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Ousted Ambassador Yovanovitch To Testify Publicly Tomorrow; Taylor Aide Who Overheard Sondland And Trump Call Expected To Testify Tomorrow Behind Closed Doors. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 14, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- foreign policy goals tomorrow.

[10:00:01]

That is what we expect to hear from Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, as she testifies in the second impeachment hearing. She said she was pulled from her post after the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, orchestrated a campaign to have her removed.

Also tomorrow, testifying behind closed doors, David Holmes, an aide to Ambassador Bill Taylor in Ukraine. Taylor shared the stunning revelation during Wednesday's hearing. Holmes apparently overheard a phone conversation where President Trump asked the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, about investigations into the Bidens, which, if true, would connect the president even more directly with the alleged Ukraine pressure campaign.

President Trump says he doesn't remember the call and said it was secondhand information, but it all raises the stakes even higher for Sondland's public testimony next Wednesday.

Our team is covering all of the angles of this impeachment process and they are dramatic. Let's go back to Capitol Hill right now. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us.

So, Manu, what is the Republican plan of attack for tomorrow?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are telling me that they plan to make very clear that Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine, did not have any direct knowledge about what the issues are central to this impeachment inquiry, the decision to withhold aid, as well the decision to put on ice, that key meeting that the Ukrainians had sought with the president amid this push to investigate Joe Biden as well as interference in the 2016 elections. They're going to say essentially she had no knowledge of any of those matters, also that the president was within his rights to remove this ambassador.

Now, the testimony itself though will say very clearly that the president -- she was targeted by Rudy Giuliani and his associates as part of what she believes is a clear smear campaign against her and the president, of course, had dispatched Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine, to push for those investigations, something that U.S. officials, including Yovanovitch, believe ran counter to U.S. foreign policy.

Now, at the same time, there're still major questions in the aftermath of Bill Taylor's testimony from yesterday, which he linked the president to these calls for investigations, including this new revelation that one of his aides overheard a conversation between the E.U. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, and the president when the president discussed his push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL TAYLOR, TOP U.S. 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. Mr. Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, Democrat after Democrat this morning, Wolf, are telling me they believe that Gordon Sondland misled the committee in his closed deposition about his interactions with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Do you think that Gordon Sondland was truthful to your committee?

REP. HARLEY ROUDA (D-CA): Not completely. He certainly had gaps in either his memory or in his testimony.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): I think it's fair to say that that testimony wasn't fully candid and left out very important parts of what we now know to be true (ph).

RAJU: He misled the committee?

CICILLINE: I think he misled the committee.

RAJU: Do you believe that Gordon Sondland was truthful to the committee about his word (ph)?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): No. Gordon Sondland was not truthful to the committee. It's pretty obvious. I think he shaves a lot of truth from his answers and I think he's going to have to pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, that means the pressure is enormous next week on Gordon Sondland where he will be questioned about all those interactions with the president and why Bill Taylor testified that Sondland told him directly about his conversations with Trump, in which, of course, Taylor said that everything was contingent on this push for these investigations. We'll see if Sondland reveals anything new about those conversations with the president. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Manu, thanks very much.

Tomorrow is said to be a very significant day also up on Capitol Hill as the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, publicly testifies, before all those television cameras, testifies about a so- called smear campaign allegedly led by the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, against her.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is joining us right now.

Jessica, she was unexpectedly pulled from her post by the president of the United States.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And she'll likely have a lot to say to continue that narrative about Rudy Giuliani and his associates and their push to oust her from her post, which, of course, eventually happened in May.

So Yovanovitch will take center stage tomorrow. She'll talk about her duties as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine since 2016 where she really led the call on the Ukrainian government to do more to fight corruption. But, of course, in May, she was unexpectedly recalled from her post despite being a diplomat since 1986, serving under three presidents.

[10:05:04]

And her top treatment is something that both George Kent and Bill Taylor touched upon in their testimony yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani and others, including his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch.

TAYLOR: But when Secretary Pompeo asked me to go back to Kiev, I wanted to say yes, but it was not an easy decision. Former Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch has been treated poorly, caught in a web of political machinations both in Kiev and in Washington. I feared that those problems were still present.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: And Yovanovitch talked about this in her closed door testimony last month. She talked about she felt threatened by the president's associates as they worked to undermine her and have her removed. She even recounted how a Ukrainian official even told her to, quote, watch my back. And at the same time, she was encouraged by E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland to praise Trump, even suggesting she tweet her praise at the president all to save her job.

And then, of course, there were attacks that she talked about against her that ramped up within the right wing media, particularly from Fox News host Sean Hannity. Yovanovitch said that she was told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or someone at the State Department planned to call Hannity about the basis of those attacks. Hannity though says that never happened, so a lot to come from Marie Yovanovitch.

But one thing she likely won't talk about will be the military aid that was withheld since, of course, that mostly transpired after she was removed in May. Wolf?

BLITZER: A very, very important testimony coming up tomorrow. Jessica Schneider, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now to discuss this and more, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. She is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Thanks so much, Congresswoman, for joining us.

So what do you think your committee accomplished yesterday?

SPEIER: I think our committee accomplished a great deal for the American people. We established that there was abuse of power. We, I think, are starting to develop the elements of bribery and there's great evidence about a cover-up.

We had two foreign affairs individuals who have been part of our foreign relations for over 77 years testify. They have sterling reputations. And one of them a war hero, one with 27 years on Ukraine, one is a deputy ambassador chief of mission and one as the ambassador, so a wealth of knowledge.

They were very clear they were not Never Trumpers, even though the president had tweeted that. They are nonpartisan. They stuck to that. They wouldn't discuss impeachment at all. They were really remarkable Americans.

BLITZER: The Republicans though, and their allies, including those at the White House, they keep pointing out that both of these established diplomats only had second or third-hand information, they never personally directly spoke, for example, with the president. What's your reaction to that?

SPEIER: So, Wolf, this is one of the White House talking points. Let's break it down.

First of all, we have the summary of the phone call, which the president has actually submitted as evidence that shows, that there was this ask. That's what you have to have.

We then have circumstantial evidence and we do have second-party and third-party information, all of which is legal even in a criminal trial. But more importantly, if you want to have first-party testimony, let's have Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton come forward, both of whom have been prevented from speaking to the committee by the president himself.

BLITZER: Let me play a new clip. This was the new information that came out yesterday from Ambassador Taylor talking about this conversation that the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine had with Gordon Sondland. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So how significant is that, Congresswoman?

SPEIER: Well, it's obviously very significant. It was the big blow up for both the Republicans and the Democrats yesterday because it was so explosive. What we have though is very interesting. You have a president of the United States who says, I hardly know the European ambassador, Sondland, except that the ambassador has the president's personal cell phone and evidently has it on speed dial.

And you have, as a result of that overheard conversation, the president of the United States speaking and saying how about the investigations. This is all coming from the president of the United States. He keeps talking about the corruption in Ukraine. Let's talk about the corruption in the presidency.

[10:10:02]

BLITZER: David Holmes, that's the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine. He was in that conversation with Ambassador Sondland, overheard the conversations Ambassador Sondland had with the president. He will appear behind closed doors for sworn deposition before your committee tomorrow. What do you hope to gain from that deposition?

SPEIER: Well, we'll certainly get specific information about what he heard in that conversation and very directly what Ambassador Sondland said to him after the call when he asked the ambassador what does the president think about Ukraine, and Sondland's response was all he cares about is the investigations. He doesn't care about Ukraine.

BLITZER: You had an important exchange yesterday with the deputy assistant secretary of state, George Kent. Let me play a little clip for our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPEIER: Mr. Kent, did you actually write a memo documenting your concerns that there was an effort underway to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation to benefit President Trump?

KENT: Yes, ma'am. I wrote a memo to the file on August 16th.

SPEIER: But we don't have access to that memo, do we?

KENT: I submitted it to the State Department subject to the September 27th subpoena.

SPEIER: And we have not received one piece of paper from the State Department relative to this investigation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Congresswoman, what's the impact of that, that you're not getting that kind of information?

SPEIER: It's profound and it speaks to the cover-up that the president has engaged in relative to this investigation. What do you have to cover up if you have done nothing wrong, if everything you've done is perfect? Clearly, the fact that we can't speak to Mick Mulvaney, we can't speak to Mr. Bolton, we can't access even one specific piece of paper from the State Department, let alone the file folders filled with very important documentation suggests, I think, to the American people and to all of us that the president has something to hide.

BLITZER: Jackie Speier, congresswoman Jackie Speier, thanks so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Still to come, what is the Republican strategy as the Democrats zero in on President Trump's inner circle, we'll discuss that and more.

Also, I'll get reaction from someone who knows Ambassador Bill Taylor who worked with him over at the State Department.

Plus, a CNN exclusive, President Trump's luxury hotel here in Washington, D.C. is up for sale. The biggest selling point, something that the first family has denied profiting from.

Stay with us. Our special coverage continues.

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[10:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?

TAYLOR: Mr. Ratcliffe, if I can just respond, let me just reiterate that I'm not here --

RATCLIFFE: I have one minute left.

TAYLOR: I know. I know you have a minute left.

RATCLIFFE: Let me just take this point.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You asked the witness a question. The witness will answer the question.

RATCLIFFE: I'll withdraw the question. Let me just --

TAYLOR: And I'm not here to take one side or the other. That's your --

RATCLIFFE: Let me answer this -- let me ask you this question.

SCHIFF: The gentleman will suspend. Ambassador Taylor, would you like to answer the question?

RATCLIFFE: Suspend the time please. I withdrew the question.

SCHIFF: The gentleman will suspend. We will suspend the clock.

RATCLIFFE: Suspend the clock one minute, please.

SCHIFF: Ambassador Taylor, would you like to respond to the question?

TAYLOR: Mr. Ratcliffe, I would just like to say that I am not here to do anything having to do with -- to decide about impeachment. That's not what either of us are here to do. This is your job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: -- Capitol Hill talking about the impeachment hearings yesterday.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): There's no quid pro quo. Nothing happened here. We're not going to impeach this president over this. We're not going to legitimize a hearing where you can only call Democratic witnesses. It's over. It's done for me.

REPORTER: Why don't -- how do you think that this is going to --

GRAHAM: It's over and done for me.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

GRAHAM: Well, if you exclude hearsay as a basis for impeachment, which every court in the land would, unless there's an exception, I will not allow a trial to go forward with my vote unless the whistleblower comes forward. Even though they're offering hearsay, they're the ones that started this. And I want to know is there a connection between the whistleblower, CIA, Biden or any other Democrat that would make, cast suspicions over their motives. I want to get to the bottom of this.

We're not going to let the president of the United States be tried based on anonymous accusation. We're not going to let him be convicted in the Senate based on a bunch of hearsay.

REPORTER: Procedurally, what are your options?

GRAHAM: Excuse me.

REPORTER: There are reports that a trial in the Senate would last five to six weeks.

GRAHAM: I don't know. If you tried the president based on the rules that exist in courts in America, first rule is hearsay is not admissible unless there's a valid exception. If you use the hearsay rule, everything I heard falls virtually all of it. If you require the confrontation clause to be invoked and allow the whistleblower -- require the whistleblower to come forward, I don't know how long that takes. But my point is that we're going to do the trial based on due process, common to American legal system and that's my bottom line.

[10:20:03]

And how long that takes, I don't know.

REPORTER: But, procedurally, what are your options? You said that you would not support moving forward with a Senate trial, but how do you stop it?

GRAHAM: Resolution of 51. I'm not going to vote for any resolution that allows impeachment to be based on hearsay, upon hearsay. I'm not going to vote for any resolution that denies the president the ability to confront his accuser, which is the whistleblower. That's just me. We'll see where other senators.

The reason I don't want to do this is because we're legitimizing a process that I think say danger to the presidency itself. You're having hearings in the House where Democrats only call witnesses, the whistleblower is being shielded from examination, is fundamentally unfair. I don't want to legitimize this. And Democrats may like this today. But if there's a Democratic president and you've got a small majority of Republicans in the House, you're basically going to destroy the presidency over time if you continue this.

And how would you, as a member of Congress, like to be on the receiving end of this? Somebody said you did something wrong, the whistleblower complaint, but you can't find out who they are and all the accusations against you are based on hearsay. This is a dangerous precedent set for the country.

REPORTER: So would you introduce a quick motion to dismiss?

BLITZER: All right. Lindsey Graham, speaking out forcefully.

Let's get some reaction. John King, what do you think? Remember, just historic perspective, once again, you and I covered the Bill Clinton impeachment process 21 years ago. Lindsey Graham, I believe, was one of the leaders in the Republican effort to impeach then President Bill Clinton.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He was the house manager back in the day and he's talking about hearsay there. Number one this is not a court of law. Congress is not a court of law. Number two, he's talking about hearsay. I would remind Lindsey Graham Linda Tripp heard it from a friend.

When they built the case against Bill Clinton, it's the same way. Like almost any case built, yes, you originally get hearsay witnesses and then you have to prove it. That is the Democrats' challenge. But, look, what's dangerous, Lindsey Graham used the word dangerous in the end there, is the mainstream (ph) of lying by members of Congress. He knows -- he just knows most that most of what he said there is not true. It's misleading, it's hypocritical and it's reckless. If you want to make the case that it's not an impeachable offense, make the case it's not an impeachable offense.

But to make the case that it's all hearsay, number one, we're going to have witnesses about that. If the Democrats only have hearsay, they will have to go forward with an impeachment that's based only on hearsay. But they have Ambassador Sondland is coming back next week. They believe Ambassador Sondland misled them because they asked him in his private deposition about his contacts with the president and he did not disclose the phone call Bill Taylor disclosed yesterday to Congress.

So we're not anywhere near the finish line here and the Republicans are trying to stop the process. That's what Lindsey Graham is doing.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And to add to that point, Wolf, I think is important, Lindsey Graham is wrong. This is not a court of law and it's not that kind of process. Because if it were, then you would have a grand jury proceeding, which would be entirely secret, Republicans would not have been allowed in the proceedings, as they were during those depositions. So he knows what he's saying is nonsense and not true.

The other piece is I think the business about the whistleblower at this point is beside the point. What do you need to hear from the whistleblower for? The whistleblower complaint talks about all of these people who interfaced with this process who thought it was inappropriate. There's a parade of them who are on the record now and in front of the television cameras saying why they thought it was inappropriate, including Republican appointees by this president. That's the truth.

KING: Think of Linda Tripp as the whistleblower back in the day. Just think of her as the whistleblower. Then they proved true what she came to them. They proved something she said not to be true. But that's how investigations are conducted. That's how it works.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: What's not clear is how like-minded other GOP senators are in terms of what we heard from Lindsey Graham there. He very much sounds like folks in the House that we heard from yesterday, Devin Nunes obsessed with the whistleblower and other folks in the House Republican Caucus. But we don't know at this point where Republicans are.

So far, they seem to have been in lockstep with this president in terms of other things he has done. But Mitch McConnell sounds like he wants to have a regular trial and we'll see how that is. Lindsey graham is sort of a different animal in some ways. And he's different animal than he was when he was in the House and when he was two or three years ago.

KING: But it is understandable in a sense that the Republican strategy is to hold Republicans.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: And so we can say it's not true, we can say it's hypocritical, we can point out factual mistakes, we can point out contextual mistakes, they want it to just about the call, for example, the weeks before and the weeks after.

But if your view is keep House Republicans or Senate Republicans or Republicans out in the country from breaking from the president, you get it that way.

And just one other point that came out yesterday, Lindsey Graham said that Republicans can't get witnesses. That's not true. Three of the witnesses Republicans have requested are being brought in next week.

Now, the Democrats have not agreed to bring in Hunter Biden, for example.

HENDERSON: Or the whistleblower.

KING: Or the whistleblower. They think those are stretches. And just one point yesterday that struck me when everyone kept saying Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden.

[10:25:02]

Hunter Biden went to work in Ukraine back in 2014. There were stories about it at the time. There was a giant New York Times investigative piece in December 2015 saying, should Joe Biden be in charge of the Ukraine portfolio in the Obama administration when his son has this job? It was raised then (ph). Republicans were in the House and Senate majority then. Republicans in the House, did they ever call a hearing when they were in the majority?

So part of this is a ruse. Part of this is just politics. They have the power. Lindsey Graham is the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. He could bang a gavel tomorrow subpoena Hunter Biden to come before Congress. They won't do it because they know there is nothing there.

GREGORY: And they also know that an election is coming. To attack the process is step one. And step two is to stay focused on the outcome. They got the aid, the Ukrainians did. It was far more lethal than what Obama ever provided.

Yes, Trump is unorthodox, yes, he's brash. No one will actually say it's appropriate to do this and future presidents should do it. But we certainly shouldn't impeach him. That's what I think they're really building toward in terms of muddying the waters.

BLITZER: Because the argument that the Democrats make against the president is if he was so concerned about what the Bidens were doing in Ukraine, Hunter Biden was on the board of this Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, while his father was the vice president of the United States, effectively in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine, why are they asking the Ukrainians to investigate? Why not go to the FBI or the Justice Department?

HENDERSON: Why are you asking a country that you think is corrupt to investigate what you see as corruption? So it's very bizarre, what he's trying to do. Typically, you're right, I mean, the Justice Department, the FBI, whoever would look into any sort of wrongdoing that they felt like --

BLITZER: And as John points out, why aren't there congressional hearings in the Senate? Senate hearings, they're the majority, they can have hearings.

HENDERSON: Yes. Because, I think, to John's point, there is no there there, right? This is just kind of a distraction --

KING: There's swampiness.

HENDERSON: Yes, there was swampiness, exactly.

KING: And should Joe Biden --

BLITZER: Well, the appearance was awkward.

HENDERSON: The appearance of impropriety, which was raised, and this came up in the hearing yesterday. George Kent sort of raised it as well, this idea that maybe this is not sort of the impropriety, the appearance of impropriety, no actual wrongdoing, so, yes.

But, listen, I think this sort of distract and delay, we saw some of that yesterday, they're talking about the whistleblower, for instance. That's going to be the Republican rallying cry.

And I think the big question is, can it keep everybody together?

BLITZER: All right. But Lindsey Graham says it's over and done for me.

HENDERSON: It never began for him.

KING: That's true. It never started.

BLITZER: May be over and done for him but it's not over and done for a lot of others. Everybody, thanks very much.

Coming up, there is more important news. We're following a showdown between Republicans and career diplomats. What will the fallout be inside the State Department?

Stay with us.

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