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tv   Washington Week  PBS  November 15, 2019 7:30pm-8:01pm PST

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robert:impeachment hearings begin but will the public be swed? dueling political arguments. >> if is notch imple conduct, what is?n the m performance, the russia hoax, has ended, you've been castn the low-rent ukraini sequel. robert: as careeripmats testify. >> a member of my staff could hear president trump on the phone asking ambassador sondland about the investigations. >> shady interests the world over l haverned how little it takes to remove an american ambassador who does not give them what they want. robert: week one of public impeachment hearings comes to a close with many lingering questions, next. announcer: this is."washington we
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funding is provided by -- >> there's a moment, a moment of realization, of understandin a moment where everything is clear. atidelity, wealth planning isar about y, knowing who you are, where you've been, an where you want to go. that's fidelity manageme >> additional funding is provided by -- koo and patricia yuen, through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator robert costa.
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robert:good evening public impeachment hearings began this week with opening statements by adam schif democratic chairman of the house intelligence committee, and republican devin nunes, the committee's ranking member. they revealed the fault les in congress and the nation. >> if we find that the president of the united states abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did soy withholding official acts, a white house eting orundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, must we simply get over it? >> ambassador taylor and mr. kent, i'd like to welcome you here. i'd like to congratulate you for passing the democrats' "star chamber"el auditionsfor the last week in the basement of the capitol. stage for the ongoing battle over president trump's conduct,
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his allissure campaign of ukraine and whether it merits impeachment. ining me tonight are four reporters fresh and maybe a bit tired after long days inside the capitol and at the white house. yamiche alcindor, white house correspondent for the "pbs nehour," dan balz of "the washington post," heather tiygle with "po" and michael crowley, white house correspondent fo"the new york times". the focal point of this house inquiry remains the seasoned envoys who came forward to bear witness, civil servants who spoke of rattled diplomatic ranks and alliances and friday, former ambassador to ukraine, marie yovanovitch,de and presint trump tweeted as she spoke. >> as we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on twitter and i'd like to give you a chance to respond. i'll read part of one of his tweets.
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went turned bad.e yovanovitch she started off in somalia, how did that go? would youike to respond tohe president's attack that everywhere you went turned bad? i have such powers, not insh moga somalia, and not in other places. i actually think that where i've served over the years, i and others, have demonstrably made things better. >> what effect do you think that has on other witnesses'gn wills to come forward and expose wrongdoing? >> well, it's very intimidating. robert: as michael recently wrote with his colleagues in "t times," "rarelyst has the e department been the center of a revolt against a president and his top appointees." michael, we saw the president of
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e united states respond in realtime to impeachment testimony. what kind of clash doee you between the executive branch and the non-partisan civil servants who form the diplomatic cps? michael: it's a clash that has been ongoing for years now and is reachin a crescendo. career civil servants and foreign servicefficers at the state department feel that under president trump ty have been disrespected, their profession has been degraded, foreign policy has been wander -- warped in ways they have never seen before. their morale is terrible. there have been huge attemed budgetuts at the state department. terrible for sorale ando there's a deep frustration and a see for morale just being at rock bottom. what has happened in the last few weeks with the impeachment inquiry is a kind of swelling of pride that, in a way now the
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civil service, foreign service offirs, are standing up, they're fighting back, they're showing america and the world the best they have to offer. people like marie yovanovitch and bill taylo are exemplary diplomats who have enormous and peers and so there's pride. but there's still a sense of, i think deep foreboding that they may be a little better now, there mayen be a m where these civil servants are showing what they can do and standing up for their core principles but the long-term picture for them is not good. robert: yamiche, you just came white house, thell did with pbs' coverage. what was the white house's straasgy? or it just the president lashing out? yamiche: the white house strategy was to have a rapidse respeam that was supposed counsel staff, directors,se legislative affairs and assistants. we saw the president become the number one person talking for
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the white house and the esident responding i realtime to a public hearing in a way we hearings.blic in think of robert mueller and special counsel, personal, attornchael cohen, they came bore congress and had high-profile public hearingsut the preside really went after ambassador yovanovitch and said this is a bad ambassador andad really it personal and defended his tweets even ashe republicans onill were saying what the president did was not really right. liz cheney,hi the ranking republican in the house. she said the president shouldn't have tweeted that.ji jordan, who was put on the house intel to defend the pres,ent, later said, h you know what, ambassador yovanovitch ieo s who is a tough woman, i praise her service so the wte house is on an island by itself with president trump attacking marie yovanovitch. robert: dan, you came to washington in 1972 to report on this town and politics. u've seen an impeachment
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proceeding with president nixon, an extramarital affair lead to trial in 1999 and impeachment in the hse for president clinton. what do you make of today and what it tells us about this moment and the i institutions this country? dan: we've used the word "extraordinary" around this table for the past three years most every friday night and it's a justifiable wordthgain week. y to -- to see what the president did in the middle o this hearing i think caught everybody by surprise and after he did that, republicans were in many ways set back. one after another ended up praising the former ambassador in ways that were a little bit surprising given that they are trying to drive a wedge into this proceeding. so i think that we are at a stage in this where the lines are clearly drawn and yet the president continues to he the capability to kind of up-end the table.
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and it puts republicans in a very difficult spot and givenim tey that we'veeard, testimony that is coming and e in things that broke l the day, he's got a number of bad days ahead of him. now, where this all ends, we'll wa and see. but today was an example of the kind of problem he's got. robert: let's hear a little bit more of that testimony. theeang started wednesday with testimony from bill taylor, ting u.s. ambassador to ukraine and he offered new information about a presidential call. the member of my staff could hear president trump on the phone aing ambassador sondland about thes. investigati ambassador sondland told president trump the ukrainians wereeady toe forrd. following the call with president trump, 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,hich giuliani was. pressing f robert: heather, we h these
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two ambassadors testify this week and breaking news friday night. david holmes, the state department aide who overheard president trump's call with u.s. ambassador sondland, said the quote, do anything you asked him to do and the ukrainians w de willing the investigation. you cover speaker pelosi, house democrats. when they goome this week and huddle on the phone and step back and look atny this testi and breaking news, what do they feel they've accomplished in this inquiry? heather: democrats, they think that they have been able to methodically andhohtfully make this case to the public with these hearings this week. for them going into these hearings, they looked back on how they handledue theer report and felt those hearings in the judiciary commiee were a disaster so for the most part this week was about letting theseloareer dts tell their story and tell what they've heard and get out of the way. and now t they'lln to, we have eight more folks who will
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testify nextyeek, v high-profile people. and democrats are trying to figure out howel best to this to the public and that's why we've seen them use more commonplace words like bribery this week rather than quid pro quo because polling shows that quid pro quo doesn'tth break ugh to voters but bribery does. robert: we learned more about this cal ambassador sondland had with president trump back in the summer. does this bring -- all this president, micg it closer to the michael: sure, in this casou have a phone call to ambassador sondland who i think is in a restaurant in kyiv and the president speaks so loudly through the phone that two embassy officials who are with sondland in the restaurant can hear theresident's voice and according to the account given andthe house today, son evidently held the phone away from his ear because the president was blasting so loudly in his ear.
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let's set aside fore a min who might be intercepting a call like that. it's a citthat the russians heavily surveille so it's not secure and two people who heard the president's voice and also heard sondland essentially recount what the embassy staffers heard the president say which is basically iant the hinvestigations, alle really cares about when it comes to ukraine policy is investigating joe biden and this, frankly, totally debunked they that ukraine hacked the democratic servers in the 2016 election. abert: so much of this iut the culture around president trump in his administration, his inner circle. we saw friy roger stone, his long-time confidante, convicted of lying to congress. whenou think abouthe presre campaign by rudy giuliani who you've covered extensively and we've all got cn thels from mayor julianney. giuliani. what culture emerged from this house have a response for how
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they conducted foreign policy?ya che: at the center of the culture is president trump and president trump is looking ate s. government and i think we can objectively say he's saying how can all these agencies make sure i continue to be re-elected andol haveical success and how can ise these people to go to foreign countries and make sure i get information that will help me peonally. that's something president trump is saying he has a right to do president. mick mulvaney said this is foreign policy, this is how elections work. >> get over it, he said. yamiche: yeah, so there'sidhis that president trump is saying my personal attorney, ruth bader rudy n giuliani, yd to work with these people, go out and find what i need you to find when it com to these bind -- biden investigations. robert: the president believes he has a right to do this. he sai he has a right to free speech and has a right to fire
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the ambassador.av he may the right to, dan, legally speaking, but what about the norms in this country when it comes to dealing withrehe n policy branch of the government, different people who work on diplomacy. ho does that affect the presidency when they interact with diplomats in this way? dan: he's literally correct that diplomats serve a the pleasure of the president as do all senior level officials in the government and presidents have the right to designate an emissar to carry out aspects of foreign policy who may not be exactly in the main line of the state department on special assignment or thing like that. but traditionally, people who are in those positions, or asked to do those kinds of things, are doing it to carry out the policy of the united states government. and what we've learned so far is that what rudy giuliani was doing was carrying out a policy specifically to helppresident
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trn a political missi as opposed to carrying out policy with respect to ukraine that has been long-standi policy. so he's warped the process through doing this even though he has a right to free speech, certainly, and a right to decide who should or shouldn't be an ambassador. robert: for house democrats, is it all about aassador sondland now? who's the key witness? bolton is held up in federal court -- what are they looking to build upon thi week? heather: i think holmes, the fellowho testified behind closed doors, they may be asking whether he should come forward publicly. we're seeing eight witne over three days, enormous amount of testimony. robert: why are they doing it with tha time line? heather: thanksgiving is the next week and they know people will turn away from this andn focusamily and when they come back they want to pivot to the house judiciary comrsttee in the week of december and move to mark up articles of
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impeachment if that's what they choose to do which many lawmakers say privately they theory, that will, in allow them to vote on the articles the third week of december and congrsve l for christmas. robert: do we know exactly what the articles would be based on your conversation with housecr des? heather: there's a lot of speculation. they say they have enough to do obstruction of congress given all of the stonewalling and things like that they say they have enough to do obstruction of justice, given things likpr whaident trump did today, attacking yovanovitch, they call witne intimidation. and then abuse of power, the case they're trying to make here. ey've told me they don't want to do more than a handful of articlhe becausedon't want to lose the public's attention and overwhelm folks who may be undecided about this and have a middle-of-the-road opinion going into the election next year. robert: t's stick with the arguments they're making to the country. here's ohio congressman jim
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jordan. >> four facts will never change. t speaks for itself. there was no conditionality, no quid pro q in the transcript, no pressure, no pushing, no linkage to investigations. and, of course, president investigations prior to the aid being released and the ukraians didn't know the aid was on hold at the time of the call. robert: speakerosi discussed possible bribery charges. >> quid pro quo, bbery, and at is in the constitution, attached to the impeachment proceedings. >> what the bribe here? >> the bribe is withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into theel tions. that's bribery. robert: as heather wrote for "polico," the speaker's remark strongef her statements yet.
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yamiche, heather also brought up how theov democrats areg away from quid pro quo. what is the white house moving toward, an argument about, quote, seconhand information?at the counter argument at yamiche: there are by my count at least 15 different responses from the white house. everything from this is hearsay to this is an unfair process and the democrats are mad about the 2016 ection and they want to undo it and are trying to find any way to get president trump out of offe. we don't see, i think, a central message from the white house and today we saw t h president met with 120 house republicans. he's als met with 42 republican senators who, after all those meetings, he then started tweeting about ambassador yovanovitch and upended all of the republican messaging so there, don't see, a central messaging strategy from the white house as it goes fward. robert: where is the country on this, dan? you've studied polling.
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dan: when the ukraine story first broke, we saw a spike in support for impeach and remove from office, in someays surprisingly given where public opinion had been through the mueller report. since then i think we've sn a hardening of the lines. the support for impeachment in a number of the recent pollsas not gone up much, if at all, from where it was in the early t stage ukraine story, whereas the opposition has tickedit up a littlend i think that we've seen that certainly in the way the republicans have approached this, in the degre to which there are no real cracks public yet inost of the republican conference in either the house or the senate. there are a few people but for the most part everybody is standi firm. so i think it is a challenge for the democrats. the politics of thi are obviously fraught. it seemed as though the speaker was drawn into moving in this
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direction as opposed to wanting to do so, that she felt a tutional obligation giv what we have learned over the last month or plus but tf politics o it are difficult and i think that's what the wrestling with as they pus forward. robert: there could be a curveball, micel. we hav an i.g. report possible coming out in the next couple of weeks from the department of stice looking at the russia probe into president trump's campaign. attorney geral bill barr was at the white house this week. we're not entirely sure about that i.g. report looms on the trizon. we beganight talking about clashing of institutions. what could that i.g. report mean tohe partly impeachmentry inq michael: one of the arguments we're hearing from the president and his defenders is, in effect, this is the deep state. they've been trying to sge a coup against him since the day he was inaug iugurated and the
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bureaucracy is democratic. these people wanted hillary clinton to win and they'll do whateer they h to to get president trump out of office and that was the argument from the russia investigation coming from the psident and his allies, it's a deep state coup. we're hearing the same words verbatim today. that i.g. report could me the case that the russia instigation itself was somehow fundamentally unfair, extra-legal and legallyva mod and the president i'm sure willay, you see, this is just happening to me left andgh that's all they want to do. and i think a lot of his supporters wil accept that argument and say it's the swamp and they're out to getim. robert: this idea of a deep state. you see this in e republican argument about the whi tleblower sayi democrats must call forward the whistleblower. the proceedings otol hill?g into heather: they brought the
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whtleblower up aga today, republicansid. democrats have a fairly coherent argument against it which is the witness they've called soall far have not heard anything firsthand, this is hearsay. the whistleblower account by their definition would be hearsay becausee was compiling reports from white house officials who were on the call with the president and the ukrainian president so democra look backnd say why should we call him or her if thiis just hearsay and you're going to dismiss it anyway. that's a back-and-rth but this shows how republicans defense and sategy is all over the map and they haven't been able to find anything that sticks. lyey said priva today there was a break in between the hearing after the t oet and the rethe hearing, break for votes, and they said that, you know, they were dumfounded by trump's tweet because they had spent many hours this week having mock hearings and seniorl rean leaders cautioned their lawmakers, do not attack yovanovitch, do not attack
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yovanovitch. and then president trump did itt and they had to defend or dismiss it in a way. robert: yamiche, you brought up how the president is meeting with republican senators. there's a trial in the horizon. i was at the senate this week talking to different republicans. there's a divide over whether the trial should be fiveas weeks t was for president clinton in 1999 or six to eight weeks, senator burr was talking about that or whetherho itd be just a week long, senator paul what does the white house want? yamiche: i think the white house in some ways wants in whatever ends in president trump being acquitted. i think that's the most important to them. i think there is some thought that if you drag itut and it starts going into the democratic in iowale this trial ise voting still going on, that could bein distra because you have several senators running for the democratic nomination that woula to be sitting for this trial so that would be elizabee warren, bernders, others. but i think there's also this idea that president trump wants
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this to be over. these tweets today and all sorts of comments he's making, this is not the president that we've seen deal with oth public hearings. so i think the president is, ev as he says he welcomed the impeachment inquiry and wanted to make he, c think we see a president that's very agitated. robert: some of these republican senators are quiet. they keep saying they're juror and don't want to comment. what's yr read? michael: i don't see a. fissu i think of it like, will these hearings have a stick of dymite to blast it open? will the be a moment that really changes the dynamic? i think you need a big blast to dot. what we've seen so far has been chipping away bit by bit but i don't think it's going to be enough. wel see what happens. but the republican senors have ng pretty tight. there were some pretty dark days during the mueller investigation. a lot of reason to think themi president have been obstructing justice. that didn't do it for them. on that are going to be holding
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their breaths for a long time. robert: what explains that, dan, the republican party, despite notoving president trump privately, sometimes publicly, sticking with him? dan: i think it's the division in the country and the degree which those lines have been and continue to be very, very hardened. i would think that the one thing that would affect republican senators is if there were a significant moveub inc opinion away from the president. his approval rating, ase've known for three years, has basically traveled in a very narrow range. itoesn't go very high or very low from where it started out. that, i think, is why we see whate see in terms of impeachment. the impeachment public opinion today is similar to his approval rating. that doesn't move much. robert: we have to leave it there. thanks so much for coming in on a friy night, really appreciate it. it was busy. join us for the "washington wk extra." we'll continue this discussion
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onlineal and 20/20. i'm robert costa. good night. announcer: corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- additional funding is provided by -- koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences inur communities. the corporation for public oadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers le you. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >>oue watching pbs.
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