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Trump's Special Envoy to Ukraine Resigns; Pelosi: Impeachment Path Not a Cause for Joy; Interview with Rep. Ted Lieu (D) California; AG Barr Part of Whistleblower Complaint; White House Restricted Access to Trump's Calls with Putin and Saudi Crown Prince; Warren And Biden Neck and Neck among Dem Voters. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 28, 2019 - 11:00   ET




FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

Let's get straight to the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. And there are many.

First, sources telling CNN that the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker is gone, resigning one day after the release of the whistleblower report.

Second, CNN is learning about the extraordinary steps the White House has taken to restrict access to phone calls between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

We also now know that the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been subpoenaed by three House committees for failure to produce documents on Ukraine and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the White House to release the rough transcript of the phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President Zelensky to back up the President's claim that there was nothing wrong with the call.

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said more subpoenas are coming even as the rest of Congress is on break and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says given the mounting evidence, it is full steam ahead.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is not a cause for any joy that we have to go down this path. It's a difficult decision to make but we have that obligation because the actions that were taken could undermine the constitution and the oath we take to protect and defend including the oath that the President takes.


WHITFIELD: The President remains defiant this morning tweeting, "Can you imagine if these do-nothing Democrat savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC plus three, and many more had a Republican Party who would have done to Obama what the do-nothings are doing to me. Oh, well. Maybe next time."

That from the President this morning.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House. So Sarah -- lots to unpack here.

But let's start with the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, abruptly resigning. What are you hearing about that?


Sources tell CNN that the U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker did resign his position last night and he's a key figure in this whole controversy. He is mentioned several times in that whistleblower complaint as someone who facilitated meetings between a top aide to Ukrainian President Zelensky and Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer.

And that was alleged that he did so to get talk about potentially getting dirt on Joe Biden out of official talks. Giuliani met with Zelensky's aide in Madrid just a week after that now infamous phone call President Trump had in July with Ukrainian President Zelensky. That meeting was said to be a follow up on the conversation that President Trump did have with Zelensky.

Now Giuliani has faced criticism of acting outside of the State Department's purview but he defended himself on Fox News saying that Volker was the one who requested he meet with the Ukrainians. Talk a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I spoke to Volker eight times. They basically knew everything I was doing, so it was being done with the authorization and at the request. and then I have a final one in which there's a big thank-you about how my honest and straightforward discussion led to solving the problem in the relationship. I think I should get some kind of an award.


WESTWOOD: Now, the White House earlier this week released the transcript of the conversation between President Trump and Zelensky. And a source tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among those who encouraged the White House to put that transcript out there as scrutiny about the President's conversation with the Ukrainian leader was building this week.

But House Democrats, they are still seeking even more documents about the call and about the President's decision to suspend aid to Ukraine. They also want to hear from Volker. They're looking to get a deposition from Volker and other State Department officials by October 10th -- Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. And then Sarah -- Giuliani now saying that he

will not testify before Congress without the President's approval. Any word from the White House on whether or not they do plan on letting him talk?

WESTWOOD: That's right -- Fred. Giuliani is saying that he wants to consult with his client, President Trump, before he agreed to testify and that if President Trump said he didn't want Giuliani appearing before lawmakers, his lawyer said he wouldn't do it.

But keep in mind that last week President Trump was asked directly whether Giuliani would be permitted to testify before Congress. President Trump told reporters that he had no problem with it. He said Giuliani is a straight shooter. So President Trump already seemed to indicate that he might be ok if Giuliani did testify and Democrats certainly want to hear from him -- Fred.

[11:05:03] WHITFIELD: And he's a private citizen. He's not a government employee. He's not working in the White House. So questionable about what kind of protections or restrictions the President of the United States can actually impose on him.

Sarah Westwood -- we'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

All right. Meanwhile, three powerful House committees have subpoenaed the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to produce documents related to President Trump's Ukraine's phone call by next week, this as Giuliani insists he took his cue from the State Department.


GIULIANI: 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.


WHITFIELD: All right.

Joining me now to discuss this is Kylie Atwood, a CNN national security reporter; Kevin Liptak, a CNN White House producer; and also with me David Swerdlick, assistant editor at the "Washington Post" and a CNN political commentator. Good to see all of you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So Kylie -- you first.

Secretary Pompeo has already missed two deadlines now. His third and final chance to turn over documents is this Friday. So any indication that he plans to cooperate or might he be stonewalling?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, the State Department hasn't even responded to our questions about this subpoena. If they will be complying, if they won't. And that's not really all that surprising because they haven't replied to any questions, any requests for these documents over the last few weeks from this committee on the Hill.

But it is important to note that they have -- this administration has ignored subpoenas in the past. But here it's a little bit more impactful if they do because it would then amount to evidence of obstruction of justice -- I'm sorry. It would amount to evidence -- it would go toward the House impeachment inquiry, right? And so that would be evidence that they are trying to not work with Congress, this administration, and it could make things even worse for them.

So we're still waiting to hear from the State Department here.

WHITFIELD: And so David -- in the middle of all this is the President's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.


WHITFIELD: He's a central figure in the whistleblower complaint. He's named, you know, throughout and says that his outreach -- Giuliani now says his outreach to Ukraine was actually on behalf of the State Department, tweeting out, in fact, text messages that he claimed are from the Ukrainian envoy who has since, you know, resigned.


WHITFIELD: So, David -- what are the implications to the President's personal attorney essentially blaming the President's administration as the directive, as being really the source of the direction?

SWERDLICK: Good morning, Fred. So yes, Mayor Giuliani has a plausible explanation but it's still not one that helps his case. He's saying, look, I was asked by Ambassador Volker to participate in this meeting with the Ukrainian official.

The problem is, is that even if he was asked by someone in an official capacity, he himself has no official capacity. Mayor Giuliani is not part of the government. He is President Trump's personal lawyer, some would say for many months his personal bag man. And he knew whether he was asked or whether he initiated it that he was doing this outside the confines of the formal federal government diplomatic process.

WHITFIELD: And then Kevin, you know -- it gets even deeper. I mean there's a trickling of something every day. The "Washington Post" now reporting that in 2017, President Trump told two Russian officials that he was not at all concerned about Russia's interference in the 2016 election because the U.S., you know, quote, "did the same in other countries".

The President seemed to, you know, tapped out on Russia's involvement last year when he stood right beside Putin after their summit in Helsinki. Just to refresh everyone's memories -- take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me. Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


WHITFIELD: So now Kevin -- there must be mounting pressure for the release of any transcripts of conversations that we now understand were also in a kind of secret database, conversations between the President and Vladimir Putin and that of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

How will those transcripts -- would they be produced?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN PRODUCER: Well, in the case of Putin, it certainly raises the stakes for Democrats who have long tried to get ahold of the President's conversations with its Russian counterpart.


LIPTAK: At this point it doesn't seem like the extreme transparency that the White House produced the Ukraine transcript will apply to the Russian transcripts. And part of the reason I think is that there is a question of whether some of these transcripts even exist.

Now, you'll remember the President has met one on one with Putin many times. He met with him one on one in Helsinki. That was before that clip you just played.


WHITFIELD: And there was a time where -- right, reportedly he asked the person who was taking notes -- I think it was the interpreter --


WHITFIELD: -- to dispose of any notes.

LIPTAK: Well, that was after his first encounter with Putin . That was at the G-20 summit in Hamburg in 2017. The President supposedly asked for those notes back from the interpreter presumably so that they wouldn't leak and be distributed.

So as we look into what Democrats will want from the White House in terms of his conversations with Putin, there is a question of what records actually exist of those conversations, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: And so David -- you know, the Democrats are moving fast on this whole impeachment probe. You know, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke last night on why she believes impeachment moving in the direction of investigation, at least -- at the very least is moving in the right direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: So this is not a cause for any joy that we have to go down this path. It's a difficult decision to make. But we have that obligation.


WHITFIELD: So then, David -- is it possible that this impeachment inquiry would not be divisive?

SWERDLICK: I think any way you slice it, it's going to be divisive. This is something that's set in the constitution by the founders but is necessarily a political process.

You don't want to go forward with impeachment just on a party line basis, but I think Democrats at this point have figured out that they're probably going to have to go forward at least on a party line basis because there are no Republicans currently saying that they're in favor -- there is one Republican, I think, in the House saying he's in favor of an investigation but not in favor of impeachment necessarily.

The speaker has some measure of credibility here because she was putting the brakes on impeachment at a previous stage with regards to the Mueller. So now at least, she doesn't look like someone who's rushing to it, but I do so think it's going to be hotly contested.

WHITFIELD: And at least in the House as of now -- 12, 12 Democrats who are either undecided or simply haven't responded to whether they are leaning toward the impeachment inquiry process.

All right. Thank you so money to all of you. David, Kevin, Kylie -- appreciate it.

SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Impeachment hearings are set to begin next week, but do Democrats have a plan in case the White House stonewalls? I'll talk with Democratic tactics, with member -- or I'll talk rather about the Democratic tactics with a member taking a lead on the impeachment inquiry. Congressman Ted Lieu joining me next.

And did the NRA work as a foreign asset to Russian leading up to the 2016 election? New damning report revealed coming up.



WHITFIELD: As House Democrats quickly move to investigate allegations at the center of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, House Intel Committee chair Adam Schiff tells CNN his committee expects a hearing as soon as next week, this as the rest of Congress is on break.

In addition, sources say the panel will hold another closed door briefing with intel community inspector general Michael Atkinson next Friday.

I'm joined now by a member of the House Judiciary Committee, California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu. Good to see you -- congressman. So impeachment -- can you hear me ok?

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: Ok, goody. All right.

So impeachment, you know, has been discussed, you know, on and off over the past couple of years. And, you know, this week was very significant because you've got the House Speaker who said there have been violations of law and violations of the constitution on the heels of that whistleblower complaint.

Why in your view was this the breaking point?

LIEU: Ok. Thank you, Fredericka -- for your question.

Let me make clear that impeachment is one of the gravest powers of Congress, second only to our power to declare war. It should never be our first option and must always be our last option. Were going to follow the facts where it may lead us.

And the facts that have come out are very damning for the President. It shows that Donald Trump solicited a foreign leader to investigate and American citizen for political purposes and he did that one week after he cut off critical military to aid to this foreign government.

I'm a former prosecutor. This looks to me like a shakedown of the Ukrainian leader to help benefit Trump's political campaign.

WHITFIELD: For you was it the moment of the President Trump saying it was a perfect call and, you know, I'm willing to release the transcript? I mean it essentially was an admission that that kind of conversation took place. However, once the transcript was released it was the President who said, you know, there's no quid pro quo here, it's just a conversation.

LIEU: It was absolutely not a perfect call. We know that because the White House tried to lock down this transcript and cover it up. They didn't want very many people to see it. And if you read the transcript, it's actually a rough transcript, we don't know what the actual complete conversation was. We only had the summarized notes.

WHITFIELD: And quickly --

LIEU: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- now that it's the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly, we are learning who at the urging of McConnell that the portion of these transcripts were released. What's your view? What's your reaction to the involvement of Mitch McConnell reportedly here?

LIEU: So the reason that this impeachment inquiry is different, is this is not a partisan issue. It's an American issue. No American president should ever be soliciting a foreign power to target an American citizen for political purposes. And when you look at this rough transcript, literally right after the Ukrainian leader raises the issue of U.S. military aid, Donald Trump asked for two favors, one of which is to go after Joe Biden.

WHITFIELD: You serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee, you know, one of three committees to subpoena the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. What do you want to know from him?


LIEU: We need to know the involvement of not just Secretary Pompeo but what he knew about what Donald Trump knew about this entire campaign. When you look at the whistleblower complaint, when you look at all the context -- this was not a random conversation Donald Trump had. This was a months' long campaign to get the Ukrainian government to go investigate Joe Biden.

And so we want to know who else knew about this? How much pressure was put on Ukrainian leader? And why was it military aid cut off? There was no explanation given to Congress.

WHITFIELD: The personal attorney of the President, Rudy Giuliani, says he actually received directives from the State Department. When and if Pompeo is to testify, how much do you believe he will elaborate on what kind of guidance, instruction, directives he may have given the personal attorney of the President?

LIEU: Right. For the sake of our country, I hope there's an innocent explanation for all of this in which case, the Trump administration will have all the truth come out and not obstruct anything.

However, if they obstruct, if they prevent Pompeo from producing documents, they prevent witnesses from testifying then the American people will certainly know that the Trump administration is trying to hide information from Congress and from American people. and that means there are very nefarious reasons for why Donald Trump did what he did.

WHITFIELD: And then quickly, the whistleblower through the attorneys representing the whistleblower has expressed a willingness to testify given certain protections on the person's identity. Do you see that testimony from this whistleblower is going to happen and if so when?

LIEU: I hope that Congress hears from this whistleblower, that that person shows tremendous courage. Congress passed a whistleblower protection statute to allow people who are patriotic, who want to put country first, to reveal information in an appropriate manner that shows that high level officials including the President may be betraying our nation. I encourage any other patriotic officials to also do the same thing.

WHITFIELD: And then now this "New York Times" reporting, President Trump meeting with the NRA chief executive Wayne Lapierre at the White House Friday, yesterday, to reportedly discuss how the NRA could support Trump during any potential impeachment process and his re- election.

Upon learning that, you tweeted this. "Earlier allegation that that POTUS and NRA discussed gun legislation and money for his defense shows Trump will use official action to benefit himself."

So what can you do with this kind of information? What are you implying is a trend from this president?

LIEU: Right. So the focus right now is singularly going to be on this Ukrainian scandal because it shows the President betraying our national interest and using official action to do that.

What this NRA episode shows is a similar pattern of behavior where you've got Donald Trump taking action on official bills such as guns and either not signing them or saying he's not going to support them. In the same conversation he's having about having support from the NRA for his impeachment defense.

You can't do that. You can't mix these two things together in the same conversation. Depending on what exactly was said and how it was said, it could either be massively inappropriate or it could just be a straight-up bribe, which would be a felony.

WHITFIELD: And then according to the NPR, a new Senate report reveals that the NRA acted as a foreign asset, according to the report, for Russia over a period leading up to the 2016 election. And that included, you know, underwritten political access for Russian nationals including Russian agent Maria Butina.

The report also described how the gun rights group was closely involved with organizing a 2015 visit by some of its leaders to Moscow. So what's your reaction to this?

LIEU: It appears that the NRA knew that they may have been dealing with agents of a foreign power in the States specifically Russia. We know that the NRA spent massive amounts of money in 2016 helping to elect Donald Trump.

We're also looking to see if any Russian persons or the Russian government may have given money to the NRA. There's a lot of folks looking at this issue and we'll see what the evidence that comes out shows.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Ted Lieu -- always good to see you. Thank you so much.

LIEU: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr under scrutiny. House Speaker Pelosi says he has gone rogue. Is the Attorney General providing cover for the President? The legal implications next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. Justice Department are caught up in the middle of a political storm over the handling of the whistleblower's allegations against President Trump. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is questioning whether Barr is fit for the job.


PELOSI: I do think the Attorney General has gone rogue, he has for a long time now. And since he was mentioned in all of this, it's curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint would be handled.


WHITFIELD: Michael Zeldin is with me now from Washington. He's a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Considering Barr was part of this whistleblower complaint, should Barr have recused himself immediately from the Department of Justice investigation. And if so, you know, is it too late in which to do so?

ZELDIN: So Barr was named in the whistleblower complaint. Barr said thereafter this is news to him. So it's not clear to me that he was really involved in the matter in the same way, say, Giuliani was involved in the matter.


ZELDIN: So I'm not sure that that rises to the level of a ground to recuse himself. And after all, when it was referred to the Justice Department, it was referred to the Office of Legal Counsel who, of course, works under Barr, but I think they made an independent determination as to whether or not there was a campaign finance violation.

So Barr may not be my favorite person, although I liked him when I worked for him, I don't think this rises to the basis for him to recuse himself or that he's gone rogue.

WHITFIELD: So does he have any, you know, potential legal culpability here?

ZELDIN: I don't see it -- Fred. I don't see what legal culpability he has. Giuliani maybe a little bit more but it seems to me that Barr since he's taken office has been fairly consistent in his view that the executive office of the President has broad powers, much broader than the legislative branch and his decisioning all along has been consistent with that belief that he's long held.

WHITFIELD: So as you heard, you know, a moment ago House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr gone rogue. You know, his critics have been saying almost from the outset that he has acted more as the President's, you know, personal attorney. You even said it yourself. You were once a fan but not anymore, you know.

So at this point, you know, in his career why would Barr choose to be this kind of U.S. Attorney General? I mean he's been in this spot before, but he's handling it differently.

ZELDIN: Well, I think that he's handling it consistent with his belief in the powers of the executive branch. The one thing that I took most issue with and I wrote for a piece on it that his summary of the Mueller report, his final conclusions letter, I thought was a misrepresentation of what was in the Mueller report. And I think that was the most egregious thing he's done since that.

But Otherwise I think he's just acting consistent with his beliefs. And many of us don't like those beliefs but those are his beliefs.

WHITFIELD: President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani says, you know, he won't testify before Congress without first consulting his client, the President of the United States. Can he assert executive privilege here or can the President exert it on his behalf?

ZELDIN: The President, his private counsel, so the President can a assert attorney/client privilege. The privilege lies with the client, that's the President. And the President can say these are privileged communications that I don't authorize you to testify to.

And I think that he prevails in that respect as long as there is a proper attorney/client relationship between the President and Giuliani, something I do not know whether it really exists and that the nature of the communications between them falls within the attorney/client privilege concept.


ZELDIN: Again, something we don't know because Giuliani is acting as a lawyer, as a politician, as a businessman. So it's going to have to be parsed what is attorney/client privilege --


ZELDIN: -- protectable and what isn't.

WHITFIELD: And that was my follow-up question. Because you know, Giuliani has said he received directives from the U.S. State Department and I wondered if that then would further complicate that whole attorney/client privilege because now he's also saying he's essentially acting as an emissary, almost like an envoy.

ZELDIN: That's right. And if he has somehow breached the attorney/client privilege or his client has allowed him to breach the attorney/client privilege -- once it's breached its breached and it can't unbreached, if you will.

So all of this attorney/client privilege stuff is something that will be almost taken up on a topic-by-topic basis to know whether it's legitimately asserted, if it's asserted.

WHITFIELD: All right. Michael Zeldin -- always good to see you. Thank you so much.

ZELDIN: Thank -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. It wasn't just Ukraine. We've learned that the White House limited access to the President's phone calls with Russia and Saudi Arabia as well. Details on that next.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

CNN has learned of more Trump phone calls the White House is trying to keep secret. Sources tell us the President's conversation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman were subject to tighter than normal restrictions.

CNN's Pamela Brown reports some transcripts weren't even circulated to officials who would usually see them.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned the White House efforts to limit access to President Trump's conversations with foreign leaders extended to phone calls to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. This is according to several people familiar with the matter.

Now, those calls, both those leaders who maintain controversial relationships with Trump were among the presidential conversations that aides took remarkable steps to keep from becoming public.

In the case of Trump's call with Prince Mohammed, officials who ordinarily would have been given access to a rough transcript of the conversation never saw one, according to one of the sources. Instead a transcript was never circulated at all a source says was highly unusual particularly after a high profile conversation.

The call which the person said contained no especially sensitive national security secrets came as the White House was confronting the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi which U.S. intelligence assessment said came at the hands of the Saudi government.

Now, it's certain access to the transcript of at least one of Trump's conversations was also tightly restricted according to a former Trump administration official. It's not clear if aides took the additional step of placing the Saudi Arabia and Russia phone calls in that same highly secured covert operated system that held that now infamous phone call with Ukraine's president and which helped spark the whistleblower complaint made public this week. Though officials did confirm calls aside from the Ukraine conversation were placed there and those calls didn't also reach the threshold similar to the Ukraine conversation.


BROWN: But these attempts to conceal information about Trump's discussions with Prince Mohammed and Putin further illustrates the extraordinary efforts taken by Trump's aides to strictly limit the number of people with access to his conversations with foreign leaders.

I'm told this practice really went into place more than a year ago after there were conversations leaked between the leaders, President Trump and Mexico as well as Australia.

We should note the White House did not comment about the limiting of access to calls with the Russian and Saudi leaders.

Pamela Brown, CNN -- Washington.


WHITFIELD: And the question now, did the President put U.S. national security at risk. We discuss next.


WHITFIELD: New developments in our reporting on how far the White House has gone to keep the President's phone conversations with Russia's Putin and Saudi officials secret. A former White House official and a source familiar with the calls tell CNN that no transcripts were made of Trump's conversations with the Saudi king and the Crown Prince. The source says this was done to prevent leaks and is very unusual.

Also the source says the only people in the room were Secretary of State Pompeo and then national security adviser John Bolton.


WHITFIELD: Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak are back with me now. So Kylie -- or Kevin -- let me begin with you.

You know, moments ago Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement on Trump and the Russian election interference conversation saying this.

If true, the reports that President Trump may have told close associates of Putin that he didn't mind Russian interference in the U.S. elections are extremely harmful to both of national security and the integrity of our elections. It's one of the most disturbing things we have learned yet.

So, Kevin -- what may come of this now, and might it be that adding to the list of subpoenas, even though it's a little different than the whistle report -- whistleblower complaint -- might John Bolton see himself subpoenaed? LIPTAK: Well, it's certainly possible. And he was, you know, present

for a lot of this. He only left the White House a few weeks ago. So he was in his role as national security adviser when all of this was happening.

I think what's interesting about the Putin call and as we reported earlier the calls with the Saudi royal family is these are leaders who have carried out very controversial relationships with the President. They're both autocrats the President has been accused of cozying up to them at various points.

But they're not, by any means, the only autocrats that the President deals with. There are all kinds of people out in the world that he speaks with.

And one of the reasons that people are so concerned about the practice of storing away the transcripts of these calls in this highly classified server is that many of the calls don't themselves contain the kind of military or covert intelligence secrets that would require that kind storage.

WHITFIELD: Right. But then if they were --

LIPTAK: And so there's questions of --

WHITFIELD: -- you know, if they were nebulous -- you know, perfect calls as the President, you know, declared was his call with the Ukrainian president. If they were so perfect, why would they need to be squirreled away in a secret database for very few eyes to ever see it?

LIPTAK: Yes. I mean and that's the big question. And what officials have told us is that the President and his senior advisers were worried that some of the sensitive things that he was saying, things that didn't necessarily seem all that presidential would get leaked out and become embarrassing for him.

And that's what we saw happen after calls of the leaders of Australia and Mexico very early on in the administration the President carrying on these conversations that just didn't seem very presidential. And the President was worried about that happening again and so it's not necessarily classified secrets that are being stored away in that server. It's what the President is saying that people don't want leaked out.

WHITFIELD: So Kylie -- isn't it the case that usually there are several senior officials that are listening to calls between a president and world leaders. And in this case and -- or at least reportedly in these cases now it's just Bolton, former NSA and Secretary of State Pompeo who would either be present or listening in on the call?

ATWOOD: Yes. Traditionally there are folks at the White House who are listening in on the call, taking very detailed notes to come up with what is then a rough but almost near exact transcript of the call and then that is shared with the folks who need to know what happened on the call.

That's important for the policy-making decisions and the way that the policy heads because if the President has conversations that impact what folks are doing at the State Department or the Pentagon, they need to know about it.

So generally speaking it is circulated. What is important here as Kevin was noting, that it's not just as if the lockdown is happening because covert classified information was being discussed.

What it appears to be at least in the case of the Ukrainian call is that it was a politically sensitive phone call for the President. He was pressuring President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. So there is some political ramifications there, not national security ramifications there.

But I also think it's important to note as you've noted, I mean national security adviser John Bolton left the White House just weeks ago. And so he has not been talking to the press very much but there are a lot of questions that he needs to answer now.

WHITFIELD: Well Kylie -- even though you say, you know, political not necessarily national security ramifications, however, in that complaint, you know, the whistleblower, the author of that complaint says you know, I was also concerned that these actions posed risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. government's efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.

So at least according to that whistleblower, national security was definitely at the root of concern expressed by so many.


WHITFIELD: All right.

Kylie Atwood, Kevin Liptak -- thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

2020 frontrunner, Senator Elizabeth Warren is in South Carolina today as several polls show her neck and neck with former vice president Joe Biden. But as the Massachusetts senator looks to build on that momentum, there are questions around impeachment.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope we go forward with care and deliberation, but that we do it quickly. I think it is important. The American people are counting on us, Congress, to do our constitutional duty.


WHITFIELD: CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is following Warren on the trail in South Carolina where the Senator will be holding a town hall later on this afternoon. And so Nia -- what do we expect her focus will be?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, her focus will be on connecting with voters in South Carolina -- a crucial, crucial state down here, obviously looming is this issue of impeachment. Elizabeth Warren, you described her as a front runner, she very much is.

She has been a frontrunner in terms of impeachment. She was out early calling for impeachment. She talked to our very own M.J. Lee about this in New Hampshire yesterday and here's what she had to say.


WARREN: But as we now know if Congress does not hold this man accountable that he will break the law again and again and again. It is time for impeachment now.



HENDERSON: And that was in New Hampshire. We'll see what she says today. I talked to some voters here, you can see them gathering behind me and they very much agreed with Senator Warren that now is the time to impeach President Trump to send the message that the kind of behavior exhibited in that phone call with the Ukrainian leader is unacceptable.

Other voters however feel like it's too little too late. That this is something that should be settled at the ballot box in November. And one voter described it as soggy cereal impeachment talk saying it's time to just move on.

We'll see what Elizbeth Warren has to say today in terms of these issues. Some folks want the Democrats to focus on issues rather than impeachment. But this is a candidate who has a surge. She has the momentum in South Carolina. So we'll see what she says today.

In a couple hours she will begin here. The crowd already gathering. Some have driven from far away to see her and they're lining up now.

WHITFIELD: And so as they line up, Nia -- are any of these, you know, supporters saying, you know, it is because she does have a great focus on issues? As to why they see particularly according to so many, you know, polls that she and Biden are, you know, in this now neck and neck race?

HENDERSON: I think that is right, she is the candidate with a plan. One of the voters I talked said that very thing. They feel like she understands issues, she understands people. And she's got plans for anything from health care to education to childcare. So that is one of the reasons I think she is doing so well. And that's why you see voters lining up already. There will probably be a pretty big crowd here. We're at an HBCU in an African-American community. We'll see if she is able to draw African-Americans. They're so crucial in this state going forward.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nia-Malika Henderson. Thank you so much in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

HENDERSON: Thanks -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. And we will be right back.