House, I would be challenging it. I think they are missing an opportunity.

After those hearings, you'll get a report from the Intelligence Committee. Probably Dan Goldman will testify as to what the House Intelligence Committee found. That will be done probably the week after. And following that, on December 18th, you'll have articles of impeachment on the floor.

But as for next week, I think the White House is missing an opportunity here.


CABRERA: A.B., you'll recall several witnesses testified they were told to talk to Rudy when it came to Ukraine. Now we have the president denying Giuliani was acting on his behalf. Is that relationship starting to crack? Is that what we're seeing?

STODDARD: I think the president is trying to give himself a little cover on Rudy, but I actually don't think he's going to technically, as everyone keeps anticipating, throw him under the bus. I don't think he can.

It's not only in the transcript of the July 25th call, but we know from witnesses talking about a meeting in May with the president, he told top officials to talk to Rudy.

It's not possible. Rudy Giuliani was on FOX over the weekend saying that he speaks to the president early and often.

But it is this deep, broad investigation by the SDNY, which Rudy once ran many years ago, that is of such concern. As we uncover more about what Rudy Giuliani has been up to as an unaccountable private citizen working a rogue national security policy outside the official channels of the State Department and the NSC.

It's a really dangerous line that the president has crossed here. That's, again, what Republicans are going to be forced to defend if we learn more about the investigation or his, quote, "business dealings" with the Ukrainians.

CABRERA: A.B. Stoddard and Julian Epstein, great to have you both here. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving.

EPSTEIN: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting a bounce in the national polls, surging as some of his Democratic rivals slip a bit. What his rise tells us about the state of the race, next.



CABRERA: As we head into this Thanksgiving holiday, a new CNN poll may have given Democratic presidential Joe Biden another reason to be thankful. It shows Biden maintaining his double-digit lead over Democratic challengers with 28 percent of support.

Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren are next with 17 percent and 14 percent respectively. And Mayor Pete Buttigieg showing double- digit support for the first time in CNN polling with 11 percent. No other candidate reaches 4 percent.

CNN political reporter, Arlette Saenz, joins us now. Arlette, there are 342 days until the 2020 election. Compared to October, we have Biden and Warren a slight decline. Bernie Sanders holding steady. But Pete Buttigieg is at his highest standing in a national poll so far at 11 percent. What does this tell you?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Ana, it shows Pete Buttigieg has been gaining when it comes to polls nationally. But it's also showing Joe Biden's resilience as he continues to lead the Democratic field. You have Joe Biden coming in at 28 percent. Followed by Bernie Sanders at 17 percent. Elizabeth Warren at 14 percent. The two of them battling it out for second place there. And then Pete Buttigieg at 11 percent.

If you look at those numbers compared to October, you are seeing Biden and Warren with a slight decline in their support nationally. For Warren, seen this indicated in other polls as well.

Then look at Pete Buttigieg. He's gained five points on the national level. Also you've seen him rising in early state polls. He was recently leading in Iowa. A much closer race in both Iowa and New Hampshire when, compared to the national polls.

But one other thing that's interesting about this poll is that it still shows how fluid the race is. The majority of voters haven't decided who they are going to be voting for come this Democratic primary on the national level. And 42 percent say definitely decided. There's a lot of room for movement for these candidates -- Ana?

CABRERA: Even if you whittle down the field between four candidates, who are voters leaning towards?

SAENZ: It actually is showing now on a national level a pretty similar trend. Look at those numbers. Joe Biden is still leading with 35 percent. Then Bernie Sanders at 23 percent and Warren at 20 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 17 percent.

We're pretty far away from this becoming a four-person race. We still have 18 Democratic candidates in the field. But this could turn into a very long primary fight where you could have different winners coming out of Iowa, New Hampshire, heading into Nevada and South Carolina. It could continue later on in the process to be much smaller field --


CABRERA: When it comes to what matters most, especially when it's policy, what are voters looking for? Do they want big changes?

SAENZ: A few things. Health care and action on guns are two very important issues, top issues for Democratic primary voters.

But an interesting thing in this poll is that voters were asked, what kind of approach they want to see when it comes to policy. Do they want something that's going to become a good chance of becoming law or do they want larger change? A majority of those polled here said they want a candidate that has --

that approaches policy that has a good chance of becoming law even if it's smaller change. That kind of falls in line with what Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have been arguing out on the campaign trail.

While 36 percent say they want big change. That's something Elizabeth Warren, you hear hers often talk about big, structural change.


There's certainly a debate playing out about the best approach to policy. And the majority of folks now in the Democratic field, primary voters, saying they want something that has the best chance of actually becoming law -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right, Arlette Saenz, thanks for breaking it down for us.

Back to the breaking news. The "New York Times" reporting that Rudy Giuliani sought payment from Ukraine even as he worked to dig up dirt on the Bidens.