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House Democrats Hope For Impeachment Vote by Thanksgiving; CNN: White House Restricted Access to Trump's Calls With Putin And Saudi Crown Prince; Sources: U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Who Resigned Friday to Appear Before House Foreign Affairs Committee Next Week; Schiff: Intel Committee Preparing for Hearings as Soon as Next Week; Moderate House Democrats Become Unlikely Leaders on Impeachment. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 28, 2019 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: Welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world. This is CNN Special Coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. There are major developments on several fronts in the Ukraine scandal this Saturday evening but most importantly we are also on the verge of an historic turning point.

If many House Democrats have their way, Donald Trump will become only the third U.S. President to be impeached. They're pushing for a full House vote by Thanksgiving just two months from now.

A majority of House members now back the impeachment inquiry formally launched this week by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. If the House does vote to impeach, that would put this President in the category shared only by Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

Richard Nixon resigned just before the full House could vote on impeachment back in 1974. Just 15 days ago the nation learned of the existence of a whistleblower's complained. That nine page memo released to the world only on Thursday now has the potential to threaten this presidency in a way that the 448 page Mueller report did not.

We're learning this weekend, who urged the White House to let the public see the transcript of that phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine. And a source now telling CNN that urging came from the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

Why would he do that when the political impact is potentially so damaging? Also White House officials tried to keep details of the President's calls with other world leaders under wraps. Calls with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and Russia's Vladimir Putin and at least one member the Trump administration has quit his job over the whistleblower report, the Special US Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker resigned on Friday, the day after the complaint was released.

All those details coming up but first, let's go to the White House. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is on the scene for us. Jeremy, I just mentioned Volker who is now out of a job. There are also reports that they have someone else very close to the President also maybe perhaps with an uncertain future.

What are you learning who's that?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf. Tonight multiple sources are telling us that the Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is on shaky ground with the President. The President is apparently directing much of his ire over the fallout of this whistleblower complaint at his Chief of Staff and other White House aides are also pointing the finger at Mick Mulvaney.

Now it's not because of the decision to release that transcript of that phone call between the U. S. President and the President of Ukraine. Rather it's because of the lack of a strategy these sources are telling us to deal with the fallout of that whistle blower complaint and to handle the quick speed at which we have watched House Democrats move toward impeachment.

Now tonight at the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham is pushing back on this report. She says this story is manufactured, palace entry and she is denying the need for any kind of a quick response from this White House to this impeachment inquiry.

But what we do know is that the President is very much taking this messaging operation into his own hands. We have already seen him in recent days go after this whistleblower and go after Democrats who are moving very quickly to it carry out this impeachment inquiry, Wolf.

The President tonight continuing to call this issue a witch hunts and again, going after that whistleblower whose identity, he still says, he doesn't know. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Jeremy, thank you. Jeremy Diamond over at the White House. Joining us now Democratic Presidential candidate, Former HUD Secretary, Julian Castro. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being with us.


BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the all the developments that are unfolding very rapidly right now as you just heard the now former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine. Kurt Volker who resigned just yesterday will now appear before various congressional committees as early as this coming Thursday.

What does it tell you that he decided to resign?

CASTRO: Look, what it tells me is that this - this story has a lot of legs. What happened here has a lot of people involved, many different witnesses, a lot of people who have pieces of this story to tell.

I'm glad that he's going to be testifying before congressional committees. I'm glad that there's already been subpoena sent to different parts of the federal government including I believe, to Mike Pompeo. That's going to continue Wolf. I mean it is amazing what is emerging

in terms of the scope of what happened between Donald Trump and the Ukraine and the way that he's been trying to get a country like Ukraine to do his political dirty work and the involvement of Rudy Giuliani, somebody that apparently does not have a security clearance that ought to be required to do that kind of work.


This rogue operation as the New York Times has set up a shadow government, shadow dealings with Ukraine. There's a lot here.

BLITZER: Well, what questions, do you believe this now former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker needs to answer when he appears before Congress later this week? This coming week?

CASTRO: Well, he needs to answer what he knows about what's already out there. What's in the whistleblower's complained. Any information that he has about the dealings between Trump and President Zelensky and Rudy Giuliani's role in this.

Any information that he has about other witnesses to what looks like a cover up. I also Wolf, and this is important for us to not lose sight of. We need to get a hold of that server. I want that server in the hands of Congress. The fact that the White House has been secreting away these call summaries and or transfer it on their own server that is different in terms of its classification from other servers and is a break of practice.

And national security officials have said is basically an abusive practice. I want Congress to get a hold of that server and see what's out there because it wouldn't surprise me that this is a President--

BLITZER: Yes, I just want say, I want to let our viewers know, you're talking about that very, very top secret server that was used to put the rough transcript, if you will of that conversation between the President and Ukrainian leader in that server. What is your concern that there are - that they may have distorted what's in the rough transcript? Is that what I'm hearing?

CASTRO: That's right. They were - they were trying to secret away for a reason. I want to know are there transcripts or calls out there where Donald Trump was doing the same thing with other foreign governments, trying to get them to do political dirty work and or trying to prop up his own business interests.

If he owns properties, hotels, other properties, golf courses in these foreign countries and is he having a conversation with these foreign leaders where he's trying to get a business advantage using his office which would clearly be an abuse of power.

I don't think that that's out of the realm of possibility at all. I think that's perfectly in keeping with the way the Donald Trump operates and so Congress needs to get a hold of that server immediately. BLITZER: The Washington Post is reporting that back in 2017, President

Trump told a very senior Russian officials, the foreign minister, the Russian ambassador to United States that he was unconcerned about Russia's election interference in 2016. Robert Mueller the Special Counsel, he obviously never learned of that detail.

Does that show possible obstruction by the White House in refusing to make that information available? Clearly they didn't want the President to answer oral questions from Mueller.

CASTRO: It absolutely does because people knew about that including perhaps the President. So it also shows Wolf, just in terms of the journalism here that the people who are talking now for this story are at a much higher level than before and that's critical because what it means is that for the first time, we're getting some real insight - valuable insight into what really is happening in the Trump administration.

That they've disregarded these laws, there's an abuse of power by the President. Finally some people are willing to come forward, the whistleblower and it looks like others who are telling their facts to the press. I hope that this will lead to a robust impeachment inquiry and ultimately, I believe that it's going to lead to impeachment.

And if the Senate does its job, it would lead to removal as well.

W: Well, that's a bit much more difficult to challenge. You need two- thirds in the Senate to remove. You need a simple majority in the House of Representatives to impeach. As you know the transcript of the July phone call, the rough transcript I should say between the President -Ukrainian leader showed that the President was clearly intent on Ukraine investigating the Bidens.

There's no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden or Hunter Biden but we've seen you take - we've seen you personally take on Joe Biden and one of your rivals in the 2020 contest. Will Biden, you believe suffer as a result of all of this?

CASTRO: I hope that this is not a reason that people look differently on Joe Biden. Look, I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden. I also have disagreed with Joe Biden on the debate stage, on immigration, most recently on healthcare, other issues.

But I don't believe for a second that Joe Biden or his family are anything except honorable and honest. I believe that they are and what's happening here is that Donald Trump is trying to use the same play book against Joe Biden that he used against Hillary Clinton in 2016 to take somebody who has given a lifetime of honorable service and to muddy their reputation with false accusations.


To get some voters out there just enough to not vote for them so that Trump can win a narrow electoral victory in 2020, the way that he did in 2016. The American people should not fall for that. There are a lot of different reasons that people should support me or another candidate or Joe Biden.

But I don't think that this should be the reason that people do or don't support Joe Biden.

BLITZER: As you know there's been a great fear at least among many of your Democratic colleagues that pursuing an impeachment inquiry, heading into the 2020 contest could actually backfire on Election Day, could this effort actually help President Trump when all is said and done?

CASTRO: I don't think so because people can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears the evidence that has already come forward, that's going to come forward and as you saw Wolf, support for moving forward with impeachment is already rising among both Democrats and Republicans.

Because people are going to believe the evidence in front of them instead of the lies that Donald Trump is telling and you know this is a little bit like the boy who cried Wolf. Trump has cried fake news and lies over and over and over and meanwhile he's the one that's been telling over 12000 lies since he took office.

So why would people believe him anymore when they have in black and white that summary of the transcript and they're going to have other evidence in front of them. I don't care whether you're Republican or Democrat, look, this is a guy that's abused power.

If you're Republican, go get another Republican candidate for President that's actually going to be honest and have some integrity. You don't need this guy.

BLITZER: Julian Castro, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

CASTRO: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: So what are the legal implications for the President and his inner circle as they face the spotlight of this impeachment inquiry. We're going to discuss that and a lot more as our special coverage continues right after this.




BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. New details have emerged about the extraordinary steps the Trump administration took to restrict access to various calls with world leaders. Joining us now to discuss, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, our legal analyst, Laura Coates and CNN politics reporter and Editor at large Chris Cillizza.

Dana, let's first of all talk about Mick Mulvaney. You've been doing some reporting on this. There's apparently some concerns. Some officials at the White House think maybe he didn't act appropriately in dealing with the fallout from all of this?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is reporting that Pamela, Brad and I are getting about Mick Mulvaney and just to be clear, we're not hearing that the President is mad at him because they release the transcripts or the complaint because the President, we are told and I've been told all week was convinced based on the calls he was getting.

We now know Mitch McConnell was one of those call think you need to do this. It was being prepared with the plan, with a strategy to deal with it, to go on the attack beyond what the President did on Twitter and elsewhere but not just message wise but actually figure out how to rebut or to manage the fallout.

So what we're told is that he's on shaky ground and that has - that came to fruition yesterday There was a meeting to talk about strategy and apparently, it didn't go so well. There are people in the White House who say that they do have ideas. It's getting blocked by Mulvaney.

We're not hearing that he's on the out anytime soon, that he's actually going to get fired up for lots of reasons. The most important is that there's enough time up right now. Having said that, that never stopped President Trump to really get to agree.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, I mean just quickly on Dana and Pam's great reporting, Donald Trump turns on everyone at some point. I mean, this has been true throughout his life. You know Mick Mulvaney was the golden child for a while and you just know that there's a - there's a time line.

It's like when you take little kids out to dinner. You know you've got 20 minutes before they start walking around. Well, that's kind of like Donald Trump. He gets stick people, we've all been there. We've all been there.

BASH: That was my evening.

CILLIZZA: He - and the other thing is he scapegoats people. The truth is here that yes, Donald Trump was under a lot of pressure as Dana noted, to release this Ukraine transcript but my gosh, in retrospect, I think that's what makes this fundamentally different than say the Mueller reports.

So I mean, the Mueller report obviously extended over years, number one. So it's hard to pin down. But so much of it was somewhat subjective. Well, Jim Comey says that Donald Trump asked him to see his way past continuing to prosecute Michael Flynn.

Well, Donald Trump said that never happened and we don't have a tape or even a rough transcript of that. In this situation, we do so it would be hard for the White House to dispute that the transcript they released, rough transcript, memo, call what you want it. A rough verbatim of that conversation is not actually true.

There's no dispute over this conversation. I guess you could argue, you know, well, does it mean what you think it means but - there's primary source documentation here, makes it different and I think makes it more dangerous.

BLITZER: The concern is that Mick Mulvaney, the Acting White House Chief of Staff didn't have a game plan in dealing with the fallout.

BASH: Right and I just want to add that John Czwartacki, Senior Adviser to Mulvaney said that literally has no basis in reality.

BLITZER: What has no basis in--

BASH: The notion that he's on shaky ground.

BLITZER: All right.

BASH: Just want to say that.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the timeline here Laura, they wanted - the House Democrats want to move quickly. They want to have a full vote on articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving. That's less than two months from now but as you know the White House is going to stone wall in terms of dealing with subpoenas, getting documents.


Can they do it, can they have a full vote by then?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think they will try to do so and the President will try to stonewall but here's the difference before. They've now hopefully learned the lesson that the stonewalling is a delay tactic, they can actually inert their detriment frankly.

If Congress is prepared to go forward in that fast track system, they have to bring the American people along with them as well with an eye towards going to the Senate but if they're going to be prepare to say look, right now it's the straw that broke the camel's back.

This isn't abuse of power. It wasn't about the idea of the semantics, about trying to do the paper trail. Who is more credible? James Comey or somebody else? Who should be believed? If it comes down to, you already have hardly had the fast track of the President giving you what the Mueller report could not, which way as an oral admission of what he did.

Remember before we're talking about whether the President did something. Now the question is whether what he admitted to doing is impeachable. Now that makes it much more expedited and so I think it's more reasonable, they can get that. Having said so, we can't conflate the articles with removal.

BLITZER: I'm fascinated Dana, by Kurt Volker, now former special envoy to Ukraine who resigned yesterday day after the whistleblower complaint was released. He's going to testifying before various House committees as early as this coming Thursday and there's already a lot of speculation knowing what he knows about the connections with Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani and the President. Some are even suggesting he could be the John Dean in this.

BASH: He could, he could. I was communicating with somebody who knows him. He is the head of the McCain institute. He is likeminded with John McCain on the region particularly Ukraine, making sure that they have what they want, trying to help them navigate the politics of the region, the politics of Russia helping - getting the U.S. to help more.

And so he comes at it from that perspective. Having said that, he did - if you believe the text that Rudy Giuliani screenshoted and send to me and probably every other reporter in this town. He did help Giuliani make a connection, have a meeting with Ukrainian leaders.

What was he doing that for? Why did he do that? Did he have - did he do a kicking and screaming? I mean, there are so many questions and you're exactly right. He is going to be fascinating to watch because he is somebody who has a lot of experience in this town and has a reputation to uphold separate from Donald Trump.

CILLIZZA: I mean, even to Laura and Dana's point, even in this we're going to have Volker in front of that House foreign affairs committee next week. I mean that the Mueller probe, I mean, that was stonewall, stonewall, stonewall. That's so different in of a piece, the other thing to think about when it comes to the time line and Laura mentioned this.

Impeachment remains - we will see there will be more polls but impeachment prior to the Ukraine revelations was still 55 to 60 percent of public opposed it, even when in those same polls 38- 39- 40 percent of people approved of Donald Trump.

That number will go up but the question is do you do it if it gets push back into an election year, does it become perilous? We don't know yet. We're going to have to see polling post this Ukraine story because obviously I think that is changed at least how some people perceive it and I think that's the balancing act Nancy Pelosi is going to have to do.

You don't want it to look like you're rushing it because you've just wanted to score partisan points. At the same time if it keeps bleeding into closer to an election year and you have less and less people behind you. Then it is politically problematic.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by because there's a lot more we need to report on. There are increasingly new developments unfolding as we speak. They call themselves among other things, this is a very important story that we're following, the Badasses, a group of moderate freshman Congresswomen.

They changed the course of the impeachment inquiry. Dana Bash as an exclusive report, we want you to see it, one of these women saying now stay with us.



BLITZER: There's power in numbers so when a group of moderate House freshmen decided as a group to announce they were moving from a hard no one on an impeachment inquiry to a hard yes, it's no surprise they changed the dynamic for House Democrats.

Joining us once again our chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. She sat down with them earlier in the year. That was a hard no. All of a sudden now a very dramatic how hard yes. What changed their mind?

BASH: That's right and we need to run back up to Capitol Hill as soon as this happened because it was - it was so surprising frankly. What changed their mind was that phone call that the President had with the Ukrainian leader and that as you said changed the dynamic in the House and indeed the course of history.


BASH: Even before they were elected - you have adopted the badass label. These freshmen congresswomen created their own group the Badasses.

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): We were out running for Congress you know, across the country and we kept running into each other. Badasses kind of came organically from the group since we all had either served in the military or in the CIA.

REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VI): We have a lot in common. We all were working to flip seats, to be elected in places where voters may not typically for people like us or with our backgrounds.

BASH: Navy veterans, Mikie Sherrill and Elaine Luria, Airforce veteran Chrissy Houlahan, ex-CIA Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger. A band of sisters who bonded while storming the unfamiliar terrain of politics.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Being able to text folks and say you know, I'm really getting hit up on this issue. How have you been handling it?


I'm not sure how to translate my service into something that's relatable. How do you guys do that?

BASH: Translating their service is exactly what they did with their 180 on starting an impeachment inquiry. Going from no to yes after hearing President Trump admit, he spoke to Ukraine's leader about Joe Biden. Others followed suit including the House speaker.

SLOTKIN: The specter of having the sitting President of the United States you know, use leverage over a foreign leader to get dirt on an opponent. Like that very basic idea I think cut for us as national security people just close to the bone on you know, sort of our democratic institutions. BASH: They penned an Op-Ed along with two freshman male veterans.

HOULAHAN: It was a great example of the power of team work and the power of kind of doing - putting country above--

BASH: Was it all for one and one for all?

HOULAHAN: Oh absolutely.

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): I think we all sort of came to that conclusion together. We text each other and I think, we're all going OK, I think this is all changed. This is a bright line.

BASH: Backing an impeachment inquiry is risky political business for these congresswomen, already some of the most vulnerable in the House, Democrats who won in mostly Trump territory.

SPANBERGER: I believe that if I am out there explaining what these allegations are and why they are so deeply concerning, that the people will understand why we had to take a stand.

SLOTKIN: All of us in our prior lives, all the time had to make hard calls for the reasons we thought were right when we knew that not everyone would understand or even know. And that to me is something I feel comfortable doing because I've always had to do it.

BASH: Even so this is a group still trying to find their sea legs in politics.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): You know I'm supervising the operation nuclear reactor. I never turn to the reactor operator and said like are you a Democrat? Are you Republican? It was new to jump into such a partisan environment.

BASH: They represent swing districts, very different from another more famous female freshman group. The squad. OK, so I'm just going to put it out there. The group of freshmen females that people know about is The Squad. Are you guys the Anti-squad?

SHERRILL: What I tell people in my district, the left wing of our party has created such momentum behind things like moving forward on our environment.

SLOTKIN: None of us is ever going to get in a Twitter war with anyone else. If we have a concern with someone we're going to go right up and talk to him about it and we're not going to add unhelpful rhetoric to an already bad tone coming out of Washington.

SPANBERGER: I don't think any of us want to be the loudest voice in the room. I just want to be one of the most effective.

BASH: Their previous service taught them to be fearless which comes in handy now.

LURIA: There's not a vertical chain of command structure so you know I-- BASH: Well, there is but obviously it sounds like you guys aren't following it.

SLOTKIN: But no one can wire us I mean, except the people that elected us.

SHERRIL: None of us came to Congress from a district that wants us to just sit here and be quiet and learn the ropes. They want us to engage and they want change and they want it now.


BLITZER: These are really politically very courageous women right now because they represent districts - swing districts. Right now potentially they're politically vulnerable.

BASH: Absolutely. They are politically vulnerable. I mean Abigail Spanberger who you saw at the end there, she represents a district in Virginia that hasn't been represented by a Democrat in 50 years.

All ready Wolf, they're going to be home for two weeks but they're going to be followed by the Republican Party running ads against them, putting out fires, photos and everything you can possibly imagine to begin to try to you know, chip away at their support because they had to win with people who also voted for Donald Trump because they're almost all Trump districts.

BLITZER: And they're so impressive. They all served either in the military or in the intelligence community.

BASH: As they said, they've made hard choices.

BLITZER: They're pretty courageous just for doing that. Thanks very much. Excellent report.

BASH: Thanks Wolf.

BLITZER: As Democrats press forward with their impeachment inquiry, they're going to have to get through an obstacle, they've hit in the past and that's getting key witnesses to testify. Why will this time be any different? Will it be different? A House Judiciary Committee member joins us live when we come back.




BLITZER: If Articles of impeachment against President Trump are drawn up, the House Judiciary Committee would be the panel to vote on whether to send them to the full House of Representatives.

Tennessee Democratic congressman Steve Cohen is joining us right now. He sits on that committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Good to be with you wolf.

BLITZER: So what are the next steps for you and your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee before that potential historic vote?

COHEN: Well, it's all kind of being played by ear and right now Intel's going to take the primary spot and during the break, they're going to be meeting and trying to get witnesses perform and having some hearings and everything they can do.

And Adam Schiff's a great Chairman and it's a good committee that hears classified material which some of this will be and that's important. When we come back, certainly if there are recommendations for impeachment through that article and or others, it will come to judiciary for final approval before it goes to the floor.

How much control will be allowed or discretion as far as adding maybe obstruction of Congress which is the blatant obstruction of Congress by this administration and will probably continue to be through the Intel hearing, will that be added or not, I don't know but I think it should be.

BLITZER: Well, do you think - do you think, Congressman, there will be a full House vote on articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving?

COHEN: I think it's entirely possible but I think that they will stonewall and obstruct Congress as they have done in the past, this administration. I think it's going to be hard to get these witnesses in and they will do all they can.


They certainly won't want us to see that server which I want to see. Secretary Castro was so accurate and all of his descriptions and discussions earlier in the show. We need to see that server because it could very well contain information about Trump telling Putin things, about the Ukrainian situation or about financial deals.

Or his discussions with MBS concerning things with Khashoggi and who knows what. So the fact that they have a hidden server is so ironic since they were or so Jones Dawn on Hillary Clinton's server and this is in the White House but it's in an unusual capacity because it was supposed to be only used for classified material of the highest, most, utmost classified setting.

And none of this was classified that we saw in the discussion with Ukraine President. He was hello, congratulations and give me some dirt.

BLITZER: Speaking of witnesses Congressman, who are you most interested in seeing testify and why?

COHEN: Well, obviously I'd like the whistleblower to come forward and testify, I think that would be important. Next to that I think Volker, who's highly respected and did not like what he was doing. I've just - I've just heard through some third parties that he might be an outstanding witness. BLITZER: Well, he's going to be testifying this coming Thursday.

COHEN: In Foreign Relations, I believe Foreign Affairs and that he'll be an outstanding witness and you don't know who else could surface. I mean, this could be - this could be - people have said that this is a smoking gun. It could be an arsenal. There could be so much there with people falling off of the ship and saying, finally I've had enough of this.

When our foreign policy is controlled by threats and illegal subversions of our constitution, of our policies to try to get political dirt on opponents. That's illegal and if Trump didn't learn that from the Mueller report, if he didn't learn it.

I mean he went through a whole bunch of servers coming up to this worried about what it's going to show and no collusion but he knew what it was about. It was about whether he conspired and worked with the Russians and it was illegal to take information from the Russians.

He shouldn't have solicited. It looked bad. Then he has George Stephanopoulos basically telling don't do this. He says, I would foreign information again. He doesn't learn. He can't learn. He does something that will lead America into great problems in the future and if these - the five women, I love that program.

They stood up along with two men, Cisneros and Crow to find other freshmen and wrote that Op-Ed, they saw and based on their experience as military and CIA, the danger it presented to our country. Our national security was at risk and they stood up as every Democrat should stand up, every Republican should stand up because it ought to be every American.

And it's going to come time for the Republicans to have a reckoning with their oath of office and their duty and their what they are there for. If it's just securing their own position in a re-election or if it's standing up for the constitution and the protection of our country.

BLITZER: Congressman Cohen, I want to read to you part of a tweet from this morning. This from the President of United States. He used the label, Do nothing Democrats savages - this is what - he said, "can you imagine if these do nothing Democrat savages," people like Nadler Schiff, AOC plus 3 and many more really goes on.

But he refers to these members of Congress as savages. I want your reaction for that.

COHEN: The man knows nothing better than name calling. He name calls everybody that he doesn't like. He's lying about Joe Biden, he's lying about Hunter Biden. He's changed his story several times using derogatory terms, when it's the last resort of an individual who doesn't have the truth on their side.

But the man wouldn't know the truth if it smacked him in the face so calling us savages is despicable and wrong. We are Americans and Congress people and he ought to respect that. And then just he throws the squad in there. The reason he throws the squad in there is because they are minorities. They are brown and black Americans and it's a slide at them.

That's just part of his game plan. Now these 7 other folks that just came out and the 5 women they call themselves the Badasses, they're Caucasians. He'll probably come up with names for them too.

It's unbelievably but do such a thing with Airforce and navy veterans and CIA people who didn't have bone spurs and if they did, they would have still gone to bat for their country because that wouldn't have stopped.

But this man has no limits to how far he'll go and we should expected him to get worse and worse as he sees the noose coming around his neck and his leaving power.

BLITZER: Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks so much for joining us.

COHEN: Good to be with you. Happy New Year.

BLITZER: Happy New Year to you as well. Much more on our special - of our special coverage coming up including the latest on what the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine could mean for the Trump administration.



BLITZER: An impeachment inquiry, multiple subpoenas, the resignation of the man who set up a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and an aide to Ukraine's President. Just some of the very dramatic developments we've seen over the past few days as the shock waves from this whistleblower complaint reverberates through Washington.

Adam Schiff who chairs the House Intelligence committee says hearings may begin as soon as this coming week. Back with us right now our legal analyst Laura Coates. Also with us our CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and Elaina Plott White House correspondent for the Atlantic.

Elaina, so what do we anticipate? What is the White House bracing for this coming week?


BLITZER: The hearings with Kurt Volker, the former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine could happen as early as Thursday.

ELAINA PLOTT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: I talked to a source this morning Wolf, who yesterday was actually feeling fine about coming developments but Volker's resignation could actually put the White House in a vulnerable position.

Which is to say, actually the administration as a whole because Volker is going to shed light on ultimately on how much the state department knew, coordinated or whether they were involved at all in these conversations between Giuliani and Ukrainian leaders.

So was it as the whistleblower alleges which is to say just sort of trying to contain the damage as the whistleblower put it or was there a more active role on Pompeo's part. That's something that could potentially be explosive depending on the answer.

BLITZER: That's going to be very explosive because the issue Abby, right now is whether or not the administration used foreign aid, economic and military aid to Ukraine as leverage to get dirt on the Bidens, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly and that's one of the things that Volker can really shed some light on. The idea that there were different choke points at which this military aid was held up and the White House wasn't communicating even with Republicans on Capitol Hill about the reasons why.

So the question for him would be out what was he told about the reason, why this aid was held up and what did he tell the Ukrainians for example, about what those reasons work. If the whistleblower is correct in the way that he characterizes his role in all of this, he suggests that Volker is trying to help the Ukrainians figure out how to deal with Giuliani's request, how to manage Giuliani and by virtue of that President Trump.

So there might have been some communication about what does the President want and how can the Ukrainians ensure that that he gets it and keeps the President happy. I think these are all some of the big questions that are facing this White House if potentially he decide - Volker decides to testify either publicly or privately.

I still don't think that we know exactly what - what amount of cooperation he's going to do even though he's agreed to appear.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani is the President's personal lawyer. He says he'll testify if the President lets him otherwise site the lawyer client privilege and refused to show up. Can you do that?

COATES: Well, he could. I mean, those caveats of I - if only I could, I mean, I would testify. Where have we heard that before? The President of United States talking about his own very lawyers. I would do it. But my hands are tied I can't do it.

But the real question here is we're not in a state any longer where the fall guy is acceptable. The notion of a Michael Cohen perhaps or a Paul Manafort as he earlier on, years ago about whether or not they were the ones who were the ones to be blamed in the orbit of the President of United States.

Rudy Giuliani right now and Kurt Volker are in the position of trying to figure out who is going to be the fall guy. Now you know of course, Giuliani said well, I'll be the hero in the end and then posted those text messages but the idea of him wanting to testify would be contingent on whether or not he thinks it's opportune for him to either save his own hide or for him to help the President and build the case. But the idea of Kurt Volker being somebody who just sua respondentia

on his own saying, I think I'll go ahead and use the personal attorney of the President of the United States to do this or nobody else above me said do this, those days are long gone. If I'm the White House, I would not be appeased by resignation.

I wouldn't think I thought safer because of it. I'd say to myself well the trail will have to eventually lead to the person who is in the position of power to say do it.

BLITZER: Speaking of Giuliani, Elaina, you had a pretty amazing phone conversation with the Rudy Giuliani when you were in an Uber, you were driving, you were on the phone, you tweeted about it. Tell our viewers about that.

PLOTT: So I've been trying to get in touch with Giuliani for 48 hours. Obviously when reports about this whistleblower complaint and then the transcript, Trump's conversation with Zelensky came out.

I wanted to know obviously more about Giuliani's role and as I was hearing from White House officials that they were immediately trying to distance themselves from Rudy. As Laura was saying, trying to create the narrative that this is all Rudy's fog. He's putting things in Trump's head. He doesn't know what's going on.

I really wanted Rudy's response to that because this is somebody who has been a really loyal ally to this President and for the most part, White House officials really were always huge fans of him but it's only now that they've tried to distance themselves and he just went on a rant immediately when I asked for his response.

He said along the lines of it's impossible that the whistleblower is a hero and I'm not when this is all over, I will be the hero of this whole saga. That remains to be seen but it was the kind of tirade that is actually leading Democrats on Capitol Hill to wonder at the actual value of a testimony from Giuliani.

Do they feel that it's something that would only contribute to the circus or what they're actually the information and values to glean from it. When he's talking in a way that sort of suggests you know he's spiraling.

BLITZER: That's a very important conversations you had. I want everybody to stick around. There's a lot more of our CNN special coverage. Coming up CNN's latest reporting that the Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney is on shaky ground right now over at the White House.



BLITZER: A new season of CNN's original series 'Declassified' premieres tomorrow night. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now it's the day before 911 so we start trying to

game plan how is this guy going to make it into New York.