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CNN TONIGHT

Election Interference a Normal Trend in Trump's Era; Special Envoy to Ukraine Resigns; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is Interviewed About President Trump, Election Interference by Russia, Whistleblower Complaint and Attorney General Bill Barr; Trump Impeachment Inquiry; Lisa Ling Back with an All New Season of "This is Life". Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 27, 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]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: So, be on the lookout.

Thank you so much for watching. CNN Tonight with Laura Coates in for D. Lemon. The upgrade starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Chris, it sounds it like six degrees of Russia instead of Kevin Bacon playing out right now with the NRA have been out, you got to be kidding me? Who is clean still? Who?

CUOMO: It's amazing how effective Russia has been in messing with our heads and living rent free right there. I can't wait how you take on what I was getting hit with tonight from Robert Ray, a very formidable counsel, you know, big pedigree.

He was saying abuse of power is not enough. If you want to impeach you got to have a big-ticket crime attached to it. That's what it says in the Constitution. And it will be interesting because that's the key question for Democrats, right? How do they make a case that this is so unavoidable and so important it must happen?

COATES: He has to reread the Constitution. It doesn't say that. We'll get to that more later.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Laura Coates sitting in for Don Lemon.

Our breaking news, President Trump reportedly told two senior Russian officials in that infamous 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was not concerned about the Kremlin's election interference because he claimed the United States did the same thing in other countries.

A shocking claim that caused alarmed White House officials to try to keep those remarks under wraps. Restricting them to only those with the highest of security clearance. That's according to the Washington Post. Which reports, it's not clear whether a memo about what the president said was put into the codeword classified system for the most sensitive intelligence information. The very system where officials try to bury the president's Ukraine call.

You've heard about that. Haven't you? And sources telling CNN tonight there's more than White House officials tried to keep under wraps. They also tried to bury information about calls with Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

That, coming in the midst of outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Now all of this as the House is on a fast track to impeachment, possibly as soon as Thanksgiving.

And we're learning tonight the president's special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who was named in the whistleblower complaint has resigned just one day after the complaint was made public.

That after Rudy Giuliani told CNN he spoke to the State Department at least 10 times about his work in Ukraine. Insisting he has quote, a nice little trail of text messages with Ambassador Volker to prove his story.

Also, tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subpoenaed by the chairman of the House foreign affairs, intel and oversight committees. Why? For failing to over -- to turn over documents on Ukraine. They have given him until next Friday now to comply.

Those committees are also scheduled depositions with five -- five State Department officials including by the way, Ambassador Volker. That, as House intel committee chairman Adam Schiff says he is negotiating to interview that whistleblower. The one who wrote the explosive complaint that alleges that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. All in effort to dig up dirt on the Democratic front runner in the face mode.

A source telling CNN, the president met today with White House lawyers and his personal counsel to try to hammer out some kind of impeachment strategy.

But right now, let's get to our breaking news. The Washington Post reporting on the president's shocking statement. We'll bring that now infamous Oval Office meeting with two top Russians.

The Post's Shane Harris joins me now on the phone. Shane, thank you for your reporting. I mean, you have new details about what President Trump told Russian officials in this now infamous 2017 Oval Office meeting. So, walk us through with the breaking story.

SHANE HARRIS, NATIONAL SECURITY WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: What we understand, Laura, is that in that meeting with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador, the president said that he was unconcerned about Russia's interference in the 2016 election because the United States does the same thing in other countries.

So, he was essentially asserting from his perspective that this wasn't a matter of great concern because it's something that was equal to what he thinks the United States does to try and influence politics around the world.

And these comments alarm senior White House officials for a number of reasons. One, which was that they fear that Russia could perceive that the president was essentially saying you have a green light to do this in other countries or perhaps again in the U.S. elections in the future.

Steps were taken to them really lock down this memo and restricted even more tightly than memos of leadership meetings and calls that had already been restricted in the White House because of press leaks.

[23:05:01]

And I think it's safe to say that the people who heard this at the time it struck them also as troubling because it seemed that the president was showing a certain kind of deference or kind of solicitousness to Russia.

This was also coming one day of course after he had fired the FBI director James Comey. And the suspicion at that point publicly had been mounting that perhaps he had done that because he knew the FBI had been investigating his campaign in connection for Russia.

So, the statement kind of lands in the meeting, you know, and really just stunned people who heard it.

COATES: I mean, it's shocking. And this is the day after he's fired James Comey, you're telling us. He's not concerned because he has this whole who among us hasn't interfered sort of motto going.

Shane, I want to read one other detail from your reporting. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries' elections, they said. So, he was giving this sort of green light to Russia to interfere around the world. Is that what people really thought?

HARRIS: Yes. This is something that people feared that the Russians could perhaps perceive from his comments where Trump seems to be saying, it's kind of an all fair this is the way the world works. I get it. You do it. We do it. Everyone does it.

The United States does not interfere in elections the way the Russians did. Of course, there is a history of United States clearly interfering in other countries' governments. But this, you know, something that, I guess we should see in more recent history the United States hasn't done. And certainly, not in the way that Russia had done in recently.

Trump had also, of course then briefed by this point by senior intelligence officials that the Russian government was behind this and that it was an effort to sow dissent and undermine liberal democratic values.

So, I think when people heard this kind of moral equivalency from the president, I have to imagine that they would have also thought is he not really understanding the severity of what just happened in the 2016 election.

COATES: Or, perhaps his role in it as was alleged at the time. Thank you, Shane, for your reporting. I got to bring in Ron Brownstein, also Josh Campbell, author of "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI," and Max Boot, author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

I'm glad to have you, gentlemen, on the show.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Laura.

COATES: Wow, it's quite about reporting here. Max, I'll begin with you. Because this reporting from the Washington Post is shocking. I mean, can it get much worse than a U.S. president telling Russia he's not concerned about election interference, not in the U.S. election. An election that he actually won?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is shocking, Laura. And I think what it shows is that the president is not a patriot. He is not a loyal American. And those are words that I never thought I would have to say. When I say that I don't mean that he's loyal to another country. What I mean is he's loyal to himself above the interest of the country.

That's what we're seeing here with this report of his conversation with the Russian envoy where he was basically blessing their intervention in American politics and attack on the United States because it benefitted him.

And now having done that before in 2017. Now he's asking another country, Ukraine, to intervene in our politics to help elect him. Those are not the actions of somebody who is putting the interest of the United States first and foremost as he is supposed to do under the terms of his oath. He is putting his own political interests above the interest of the country. And that is why I think he is in need of impeachment.

COATES: So, Ron, I see you nodding your head along.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

COATES: Do you agree?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, like so many other things in the Trump presidency this revelation today is both unimaginable and inevitable. I mean, it's unimaginable that we would hear those words from any other president and how many times have we said that about different things that have happened in the Trump presidency. Very fine people go back, you know, just add to the list.

But it seemed inevitable as well. Because so many things he has said and done he has signaled his lack of concern, his lack of interest in safeguarding American elections against Russian interference. And you are left after this above all with the sense if this is what he said to the envoys, what has he said in the direct conversation with Vladimir Putin that of course we do not have access to yet. And which we wonder whether will be -- ultimately will become part of this impeachment inquiry.

COATES: I mean, Josh, think about this. We're talking about the national security implications of all this. I mean, Russia is a geopolitical rival. What do you see as the implications to national security here?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. There are many implications. I would say negative implications on national security. Two, in particular, I think are important. When you go back to that place in time and it's important to look at the date.

Again, this was the day after the president of the United States had essentially decapitated the FBI. Taken out its leadership the person that was running the investigation into his campaign. My former boss Jim Comey.

And you know, I can't think of no greater sworn enemy to the Russian federation than, you know, perhaps the CIA than the men and women of the FBI whose job is counter their spies, their counter intelligence efforts.

[23:10:06]

And here you have the president in the most sacred piece of real estate in the United States in the White House in the Oval Office essentially joking with them and having this inappropriate conversation. And what that meant as an implication is not only for the men and women of the intelligence agency who their job is protect us against these threats. But I would argue that looking forward what this was, was a green light to the Russian officials.

These were people who had been involved in conducting information warfare against the United States. The president of the United States looked them in the eye and essentially gave them a green light to continue interfering.

It's not surprising because he was the beneficiary of their efforts. I suspect that, you know, in part, he's -- and the president is the president right now because of their efforts in, you know, what they did to our elections. But the fact that he would give them that green light doesn't bode well for us as we move into 2020.

COATES: What's also bothered people about that now infamous meeting is that photograph of everyone laughing. Lavrov and Kislyak and the president chuckling along that they were chumming.

Max, I mean, does this new reporting about Trump sound a little like when he defended Putin in a 2017 interview with Fox News? Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Will I get along with him? I have no idea. There's a possibility I won't.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin is a killer.

TRUMP: A lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. Why, you think our country is so innocent?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: I mean, at the time that was seen as unprecedented to describe the United States that way and put the U.S. on the same level as Russia. But now what are your thoughts?

BOOT: Well, I think what we're seeing here, Laura, is that there is no divide between the public Trump and the private Trump. He acts exactly the same way in private with Russian envoys or speaking with foreign leader as he does at a campaign rally. And it's all about numero uno. All he cares about Donald Trump.

And he is not really upholding the interest of the country. He is, as you showed, engages in this a moral relativism where he equates the actions of the United States a democracy with the actions of Russia which is a dictatorship hostile to the United States.

And he doesn't just do that in interviews. Obviously, he does that in private meetings as well. And so, I think that really places the onus on us to see if we can find out what else he has said to leaders like Putin or Mohammed bin Salman in these conversations which have now been filed in this codeword protected system. Clearly, to keep them out of public view.

Because, you know, I think this is the equivalent of the White House tapes for the Nixon White House. I mean, this is very damming stuff. We're starting to see it come out. I mean, the ship of state is bringing a lot of leaks right now as impeachment has become a reality. I think you're seeing people rat out Trump.

I mean, his aides are leaking and we're finally discovering some of what's going on. But I think there's a lot more to be discovered here and just the rate of the news is just overwhelming there.

COATES: Yes.

BOOT: So many revelations. But there's a sense, my sense is that there still a lot more revelations to come.

COATES: So, Ron, I mean, speaking of revelations, it steams that Trump's special enjoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, sources say he resigned tonight. You say he'll need to decide whether to comply with the inevitable --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

COATES: -- Trump's attempts to block his testimony now that he's no longer an envoy.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. There are so many, you know, the turnover in this administration particularly in national security has been so enormous. That there are a long list of officials who are now former officials and who that -- you know, the House intelligence committee is going to want to talk to. And the question -- and inevitable, we have seen the Trump

administration, you know, resist testimony, broad claims of executive privilege, ignoring subpoenas. I don't think that's likely to change because this is now an impeachment inquiry. And the question will be how do these former officials respond to Trump's efforts to exert executive -- exert executive privilege over their potential testimony.

You know, Don McGahn stood down and did not testify before the House judiciary committee when Trump said we don't want you to. I do not know that all these officials will make the same calculation. It really is a critical moment for all of them.

You know, what they saw, what they witnessed, did they believe, as Max has been saying, it was the insecurity interest of the United States America. And if not, do they feel a greater obligation to Donald Trump to help him continued to kind of cloak that or to make that clear to the officials considering whether he should remain in office.

COATES: Well, of course, Josh, there is one current person in the administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He's been subpoenaed because of turning over the Ukraine documents and one key question is whether Pompeo knew about Rudy Giuliani's interactions. Is that right?

CAMPBELL: Yes. No, that's a big question. We want to know, and obviously there's been some sniping between the two of them. That Giuliani was coming out and saying, you know, sorry, tough Mike, you know, I was doing this job.

I think what's really interesting, and you know we've talked about Volker leaving now. I will wait and see what he has to say. This is someone who has a good reputation who was a professional. He's been involved in a lot of this action.

[23:14:58]

And coming on the heels of him essentially being thrown under the bus and out there. I think he's done what we would expect people to do if you can no longer stay in these positions and that is to step down. And I think the next step of that might be speaking out. So, I would stay tuned to hear the real story of what happened here.

COATES: Well, we will stay tuned. Josh, Ron, Max, thank you. Something tells me this is not quite over. This report that the president told top Russians he didn't care about intel election interference and the reported attempt to hide what he said raises a very disturbing question. Does this amount to kompromat on the president? We'll discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: Our breaking news tonight, the president shocking statement in that infamous Oval Office meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister. Brushing off the Kremlin's election interference.

Joining me now Nayyera Haq and Matthew Rosenberg. Glad to have both of you experts on tonight about this. [23:19:57]

I'll start with you, Matthew. Look, isn't it revealing highly classified Israeli intelligence, we now know President Trump told the Russian foreign minister and the ambassador that he wasn't concerned about Moscow's interference in the U.S. election? I mean, what is your reaction to this breaking news?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Not to down play the excellent story by my colleagues but (Inaudible) me totally unsurprised. Trump is pretty much broadcast this in any number of forums.

Look, seeing it sitting across the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador here is a whole different order than kind of bombastically talking about it from a public audience. It kind of conveys a sense of like, you guys are fine, don't worry about it. You know, let's move on. Which, you know, we're talking for less than a year after that kind of attack on our election is something hard to imagine any president doing.

Look, this is who Trump is. These are the rules he plays by. And this is what he thinks is important and what are isn't important.

COATES: Well, is that America? Nayyera, I mean, if President Trump had the conversation in the Oval Office and then he lied about it. I mean, couldn't that be kompromat at some point?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SENIOR DIRECTOR: Well, part of the challenge, Laura, is that in these meetings he's had with Vladimir Putin one on one or even with Lavrov in the Oval office. We don't have U.S. reporters. We don't get leader call read outs like we used to. That's just another norm that he's broken that I think we started to take for granted in the breaking of norms that we're actually losing valuable information in transparency.

Now that we know that the White House and national security council were actively trying to move the read outs of these calls onto a classified server so people wouldn't have access to them, it leads me and other national security professionals to wonder what has he been saying to foreign leaders all along?

We know about this one, the Ukraine one and what that led to. What about this whole history before that with Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, with Vladimir Putin, with Bibi Netanyahu. What has he offered and what has he traded away of U.S. national security?

COATES: Or what he is withheld of them when you're talking about the Ukrainian call. What was the leverage he was using? I mean, Matt, the Post is reporting tonight that during the 2017 conversation with Russian diplomats Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries' elections. I mean, it's shocking really. Will we ever find out who these other countries were?

ROSENBERG: We have some ideas. We know they have tried in Europe and elsewhere. I mean, look, when you tell a country like Russia say hey, we don't have any problem with your interference. We don't think it happened. Whenever you hear that thing had happened, you're saying look, we're not going to give a hard time about this. We're not going to care. Do as you please. You're giving them an open door to do it.

And I think we shouldn't be surprised when they take it. Look, that meeting also had a number of other troubling factors. That's the meeting where he told them he'd fire Comey where he called him a nut job, it would take him pressure off him.

I mean, from beginning to end that meeting seems to be very problematic. And I would be curious to know what else was on there. We heard there are 12 pages of typed notes after that meeting. What else are in those notes?

COATES: And we still by the way, Nayyera, we have no idea what happened in a place called Helsinki. We have no idea what the conversations were about.

I mean, in the latest breaking news from CNN that the White House restricted access to President Trump's calls with Putin, with the Saudi crown prince. I mean, we don't know if they were stored on the codeword server but are we seeing a pattern here that is concerning you? What is going on, Nayyera?

HAQ: Well, Laura, this is a pattern of behavior that he's shown us from day one. He has a complete disregard for the standards of security. He uses his private cell phone. We know Ivanka and Jared. Jared had a WhatsApp relationship with Mohammed bin Salman. Ivanka has been using private e-mails.

I mean, even given the history that comes with private servers, the Trump family has not decided to use government clearances -- government servers. So that's just even coming in the door.

And then to openly joke about having perfect phone calls, or you know, we welcome interference. None of this is a problem. I really think they're trying to move the goal post of what is acceptable and normal. But now that they're doing that in national security space, it's great concern to at least 300 national security professionals who signed onto a letter saying that this indeed is impeachable.

COATES: And a nation of Americans concerned with national security of course. I mean, Matthew, earlier today the Kremlin announced that it wants Trump and Putin's call to remain private. Saying this. "We would like to hope that in our bilateral relations where we are already having a lot of serious problems, we will not see this situation happening."

I mean, what's between the lines of that statement. Is that a threat? If they learn what the Ukrainian president did not realize that they might be exposed to.

ROSENBERG: I mean, look, who knows what's on those calls. If there's anything on those calls it'd be potentially embarrassing to the president. The Russians know this. And as long as those calls remain secret there's some leverage there. There is something, you know, that the president has to know they have out there.

[23:25:04]

And so, for them these calls remaining secret is only in their best interest. And also, if Putin have said anything embarrassing to him, he certainly doesn't want that out. It's a pretty clear message. Don't release your phone calls.

COATES: Now Nayyera, you actually are one of the people who signed that letter in support of an impeachment inquiry. And here's part of it.

"President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference into our democratic process. That would constitute and unconscionable abuse of power. It also would represent an effort to subordinate America's national interest in those of our closest allies and partners to the president's personal political interest."

And that was released this morning. Is it even more worse now for you?

HAQ: I think it's part of the chatter that we've seen and we've been concerned about. Now we're just able to connect the dots from different countries and see a broader pattern of behavior and what's really been happening.

I mean, it's a grave concern that from day one President Trump has ignored the report of 17 national security agencies that he is responsible for. He's never cared about Russian interference. We've always wondered why. We know that Russia has been an adversary of the United States for quite some time, with the Ukraine they literally rolled in and took over a piece of the country in Crimea.

And they have not been in favor of any of the agreements in the ways that we do business. They like chaos. And chaos, Trump is a chaos agent for them. So actually, even if the calls were released and we know exactly what was said, I think that could still work to Russia's advantage. Because now they are looking at the U.S. democracy in turmoil once again.

COATES: Nayyera Haq, Matthew Rosenberg, thank you for being here. I repeat, we're 72 hours into an impeachment inquiry. We'll be right back.

[23:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: On a night of one breaking news story after another and with House Democrats on a fast track to impeachment, I want to bring in democratic presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sits on the Judiciary Committee. I'm so happy you're here tonight, Senator Klobuchar. Thank you for joining the program.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Laura. I'm here in Austin, Texas where it is a little warmer than Minnesota.

COATES: Well --

KLOBUCHAR: They were all good.

COATES: From one Minnesotan to another, I understand your pain instantly. But, you know, I want to have your reaction, Senator Klobuchar, to this latest story from The Washington Post that President Trump apparently told Russian officials that -- in that now infamous Oval Office 2017 meeting, the picture is below there -- that he wasn't concerned about Moscow's interference in the U.S. election because according to their sources, the United States did the same thing. What's your reaction to that?

KLOBUCHAR: I think it's absolutely outrageous and of course this is the same meeting where he conveyed some information from Israeli intelligence. He's in there with the foreign minister and the ambassador from Russia, the country that his own intelligence people, President Trump's own intelligence director, have told him have invaded our democracy and that they are getting bolder.

What does he do? He diminishes it. He makes it like it didn't happen. He actually almost makes an excuse for it. It is unbelievable to me. I think that is a kind of information we're going to see now coming out in this investigation.

If we just step back a little bit, what really this is about, I'm sure Russia is involved in all of this, that you have got now a transcription of the notes of a conversation where he basically said to leader of another country, hey, go get me dirt on one of my opponents and then (INAUDIBLE) we got some -- lot of aid that you got there, and he just frozen that aid.

And so for me, it is clearly was a quid pro quo. This is a president that knows no bounds and you have seen this behavior like you saw in this Oval Office meeting repeated over and over. Remember, when a reporter asked him about interference in the election in front of Vladimir Putin, he made a joke about it to Vladimir Putin. We are democracy. You don't mess around with it. You don't sell it off to a foreign power.

COATES: Well, you know, the other private story, of course, in the breaking news, Senator Klobuchar, that the White House then only restrict their access about one phone call, but now about Trump's phone call with the Russian president, Putin, and now we are hearing from the reporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. What strikes you about this? Given the record you just talked about and the attack and assault on what is your perception of democracy, what do you think about this?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I believe that we have to get to the bottom of all of this. What you have here is just the classic case where he basically is trying to get dirt. Think about Watergate. In that case, they broke into an office.

He tries to get dirt, does it with a foreign leader, endangers our national security, and then they try to cover it up by putting it on a super-secret server where these kinds of calls don't belong because they don't involve classified material. And so I think it is going to be very important.

I know the House has requested those records be frozen, that they are able to get the information from that server, and then to me, there are so many people in the White House, many of whom are no longer there, that have to come forward as patriots and tell the story, tell what they heard, because there is absolutely no way there's no corroborating witnesses to what occurred not only in the call with the Ukrainian leaders but also with other leaders as well.

[23:35:04]

KLOBUCHAR: And if that doesn't work, if patriotism doesn't work, a subpoena should work.

COATES: You yourself, Senator Klobuchar, are running to be the president of the United States. As you full well know, the head of the executive branch of government, under that umbrella, is the attorney general of the United States, Attorney General Bill Barr. He is mentioned multiple times in the whistleblower complaint.

In the transcript, the DOJ was given a heads up about a whistleblower complaint about a week before the referral. Here is what Speaker Pelosi is saying about him now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I do think the attorney general has gone rogue. He has for a long time now. Since he was mentioned in all of this, it's curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint would be handled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Senator Klobuchar, you sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, will there be an investigation?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, there must be, but the problem is Senator Graham runs that committee. He has not been that promising. Well, I know he cares about Ukraine. I went there with him and John McCain right after Donald Trump got elected to show our support for that ally. Some of the things he said since this came out have not been very promising.

I think we should have an investigation of this, but most importantly and easily, I think that the attorney general should recuse himself from determination like this, and that in fact, they should not have made that delay in getting the whistleblower complaint to Congress. That should have gone directly to Congress. That didn't happen.

The attorney general, knowing full well that his name had been mentioned by the president, should not have allowed himself to be involved in this, but he did.

COATES: Senator Klobuchar, it's great to have you on the show tonight. I look forward to hearing from you again --

KLOBUCHAR: It was very good.

COATES: -- as this actually progresses. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. It's great to be on.

COATES: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: We are 72 hours into an impeachment inquiry and every single development is consequential. This is a situation America has historically tried to avoid. It's divisive. But the founding fathers predicted that it might actually be necessary, and they provided for it in the Constitution.

Now, it never said that the removal of a president was automatic on an allegation alone. No. The process requires an investigation, which by the way is precisely where we are. But there are those who would like you to pretend that an impeachment inquiry, the drafting articles of impeachment, the impeachment trial or even a removal of a president are all the same thing. They're not and they never were.

But why would anyone want you to think they're all the same thing? Answer, situational ethics. Exhibit A is Senator Lindsey Graham. Here's what he said this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Well, this is what he said about impeachment back in 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: He doesn't have to say, go lie for me, to be a crime. You don't have to say, let's obstruct justice, for it to be a crime. You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: See what I mean? Per Senator Graham today, he said it would be insane to impeach over a phone call. Senator Lindsey Graham, you know full well this isn't about a phone call. But he wants you to think that it is. Why? Because he must not want you to look at the facts, the facts in the whistleblower complaint that, by the way, the president and the White House have already corroborated, the fact that the president has already confirmed that he did ask a foreign president to investigate his political rival.

And he tried to rope in his personal attorney and the attorney general of the United States. The transcript shows it in black and white. You got that from the White House. It goes way beyond a phone call. The complaint alleges a month-long effort to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens with more than 300 million taxpayer dollars. Your taxpayer dollars are in play.

So, way back when the shoe was on the other foot for Senator Graham, it was easy for him to say that you should judge a president on their conduct. Now, it is not so much. But in keeping with the tradition of throwing spaghetti against the wall, exhibit B, counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway. She offered a new and ridiculous spin on why the impeachment investigation began. Conway says men made the speaker do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: At 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, she told the Atlantic Festival, pull it, everyone. No, no, no, we need an investigation first. We're not close to impeachment. We need an investigation first. A couple hours later, she does the worst thing a woman in power can do which is she just changes her mind because the men around her said, change your mind, we need an impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Please. You have got to be kidding me. Is that what you think happened, Kellyanne Conway? Don't insult our collective intelligence and don't patronize women.

[23:45:02]

COATES: It wasn't men that forced her to change her mind. It was the facts, the growing number of facts and evidence to support the need to investigate allegations that the president abused his power. But these distractions, when you say it's just a phone call, Senator Graham, where Pelosi is being bullied, these are attempts to mislead us.

And the more you scream, nothing to see here, folks, the more I want to look, which is exactly what Congress should do and is doing, looking, and that is an impeachment inquiry, the very same one the founding fathers envisioned for a democracy called America.

We'll be right back.

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[23:50:00]

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COATES: This Sunday, Lisa Ling is back with an all new season of "This is Life." And in the first episode, she's taking on another taboo topic, online pornography. Lisa looks at how digital porn is addicting watchers and badly damaging an entire generation's perception of sex and intimacy. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA LING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Porn. Every kid who has access to a computer or smartphone has access to porn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was first exposed when I was seven or eight.

LING: Would you say that porn was your sex ed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our generation is consumed by pornography.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the largest epidemic that not many people want to talk about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COATES: Joining us now is Lisa Ling, host of "This is Life." I'm so glad you're here, Lisa. I'm thinking about, first of all, seven or eight being exposed to pornography?

LING: Yeah. All the young men that we talked to said that their first exposure to porn was at that age, and not even on phones, like, one of them an ad pop up on his Nintendo device. And so, you know, who knows if there is an active effort to lure these kids into that world. But regardless, kids are getting exposed to it.

And, you know, if you've never had the conversation or you have no concept of what real sex is, imagine what that does to your perception of what intimacy is or should be or relationships or sex itself.

COATES: And yet pornography is nothing new to people. It's been around for ages. So why now has it become so much more damaging to that perception? What is it about this era that makes it so unique?

LING: Well, our piece isn't a condemnation of pornography, but there's just such an abundance of it online, and kids can get such easy access to it. You know, when we were kids, most people were exposed to porn in some ways when we were kids, but we had to really look for it. But now, at the tip of their fingertips, they can just have access to so much, some of which is violent, some of which is really disturbing.

And so parents have to get in front of this and start having the conversation with your kids. If they're really young, if you don't think that they have had exposure, just start by talking about the anatomy and ask them whether they have seen anything that might confuse them or something that might disturb them online, and just open the door to having a conversation about it.

COATES: You know I have a 6-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. I think, wait, within a year or two, I have to have a conversation about sex with my children? What if they inadvertently see something? What are you supposed to do with your children? What conversation (ph) can you have to try to talk to them about it if it's already too late they have been exposed? LING: So I also have a 6-year-old, and that's exactly the point. You want to be the person who has the conversation with your child, not these porn producers. And it's just -- it's just so easy. So I think there are ways to start opening the door and talking about those things. But really playing an active role in your child's digital life, it's imperative.

And if you don't have filters, you should get them. But even filters, even if you have the most stringent filters on your device, kids are smart. They can bypass filters. And if you just put a couple of words into Google, and I'm not even talking about lascivious words, you know, words -- parts of the anatomy, and you click on images, the things that come up can be disturbing.

COATES: One of the things that you address in your special is the notion of addiction and porn addiction is not necessarily recognized --

LING: Exactly.

COATES: -- but it's oftentimes described and talked about as something that needs to be addressed more. Do you go into that issue?

LING: We do. And the young men that we met, I mean, they would spend in some cases 10 hours a day watching porn. I mean, they could spend an entire day with their devices. And what would happen to them -- I mean, they would develop erectile dysfunction. They would literally physically harm themselves. And they couldn't look at women the same way. They just couldn't help themselves from objectifying women because of what they'd seen.

COATES: So thought-provoking. Be sure to tune in. An all new season of "This is Life with Lisa Ling" premieres this Sunday at 10:00 p.m., only on CNN. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

[23:55:00]

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