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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
WSJ: Giuliani Was In Talks To Earn Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars From Ukrainian Government Officials; Donald Trump Starting To Distance Himself From Giuliani; Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) Discusses Rudy Giuliani Working To Dig Up Dirt On The Bidens While Enriching His Own Pockets; NYT: DOJ Report Expected To Undercut Trump's Spy Claim; NYT: FBI Did Not Try To Spy On Trump Campaign, DOJ Inspector General's Report Expected To Find; Fired Navy Secretary: Trump Has "Very Little Understanding" Of Being In The Military; Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) Discusses About Richard Spencer's Claim That President Trump Has No Understanding What It Means To Be In The Military; Fired Navy Secretary Slams Trump In Scathing Op-Ed; Report: Three Women Accuse Sondland Of Sexual Misconduct; Trump Signs Legislation Supporting Pro-Democracy Protesters In Hong Kong, Major Slap To China. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 27, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: And Happy Thanksgiving to you. CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera, thank you so much. I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, Rudy Giuliani reportedly tried to cash in to the tune of half a million dollars on Ukraine while digging for dirt on Joe Biden. Is Trump about to turn on his personal attorney? Plus, new details tonight on a highly anticipated report about the Russia investigation and it completely undermines what Trump has been claiming for years. And the Navy Secretary who was fired tears into President Trump in a new op-ed tonight saying he doesn't understand what it means to be a military man. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Erin Burnett. And tonight OUTFRONT breaking news, Rudy Giuliani in deeper trouble and this time President Trump may not have his back. The Wall Street Journal reporting that Giuliani was trying to line his pockets with half a million dollars from Ukraine while he was trying to also dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
According to the journal, Giuliani was in talks to represent Ukrainian government officials including the same prosecutor that he was working with to get information on Biden and his son. Giuliani claims he ultimately backed out of the deal because of his ties to Trump and just moments ago tweeted, "I did not pursue a business opportunity in Ukraine."
But this comes as Trump for the first time distances himself from his personal attorney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I knew he was going to
go to Ukraine, and I think he canceled a trip, but you know, Rudy has other clients, other than me. I'm one ...
BILL O'REILLY, THE O'REILLY UPDATE: So you didn't direct him to go there on your behalf? You didn't ...
TRUMP: No, but no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Not exactly a warm embrace there. Now, Trump says he didn't direct Giuliani. But that explanation doesn't add up. Look at Trump's own words from his July phone call with Ukraine's President. "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great."
And here's Trump's handpicked Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland under oath.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: In response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, President Trump directed us to 'talk with Rudy'. Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the President wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into the corruption issues.
Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma as two topics of importance to the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Jeremy Diamond is traveling with the President tonight and he's OUTFRONT live in West Palm Beach, Florida. And Jeremy, this sounds like the President may be getting ready to throw Giuliani under the bus, no?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That certainly is the key question, Bianna. For now at least though the President is certainly distancing himself from his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. At the same time as the former New York City Mayor becomes increasingly central to this Ukraine scandal.
We have seen in the testimony in recent weeks how central Rudy Giuliani was to these efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to carry out these politically motivated investigations. As you just saw Gordon Sondland there describe how the President directed him to speak with Rudy Giuliani. And Rudy Giuliani then directed U.S. officials to pressure the Ukrainian government to carry out these investigations.
Look, we know how seriously the President takes loyalty but oftentimes loyalty with this president is a one way street. We saw this previously, of course, with the President's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who the President ultimately said something very similar about where he said I Never directed him to do anything wrong.
Those comments are very similar to what the President is now saying about Rudy Giuliani. And like Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani is also now under federal investigation. The difference so far is that Rudy Giuliani has not turned on the President. He has rejected requests from Congress to come forward and testify.
And, of course, Bianna, many of the President's allies, White House aides who work with the President every day have bemoaned the President's relationship with Rudy Giuliani, believing that Giuliani is not helpful to the President and in fact it causes a lot of self inflicted wounds. So that, of course, remains a question but so far the President just distancing himself. We'll see if he goes any further.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Everyone recalls John Bolton calling him a hand grenade. Jeremy, a lot of developments there. Thank you so much. And OUTFRONT tonight Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat. He's on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): Thank you, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: A lot of news on this Thanksgiving eve. Let me get your reaction to this story now about Rudy Giuliani allegedly going to Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens while at the same time trying to enrich his own pockets working with the same prosecutors.
ESPAILLAT: It has been reported that he was in conversations with the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor, Lutsenko, and that there was perhaps some money talk as well. The President itself said that Giuliani has other clients besides himself.
Sondland said that the President directed him to Giuliani, the July 25th conversation with Zelensky leased Giuliani. So obviously he's a central figure in this investigation.
GOLODRYGA: And is it plausible what the President says that he didn't direct Giuliani to do anything in Ukraine?
ESPAILLAT: Well, clearly he had confidence in him, he expressed confidence in him to Zelensky, to Sondland as well that he instructed them to go directly to him. So yes, it seems very likely that he had a lot of confidence in him. He may still have a working relationship with him.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And it may have been an easier excuse prior to these two weeks worth of testimony from 12 fact witnesses.
ESPAILLAT: That's correct.
GOLODRYGA: Because the one commonality we saw from all of them was this link to Giuliani and that Gordon Sondland said no one wanted to work with him. They were just told by the President to work with him, so what does that say about the President's excuse now?
ESPAILLAT: Well, it seems like it has all of the characteristics of the Cohen incident and it may be very well that he's throwing him under the bus. But he is very much part of this impeachment process and we will continue to find out what his business was in the Ukraine.
GOLODRYGA: I'm glad you brought up Michael Cohen, because it does seem that history is repeating itself. We've seen this story before with how the President who's once very close to his attorney seems to be distancing himself. Let's take a listen to some of this past history here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer.
Rudy Giuliani is a great lawyer.
I always like Michael Cohen.
I think Rudy is a great gentleman.
Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen.
Well, you'll have to ask that to Rudy.
What you have to ask that to Rudy.
They got Cohen on totally unrelated to the campaign. I'm not involved.
You know, Rudy has other clients, other than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So that's quite the evolution. We know ultimately that Michael Cohen did flip on the President. He's now serving time in prison.
ESPAILLAT: Serving time.
GOLODRYGA: You know Rudy Giuliani very well. Rudy Giuliani and this president go way back. How concerned do you think the President is right now that Giuliani could possibly flip on him too?
ESPAILLAT: I won't make any predictions, but I know that as a common practice, Rudy Giuliani was a former U.S. Attorney. When defendants or suspects are facing time in jail very often they're skeptical about their previous positions. But I'm not going to make any predictions and say whether he will or will not flip on the President, but I'm sure that it may have crossed the President's mind.
GOLODRYGA: Let me turn now to the impeachment inquiry and the hearings. We saw over 12 witnesses over 30 hours of testimony, all fact based witnesses. Many of your Democratic colleagues say there's no doubt about it. These were all impeachable offenses. We have yet to see one of your Republican colleagues say the same. Does that alarm you?
ESPAILLAT: Yes, it does. I think that the evidence has been compelling. I feel that many of them should adhere to the constitution and not to political wins. We're all facing reelection this coming year and we should not play this by scoring political points.
But by compelling in our historical commitment to the Constitution and what it stands for and what our duties are as duly elected Members of Congress.
GOLODRYGA: Is there now any debate within the party as to how to proceed forward regarding impeachment or centering the President? We know that one of your fellow congressman sort of walked back, that idea had floated it earlier on. Is that the better route to go down now that we are approaching an election year?
ESPAILLAT: No, I think that Chairman Schiff has done a tremendous job in the investigation process. I think that now that that body of evidence goes to the Judiciary Committee and Chairman Nadler will have that information before him and my colleagues in that committee. Then, we'll make the decision as to whether or not to proceed with articles of impeachment that will begin next, not this coming Tuesday, a week from now and so we'll see what happens then.
But I think we're in the right course. We've heard from all of the witnesses. I think we've been deliberate about this. We haven't really acted off the cuff. We would adhere to what the constitution tells us we should do and we should continue in that route.
GOLODRYGA: In terms of other witnesses, given the judge's ruling earlier in the week with regards to McGahn and his now ability to testify. Do you think it's worth waiting now to see if you do have John Bolton testify, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo even, will that strengthen your cause for pursuing impeachment even if it means waiting a few more months?
ESPAILLAT: I'm sure the Judiciary Committee will take a look at that. I'm sure also that Pompeo and Bolton will have an opportunity to reconsider their position to come forward in the process as it moves forward.
The President and the White House will be able to have counsel there. They'll be able to be part of the process. This is something that they complained about in the past. Well, guess what, right now you have it right in front of you.
GOLODRYGA: What's the likelihood do you think that we'll see (inaudible) ...
ESPAILLAT: Well, I hope they are part of the process. This is a historical process that's guided by the Constitution of the United States of America. I think they should not hide under a rock. They should be fully part of this process. We must hear from them.
GOLODRYGA: Congressman, Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it, yes.
ESPAILLAT: Same to you and to the American people, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, OUTFRONT next breaking news. new details emerging tonight about a Justice Department Inspector General report and it reportedly undercuts a major Trump conspiracy theory. Plus, a key witness in the impeachment investigation and a Trump ally, Ambassador Gordon Sondland accused of sexual misconduct. The reporters who broke that story are OUTFRONT. And breaking news, more breaking news for you, President Trump just signed a declaration that is a major rebuke of China.
GOLODRYGA: Tonight, one of the President's biggest conspiracy theories is unraveling. The New York Times is reporting that the Justice Department Inspector General's upcoming report on the origins of the Russia investigation will show that this is not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They were spying on my campaign and it went right up to the top. And everybody knows it.
Nothing terrifies Democrats more than the fact that all of their spying, they actually spied on my campaign, can you believe it?
They spied on my campaign, it's as simple as that. It's so illegal, it's probably the biggest political scandal in the history and they got caught doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The Times reporting tonight that there's simply no evidence that the FBI tried to place undercover agents inside the Trump campaign. OUTFRONT now Greg Brower, former FBI Assistant Director, Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and Ross Garber, CNN Legal Analyst. Welcome all of you.
Greg, let me begin with you. What's the significance of this report finding that there was in fact no spying?
GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, frankly, Bianna, it's not surprising to those of us who were at the FBI or at DOJ at the time. I think for the most part, the President's allegations and accusations at the time were seen as absurd and irresponsible. And it appears as though according to the reporting that this OIG
report will confirm that there was no spying, there was no misconduct at the senior levels of DOJ or the FBI. There was no politically motivated efforts to get the President. It simply didn't happen. But, again, those who know how the FBI and DOJ works knew that that wouldn't be the case at the outset.
GOLODRYGA: And we'll know more once this report officially does come out. But Ross, the President wasn't the only one promoting these theories. In fact, the Attorney General said similar things. He actually went on an expedition to Europe looking for answers here and here's what he said before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And then we know he doubled down an interview with The Wall Street Journal saying that government power was used to spy on American citizens. So does this report hurt the Attorney General as well?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It may. I mean, look, get ready for a crossfire hurricane of spin here. It's already started, but we're going to see it later. It's going to be interesting to see what the Attorney General says about this. What he could say is, "Look, I heard these issues." The President raised them and so we got to the bottom of it for the good of the American people.
We sussed it out and it turns out there's no basis for it. That could be what he says. It could also be the case that he says, "Well, actually it depends on how you define spying." Maybe there was spying sort of but not the kind of spying that we all think of as spying. It's going to be interesting for the reason you mentioned to see how the Attorney General handles it.
GOLODRYGA: But most people interpreted that as getting (inaudible) ...
GOLODRYGA: ... and validity, right?
GARBER: Indeed, right.
GOLODRYGA: And Juliette, I want to bring you on because, of course, we all remember the series of tweets early on in the presidency in March of 2017 - Greg, I want let me turn to you, we remember those tweets where the President accused President Obama of wiretapping and he, in fact, said, "Terrible.
Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism." "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during this very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy."
This was early on enough in the presidency where it was still shocking when you saw a tweet like this from the President. Does this categorically put this allegation to rest now?
BROWER: Well, of course, we haven't seen the report. But if the reporting by The Times, and The Post and others is correct, yes, those kinds of allegations were shocking at the time. Not so much that people who know how the FBI and the DOJ work were shocked that that could have been happening, but the shock was about the fact that the President could so cavalierly be making such allegations like that.
And so, yes, they were hard to believe, if not completely unbelievable at the time and it appears as though this report by the independent OIG is going to finally put them to rest.
GOLODRYGA: I mean, that allegation itself was so alarming that President Obama who has been for the most part quiet throughout this process had to respond to it, because it was such an egregious and outrageous allegation. Juliette, I know we had a problem with your satellite earlier, but as you know and as was mentioned by Ross, this will likely be cherry picked, both sides can find things that they claim validation in and the DOJ is reporting that it's also expected to find that there were lower level employees who made some mistakes.
In fact, CNN first reported that a former FBI lawyer is under investigation for allegedly altering a document that was related to the surveillance of the former Trump campaign aide Carter page. That has - having been said, it's also expected to say that didn't alter the investigation. What does that tell you?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It tells me that the damage is already done and that's what we have to remember. Nearly two years later, just think of the time effort, money, focus, talking points, everything that has been expended to prove or to essentially disprove a series of unsubstantiated tweets from Donald Trump.
And what has happened now is that Donald Trump has created a narrative for Fox and people that support him that somehow he's the victim in the 2016 election, rather than the American voter because given what happened with Russia and Russia's infiltration in our election. And so now he's created this narrative where he's the victim, Russia, he does not believe did anything wrong in 2016 and just want to remind people a few weeks from now we are in 2020.
Most of the White House staff dealing with election security is now gone. DHS is down to a skeleton staff dealing with this issue. And so in some ways, it doesn't matter what is in the report. The last two years have allowed Donald Trump in the White House to create a mythology about what happened in 2016, which essentially, I think Greece is the runway for Russia to do what it plans on doing in 2020.
GOLODRYGA: And so Ross, do you agree with Juliette, do you believe that the damage is already done to the credibility of the FBI and the fact that there hasn't been enough attention focused on Russia's involvement in 2020?
GARBER: Look, I think there has probably been some damage to the FBI. There certainly has been, but I think once this report comes out, I think then we'll actually be able to sort of see the details behind it and actually get at the facts. So far there really have been so many allegations, so much spin.
I think it's a good idea to actually get down to the facts and I think the report will help do that.
GOLODRYGA: The likelihood that the President said he was wrong are slim to none, (inaudible) ...
GARBER: I would think so.
GOLODRYGA: All right. I hear laughter there.
KAYYEM: Do turkeys fly.
GOLODRYGA: We have to express some Thanksgiving optimism, right? Juliette, Greg, Ross, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, OUTFRONT next, a former Navy Secretary comes out swinging hard against President Trump, accusing him of not understanding what it means to be part of the military. Plus, breaking news, President Trump signs a bill that is seen as a major rebuke of China at a time when he's trying to hammer out a major critical trade deal.
GOLODRYGA: We have some breaking news to bring you tonight, former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer writing a Washington Post op-ed just a few hours ago just days after resigning over the President's handling of the case of a Navy SEAL charged with war crimes.
Spencer writing tonight that this was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low level review. It was also a reminder that the President has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.
OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana. He's a Member of the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Hey, thanks for having me. GOLODRYGA: So let me get your reaction to this. A former Navy
Secretary says President Trump has no understanding of what it means to be in the military. I mean, that's a pretty stunning allegation.
JOHNSON: It is a pretty stunning statement from the former Secretary of the Navy, but there are some surprising things in that op-ed as well. I just read it myself right before we came on the air. And to me there was surprising statement in there. He admitted that he wanted to do everything he could to try to prevent the President's involvement in this particular case and that's going to raise some eyebrows, I think.
Look, I'm talking to you just a few moments away, a few miles away from Barksdale Air Force Base, the home of the nuclear triad and there's a lot of military folks in my district who love the President. They love him as Commander-in-chief. He's a bit unconventional, that's certainly true, but they have a lot of confidence in him and I think that that's a sentiment that's shared across the military.
What you hear from not only Spencer, but others in the military is how really unprecedented it is for the President to try to intervene in these types of legal situations that as we know are handled separately within the military itself. So that doesn't alarm you?
JOHNSON: Well, he is the commander-in-chief. He's ultimately the authority over all of those military affairs. And I think what the President was concerned about in this particular case is the chilling effect that a conviction would have across all of our military fighting forces, all of those on the front lines without relitigating all of the facts of the Gallagher case.
There were a lot of people who were deeply concerned about how that matter was handled. I think the President was and I think it's his prerogative given to him by the voters of this country to step in and let his opinion be heard on that. So we support him in it.
I think a lot of Members of Congress do as well. There's been a lot of discussion about that case and we'll have to see where all the chips fall on it.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we know the President continues to talk about it. Here's in fact what he said at a rally last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state. I will always stick up for our great fighters. People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn't matter to me whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So Congressman, there you hear the President calling the former Navy secretary who we should he appointed the deep state.
[19:30:03] Is that appropriate? And I mean, at this point, who isn't the deep
state? It appears that anytime somebody speaks out against the president or in a disagreement with the president, they're labeled the deep state.
MIKE: I didn't hear him call any names in that clip, and I wasn't at that rally, but you can gauge by the reaction of the crowd that they support those actions and activities. The president is a president for Special Forces, for anybody who serves in our military and for first responders. He likens himself that way. He takes great pride in it and I think the people of this country do, as well.
He supports our men and women in uniform and he's trying to show that every single day. He's done it by increasing fundings to the military and also defending them as he said in his own words there when he believes they're under assault, and I think that most Americans salute him for that.
GOLODRYGA: Well, it is quite stunning. I just have to read how Spencer closes out his op-ed because the last line is really biting. He says: Our allies need to know that we remain a force for good and to please bear with us as we move through this moment in time.
That almost sounds like a message that Mattis had for troops a couple of years ago when he was defense secretary. That doesn't alarm you either? Do you disagree with Spencer's comment?
JOHNSON: Well, I dis -- I disagree with that comment. I think that our military is respected around the world. We have equipped and armed the military with the funding to do their job. I think America is back and America is strong, and I think that's what the people in this country respond to and understand.
Secretary Esper is the one that let Secretary Spencer go. You know, that's his job, there is a chain of command. I think by Secretary Spencer saying that, he is going outside the chain of command. What he's done with the op-ed is unprecedented.
I mean no disrespect to him. I salute him but --
GOLODRYGA: And he acknowledged his wrongdoing. And Spencer, as you read the op-ed acknowledges that he was wrong in going around and circumventing Esper, Secretary Esper. But let me move on as we have you here in the final few minutes because I want to ask you about the impeachment hearings.
You said that they produced no bombshells, that we obviously have had a lot of new information just over the past 48 hours. We now know the president was aware of the whistle-blower's complaint when he told Ambassador Sondland that there was no quid pro quo and that the aid was, of course, soon released after that.
Doesn't this timing now look extremely suspect to you?
JOHNSON: It doesn't. I don't have a concern about that timing at all. I think the president was very consistent. Look, his mindset was he thought of Ukraine as a corrupt country. It
wasn't just his opinion. That's the opinion of all experts around the world, non-governmental organizations that monitor corrupt nations around the country -- around the world always list Ukraine at the top of that list. He wanted to root out corruption.
He talked to President Zelensky who ran on a similar platform, to drain the swamp, so to speak, in his country. They had a frank discussion about that, and he said to Ambassador Sondland, September 9th, in the phone call you referenced, that he wanted Zelensky to do the right thing. It wasn't about a quid pro quo, that was his own words. He wanted to clarify that everyone understood that.
Look, November 14th, the Ukraine foreign minister came out with his statement and said that the military funding had nothing whatsoever to do with the public statement of anticorruption. They did not see a link between this at all.
JOHNSON: -- root out corruption.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, one could argue that Ukraine -- one could argue that Ukraine was the weaker of the two parties who desperately needed the help of the president of the United States --
GOLODRYGA: -- and would do anything to get that aid even if they came out with a message saying there was no pressure.
I understand your point. We'll have to leave it there, though. We're out of time and I appreciate you joining us, Congressman. Happy Thanksgiving.
JOHNSON: Same to you. Thanks so much.
GOLODRYGA: Well, OUTFRONT next, Trump backs down, signing a bipartisan bill after suggesting he might veto it because it would offend China.
And a new report out tonight about three women who are accusing Ambassador Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct. We'll have Sondland's response coming up next.
GOLODRYGA: And we have even more breaking news for you tonight. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and the central figure of the impeachment hearings is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and retaliation tonight. Three women are accusing Sondland of offenses such as forcible kissing and exposing himself. There are also claims that Sondland retaliated against him when they refused his advances. All of the accusations occurred before Sondland became an ambassador
and Sondland is denying them all.
OUTFRONT tonight, Julia Silverman, one of the reporters of "The Portland Monthly" who reported the story, and Marty Patail, editor-in- chief of "The Portland Monthly". They worked with ProPublica to publish this story.
Welcome both of you.
And, Marty, let me begin with you. How and when did these three women decide to come forward?
MARTY PATAIL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, PORTLAND MONTHLY: Thank you, Bianna.
We started working on the story back in October when Sondland's role in the impeachment hearings was very different. We heard first our owner, Nicole Vogel. She told her story in public at a charity event in Seattle.
And that was sort of the first time our current editorial team heard the story, and we decided pretty quickly that if we were going to pursue the story, we would need to bring on an independent, investigative partner, and we did that with ProPublica and they've been a fantastic reporting, fact-checking and writing partner in this story.
GOLODRYGA: And is that because of Vogel's association with the publication and any sort of conflict of interest that could bring up?
PATAIL: Correct. We wanted to minimize any sort of appearance of conflict of interest. She was not given any sort of access to the story. We treated her as we would any other source.
GOLODRYGA: And, Julia, there is a woman in the story by the name of Jana Solis and she's claiming that Sondland invited her to his home to evaluate his art collection and then, quote, she says, I get out of the pool house and he is now naked from the waist down. He said something about, I thought we could chat.
That's a shocking claim.
JULIA SILVERMAN, NEWS EDITOR, PORTLAND MONTHLY: It is, and that is Jana Solis's recollection which she shared with us.
I'd like to note that we spent the better part of two months reporting these stories. We checked and re-checked everything, and we spoke to multiple people for each woman who could confirm that they were told the story at the time, so verifying a contemporaneous account.
GOLODRYGA: And, Marty, in response to your story, Sondland's lawyer had written a statement to us, and he said that given the timing of your intended story, a reasonable conclusion could be drawn is that you are attempting to affect Ambassador Sondland's credibility as a fact witness in the pending impeachment inquiry. Given the politically charged climate in which current events are unfolding, some might consider this to be veiled witness tampering.
What do you make of the timing of this allegations being brought forward, because you yourself said that you started investigating this just a few months ago, as well.
PATAIL: We are reporters first and foremost and it is not our job to worry about what is going on where these events that we described happened before Sondland became the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., and -- and we --
SILVERMAN: We can only tell you what we reported in our story. We can't speculate on the politics.
You've given great detail to these three allegations from these three women. Julia, do you expect more women may come forward now?
SILVERMAN: Well, we are eager to hear their stories. Our contact information and that of our colleagues at ProPublica is at the bottom of the story, so we are eager to hear from anybody who has further information to share.
PATAIL: And, Bianna, I just want to add that we responded extensively to Sondland's lawyer in the story and I encourage your viewers to read it. We quote his lawyer and his response extensively and we have --
SILVERMAN: Addressed all those points.
PATAIL: -- addressed them.
GOLODRYGA: And there are details in this piece, as well.
Marty and Julia, I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you.
PATAIL: Thank you very much.
SILVERMAN: Thank you for having us.
GOLODRYGA: And I want now to bring in Jim McCarthy. He's Ambassador Sondland's personal spokesperson.
Thank you so much, Jim, for coming in late notice tonight.
So, what is the ambassador's response to these allegations? You said that you'd known about this story and had been in the work for a few months now.
JIM MCCARTHY, SPOKESPERSON FOR AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND: Well, I'm amazed to hear those reporters say they were thorough. You know, I've tried to be in contact with Ms. Silverman for many weeks now, and she has refused to share even basic details -- who, what, where, when these instances supposed occurred, how they're substantiated. She wouldn't discuss any of those details with us, and we didn't have an opportunity to hear any of the fundamental basics of it until just a couple of days ago with a 24-hour deadline. It was horrendously irresponsible journalism and the fact that their
own boss is the primary source for the story is appalling, a brazen conflict of interest.
GOLODRYGA: Well, you've heard them say that's the reason they brought in ProPublica which did their own investigation and corroborated these allegations and accusations for that very reason.
MCCARTHY: Look, both of these -- both of the reporters you just had on spent weeks calling many -- dozens and dozens of employees of Ambassador Sondland's company, waving innuendo at them and trying to solicit, you know, similar kinds of stories and their own boss is the primary source. She signs their checks.
You know, to pretend that that's somehow objective journalism is just ridiculous.
GOLODRYGA: But again, but again, the whole point of going to another publication, and bringing another publication, which is very credible, ProPublica, I think that you would agree with that.
MCCARTHY: I wouldn't.
GOLODRYGA: Well, that's a discussion for another time. But they also they did thorough investigative work here, regardless of what appearances may have been.
So how does the ambassador respond to that?
MCCARTHY: Well, we have an extensive response that you can find on his personal website, which is GordonSondland.com, and in there, we detail how ProPublica's reporting was also unethical and also underhanded. They, too, would not share basic details with us, such as how the sources were in a position to know it, what kind of basis they have for saying these claims.
Even about when they occur. One of the main sources changed the date of when it occurred from 2003 to 2008.
GOLODRYGA: Does he deny knowing these women?
MCCARTHY: No --
GOLODRYGA: Does he deny parts of their stories? Because they're very detailed, there's going into a pool house, there's driving in the car, there's going into a hotel room.
GOLODRYGA: Forcible kissing, exposure.
MCCARTHY: I understand, I understand.
GOLODRYGA: And all of that.
MCCARTHY: He details how each of these individual his business interaction with him and they came to him with business proposals. One wanted to sell insurance.
Ms. Vogel, again, the boss of these reporters, wanted Ambassador Sondland to invest in her magazine. He did due diligence and declined. That's not retribution, that's just turning down a business deal.
And the third didn't get the job she wanted. There's no power imbalance there. They each came with proposals and were politely declined. There's nothing improper about that.
GOLODRYGA: You heard me asking the reporters about the timing about this all and there are people at home that view it suspicious that it comes after his testimony.
MCCARTHY: Yes, it is.
GOLODRYGA: The ambassador seems to be moving in that direction as well, sort of linking this to be politically motivated.
GOLODRYGA: Who would stand to benefit from smearing the ambassador?
MCCARTHY: Well, it's uncanny the timing, and it seems, it seems obvious to me, it's a kind of witness tampering. Look at some factors such as Ms. Vogel is a major Democratic Party donor. She donates to the Democratic Party.
The congressman from Portland, Earl Blumenauer, is a frequent contributor in her publication. He spent weeks maligning Ambassador Sondland and threatening his business.
One of the other sources of the story is a former Democratic congressional staffer. So, it just wreaks of partisanship, and it's backed up by garbage journalism that never gave us a fair opportunity to verify and look back into the fundamental facts.
GOLODRYGA: You mentioned that you had been aware of this story for some time now. Had the ambassador made the White House aware that this story was coming and where does the White House stand now? Are they in support of the ambassador?
MCCARTHY: Well, we've tried to brief his colleagues in the State Department to let them know that the reporting was under way. But more important, we tried to get to the bottom of it with the reporters themselves. We wanted to give input and find out what the facts were and we tried diligently.
"Portland Monthly" wouldn't give us anything -- zero details.
GOLODRYGA: Has he spoken to the president?
MCCARTHY: That I don't know.
GOLODRYGA: And do you think that given this allegation that he can continue doing his work as ambassador to the E.U.?
MCCARTHY: Look, it's a sad time in America when these kinds of underhanded stories are trying to affect political outcomes. And I think most people, readers and public officials, too, will see right through it. It's underhanded and it's garbage.
GOLODRYGA: Jim, we will continue to follow this story. We appreciate you coming in.
GOLODRYGA: Happy Thanksgiving.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
Well, OUTFRONT next, President Trump just signing a bill that is no doubt angering China tonight.
And a doctored photo of Donald Trump has social media all pumped up.
GOLODRYGA: Very busy night of breaking news. We have more breaking news to bring you. A major rebuke against China.
The president has signed legislation that supports pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong threatening sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses. The president in a statement is saying: I signed these bills out of respect for President xi, China and the people of Hong Kong.
Let's bring Jeremy Diamond back OUTFRONT.
Jeremy, this is a huge slap on China. And the president in recent days refused to commit to sign this legislation. So, what's happened tonight?
DIAMOND: That's right, Bianna. It appears that the president's reticence ultimately collided with this hard reality of support for this legislation overwhelming bipartisan support for the legislation, both the House and the Senate.
The House passed this bill 417-1. And the Senate passed it unanimously. Rarely do you see such substantive legislation pass with those margins.
And so, ultimately, that meant that even if the president did not sign this or if he vetoed it as he threatened to do, floated the possibility a few days ago, ultimately, this bill would likely have become legislation. So that appears to be the reason why.
GOLODRYGA: A lot of pressure from Congress. That's for sure.
But it's also coming at a critical time in these trade negotiations with China. The president had been expressing some sort of optimism as far as those talks were headed.
Where are they now?
DIAMOND: Right, and that is ultimately why the president has been so reticent to express his support for those protesters in Hong Kong and to sign this very legislation, because he is concerned about the impact that this could have on the trade negotiations.
Look, we know that earlier this week. Trade talks were still continuing between the U.S. and China. They are still working towards that phase 1 agreement that the president so, so very much wants to get signed.
We know that the president previously promised Xi Jinping back in June that he would not criticize Chinese actions in Hong Kong with regards to the protests until they actually reached a trade agreement. That is obviously out the window now, but we do know that the president has been extremely concerned about the impacts that this could have.
And the Chinese government, Bianna, has already threatened to retaliate against the United States. That is why you saw that statement from President Trump in which he said, look, offering a peace offering essentially, some kind of olive branch here even as he signs this legislation in effect that could enact tough sanctions against Chinese officials, Hong Kong officials involved in human rights violations. The president trying to extend an olive of I have branch to Xi Jinping to say, look, I still want to move forward on the trade relationship. This is not necessarily a slap in the face.
GOLODRYGA: And we have yet to see how President Xi will respond to this.
Jeremy, thank you so much, we appreciate it.
Well, OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on President Trump's tweet and the rocky reception it received.
GOLODRYGA: It's the fake photo that's hitting a real nerve.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Looking at this, you may see a president tossing "Keep America Great" hats.
But maybe President Trump sees a Greek Olympian hurling a discus. After all, he tweeted out this doctored image of his own head attached to the chiseled torso of Rocky Balboa.
Here's the original. Instead of doing sit-ups or pumping iron, President Trump tends to just pump his fists. Critics compared the president to Homer Simpson checking out his reflection and imagining impeccable pecs.
(on camera): It's as if I look in the mirror and saw this.
There's nothing like a flattering presidential photoshop to inspire tons of unflattering photoshops. When you order something online versus when it arrives.
Perception versus reality. You're delusional.
The president's son Don Jr. joked, I've heard from reliable sources that it's not doctored.
"The Daily Wire" doggedly doctored the already doctored photo by adding Conan, the hero dog.
(on camera): The president, at the moment, seems to have his chest on the brain.
(voice-over): At his latest rally, he railed at the press for supposedly saying he'd had a heart attack when he went to Walter Reed Hospital the other day.
TRUMP: They said he wasn't wearing a tie. If the first thing they do is they take off off your shirt, sir, show us that your gorgeous chest.
MOOS: That gorgeous chest on a guy who once told "Reuters", I get exercise. I mean, I walk, I this, I that.
Fake torso Trump was compared with real bare-chested Putin. Who wore it better? Some critics rubbed it in. #Obamadidntneedphotoshop.
President Clinton's former press secretary tweeted, now we know what they did to him at Walter Reed.
In that case, I want what he's having.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
GOLODRYGA: I have no words other than thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.