Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Whistleblower Complaint About Trump Sent To Congress; Rep. Schiff: Individual "Has Exposed Serious Wrongdoing"; White House Transcript Shows Trump Repeatedly Pushed Ukraine's President To Investigate Biden; Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) Is Interviewed About His Take On Whistleblower Complaint Reading Behind Closed Doors. Aired 7- 8p ET

Aired September 25, 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: To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the credible and urgent whistleblower complaint is out tonight in the hands of lawmakers and they're reading it. Hear what they say is in it. Plus, President Trump on the defense saying he never pressured Ukraine's president for dirt on Joe Biden. Unfortunately, the transcript showed that he did. And Elizabeth Warren calling the transcript a smoking gun. What does Senator Cory Booker, her rival for the nomination, make of it? He is out front. Let's go out.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT this evening, the breaking news, the whistleblower complaint is in the hands of Congress this hour. The same report that has rocked Trump's presidency, making him only the fourth president in American history to face impeachment. Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are going in a secure room to read it and here's what Chairman Schiff just said after emerging from that room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I found the allegations deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible. The complaint was very well written and certainly provides information for the committee to follow up with other witnesses and documents. I think that what this courageous individual has done has exposed serious wrongdoing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Schiff, of course, is the Democratic Chair of House Intel, but it is not just Democrats now. Republican Senator Ben Sasse telling reporters after seeing it, "Republicans ought not be rushing to circle the wagons and saying those no there there when there obviously is a lot that's very troubling there."

Now, remember, and it's important as we go through all of the layers of this that it was President Trump's pick, his appointed Intelligence Inspector General who called the whistleblower's report urgent and credible. And now this fire storm is clearly weighing on the President. Today, he held his first press conference since House Speaker Nancy

Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry. He was unfocused. He was angry, but he lacked energy. It was not the usual bombastic Trump we see. He rambled for 24 minutes before he even took a question. He didn't want to take questions. And here's this take on the transcript of his call with the President of Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they look at the information, it's a joke. Impeachment for that? When you have a wonderful meeting or you have a wonderful phone conversation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So we have five pages of it, declassified, and here's why Trump thinks it was wonderful. Ukraine's President tells Trump in the call, "Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed at the Trump Tower." He then tells Trump, "You are a great teacher." He even says of a wished-for Trump visit to Ukraine, "We can either take my plane and go to Ukraine or we can take your plane which is probably much better than mine."

OK. The power dynamic here is clear. The kind of sucking up to Trump is clear and why Trump love that call equally clear. But Trump also loved the call for other reasons, deeply personal ones. The reasons at the heart of his possible impeachment.

President Trump says, again, back to the transcript, "The United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily, because things are happening that are not good. But the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine."

You can hear him saying it. It's not really a subtle hint from a president who at the time of that call was holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. A country which relies on that aid. And then after those hints and after Ukrainian President Zelensky brings up U.S. military support, Trump asked for, his word, a favor.

"I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it." He goes on. "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging about that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me."

So if you just take this at face value for one second, the President of the United States asking a foreign nation which relies on the American aid, which he personally and specifically controls, which he had put on hold, and tells him to work with his attorney general. And by the way, he also says multiple times his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate his top 2020 rival at the time, Joe Biden and his son. It's a problem. It's the President seeming to use the power of his office to help

himself and in a way that would influence an American election. And, of course, we note there's been no evidence of wrongdoing. Kaitlan Collins is out front live in New York. And Kaitlan, the President did look beaten down today. If you watched the entire press conference, it was not his usual self.

[19:05:01]

What is his mood right now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, he was basically incredulous as he walked into that press conference today because he thought that after that call that he had with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, where he felt confident afterward that she was not moving in this direction and then he watched her from the building right behind me announced that she was launching that formal impeachment inquiry.

That is what shocked him because he thought that announcing he was going to release the transcript of this call, announcing that officials were working behind the scenes on releasing that whistleblower's complaint that this was going to get Democrats off his back. Instead, it's done the opposite.

And today, you just saw after that transcript was released, it really fueled these calls for his impeachment. So now you've seen the president essentially reckoning with what to do going forward here, because this is not the path that White House officials thought was going to happen after they released this transcript, thinking it was going to clear the President. But then as you just laid out, in his own words, showing these damning conversations that he had with Ukrainian President.

Now, some people inside the White House are questioning just how wise it was to release that transcript even though people like the Attorney General Bill Barr who has mentioned throughout it in name with Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney, they're wondering just how wise of a decision that was. And right now they're questioning where this is going to go going forward if this whistleblower's complaint comes out, because what you've seen based on what our Hill team is reporting is they are now considering tightening this impeachment probe to be limited to just these questions about the President's conduct during this call with the President of Ukraine.

And so they're essentially left wondering where they're going forward from here as the President is spending one more night here in New York going to a fundraiser tonight and one more in the morning before returning to face these problems back in Washington tomorrow.

BURNETT: Kaitlan, thank you very much live here in New York. And I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Peter Welch who supports impeachment, sits on the House Intelligence Committee which received the whistleblower complaint today. And I appreciate your time, Congressman. I know you have been in that secure room, you've read the classified report, what was your takeaway? REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Well, Adam Schiff really described it. It's

very compelling. It is detailed, references many facts and people. If we're allowed to pursue the investigation, we'll be able to corroborate the information that's contained in it.

The other issue that really was a concern to me is how in the world did the Director of National Intelligence not transmit this incredibly important information as he's required to do under the statute and how in the world did Attorney General Bar issue an opinion that this was not subject matter that should come to the Intelligence Committee. Those are very disturbing actions by both of those gentlemen.

BURNETT: And I want to ask you about it in a moment because obviously the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Maguire is going to appear before your Committee tomorrow. But first, when you say it's compelling detailed facts and people which you are allowed to pursue, you would speak to, we also understand there were multiple instances in this report. I mean, is there anything beyond that call or is it mostly focused on this one specific phone call for which we have all now read the transcript?

WELCH: Well, I'm sorry that I can't answer now, because it has to be clear through classification. But Adam Schiff really spoke for all of us, it was very detailed, very compelling. And when we can pursue the investigation, we're going to be able to run a number of threads that will provide corroboration or not to what the whistleblower bravely came forward with.

And by the way, my hope is that everybody is going to see this. I mean, this is information that the public is entitled to know. So my strong hope is that everybody, the press, the public is going to be able to see this and evaluate it themselves and they will able to do a full and complete investigation.

BURNETT: Do you believe that we will be able to see that soon? Is this really going to be released in the next day or so or no?

WELCH: I'll certainly advocate for it and we just have it on the House floor today. And this was encouraging to me, basically, unanimous resolution passed that was condemning the withhold of that information from Congress. So there's some, I think, awareness on the part of my Republican colleagues, certainly on the committee that there's a constitutional issue of congressional oversight that's being thwarted here when information by statute is supposed to be given to us were denied access to it.

BURNETT: So Congressman Swalwell also said that there's new leads that you all can investigate now as a result of his reading of this in that classified room and that the whistleblower does talk about other witnesses to this call. Are there now more people you want to hear from, Congressman Welch?

WELCH: Oh, I will, I mean, mean when this report is released, if we do an investigation we would want to follow up on all of the details to get corroboration or not. BURNETT: You mentioned the Acting Director of National Intelligence,

Joseph Maguire. And as I said, he's set to testify or appear before your Committee tomorrow. What do you plan to ask him, Congressman?

WELCH: Well, the $64 question with him is why did not you follow the statute that says he shall within seven days of receiving a report from the Inspector General, it's transmitted to the Intelligence Committee.

[19:10:08]

And by the way, this is the first time the Inspector General had issued a report where he found that it was urgent, incredible evidence. And in the past, I think past DNI directors have automatically turn it over even when there wasn't a finding of urgency or credibility. They believed that the intelligence committee should reach its own decision.

BURNETT: Before we go, I want to play for you something, the other side of this, not everyone is convinced even in your own caucus, obviously, your numbers have surged, but not quite there. Democratic presidential candidate Congressman Tulsi Gabbard, obviously, her vote is not for impeachment. Here's what she said after she read the transcript today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you step outside of the bubble here in Washington and you get to where most folks in the country are, look, I'm not a lawyer but I think most people reading through that transcript are not going to find that extremely compelling cause to throw out a president that won an election in 2016.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What do you say to Congresswoman Gabbard?

WELCH: Well, two things, one, I disagree with her. And, of course, in addition to having read that transcript I read the full report today, which other Members of Congress hopefully will be able to do. But second, I agree with this. Whenever we do an impeachment, we are determined, in a couple of weeks, to bring up a bill to lower prescription drug costs.

We need an infrastructure bill and the House has been passing significant legislation, it's getting dumped and stonewalled in the Senate. But the point is, the American people want us to do things that are going to help their everyday lives. Now, this is duty we have under the Constitution, so we can't ignore it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Welch. I appreciate your time.

WELCH: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, President Trump revealing he will release a read out of his first conversation with Ukraine's president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're asking for the first phone conversation and I'll release that too if it's important to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, just a handful of Republicans speaking out about the whistleblower's complaint. So will there be more? And according to the transcript, Trump said his attorney, Bill Barr, his Attorney General, I'm sorry, Attorney Rudy Giuliani also in this but Bill Barr would call Ukraine's President about investigating Joe Biden and the DOJ says Bill Barr knew absolutely nothing about that, that he was invoked multiple times in this call. Does the DOJ denial add up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:51]

BURNETT: Breaking news, House Speaker Pelosi just announcing after reading the whistleblower's complaint against President Trump that the letter has now been classified, so here's exactly what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The letter we read has now been classified by the President, so I can't talk about it right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It was a strange response and then asked exactly what this means, Pelosi's office just responded to us that, "The administration retroactively classified the whistleblower's letter." The White House says declassification is - the complaint is still underway. They didn't offer a timetable of the process.

I want to go now to our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, our Political Analysts, David Gregory, former New Jersey Attorney General, Anne Milgram and former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent.

So Anne, let me start with you. Speaker Pelosi comes out and says that the President has just classified this whistleblower report which was supposedly going to be becoming public over the next day. What do you hear when you hear her say that?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So there's something that seems strange about that to me for a couple reasons. One, they released today the transcript of the call and so we know that there's information that could have been classified that's already been released and so that's one point.

The second point is that it does feel strange to classify it now. It's gone through the Inspector General process, it's gone through the DNI. There are a lot of eyes that have been seen on this from intelligence personnel for the White House to then classify it, it feels very strange.

BURNETT: David Gregory, what do you make of this? I mean, that this is now happening, especially that we were supposed to be - this was supposed to be being distributed much more widely.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, officially they can talk about certain secrets that they might want to withhold that are appropriate from the intelligence community. But the more obvious take is that this is the White House that's reeling from what, I think, even internally they thought was a pretty risky move to release the log or the summary or a personal transcript of this call.

BURNETT: Yes.

GREGORY: That they, on the one hand, felt they could argue and spin which the President tried to do not very well. But now they're realizing if they're releasing everything, how is it going to look, how is it going to be received and are they going to put Republicans in a position where they have to confront it or simply spin their way around it to try to defend the President, something that Senator Graham did based on the log today.

So I think it's very curious and I think all of this is coming to ahead with the Acting DNI testifying tomorrow. There'll be a lot of pressure to come clean with everything.

BURNETT: So Congressman Dent, let me ask you. Earlier in the show, I laid out and I wasn't doing it to be funny. I was laying out some of the things the Ukrainian president said to Trump on the call that weren't related, specifically, to the President asking a favor in investigating Joe Biden, just sort of how he said he stayed at Trump Tower and your plane is bigger than my plane, I'm sure and you're a great teacher.

I mean, he was laying it on thick. The power dynamic here are very clear and then the President, of course, asks for the favor. Congressman Dent, as you've read the transcript of the call, you've heard Ben Sasse from the Republican side, Adam Schiff and others on the Democratic side say that whistleblower report is deeply troubling. What's your takeaway?

[00:20:01]

FORMER SEN. CHARLIE DENT (D-PA): I think the transcript is very damaging to the President. He was using his office, official resources to get political information - use politically, this opposition research on his opponent. And what's even worse here he has this beleaguered President of Ukraine, Zelensky, who's got all kinds of challenges with Russians who's desperate for assistance, military and foreign assistance to help them fight the Russians and the President is dangling with hell dollars over his head.

By the way, investigate the Biden's and Zelensky knows what this is all about. There may not be an explicit quid pro quo, but it's certainly implicit and so I think this is very damaging to the President. I'll tell you what, if a member of congress uses his or her official resources for political purposes, you're going to get a lot of trouble with the ethics committee and it could potentially become a criminal matter too, so what happens when the President does?

So I think this transparency, I'm glad that released the report, the transcript, but that certainly did the President no good in this case.

BURNETT: No. And he seems shocked by that, which I think is quite interesting that he read that, he seemed to read that incorrectly in terms of what the reaction might be. I mean, instead, Nia, he has gone back to his playbook from the Russia probe, right, and it's his go-to playbook. His playbook is to call something a witch-hunt. He has called the Ukraine story a witch-hunt 20 times in the past four days. It was 13 earlier today, we're now up to 20, sometimes on Twitter, and obviously in front of the cameras.

I mean, he's just throwing it out there as much as he can and it sounds really reminiscent of something else, but here he is in the past day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They want to try and start another witch-hunt.

It's just a Democrat witch-hunt.

It's just a continuation of the witch-hunt.

It's a witch-hunt. I'm leading in the polls. They have no idea how they stop me. The only way they can try is through impeachment.

It's the single greatest witch-hunt in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: By the way, Nia, just as a point here, only time will tell. None of the polls show him winning against a major Democratic candidate, so that's not true but. The witch-hunt line, it worked with Mueller for him.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BURNETT: And he clearly hopes it works again.

HENDERSON: I think that's right. You heard him calling it a hoax today. You heard him at the press conference say that Democrats particularly planned it while he was at the UN general assembly to take away from all the good he was doing there and all of those bilateral meetings. I think the problem with this and you also hear GOP congressmen and senators essentially parroting this line to saying this is a continuation of the witch-hunt, the Russia hoax.

I think the problem that the President has as well as his GOP allies is this is a new set of facts. It's very easy to understand set of facts, right?

BURNETT: Yes. HENDERSON: We've got this memo of this call, the President bringing

up aid to Ukraine, telling the Ukrainian president that there's no reciprocity and then saying that he needs a favor. This is an American president using the power of his office to ask a foreign leader to interfere in an American election, right?

The president during and after the Mueller probe said, "Oh, there was no collusion. There was no smoking gun." This certainly seems like a smoking gun. Everybody said during the Russia probe that you couldn't really find the President talking to Russians directly and asking for any sort of political favors, but with this, this is exactly what was happening with this president. We don't know what's in that whistleblower complaint.

There's likely more we've heard from folks that it's troubling like Ben Sasse as well as Mitt Romney saying that he finds it deeply disturbing as well.

BURNETT: And Anne, so then there's also the level here ...

GREGORY: And Erin I think it's ...

BURNETT: ... yes, go ahead, David.

GREGORY: ... no, I just think it's also important that the only thing right now that's reminiscent of the Mueller report is the idea of what's in the actual complaint. What do we not know, because we're focused today rightly on this log or the summary of the call. That's what we have to work with.

There's a lot more that could come and if it somehow does not further the case, then politically it could be damaging to the Democratic effort. But what is known is what the President admits he did and what's so revealing about his comments today in trying to swat this away. What did he talk about? He talked about Democrats can't beat me. He erroneously claims that he's ahead in the polls.

All he cares about is his political standing. That is the sum total of what this call is about, is getting a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent based on things that are completely conspiratorial.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, and that is the takeaway. I mean, Anne, so this is the transcript here because the President wants the Ukrainian president to then have follow-up calls with Attorney General Bill Barr and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. That part, "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man," this is the President speaking. "He was the mayor of New York City. A great mayor. I'd like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him, that would be great."

[19:25:03]

So today the DOJ says, we know nothing about it, Bill Barr knew nothing about it, even though his name was brought up multiple times. Do you believe that? It sounds pretty clear that the President had talked to them.

MILGRAM: It feels to me, I mean, there are so many instances in this document that Barr and Giuliani are mentioned together. It feels to me that the President is very comfortable saying, call my team, my team will talk to you. Now, we don't know exactly what was said to Barr.

But if we sort of unpack two parts of this, the first piece is if this were legitimately about corruption, there is no reason for the President's personal lawyer to be involved in any way and we should all be asking that question if the President was telling the truth ...

BURNETT: Well, that's the sort of black and white thing.

MILGRAM: Completely.

BURNETT: That is true. He wouldn't be.

MILGRAM: So that's the first point. The second point is that Bill Barr is the head of the United States Department of Justice. It is deeply, deeply troubling that the President is not only trying to abuse the rule of law in Ukraine. He's also trying to abuse the rule of law in the United States by having the head of the chief federal law enforcement agency essentially working on his behalf to investigate a political rival.

BURNETT: All right. All of you staying with me. We're going to take a break because another crucial part of this next. And Senator Mitt Romney, he is one of the few Republicans to criticize the President's conversation with the Ukrainian president. Here he is today speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We'll see where it leads but the first reaction is troubling.

BURNETT: And now two other major Republicans are joining him, but they are still on a lonely island. Plus, 2020 contender, Senator Cory Booker is out front. So what does he make of Trump pushing Ukraine to investigate Booker's rival, Joe Biden?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

s[19:31:06]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news: cracks emerging in the Republican ranks after the transcript showed President Trump repeatedly asking Ukraine's president to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden and Biden's son.

Here is Republican Senator Mitt Romney earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): This remains deeply troubling and we'll see where it leads, but the first reaction is troubling. Clearly, if there were a quid pro quo, that would take it to an entirely more extreme level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And the Senate Majority Whip John Thune told CNN after he read the transcript, quote, I don't like seeing that. It is not something I would bring up.

And Senator Ben Sasse saying after reading the whistle-blower's complaint which he emerged from the room a little bit ago, he said, quote, Republicans ought not be rushing to circle the wagons and say there's no "there" there when there's obviously a lot that's very troubling there. He also, of course, criticized Democrats for moving before they actually had the transcript.

Everyone is back with me now.

Congressman Dent, let me start with you, though. The transcript obviously deeply troubling, according to those very senior Republicans and according to Democrats, but yet those Republicans are very much in the minority, right? Incredibly in the minority. Why do you think that is?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that this transcript is more than troubling. It's alarming. I would suspect that most Republicans in Congress would agree with me that it is alarming. They're not willing to say it publicly because they're all fearful of primary pressure, even members in the marginal Republican districts and swing districts have to worry about primaries as well. And I'm telling you, that's what this is about.

It's not just on this issue, but on every other issue from Charlottesville, to the tariffs, to the Helsinki debacle, and where, you know, we though, why aren't more Republicans speaking up? It's always for the same reason, but if I'm a Republican, I'm alarmed by when I'm reading in this stuff.

BURNETT: So, Nia, you know, to the point Congressman Dent just said, I want to play something else Senator Romney said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think it's just in human nature to see things in a way that is consistent with your own world view and your sense of what's necessary for the preservation of your position of power. I -- I don't know why I'm not afflicted to the same degree as perhaps others are in that regard. Maybe it's because I'm old, and have done --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He tried to make a joke there, Nia, but, you know, to the point he's making, Congressman Dent is making -- I mean, are Republicans putting politics over what they really think because it is about their political survival? Their personal political survival? NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that's

right, right? If you're Lindsey Graham, you are up for a re-election in 2020. You want to stave off a primary challenge so you want to hug the president.

But what is interesting here is you don't really see Republicans coming out to defend the president and we know that this is a president that likes the echo chamber. He likes to see people on TV defending him. I think one of the reasons he brought up Vice President Pence today said Vice President Pence also had a phone call and maybe that will be released and that was as perfect as Donald Trump said as he's called with the president of Ukraine. You wonder if Vice President Pence is in some ways being marshaled into coming out to defend the president because so far there aren't many people who are willing to outright and defend this president.

Lindsey Graham, he was certainly out doing that. There was twitter activity of some house Republicans saying there was no quid pro quo in this call, but no sort of vociferous defense of this president. I think if you're this president, you're going to increasingly find that.

BURNETT: Yes. And, again, I want to talk about Lindsey Graham and I will say on a quid pro quo, there's explicit and implicit, and it's pretty clear, Congressman Dent was saying, you know, this -- it's pretty clear. We can all read between the lines and we can all hear him saying what he's saying, whatever words people want to use.

[19:35:01]

And to this point, though, the former FBI Director Jim Comey, you know, obviously, he and Trump, no fan, he has been saying all of the way along and do this in an election and don't do it through impeachment. Today he said we may be at the point when members of the house and Senate cannot defend the Constitution without acting.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.

BURNETT: Do you think he's right? You know, as a lawyer, looking at the Constitution and looking at that oath to be consist went that do they need to act now?

MILGRAM: I very strongly agree with that. And each before we saw the transcript of the call we are seeing the president calling a world leader for his own personal gain, this is public corruption and whether or not we talk about quid pro quos, we don't even need to get there. You can look at campaign finance violations, you can look at constitutional violations, and it is really important that this be investigated and that Congress hold the president to account.

And, you know, let the facts be when they may and I think it's very important to have the process when we did all see what happened, but there's no question in my mind that the president knows this needs to happen and we need to have more evidence and information.

BURNETT: So, David, let me ask you about the person who is most loudly defending the president right now, who doesn't technically work for him, and that is Lindsey Graham. So here's what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): From my point of view to impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Unfortunately, it's completely inconsistent what he has said when he stood on principle and morality in 1999 about Bill Clinton. Here's when he said then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic. If this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role, impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: David?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that contrast speaks for itself. I've covered Senator Graham for years, interviewed him many times, spoken to him many times. Lindsey Graham as a senator today defending Trump and in the past is unrecognizable to me.

I wonder what his political mentor John McCain would have said about these circumstances, his animus towards Trump notwithstanding, because that's who Lindsey Graham modeled himself after. What's clear is political expediency is far more important to him. We've seen it in other episodes, we see it here and he could legitimately believe that it's not an impeachable offense.

But for him not to say that this is objectionable or an abuse of power is striking to me, and I think you have a lot of Republicans -- again, it's worth remembering and worth pointing out let's use the Hillary Clinton test or the Barack Obama test, if they had done this, what would have been the Republican response? It is so clear what it would be.

So this is politics. This is protecting the president and circling the wagons because they're afraid for all of the reasons Charlie Dent said they're afraid and because they're taking their measure and they're very carefully watching how this is dealt with and what more comes out.

Even Mitt Romney who has a lot of integrity and has his own political power base is still being a bit careful and that's what they're up against at the moment.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

And tonight on CNN, don't miss our special report. Anderson and Jake are going to host "The Impeachment Inquiry." It is live at 11:00 Eastern.

And next, Joe Biden responding, just got him coming out of the fundraiser, responding to the transcript for the first time of Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president. His 2020 opponent Cory Booker responds with his take.

And we're just hours away from crucial testimony about the whistle- blower complaint from the guy who refused to hand it over, the acting director of national intelligence.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:32]

BURNETT: Breaking news: Joe Biden responding to Trump's Ukraine call. Here he is moments ago leaving a fund-raiser in Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The transcript is very revealing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And joining me now, 2020 candidate, Senator Cory Booker.

Senator, good to have you tonight. So, you know, Joe Biden says the transcript is very revealing. Elizabeth Warren calls it a smoking gun, in her words.

How would you describe it?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's very plain that this is a president that this is a president who was using his office, abusing his office to try to put pressure someone who really needs America. I've been out there in Eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass region. I've met with their military and I've seen the challenges with the Russian aggression and Russian attacks and them losing fellow soldiers.

This is a country that needs our help and this call, the president used the authority of his office and the power of the presidency not for national security issues and not for economic issues and not to help out an ally, but to try to use his office to get dirt on a political opponent. That is -- that is unacceptable in our Democrat see. It's abuse of his power and it should lead us to a much deeper investigation.

BURNETT: You're on the Judiciary Committee, Senator, so I want to ask you about something else now at the center of this, the Attorney General William Barr. He appears to be at the center of this, as well, because according to the transcript, Trump said at least twice that Barr would call the Ukrainian president about investigating Biden. Now, Barr's DOJ today responded and they denied that Barr knew anything about this.

Do you buy that?

BOOKER: Well, this is a time when we should seek truth and obviously I'm very skeptical about anything that comes out with this administration that has taken liberties with the truth that are extraordinary. I don't think I've ever seen an administration that lies this much to the American people. So -- but I want to lead -- this is a sobering moment and we've seen the fourth time in American history and the impeachment process beginning, and I think we've got to go where the facts lead us.

And right now, the facts are pretty damning and we need a further investigation and what was Barr's role in this and are there other conversations between Ukraine and -- and the Ukrainian leader and this president, what's the fullness of the whistle-blower's report. There's a lot more work that we have to do and I'm not confident that it's going to have any exculpatory evidence with the president, I think that we will find more and more damning evidence as we go further.

[19:45:02]

BURNETT: And, you know, but there's nothing that changes your mind on impeachment at this point. You know, you're not pulling back from it, and you are clear it's where it goes and you want more details and more investigation first?

BOOKER: No. Let's be very clear because I moved to impeachment proceedings far more before Nancy Pelosi did.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOOKER: I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. This president has not been allowing investigations, the checks and balances that were designed in our Constitution. This is a president saying he was not subject to them, he wouldn't people testify before Congress and he wouldn't release documents that were subpoenaed and he was obstructing our ability to function as it was intended.

That's why I was in favor of impeachment proceedings to begin and to let the evidence come out. I believe the American public should have the truth about these matters especially this one where we see such a blatant abuse of presidential power.

BURNETT: A "Washington Post" op-ed today, Senator, suggests this could hurt Biden more than Trump. Marc Thiessen writes: Trump will use an investigation to paint Joe Biden as a creature of the Washington swamp who used this official position to enrich his son. While Senate Republicans will not remove Trump from office, Democratic primary voters might decide Biden and his troubles are distractions they do not need. The irony is the Democrats' investigation might do more to deny Biden the presidency than Trump.

Senator, do you think you and your fellow candidates not name Joe Biden actually benefit from this?

BOOKER: No. First of all, this is Donald Trump trying to do what he always tries to do, which is to try to obscure his moral vandalism by making unsubstantiated accusations about other people. There is no "there" there. CNN has investigated, there's no "there" there. "The Washington Post" has investigated and there's no "there" there in what he's saying about Joe Biden.

So, let's stop allowing him to distract from the outrageous things we saw in his transcript. I can't imagine any Republican or Democratic president in the past, I just can't imagine in my lifetime seeing a president using his political power, using his leverage to try to pressure a vulnerable nation into doing his bidding to go after a political opponent. This is despicable behavior and I'm not going to let him do what he normally tries to do is to try to point fingers of blame or try to distract people through his tweets, through his toxicity, through his lies.

This lies directly at his feet and America deserves to know the truth about it.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Booker, thanks so much for your time tonight.

BOOKER: Thank you so much as well.

BURNETT: And next, the acting director of national intelligence. This is the crucial moment about to testify about the whistle-blower complaint publicly and this is happening in just hours. So John King is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:21]

BURNETT: Breaking news: in just a few hours, we'll be getting key public testimony about the whistle-blower complaint at the center of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is going to testify before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow morning about the complaint, which members of Congress can now view and part of that is going to be public.

OUTFRONT now, our chief national correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS", John King.

So, John, look, I mean, you have covered -- you covered the last impeachment proceedings for President Clinton. Maguire is coming. He didn't want to do this. He had been the guy who refused to hand over the whistleblower report.

And now, we're going to hear from him tomorrow. It's a huge day.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a huge day. And you look back at the Clinton impeachment, we thought on those days, we were partisan and we were polarized off the rails, it seems almost kind of quaint and gentile compared to where we are today.

So, why is the acting director of national intelligence so important? Erin, all day long, the Democrats have said the document they received, the summary of that phone call, those who have seen the whistle-blower complaint that said they have documentary evidence to press their case for impeachment, but especially in the House. This hearing will be in the House tomorrow. It is the most tribal. It's the Broadway of tribalism if you will.

Democrats cannot expect any help from the Republican side. You talked earlier tonight, there are some growing doubts among the Republicans in the Senate but tomorrow will be on the House. The key test for Democrats, tomorrow is a laboratory of sorts. If they are going to sell over the next weeks and months impeaching the president, they need people appointed by the president, they need people, Republicans and the president cannot say are partisan hacks to say this is significant and this is a big deal.

So, from Mr. Maguire, the Democrats need him to lay out the complaint. They're trying to get him to acknowledge he took it very seriously. They want him to say that the person who filed it is not a partisan hack like the president says but a career intelligence person or at least some identification, and they're looking to have a Trump appointee help them build their case.

Again, tomorrow is a stepping stone. We're very early in this process. It's a big test for the Democrats.

BURNETT: And it's interesting, John, to the point you made, right, the acting director a Trump appointee, so is the intelligence of inspector general. So, Trump's inspector general says this is credible, this is urgent, Trump's guy, passes it along to Trump's other guy who begs to differ, refuses to hand it over.

So, Maguire is a huge wild card you say?

KING: He is a wild card, especially because he's pretty much a national unknown. He's not a politician like Dan Coats, the last director of national intelligence, who was a senator beforehand, who worked for Dan Quayle, in the Bush administration before that, who is a veteran politician.

We know how upset the president was when Dan Coats and other members of his intelligence team would raise their hands and say, yes, the Russians interfered in the election. So, Mr. Maguire knows not only the Democrats are going to be pressing him but the president is going to be watching him and he's still an acting.

And again, the pressure is on him to disclose as much as he can. We will see how much he says I cannot disclose in a public setting. But also, the pressure here is on the Democrats to ask the right questions, to build their case, to do it calmly to try to get people who have a Trump pedigree, excuse me, a Trump pedigree to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.

BURNETT: And one thing before we go because you mentioned Republicans in the Senate, right? The three that we've heard from who have expressed such concern, senior respected members of the Senate -- Sasse, Thune, Romney. Obviously, you can't really impeach the president for real, right? He can't leave office unless it passes in the Senate.

Is there any chance that happens? Do you hear anything when you hear three significant voices starting to speak out to make you wonder or no?

KING: I think it's very important not to get that far ahead. I will say this, though, you had first Senator Romney, now you had Senator Sasse. I can tell you saying, saying don't get out of your skis. Don't start screaming impeachment but let's get the facts here.

Let's be thorough about this. Let's do our jobs. I can tell you tonight, Erin, I've spoken to a number of senators directly or aides to other Republican senators who say, you know what, there is some "there" there and we need to answer these questions.

BURNETT: And no doubt they're going to want to do it carefully and thoroughly, but many of them are going to want to do it right and hopefully they'll do what's morally right.

KING: Question of courage. Will they come out and say so publicly because they understand what the president will do if they do?

BURNETT: Thank you very much, John King.

And next, how voters in a crucial battleground state feel about Pelosi's push for impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will show people that a president can't do these things and just get away with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:35]

BURNETT: Tonight, more than 200 House Democrats are now backing the impeachment inquiry, but are voters onboard?

Well, it was announced yesterday. Miguel Marquez went to the swing state of Pennsylvania today to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Quakertown Borough, PA, voted for the president in 2016. Today, some of his supporters aren't sure.

TODD CHIARADIA, WAVERING TRUMP VOTER: I think he's crossed the line, but that's the way he is. MARQUEZ: Todd Chiaradia voted for Obama twice, liked Bernie Sanders

in 2016 and then voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

(on camera): You reluctantly voted for the president in 2016 and in 2020, it's an open question for you?

CHIARADIA: Only because I didn't see another -- a better opportunity there.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): A chef at Quakertown's Carleton Cafe, Chiaradia says with impeachment, Democrats may be going a step too far.

(on camera): Do you feel like it's over reaching right now?

CHIARADIA: I think so. I think they are. I think they're -- they want him out, I'm pretty sure.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Third generation shoe store owner Ralph Morey became a Democrat in 2008 so he could vote for Barack Obama in the primary. He voted for Obama in 2012. In 2016, he voted for Donald Trump. In 2020, he says, no way.

(on camera): What is it about the president that --

RALPH MOREY, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: The way he manages himself and that reflects on what our country is all about and our country is better than the way we're being perceived as.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): But he thinks impeachment will further divide an already hyper-partisan country.

MOREY: I think it is ugly now. I think we should focus on not being ugly.

MARQUEZ: Hardcore Trump supporter Rocky Bixel says Democrats will only harm themselves in going after the president.

ROCKY BIXEL, TRUMP SUPPORTER: In this town, there's a lot of people who have turned. They say it's stupid.

MARQUEZ: Quakertown is part of Bucks County, the vote rich Philly suburbs. It narrowly supported Clinton in 2016.

In New Hope, a Democratic stronghold, many voters hearsay impeachment, about time.

CASSIDY SMITH, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: To show people that a president can't do these things and just get away with it.

ANNELI MARTIN, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think that Democrats need to show some spine. I think that it's a good way of showing power and what's right and doing everything by the law.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: So I have spoken to a lot of Trump voters not only here in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest and all of those states that flipped from Obama in 2012 to President Trump in 2016. I have never heard Trump voters who supported him in 2016 so open and candid about why they cannot support him in 2020. It is going to be a long, interesting year -- Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly is, and a fantastic report right on the front lines a day after.

Thanks so much, Miguel.

Anderson starts now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:06]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news: cracks emerging in the Republican ranks after the transcript showed President Trump repeatedly asking Ukraine's president to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden and Biden's son.

Here is Republican Senator Mitt Romney earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): This remains deeply troubling and we'll see where it leads, but the first reaction is troubling. Clearly, if there were a quid pro quo, that would take it to an entirely more extreme level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And the Senate Majority Whip John Thune told CNN after he read the transcript, quote, I don't like seeing that. It is not something I would bring up.

And Senator Ben Sasse saying after reading the whistle-blower's complaint which he emerged from the room a little bit ago, he said, quote, Republicans ought not be rushing to circle the wagons and say there's no "there" there when there's obviously a lot that's very troubling there. He also, of course, criticized Democrats for moving before they actually had the transcript.

Everyone is back with me now.

Congressman Dent, let me start with you, though. The transcript obviously deeply troubling, according to those very senior Republicans and according to Democrats, but yet those Republicans are very much in the minority, right? Incredibly in the minority. Why do you think that is?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that this transcript is more than troubling. It's alarming. I would suspect that most Republicans in Congress would agree with me that it is alarming. They're not willing to say it publicly because they're all fearful of primary pressure, even members in the marginal Republican districts and swing districts have to worry about primaries as well. And I'm telling you, that's what this is about.

It's not just on this issue, but on every other issue from Charlottesville, to the tariffs, to the Helsinki debacle, and where, you know, we though, why aren't more Republicans speaking up? It's always for the same reason, but if I'm a Republican, I'm alarmed by when I'm reading in this stuff.

BURNETT: So, Nia, you know, to the point Congressman Dent just said, I want to play something else Senator Romney said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think it's just in human nature to see things in a way that is consistent with your own world view and your sense of what's necessary for the preservation of your position of power. I -- I don't know why I'm not afflicted to the same degree as perhaps others are in that regard. Maybe it's because I'm old, and have done --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He tried to make a joke there, Nia, but, you know, to the point he's making, Congressman Dent is making -- I mean, are Republicans putting politics over what they really think because it is about their political survival? Their personal political survival?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that's right, right? If you're Lindsey Graham, you are up for a re-election in 2020. You want to stave off a primary challenge so you want to hug the president.

But what is interesting here is you don't really see Republicans coming out to defend the president and we know that this is a president that likes the echo chamber. He likes to see people on TV defending him. I think one of the reasons he brought up Vice President Pence today said Vice President Pence also had a phone call and maybe that will be released and that was as perfect as Donald Trump said as he's called with the president of Ukraine. You wonder if Vice President Pence is in some ways being marshaled into coming out to defend the president because so far there aren't many people who are willing to outright and defend this president.

Lindsey Graham, he was certainly out doing that. There was twitter activity of some house Republicans saying there was no quid pro quo in this call, but no sort of vociferous defense of this president. I think if you're this president, you're going to increasingly find that.

BURNETT: Yes. And, again, I want to talk about Lindsey Graham and I will say on a quid pro quo, there's explicit and implicit, and it's pretty clear, Congressman Dent was saying, you know, this -- it's pretty clear. We can all read between the lines and we can all hear him saying what he's saying, whatever words people want to use.

[19:35:01] And to this point, though, the former FBI Director Jim Comey, you know, obviously, he and Trump, no fan, he has been saying all of the way along and do this in an election and don't do it through impeachment. Today he said we may be at the point when members of the house and Senate cannot defend the Constitution without acting.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.

BURNETT: Do you think he's right? You know, as a lawyer, looking at the Constitution and looking at that oath to be consist went that do they need to act now?

MILGRAM: I very strongly agree with that. And each before we saw the transcript of the call we are seeing the president calling a world leader for his own personal gain, this is public corruption and whether or not we talk about quid pro quos, we don't even need to get there. You can look at campaign finance violations, you can look at constitutional violations, and it is really important that this be investigated and that Congress hold the president to account.

And, you know, let the facts be when they may and I think it's very important to have the process when we did all see what happened, but there's no question in my mind that the president knows this needs to happen and we need to have more evidence and information.

BURNETT: So, David, let me ask you about the person who is most loudly defending the president right now, who doesn't technically work for him, and that is Lindsey Graham. So here's what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): From my point of view to impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Unfortunately, it's completely inconsistent what he has said when he stood on principle and morality in 1999 about Bill Clinton. Here's when he said then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic. If this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role, impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: David?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that contrast speaks for itself. I've covered Senator Graham for years, interviewed him many times, spoken to him many times. Lindsey Graham as a senator today defending Trump and in the past is unrecognizable to me. I wonder what his political mentor John McCain would have said about

these circumstances, his animus towards Trump notwithstanding, because that's who Lindsey Graham modeled himself after. What's clear is political expediency is far more important to him. We've seen it in other episodes, we see it here and he could legitimately believe that it's not an impeachable offense.

But for him not to say that this is objectionable or an abuse of power is striking to me, and I think you have a lot of Republicans -- again, it's worth remembering and worth pointing out let's use the Hillary Clinton test or the Barack Obama test, if they had done this, what would have been the Republican response? It is so clear what it would be.

So this is politics. This is protecting the president and circling the wagons because they're afraid for all of the reasons Charlie Dent said they're afraid and because they're taking their measure and they're very carefully watching how this is dealt with and what more comes out.

Even Mitt Romney who has a lot of integrity and has his own political power base is still being a bit careful and that's what they're up against at the moment.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

And tonight on CNN, don't miss our special report. Anderson and Jake are going to host "The Impeachment Inquiry." It is live at 11:00 Eastern.

And next, Joe Biden responding, just got him coming out of the fundraiser, responding to the transcript for the first time of Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president. His 2020 opponent Cory Booker responds with his take.

And we're just hours away from crucial testimony about the whistle- blower complaint from the guy who refused to hand it over, the acting director of national intelligence.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:32]

BURNETT: Breaking news: Joe Biden responding to Trump's Ukraine call. Here he is moments ago leaving a fund-raiser in Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The transcript is very revealing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And joining me now, 2020 candidate, Senator Cory Booker. Senator, good to have you tonight. So, you know, Joe Biden says the

transcript is very revealing. Elizabeth Warren calls it a smoking gun, in her words.

How would you describe it?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's very plain that this is a president that this is a president who was using his office, abusing his office to try to put pressure someone who really needs America. I've been out there in Eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass region. I've met with their military and I've seen the challenges with the Russian aggression and Russian attacks and them losing fellow soldiers.

This is a country that needs our help and this call, the president used the authority of his office and the power of the presidency not for national security issues and not for economic issues and not to help out an ally, but to try to use his office to get dirt on a political opponent. That is -- that is unacceptable in our Democrat see. It's abuse of his power and it should lead us to a much deeper investigation.

BURNETT: You're on the Judiciary Committee, Senator, so I want to ask you about something else now at the center of this, the Attorney General William Barr. He appears to be at the center of this, as well, because according to the transcript, Trump said at least twice that Barr would call the Ukrainian president about investigating Biden. Now, Barr's DOJ today responded and they denied that Barr knew anything about this.

Do you buy that?

BOOKER: Well, this is a time when we should seek truth and obviously I'm very skeptical about anything that comes out with this administration that has taken liberties with the truth that are extraordinary. I don't think I've ever seen an administration that lies this much to the American people. So -- but I want to lead -- this is a sobering moment and we've seen the fourth time in American history and the impeachment process beginning, and I think we've got to go where the facts lead us.

And right now, the facts are pretty damning and we need a further investigation and what was Barr's role in this and are there other conversations between Ukraine and -- and the Ukrainian leader and this president, what's the fullness of the whistle-blower's report. There's a lot more work that we have to do and I'm not confident that it's going to have any exculpatory evidence with the president, I think that we will find more and more damning evidence as we go further.

[19:45:02]

BURNETT: And, you know, but there's nothing that changes your mind on impeachment at this point. You know, you're not pulling back from it, and you are clear it's where it goes and you want more details and more investigation first? BOOKER: No. Let's be very clear because I moved to impeachment

proceedings far more before Nancy Pelosi did.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOOKER: I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. This president has not been allowing investigations, the checks and balances that were designed in our Constitution. This is a president saying he was not subject to them, he wouldn't people testify before Congress and he wouldn't release documents that were subpoenaed and he was obstructing our ability to function as it was intended.

That's why I was in favor of impeachment proceedings to begin and to let the evidence come out. I believe the American public should have the truth about these matters especially this one where we see such a blatant abuse of presidential power.

BURNETT: A "Washington Post" op-ed today, Senator, suggests this could hurt Biden more than Trump. Marc Thiessen writes: Trump will use an investigation to paint Joe Biden as a creature of the Washington swamp who used this official position to enrich his son. While Senate Republicans will not remove Trump from office, Democratic primary voters might decide Biden and his troubles are distractions they do not need. The irony is the Democrats' investigation might do more to deny Biden the presidency than Trump.

Senator, do you think you and your fellow candidates not name Joe Biden actually benefit from this?

BOOKER: No. First of all, this is Donald Trump trying to do what he always tries to do, which is to try to obscure his moral vandalism by making unsubstantiated accusations about other people. There is no "there" there. CNN has investigated, there's no "there" there. "The Washington Post" has investigated and there's no "there" there in what he's saying about Joe Biden.

So, let's stop allowing him to distract from the outrageous things we saw in his transcript. I can't imagine any Republican or Democratic president in the past, I just can't imagine in my lifetime seeing a president using his political power, using his leverage to try to pressure a vulnerable nation into doing his bidding to go after a political opponent. This is despicable behavior and I'm not going to let him do what he normally tries to do is to try to point fingers of blame or try to distract people through his tweets, through his toxicity, through his lies.

This lies directly at his feet and America deserves to know the truth about it.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Booker, thanks so much for your time tonight.

BOOKER: Thank you so much as well.

BURNETT: And next, the acting director of national intelligence. This is the crucial moment about to testify about the whistle-blower complaint publicly and this is happening in just hours. So John King is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:21]

BURNETT: Breaking news: in just a few hours, we'll be getting key public testimony about the whistle-blower complaint at the center of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is going to testify before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow morning about the complaint, which members of Congress can now view and part of that is going to be public.

OUTFRONT now, our chief national correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS", John King.

So, John, look, I mean, you have covered -- you covered the last impeachment proceedings for President Clinton. Maguire is coming. He didn't want to do this. He had been the guy who refused to hand over the whistleblower report.

And now, we're going to hear from him tomorrow. It's a huge day.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a huge day. And you look back at the Clinton impeachment, we thought on those days, we were partisan and we were polarized off the rails, it seems almost kind of quaint and gentile compared to where we are today.

So, why is the acting director of national intelligence so important? Erin, all day long, the Democrats have said the document they received, the summary of that phone call, those who have seen the whistle-blower complaint that said they have documentary evidence to press their case for impeachment, but especially in the House. This hearing will be in the House tomorrow. It is the most tribal. It's the Broadway of tribalism if you will.

Democrats cannot expect any help from the Republican side. You talked earlier tonight, there are some growing doubts among the Republicans in the Senate but tomorrow will be on the House. The key test for Democrats, tomorrow is a laboratory of sorts. If they are going to sell over the next weeks and months impeaching the president, they need people appointed by the president, they need people, Republicans and the president cannot say are partisan hacks to say this is significant and this is a big deal.

So, from Mr. Maguire, the Democrats need him to lay out the complaint. They're trying to get him to acknowledge he took it very seriously. They want him to say that the person who filed it is not a partisan hack like the president says but a career intelligence person or at least some identification, and they're looking to have a Trump appointee help them build their case.

Again, tomorrow is a stepping stone. We're very early in this process. It's a big test for the Democrats. BURNETT: And it's interesting, John, to the point you made, right,

the acting director a Trump appointee, so is the intelligence of inspector general. So, Trump's inspector general says this is credible, this is urgent, Trump's guy, passes it along to Trump's other guy who begs to differ, refuses to hand it over.

So, Maguire is a huge wild card you say?

KING: He is a wild card, especially because he's pretty much a national unknown. He's not a politician like Dan Coats, the last director of national intelligence, who was a senator beforehand, who worked for Dan Quayle, in the Bush administration before that, who is a veteran politician.

We know how upset the president was when Dan Coats and other members of his intelligence team would raise their hands and say, yes, the Russians interfered in the election. So, Mr. Maguire knows not only the Democrats are going to be pressing him but the president is going to be watching him and he's still an acting.

And again, the pressure is on him to disclose as much as he can. We will see how much he says I cannot disclose in a public setting. But also, the pressure here is on the Democrats to ask the right questions, to build their case, to do it calmly to try to get people who have a Trump pedigree, excuse me, a Trump pedigree to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.

BURNETT: And one thing before we go because you mentioned Republicans in the Senate, right? The three that we've heard from who have expressed such concern, senior respected members of the Senate -- Sasse, Thune, Romney. Obviously, you can't really impeach the president for real, right? He can't leave office unless it passes in the Senate.

Is there any chance that happens? Do you hear anything when you hear three significant voices starting to speak out to make you wonder or no?

KING: I think it's very important not to get that far ahead. I will say this, though, you had first Senator Romney, now you had Senator Sasse. I can tell you saying, saying don't get out of your skis. Don't start screaming impeachment but let's get the facts here.

Let's be thorough about this. Let's do our jobs. I can tell you tonight, Erin, I've spoken to a number of senators directly or aides to other Republican senators who say, you know what, there is some "there" there and we need to answer these questions.

BURNETT: And no doubt they're going to want to do it carefully and thoroughly, but many of them are going to want to do it right and hopefully they'll do what's morally right.

KING: Question of courage. Will they come out and say so publicly because they understand what the president will do if they do?

BURNETT: Thank you very much, John King. And next, how voters in a crucial battleground state feel about

Pelosi's push for impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will show people that a president can't do these things and just get away with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:35]

BURNETT: Tonight, more than 200 House Democrats are now backing the impeachment inquiry, but are voters onboard?

Well, it was announced yesterday. Miguel Marquez went to the swing state of Pennsylvania today to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Quakertown Borough, PA, voted for the president in 2016. Today, some of his supporters aren't sure.

TODD CHIARADIA, WAVERING TRUMP VOTER: I think he's crossed the line, but that's the way he is.

MARQUEZ: Todd Chiaradia voted for Obama twice, liked Bernie Sanders in 2016 and then voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

(on camera): You reluctantly voted for the president in 2016 and in 2020, it's an open question for you?

CHIARADIA: Only because I didn't see another -- a better opportunity there.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): A chef at Quakertown's Carleton Cafe, Chiaradia says with impeachment, Democrats may be going a step too far.

(on camera): Do you feel like it's over reaching right now?

CHIARADIA: I think so. I think they are. I think they're -- they want him out, I'm pretty sure.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Third generation shoe store owner Ralph Morey became a Democrat in 2008 so he could vote for Barack Obama in the primary. He voted for Obama in 2012. In 2016, he voted for Donald Trump. In 2020, he says, no way.

(on camera): What is it about the president that --

RALPH MOREY, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: The way he manages himself and that reflects on what our country is all about and our country is better than the way we're being perceived as. MARQUEZ (voice-over): But he thinks impeachment will further divide

an already hyper-partisan country.

MOREY: I think it is ugly now. I think we should focus on not being ugly.

MARQUEZ: Hardcore Trump supporter Rocky Bixel says Democrats will only harm themselves in going after the president.

ROCKY BIXEL, TRUMP SUPPORTER: In this town, there's a lot of people who have turned. They say it's stupid.

MARQUEZ: Quakertown is part of Bucks County, the vote rich Philly suburbs. It narrowly supported Clinton in 2016.

In New Hope, a Democratic stronghold, many voters hearsay impeachment, about time.

CASSIDY SMITH, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: To show people that a president can't do these things and just get away with it.

ANNELI MARTIN, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think that Democrats need to show some spine. I think that it's a good way of showing power and what's right and doing everything by the law.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: So I have spoken to a lot of Trump voters not only here in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest and all of those states that flipped from Obama in 2012 to President Trump in 2016. I have never heard Trump voters who supported him in 2016 so open and candid about why they cannot support him in 2020. It is going to be a long, interesting year -- Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly is, and a fantastic report right on the front lines a day after.

Thanks so much, Miguel.

Anderson starts now.