Return to Transcripts main page


Winter Storms Threaten Travel; New Revelations in Ukraine Timeline; New CNN Poll on Democratic Primary; Case for Impeachment. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 27, 2019 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanksgiving travel plans for millions of Americans. Winter advisories now stretch across 2,000 miles here in the U.S. In the West, a powerful system is packing hurricane-force winds. It is lashing the area with heavy rain and flash flooding. In the Midwest, blizzard conditions are already triggered widespread travel delays. And fierce winds across the Northeast are threatening to ground the balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

So Chad Myers will give us the latest forecast in a minute.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're also following new revelations this morning that show President Trump, frankly, lying about the Ukraine timeline. A White House budget official told House investigators, two of his colleagues quit after raising concerns about President Trump's decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine. And "The New York Times" reports that the president released the aid in September only after being briefed about the whistleblower and that person coming forward.

We also have a brand new CNN national poll that shows Joe Biden maintaining a double digit lead atop the Democratic field.

Also, Pete Buttigieg on the move. We'll break down those numbers in just a moment.

We're going to begin, though, with the weather on this very busy and what will be frustrating travel day.

Ryan Young live in snowy Minneapolis.



Good morning, John.

Look, when we went to sleep last night, there was no snow on the ground. You add a couple hours to this and you can see almost a foot so far. We know nine inches fell overnight. And no matter where you look, you can see it just covering the streets here. Crews have been working overnight because we know all those people

getting ready to hit the roads and travel. Fifty million people across this country hopefully trying to get home for some Thanksgiving good food or maybe some holiday travel.

One of the things that we do know is, at the airport so far, few delays because most of the snow fell overnight. They're hoping to be able to get people out, of course, in this busy area.

But look at the streets. This is what we've been seeing crews working on. And this is what they're concerned about. We have seen a few spinouts. But the big concern is people will wait too long and the roads will freeze. And then, of course, you have those log jams.

We have seen accidents across the country in terms of people being stuck because the snow fell so quickly. In the next few hours, though, of course you'll have these trees and they'll have snow melting or coming down. Could create some disastrous conditions throughout the day. But they're hoping -- they're hoping some of this snow will stop over the next few hours.


BERMAN: All right, Ryan, stay warm if you can.

Let's get more on the storms and whether, the big question, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloons will take flight tomorrow. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the forecast.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think, John, really it depends on whether the officials there look at what's happening at 7:00 or what could happen at 11:00 when the balloons are already in the air. We are going to see gusts around 25 in the morning. And that's good because 34 is the threshold. But by 10:30 or 11:00, that threshold is breached at about 35 miles per hour. So there we are.

Do we get a couple early balloons and then they get grounded or do we get to see them all? We'll have to tell you in the morning.

What we have right now is an awful lot of rain on the map and snow across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan. And a big storm system in the west closing down some roads. Absolutely out of here in California with the wind gusts over hurricane strength.

Now, we still have those winter weather advisories out west. But we also have wind advisories in most of the northeast and Midwest where wind gusts today will be 65. And if you're traveling, even if it's raining and the gusts are 65, that's going to be a problem.

Move you ahead to later on today. Things begin to dry out. We get a couple showers in New York City, but it's, again, the wind today, going to slow down airports for sure. A number of them will be very, very slow today. So far so good. Only 80 cancellations nationwide right now at all the airports combined. Now that just means some of them won't be leaving on time. But at least right now they are leaving.

Now I fast forward you to Sunday. This is an important day if you're going to be traveling upstate New York, anywhere in New England, because by noontime it's going to be snowing again. Need you to be out of New England back towards New York or New Jersey or Pennsylvania before that. Saturday would be a better day to drive because Sunday it's going to get icy all across the Northeast.

And no better in the West. Another storm comes onshore, likely shutting down roads again, especially across the Sierra.

A couple of big storms when we don't need them and sometimes you get nothing -- we have nothing to talk about. But not this week.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for those travel warnings, Chad. I hope everybody is heeding them.

All right, let's talk about these new revelations that show President Trump is lying about his motivation for releasing the money to Ukraine and the timeline. Let's bring in CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart, who was President Clinton's former White House press secretary.


Well, it had seemed obvious last week that President Trump only released the money to Ukraine after learning about the congressional investigation of the whistleblower complaint. But now we have the evidence.

Here is what "The New York Times" is reporting having spoken to people connected to it. President Trump had already been briefed on a whistleblower's complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter. Lawyers from the White House Counsel's Office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint explaining they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I -- can I just talk about why this matters?


TOOBIN: I mean, you know, I think people like -- view the facts as sort of a big jumble. And why this matters is that one of the president's supporters' arguments has been, there was no harm here. He gave the -- he released the aid and President Zelensky of Ukraine never opened an investigation. So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that the only reason he released the aid is he got caught in this whole scheme. He got caught doing it by the whistleblower. He knew the story was going to -- was going to blow up. So that's why he released the aid. That's why he made his very peculiar statement to Ambassador Sondland saying there was no quid pro quo.

You know, my experience with the president's language is he usually speaks English, not Latin. And he actually -- and his use of that language was to preempt the criticism he knew was coming.

BERMAN: Yes, Maggie Haberman, who's one of the writers on the story, notes, quid pro quo was not in the vernacular at all in regards to this story, at all, when the president had this conversation with Gordon Sondland. Just put up P-203 so people can see the timeline here. You can see at 9:00 a.m. on July 25th, the president had the phone call with Zelensky. It's late August when the president is briefed about the whistleblower complaint. Late August. So he knew that he got caught at that point before all these other key events happened.

What are those key events, Abby? Well, one of them is the aid being released. He knew he was caught before the aid was released. And he knew he got caught before he had that phone call with Gordon Sondland, which everyone says exonerates the president where he says, oh, no, no quid pro quo. Why is he saying it? Because the whistleblower says there was a quid pro quo.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And he knew that there was a whistleblower report when he also told Republican Senator Ron Johnson that there was nothing going on here that -- and he was so upset on the phone, according to Ron Johnson, he knew at that point that there had been a complaint. So he was aware that he needed to vehemently deny that there was any sort of trading this for that in those conversations that -- that he -- that he had.

No quid pro quo wasn't in the public vernacular at that time, but clearly it was in the private vernacular. People were talking about it behind the scenes as they were trying to figure out what was going on. And so I do think it really just shows that the president knew that this was problematic. It's one of the reasons why there were efforts to hide the transcript. It's one of the reasons why there were efforts to keep the rationale for holding up the money, hush, hush. And now we know it's one of the reasons why he denied so strongly in those conversations that anything untoward was happening.

CAMEROTA: What I think is so interesting, Joe, is not that he knew about it. I think that we suspected that last week. It's that he knew it was wrong and that that's what got him to change it. So there were fears that what he had done was illegal. And that was swirling, as we now know from all of the reporting --

BERMAN: Good point.

CAMEROTA: In the OMB it was swirling that it was illegal. It was swirling at the White House Counsel -- Legal Counsel's Office. And that's the only reason he released it because, otherwise, why not stand on your convictions? If you're so concerned about Ukraine, why release the aid on September 11th? It's that he knew it was wrong. JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course he did. And it's

common that there's these storms that happen at the White House before they become public, where you have everybody scrambling to try to create a cover story. And in this case, you know, starting to use quid pro quo, you know, saying things like, I want nothing, I want nothing from this, I mean it's almost like they're -- you know it's trying to --

CAMEROTA: Scripted!

LOCKHART: It's scripted, as in you have to say this because there's going to be a hearing about this and we want to be able to say you said this before the -- and that's why this is such an important piece of the puzzle. You know, we -- again, we kind of knew this. Now we know it for sure. And now we know the extent.

And I think a big part of this is how much the timeline -- late August and September 11th. That's a lot of time for people to be scrambling and developing and building a cover story, which is what they did.

CAMEROTA: But he didn't -- just one more thing. He didn't release it until after he learned that Congress was opening an investigation. The whistle --


CAMEROTA: Just hearing about the whistleblower --

BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: Wasn't enough to get him to release it. It's when Congress learned and started an investigation.


LOCKHART: But -- yes. But -- and -- but -- and that's when he released it. But they spent that time anticipating that this might happen and creating this alternative reality so that when the hearings happen, they could say oh no, no, no, this has -- it has nothing to do with anything.

BERMAN: On the subject of knowing something's wrong here, we also learned yesterday from the deposition from Mark Sandy, the OMB official, that there were two OMB employees who quit at least in part because they didn't like what was going on with the holdup on Ukraine aid. Again, consciousness of guilt. There were people who knew something was wrong there.

CAMEROTA: And expressed it.

BERMAN: And expressed it and acted on it.

And, Jeffrey, just one other thing about the timeline here, and this will get overlooked. But the president found out, was told, about all this during the time when at first White House lawyers were saying, you don't have to turn this whistleblower complaint over the Congress. And then the attorney general's office were doing it. It does seem that there was an administration legal effort to keep this information from getting to Congress and the public.

TOOBIN: Yes, that's -- that's a sort of subsidiary scandal to the major scandal, which is that there does appear to be a Justice Department and White House collaborative effort to try to keep the whistleblower complaint secret. And it might have succeeded but for the inspector general of the --

BERMAN: Intelligence community.

TOOBIN: Intelligence community who said, you have to turn it over to Congress. I mean it -- and -- and, you know, there's so many interesting ironies here. You know, if Attorney General Barr had said, you know, this is potentially a criminal matter, he could have said to Congress, I don't want you investigating, I want you to defer to a prosecutor, and we wouldn't have had any of this. I mean Barr, ironically, in attempting to protect the president, may have guaranteed his impeachment.

PHILLIP: I think it's worth zooming out a little bit here and just -- these revelations, just in the last two days, we learned that on the day that the president had that call, he froze the aid. We also learned that on that same day the Ukrainians called to find out what was up with the aid. And then we also learned that the president knew about the whistleblower report before he released the aid.

So, two major pillars of the Republican argument that nothing was impeachable and what happened here have really been torn down. The Ukrainians knew the aid was being held up and the president only released the aid after there was evidence of a whistleblower report and a congressional investigation. It really makes the argument from this point forward a lot more difficult for his allies to explain what was really going on here and why they think it was appropriate.

CAMEROTA: I've got another pillar to shatter right now while we're at it with our sledge hammer. The whole argument that it was about corruption?


CAMEROTA: Here's another thing that defies that. On May 23rd, before all of this, rewind the clock back even before the whistleblower complaint. The secretary of state and the secretary of defense certified that Ukraine had solved its corruption problems enough to release this aid. I have certified that the government of Ukraine -- here's the order -- has taken substantial actions to make institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption. That's from the secretary of state and the secretary of defense. They had already resolved that they could get that, they could be trusted with that $400 million of military aid.

LOCKHART: Yes, that's one of the really insidious parts of this because, as you heard from all of the career people in the testimony, Ukraine and our efforts there was working. Zelensky had gone to (INAUDIBLE). So he had taken steps. He had taken away parliamentary immunity. And all this time there -- part of the cover story is, oh, no, they're not doing it and that's why we're withholding the money.

The other thing that I find interesting, and Jeffrey might have a perspective on this, is this is a whistleblower's complaint about the president. The White House Counsel gets this and the first thing they do is walk in and tell the president. The -- one would think a lawyer for the presidency, not the -- not Donald Trump, would at least think about trying to gather some information before telling the person that's, you know, under investigation.

TOOBIN: In my legal opinion, I would say, good question. I -- it's just -- it's weird.

BERMAN: That's why you're our chief legal analyst.

TOOBIN: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.

Abby, Joe, really appreciate it.


BERMAN: We have a brand new CNN poll out just one hour ago on the state of the Democratic race. Who is in the lead? Who's on the move? How much did the last debate mean?

Stay with us.



BERMAN: Hot off the presses. Just in. A brand new CNN poll on the 2020 race.

CAMEROTA: Do you need a potholder?

BERMAN: I have it. I have the only copy of this brand new CNN poll. That and what's up on the screen right now.

It shows Joe Biden leading the Democratic field by double digits. He's at 28 percent. You can see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, they round out in a tight battle for second. Everyone else way back at 3 percent or lower.

Here to break down the numbers, CNN's senior politics writer an analyst Harry Enten.

Harry, when I see a poll like this, you see the resilience of Joe Biden.


BERMAN: I also see Elizabeth Warren may have hit a ceiling.


BERMAN: Bernie Sanders isn't going anywhere.

ENTEN: No, he's not.

BERMAN: I mean, down. I mean Bernie Sanders is incredibly solid. And Pete Buttigieg seems to be on the move up.

ENTEN: I think that's all correct, right? You know, Joe Biden has been hanging around 30 percent. Our last poll was 34. This is 28. The average amount right around 30. You know, that has been the story of Biden versus Warren, who climbed during the summer, had that slow, steady climb and is sort of now seeing a decline.


We don't just see it in our poll. There's a Quinnipiac University poll we saw. We see it in the state polling as well. We saw it in Iowa, where she was tied for first place last time and she dropped down to 16 percent. So we're seeing that across the board, and Buttigieg, obviously, rising pretty much everywhere.

CAMEROTA: What else do we need to see in this new poll?

ENTEN: So, you know, I think one of the things that's really interesting is, why are we seeing Biden and Sanders steady versus Buttigieg and Warren sort of declining and rising. And what we asked in this poll was, is your mind made up or may you change your mind about who you're voting for? And what's so interesting in our poll is what you see is definitely support -- look at this, in the definitely support category, Biden and Sanders get the most support versus Warren and Buttigieg way back. And then compare that to the might change your mind category, where basically Warren and Buttigieg are the same in both of those categories versus a Biden/Sanders are significantly higher in the definitely supports. So that's why their numbers are so steady.

BERMAN: It's interesting, definitely support is a different question than intensity. People are always asking, oh, the intensity for support for Biden isn't there. That's different than definitely support. Honestly, I'd rather have someone definitely who's going to vote for me.

ENTEN: Look, at the end of the day, every vote counts the same. I -- you know, if I go into the ballot box and decide to punch the ballot or punch whatever it is, however you're voting --

CAMEROTA: Don't do that.

ENTEN: You know, that gets this same amount as me just faintly checking the ballot. So I would much rather have that definitely support category. And we've seen that consistently with Biden.

You know, one of the things that I think is so interesting, though, about Warren is, I think, you know, if we dig deeper into those numbers and it might change their mind in the definitely support category. What we see comparing October to November, which is so interesting, if we compare that October to November in that mind made up category, those numbers are basically the same, they're within the margin of error. But that may change your mind category, look at her support in the primary among those who may change their mind dropped by nearly half, from 25 percent to 13 percent. And so what we're seeing here is her base is pretty much holding, right, but those people who were sort of lukewarm on her, or weren't sure, they have been moving away from her. And that's one of the reasons why her numbers have been dropping over the last month.

CAMEROTA: We've had a bunch of debates of the Democratic candidates thus far. Are those making a dent?

ENTEN: You know, this, to me, is very interesting, right? Junkies like me watch all these debates over and over and over again. But, in fact, we asked, did you actually watch the last debate, did you find out about it in the news the following next day, or have you not paid any attention to the debate news at all? And what's so interesting is that only 21 percent in our poll said that they -- yes, they watched all or most of the debate. Forty-seven percent, though, said that was the plurality and so they paid close attention in the news about it.

I think this is so important, right, because what matters in debates isn't necessarily the performance, it's how the media sort of reacts to the performance and the spin after the debates. And part of the reason Buttigieg has been rising is because he got that positive spin. And, indeed, if you look at our poll and you -- you ask, you know, who did best in the debate in November versus October, what we see is Buttigieg's numbers significantly moved up. A lot more people said he did better in the November debate versus the October debate while Warren had the exact opposite problem, where a lot more voters said she did better in the October debate versus the November debate and those seem to correlate very, very well with her numbers changing.

BERMAN: All right, one question I've been dying to ask, as you look at the poll, the overall poll, this -- the national polls seems to be turning into a four-person race.


BERMAN: You know, you have Biden, Sanders, Warren Buttigieg here. If you were to limit it to just those four candidates, what do you learn?

ENTEN: Right. So, you know, if you take a look at the top line, you see Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg. If you were to limit it just to the four, what do you see? You see the exact same thing. You see Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, and the support is 35 percent for Biden, 23 percent for Sanders, 20 percent for Warren, and 17 percent for Buttigieg. And that gives you a very good indication this idea that if this field were to sort of limit itself, that Biden would somehow get overtaken, not true. Not true at all. Biden gets the same amount of support. His lead holds even if the field were to shrink.

BERMAN: We'll talk --

CAMEROTA: We're out of time. Yes. BERMAN: Sorry, I was just going to say, we're out of time, you're shutting me down. But four candidates above 15 percent is the recipe for a --

ENTEN: Contested convention.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of recipe, don't you have a Thanksgiving reading for us?

ENTEN: I was just going to say, I'm going to eat my Popeyes tomorrow and go Buffalo Bills. You can do it. Nine and three tomorrow. Let's beat those Cowboys. Whoo!

CAMEROTA: Why do we encourage him? I mean why do I encourage him?

BERMAN: It's OK. We need it. America needs that.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you, Harry.

ENTEN: Happy Thanksgiving.

CAMEROTA: You too, Harry.

BERMAN: You too.

High crimes and misdemeanors. What did the framers of the Constitution mean by those words? And how will they affect the Trump impeachment inquiry?

We'll discuss next.



BERMAN: High crimes and misdemeanors. Understanding that phrase from the U.S. Constitution is key to understanding the case for the impeachment of the president.

Joining me now is Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general. He looks at the origin of impeachment in the new book "Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump."

And Neal joins us now.

Great to have you here.


BERMAN: So I want to quote Julie Andrews. Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. The Constitution. The framers lay out why you impeach is president. For treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors. What did they mean?

KATYAL: So the book has a whole chapter on this because, you know, actually our founders didn't -- many of them didn't want to have impeachment in the Constitution at all. Folks like Elbridge Jerry (ph) said, look, we'll have election campaigns and re-elections, so we don't need impeachment. And that was immediately responded to by people like James Madison who said, well, sometimes actually presidents will do bad things. They may self-deal and put their interests above the American people, they may seek help from foreign governments. And so then even Jerry changes his mind in Philadelphia in 1787 and says, absolutely, we need to have some sort of impeachment in there to prevent a president from, you know, borrowing -- you know, getting help from a foreign government.


So it's the paranumatic (ph) case. It's bizarre.