Joe Biden campaigns off impeachment inquiry hearings

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 15, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF.: Were you involved in the July 25th Trump-Zelensky phone call or preparations for the call?


NUNES: Were you involved in the deliberations about the pause in military sales to Ukraine?

YOVANOVITCH: No, I was not.

NUNES: Not exactly sure what the ambassador is doing here today.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF.: I want to bring our attention to someone who thought you were actually very important to this whole plot or scheme, and that is the president of the United States. He connects you somehow with this prosecutor you are at odds with and his desire to see this investigation of Biden go forward.

YOVANOVITCH: You're absolutely right. That is the thought progression.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK, R-N.Y.: In terms of defensive legal aid which you are an advocate for, that was not provided by President Obama. It was provided by President Trump.

YOVANOVITCH: That's correct.

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP, R-OH: I want to provide the point that the president has a right to have their own foreign policy and to make their own decisions.

YOVANOVITCH: What I do wonder is why it was necessary to smear my reputation.


BRET BAIER, HOST: A long day of hearings today, the second day of public impeachment hearings in the big allegation by Democrats, which is now being called bribery, and we've confirmed that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee actually did some focus groups to get from quid pro quo to bribery. But a lot of testimony and questions by Republicans of the former Ukrainian ambassador about whether she had direct knowledge of any of that.


REP. CHRIS STEWART, R-UT: Do you have any information regarding the president of the United States accepting any bribes?


STEWART: Do you have any information regarding any criminal activity that the president of the United States has been involved with at all?



BAIER: With that, let's start there, bring in our panel, Byron York, chief political correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for "Reuters," and Steve Hayes, editor of "The Dispatch." Byron?

BRYON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, Yovanovitch was clearly the Democrats most effective witness so far. The other two witnesses who had been called on Wednesday, Kent and Taylor, set up the broad outlines of the story, and she was the victim in this. She loses her job.

But one weakness in her testimony, as you saw in her disposition as well is she never quite knows what's happening. She knows what's happening to her. She has a Ukrainian telling her to watch her back, or they're out for you. But she really doesn't actually know what was going on and can't testify to what was going on.

So the Democrats have a very strong case when they present her as the victim of this plot from Rudy Giuliani, and the Republicans were fairly strong when they tried to ask, tried to get into the idea of, were some of the president's concerns actually legitimate? Were there people in Ukraine taking some role in the 2016 election? Was there corruption that involve the Bidens? And the interesting thing is she didn't really know much about it.

BAIER: Right. And that was where the hearing was going, and the argument by Republicans that ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, and she was agreeing with all of that, until this tweet. And take a listen to Adam Schiff and the president defending himself.


SCHIFF: As we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter. I'll read part of one of his tweets. "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad." Is it designed to intimidate, is it not?

YOVANOVITCH: I can't speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating.

TRUMP: I have the right to speak, I have freedom of speech just as other people do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe your tweets or words could be intimidating?

TRUMP: I don't think so at all.


BAIER: That is how Adam Schiff then, characterized it. And just to be fair, we'll read the whole tweet. "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. Started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine where the new Ukrainian president spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. president's absolute right to appoint ambassadors. They call it serving at the pleasure of the president. The U.S. has now a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than preceding administrations. It is called quite simply America First! With all of that, however, I have done far more for Ukraine than O," being Obama. Jeff?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Yes, and that was one of the points that he wanted to make today and that some of the other Republicans wanted to make today, particularly with regard to lethal aid. But broadly that tweet was probably helpful to the Democrats, and I suspect that President Trump's lawyers were not consulted before he sent that because I can't imagine that they would have wanted to see that landing particularly at the time that it did.

BAIER: We talked about on the panel today how Ken Starr and others said it would be a stretch to get to intimidation. Schiff read it to her. She wouldn't have known about it unless he did. That said, it was a mark, a moment, a gift, really, to the Democrats in the testimony.

STEVE HAYES, CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think there is any doubt that it was. I don't think the president sat down and thought, this is how I'm going to intimidate Marie Yovanovitch. I think it would have the effect, as she said, of intimidating subsequent witnesses potentially, making them nervous about testifying against the president for fear of this kind of tweet. I think it probably had that effect on members of Congress.

BAIER: What about the substance of her testimony, about the direct knowledge of anything?

HAYES: I thought she was very effective. She never claimed to have direct knowledge. If you go back and you read the transcript of her deposition, she readily admits, she puts this out there. She says, look, I was gone before what most of what you all are focused on is happening. But I think the Democrats brought her in, sort of set the stage to describe what she saw as the senior most diplomat from the United States in Ukraine.

I thought she was very effective in that role for reasons that we saw just in the clip you've just played. She was very restrained. She never went beyond what she knew. In that she was asked whether the president meant to intimidate her, and she said, well, I don't know what the president meant, but this is the effect it had to. And she did that time and time again. I thought Democrats pushed a little too hard trying to make her emotional, trying to elicit emotional responses from her. And she didn't do that either, which I thought also enhanced her credibility.

BAIER: Here is Rush Limbaugh's take on the day.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You elected Donald Trump to drain the swamp? Well, dismissing people like Yovanovitch is what it looks like. Dismissing people like Kent, dismissing people like Taylor, dismissing everybody involved from the Obama holdover days trying to undermine Trump.

In his phone call with Zelensky, the new president of Ukraine, talking about CrowdStrike, Trump is clearly trying to get to the bottom of the effort to overturn the 2016 presidential elections. To do that, he's got to get rid and dismiss people who are running interference and trying to protect the people who were part of that effort. Yovanovitch is one of them.


BAIER: What I didn't get was the Republican questioning by the GOP lawyer, counsel, why they don't try to tie Yovanovitch to Poroshenko, the previous president, and why not emphasize that here is a change in the regime, maybe we should have a change in an ambassador, and hit that, and they didn't.

YORK: They didn't make the case. And Rudy Giuliani released this statement today saying I've got all this evidence about this stuff.

BAIER: Three pages.

YORK: Terrible things that Yovanovich said about Trump and all of this other stuff, and he hasn't really produced.

BAIER: Not only that, but they didn't ask about any of that.

YORK: That's right. And the most effective questioning came from Elise Stefanik and Jim Jordan and John Ratcliffe, not from the counsel. You have to say that the Democratic counsel, who has had a turn as a television commentator, did a better job with that. But if you are going to make the case that she was dismissed for cause, there was a reason to do it, then you ought to just lay out what the reasons were.

BAIER: You mentioned Stefanik, she is a rising star in these hearings. Here's an exchange where she's talking about the State Department and the Bidens.


STEFANIK: The first time you personally became aware of Burisma was actually when you were being prepared by the Obama State Department for your Senate confirmation hearing. Can you testify that in this particular practice Q&A with the Obama State Department, it wasn't just generally about Burisma and corruption, it was specifically about Hunter Biden and Burisma? Is that correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, it is.

STEFANIK: And the exact quote from your testimony, ambassador, is, quote, the way the question was phrased in this model Q&A was what can you tell us about Hunter Biden being named the board of Burisma?


BAIER: She went on, Yovanovitch, to say that she thought it was a major problem perception-wise, the Biden situation.

MASON: Yes. And that's the narrative that Republicans would like to hear more about, and that's why they are pushing to be able to ask those types of questions. It's why they've said that Hunter Biden should be added to the witness list. That's the counterstrategy for this from the Republican side, and certainly that's in line with what President Trump would like to see. And you saw a lot of frustration from the president today in that tweet, in the event where he was talking about health care earlier as well, and chatted with us journalists a little bit. He's frustrated, and he would like to see more about this and less about the other.

BAIER: We've got breaking stories now.

President Trump has made decisions about clemency for three U.S. servicemembers. They are an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon for former First Lieutenant Clint Lorance who was convicted of second-degree murder for ordering his soldiers to open firing and kill three men in Afghanistan, former Army Major Matthew Golsteyn, who, accused of murdering a Taliban bombmaker, and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher was reinstated to his previous rank before his trial when he was acquitted of wounding ISIS detainee but found guilty of a lesser charge, taking a photograph with a separate dead ISIS fighter. All three of them now full pardon clemency. Steve, what about this?

HAYES: I don't of the details of each of the stories, so I don't want to attempt to weigh in on --

BAIER: On the details.

HAYES: -- whether it makes sense or not. But certainly, this is something that President Trump has shown an interest in in the past. It's something that will no doubt please his political base.

BAIER: Next up, Friday lightning round, and we'll get around the horn.



JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These impeachment hearings are about what kind of commander in chief America should have. And Donald Trump I believe is a threat to national security. I think that's what they're going to conclude. So if you could help me, chip in two dollars, five dollars, anything to enable us to be able to continue this campaign in a way that makes sure that Donald Trump is a one-term president.


BAIER: Joe Biden, a pitch there on the trail. Back with the panel. Byron, as this impeachment hearing goes on, Republicans are bringing up Biden and Bidens every time.

YORK: Every single day. And the Democrats job is to keep him out of it. I was talking earlier about whether the president's concerns were legitimate. The Democrats' job is to shut that down. And I don't think they'll be able to because you have to give the Republicans 45 minutes, and they're going to talk about it.

BAIER: That means we have to take a trip down to Candidate Casino. It's Friday. You've got $100 in chips, Democratic primary, you've got to spend them. Jeff?

MASON: I'm going equal time to all the top candidates, $25 to Biden, to Buttigieg, to Warren, and to Sanders.

BAIER: Risky. Steve?

HAYES: I'm pretty chalky, too, today. I'm doing $35 to Warren, $25 to Biden, $25 to Buttigieg, $15 either on the field or on Roger Stone getting a pardon.

BAIER: We didn't talk about that on the panel, another big event today, seven counts. But do you think he gets down?

HAYES: I do.

BAIER: You do think he gets one.

HAYES: I put $15 on it.

BAIER: OK, the field includes Bloomberg and Deval Patrick, I think.

YORK: I put $45 on Warren, she's been sliding in the polls, but she's the only candidate in the frontrunners who won't turn 80 in the White House, so that's something, $15 bucks for Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg, $5 for Oprah, because if Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick can reconsider their decisions not to run, she can, too. And five bucks for the rest of the field.

BAIER: There you go. All right, let's do Winner and Losers. Byron, you start. Winner?

YORK: The winner is Brett Kavanaugh, who is still on the Supreme Court, and I give him the winner spot because the loser are the anti-Kavanaugh protesters who simply cannot let go. Kavanaugh gave a speech close to here last night and they showed up with a giant screen and they played Christine Blasey Ford's testimony from the hearings. They've got to move on.

BAIER: And the loser?

YORK: Those are the losers, the protestors.

BAIER: Oh, that was the loser. I'm sorry. I was just going to give another loser. It's a big week. All right, winner and loser?

MASON: Winner, former President Jimmy Carter who is recovering well, apparently, from surgery to remove fluid from his brain. That's good news. And I think losers, I think Roger Stone lost the week.

BAIER: Yes. Winner and loser?

HAYES: So my winner is Marie Yovanovitch for the reasons that I already laid out. My loser is Matthew Dowd, ABC political analyst, who tweeted that Elise Stefanik's questioning of witnesses in the impeachment hearings was a reminder that just because she's a woman and a millennial, she's not the kind of leader the country needs. He later deleted this tweet. I'm troubled by the president's behavior in a way that Elise Stefanik clearly is not, judging from her questioning, but we can have that this agreement. You don't have to be condescending. She doesn't need to be condescended to by a resistance clearly cheerleader posing as an analyst.

BAIER: So let's just look ahead to next week, biggest testimony, Ambassador Sondland?

YORK: His testimony has got big because of these contradictions in his stories. But I think the bigger one is going to be Colonel Vindman, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is going to talk. And then Fiona Hill who really does know about what was going on in the White House will be I believe the only witness on Thursday.

BAIER: Do you think, Jeff, that the president will again not watch?


MASON: Not watch, and just kind of tweet based on what people tell him. No, I think he's going to watch. I think he's following this very, very closely because -- I don't need to say this. It affects him very, very directly. So yes, he's watching it.

BAIER: And our big thing was, did it move any votes, these hearings so far?

HAYES: I don't think what we've seen so far will move votes. I think Gordon Sondland will be a crucial witness. I think he's going to have to revise -- I thought his testimony last week, the disposition that was released, was damaging. I think he is going to have to revise that. And he's in a corner. He's going to have to provide, I think, more testimony than he can reconcile with these other witnesses that we've seen.

BAIER: We'll cover it all. When we come back, "Notable Quotables."


BAIER: This should be a good one, "Notable Quotables."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I speak, there is a school shooting in California.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF., CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And now the president in real-time is attacking you.

YOVANOVITCH: It's very intimidating.

SCHIFF: Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.

TRUMP: Shifty Schiff. He will not make the LSU football team, that I can tell you.

NUNES: I'd like to congratulate you for passing the Democrat Starr Chamber auditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the impeachable offence in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?

REP. JIM JORDAN, R-OH: One witness that they won't bring in front of us, that's the guy who started it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about his truthfulness? Did you think he was a truthful person?

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Yes. In every instance that I dealt with them, he was truthful.

TRUMP: I'm too busy to watch it. It's a witch hunt, it's a hoax. I'm too busy to watch it.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would respect people more if they said, I don't like his supporters. I think that they are toothless hillbillies with curly toenails running from the hills.

TRUMP: You have no choice because the people we're running against are crazy.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, R-LA: Cosmopolitan, goat's milk latte drinking, avocado toast eating insiders elite.



BAIER: That's one week. Next week will be another one.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for this “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and still unafraid. "The Story" hosted by Martha MacCallum starts right now.

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