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Trump Signs Laws Backing Hong Kong Protesters, Angers China; Growing Scrutiny Of Rudy Giuliani's Business Dealings In Ukraine; Worry Rises In U.S. Military Over Trump Decision-Making. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired November 28, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


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ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning. Welcome to the special Thanksgiving edition of CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera.

It was a close call, but the tradition won out over the winds. And the balloons are flying, yes, they are, above the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Earlier, the strong wind warnings have threatened to ground them . We'll have a live report from the parade route in just a moment.

Also this morning, a Thanksgiving celebration unfolding in Hong Kong complete with American flags. Anti-government protesters rallying there in support of President Trump's signing of the human rights bill. Chinese officials on the other hand not so pleased.

Let's go live to Hong Kong and CNN's Will Ripley. Will, any worry that President Trump signing of this act could actually this heighten tensions on the ground?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it's kind of illustrating is the division that exists in Hong Kong between the people who are celebrating this bill and the government which is condemning it because, obviously, it authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses. The very abuses that protesters have been at times violently fighting against for the last six months plunging this city into a recession.

And adding to the uncertainty is another part of this bill that requires that requires the State Department to review Hong Kong's highly coveted special trade status. The mainland doesn't have it. Hong Kong does. It's a big reason why this country has been so prosperous for so long. And if that were to go away because of perceived human rights abuses by the United States, well, that could further deepen the economic crisis that resulted from the social unrest here.

And so you have people waving American flags, thanking President Trump, and then you have the government pointing to the videos from PolyU, which was the scene of intense clashes almost two weeks ago and they say they found 600 petrol bombs and other weapons that protesters were assembling and building to use against the police, and asking why the United States would support a violent government that the government considers rioters but the city overwhelming supports and the election proved that.

CABRERA: Okay. So we'll monitor that situation.

Some other news out of the region though. Will, what more can you tell us about the projectiles that reportedly were fired from North Korea overnight?

RIPLEY: Yes. This was the 13th launch this year. It has been dizzying. But the difference between the launches that we saw in 2017, for example, when there were intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear tests, these were short range launches that President Trump, by kind of saying it doesn't really bother him, has all but given his stamp of approval for, Meaning Kim Jong-un can keep launching as much as he wants without any fear of penalty.

And, frankly, there's no diplomacy to speak of happening between the United States and North Korea. Everything is ground to a halt. North Korea is not getting along with South Korea right now. So I suspect that these launches are less about sending a message to the outside world. I mean, obviously they want to remind South Korea that they're developing their short range capabilities.

But I think the bigger challenge facing Kim Jong-un is how to project strength internally. And so these launches he's not getting penalized for internationally still allow him to appear strong on state media, despite the fact that North Korea's economy is in shambles and they continue to struggle and they haven't made any diplomatic progress with South Korea or the United States to speak of.

CABRERA: Right. Will Ripley, we appreciate you staying up late for us, my friend. Happy Thanksgiving.

RIPLEY: Happy Thanksgiving.

CABRERA: Joining us now to discuss all of this is Juliette Kayyem, former assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.

Juliette, how important is it for these anti-government protesters in Hong Kong to get this message from the president of the U.S., that he signed this Human Rights Act?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's significant for them because just think of the alternative if Donald Trump had failed to sign it and had gone against the wishes of Congress, what that would have essentially said to China was you sort of have a free hand in tempering down or at least stopping these protests. And so it is a huge sort of surge of relief on the ground and gives the protesters, as we're seeing today, as they sort of honor the United States today at least a sort of shot in the arm right now. I don't think it will have a long-term impact in how China decides this.

I think the second thing, of course, is China is not happy. They have called our ambassador in. It is already sort of threatened a response to the legislation being signed. And we have a lot to deal with with China. So their unhappiness, at least with the U.S. government, although they don't attack Trump specifically, which I think the interesting, is going to play out in a lot of the negotiations going on with the trade deals.

CABRERA: Juliette, some have argued that this act would actually punish the wrong people, the people of Hong Kong and doesn't go after China. Is that how you see it?

KAYYEM: No. I mean, I think that's a way to sort of get out at least the United States having a strong statement to support the protesters.

[10:05:08]

Look, it's complicated a statement like the legislation is not going to do grave harm to China. It is sort of names and shames. It requires the United States to say that Hong Kong is an autonomous city, something that we recognized in the past. But I think it is just a statement. We have done statements like this before to show where our moral clarity is in the protests between Hong Kong and China.

CABRERA: Timing is interesting because of the trade war with China. What do you think this does to trade talks?

KAYYEM: I think, and to a certain extent, China will view the trade talks as probably untouched by this. This is what I find interesting on what Will was reporting on earlier this morning that the Chinese have not attacked Donald Trump specifically. They are condemning us. They are being critical towards the ambassador.

The Chinese know and they have said in recent statements that they like dealing with Donald Trump because money speaks with Donald Trump. There's no principles to speak of. There's no guiding sort of U.S. interests that they need to worry about. If you can get Donald Trump on your side, the Chinese believe, then you can get a deal.

So, they will -- the criticisms of the United States will, in some ways, I think, sort of isolate the president of the United States so that they can continue with the trade talks which they want as well.

CABRERA: And your take on North Korea firing off another projectile overnight. Should we be worried about escalation there or are they just trying to get attention?

KAYYEM: I think they're trying to get attention. And, once again, picking up on Will's great reporting over the last 24 hours, this is something that the leadership of North Korea will continue to do because they are short range missiles, they are sort of no threat to us, of course. And they will not get Donald Trump to respond, I think, in kind, forgetting, of course, that we had interest in South Korea and Japan in the area. This is a way for the leadership of North Korea to remind the United States that they want a deal by the end of the year. Donald Trump once again, just like with China, has made the relationship with North Korea personal with the letters and the he really likes North Korea. And so, I think like with China, the North Korean leadership will continue to try to court the president of the United States outside sort of the traditional United States interest and national security apparatus that have been dealing with a rogue and terrorist state for a long time.

CABRERA: Right. Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much for your great expertise.

KAYYEM: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

CABRERA: Happy Thanksgiving. I heard you're cooking for 24 today. You are like wonder woman.

KAYYEM: I am. You're like my reprieve. But I will say one thing if I can because I never mention my children, I want to say how grateful I am for them. I love them very much. And I'm going to wake them up when I get home.

CABRERA: Okay. Enjoy them. Give them hugs and we are grateful to have you with us today. Thanks, Juliette.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

CABRERA: And now, some more fun, the calmer winds for the win this morning because the balloons are still flying in Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Let's get right out to CNN's Miguel Marquez.

And there was a lot of anticipation, Miguel, to see if those balloons would get the green light to fly. They haven't been grounded in 50 years and they are indeed flying.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, the wind was howling overnight, at least in Brooklyn where I live, and I got here on to Central Park West and it was dead silent. Now, the wind has started to pick up again and the balloons are going. Look, here comes Sponge Bob. This is -- well, I should point out this is the Madison Central High School marching band out of Kentucky that is coming up before Sponge Bob. There are 11 marching bands in the parade.

What would a parade be without a marching band? But the balloons, like Sponge Bob, this is a new Sponge Bob with Gary on top, his buddy. And they are having a tough time when they come through the intersections here. They have a police sergeant. They have a wind meter with them. They basically stop before the intersection. They whistle them through and make a run through the intersection as they're trying to get through, but a lot of these balloons are scraping along the road.

Look, it's trying to go through an intersection right now. We'll see how it does. But the wind has been a little squirrely, sometimes gusting, you know, probably in the 20s or so, but it's very, very difficult for these balloon handlers to keep track of them.

All that said, the people here having a great time. Happy Thanksgiving.

AUDIENCE: Happy Thanksgiving.

MARQUEZ: Enormous, enormous crowds as always. And we have the marching band coming through, and they're actually playing. So it's nice to get a little bit of them as well. 1,000 clowns, 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers, just a massive undertaking, some 8,000 people it takes to put this show on every year as one of the brand new big balloons, Sponge Bob and Gary.

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You can see how they're all the way on the left side of the street because they are concerned as they come through 72nd Street here that that wind is going to blow it over to the right. And they've been scraping along the right there.

So this is the little bit of drama that we get today, but otherwise a perfectly gorgeous day here in Manhattan.

CABRERA: Keeping our fingers crossed that everybody stays safe, that the balloons make it through the parade route without any problems. And, Miguel, in the meantime, soak up some of that positive energy for all of us who can't be there today. Thank you.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

CABRERA: Still to come, we knew Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukraine for investigations into the Bidens. And now, The New York Times reports he was also looking to make business deals for himself.

Plus, Democrats walking a fine line before kicking off the next impeachment phase. They're facing their constituents back home this holiday. Is this investigation resonating with those voters?

And an internal government watchdog report reveals we may never know exactly just how many migrant families were separated under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy.

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CABRERA: We have new reporting this morning on the Ukraine pressure campaign. The New York Times reports while Rudy Giuliani was pushing for an investigation into the bidens, the president's personal lawyer was also trying to sign business deals in Ukraine for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And there are also new questions this morning about that phone call ambassador Gordon Sondland reported he had with President Trump. It's the call Republicans and the president have used as a defense to push back on Ukraine reporting.

Joining us to discuss this is CNN National Security and Legal Analyst Susan Hennessy, a Former National Security Agency attorney. Susan, good to have you with us, thanks again for being here on Thanksgiving.

Let's start with Rudy Giuliani. If Giuliani was trying to make these business deals, we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars with the very same Ukrainian officials he was talking to in his effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens, what kind of legal trouble could this pose, even if they didn't follow through?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, potentially, there is some potentially substantial sort of legal exposure here. And keep in mind, this is exactly why we saw so many career officials talking about the concerns regarding this irregular channel. If Rudy Giuliani was a government employee or even had been sort of designated as a special envoy, somebody who worked in a private capacity but on behalf of the government, he would be required to make disclosures to adhere to a series of ethics and compliance rules in order to ensure whenever he was representing the interests of the United States, he was really representing the interests of the United States and not his own financial interests.

And so what we are seeing here, this sort of co-mingling of pursuing political favors for the president of the United States reportedly and also reportedly trying to essentially make a buck off of it, that's exactly hy people are so concerned whenever they see foreign policy being conducted in this way.

So we don't have any sort of concrete information right now about what exactly the Southern District is looking -- of New York is looking into, but it does appear as though this is at least one element of that inquiry.

CABRERA: I mean, this feels a little like deja vu, although we don't know how this is going to end. You have a personal lawyer working for Donald Trump who also profits off of his -- using his association with him, sounds a bit like Michael Cohen. And the president is now starting to sound like he did when he was talking about Cohen before he flipped, slowly distancing himself from him.

Susan, Giuliani talked about having insurance against the president. Could any case against him go down differently than Cohen's?

HENNESSEY: Yes. So this is interesting to see sort of the parallels play out. Now, Giuliani has said that this sort of crack he's now made multiple times about having insurance in the event that the president of the United States throws him under the bus. It doesn't look that much like a joke. It looks a little more like a veiled threat that he is saying that if the president of the United States doesn't protect him, he might reveal some sort of damaging information.

Now, it's significant to see Donald Trump sort of trying to distance himself from Giuliani a little bit, saying that he didn't know anything about what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine. Giuliani had lots and lots of clients. Now, that's significant because Giuliani's defense, to the extent, his representations in the media are accurate, is essentially to say that he was doing what he was doing on behalf of the president. And so to the extent that he needs to prove his defense by either sharing communications, you know, with prosecutors or with Congress in order to prove that the president did, in fact, tell him to do this, or if it becomes an incentive to share those communications because he finds himself in a lot of legal jeopardy and wants to do things like cooperate in order to face reduced charges, those could both potentially be very significant.

CABRERA: Republicans and the president have been seizing on that one interaction between Gordon Sondland and President Trump in that phone call where President Trump supposedly said no quid pro quo. But now there's new reporting from The Washington Post that no other witnesses or documents have been able to corroborate that call. It's just Sondland himself.

And according to The Post, quote, there is evidence of another call between Trump and Sondland that occurred a few days earlier, one with a very different thrust in which the president made clear that he wanted his Ukrainian counterpart to personally announce investigations into Trump's political opponents.

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Sondland is obviously a key figure in this impeachment inquiry. He is one of the people who talked to the president who did testify publicly, but is he a reliable source?

HENNESSEY: Yes. So Sondland has had to change his story multiple times. Now, there does appear to be a lot of confusion about whether or not there is evidence of this no quid pro quo call having occurred. It also looks like there might be a little bit confusion over the exact time that it occurred. You have multiple people traveling through multiple different time zones. And so I think there's a lot to sort of disentangle about what the evidence says.

But, ultimately, even if this phone call did occur just the way Gordon Sondland is saying, it is not in any way exonerating of the president. In fact, the fact that the president of the United States felt compelled to say no quid pro quo immediately after essentially being caught learning of this whistleblower complaint is itself essentially evidence of awareness of guilt.

CABRERA: Susan Hennessy, I'm so glad you could join us. Happy Thanksgiving.

HENNESSEY: Happy Thanksgiving.

CABRERA: With us now is former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Congressman, you called this testimony at least so far against President Trump devastating and compelling. If you were still in the House of Representatives as a Republican, would you vote to impeach the president?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Ana, first, I certainly would have voted for the impeachment inquiry based on the facts, as I understand them now, I do think this rises to the level of impeachment, I would probably support it.

That said, I don't think the Democrats should move forward on impeachment until they hear from some of these primary witnesses, like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and the secretary of state himself. I think they need to close that loop. I don't think they should force this or rush this. By the same token, neither should the Senate Republicans force or rush a trial.

CABRERA: We haven't even heard Republicans expressing really concern over what came out of the past couple of weeks' hearings. Did you recognize your former Republican colleagues this past couple of weeks?

DENT: Well, I think my former colleagues are in a situation where they understand their base pressure. The base has not yet -- has not yet bolted from the president. And I think that's why they're standing with the president for the moment.

But there's no question having spoken to many of them privately they're absolutely disgusted and exhausted by the president's behavior. They resent being put in this position all the time. I mean, just take, for example, Ana, they tried to -- remember how they tried to pivot from the Ukraine scandal a few weeks ago by pivoting to Doral, bringing the G7 there, moving from one corrupt act to another. I mean, those types of head-exploding moments are just infuriating, I think, these members. And I think they like to step out but they just can't because of their base at the moment.

CABRERA: But where is the courage?

DENT: Well, look, I think a lot of members have to take a hard look at this. They can be more concerned about their election or their legacies. And I would argue to many of them your legacy is more important than the next election. And that's hard for a politician. If you're a politician, you want to win. You're competitive and you do what you must to win. And it's sometimes hard to try to look at this in a historical context and thinking about how you're going to be perceived for years to come.

So I think many of them are wrestling with this fact right now, this real challenge. And so there's still time, give them a little time.

CABRERA: You have said the facts get worse for POTUS daily. The president putting distance between himself and Rudy Giuliani. What's your read there?

DENT: Well, clearly, you know, the president wants to throw Rudy Giuliani under the bus. That's what I'm seeing here. The fact that he said that he didn't know what Rudy was doing over there in Ukraine. Well, of course, he did. So, it's clear that the president, you know, he's -- loyalty is a one-way street with him, it seems. And he expects everyone to be loyal to him and while he's not loyal to others.

I mean, I think this president takes the loyalty of so many people for granted and their support. And, in fact, at times he mocks their loyalty. And I think that's what's happened here with Rudy Giuliani. But, hey, Rudy Giuliani may need to redeem that insurance policy he talked about a few days ago.

CABRERA: Former Congressman Charlie Dent, we really you. We don't take you for granted and I'm grateful to have your perspective this morning. Happy Thanksgiving.

DENT: Happy Thanksgiving, Ana.

CABRERA: Tensions mounting for months between senior military officers and President Trump. But the president's recent decision to intervene in war crime cases may have brought the situation to a boiling point.

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CABRERA: CNN has learned that senior Pentagon officials are privately saying how disturbed they are by President Trump's behavior on a wide range of issues, including his impulsive decision-making and the recent intervention in war crimes cases. One long serving military officer saying bluntly it's causing a moral problem.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is with us.

Now, Barbara, tell us what you're hearing right now.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you. The starting point is on this Thanksgiving day, tens of thousands of troops obviously serving around the world, eating their Thanksgiving meals so far away from home. And some of that is the exact reason commanders are worried.

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They want the troops to feel very confident that there is clear, precise decision-making, that there is not political Influence --