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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Three House Committees Now Threatening Subpoenas After Trump Admits Talking To Ukraine About Biden; Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) Is Interviewed About Whether The Democratic Party Is United As A Group When It Comes To Impeachment; Trump Outrageously Claims Republicans Would Get "Electric Chair" If They Did What He Wrongly Claims Biden Did; Trump's Story Keeps Changing About Whether He Pushed Ukraine On Biden; GOP Largely Silent After Trump's Ukraine Admission; GOP Largely Silent After Trump's Ukraine Admission; Booker: I Need $1.7 Million to Stay in Race. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: ... son. Safe journeys to all of them. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Democrats near a tipping point on impeachment as Trump denies he dangled foreign aid in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden. Plus, the President outrageously says Republicans would get the electric chair if they did what he wrongly claims Biden did. And Cory Booker running on fumes, the 2020 contender says he has to end his run if he does not raise $1.7 million dollars within the next week. Is this real or just a ploy? Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, President Trump returning to Trump Tower tonight as he faces what could be his worst political crisis to date, allegations that he withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden. Now, Trump says he had the right to do it, but he says he didn't.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I'm not going to give you aid. I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, OK, first of all, that's not necessarily true. And by the way, you don't need to say that directly to make a clear and obvious threat. And, of course, Trump not only told the Ukrainian president eight times to investigate Joe Biden, but he then did hold up the crucial military package to Ukraine until congressional committees began investigating his actions earlier this month. And now Trump's own lawyer isn't even backing up the President's claim that he did not threaten to cut off the aid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST, FOX BUSINESS: Did the President threatened to cut off aid ...

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No.

BARTIROMO: ... to the Ukraine.

GIULIANI: No. No, that was a false story.

BARTIROMO: One hundred percent?

GIULIANI: Well, I can't tell you if it's one hundred ...

BARTIROMO: Because ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So he can't tell you with a hundred percent. Look, there's one way to find out what was said during that phone call and, by the way, any other conversations that the President or that Giuliani had, it was a call that was said to be so urgent and concerning. According to Joe Biden, he says, release the transcript.

Now, simple enough, it is something that the President says he wants to do, put out the transcript.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hope you're going to be able to see the call. When you see the call, if you see it, I hope you see it. I hope you get to see the call. It was a very nice call. I hope you get to see it and I hope you get to see it soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Yes. Well, that's a lot of hope, but it doesn't sound like he really means it, because he hasn't done it. And in fact, it sounds like he doesn't plan to do it. Here he is, his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you can release, you can authorize release of the transcript. Will you do that, sir?

TRUMP: I can do it very easily, but I'd rather not do it from the standpoint of all of the other conversations I have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. That is Trump's playbook here. It's his MO. He says he wants to do something like sit down for face-to-face interview with Bob Mueller or put something out there like his taxes, but he just can't because his hands are tied.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I would love to give the tax returns, but I can't do it until I'm finished with the audit. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, obviously, we know that statement wasn't true. I mean, look, Trump never wanted to talk to Mueller, he never wanted to release his taxes and we could be seeing this play out all over again right now.

Pamela Brown is out front live outside the White House. Pamela, that is the big question. Will we ever see this transcript?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, here at the White House officials are evaluating whether to release the transcript of the President's now infamous July 25th call with the Ukrainian president. But some senior administration officials are firmly against the idea concerned. It could give Congress the ability to demand transcripts of calls with other leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And as you pointed out, the President in the past has claimed he'll be transparent on an issue as a way to say he has nothing to hide only two later back down. So it remains to be seen, Erin, how this will play out with releasing that transcript. But there have been some significant developments, Trump has now acknowledged he discussed Biden in that July call with the Ukrainian president amid this reporting, he pressed Ukraine to investigate Biden's son and he even implied today, Erin, his efforts were tied to giving Ukraine aid.

And while there's no direct evidence, Biden as vice president had Ukraine's prosecutor fired to squelch an investigation of a company linked to his son. Trump continues to insist something nefarious is afoot. Trump's also defending himself and dismissing his role in the controversy.

One Trump advisor told CNN today, Erin, "This is a problem for us amid these growing impeachment calls by Democrats who say the president abused his office by pressuring a foreign government to investigate his political rival." Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much from the White House tonight. And let's go out front now, the vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, also sits on the House Intelligence Committee and I appreciate your time. Good to have you with me, Congressman.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes.

[19:04:57]

BURNETT: So look, you said, I know that Democrats should start impeachment proceedings this Friday today if the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Trump's pick, Joseph Maguire, doesn't hand the goods over to Congress beforehand when it comes to the whistleblower. Are your colleagues on board with this or do you fear this could be like the Mueller report, Democrats rant and rave but don't get there as a group on impeachment? CASTRO: That's a great question and I think the answer is that more

and more Democrats and more and more Americans are on board with opening an impeachment inquiry. It's clear. I believe it's clear that there were serious obstruction of justice issues that should have opened an impeachment inquiry before. But certainly, the President of the United States abusing his power and trying to take out a political rival in Joe Biden by having the Ukrainian president do it is something that nobody should stand for.

So I think that once Nancy Pelosi set that Thursday deadline for the whistleblower complaint to be turned over to Congress, if that's not produced then I believe the next day, Congress, the House of Representatives should open a formal impeachment inquiry.

BURNETT: So there's some in the White House who hear what you're saying and it's sort of music to their ears. I mean one White House official today told CNN this is Mueller 2, we've seen this movie before. Are you concerned this will be a repeat?

CASTRO: I don't think so. I mean, look, we've got to see all of the evidence but I think the American people realize at this point that the President has abused his power in different ways that he routinely lies about all sorts of things. And these are the kinds of things that an impeachment inquiry is set up for. So there are things at stake here that are larger than the politics and quite honestly larger than the fate of the Democratic Party or the republican party in 2020.

If the Congress, if the House of Representatives sees all of this going on and sits back and does absolutely nothing with respect to impeachment, not only will it normalize what Donald Trump is doing, it will encourage future president, Democrats or Republicans, to take the same kind of brazen actions and basically disregard the Constitution and disregard the Congress.

BURNETT: So here's what President Trump said about his conversation with the Ukrainian president today. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden has done creating to the big corruption already in the Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: As a point of disclosure, obviously, you're the chair of your brother, Julian's run for the White House. Here's what his rival Beto O'Rourke tweeted today though, Congress, when he tweeted, "We don't need the transcripts. The President admitted to asking a foreign power to investigate a political opponent. Impeach him." Given what Trump has admitted, do you think the transcripts are necessary?

CASTRO: Actually, I would agree with Beto on that. I mean, I think we could have started the impeachment before this, but certainly what we've heard already, I think, is enough to start at an impeachment inquiry and more than that, we are derelict in our duty to the people, the American people if we don't start it.

BURNETT: Apologize for my cough.

CASTRO: That's OK.

BURNETT: Joe Biden, tweeted out today, he told Trump to release the transcripts in a tweet when the President said, "I could." He said, release them. I'm curious what you think, though, Congressman, because legally, obviously, you don't need a concrete threat for a quid pro quo but if these transcripts come out, they don't have that direct threat. Does that just muddy the water and cause this to backfire politically?

CASTRO: I mean, look, the President is going to make every kind of argument to support his position that he can, but he's already admitted that he was talking to the Ukrainian President about a political rival. The reporting has been that he mentioned this eight times, that he may have mentioned this up to eight times, so he's clearly insisting on the Ukrainians taking up this matter with respect to Joe Biden and his son and that can only be to benefit Donald Trump politically, because he believes that that could be his rival the next fall.

BURNETT: So Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today tweeted, "At this point, the bigger national scandal isn't the President's lawbreaking behavior - it is the Democratic Party's refusal to impeach him for it." Obviously, you're for impeachment, and you're now putting a deadline on it. Do you agree with her that that is the bigger scandal, the hesitancy within your party?

CASTRO: I don't know. I mean, look, I hadn't weighed one against the other, but I do think that she's right that if we sit back and we don't do anything, then there is basically a stain on us as well. We have a responsibility according to the Constitution when a president abuses his or her power in this way to take action. And if we don't do anything, then that is a kind of scandal, yes.

[19:10:01]

BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thanks so much tonight.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, President Trump ramping up his rhetoric wrongly claiming and without proof that what Joe Biden did would be punishable by death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they'd be getting the electric chair by right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, Republican's radio silent refusing to comment on the whistleblower's claims. So what are pretty much all of them afraid of? There's a couple exceptions. And U.S. Army soldier in custody after allegedly discussing plans to attack 2020 presidential candidate. The disturbing details are ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:14:56]

BURNETT: New tonight, the electric chair. President Trump outrageously claiming that is what would happen to any Republican who did what he wrongly claims as potential 2020 rival Joe Biden did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they'd be getting the electric chair by right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. That comes as Trump continues to defend pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden on a phone call, even though - and we should be very clear about this, there's no evidence of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden in something that has been extensively litigated and covered.

Out front now CNN Chief Political Correspondent Gloria Borger, Chief Washington Correspondent for Politico Ryan Lizza and Politics Editor for The New York Times, Patrick Healy.

Patrick, the electric chair.

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is Trump hyperbole at its best or its worst. I mean the reality is that President Trump has been spreading this, what looks like, pretty clear misinformation for a while now in terms of these unsubstantiated allegations about Joe Biden and the reality is this is how President Trump plans to run his reelection campaign, whether it's Joe Biden or frankly any other Democrat who comes out.

What we've seen is the President being willing to basically say whatever he thinks and used the office of the president in this case, a phone call with the leader of a foreign power in which he is willing to raise the possibility of investigating one of his chief rivals. This is a presidency, we've said it many times, Erin, like none that we've seen before, but this particular moment is an instance where President Trump at least seems to feel like he can go to another foreign power and be discussing his own reelection interests and prospects.

BURNETT: Right. And very normal and, again, a conversation happening the day after Bob Mueller testified to Congress, Ryan. I mean let's also just be clear, he has changed his story which he always does on these sorts of things but he has changed his story even over the past 48 hours, whether he pressured the Ukrainian president and let me just play the movement here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you discuss Joe Biden, his son or his family with the leader of Ukraine?

TRUMP: It doesn't matter what I discussed.

The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was 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.

I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have, I think it would probably possibly have been OK if I did, but I didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That was Friday, that was Sunday and then that was this morning, Ryan. I mean he goes from it doesn't matter to, yes, of course, I want him investigated to, yes, I told him about it, but I didn't put pressure on him. I mean, does he need to get his story right here? Does he think he's benefiting by handling it like this?

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, he's benefitted previously on issues like this about his behavior when he's just been sort of doing it out in the open, right? And look, I think we structurally have a system right now where his own party doesn't see this behavior as problematic.

We went through this with the Mueller report to the extent that Mueller documented obstruction of justice. There's really no Republican elected officials who thought that was a big deal. So if there's no consequences for the previous behavior, he's going to push things, and push things, and push things and unless people in the Republican Party no longer tolerate that, then he'll be doing the same thing and the long-term what's happening is he's just going to set a series of precedents that the next time there's a Democratic presidents, they'll pocket these behaviors and will do the same things if they want.

So I see it like just as a systemic structural thing here, right?

BURNETT: Right.

LIZZA: It's what Republicans tolerate is what he gets away with. Until that changes, he'll just keep pushing.

BURNETT: And, of course, we should just note by the way, this call happened the day after Mueller testified in a testimony that was widely seen and certainly by the President as good for him, so then he goes out the next day and calls president of a country and says, you got to investigate my chief rival. I mean, Gloria, you have spoken with someone today who talks regularly

with the President and I know this person told you Trump is not worried. He's not bothered by the fallout by this so far. What else?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he told me that he's more worried about other things, more worried about gun control and does he do something on that and, of course, the issue with Iran. And then, ironically he said, he likes Joe Biden, believe it or not.

[19:20:04]

He said he has compassion for Joe Biden, but the way the President looks at this is that he sees the whole system as so rigged and so evil that none of this has any real substance. That's what the source said. And so if you look at it this way, it's kind of like birtherism. The President creates a false narrative, then he stirs the pot along with his friend Rudy Giuliani and then he lets it boil over.

It doesn't matter whether there's any veracity to the charge which there is not, but he does this posturing, he's a real professional at that and so he's not at all bothered by this. Now, people inside the White House who work for him, our reporting shows, are worried about it. But as for the president himself he's like, it's just another thing for him to do and he's not worried about impeachment in that sense either.

Does he want to be impeached? No. But he also believes that if the Democrats were to impeach him, it wouldn't hurt him in 2020.

BURNETT: Right. So I mean I guess if you see both sides of it, you don't want to have that footnote in your history book.

BORGER: Exactly, yes.

BURNETT: But if he win, again, he considers himself a winner. Patrick, what about Gloria's reporting though, this person saying the President has compassion for Joe Biden. I think in the context here, it feels quite condescending.

HEALY: Yes. I'm not sure what to make of that. I don't know what the intent of the person was who's saying it or what that exactly mean.

BORGER: That he likes him, yes.

BURNETT: Yes.

HEALY: That he likes him. No, I get it. But, look, I mean President Trump often talks about good manners and liking people and treating people with respect, but then he comes out and he makes these remarks over and over again essentially calling Joe Biden corrupt and his family corrupt. And I guess it's a little hard to square and just sort of call it usual politics.

BURNETT: I mean, Trump also, with his behavior as we're watching this, not only the shifting story, Ryan, but also the electric chair and then today he's in New York for the UN, so he's going off on another topic that he has historically been very fascinated by, which is his own inability to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Today, it came up in the context of Kashmir.

First, it was I'm going to win if I do North Korea, but now it's Kashmir. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think I'm going to get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things if they gave it out fairly, which they don't. Well, they gave one to Obama immediately upon his ascent to the presidency and he had no idea why he got it. And you know what, that was the only thing I agreed with him on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It's a topic, Ryan, he's obsessed about.

LIZZA: He's obsessed with this. He's obsessed with Obama and Obama's record. You can pretty much point to anything Obama did or if you want to make an argument to the President about trying to get him to do something, just say Obama did the opposite and that's a good starting place.

He's completely obsessed with the former president and with himself. And so this issue of the Nobel Prize, the fact that Obama won one and in Trump's view it was undeserved sort of he's obsessed with that and I don't think there are very many people who see any breakthroughs in foreign policy that he's accomplished that quite meet the Nobel Prize level yet.

And usually as a president, you don't talk about it so much, you just sort of do something that would merit that award.

BURNETT: So Gloria, I mean, he's talking like that as this Ukraine situation is sort of exploding around him, but from your reporting, it sounds like he truly may be more obsessed with things like the Nobel Peace Prize.

BORGER: Well, look, we all have covered Donald Trump for a while now. We know how much the adulation means to him, how much recognition means to him, how much winning means to him.

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: And so you put that all together and it's a prize, and it's an important prize, and it's a recognition, a worldwide recognition which quite honestly he doesn't have at the United Nations. So I think it would be something that he would want to have, another trophy on the shelf and clearly as you guys were saying this is something Obama got and he hasn't. So that's one more thing he's after and maybe he thinks he should get it because of North Korea, but that hasn't come to fruition as we can see.

So I think this is all about adulation for Donald Trump, which he needs. It's like oxygen.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, Senator Marco Rubio breaking his silence at this hour about Trump's call with the Ukrainian president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): So bottom line is I don't think he should have done it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: But, does he think it's time to impeach? Plus, Cory Booker says that he's nowhere near the $1.7 million he needs to raise within a week to stay in the race.

[19:25:04]

But is 2020 contender really ready to call it quits?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:29:35]

BURNETT: New tonight, Republicans covering for President Trump over his phone call with the Ukrainian president where he talked about Joe Biden. Here's Senator Marco Rubio just moments ago with our Manu Raju.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: So 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.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The President, if he's withholding military in exchange for Ukraine doing something, is that non-impeachable offense?

[19:30:02]

RUBIO: But there's no evidence of that. I mean no one has provided that people are alluding to that or asserting that or the partisans are arguing that. But there isn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, he doesn't like Trump's behavior, but as of tonight he is protecting him.

Lauren Fox is OUTFRONT from Capitol Hill.

And, Lauren, look, not a lot of Republicans want to talk about this. I know they've really been avoiding the cameras. Obviously, Senator Rubio now speaking out. And many of the ones you have spoken to seem to be dismissing it. What are you hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it's really just more of the same that we've heard from Republican senators any time there's a controversy with President Trump. I'm hearing from a rot lot of Republicans who say, there's not much to see here. Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican from North Dakota, told me, quote, this reaction as lot of hysteria over very little.

You saw Senator Rubio there. And Senator Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin, told one of my colleagues essentially he talked to the president earlier this summer about withholding that money from Ukraine, and that what the president told Johnson was essentially he was concerned about corruption in the country. Johnson said, you know, I think that's a valid concern, and something that the president of the United States has the authority to question.

So, Republicans really giving the president a lot of excuses and room to explain himself tonight. Meanwhile, Democrats are really holding a moment to think about whether or not they want to move forward with impeachment. We know Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the weekend sent that letter to her colleagues arguing that she wanted that whistle-blower complaint at the end of the week, and if she did not have it, they may be moving into more dire consequences for the president for not turning that over -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Lauren. So, now, let's go to former Republican Congresswoman Mia Love and Scott Jennings, former senior advisor to Mitch McConnell.

So, Congresswoman, should Republicans be speaking out more forcefully here?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think -- there are two things that we know. One is the prime minister mentioned that Hunter Biden did nothing wrong. He also said he didn't feel pressure from the president of the United States to investigate.

But there are two big problems here. One is, if you are having a conversation with a foreign entity and you're having them investigate United States of America, that opens up a can of worms. It allows for national security issues. It allows somebody to get in and get information that we may or may not want them to have.

The other problem is, if there's any quid pro quo. In other words, are we withholding support from a foreign entity so that they can do political favors? That would be a problem. The only way that you're going to get the information that you need is if you actually have those transcripts.

BURNETT: Right, which, of course, that is at the heart of much of this.

I mean, Scott, look, off camera, the Republican Senator John Cornyn today told reporters, is it a whistle-blower or is it a leaker, I don't know which. Now look, this seems strange, right? Trump's hand- picked intelligence inspector general says it's a whistle-blower with an urgent and credible report of an ongoing threat to national security. Trump's team blocks this person -- well, blocks the inspector general, right, who we know his man, from sharing the report. So details leak.

And Cornyn is blaming the whistle-blower?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Republicans are in wait and see mode. Frequently these stories happen in the Trump era and then they tend to change. Some of them melt down completely.

I mean, it was just a couple of weeks ago that every Democrat was about to jump out of the window wanting to impeach Brett Kavanaugh and we saw that story melt down. We saw a lot of Trump stories melt down.

That doesn't make the issue at hand unimportant, it doesn't make it unserious, and it doesn't worth of an -- unworthy of investigation. But it does mean, before you have a transcript, before you have, you know, an interview with a whistleblower, it means I think Republicans are going to wait and see if this happens like some of the other stories have happened and changes over time, it didn't quite what it was made out to be.

Look, I think giving this person whistleblower status is fine but it doesn't make them infallible, nor does it make their word better or worse --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Do you have disappointment though, Scott, though, on how some Republicans are handling this? Cornyn is a really smart, sophisticated guy. He's been around a long time. By doing that, he's trying to discredit the whole thing. He doesn't know what it is, either. All he knows is team Trump has stopped it getting out there.

So, you know, why not just say, I can't wait to see the facts?

JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, that would be my position. I think if I were on the intelligence committee or if I were in some protected capacity like some senators are, I would want to see the facts.

BURNETT: Uh-huh.

JENNINGS: But, look, It is true, frequently in the Trump era, things are said and then they change and then they melt down completely. All these Republican senators have been commanded and demanded to try to turn against the president and ultimately the facts or the story changes. So, I just think you're going to see moat Republicans in wait and see until they get more information.

If it gets more serious, I think maybe you could see changes in attitude, but not until they get more information.

[19:35:00] BURNETT: Congresswoman -- go ahead. Go ahead.

LOVE: Yes, what I was going to say is this is also a tricky situation for Democrats also, because if you have people that are calling for impeachment and they actually get the transcript and they don't have the information that they need, I think that the reason why Speaker Pelosi is being very careful about this is because this could actually end up backfiring for Democrats also. Not having enough evidence. And as we've seen, polls have shown the majority of Americans aren't ready for impeachment.

So I think that the best thing that anybody can do right now, before they even move forward, is get a clear understanding of exactly what was going on in that conversation, and if the president abused his seat.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, obviously, legally, you can clearly have a threat and a quid pro quo without a directly contractual, if you don't do this, I'll do this. But I understand your point, right? Politically, it can be much more complicated than that, much more nuanced.

LOVE: Yes.

BURNETT: Mitt Romney has called this out. And he really stands on an island on this among Republicans. He tweeted: 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.

Now, look, Congresswoman, he wrote this very carefully. If he pressured him to do that, which he did, we know. I mean, unless all of this is completely made up, we understand that's what the whistleblower report is about. Either directly or through his personal attorney, which again we know he did because Rudy Giuliani has said that he asked him to do it.

Mitt Romney's taking a big stand here, Congresswoman. Will he follow through?

LOVE: Yes, and I think it goes to the first point that I made. If you open up the doors for a foreign entity to go and investigate anything that is going on in your country, that causes some major national security problems. I don't know if he was given the advice, whether he shouldn't do it, whether he should do it, whether he just doesn't know, what conversations he can or can't have, it is a big issue.

It was a big issue with the Hillary Clinton evidence. It's a big issue now. So you never want a foreign entity to go in and investigate or look into what's happening in the United States.

BURNETT: Scott, is Mitt Romney -- I mean, and look, he's done this before, he called out the Mueller report, he didn't end up following through there fully but he called it out, he called this out. Do you think he's jumping the gun or is he a hero here because he's willing to say, this is completely unacceptable, people?

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: Yes, well, I think Mitt Romney's had well-known differences of --

BURNETT: Sorry. Go ahead, Scott. Final word.

JENNINGS: Sure, sure. Yes, I was to going to say, I think Senator Romney's had some well-known differences of opinion with President Trump. I think the most operative phrasing in his comment, Erin, was through his personal attorney because I think the most problematic fact for the Trump team here is that Rudy Giuliani was involved. I mean, we know during the Obama administration, they pressured Ukrainian officials on corruption. But that was through official channels.

If Giuliani were not involved and this were happening through official channels, through the State Department, say, this would look a lot better than having your personal attorney over there in the middle of something that looks political, when in fact maybe it could have been handled through official channels. So, in this particular case, I think having Rudy in the middle of it, both on the front end and on the TV end, maybe is not the most helpful thing for Team Trump.

BURNETT: I will only say and I love to keep talking about this with both of you, but I don't think there's any official channel that would make it look any better for a Trump administration --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: I think United States, though -- United States, Erin, talks to countries all the time about investigating corrupt activities or things that are going on. That's not an inappropriate conversation for us to have with other countries. In this case, when you have a political attorney in it, it looks political.

BURNETT: Thank you both very much.

And next, as fight for 2020 about to claim another victim?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe in me, this is the time to help, because without it, we shouldn't be in this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Will Cory Booker follow through on his threat to end his campaign?

A terrifying details emerging about a U.S. Army soldier accused of targeting a presidential candidate and a news network. What we're learning about the suspect tonight.

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[19:42:49]

BURNETT: Tonight, falling short. 2020 candidate Cory Booker says he's raised $589,000 since Saturday. Now, look, it's a lot of money but it is far short of the $1.7 million he says he has to have by next week or he's out, he's going to drop out of the race.

OUTFRONT now, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. She helped former Vice President Joe Biden prepare for the first and third debate.

And Jess McIntosh, former director of communications outreach for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

So, Governor Granholm, Booker already has made the cut for the next debate. So, if he goes ahead with his promise here, which it seems you have to do, you were so definitive about it, that he would be taking himself out of the race if he does drop out. So, what's the strategy here?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think height actually a genius strategy. If you look at the amount he's raised in these three days, right, if he kept going at that pace, then he would get to the number that he needs. But you're right that he has been super clear about it so that if he doesn't get to it, then he is -- I think people will see it as a gimmick, if he decides not to drop out, it will put a chink in his armor. So, I think he's really got to follow through. I think it's really a smart move, though.

BURNETT: Jess, would you agree? I mean, it's a lot of money. Obviously, you know, you get a big pump up front. He's gotten a third of the way there.

What do you think? Is it going to pan out?

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do agree, it is incredibly risky. But when you're on the bubble like he is right now, you've got to take big risks. I think people genuinely like Cory Booker's voice in the race. Even if they haven't decided he's their candidate, they like what he's saying. He's coming in with his message of unity and love and hope. I think Democrats want to hear that right now.

He's adding a lot more to the debate than a bunch of candidates who have not even suggested they're considering dropping out at this point. So, I think people are going to see that and decide they want to keep him around a little bit longer.

BURNETT: What is interesting, and I find it amazing. I think one of the things to take away is how many Americans are willing to contribute to political campaigns, Governor.

But here -- this is the context here. Booker got 3 percent in the latest Iowa poll, which sounds like nothing, it's enough to make it to the debates. And that's important. But here at the top, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, they are now

statistically tied. When you combine the first and second choice, Warren crushes Biden 42 to 30. So, basically say to a caucus-goer in Iowa, who are your first two choices -- she kills when it comes to that.

[19:45:04]

What does that tell you? Is this concerning for Joe Biden?

GRANHOLM: Well, I think it's concerning for all of the candidates who are not Elizabeth Warren, right? But I also know that I think in that same poll, only 20 percent of people have their mind made up. So, it's one poll.

It's a poll that demonstrates that you have to have a big presence on the ground in Iowa. I think you're seeing a lot of these candidates really amp up their commitment to Iowa. So we'll see what happens.

I just -- I don't think you can, like, say it's all over, because it's just too far out. But I do think that for those candidates who are getting small numbers, I know we're going to talk about the DNC thresholds in these early states, it's a -- it is a moment to have yourself really do a gut check. Is this where I should be spending my personal time and running?

BURNETT: What do you say, Jess, in those numbers, 42 to 30?

MCINTOSH: I mean, I totally agree. These are really big numbers for Elizabeth Warren. And it's not even just the top lines that are good for her. It's the trends.

BURNETT: Yes.

MCINTOSH: We are seeing her rise while Biden and Sanders, who were the other in the top three there, are steadily starting to fall in Iowa. I think that we don't give enthusiasm nearly enough credit when we talk about electability. What we want in a nominee is somebody who inspires a lot of passion in our base, because that's what Donald Trump is going to bring out.

So, if we have -- I want in our nominee somebody who can get 20,000 people in a crowd, somebody who can get people to stand for four hours to take a photo with her. That's the energy that's going to carry Democrats across the finish line and that absolutely speaks to the ability to be elected.

BURNETT: All right. So, this comes, Governor, as the DNC has announced its qualifications for the November debate. And, you know, look, oh gosh, you've got to get 3 percent in at least four national polls. I laugh because people probably say, what do you mean, you know, 3 percent? Well, it was 2 percent, and 3 percent is much high where you look at how people are doing. Or you got to get 5 percent in two of the early voting states.

So, what do you think that's going to mean, Governor? How many people are going to be gone? There's 11 on the stage for the upcoming October debate. That's the number we have as of now. What could happen?

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: Now, right, Tulsi Gabbard needs to get one more poll in order to qualify for that October debate.

I think the DNC is doing an amazing job of trying to thread this needle because you want to be inclusive and yet you want to make sure that we have viable candidates at the end. So, this little bit of ratcheting up, you know, is the message for, can I continue?

I love the fact that they have added these early state poll options. So there's a path now if somebody does really well in Iowa, and New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada, that they could still be on the stage even though they don't get so much in the national polls. So that's a brilliant move.

But I will say this, this is for November, right? At the November debate, there will only be 90 days until the Iowa caucus. If you're not getting 3 percent nationally by then or 5 percent in these early polls, then too you should reconsider and maybe apply yourself to electing somebody to get elected, to helping somebody get elected president, maybe step out and run for Senate.

BURNETT: We have 11 right now who are going to be on the stage for our debate in October. So, November, what do you say? Drop two, three, who knows?

MCINTOSH: Hopefully, we drop two or three. I mean, I couldn't be more in favor of raising requirements a little bit.

We have an incredibly talented field of candidates and I want to spend four months showcasing them as best as possible. The best way to do that is a single night of debates. I think no campaign --

GRANHOLM: Totally agree.

MCINTOSH: -- no voter, no watcher, no audience member wants that spread out over multiple nights. So, it's only good.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, alarming new details emerging tonight about the arrest of an army soldier accused of passing bomb-making instructions to radicals and plotting an attack on 2020 candidates. The details are ahead.

Plus, what is bugging Pete Buttigieg on the campaign trail?

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[19:53:04]

BURNETT: New tonight, he wanted to cause chaos. A U.S. Army soldier arrested for a series of alleged bomb threats. Court documents revealing that the soldier discussed bombing a major news network and named 2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke as a possible target.

Shimon Prokupecz is OUTFRONT. He's been reporting on this.

Shimon, what else do you know about this soldier?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: So, he's been in the military. He's young. He's 24. He's been in the military for about two years.

Most troubling is this fascination with bombs. He seemed according to the FBI and the court documents, he knew how to make bombs, specifically cell phone bombs. The instructions he would give on Facebook and this is what he is charged with, distributing material about how to make these bombs, he knew how to make them, and that was probably one of the most troubling things I think for the FBI in all of this.

And it was first back in March that they found him and discovered him through Facebook. They found his postings. But then he goes quiet and we don't know much about him. And then right after the pickup with domestic terrorism, the shootings that was saw in El Paso and Dayton, we saw an increasing concern for domestic terrorism.

So, it looks like the FBI went back and they scrubbed their systems and found him. And then, in mid-August, they introduced an informant, an FBI undercover, and they started talking to him and he talked about wanting to create chaos. He admitted to this. He talked about wanting to unleash some kind of attack in the United States and was essentially trying to find somebody in the United States and giving instructions on how to make bombs and offering plans about to do and who to attack.

BURNETT: So, we know 2020 hopeful Beto O'Rourke was on his list and you are also reporting the news network was CNN.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, it was CNN.

So, we're not exactly sure how specific he was, but certainly, CNN was the major news network that was mentioned in the criminal affidavit that the FBI mentioned. They didn't name us, but we've learned through sources that it was CNN he talked about, not very far on in his planning. Certainly, he was on the FBI radar.

[19:55:01]

They were able to get him pretty quickly. But I think one of the most important things in all of this, this is exactly the type of person the FBI right now, we're seeing an increase of concern. He is that kind of guy.

BURNETT: All right. Shimon, thank you very much.

And next, the Internet tonight abuzz about the pesky bug that would not leave Mayor Pete Buttigieg alone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Well, there was something bugging Pete Buttigieg today.

While speaking at an event in Iowa, what appears to be a bee, some sort of insect, got the best of the South Bend mayor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's an unexpected visitor. Yes. I guess I'm just that sweet.

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BURNETT: And, you know, it's funny because it's not the first time that Buttigieg has come face to face with a, you know, a flying pest. You may remember back in July, he had a smudge on his forehead. I mean, we were all talking about it saying what happened? What happened in the debate?

Well, it was a gnat that he killed at the beginning of the debate and it just sat there. He was so busy in the debate he didn't notice it was there, and it somehow disappeared in the middle.

Thanks so much for watching us.

"AC360" starts now.

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