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A Call to Act on Climate Change; Pentagon to Send More Troops to Saudi and UAE; New Controversy Involving a Whistleblower's Knowledge Against Trump; Interview with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) About Reports That Trump Pressured Ukraine's President To Investigate Biden's Son; Intelligence Community Watchdog Deemed Whistleblower's Complaint Credible And Urgent; SUV Drives Into Mall, Crashes Through Storefronts. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired September 20, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: -- president, and it's not the first time. Here is the empty chair at the climate meeting at the G7. Let's bring in D. Lemon to takeaways from me, D. First one is, I love to see people organize.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes.
CUOMO: Young or old. There's never been a major movement in this country -- now, this was all over the world. You know, you had over 100 million people all over the world.
But, no. You had 150 countries that wanted to be involved. You had millions of people all over the world. But you've never had a major movement in this country that didn't begin bottom-up.
The second takeaway is it's sad to see a gap between kids and adults when it comes to science.
LEMON: Well, that's where we are right now. I was having a conversation actually with a conservative today who was saying, you know what they were happy to see people on the street protesting for what they believe in.
But they said, why can't, you know, we be out there, meaning conservatives and liberals be out there contesting the behavior of this president, the things that came out of the Mueller report and the things that are coming out now when it concerns what's happening with Ukraine because that is important to our democracy as well.
CUOMO: Sure. Look what happened in Puerto Rico.
LEMON: Look what happened in Puerto Rico. And so, I think the sad thing is that I think people have -- they are becoming immune to it, and they're just -- they can't take it anymore, so they're just kind of tuning it out.
And I don't know what the answer is. I know that we have to keep on top of it, but I don't know what the answer is to get people engaged. Climate change is important, but what's happening with this president
now is also important, and people should be just as engaged and just, if not even more, outraged by it.
CUOMO: Look, I get that it can be --
LEMON: Protest for it.
CUOMO: I get that it can be too much. You know how like you have compassion fatigue. You can have consternation fatigue also. But then you look at what happened in the midterms. You had a huge turnout.
CUOMO: I was worried about the same type of, you know, fatigue back then that were people really paying attention, did they really seem to care, and is it all just too much, too constant? And then they came out in droves. These are pictures obviously of what people did today.
CUOMO: But here's the problem. You can organize and you can come out and mobilize. If you do not vote -- I'm not talking about in the other countries. I'm talking about here. If you vote on your interests and reward and punish accordingly, you will get what you want.
LEMON: You will. Well, you will, but in many ways, let's be honest. The system is rigged when you look at all the gerrymandering around the country and you look at what happens with voter suppression and on and on.
It's rigged in a way, not in the way that the president claims that there are all these illegal people voting and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it's rigged in the sense that people are shaping the electorate to favor them. And for the most part, for the most part, the majority of the time it is Republicans who are doing it.
So, I'm not saying -- you know, I'm not judging any way or another, but that is the truth if you look at the facts. And so, the system is rigged in some ways. So, Yes, you can get out and vote. But sometimes when you get out and vote, your vote doesn't really count as much as it should because of the gerry-rigging and all the other things that are going on.
CUOMO: But I don't think you want the exception to become the rule.
LEMON: No, and you don't want -- and you don't to disincentivize people to not go out. So, yes, you are right, Chris. Go out and vote.
CUOMO: Right. LEMON: But there are other things that need to be taken care of as well.
CUOMO: Right. And if you vote, especially on your state level, that's how you fix the districts --
CUOMO: -- because districting is done at the state level. And the Republicans were very savvy in mobilizing to win state legislatures and then they get to draw the maps.
CUOMO: And then unless you do something that is abusive of the legal standard, you can play to advantage.
CUOMO: But I still believe it's one thing to say in a poll you care about something. But if you don't vote on the basis of that interest, you're not going to get the leverage. You just won't. The NRA beats people with leverage, not money.
LEMON: Yes. You know, to the news, think about everything that -- I can't -- do you remember what happened on Monday?
CUOMO: I reach for yesterday.
LEMON: This news cycle is -- it's crazy. Every single day there's -- not every single day. Every single hour. Like today I was watching my phone, and everything just kept popping up and popping up and popping up. And I said, my goodness, how much more -- you can understand why some people have tuned out. It's just too much.
CUOMO: You know what I did? I turned off my alerts, and I have rose go through everything, and she only sends me what I have to know for the show.
LEMON: All right. Chris, so, all right.
CUOMO: It keeps me from changing topics.
LEMON: Because that -- I just had that conversation that I'm thinking of turning off all the alerts on my phone. No, seriously. Because you're constantly checking your phone. I got rid of my Apple watch. It was like a buzz, like all day like a shocking --
CUOMO: It's good. You were always showing that thing off anyway. LEMON: No, I got rid of it. I didn't get rid of it, but I took it
off. But I'm thinking of turning the alerts off, and I'm actually thinking of doing a social media fast where, like, for a month.
CUOMO: Is that a thing?
LEMON: Just to get rid of it. Yes, that's a thing. Look it up.
CUOMO: Is it a fast or a purge?
LEMON: It's a fast because you do it for a while, and then you see if you like it. People say in the beginning, you're like, my gosh, you want to check it.
I don't feel the need to check it that much, but it's still too much in my estimation. And then after a while, you get used to it and you're like, hey, maybe I don't need all this craziness in my life. We'll see.
CUOMO: Maybe you're going to get a new job and be a landscaper --
CUOMO: -- or something like that and go paint pastorals.
LEMON: I would totally do it. Hey, one more thing before I let you go. So, I was rushing into the studio tonight, I reached for a black tie, and I said I can't do it because then I'll look just like that sucker on the other side. And so, I chose this one. But now I can't wear black ties anymore. I used to do it all the time, like all the time.
CUOMO: No, look, of course you can although I will tell you I do get bothered by it. When I see you and Anderson in black tie, I'm like, hey, that's my look, which is ridiculous because you guys have been doing it for years.
LEMON: I know. I've been --
CUOMO: In fact, I'm the only one who did. I never wore black suits.
LEMON: I used to wear a black tie all the time. It was just easy and no one ever notice anything. And now --
CUOMO: Nobody notices. But you're known for dressing well.
CUOMO: See, one of the upsides of having no game is that nobody ever cares about what I wear anyway. LEMON: Your wife does, and she dresses you very well. Otherwise, it
would be --
CUOMO: She didn't notice I was wearing the same thing for over eight months.
LEMON: It would be you and the cargo shorts every day, which we need to work on.
CUOMO: I think she threw those out.
LEMON: Have a great weekend.
CUOMO: Take care, pal.
LEMON: Thank you very much.
We have a lot to get to. It has been a crazy week, and it continues.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
I have a couple questions for you. The first one is -- and the main one -- who are you going to believe? That is really the question tonight. That's really the main question tonight and over the last couple years.
Because here's what you -- you cannot believe both the president, the president who claims his conversations with foreign leaders are always appropriate.
And the source telling CNN that this president pressured Ukraine's leader to investigate Joe Biden's son in a call on July 25th. That's part of a whistleblower's complaint two and a half weeks later that the White House and the DOJ are trying to bury.
So, you just, you can't believe both at the same time, OK? Which one are you going to -- who are you going to believe? Your own eyes and ears? The president? Whistleblower?
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the president pressured Ukraine's leader about eight times, eight times in that single call, eight times. The Journal also reporting that Trump told the Ukrainian president that he should work with Rudy Giuliani to investigate Biden.
Sources telling CNN that the president was pretty disinterested in Ukraine until Giuliani got him fired up with his efforts to investigate Biden. Something new. I got a new angle for you. Biden. Let's investigate.
A source close to the White House says the president has been seething for months and that Giuliani has been, quote, "egging him on."
The president and Oval Office today contradicting himself. The president contradicting himself repeatedly in a matter of just minutes. Did you that? You saw that last night on CNN with Chris Cuomo and Rudy Giuliani. Contradicting himself not even within in minutes but in seconds.
But the president contradicting himself in minutes today, first claiming the whistleblower's compliment -- or complaint, excuse me, complaint, is, quote, "a political hack job."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's a partisan whistleblower. It shouldn't even have information. I've had conversations with many leaders that always appropriate. It's just another political hack job. That's all it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, it's anonymous. He doesn't know who the whistleblower. How does he know it's a partisan whistleblower?
Moments later, the president simultaneously claiming it didn't matter what he discussed. Then doubling down on exactly what he reportedly discussed, his claim that somebody -- he didn't say who -- should look into Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It doesn't matter what I discussed, but I will say this. Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he's not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case. So, somebody ought to look into that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Somebody ought to look into it, huh? Does that remind you of anything? We have seen how this president reacts to somebody he sees as a political enemy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Don't fall for the okey-doke, folks. You've seen this before. You've seen this playbook. You've seen this movie before. It's all played out. Same game, different names.
Well, except for one of them -- Trump. Maybe it was Clinton last time. It will be Biden this time or whoever his opponent is.
But back to the president's frankly head-spinning contradictions in the Oval Office today, claiming on the one hand not to know which conversation reporters were asking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I had a great conversation with numerous people. I don't even know exactly who you're talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And then insisting that, even though he claimed not to know which conversation they were talking about, that conversation was totally appropriate and beautiful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I can say that it was a totally appropriate conversation. It was actually a beautiful conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A beautiful conversation. So, he knows it was appropriate and beautiful, but he doesn't know which conversation it was.
And speaking of head-spinning contradictions, do you remember this very, very heated exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Chris Cuomo last night?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: No, actually I didn't. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton, for which there already is a corresponding --
CUOMO: You never asked anything about Hunter Biden. You never ask anything Joe Biden --
GIULIANI: The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko who was appointed, --
GIULIANI: -- dismissed the case against --
CUOMO: So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.
GIULIANI: Of course, I did.
CUOMO: You just said you didn't. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The president's attorney pretty pleased with himself as he arrived for the state dinner for the prime minister of Australia tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about your CNN interview?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I guess you have to laugh when you really can't answer.
Rudy Giuliani sure did manage to get the president's attention, though, on Ukraine, didn't he, with an unproven conspiracy theory that an anti-corruption push by Biden and other European leaders against a Ukrainian prosecutor had something to do with Hunter Biden's business dealings inside the country. There is no evidence that it did.
And tonight, an angry Joe Biden is fighting back. The former vice president putting out a statement saying, quote, "If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country. This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes."
I said Rudy Giuliani really managed to get the president's attention on Ukraine. You know what else reliably gets this president's attention? Crowds. He's been obsessed with the size of crowds ever since the second day of his administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So maybe this will get his attention. Millions of people around the world led by teen activists, demanding action on the climate crisis that threatens the planet and our future.
The massive crowd in New York's downtown flooded streets -- flooded the streets for blocks. That same scene in Boston, thousands more in the streets of Chicago. And in San Francisco, you'd think those crowds might make an impression on the president. Well, maybe that's wishful thinking.
After all, this is the president who apparently couldn't be bothered to attend a climate change meeting at the G7. There's the empty chair highlighted for you. Look to the right of your screen.
And we learned today that he is skipping a climate summit at the U.N. on Monday, instead holding his own session on religious persecution.
All of that as the Pentagon announces tonight it is sending additional troops to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities, which the U.S. has blamed on Tehran.
Much, much more to come on all these big stories, so you want to stick around. As I said, busy week, busy night ahead.
We're learning a lot more tonight about the president's call with Ukraine's leader, pressuring him to investigate Joe Biden's son. The question is will Congress do anything about it? We'll discuss with Susan Hennessey and Max Boot, next.
LEMON: We're learning more tonight about President Trump's phone call that was so concerning to a whistleblower. A source telling CNN he put pressure on the president of Ukraine this summer to investigate Joe Biden's son.
Let's bring in Pamela Brown with more on this. Pamela, you've been following this story very closely. Thanks for joining us. Good evening to you.
CNN has confirmed that President Trump pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden's son. It's disturbing if true. What is the latest on this?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that there was this phone call in late July, Don, and President Trump, according to a source, pressed Ukraine's president to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden's son, and this is part of an intelligence whistleblower complaint, the source said.
Now, we're told that Trump did not discuss a pending aid package to Ukraine in that July call, indicating there may not have been an explicit quid pro quo outlined in that specific call.
But this is certainly bringing renewed scrutiny to the administration slow-walking foreign aid to Ukraine that it suddenly released last week because we don't know the suggestions surrounding the phone call.
Now, today, Trump didn't deny he brought that up in that phone call with Zelensky, and he only said somebody out to look into it.
We do know also, Don, that the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, met with the top Ukrainian official in Madrid shortly after that late July call, and Giuliani admitted on our air last night on Chris Cuomo's show that he raised Biden during that meeting.
I spoke to Giuliani today, and he declined to say whether he spoke with the president about pressuring the Ukrainians to investigate Biden's son.
Now just to give some context into what this is all about, Don, Ukrainians have looked into a company involving Biden's son, determined there wasn't anything there, and the case didn't go forward.
Giuliani alleges without direct evidence that Biden pressured Ukraine to dismiss the prosecutor looking at that case. Now, Biden did release a statement in response to this latest reporting, saying if these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power. Don?
LEMON: You know, Pamela, talk -- let's talk about the president's interest in Ukraine, how it's ramped up, because he wasn't always this interested, right?
BROWN: Certainly. He used to be sort of tuned out when it came to Ukraine, but his interest according to sources has really ramped up in the last several months as he became more and more engaged in these allegations surrounding Joe Biden and his son.
Sources say he began bringing it up in private conversations with aides, talking about the allegations that he believed it could be a liability for Joe Biden, and Giuliani as well, his personal lawyer, was also kind of getting him interested in it.
And so, Giuliani, again, won't say what those private conversations were, but we do know he was aware of the president's interest in the allegations surrounding Biden and his son.
So, basically, you have a president who was pretty tuned out to Ukraine, that suddenly got really tuned in once he learned of these allegations of a presidential candidate. So, it does make you wonder if he would be so interested in this if Joe Biden wasn't someone he saw as a political rival. Don?
LEMON: Pamela Brown, I appreciate your reporting.
LEMON: Thank you so much. Let's bring in now Susan Hennessey and Max Boot. Max is the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." Good to have both of you on. Thank you so much.
Susan, President Trump repeatedly, about eight times, pressed Ukraine's president in a July phone call to investigate Joe Biden's son. Again, that is according to the Wall Street Journal. Is this legal? He's asking a foreign power to dig up dirt on a political rival.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think there's a little bit of a risk here of getting overly focused on this question of is there a quid pro quo, can we meet sort of specific legal elements here?
Put that all to the side for a minute. Separate and apart from the question of whether or not he actually used congressionally authorized aid money to effectively extort a foreign leader.
We do know that he brought this up. He pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent absent a criminal predicate. A U.S. citizen. This is a grotesque civil liberties violation. It's a breach of his oath of office. It is impeachable conduct.
Full stop before we even need to get into the question of whether or not there were those additional astonishing aggregating factors of in order to accomplish this civil liberties violation.
Did the president take money that Congress had appropriated in order to provide foreign aid to a foreign country and effectively use it to pressure that foreign country in order to provide this dirt on one of his political opponents, to effectively pressure a foreign government to interfere in the United States election.
And so, this is unbelievably disturbing. I think it is probably the single most serious allegation that has come out of this White House, and frankly, one of the most serious allegations of wrongdoing in the history of the United States presidency. And I do not make that statement lightly. I really don't.
LEMON: Wow. Max, I want to know what you think about this because as I said to you when you were sitting here before you came on, you had a column every day this week.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. It's been a crazy week.
LEMON: You had one today that said if Trump extorted a foreign leader for political gain, it's impeachment time. Your latest reporting, do you believe this strengthens the case for impeachment here? She mentioned impeachment. What do you think?
BOOT: Of course. I mean, there was already a very strong case, I mean even just looking at the Mueller report where he found multiple examples of the president of the United States obstructing justice, and you had over a thousand prosecutors saying that they would bring charges if Donald Trump were not president.
And he continues committing impeachable conduct ever since then, including promising pardons to his aides if they will violate the law to build his border wall.
But this is a whole another order of magnitude. I think Susan is exactly right. I mean, I, my own view, Don, has been, I can understand why Speaker Pelosi is in a slowdown mode on impeachment because it's not popular. She's afraid it would cost the Democrats seats in 2020.
But at this point, if these allegations are accurate -- and I stress if they are accurate. We still don't know the full story. We need to get to the bottom of this.
But if this is what it appears to be, I would say throw all those political calculations out the window. None of that matters. This is -- if this is what it appears to be, this is such an egregious breach of the public trust. [22:25:03]
This is such an egregious example of a president committing a high crime and misdemeanor, misusing his office for personal gain, that I think if the facts stand up here, Democrats are going to be forced to proceed with impeachment because they have to send a message.
This is unacceptable. There has to be a price to pay because otherwise what Trump is showing is that, if he is not stopped, he will take the lack of impeachment as a go signal basically, as a green light to continue breaking the law.
LEMON: But even without, as Susan said, an explicit quid pro quo, still?
BOOT: Even without the explicit quid pro quo, because I think that was pretty obvious in what was going on, the fact that he put a stop on this $250 million worth of aid and then badgered --
LEMON: Got it.
BOOT: -- the president of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden. If he didn't put two and two together, it's pretty obvious what that adds up to. But it seems there is --
LEMON: It's implied.
BOOT: Well, a, it's implied. But, b, I think we'll see, I suspect we'll see more evidence, and I suspect there will be more evidence to make this more explicit.
LEMON: Susan, let's look the at the time line. Trump and Ukraine's president talk on July 25th. By late August, Trump moves to block aid. And then September 9, three House committees start investigating. September 12th, Trump releases the Ukraine aid only after there was scrutiny, correct?
HENNESSEY: Yes. So, the president essentially, you know, was stalling on this aid package for a very long period of time, the same period of time in which he was actively pressuring the Ukrainian government.
The same -- they only actually released this aid package after reports that there was this whistleblower complaint came out.
I think Max is absolutely right. Whether or not we can sort of point to specific quid pro quo within the context of a particular call, you can actually -- you can infer it from the general context.
This is something that Ukrainians desperately wanted, desperately needed. We're seeking meetings with the White House. We're seeking the release of this aid package.
In the context of those conversations, that outreach from Ukraine, Trump is essentially asking for these abusive political favors, you know.
So, I don't think we have to take very much of a step, you know, to put those two pieces forward. You know, I also think -- I want to address sort of Max's point about impeachment.
You know, I do think you have to ask the question what happens if we don't impeach in these circumstances? And Max is right. You know, we need to make sure the evidence -- you know, that this really did happen. Congress can't move to impeachment just based off of news reports.
But if this reporting is accurate, we have to ask ourselves what is the future of the United States presidency? What is the future of the separation of powers? And that's why whenever we see abuses like this coupled with a stonewalling strategy, a refusal to release information to Congress, a refusal to allow whistle-blower complaints to surface to the United States Congress, we really are in an incredibly perilous moment.
LEMON: Yes. And as you both are correct to say, and we all are correct to say, if it is true, and we've said that a number of times here.
BOOT: And to underline the point, Don, if it's not true, if this is all bogus, if the president is innocent, he's got to share the transcript of his call with Zelensky. He's got to share the whistleblower complaint with Congress, but he's not doing it. So, if he's innocent, why is he covering up?
LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, Joe Biden, is slamming President Trump over reports that Trump put the squeeze on Ukraine's president to investigate Biden's son. I want to bring in Senator Chris Coons now, a Democrat from Delaware who is a Biden surrogate. He is campaigning with the former vice president this weekend. Good evening, sir. Good to have you on. Thank you so much for making the time.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Good evening, Don. Great to be with you from the beautiful Des Moines airport.
LEMON: Senator Coons, let me ask you, we're now learning that President Trump pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden's son. To put it another way, he demanded eight times, according to the Wall Street Journal, that a foreign leader investigate his opponent's family and potentially influence an election. Is this an abuse of power?
COONS: That strikes me, if proven, these allegations strike me as a demonstrable abuse of power. I'll remind your viewers, those who might be just catching up with this story or tuning in, that what was held over the newly elected president of Ukraine was a $250 million aid package that Congress appropriated. Something that the Ukrainian government desperately wants in their ongoing struggle against Russian-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine. $250 million worth of support that included $50 million worth of anti-tank missiles, javelins that they have not had in the past.
This is a long-going, grinding, five-year conflict where 13,000 people have been killed, and the Ukrainians have stood firm against Russian aggression for a long five years. So they were eager to get this assistance, and President Trump or someone in the administration, but presumably President Trump held up the release of these vitally needed funds for several months while they conducted a review.
And as you know, a whistleblower in the intelligence community, seeing an alarming pattern in conversations between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, raised a flag and referred this to the inspector general of the intelligence community, Atkinson, and he concluded that this was a pressing matter that urgently needed to be referred to the Congress.
The acting Director of National Intelligence has blocked that. I think three things are called for here, Don. First, President Trump should release a transcript of this call. He says nothing inappropriate was said. Prove it.
Second, the DNI should stop blocking the whistleblower complaint from being referred to the intelligence committees of the Senate and the house. Third, the foreign relations committee on which I and many others serve should promptly conduct an investigation into whether or not these funds were inappropriately used in an abuse of power.
LEMON: So, listen, before our time runs out here, let me get some questions in I need to ask you.
LEMON: What are the consequences because so far there's been radio silence from Republicans?
COONS: First, I would like to believe that my friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle will put country above party and insist that there be a full and open investigation. Because this is an alarming example of exactly the sort of abuse of power that I think has caused previous presidents to get into very deep hot water on those rare occasions when someone has put personal political interests above the country.
Second, I think we ought to hear why the Director of National intelligence is able to block a vital whistleblower report like this. I'm here in the state of Iowa. Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, has long championed whistleblowers of both parties against interests of both parties. My hope is that Senator Grassley will prove his continued commitment to the idea that whistleblowers help keep our country accountable and our government open, and he also will press for that. LEMON: OK. Let's talk about why you're there in Iowa because you're
campaigning for Joe Biden.
LEMON: But I have to ask you, you know, you sit on the House Judiciary Committee. We know the DOJ is involved in advising the DNI to withhold the whistleblower complaint from Congress. Is Attorney General Bill Barr trying to cover up the president's wrongdoing? The Senate Judiciary Committee, excuse me.
COONS: Well, that would certainly be the implication. Yes, I'm on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and frankly I was gravely concerned about some of the very first actions that the Attorney General took, the ways in which he slow-rolled and mischaracterized the Mueller report in its release. I think this would be a great opportunity for the Attorney General to demonstrate some commitment not to any particular president, but to the constitution.
He is not President Trump's personal lawyer. That honor belongs to Rudy Giuliani among others, and we all saw how Rudy Giuliani conducted himself on the Chris Cuomo interview last night. The Attorney General, rather than conducting any sort of cover-up, rather than allowing for ongoing radio silence as you say, Don, should be pressing for transparency and pressing for accountability.
LEMON: All right. Senator Coons, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. Good luck.
COONS: Thank you. Great to be with you.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: A source telling CNN President Trump urged the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son, and the Wall Street Journal reports that happened roughly eight times in a single call, which raises serious questions about whether this president is using his authority to harm perceived political enemies.
Joining me to discuss now is Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, also Jack Tomarchio. Jack is a former principal deputy of intelligence for Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration.
Good evening, gentlemen. Appreciate having both of you on. Jack, you first. You say the way this whistleblower complaint is being handled makes Watergate look like kindergarten. Why?
JACK TOMARCHIO, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY OF INTELLIGENCE, HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, what I'm seeing here, Don, is already a pattern of obfuscation. You've got Rudy Giuliani out there kind of running interference, and it just seems like it's going down the road of trying to hide very legitimate questions. And I think it would be well served for the president, certainly well served for the country for them to come forward and have a little transparency here. I think we learned that mistake back in 1973 and '74. But this apparently -- this White House doesn't remember its history.
LEMON: Well, the person who can speak to that is John Dean. He is right here with us. So, John, obviously you have firsthand experience with Watergate. Where do you rate this?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's really in a whole other dimension. The level of playing with national security for personal gain is the potential charge here, is just really beyond anything we've ever seen by an American president. So I would say this is much, much more serious potentially than Watergate.
We've got the obstruction charges that are already outstanding. We have the potential campaign act violations that are outstanding that could all get into an impeachment proceeding, but this is of a different ilk, Don, and much more serious.
LEMON: Jack, here's the president talking about the whistleblower. This is earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it's a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party, but I don't have any idea, but I can say that it was a totally appropriate conversation. It was actually a beautiful conversation.
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LEMON: Trump's claims, Jack, offering no proof, the person is partisan. What can you tell us about who might have access to the president's phone call to another world leader?
TOMARCHIO: Well, when the president speaks to another world leader, there are always other folks on the line, and you want to have that. You don't want to have a situation where the president is saying something or could be a miscommunication or you get somebody saying, well, you said that. No, I didn't say that. So you're really having these individuals from the White House staff, from the intelligence community, there to kind of vet and understand what's being said.
The fact that he said that individual was a partisan person is rather surprising to me. Most of my colleagues in the intelligence community that I served with, I had no idea what their political affiliation was. Those of us in the community serve the country, and we don't serve a party. So I was a little surprised when I heard that.
LEMON: John, I want you to listen to this. This is Congressman Eric Swalwell calling for the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, to release the contents of the whistleblower complaint.
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REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): If the acting DNI is listening, Jim, I want him to know, you do not have to be a part of a lawless administration. You can send this information right to congress. You would be a patriot, and you would save us from a potential national security risk.
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LEMON: John, what do you think about that? I mean this person must be under tremendous pressure right now.
DEAN: Obviously when the complaint came in, he was very worried. He went to his general counsel. He went to his -- the office of legal counsel. He should have well known what would happen when he went to the office of legal counsel in William Barr's Department of Justice. Things are different. They don't play down the middle. They really are playing as defense counsel for a president at this point. So I'm not surprised that he got advice, do nothing. Sit on it. And try to carve it -- or state that the law doesn't apply so he is not in violation of the law.
LEMON: Jack, you were an undersecretary for intelligence and an intelligence officer. The administration has done a number of things which are inappropriate. Does this cross the line to illegal?
TOMARCHIO: That is a great question, and it's a question I don't think we know the answer to. As I studied for our interview tonight, Don, I asked myself a lot of questions. And, you know, we don't know who the whistleblower was. We don't know what was said. We don't know the context of those discussions. And those are the critical questions that we need to find out.
It doesn't appear there was a quid pro quo, but was there a potential to slow-roll this $250 million to the Ukraine that had already been appropriated by Congress until perhaps there was some type of a movement that was favorable to the president? These are critical questions.
And so if there's -- if there are laws that have been broken, we just don't know. If there's inappropriate contact -- it appears that there might be, but I want to see more evidence. I think the American people need to see more evidence.
LEMON: Jack, John, thank you so much.
You've got to see this. A car crashes into a mall near Chicago, and then keeps driving right through it. Yeah, that happened. I'm going to talk with an eyewitness to the shocking scene next.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the (BEEP).
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LEMON: I want you to take a look at this frightening video, it's coming from Illinois tonight. A SUV drove through a suburban Chicago shopping mall, first crashing through a sears and then into the rest of the mall. Knocking down products at kiosk and bashing into store fronts. Officials have one person in custody right now. Well, tonight police say there's no indication to have terrorism. Only minor injuries are reported. Joining me now an eyewitness to that crash, Lori Halfman. Lori, thank you for joining us. We are glad that you're here and you're Ok.
LORI HALFMAN, EYEWITNESS, ILLINOIS MALL CAR CRASH: You're welcome.
LEMON: This video of this SUV driving through this mall is just shocking. Tell us where you were, and tell us what happened.
HALFMAN: I was inside SEARS. And I was in the fitting room. And I heard this crash like almost banging. And at first I wasn't sure what it was. But as I kept going, it didn't stop. And then it was like I heard commotion going on. I knew something was going on. It was very scary. And I didn't know what was happening.
You know, honestly it kind of sounded like gunshots. So, you know, with everything going on in the world. I thought it was an active shooter. Right after I walked out of my room, the fitting room. I found out, that's when I found out it was someone in a large car SUV crashed through the doors. And they kept going. It was a huge mess in the store.
LEMON: Did people stay calm? Or was it -- was it a chaotic situation?
HALFMAN: Where I was, you know, they went through I don't know who shot -- on kind of a phones, you know, people were kind of freaking out a little bit. They are all scared. Didn't know what was happening, but there wasn't a huge crowd at the store at the time. Where I was, but then the workers came in and told everyone to evacuate. Get out of the building. So that was you know, a little alarming. That he told us to get out. Get out of the store.
HALFMAN: Few people that were there. In front of me. And I didn't even know -- I don't know where he went. Because you know, he -- the person, you know, in there just kept going. That is what the sounds were. And I think that was the sound I was hearing when I thought it might be gunshots. And there was no gunshots. It was just crashing through the mall.
LEMON: I can't imagine that being in the mall and you're shopping and all of the sudden there's a car coming right through the mall. Like it's a street or parking lot. Would you go shopping at this mall again, Lori?
HALFMAN: I would. LEMON: Is it pretty random, and rare occurrence.
HALFMAN: Oh, yes, I don't think I would -- yes. I don't feel it should happen again. But it would be weird going back to the store. But I will. I will. Eventually.
LEMON: Lori Halfman, be safe out there. Thank you for joining us.
HALFMAN: Thank you. You're welcome.
LEMON: I really appreciate it.
HALFMAN: Thank you for having me.
LEMON: A lot more to come on tonight's bomb shell story. A source telling CNN, the president pressured Ukraine president to investigate Joe Biden's son.
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. We've got five big headlines in the hour ahead here. A source telling CNN President Trump pressured Ukraine president in a phone call back in July to investigate Joe Biden's son.