Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Whistleblower to Testify to Congress Soon; Kurt Volker to Appear in Congress; State Department Probe Former Clinton Aides; Trump Defiant Over Democrat's Push for Impeachment; Trump Compares Whistleblower Complaint to Spies and Treason. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 29, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Before the powerful House Intelligence Committee. The exact date, we don't know yet. The name of the whistleblower and where he or she works, we don't know that either, but his or her attorney tweeted a short time ago that discussions about the pending testimony continue and protecting the whistleblower's identity is their top priority.

The congressman in charge of the intelligence committee says the testimony will happen very soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): All that needs to be done at this point is to make sure that the attorneys that represent the whistleblower get the clearances that they need to be able to accompany the whistleblower to testimony and that we figure out the logistics to make sure that we protect the identity of the whistleblower.

That's our paramount concern here. This whistleblower has done obviously a cardinal service to the country by exposing wrongdoing of the most serious kind. A breach of the president's duty to the country that endangers our security and he's got to be worried about his own security right now with the president issuing threats like he did the other day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now the security concern Schiff is talking about comes from President Trump's comments on Thursday when he called the whistleblower source close to a spy and referred to how spies were dealt with in the past.

Also preparing to testify about what he knows, Kurt Volker. He is a top State Department envoy to the Ukraine. At least he was until he quit the day after the bombshell whistleblower report went public for all to read.

Three committees are now going to question Volker. They haven't said yet if those depositions will be open or closed. Now, Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, his name pops up in the whistleblower report 31 times. Giuliani said today that anything the intelligence committee wants from him is a no, or is it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I wouldn't cooperate with Adam Schiff. I think Adam Schiff should be removed. If they remove Adam Schiff, if they put a neutral person who hasn't prejudged the case, if they put someone in the Democrat who hasn't -- it's just an opinion.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: You're not going to cooperate.

GIULIANI: I didn't say that. I said I will consider it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you wouldn't do it. You said you will not cooperate with Adam Schiff.

GIULIANI: I said I will consider it. I have to be guided by my client, frankly. I'm a lawyer. It's his privilege, not mine. If he decides that he wants me to testify, of course I'll testify. Even though I think Adam Schiff is an illegitimate chairman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And what about the American people? What's the public appetite for this impeachment probe? Well, a new CBS/YouGov poll released just today shows a majority of people in the country support not necessarily impeachment but at least an impeachment inquiry.

The question was, is an impeachment inquiry into President Trump's conduct necessary? And 55 percent of respondents said this weekend that they believe it is. CNN's Michael Warren is with us now.

Michael, you have this amazing long piece on CNN.com today and it focuses on Rudy Giuliani and how he now finds himself in a very center of this fast moving impeachment battle. Just how big a player is he?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, again Ana, he is a central player in all of this and it's really because as the president's lawyer, he's a close adviser, unofficial, not in the government, but adviser to the president -- in his ear, talking with the president about all of these, frankly, conspiracy theories about connections between the Ukraine and potential cases that could go after the president's political enemies particularly Democrats in the 2016 election and Joe Biden, the possible 2020 Democratic nominee.

This goes all the way back to December 2018 when Giuliani first met with a former Ukrainian official. He continued over the several months in the early 2019, a meeting with current and former Ukrainian officials to gather information about these cases, all the while talking with his client, President Trump, about this.

Where this gets complicated is, as you mentioned, the whistleblower report mentions Giuliani's name several times as well as that transcript between Donald Trump and Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, when they spoke on the phone on July 25th. That has raised a lot of questions, as well as Giuliani's own media

appearances and conversations including with CNN where he's talked about a State Department official, particularly Volker, Kurt Volker, who resigned on Friday, as being someone who directed him or maybe suggested to him that he connect with a Ukrainian. That is going to raise a lot more questions an again, Rudy Giuliani's right there in the center of it all.

CABRERA: And real quick, Michael. You have new reporting about conversations Giuliani had with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Ukraine, right?

WARREN: That's right. Rudy Giuliani saying on CBS this morning he spoke last week with Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, about those conversations. An interesting development, the State Department has not really answered for the questions of that interaction between Giuliani and State Department officials.

Pompeo's only comment was from late last week where he told reporters that the State Department did everything appropriate regarding their interactions with Giuliani.

[17:05:01]

CABRERA: OK, and Giuliani has been saying that the State Department asked him to get involved with this Ukrainian situation. Thank you very much, Michael Warren, for your reporting.

Now the majority of Republicans have expressed zero interest in even looking into these accusations. Here's the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Couple of things. I don't have any problem with the call. We've now seen the transcript. The president of Ukraine said that there was not pressure. He was not pushed. Look, if Democrats want to impeach because Rudy Giuliani talked to a couple of Ukrainians, good luck with that.

I don't think the American people think that's the appropriate course of action. I think they see this from what it is. This is just one of the many and unending attacks the Democrats have leveled against this president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And here's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I have zero problems with this phone call. There is no quid pro quo here, but I do have a problem with Nancy Pelosi. If you believe that Donald Trump did something to hurt this country, you owe it to vote not talk about impeaching the president. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And finally, here's House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Do you think it was appropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader for help investigating his chief political rival for 2020?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Again, go look at what he talked about in that conversation. He was talking about the 2016 interference that happened in our election.

TODD: Every time I've asked you whether you have been -- if you're concerned about the actions the president took, you've avoided answering the specific question and instead focused on something else.

SCALISE: no Chuck, don't try to infer anything. I am concerned about --

TODD: No, I'm just asking. You seem to be uncomfortable defending -- you seem to -- let me put it this way. You seem uncomfortable defending the president's actions.

SCALISE: No, please don't put words in my mouth.

TODD: OK, I will -- then I'll let you finish, but let me finish my statement.

SCALISE: What the president was talk -- I think, well you've made a lot of statements and accusations that aren't true, Chuck. President Trump --

TODD: I don't think I made one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now here's what we know. Over the past three years, the president has welcomed and asked for foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections. Here he is in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now, the president claimed that was a joke, but we've learned this weekend that that during this 2017 Oval Office meeting with the Russians, President Trump said he didn't care that they had interfered. That's according to the "Washington Post." And then remember when the president said this in June?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I'd want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You'd want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not interference. They have information. I think I'd take it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Just one month later, now we know he asked Ukraine for a favor. A favor that's now triggered an impeachment investigation that could end his presidency. Now to the Democrat's take, Congresswoman Katie Hill is the vice chair of the House Oversight Committee. Congresswoman, listen to another Republican --

REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): Hi.

CABRERA: -- this is Congressman Doug Collins, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): They're not going to allow this president to have due process. They're not going to be fair. They're going to ramrod this thing through. And if they were truly serious about that, they would bring it to the floor, they would have a vote, and then there would be fairness. And the American people can know that this was not just simply a Democrat ramrod of this president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now, he's echoing what a lot of Republican lawmakers are saying this weekend that this inquiry has been launched without a vote unlike past inquiries. Why didn't the inquiry first go through a vote? Should it have?

HILL: No, there's not a precedent for this. This has only happened three times in American history and there is no set of rules that determines I which way the House goes through this investigatory process. What we do know is one thing and that's for sure, that over 218 member of the House have expressedly stated they want to see this inquiry move forward.

But the real vote that's going the happen or that may have to happen is on actual articles of impeachment. The inquiry that's happening right now is that investigation. It is allowing us to get the information that ultimately people are going to have to weigh to determine whether they vote to impeach the president or not.

I don't know what seem unfair about this. This is just another example of them finding -- grasping at straws, trying to find any way to distract or take away from the real issue at hand, which is that the president of the United States betrayed his oath of office, abused his power and is, you know, undertaking corruption at the highest levels.

And it's threatening our national security. So, that's what we have to be focusing on. Any attempt to do otherwise is the Republican Party and Trump's allies throwing red herrings to distract the American people and I hope that we will not let that happen.

CABRERA: In terms of the process and timing, how soon can Americans expect a vote on impeachment itself because there are some reports that could be as soon as next month?

HILL: You know, I think that we have to let this process play out. It is so, so critical.

[17:10:01]

This is a somber moment. No one should be celebrating. The fact that we are undergoing some kind of impeachment process right now, it is truly tragic. It's tragic that we're even having this conversation in the first place. And it is of utmost importance that we go through this the right way, that we get every bit of evidence that we need to.

That we use the whistleblower's complaint as a road map for trying to figure out the extent of the corruption that's happening within the State Department, among Trump's allies including Rudy Giuliani. We need to play all of this out and let the evidence come forward.

So, I'm not in any hurry to try and rush this and I don't think any of us are, but we want to make sure that when we do -- when we know what we need to know, that that is brought to the floor so that people can make a judgment and it ultimately should go to the Senate.

CABRERA: You just said there's corruption happening in the State Department. What evidence do you have of that?

HILL: You know, I said we need to determine whether there is corruption happening in the State Department. For example, if the State Department was helping and assisting Rudy Giuliani, who is an unofficial person that's involved in this, you know, that's misuse of state resources.

So, all this information that's coming forth, the request for information that's going to Pompeo and to others within the State Department, that's going to be really critical in the coming weeks and that will help us determine, you know, where all of this goes from here.

CABRERA: Now, in terms of where the public is on impeachment, let's look at a brand new CBS poll as we reported, 55 percent of Americans say they approve the inquiry, but there is division over whether the president deserves to be impeached.

At this point, 42 percent feel he does, 36 percent feel he doesn't, 22 percent feel it's too soon to say. How confident are you that the president will be impeached in the House?

HILL: I don't think -- I think it's too early to say whether the president will be impeached or not. I think that, you know, frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the president and Giuliani have said enough on television to make it highly likely as far as I'm concerned that an impeachment vote will ultimately come to the floor.

But I don't think that that will happen until this process has played out and we have evidence that's necessary. And frankly, I think that this process is also going to allow the American people to make the decisions on their own as to whether they believe that this is appropriate behavior for a president. And frankly, I think that most people are going to come to the same conclusion, which is that this president is abusing his power, and that's what it comes down to.

CABRERA: Are you ready at this point to vote for impeachment?

HILL: I'm going weigh every -- when the time comes, I'm going to weigh every single article individually. You know, I think that there's a good chance there ends up being more than one. As the vice chair on oversight, I don't want to come to any kind of conclusions before the actual articles are set forth.

And we know the areas of focus and we know precisely the actions that fall within those, but I do think that there is ample evidence for certain articles of impeachment that could come forward very quickly.

CABRERA: All right, Congresswoman Katie Hill, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

HILL: Thank you. I appreciate it.

CABRERA: With the Ukraine controversy, engulfing the White House and Washington and subpoenas, testimony, damning transcripts, what does it mean for the president? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

CABRERA: Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine who abruptly resigned in the wake of the whistleblower complaint heads to Capitol Hill this week. And there's another player at the center of this story who may also be facing lawmaker's questions. And that's the whistleblower specifically.

House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff confirming today there is a tentative agreement for this anonymous person to testify before Congress as early as this week. Now, professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina, Michael Gerhardt, joins us now. He wrote a book called, "The Federal Impeachment Process."

And also with us, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, let's talk first about this testimony. If it in fact happens, the acting DNI did say this whistleblower would be allowed to speak freely. Do you think the whistleblower will be allowed to speak before Congress without any constraints from DOJ or the White House? JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, you never know

what's going to happen. We've had these promises before that someone will not be impeded in their testimony, and then when they show up, things differ.

But remember, the whistleblower didn't have any conversations with the president, right, so there's no executive privilege. And the whistleblower's no one's lawyer. There's no attorney-client privilege. So, the level of interference that the White House or DOJ can offer is really limited here because this person wasn't in a position to have any of those relationships.

So I think the whistleblower, if he or she is willing to come forward and, you know, that's still an if in my mind because it's fairly risky for this person, will be allowed to testify as to what he knows, but not much of it is firsthand. It's mostly what he heard from other people.

CABRERA: Right, he or she because we don't even know the gender of this person. Michael, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, this morning talked about whether he'll testify. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I wouldn't cooperate with Adam Schiff. I think Adam Schiff should be removed. If they remove Adam Schiff, if they put a neutral person who hasn't prejudged the case, if they put someone in the Democrat who hasn't -- it's just an opinion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not going to cooperate.

GIULIANI: I didn't say that. I said I will consider it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you wouldn't do it. You said you will not cooperate with Adam Schiff.

GIULIANI: I said -- I said I will consider it. I have to be guided by my client, frankly. I'm a lawyer. It's his privilege not mine. If he decides that he wants me to testify, of course, I'll testify. Even though I think Adam Schiff is an illegitimate chairman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Michael, is attorney-client privilege enough to keep Giuliani from testifying if he's been talking with foreign officials as an unofficial or official emissary for the State Department?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: The short answer is no. There's no privilege that protects anybody from undertaking illegal or criminal activity. We have yet to find that a legitimate basis where Mr. Giuliani doing what he's done. This is well past the norms and protocols and statutes that apply to Americans, particularly from people working at the federal government on how they do their business. Sounds like he's sort of going rogue outside the boundaries of the law, which I think remoous any possibility he can hide behind any privilege from talking about the proof.

Volker is expected to appear before these three house committees this week. Since he resigned now from his official you know involvement in this administration, is it free game for him to answer any type of question?

RODGERS: It really is. You know, he's not a government official anymore so he can essentially say what he wants to say.

[17:20:01] Now, will the White House still try to come in and assert some sort of privileges, you know, we'll see. But the ones we've seen so far, they've been friendly people. The people, they have come in and said we don't want you to talk about this.

They have been willing to go along with that. If Volker isn't willing to do that and actually wants to speak, they don't really have a way to gag him or bind him from speaking.

CABRERA: Michael, at this point, do you believe the president has committed an impeachable offense based on just what we know about this whole Ukraine story?

GERHARDT: It's a good question. I always hesitate to reach any conclusion before all the fact finding has been done, but based on what we're hearing and looking at the transcript, I think the president crossed the line. He's seeking soliciting foreign assistance or foreign intervention in the next election. That's pretty much a classical impeachable offense.

CABRERA: Do you agree, Jennifer?

RODGERS: I do. I do. I mean, I of course want to see more when you're putting together a case. You want to see your central piece of evidence, which is the call, but also the other things, too. We don't know what Rudy Giuliani said. We don't know what Volker has to say. So there's more to come, but so far, the central piece of evidence here is very, very damning.

CABRERA: Michael, you say you believe the president in his defense of trying to confuse and distract is working to some extent. Explain.

RODGERS: I think its working to the extent that there really is a lot of confusion out there. And most of the defense that you hear from not just the president, from others like Mr. Giuliani or even from members of the Congress is pretty much -- we must describe the constitution wall as just smoke.

It's just there to confuse people and distract them. So, the president might have crossed the line and did something wrong. The response is to some extent, pointing the finger a differ direction. Another response is to attack the person asking the question. Very little defense on the merits here because it's clear on the merits what's happened.

So the defense, I think, is trying to have us look a different direction in part saying look, Hillary Clinton's worse. We're going to go after her again. It's not about the president, it's about her. That's just a deflection.

She could have done something wrong, I mean, let's say she did. That's irrelevant to whether or not the president crossed the line and I think he did.

CABRERA: All right, Michael Gerhardt, Jennifer Rodgers, great to have both of you and your expertise with us today. Thank you.

And just when you thought it was old news, its back -- Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server. Why dozens of current and former officials have now been contacted by the State Department according to a new report. That's next in the "CNN Newsroom."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:00]

CABRERA: Remember Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal? Who can forget, right? Well, just days after the release of a whistleblower complaint that alleges President Trump abused his official powers during the call with the Ukrainian president and that the White House tried to cover it up, the "Washington Post" is now reporting the Trump administration is investigating the e-mails of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent e-mails to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

And according to the "Post," as many as 130 officials have been contacted by investigators. They were notified that e-mails they sent years ago may have been retroactively classified and are now potential security violations.

Meantime, as the fallout continues from President Trump's call with Ukraine, there is one detail that Trump mentioned in that call that the president's own former Homeland Security adviser says is completely debunked. The false theory that a DNC server tied to the 2016 election is somehow in Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER TRUMP HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It's not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked. You know, I don't want to be glib about this matter, but last year, retired former Senator Judd Gregg wrote a piece in "The Hill" magazine, saying the three ways or the five ways to impeach oneself, and the third way was to hire Rudy Giuliani.

And at this point, I am deeply frustrated with what we he and the legal team is doing in repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind where he hears it over and over again. And for clarity here, George, let me just again, repeat that it has no validity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And the mention of that server by Trump during the Ukrainian phone call confused even the whistleblower. CNN's Brian Todd has that part of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one of the more bizarre comments made by President Trump in his phone call with Ukraine's president. The suggestion that somehow, a computer server tied to the 2016 election is now mysteriously in Ukraine.

According to the rough transcript of the July call, Trump says he like his Ukrainian counterpart to "do us a favor" and alludes to the Mueller investigation before saying, "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike. I guess you have one of your wealthy people. The server, they say Ukraine has it. I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it." The only problem, experts say there's no evidence of any of this.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is really a deep state conspiracy theory. It's not supported by the fact.

TODD (voice-over): The server Trump refers to appears to be the Democratic National Committee's server, which federal indictments filed by Robert Mueller say was hacked by the Russians during their 2016 election interference campaign as part of the Kremlin's effort to help get Trump elected.

CrowdStrike, which the president mentions, is the cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic committee to investigate the Russian hacks. Trump, in more than 20 interviews, tweets and other public comments has harped on the debunked idea that the DNC's server somehow contains unrevealed evidence and might be in mysterious hands.

TRUMP: Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying.

TODD (voice-over): Trump regularly points out that the FBI never had access t the original DNC servers. That's in part because of the FBI's practice of working with copies. But the DNC says none of its original servers were ever missing. The DNC and CrowdStrike say they ultimately gave the FBI copies of the DNC servers. Once they determined there was a Russian hack, something then FBI director James Comey didn't object to.

[17:30:00]

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Best practice is always to get access to the machines themselves, but this my folks tell me was an appropriate substitute.

TODD (voice-over): So why would the president think someone in Ukraine has a DNC server? We got no response from the White House. CrowdStrike did previously do work for the Ukrainian government, but that was totally unrelated to the DNC or the 2016 presidential election.

And Trump once mistakenly asserted that CrowdStrike was owned and run by a Ukrainian, a comment apparently driven by online conspiracy theories. Analysts say Trump is either just repeating these false online myths or is trying to misdirect and muddy the waters.

HONIG: I think he is looking continually for a counter-narrative to the Mueller report, constantly trying to shift the blame.

TODD (on camera): Then there's the matter of Trump telling the Ukrainian president that he wanted Attorney General Bill Barr to contact the Ukrainians to get to the bottom of the server question.

Legal analyst say it would be inappropriate for the attorney general to become involved in any of that. A Justice Department spokeswoman tells CNN the president didn't ask Barr to contact the Ukrainians on that or any other matter and that Barr never communicated with the Ukrainians on his own. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: With the House Democrats impeachment inquiry picking up speed, President Trump is resorting to his well worn playbook, painting the whistleblower controversy as a smear against him. But will his tactics work this time around? We'll take a look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:00]

CABRERA: The president is going back to his old playbook, just as he did with the Mueller probe. He is trying to paint the whistleblower saga as a smear orchestrated by Democrats in the deep state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's ridiculous. It's a witch hunt. I'm leading in the polls. They have no idea how they stop me. The only way they can try is through impeachment.

So many leaders came up to me today and they said sir, what you go through, no president has ever gone through and it's so bad for your country.

And it should never be allowed what's happened to this president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: In the last week since the story broke, the president has tweeted or retweeted about this scandal more than 100 times. And check this out, the latest cover of "Time" magazine depicts the president painting himself into a corner, seemingly unaware of his predicament until it's too late. You know

Joining us now, CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart. Joe, good to see you.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, Ana. CABRERA: The "New York Times" did a look back on how the Clinton White House faced impeachment including the strategy by his then chief of staff, John Podesta, and here's what they write.

"Any water cooler discussion about the Monica Lewinsky scandal or the impeachment proceedings, and "I will break your neck," Mr. Podesta recalled telling his staffers using an expletive. And that especially applied to Mr. Clinton. Mr. Clinton's aides had studied Watergate, and their takeaway was that the public believed President Richard M. Nixon was being buried by the scandal, in part, because he talked about it endlessly. So their approach was that the only way to survive and to keep his job approval rating up was to demonstrate that the White House was still working and that Mr. Clinton was still doing the job he was elected to do for the people."

Joe, did that strategy work for Clinton and should President Trump take note?

LOCKHART: Well, you know, it did in a sense that his popularity not only was strong, it increased from 63 percent job approval to 73 percent the day he was impeached. It worked because the public wanted the president to do their business, not what the Republicans or the Democrats wanted to do in D.C. So I think it was a very effective strategy.

As far as the Trump administration, they followed the exact opposite of strategy. I mean, the president can't stop talking about it. He can't stop tweeting. He can't stop complaining. He can't stop indulging himself in pity. And I think it's one of the reasons why we've never seen this president rebound in popularity. He has stayed in the same narrow band of around 40 percent since he took office. It's a strategy that just isn't working.

CABRERA: Well, the president may not have a war room so maybe there is no cohesive strategy, but he does have an army of loyalists out there in the media, at Fox, at Breitbart, on conservative radio. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GIULIANI: This was a political witch-hunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ukrainian hoax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A coup attempt.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Spying on the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spying on the president.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A rotten snitch I'd love to wap him.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CABRERA: So in Trump's case, does that make up for the lack of a war room?

LOCKHART: Well, I don't think so because those people are all talking to just the loyalists. The fact of the matter is, for the president to get re-elected, he has to get all of his people out to the polls.

And then he's got to get, you know, 10 percent more, you know, of Americans, you know, the people who in 2016 might have had some trepidation about him, but were not excited about Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

And there's nothing in this that does anything to reach out to those people. In fact, it significantly turns those people off when this, you know, harsh talk from these, you know, the Fox bullies, you know, night after night after night continue to make up conspiracy theories.

You know, people are smart. Those who are in his camp believe it because they want it to be true. The rest of the country, about 60 percent, looks at this and says I can't believe any of this. None of it makes sense.

CABRERA: Well let's look at the Democrats on the flip side because while you have Speaker Pelosi saying impeachment is no cause for any joy, you also have Congresswoman Tlaib selling these t-shirts that say, "Impeach The MF." I'll let you guess the abbreviation what that stands for.

[17:40:00] But do they need to get on the same page with their messaging? What should their tone be?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think it's the tone that Speaker Pelosi has said. And isn't just her tone. Let's look at how she handled this. She was under intense pressure over the last three or four months to do more, to go faster, to really try to punish this president and hold him accountable through impeachment.

And she stood back and said, not yet. We don't have what we need to go forward. Let's not turn this into a divisive political football. And, you know, Ukraine happened and she saw no choice to move. So, you know, there are going to be people, you know, in both parties who say things that don't necessarily reflect the entire party.

I don't think the t-shirts are particularly helpful, but you know, that's their opinion. You know, just like the Breitbart people and the Fox people have their opinion. But watch what the speaker does. She sets the tone and her tone has been -- and having gone through this myself, there is nothing to be happy about here.

This is an very awful process. It's awful for everyone involved and for the country, but it is important for Democrats to stay focused on the substance, not necessarily the politics and I think the speaker has done remarkably well here.

CABRERA: Joe Lockhart, good to see you. Thank you. LOCKHART: Thank you.

CABRERA: Lawmakers and lawyers for the whistleblower are ironing out details in the whistleblower's testimony to Congress and more details on the alleged cover up are emerging. I'll talk to former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power about all this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:45:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to know who's the person who gave the whistleblower -- who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that's close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right? With spies and treason, right. We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: It was an event meant to honor the U.S. Mission at the U.N., but instead what we heard was the president railing against whoever told a whistleblower about his call with Ukraine. Earlier, I spoke to Samantha Power, the former U.N. Ambassador under President Obama about the whistleblower saga and the revelations that White House lawyers tried to lock down the transcript of the president's phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: -- putting a transcript like this which could reasonably be classified because it's an exchange between the president and a foreign leader, but putting it in a special compartmented code word system which is something that the lawyers appear to have insisted upon, speaks to the fact that outside this little circle of people who are accustomed to this level of corruption and self-aggrandizement.

And even bullying and extortion, somebody who's a little further away looks at and says woops, this is not co-shared, this is not allowed, and says if the distribution of this transcript extends beyond the small circle of people who surround President Trump, this is going to be trouble.

So I think you've got both sets of individual who is work in our government. I mean, you know, there are tens of thousands of patriots who have worked for President George W. Bush, worked for President Obama, worked for President Trump, had every intention of staying throughout this administration and serving loyally, they still remember what it's like to have an ethical governmental system.

CABRERA: In fact, more than 300 former National Security officials from the Bush administration to the Obama White House have signed the letter now in which they say, "President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference in our Democratic processes. That would constitute an unconscionable abuse o power. We consider the president's actions to be a profound national security concern."

I noticed your name isn't on this list or on this letter, but as a former adviser to the National Security Council yourself, do you agree with that assessment?

POWER: Oh, absolutely. And I mean, there are a lot of different dimensions to the national security threat posed by this. I mean, this is an example of President Trump pursuing his personal interest instead of thinking through what is good for us given our alliances in the region, given the threat posed by Russia to our democracy to other democracies.

But we even saw last week when the president was at the U.N., in principle in a position to advance our interests with a whole series of bilateral meetings with heads of states from around the world, as a unique opportunity -- I attended eight of those general assemblies over the life of my time working for President Obama.

Instead of advancing the national interest, President Trump was taking every occasion he could to denigrate the whistleblower, to denigrate people within his own government, to describe the person who had come forward or any of the people who provided this information as spies deserving terrible retribution.

So imagine also the cascading effect on our national security establishment when somebody just basically tries to do right by our country and by our national security, sticks their head up knowing that there could be a tremendous personal cost to doing so.

And what happens, the president seeks immediately to exact that cost. What effect does that have on our national security and people's willingness to speak up when they see something that's dangerous?

CABRERA: What do you think it has? What kind of effect does it have?

POWER: I think it has a chilling effect, a profound, chilling effect. And this is why it's really incumbent not only on the people who are leading the charge now to commence, you know, I think finally impeachment proceedings and to look into this to what has happened and to produce more of the facts.

You know, who are these other officials who provided this information? What more do they know? Who are these officials who exploited a code word classification system that has no business having anything to do with domestic politics, anybody's domestic politics? Who are those people?

It must be also Republican legislators and Republican statesmen and Republican national security professionals, people who serve on the Armed Services Committee for example in the Senate or in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

[17:49:58]

Republicans who stood by this president at some point they have to say enough. And really sincerely throw their weight behind this inquiry.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: My thanks to former Ambassador Powers. She is the author of this new book "The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir."

He's legendary, known for playing tough guys on T.V. and has some tough words for President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:55:00]

CABRERA: He's one of the most outspoken Trump critics in Hollywood. Legendary actor Robert de Niro has frequently feuded with the president. Trump said de Niro has a low IQ and the two-time Oscar winner has called the president totally nuts. De Niro also famously played Robert Mueller in last season's "Saturday Night Live.

My colleague, Brian Stelter, spoke with him this morning about his thoughts on President Trump. And, well, he didn't mince words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: I think he's crazy in a way. Part of him is just crazy.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Did you mean in a medical sense because that gets criticized pretty quickly?

DE NIRO: Well, possibly medically too. I'm starting to think. I didn't think that before, but now I actually -- when I saw him in front of the helicopter waiting to go somewhere and talking endlessly and sweating and sweating and not even -- I said this guy, he's not even aware of what he's -- he should at least ask somebody for a handkerchief or something and dry himself off. There's just something very strange.

STELTER: Folks on Fox come after you. I remember the Tony's when you got up there and cursed.

DE NIRO: (BLEEP) him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Yes, that happened on air. De Niro also said he hopes SNL brings back his character back and has spoken to producers about ding a sketch depicting what some people wished Mueller had done.

President Trump today is lashing out against the impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine. And we have new details about when the whistleblower may go before lawmakers. That's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:59:59] CABRERA: It's 6:00 eastern, 3:00 in the afternoon out west.