Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Whistleblower's Complaint Under Scrutiny After Being Out in Public; Acting DNI Joseph Maguire Explains His Action; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Was Interviewed About the Hearing They Just had with DNI Joseph Maguire; Rudy Giuliani Defends Ukraine Trip; Echoes of Watergate. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Another day like nothing we have seen before, and it is not over yet. Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm Jake Tapper. This is a CNN Special Report. The Impeachment Inquiry.

And tonight, it includes the whistleblower complaint that landed this morning alleging that President Trump abused the power of his office and White House officials abused the system meant to safeguard national security secrets to keep it from being discovered.

COOPER: So, there is all that and reaction to it from the president using language more fitting to guys who answer to boss, not Mr. President. Also, the bizarre comments by the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani who told a writer for the Atlantic that when this is all over, he would be the hero, not the whistleblower.

TAPPER: We begin though with new reporting on quickly word spread inside the administration of the whistleblower complaint.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now with that. Evan, explain what you're learning about to us.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it appears that the administration was grappling with what to do about this complaint much earlier than we thought. We know the complaint first came in on August 12. It appears on August 14th is when the general counsel for one of the intelligence agencies reaches out as required to the Justice Department to alert them that there is been this complaint from an employee from this agency and that it has to do with this phone call that involved the president, the Ukrainian president back in July.

And so that sets on the course really that we see has now come forward, because we know according to the New York Times which first reported the story that they also were notified at the White House that this complaint had come in. Again, this means --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The Justice Department notified the White House?

PEREZ: The intelligence agency --

TAPPER: The intelligence agency.

PEREZ: -- notified the White House.

TAPPER: OK.

PEREZ: And this is all happening much quicker, much more quickly than we thought because it's not for another week or so that the inspector general for the intelligence agencies begins the formal notification saying that we have a referral. We want you to investigate.

TAPPER: And do we know how much the intelligence agency or the Justice Department told the White House about this whistleblower complaint?

PEREZ: Well, we know that they were notified that it had to do with this phone call because the Justice Department sends lawyers over to the White House to review the transcript of the president's phone call. We know that happens in the days right after they learn about this.

We know that the lawyers come back to the Justice Department and notify other officials. We have been told previously by justice officials that Attorney General Bill Barr gave knowledge of this much later. He learned that his name was mentioned by the president in this phone call.

And of course, then, once the formal referral comes in from the inspector general, everything sets off then. The criminal division begins investigating and determining whether to own -- open a full- blown investigation. They ended up deciding that there wasn't a crime here and decided not to open a full-blown investigation.

But what it tells us, Jake, is that they were grappling with this for much longer than we really realize.

TAPPER: Interesting. Evan, thanks so much. Anderson?

COOPER: Jake, also new tonight we now have video obtained by Bloomberg where the president's remarks this morning talking about the whistleblower's source.

(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 is 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? We used to handle it a little differently than we do today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's talking at the U.S. mission at the U.N. Then again, quite a set of allegations. Listen.

The letter starts off with the words urgent concern setting the tone for the whistleblower's detailed nine-page complaint. In the next paragraph, quote, "I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials." Here the whistleblower is admitting to not witnessing much of the behavior in question.

The accusation from these unnamed officials comes next. "The President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election."

The whistleblower goes on to say this includes among other things pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president's main domestic political rivals.

The complaint says Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr appear to be involved, as well.

[23:04:51]

The White House transcript of a July phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's President Zelensky released yesterday shows Trump asking Zelensky to look into Joe Biden and his son and mentioned both Giuliani and Barr multiple times.

The complaint was filed on August 12th and the whistleblower says over the past four months more than a half a dozen U.S. officials have informed me of various facts related to this effort.

The whistleblower seems to be saying this effort by Trump, Giuliani and possibly Barr has been going on since April which is when the Ukrainian president took office. The whistleblower says "I was not a direct witness to most events described."

This line has already been used by the White House to try to undermine the complaint with the president calling this another political hack job.

The whistleblower voices concern these actions by the president and others pose risk to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. government's efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.

The complaint details the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. The whistleblower says the president used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interest, namely he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the president's 2020 re-election bid.

The whistleblower goes on to say the White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call and that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain. The complaint also says in the months prior to this call, Trump did

not want to meet with Zelensky or talk to him on the phone until he saw how Zelensky chose to act in office and wanted to see if he showed a willingness to quote, "play ball."

According to the complaint in the days following the call senior White House officials had interpreted to lockdown all records of the phone call. The whistleblower wrote, this set of action underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call. Which leads to the next allegation that some White House officials were, quote, "directed," unquote, by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored.

Instead, they were told to use a separate electronic system that's used for highly classified information.

Some officials reportedly told the whistleblower this is an abuse of the system and also said this was, quote, "not the first time," unquote, under this administration that a presidential transcript was placed into this code word level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive rather than national security sensitive information.

And I spoke about that earlier this evening with the former Director of National Intelligence James clapper who was concerned about that allegation, Jake.

TAPPER: And our first guest tonight can also speak to it as well as the reporting that you just heard from Evan. Joining us CNN legal analyst and former FBI general counsel Jim Baker and CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd who served on President Obama's national security council.

Jim, let me start with you. The reporting from Evan Perez knew that the DOJ knew about the whistleblower a week before they got the referral and that according to the New York Times, the White House knew, as well. Is that improper? What's your read on this?

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's concerning to me. You know, when I heard that, I was not thrilled about it. Look, I mean, I think I have no reason to question the acting DNI or anybody that works for him in terms of their integrity or their effort to proceed in good faith in a very difficult situation.

But having said that, it did concern me when I heard that they had gone both to the White House and to the Justice Department to talk about this when the center of this case obviously has to deal with -- has to do with the president and also then in the call the attorney general is named several times.

So, I'm not sure that they did the wrong thing. I can understand why they did it. But it did make me quite concerned and especially now that we hear about the level of involvement of the department without the attorney general recusing himself from this matter. Again, I'm not going to leap to the conclusion that he must have

recused himself. But it doesn't look good. That's why we're talking about it. It just doesn't look good and it doesn't give the American people confidence or at least some section of the population confidence that everything was done in exactly the right way.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, if you look at the whistleblower complaint which everybody watching can go online and read for themselves, the very first paragraph talks about an allegation about President Trump who obviously works at the White House. And an allegation about --

BAKER: Right.

TAPPER: -- Attorney General Barr who obviously runs the Justice Department. Sam, let me ask you, are you surprised to hear that the Justice Department and the White House were in the loop and so early?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I'm very surprised to hear that the White House was in the loop and then subsequently or perhaps before they were contacted, the White House counsel reportedly directed officials to scrub the transcript from the top secret system which I used under President Obama for transcripts, and then to transfer a document on to the code word system.

[23:09:59]

So, you might have a situation in which White House counsel was aware of this complaint and was aware of concerns and was also involved with giving directions to members of the directorate of intelligence to really do something quite irregular with respect to transferring this transcript again on to this code word system.

At the same time, Jake, I am very surprised to hear from the Department of Justice that Attorney General Barr didn't hear about the contents of this call until reportedly weeks after it happened.

The Department of Justice issued that as a statement a few days ago. That would be another gross irregularity.

Attorney General Barr was mentioned by name on the call with the president and he is saying that he did not have any knowledge of the fact that he was named in the call with the Ukrainians on July 25th despite the fact he, again, was named by the president of the United States and somehow other officials at the State Department went to do follow-up work with the Ukrainians that impacted him and contacted Rudy Giuliani but did not contact the Department of Justice to follow- up.

TAPPER: And Jim, let me just read something from the complaint about what Sam was just talking about. It says and this is the whistleblower writing this.

"According to White House officials I spoke with, this was not the first time under this administration that a presidential transcript was placed into this code word level system solely for the purpose for protecting politically sensitive rather than national security sensitive information."

As a legal matter, Jim, am I wrong in believing that even if that's inappropriate, it's not illegal unless they put it in the code word level system because they thought it was evidence of a crime and they trying to cover it up as opposed to they thought it was politically, you know, a hot potato?

BAKER: Yes. I don't know that the placing of the material into the system per se is illegal, but it certainly looks like guilty knowledge on their part. It looks terrible. And that's why we're talking about it.

I'm a former fraud prosecutor. And you know, I would have been excited to have, you know, somebody I was investigating do something this blatant which to me shows that they knew that something was wrong if was done for political reasons as , you know, solely for political reasons not for purely national security reasons. Then that looks terrible. And yes, it raises questions. And that's why, again, we're talking about it now because it just, it looks inappropriate.

TAPPER: And Sam --

BAKER: It looks they're trying to cover something up.

TAPPER: And Sam, that's certainly was Speaker Pelosi said. She said it was a cover up. Sam, when you experienced having worked with this system, this code word level system, in order to make something like this happen, in order to take this transcript, or rough transcript notes, whatever it is and put it, lock it, you know, into this system, how many people would need to be involved? And at what levels would the national security adviser know? I mean, break it down for us.

VINOGRAD: Well, Jake, you struck the nail on the head. Where is John Bolton? There was not a single head of state call that I participated in that the national security adviser was not a part of. John Bolton would have likely been on that call. He would have received the draft transcript that several members of the White House situation room would have transcribed in real time. The White House situation room director would have been involved.

And then with respect to the scrubbing itself, at that point, another member of the team would have had to take that action. And then once the order was given to transfer this document on to the code word system, a member of what we call the directorate of intelligence which is part of the national security council would have had to actually implement that action.

So, we are not talking about a huge group of people. But the common thread here, Jake, is that they all reported to John Bolton. He is now a private citizen. And I think there are a lot of questions about why so many people, again, under his direct leadership took a series of steps to cover up this kind of activity.

And it is worth noting that it is prohibited under executive order to classify information to cover up personal embarrassment or violation of the law. That is likely something that people will be looking at. Not to mention of course the potential misuse of intelligence systems, this code word system in order to hide embarrassment related to the president.

TAPPER: I appreciate both of you. Jim Baker and Sam Vinograd, thank you so much.

Coming up next, testimony from the man who did not follow the law and give the whistleblower complaint to Congress. What acting DNI Joseph Maguire had to say and what he declined to say.

And later, what Rudy Giuliani who is all over this complaint is himself complaining about tonight as our CNN special report continues.

[23:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Though the acting director of national intelligence spoke in an open hearing today, as well as behind closed doors with the intelligence committee, that's not what commanded the most headlines today.

TAPPER: Now this time that said, it was dramatic watching the DNI walk a very fine line in some of his answers. And it did provide context to the report that eclipsed him today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH MAGUIRE, U.S. ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: On August 26, the inspector general forwarded a complaint to me from an employee in the intelligence community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire testifying today before the House intelligence committee trying to explain why he did not share the whistleblower complaint with Congress within seven days as typically required by law and explaining his view that the complaint was subject to a president's ability to claim executive privilege.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGUIRE: We consulted with the White House counsel's office and we're advised that watching the information of the complaint was in fact subject to executive privilege. A privilege that I do not have the authority to waive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It was he noted an unprecedented legal situation in many ways.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): Director Maguire, this appears to be the first intelligence committee whistleblower complaint that has ever, ever been withheld from Congress. Is that right, sir?

MAGUIRE: Congressman Carson, I believe that it might be. And once again, I said in my statement, it is in fact as far as I'm concerned, unprecedented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:20:03]

TAPPER: Many Democrats said they were stunned that upon receiving a complaint that fingered the president and the attorney general for possible wrong doing, Maguire first consulted the offices of those two men, the Justice Department and the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You first went to the Office of Legal counsel. And then you went to the White House counsel?

MAGUIRE: No, no, no sir. We went to the White House first to determine, to ask a --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: OK. That's all I want to know. So, you went to the White House first. So, you went to the subject of the complaint for advice first about whether you should provide the complaint to Congress?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Maguire said he would not discuss his private conversations with President Trump, but he did make one exception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Did the President of the United States ask you to find out the identity of the whistleblower?

MAGUIRE: I can tell you emphatically no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Republicans today largely took a different approach trying to undermine it all, questioning the integrity of the whistleblower and attacking the Democrats in control of the committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On page one, the complaint reads, quote, "I was not a direct witness to most of the events described." This seems like a very important line to look into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to congratulate the Democrats on the roll out of their latest information warfare operation against the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intelligence committee is not an appropriate place to try articles of impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But Maguire offered testimony that boosted the whistleblower in many ways saying that he or she did the right thing and followed the law every step of the way.

Maguire also acknowledged the transcript of the president's phone call with the president of the Ukraine boosted the complaints' credibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Would you say that the whistleblower's complaint is remarkably consistent with the transcript that was released.

MAGUIRE: I would say that the whistleblower's complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And as for allegations of a cover up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SWALWELL: Mr. Maguire, do you agree that the definition of a cover up is an attempt to prevent people from discovering a crime?

MAGUIRE: I'd say that's close. I mean, I'm sure there is others one, but I don't disagree with that, sir.

SWALWELL: And in the whistleblower's complaint, the whistleblower alleges that immediately after the president's call with the president of Ukraine on July 25, White House lawyers moved quickly to direct White House officials to move electronic transcripts from one computer system where it was normally stored to a secret classified information system. Is that right?

MAGUIRE: Congressman --

SWALWELL: Is that what was alleged in the whistleblower complaint?

MAGUIRE: Congressman --

SWALWELL: Yes or no?

MAGUIRE: All I know is that is the allegation.

SWALWELL: Is that what -- I'm asking you, that that's what alleged.

MAGUIRE: That's the allegation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The intelligence community inspector general also testified today going before a closed-door session with the Senate intelligence committee.

COOPER: Yes. I spoke to Senator Kamala Harris who serves on the committee earlier this evening. Obviously, it was a classified briefing, she wasn't at liberty to give any details on that.

I also spoke with House intelligence committee member Eric Swalwell who we just saw a moment ago and obviously had more room to talk about his side of the proceedings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congress Swalwell, I want to get to your questioning of the acting director of national intelligence in a moment. But, over all, what is your reaction to the substance of the whistleblower complaint?

SWALWELL: Anderson, we are in the midst of a national nightmare involving presidential extortion and the whistleblower complaint lays out essentially that the president sought to use our taxpayer dollars to benefit himself in a presidential election. And that we also are in the midst of an ongoing cover up.

COOPER: If the allegations are true, I mean, what does it say to you that senior officials work to move or as they say lockdown details of the call with the president of the Ukraine? Does it imply that those officials knew the conversation was problematic and that this was -- I mean, you have said it's a cover up. That's obviously the phrase that Speaker Pelosi is using.

SWALWELL: The conduct that the whistleblower describes is a consciousness of guilt to move the president's transcripts from an open system into a more classified system as an abuse of the classified system, but demonstrates that those individuals knew it was wrong.

What's really concerning to me, Anderson, is that the president has brought the culture of corruption to the White House and there are so many people involved in this who never did come forward.

COOPER: Well, do you have any reason to believe the White House is going to let these other officials -- and I think in the whistleblower complaint, the whistleblower says that maybe as many as a dozen people were aware of this. Would the White House actually let other officials cooperate with the congressional investigation? Because clearly, we've seen that has not been the case thus far?

[23:24:55]

SWALWELL: We are going to seek that, but we don't expect that. We've seen the stonewalling of the past. And here, Anderson, frankly, we are not powerless anymore. We don't have to wait on the courts. We have the president copying to the act. He has admitted to the crime.

The words in the transcript that he released shows the president trying to leverage U.S. dollars that are not his to seek a benefit for his election. So, I really encourage my colleagues to move swiftly, not hurriedly to hold the president accountable. COOPER: In your questioning of the acting national -- director of

national intelligence today, you raised the possibility that the transcripts of other calls with foreign leaders could have also been moved in a similar fashion which is also indicated or suggested by the whistleblower. Is there a realistic way to actually find that out?

SWALWELL: We will need more whistleblowers to come forward. Of course, we are going to do our responsibility in Congress to try and seek those transcripts which are not protected which should not be classified.

But you can only imagine, Anderson, that a leopard doesn't change his spots. And that if he's acting this way with the president from Ukraine who he just had a conversation with and didn't have a relationship with, what does the conversations with Putin sound like. What does the conversation with MBS from Saudi Arabia, particularly as it involved the Khashoggi slaughtering sound like?

Those are all issues that I think we should resolve and to see if this president is involved in other shady dealings.

COOPER: Just finally, you called the whistleblower a true patriot coming forward with the allegations. What's your reaction to the president this morning demanding to know who the people were who gave the information to the whistleblower and suggesting that their actions are tantamount to being a spy, kind of waxing on about punishments in the old days where, you know, spies and treason where which we all know the what he was referring to the punishment being death.

SWALWELL: Those are not the words you would ever hope to hear out of the mouth of the president of the United States, Anderson.

That's what you would hear from an organized crime boss. And again, those words and those implied threats fit into the conduct described by the whistleblower of a president offering this deal to the Ukrainians and then his team seeking to cover it up. It all fits into a pattern of misconduct by the president.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The man who says he will be the real hero at the end of this is talking again tonight. Coming up next, what Rudy Giuliani, a TV lawyer and self-proclaimed hero said just about 30 minutes ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:30:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Rudy Giuliani just did what some in this administration reportedly wish he would not do, go on air and say things. A short time ago, he was on Fox News, where he responded to reporting from The New York Times's Maggie Haberman that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is unhappy with the statements from Giuliani, who says that he was working with Ukrainian officials at the behest of the State Department. Here's Giuliani's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: In fact, I'm a legitimate whistleblower. I have uncovered corruption that this Washington swamp has been covering up effectively for years. And his State Department, you know, asked me to do this. So, Mike, if you're unhappy with me, I'm sorry but I accomplished my mission. I have no idea if he is unhappy with me or not. I frankly don't care. I'm the president's lawyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You heard Giuliani there who said that he is the real whistleblower in the story. He said that and more to the magazine, The Atlantic, today. "It is impossible that the whistleblower is a hero and I'm not. And I will be the hero. These morons -- when this is over, I will be the hero."

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: In the new whistleblower's complaint released today, Rudy Giuliani's name is mentioned 31 times, 31 times across the nine-page document, once a federal prosecutor and New York City mayor.

A very different seeming Giuliani is embedded deeply in this controversy, not just as the president's personal attorney, but as the man who has met with Ukrainian officials, to among other things push for them to focus on the Bidens. Here is CNN's Randi Kaye with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In that July 25th phone call, President Trump is offering up his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as his personal envoy to the Ukrainian president. That is according to the now unclassified whistleblower complaint, which says Trump mentioned Giuliani multiple times.

Giuliani told CNN he has "no knowledge of any of that crap." And true to form, Giuliani has gone on a Twitter attack, calling the whistleblower's information questionable and targeting Democrats and the media, too.

Meanwhile, according to the complaint, about a week after Trump's call with the Ukrainian leader, Giuliani travelled to Madrid to meet with one of President Zelensky's advisers about the cases they had discussed.

GIULIANI: Complete nonsense. First of all, I never knew about the $250 million military aid. When you read the conversation, there is no mention of $250 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're right. GIULIANI: There is no mention of military aid. There is no quid pro quo. The president of the Ukraine says I wasn't pressured. End of case, over.

KAYE (on camera): This case is anything but over. The complaint says multiple U.S. officials told the whistleblower they were deeply concerned about Giuliani's actions and that State Department officials including two ambassadors had spoken with Giuliani in an attempt to contain the damage to U.S. national security. In response, Giuliani told CNN, at no time did either one of them say they wanted to contain the damage.

(Voice-over): It's all vintage Giuliani. Since signing on with the White House for the Russia investigation, he has given dozens of rambling interviews that are quick to go off the rails.

[23:34:58]

GIULIANI: Shut up, moron. Shut up. Shut up. You don't know what you're talking about.

KAYE (voice-over): Sometimes contradicting himself within seconds.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Biden?

GIULIANI: No. Actually, I didn't.

CUOMO: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: Of course I did.

CUOMO: You just said you didn't.

KAYE (voice-over): And with Ukraine, he is once again pedalling wild conspiracy theories.

GIULIANI: You know what you're going to find out? It was Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton --

CUOMO: What we're finding out right now is --

GIULIANI: -- that she paid $1 million -- CUOMO: -- that an Intel official --

GIULIANI: -- and Joe Biden -- and that Joe Biden family has been -- it's written. You just won't read it. It's all over the internet.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And joining me now to discuss, CNN legal analyst and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. John, it is good to see you again. Rudy Giuliani seems set on trying to show the world that he was not doing this alone. He was acting at the behest of the State Department. He's showing text messages from the individuals at the State Department.

I don't really fully understand it. That wouldn't absolve him of any allegation of wrongdoing, would it?

JOHN DEAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: No. It's just people are questioning what in the world was he doing and who was he doing it for as the president's private lawyer. That isn't a typical mission. So, his illusion to constantly saying, well, I'm doing this for the State Department is something we can now run down and find indeed if he did have any kind of authority and why did he.

TAPPER: If the State Department were working with Giuliani, would it be documented beyond those text messages that Giuliani is putting out there?

DEAN: Well, I would imagine there would be somebody in the State Department who would say yes, we talked to him and he was given this assignment if indeed that was the case. I noticed in the article where he called everybody a moron, that same article, he says the State Department is now going to try to distance themselves from me. So I think he may know he has overreached in what he is pretending is his authority.

TAPPER: Right, the State Department, of course, is still part of the Trump administration and Trump is still his client. In a phone call with the reporter at The Atlantic, Giuliani called himself both a hero and a whistleblower, and he said that he was going to be proven correct, not the actual whistleblower. Does that make any sense to you at all?

DEAN: Not at all. In fact, I don't know what's happened to Rudy. I remember when he used to speak in full sentences and logically. It's hard to find those now. In fact, the fact that he represents himself as the president's attorney -- earlier today, I did a search in all of the Southern District to see if he was the attorney on any case, he is not. He is named as a defendant in 40 cases, but he's not representing anybody in court.

TAPPER: At one point, Giuliani told a reporter from The Atlantic, "I'm not acting as a lawyer. I'm acting as someone who has devoted most of his life of straightening up government." Tonight, he was back underscoring that he is the president's attorney. I mean, he really is all over the place.

DEAN: He is. One of the things that happened to Nixon in Watergate, I asked the Watergate prosecutors, did Nixon ever have an attorney who you thought was competent. And all of the prosecutors said never. He never really did come up to the level of really being well-represented in their eyes, anyway.

And I think that's what we're seeing with Rudy Giuliani. Trump has got some good civil lawyers in his civil cases. I don't think he has good criminal representation, and he has no idea how the law works.

TAPPER: All right. John Dean, thank you so much. Just ahead, with Congress contemplating a possible impeachment of President Trump, I'll talk with another veteran of Watergate. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

COOPER: Just before the break, you heard from former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who uttered one of the most famous lines from the Watergate investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency. And if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The echoes of Watergate are difficult to ignore with this president's scandal involving Ukraine. Nixon had his tapes, President Trump his transcripts. Nixon's protector was Attorney General John Mitchell. Trump's appears to be Attorney General Bill Barr.

COOPER: Both men accused of an abuse of power. Both forced to contemplate impeachment. Another veteran of Watergate joins us right now, CNN political analyst, journalist and author, Carl Bernstein. So, Carl, after reading the whistleblower complaint, after seeing Maguire testified today, do you think this was a cover up?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's obvious that there is a cover up. If you read the whistleblower's complaint, it lays it out. In fact, it lays it out so much that there appears to be, and others have noted this, something close to a smoking gun in that summary. But more important than that, there is a road map that the whistleblower has given.

It's not like John Dean's road map in Watergate. It's much more like the revelations of Alex Butterfield that there was a White House taping system that led to Nixon's doom.

[23:44:52]

BERNSTEIN: And what we have now is that this whistleblower has talked really about a lock box system that may contain more and more evidence of the president's corruption. We already got today paragraph after paragraph of real corruption, real abuse of power by the president of the United States.

John Dean talked about a cancer growing on the presidency. This one seems to be the president is the cancer if we are to read that whistleblower's complaint adequately.

COOPER: Then -- I mean, if -- where does the investigation go? There are a bunch of folks, Democrats, who are saying, you know, this shouldn't be a long investigation that goes into the election year that essentially there is a lot of stuff out there already and a few more people need to come forward and talk or at least testify, but that it can be wrapped up shortly.

It sounds like -- I mean there is going to be a lot of issues about whether other White House officials are going to be allowed to speak because of executive privilege by this White House. And that lock box system, is it clear to you that can actually be looked into since it's highly classified?

BERNSTEIN: I don't know. But there seems to be a good number of witnesses to all kinds of events and all kinds of memoranda that were recorded. We will see. But what we have now is a whole different dynamic about the future of this presidency that was not there a week ago.

If there is any doubt about it, we see not only the president's words about abusing power in the whistleblower's complaint in the summary, we also heard the president live today on tape talking about killing spies, talking about often the people who brought this information to the attention of the whistleblower.

So what we now see is a kind of corruption both of the original acts in which the president has tried to hijack the electoral system of our democracy through a foreign power. And it seems very clear from the summary that he's tried to do that as much as Nixon tried to undermine the electoral system through political espionage and sabotage in the United States.

And then we hear these wretched, toxic, threatening words unlike anything I have ever heard from any president even including Nixon on his tapes about really killing people. Do we take it literally? No. Do we take it as an indication of where this president's mind is? That I think is something that has got Republicans very, very concerned.

Look, Republicans were the heroes in Watergate. They broke ranks with their president. Is that likely to happen here? It is pretty unlikely in the Senate. But at the same time, the fact that the president today put out that tweet, saying Republicans stick together, and from what I heard from other Republicans that I have been in touch with, he's clearly worried in a way that he hasn't been before.

COOPER: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: There is some shaking of the republican ranks.

COOPER: It is interesting. His comments about, you know, these people in the White House who gave information to the whistleblower are essentially spies and it's treason and, you know, death was what needs to be done.

BERNSTEIN: He wants to see these people dead. He really --

COOPER: But what is interesting about -- his view is that by people telling the truth about something that happened, if what the whistleblower is saying is accurate, that is tantamount to a treason against the country, when in fact it is just reporting something that the president has done that is apparently inappropriate.

BERNSTEIN: This is exactly right, what you said. And this is also why people like Mattis, people like Tillerson, people like Cohen, people like McMaster concluded that not only was this president really fundamentally corrupt, putting his own interests, his financial interests, his political interests ahead of the interests of the United States, but also that this president is a danger to the national security of the United States.

That's what Mattis meant when he left office. That's the meaning of his book. The president of the United States thought by those in his own national security bureaucracy, those closest working with him, concluded he is a danger to the national security. That's what the whistleblower's complaint would indicate, as well.

We're in a very dangerous, scary place partly because of the way the president responds. Remember, he's been very effective in setting the terms of the debate.

COOPER: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: We saw that with the Mueller report.

[23:49:58]

BERNSTEIN: He and Giuliani are not as mad as they might seem in terms of how effectively they have turned things off before. Will they be able to do it again this time? Now, there are some serious doubts.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, appreciate it. Thanks. Fair to say, Washington has not seen a couple of days like this for a very long time. Up next, thoughts on what we have some and heard today alone. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Jake, we sometimes talk about how hard it is to keep track of time anymore because of the cascade of news every day. These past few days really have been pretty remarkable in that way. After going through the reporting on the Russia investigation for more than two years, this is moving incredibly fast.

[23:54:56]

TAPPER: Ah, yeah, and, in fact, what's most remarkable about this scandal is what has just played out in front of our eyes by what President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have said that they did.

COOPER: Yeah.

TAPPER: Including the release of the transcript and you see President Trump, you know, pushing the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals. And Rudy Giuliani, especially a week ago with our buddy Chris Cuomo, talking about of course he did the same. It's all right there in front of the nation to look at.

COOPER: Yeah. Who else there is to talk to? I mean, the former ambassador to the Ukraine, who was forced out, other people in the State Department, I mean, Rudy Giuliani is running around, saying he was doing this all at the behest of the State Department. There are certainly a lot of folks there to talk to. That's it for us tonight. Jake, thank you very much.

TAPPER: Thank you, Anderson. The news continues on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:00]