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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Two Key Witnesses in Impeachment Hearings; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is Interviewed about Impeachment; Fiona Hill Testifies Today; Former Top Russia Adviser To Reject Trump Claim That Ukraine Meddled In U.S. Politics; Democrats Take On President Trump Over Impeachment During Debate; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Discusses The Impeachment Proceedings And Her 2020 Presidential Run. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired November 21, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very hard out here that should he still be in office when it comes to the election, I -- I am prepared to take him on and to beat him and return honor to that office.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Cory Booker, we really appreciate you taking time, particularly on this chilly morning in Atlanta.
Thanks so much for talking to us.
BOOKER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: All right, CNN's special coverage of the impeachment hearings continues right now with Wolf Blitzer and Chris Cuomo.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Chris Cuomo's joining us live from Capitol Hill.
This morning, another witness, another rebuttal to the White House narrative on what drove their Ukraine pressure campaign.
Chris, this is going to be another historic day here in Washington.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and what a study in contrast. What a beautiful sunrise here this morning, but it is going to be another ugly day.
You have former top Russia adviser to the president, Dr. Fiona Hill. She plans to push back on the narrative that Ukraine tried to influence the 2016 election. You know, that's a big underpinning of the supposed legitimacy of the president's intentions. Instead, Hill plans to hone in on what everybody should see as the truth, Russia was the sole person to focus on and that they still pose a very real threat to the 2020 race.
Hill's going to be joined this morning, of course, by David Holmes. He is the Ukraine embassy official who says he overheard President Trump call Gordon Sondland in Ukraine to check in on the investigations.
BLITZER: You know, it's amazing that Sondland himself blew up the inquiry wide open with his testimony yesterday, confirming there was, in fact, a quid pro quo and that it came directly from the president of the United States. The EU ambassador said everyone knew exactly what was going on, holding up military aid in exchange for announcing political investigations, from the Vice President Mike Pence, to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other senior officials as well.
CUOMO: All right, Wolf, let's begin our coverage here on Capitol Hill with one of the most incisive questioners I've seen in this process. I'm going to have Mike Quigley next to me.
But let's get what the state of play is from senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
Manu, you are not one of the most incisive questioners in this process. I saw that big smile come over your face. But you are definitely one of our best journalists.
How's it going?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going well. We should expect some news this morning from Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser at the White House. I'm told from a source familiar with her opening statement that she plans to offer a full-throated rebuttal to the narrative that's often pushed by Rudy Giuliani, by the president himself, and by some Republicans on this committee that it was Ukraine that may have meddled in the 2016 elections to help President Trump. She's going to -- she's going to worry (ph) -- or to help Hillary Clinton. She's going to push back against that narrative. She's going to make clear that the focus should instead be on Russia and Kremlin's -- the Kremlin's interference with the 2016 elections, warning that it could happening again in 2020.
But it's significant that she's pushing back on this narrative because the president himself floated the notion of Ukraine launching an investigation into potential Ukrainian 2016 interference in that phone call with President Zelensky, though numerous witnesses have testified that it was part of a condition that the White House sought to place on Ukraine before moving forward. Things like security assistance, roughly $400 million, as well as that key meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky. But she's going to essentially say that the notion that Ukraine meddled is fiction.
Now, she said something similar also in her closed door deposition when she came before the impeachment investigators last month. She said this at the time. It is fiction that the Ukrainian government was launching an effort to upend our election, to upend our election, to mess with our democratic system, because if you're also trying to peddle an alternative variation on whether the Ukrainians subverted our election, I don't want to be a part of that and I will not be a part of it.
She went on to say, we should all be greatly concerned about what the Russians intend to do in 2020.
Now, also in her opening statement, I'm told, she will provide some more bio about her family coming from a generation of coal miners, coming from someone who is -- came from a family of immigrants, someone who worked for both Democrats and Republican administrations. And we should expect also in her testimony to make clear that she had serious concerns about what Rudy Giuliani was doing. Also concerns about the legality of what he was doing and also raise the concerns of John Bolton, then the national security adviser, considered the discussions a, quote, drug deal. That's going to be a conversation that will come up throughout this closed door -- this open hearing in just a matter of minutes here.
CUOMO: You know, Manu, the theory that the president wanted to pursue is the one he was told. It wasn't just that Ukraine was involved, not only Russia, in interfering in the election, but it's that they were out to get him.
He was given an idea that Ukraine didn't like him. That it tried to hurt him. And, you know, for people who have gotten to know this president, that would certainly be a much more useful fuel to his fire than the idea that they merely interfered in the election.
Once it gets personal to him, it gets real. And now that's a big reason that we are where we are.
So that's Fiona Hill.
David Holmes would have been a bigger need today if Sondland hadn't gone the way he did yesterday. Because Sondland had been going back and forth between there really was this pressure campaign for Ukraine to go after the Bidens. He obviously zeroed in on wanting to be all in on that. But Holmes is fundamental because he is an eyewitness and had a conversation with Sondland that goes directly to the president's knowledge and wants.
RAJU: Yes, that's right, because on July 26th he overheard a phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland. They were sitting at a restaurant. He overheard this phone call because the president was apparently talking so loudly, he pulled the phone away from his ear. So David Holmes, who's testifying later, heard this conversation in which the president and Sondland discussed how the Ukrainians, one, were going to launch an investigation into the Bidens and the president made very clear that was his interest and that was his sole interest according to the testimony that David Holmes plans to give. Something similar he said behind closed doors just last week. And she -- he said this in his testimony behind closed doors, I asked why not and Ambassador Sondland stated that the president only cares about big stuff. I noted that there was big stuff going on in Ukraine like a war with Russia and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.
So he's going to testify. That's what he understands. That's what the president only cared about was the investigation that Ukraine would launch into Joe Biden.
Of course, yesterday, Sondland said that was the one thing he did not remember in that phone call saying Biden specifically. But he did not deny that they discussed investigations. So we'll see if he -- how much more he contradicts what Ambassador Sondland said yesterday.
CUOMO: Manu Raju on point as always. Thank you, my friend.
All right, joining us now, Democratic member of the House Intel Committee, Congressman Mike Quigley.
Congressman, thank you for coming out in the cold this morning. Nothing compared to, you know, upstate New York.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Usually you play hockey in this kind of weather.
CUOMO: That's right.
But I meant what I said, you know, you obviously have trial experience. Your questioning has been very incisive. But it's got to be frustrating because this is not a trial environment what's going on. This is about one side of the room saying that everything you ask about is irrelevant because you just hate the president.
What do you do in that environment that can even take a step towards any kind of consensus?
QUIGLEY: I think you think -- remind yourself that the trier (ph) fact is the American people. And you try to talk directly to them. You know, and perhaps not to either base because they're not listening.
I think Woodrow Wilson said, five to eight percent of the American people decide all the elections. Well, we try to speak to them. Let them see the clear evidence. Clear, convincing, compelling evidence, which is corroborating each other, that the president of the United States muscled an ally when they were most vulnerable to help himself politically.
CUOMO: Do you accept any other reckoning of the facts? Do you accept, you know, the defenses were, nothing happened. You dismissed that out of hand the first time it came by you because the attempt was enough for you. OK. Now it's that he just doesn't like corruption and he doesn't like Ukraine, so these are foreign policy decisions.
QUIGLEY: If it was a foreign policy decision, he would do it uniform ally across all countries, including Saudi Arabia. But that's not the case. This is obviously conjection (ph) with his own words. We begin with the whistleblower's complaint, put it alongside the president's own words in the White House transcript of what took place. Everything that's taken place since then has only corroborated the president's own words. The facts speak for themselves.
CUOMO: The bar room explanation is often the best, you know, for regular people. You guys started off with this -- all this Latin. It's a bribe. If you guys are right about why you believe he did it and what he believe -- what you believe he motivated, it's a bribe. Why not just say that?
QUIGLEY: The defense so far has been, well, it didn't follow through, right? The meeting never --
CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) solicitation.
QUIGLEY: That's right, it's -- solicitation of a bribe. I think the American public can understand that.
CUOMO: Yes, a bribe we get.
QUIGLEY: The bribe you get. I'm from Chicago. We've heard of such things.
CUOMO: So extortion was what you guys started with. And, by the way, I understand the attack that you're moving the goal posts and I understand the counter from you guys that if you stop doing different types of bad things, we wouldn't have to keep moving from one to the next.
But in explaining it to the American people, what do you want -- what do you believe is clear enough at this point that transcends politics and perspective?
QUIGLEY: If you're concerned about someone calling something hearsay, I think you go back again to what the president said. Do me a favor, right? He's not asking, do me a favor, let's root out corruption. Let's get rid of your corrupt prosecutor. He praised that corrupt prosecutor. You know, he was talking about his own gain.
And what concerns me there most is that he might believe it and that we're distracted in the fact that primaries are coming soon and the election's next year and we're not ready.
After the last time, our democratic process was challenged, this country spent $3.5 billion to prepare for the next election. Hanging chads, right? We spent about one-tenth of that. We're not prepared for the Russians next onslaught.
CUOMO: Do you think today might move the needle? If so, why?
QUIGLEY: Every day moves the needle. I think there's some resonating. I think clear, compelling evidence, again, that this wasn't Ukraine, this was Russia. And Mr. Holmes, I think the most important thing he says there is reinforcing -- the president didn't care about Ukraine. The fact they were vulnerable. The fact that they're an ally. That they're beyond regional. It affects our national security. He cared about himself. I think that resonates with more Americans.
CUOMO: It's also the closest to putting the words in the president's mouth of wanting these investigations, other than the obvious, the conversation with the Ukrainian president himself. The idea that this was a plan of others.
After today, what do you do? You -- we were speaking before the interview about how, for you, this is a matter of principle. You believe, no matter how it comes out, no matter what the polls say, if you did not go down the road of impeachment, not just oversight, you're afraid this president would do even more things that violate the Constitution.
QUIGLEY: I think you look at the timing of when the call with President Zelensky took place, right after the special counsel testified, which he detailed what this president did. The elements of obstruction that were in the Mueller report.
CUOMO: And right after you all agreed on the only thing you agreed on, which was this four -- we shouldn't have foreign powers messing with our election.
QUIGLEY: And they're coming back. This president has never been held accountable for anything he did that was wrong. If we don't at least attempt to hold him accountable, we give up our responsibilities. A police officer thinking, well, I can't prove this case, but he knows somebody committed a law. He knows a jury is never going to find this person guilty. He sees a crime, he still has to do the right thing.
I have to look at my constituents and say, we're doing the right thing. The president, I believe, committed crimes and misdemeanors. He attempted to bribe a foreign power.
CUOMO: Congressman Quigley, good luck in there today. Thank you very much. You know people are watching. So thank you very much.
QUIGLEY: Very good.
CUOMO: All right, back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, let's continue the conversation. Our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is with us right now.
Let's talk a little bit about what we're going to be hearing, Jeffrey, this morning. Dr. Fiona Hill was the top Russia adviser on the NSC, the National Security Council. She's got a strong statement prepared.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: She does. And the issue that she's going to focus on, as I understand it, is, you know, why was the president involved in all of this? What -- why did the president have this obsession with Ukraine? He thought Ukraine was out to get him in the 2016 elections. So he had this bitterness against Ukraine.
What she will testify, and what she has testified previously in closed session, was that this was a fantasy, that Ukraine did not try to help Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign, that it was always Russia that was involved trying to help Trump. You know, she -- her narrative is very much like the narrative in the first part of the Mueller report. The part about Russia that said there was this concerted effort by Russia to help Donald Trump get elected and not that Ukraine had any particular role in the campaign one way or the other.
BLITZER: She's also going to discuss -- talk about that July 10th meeting over at the White House where she says that the EU ambassador, Gordon Sondland, just, in her words, blurted out a comment about the investigations that the president -- that they want the Ukrainians to launch political investigations involving the Bidens, as well as the 2016 presidential election.
TOOBIN: You know, I thought one aspect of Sondland's testimony yesterday was particularly interesting. When he said that other people had characterized his efforts during this, you know, crucial period as sort of a rogue foreign policy. And he said, no, it's not a rogue foreign policy. This was our foreign policy. That using Ukraine to try to help the Trump campaign to use the -- you know, to create these investigations of Burisma and of the 2016 election, that was American foreign policy.
Now, Hill may think that she was trying to, you know, tether it to reality, but the, you know, corrupt exchange of dirt for American aid, that was the real foreign policy. And I think Sondland made a very good point -- made a very convincing point of that.
BLITZER: A very important point, indeed.
Like Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine analyst -- adviser on the NSC, she too went to the National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg, with complaints after that controversial phone call between the president of the United States and the new president of Ukraine.
TOOBIN: You know, sometimes we get so wrapped up in the details here that I think we miss the big picture. And that phone call remains the most important evidence in this case.
BLITZER: Because we have the rough transcript.
TOOBIN: We have the rough transcript, which all the witnesses who were on the call, who were listening said the transcript is accurate in almost every detail. And that's almost all you need to know about this whole case. The president was going to the -- the president of the United States was going to the president of Ukraine and said, help me get dirt on Joe Biden. That's what this case is all about. It's what it's always been about. And all the testimony that we've seen, especially Sondland yesterday, has backed up that story.
BLITZER: It was a very big day, as you pointed out immediately, yesterday.
TOOBIN: It was extraordinary.
BLITZER: Yes. And we'll see what happens in the next few hours. Could be very significant as well.
Still to come, a day of stunning testimony coming up. President Trump says it's a big win for Republicans, what happened yesterday. So how is the GOP reacting today? That's coming up.
Also, the impeachment battle makes it to the debate stage last night. 2020 Democratic presidential candidates sound off. We're talking to one of those candidates. That's coming up as well.
CUOMO: All right, we're just over an hour away from the start of two more highly anticipated pieces of testimony on Capitol Hill. You've got Dr. Fiona Hill. She's the former top official on Russian affairs at the National Security Council. We believe the testimony will go to her boss, John Bolton, told her he did not want to be involved in Rudy Giuliani's drug deal over Ukraine. What did he mean? What was the context? Why did he feel like that?
Then we have State Department official David Holmes. And he is the man who heard the phone call in Ukraine in the restaurant on the cell phone between U.S. ambassador to the EU, man of the moment yesterday, Gordon Sondland, and President Trump. Why does he matter? Well, because that's the closest we have, other than the call with the Ukraine president and the U.S. president, putting the idea of getting the investigations in the mouth of the president, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's going to be very dramatic, these two witnesses. Republicans, as you know, Chris, they're still scrambling following yesterday's very, very damning testimony by the ambassador, Gordon Sondland. Sources say the White House and the Republican lawmakers were blindsided after Sondland directly implicated not only the president but other top officials in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into the Bidens.
Joining us now to discuss this and more, Jim Sciutto, our CNN anchor, chief national security correspondent, Jamie Gangel, our special correspondent, and David Gregory, our political analyst.
So, you know, going into Sondland's testimony yesterday, he had one version in his deposition. Then he had an addendum that completely changed a key point. We were uncertain what to expect yesterday.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That was pretty devastating. What we did get -- but some of those addendums, some of those omissions were also areas that Republicans were able to score some points against him as a flawed witness in some regards. I don't think the top line changes.
And I think that what Fiona Hill is going to bring into sharp relief today is separate from the question of abuse of power is, look at the foreign policy that was being run. Look at what the president cared about, what Rudy Giuliani cared about, how he was being used. And these weren't just foreign policy disagreements with the bureaucracy. There was a real sense that this was way off track and completely inappropriate and abusive by not only Trump appointees, but career people as well. I think that's the picture that she's going to continue to put forward this morning.
BLITZER: Republicans kept pushing him that he never specifically directly heard the words quid pro quo from the president.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, yesterday was a bombshell. At the beginning of the day, when we heard everyone was in the loop, it wasn't a secret, we were following directions, talk to Rudy, that was an, oh, you know what moment for Republicans. But as David said, he was not a perfect witness. And Republicans were able to muddy the waters throughout the day, especially when it came to, was there a direct link between the president and Sondland? Did the president say to you, go out and do this. He couldn't -- he would get very vague there. And that was their goal.
At the end of the day, the question is, not wasn't it a bombshell, it was, it was stunning, it was historic, does it matter? Did one vote change? I don't think it did.
BLITZER: Because he say repeatedly, not just the president, the vice president, secretary of state, the acting White House chief of staff, the energy secretary, they were all in on it.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So what you have to then believe, right, is that the entire machinery of the U.S. government, all these senior officials, were somehow freelancing here without direction of the president on a track of U.S./Ukraine policy that violated the stated policy. Of course the stated policy was, support them, supply the security assistance, et cetera, and yet that was being held back. No, there was no direct link. And -- but you then have to believe they were operating without the president's direction, which is not credible, frankly, but it gives that window to Republicans to say, you don't have a smoking gun.
GANGEL: Especially since Sondland said everyone was in on it. I mean one of the bombshells yesterday was he said the vice president knew about it. The secretary of state knew about it. Mulvaney knew about it. Perry knew about it. They weren't all going rogue.
BLITZER: The other bombshell was that the president basically delegated Ukraine policy to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland kept saying, whenever he was asked for, you know, specifics, the president would say, ask Rudy, ask Rudy, check in with Rudy. I mean Rudy didn't even have national security clearances to deal with this. He was a private, personal attorney for the president of the United States. GREGORY: Right. So under the best of scenarios, it was incredibly
shoddy, inappropriate, and sleazy in some regards. That's under the best of circumstances.
But we know what the president cares about. We know that he felt sabotaged by Ukraine. We know that his supposed interest in a Ukrainian crackdown on corruption was rooted in a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Fiona Hill is going to talk about that this morning. That's what motivated him.
And it colored everything they did. And people have to remember that. They weren't standing up for the anticorruption fight. This was about whether people were after Trump. That's what he perceived.
This is the same guy who thought Barack Obama wasn't born in America and was a Muslim. Imagine him launching a major investigation based on that.
And, again, I think it's worth repeating, if President Trump was so concerned about corruption in the United States by U.S. officials, he could have gone to the Justice Department. Instead, he's pressuring Ukraine and a fledgling government to investigate his political opponent. That's what I think we have to keep in mind.
SCIUTTO: Well, and actually pressuring them to make an announcement of an investigation, not just --
GREGORY: Yes, not just do it. He --
GANGEL: He just -- he just cared about the announcement. It wasn't --
SCIUTTO: And that -- that was part of Sondland's (INAUDIBLE) --
BLITZER: For political purposes.
SCIUTTO: (INAUDIBLE). And he said it. He said he didn't care if they -- they actually did the investigations. It was about announcing the investigation and making that public. You know, giving him, the president and his team, ammunition to attack a political opponent.
BLITZER: Let's look ahead.
The next hour, two, three, there's going to be some dramatic questioning of David Holmes, the senior U.S. embassy official in Ukraine, who overheard that phone conversation between the president and Ambassador Sondland at that restaurant in Kiev.
GANGEL: So I think David Holmes is going to be very interesting because Gordon Sondland told us yesterday he's not a note taker. David Holmes is a note taker. And he was shocked by that conversation. He went back, he memorialized it. And we're going to hear exactly -- he was able to overhear exactly what was said.
GREGORY: And you know what the attack is going to be on him. You heard it from the Republican counsel yesterday. Boy, in that deposition, he was so enthusiastic. He probably never heard a presidential phone call before. And he was so eager to report out this bad information against Trump.
And Castor (ph) made the point that a lot of these witnesses coming forward in his judgment are resolving inconsistencies or tension or things they don't quite remember in the least favorable light to the president. That's a -- it's a theme you'll hear again.
But this is where there's conflict. This is important. On this call, did Sondland say after this call the president doesn't care at all about, you know, Ukraine, he cares about politics and his own personal interest. That's what Holmes is going to say and it's in conflict.
BLITZER: The other -- the other witness, Dr. Fiona Hill, she will make the point that there -- you know, there was this absurd notion that it was -- that some believe, like the president and Rudy Giuliani, that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, going against everybody else's assessment in the intelligence community.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's also something folks shouldn't forget. U.S. policy on Ukraine was not fact based, right? I mean this was a conspiracy theory that -- that is, frankly, it's a Kremlin talking point, right, to say that it was actually Ukraine because it exculpates Russia then for the interference, which is, of course, it's not just the IC, it's democrats and Republicans on the relevant committee on The Hill. Russia interfered in the election.
So U.S. policy was hijacked, not just by the president's political desires here, but by a false conspiracy theory, which is remarkable to imagine. And, you know, leaving an ally -- hanging an ally out to dry as a result of that.
BLITZER: Yes, it goes against everything that not just Obama intelligence officials said, but Trump intelligence officials, including --
BLITZER: Yes, Pompeo when he was CIA director; Christopher Wray, the FBI director; Mike Pence, the director of national intelligence. All of them said it was Russia who interfered in the U.S. elections in 2016, not Ukraine.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Fiona Hill is important for another reason. She worked for John Bolton, who is not testifying.
But she was in the mix. She was talking to him about this at one point. When she went to him he said go to the Council with this.
So it is unlikely at this point that John Bolton is going to testify; not impossible. But she may be able to fill in some of those gaps.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: Very quickly.
GREGORY: I think one of the things that Sondland presents himself as -- he has some problems, but as somebody who took the job of diplomacy very seriously. And others, including other political appointees, like a John Bolton, found this course that they were on to be really problematic. That's what I think Fiona Hill said --
GANGEL: All of them.
BLITZER: And I know that Bolton found it very problematic --
BLITZER: -- as well and hated this notion that Rudy Giuliani was basically in charge of U.S. --
BLITZER: -- policy --
BLITZER: -- towards Ukraine.
Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we're following.
Still to come, we're going to go live to the White House. How is the president responding this morning?
Day five of the impeachment hearings set to begin in about 90 minutes. We'll have live coverage. Much more right after this.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": All right.
New this morning, we're learning President Trump is telling people inside the White House he doesn't even really know Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Sondland telling lawmakers yesterday in his explosive testimony that everyone understood there was a pressure campaign regarding Ukraine, that they wanted to get these investigations, and that he was simply following orders from President Trump.
CNN White House correspondent Kaitlin Collins joins us with more on that. What is the state of play up there, my friend? KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, it's this really interesting line of defense that the president has taken over the last 24 hours as he's been really in this sustained effort, sources are describing, where he's trying to convince people around him that he doesn't know Gordon Sondland who is, of course, his handpicked ambassador to the European Union.
Now, people have been confused by this -- why the president is trying to insist he doesn't know this person well at all -- because they thought that Republicans actually had a pretty successful line of attack yesterday because Gordon Sondland couldn't testify that the president had explicitly or personally told him that he should withhold that military aid or the White House meeting in exchange for those investigations.
But instead, the president has not been focusing on that as much, instead convincing people he doesn't know Gordon Sondland -- someone who, of course, gave $1 million to his inauguration, who has been on Air Force One.
So it's a really interest line of approach that these people are describing that the president has taken over the last 24 hours.
But it comes as people inside the White House are already looking ahead to Fiona Hill's testimony this morning because essentially, they view her as this is as close as Democrats are getting right now to John Bolton.
Of course, she was one of his top advisers. She was there for a lot of key events. And so they're interested in what she'll say not only about that but also the president's mindset into Russia because, of course, she's someone who had a much harder line against Russia than the president did and she was in the administration for quite some time.
But also, to give you a sense of the irregular channel here and how the president really wasn't that familiar with his NSC staff, Chris, he once mistook Fiona Hill for a secretary.
CUOMO: Hmm, that's not good.
But in terms of why he's saying what he's saying about Ambassador Sondland -- Michael Cohen, he's my lawyer -- talk to him. Michael Cohen, he was never my lawyer.
Rudy Giuliani, great man. He's my lawyer. Is he still my lawyer? Well, I don't know, you're going to have to talk to Rudy.
Kaitlin Collins, thank you very much.
This president knows that when you are in trouble -- in trouble, get away from the people who are part of the trouble.
Joining us now to discuss, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and CNN global affairs analyst, Susan Glasser. And, professor of impeachment law at Tulane Law School and CNN legal analyst, Ross Garber. You can't get more spot-on on the expertise --
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, PROFESSOR OF IMPEACHMENT LAW, TULANE UNIVERSITY: Every once in a while.
CUOMO: -- than that.
All right, so let's play with both of these concepts. Forget about what the president is saying this morning. That's what he does, all right? Let's not let that be the focus. That's the distraction.
The -- there are two ideas. One is it's OK that he went after Ukraine about 2016 interference and it is not impeachable because it's a legitimate thing that he believed. One, could it have been a legitimate thing he believed if he was getting information from people who know what is legitimate, Susan?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: So it's been interesting to watch the Republicans in these hearings sort of advance this among many other theories in the case.
It doesn't seem to me that President Trump's state of mind, whether he was legitimately aggrieved or thought that he was about 2016 or not is relevant.
The question is much different. It is did he do anything improper or illegal to abuse his power to withhold congressionally-appropriated aid -- $400 million?
CUOMO: But he says it's not abuse because --
GLASSER: It doesn't matter what's in his head. It doesn't matter.
CUOMO: But if he thinks you guys messed with me trying to hurt me, went after Manafort, may have screwed with the election, too --
GLASSER: So what?
CUOMO: -- why would I give you the money?
GLASSER: But that's not how our government works. Who cares what he thinks? The issue is whether he abused his power. And it's been fascinating to watch that.
Now again, they're litigating this case in the court of public opinion, but it's been striking. And again, you come again and again to lots of different arguments and I think their strategy really is not even that one as much as it is to just muddy the waters, to confuse us, to throw up a lot of different explanations.
GARBER: Well, although, what's in the president's head actually does matter because the allegation right now has come down to bribery, which under any definition includes corrupt intent. And that is what's in the president's head. And I think what we're -- what we're hearing and what we're going to hear more of is that the president did believe that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election and we're going to hear that Rudy was probably telling him that. And there were press reports at the time saying that, so the president might have justifiably believed that.
And then he also had this concern about potential corruption involving Burisma and Joe Biden's son. And if he honestly believed those things, actually that is a very strong defense to bribery.
CUOMO: It is. However, he winds up in the same place because that's why you know -- to your point about this being complicated, you wind up both being right.
If this were a criminal prosecution you've got to prove corrupt intent, the solicitation would be the bribe. However, in this process you don't need to show a crime. You do need to show an intent to abuse your power.
And that is where he has trouble here, Ross, is that he didn't want to give them the aid, he did not use the right mechanism to get it, it is not just a niggling detail, it was malfeasance or maladministration of office, and he never cared about any of this with Burisma until Biden announced for office.
GARBER: The maladministration is one of those things that the framers actually specifically considered including in the impeachment provision and decided not to.
GARBER: Why, because it was too low a bar. It was -- it was far too low a bar. If you include maladministration -- bad governing -- essentially, that makes Congress the president's boss and the framers did not want to do that.
So, it's not -- maladministration doesn't cut it.
CUOMO: So the problem today for him is you have Fiona Hill -- once again, someone with an impeccable pedigree -- who comes forward and says it is irrational to believe Ukraine was coming after us and anyone who told him that, he was believing irrational things, which means that they're almost going to wind up subscribing to an idea that he had no right to think anything else.
GLASSER: Well --
CUOMO: And then Holmes is going to say and you were all about getting the Bidens. You had no noble ideas of corruption.
GLASSER: Well, that's right. I mean, look, you know, it's interesting.
The president, from the beginning, has said read the perfect transcript of the perfect phone call. And, in fact, in the perfect phone call he does not discuss the word corruption. He simply brings up --
GLASSER: -- the Bidens. And he's very explicit in that, number one.
Number two, Fiona Hill's testimony is going to be that's it beyond any doubt -- it is not a subject of dispute that it was Russia and not Ukraine that intervened.
And, of course, the President of the United States has been briefed on this again and again by his own advisers -- by the head of the entire U.S. Intelligence Community. His advisers claim that they accept this finding and yet, he, himself, continued to promote this debunked --
GLASSER: -- conspiracy theory as you now hear Republicans on Capitol Hill.
CUOMO: You got it.
GLASSER: It was a very interesting moment when you had Kurt Volker the other day who Republicans thought maybe he would help them in their testimony.
GLASSER: And he said this is crazy. This is not real.
CUOMO: You never know until they actually testify.
And we've got breaking news right now. We have a much better idea of exactly what Dr. Fiona Hill is going to say. Wolf, you've got that news.
BLITZER: Yes, we got the breaking news. We got a copy of Fiona Hill's opening statement in today's public impeachment hearing that's getting ready to begin now.
Let's go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, what are you learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fiona Hill had some very strong words for members of the House Intelligence Committee -- Republican members who have pushed the notion that Ukraine may have meddled in U.S. politics.
Also, rejecting the claim that the president, himself, has made suggesting that Ukraine may have meddled. Rudy Giuliani suggesting that as well. The president even floating that to the Ukrainian president.
Also, this being noted as part of a condition for everything that we're talking about here -- roughly $400 million in military aid and the like, and this meeting in Washington. But, Fiona Hill is going to say that this is a dangerous narrative
that could only help Russia by pushing the notion -- false notion that Ukraine meddled in the election. And she says exactly this.
She said, "Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country -- and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."
Now, she goes on to talk more about the unprecedented role of all this. And then she goes on to essentially call out the president, himself, saying, Wolf, that "If the President, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention.
So very strong words we expect from her in just about over an hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thank you very much.
I want to get reaction to all of the breaking news. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar -- she's standing by live. We'll discuss that and more when we come back.
BLITZER: Right now, we're awaiting the arrival of two more key witnesses in the public impeachment hearings as the drama continues to unfold here in Washington.
Twenty twenty Democratic presidential candidates take on impeachment on the debate stage last night. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I learned something about these impeachment trials. I learned, number one, that Donald Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just to be clear, the president's already confessed to it on television.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a criminal living in the White House.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What this impeachment proceeding is about is really our democracy at stake. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How did Ambassador Sondland get there? You know, this is not a man who had any qualifications except one -- he wrote a check for $1 million.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump because if we are, you know what? We're going to lose the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right.
I'm pleased now to be joined by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Thanks so much, Senator, for joining us. I know you've got a --
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: -- busy schedule today.
But let me quickly get your reaction to this very dramatic testimony that we're about to hear from Dr. Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser on the National Security Council. Among other things, she blasts those who believe it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. And I know you've spent a lot of time investigating this yourself.
KLOBUCHAR: She is being a truth-teller here and she is going to be a no-nonsense witness with a lot of expertise -- someone who was right there in the White House advising the president, advising his team.
And, of course, it's true. Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said it. Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence.
All of the top intelligence people for the Trump administration, following what the Obama administration also had said, which is there is unbelievably strong proof here that Russia invaded our election. Of course, they did it with social media propaganda and then they attempted to hack into the election equipment of all 50 states.
And it wasn't just meddling. That's what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she's doing.
No, this was an invasion. And they didn't use tanks and they didn't use planes, but what they did use is a cyberattack.
And for the president to act like he thought maybe it was Ukraine when Ukraine actually has been a victim, just like the United States, of cyberattacks by Russia, that makes no sense at all.
BLITZER: You know, and it's interesting. The U.S. Intelligence Community has concluded during the Obama administration and during the Trump administration that the Russian goal was to sow political dissent here in the United States.
And she writes this in her opening statement -- Dr. Fiona Hill. "The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident
today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined."
Do you agree with that assessment that from the Russian perspective, mission accomplished? There's a lot of political dissent as a result of all of this.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. I think you also could hear the words of Marie Yovanovitch, that career public servant who has given her life for diplomacy for our nation, when she said that basically, the State Department has been hollowed out.
Some of that is because of Donald Trump's constant foreign affairs dictates and the things that he's done and the things that he's said that people disagree with, but a lot of this has to do with this divide all the time that we've seen all over the world. And a lot of this has been furthered.
This is exactly what Russia wants. They want people to not like our government internationally; they want people to not like our government and our institutions domestically.
They would literally play on both sides of the issue on social media, on energy, on guns. There's ample proof that they were literally putting up Facebook postings, some of them bought in rubles, on both sides of issues -- getting me to my Honest Ads Act which if we don't pass that, I don't know how we're ever going to be able to have a fair election.
Because, right now, anyone can buy ads on social media -- a few of them are voluntarily posting them. But you can literally post what you want and you don't have to say who paid for it like you do on CNN or on any other T.V. or radio.
BLITZER: Senator, Bernie Sanders says that Democrats can't afford to be consumed by President Trump and this impeachment inquiry.
How do you do that when you, for example -- you would be acting -- you're a United States senator -- potentially as a juror in a Senate trial?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I will have my constitutional duty. This comes first. This is a really important moment for our country as we look at a president that has put his private interests in front of our country's interests, and in real time, right now, the American people are seeing it.
But it does meld into this presidential campaign. I'm not going to think about it as a scheduling issue. I'm thinking about it as part of a bigger theme.
I think you do have to talk about President Trump because as you look at this election you've got a fired-up Democratic base but you also have Independents and moderate Republicans that see this as a patriotism check -- a values check. As I said last night in the debate in Atlanta, a decency check.
And they -- yes, they don't like what's happening economically with pharmaceutical prices and health care. But a lot of them voted in Kentucky and Virginia and in other places -- they voted Democratic because they just can't stand what this guy is doing to our country.
If we don't understand that, we're going to screw up this election. And I'm the candidate that can bring these people in, along with our fired Democratic base, so we can win.
So, at the core of the impeachment proceeding, it is a legal proceeding -- that is true. There's going to be tons of witnesses. But for the heart of America right now, this is a decency check on this guy and whatever happens with his impeachment proceeding they still don't want him in the White House.
And if we lose those people because we put someone on the top of the ticket that is trying to throw them off their current insurance in four years or make everything free, we're not going to win big that we need to do to get things done, like climate change, immigration reform, gun safety. That's the case I'll be making.
BLITZER: Before I let you go, Senator, very quickly I want you to elaborate if you -- if you can -- a political question about your comments when you were asked at the debate last night about Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his qualifications to be president.
Give us your sense.
KLOBUCHAR: I made very clear over the last few weeks that I think the mayor is qualified and as I said last night, I'm honored to stand with him on the stage.
But my bigger point was this. There is a higher standard for women in politics.
All you have to do is look at our 45 House presidents and play the game name your favorite woman president. There hasn't been one. There hasn't been a woman vice president.
We must be held to some kind of higher standard and I really wanted to make the voters think about it, not because I'm making the case hey, elect me because I'm a woman. I've never made that case in any of my elections for D.A. or for senator. But I made the case because I want them to think differently.
It doesn't have to be the tallest person in the room or the skinniest person in the room or the loudest person in the room. What should matter is it's someone who can get things done and be competent and tell the truth and have the back of the American people. That's me.
I've passed over 100 bills across the aisle as a senator -- as a lead Democrat. You want to win big, look at what I've done winning suburban districts, red rural districts, bright blue districts over and over again, bringing people with me -- Republicans, Independents, Democrats leading a ticket.
I don't see this as a personal victory; I see it as a national victory. So that was the point I really made in Atlanta.
And I do value Mayor Pete's experience. I just think I'm more qualified. I've had that local experience but I've also had 14 years in the private sector and 12 years in the U.S. Senate working to get things done for America. I think that should matter.
BLITZER: Senator Klobuchar, good luck out there on the campaign trail.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Good to see you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
Once again, we're only one hour away now from the start of day five in the impeachment hearings. Two key witnesses set to arrive moments from now. We'll have extensive live coverage. That's coming up.