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CNN TONIGHT

GOP Senators Dodge Questions On Whistleblower Complaint; Interview with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) About The Senate Republicans Avoiding The Whistleblower Complaint; Interview with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) About Taking The Lead On The Impeachment Inquiry; White House Officials Deeply Disturbed By Trump/Ukraine Call Intervened To Lock Down Records; Hillary Clinton, Trump Is A Corrupt Human Tornado; Whistleblower's Complaint Dominated the Air Waves; President Trump is Outrage Who's Stabbing His Back. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You can argue about what level of abuse it is and whether it rises the high crime and misdemeanor based on what we know right now, I think that's fine.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes.

CUOMO: I think you can do the same with the Biden's, frankly, and Hunter Biden and talk about ethical considerations, it's fine. I think it's also false equivalence.

But the idea that hear there at all at this point I think is a reflection of how wild --

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: -- that phone call is and the suggestions of how long they worked with how many different tentacles to get to that point of that call to begin with.

LEMON: Well, it's interesting, I saw your interview with I can't remember the congressman who's on --

CUOMO: Chris Stewart.

LEMON: Yes. Chris Stewart. Earlier. And it's just shocking to me that -- listen, I'm not -- nothing personal against him but how he can condone one and not condone the other and saying one is worse than the other when the investigation wasn't even going on when Hunter Biden was part of the company and then it was done by the time it was -- I mean, it was just -- I don't understand it.

CUOMO: Did you see the clips of Lindsey Graham back during Clinton and now?

LEMON: Of course. Of course.

CUOMO: That's how you understand it.

LEMON: Yes. Well, --

CUOMO: Same guy, totally different supply in terms of what they're on that's motivating their arguments. And look, we've seen it work both ways. That's why people are so frustrated, Don, that's why they expect so little, that's why the truth matters so much.

LEMON: Yes. The concern, though, is that can we, even in the face of all the evidence that you see in the phone call and you see the whistleblower's report. When you see the report and the call and people see two different things. I don't know if people see two different things or they want to see two different things, regardless of however that -- those metrics work, we still live in a country that is extremely divided.

In my, you know, 27 years on this planet, I have never seen us this -- you didn't catch that did you?

CUOMO: I did.

LEMON: The 27. You heard me. I've never -- I have never seen it like this. I've always seen a division between right and left but not this divide, this crevasse that we're seeing right now.

CUOMO: Well, look, here's what we need.

LEMON: And you come from a political family. You know this. It's never been like this.

CUOMO: It depends on what period you're talking about. You know, obviously we've gone through so much worse than where we are right now. But in recent history, this president has really pulled at the fabric of what holds us together in this country. He just has. He's playing to advantage in ways we haven't seen before.

But, look, the rules still have to apply. I think the Democrats, some of them are in a hurry right now and I don't understand why. You have to get the answers to the questions that we outlined in the closing.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: If you can show that this president had people from the State Department working with Rudy and people were working with Ukraine and giving them certain expectations for how they would get meetings and friendship from the president of the United States, and you had people lying to Congress about why they were holding up money and people secreting the transcripts into a different directory so they couldn't be discovered easily, now you're talking about a systemic abuse of power over months that is flagrant and egregious --

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: -- and I think you're in a different place. I don't know that you're there right now. LEMON: But let me tell you one thing before I go is that during the

election before this president became president, I would hear people all the time talking about, hey, I like him, I like him and I would say, you know, he's got a chance, got a chance. Liberals would get mad at me, you know, Hillary supporters would get mad at he saying what are you nuts, what are you nuts?

So, here's what I'm feeling about Democrats now. Is that, Democrats now feel that the people who they put in office in Washington now has some you know what, cojones with it. And they're at least trying to do something. They feel like finally somebody is standing up for us. They feel like this has some momentum.

And so, I think that motivation they may take into the voting booth. So, the whole calculus about people saying it's going to help Trump, I don't know if I -- I don't know if I'm feeling that way now. At first, I did. I thought, well, you know, if you want to win, then maybe you shouldn't do what they did to Bill Clinton back in the 090s.

But I think Democrats are feeling empowered because of this last move regardless of what side you're on. That's just what I'm getting from the folks on the street and the people I'm talking to.

CUOMO: Well, my guess is, that if people put you there to hold the president to account --

LEMON: Right on.

CUOMO: -- they don't want you to become what they oppose.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: And if you're going to make a case make a damn good case.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Don't do what this president would do in terms of what his basis of proof is in most of the suggestions that he makes. So, you know, it's a big responsibility if I put you in control of looking out for my interests.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And I think they have to carry it forward with integrity and make a really compelling case.

LEMON: Enjoy your night in D.C. You still have time to go out and have a good dinner after the show. I'll see you tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes. This place is crazy.

LEMON: Yes. I know. Who are you telling? We saw it all playing out on TV today. So, let me know what the mood is like there. Thank you, Chris. See you later. This is CNN Tonight. Everyone, thank you so much for joining us.

We have got to talk about this, about how incredible, how shocking this day has been. OK?

[22:04:59]

Well, today, just today, here's what we learned about the explosive whistleblower accusations that the President of the United States not only abused the power of his office to pressure a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election, allegations that senior members of his administration then tried to cover up evidence of the president's actions.

And then the president himself pretty blatantly threatened anyone who talked to that whistleblower. You go the to listen to this because it was all caught on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to know who is the person that gave the whistleblower -- 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, with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We all know the president's -- this president's first impulse always seems to be to hurl insults and wild accusations. But this is not just Trump being Trump. This one this is different.

This is the President of the United States straight up saying that officials from his own White House who expressed their concerns to the whistleblower are like spies. Think about that. He's accusing them of treason. And with a nod and a wink talking about how we handled spies and treason when we were, his word, smart.

Prison? Execution? I don't know. What do we do with spies? Hanging? What -- what does that mean? I'm just going to say that if you're being accused of sounding like a gangster in a movie, maybe don't talk about killing people you think of as your enemies.

It just shows you how threatened this president must feel by the whistleblower's complaint and what it alleges about his actions and the attempt to cover them up.

And a lot of what we've learned today from the whistleblower's complaint matches what we've already learned and what we saw in the rough transcript the White House released of the president's call with the president of Ukraine. House intel chairman Adam Schiff says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What this whistleblower said about the nature of that call has been borne out in great detail by the call record that has now been released. So, in a very substantial part, this whistleblower has already been found to be credible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, let's go through this. In the very first paragraph of the complaint, the whistleblower lays out the main allegations and they are shocking, saying the president used the power of his office -- used the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election, including, quote, "pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president's main domestic political rivals."

In the rough transcript of the president's call with the president of Ukraine, remember that transcript was released by the White House itself, there is this. And I quote. "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 that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me."

Let's please remember this, OK? There's no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

But let's continue on here. In the same paragraph the whistleblower says, quote, "The president's personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well."

So, I want to go back to this call now because it says, quote, "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the Mayor of New York city, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general."

See the connection? And there is much more. The whistleblower going on to say that according to the White House officials with direct knowledge of the call, the president in the course of pressing Ukraine's leader on the Bidens and DNC servers wanted him to, quote, "meet or speak with two people the president named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. Giuliani and the Attorney General William Barr, to whom the president referred multiple times in tandem."

Be sure to refer to them multiple times. Again, from the rough verbiage of that call.

[22:09:56]

It says, quote, "I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it."

And under the heading of the coverup is worse than the crime part, the whistleblower goes on to say that in the days following the president's Ukraine call, senior White House officials intervened to lock down all records of the call, including a word-for-word transcript, moving that into a system for especially sensitive information, what you might call a coverup server.

Here's the quote. "One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is a coverup. This is a coverup.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Just look at all the high-level people in this administration who are tied to this story, whether in the complaint, the transcript, the congressional testimony or mentioned in news reports or by the president and Mr. Giuliani.

Of course, at the center of it all is none other than the president. Then there is the vice president, Mike Pence. According to the complaint, he was ordered by the president to cancel his planned trip to Ukraine for President Zelensky's inauguration. What was he told? We don't know.

Attorney General William Barr, the president saying multiple times in the call that he would -- he would have his attorney general call Ukraine. His handling of the I.G. is under tremendous scrutiny. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who reportedly argued against releasing a rough transcript of the Ukraine call.

Those unnamed White House officials who tried to lock down the record of the call, Mike Mulvaney, ordered by the president to hold back nearly $400 million in aid for the Ukraine, White House counsel Pat Cipollone whose office the acting DNI testified today, he went to first when he received the whistleblower's complaint.

Rudy Giuliani who told the Atlantic today, and I'm quoting here, "It is impossible that the whistleblower is the hero and I'm not, and I will be the hero. These morons when this is over, I will be the hero." That from the former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.

Kurt Volker, the special representative for Ukraine and Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U. who according to the complaint spoke with Giuliani in an attempt to contain the damage.

All of them, you saw them up on your screen. See how that worked out? And tonight, we're really just at the very beginning of all of this. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that she wants a fast impeachment inquiry focused on the president of Ukraine. So, we may get a lot more answers very soon. Stay tuned.

Abuse of power. A coverup. Serious accusations against this president. Where does the investigation go from here? That's the question. Mike Rogers is here, Susan Hennessey, Shawn Turner. They will answer, next.

[22:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A lot of disturbing allegations in the whistleblower complaint released today, that as the president makes a shocking charge against anyone who talked to the whistleblower.

Joining me to discuss now is former Congressman Mike Rogers, the host of CNN's Declassified, also Susan Hennessey and Shawn Turner. Good evening one and all. Thank you so much for joining. I appreciate it.

Mike, I'm going to start with you. You say that this whistleblower complaint is a pretty damning document, but be specific to us. Is it the threats, the coverup, is it the abuse of power? Tell our viewers why.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's a damning document because it lays out the case in great detail and then also cites legal references along the way, including, by the way, the charge that if someone tries to declassify certain parts of it afterward, they should have to justify.

It tells me that somebody in the chain of getting that information legally and normally as a part of their course of business got this information. And I think that's exactly why the I.G. said I'm taking a look at the person because they didn't do a full investigation.

Remember, they just -- they had to do a precursory view of the material and see is it credible and is it of concern. I think that's why the I.G. came to the conclusion --

LEMON: OK.

ROGERS: -- probably a good person, a person that would have access to this information. It's certainly laid out very, very clearly and in great detail. I've never seen as somebody who has taken whistleblower complaints, I've never seen one this detailed in every I and every T dotted. It tells me somebody knows what they're doing.

LEMON: So, you think it's a good, credible and very well-written complaint.

ROGERS: I do.

LEMON: There's criticism on the other side, you know, from the Trump supporters and Republicans who are saying it's fiction. It looks like a --

ROGERS: Well, here is the one thing, and if you're looking at it from the other side even as an investigator say, remember it's all hearsay. A lot to prove.

Here's what I was surprised with, Don. I was surprised they released this document. You never -- I never would have ever released a whistleblower complaint. I would have done the investigation, you may have referenced it but they released it and it just gives fodder to Republicans who are saying, listen, nobody had direct access, they got it third hand and why would you release the whistleblower complaint?

I thought this was a little bit sophomoric in something as serious as the possibility of removing and undoing a legal election.

[22:20:01]

My argument is if you're going to do this, do it right.

LEMON: Listen --

ROGERS: Make sure that all of the information of that whistleblower is confirmed before you even do something like this.

LEMON: I've got some ideas on this. But I want to get the other guys in.

ROGERS: Yes.

LEMON: And if we have time, I want to talk to you about that, Mike. Susan, let's bring you in. If the whistleblower ultimately testifies, it seems like one of the first questions will be who are these White House officials who told him about the call and who say they were directed by the White House lawyers to remove the transcript from its proper server, correct?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. This is actually one of the things I think is so damning about this document, that the whistleblower is actually up front about the fact that he does not have firsthand information, but he points to people who do have firsthand information.

He is quite explicitly and directly, and in some cases, by name directing congressional investigators to individuals who he believed has -- who he believes has firsthand knowledge not just of this call but of the other activity that are related, contextual activity, you know.

And so, certainly, investigators are going to want to talk to this person, you know. But ultimately, as much as Republicans are sort of saying well, this is just hearsay, this is second-hand information, you know, the obvious rejoinder to that is you're absolutely right.

We need to bring in people with firsthand information, get them under oath, get them speaking to congressional investigators, you know, and have the White House agree to that process, participate in that process because it is such an incredibly serious not just allegation at this point but even from the most serious allegations in that whistleblower complaint have already been confirmed by the White House themselves whenever they release that transcript.

LEMON: Shawn, you know, you find out something new every time one of these things happens. Because you know, this whole coverup server, so to speak, people are learning about, according to White House officials in this complaint, the transcript of this Ukraine call was, quote, "not the first-time information was put into this coverup servers." What other conversations with world leaders might be hidden away?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I tell you that's an extremely important question. And you know, Don, there's an argument to be made here for the White House taking steps to protect information.

If you recall early on in this administration, you had lots of leaks of information from calls that the president had with other world leaders. You have leaks about information from a call he had with the Mexican president and with others.

And so, one of the key questions here is going to be was this a kind of holistic effort to protect calls that the president had with world leaders? In other words, were they moving all of these calls or most of these calls into some space so that they were more protected or were they cherry picking particular calls that had information that people in the White House thought might have been politically embarrassing or damaging to the president and putting those calls in another system?

If it's the -- if it's the latter, then that is completely consistent with what we're seeing in this complaint in terms of this being an effort to protect this information. And that's where we get into the space of coverup.

So, we don't know yet what other calls were put there but I think it's very interesting that this says that these are not the only ones and I think we should find out what those others are.

LEMON: Mike, what do you think about the president calling the whistleblower sources essentially spies. It seems to harken back to when spies when executed. Is this, could this be witness intimidation? What's going on here?

ROGERS: This is exasperating to me at any rate. The president should never even have engaged in that kind of conversation. And here's the problem. When he does that, it gives the group of Americans who already believe he's guilty, it enrages them and then folks in the middle are saying, you know, why is he attacking this person?

Remember, this is going to have -- this is going to cause a big divide in the United States, and we shouldn't walk into this thinking --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If he's innocent --

ROGERS: -- it's going to do anything else and he encourages this bad behavior. I'm sorry.

LEMON: -- why do the witnesses need to be pointed out? If he's so innocent, why do the witnesses need to be pointed out? That's my question.

ROGERS: Well, my whole point is --

LEMON: Hey, Mike.

ROGERS: -- he makes him look bad. We used to have a saying when I was an FBI agent in Chicago listen, when we were doing interviews, if you don't want us to treat you like you're guilty then stop acting like you're guilty.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I've got 10 seconds.

ROGERS: Why don't you be transparent? It does not look good and it doesn't look good for the president to attack individuals who are legally participating in a system designed to protect someone who believes they are right. Doesn't mean they are --

LEMON: I got it. I got it. I got it. I just want to ask you this. We have to go but do you think because everyone is saying well, it's secondhand knowledge, a third-hand knowledge, maybe this whistleblower is taking the information from someone who is so close to the president that they don't want to be revealed.

Has anyone thought about that and that the whistleblower is just the messenger here and the person who actually has the information is feeding the whistleblower the information because they're so close that they just don't want the president or anyone who's close to him to know about it? Is that possible? Mike?

ROGERS: It's possible but the way I read this, Don, is somebody in the chain of receipt of this information at one point it talks about this person receiving a read-out on a phone call tells me that they are already in that stream of information.

LEMON: Got it.

[22:25:01]

ROGERS: So, what they were doing is these people who probably they worked for -- with for a very long time came forward and said, gosh, I'm really concerned about this. And then through the process of their job, I don't this this was gossip at the coffee shop. This was part of their legitimate --

LEMON: Got it.

ROGERS: -- in intelligence they kept coming forward and saying hey, I got something, I got something. This person decided to sit down and write it then.

LEMON: Well, you are the perfect group to have this conversation. Thank you so. I appreciate it. And we got to talk about Mike Rogers. Because be sure to tune in Mike Rogers is going to host an all-new season of Declassified, untold stories of American spies this Sunday night at 9, only on CNN.

Thanks to everyone. Thanks to Susan, Shawn, and Mike. We'll be right back. [22:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The whistleblowers complaint dominated Washington today as soon as it was declassified. People rush to read it. People -- except Senate Republicans who were dodging questions about it, claiming they just haven't gotten around to reading it. The Wall Street Journal with the headline tonight everyone in Washington is reading the whistleblower complaint -- except Senate Republicans. That is from the Wall Street Journal.

Joining me now, Senate Judiciary Committee member and Democratic presidential candidate Mr. Cory Booker. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate it. The last few days have been very momentous in this country. Here's what we've been hearing from some of your colleagues, OK? Joni Ernst is saying, I just need to take a look at it. I just need to look at it. Rob Portman is saying, I've been running around this morning. Mike Braun is saying, I'm going to read it thoroughly. Just haven't had the chance. Willful ignorance?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I don't know what's going on. I'm sure they'll get a chance to read it as they said they would. I think that this is one of those moments where a lot of folks are going to have to make a decision as this investigation goes on.

And you saw this with the Nixon investigation where immediately people fell into their defensive partisan positioning, but as time went on and as more evidence came out, you saw profiles in courage. Republicans have broke with their partisan, short-term partisan interests and showed a level of patriotism that ultimately forced Nixon to resign, because he knew he had lost their support.

LEMON: You think that will happen this time?

BOOKER: This is pretty extraordinary. I mean, I used to say regularly that -- when people would say isn't this shocking? I'd say Trump has lost his ability to surprise me, but this is really surprising and shocking. Especially because I've been to the Ukraine. I sat with their soldiers who are under attack and I saw how desperately they needed American support. And we chose as a Congress, the Republicans you just mentioned last -- in a bipartisan way to get them the aid that they needed.

And here's a president that didn't deliver that aid, actively held it up and then used that leverage that he had to pursue a personal end. That's pretty dramatic and pretty much a betrayal of your office.

LEMON: Let me get some other stuff and I want to read some passages from the complaint that directly name the Attorney General William Barr here, at least one of them. It says this interference includes among other things pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president's main domestic political rivals. The president's personal lawyer Mr. Rudy Rudolf Giuliani is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are you going to investigate Barr's role in this?

BOOKER: He has to answer. I mean, in other words, he was pointed to or implicated even in this report. And yes, he needs to be investigated. This is the job of Congress. This is what I called for impeachment proceedings before this because the president of the United States was undermining Congress to perform -- undermining Congress in performing its role, which is to provide oversight. And so here you have a whistleblower report that credibly implicates the role of the Attorney General. We must investigate the Attorney General's actions in this case.

LEMON: Right. The complaint says that multiple White House officials listened to the Ukraine call and thought that they were witnessing an abuse of office for personal gain. They said that some were directed to move the transcript to it's called a code word server, a level server. If the information got to foreign intelligence, could this be used to blackmail those officials, maybe even the president?

BOOKER: Well, remember the cover-up in the case of Iran-contra, in the case of the Nixon --

LEMON: Worst in the crime.

BOOKER: Worst in the crime. And so here are people who actively are recognizing by their actions -- it recognizing something wrong, something's wrong, and instead of doing what this courageous patriotic whistleblower did, they took action to try to cover up that which they thought was wrong. That implicates them.

LEMON: Hillary Clinton talked about impeachment at a dinner in D.C. just a short time ago, calling the president a corrupt human tornado. And then there was this. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: One of the dangers we face is impeachment, having it now firmly in the House where it belongs under our constitution, blocking out everything else that's been done and all of the other issues that are at stake. We have to talk about what's at stake with impeachment, and we have to advocate for what's at stake in the next election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Is that the key, focusing on what's next instead of having impeachment drown out the election?

[22:35:00]

BOOKER: Look, I take it very seriously on the floor of the Senate, I swore an oath to protect and defend the constitution. This president it seems is undermining the constitution, putting our constitutional ideals of checks and balances of lack of abuse of office at risk. Politics be damned, it's time to do what is right. And in this moment we must continue these impeachment proceedings. LEMON: OK. If you can give me a quick answer here. Republicans, the

president's supporters are counting on you guys to start attacking the former president over what is considered a conspiracy theory about Ukraine, him and his son. Are you going to do that? Is that something that you guys are going to use on the campaign trail? I've got to ask, because they're saying when will his --

BOOKER: This is absolutely outrageous attack on Joe Biden. There is no evidence whatsoever that he's done anything wrong. This is them trying to distract from the improper behavior, possibly impeachable behavior or probably criminal behavior of the president and the people surrounding him. It's outrageous. And I for one, I'm not going to allow the besmirching of the character of one of America's statesmen which is the vice president.

LEMON: Did you have make the money you needed?

BOOKER: We are not there yet. So, we are still racing towards the deadline, Monday at midnight for me stand --

LEMON: How far away are you?

BOOKER: We're past the million dollar marks. We've made incredible progress.

LEMON: You need --

BOOKER: We need about $700,000 more. I hope people go to Cory Booker.com and help me stay in this presidential race.

LEMON: Thank you, sir.

BOOKER: No, thank you.

LEMON: I appreciate it.

BOOKER: All right.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:40:00]

LEMON: What a day of huge breaking news. The explosive whistleblower complaint revealed and the acting DNI testified before the House Intel Committee and what could be a preview of how the impeachment inquiry might work. Let's discuss now. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Intel an Oversight Committees, joins us. Congressman, I appreciate your time.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Sure, Don.

LEMON: And I know it's been a very busy day for you. So, we're very grateful that you're on. The reporting is that the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is tasking your committee to take the lead on the impeachment inquiry. What's the plan? How quickly will this move?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, thanks for having me on. I don't know how long it's going to take, but it makes sense that we are conducting this part of the investigation because, you know, the whistleblower's complaint went to the inspector general of the intelligence community. And so we have jurisdiction over the intelligence community so I think this is the right place to start.

LEMON: The House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff told my colleague Wolf Blitzer earlier that he is hoping witnesses will cooperate voluntarily. But what if it doesn't happen? Could we see subpoenas?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: We could. I mean, you know that the acting DNI Maguire today technically appeared under a subpoena. He wasn't willing to necessarily comply immediately, so we may have to resort to subpoenas, but hopefully others will volunteer. Certainly the whistleblower we hope will voluntarily come before our committee sooner rather than later.

LEMON: Do you think you could ultimately subpoena Rudy Giuliani? I mean, he told CNN today that he has five or six text messages showing the State Department was encouraging his work in Ukraine. I mean, I'm guessing you'd want to get your hands on all these records.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think as Booker already called us. No, I'm just kidding. I think at this point --

LEMON: That was a little shady, Congressman, but go on.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, I don't know how it's going to go down. Obviously it's just so unusual to see Mr. Giuliani's name all over the complaint and then in the transcript. You know, it's just bizarre that, you know, the president in an official communication with a foreign leader is saying to meet, you know, one of my people, you know, my personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, out of the blue. And so I'm sure that, you know, he's going to be called as a witness at some point.

LEMON: I want to read you something here, this is in, it's from Peter Baker's piece that is just posted in The New York Times tonight and here's what it says. And this is just a selection. Moreover, other officials amplified the narrative on Thursday with details that were not in the complaint. For instance, they said at one point an order was given to not distribute the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump's call electronically as would be typical. Instead copies were printed out and hand delivered to a select group. What do you read from that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm a little concerned about whether the Trump White House might be holding back on certain details associated with that conversation. One very interesting part of the complaint is the first paragraph of the appendix, where the whistleblower alleges that the initial transcript of the call was actually loaded on to a secret server, a code word level server that is otherwise used usually for covert action programs.

And so we don't know what that more verbatim transcript might have held in terms of details and certainly we don't know what the editing process was after that.

LEMON: Congressman, thank you for your time.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Is President Trump out-Nixoning Nixon? I'm going to ask two people who have seen it all, Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson next.

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[22:45:00]

LEMON: The cover-up, the tapes and a president under a cloud of impeachment. Is President Trump out-Nixoning Nixon? Who better to ask than two legends, Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson. So happy to have both of you on. Thank you so much. You know, Dan, this story as allegations of a cover-ups at the highest levels, a secret and separate storage system for transcripts, presidential calls, potential abuse of power for personal political gains. Remind you of anything?

DAN RATHER, HOST AXS TV'S THE BIG INTERVIEW: Certainly it's reminiscent of the Watergate period in 1970's, but there is this big difference, Don. And I do think we need to kind of pause and assess where we are, the gravity of the situation and at the same time remain calm.

But what's different between what Richard Nixon did and what Donald Trump has already admitted to is this -- it involves a foreign power. The whole scandal of Watergate, the widespread criminal conspiracy led by the president of the United States himself had to do with what happened in this country, which was all domestic.

[22:50:00]

There wasn't a foreign power involved.

LEMON: Right.

RATHER: I think it was Oscar Wild said the truth is never pure and rarely simple. But here on the basis of what we already know, we have a pure truth and it's pretty simple. The president of the United States was conspiring with the leader of a foreign power to discredit one of the president's political opponents and then there was a concerted effort in the White House with others besides the president involved to cover it up. That's a big difference when you go catching something about out-Nixoning Nixon, I do think in this case that President Trump has out Nixon, Nixon.

LEMON: Well, Sam, let me bring you in here, because you and Dan had reported on every national political scandal for decades, including Watergate. How significant do you think is this one is?

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR AND REPORTER, ABC NEWS: Well, it's very significant. And there's a big thing that's happened here in the last week. You know, it took almost two years to find and after two years to find the evidence on Richard Nixon. And the final piece was the smoking tape, the killer tape in which we heard him and the Chief of Staff conspire for the cover-up.

Well, it was just a week ago that the whistleblower story came into public view. And now we have the smoking transcript of the presidential call. We have the evidence right there. You read the transcript and President Trump is acknowledging what his opponents say he needs to be impeached for. That is that he conspired to set up a phony investigation of the Bidens by the Ukrainian government. And he urged them to do it and said we can help. My personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

LEMON: Right.

DONALDSON: The Attorney General of the United States. We'll have him call you. We'll help you set it up. Now he didn't say and maybe then we will release the $400 million of aid you so desperately say you need and we're withholding, although Congress has appropriated it. The evidence is there. Yes, there has to be more investigation. We have to know some of the things directly from the horse's mouth, the whistleblower and from his sources in the White House who told him. Because he said, I didn't see much of this. But who told him about it. So he has to do it right. When I say we, I mean the system has to do it right as the system prosecuted Richard Nixon.

LEMON: When the House launched formal impeachment hearings, against Nixon. This was in February of 1974, only 38 percent of Americans supported it. Now 49 percent of Americans support launching formal impeachment hearings against Trump. How important is public support? And what is key, you think, to moving the needle? First to you, Mr. Rather.

RATHER: Well, first of all, public opinion in the end will decide whether there is an impeachment or not. And this is moving very fast. A that time it makes a very good point. It took a couple of years for the Watergate scandal to reach its climax, if you will. This is moving really fast. We could, I'm not particularly it will happen, but we could have an impeachment vote in the House by thanksgiving.

This is really moving quite fast, all the more reason for every individual, first of all, to read and think about what's happening, the gravity of the situation. Remember, the country has been through a lot before and then it kind of hold on, because what we don't know about this is a great deal more than what we do know. What we already know is, you know, what the president and Rudolf Giuliani and others have already admitted --

LEMON: Admitted to it, right?

RATHER: -- practically says we can start to roll the credits of a mob movie. So, this had move quite fast.

LEMON: Yes. Sam, you know, this White House has had -- go on. I want to hear your thoughts.

DONALDSON: No, I was just going to say that Dan is right. It is moving so rapidly because again, the smoking transcript is there, and also because President Trump comes into this with a background for two years of problems that people think about. Some of them excused by the Republicans, but others say this guy doesn't belong there. And so it comes in badly from the standpoint of public opinion.

Now, it is public opinion, Dan is right. If Richard Nixon had not been down to about 21 percent when he resigned, he wouldn't have resigned. But he was, because the Senate wouldn't have allowed him to be president for much longer.

In this case, I predict we are going to have an impeachment vote in the House. All Democrats, maybe two or three Republicans. Look at the Senate. Many are up for re-election. They stick like a bug to the president at the moment. But if public opinion moves against him, they'll discover he is a terrible man. How can we be fooled from all this time?

Mitch McConnell has just said he will bring to the floor a bill he has been sitting on for two years, security money for our elections in 2020. He's now said I'll bring it to the floor. Come on, Mitch, keep going.

[22:55:00]

LEMON: Does that mean -- and I have just a little bit of time left here. Does that mean that if there are impeachable offenses that they shouldn't act upon if the public is not with them?

DONALDSON: No.

(CROSSTALK)

Go ahead, Dan.

RATHER: Do the right thing, but public opinion is moving in the direction. I know you're short of time. But I would watch Richard Burr who is head of the -- a Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. If he has it then, he (inaudible) to do it, he could play the role of (inaudible), Howard Baker played during the Watergate time. So, he is a man to watch. A lot of Senators will key off what he does with this.

LEMON: Mr. Rather, Mr. Donaldson, thank you. Always appreciate it. I really appreciate your time and your thoughts. We will see you next time.

RATHER: Thank you.

DONALDSON: And we watch you, Don. Thanks very much.

LEMON: Thank you so much. And thanks for watching everyone. Our live coverage continues with the CNN special report, the impeachment inquiry with Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper. That is next.

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