Return to Transcripts main page

CUOMO PRIME TIME

Whistleblower: Trump Tried To Get Ukraine To Interfere In 2020 Election & White House Tried To Cover It Up; Trump Compares Whistleblower's Sources To "Spies," Makes Reference To Punishment Like "The Old Days"; 11 GOP Senators Rejected Trump's Border Emergency. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: --things within the Intelligence Community.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, RETIRED UNITED STATES AIR FORCE LIEUTENANT GENERAL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Exactly. So, that - the situation - as he said, many several times, the situation is completely unique.

COOPER: Yes.

CLAPPER: Institutionally, I believe he did the right thing.

COOPER: Right.

CLAPPER: I mean that is the - the - the classic procedure here is to consult with a White House Counsel etcetera.

COOPER: Yes.

CLAPPER: He - he made another choice and he was, again, trying to do the right thing.

COOPER: Yes. Director Clapper, I appreciate it, thank you very much.

Quick reminder, join me and Jake Tapper, at 11:00 P.M. Eastern tonight, for CNN Special Report, The Impeachment Inquiry.

News continues right now with Chris. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME. What do you say? Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right now, we now know the whistleblower didn't just worry about that Ukraine call, but all the people and all the effort that came over the course of months, before that call, in order to get Ukraine's help to investigate former VP Biden.

The other shocker was what came after the call, this accusation that people around this President worked to cover-up records of that call and others.

"White House officials told me that they were "directed" by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system, in which such transcripts are typically stored.

Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system.

And this was "not the first time" under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive rather than national security sensitive information."

The President says it was a perfect call. Then, why move mountains to conceal the record? And if it's all fine, why call the whistleblower basically a spy, and suggest they should be killed?

Yes, that's where we are. So, let's talk to players on both sides about where we're going.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Finance Committee, it's good to see you.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Good to be here, thank you, delighted to be with you this evening.

CUOMO: Very important moment.

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: After today--

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: --where were you left in terms of the strength of conviction you have about what you're dealing with?

WATERS: Well I have, for a long time, paid a lot of attention to this President, even before the Inauguration of the President, watched him very closely during his campaign.

And I decided, based on everything, that he revealed about himself, that he was someone with a flawed character, and that he was not deserving of the Presidency, and he was going to be a problem.

And so, he has turned out to be everything that I suspected he would be, and he has dishonored the Office of the Presidency. And so, with all of this new revelation, about his conversation with the President of Ukraine, it rings true.

CUOMO: Do you think you know enough at this point, Congresswoman, to say there is enough here for articles of impeachment?

WATERS: Absolutely!

CUOMO: Already?

WATERS: The - the President himself admitted that he had a telephone conversation with the President of Ukraine. He also said he did talk to him about Biden.

And I believe that in that conversation, he did exactly what is being said about, the conversation by others that he was asking this President to help him with the kind of investigation that would lead to dirt on Biden.

CUOMO: You would accept no other explanation?

WATERS: No. There is no other explanation. What did he do? Just call him to say congratulations?

CUOMO: "I'm conducting foreign powers. I'm trying to create a relationship. We're worried about corruption. We're worried about the integrity of our elections. And I'm making sure that the President of Ukraine knows that and does everything he can."

WATERS: Absolutely not! That would not be consistent with the character of this President.

This President has basically refused to condemn Putin, knowing that Russia interfered with our election, undermined our democracy in the last Presidential election, and really was setting up a way for Ukraine to undermine our elections, by getting dirt on Biden--

CUOMO: He says, "I'm not dumb enough."

WATERS: --so that he could be re-elected.

CUOMO: "I know people are listening. You think I'm dumb enough to say something like that knowing everybody is listening?"

WATERS: No. But I think he's brazen enough. I think he's gotten away with enough that he does not believe that we can do anything to stop him. He has discovered the awesome powers of the Presidency.

The Constitution of the United States never anticipated that a President would use his powers this way. And he has learned that he can get away with it. He's brazen.

CUOMO: How did you take, what I thought was one of the more surprising things we've heard from him, especially in the context and the timing of today, this is what he said in reaction to what was exposed in the hearing today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[21:05:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Who's the person that gave the whistleblower the information? Because that's close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: He seems to be suggesting a very dark fate. But do you--

WATERS: This is consistent with the way that the President has conducted himself.

Don't forget, in some of his rallies, he encouraged, you know, beating up on folks who were out there opposing him. He's done this several times. He said that he could stand up in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and shoot somebody, and get away with it. I mean--

CUOMO: Lot of people in his party today though seemed very concerned about leaks and that there was almost equal animus about them, as to anything that the President did on the phone call. How do you feel about that?

WATERS: Well I don't see the whistleblower as leaking. I see these people as being concerned about this country, and about the security of this country.

I think they saw and heard and experienced something that made them believe that the President of the United States was moving in a very dangerous way, and that it was urgent, and they had the responsibility to say something, to do something about it.

And this whistleblower talked to a number of people, as I understand it, and they all were worried, and concerned that the President had conducted himself in a way that was not in the best interest of this country.

CUOMO: Do you believe that you have to have hearings that develop all of the different aspects of what led to that conversation because the conversation in itself, arguably, is or is not enough to meet the standard of impeachment, which is a very gross abuse of power.

You know the standard. I don't have to tell you. But who knew? Who helped in the State Department? Who told you people in Congress the different stories about why the money wasn't being released?

WATERS: Well absolutely. As a matter--

CUOMO: Giuliani's role.

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: The A.G.'s role. Don't you have to know all that, first?

WATERS: Well I think that's a part of the impeachment proceedings that will go on. If you can recall, when in Clinton, there were hearings, and that we

had witnesses come in. We had people talk about various aspects of the accusations. That will be a part of what you do.

CUOMO: But you're saying you're ready to go now?

WATERS: Oh well, I think we will be ready to go very shortly because, as you know, the way the Speaker has talked about it, the six Committees that have been doing the investigations will be - come together.

And the Speaker has already said the latest revelations about the telephone conversation, the President with the President of Ukraine, has caused us to be focused, and understand that something has gone on here that absolutely rises to the level of possible impeachment. Yes.

CUOMO: So, two hurdles in making the case--

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: --to some of the Democrats that aren't on board and, frankly--

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: --to the American people.

WATERS: Most are.

CUOMO: One, all that other stuff that we've been hearing about, for all these months, actually over here--

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: --that was so important that maybe you had to impeach, that's all gone, is the suggestion that it didn't really matter that much to begin with?

WATERS: Well it's not all gone. What we're saying is this will be the focus. It is so recent. And I think people understand it a lot better now. And I think that all of the other things may be considered. And with this being the focus, there may be one or two other things.

What we have not decided is exactly what's going to go into the impeachment resolution. But we do think that this will be high on the agenda.

CUOMO: And then the key part will be once you know everything you know, the idea of why it reaches the standard--

WATERS: Yes.

CUOMO: --of impeachment. And obviously, we'll have to wait until you have everything in front of you--

WATERS: That's right.

CUOMO: --that you feel confident to make that case.

WATERS: That's right.

CUOMO: Congresswoman, thank you so much.

WATERS: You're so welcome.

CUOMO: It's such an important night.

WATERS: Delighted to be here.

CUOMO: And you are - always have an open invitation on this show--

WATERS: Thank you.

CUOMO: --in these important times to explain the American people what's going on and what.

WATERS: I appreciate that. And thank you for having me this evening.

CUOMO: Pleasure, be well.

WATERS: All right, thank you.

CUOMO: All right, now ahead, clearly the Democrats have a tall task, and it's made all the tougher by the fact that the other side of the aisle could not be more opposed to their efforts.

We saw that today. We have a Republican who questioned the President's Acting DNI in that hearing this morning.

You have to hear what the Democrats are up against, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:10:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: No surprise, there was a House divided at the hearing today. Representative Chris Stewart, Republican from Utah, was in today's House hearing. He questioned the Acting DNI. Now we have him here with us.

Congressman, welcome to PRIME TIME.

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Good to be with you. Thank you.

CUOMO: It's good to be with you. And, just at the outset, you know that you are always welcome on this show, not just to talk about this, but what matters to the American people. I want you as part of the conversation.

STEWART: Appreciate that. And you've always said that. And I believe you're sincere, thank you.

CUOMO: Good. Especially now--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --we need it. We need to have as many different voices showing the way to this country. So, one of the things I thought was interesting today in your questioning of the Acting DNI, you went out of your way to say don't dishonor--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --Mr. Maguire--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --because of his record of service. Fair point!

I also thought it was interesting that you didn't ask him anything about what happened in the phone call or the surrounding. You are not curious about any aspects of the phone call or the implications of it?

STEWART: Well, for one, I've read the - I've read the transcript, so I don't think he could cast any light on it.

And the other is that he'd been asked by, I don't know, half a dozen other people already, and they had asked those questions, so there really wasn't anything new that I could have asked that hadn't been asked already, or that I didn't feel like I already knew. But - but--

CUOMO: Are you bothered by the call or - or the surrounding circumstances--

STEWART: Well I want to back up--

CUOMO: --that's expressed in the complaint.

STEWART: --if I could, Chris--

CUOMO: Go ahead, go ahead.

STEWART: --just because I think it's so important.

And this is a man who served his country for 36 years. And, in the last week, or 10 days, he's been accused of breaking law. He's been accused of being a political stooge for the President. He's been accused of protecting the President without any evidence at all.

And I just think it was fair and - and important to give him a chance to respond to that.

CUOMO: Would have been nice for him to answer some of the procedural issues also. I get that he was in a tough spot.

STEWART: He was.

CUOMO: The statute, frankly, my - my fair reading, with a little lawyer background, is it's designed for the Intelligence Community.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: I get that. But the idea that when you are faced with it, you go to the White House, and the A.G., when you know that they're both implicated in the complaint, it's going to raise questions.

[21:15:00]

STEWART: Well but he had no choice. And General Clapper, who was a former DNI, who is no friend to this President, as you know, was on just moments ago, and I had a chance to hear him, and he said exactly what I've been saying. "He had no choice."

And Mr. Maguire and the I.G. were both caught in a very difficult circumstance. I've had chance to spend hours with him now. I believe they're both sincere individuals trying to serve their country.

The - the law seemed to be deficient, or as you said, it was mute on this, and they just didn't know what to do. So--

CUOMO: Well I think it was designed for the Intel Community. But Clapper told me on the show, he didn't think he had any latitude that meaning that whenever he got a complaint, he had to deliver it over.

STEWART: Well he also said, just previously, that he had to go to the - the Office of Legal Counsel for advice because there was this - this discrepancy. And - and I think that's what you're alluding to about him going to the White House.

CUOMO: So, that's the Acting DNI. We heard from him today. Maybe you hear from him again. You have to see--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --where the situation takes you. But the idea of what's in that complaint that the phone call is not the sum total of the situation. It's just a window into a process that have - had been going on for over a year--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --that involved Mr. Giuliani, the President, and who knows in the State Department, and the White House, dealing with you guys in Congress about the funding, what are you concerned about in any of that?

STEWART: Well the essence of the complaint is only the phone call. Everything else is just public reporting, things that we've known the last week.

CUOMO: Well he talked to lots of officials, Congressman, who said they had concerns about how the transcript was stored, about what was being done with the Ukraine relationship, and for whose benefit.

STEWART: The essence of this report was about the phone call. I mean anyone can read it. Now they can talk about well they had concerns about whether it was - where - what computer it was stored.

But you can't tell me that that's going to be the essence of an impeachment hearing. It has to be the essence of this phone call. That's 90-something percent of, I think, our concerns. And--

CUOMO: Well when you say the phone call, is the question for you, did the President of the United States--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --solicit information about an opponent that could be helpful to him in his election from a foreign power?

STEWART: He clearly asked if the foreign opponent to - or the foreign government to do an investigation what he thought was corruption.

Now I got to tell you, to be honest, I don't think I would have said that. It makes me uncomfortable. But Presidents do things that make me uncomfortable all the time, and you don't impeach them for it.

When President Obama said to President - Russian President, President Medvedev, "Hey, give me after the election, and I'll have more latitude," or the thing we've been talking about more recently, when Vice President Obama went there, and demanded they fire this prosecutor, and threatened to withhold aid because that--

CUOMO: Biden.

STEWART: --yes. I'm sorry, Vice President Biden - that made me uncomfortable. But I didn't call for impeachment on either one of them. What - what the--

CUOMO: But you have something that is clearly in contravention of a statute here. If you ask a foreign power for anything of value in your election, you break the law.

STEWART: No. That's just not true. Look, there's been all sorts of analysis on this, including Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, regarding this phone call. And they looked at, and said, we don't even think it's an FEC violation.

CUOMO: I know. But they were looking at it with the A.G.--

STEWART: These are--

CUOMO: --mentioned and--

STEWART: No. CUOMO: --in the situation.

STEWART: OK. So every--

CUOMO: Shouldn't he have recused himself?

STEWART: So, your presumption is every one of them is corrupt. I don't think they are.

CUOMO: No. No. No. No. God forbid, if anything--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: --we were hearing--

STEWART: These--

CUOMO: --way too much about those people being corrupt--

STEWART: These--

CUOMO: --from people on your side of the aisle for the last year and a half, I don't believe that.

STEWART: These were--

CUOMO: I'm saying the A.G. being mentioned maybe would have created a disposition of carefulness inside the DOJ in reviewing a matter that he's involved in.

STEWART: Therefore, they had a corrupt decision?

CUOMO: No. I'm saying you create, just like with Biden, you create the appearance of impropriety by him not saying "I got to recuse myself from this."

STEWART: Yes. But--

CUOMO: "I'm mentioned in it."

STEWART: But, Chris, you stated definitively that he broke the law. This was a violation law. And I'm telling you that--

CUOMO: No, no, not the A.G.

STEWART: --many, many attorneys--

CUOMO: I'm saying the President soliciting - look, I mean you had the statute up on the screen for people.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: It's what the law says. It's not what I said.

STEWART: Well, and I'm telling you that there are attorneys that, and very intelligent attorneys who specialize in this area of law-- CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: --who say that's absolutely not.

CUOMO: So, you can ask a foreign power, let's say Stewart and Cuomo are running against each other, I can say, "I'm running against Stewart"--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --"Italy."

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: "Do you know anything about him"--

STEWART: I'm--

CUOMO: --"about when he was there." And they say, "Yes, look at this. We have this whatever." "Oh, thank you," and I use it in our election, you're OK with that?

STEWART: What I'm saying is - well there's two things that are very important. What I'm saying is that what the President did here, many attorneys, who specialize in this area of law, have said it is a non- violation of law.

But the more important thing is I've been asked this before, you're saying, well then you would never, never do it. And I'd say, it depends, and surely you would agree it would depend.

And let me give an - a very easy example. Let's say a very close ally, the United Kingdom, came to you. This is someone you trust. They're a friend.

And they came to you with clear evidence saying one of your opponents was involved with, say, the - the molestation or - or the sexual assault of a child, are you telling me you wouldn't do something with that?

CUOMO: I'd say, "Go to the FBI."

STEWART: Well that - oh that's exactly right. But you would do something with it.

CUOMO: No, no, no.

STEWART: You would - you would pass that information on.

CUOMO: I would say, "Go to the FBI. I can't have anything to do with this."

STEWART: But you would - but you wouldn't just sit on it. You would do something with it.

CUOMO: But that's the opposite of-- STEWART: Because some people--

CUOMO: --what the President did.

STEWART: Because some people--

CUOMO: I'm saying that you would make it go to the right authorities. I wouldn't try to get it for my own advantage.

[21:20:00]

STEWART: But - but that's what some people have suggested is that you couldn't do anything with it. And I just think that's nuts. I've been criticized for saying of course you would do something. It's apparent.

CUOMO: They say when someone comes to you, they - look, you know what we're talking about here. If you go to a foreign entity, and say, "Help me," you're not--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --supposed to ask. I thought we all agreed on that--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --after Mueller that one thing that we all don't want is a foreign power messing with our elections or people going to a foreign power to help mess with the elections.

STEWART: Here's - here's - oh, I think we agree on that actually.

And maybe - maybe you misunderstood me because we actually do agree on that. I said it makes me uncomfortable. I said some of the things that other Presidents have done had made me uncomfortable.

The question is, and I think this is a real central thing that we need to talk about here now, is it - is - does it rise to a level of high crime and misdemeanor, and should that individual be impeached?

I gave you examples. The thing that President Obama, Vice President Biden did who--

CUOMO: And you think either of those stack up to this?

STEWART: I think they're very, very similar. And if--

CUOMO: Really?

STEWART: Of course. Of course. I mean--

CUOMO: How is what VP Biden did--

STEWART: Because he--

CUOMO: --the same as this? STEWART: Because he went there and said, "You fire that prosecutor," and he threatened to withhold $1 billion worth of aid, and his son was associated with a company that was being investigated. Are you telling me that's not concerning?

But let me make my other point, because I really think this is key. It doesn't matter what I think. It doesn't matter what 217 Democrats think. It matters what the American people think.

And when President Nixon, when - when he was impeached, everyone knew that you - he violated. He went in. There was whistle - there was - he broke into the--

CUOMO: It's a felony.

STEWART: Well and then he covered it up. And there was obstruction of justice.

When President Clinton was involved with a intern, someone half his age, and lied to the Grand Jury, in both of those circumstances, American people looked at it, and they just intuitively know "That's wrong." And--

CUOMO: So, you think that you only do what the American people say you should do?

STEWART: I'm saying if you're going to impeach, the American people have to support it.

CUOMO: Really?

STEWART: Of course.

CUOMO: What if they don't understand the circumstances the way that you do?

STEWART: Then you have to--

CUOMO: Aren't you put in there to ask on your constituents (ph)?

STEWART: --you have to convince them. You have to convince the American people.

CUOMO: But then why haven't you guys done gun reform when 90 percent of the people want it?

STEWART: Well that's a completely different--

CUOMO: No, it isn't.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: It's the same principle.

STEWART: If you want to talk gun reform, I'm happy to talk that.

CUOMO: No. But what I'm saying is - I know. The President does too now, all the sudden. But--

STEWART: There - I'm saying if you are going to impeach a President, you have to convince American people that's the right thing. If you don't--

CUOMO: So, if 50 percent of the American people say they want it, then you're OK with it?

STEWART: I think it - you have to convince - I don't want - I don't want to say it's based on polling. But if we don't do that--

CUOMO: Then how would you know?

STEWART: --if we don't do that, then the next President is going to be impeached, and the President after that, because there is no perfect Presidency.

And if you don't have a high threshold, for impeachment, where the majority, and I would say, the vast majority of Americans support that, there will never be a President who serves his time in Office again.

CUOMO: And you don't see any difference between--

STEWART: And if you think this--

CUOMO: --this President, what he did, what VP Biden did, and what President Obama did. You see them all as equal?

STEWART: I actually think Vice President Biden's is much worse.

CUOMO: Really?

STEWART: Yes. How could--

CUOMO: Him acting under color of--

STEWART: --how could it not be worse?

CUOMO: --authority of the United States government--

STEWART: How could it not be worse?

CUOMO: --with the E.U., the Ukraine Parliament voting, and other Western democracies, and NGOs, all asking for the ouster of the same prosecutor, he acts openly, as the VP, holding back money, trying to get rid of the prosecutor.

The President said he bragged about getting rid of a prosecution. That's not true. He got rid of a prosecutor. The guy started an investigation before his son worked there. After that prosecutor left, the next prosecutor looked at it even more, and cleared the guy.

And you think that's the same as calling the Ukraine President, and saying, "Investigate my opponent?"

STEWART: I actually - again, I actually think it's worse.

CUOMO: Really?

STEWART: Yes, of course. And I don't know how you could argue with that. He is the Vice President--

CUOMO: We were equally shocked, Congressman.

STEWART: --of the United States - he is the Vice President of the United States, who went there and demanded that they fire a prosecutor, who is investigating the company his son was being paid by, and threatened to withhold aid from that company or that country if he did not. You're OK with that? You yourself said--

CUOMO: He was acting under color of authority--

STEWART: --there was a quid pro quo.

CUOMO: What? Absolutely, there's a quid pro quo, because he said, "If you don't get rid of this prosecutor, the United States isn't giving you the money." You're forgetting the main element, personal gain. You have to show that there was personal gain.

STEWART: His son - you don't think his son's wellbeing and financial wellbeing was his personal gain?

CUOMO: They opened the investigation before the son got there. He was investigated more after the prosecutor left, and cleared.

STEWART: You don't think that his son's financial wellbeing was for his personal gain? Because I think it clearly was.

CUOMO: I know. But what I'm saying - I know what you think. What I'm saying is how was it in Biden's interest to do that the way it was in this President's interest to do that?

STEWART: But--

CUOMO: I guess look - I guess that's the question you guys are going to have to pursue going forward.

STEWART: Well - well look, the American people can look at that. And I think most Americans will. I can see how it's in his personal interest to protect his son's financial gain.

CUOMO: But you don't see this as being in this President's personal interest?

STEWART: No. I said I see them - I see them very, very clearly in parallel. But you asked me which I thought was worse is, I don't know, you tell me. But you can't say this one's OK, and this one's bad. They're very, very similar.

CUOMO: I think you can make the argument that it is. But that's the course going forward. And you are always welcome here--

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: --as we go along the process to make your case to the people. I want them to hear it.

STEWART: Right. Thanks.

[21:25:00]

CUOMO: All right? Thank you, Congressman.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: I appreciate it.

All right, the Attorney General, as we were just discussing, is named in the whistleblower report. He was named on the phone call. What does that mean? Does he have any exposure here? Was there any responsibility put on him because of that?

So, we're going to look into with a couple of people with investigative backgrounds that go deep into the functioning of the DOJ, what is the exposure, what are the questions, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, we have three quick questions that came up in important ways this morning, and with two experts in investigation to handle them, Jim Baker and Andrew McCabe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO'S COURT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:30:00]

CUOMO: Welcome back, Gentlemen. Andrew, let me start with you.

What the President said about, "You know, guys like this, the guys who talked to this whistleblower, maybe even the whistleblower, they're basically spies. You know what we used to do with them?"

Your take? ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, horrendous, horrendous, Chris.

This is - first of all, it's the President doing exactly what the whistleblower protection statutes say you can't do, which is attempting to retaliate against somebody for filing a complaint using proper channels.

And I will also tell you that having experienced a very similar baseless charge from the President, it is absolutely chilling.

Even though it's President Trump, and he frequently says things that are baseless, and absolutely wrong, to hear the President of the United States call you "Treasonous," and call for your execution is absolutely terrifying.

So, that is a message that I'm sure all those U.S. government employees, in his presence, this morning, received loud and clear.

CUOMO: Jim, give me a thumbnail sketch of the operative and legal distinction between what we're dealing with, with the President on this call, with the President of Ukraine, and that solicitation, and what VP Biden did with Ukraine, in his capacity as Vice President.

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Well they're completely different.

And I think one of the things that concerns me the most is people keep talking about these criminal statutes, and whether they apply to the President, and who violated what, and so on. I think you need to forget that.

What you need to focus on is the Constitution, and whether the President violated his oath of office, and abused his power.

And, to me, the thing that is the most alarming about the phone call, and what I think is really at the foundation of what people should be concerned about, is that the phone call evidences an effort by the President to use the power of his Office to keep himself in power. That's really what this is about.

And I, with all due respect to the Congressman, from a few minutes ago, I disagree because the - these other cases that he was trying to bring up don't - are - are not about somebody trying to use their power to stay in power.

That's really what this is about. And that's about the Constitution and not about a criminal statute per se.

CUOMO: And the idea that "You can solicit a foreign power for information that is beneficial to you in an election, under some circumstances," what circumstances?

MCCABE: None.

BAKER: No, you can't. You should not be able to. Yes, none, exactly. No--

CUOMO: Because he says that there are legal experts--

BAKER: --it's - it's inappropriate and it's--

CUOMO: --that say "Sometimes, it's OK." Do you know of any case where it's OK?

BAKER: Well, you know, in the Mueller report, they got - they got concerned about whether some of the activities qualified under the particulars of the statute because they had a hard time putting a value on opposition research.

And that's why I'm saying like with respect to "The President," forget all the other people, forget the statutes, it's the - it's the question is whether he violated his duties and responsibilities under the Constitution.

CUOMO: It just lets you know--

MCCABE: Yes.

CUOMO: --what you're dealing with here in terms of partisanship about how far people will go on one side to justify being against this analysis, but at the same time that side feels that the Left is going way too far in making this happen.

MCCABE: The--

CUOMO: The idea of the storage of the information, Andrew, that this would have been put into a different password-protected directory, the Congressman referred to it as "Another computer." It's not another computer. It's an entirely different system.

What is the concern, and what is the occasion, where you've heard of this being done before?

MCCABE: Well I've never heard of it being done in this sort of circumstance. The system that's been referred to is one that's created specifically for our absolutely most sensitive secrets, codeword- protected information, things of that nature.

And therefore, it is designed to hold information to the smallest possible audience, the smallest possible group of highly-vetted people, are the only folks that can see what's in there.

So, the effort to put the transcripts of these calls or evidence of these communications, into that system is clearly an effort to limit the availability of the - the opportunity for folks to see what took place on this call.

The call itself does not call for that sort of treatment. It is not classified at the level. It's certainly not compartmented information that would require it being put in that system.

CUOMO: Jim, what do you believe are the big boxes that need to be checked, going forward, for this to rise to the level of something that might be impeachable?

BAKER: I am not sure that we're not there already. I mean I think that transcript is - is quite alarming.

It's not actually a literal transcript, right? But it's - it's - the - the - the substance of the call, that's alarming enough. I mean if that kind of activity is acceptable, then I don't really know where we are, as a country.

Of course, the - the Congress has to conduct some amount of logical investigation, figure out maybe who else might be willing to come forward, whether there are other date - whether there's data and facts and circumstances that might corroborate that.

But they're going to be investigating the President directly, and trying to get information from the White House, that's going to be pretty tough. So, I'm not really sure where they're going to go.

[21:35:00]

I think the question is whether, on its face, this transcript is an impeach - constitutes an impeachable offense or not, and they can try to do other investigation, but I don't really know where they're going to go with it.

CUOMO: Andrew, chance, out of 10, that Mr. Giuliani winds up being right, and then he comes out a hero because of what we discover about the Bidens or about the interference that happened in Ukraine.

MCCABE: Minus 10. I don't think there's--

CUOMO: Integers.

MCCABE: --I don't think there's any chance of that happening. I think - I think Rudy's done an incredible job of, once again, casting up a conspiracy theory that's attracted a lot of attention.

It served his purposes of creating a counter-narrative to distract folks away from what is some very serious allegations about the President, and Mr. Giuliani's conduct. But that doesn't make any of those conspiracy theories true.

There's still yet to be a single piece of evidence that anybody's uncovered that indicates that Vice President Biden or his son were found to have done anything wrong. In fact, the Ukrainians have said repeatedly that they didn't find anything there. So, yes, I - I - I really don't see that there's much - much at the end of that road.

CUOMO: Still an open question. There's no question that he got Biden into the conversation. But it also seems that--

MCCABE: That's right.

CUOMO: --everything picked up a lot of momentum against the President, and him, after his outburst, and his making of that case.

Jim, thank you very much. Andrew, as always, appreciate it fellas.

MCCABE: Thanks.

CUOMO: Democrats are hovering at the threshold number of votes for articles of impeachment already. But what about the holdouts?

We have one. Congressman Conor Lamb from Pennsylvania. What did he think of today? What does he need to do, what does he need to see to get anywhere near impeachment? Find out next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The numbers. The numbers are a big part of this story.

Just over the past three days, more than 75 Democratic House Members have thrown their support behind an impeachment investigation. The Democrats now have, you know, more than 200 behind the probe.

Now, we don't know how they might actually vote, at the end of all this. But there's still about 16 House Democrats who have not been persuaded. One of them is Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania.

Good to have you on the show.

REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA): Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: How'd you feel about today?

LAMB: I thought today was a historic day and historic week. The facts have clearly changed. But one thing that I - that I felt about today is it kind of shows the important thing about the American system, and it shows that that system is working.

I mean a person came forward, following the procedures, laid out in the law. They were protected. And it is allowing us to finally start to get to some of the facts that people have been wondering for a while.

And that wouldn't have happened in a lot of places around the world, certainly wouldn't have happened in Russia. And I think we can be - we can take some pride in that today. CUOMO: President says "This guy, the people who talked to him, bunch of spies, and we used to take care of them in a very different way." What does that mean to you?

LAMB: It's just not accurate. I mean this person literally followed the letter of the law, from beginning to end. The complaint is one of the more carefully drafted documents I've seen in my time in Washington.

And, in fact, we've all thought that it was wrong when people do things the other way, you know, the Snowden's and the Manning's who - who just leaked out into the public when they wanted to, this person really took care to do it the right way.

And the I.G. and the DNI sort of recognize that. And so, that's why I do think it shows that the system can work right.

CUOMO: What do you need to see in order to believe that any of this is worthy for articles of impeachment?

LAMB: Well I think there are a lot of questions raised by this whistleblower complaint. I mean you've talked about some of them on your show.

But, you know, the - the whistleblower talks about speaking to other people in the White House, about this separate server, about Giuliani, and his role in all this, and how it could have affected our policy in Ukraine.

And I think I, and the American people, want answers to all those questions.

But this is clearly we're in a different place today than we were last week because of these allegations. And I think that's going to ramp up the urgency behind this investigation a lot, and I support that.

CUOMO: What does it mean to people in the country that the Democrats are saying, "We just want to focus on this in Ukraine. Forget about all the other stuff." Might that make people feel like so all that other stuff you were saying was so important, now it isn't anymore, only this matters, why?

LAMB: I'm not sure.

But I think the important thing about this week is that we have become very focused, as a group, on making sure this is first and foremost in the investigation, and that that we stay locked in on that, and we follow the facts, wherever they lead, not in partisan way, in a way that it's just about uncovering evidence, and taking this thing step by step.

And that's what many of us tried to do this week. You know, I waited until the last couple of days to speak more publicly about it because I wanted to see the actual evidence first.

CUOMO: So, where are you now? Are you in favor of what you guys are calling an impeachment inquiry? You believe it's warranted?

LAMB: I absolutely support Chairman Schiff's investigation and everything that he's doing. The Speaker put the impeachment inquiry label on that on Monday, so that's what it is.

I never thought that was the most important question. What people ask me about when I go home are the facts, what happened, and why, especially given the situation in Ukraine, right?

I mean that is an urgent national security threat. We are there because any Russian invasion in Eastern Europe is bad for our allies, and bad for us. And I think people are wondering now.

I mean how many parents in my district send their children to serve in the military, thinking that the Commander-in-Chief will always look out for them and no one else? And that's in question after a complaint like this, and so--

CUOMO: So, Congressman Lamb is one of the number now who is invested in an impeachment inquiry, but you don't know how you're going to vote yet?

LAMB: I don't know that anyone knows how they're going to vote yet because we're in the very early stage of this.

CUOMO: I hear Democrats say - Chairman Waters just said she's ready to go--

LAMB: Sure.

CUOMO: --tonight.

LAMB: Well--

CUOMO: But you're not. But you are now among those - you're not a holdout from impeachment inquiry at all?

LAMB: Right. I guess what I'm trying to say is, is those two categories have really been driven by the media, and it's been a very Washington question this week, whereas I think on the ground, to those of us who're experiencing this moment by moment, we're just trying to find out the facts.

We didn't really care whether it was called an impeachment inquiry or regular inquiry. I mean Chairman Schiff has been investigating this for years, at this point, and - and it didn't look a whole lot different last week and this week.

What changed is that a courageous American stepped forward, willing to tell the truth, as they experienced it. And now, it's on us to corroborate that, to investigate it, to find out what's behind it.

CUOMO: You think you'll be able to get to the bottom of it? Or you think the White House is just going to hold you up like it's done to this point? LAMB: Well the whistleblower broke through, right? We got the complaint. And the White House released the transcript. The American people, I think, are invested in this now, and we owe it to them to get to the bottom of it. So, we're not going to give up.

[21:45:00]

CUOMO: Congressman Lamb, thank you very much.

LAMB: Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: Appreciate the candor. Good luck going forward. You're always welcome here to make the case to the American people.

LAMB: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

All right, so look, we've been here before. And today did seem, in some ways, like a foul blast from the past. An argument about where we are, but more importantly, how we must proceed, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Saw the hearing? I know, deja vu!

Right and Left in opposite worlds, both in high dudgeon, the sneaking suspicion that if you flip the roles of the Republicans and Democrats, you'd hear the exact same arguments.

Just rewind 20 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this Constitutional Republic.

[21:50:00]

Because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the Office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Where have you gone, Lindsey Graham, now shooting "No quid pro quo! Nothing here if there's no crime," and he's not the only one giving us whiplash. The argument works both ways.

Here's House Judiciary Chair, Jerry Nadler, back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Impeachment of a President is an undoing of a national election!

They are ripping asunder our votes! They are telling us that our votes don't count!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So, I feel your frustration. But there is an argument to discontinue the connivances of political convenience.

The country came out of a confusing period recently with one point of clarity. "Foreign powers, messing with our elections is bad. And no one should allow that or partake in it."

While Congress will debate the debris - the degree and consequence, there's no denying that this President did exactly what we all swore off. He contacted a foreign power and asked for help that would give him an advantage in an election. Period!

He's offered no excuse or explanation. His defense is that "Biden is worse. And the whistleblower and the people who expressed their concerns, around him, are spies that we would have - had meet a dark fate back in the days when America was great."

The problem is what this President and his followers accuse Biden of, without proof, is actually present in what this President did, and we have proof. You can't use words like "Cover-up" and "Abuse of power" without making a very strong case of the same. Remember that.

This phone call is not enough. It's a window into a wild episode, but one that was months in the making and that will take time to show.

Democrats have to overcome the political problem also that they've been saying they had enough to impeach before all this, and now they don't want to talk about any of that anymore.

"The focus is narrow, just on Ukraine." What about the other stuff? Doesn't matter anymore?

This can't just be about how the President behaves either. It can't be just about not liking what he's about. It has to be about overwhelming proof that he abused his Office, and enlisted the help of so many in such ways that he should forfeit what the people gave him. Bar's high.

Only two things matter. First, answers to questions like these. Who are the people the whistleblower spoke to? Who dealt with Ukraine and gave the impression that dealing with Biden was a pre-condition to dealing with Trump? Who hid the transcripts? Why?

Who at the State Department worked with Rudy? Why? Who in the White House gave different and inaccurate explanations for withholding funds that Congress approved for Ukraine? Why?

Also, those answers, to those questions, why do they matter, and how much? Is it wrong or illegal? What is such a grave abuse that it all combines to meet the standard the Framers gave us?

It is only enough if what we can know by what Congress can show, facts, facts, and facts alone, they must force impeachment. Yes, force, because if it's not that compelling, then it is for an election. If it is not unavoidable, it must be avoided.

If we can't recognize, at the end of this, that the outcome gives us the best obtainable version of the truth, then we lose.

Worse, we'll be dangerously close to the dystopian reality that Orwell thought was wild fiction in 1949, where all that matters is the duplicity of doublespeak, and the mindlessness of groupthink, truth, imaginary as a unicorn.

Another caution of the proximity of fact and fiction these days, you know, Orwell, in that book, 1984, he said that the final work of Big Brother wouldn't be finished until the first couple of decades of the 21st Century, like right where we are now.

We're already too close to what was supposed to be parody. Take us forward on fact. Make arguments that are too strong to avoid. And remember that we will all be remembered for the choices we make now.

Again, I ask, how do you want to be remembered?

Now, looking forward, there are some signs of hope. BOLO, Be On the Look-Out. There are some cracks in what we see as the contagion of partisanship. I'll show you next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: BOLO. That's an acronym for Be On the Look-Out. While this Ukraine drama unfolds, the Trump Administration is still

intent on raiding military coffers to fund the President's Border wall, $3.6 billion, in fact, from hundreds of projects across the country.

In a rare step though, away from POTUS, in fact, Republicans in the Senate voted for a second time yesterday, to end Trump's national emergency declaration, 54-41, a 11 GOPers crossing the aisle.

Of course, Trump is expected to shoot it down. It's not a veto-proof majority. But it is a sign. Maybe the GOP is not fully in lockstep with Trump.

On the Ukraine call, and whistleblower report, some Republican Senators are uncharacteristically speaking up, Romney calling it "Deeply troubling," Ben Sasse, "Very troubling," Toomey, "Inappropriate," Portman and Hurd also voicing their dissent, those are House Members.

But if after the investigation, the findings prove so damning that you can argue they demand impeachment, and a removal trial, and vote in the Senate, it's a big "If," the question is what will Republicans do? And for us, that's something to Be On the Look-Out for.

All right, that's all for us tonight. Thank you very much for watching. There's a lot of news.

CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: A lot of news. There are very few Republicans who are coming out and voicing some concern about it. But there are some at least, at this point, so we shall see where that goes.

CUOMO: Uncharacteristic with what we've seen. I do think though this is a tough one. There is so much flagrancy on that phone call. You can argue about what level of abuse it is, and whether it rises to high crime and misdemeanor, based on what we know right now. I think that's fine.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: I think you can do the same thing with the Bidens, frankly, and Hunter Biden, and talk about ethical considerations, it's fine. I think it's also false equivalence. But the idea to hear them at all, at this point, I think is a reflection.

END