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House Set For Historic Floor Vote On Impeachment Next Week; Interview With Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA); Senator Graham Defends Trump On Impeachment; Ousted Kentucky Governor Under Fire For Pardons; North Korea Claims It Conducted Another Crucial Test At Missile Site; Army- Navy: 120th Edition Of America's Game. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 14, 2019 - 11:00   ET




MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: It is 11:00 on the East Coast, 8:00 a.m. on the West.

I'm Martin Savidge in for Fredricka Whitfield.

President Trump on the brink of impeachment. One day after the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance two articles of impeachment along party lines, all eyes have now turned to the full House which expects to vote on impeachment perhaps as soon as Wednesday. Now, if passed, President Trump will become just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

And with the Senate trial likely to begin in January, the President is already plotting his defense, setting up a campaign Christmas rally and hoping for a longer Senate trial complete with witnesses.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins us now. And Lauren -- the President may prefer a long Senate trial but I guess the question is what about fellow Republicans? What do they feel in the Senate?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's certainly not the preference of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who had made that clear to rank and file members who I will tell you are really coming around to the idea of a shorter trial.

And here is why. Essentially there is a concern that once you get into a fight about witnesses, including whether or not Hunter Biden would have to testify in the well of the Senate, whether the whistleblower would testify, Joe Biden perhaps -- that puts some of those moderate Republicans up for re-election puts some of those moderate Republicans up for reelection next year in a tough position. People like Susan Collins, people like Thom Tillis, people like Cory Gardner because essentially they're going to have to decide whether or not to vote with the President or against him in the wishes he has on the witness list.

So that is one of the potential obstacles for moderate Republicans looking forward in this Senate trial. Now, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been very clear that he is in close coordination with the White House and that has been very concerning for some Democrats who argue that's really not appropriate given the fact that he is supposed to be a juror.

If you look back to the Clinton impeachment, Tom Daschle, who was the majority leader back when Clinton was impeached said that he didn't have conversations with President Clinton about how the impeachment should go but that his staff did coordinate with the White House.

So clearly this is a different level of coordination for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But all of the Senate trial drama will unfold in January once the Senate returns from their holiday break.

SAVIDGE: All right. Lauren Fox -- thank you very much for that update.

With me now is Congressman Mike Johnson. He is a Republican representative from Louisiana and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman -- thanks for joining us this morning.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R), LOUISIANA: Hey, Martin -- thanks for joining us.

SAVIDGE: So the President says or indicated that he'd like to have a long trial in the Senate complete with witnesses as we just mentioned, such as Hunter Biden, maybe even the whistleblower testifying. Do you agree with that strategy?

JOHNSON: Well, I understand the President's thoughts there. You know, he's really been upset. He feels like he's not been afforded due process. We certainly agree with that sentiment. And I think he wants to air his side of this case.

You know, at every stage of this with the secret hearings in the basement that were championed by Adam Schiff and then as it was taken over by Chairman Nadler and our House judiciary committee, the Republican side or the Republican defense, the President's defense side has not been heard.

We requested nine witnesses originally, we were only afforded three. We were given no fact witness in the Judiciary Committee, which is the one that has actually jurisdiction over impeachment.

So the President has been frustrated by this, we have as well. I understand why he would want to put on that case. But, you know, again as was said, they'll get to make that decision in the Senate.

SAVIDGE: But just as you outlined there, isn't this a perfect opportunity for the President and his supporters to make his case on his behalf? And calling these witnesses and following those procedures would all go a long way in apparently addressing the grievances you seem to have?

JOHNSON: No, I agree. I mean I would be an advocate of having a lengthy trial in the Senate. I understand the arguments and the concerns on both sides.

But I do think there are a number of witnesses that we would certainly like to hear from. It was mentioned here a few moments ago that the whistleblower is someone even if the whistleblower was to testify behind the screen or, you know, in camera as we would say in the courts, that would be fine but we'd like to cross examine the whistleblower.

We'd like to, of course hear from Hunter Biden because I do believe that's at the center of this whole controversy.

So we'd have to see how that would progress and how long it would take. But under the constitution, of course, the Senate has broad discretion and authority on how they want to handle that. And I think that's the discussions that they're having right now.

SAVIDGE: What about calling other witnesses, such as say, I don't know, Mike Pence, let's talk about Mulvaney, Pompeo, all of those to testify. They could be critical witnesses here. They have been denied so far so why not bring them on in the Senate?


JOHNSON: You know, that's the center of their second claim, their second article of impeachment that they brought is that somehow the President is obstructing Congress. And that's just simply a crazy allegation. It really is. And we explained that in the committee.

SAVIDGE: Why do you say it's crazy if they have denied --

JOHNSON: Well --

SAVIDGE: -- any of the testimony coming from what are clearly key members of this administration who have insight?

JOHNSON: Well, the reason we say that is because it's a very customary thing. It's a very common thing. In fact every administration, virtually everyone in the modern era has done exactly the same thing.

The previous administration, President Obama, during the fast and furious investigation of Congress, he denied subpoenas which included documents --


SAVIDGE: That was not an impeachment inquiry. This is a very different animal we're talking about here. And asking those who are in charge of this administration or directly involved with either the calls or the claims of what the President did or did not do seem to be perfect witnesses to have and come forward rather than deny them.

JOHNSON: This is a very unusual set of circumstances and it should be the highest level of transparency and due process. In fact the Democrats famously said back during the Nixon impeachment that it should be due process quadrupled. They have done exactly the opposite this time. They have not afforded the President all of those rules and procedures and what the constitution really is supposed to guarantee for him. So that's the reason that they have been very reluctant.

I mean I'm an attorney. If I was advising the President, I would have told him not to participate in that charade either. These sound like hyperbolic terms but it's the best way we can describe what happened in the early stages of this. And that's why the President has been so reluctant.

JOHNSON: These points have been brought up before. Let me ask you about a new one which is Mitch McConnell. And that he as a member of the Senate and thereby he is supposed to be impartial. Yet he has made it clear that he's going to coordinate closely with the White House on this impeachment trial.

Here -- just listen to what he said.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with White House counsel. We'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the President in the well of the Senate.


SAVIDGE: Where is the impartiality there? And it has to be a concern because as you point out you are an attorney and you would be worried if a member of the jury had already stated how they were going to consider.

JOHNSON: Yes, we heard those comments yesterday, as everyone did. And you know, I've actually talked about this with some of my Democrat colleagues, those who are very much in favor of impeachment. I said isn't it a fair description of what he said?

The way I heard that is that Mitch McConnell is talking about the scheduling of the trial, what length of trial or what would be involved in that with the White House which is not unprecedented. That's what happened in the Clinton proceedings as well. They coordinated with the White House on scheduling.

I don't think he's talking about the merits of the case. I think he's talking about how long will be allowed for all this to go forward and so I don't think there's anything inappropriate about that.

SAVIDGE: So you see it completely different than sounding like a juror who's made up their mind, essentially?

JOHNSON: I do. And I think that's a fair interpretation of those comments. And as I said, I've had some Democrat friends acknowledge that that may be fair. They hear it differently, of course. They interpret it differently. But I think it would be up to Mitch McConnell to explain further what he meant and I'm sure he'll do that in the days ahead.

SAVIDGE: And I've asked this of many of our guests and I'd like to ask it of you because this is the first time you and I have had a chance to have this conversation.

The President has described that July phone call with Ukraine's president as "perfect". Do you think it was perfect? Do you think it's appropriate for the leader of the free world, essentially the President of the United States, to ask for a political favor in exchange for financial aid?

JOHNSON: Well, I don't think that's a fair interpretation of what happened there. What we know by the evidence, and believe me we reviewed it 14 straight hours this week.

SAVIDGE: Well, why do you say that? Why do you say that?

I mean because I've got the quote right here from the President. I would like you to do us a favor because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation of Ukraine, they say crowd strike. I guess, you have one of your wealthy people at this server (ph) they say Ukraine has it.

That's an allegation against what is a very false pretense that's already been debunked. The President said I'd like to ask you for a favor.

JOHNSON: For us, he said -- for the country. And what is very clear from the whole --


SAVIDGE: He didn't say for the country. He says for us, I grant you that.

JOHNSON: Well, let me answer it -- Martin, because if you look at it all of it in context and you look at the evidence that was actually gathered in the first hand testimony -- and there's only one fact witness, that's Ambassador Sondland who had direct knowledge of this, everything else is hearsay, conjecture and speculation.

But what we know is four very simple facts. Number one, there was no pressure exerted because both President Trump and President Zelensky said that.


SAVIDGE: Do you really believe that President Zelensky, a man who is facing an invasion by a Russian military force is going to honestly push back against the one true funder of their defense which is the United States? In other words, do you believe he's really being genuine when he says that? JOHNSON: I do. And to say otherwise would be to question his

integrity. And I don't think that is something anybody in this country wants to do.


JOHNSON: We also know the other important fact there is there was no conditionality. The President didn't condition the military aid and assistance with that investigation. The investigation never happened. They never started one.

Ukraine did get the aid. And importantly, the Ukrainians have all said they didn't know about this delay.

SAVIDGE: We've heard all this before.

JOHNSON: Yes, we have. Those are important facts.

SAVIDGE: Well -- and then, there is this fact.

The President, same call, says the other thing. There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people wanting to find out. This implies that he is seeking some sort of information on a man he believes he's likely to run against for re- election.

JOHNSON: Well, again, I don't think that's a fair summation of all the facts. They never talked about -- Zelensky and President Trump, there's nothing in the record ever that they were talking about or even implying or thinking about 2020.

This is about the controversies that erupted in 2016. That's what the President had in mind. He talks all the time about his great concern of American taxpayers' treasure being squandered overseas and being misused.

And you've got to remember the full context. Ukraine is regarded by everyone to be the third most corrupt nation in the world. And so the President had a very well-documented concern.

SAVIDGE: It is acknowledged there is a corruption problem that Ukraine had prior to this new administration. Hopefully that's going to change. But he doesn't mention all of the corruption. he mentions a specific aspect, which in this case is the vice president's son and Joe Biden, who is likely to be a candidate he'll run against.

JOHNSON: Well, right. But again, if you look at the context, of course that's one of the greatest scandals in the modern history of Ukraine. Hunter Biden was paid tens of thousands of dollars a month to serve on the board of a corrupt company that was owned by an oligarch.


SAVIDGE: Why would the President seek that investigation? Why wasn't it handled by the appropriate means in the United States? Why did it require the President calling up on a phone call and saying I'd like you to do us a favor? It doesn't seem the right process, does it?

JOHNSON: Well, look. The President is a hands-on leader. He is -- this is one of his chief concerns. He talks about it all the time. He has since before he ran for president. The misuse and the squandering of American taxpayer dollars overseas and in corrupt countries.

It's always been a top concern. Go back and look at his Twitter feed, he talks about it all the time.

So this is completely appropriate. And I think it's applauded by many American people. The America first -- as America being the first priority is what he ran on and that's what he does consistently. And I think people appreciate that.

I don't think they want our taxpayer dollars being sent over to corrupt countries and being misused. And this was a glaring example of that.


SAVIDGE: -- against the wishes of both Congress and of course, it was taxpayer money.

I do appreciate you coming on -- Congressman. I thank you very much for taking part. And we will look forward to what comes next week.

JOHNSON: Thank you -- Martin, appreciate it.

SAVIDGE: All right. Thank you -- sir.

Still ahead, Senator Lindsey Graham with the staunchest defense yet of the President. But is it appropriate for Graham to defend President Trump if he's a juror in the upcoming trial?

CNN asked him that very question, next.

Plus Rudy Giuliani doubling down. The President's personal attorney escalating his push for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son traveling to the country just this week. Is he putting himself in increased legal jeopardy?



SAVIDGE: GOP Senator Lindsey Graham is taking his defense for President Trump to new levels this morning. In a lengthy interview with our Becky Anderson, Graham says that he's already made up his mind on impeachment and he says that he plans to vote to acquit the President in the Senate even though the trial hasn't even started yet.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't know where this goes, but I know impeachment will be over soon. I supported the Mueller investigation, by the way, for those who care about domestic politics. I didn't know what Trump had done with the Russians.

What have I come to believe? There is no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. If you're not colluding with your own government, why do you think you're colluding with the Russians? The President is not much of a colluder.

So the bottom line here is that Mueller spent two years and $25 million looking at all things Trump and Russia and now we're impeaching the President of the United States by partisan people, no outside counsel involved.

This thing will come to the Senate and it will die quickly. And I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: I just wonder how quickly.

Let's do a little bit on procedure. There's a debate ongoing about how a trial should be held in the Senate, including whether to have live witnesses. You don't support live witnesses. Why?

GRAHAM: I want this to end as quick as possible for the good of the Senate, for the good of the country. And I think the best thing for America to do is get this behind us.

We know how it's going to end so we can focus on the problems we talked to -- talked about today. If you don't like President Trump, you can vote against him in less than a year. It's not like a politician who's unaccountable if you don't impeach them.

So I think impeachment is going to end quickly in the Senate. I would prefer it to end as quickly as possible. Use the record that was assembled in the House to pass impeachment articles as your trial record.

I don't want to call anybody. I don't need to hear from Hunter Biden. I don't need to hear from Joe Biden. We can deal with that outside of impeachment.

I don't want to talk to Pompeo. I don't want to talk to Pence. I want to hear the House make their case based on the record they established in the House and I want to vote.


SAVIDGE: So joining me now to talk about all of this is Reuters White House Correspondent, Jeff Mason, and CNN Political Commentator and "Washington Post" Assistant Editor, David Swerdlick.

Thank you both for joining us.


SAVIDGE: David -- let me start with you.

Your reaction to Graham here, especially, you know, he is saying he doesn't want any witnesses. And yet, of course, we know when all of this was taking place in the House, Republicans were demanding witnesses of their own.

SWERDLICK: Right. Good morning -- Martin.

So I think on the one hand give Senator Graham credit for laying out the facts as they basically are.


SWERDLICK: Most Republicans have made up their minds in the Senate and in Congress generally. Most Republicans in the Senate seemingly want to make this short. And most Republicans have gone with this line that there's an election in less than a year, so why are we even bothering with this. He's not wrong on all of those points.

On the other hand, it is jarring to see someone who is voting in a Senate trial, a constitutional legal proceeding, essentially saying that before the proceeding even takes place, he's already made up his mind.

And I will just note on that whole thing about this -- there being an election in less than a year, nothing in the constitution says that impeachment only applies in years one through three of a presidential term. It just says that the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.

SAVIDGE: And Jeff -- to David's point, let's listen to what Graham had to say about whether or not he's being appropriate by stating his opinion ahead of this trial. Watch.


ANDERSON: But you are, along with the rest of your Senate fellows, jurors. Is it appropriate to be voicing your opinion even before this gets to the Senate as a trial?

GRAHAM: Well, I must think so because I'm doing it.


SAVIDGE: So I'm wondering, Jeff -- what do you make of this kind of demeanor? It seems to be a total abrupt affront to this whole impartiality thing.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, he's certainly not holding back with that answer to Becky.

You know, I think Republicans and to some extent Democrats have viewed this process as partisan, certainly more Republicans are seeing it as partisan. Democrats have said that they're doing this because -- they're supporting impeachment because of their need to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. Republicans see it as a partisan issue.

The President has dismissed it as a witch hunt and as a sham, which he did yesterday in the Oval Office.

And Senator Graham, I guess, is just saying, look, we've seen the evidence. We disagree that this has led to impeachment and I've already made up my mind.

He will be open to some criticism for having said that, but I don't think it's a big surprise that Senator Graham's position on this is that President Trump will be acquitted in the Senate. And if you look at the numbers, it's not hard to draw that conclusions even without Senator Graham's comment.

SAVIDGE: But don't senators take an oath when this proceeding begins that they swear to be impartial? Won't he be breaking that oath?

MASON: Certainly they take an oath and it's not for me to say whether he'd be breaking it or not. But I think if you look broadly at how this has gone over the last couple months, the Democrats and the Republicans are very sharply divided.

There aren't -- it does not look like there will be any Republicans supporting the impeachment vote in the House next week. And once we get to the Senate trial where the President is expecting to have a much friendlier audience because the Senate is controlled by Republicans --


MASON: -- it is likely to continue to be partisan in that same way.

SAVIDGE: And as we pointed out here, David, the -- you know, the Republican Party has rallied around this president to defend him in an almost unprecedented way. What do you think the long-term effects are going to be on the GOP party beyond this administration?

SWERDLICK: Well, just in terms of impeachment, I think we could get to a point as the Democratic race heats up in 2020 where this is already in the rear-view mirror. Democrats will likely vote to impeach on Wednesday. There will be a Democratic debate Thursday night.

Then we'll have the holidays, the Senate trial. Presumably Republicans want it to be short, maybe two weeks, we don't know. And that obviously could change.

But once you get into the Iowa caucuses and beyond, I do think eventually people will move on from this. Not because they'll forget but because there will be a campaign afoot and because the President won't be removed.

As Jeff said there's no Republican votes that anybody is aware of in the House for impeachment. And I'm skeptical that there are Republican votes for removal in the Senate.

So as time goes on, this will have been an intense chapter but one that probably ultimately doesn't change the entire landscape.

SAVIDGE: So, Jeff -- instead of calling witnesses to either defend or refute the charges that have been made against this president, it seems that the Senate wants to rush through this so, what, hopefully voters will forget all about it come next fall?

MASON: Well, a couple of different answers to that question.

Number one, I don't think that's 100 percent clear yet. I was in the Oval Office with the President yesterday when we asked for his reaction to the vote in the committee. And he went on to say -- we went on to ask him as well how he felt about a long trial versus a short one and he said I'll do whatever I want.

And he said he saw some value in having a longer trial because he'd like to put on witnesses like the whistleblower. But he also specifically mentioned he had seen what Senator Graham had said and was taking all of that into account as well.

So we'll see. But broadly I think it's correct to say that certainly some senators would like to just get this done quickly and move on.


SAVIDGE: Jeff Mason, David Swerdlick -- thank you both for being on the program today.

SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: And next, Rudy Giuliani, he's doubling down as he pushes for dirt on the Bidens, but could his crusade across Ukraine lead to criminal charges right back here? The potential legal jeopardy. We'll talk about that next.


SAVIDGE: We're just days away from a historic full House vote on the impeachment of President Trump. But one of the central figures in the Ukraine scandal isn't shying away from the spotlight.

We're just learning that Rudy Giuliani met with the President during a visit to the White House yesterday. That meeting follows his trip to Ukraine this week aimed at digging up dirt on the Bidens.

Joining me now is Harry Litman, a former U.S. Attorney and contributing columnist for the Washington Post". Good to see you.



What do you make of Giuliani pressing ahead on the very same issue that has President Trump on the verge of being impeached?

[11:29:55] LITMAN: It's remarkable, isn't it? And there's a theme that the

Democrats have begun to sound about the election in 2020 is now at risk if there isn't an impeachment and nobody illustrates that better for them than Giuliani. Even Bill Barr has informed the President this guy isn't really doing you any favors. And nothing says more plainly that the business in Ukraine was for Trump's personal interests, not that of the country, than the fact that Giuliani was spearheading it. He's obviously not there for any national purpose.

He's there for his client, as he said. He's there to get dirt on the Bidens. So it's a bad image for the President, but there you have it.

SAVIDGE: And the next question is what does it mean for Rudy Giuliani? I mean as we heard, witnesses in the impeachment investigation accused him of running a shadow foreign policy operation while he was also apparently looking into his own personal business dealings overseas. Could he be in any more political trouble if he keeps this up?

LITMAN: Political trouble is just half of it or really the smaller than half.

SAVIDGE: Legal trouble.

LITMAN: He is in legal trouble. The SDNY is really looking very carefully into him. As you say, he's both a Trump soldier, but a soldier of fortune for himself.

But he is really playing fast and loose while he's in the cross hairs from his old office. So there's either a kind of a brazenness or just a cluelessness to the peril he is in.

But you're absolutely right. He forges ahead and neither Trump nor he, you know, look like they'll come out of it well as a result. He really would be well advised to take a little vacation here.

SAVIDGE: President Trump seems to have been eager to finding out whatever Giuliani supposedly uncovered in Ukraine, that according to the "Wall Street Journal's" reporting.

LITMAN: Right.

SAVIDGE: So could this most recent trip to Ukraine and what's being described as a secret assignment impact the President's impeachment trial in the Senate?

LITMAN: You know, it's just hard to see. The dye seems so firmly cast and I think the thrust from the Republicans as you just heard from Senator Graham is to keep away from the whole sideshow of Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. It's true, though, that that's what Giuliani is doing there. He's sifting for little bits of information.

And again, the people he's speaking with are pretty much kind of two- bit, really almost a criminal element in Ukraine. But he's hoping to get some info. But I don't think, a, it will figure largely in the impeachment trial; or b, any votes will vary as a result. It's just a sort of obsession and itch that the President can't help but scratch it seems.

SAVIDGE: He won't let it go. Harry Litman -- good to see you this morning. Thank you.

LITMAN: Thank you -- Martin. Thanks for your time.

SAVIDGE: And still ahead, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin pardons hundreds of people before leaving office. The backlash over his decision to set free murderers and rapists. That's up next.



SAVIDGE: In Kentucky, there's mounting outrage this morning after former Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin issued more than 400 pardons in his final days in office. But it's the list of convicted criminals that Bevin is forgiving that is drawing criticism on both sides of the political aisle.

The list includes a mother who is serving a life sentence for throwing her newborn in a septic tank, a man who killed his parents, a child rapist.

CNN's Natasha Chen is following the developments for us this morning (INAUDIBLE).

Now there is a call that these pardons be investigated, and no wonder given the way that list sounds.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. State lawmakers are asking for an investigation into these decisions. And former governor Matt Bevin took to Twitter last night to defend his decisions.

He issued a series of 20 tweets. And here is one of them. He says, "Not one person receiving a pardon would I not welcome as a co-worker, neighbor or to sit beside me or any member of my family in a church pew or at a public event."


CHEN: Before walking out of the Governor's Mansion this week, Kentucky Republican Matt Bevin pardoned this man who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy, a drunk driver who killed a pastor and his wife, a man who decapitated a woman and left her body in a barrel, a woman who threw her newborn in a septic tank at a flea market, a man who at age 16 killed his parents and left their bodies in a basement, and this man who raped a 9-year-old girl and served less than 18 months out of his 23-year sentence.

The victim's mother says it's a slap in the face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like we're going through it all over again. We just got to the point where we felt safe leaving the House.

CHEN: Kenton County Prosecutor, Rob Sanders told CNN the man hadn't served enough time to even begin sex offender treatment.

ROB SANDERS, KENTON COUNTY COMMONWEALTH PROSECUTOR: It shocks the conscience. It's offensive. It's mind-boggling how any governor could be this irresponsible.

CHEN: Now there's also a question of political favoritism.

MORGAN MCGARVEY (D), KENTUCKY STATE SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We have someone who was convicted of killing someone in front of his wife at his home, who pulled the trigger.

CHEN: State lawmakers say they want to investigate this case because the family of the man pardoned raised more than $20,000 last year to help Bevin.

MCGARVEY: Bottom line, if it looks like a duck and talks like a duck, you've got to look into whether or not it's a duck.


CHEN: Spoke with a family member of one of the people pardoned -- the man who killed his parents when he was a teenager. That man ended up serving 17 years in prison before his pardon, and his cousin tells me that he has shown great promise in rehabilitation. And the cousin said that if his mother were able to see what was happening today, she would be the happiest involved to see her son back with family and in a safe place -- Martin.


SAVIDGE: All right. There is bound to be mixed emotions on both sides but still many questions.

CHEN: Absolutely.

SAVIDGE: Thank you -- Natasha.

CHEN: Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Well, Bevin's pardons of these violent criminals may be as Senator Mitch McConnell calls them completely inappropriate. But the real question is are they legal?

I want to bring in Kenton County, Kentucky commonwealth attorney -- that's Rob Sanders. And welcome, sir -- first of all. Thank you.

And let me say this.

SANDERS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

Kentucky gives the governor the right of pardon. So I guess the question now is can anything be done about Bevin's pardons or are they a done deal?

SANDERS: Unfortunately, I think the pardons themselves are a done deal. There's nothing we can do about the inmates, most of whom are already free.

What's being looked into now is whether there was anything that broke the law, anything that was illegal in the manner in which the pardons came about. There's going to be an investigation in my county. I know there's investigations that starting in other counties.

And we heard the Kentucky Senate president call for a federal investigation into how these pardons came about. There's certainly a few of them that smell.

It's unfortunate for the people who rightfully received a pardon because there are several people who have earned a pardon and deserved a pardon. And it's unfortunate for them that they're not being celebrated right now because their pardons have been camouflaged by all these horrible, heinous criminals that Matt Bevin has let out of prison.

SAVIDGE: Right. And that's a very good point to bring up. but, you know, we know that these pardons are often political, and one of the people that Bevin pardoned is a convicted killer whose brother hosted a campaign fund-raiser for him and donated to his campaign.

If an investigation is called into this and anything turns up, what action could be taken then?

SANDERS: Well, it depends. I mean there's any number of different scenarios or fact situations that could have played out. If there's some sort of quid pro quo, and I hate to use that phrase because it's been thrown around so much on the federal level these days.

But literally if there was a trade of campaign dollars or donations or contributions for pardons, that could very well be illegal. You know, I hate -- I don't want to quote any one Kentucky statute because it could fit a number of different Kentucky statutes. It could fit a number of different federal statutes.

But this is -- the calls for these investigations are coming from both sides of the aisle. There are a lot of people that just don't think this is right, doesn't look right, doesn't smell right.

And certainly nobody believes that the people that Matt Bevin set free, the ones that are being talked about right now at least are worthy of pardons. These are the kinds of people that we build prisons to hold. They're the kind of people that should be in prison absolutely as long as possible. They should serve their entire sentence and not be let out a day early.

SAVIDGE: So much of this investigation is going to rely on the new state attorney general coming in. Do you think he's up to the task? Will he pursue these?

SANDERS: I think there's no doubt Daniel Cameron is up for the task. Now, there is an issue with the fact that Daniel Cameron has hired some people from the Bevin administration so there might be a conflict of interest. He might have to look for a special prosecutor. He might defer to the federal prosecutors.

Or he could leave it to the 57 commonwealth attorneys all around the state to do our own investigations. And if that's what it comes down to, I'm fine with that. I'm very well capable of conducting my own investigation. I know all of my brethren across the state are capable of doing the same thing. I've already been in touch with many of them.

The only question is, is there going to be one big investigation or several smaller investigations that all add up to one giant case.

It could ending up in federal court as well. We'll just have to wait and see.

SAVIDGE: All right. Rob Sanders -- thank you very much. We appreciate the insights this morning.

SANDERS: My pleasure.

SAVIDGE: We'll be right back.



SAVIDGE: Tensions with North Korea are on the rise again as Pyongyang conducts yet another secretive military test.

As Paula Hancocks explains from Seoul this is a further deterioration of the relationship between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A second test from North Korea in just one week. Now, we've heard from Pyongyang through state-run media that it just like last weekend's test was very important. It was crucial. It was successful. And this particular one, although Pyongyang hasn't specified what they tested, they say was important for nuclear deterrent.

Now, it is at the same site of last weekend as well. This is Sohae satellite launching ground. This is an area that the U.S. President Donald Trump when he met with Kim Jong-un in Singapore said that Kim Jong-un had told him he would dismantle the area.

Satellite imagery, according to experts, showed that he had in fact dismantled some of it but earlier this year there was evidence that it was being rebuilt once again.

So what we understand from last weekend, according to experts and South Korean officials is that they believe it was an engine test that could power either an ICBM, an intercontinental ballistic missile which could potentially hit Mainland United States or it could be used for a satellite launcher.

Now, we don't know at this point what was tested this weekend. We do know, though, that North Korea has threatened a Christmas gift, a year-end deadline, a new path to the United States depending on, it said, what the United States was going to do with negotiations with North Korea.

We also know that we are expecting as well the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea, Steve Biegun, arriving here in Seoul so this test comes just before he arrives here where he is going to have talks with South Korean officials. It was seen potentially as a last-ditch effort before the end of the year to try and re-engage North Korea, but clearly North Korea at this point is focusing on its testing.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


SAVIDGE: Thank you -- Paula, very much.

Well, it's America's most special sporting event and it is happening in just a matter of hours. We're live from the Army-Navy game, and that's next.



SAVIDGE: President Trump expected to attend the 120th edition of America's game this afternoon. The Army Black Knights taking on the Navy Midshipmen for the Commander in Chief's trophy and of course, bragging rights.

CNN's Coy Wire joins me now from Philadelphia. Some 70,000 football fans prepared to enjoy one of the most patriotic rivalries in all of sports -- Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good to see you, Martin.

And it will be packed even though it's starting to rain on us a little bit. There'll be millions more watching at home. But we're joined by a very special guest.

This is the 88th Commandant of Midshipmen at our U.S. Naval Academy -- Captain TR Buchanan. It is your role to develop these future defenders of our nation, these leaders. How does the naval academy prepare them for service?

THOMAS R. BUCHANAN, 88TH COMMANDANT of MIDSHIPMEN, U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY: Well Coy -- the way we do that is through a 47-month intensive program at the United States Naval Academy starting in June of their freshman year. And as plebes they spend an entire year developing the types of skills that we ask of them where we test their moral fortitude, their physical courage, and their mental toughness.

And in the end we develop and train these midshipmen so that they're ready to serve in combat roles in our Navy and Marine Corps.


WIRE: It takes a rare breed -- a special breed of individual to do what you have done and what those who are coming after you are doing. Today's game has very special meaning in the wake of some of the tragedies that have affected our U.S. Navy.

BUCHANAN: It's correct. So, here just in the last 14 days the Navy has dealt with two significant tragedies. The first was in Pearl Harbor where a number of government employees lost their lives. And a sailor took his own life at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. So out to them, you know, Coy -- is number one and in keeping with that, our hearts go out to the Pearl Harbor Shipyard tragedy. And then also down in the (INAUDIBLE) where we lost a member of the Naval Academy class of 2019 along with two others. So our hearts go out to those families.

WIRE: And our thoughts and prayers and today those players will be honoring them with that patches you will see on jerseys and worn around the stadium.

One last thing before we go. The Army and Navy hug each other as brothers, 364 days out of the year. But not today at 3:00 p.m. kickoff. Why is it winning this rivalry so important?

BUCHANAN: No way, right. We had years of -- 14 years straight. We've lost three in the last three. We've got to stop the -- stop the slide.

WIRE: There you go.

BUCHANAN: And it is awesome to be here today.

WIRE: It certainly is. It is an honor and privilege. Thank you for your service.

Kick off is 3:00 p.m. Martin -- I know you wish you were here. It's going to be a great one,..

SAVIDGE: I do indeed. Commandant, Coy -- great to see you both. Thank you very much.

Here's to a great game.

Still ahead, Senator Lindsey Graham -- he's not backing down in the face of criticism, defending the President's so called right to ask foreign leaders to investigate political rivals. His rationale in a CNN interview, next.