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White House Refuses To Participate In First Judiciary Impeachment Hearing; Lisa Page: I'm Done Being Quiet, I'm Taking My Power Back; Boris Johnson Trying To Avoid Meeting With Trump In London. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Don't go anywhere, a busy day. Brianna Keilar starts Right Now. Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, it's a consequential week for a presidency in peril. Why the White House is refusing to participate in a key impeachment hearing.

And as the Republicans run out of defenses for the president's actions on Ukraine, senators spreading more conspiracy theories instead.

Plus, one of the president's favorite punching bags speaks out for the first time. Why former FBI lawyer Lisa Page says her breaking point was the president's, quote, fake, orgasm stunt at his rally.

And the nervous NATO gets ready to greet President Trump as cracks widen within the alliance, and the French president calls the group of nations brain dead because of the U.S.

But, first, a critical week on Capitol Hill as the clock winds down to a Christmas day deadline for an impeachment vote. Today, members of the House Intelligence Committee are expected to review a report on the inquiry into President Trump and Ukraine. That is ahead of a Tuesday vote to release those findings to the House Judiciary Committee. That's the panel that will actually draft articles of impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee holds its first impeachment hearings on Wednesday but the White House has decided to skip that hearing, despite President Trump complaining for weeks that he has been denied a chance to participate.

The White House saying the witnesses are still unknown, and the president calling the process unfair because Democrats have more witnesses than Republicans.

We have Senior White House Correspondent Pamela Brown here with us to discuss this. So the Trump administration actually has until Friday to decide if they're going to participate in this as a whole. So should we read that this particular hearing that they're not participating in means they're not going to play for any of it on the House side of things?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it that definitely gives you a window into the White House thinking that it's unlikely it will participate. What I'm told from a source familiar, Brianna, is that the White House wanted to leave the door open, that it would participate by putting the pressure on Nadler to provide more information.

It's working on this letter right now. The second letter that I'm told will likely come on Friday to Nadler's committee basically saying, as one source said, it was a nuanced offer saying, if you provide the fact witnesses, if you give guarantees on cross- examination, we may participate.

But the quandary the White House is in is all along, Brianna, it has said that this is an illegitimate probe. And so by participating, it does add some legitimacy to that. In fact, the president is sort of seizing on that narrative by saying, look how illegitimate this probe is, they're holding the first hearing on the Judiciary Committee while I'm in London for NATO. Here is what he had to say about that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats, the radical Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats decided when I'm going to NATO -- this was set up a year. That when I'm going to NATO, that would be the exact time -- this is one of the most important journeys that we make as president. And to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to start off with.

All you have to do is look at the words of the Ukrainian president that he just issued, and you know it's a hoax.


BROWN: So he's talking about President Zelensky of Ukraine who did an interview with Time Magazine there. And the President of Ukraine simply said he wasn't talking to the president from a position of quid pro quo, but he certainly didn't say anything to exonerate the president.

But it remains to be seen, Brianna, what will happen in this next phase of hearings. Of course, as you pointed out, the White House said it's not going to participate in this first round, it's unlikely moving forward but we'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

KEILAR: Yes. Zelensky said that, as an ally, nothing should be blocked.

BROWN: Exactly.

KEILAR: So he was saying that something should be blocked. We're actually going to be interviewing one of the reporters who interviewed him. Pamela, thank you so much. A little later on the show. Pamela Brown, we appreciate it.

And Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia is with us now. He's a senior member of the House Oversight Committee. He also serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Sir, thanks for joining us.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): My pleasure.

KEILAR: Do you want the White House to participate in this Judiciary Committee process?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think it would be very for the White House to participate. But I think the White House has put itself in a straitjacket of its own making by questioning the legitimacy of the constitutional process. And by questioning that legitimacy, it makes it very difficult for them to participate because once they do, as your reporter just said, it legitimizes the process. So I think that's a very difficult situation they've put themselves in.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about something that we've seen some new reporting on. There's been actually a lot of reporting that a second call in September between the E.U. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, and President Trump, where President Trump said he didn't want a quid pro quo, no to quid pro quo, he said.


Even according to Sondland, he said the Ukrainian president should do what's right. It appears that second call actually may never have happened, that it may have been just a reference to the first call where, even as the president said there was no quid pro quo, he outlined in real terms what was most definitely a holdup of Ukrainian aid in exchange for investigations. What's your reaction to this reporting?

CONNOLLY: It wouldn't surprise me at all with this president that he's fabricating a phone call. He's -- I forget The Washington Post count something like 12,000 lies so far during the course of his three-year presidency, so that doesn't surprise me.

But what is very clear is that the transcript the White House issued itself of that July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky, out of the mouth of the president himself, is an extortion. Quid pro quo is a euphemism for extortion. And extortion is not only an abuse of power, it's illegal.

KEILAR: Doug Collins, who is the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, says that Adam Schiff, the Intel Committee chairman, should testify. What do you say to that?

CONNOLLY: I think Doug Collins is running for the Senate back in Georgia, but I don't think that's a serious suggestion at all. We don't start calling members of Congress who are in charge of a constitutional process as witnesses for that constitutional process. We certainly didn't do that during the Clinton impeachment process, we didn't do it in the Nixon impeachment process, and we're not going to do it now. KEILAR: what's he trying to do, do you think?

CONNOLLY: I think, once again, the Republicans don't have a material defense of the president, so they fall back on things like questioning the process, questioning the integrity of key witnesses, and for that matter, members of the impeachment inquiry here in Congress, and even resorting to storming the special compartmentalized intelligence facility in the hopes they can shut down the process physically.

KEILAR: We're awaiting this Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, and this is expected to feature constitutional experts who will speak for and also against impeaching President Trump.

President Trump has complained about Republicans only getting one witness to Democrats getting three. Does it make sense to you that it is 3-1?

CONNOLLY: That's kind of the standard we have here in Congress, certainly in the House, that the majority gets the majority of witnesses and the minority is entitled to its minority witness. Obviously, as we proceed, that can be changed, but I don't see anything out of the norm with respect to that first hearing, which, after all, is setting sort of intellectual underpinnings to the election process, the history of impeachment, how it came about to be included in the Constitution and how it's been used.

I think that's going to be an instructive hearing, not particularly compelling with respect to the president's interests one way or the other.

KEILAR: I know you're saying it's the norm. Is it fair?

CONNOLLY: Well, I don't know whether it is a question of fairness. It's a question of how we proceed here in the Congress. And that's, as I said, been sort of the norm certainly since I've been involved in Congress. There's nothing unusual about that.

KEILAR: All right. Well, we will certainly be watching. It's going to be a big day on Wednesday. Congressman Connolly, thank you for joining us.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure. Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: The impeachment inquiry has brought President Trump's belief in a conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia, into full view. And now, Republican lawmakers seem to be picking up on this, pedaling this conspiracy theory despite multiple U.S. intelligence agencies concluding that it was Russia, actually, that interfered in the election.

And there is one senator in particular, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, who has continued to muddy the waters on this.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled into the 2016 election.

Russia was very aggressive and they are much more sophisticated. But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: You've done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do. Are you at all concerned that you've been duped?



KEILAR: Well, now, the president is thanking the Republican senator for, quote, the job he did in representing the Republican Party and pushing this debunked conspiracy theory.


I want to bring in CNN Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger to talk about this.

I mean, this is debunked. The entire Intelligence Community says Russia interfered. And, I mean, people were indicted, they were named, it was laid out so clearly. It wasn't amorphous. It was very specific. And also this is the very conspiracy theory that two weeks ago, Fiona Hill, the president's former top Russian adviser, basically said to Republicans on this House committee, this is not real. This is something that actually originated with Russian intelligence who are doing disservice by --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And senators were briefed on it.

KEILAR: That's right.

BORGER: Apparently not this senator, as he said. Look, I think in that interview, first of all, we've seen this senator go back and forth and back and forth on this. And he said to Chris Cuomo, I was wrong, and then he went and reversed himself again yesterday on Meet the Press. And Chuck Todd, I think, raised the right question, which is, when is a fact a fact.

17 intelligence agencies in this country agree that Russia meddled in the election and there is no Ukraine in there. Maybe some Ukrainian politicians said some things that Donald Trump didn't like about him, but the meddling -- and meddling is too light a word -- hacked into, tried to affect or did affect the election by the -- it's the Russians.

And I think now that you have senators dabbling -- not dabbling, promoting this conspiracy theory leaves you sort of wondering what's going to happen on the Senate floor during impeachment.

KEILAR: I mean, to be clear, was is it a Ukrainian leader maybe who obviously didn't like what Trump was saying because it was sort of pro-Russia, anti-Ukraine, but that's more of something like -- I don't want to say influencing an election, but that's just --

BORGER: You're allowed (ph).

KEILAR: That's the opinion which wasn't particularly suprising and it certainly doesn't match up. It's not even close to the same species when you're looking at what Russia did.

BORGER: Of course, it's not meddling. You're allowed to express an opinion of something in your own country. This is not covert action to try and actively change the outcome of an election. That's an apple and an orange.

KEILAR: Yes. So, okay, this is a big week. We're waiting to see what happens on Wednesday. And we've been seeing all of these folks who have this firsthand knowledge. But now we're going to get some context, right, about impeachment. We're going to be hearing from some constitutional experts.

The White House has said neither Trump nor his lawyers are going to take part. What are you expecting from Republicans as they basically do his bidding?

BORGER: Well, I think it's going to be a big show about process, complaints about process. This isn't the sedate intelligence committee. This is kind of the raucous (ph) judiciary committee.

And remember their hearings, and you have people like Matt Gaetz, Mr. Collins, who is the ranking Republican who is going to talk an awful lot about process. You have Louie Gohmert of Texas. You have a lot of fire brands on this committee. And all I have to refer you to is the time that these Republicans stormed the secure location, what's known as the SCIF.

And so I think you're going to see a lot of theatrics play out in this, and it could turn into a circus unless the chairman rules with an iron fist. We're going to have to see how that works out with Chairman Nadler.

KEILAR: I've always thought of the Hill as like the zoo without bars, and it may really live up to that on Wednesday.

BORGER: Yes, it could be. It could be.

KEILAR: All right. Gloria, thank you so much.


KEILAR: The former FBI lawyer who has been a target of the president's for two years says she is done being quiet, that she is taking her power back. Hear what Lisa Page's breaking point was.

Plus, the French president recently said the U.S. was making NATO brain dead, and now President Trump faces those allies as tensions rise.

And hear what just happened in the Supreme Court when justices heard the first major gun case in nearly a decade.



KEILAR: For two years now, the president has berated Lisa Page online and on camera. Now, the former FBI lawyer is, quote, done being quiet, and she is responding to Trump's allegations in a new interview rebuffing his claim that she's a criminal member of the deep state.

In late 2017, Page's texts with FBI Agent Peter Sztrok, with whom she was having an affair, were made public. Trump and his followers held them up as proof an anti-Trump bias triggered the Russia investigation. But an upcoming inspector general's report is expected to clear the FBI, including Lisa Page, of that claim.

Page says she's speaking out now because of Trump's, quote, demeaning fake orgasm, which was really the straw that broke the camel's back, she said. Trump made that comment in a rally in October.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love you, Peter. I love you, too, Lisa. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. Oh, God, I love you, Lisa. And if she doesn't win, Lisa, we've got an insurance policy, Lisa.


KEILAR: So Page told The Daily Beast that the president's insults have been like a punch in the gut. Quote, my heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again.


The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He's demeaning me and my career. It's sickening.

We have CNN Correspondent Josh Campbell who is joining us now. He is a former FBI Supervisory Special Agent who worked with Lisa Page at the FBI.

And, Josh, it's worth noting that Page also says in this interview that she was abandoned by the FBI, and that really seems like that was one of the hardest parts of this for her.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does. And what's interesting is in covering these agencies of law enforcement in the Intelligence Community is what folks believe on the inside. And this appears to be one of those classic cases where two things can be true at the same time.

On the one hand, you have someone who is believed to have engaged in misconduct, misbehavior as it relates to her text messages and animus about the president and the like, which we now all know about, that can be true. At the same time, it's true that you have the president of the United States who continues to attack someone who was a mid-level career government employee. This isn't a famous political person. He's really going after, targeting someone who is a career public servant.

And now we finally hear her breaking her silence, telling her side of the story about what that was like to be on the receiving end of those kind of attacks.

Now, for his part, the president will continue to attack her. Just minutes ago, we know the Wi-Fi is working on Air Force I right now, he just tweeted about her saying, when Lisa Page, the lover the Peter Strzok, talks about being crushed and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter's insurance policy text to her just in case Hillary loses. Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller? Where are they, Lisa?

Now, the second part, it's worth noting to do some real fact-checking about scrubbing text messages is a conspiracy theory. There is no indication that the Mueller did anything wrong to destroy her text message. But nevertheless, this is going to be someone the president will continue to have front and center as a target of his attack.

KEILAR: Yes. Conspiracy theories are a bit of a theme that we're seeing here today.

Page insist, Josh, that she hasn't done anything criminal. What are you expecting to learn from this report, this report coming from the inspector general that's going to be released next week?

CAMPBELL: That appears to be the case. When you look at this Daily Beast article, she talks about, for example, all federal government employees are governed by the Hatch Act, which means that they can't engage in partisan politicking, but they can have an opinion, and that appears to be her defense, saying that, look, I had an opinion just like everyone has an opinion. We now know about that because the Department of Justice released these text messages between her and one of her colleagues.

We'll have to wait and see about the inspector general, what they say specifically about her. We do expect, based on our own reporting, that the upcoming I.G. investigation report, which is suppose to come out next week, is largely going to debunk the president's claims that the FBI was targeting him and his campaign at the behest of President Obama, for example, these conspiracy theories that we continue to see.

That said, we do expect that this report will fault certain FBI employees for their actions, including another FBI lawyer, not Lisa Page, but another lawyer who apparently engaged in altering some type of document. But nevertheless, the theme that we're hearing based on our reporting is that it's largely going to undercut this White House narrative that the FBI was weaponized by the Obama administration to target Donald Trump.

KEILAR: All right. Josh, Thank you. Josh Campbell, we appreciate the report. So why is Boris Johnson hoping to avoid President Trump during the NATO meeting in London? We have details next.

Plus, he's one of the men at the center of the impeachment scandal. Hear why the Ukrainian president took a shot at President Trump over withheld aid.




BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Traditionally, as (INAUDIBLE) allies and friends, what we don't do traditionally is get involved in each other's election campaigns.


KEILAR: Well, that was the British prime minister giving Trump a friendly warning before he arrives to the U.K. later today. Don't talk about the upcoming British election.

The president and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are gathering in London on the 70th anniversary of the alliance. But this meeting is no party. The Trump administration has already announced major cuts to its funding for NATO, and that leaves many leaders worried about how committed the U.S. is to this military alliance.

I want to bring in Will Tanner. He is the Director of the Think Tank Onward, and he is former adviser to British Prime Minister Theresa May. Will, thank you for joining us.


KEILAR: So telling President Trump not to do something usually backfires. So what will the effect be if he does weigh in?

TANNER: Well, I mean, this is a critical time for the U.K. election. We're less than two weeks out from polling day. And if you look at the polls, while the conservatives do have a healthy lead at the moment, the labor party is narrowing that gap considerably. And this comes at exactly the time that two years ago in the 2017 election, labor started to make some serious gains and to squeeze the conservative vote.

So Boris Johnson and his team, I expect, will be worried about that happening again and typically trying to kind of reduce risk wherever that comes.