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AT THIS HOUR

Sen. Kennedy Pushes False Ukraine Conspiracy Theory Again; Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) Discusses Kennedy Pushing Conspiracy Theories, Impeachment Hearings; Supreme Court Hears Biggest Gun Rights Case in A Decade; Mystery Still Surrounds Melania Trump; Mexico Makes Arrests after Mormon Family Massacre. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Yet, here he is just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): 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)

BOLDUAN: But that theory has been dismissed by many. By Trump's former Homeland Security advisor, Tom Bossert, who called that conspiracy theory a completely debunked conspiracy theory back in September.

Why then is Senator Kennedy back through the looking glass once again? Kennedy is known for public quips so he may have his own good one liner for this one. Maybe something like this from the Justice Kavanaugh's hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: If you think this is about searching for the truth, you ought to put down the bong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me now, Democratic Congressman from Kentucky, John Yarmuth, is joining me now.

Thank you for coming in.

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): Thank you. Good to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. What's your take on this? You still have a Senator pushing a debunked conspiracy theory after he (ph) himself admitted he was wrong.

YARMUTH: I think Senator Kennedy is a lawyer and he ought to be concerned of fabrication of evidence. He was bringing up magazine stories yesterday that apparently don't exist. He's making things up.

And it all goes to the point that these defenders of President Trump don't have a defense for what he did. And they're trying to bring up all sorts of issues to muddle the water. It can only go so far.

When you start making up articles that can be disproven, you got to be acting more seriously and taking responsibility more seriously.

BOLDUAN: It gets to something that's very serious. It is an accusation that Ukraine meddled into the election. Not only did the entire Intelligence Community say it was Russia, but he himself acknowledged it was wrong.

It is really hard to actually follow the logic on why you go on tv than to apologize for it and get back to it. I thought it was only when he was on FOX News doing interviews, but clearly not. He was on with Chuck Todd when he said it again.

That's just in the Senate. You got John Kennedy as an example. Someone you called in the House is the top Republican on House Intel, Devin Nunes, talking about this debunked conspiracy theory.

How do you combat lying about this when it comes down to public perception when it comes to impeachment that's very important?

YARMUTH: Now, this is the problem we are having in this country right now. We have alternate reality and until we get some kind of arbiter of what the facts really are and people accept what the facts really are then we'll have this divide in the country. It is very sad and dangerous for democracy.

I applaud CNN. I think you are trying to do that exact job is what is the reality here and what are the facts? The facts here are pretty much undisputed.

People forget the hearing last week, several of the witnesses were administration-suggested witnesses, Republican-suggest witnesses. And they did not dispute the facts. The president withheld from. The president withholding funds without advising Congress as to why.

But you also have the fact that he was trying to extort a sovereign nation to engage in political favors for him. That's a very serious crime under impeachable offense and this is what it is all about.

Republicans don't dispute that. They're trying to bring up everything else.

Ambassador Hill last week gave the clearest explanation of how this has been debunked and why the Russians would do it. I hope people paid attention to that. I doubt if many Trump supporters watch those hearings.

I hope they watch the Judiciary hearing. And I hope when article of impeachment comes to the House floor, I am sure they will and they watch that as well.

BOLDUAN: The Judiciary hearing on Wednesday, the White House is not sending any representation to that hearing. The letter from the White House rightly notes they do not know -- it is not publicly known. They don't know who's going to be called as witnesses?

Is that a fair complaint?

[11:35:11]

YARMUTH: Well, it is a fair complaint. There's nothing that prevents them from sending observers.

I think this first hearing, as I understand, is going to be constitutional experts testifying of the nature of impeachment and the nature of impeachable and so forth. Not the specific of this particular case or the president's activity. It is probably not important that has witnesses here and lawyers there.

There's nothing that keeps him from sending a lawyer there to question the experts just because he happens to be in London.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. You said something that caught my eyes. This was an early November. You told "The Hill," as much as you think President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, you said, politically, quote, "it is probably not a good thing to get rid of him."

What did you mean by that? Here is what I am thinking. If it is constitutionally appropriate and the right thing to do in your view, why is it politically the right thing to do in your view?

YARMUTH: Thanks for bringing it up, Kate. I believe he's an imminent danger to this country and our democracy.

I was saying the political consequences of that might not be very good for Democrats. Because if we remove him --

BOLDUAN: Why not?

YARMUTH: If we remove him from office, I will guarantee the Republican Party would not nominate Mike Pence to succeed him. They would nominate someone like Nikki Haley, who would be more difficult for Democrats to defeat.

I don't think this is about politics. I don't think we should consider politics. I think it could be bad follow politics.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.

YARMUTH: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.

Coming up, the Supreme Court hears one of the biggest gun cases in decades. Could it undo some of the toughest regulation in the country? We'll go live outside the court, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:59]

BOLDUAN: It is the biggest Second Amendment case in decade. The Supreme Court just wrapped up oral arguments on what could be a landmark gun rights case. It is a challenge to a New York City law restricting where gun owners can take locked and unloaded handguns. The case hitting the state against the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

CNN's Ariane De Vogue joins us outside the high court.

You were there for arguments, Ariane? What did you hear from the justices?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Kate, you're right. It's been nearly a decade since the Supreme Court's taken up a big Second Amendment case. All eyes are watching the justices to see if the newly conservative majority on this court is ready to expand guns rights.

But here is one thing that's interesting. After the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case, the law at issue was changed. So the four conservative justices pressed hard saying this case should be dismissed and the court should not use this case to issue a broad Second Amendment case or opinion.

But critically, Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, their votes could be key. They did not show their hand about what whether they think the case should be dismissed.

This was rare. Kavanaugh didn't even ask any questions during oral arguments.

And of course, the case comes as the country is still reeling from those mass shootings last summer.

The regulations at issue, regulating where someone who had a license to take a locked and unloaded handgun. And the challenger says the law was too restrictive, it violated the Second Amendment and they want the Supreme Court to hear it.

Now we'll see whether or not the court gets to the merits of this case and issues this broad ruling. And all eyes are going to be once again on Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh today.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Thank you, Ariane De Vogue. Appreciate it.

[11:43:58]

Still ahead, she's been in the White House for two years, there's much mystery surrounding Melania Trump. Next, a look at the public and private sides of the first lady.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: First lady, Melania Trump, is joining her husband for the trip to London for the NATO summit. There on their way there now. This is thrusting her into the spotlight, that she has both embraced and avoided during her years at the White House.

CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennet, the author of a book coming out about Melania Trump this week, she takes a closer look. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): First ladies are often judged by their public image, despite what they may actually be like in private.

Barbara Bush, though frequently opinionated --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America loves Barbara Bush.

BENNETT: -- was beloved for her grandmotherly persona.

Hillary Clinton privately engaged in cultural improvements at the White House but dubbed a meddler in American policy.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here as an American citizen concerned about the health of her family and the health of her nation.

[11:50;00]

BENNETT: Michelle Obama, not necessarily in love with the restrictions of White House life.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Turn it up.

(MUSIC)

BENNETT: But publicly viewed as an open and friendly first lady.

But Melania Trump, almost three years in, remains something of a mystery. From the start, an ambiguous participant. It was clear she had to fend for herself. A reluctant entrance to public life.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Iowa.

BENNETT: Fewer events, a smaller staff and a lower profile.

(APPLAUSE) BENNETT: However, with Melania Trump, the flares of independence crossed from private to public, unique to a modern first lady, defining her as a spouse not joined at the hip with President Trump, as her spokeswoman once described her to CNN.

She tweeted and released statements on her own, without Trump's approval, sometimes in direct opposition to his.

(SIRENS)

BENNETT: Taking her own motorcades, cancelling a joint trip when headlines about alleged infidelities arose.

With more rumors about how she lives and where she lives.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are persistent rumors that Mrs. Trump does not live in this White House.

SARAH SANDERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is an outrageous and ridiculous claim.

BENNETT: Melania and President Trump are a rare first couple, living in separate bedrooms, according to source familiar, while Melania resides on a different floor in the White House residence.

At times, also expressing a differing opinion from her husband, Donald Trump.

MELANIA TRUMP: We are two independent people thinking on our own and have a very open conversation.

BENNETT: She has faltered. That jacket.

MELANIA TRUMP: I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.

BENNETT: She has also found some footing. Learned how to steal the spotlight, wield her significance influence. Remember that call for the firing of a West Wing aide --

(CROSSTALK)

MELANIA TRUMP: -- and find her professional comfort zone.

Detached, aloof? Possibly. Always with little regard for how first ladies before her have handled the job.

MELANIA TRUMP: I don't feel like a prisoner, no. I'm enjoying it. And this will not last forever, and it's a very special time.

BENNETT: Kate Bennett, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Kate, thank you so much for that. Tomorrow, Kate will be joining us here to discuss much more that she's

learned about the first lady in her new book, "Free Melania, An Unauthorized Biography." That's tomorrow.

Coming up for us today, several people now under arrest, suspected of being involved in the brutal killing of an American family in Northern Mexico. The very latest on that investigation and the pressure that Mexico's president is now under. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:57:32]

BOLDUAN: It's been nearly a month since three Mormon women and six children, all Americans, were all murdered in northern Mexico. Now Mexican authorities report new developments in the investigation in trying to find out why this family was killed.

Police in Mexico have arrested several people over the weekend all suspected in being involved in the ambush that left these mothers and their young children dead, even a baby just 10 months old. And several other children actually surviving the attack but having, of course, to witness it all.

CNN international correspondent, Matt Rivers, is following this in Mexico City.

Matt, thank you so much for being here.

What are you hearing about these arrests?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, there's really not a lot of information that has come out beyond what you just said in kind of a frustrating development from the Mexican government.

They announced they had arrested some people, but we don't know how many, we don't know exactly how they're connected with the case, and we don't know if they were simply charged or detained. There's a lot we're trying to figure out from the Mexican government.

We might get some more information about these arrests after a meeting that's going on right now.

Some 30 or so members, surviving family members of the people who were killed are actually in Mexico City right now meeting with the president of Mexico. He says he's going to update them on this investigation and maybe he'll provide more details to them than he has to the public so far.

But even in a press conference this morning, Kate, he chose not to provide any more information on the people that have been detained.

And there's some skepticism over it because they had detained one person a few weeks ago, only to have to walk that back saying that person ended up having nothing to do with the case.

BOLDUAN: All right, absolutely. More to come on that.

Separately, though, Matt, a shootout between a Mexican cartel and Mexican security forces over the weekend left 22 people dead. This gets to the ambush we were talking about earlier and this over the weekend. It gets to the issue of the growing violence the country is facing. And now the growing pressure the country's Mexican president is facing, including from President Trump.

RIVERS: It's remarkable that news of some 22 people now killed in northern Mexico is just not that remarkable, because it is something that we see over and over again in Mexico. The drug cartels continue to fight with each other, to fight with security forces.

And the president has this policy, called (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE, which means hugs, not bullets. He wants to address the socio-economic issues that cause this violence.

But in the short term, the short term, Kate, people keep dying. There's criticism there's no security policies to fix what's going on right now

[12:00:08]

BOLDUAN: All right. Matt, thank you so much.