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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) is Interviewed About Trump Accusing Biden of Misconduct; Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke is Interviewed About Trump Saying Dems Are Going to Lose the Election; Whistleblower: WH Tried To Cover Up Trump's Abuse Of Power; Whistleblower: Trump Tried To Get Ukraine To Interfere In 2020 Election, And White House Tried To Cover It Up; Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Discuss Joseph Maguire's Hearing About The Whistleblower Complaint Against President Trump; Whistleblower: WH Official Said WH Lawyers "Directed" Them To Remove Electronic Transcript Of Ukraine Call. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 26, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: ... for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Our special coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett OUTFRONT.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a bombshell from the whistleblower accusing White House officials of trying to cover up President Trump's attempt to interfere with the election. Plus, the President lashes out, attacking the whistleblower comparing whomever provided the information to a spy. And Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer defending his role with Ukraine declaring he'll be a hero in the end. Is he or will he actually be in legal trouble? Let's go out front.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, unprecedented. That is how the Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire describes the stunning whistleblower complaint against the President today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I believe that everything here in this matter is totally unprecedented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The Intelligence Chief was on Capitol Hill testifying moments after the whistleblower's complaint was released publicly. Now, Maguire, long time military career, 36 years was picked for this job by Trump and he was unable to defend Trump's assertion that the whistleblower is a political hack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You don't believe the whistleblower is a political hack, do you, Director?
MAGUIRE: I believe that as I said before, Mr. Chairman, I believe the whistleblower is operating in good faith and has followed the law.
SCHIFF: Then you don't have any reason to accuse them of disloyalty to our country or suggest they're beholden to some other country, do you?
MAGUIRE: Sir, absolutely not. I believe that the whistleblower followed the steps every step of the way. I think the whistleblower did the right thing. I think he followed the law every step of the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Pretty clear. But tonight, Trump is now going even farther in his attack on the whistleblower. He is accusing him or her of being a spy and in doing so Trump seems to admit that the shocking things in the whistleblower's complaint are true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to know who's the person who gave the whistleblower, who's the person who 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 hand it a little differently than we do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That is by execution. Here's the whistleblower report which has now been unclassified, you can read it. I just want to read a couple of crucial parts from it. This first, "In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."
So if you just stop that sentence, right, that sentence cites multiple U.S. government officials who are concerned according to the whistleblower. Trump is using his official office to interfere in the U.S. election. It is ironic considering what his Director of National Intelligence told Congress today when he was asked specifically, what is the single biggest National Security threat facing the United States of America right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGUIRE: I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our election system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The answer could have been anything. It could have been extremism or terror. It was elections. And according to the whistleblower complaint, the greatest challenge then would be protecting the United States from its own president, because he was soliciting foreign interference in American election. Because here is how concerned White House officials were, following Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president according to the complaint.
"In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials that intervened to 'lock down' all records of the phone call," lockdown was put in quotes, "especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced - as is customary - by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call," continues, "White House officials told me that they were 'directed'," directed again a quote, "by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet- level officials."
The complaint then takes it even further saying, "Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of the system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a National Security perspective."
Let's just be clear, it was sensitive from a political perspective. It was sensitive from the possibility that the President of the United States broke the law and apparently this was not the first time this happened.
The whistleblower says, and this is going to be a crucial line, "According to White House officials I spoke with, this was 'not the first time'," again putting quotes, "under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive-rather than nationally security sensitive-information."
It is stunning and you have to just think about what is alleged here. Pamela Brown is out front live at the White House tonight. And Pamela, the President, obviously consumed by this now.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. Here at the White House, officials say the President is unhappy with the whistleblower fallout. He believes it's unfair that it has distracted from his meetings during the UN general assembly this week.
But remember, it was the President who wanted the Ukraine call transcript in complaint released. Sources say he believed it would deescalate the situation from him, but there does seem to be some second guessing among officials here that I've spoken with about whether it was a good idea in the end.
Now, we're told that President Trump did watch at least part of the Acting DNI's testimony today and in the wake of that, Erin, he directing his ire toward the Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff, the whistleblower and those who spoke to the whistleblower. The President slamming Schiff for not bringing up these unfounded allegations about Joe Biden and his son, going after Schiff for saying that the whistleblower was credible.
The President claiming today on Twitter that the whistleblower had zero info and unknown bias. But Erin, a senior administration official tells me tonight that the White House including the President doesn't know the identity of the whistleblower, yet he continues to attack that whistleblower, and even Maguire said the whistleblower today did the right thing.
The President also lashed out at the officials who spoke to that whistleblower comparing them to spies. One source telling CNN that the comments he made today were shocking and eerie. Now, I did speak to a source close to the President tonight who is pushing back on the idea that he's consumed with all of this. This person is saying he's brought up a dozen other issues today, but he has made it clear in his public comments and on Twitter it is on his mind, Erin.
BURNETT: Certainly so and overwhelmingly so. Pamela, thank you very much. And I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Denny Heck. He's on the House Intelligence Committee and, of course, questioned the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph McGuire, today. Congressman, what was your impression of him? Were you satisfied with his testimony and his answers?
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): I thought he torturously contorted himself to be able to rationalize the position he's taken, Erin. Now, the fact of the matter is when he was asked the question is it OK, not for this president, but for any president to pressure the leader of a foreign country to interfere in our election, he finally after two or three iterations coughed up that no, it's not OK for that to happen.
BURNETT: So I want to play that exchange, Congressman, because it was an important one which you had with him. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HECK: Is it OK for a president to pressure any president, to pressure a foreign government for help to win an election?
MAGUIRE: It is unwarranted. It is unwelcome. It is bad for the nation to have outside interference, any foreign power ...
HECK: Thank you. And by extension, it would be equally unacceptable to extort that assistance as well.
MAGUIRE: I mean, all I know is that I have the transcripts as you have. I have the whistleblower complaint as you have. And --
HECK: I wasn't referring to the whistleblower complaint, but if any president were to do this, and I accept your answer. I think it's beyond unacceptable, Director.
MAGUIRE: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And I should note, Congressman, when he did finally say it is unwarranted, it is unwelcome, it is bad for the nation, and talk about foreign interference, that was after you had pushed him several times. He did eventually give you a very firm, clear answer. Did you feel that at the end of the day, that he gave you real answers, that he said what he believed that he was honest?
HECK: I think he's in a lot of pain tonight, actually. I think he's in a lot of pain throughout all of this episode. This is somebody who had a distinguished nearly 40-year career as a Seal and as a retired Admiral of the United States Navy and I think he knows better, frankly, and I think he's in a lot of pain.
BURNETT: According to the complaint, which obviously discussed today at length, people in the White House appeared to try to cover up the President's conversation with Zelensky. We just we just heard the crucial parts of that that they were worried about it, they knew it was a problem, they took it off the system where it could be seen. They put it on another system. Do you consider that a crime?
HECK: I consider it a crime to solicit a foreign country's interference in our election and I think the whistleblower complaint indicated that that was what was happening and the official record of the telephone conversation fairly confirms it. So I do think crime has been committed.
I'm not familiar enough with the laws with respect to how things are to be stored to suggest whether or not or to conclude whether or not actually transferring it in a highly unprecedented way to another computer ...
BURNETT: Right, whether those were crimes. So I guess my other question is, obviously, this alleges multiple officials knew about it, multiple people were involved in this transfer, are you going to be able to determine even if you're able to question the whistleblower who those people are to call them as witnesses, because that's going to be crucial. Are you confident you're going to get their names and bring them in?
HECK: Well, for the time being I think the next step, Erin, is that we be able to procure the appearance of the whistleblower and those conversations are underway between the whistleblower's attorneys and our staff. And I guess I'd say I'm cautiously optimistic that we're going to be able to do that, but it is not yet confirmed. The work is underway.
BURNETT: All right. Well cautiously optimistic, I guess we'll take that as good as it can be right now. I want to read one other thing for you, Congressman, because this is very important. Again, "According to White House officials I spoke with," this is the whistleblower, "this was 'not the first time'," that's in quotes, "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." So we know that that would mean that there are other times that
transcripts were put there, other times it would appear. So are you trying to get those? Do you have any idea how many? What they're involve with? Are you going to get them?
HECK: It would be nice to get them and I don't know if we'll get them, but I think the important thing is for us to put this in the broader context. This is not an isolated incident. People should look at just the telephone conversation itself is the alpha and the omega of this affair, because of course it started with drawing and the sacking of the U.S. ambassador, two, the Ukraine continued with the tasking of private citizen, Rudy Giuliani, to go over there and encouraging the manufacturing of dirt on the President's political opponents and it continued with the telephone conversation with the withholding of the aid until such time as somebody had agreed to play ball and a favor was exchange for another favor almost exactly those words.
So this has to be placed in the broader context. It wouldn't surprise me at all if there was evidence of this above and beyond what we just heard about today.
BURNETT: All right. Well, certainly it seems that could end up being crucial especially if you all are to get any Republican support. I appreciate your time, Congressman Heck.
HECK: You're welcome, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, it is not the crime, it is the cover up which, of course, is a phrase from the Watergate days and now decades later ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is a cover up. This is a cover up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, Rudy Giuliani on a rant saying the whistleblower is no hero, he is the hero. Could his role in Ukraine get him in serious legal trouble? And Trump continues to smear Joe Biden. Tonight, the Vice President swinging back.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the Republican Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Richard Burr, just wrapping up a meeting with the Acting Director of National Intelligence and the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community, vowing his committee is going to get answers after a whistleblower claimed President Trump pressured the Ukraine President to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
OK. This, as the whistleblower complaint says in part, I want to read this part, "White House officials told me they were 'directed' by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored," and why, "Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature." And the person says this was done multiple times.
Out front now, Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Political Analyst David Gregory, former General Counsel for the Director of National Intelligence, Robert Litt and former New Jersey Attorney General, Anne Milgram.
Anne, you're with me. Nancy Pelosi says, "It was a cover-up. It was a cover-up." Does this look like a cover-up to you?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It does. I mean one of the things that jumped out to me today when I read this complaint was that we knew a bunch of the other pieces. We did not know that there was this effort to conceal the information.
And the reason why I think it's so particularly damning is that there is a process where these memos go. They actually went out of their way, to take it out of that process, put it in another computer where it would be more secretive. Other people wouldn't have access to it and to me it's consciousness of guilt that there was something wrong, that the President did something wrong.
BURNETT: And Gloria, the complaint talks about multiple people, senior White House officials, White House lawyers, making it very clear that the whistleblower believes numerous people were aware of this. So could this just be the tip of the iceberg? Congressman Heck didn't give me a direct answer on are they going to get names of these people, but that is going to become crucial to hear from these people.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is and I think this is the tip of the iceberg. We know that there were a bunch of people inside the White House who knew that this was very wrong, consciousness of guilt as Anne is saying. So they've decided they had to hide these conversations.
And I think, and I think you pointed this out before. If you're going to get Republicans, what are the other conversations the President had him with whom that they also had to hide, were these conversations with Putin, for example, were there conversations with other leaders that they thought were problematic. And also, by the way, what do the Vice President know?
This has been a question of mine all day. The President told the Vice President, you're not going to go to the inauguration in Ukraine instead I'm sending the Energy Secretary.
Did he tell the Vice President why he was so upset and did he tell him the real reason? I mean these are questions that Congress needs to get an answer to.
BURNETT: Or does the Vice President live in a world of hear no evil, ask about nothing, see no evil. We just don't know.
BORGER: Well, could be. Could be.
BURNETT: I mean, David Gregory does this mean again to this point of multiple, first the cover-up, then I want to get to the fact that there could be more transcripts. But the possible cover-up itself, that there could be another John Dean, that there's someone who did something that they felt was wrong and clearly they talked to the whistleblower about it.
This person researched, this person went into detail. Is there another John Dean, a person who's ready to turn and say I can't do it anymore?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, presumably. I mean you have a whistleblower taking a courageous step of going this far and detailing what - remember what the Inspector General deemed to be urgent and credible, and that's important because this is an independent lawyer who's looking at all of this in protecting this process.
So presumably this Inspector General may or may not have spoken to others who were involved to try to corroborate this, but that could certainly be done and that's where so much of the focus I think should be at the end of this day, because you can focus on the whistleblower if you like or if you're a Republican, you are the president, you can threaten him and others.
But it's the fact that there were others who were going to these great lengths to protect the President from himself that I think now becomes the heart of the matter.
BURNETT: And Bob, to that point in the appendix of the complaint, and by the way there are some information, obviously, in the appendix which is redacted, although the complaint itself obviously we can read in full.
The whistleblower claims and this is important, "According to White House officials I spoke with," again plural, "This was 'not the first time'," and this person was very careful to put in quote things that people told this person as a direct quote, "under this administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting."
So Bob, let me ask you the significance of that, not the first time, that this was a process to protect him that had happened multiple times.
ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: That certainly seems to be the case that there were people in the White House who felt they had to essentially protect the President from himself. I'm going to be a little bit of a contrarian and suggest that in this case the issue is not the cover-up, but the crime itself.
Because the cover-up in this case seems to be a bunch of underlings who realize they have a president who is prone to get in trouble all of the time. There's no indication and I suspect it's not true that the President himself was directing that these things be removed from the system.
BURNETT: Right. Yes, fair point.
LITT: And so I think it's relevant to show that there were a lot of people in the White House who recognized that what the president was doing here was very iffy. But fundamentally, I think the real issue here is what the President was doing.
BORGER: There's going to be a lot of bloodletting by the way. I mean you had a president today who was threatening these people if they ...
BURNETT: Well, talking about executing a spy with the whistleblower but obviously the people who fed the spy information are his people.
BORGER: Right. And you don't think he's going to go into the White House and try and line up a firing squad and figure out who are the people who talked to the whistleblower. I mean this is going to be a real problem in the White House.
GREGORY: But to Bob's point, I think it's worth amplifying this a little bit. I mean, Bob, correct me if you think I'm wrong on this, but most White House counsels are involved in National Security more than people know in the sense that there are legal decisions that have to be made about actions that may be taken by a president or direct strikes on terrorists, for example. And in this case, if you're raising the specter of an investigation and an attorney general being involved, it's quite possible that not just underlings but that the White House counsel might know about some of these conversations or the desire of the President to have this investigation go forward.
So that's where I wonder to what extent there was coordination or knowledge, not just people saying, "Oh, geez, there he goes again, we better try to protect him."
MILGRAM: I agree. I agree.
LITT: Yes, I think the problem is that it's going to be a long time before we actually extract that information out of the White House, given their ability their willingness to fight anything to the bitter end.
BURNETT: Anne, how long are we talking about here, especially when they need to talk to these people, these multiple people?
MILGRAM: Well, it does seem like things are moving quickly. The one issue here is that the subpoena list will be long. There are a lot of people who, if I'm running an investigation here I would want to talk to, including everyone in the counsel's office. I would suggest this didn't stop at the counsel's office, I wish that were the case. Unfortunately, I would be surprised if there weren't other members of the President's senior staff who were involved in at least where the memo ended up.
But there's countless pieces of information about OMB, the State Department, the White House Counsel's office. I mean there's just a lot of information that Congress needs to get and needs to get quickly.
BURNETT: All right. And obviously that is crucial plus also crucial the person who seemed to be in charge of this, not the person running the DNI, but actually Rudy Giuliani who says there is a real hero now in all of this, this whistleblower fair and that it's him. But is he in serious legal peril? Could this be the end of the road here for Rudy Giuliani on this? And Trump continuing to make false claims about Joe Biden. All right. Is this a sign of desperation or is this a calculated strategy?
BURNETT: Breaking news, the Acting Director of National Intelligence refusing to address the role Rudy Giuliani has played in trying to help President Trump dig up dirt on his potential rival, Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): What is your understanding right now of what Mr. Giuliani's role is?
MAGUIRE: Mr. Congressman, Congressman Quigley, I respectfully just referred to the White House to a comment on the President's personal lawyer. My only knowledge of what Mr. Giuliani does, I have to be honest with you, I get from TV and from the news media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Which is pretty stunning and I know he's laughing, but he doesn't think it's funny and it's not funny at all. This is like a personal lawyer freelancing on National Security to represent this whole country.
Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is out front. So Evan, I mean, this is the big question here. Could Rudy Giuliani be facing serious legal repercussions over this?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Democrats think that he should for trying to coerce essentially the help of the Ukrainian government against Joe Biden and to help President Trump's campaign.
But the issue is that the Justice Department has kind of already looked at this and they've decided that there's nothing to see here, that there is nothing further to investigate.
[19:30:10] They said that the president didn't commit a crime. This is not a criminal or legal violation, a campaign finance violation. And so, the book is closed as far as the Justice Department is concerned, at least for now.
The question, though, is a big one which is what is Rudy Giuliani doing? Who was he talking to? What role has he played in what the Justice Department has been doing?
Don't forget, Erin, while the book is closed on this particular investigation, the Justice Department is still doing an investigation into what happened in 2016, whether the Ukrainians provided any intelligence that was used against President Trump in the Mueller investigation. So, that is still very much alive, and I think the Democrats will want to know whether Rudy Giuliani was providing information that ended up as part of that investigation that is still ongoing.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Evan Perez, thank you very much.
And everyone is back with me.
So, Anne, just with what Evan was saying, OK, the Department of Justice. This is Trump's Department of Justice. It's his attorney general, Bill Barr, who is also implicated in -- in what the whistle- blower is saying and in the transcript of the call.
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: He would be the one exonerating a coup or a fellow, person in the report.
MILGRAM: Yes, there are so many problematic pieces that's' related to Barr and the Department of Justice. I'm an alum of the Department of Justice. I oversaw statewide criminal investigations. The idea that you wouldn't open this up into investigation is not plausible to me. It doesn't feel right to me that you would say on the face of the paper, you wouldn't go further.
Barr also has an enormous conflict. He needed to recuse on this and he should not have personally had any role. We don't know yet whether he did, but there's no question that he should be involved in any way, shape or form on this.
BURNETT: So, Bob, I mean, we have Giuliani today also urging Congress to subpoena his phone records. No problem, I have some texts here showing my side of it, and he's putting out a lot of bluster. Nothing to hide. Nothing to see her.
Do you think he should be worried?
ROBERT LITT, EX-GENERAL COUNSEL FOR NATIONAL INTEL DIRECTOR UNDER OBAMA: I think he should be worried and we don't know a lot about Rudy Giuliani's conversations with people in the Ukraine. We don't know about whether Rudy Giuliani was taking direction from the president on this or whether he was freelancing, but I think Giuliani should be concerned that there would be serious inquiries into this, and that from what we know so far, this is not particularly a savory set of transactions. It appears that you have the president, with the assistance of his personal lawyer, using the power of his office for his own personal and political advantage, in a new that I should be very troubling to the American people.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Erin, I don't think he was acting at the behest of the president. I mean, Rudy Giuliani took off -- took on where Michael Cohen left off, to be the president's henchman and his fixer, except now as president, instead of a private citizen. The real question to me is what about the secretary of state?
I mean, we see outsiders being tapped as special envoys, think of George Mitchell and his work in the Middle East, but that's being tapped by the government to be a special envoy in the furtherance of administration foreign policy. That's not what this is.
And Rudy Giuliani's quite clear. He says oh, the State Department knew everything I was doing and wanted me to do all of this stuff. So that's the question for Pompeo.
It was striking to me to hear Secretary Pompeo over the weekend carrying the president's water repeating all of these claims against former Vice President Biden. He's been stunningly silent since then over whether Rudy Giuliani is his guy and that's the question, is he your guy or not?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think they're going to ask him to testify. And, you know, Bill Barr, the attorney general released a statement saying I didn't know about any of this. This was, you know, this is all news to me. And it was clear that the recusal -- and remember what happened to an attorney general the last time he recused himself from a major investigation of Donald Trump.
BURNETT: Exhibit A, Jeff Sessions?
BORGER: He got fired, he got fired.
So, Barr decided not to do that. I can't say that's the reason, but on its face, it seems to me when your name comes up in conversation like this and the president is turning you like his personal lackey, you know, go talk to Rudy, go talk to the attorney general, I don't know. I think I would have -- I would have some concern about that and I'm wondering whether the attorney has raised that.
BURNETT: And, Anne, I mean, in the interview with "The Atlantic" today, Giuliani said, quote, It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I'm not, and I will be the hero. These morons, when this is over, I will be the hero.
MILGRAM: Yes, I mean, this is consistent with the president acting like he's above the law, with Giuliani acting like he can go out and freelance on behalf of the U.S. government for the president. I mean, when you think about, even a special envoy, they have to follow rules.
There are all kinds of national security issues.
BURNETT: Right, this is military aid, this is foreign policy and this is a personal lawyer.
MILGRAM: Yes. You can't just have people walking around on behalf of the United States government and remember, one of the parts of the whistle-blower complaint and the State Department individuals who were trying to work with Ukraine to basically say to them and help them navigate, how do you deal with Giuliani who is out there trying to do all these things on the president's personal behalf?
BURNETT: David, this comes and all of these troubling things are adding up. Some Republicans are speaking out about parts of this, not all, but parts. So, one Republican today on the House Intel Committee defended Trump in some part but slammed him for the phone call with the Ukrainian president, with the whole pushing him to investigate Joe Biden.
Here is Congressman Mike Turner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): I want to say to the president, this is not OK. It is -- that conversation is not OK, and I think it's disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And retiring Congressman Will Hurd, Republican, former CIA officer today tweeting: There is a lot in the whistle-blower complaint that is concerning. We need to fully investigate all of the allegations addressed in the letter. The first step is to talk to the whistle-blower.
These are significant comment, David.
BURNETT: Again, Mike Turner defending in many way, but these are significant comments, aren't they?
GREGORY: Yes, I think it's significant. It's still pretty careful, you know, to condemn. See, I think where the difference is going to be in the matter of interpretation and this is where it's getting so polarized. Democrats are looking at this saying it speaks for itself. It is so clearly corrupt and so clearly impeachable. Others are saying this is crude, this is the president, you know, not being able to control himself, but it's not impeachable.
That's where it sort of breaks down. It's certainly inconsistent with the Republican view of foreign policy, of national security, let alone of letting a foreign nation, inviting a foreign nation to interfere in our election. So, the bottom line is, it's political expediency still on
Republicans. They do -- more responsible Republicans want to see the investigation go forward because they've got to be nervous about what else comes out here because the underlying conduct is concerning enough, let alone -- you know, if they want to vilify the whistle- blower, which could be difficult, there's a dozen other people in the White House who are privy to all this and were quite concern. So, I think a lot of Republicans have to be quite worried about where it's going --
BURNETT: Gloria, can I ask you, because the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, you know, when we have comments from, you know, Mr. Turner, Mr. Hurd, and, by the way, you know, Senators Thune and Romney, right? There's a few, Sasse.
Kevin McCarthy today said not a single member of his caucus in the House has raised any concerns about the president's behavior. By the way, those things I just showed you with Hurd and Turner were public.
He said, no one said a word. Can I just play Kevin McCarthy here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: A few of the members from your own conference expressed concerns. I think Will Hurd tweeted out earlier and Mike Turner says he doesn't think the conversation is OK. Are you concerned about the split within your own conference and that additional members will come up and do you share any of those concerns with us?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I'm not sure. I haven't had a member come to me yet, any challenge on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Gloria, he is, of course, completely sure what that person was speaking of. What's he doing here?
BORGER: Well, what? Me worry? Republicans are fine. We're fine. This is a Democratic issue.
I would have to say that Republicans are going wait and see what the polls show. As you know, the public has been largely opposed to any kind of impeachment, and there is an early poll tonight that shows that may be shifting, but we'll have to just see.
And I think Republicans may get a little more spine if they see that public opinion is shifting because this is a story that's easy to understand, and easy to digest and the more the president complains and plays the victim here, when it's pretty much in black and white the public may react negatively and it may not be of much difficulty for moderate Republicans or moderate Democrats as we saw or moderate Republican senators to say, you know what? I can't go along with this.
GREGORY: But I also think Kevin McCarthy is right. You know, maybe he missed those two comments today and maybe he's saying nobody walked up to me, but they're basically still holding the line around the president.
BURNETT: Some say -- people are saying different things behind the scenes and it will matter whether you will come out and saying it or not.
Thanks to all of you.
And, next, Trump ramping up the rhetoric against Joe Biden? So what is the strategy with that?
And Beto O'Rourke says if you don't know why Trump should be impeached, you're just not looking. The presidential candidate is OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump continuing to spread a misleading claim about the former Vice President Joe Biden.
Here's what Trump said today while arguing House Intel Chair Adam Schiff is ignoring Biden's actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He doesn't talk about Joe Biden firing a prosecutor, and if that prosecutor's not fired he's not going to give him money from the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Trump has said again and again that Biden, you know, did this for a specific reason. He wanted this prosecutor fired and held up the money for specific reason which was to protect his son from a corruption investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He wouldn't give, I think it was billions of dollars to Ukraine, unless they fired the prosecutor who was looking at his son and his son's company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, let's just be very clear, there's been absolutely no evidence that the former vice president did this, did anything wrong.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
So, Congressman, I appreciate your time.
Not only are you a sitting member of Congress, you were an assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration. So, when President Trump says that Joe Biden got the prosecutor fired, which he did, to protect his son as a motive, you were there. Tell us what really happened.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): So here's what happened. The United States, the international community, we were giving a lot of support to Ukraine in 2015, 2016, the IMF was providing loans. The United States was providing loan guarantees and that aid was explicitly conditioned on Ukraine doing better in the fight against corruption.
In late 2015, we realized that the main prosecutor, the chief prosecutor in Ukraine was doing nothing about corruption. He had brought not a single significant corruption prosecution including against this company that Joe Biden's son was involved with. He wasn't doing anything about that either.
So, we decided, the State Department decided, not Joe Biden, that for assistance to be provided that prosecutor needed to be replaced. The State Department delivered that message, our embassy delivered that message, the European Union delivered that message, the president of France delivered that message, the president of Germany delivered that message, the International Monetary Fund delivered that message, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development delivered that message.
So I don't know, maybe Trump thinks that the entire world was engaged in a conspiracy to protect Joe Biden and his son or maybe actually this was U.S. policy, European policy, international community's policy and the right thing to do.
BURNETT: All right. So to be loud and clear, I'm not saying he didn't agree, but he did what he was told to do what the U.S. government decided to do. He was the emissary.
MALINOWSKI: He was the messenger.
BURNETT: The messenger, OK.
BURNETT: OK. All right. So, to the point of why you would be Joe Biden because this is also important. You talked about the immense amount of aid that was going from the United States, right? So we know, obviously, that Mick Mulvaney was told according to sources about a week before this call that Trump had with the Ukrainian president to put aid to put $400 million worth of military and security aid to Ukraine on hold.
So, contextualize this for us, as a Ukraine expert, can you tell us how important American aid is? If you are President Trump how much power do you have by Ukraine by withholding that aid?
MALINOWSKI: Oh, my gosh, they need us. And it's not just them, this is for our national security. We have thousands of troops in Europe who are there in part to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine and Europe. Russian aggression, attacks that are going on right now and that aid included Javelin missiles which are anti-tank weapons designed to make sure that those Russian tanks cannot invade Ukraine and put our own troops ultimately in jeopardy, and Trump decided for reasons that are otherwise inexplicable to stop that assistance.
BURNETT: One other question I want to ask you.
"The Washington Post" spoke to the prosecutor that Trump according to the complaint praised and this guy is also now a former prosecutor, but he told "The Washington Post" that Hunter Biden didn't break any Ukrainian laws. This was the guy put in to investigate corruption and the investigation of the company as you point out had gone nowhere and was dormant under the other guy.
Do you think this is a credible take? That this former prosecutor is saying Hunter Biden did not break any Ukrainian laws, do you take that as credible?
MALINOWSKI: Look, this is not about Hunter Biden. This is about the president of the United States, the current president of the United States basing our foreign policy on whether foreign countries are willing to help him politically, and it's not just Ukraine.
I mean, are we going to give a better trade deal to China if the Chinese government gives Trump dirt on Elizabeth Warren? Where does this end? This is why this is so important to our national security and why so many of us including some Republicans are concerned right now.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Malinowski, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for coming on.
MALINOWSKI: Thank you.
BURNETT: And tonight, Joe Biden is speaking out after the hearing on Capitol Hill, the former vice president at a California fund-raiser saying President Trump was trying to, quote, hijack an election by asking the Ukraine help for an investigation. He added hat Trump would, quote, like to get foreign help to win elections.
This as Trump says Biden and Democrats are doing this just for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats are going to lose the election. They know it. That's why they're doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, 2020 Democratic presidential, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke.
Congressman, I appreciate your time.
You heard him. Democrats are going to lose, they know it. That's why they're doing this. Is that what this is about for you? BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. This is about the
future of this country and saving our democracy at the moment that it's on the line.
If we set this precedent that some people are above the law because of the position of power or public trust that they hold then any hope of being able to keep this republic, this democracy together is lost forever. So this is the moment, if there ever was one, for members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, to put the future of this country ahead of their party, their political prospects, their fortunes in the next election.
History will judge this moment will not look kindly upon those who shirk their duty, or become complicit in the president's crimes. We have to hold him accountable. The House must move forward with impeachment. It's the only way that we get all the facts, the truth and justice at the end of the day, and that's what I'm interested in.
BURNETT: So let me ask you about where this goes, though. The Democrats in the House, as you know, of course, seem to have the votes to impeach President Trump. But at this moment that does seem impossible in the Senate. Unless something changes dramatically, it's not going to happen there.
So if your party impeaches Trump in the House but he stays in office, are you worried this could be a huge victory for him?
O'ROURKE: No, I'm not worried. And I don't think it will be a party that votes to impeach. I think it will be members of Congress who see themselves as Americans first before they're anything else.
If you looked at the polling on impeachment around Nixon at this point in the investigation, it wasn't the most popular thing in the country, and yet with the advantage of hindsight we know that it was absolutely the right thing to do. And President Nixon did the right thing and resigned before it moved to a trial in the Senate.
I'm calling upon those who are close to President Trump right now, the same ones who tried to hide the transcript or the notes from this phone call, who right now are complicit in what the president is doing to advise him to do the right thing and to resign from this office. If we're talking about bringing together a very divided country, unifying once again around the great challenges that we have, then the most divisive president that we've ever had, one who is breaking laws with complete impunity right now tearing this country apart must step down.
That's the right thing to do. But should he fail to do that, the House must vote to impeach, and that trial must be held in the Senate. And I believe in this country, I believe in this country and I believe that we will do the right thing at the end of the day.
BURNETT: So, the president has been speaking out about you also this week on something that you've become front and center for him on the 2020 race, which is, you know, your passionate stance on guns and a mandatory buyback of automatic assault-style weapons. He blames you for the lack of gun control legislation specifically, Congressman.
Here's how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I saw where this character from Texas, I can't imagine he'll get one vote in Texas, he wants to start confiscating guns. That's not a good thing. That's no good.
It makes it actually much harder to make a deal when this Beto O'Rourke comes out and starts talking about confiscating guns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This Beto O'Rourke. What do you say to him? Have you made it harder?
O'ROURKE: In Texas, 49 percent of my fellow Texans support a mandatory buyback of weapons of war, AR-15s, AK-47s, weapons designed to kill people on a battlefield. Only 36 oppose a mandatory buyback. And that's in Texas, a proud but responsible gun owning state. It's a majority across this country.
So, it's not any one person. It's not any one idea. It's the fact that this president is deep in the pocket of the NRA. There are other members of Congress who are bought and paid for by the gun lobby.
They need to get out of the way or do the right thing, pass universal background checks, red flag laws, end the sale of weapons of war. And yes, as long as there are more than 10 million out there, buy ever single one of them back.
BURNETT: And you believe they're going to get this done and not get really too busy with this whole impeachment thing?
O'ROURKE: Well, I believe in this country. I know that we are capable of doing two things at once. And the fact that we lose 40,000 people in this country to gun violence, that we've had these acts of terror like the one that you saw in El Paso or Midland, Odessa or Sutherland Springs or Santa Fe High School, four in under two years in one state, Texas alone, I know that this country is called to act.
And those students who marched for our lives, those Moms Who Demand Action, they're more powerful than the NRA. They're going to force us to do the right thing while we still have time.
BURNETT: Congressman O'Rourke, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it tonight.
O'ROURKE: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, President Trump personally demeaning the person leading the Intelligence Committee's whistle-blower probe. the man who used to head that committee weighs in next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump attacking the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who led today's hearing. Trump calling the investigation a scam, calling Schiff, quote, Little Adam Schiff, with D's.
OUTFRONT now, a man who used to hold Schiff's position, Mike Rogers. Also the host of CNN's original series, "DECLASSIFIED: UNTOLD STORIES OF AMERICAN PIE."
Chairman Rogers, of course, you were once the Republican chair of this committee.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BURNETT: What do you make of Trump's choosing to do this today, sort of mock, try to make it light, make it personal in this way?
ROGERS: You know, listen, it's hard to explain sometimes what the president does in circumstances like this. He would have been better off to kind of take the statesman role and talk about other things and try to move on past this particular event.
But attacking it, he just fuels the fire for those people who think hey, there must be something here. Those people are going to say well, see? See the way he is acting? That must mean there is something to it, because he is so personal and so attacking on this particular issue.
And, you know, again, I just -- this would have been the opportunity for the president to be statesman like in this, and he did have some legitimate questions. Why was the whistle-blower report released today? Normally, I have to tell you, as the chairman who got whistle- blower reports, I would never release the report until it was fully vetted and we had a chance to fully review it and make sure the information was accurate, and then we still might not release the report.
BURNETT: So I want the turn now before we go to your series "DECLASSIFIED: UNTOLD STORIES OF AMERICAN SPIES." And I know you have been working on this for a long time. It's been something you've put your heart into.
The first episode looks at a plot to blow up the New York City subway system on the eighth anniversary of 9/11. Here is a clip preview for our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLPI)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we weren't loving the idea of a car stop, we didn't really have a choice. We can't just let him drive into Manhattan and blow something up. The last thing you want to be responsible for is another smoking crater in your city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, it gives you chills hearing it. I mean, the plan to thwart that terrorist was put together in 15 minutes, as you show in this program. I mean, how often do last-minute plans like that go into action? That's incredible.
ROGERS: Well, you hope you never have to stop it that close to the event. And remember, the exciting thing about this episode is that it breaks it down from the beginning, how they found him, the fact that the guy travelled from the state of Colorado with materials to conduct the act, and all of our law enforcement, from local, to U.S. intelligence to our FBI, even the NSA played a very important role in this, and all of that is talked about in this.
It really does kind of look like a movie when you're done with it, the suspense of this, the nail-biting close call that this was for actually happening. I mean, it was an operational al Qaeda sponsored and inspired event, and they got it really at the last minute.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. Great to see you, Chairman.
And to all of you, you will have to see it. Season premiere of "DECLASSIFIED" is this Sunday night at 9:00.
And thank you all so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.