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Key Watergate Witness on the Context of Trump Hearings; Amid Impeachment Hearings, Crimes Pile Up in Trump World; Federal Prosecutors Probing Giuliani's Links in Ukraine. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 17, 2019 - 20:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to a special report, WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS: THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY.

Thank you for joining us at start of what may be a second historic week. So much to digest. And yes, of course there's still so much to come. So tonight let's take a step back. Let's take a look at how we got here and what does it mean and what will it mean going forward because we'll take a look obviously at what's coming in week two. And we'll examine what is could all mean of course for President Trump, or not.

We have one of the top impeachment investigators here along with some of our best legal and political minds going. But first, let's look big picture, OK? We're going to review some of the biggest headlines to come out of this first week of impeachment TV.

Here's CNN's Erica Hill.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Historic day here in the nation's capital.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Right now we are waiting for the witnesses to come in.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Historic public hearings.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Raise your right hand. I will begin by swearing you in.

HILL: An impeachment inquiry to determine whether the president abused his power for personal gain.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wednesday's hearing was unlike pretty much any other congressional hearing because of the gravity of the moment.

HILL: The week's first big headline came in the opening statement from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. official in Ukraine. As he revealed a direct link between the president and the push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. BILL TAYLOR, U.S. TOP DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: In the presence of my

staff, at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.

CUOMO: The big bombshell, Taylor testifying that one of his staffers overheard a call.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We learned something new. Sondland had a direct phone call with the president.

TAYLOR: The member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden which Giuliani was pressing for.

HILL: Taylor's bombshell raised new questions about the motivations of Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U. and a million-dollar Trump donor. Just 48 hours later the staffer who told Taylor of that call, David Holmes, confirmed the account in closed-door testimony.

RAJU: I actually have obtained the opening statement from this aid. According to this testimony this aide overheard Ambassador Sondland telling President Trump that the president of Ukraine would do anything that President Trump wanted and what did President Trump want? He wanted an investigation into Joe Biden. That was the one thing that he was pushing for.

HILL: In front of the cameras, Bill Taylor and George Kent, a senior State Department official, also outlined what they saw as competing U.S. policies.

TAYLOR: Once I arrived in Kiev I found it confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy towards Ukraine. There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy making and implementation.

HILL: That second channel led by Rudy Giuliani.

REP. VAL DEMING (D-FL): What interest do you believe he was promoting, Mr. Kent?

GEORGE KENT, ASSISTANT DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS: I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle.

TAYLOR: I agree with Mr. Kent.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ambassador Taylor said that in his decades of service he had never heard of a president trading a personal need for an official act. And that really throws cold water on the notion that this was in some way part of actual foreign policy.

HILL: At issue, congressionally approved military aide which Ukraine needed to defend itself against Russia and a White House visit for Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Taylor testified it was made clear to him that both were conditional. On Zelensky publicly announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

TAYLOR: It's one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House. It's another thing to leverage security assistance, security assistance to a country at war, dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support.

HILL: As Friday dawned an anticipation grew for the next public witness. Former Ukraine ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who was pulled from her post in May.

RAJU: Ambassador Yovanovitch is an incredibly important witness for the Democrats because she could demonstrate this campaign led by the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to push her out and to push for these investigations into Joe Biden.


Their goal in having her testify was to detail how this ran counter to the national interest of the United States.

HILL: In a detailed opening statement, Yovanovitch outlined both confusion and concern about her removal.

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Ukrainians who prefer to play by the old corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and working together they apparently succeeded.

HILL: Less than 90 minutes into the hearing a dramatic interruption from Chairman Adam Schiff.

SCHIFF: Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying the president is attacking you on Twitter. What effect do you that has on other witnesses' willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?

YOVANOVITCH: It's very intimidating.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president of the United States, if you come forward, will personally seek to destroy you and your reputation. That's what the president of the United States is doing in real time.

HILL: A short time later the president pushed back.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So you know what, I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech.

HILL: Throughout the hearing Republicans continue to attack the process.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): What's the interruption this time?

SCHIFF: The gentlewoman will suspend. You are not recognized. Mr. Nunes, you -- REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): I just -- I just recognized --

SCHIFF: Under the House Resolution 660 you're not allowed to yield time except to minority counsel.

STEFANIK: The ranking member yielded time to another member of Congress.


HILL: And pushed Democrats to bring the whistleblower in to testify.

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R-TX): I see authorization to make a motion that we actually subpoena the whistleblower for a closed-door secret deposition.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): One witness that they won't bring in front of us. They won't bring in front of the American people. And that's the guy who started it all. The whistleblower.

RAJU: They want to make and put the spotlight on this person who they believe was a political actor. It's not what the attorneys of the whistleblower says and the Democrats say they're just trying to out an American citizen who is trying to do his or her duty to reveal wrongdoing in government.

HILL (on camera): At times it felt like the lawmakers were at two different hearings and yet they're both competing for the same thing. And that is the American people.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a fair question about to what extent were both sides trying to sort of shore up the people who are already on one side or another or fight for the middle ground, and is there even a middle ground.

HILL (voice-over): The committee has ended the week with Mark Sandy, the first staffer from the Office of Management and Budget to appear.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What Mark Sandy told congressional investigators was that he was sidelined in part of this conversation about what to do with this U.S. military aide.

HILL: Eight witnesses will testify this week including Ambassador Sondland. His testimony will follow officials who have described the July 25th call as unusual and the ambassador himself as problematic.



CUOMO: Boy, if you just needed to look at one thing that shows how political this is. The Republicans asking for the whistleblower. But not upset that the secretary of State, that the former head security adviser and then of course the chief of staff of the president, all the men with firsthand knowledge, won't come in. So that's the politics. What did week one mean in the mix? We have a key Democrat who was in

all the week one hearings. Next.



CUOMO: Welcome back to WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS: THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY. This week's public lineup is full of people with firsthand accounts of the perceived pressure campaign on Ukraine, including witnesses who are on that July 25th call between Trump and Zelensky. And the first witness to speak directly with the president about the matters under investigation. That would be Ambassador Gordon Sondland. If there were one man to watch this week, it would be him.

Now, many of the witnesses this week will take away the Republicans early defense of he or she didn't know what happened firsthand. That's going to go away. So they used it when it worked. What will they use next?

Let's bring in one of the Democrats asking questions in the probe. Washington State Congressman Denny Heck.

Congressman, I pulled a moment of you with former Ambassador Yovanovitch because I was taken by your emotion. Here's the moment.


REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): I'm very angry about how it is the most powerful person on the face of the earth would remove you from office after your stellar service and somehow feel compelled to characterize you as bad news. And then to ominously threaten that you're going to go through some things. So I am angry.


CUOMO: You were upset. You've been in there since 2012. You have seen some ugly things. We've seen a lot of ugly things from this president. Why this?

HECK: You mean why did it get to me this much?

CUOMO: Yes, sir.

HECK: Well, first of all, Chris, there's no need for him to have done that because as we've all acknowledge he has the authority, he has the legal authority to remove her as ambassador, to remove her as a consequence of a month's long smear campaign frankly is just an act of cruelty and as I indicated completely lacking in decency.


But what you didn't play there, Chris, is what I said to her immediately thereafter, which is that absolutely nothing this president can say or do will in any way diminish the value of what Ambassador Yovanovitch has contributed to our nation, nor will it diminish the gratitude on the part of so many of us for her selfless service for country.

CUOMO: I agree. And I think one of the good moments objectively to come out of this first week of hearings is I think the majority of the American people should feel, wow, we've got some good people working for us. These women and these men, they really care about this stuff. Look, they won't give any opinion about impeachment. They keep saying, we're not here for you people, we're here to just tell you what we know. That was pretty impressive. At least to me. And I've heard it much since then.

But let's get back to the state of play. The reason the president is saying Yovanovitch is a bum, basically, is because that's what he needs to say. And that's what the Republicans sitting in the room with you want everyone to believe. She's a bum, these are deep state losers. They are part of the problem and the culture that this president stands against. And you and your fellow Democrats don't like them.

So you're trying to use a political process to get rid of him, instead of dealing with him in the election that you can't win. What is your answer to the American people?

HECK: Well, let's just back up a short five days ago, Chris. Right at the beginning of the president's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. The American public that had not yet -- had an opportunity to actually see for themselves some of those outstanding public servants as you suggested. Secondly, even for those who have been paying attention, maybe reading the reports or even the depositions, which is all just ink on a page. They had a chance to see and hear from these people.

And thirdly last week and perhaps again next week, although I didn't think the prospects were very high last week and yet an opportunity to learn new information, which is exactly what happened. The mini bombshell that Ambassador Taylor lit the fuse of but then went off Friday afternoon. And Mr. Holmes came in and was deposed.

CUOMO: It is not unfair in my opinion to ask you where you think things stand in terms of likelihood of Articles of Impeachment. You can change your opinion as you go along. But after what you've heard thus far just in the hearings, put the transcripts to the side because until they have been vetted by people with their eyes and ears, let's say nothing exists from those other people until this coming week, what do you think the percentage chances that he gets impeached?

HECK: Chris, we are only two hearings into a scheduled seven. We're only two hearings in to a scheduled seven. So I say it's a premature question. I say ask me again at the end of next week when the American public has had an opportunity to hear from a whole bunch of people on this. Almost all of whom are probably scheduled but some of whom may not yet have been scheduled.

CUOMO: I'm with you. But if there were going to be nobody else and you had to vote on what you know, would you say I can't vote to impeach, I don't know enough?

HECK: I said a little while ago that I think he's committed impeachable offenses.

CUOMO: I know. That's why I'm asking you. Because so many Democrats said that to me and now you're giving me this other answer, which I don't find as satisfying.

HECK: I'm sorry you're not satisfied, sir. But look, we don't vote for impeachment in the abstract. We vote for articles of impeachment.


HECK: And thus far I would suggest that my two favorite nominees for consideration would be obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. After all how else can you characterize shaking down a foreign government, a direct violation of federal law, withholding needed vital security assistance to our strategic ally in contrary to their security interests and our own for his own personal political gain.

CUOMO: I never understood the quid pro quo talk. I don't know who started it or how it got there. I spent way too much time with my audience trying to explain to them what it meant and why it doesn't matter. This was an attempted bribe. That's your argument. This was an attempted bribe. You're not even arguing extortion. You keep using the word -- not you, Denny, but some of the Democrats, but we have no show of force. There are no threat of force. Extortion is make this interview nicer, Cuomo, or I'm going to punch you in the nose. You know, that is a potential extortion situation. This was at an attempted bribe. And --

HECK: Chris, I've seen videotapes of you. I would never make that comment.

CUOMO: Listen. Just because I have a big mouth doesn't mean I can back it up. Let me ask you this, though. It seems playing to me at this point that many Democrats, and I want your opinion. Do you believe that the president of the United States was making decisions about what to do with Ukraine that were largely a function of his belief and conspiracy theories and in effort to get advantage over Biden?

HECK: Well, more the latter. I think that's abundantly clear. The former I'm not so sure of doesn't mean I'm unsure or it's just that I don't know. But at this point I think it's inarguable that he was bribing Ukraine to provide him with manufactured dirt on a potential political rival.


In fact what I would really wish for in all of this is that we could get beyond the facts because they are what they are. He did it, Chris. He did it. The better debate, the healthier debate is interesting or strange as that may seem is this impeachable? That's a healthy debate for America.

CUOMO: I couldn't agree with you more. I think that what's obvious has been that way for a long time. What is not obvious is what the consequence should be. Congressman Denny Heck, it is good for -- to hear you say to this

audience. I appreciate you being on the show especially on a Sunday night. I look forward to having you on "CUOMO PRIME TIME" soon. Thank you, sir.

HECK: You're welcome.

CUOMO: All right. Look, this is the bigger week, this week. This is not hype. You guys watch my show. You know, I'm not in the hype game. You do a case this way, you start on the periphery and you move towards the inside. You'll never get on the inside here because you're not getting the president. I don't think you're getting Pompeo. It doesn't look like you're going to get Bolton or Mulvaney.

So you're not going to get the people who may have been at the front of the bus. But you are going to get close and as close as you'll get will be this week. Now the man to watch, Ambassador Gordon Sondland. He has to address the new information that came to light about his call with the president after the one with Zelensky. I'll review what that call was about. Why it matters and why he is in the smallest box we've seen to date in these hearings. Look at those investigators.

Can't ask for better. Next.



CUOMO: Week one of the public hearings included new calls and more attacks. While the left is building its case, the right insists the case is closed.

Now look, I know that's not the way you think it's supposed to work. That this is supposed to be about the House doing it together. It has never been that way in any impeachment of a president we've ever had. It ain't going to be this way this time.

The reasonable are left to sort out what left and right are fighting about. Hopefully this show will help you do that. And the great minds I introduce you to now.

Susan Hennessey, Michael Isikoff, who literally wrote the book on Trump and Russia with "Russian Roulette," and former congressman Mike Rogers.

Welcome to all of you. Thank you very much.


CUOMO: Mike Rogers, you were in the game at the highest level and recently. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that this ain't going to be about the House united in any possible way? This is full on left versus right. And the ideas of cross over at this point are remote at best.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I think slim to none. I think impeachment is inevitable and I would be surprised if you get any Republicans to vote for the impeachment -- the Articles of Impeachment.

CUOMO: What do you -- what do you think about this Congressman Turner, Republican, who said a lot of the stuff he's hearing is bothersome, it's not supposed to come this way. You think that's just talk and talk is different than a vote?

ROGERS: Well, if you listen, they say, yes, this is bothersome, it's troublesome, I don't like it, it's wrong, I don't know if it rises to the level of impeachment. I think that's where they're going to take it. But the problem was I thought they had a really poor week of trying to convince the Americans that hey, this doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. It seemed very disjointed. And if you're going to get the public on your side, didn't seem to me they had a great week in doing that.

And of course the biggest detractor from any messaging well was the president himself when he is tweeting about a witness who is currently giving testimony which was just dumbfounding to me.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, the idea that, you know, we were heading into this people were telling us, Susan Hennessey, I want to come to you, not about this, but just as pretext, people are saying, oh, you may see a different president in this process. He understands the weightiness of this, he feels good about his position. He may be quiet for most of them. That was clearly never going to happen.

In terms of not the legalities because this is a political process, but in terms of motivating the understanding that this was an attempted bribe and that just because it didn't come to fruition doesn't mean it wasn't an abuse of power. How important was week one?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think it was incredibly important. I do think that we see the Democrats really laying out a rather methodical case with sort of witness by witness, drawing out the story. And the story that they're telling sort of from the edges and moving inward is the story of the president of the United States pressuring a foreign leader for his own personal political purposes, and that he was doing that in a way that wasn't just not in the national interest but was actually contrary to the national interest.

We heard all three of those foreign diplomats -- foreign service officers testify over last week about how deeply harmful and corrosive this was to the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship, to U.S. strategic interest in the region. And that the interest was harmed just by the attempt here and that the fact the president was essentially caught and foiled at the very last moment didn't prevent that harm from coming. That already our allies have reasons to -- you know, to distrust us. Our adversaries have reasons to distrust our commitments to those allies and really, this has been a really astonishing abuse of office that has already resulted in concrete harms to the nation.

The fact that this wasn't sort of delivered, that Zelensky didn't actually go on television and announce these investigations of the Bidens as President Trump wanted.

CUOMO: Right.



HENNESSEY: One, doesn't undercut that that's what he actually tried to do, and two, didn't actually prevent serious harm from occurring.

CUOMO: OK. So, Mike Isikoff, the bounce on that is, Hennessey's in part, right, when she uses the word, maybe, she's 100 percent right. But when she talks about concrete, the only part she has right is the sand, in that mix. This is soft. It never happened. They didn't get the aid. He didn't get any dirt. And what this comes down to is, you don't like how the President makes his decisions on foreign policy.

But going after Biden was legit, because what Hunter Biden did was wrong. So, he had a rightful interest in asking about it, and you just don't like how he did it. And that's OK. But you don't kick out a president for it.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: That is an argument. But, look, you know, it strikes me.

CUOMO: It's their argument. That's what you're going to hear, Mike.

ISIKOFF: That's part of their argument then, a lot of it is, I don't think really holds much water. But, you know, this strikes me as Watergate in reverse. During Watergate, we had a year and a half of congressional and FBI investigations, leading to the smoking gun tape, where everybody saw Nixon was interfering in the FBI, trying to block the FBI investigation into the Watergate burglary.

This is in reverse, because we started with the smoking gun. The transcript, itself, showed undisputedly, the President's own words, he was asking Zelensky to do him a favor of investigating his political rival, Joe Biden. There it was, in many ways, that's the most serious evidence we've gotten yet, of an abuse of power. The question is, as you've been discussing, does it add up to grounds for removal of office.

And on that ground, I think it's a political judgment. I think the Republicans have made a few modest points that help them there. One, from Ambassador Taylor's testimony, that it's all the indications are that the Ukrainians didn't know at the time of that phone call, that the military aide was being suspended.

And, in fact, Taylor testified he didn't know himself until August 29th, when the Politico article comes out, and that's when he starts to hear from the Ukrainian officials.


ISIKOFF: So, if this is about an attempted bribe, the bribe, at least, at the time of the favor request -- CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: -- doesn't know --

CUOMO: It's not required.

ISIKOFF: -- that military assistance --

CUOMO: It's not required because you can ask me to do something. I may not even understand that that's what's happening. We've all seen, you know, B and C-level mob movies, where the guy, you know, even if classic line, we're going to make you an offer you can't refuse. The guy had no idea what the offer was. It came later. The solicitation has to come.

The acceptance acknowledgment and action on it would have to come, not that it's legal, but you're going to want the common sense of certain legalities and principles, in order to carry forward. Mike, help me with this -- Rogers. I, as you know, Mike has been such a great mentor to me, in fact, everybody on this panel has helped me out tremendously from time to time on this story.

But I don't like jumping to Russia and filling this void of us not understanding why the President is differential to Putin. I think there could be 100 reasons I don't like it. But here we are, again, with Rudy Giuliani, messing with these two guys, Fruman and Parnas, who you've known them a long time, I've known them a long time.

For Giuliani to be messing with these guys like this is completely bizarre to me. And that they have a connection to a Ukrainian with deep roots into Russian pockets. He's wanted for, you know, a criminal solicitation investigation this guy furnished. And there you have Russia, again. And who is pushing the theory that Ukraine was involved in 2016 with crowd strike? Russian intelligence was pushing it.

Why are we back here again with this?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN OF MICHIGAN: Well, listen, you can't swing a stuffed animal and not hit 12 Russian intelligence officers operating anywhere in Ukraine. And what is surprising to me is someone like Rudy Giuliani who should absolutely know better, has been doing business dealings there since 2008. And during that whole time, you know, clearly, there were real issues there.

As a matter of fact, a quick story, I was there as chairman of the Intelligence Committee to try to work out a way that we could communicate intelligence to the Ukrainian intelligence services, because their services were so penetrated by Russian intelligence agents, we couldn't use formal channels to do it.

And, I mean, that's about as bad as it gets. And I'll tell you that all of those business relationships there, the level of corruption there is just breathtaking. So, any activity there on behalf of an American, and Paul Manafort certainly found that out. You are going to bump into people who are either agents or intelligence officers for the Russian intelligence service, because they are so aggressive in that particular part of the world. So, I can explain it. And I'm not even sure I will explain it. I will say, as an FBI guy that worked bribery and corruption and mob cases in Chicago, intent on bribery is not as easy to get to.

[20:35:13] Now, I know this isn't a rules of evidence kind of proceeding, but that intent is pretty hard. And one of the things that I thought happened this week that showed that the intent might not be there, is that you had all of these meetings that Taylor was in, and it never came up, and he didn't know about the fact of it -- of the money.

So, if you're trying to defend this thing, to me, that would be a really logical way for them to try to come at it.


ROGERS: -- in the committee hearing.

CUOMO: They would just need the trial to be today, because as soon as you get these witnesses next week, you're going to get a very different reckoning. But look, Mike, you point something out. It's very important for the people at home, did the President have corrupt intent? Did he think he was doing something wrong? That could be very important, in terms of showing abuse of office.

It would good to know -- it would be good to know that you're trying to abuse it. Hennessey, thank you for laying out the legalities, it's very important to hear. Isikoff, thank you for helping me understand the rules. And big brother, Rogers, as always, you helped us understand the workings of this process from someone who's been in it.

Now, Mike Rogers, of course, but now huge T.V. star. You know him as the host of "DECLASSIFIED." He actually has now, in the contract, I'm supposed to call him, big brother Rogers. I don't know how I feel about it. I did it there. You can tweet him and say if you find it's good. 11:00 Eastern is when he's on tonight, CNN only, "DECLASSIFIED," worth the watch.

All right. Impeachment hearings, we've seen them. This isn't the first time they've been on T.V. The time they were most impressive was without question with Nixon and Watergate, but it was so different than that. And we have never seen a president defend himself, the way this president does, because there's never been Twitter and this kind of access.

But boy, the hole he dug maybe deeper than he understands even tonight. A Nixon impeachment era witness is going to give you context of what the hearings meant then, what the President's role was in the defense and the perception versus today, the one and only, John Dean, next.




CUOMO: We have a central figure from Watergate history joining us now. Former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. Always good to see you, Sir.


CUOMO: So, just one question, when you look at that experience and compare it to this point, in this process, what do you see?

DEAN: I see a it is still early in this process. Nixon, actually, we tend to look at it back through history at what all was accumulated much of it, after he left the office. And we think there was a mountain of evidence. There wasn't that much evidence when they voted on July 27th to impeach him, in the House Judiciary Committee. The House never voted on his impeachment.

And, of course, it never went to the Senate, because he resigned within days, because the Supreme Court handed down a decision while the court was -- excuse me, while the Committee was voting, that forced him to return -- turn over 20 key tapes and some 40 other less important tapes.

So, that was the end of the story when those tapes were turned over. And he left right before the House could take any action. But today, we're not that far along in the proceeding.

CUOMO: Do you think there's any chance from what you have gotten a sense of, to this point, that the facts in this situation with President Trump could be as damning as those were in Nixon?

DEAN: I think they're more damning, Chris.

CUOMO: More damning.

DEAN: I think they're more damning for this reason. Let's back up through Nixon's articles. Article 3 was his obstruction of Congress, related to four subpoenas that he refused to honor. Well, so far, the Trump administration and the President, at the direction of the White House counsel, has refused to honor 10 subpoenas. So, that's a good bit more.

Let's go into the second article in Nixon, which was the abuse of power. That's still ongoing. We're peeling that back, currently. And I think it's right in there, right now, even before more testimony is given with what Nixon was doing, obstructing the FBI, misusing the IRS and places like that.

The big difference being, he was abusing his foreign powers authority, which is much different than his -- a president misusing civil powers of domestically or political in the United States. And the Article 1 of Nixon, was obstruction of justice. And I want to tell you, the Mueller report is much more powerful than the evidence collected by the House Judiciary Committee on obstruction of justice.

CUOMO: It's interesting how quiet the Democrats have been with that. Do you believe looking at the roster of who's coming up this week, do you believe this is it? That after this week, the American people will have the best look available at what mattered here and then comes the discussion of consequence.

DEAN: I think if Ambassador Sondland was forthcoming and told what really went on, it would be the end of the Trump presidency. I don't think he's going to do that. And I think he's going to be in a lot of trouble because he's not going to. The rest of the witnesses are important, yes. But Sondland is the key, because he was the intermediary between the president and the Ukrainians.

[20:45:13] CUOMO: I agree that he is the man to watch because, you know, obviously, you've had your own personal experience with being in this process. He's going to make a decision to give testimony that will protect him or protect the President. I don't know how he does both.

And he's going to be coming after Jennifer Williams, the vice president's aide, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, Mr. Volker and Mr. Morrison.

So, he will hear them all in public, which I think puts the box he's in, even smaller. John Dean, thank you so much for your perspective, especially on a Sunday night. God bless and be well.

DEAN: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, these public impeachment hearings have been playing out, right? There's another person while they've been going on, in Trump orbit, who went down in a court of law. And you have to look at it if the charges stand against Roger Stone.

We have never seen this many people around a president, go down, and that's just, legally. Remember all the people who left for allegations of corruption within his cabinet. What happened to draining the swamp? What do these men and women around him, say, about what is going on in his administration? Let's talk to a great guest for this, next.




CUOMO: Now, to hear it from our president, everything that's happened to anyone around him, has been the function of a witch hunt, something unfair to bring him down. But remember the Mueller investigation. Six of Trump's associates have already been convicted of federal crimes.

My next guest says, that is critical to understanding where we are right now, in this impeachment inquiry. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine joins me right now, thank you so much, on a Sunday night.


CUOMO: So, the President says, it is what it is. But when you look at what we've seen collectively, in the cabinet, people close to this president, people who work with and for this president, jail, corruption, criticism, have we ever seen anything like it, in any other presidential administration, ever?

CHAIT: I can't -- I cannot think of any presidency in American history, that has this much criminality surrounding the president, where the president, at minimum, has simply attracted people who are willing to break the law. Now, you can ask even deeper question is, why were so many of them willing to break the law? Were they covering up deeper issues, even issues implicating Donald Trump?

But the innocent explanation, is that he just happens to collect a lot of people around him, who are happy to commit crimes. That's the best spin you can put on the fact that all these prosecutions resulted from the Mueller investigation.

CUOMO: And what is that, in terms of it being a lens for you, into what we're dealing with now?

CHAIT: You know, I thought it was interesting that the Stone verdict which found another criminal violation in Trump's inner circle, came on the same day as Marie Yovanovitch's testimony. Because I thought the real point of her testimony on Friday, was that the Trump administration has been trying to re-corrupt Ukraine.

Trump has used corruption as his excuse for his agenda. He's supposedly fighting corruption in Ukraine. But what she really testified in great detail, is that the previous administration had worked hard and successfully, to reform Ukraine, to restore the rule of law, to make officials there, treat people in government and powerful people the same way, as everybody else.

CUOMO: It's also a big part of their case that Trump has been -- Jonathan, it's also a big part of the Republicans' case that they've been better than Obama. They keep using this line, Obama gave blankets, we're giving them bombs.

CHAIT: Right. Well, they were, sort of, forced to give military aid because Republicans and Democrats in Congress, insisted on it, and Trump couldn't really stand in the way.

But in terms of corruption, I think it's very clear that the previous administration reformed Ukraine, and part of Trump's agenda -- that's what she testified so effectively -- was to re-corrupt Ukraine, was to ally themselves with the corrupt Ukrainians who have been thrown out in the reform effort and try to get them back into power.

And the way they did that was to work with Trump, work with his henchman, like Rudy Giuliani, and allied themselves with the Republican Party and re-setup the whole corrupt pipelines that had been shut down under the -- under the Zelensky government. So, in addition to having a partisan interest, it's a -- it's a very -- it's a very basic criminal interest. And in part of what Rudy Giuliani and his partners have been up to in Ukraine, is simply trying to get a piece of the action for themselves. Their main goal is to help Donald Trump by getting investigations of his opponent.

But their secondary goal is to -- is to lean on the Ukrainians and say, we're Trump's guys and you better give us some of your liquid natural gas importing business, whether or not we give the best bid, whether or not we're the most qualified. Give us the money because we're Trump's guys and we need a taste of the action.

[20:55:06] CUOMO: That's Parnas and Fruman for sure. Rudy Giuliani is still two big question marks. One is, why was he anywhere near guys like that? And two, how will he figure in this overall investigation? Will they try to make him a scapegoat? Very dangerous.

Rudy Giuliani knows a lot of things and he's no one to be messed with, or how do they explain how this was a legitimate interest, why was Rudy used the way he was. Jonathan Chait, thank you so much for your perspective. Appreciate it and look forward to talking to you more in the future.

CHAIT: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right. Look, that's a great dove tail, what we were talking about there, at the end. You know, the whole impeachment inquiry is really, if you look at the basic question, did the President abused his power by leveraging the power of the presidency, right, executing this aid, access to his office, to find a way to help himself, politically? That's what it is.

We have a new CNN investigation for you, when THE WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS continues, next.