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Giuliani Associate Implicates Trump; Bombshell Revelations as Senate Trial Begins. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired January 16, 2020 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Interview that we will show you first here on NEW DAY.
Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, directly implicating President Trump and many in his inner circle in the Ukraine scandal that is at the center of the president's impeachment.
Lev Parnas tells CNN's Anderson Cooper that getting Ukraine to announce an investigation into the Bidens was all about the president's re-election efforts in 2020. And he details several quid pro quos, really ultimatums, that the Trump administration laid out for the new president of Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: If they didn't make the announcement, basically, there would be no relationship. Not just -- there was no specific military. There was no aid. There was going to be assisted. There was going to be no inauguration. That's when we had the inauguration. And there would be no visit to the White House. There would be basically -- they would have no communication.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Lev Parnas also accuses President Trump of laying when he says he does not know him. He says they were quite connected.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
CAMEROTA: And Lev Parnas says he would be very willing to testify before Congress.
BERMAN: To be clear, Parnas says he personally told the Ukrainians, no aid, no nothing if there's no investigation into the Bidens and that the president knew exactly what was going on.
This all comes out as the president's impeachment trial in the Senate is about to begin. In just a few hours, the House impeachment managers will formally present the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor, reading them aloud. This is following today's -- yesterday's ceremonial procession, which you're seeing right here, across the Capitol. This afternoon, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts,
will be sworn in as the presiding officers of the Senate -- of this trial. All 100 senators will take their oath as impartial impeachment jurors.
You know what, though? Overhanging all of this now is Lev Parnas explaining what he saw happening over several months and the president's role in it. Here's Anderson Cooper's explosive interview with Lev Parnas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has said he did not direct Rudy Giuliani when asked about this. He said he didn't direct Giuliani to do anything in Ukraine. He said, no, I didn't direct him, but he is a warrior. He is a warrior.
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: Again, President Trump says a lot of things. It's your -- it's the public's decision to see if that's true or not. I mean --
COOPER: This letter that -- that you gave to the House, the first line in it, which it's a letter from Rudy Giuliani to President-elect Zelensky, it says, I am private council to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a citizen, not as president of the United States. This is quite common under American law. Duties and privileges of a president and private citizen are not the same.
So he -- he is making a very clear point that he's not representing the interests of the United States rite large of American national security, he's representing the interest of Donald J. Trump.
PARNAS: That was always the point.
COOPER: That was? That was always made --
PARNAS: That was always clear. He always made it clear that he doesn't represent -- wherever we went, he said, I don't represent the government. I represent the president of the United States.
COOPER: So anything Rudy Giuliani wanted the government of Ukraine to do, that wasn't official U.S. policy? That was a personal benefit to the president of the United States?
PARNAS: Well, you know, when I was doing it, I thought it was all in the same. But, obviously, now I can see, with the situation the way it is, I mean, it was strictly for him. But again, I thought he was the -- our leader. He's the chief. He's the president. And it was all about 2020 to make sure he had another four years. And that is --
COOPER: And you -- but that's how you personally viewed it, that this is about 2020, to help him get the next four years.
PARNAS: That was the way everybody viewed it. I mean there was -- that was the most important thing is for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. I mean there was no other reason for doing it.
COOPER: The administration says, and Jim Jordan in Congress, and all the -- a lot of the president's defenders in Congress say the president was deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
PARNAS: Like I said, I'm not going to go into personal attacks on anybody here. But they all know. They have -- they go home at night. They all have a conscience.
I've been there when they liked him, when they didn't like him, when they talked behind his back, when they agreed with him and disagreed with him. And to see the things that they're doing now and just blindly just -- I mean, it's a sham. It's a shame. And --
COOPER: They know the real story? You --
PARNAS: Absolutely. They all know. They were all a part -- I mean, they all know.
COOPER: Did the president care about corruption in Ukraine?
PARNAS: I mean you have to ask him. But as far as I know, our -- the only thing we cared about, and we were part -- we were the team was to get Zelensky or Poroshenko or somebody to make the press release and announcement into the Biden investigation.
COOPER: It's -- what's so fascinating about what you just said is that it's not to launch an investigation and to investigate, even, the Bidens and Burisma, it's to make an announcement of an investigation.
That's what mattered.
PARNAS: Right. Well, because nobody trusted them to do an investigation.
COOPER: In terms of who knew about what you were doing in -- in Ukraine, did Vice President Pence know?
PARNAS: Of course.
COOPER: Because I mean his office has said he was unaware of -- you know, that he had met with Zelensky after not going to the inauguration, but he wasn't delivering a message of a quid pro quo.
PARNAS: Look, again, like I said, I'm not here to debate. I'm here to get the truth out. I got my records. I --
COOPER: How do you know that the vice president would have known what Giuliani was up to? What you were up to?
PARNAS: Because we would speak every day. I knew everything that was going on. I mean, after Rudy would speak with the president or come from the White House, I was the first person he briefed. I mean, we had a relationship. We were that close. I mean the -- I mean we were together from morning to night. I mean he took me --
COOPER: So --
PARNAS: I mean every interview he would do, I would be sitting over there while he was doing the interviews. I mean --
COOPER: So Giuliani knew everything you were doing?
COOPER: You're saying Vice President Pence knew?
PARNAS: I don't know if the vice president knew everything we were doing. I'm sure he wasn't --
COOPER: But he knew -- he was (INAUDIBLE) quid pro quo.
PARNAS: Of course. He knew. Everybody knew. That -- everybody that was close to Trump knew the -- that this was a thorn in the side and this was a serious situation.
PARNAS: That's -- Bolton.
Bolton, I don't think, agreed with it. I think there's certain people that agreed with it and didn't agree with it.
COOPER: He called it a drug deal, according to Fiona Hill.
PARNAS: I think Bolton is a very important witness because I think between me and Bolton we could fill in all the dots. I think, because I was on the ground there and he was over here and --
COOPER: And you'd be willing to testify?
PARNAS: I would be very willing to testify.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's all digest this together.
We want to bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, she's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times," and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, there's so much to dive into. But, number one, the pressure on Ukraine, the ultimatum was worse actually than we knew and earlier than we knew.
Lev Parnas delivered the message, there will not only be no military aid, there will be no White House visit for you, there will be no relationship with the Trump administration. And Ukraine -- the new president, Zelensky, was so desperate for a relationship, for the money, and because Russia was breathing down their backs and attacking them that that's the pressure that they were under if they didn't announce an investigation into the Bidens.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And it goes even before Zelensky, even when Poroshenko was president.
CAMEROTA: We now know.
TOOBIN: And that, according to Parnas.
I mean the thing that's so extraordinary about Parnas' story is that it fits with all the other evidence. I mean, look, he's a disreputable character. He's under indictment. As -- as we used to say when we were presenting cooperators to juries, you should scrutinize his testimony carefully.
But it fits with everything else that we've seen, with the phone call on July 25th. This is all -- just -- it all says that the only objective the Trump administration had with the government of Ukraine was trying to trash the Biden family.
BERMAN: And Ukrainian officials knew that they would get no aid, no White House visit, no Pence at the inauguration, Parnas says, because I told them.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BERMAN: He says --
CAMEROTA: In May.
BERMAN: I did it.
CAMEROTA: In May.
BERMAN: I told them in May and then Parnas also makes the claim that the president knew all of this. Now, Parnas says he never talked to the president about it. But he says, based on his conversations with Giuliani, which appear way more plentiful than I think we even knew, his feeling was that the president knew.
HABERMAN: He and Rudy Giuliani were having lunch shortly before his indictment. So they clearly were extremely close. He makes that clear. We've seen evidence of that over and over.
What I was really struck by, watching his interview last night, everything you said, I think, shows a much fuller picture in what we've known before if what he's saying it to believe -- to be believed.
Why should people believe what he's saying? Well, according to Giuliani, he was the basis for a lot of what Giuliani was coming up with in terms of the Bidens. So it's fascinating watching Giuliani now say to reporters last night, believe him at your peril. I mean Giuliani believed him so much that he was going on all of his information. Parnas is now explaining exactly what context that took place in.
I do think that where we're going to see a lot of pushback from the White House and a lot of the president's allies is, we don't believe that he was talking directly to Trump on this kind of stuff, or at least he has not presented any information that he was. And I think that there is going to be an onus on him to show how he knew that the president knew all of this.
But this, again, is why people would want to call him as a witness, presumably, and have him under oath, hearing what he has to say.
CAMEROTA: We'll get to that in one second. But Lev Parnas says that they were constant companions. That he and Giuliani, they -- he said he spoke to him every day. They went to baseball games. They ate lunch together. They -- he went -- he accompanied Giuliani, he says, on Giuliani's like cable news interviews. He was always with him.
HABERMAN: So is that --
BERMAN: He was an uninvited guest to George H.W. Bush's funeral.
HABERMAN: Well, is that even a -- I mean I guess the thing that I was fascinated about is I didn't realize that was in dispute was that he was constantly with Giuliani. I mean he was at Giuliani's annual 9/11 dinner that he hosts with his former mayoral staff and caught the eye of a bunch of former Giuliani aides who were wondering, who are these people and why are they there. One of whom was taping Giuliani, this -- either Lev or Igor Fruman, as Giuliani spoke.
So I didn't think that that was in doubt, but it was interesting listening to him explain everything else that he observed around the president.
CAMEROTA: One of the questions is why now. So why is all of this information, these new text messages, these new letters that we're seeing, him speaking in such a fulsome way, why is that coming out now? And there's an answer legally for why now and why he wasn't doing this in October. Do you know what that is?
TOOBIN: Well, and I don't know exactly what you're referring to.
CAMEROTA: OK, what I'm referring to is that his stuff was seized. When his home was raided --
CAMEROTA: His devices, his cell phones, all these documents were seized. And as far as I understand, that according to Marshall Cohen (ph), our reporter, he only recently got back and got permission from a judge to get handed over to Congress.
TOOBIN: Right. Well, the judge's permission, yes, that's a -- that's a very important thing. I mean, you know, again, Susan Collins, you know, the allegedly undecided senator from Maine, said, well, isn't it -- isn't it suspicious that this evidence is coming out now? He was only allowed by the judge to turn it over in the last few days. I mean the -- the -- if you were at all serious about wanting to know what happened here between the United States and Ukraine, what you would do is sit down with Lev Parnas for a week and go through his calendars and go through his text messages and plot out how many times he spoke to Giuliani. How many times he was present when Giuliani was talking to the president. do it in an orderly way.
Anderson's interview is an enormously important first step. But if you are serious about trying to find out what happened, you would do it in a step-by-step way. And we'll see if the Senate cares about finding out what really went on here.
BERMAN: You know it's interesting because, Maggie, as you point out, a lot of this was known. We've seen pictures of Parnas. We have heard stories about Parnas and Giuliani. We have seen the transcript of the president leaning on the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
But what you have here from Parnas that we didn't have before is you have someone who says he's willing to be a witness, a sworn witness, saying that I was making clear to the Ukrainians, way back as February and January and then through May, that aid in other things were tied to the investigation of the Bidens.
HABERMAN: Look, again, to Jeffrey's point, this is why, you know, if you're trying to figure out what took place, you would want to have him as a witness, you would want to have him under penalty of perjury saying all of this.
To your question about why now, the judge's decision is obviously the main one. It was interesting to me that the SDNY, which has him under indictment, did not object to him turning over this material. That -- and Jeffrey would know more than I do about this -- would suggest to me that they don't think that that material is that relevant to their investigation or at least that it doesn't pose a problem.
But when we go to why now, there is some theory that part of why Lev Parnas could be doing this right now is because he is trying to look as if he is being helpful as he is under indictment. We saw Michael Cohen also right after he had made a guilty plea make enormous efforts to try to help Congress and to try to offer information. It didn't end up resulting in any lesser sentence. But it's hard for me to separate the fact that Lev Parnas is under indictment with what he's saying publically.
Am I wrong about this?
TOOBIN: Yes, that's absolutely right. I mean the indictment relates to illegal campaign -- allegedly illegal campaign contributions.
HABERMAN: A straw donor (ph). A straw donation (ph).
TOOBIN: So it's not -- it's not directly relevant to what he -- he started. But -- so you can understand why the Southern District would not object to their disclosure.
But also, I mean, you know, if you were trying to cooperate and get a better deal from the government --
HABERMAN: It's not a way of doing it.
TOOBIN: Well, it's a very strange way of doing it. You would usually plead guilty and then, you know, throw yourself on the mercy of the court.
HABERMAN: That's right.
TOOBIN: I don't exactly know what Lev Parnas' legal strategy is, but he is trying to appear like someone who is coming clean.
HABERMAN: Correct (ph).
TOOBIN: And that is generally a good thing for a judge to consider when you are ultimately sentenced.
What's odd is that he hasn't pleaded guilty first. That's what most people usually do.
CAMEROTA: Well, he talks about it in very different terms, sort of as a cleansing of the soul. I mean what he said to Anderson was, I was worried this day would never come. I thought they were going to shut me up and make me look like the scapegoat and blame me for stuff I haven't done. But with God's help and a great legal team beside me, we were able to get the information out and now it's out there.
I mean, I think that -- I don't know, I mean who knows what you can trust when somebody is in this predicament, as you say, but it sounds like he's -- this has been a catharsis to him to be able to say all of this finally.
HABERMAN: I mean I certainly think that it's -- for anybody who's under indictment, I think being able to say actually here's everything else that was going on, true or not, to present that case I think is usually a relief.
But, again, I'm not sure how much further it goes because you still have Republicans in the Senate who, led by Mitch McConnell, are interested in getting this trial over very quickly.
BERMAN: We're going to talk -- and I do want to dive into what Republican in the Senate are going to do about this. I want to wait on that a second though to talk more about exactly what Parnas has said over the last day because we heard him say that Mike Pence knew, the vice president of the United States, although he didn't present proof of that. He has said, Bill Barr, the attorney general of the United States --
HABERMAN: That -- that one I -- that was the one that actually really struck me that if you're going to make an allegation like that, you're really actually going to have to present more.
Now, is it possible that he -- it's -- that is a serious, serious thing to say. It, obviously, is going to comport with a lot of criticism that Bill Barr has faced, that he has acted much more interested in defending the president than as an independent arbiter of the Department of Justice.
Giuliani has often talked about Bill Barr as if he and Bill Barr are interchangeable lawyers for the president. And I did wonder if that's where it was coming from. But that's an area where I think that it would -- I would behoove him to offer more information.
BERMAN: And then if you're talking about all of the president's men, it's not just the cabinet and White House staff, it also extends to this bigger Trump world.
BERMAN: Don Junior, Tom Hicks Junior (ph), all these people who have been connected in some of these documents with releasing the information that Parnas is connected to. Sean Hannity. There's a reference to watch Hannity tonight because Hannity is going to talk about a lot of the things that Parnas and Giuliani wanted discussed.
HABERMAN: I mean I just mostly was struck that he found a way to get into the Trump inner circle or at least some layer of it. The president, and a lot of his allies, a lot of his surrogates, even some members of his family, are not particularly discriminating about who they take pictures with. The president, as we have seen, as president, poses with, you know, random guests at his club at Mar-a-Lago. So it's not clear to me how much that's indicative of anything. But certainly -- he certainly was there, right?
And so we have seen all along, whether it was Michael Cohen or Omarosa or any number of people who have ended up in the crosshairs with the president, that they have offered up some documentation to show, look, I did witness certain things because the president has a habit of writing people out of history. And I think, at minimum, that's what he's doing.
TOOBIN: Yet another reason why you have to do this in a fastidious law enforcement based way. You have to sit down with Lev Parnas.
You know, Anderson's interview was a great interview. He spoke to Rachel Maddow too. I think he's giving other interviews. That's not enough. That's not how you prove something in a courtroom, even if it's a Senate courtroom. You sit there with the calendar and you say, what did you do on this day? Where's the proof? Where's the text message that goes with that conversation? That takes a long time and it is -- it is a tedious process for everyone concerned.
But if you want to get the facts, if you want to learn what happened, this is what you do and this is a test of the United States Senate, whether this is a cover-up for the president or an actual trial.
CAMEROTA: OK, you win. You both win. We're going to talk about the Senate impeachment trial coming up.
Will Mitch McConnell call Parnas now to testify and allow this new evidence that Jeffrey and Maggie are talking about at the --
BERMAN: The White House loves these images we're putting up right now.
CAMEROTA: I mean he's between the vice president and the president, OK, let me just say where he's positioned.
BERMAN: Look, it was interesting that anyone got between Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani in this picture. He let the president get in between them there.
A lot more to discuss, next.
BERMAN: Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, is now speaking. We have this explosive interview with Anderson Cooper.
And the question now, really, one of the questions now is, what will the Senate do with this? You have is new, willing witness producing new evidence that no one had seen before. So, how will they let this play in the Senate impeachment trial?
Back with us, Jeffrey Toobin and Maggie Haberman.
And, Jeffrey, I have said this before, Republicans have told me, for more than a month, the one thing they feared most was the unknown, information they did not know.
BERMAN: Particularly from Giuliani world. He was the wildcard. They just didn't know what else was going to come out. Some of it came out in the last 24 hours.
TOOBIN: Exactly. But Mitch McConnell is not someone who is easily intimidated, to put it lightly. He is not someone who is going to turn on a dime and suddenly decide to do an investigation. He has designed this trial for one goal, which is to get it over with fast. He does not want witnesses. Lev Parnas is not going to make any difference. You know Maggie is going to talk about her story about John Bolton. They don't want John Bolton. I mean, they don't want the facts disclosed. They want this trial over fast.
CAMEROTA: But maybe at this point it's not up to Mitch McConnell anymore. Maybe enough senators will be compelled by hearing there's new evidence, new things have come out since those articles of impeachment were written. So maybe -- I mean we always talk about the Mitt Romneys, the Lisa Murkowskis, the Susan Collins, maybe they want to hear the dots being connected.
HABERMAN: So there's -- there's two things that I would say to that. One is that the person who the White House is watching a Senator Lamar Alexander. They are wondering whether he is going to join with others who have expressed an openness, and he has too, on having witnesses.
The second is, it depends on when an effort to have witnesses called is made during this trial. Remember, there's a lot of -- and you know this very well, there's a lot of procedural maneuvers that do not play out. It is not a criminal trial. This is not the kind of normal event we're going to see. There's going to be questions about what kind of amendments get made to this motion during opening arguments and whether it gets forced through then. I've heard from some Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul, that he thinks Republicans are going to stand united against having it happen then. It could happen later.
Paul, and people I've talked to in the White House, are threatening that if there is an effort to push through witnesses like a Lev Parnas, like a John Bolton, that there's going to be an effort to get Hunter Biden testifying.
And I think they are dead serious about that and they're going to try to force Democrats to have to do a yes or a no on whether they would do that.
So this isn't taking place in a vacuum. And I just think it's important to bear that in mind.
CAMEROTA: I have one question about this because Michael Smerconish planted this for us yesterday. Is Hunter Biden that big of a poison pill? Maybe he can say, no, I wasn't -- I mean whatever he's going to say, maybe it won't be as scary as Democrats are thinking.
HABERMAN: I -- so I think -- I think two things. I think that, one, I think that there is a concern among Senator -- former Vice President Biden's Senate colleagues, former Senate colleagues, that they don't want to see him have to deal with that. And I think that's part of it. I think the other part is that they believe that this is a smear effort to try to hurt his presidential efforts. But I would say, there are Democrats who privately will say they think that the contract that Hunter Biden had with Burisma was just on appearances not a great look. And they don't want to be talking about this heading into 2020 because it just creates muddy waters.
TOOBIN: Well, and also, just, if you believe in anything like the rules of evidence, I -- you know, this is not a trial with the rules of evidence, but the concept of relevance is present in a Senate impeachment trial, to look at the conduct of the president of the United States, whether he committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
The conduct of Hunter Biden is irrelevant. It is not relevant to that question. So the idea that we -- that the Democrats can sort of throw Hunter Biden in, in a trade for John Bolton or now Lev Parnas is offensive to a lot of people. Now, I'm not saying it's not going to happen because people make
political deals all the time, but just -- it is not relevant to the facts at issue.
BERMAN: Let me read what Susan Collins said. After Lev Parnas started talking yesterday, it was put to Susan Collins, who is one of these four senators who may be decisive in allowing witnesses or new evidence in. This is what she told Manu Raju. I wonder why the House did not put that into the record and it's only now being revealed. Told that Parnas just turned over the documents to the committee, she added, well doesn't that suggest that the House did an incomplete job?
TOOBIN: She just doesn't know what she's talking about because as we were just discussing moments earlier, he only got the documents back recently and the judge only gave him permission recently. So, I mean, it's just factually wrong what she's saying.
BERMAN: It's also an interesting -- it's a circular argument that you can't win if you're the Democrats here, which is, you can get -- the more damning evidence you get, the more Susan Collins will criticize you for not getting it before.
TOOBIN: Well, and -- and, you know, again, we're not dealing with a conventional trial. The rules of evidence don't apply. But it is still a trial. And look at the historical evidence with the Clinton impeachment. I mean they did look at facts and they did take testimony. The idea that somehow there is this time limit that unless it was disclosed to the House it doesn't count, that's a completely made up story. I mean that just has never been the facts. It's never been the law. And it's just a make weight argument that is not -- has no basis.
BERMAN: The control room's going to kill me, but, Maggie, you do have new reporting on John Bolton and what he is going to say in his book --
HABERMAN: Kill you for asking me about this, John.
CAMEROTA: Take your time. Take your time.
HABERMAN: I'll go along.
So, John Bolton's book, which we knew he had a deal with Simon & Schuster, it is almost done, as we understand, that it is going to come out well before, if not somewhat before, the nominating conventions this summer. And in it, among the topics that he is expected to talk about, is Ukraine and at least some of what has happened. Bolton, obviously, is seen as one of the key witnesses. The House had, at one point, sought his testimony, although there's been a lot of debate about whether they should have tried harder once he then said he would respond to a Senate subpoena.
I think that Bolton is trying to sort of have it all ways. He's trying to keep alliances with Republicans good, but he's also trying to look as if he is trying to be on the side of right in terms of historical accuracy and truth telling. We may not hear from him, but we will definitely get to read him.
TOOBIN: But think about the craziness.
HABERMAN: He's going to be the one who gets the control room upset.
CAMEROTA: It's already happening.
TOOBIN: That's right. Think about the craziness of John Bolton being -- publishing a book but not being allowed to testify about the exact same thing. I mean in what kind of world is that permissible?
CAMEROTA: I got to crazytown way before this example, OK?
TOOBIN: OK. Yes. OK.
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, Maggie and Jeffrey.
BERMAN: All right, you can watch Anderson's full interview with Lev Parnas tonight at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.
CAMEROTA: And we'll play more too.
So, Lev Parnas says he's willing to testify. So does John Bolton. We have a "Reality Check" on the history of witnesses in Senate impeachment trials that could give us a guide about what could happen next. I'm going to give you a little teaser, there have been witnesses.