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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry Of Trump; Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry, Says Trump "Must Be Held Accountable, No One Is Above The Law"; Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) Is Interviewed About Formal Launch Of Impeachment Inquiry That Speaker Pelosi Made Public. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 24, 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: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN's breaking news coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett OUTFRONT.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news and it is historic news. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, just going before cameras to tell the nation that Democrats are moving to impeach the President of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Last Tuesday, we observed the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution on September 17th. Sadly, on that day, the Intelligence Community Inspector General formally notified the Congress that the administration was forbidding him from turning over a whistleblower complaint on Constitution Day.
This is a violation of the law. Shortly thereafter, press reports began to break of a phone call by the President of the United States, calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election. This is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities.
The facts are these, this week, the President has admitted to asking the President of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our National Security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.
Therefore today, I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I am directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.
The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Her decision could lead to President Trump being just the third U.S. President in history to be impeached. And just to be very clear here, Nancy Pelosi did not come to this moment easily. She did not want to do this. For nearly a year, in fact, she has publicly resisted calls to begin
an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The House Democratic Caucus is not on a path to impeachment.
I don't think there's anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Today, that changed. After Pelosi met behind closed doors with the Democrats, tonight 163 House Democrats now back Pelosi's impeachment proceedings. A number that rose to the day, including Democrats from districts that Trump won who have resisted calls for his impeachment until now.
And tonight Trump responding in part by saying he authorized the release tomorrow of the complete fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine.
Now, we don't know if there even is an exact transcript of every word which was said in that call. And, of course, Trump wants to make this about one phone call. It is about more than that. The President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani met with the Ukraine President's team to discuss investigating Joe Biden.
And remember, according to another source, the whistleblower's complaint referenced a "sequence of events." All of it adds up to this, Trump directed his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney to withhold military aid to Ukraine. And he did not release that aid until congressional committees started investigating his call with the President of Ukraine.
And so here we are tonight at a moment in American history, the day Democrats formally began the move to impeach President Donald Trump. Sunlen Serfaty is out front live on Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, so this is a day in history Speaker Pelosi speaks out and then what? What happens now?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's a great question and what many top Democrats up here on Capitol Hill are asking tonight, Erin. As we know from Speaker Pelosi, she says that the six House Committees that were already investigating President Trump, they will continue to do so.
But according to Pelosi, they will do so now under this more powerful of umbrella of it being a formal impeachment inquiry. And just in a very short amount of time this has already caused some House Democrats to openly question how does this change things, how will this change things going forward, so some confusion among Democrats tonight as to will the face of this investigation actually change, will the face of it be different than what it was before. Pelosi herself when she huddled behind closed doors with House
Democrats earlier this afternoon, she said according to a source in the room, she did not acknowledged this. She said "that it doesn't change much from what's already going on," essentially saying this is in substance, not necessarily a huge departure from what they're already doing in theory, but many House Democrats also making the argument that it does change things going forward.
The fact that this is now the Speaker of the House publicly defining this, first and foremost, that this is an impeachment inquiry. And many Democrats telling us tonight that that adds more weight and more urgency to their investigations as they push forward. And certainly Speaker of the House, Pelosi, making it clear behind closed doors that she intends these investigations to be swift, she wants them to move with expeditiously through this process, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you very much. And I want to go straight now to Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, I appreciate your time.
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): Thank you.
BURNETT: So what happened in that meeting today with Speaker Pelosi? You were there.
PHILLIPS: I was there and the Speaker, as you just reported, made this an official inquiry. And that's the news of the day. Many of us in light of the news from this last weekend recognize the egregious behavior of this president has got to be addressed. And I'm a believer in process. Most of us in this caucus are like-minded. And today we made that official and I think it was an important step.
It was a somber day for America, but an important one for the Constitution and for the rule of law.
BURNETT: Do you have any sense of what changes from here though? Obviously, your Committee one of those investigating, we understand the Speaker said things will move swiftly. So do you have any sense of a timeline and what happens now?
PHILLIPS: I think I speak for most of us in our caucus that we should do this expeditiously and proficiently. And my hope is we do so quickly. And focusing specifically on this allegation which the President himself has essentially admitted to engaging in a conversation with the leader of a foreign nation to interfere in our democracy, and that is a behavior that cannot stand. And I think this makes something official that had been less than that beforehand.
But I'm very clear about this specific allegation. We should be focused on that and I hope we do so very quickly.
BURNETT: And you're obviously drawing - it sounds like a clear thing that you want to focus on this. You're not talking about Mueller or anything which others do care about, I presume.
PHILLIPS: That's right.
BURNETT: I want to ask you, the Speaker today when she announces an official impeachment inquiry, your statement yesterday, Congressman, said if the reports are corroborated, we must pursue articles of impeachment. So is there daylight between you and the Speaker at this time?
PHILLIPS: Well, I can't speak to her position, specifically, Erin. But my statement was very clear. There are two issues right now. One is the President engaging in this conversation that he's admitted to, the other is obstruction. The Director of National Intelligence has an obligation, a legal obligation to forward that whistleblower's report to our Congress within seven days. That has not been done. That is a clear violation of law.
And in my estimation, there could be two articles of impeachment, both obstruction and engaging in this conversation with a foreign leaders. Those are the two issues.
BURNETT: And again, you're making it about Ukraine.
PHILLIPS: I am.
BURNETT: I want to be clear the reason I keep making this point and you are new to this point of view, right, as of yesterday. You were elected to the House in 2018. Congressman, you defeated Republican incumbent. You flipped a red district. In fact, you're the first Democrat to hold your seat, I believe, in your district since 1961.
PHILLIPS: That's correct.
BURNETT: OK. So what is it about this that makes you feel your constituents that this is now the time to get on board, that Mueller was not, but this is different? What is it about this that makes it so different that gets you on board?
PHILLIPS: Well, from the day I was sworn into office and took the oath of office into the Constitution, I believe in process. And I believe the allegations, so many of the allegations that exists right now relative to this president have been - we've been conducting our investigations in a way that's appropriate, principled, process- driven. I think those should continue.
But what we discovered this past weekend was egregious and to me a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. And it's cut-and-dry, it's black and white and to anybody in this country; Members of Congress, every citizen who believes in the rule of law and who reveres the Constitution, I think will be like-minded in my estimation relative to this specific allegation. That is what has changed and I think it's quite distinct.
BURNETT: OK. So when you say in black and white, I'm just using those words that we're going to get this transcript tomorrow according to the President. What he said today in part in a tweet, he calls this a witch-hunt, Congressman Phillips. And he says of you, Democrats, "They never even saw the transcript of the call."
Now, do you know what we're going to see tomorrow? Is it going to be an actual transcript? Do you know if there are tapes or is this possibly just going to be someone's summary of what happened, which by the way could leave plenty of room for him to say his cover and you all to say, "We know what really happened." But the American people to not be sure.
PHILLIPS: Erin, I have no idea what's coming tomorrow. What I do know is two things that the President has admitted to engaging in this conversation in which he discussed with the President of Ukraine investigating an American citizen who happens to be a political adversary of the President himself. That much we know.
What else we know is that the Director of National Intelligence had a legal obligation to forward this whistleblower's report to us, it has not been done. Those things are absolute. Whether or not there's a quid pro quo that exists might be incidental to this whole issue. And I think we got to make that clear what the President has admitted to already, in my estimation, is impeachable.
BURNETT: OK. So I think that is important. I want to underscore that. What he's admitted to already which is corruption was his reason, he says this for withholding the aid, right? He then said he also wanted Joe Biden to be investigated. In your view that's enough. You do not need a quid pro quo where he specifically says it was for, "I'm going to hold up the military aid." Although, of course, the timing does line up with that, but if you don't have it on paper, it doesn't matter to you.
PHILLIPS: Yes. Like I said, Erin, we need corroborating evidence relative to the President's conversation. But whether or not there's a quid pro quo attached, I think is incidental. The President of the United States of America should know that when he or she engages in conversations with foreign leaders, that almost implicitly there's a quid pro quo when you express a desire for anything to be done.
The President should know that. This is where the line has got to be drawn and this is also an inflection point for the whole country, Erin. I'm a father of two daughters. Many Americans are parents and grandparents, we've got to make a decision about what we will tolerate in this country and what will we allow the President and what kind of behavior we allow.
In this case, it is so clear and we have to de politicize something and come together on the rule of law and the Constitution. In this case, what the President has admitted to is something so egregious that we cannot turn our eye to it and I hope my fellow members will see it the same way. I trust they will.
BURNETT: Congressman Phillips, thank you very much for your time tonight.
PHILLIPS: Thank you, Erin. BURNETT: And I want to go straight now to Senior Political Reporter
Nia-Malika Henderson, John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel, CNN Political Analyst David Gregory and Carrie Cordero, who is Counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Nia, you just heard Congressman Phillips there. Look, as I've said, this is somebody who flipped one of those districts, didn't want to be on board with impeachment, wanted to make it loud and clear this is not about Mueller, but that he believes that a line has been crossed and he's there. That's the kind of Democrat that was not on board, on board today. How big of a moment is this for Speaker Pelosi?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It's a huge moment for Speaker Pelosi. It's a huge moment for the country. Nancy Pelosi never really hinted that she wanted to be here.
If you ask Nancy Pelosi about impeachment, she would say, it's not off the table. But it was never firmly on the table today. It very much is. You heard her today at five o'clock in that very somber address.
She talked about the President of violating the law. She talked about the President betraying his oath of office, betraying his duty to uphold national security, so this was a real big moment for her. There is a further test ahead of her, of course, is can she bring this caucus together, right?
There's been a lot of infighting. We heard some of that from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some of the more liberal members of her caucus there. Can she bring them together, can she bring other Democrats across the country on board, because if you look at a lot of the polling on this, lot of Democrats themselves haven't been for impeachment up to this point, something like six and 10.
So she's got our big job ahead of her in terms of bringing the country along messaging on impeachment. You talk about the Democrats wanting this to happen expeditiously, so far it hasn't happened in that way. We saw sort of a lot of sloppy moves by a lot of the chairman there. What happens going forward is going to be up to Nancy Pelosi to lead this caucus in a way and then also bring the country along with her.
BURNETT: So John, how do you think she handled this moment?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Very well. She did it with a lot of formality and dignity. David is an expert on public communications and I think he'd have to agree that she did it in a style that is unlike the normal announcement when Gingrich did it for Clinton, it was kind of very partisan and not terribly formal or dignified.
It was never done for Richard Nixon formally. I wasn't around for Andrew Johnson, so I can't speak to that one. But I thought she did a very nice job. She took what has been going on low profile for many, many months now and she's made it a very high profile undertaking.
BURNETT: So David, as I played a brief clip, I want to highlight for people just the importance of this moment. And in part, it's not just the moment itself, it's Nancy Pelosi being the one who made it. She didn't want to do it. She walked out of a press conference at one point when it was asked whether impeachment was on the table.
Here's just a few of the times over the past five months that she has completely dismissed impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The House Democratic Caucus is not on a path to impeachment and that's where he wants us to be.
I don't think there's anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you uncomfortable with the term impeachment inquiry?
PELOSI: I'm not - thank you all very much.
Why is it that you're hung up on a word over here when lives are stake over there? Thank you all very much and good morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. David, it's a 180. She has changed her mind and she has done so with determination. What do you think or why do you think this happened now?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's because her caucus is moving and members of her caucus who have captured Republican seats are moving. Her responsibility is to shepherd that group and in some cases to stay behind where the momentum was until she felt there was enough of one weight within the caucus to move forward. And presumably because she thinks this is egregious enough to be able to move forward and that it's something that she can sell.
Let's not forget, this is a political process. But we should also underscore tonight something that could be true. What was politically dangerous yesterday remains politically dangerous today.
GREGORY: And it's quite possible that we'll remember this day as the moment when President Trump secured his reelection, because it's that politically dicey. But there's another part to the story and that's the underlying conduct what the President and what Rudy Giuliani has already admitted, what's being alleged here that's very serious.
And I think it's so important to keep our eyes on what the conduct was, potentially, allegedly. The President communicating to a foreign head of government that he wanted him to investigate the United States President's political opponents and offering a quid pro quo potentially to do so. That is corruption. It's an abuse of power if it happened. So I think what she is saying is that she's willing to take the risk, because this is too important.
And the other piece of this is an assertion of Congress' power. Congress doesn't do it very much anymore and that's a real problem in this country. And she's saying, we got to have some oversight here and it's got to have some teeth to it.
BURNETT: I mean, Carrie, the other question is and I think it's interesting what the Congressman said there, which is what the President has said himself over the past few days about what he did and what he did on that call and saying, you got to stop the corruption, you got to look at Joe Biden is enough, that he doesn't need an explicit quid pro quo.
Legally, you don't need one either to establish that somebody was having a quid pro quo situation. But should Democrats, Carrie, have waited a day to see what they get tomorrow? Is it the transcript? Is it complete? Should they've waited a day?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: I think there is such a groundswell today. Both chambers of Congress really seemed to have woken up today and it was in large part due to the actions that the President himself has done. I think Congress finally got sick of this president just blowing them off by not providing that whistleblower complaint which the DNI didn't provide, because the White House would not allow him to be provide it.
And so Congress has a responsibility and by law, the intelligence committees are supposed to receive that complaint. That coupled with the fact of what the actual allegation is and then what the President himself, I mean, we could roll the tape, what the President himself has said he did in the conversation where he is asking or directing or having a conversation with a foreign leader about investigating a political opponent.
I just think both Houses of Congress realize that they cannot have a president using the instruments of National Security and defense of the United States in a way that is for his political, personal advantage. And so both the Speaker's actions today by her announcement and the vote in the Senate on the resolution is a really step forward, a big step forward.
BURNETT: So Nia, to the numbers here, you've got at least 165 Democrats in the House now support an impeachment inquiry by CNN's count. The magic number is 218. That's what they need. Would Pelosi have done this today if she was not sure she had the numbers, knowing as she does, that if she were to lose, if you were to do this and not move out with articles of impeachment, that's death. And if you are to lose, then the President gets the biggest victory he could ever get. She's confident she's going to get there.
HENDERSON: Imagine she is, Nancy Pelosi can count she knows her caucus incredibly well and that's why you've seen her act in the way that she did. She wanted folks to come along. You saw in The Washington Post seven folks who were in these flip districts that went from Donald Trump to a Democrat. They are now on board. So that is what she's obviously looking at in this big count, can she get to 218.
The other thing that we've seen is that the numbers have come along as the process has happened, right?
HENDERSON: As Mueller spoke, you saw more Democrats come out and obviously with this latest revelation with the Ukraine, more Democrats came out. And so I think that's also what she's betting on.
The more information that comes out, you have Democrats come out. I think there's other thing that's happened here is that some Democrats were just sitting on the sidelines waiting on Nancy Pelosi to come out and use the I word, right? Somebody like John Lewis probably was there already but kind of differential in terms of the entire process.
So you saw people kind of peeling away, particularly members of the CBC out of respect to Nancy Pelosi, they hadn't really weighed in. So I think you'll see sort of a trickle and maybe a flood at some point as these proceedings go on.
BURNETT: All right. We will hit pause. All of you are staying with me. You'll be back with me in a moment. Next, the President announcing he's going to release the transcript. So this is a big question of what's going to be in that and we're going to tell you exactly what we're learning that word may mean. Plus, why did President Trump withhold the military aid to Ukraine? Well, he's admitted to corruption and his story is shifting again today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to get other countries, other countries should also pay because, frankly, it affects them more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was a totally new excuse. And 2020 Democrats backing Pelosi's impeachment decision. But will this historic move help or hurt them badly in 2020?
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump lashing out against House Democrats for launching a formal impeachment inquiry calling the move more breaking news which hunt garbage. The President planning to release the transcript of his call, he says, with the Ukrainian president where he pushed him to investigate Joe Biden's son.
Now, the release coming as the President is set to meet with the Ukrainian president tomorrow at the UN. Kaitlan Collins is out front. So Kaitlan, obviously you're going to have the two together tomorrow, a bilateral, possible cameras. What is behind the President's - his choreography now and his plan to put out what he says is a transcript tomorrow?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It was a surprise, Erin, to see the President come out so definitive and say he's going to release the unredacted version of this transcript, because he had been wavering over it for the last several days. At times saying, maybe you'll see it, maybe you won't.
And we know that came and made internal division inside the White House over whether or not they should put this out there. People like the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were arguing against it saying that it's going to set up this slippery slope where then Congress is going to demand that they release other transcripts of the President's calls with world leaders, including potentially ones with Russia and so forth.
On the other side of the aisle, you had Attorney General Bill Barr arguing that why not just release the transcripts. They were saying that it'll help dispel a lot of the drama and scrutiny surrounding this phone call. So that's where it came down today. The President said that the Secretary of State asked Ukraine for their permission to release the transcript of that call.
But, of course, when this does come out, you're going to hear two things. One from Democrats that said this doesn't go far enough to satisfy their needs. They say they want to see that whistleblower's complaint and two there are going to be questions about the accuracy of this transcript. Because, of course, this is a White House that has put out doctored and edited versions of transcripts and remarks before in the past, including times when the President was on camera and made remarks like he did during that press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki not so long ago.
So those are going to be the questions coming out of this, but they're hoping that it will be able to clear up things for the President and proved that he acted appropriately on the call. But what you're going to see, Erin, is both sides of the aisle seeing exactly what they want to see in this transcript.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. And back with me now Nia-Malika Henderson, John Dean, David Gregory, and Carrie Cordero. All right. So David, let's start with this. The President says he's going to release the transcript. He's going to meet with Ukrainian president, who knows whether he wants to invite cameras in there, the Ukrainian President told CNN tonight when our Alex Marquardt stopped him at the UN that his conversations with the President are private and confidential. But now, obviously, I guess not.
So do you have a sense of what we could get here? Is this going to be a readout of the call? They wouldn't usually be a tape, right?
BURNETT: I mean is this going to be a verbatim transcript or is this going to be - we trust that that's what it is.
GREGORY: Well, in most cases it's not a transcript, it's probably notes of the advisors who were listening in on the call. So the idea that it's a transcript suggests you're going to get everything accurately represented in the call. We don't know if that is the case.
We also should note that the President wants to release what he calls a transcript publicly and not to Congress. Why? Because he wants to be able to personally and have his supporters in Congress and certainly in friendly media make the case that this is ridiculous.
GREGORY: Pay attention today to something that Nancy Pelosi said and what she didn't say. She never said that the underlying allegation here has to be a quid pro quo.
GREGORY: And she talked about was how inappropriate would be for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent, that that is beyond the pale for United States President. That's something he can't deny, because he defends doing it. That's where she's giving herself some cover here.
BURNETT: Right. And that, John, could be crucial. I want to make another point to you, John, in Nixon's transcript which they put out, he was quoted saying - regarding making payoffs, I'm sorry. I quote, "It would be wrong." But when the tapes came out, there was no such actual line. So that seems beyond the pale, is that something that is conceivable here?
DEAN: Well, it is conceivable here. Nixon did doctor the conversations with me, that particular one about payoffs was to me where he said it would be wrong about pardons after I had pushed him and pushed him and pushed him.
He did not say it and he said exactly the opposite about payoffs. But what we are all looking for in the transcript that's coming out tomorrow is whether there is a solicitation by the president. That's the crime, to solicit a foreign aid of any kind in a federal election.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes.
DEAN: It's a crime. It's on the statute books and crimes are typically impeachable offenses.
BURNETT: And I just want to be clear --
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Even if there isn't something of value, imagine the precedent that that sends, that we have a president to dig up dirt on political opponents, and that's obviously what, you know, what Pelosi is already getting at.
But, you know, since John raises Nixon, I do think it's worth pointing out that, first of all, it's the whole complaint that's the key here. What else might have happened beyond the call?
BURNETT: Right. On that -- I want to jump in there because we do have breaking news on that.
Let me go to Pamela Brown. Pam, tell us what you are learning right now to David's point, I think, right?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin. The White House is now reversing course and preparing to release the full whistleblower complaint around President Trump. Right now I'm told by sources that the complaint is going through review, going through a declassification process and that the goal right now is for the White House to release the whistleblower complaint within hours of releasing the transcript tomorrow morning of the call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President Zelensky.
This is significant because initially the White House had advised the DNI as well as DOJ advising and that it should not turn over this whistleblower complaint to Congress which was really against what the law required, but now, there has clearly been a big change with not only the release of the transcript, but now the release of the full whistleblower complaint that a source familiar says involves multiple acts, a sequence of events. And so, that was the big question, Erin, if the transcript is released, what else was in the complaint because that was just one piece of the puzzle?
BURNETT: And, Pamela, just to make sure I understand what you're reporting. Are you saying that the whistleblower complaint will be released to the appropriate congressional committee, not publicly?
BROWN: Yes, that's absolutely right.
BROWN: I mean, it's one in the same, essentially, but the idea from the White House is that it will be available -- I mean, the public will be able to view what is in this whistleblower complaint even though it's going to Congress as the law stipulates, and it's also coming at a time, Erin, the president meeting with the Ukrainian president tomorrow in New York City. And so, you have the transcript coming out with the call and now the whistleblower complaint we're learning and they're aiming to release it tomorrow, and the president meeting with Zelensky.
There is a lot to anticipate for tomorrow, Erin?
BURNETT: There certainly is. OK, thank you, Pamela.
And I know Pamela is obviously making a lot of calls and you'll be back with us in a moment.
But, Carrie, let me get your reaction to that, and also I guess the key thing that they're going through a declassification process, does that then open the door it all sort of redactions or changes or what, Carrie?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It does. So I'm going to hold off until we see what actually gets released. As far as the -- what we're calling the transcript I am more inclined to think that it will be some type of summary of the phone call and we'll see how fulsome that summary is and with respect to the whistleblower complaint, you know, it was just today that the Senate passed the unanimous resolution saying that the president had to provide that, the DNI had to provide that to the intelligence committees.
Now some of that is probably classified so are they going to release something publicly redacted and has all sorts of information not visible to the public? Are they planning on providing the entire whistleblower complaint to the intelligence congressional committee which is what the entire Senate, bipartisan, said today that they have to do? I think it raises a lot of question about whether they are doing two things.
Number one, the administration is trying to bypass the congressional oversight. If they don't provide the entire report to the intel committees and let them do their follow-up investigation like hearing from the whistleblower himself, his or herself, and being able to follow up with other potential witnesses or more information or more information about other calls that maybe, exist, they're trying to cut off the congressional oversight.
The second piece is I think they're trying to raise the bar about how the public perceives this, in terms of criminal culpability. So we're starting to hear quid pro quo and whether or not this is a statutory crime. That is irrelevant when it comes to impeachment. The Constitution says that the president could be impeached for bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors and communicating with a foreign leader and potentially dangling foreign military assistance to find dirt on a political appointment is impeachable whether or not it means definitions of bribery.
BURNETT: Nia, it also I think as Carrie raises the point with this development, there was a bipartisan demand for this, it is the law that they would need to get it. So this is not some kind of gift or -- or move towards transparency which clearly is how they want it to be perceived. That is not what this is.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. They didn't want to do this. I mean, what happened today in the Senate obviously, what happened out of the House with Nancy Pelosi formalizing this impeachment inquiry. This is what forced their hand by all accounts, by all the reporting up until this moment this was something that they didn't want folks in Congress to see even though it is the law that they are supposed to let Congress see these complaints.
You know, I think there will be some second guessing of Nancy Pelosi at this point, you know, essentially should she have waited until all of this information had come out to formalize this impeachment inquiry. But again, she stuck pretty closely to the president's own word, essentially saying this is a president that already admitted this act, this basically trying to pressure a foreign leader to interfere in an American election that would benefit him in that way and that was enough for Nancy Pelosi and those Democrats that come along and say this impeachment inquiry was necessary.
BURNETT: So, John -- yes, go ahead.
GREGORY: I just think it's important to underline the fact that what Congress really needs to do and what I think the speaker was alluding to was follow the facts here and where they lead because we're going to spend so much time talking about process and everyone is already at their battle stations with how regard to how to argue this. There's a lot of argument. There's only a certain number of facts and we can determine where they lead.
This is also Washington. So, this is going to leak. Remember how this came to light. The whistleblower wasn't getting any traction, so presumably someone in that orbit leaked all of this to multiple organizations over successive days. That's how these facts came to light.
We have a senior administration official wrote an anonymous op-ed complaining about President Trump. That's what the bureaucracy in Washington does. The intelligence community, the Defense Department, the Justice Department, people know how to get information out that they think is being quashed.
That is going to continue to happen, and that's what I think we need to keep our eye on.
BURNETT: So, John Dean, what do you think the game is that the president is playing right now? I mean, if you put together what's going to happen, some transcript is going to be released. Some version of a whistleblower complaint is going to be released. He's going have a press conference and he's going to meet with the president of Ukraine, all within a space of a few hours tomorrow.
DEAN: I think what he's trying to make it look like is that he's not concerned about any of this and that he's going to put it out and try to make it appear that it's a voluntary act to put it out. Clearly, it is not a volunteer act.
DEAN: The fact that both the House and the Senate have demanded this information gives him no choice. So, all he can do is put it out and try to put the best spin on it. Now, the question is will they put it out honestly or not and that's where Nixon got himself in a lot of trouble when he tried the same things but then fudged on what he was putting out as opposed to what was actually in the record.
BURNETT: All right. And one final word to you, Carrie, I just want to put an explanation point on this, the president already is tweeting, you'll see it was a friendly and totally appropriate call. No quid pro quo.
I just want to put an exclamation point on what you said, and what you said is that, right, I want to make sure I understand -- you can have a quid pro quo without it being an explicit contractual one, right? So, if you're the president of the United States and you're saying, you got a corruption problem, you got a corruption problem eight times during that call, you say you need to investigate Joe Biden and you direct your chief of staff to withhold military aid to that country until it happens that Congress investigates that phone call, that from -- based on what we know, we'll get more details, but that would be a quid pro quo, wouldn't it?
CORDERO: Right. I mean, in lay terms so he's dangling this foreign assistance out there. He knows the foreign assistance is pending, the Ukrainian government knows that foreign assistance is pending and members of Congress and everyone knows foreign assistance is pending during this time, and around the same time, he's having a phone call where he's bringing up his primary political opponent and telling a foreign leader, you know, that he really should look into it.
BURNETT: So he doesn't need to bring up the aid at all in a conversation, right, to be consistent with this? Yes.
CORDERO: So my point is that the country standard and congress' standard should not be one of does this meet the elements of a crime of bribery that a prosecutor might bring because that's the trap that the country fell into in the facts surrounding the Mueller report. This is a bigger issue because this pertains to national defense and foreign affairs and his interactions as an American president with a foreign leader.
And so, we don't have to go down the path and Congress doesn't have to go down the path of, does it meet the technical elements that a prosecutor might bring on a quid pro quo.
CORDERO: Once they gather the facts and if they determine these are the circumstances, that's enough for Congress to act on.
BURNETT: Well, I think it's important that point gets made because that's exactly what they are going to do.
All right. Thank you all so very much.
And next, President Trump, you know, he keeps changing the story about the phone call with Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no pressure put on them whatsoever, but there was pressure put on with respect to Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: No pressure, but there was pressure about Joe Biden. Joe Biden responds.
BURNETT: Breaking news. Republicans responding tonight to House Speaker Pelosi announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump over allegations he pressured Ukraine's president to investigate 2020 rival Joe Biden and his son.
This is Trump himself as transcript of a phone call with the Ukrainian president will be released tomorrow and sources tell CNN the whistleblower complaint could also be released within hours of the transcript with reductions expected.
OUTFRONT now, Republican congressman from New York, Lee Zeldin, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
And, Congressman, I appreciate your time tonight.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: So, let me start with what we now know. That the president says there's going to be a transcript and within hours, we are reporting that that whistleblower complaint that on a bipartisan basis was demanded by Congress will be released.
Do you have any knowledge of what that transcript is? Is there a word for word? Is there a tape? Are there going to be a lot of redactions? Do you know about those answers tonight or are you also waiting?
ZELDIN: I don't know. I do expect a full, unredacted, unclassified transcript to be released tomorrow. I look forward to reading that transcript. I look forward to reading a whistleblower complaint, and I understand I might be accompanied by an I.G. report that was done. So I'm looking forward to reading what could be provided expectedly tomorrow.
BURNETT: So, but on this word transcript because there is confusion. A lot of reporting has been in the past that there are tapes and these are based off of notes. So, are you saying that you expect a transcript literally someone is typing tonight off the tape or this is the notes of somebody in the room and therefore on some level a subjective memory when it comes to this call?
ZELDIN: Yes, I'm not aware of any of my colleagues having been told it's a full transcript, word for word or a summary. I haven't heard anything other than it being a full, unredacted transcript, which could mean that it's a full unredacted transcript, word for word. So, that's obviously what anybody would hope for in a situation like this, but I won't know until I see it.
BURNETT: All right. So, let me ask you, Congressman. Republican Senator Mitt Romney spoke out about these allegations and I know you've seen it, but let me just read it for anyone who hasn't. He said: 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.
Do you agree?
ZELDIN: I think what's troubling is the hypotheticals that's being played. I mean, people pursue an impeachment inquiry based off of a whistleblower complaint they haven't read, reportedly from someone who doesn't have any firsthand knowledge of anything that's being alleged in the complaint. So, even if you are going to have any congressional Republicans such as Senator Romney who likes to be the opposition party and he's still upset he wasn't elected president of the United States, I am going to take the more responsible path of waiting until tomorrow to actually be able to read what was said in that call, to be able to read what exactly was alleged by the whistleblower.
And I encourage all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, whether you love the president, you hate the president, conservative, liberal, that's the responsible thing for us to do as a next step is to get that information tomorrow.
BURNETT: So, I understand what you're saying. But what he's saying is if, so just take him at that. If the president asked Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival it would be in the extreme. So, if you see that that happened, which, by the way, the president it did, he did say he asked him to look into Joe Biden -- you don't have a problem with that on its face?
ZELDIN: I just don't want to start getting into the hypotheticals because, quite honestly, you can ask me a hundred different versions and no one actually knows what is being alleged. I've heard a lot of different people having theories over what was said, and I have an opportunity as a member of Congress to reserve my judgment on what exactly happened until tomorrow. I mean, it's not like I'm talking about waiting a month or waiting a year.
I get to read tomorrow exactly what was said in the call. For example, what -- you know, we were able to see a video of Vice President Biden who is specifically stating that he threatened -- Biden with his own words, threatened the U.K. -- the Ukrainian leadership of taking away $1 billion from the Ukraine if they don't fire their state prosecutor --
BURNETT: To be clear, he did that. He was proud to do it and he was in line with -- with every Western country in doing so, but in that it was consistent. Upon if he tried to cover it up he wouldn't brag about it.
ZELDIN: That prosecutor was investigating his son's company who's paying him $50,000 a month.
BURNETT: That investigator was not investigating corruption in Ukraine which is why everybody wanted him out.
I mean, look, let's just be clear.
ZELDIN: And he was replaced --
BURNETT: There is no evidence of Joe Biden doing anything wrong and this is something that has been looked into, and I think -- I want to make a point here, I think what we need to talk about right now is what did the president right now do or not do.
And one thing we know he did, Congressman, and this is a "Washington Post" report, the president did hold up aid to Ukraine a week before the call. OK. So, we know that, a week before the call, he directed Mick Mulvaney, his chief of staff, to hold up the aid.
And you in Congress, I want to give you a chance to respond to this. You were told the delays, you're in the Foreign Affairs Committee, you were told that the delays in this aid were part of the interagency process. That's what you all were told.
From what the president said in the past two days, that is false. That is not the reason. How do you feel about that, that they told you interagency process and you were lied to?
ZELDIN: Well, first off with regards to providing aid to other countries, it's important to note that at the same exact time, the president was looking to cut aid at many different countries. This was an issue that's been going on over the course of the last few weeks, months and quite honestly, since the president came into office, this has been an issue where at times I looked to leverage the amount of money we provide whether to different alliances, different countries, to UNRA.
But the recent block of funding wasn't just specifically to Ukraine.
You know, one last point about the Ukraine prosecutor that was just left out is it's important to note that that person who was being criticized for being soft on crime was a prosecutor who was prosecuting Biden's son's company was paying him $50,000 a month and was replaced by another partnership soft on crime and wouldn't look into the company that was investigating the vice president's company's -- son's company. So, it's just --
BURNETT: So, I want to be clear, from our understanding in the Bloomberg reporting, that investigation was dormant. It was already dormant when any of this happened. It was not under investigation.
ZELDIN: But why do we care less? I mean, why do not we not care?
BURNETT: But again, I'm making a point to by that is there's been a lot of reporting on this. OK?
ZELDIN: I haven't seen a lot of reporting on this. BURNETT: You could have read "The New York Times" in the spring you
could have read it when they went into it extensively. I mean, this is not new information as you point out the tape of Joe Biden saying it is hardly breaking news.
ZELDIN: That was January of 2018, but, you know, this is not something that -- here is the thing, if you don't have any problem whatsoever with the vice president under the direction of -- he said the president of the United States -- threatening to withhold $1 billion if they don't stop prosecuting his son's company that was paying $50,000 a month.
BURNETT: No, that was not why he did, you're making that part up, Congressman.
ZELDIN: No, I'm not -- no, no, no, no.
BURNETT: No, no, no, that was never said and that is not true.
ZELDIN: I was saying he was trying to get rid of the state's prosecutor.
BURNETT: No, I'm not. You were saying that's why he did it and that's false.
ZELDIN: No, I'm saying.
BURNETT: There's no evidence that indicates that in anyway.
ZELDIN: OK, what I'm saying is he was threatening -- he was demanding that the state prosecutor be fired.
BURNETT: That's right.
ZELDIN: That was the state prosecutor who was investigating his son's company.
BURNETT: Because he along with every other country in the western hemisphere and all of our allies thought this guy as corrupt guy.
ZELDIN: So what? You replace with him someone who is --
BURNETT: So, Joe Biden stood up and said and probably took credit for it. That is what we know. Those are the facts.
ZELDIN: The problem was he was soft on corruption and he was replaced by somebody else soft on corruption. Except the person he was replaced with soft on corruption was someone not -- that the individual who was prosecuting his son's company.
BURNETT: OK. Again, but I'm saying that investigation was already dormant under the guy you are saying he wanted to get rid of because of something he wasn't doing. So, that doesn't add up either.
ZELDIN: Well, I'm just saying, a lot of people who are sticking up for the vice president, is sticking up for his son, providing cover for it, saying there is a dead story, there's nothing to talk about here.
BURNETT: No, I think --
ZELDIN: But instead we should file articles of impeachment against the president of the United States for a whistleblower complaint we haven't read, based off of someone who doesn't have any firsthand knowledge of what they're alleging.
I want to wait until tomorrow, for example. Many of my colleagues do as well, to be able to read this transcript of what was said on the call, but we can't wait until tomorrow. We're getting way ahead of our skis here in the House, and instead of us talking about how do we work together on our economy, tackling MS-13, heroin opioid abuse epidemic, immigration, national security, our military, our veterans, instead, we're going to hold everything hijacked, we're not --
BURNETT: You make very fair points about important things but I come back to what the Mitt Romney said. If the president of the United States pressured Ukraine's president to investigate a guy he thinks could be his rival for the White House, are you OK with that? Period. I don't care what party.
ZELDIN: I'm not playing the hypothetical game.
BURNETT: No, no, no.
ZELDIN: Senator Romney, he wants --
BURNETT: Are you or are you not, the president of the United States, Congressman, said that he asked him, so I asked him to look into Joe Biden. Who cares? Are you OK with?
ZELDIN: I'm not playing the hypothetical games. You can ask me all the different questions.
The fact is Congress authorized money to provide to Ukraine because we are concerned about Russian aggression. I have a problem with Vladimir Putin. The guy thinks he is 7 feet tall, he wants to put the USSR back together again.
His offensive move against Ukraine is one that needs to be stopped because if it's not stopped, Vladimir Putin will continue with aggression against other countries. Russia is a bad guy. Russia and Vladimir Putin, whether cybersecurity, whether it's meddling in elections, that list goes on.
That's why Congress provided the funding to Ukrainians.
BURNETT: So, are you upset that you were lied to? You have a reason why you did it. They told you it was held up for interagency process. The president has admitted in the past two day that's not true. Do you have a problem with that?
ZELDIN: Listen, I don't have the answer as to exactly why the money was held up. It's not just Ukraine, it's other countries as well.
I do know that philosophically, the president, over the course of his first two and a half years has held up money to alliances, to states, and to other organizations in order to better leverage the aid. But until I get an answer, it's hard for me to deal with a hypothetical with regards to that part, because I don't know the reason yet why the aid to multiple countries were held up a few weeks back.
BURNETT: I understand what you're saying. I also know you and I could both sit here and probably agree that if we were going to through countries with a lot of corruptions and a lot of problems that might deserve aid held up by that standard, there'd be a lot of countries on that list. This president spends a lot of time --
ZELDIN: It's important to note when the aid was provided actually they provided more aid -- a lot more aid than what was held up a few weeks up. I'm sure the Ukrainian president is happy with the amount of aid. This president was the first one providing lethal weaponry. The last administration didn't do that. We ramped up aid and that's something that I'm supportive of because we need to help Ukraine push back against Russian aggression.
BURNETT: Congressman Zeldin, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
ZELDIN: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And tonight, top 2020 Democrats, well, they are all onboard with the House speaker coming out strongly in support of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Many of them hadn't been until now, but now, they are all jumping onboard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress in my view no choice but to initiate impeachment.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe more so no that there are impeachability offenses.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's made it clear that he deserves to be impeached.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He needs to be impeached. Dude's got to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Paul Begala, former counselor to President Bill Clinton and a CNN political commentator.
So, Paul, I want to be clear. You have strongly opposed impeachment in the past. So, here we are now -- are you concerned about the political risks that Democrat candidates face by now all just jumping on the bandwagon?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I'm worried about them appearing to politicize it. I think they ought to watch what unanimous Pelosi did and repeat that.
I thought she was terrific. She did not come across as partisan. She was a patriot first. She quoted the Founders. She reminded that us that on Constitution Day itself, the administration refused to comply with the law. She situated herself in the least partisan posture and demeanor that she could.
Now, running for president is the most partisan posture and demeanor that you can. And so, it's actually not helpful for the Democrats that the presidential candidates are talk about being about this. The Senate, they have to, it's an important issue.
But I think that the less partisan it is, the better. I do think Congressman Zeldin you saw the hyper-partisanship on the other side the Republicans should worry about. You asked him about Donald Trump, he answers about Joe Biden. I thought you did a great job trying to pin him down, Erin.
But that's the risk for the parties here. If you look too partisan, the American people reject you.
BURNETT: That's right. And people, of course, run to their corners and hear what they want to hear. And it can be extremely frustrating when you try to put facts in the middle and everything is colored in the glasses.
I want to be clear, as you say, they're in a tough spot. I mean, what as you supposed to do? People come up and shove a camera in your face and new now in you are running for president you can't dodge the issue. But Tulsi Gabbard, who's going to be back on the debate stage next month did take the other side of this. Here's what she said earlier today on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question of impeachment really would further tear apart and an already divided country. I think it's important that Donald Trump is defeated. I believer I can defeat him in 2020. But it's the voters who need to make that choice unequivocally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, she is saying, you know, put it to the ballot box. Andrew Yang pointed out, you know, cautioning that you're not going to get this through the Senate, right, laying out the numbers. And, of course, Democrats fully know that, right? They're focusing I would assume on getting the numbers in the House and calling it day.
Does she have a point, though, Tulsi Gabbard?
BEGALA: Oh, I think so. And that has been my position -- has been -- I notice the past ten in until this week.
I have to tell, this is (INAUDIBLE), but what you really changed my mind was George Conway. He's a Republican lawyer.
BEGALA: He helped lead or push the fight to impeach my boss Bill Clinton. He happens to be married to a top White House official. But setting that aside, he is an absolutely brilliant lawyer.
He and another lawyer, Neal Katyal, wrote a piece in "The Washington Post". I read it very carefully. I read it a couple of times.
It is hard to argue. I have been against impeachment. But it's very hard to argue that the president -- if -- if the president of the United States leveraged our national security funding in order to intimidate a foreign leader into helping his political campaign, that's as classic impeachment an issue as you can get.
Now, don't -- I think we shouldn't get over our ski tip. I thought what Nancy Pelosi said was wonderful. She said, we need an inquiry. We need the facts and I think the facts make an inquiry inescapable. Nancy Pelosi had to do this today.
BURNETT: All right. Paul, I appreciate your time. Thank you so very much.
And thanks very much to all of you for joining us for this breaking news coverage.
"AC360" begins right now.