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Key Witness Reacts to Trump's Acquittal in First Interview; Why Family Reunion at SOTU Doesn't Tell Entire Story; Trump Pitches "Opportunity Zones" in Black Voter Outreach; Trump's Travel Ban Extension Targets Mostly African Countries. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 7, 2020 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Former top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, was a key witness in the House impeachment hearing. He testified about President Trump's personal interest in having Ukraine launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son.

President Trump has now been acquitted. And Taylor is speaking out in an exclusive with our Jake Tapper, who is joining us now. He's the anchor of "THE LEAD," as well as "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday.


I know you talked at length with him about the attacks that the president has doled out to a number of witnesses, including Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Ambassador Taylor is eager to talk about Ukraine and the importance of Ukraine. We talked about the attacks on him, the attacks on Vindman, the attacks on Yovanovitch.

Basically, he said, when it comes to attacks on him, it's water off a duck's back, it doesn't make any difference. But he felt really upset about the attacks on his colleagues.

Take a listen.


TAPPER: Does it bother you when you see how Rudy Giuliani was out there smearing Yovanovitch and the dual loyalty smears against lieutenant colonel Vindman, who you know, and I assume you respect?


TAPPER: It must bother you to see that.

TAYLOR: Of course, it bothers me any time I see someone like Marie Yovanovitch or Alex Vindman unfairly attacked. Anyone unfairly attacked, it bothers me. Certainly it does.


KEILAR: This is an exclusive interview. But it's also the first time -- this is the first time we've seen him talking to you besides being before the House testifying during impeachment. What did he tell you about the big picture here?

TAPPER: It's interesting, because, you know, when he testified before the House of Representatives, before the Intelligence Committee, he really only knew his slice of the story. He only knew what he had seen and what he had heard.

He didn't know the extent of it. He didn't know what the other 16 people who testified had to say. So he only now knows the big picture.

Take a listen.


TAPPER: When you testified, you really only had your slice. You really only knew about your view of this whole scandal from Kyiv, what you've been able to ascertain from talking to other people.

Now the impeachment inquiry is over and you've read documents from 16 other witnesses, do you think your impression was accurate?

TAYLOR: I do. I was, as I say, just reporting what I had been told, what I heard, what people described to me, and that turns out to have been corroborated by most of the other witnesses.

It seems to me there's really not a question about the facts of the case, and so that made what I said not controversial. It was pretty straightforward.


TAPPER: Of course, there are Republicans, including the president, who are disputing the facts of the case.

But the facts are as Bill Taylor presented them to the Congress, which is there was an effort by people in the Trump administration and Rudy Giuliani to get Ukrainian government officials to pursue political investigations and things that the Trump administration had to offer such as an Oval Office visit for the president of Ukraine, important, badly needed security aid for a country that is fighting off the Russians. Those were being held up as collateral.

So he feels rather vindicated because everything he testified was borne out by the evidence and other witnesses.

KEILAR: It's amazing to think that, really, he had to have seen his slice and he was beginning to see the whole picture as we were as well.

I wonder what he said about the leadership in the State Department because he's not in his role anymore. We've seen that with a number of witnesses. It's really tenable for them to remain. What did he say about the secretary of state? Anything?

TAPPER: He did. Something to keep in mind when it comes to Ambassador Bill Taylor. First, this is a guy who is a diplomat and has been a diplomat for decades, so he is diplomatic in a way that you or I wouldn't be.

And second of all --

KEILAR: Speak for yourself.


TAPPER: I think I know you pretty well at this point.


TAPPER: The other thing is, he's now figuring out what he's going to do next. He wants that role to be a job somehow helping with U.S./Ukraine relations and helping to get Russians and Russian separatists and that war in Ukraine over. So he is not burning any bridges.

I did ask about Secretary Pompeo and others. Here's what he had to say about Pompeo.


TAPPER: Do you believe in the credibility of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch? Is she somebody that you respect?

TAYLOR: Absolutely.

TAPPER: What do you think of the fact that Giuliani and other people have been attacking her, smearing her?

TAYLOR: Unconscionable.

TAPPER: Unconscionable.

Secretary Pompeo said, when asked about his failure to stand up for State Department employees, asked by NPR, he said, quote, "I've defended every single person on this team. I've done what's right for every single person on this team."

Is that true in your experience?

TAYLOR: I will say I think Secretary Pompeo is under pressure, under -- his intention between two parts of what he's trying to do.

I do believe he wants to support every member of the State Department, every employee. I do believe he wants to do that.


I also believe he's under some pressure from other parts of the government not to support some of the people in the State Department. So I --


TAPPER: President Trump?

TAYLOR: I'm prepared to believe that Secretary Pompeo is under -- is in tension.


TAPPER: Keep in mind that he was called out of retirement from the State Department from the Diplomatic Corps by Secretary Pompeo.

When President Trump calls him a Never Trumper, he literally went to work for Trump knowing who President Trump was. This was in 2019.

And, you know, there he is basically saying, although he, again, holding back, because he's a diplomat and he still wants to make some difference when it comes to U.S.-Ukraine relationship, not criticizing President Trump.

But we all know the pressure that Secretary Pompeo feels if you buy this theory of the case from Ambassador Taylor, which I think is a rather charitable one, is that pressure from Trump.

So he did not have criticisms for Secretary Pompeo. He seemed to empathize with him the fact that he was between a rock and a hard place.

KEILAR: Jake, it's a great interview. Thank you for sharing it with us.

At least part of us, I should say, because you can see Jake's full exclusive interview with Bill Taylor, Ambassador Taylor, the former top diplomat of Ukraine, and that will be on "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starting today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thank you so much, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: I appreciate it.

Just in, new details on the public memorial service for Kobe Bryant and his daughter.

Plus, CNN obtains new images and videos from the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. Why lawyers say Lev Parnas has information involving more than the impeachment investigation.



KEILAR: I know you know those surprise on-camera military reunions, the ones that show a military spouse entering a room just at the right moment to surprise their family. They make most of us happy, or maybe sad. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed at the same time.

And they trend on social media. Sometimes they even play out on live TV. Like at Tuesday's State of the Union where President Trump surprised one of his guests, Army spouse, Amy Williams, with news this sergeant first class, Townsend Williams, her husband, was home from Afghanistan.

Here's the moment where he was reunited with his wife and two children.


TRUMP: Your husband is back from deployment. He's here with us tonight and we couldn't keep him waiting any longer.




KEILAR: Today on "Home Front," our digital and television column where we try to bridge this military divide and bring you stories of military families, we're focusing on where those military reunions don't often play out the way you see there.

Joining us now is Amy Bushatz. She's a military spouse. She's also executive editor for

Amy, thank you for joining us.

And this is the piece -- we have it up here 0- that you just wrote for, where you describe those videos that go viral. You call them -- get this -- reunion porn. Tell us what you mean.

AMY BUSHATZ, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, MILITARY.COM: What I mean by that is they offer the viewers a lot of good feelings and then no commitment.

So, you know, when we talk about military homecoming - (INAUDIBLE)

KEILAR: Sorry, can you hear us, Amy? Go on.

BUSHATZ: I can hear you.

KEILAR: Go on. We can hear you fine.

BUSHATZ: I'm so sorry about that.

KEILAR: No worries.

BUSHATZ: What I mean by military reunion porn is that military homecomings are really a special moment. They're really a -- they're a joyous thing, right?

But when the video is over, that's all a viewer sees, right? They don't see the rest of your life. They don't see the rest of the drama and the emotions and all of the things that happen after military homecoming.

KEILAR: And I totally connect with that as a military spouse myself. And I will have friends or colleagues, who are so well intentioned, and they've asked me before, is your husband home. And I'll say yes. And they'll say, that's amazing, you must be so happy.

And I don't mean to sound like an ungrateful wife. Of course, I'm happy he's home safe and sound. But what I think a lot of people, Amy, don't know -- and perhaps you can speak to this -- is what happens in the days and the weeks and the months after your service member comes back.

Because it's actually -- it can be a difficult time. And I've heard many military spouses say this was actually the most difficult time in their family life.

BUSHATZ: Oh, absolutely. Imagine being separated from someone for months at a time, and you both have gone through, in your own way, what could really be described as a traumatic event.

On the home front, maybe you're dealing with kids being in the hospital, sickness, family drama, all sorts of things happen, right? And overseas, our service members are in combat, right? So it's not a vacation where you're coming home and reuniting. It's major life things have happened.

Now, you come back together and you have to deconflict all those things. You have to add this person, who has been gone in a combat zone, back into your day to day life. You have to make him or her feel like they are a part of your family.


There's a big fear for many service members that their families don't really need them here. And so you're trying to balance this idea that I don't really need you every day because clearly we survived, but I do need you every day and I need you to know that.

And it's really -- it can be really hard to balance those things.

KEILAR: Yes, indeed. It's really sort of -- it's part -- the pre- deployment, the deployment, the coming home, it's all part of this story. It's not just, you know, the end of things when they come home.

Amy, we really appreciate you coming on to talk about this. It is always lovely to see you, Amy Bushatz.

BUSHATZ: Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: For comments or if you have any story ideas for "Home Front," please send me an email at

Just in, the Biden campaign making some changes after a disappointing finish in Iowa as the pressure mounts ahead of the New Hampshire primary. We will have details ahead.



KEILAR: The jobs report for January is in and it's showing some strong growth as President Trump seeks to bolster his reelection message. So last month, the U.S. added 225,000 jobs. This beat economists' expectations. While the unemployment rate did edge slightly higher to 3.6 percent this is all much better than expected.

In the meantime, President Trump is visiting North Carolina -- these are live pictures we're showing you here -- as he pushes for what are called opportunity zones. This is a controversial program that's aimed at boosting jobs and investments in low-income areas across the country.

But critics say this plan mostly benefits the rich, including members of the president's own family.

So joining me now to discuss is William Jawando, a former White House official who worked on African-American outreach under President Obama. He also serves on the Montgomery County council in Maryland.

Thank you so much for joining us.


KEILAR: Your county is actually -- it has 14 of these opportunity zones, right? Tell us about how this has worked for your community.

JAWANDO: Well, the short answer is the jury is still out. I mean, a lot of the early investment after the tax break package, which this was tucked into, is going to places that were already going to develop, you know, high-end market rate luxury condos, things like that, and just getting a tax break.

We have 14 of them, which are nestled in communities that have low- income pockets, but also are nestled in gentrifying areas where there's high income activity and residents. It depends on the local context of how it's going to be used.

I don't think it's particularly helpful. If you look at a long-term study, whether it's enterprise zones. or they did this over in England, these things tend to benefit people who were already investing and are going to get a tax break on top of the tax break they already got through a Trump tax cut plan.

So we haven't seen yet. But as a local official, that's where I think we can step in and try to incentivize some of the right investments. And so it's certainly something you want to three to take advantage of.

But the early money are things that were already going to happen in high-end projects. And we haven't really seen yet, at scale, the kind of investment in communities that's really going to help bring people out of poverty.

KEILAR: Can you have the input to push that into areas that aren't already gentrifying?

JAWANDO: We have zoning authority, for example, so if the area is not already zoned, we could potentially use that as a lever to get developers, investors.

But it's challenging because a lot of these areas are already commercial zones. So they come in and they just can do what they want. So it's really more of a kind of, we think you should do this or packaging it with other state or local incentives, which we can try to do. And that's really important.

But the idea that you're just going to give this money away and it's just going to fix everything, that's been tried and failed.

KEILAR: So the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, recently announced he was soliciting investments in these opportunity zones, which prompted the Treasury Department's inspector general to open an inquiry into the program.

How concerned are you that -- I mean, you said this is already benefiting people who are wealthy?


KEILAR: Are you concerned that this is benefiting the president's own family?

JAWANDO: Oh, definitely. I mean, if you look at the history of his family, he has no problem with that. And some of the first people to get out of the gate were Kushner and his partner, Scaramucci.

There's a whole list of people who have put together these investor groups to try to come in and take advantage of this giveaway. And without really focusing on what they are saying is the intent of the program.

Again, you could do it either way. You could do things with this money if that was your mission or you could just make high-end stuff and get a tax break.

That's what you're seeing with Kushner. I'm glad the I.G. is looking into that. Hopefully, Trump doesn't try to squash that.

KEILAR: I wanted to ask you - we have about a half a minute left in the show. But I want to talk to you about the president's travel ban because he's added four countries to this list that he has. Most of them are countries in Africa.

I know that, for you, this is personal so I wanted to get your opinion on this.

JAWANDO: I appreciate it. My dad came from a war-torn Nigeria in the '70s. Thankfully, we had a welcoming America.

The idea that the largest African nation, with 200 million, and 1.2 billion in Africa, with the largest economy, would be put on this list is ridiculous. I literally wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if that wasn't the opportunity.


So they're Muslim countries. They're black countries. And it is just a same shame that this president is doing this racist policy and doubling down on a failed policy.