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AT THIS HOUR

White House Won't Participate in Wednesday's House Judiciary Impeachment Hearing; Ukraine President Zelensky: Not About Quid Pro Quo But "You Can't Go Around Blocking Anything for Us"; Lisa Page Speaks Out After Trump Attacks; Trump Heads to NATO Summit Amid Tensions with Allies; Sen. Kennedy Pushes False Ukraine Conspiracy Theory Again. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And the National Weather Services says Albany is getting more than two inches per hour this morning.

All right. Thanks for joining us today. Stay warm. I'm Poppy Harlow.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I am Kate Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining us.

This week marks the moment when the House of Representatives moves from investigating the president of the United States to prosecuting him. Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote to release its report on the president's dealings with Ukraine following weeks of investigation.

The very next day, the focus shifts dramatically to the House Judiciary Committee, the committee responsible for drawing up any potential charges against the president for articles of impeachment.

The big development there is the White House says President Trump's attorneys will not be taking part in that committee's first hearing scheduled for Wednesday, calling the hearing baseless and highly partisan.

The White House is also facing a Friday deadline this week of announcing whether or not it will take part in any of the House hearings going forward.

Here is what the president had to say about it as he left the White House to head to London for the NATO summit a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats, the radical-left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats decided when I'm going to NATO -- this was set up a year ago -- that when I go to NATO, that was the exact time. This is one of the most important journeys that we make as president. And for them to be doing this at this time and putting in an impeachment on the day, which is a hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So you have that.

Let's go to the White House. White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez is there for us.

Boris, what else is the president saying? What else are you hearing from the White House?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. The president echoing the complaint made by White House, Pat Cipollone, in his letter to Chairman Jerry Nadler declining the opportunity for the White House to be involved in this hearing on Wednesday to the Judiciary Committee.

The president charging that Democrats planned this to coincide with his visit to London from the 70th anniversary of the NATO alliance.

In his letter, Pat Cipollone effectively arguing the details coming from Chairman Nadler are vague, the White House does not know who's testifying and they don't have enough time to respond.

Here's more from Cipollone. He writes, quote, "We cannot fairly be expected to participate in the hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named. More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the president with a semblance of a fair process."

Really not a big surprise that the White House is not participating in Wednesday's hearing consider that, all this time, the president and his allies have claimed this is an unfair process, and now to participate in it would give it some legitimacy.

As you said, Kate, the deadline is on Friday when the White House will answer whether they'll participate in any of these impeachment hearings at all. A big deadline when you consider the president will be overseas participating in meetings with all sorts of world leaders -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Boris, thank you so much.

A lot to discuss. It's a big week.

CNN political analyst, Seung Min Kim is here. And Kim Wehle, a former prosecutor, author of the book "How to Read the Constitution and Why."

Guy's great to see you.

Kim, is it a mistake for the president's attorney to not take part in this Judiciary hearing? The complaint is he has not been given due process. That's coming from Cipollone. What does a fair process look like?

KIM WEHLE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE LAW SCHOOL & AUTHOR: I think that complaint is way overblown. Due process does not apply to this hearing. This is not a criminal context, technically.

In addition, the president has gotten access to cross-examination through the Republican caucus.

But if what Mr. Cipollone is saying is they would be expected to show up on Wednesday not knowing who the witnesses are or what the topics are, that's legitimate. I don't know how, as a lawyer, you could participate in a hearing when you have no idea what it's going to be about in a meaningful thorough way. That being said, I suspect that information may have been shared in advance.

I think this is a political maneuver from the president to make it basically adhere to the unfair process response to a problem on the facts for the president.

The facts laid out in the inquiry thus far are very bad. There's not an alternative narrative that's holding up that make sense. So the defense is to go on these kinds of procedurals, more tangential type critiques of the process and not deal with the actual narrative of quid pro quo.

BOLDUAN: A political maneuver on part of either side. Shocked, shocked. We all are. Absolutely not.

Seung Min, what is actually known about how the hearing on Wednesday is going to play out? Witnesses? What do we know? How do Democrats, how are Republicans planning on handling it? There are always strategies going in. What are you hearing now?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There isn't a lot that's publicly known. As Kim mentioned earlier, we don't know publicly who the witnesses are. We know there's going to be about four, mostly law professors, kind of laying out the constitutional and academic argument on the impeachment issue.

[11:05:11]

That's really allowed the president, the White House and Republicans to seize that process argument. They pointed out that a comparable hearing in the Clinton impeachment proceedings, they had 19 witnesses total. They had two and a half weeks in advance to prepare for these hearings. And they're saying the timeline right now is very compressed and, frankly, unfair for the White House.

That's been the argument, that's the process argument that Republicans have been seizing on during this process and that's what they'll be doing.

Now, the interesting thing to watch, even though we don't know a lot about the actual hearing just yet, just a composition of the House Intelligence Committee verses the Judiciary Committee. When we saw a bunch of these bombshell hearings in the Intel Committee, it's a much smaller group. It tends to be a more sober committee. Chairman Adam Schiff is different than Chairman Jerry Nadler. The House Judiciary Committee is always one full of passion, very partisan, a much larger committee. It could get very unwieldy, I would imagine, at this hearing.

The difference of the committee dynamics will be something to watch.

BOLDUAN: And I think we can all, watchers of Capitol Hill hearings, more than we probably care to admit, can say, from the jump, this is going to look like a very different hearing we'll see play out on Wednesday.

Kim, both of you, I want to get your take on something that President Trump was hitting on again this morning. It has to do with the response and reaction from the president of Ukraine to questions about the pressure being put on him by President Trump.

The president of Ukraine did a new interview with publications, including "Time" magazine. According to "Time," Zelensky was asked about the implication of a quid pro quo with the Trump administration.

And let me read what he said, in part. He said, "Look, I never talked to the president from a position of a quid pro quo. That's not my thing."

He goes on to say, "I don't want us to look like beggars. But you have the understand we are at war. If you're a strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think it is just about fairness. It is not about quid pro quo. It just goes without saying."

Kim, I want to get your take on what you think Zelensky is saying here, because President Trump jumped on this, this morning, saying Zelensky is essentially announcing that Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine.

WEHLE: Well, two things. He's saying, and my reading of it is, I did not engage in a quid pro quo. He says, I did not make an ask and, in exchange, give me this and I will give you that. I'm paraphrasing. He is obviously president of another country. It's not going to look good for him to engage in this kind of behavior.

I think it was more about him than about the president of the United States.

The second piece that I think is important is that he's saying, listen, withholding the aid, the nearly $400 million of aid, was bad for Ukraine. And we heard from witnesses, it was bad for national security. It was also very bad for America.

There's no alternative rational or explanation or -- there's arguments that it was illegal for the president to withhold the aid, given Congress had authorized it. So what he's saying here is this is good for Putin and this is good

for President Trump. Not so much a problem for what we're seeing from Republicans. But from the standpoint of America, the standpoint of what is best for us in foreign policy, it is a democratic Ukraine that has the money to save off the Russian aggression that's been going on since 1991.

BOLDUAN: And, Seung Min, I want to get your take on what you see in this kind of defense from the president because just one example is Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, going to the White House press briefing room saying quid pro quo happens every day, get over it. What do you think?

KIM: It reminded me a lot of what the president and his allies and Republicans on Capitol Hill have been seizing off from the Gordon Sondland testimony a couple of weeks ago where he says the president told him, I want nothing and no quid pro quo.

The president and White House have been pointing to that testimony for the last several days as exoneration. While that does not exonerate the president, the president is doing something similar here.

He's taking this phrase from President Zelensky's interview, when the Ukrainian president, I never talked to him from a position of quid pro quo. But he's now talking that and saying telling the American public, saying President Zelensky said I did nothing wrong, which is not true.

[11:10:07]

Because the second part, as you read earlier in that sentence, is saying that if you're a strategic partner, you can't go blocking aid for us. The president is cherry picking parts of the interview that he believes will help him.

You have to look at everything that the Ukrainian leader said in that interview.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Kind of a statement of reality. You had David Holmes and his testimony, who's the political affairs counselor of U.S. embassy in Ukraine, asked about this, Ukraine denying pressure was applies, saying, I think they're being careful, they still need us now going forward. That's a fact of reality with what Ukrainians are dealing with as we speak. Let's see what today brings.

Good to see you guys. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: As the impeachment process plays out on Capitol Hill, a figure in the Russia investigation is breaking her silence. Former FBI attorney, Lisa Page, a favorite target of President Trump, is now explaining for the first time why she stayed quiet for so long and what it was like to be attacked by the president and his allies over and over again.

She also said that it was this moment during a recent Trump campaign rally that forced her to speak out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I love you, Peter. I love you, too, Lisa. Lisa, Lisa. Oh, god, I love you, Lisa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Her first interview in two years comes a week before the release of the inspector's report into any potential FBI misconduct at the start of the Russia investigation.

In the new interview with "The Daily Beast," Lisa Page said this in part, "I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse. It had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back."

Joining me now is CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, with much more on this.

Evan, what else is Page saying?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kate, she says a lot about what the effect of being attacked by the president at that rally and other occasions and tweets.

This is something that's been looked at by the inspector general at the Justice Department. They looked at this text messages between Lisa Page and Pete Strzok, who was a supervisor at the FBI. Both of them are working on this Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

What was found, despite those text messages in which they disparage then-Candidate Trump, they found they had no effect on the investigation itself.

I will read you part of the interview where she talks about the effect of being attacked by the president of the United States.

She said, "It is like being gut punched in the gut. My heart dropped to my stomach when I realized he tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me name to the entire world. He's demeaning me in my career and it is sickening. It is also very intimidating because he's still the president of the United States."

Lisa Page, who worked in the Justice Department for many years, and at the FBI, talked a little bit about what she's seeing happen to the FBI and the Justice Department. In her view, is not good what's happened in the last couple of years.

I will read part of her interview here. Quote, "It is devastating to be betrayed by an organization that I still care about deeply. It is crushing to see that the noble Justice Department, my Justice Department, the place I grew up in, feels like it's abandoning its principles of truth and independence."

Pretty harsh words from Lisa Page, not only for the president but also the Justice Department, which she feels has not had her back amid these attacks from the president.

BOLDUAN: The report from the inspector general is expected to come out next week.

PEREZ: Next Monday.

BOLDUAN: On Monday. It has been a lot of build up to what it is going to reveal.

PEREZ: Right.

BOLDUAN: We'll see what comes out.

Good to see you, Evan.

PEREZ: Thanks. Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, as President Trump is on his way to London for the NATO summit, will recent changes satisfy his demand that other alliance members pay more?

[11:14:23]

And also later, the Supreme Court hears its first major gun rights case in nearly a decade. It's one of the most closely watched cases of this term so farm. We are live outside the court with details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: President Trump and the first lady is on their way to London for the summit, also the 70th anniversary of the international alliance. This year's a gathering, like others, is happening against the backdrop of tension, friction and cracks emerging between the allies.

Ahead of the summit, the Trump administration announced a major cut to its financial contribution to the collective NATO budget.

So what is in store when Trump hits the ground?

CNN's Nic Robertson is in London with the latest.

Nic, what are you hearing?

[11:19:58]

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Some very positive figures, I think, will greet President Trump. The NATO secretary general in the last few days saying the NATO contributions from the United States' allies have gone up $130 billion since 2016.

And the number of countries making that 2 percent of GDP commitment to defense spending has gone from three to nine in that same period. This is according to White House officials, spectacularly successful. For the president, it will be good news.

But he'll be having a bilateral meeting with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. He's been tough on her to get money from Germany.

China is going to be an issue. 5-G communications will be something on the president's agenda to make sure all European nations use equipment that does not giveaway secrets from the Chinese authorities.

But this is one of many issues that are going to surface.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): From world war to Cold War and war on terror --

(GUNFIRE)

ROBERTSON: -- NATO has been a cornerstone of global peace. But as its leaders gather in London this week, celebrating its 70th anniversary, its past is catching up with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The foundations of NATO are strong.

ROBERTSON: Robust projections but internal tensions are mounting.

Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron described the alliance as brain dead.

TRUMP: As I told the countries, you have to step up. You have to pay.

ROBERTSON: President Trump demands NATO partners pay their way.

Now, unlikely the most pressing issue in London will be Turkey. It's President Erdogan purchased the sophisticated Russian S-400 air defense system and now toying with the idea of buying Russian fighter jets, too. Both buys from outside the alliance a no-no for NATO.

But don't expect public fireworks. Tensions with Turkey are not new. Neither is the solution. NATO better off with Turkey on the inside but with that comes danger for long-time NATO expert, Jonathan danger.

JONATHAN EYAL, NATO EXPERT: The problem that we have is we are used to the game of Mr. Erdogan. What we do not know is what the limits are. And the danger always is that someone will overstep the mark.

ROBERTSON: France is never an easy relationship within the alliance. Macron does not speak for Europe but tries to, recently pushing the idea that the alliance is the past fit for purpose and Trump is part of the problem. EYAL: There's no question that all in general, Trump's statements are

unhelpful and shaken the alliance to the core. The Brits lead the path that Trump is a temporary phenomenon and will go away. The French are in the other camp.

ROBERTSON: President Trump is the most unpredictable U.S. president NATO ever had to deal with. With him in the room, according to one source, NATO can never be sure if it is one win away from the White House.

(MUSIC)

ROBERTSON: One person in particular will be happy for any decent in London, Vladimir Putin. Russia is weaker than NATO and feels threatened. Responding to his provocations is yet another challenge.

EYAL: NATO has a challenge to try to suggest how, in the world like this, it still has the answers.

ROBERTSON: A good outcome in London would be nailing differences behind closed doors but, with Trump in the room, it will not be easy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: After business, there will be a steak dinner at Buckingham Palace for President Trump and all the other leaders. But don't expect a bilateral with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Why not? Because there's an election coming up in the U.K., and it's thought that could be detrimental. Read into that what you will.

BOLDUAN: And everyone will.

Good to see you, Nic. Thank you so much.

[11:24:19]

Still ahead for us, the impeachment inquiry enters a new phase. But one Republican Senator is stuck in the past, continuing to repeat a debunked conspiracy about Ukraine, despite the fact that he himself has already apologized for pushing. The lies, deflection, and misinformation, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Here we go again. Republican Senator John Kennedy is again pushing a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled into the election along with Russia.

He first pushed that claim last Sunday. Then he walked it back, even apologizing on CNN a day later. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I was wrong. I have seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: OK. Yet, here he is just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:30:02]

KENNEDY: I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

CHUCK TODD, NBC MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You've done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do. Are you at all concerned that you have been duped?

KENNEDY: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)