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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
House Democrats Will Meet Tuesday at 4:00 P.M. to Discuss Next Steps in Investigation; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is Interviewed About the Whistleblower Complaint Investigation; Three House Committees Now Threatening Subpoenas After President Trump Admits Talking To Ukraine About Biden; House Democrats Threaten To Subpoena Secretary Of State Unless He Hands Over Ukraine Documents; Trump Killed Briefings Because Reporters Weren't Good To His People. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 23, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Both today and over the weekend the president of the United States admitted to talking to a foreign leader about investigating the president's leading domestic political rival and today he suggested he was using $250 million in military aid as leverage. That's where we begin tonight.
And it's important not to let what president Trump said, what he himself has already admitted, get lost in all the noise surrounding this story. That noise, the goalpost moving, the denying of wrongdoing, even while seemingly admitting to it all, they're all from a playbook this president has used before. And you'll see plenty of examples of it tonight.
But strip that away. Don't go down those rabbit holes. You're left with a question of whether a sitting U.S. president may have used the power of his elected office to obtain something of personal or political value from a foreign government, perhaps by means of extortion.
And again, wherever a court or Congress may come down on that, the president, himself, has now admitted to some elements of it, saying, yes, he did talk with Ukraine's president about criminally investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don't want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president's surrogates are trying to claim whatever the president may have said, his concern was corruption in the Ukraine as he was just talking about there. And though there is no evidence of anything having to do with Joe Biden or his son, the president is speaking as if there is. The president is hoping you will get distracted by that. That if he repeats it enough, it'll start to seem like a fact. It's not.
What he's trying to do is distract you from is getting caught saying something that is improper and possibly illegal for a sitting president to do. Pressure a foreign leader into criminally investigating an American political rival, someone the president is worried about losing to in the next election.
When the story first broke, the president himself flat out denied anything inappropriate. Last Thursday, he tweeted, quote, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while in such a potentially heavily populated call?
Well, Sunday, he admitted that he had and this morning connected it with the quarter billion U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's very important to talk about corruption. If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt? One of the reasons the new president got elected is he was going to stop corruption. So it is very important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's very important that on occasion, you speak to somebody about corruption.
Now, we should point out this has not been a big topic the president has publicly discussed, corruption in countries around the world. You might believe it is simply a coincidence he says he is concerned about corruption in Ukraine. But even if you believe that, according to the reporting of "The Wall Street Journal", he certainly seems focused on the Bidens in the Ukraine.
According to "The Journal", he brought up the Bidens around eight times in that conversation back at the end of July. And several weeks later, the president blocked that military aid package to Ukraine that had already passed Congress. Parts of Ukraine as you know are under Russian occupation. The money would have gone to defending against further Russian aggression.
So, it's not trivial stuff and certainly not for Ukraine. The president finally relented to bipartisan pressure and approved the aid.
Now, the president has publicly claimed he wants us all to see the transcript of the call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I hope you get to see the call because your question you will see I did not ask for -- I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I'm not going to give you A. I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes, wouldn't have to do that either.
It seems clear what he is saying there but in the last several days he's been really playing cat and mouse on whether he will release the transcript. Does this sound familiar?
He said he'd love to. He also said he might not. Today he said both in a single sentence, perhaps he will. Perhaps he won't.
It is similar to what he has said about releasing his tax returns or being interviewed by Robert Mueller in person. He'd love to, he would say, but the lawyer says he can't.
Whatever the case may be, we do not know precisely what was said on that call, but it certainly is possible he made no explicit threat about withholding aid. Again, did he really need to spell it out?
Especially with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who for weeks has been meeting with Ukrainian officials, pressuring Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens which is, of course, not normal, not for any president and any party ever, which the president's treasury secretary must have known yesterday even as Jake Tapper asked him this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Let me just close by asking, if, for instance, President Obama had pressured a foreign leader, Putin or the president of the Ukraine and said, I want you to look into Donald Trump Jr. or I want you to look into Eric Trump, international businessmen, both of them. Would you not find that inappropriate?
STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Again, I'm not going to speculate on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, it'll certainly come up in the conversation tonight on that and the whistleblower complaint that's apparently connected to it.
But, first, breaking news just in. A new action tomorrow in the House concerning the investigation.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is traveling with the president, joins us now from the United Nations.
So, first of all, what do you know about this Democratic, the meeting among Democrats, plans tomorrow for a meeting? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is
really interesting. We're learning that House Democrats are going to meet tomorrow afternoon. This is in addition to the meeting they typically have in the morning to discuss run-of-the-mill issues, trade, what not. They're going to meet especially tomorrow night, tomorrow afternoon to talk about the next steps they're taking in their investigations.
Of course, one of the topics is likely to come up during that meeting is going to be the White House refusal so far to turn over this whistleblower's complaint to Congress, something the law mandates that the inspector general does deem it urgent, which we should note he has and also comes amid these questions after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that if the White House didn't turn it over, it was going to lead to an escalation with Congress.
And that's noteworthy because so far, she has been pretty hesitant to make any calls or pushes for impeachment and he pushes for it. And so far, there are questions about whether she is softening that stance and that's what people are going to be watching for coming out of that meeting tomorrow which we should note is also for members only. No staff so far based on what we're told is going to be invited to that meeting.
COOPER: How are people in the White House viewing this? Because, again, the president himself admitted to bringing up the Bidens in his conversation with the Ukrainian president which is why "The Wall Street Journal" reported.
COLLINS: Yes. As the president was admitting that leaving the White House yesterday, his aides were on TV insisting, no, he did not pressure the Ukrainians in that conversation. He didn't make any mention of that aid package.
When the president today was making clear he thinks if he did bring up the aid package in relation to this investigation that he wants to happen into Joe Biden and his family, he thinks it would be appropriate. Right now, aides are dismissing it. They're saying this is just how the president speaks.
But they are watching closely to see what the reaction is going to be not just among Republicans but also are new Democrats going to call for his impeachment? They've been dismissing it publicly but, Anderson, they're going to be paying close attention to that meeting tomorrow afternoon to see what it is the House speaker says after meeting with the caucus.
COOPER: Right. So, if Congress doesn't get a transcript of this call or recording of the call, I mean, is there any chance the White House would actually release it? I know the president has said at some point, you know, I would like to. But I mean, that's what he said about tax returns and the Mueller interview.
COLLINS: Yes, it is, and he's waivered back and forth. And really, the president has been the only person who has said, yes. He'd like to see this transcript released. So far, people in the White House had said they think it would create a dangerous precedent. They think then it would lead to lawmakers asking for transcripts of his calls with Vladimir Putin and other world leaders. That's what they're keeping in mind.
And so, it is really up to their discretion if they're going to release this, but then the question is whether or not to release the whistleblower's complaint, not to the public but even to the intelligence committee as the law mandates. That is something they're even waffling on, saying that that would set a dangerous precedent. But, of course, with that, it doesn't come down to the precedent. It's the law for them to release it.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.
Adding to the pressure on the White House, upcoming testimony in the whistleblower portion of the story. The acting director of national intelligence is due in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, that's going to be behind closed doors. And as Kaitlan reported, a growing appetite among House Democrats for impeachment.
Just before air time, I spoke with the Tennessee Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen.
COOPER: Congressman, how much does the situation with President Trump and Ukraine change the calculus in the House? I mean, you've been pushing for impeachment since 2017. Has this latest controversy taken things to a new level among your fellow Democrats?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): I think it has. Of course, it depends on the facts as they are developed. And if they are very close to what we've read in the reports from "The Washington Post," of him basically leveraging military aid to the Ukraine that they need to defend themselves from Russian invasion, on their investigating allegations about Joe Biden's son Hunter, then if they're close, I think it'll bring us to a new place where we'll have another article of impeachment, maybe an article we can all get on and agree is something the Republicans should join us on and if they don't, hopefully so be it.
COOPER: It doesn't matter to you if there is not any, you know, no way it would pass in the Senate because of the lack of the Republican support. You think the House should still go ahead and do this?
COHEN: I most certainly do because I think we have a duty. We take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution.
We are given the power to sanction or countervail a president through impeachment who we feel the facts show has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. And some of that is just the inability to operate as chief executive of the nation. And when somebody uses the powers of the government, the powers of the nation for their own political benefit, and does it in a way that appears to be a bribe to a foreign official, we have a duty our oath to take action.
And even more than that, I think as a history student, I think it's important that history record President Trump in the same category as Andrew Johnson, a president who was impeached, not convicted, but impeached for good cause. And history should note that he is in that same class.
COOPER: There is an argument that of course among some Democrats that this will ignite or rev up the president's base and obviously there are concerns about the 2020 election. Should that be taken into account?
COHEN: I can't -- I don't see it. Number one, we have a duty. Number two, the president is going to lie no matter what we do about things we've done and about things we haven't done and about things he imagines and things that are underneath rocks that don't even exist.
So, you can't base any of your actions on what the president might do because the president will do anything that he possibly can to be re- elected. He learned at the foot of Roy Cohn who was one of the most despicable human beings ever to disgrace the earth.
COOPER: Speaker Pelosi still hasn't publicly endorsed impeachment proceedings. She says the situation with the whistleblower in Ukraine could precipitate what she called a whole new stage of investigation. Do you need her onboard in order to move forward with impeachment or is there willingness to do this with or without her blessing?
COHEN: We need her onboard to get the 218 votes to have the House officially impeach him, which would put the Senate on the spot and cause several senators to have to show the American people are they with the Constitution and the rule of law or are they with Donald Trump?
And for Republican senators that are in difficult seats to defend, and I would suspect that's Arizona, that's Maine, that's Colorado, could even be Texas, it'll be important to see whether they uphold their oath to the Constitution or whether they go down as Trumpers.
COOPER: Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
COHEN: Anderson, good to be with you.
COOPER: We're going to have much more ahead, including the reaction from Republicans and some criticism. Plus, a Republican strategist's take on why that is so rare.
Also tonight, the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a familiar face in a familiar role.
COOPER: And welcome back.
We have been looking at the White House reaction to all the coverage about the president's conversation with the Ukrainian president. Tomorrow, apparently, the Democrats are going to meet to discuss next steps in the investigation of the president. Far less attention has been put on the Republican side.
Here is a healthy piece after fairly small sample of Republicans talking about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It is regrettable that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff and Senator Schumer have chosen to politicize the issue.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): I would like to have the whistle blower come and talk to me so we know what his story is. I don't want to hear it second hand.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I believe president Trump is going to blow you away with his willingness to disclose and transparent about this phone call, because I think he did nothing wrong, and he has nothing to hide.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): The bottom line is I don't think he should have done it but that's a far cry from what some people around here are claiming to know as fact that frankly we don't know as fact.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think there are people in the intelligence community and other parts of our government that just have it out for the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Utah Senator Mitt Romney is one of the few Republicans to openly criticize the president, tweeting: If the president asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.
I want to get some perspective now, with what you might call reticence on the part of Republicans. Our guests may differ on the wording. Our political analyst, author and investigative reporter, Carl Bernstein, joins us, CNN political commentator and former Bush campaign media adviser, Mark McKinnon, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, first, what are you hearing from Republican circles on the Hill? Certainly not saying much publicly. What are they saying privately?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Nothing. I mean, what you just heard publicly is what is going on privately, which is nothing. Except for the condemnation of the, quote-unquote, hysteria of Democrats on what they think could be a very big problem, what is a very big problem on its face, the president of the United States admitting that he made completely inappropriate comments to another foreign leader about a political opponent.
That in itself should be a green light for the Trump appointed inspector general to be able to give a report or just a complaint rather, just a complaint to Congress because that's the way it should go. But what you are hearing is crickets from Republicans and I've even talked to some Democrats, Anderson, who have, you know, kind of private conversations with some of the potential Republicans who would poke their head out of the hole on something like this, and even for them, they are hearing nothing.
COOPER: Mark, I'm wondering where you are on this. I mean, if -- and on Republicans' reaction to it. If President Obama had done this and pressed a foreign leader to investigate Mitt Romney's son ahead of the election, I wouldn't be surprised, you know, I would imagine Republicans would have taken immediate steps to impeach or at least spoken out about it.
What do you make of this?
MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Obama would be in a gulag somewhere, Anderson.
What I make is that most Republicans now with a very few exceptions like Romney have concluded that they're working for President Houdini and they just saw that the -- that we spent $32 million on a two-year investigation with the toughest prosecutor in America and couldn't scratch a flame. So I think they're looking at that saying this guy is bullet proof and there is no reason for us to get out over our skis on this, so let's at the very least wait and see.
The thing that's most bothersome I think, Anderson, is the point Dana was raising, which is President Trump is just going further and further about thwarting the laws of this country, and in this case a Trump appointed inspector general is the guy who said, he's supposed to be the filter to say, is this worthy? He is saying not only is it worthy he's saying it is urgent.
And the law says you have to give that to Congress and they're saying, nope. Don't have to. Don't -- can't make me. And trying to draw the line there.
So that's, you know, once again the guard rails just keep being pushed further and we'll see what the laws and the courts can do.
COOPER: Yes, and, Carl, I mean, that is the question. What can the laws, what can the courts do? I mean, if nobody sees the transcript or nobody hears the call, if it never goes out of, you know, the DNI's office, this, does this just die on the vine?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know. And that's one of the reasons that impeachment is being mentioned in this.
But I think what we have here, if the report to "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," and especially "The Wall Street Journal" owned by Rupert Murdoch, the president's friend, who -- "The Journal" has done great reporting exposing what has apparently happened here with real intimidation of a foreign leader to get him to investigate a political opponent of the president of the United States, that would be a grave abuse of power and what we are seeing in the president's response is also the pathology of Donald Trump talking about the electric chair.
And we're watching, again, the contempt for the law, the contempt for process. The contempt for the office of the presidency as it is traditionally conducted by those presidents who respect the Constitution and the law. But there's one other parallel here that goes back to Watergate and that is we have as in Watergate, President Nixon attempted to interfere with the Democratic primary, the opposition party's primaries by political espionage and sabotage to get the nominee he wanted to run against, who was George McGovern not Senator Muskie of Maine through political dirty tricks, espionage, and sabotage.
This, if the reporting is correct, is once again an abuse of power such as was in the Nixon impeachment for undermining the very basis of our democracy, free elections.
BASH: But, Anderson, as Carl knows better than any of us, ultimately, the downfall of Richard Nixon was his fellow Republicans. And what I am also hearing tonight --
BERNSTEIN: That's exactly right.
BASH: Right. What I'm hearing tonight from Republicans who have the most to lose, Republicans who are up for re-election, in 2020, on the Hill. Obviously, that's all Republicans in the House but, also, in purple states, in the Senate, and even they are saying to me that their constituents say they believe this is too complicated and there is a Russia hang over here, that they're hearing from their constituents that there was a shoulder shrug after, as Mark said, millions of dollars were spent, a year and a half of discussion about Russia --
BASH: -- and their constituents didn't think it was a big deal and they see what is going on now as akin to that, and they think they have political protection.
COOPER: Right. Mark, what's interesting about that, too, is that this phone call to the Ukrainian president took place the day after the Mueller hearing. Again, we don't know what was in the president's mind, but watching the Mueller hearing and then feeling like, OK. No collusion.
I mean, this, you could say, is an attempt at collusion. He then ups the ante to your point and calls this guy up and --
BASH: It was the day after.
COOPER: Yes. MCKINNON: The timing is not only incredible. It's apparently not coincidental, because you can just can imagine how having just beat this tough federal prosecutor and the $32 million spent trying to get him, and months and months of hearings that he would say, you know, if I can get away with that, I can get away with anything.
And -- but politically I think what is happening here, Anderson, obviously, I think this will be the tipping points for Democrats to go to impeachment. At the same time, I think it is just going to divide the country even more. It is going to energize Democrats and I think it's also going to energize Republicans.
So, we may have an election next year where we have a hundred percent turnout on both sides.
Carl, I mean, it is part of a pattern from the president and his inner circle, deny it happened, admit something happened. Then deflect blame. The president says he would love to release the thing but, gosh darn, these attorneys, you know, they're holding up the taxes because of the audit that may or may not exist. And I'd love to talk to Mueller but, you know, my attorneys just won't let me.
BERNSTEIN: Well, we've seen one red herring after another in all matters Trump, in which he would supposedly you would think have been caught not just in lying but in obstructing justice, in abusing the powers of his office, but he has been very effective in mobilizing his base, in keeping the Republican Party united, 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent even of Republicans, those who call themselves Republicans, support this president of the United States.
He said he could walk down 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and get away with it. I think we're seeing that here.
But we are also seeing the Constitution of the United States stretched to its limits. And this is the great dilemma for the Democrats. Are they going to be a party that insists on constitutional responsibility and go ahead and move toward impeachment of this president, or are they going to follow a strictly political route --
BERNSTEIN: -- and it might devolve to making them look bad by not confronting the president in terms of his constitutional abuse of power?
COOPER: Yes. And then, Mark, does the election just become a yes or no about impeachment and what the Democrats did, and does that suck up all the oxygen of what the Democrats talk about which takes them off of table top issues?
MCKINNON: Yes. In fact, that is what I'm saying. Politically you could see how this could turn into an advantage for Trump. He could just say they couldn't get us with Mueller, they can't get us through the election, so they're going through impeachment.
They're trying -- they're trying to move beyond, trying to make a move around the voters to try and get us out of office. And that's why we're drawing a line and --
BASH: And that is exactly why Nancy Pelosi has been trying to stop this train from leaving the station for so long and why it's hard now because a lot of moderate Democrats have been coming out in the last 24 hours saying, it's time.
COOPER: Right, yes.
Dana Bash, Mark McKinnon, great to have you on.
BERNSTEIN: And the facts have changed.
COOPER: Yes. Carl Bernstein, thank you so much.
Just ahead, we're going to step back. Some perspective on the stark language President Trump is using to describe his critics.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The avalanche of unprecedented happenings from this President, his White House at times calls for perspective, this is certainly one of those times like when the President uses language like this about the growing scandal around him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Joe Biden and his son are corrupt, all right? But the fake news doesn't want to report it because they're Democrats. If that ever happened, if a Republican ever did what Joe Baden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they'd be getting the electric chair by right now.
Look at the double standards. You people ought to be ashamed of yourself and not all. We have some great journalists around but you got a lot of crooked journalists. You're crooked as hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters joins me. Colonel Peters, when you hear language like that from the president of the United States, he is talking in front, by the way, of the president of Poland. I wonder what you make of it. What does it say to you, that the US is even in a position where its citizens have to wonder if their president may have asked a foreign leader to investigate a political rival?
RALPH PETERS, RETIRED LIEUTENANT COLONEL, US ARMY: It truly is, an utterly, utterly unprecedented situation, and shames us. It shames us all. It doesn't just shame Democrats. It doesn't -- it shames all Americans. And the founding fathers of course never foresaw anyone like Trump. How could they?
And when he talks, you know, there are many sides to government corruption. I, personally, know of nothing for which Joe Biden can be accused of being corrupt. Trump on the other hand is a paragon of corruption in every possible respect in his presidency, in his life before the presidency.
That said, you know, I'm not a fan of Elizabeth Warren. She can't do basic math. But she is absolutely right about the pervasiveness of corruption including what I would call legal corruption in our government. And so while Joe Biden appears to be above reproach, it is a legitimate question for we, the people to ask, you know, what qualifications did his son have to sit on a Ukrainian gas corporation board?
Trump is something new. He's a low point in our history. He's -- he does such damage on a daily basis to our image. The only saving grace is our allies have already written him off and are just hoping for change.
COOPER: And, yet, first of all, there's something about saying that kind of thing in front of the president of Poland. Now, that is interesting to me because it does give license to a president of Poland or any regime that wants to crack down on reporters or just label any kind of information that they don't like, you know, fake.
When the president of the United States is doing that, I feel like it gives license to thugs around the world.
PETERS: Of course it does. And there is plenty of fake news. And it's primarily on the internet and sponsored by extreme right wing sites. Although extreme left wing sites get their share too.
But Trump -- the biggest mistake people make about Trump is using the word "leader" or "leadership." Trump is not a leader of any sort.
Trump is an entertainer. He is a brilliant entertainer, one of the most successful entertainers in history. But leadership, you know, I think about this a lot in relation to Trump. You know, the military rules apply. A leader should put his mission first, then his men, before himself. And Trump is just the opposite.
You know, in the military, there's a rule that officers eat last. When you're out on maneuvers, you make sure every single soldier is fed. Then if there's anything left, you get the cold powdered eggs in the winter. And Trump is just the opposite of that. Trump eats first. He eats as much as he can. He doesn't care if there is any left over for anybody else.
So from my experience of leadership, and I have been privileged to work for and with some magnificent leaders, and Trump doesn't qualify as a leader on any single count.
COOPER: The President said he is the most transparent president in the US history. Clearly his White House is not. He is transparent, probably not how he means, in that he is the most -- it is so clear what he is thinking and he says all the things he is thinking whether on Twitter. He told George Stephanopoulos he would have no problem taking information from a foreign government to use against an opponent or if it would help him in an election.
This is just one step beyond that and it doesn't seem like he has a problem with it. The idea of, you know, asking a foreign government to do something that's going to attack his own political opponent and help an election and why not use, you know, the weight of not giving military aid?
I mean, if you believe in the first one of accepting information from a foreign government, morally why not? Just then request it?
PETERS: No. Trump cares about Trump cares about Trump cares about Trump, and that sort in. He doesn't care about others. Maybe a little bit about his family. But, you know, it's telling that Donald Trump doesn't seem to have a single, intimate, life long friend.
He must be in his own peculiar way, a terribly lonely man. Nothing really makes him happy. When do you see Trump looking genuinely happy or delighted with life? You know, he may be president of the United States, but by god, every morning he has to get up and be Donald Trump. And that's a curse upon anybody.
COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, appreciate it. Thank you.
And still to come tonight, did the President's TV lawyer Rudy Guiliani expose himself to some legal jeopardy by asking a foreign government to meddle in a US election? We'll look at that ahead.
COOPER: Today the Democratic heads of the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committee has threatened the State Department with subpoenas if it did not turn over documents related to its efforts to aid Rudy Guiliani in his meeting with officials in the Ukraine.
Guiliani's role in the story has not gone unnoticed in large part because of the by design crash and burn interviews he's once again conducted as part of the President's defense strategy. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Your answer should have been yes.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Let me finish, Chris. Let me finish.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
GIULIANI: And don't try to interrupt because you don't like the answer.
CUOMO: I don't like evasiveness. The evasiveness, I don't like.
GIULIANI: And you don't want to distort what I'm saying.
If Joe Biden actually bribed the president of the Ukraine, which he -- Laura --
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: That's a big allegation.
GIULIANI: It's not an allegation. It is a prima facie case. We could look at motive, we could look at intent.
INGRAHAM: Did the president threaten to cut off aid to the Ukraine?
GIULIANI: No. No, that was a false story.
GIULIANI: I can't tell you if it is 100 --
INGRAHAM: Because --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, joining me now, our CNN Legal Analyst and Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security, Carrie Cordero. So, has Guiliani opened himself up to any kind of legal action? I mean, he's not a public official, the President obviously is.
Still unclear who knew what and when, and what Guiliani himself said to various Ukrainian officials that he has been meeting with.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So it's a question whether or not he has exposed himself to criminal liability or not. If the President -- the President is the person who is the public official, so if we're looking at the criminal federal bribery statutes, then if the President sought a thing of value from a foreign government official in exchange for some type of official act that he could have participated in, that he could have given, then that would fall under the federal bribery statutes.
And if Rudy Guiliani is helping him do that, then he is either aiding and abetting, or there is an argument that he could be involved in some kind of conspiracy.
COOPER: But it's a tough argument to make. I mean, if the President's line is, well look, I was talking about corruption in the Ukraine and my concerns over it, and, yes. You know, I mentioned Biden eight times according to the Wall Street Journal, but it's corruption in Ukraine that I'm concerned about because, you know, we're going to potentially give a lot of money to them.
CORDERO: Well, this is where we start to go down the rat hole of are things the president is doing that's a national security problem, i.e. potentially implicitly, whether or not explicitly, using instruments of foreign policy and national defense in exchange for political favors, we get into whether that foreign policy and severe national security problem is a technical violation of criminal law.
And so, I think depending on the way the facts play out because, again, we don't have all of the facts at this point because that whistleblower complaint has to be provided to the intelligence committees of Congress in order for them to vet the facts. But because we don't know all the facts, could there be if they play out that way, in attenuated way that Rudy Guiliani could be implicated? It's possible.
COOPER: You say it has to be provided to Congress, is there a mechanism for that? I mean, if the DNI says, you know, I talked to the Justice Department, I talked to the White House. I'm not going to forward this on and the whistleblower isn't going to come forward directly to go to Congress, what happens?
CORDERO: Well, right now, it's a stonewall because the administration is throwing up a whole bunch of different explanations for why they think they don't have to provide it.
What needs to happen from my perspective is the four chairs and vice chairs or ranking members of the Intelligence Committees, this would mean Republicans and Democrats have to demand from the executive, from the president, that they be provided the whistleblower complaint.
They might all have different motivations. And I know people think, oh, there's no way that they would agree to request this information.
But there actually have been instances where the chair and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee have joined together to request certain information and other contexts from the Executive Branch.
If those four chairs of the Senate Intel and the House Intel Committee got together and demanded from the White House. I think it would be very hard for the white house to withhold that information.
COOPER: And as a former national security attorney, you testified before the House Judiciary Committee on lessons from the Mueller report, hoping that lessons would ensure foreign interference on our Democratic institutions, would be looked back on as an aberration.
I mean, it seems like as soon as the Mueller testimony was done, this call was made. The timing is kind of stunning.
CORDERO: It was the next day. And the Mueller report was a warning. What it showed was that the President and his campaign in 2016 openly were willing to receive assistance from a hostile foreign power. And what the current facts are starting to look like is that in the present time, right now, as we move from day to day, they are again actively seeking foreign information to harm their political opponents.
COOPER: Yes, which the President told George Stephanopoulos he wouldn't have a problem with if they approached him with information.
CORDERO: They're doing it in the wide open.
COOPER: Yes. Carrie Cordero, appreciate it. Thank you
COOPER: Still to come, why the new White House press secretary is holding no press briefings and why it's on "The Ridiculist" ahead.
COOPER: Check in with Chris, see what's he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris, I wonder what you thought about the President talking about your interview with Rudy Giuliani. He claims Giuliani took you "to the cleaners." He also claims he never watches CNN, but I'm curious to know your thoughts.
CUOMO: I think that wasn't the right place for him to be making those kinds of comments at the UN. He is incapable of being distracted from himself. And I think that the Giuliani interview speaks for itself. And I think the actions that we're seeing in Congress and the questions about what Mr. Giuliani was talking about speak for themselves.
We've got Leshchenko on tonight, the man he was talking about on our show, the Ukrainian Member of Parliament, and the journalist he says was out to hurt Trump and that's why he went after Manafort. You will get the answers to all the allegations from Giuliani and some facts he neglected to share.
COOPER: You also did an amazing breakdown of the interview and Giuliani's strategy, yes, that we just thought was fascinating to watch. We'll be watching tonight, eight minutes from now, CNN.
Coming up, she's been on the job since the summer and hasn't held a formal briefing even though that is technically her job or at least what the job used to be. The White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham goes to bat for President Trump in a friendly arena. "The Ridiculist" is next.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight, we want to introduce you to a White House figure as elusive as the ghost of Dolly Madison. We're talking about the White House Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham.
Now, you haven't seen much of her, even though she's been on the job since July and is being paid by you, taxpayers. She's never actually held a formal briefing. She did, however, just give an interview with the White House Press Department Main Office, otherwise known as "Fox & Friends."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX HOST: We saw all his press secretaries with, you know, in front of the podium. Sean Spicer, they made fun of him on Saturday Night Live, but you'll never have that moment because no longer are we doing that, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes. Before she answers that question, let me just point out, the anchor isn't even pretending to be independent of the White House PR machine. No longer we doing that, right, the briefings. We're not doing that anymore. Not you, aren't doing that, not the administration, not the White House but "we."
I mean, I guess at least she's owning it. It tells you really all you need to know about the information being dispensed each morning from that F&F crescent-shaped novelty couch. But let's continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not right now. I mean, ultimately if the President decides it, something we should do, we can do that. But right now, he's doing just fine. And to be honest, the briefings had become a lot of theater and I think that a lot of reporters were doing it to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get famous.
EARHARDT: They were, they really were.
GRISHAM: Get famous. I mean, yes, they are writing books now. I mean, they are all getting famous off of this presidency. And so, I think it's great what we're doing now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Oh, my god, uh, pricking reporters. Couple of things to unpack there. By the way, did you notice how quickly our "Fox & Friends"-- is it Fox-- " Fox & Friends", did you notice how quickly they scrambled to agree with Grisham before she even finished her sentence?
Grisham was like, reporters were doing it to-- and then, you're going to hear, get famous? They really were.
Grisham is very concern the reporters would do in the briefings so they could write books, getting famous off the President, horrific. It's outrageous. I mean, it's not like anybody at Fox would write a book about the President and make money off said book.
Oh. Oh, Judge Jeanine, Jason Chaffetz, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Gregg Jarrett, Judge -- oh Judge Jeanine again, a couple of books there, "Trolley to Hell". A lot of books inspired -- she should do a book "Trolley to Hell" because that's the best line she's ever used, a lot of books inspired by the President.
And it's not like anyone in the administration would seek to profit off their time in the White House. I mean, just ask Sarah Sanders, who is now a contributor on Fox, OK.
That's different. I mean, it's not like she's writing a book about her time in the White House, right? I mean, there's oh. She's writing a book. Oh well. And, yes, Sean Spicer did parlay his lies and those SNL sketches into a gig and extra, which, you know, I guess, as and he's now doing the old herky-jerky-twerky in the name of Jesus over at "Dancing with the Stars."
Come to think of it, maybe Stephanie Grisham is wise to keep a low profile. I mean, she may actually be able to get a job after she's ultimately ousted and/or resigns. No one would ever know she works for the White House because nobody knows who she is or what she looks like because she's just not doing briefing.
She also is claiming the briefings have ended because the reporters were being tough, you know, asking tough questions and pointing out facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRISHAM: I think that it's so important that, you know, the spokesperson for the President can adequately speak to his policies and get his message out there. And I think the President saw that's not what was happening. It had become, again, theater and they weren't being good to his people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes. It's hard to adequately speak for policies when the President undercuts what you've just said from the podium. That happened a lot. And plenty of people are being treated badly in the White House. I'm not sure if it's the reporters who are to blame for that. I think there's a lot of nastiness going on in the White House and it has nothing to do with reporters.
Ms. Grisham might want to ask her boss about that one tonight and ever more they can find each other on "The Ridiculist."
All right, trolley to hell continues. Let's go over to Chris Cuomo "Prime Time." Toot, toot.