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Ex-Policewoman Sentenced to 10 Years in Murder Case; Putin Jokes Russia Will Meddle in the 2020 U.S. Election. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: He's scared. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Mr. Trump is terrified of impeachment, so he's desperately trying to divert attention from the Ukraine scandal. Does he suspect another bombshell is about to drop?

Strange delivery. The State Department's inspector general gives an urgent briefing on Capitol Hill, delivering a mysterious packet sent to the secretary of state. One Democrat says it was filled with Ukraine conspiracy theories. Why did Congress need to have it?

And vintage plane crashes. A celebration of historic aircraft turns deadly, as a World War II era bomber goes down in flames and in smoke. Tonight, a new warning about health risk for residents living near the crash site.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

President Trump erupts and misleads as the House impeachment investigation is rapidly escalating. He's been on a daylong rampage, blasting the impeachment probe and the whistle-blower complaint that launched it as a hoax, and this -- I'm quoting the president of the United States right now -- he says the whole thing is, in his word, "bullshit."

He also ratcheted up his attacks on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, accusing him without evidence of helping to write the whistle-blower's allegations, which Schiff's panel flatly denies.

Also breaking, we're standing by for new information about an urgent briefing on Capitol Hill by the State Department's inspector general and the mysterious packet he turned over to investigators.

This hour, I will talk to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel. His staffers were inside the briefing. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president is going to new extremes as he lashes out about the impeachment investigation.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it looked like a temper tantrum inside the White House, as President Trump angrily denied any wrongdoing during his phone call with Ukraine's president.

The president went after the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, accusing him -- without any evidence -- of helping to write the whistle-blower complaint.

But the press conference went off the rails at one point when the president was asked why he was talking about Joe Biden with the leader of Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Sounding like a man backed into a corner, the president railed against the whistle-blower whose complaint about Mr. Trump's phone call with the leader of Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at this whistle-blower's -- which I have a lot of respect for whistle-blowers, but only when they're real. His report of the phone call was totally different than the fact.

ACOSTA: The president seized on a report in "The New York Times" that the whistle-blower sought guidance from the House Intelligence Committee on how to file a complaint.

Mr. Trump then accused the committee's chairman, Adam Schiff, of helping write the complaint, a charge he leveled with zero evidence.

TRUMP: Well, I think it's a scandal that he knew before.

I would go a step further. I think he probably helped write it, OK? That's what the word is. And I think it's -- I give a lot of respect to "The New York Times" for putting it out.

ACOSTA: The president then defended his calls for Schiff to be investigated for treason, still fuming days after the chairman mocked Mr. Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian leader.

TRUMP: Because of the fact that he's lying about the president of the United States as to what the president says. You know, I -- believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully. There are those that think I'm a very stable genius, OK?

I watch my words very, very closely. And to have somebody get up and to totally fabricate a conversation that I had with another leader and make it sound so bad, it was so evil.

ACOSTA: When asked why he raised the issue of former Vice President Joe Biden during the call, Mr. Trump then misstated what happened, insisting it was the Ukrainian president who first brought it up, but that's not true. It was the president who did that.

TRUMP: If you look at what he said, OK -- and he brought it up. I think he brought up the name Rudy Giuliani. What I want is the following. And I have said this loud and clear. We have our ambassadors here. We have Mike Pence here. Why are we the only ones that give the big money to the Ukraine?

ACOSTA: The president was then pressed by other reporters in the room about Biden.

QUESTION: What did you want about Biden? What did you want him to look into on Biden?

TRUMP: Look, Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked, and you know it. His son walks out with millions of dollars. The kid knows nothing.

ACOSTA: At that point, the president was blowing his top, blasting Reuters reporter Jeff Mason for his question.

TRUMP: Are you talking to me?

QUESTION: Yes, it was just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir.

TRUMP: Listen, listen, are you ready? We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question.

[18:05:01]

QUESTION: I have one for him. I just wanted to follow up on the one I asked you, which was, what did you want...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Did you hear me? Did you hear me? Ask him a question.

QUESTION: I will, but...

TRUMP: I have given you a long answer. Ask this gentleman a question.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Don't be rude.

QUESTION: No, sir, I don't want to be rude. I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question that I asked you.

TRUMP: I have answered everything. It's a whole hoax.

And you know who's playing into the hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country, and I say in many cases the corrupt media, because you're corrupt.

Much of the media in this country is not just fake. It's corrupt. ACOSTA: The president revealed his call with the Ukrainian president

as part of his ongoing effort to prove that he was wrong during the 2016 campaign, an effort that may include bringing lawsuits against federal lawsuits against investigators on special counsel Robert Mueller's team.

TRUMP: And just so you know, we have been investigating on a personal basis, through Rudy and others, lawyers, corruption in the 2016 election.

We have been investigating corruption, because I probably will, I was going to definitely, but I probably will be bringing a lot of litigation against a lot of people having to do with the corrupt investigation having to do with the 2016 election.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's tantrum was also playing out earlier in the day in his social media bunker, as he tweeted: "The do-nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our country, not wasting everyone's time and energy on bullshit."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Democrats are pushing forward with their probe.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It's unworthy of the Constitution of the United States to do what he did in that call, and he admitted to me -- he said, it's perfect. No, it's not perfect. It's wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The president suggested the White House will cooperate with the subpoenas issued by House Democrats for information in the Ukraine investigation.

But the president hasn't fully cooperated in the past. Consider the Russia investigation. Recall he never sat down for an interview with special counsel, Robert Mueller. And he's never given up his tax returns.

And we should note, Wolf, the whistle-blower's attorney says no one from the House Intelligence Committee helped in writing the whistle- blower complaint.

You know, Wolf, the president said earlier today he is careful in choosing his words. It didn't sound that way today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly did not.

All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Let's get the latest now on the so-called urgent briefing up on Capitol Hill and what the State Department's inspector general revealed.

Our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is on the scene for us.

Sunlen, what are you learning?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, one lawmaker leaving the meeting saying that he's leaving with more questions than he has answers.

An aide leaving that meeting said it was a very strange meeting, where essentially the I.G. of the State Department briefing congressional aides and one lawmaker basically handed over a 40-page pile of papers, which aides say didn't come with much explanation.

But the papers, according to a copy of the documents obtained by CNN, included many unproven claims about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the former ambassador to Ukraine, who was recalled earlier this year by President Trump.

Now, the one congressman in that meeting, Jamie Raskin, he described these papers as conspiracy theories and propaganda. Raskin says, in the meeting, the I.G. did not say and he did not know where the papers came from.

But, according to Raskin, he said they are very similar to things that we have heard from the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If you read the packet of information, it's a series of somewhat hallucinatory propagandistic suggestions that is very -- that are very consistent with the things Rudolph Giuliani has been saying.

QUESTION: Do you believe he was circulating this?

RASKIN: Put it this way. If I had to guess who was behind it, if it really did not come from the White House, I would guess that it was Giuliani.

But I have no way to know. Giuliani's name is all over it. There are a series of memos in there where Giuliani was present. And so somebody should ask Giuliani whether he knows anything about this. Maybe he doesn't, and it's just one of his acolytes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And the State Department I.G. told Congress that the State Department's Office of Legal Counsel provided these documents to the I.G. back in May.

Certainly still a puzzling moment, as one lawmaker described it, but adds to the complexity of this moment on Capitol Hill -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At the same time, Sunlen, other House committees are moving forward. They're issuing subpoenas for the White House. Give us the latest on that.

SERFATY: That's right, a big threat coming from powerful House committees up here on Capitol Hill. Several of these key committees are basically warning the White House

that they will start issuing subpoenas on Friday. These are for documents related to President Trump's phone call with Ukraine, also for the holding up of the Ukrainian aid.

Now, one of those committees, the House Oversight Committee, the chairman said that the White House's flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents essentially, he says, left -- leaves them with no choice but to go ahead and issue these subpoenas by Friday, if they don't get the documents they want.

[18:10:03]

And this certainly plays into what we have heard from the House intelligence chairman, Adam Schiff, basically warning the administration for what they see as stonewalling in documents, saying, look, this only strengthens our hand potentially if we decide to draw up articles of impeachment, the fact that this could be considered obstruction of Congress' duties -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Eliot Engel.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, so let's talk a little bit about these subpoenas. The president says he always cooperates. What do you make of that?

ENGEL: Well, he doesn't cooperate.

You know, we sent notices to five people. This is the Foreign Affairs Committee, because we have the State Department under our jurisdiction. And we asked them to come in, and got back a scathing letter from Mr. Pompeo basically saying that we should stop immediately, and that he was very uncooperative.

There's no way that this administration wants to cooperate with Congress.

BLITZER: So, if they don't cooperate, what are you going to do?

ENGEL: Well, we have things we haven't decided yet.

But we're going to get them in. Two of them are coming in already. The other three, we're hoping. But we're making progress. And no is not an answer.

You know, this administration from day one has shown that it doesn't believe in checks and balances. Remember when you were a kid, you learned the checks and balances. They think that the executive, the president, should make all the decisions, and Congress should do nothing or be compliant and keep its mouth shut. That's not the way it works. We are a co-equal branch of government.

We are entitled to ask for things and get documents. And we're not entitled to be stonewalled.

And I just hate what I'm seeing, because it hearkens back 40, 45 years to the Nixon era. In some ways, this is even worse. The language you hear coming from the president's mouth...

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about that.

Your colleague the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, he says, should be forced to resign and investigated for treason. He uses the word treason. He's falsely accused Schiff of helping to write the whistle-blower's complaint.

He calls Democrats, including the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the other women who are part of her so-called Squad, he says they are do-nothing savages.

And then he says this. He says: "What is taking place is not an impeachment. It is a coup."

A coup. What are the possible consequences of language like that by the president of the United States?

ENGEL: Well, it's terrible.

And it's not a coup. It's -- the only person who acts like it's a coup is the president of the United States. I mean, there's language -- there are children all over the country listening to the president of the United States speaking and saying things that I never taught my children to say.

It's just absolutely unbelievable. Adam Schiff is a hard worker. He's very bright. He's diligent. He does a great job. And Adam Schiff and others are working very hard.

I know my committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, we're working with Adam's committee and we're working with Elijah Cummings' committee. And the three of us are working very closely together.

The only one calling names is the president of the United States. And you can disagree with us. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, I try to run my committee in the most bipartisan of ways. It doesn't mean we don't have any differences, but we respect one another.

The president is showing that he respects nobody, and that's really a shame.

BLITZER: "The Washington Post" is just now reporting that President Trump used the vice president, Mike Pence, as part of an effort to get the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.

Aides close to Pence say he didn't know about the president's motives as far as the Bidens were concerned.

What do you want to know specifically about the vice president's role?

ENGEL: Well, I would want to know -- the vice president was in the House for many years. He served on our Foreign Affairs Committee, so I know him from then.

Look, this is just another attempt, it seems, at trying to push things into the direction that the president wants to push them. And the truth falls by the wayside.

I don't know what I want to know about the vice president. All I know is this. It's really a betrayal for the president to use American assets to try to then ask someone to go after a political opponent.

The president clearly did that. Anyone who reads that transcript, the president is clearly saying, we have been good to you, so now we expect you to be good to us. And, by the way, that Biden, you ought to investigate him.

That's not something the president of the United States or anybody should do, to use the American taxpayers or the abilities that he has by dint of being president for his own personal political agenda.

That has never been done to my, to my knowledge. And it's very, very troubling.

[18:15:02]

BLITZER: Your committee staff was just briefed by the State Department's inspector general on a packet of clearly disinformation involving Ukraine that apparently made its way to the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

First of all, can you elaborate on what the inspector general of the State Department presented to you today?

ENGEL: Well, he presented it to my staff. And, again, I wasn't in the room, but, apparently, it was all these debunked things involving the Bidens, involving our ambassador.

You know, when our ambassador to Ukraine was summarily fired back in May, I said publicly then that something didn't smell right. And I'm sorry to find out that, many weeks later, that I was right.

This is something that I think needs to be looked at. These theories are debunked. And they're trying to peddle them all over the place. But I'm told that there's really no basis, no merit to them whatsoever.

The ambassador was a very distinguished Foreign Service professional for many, many years. And the attempt to drag her name through the mud is disgraceful.

BLITZER: And she has agreed, Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, to appear before your committee; is that true?

ENGEL: Yes, that's true. BLITZER: Scheduled for what, one day next week?

ENGEL: Yes.

BLITZER: Behind closed doors?

ENGEL: Well, behind closed doors.

BLITZER: Behind closed doors.

ENGEL: Yes.

BLITZER: So we will see what she says.

We see -- so, the special envoy, Kurt Volker, what he has to say. He is going to be appearing earlier, right?

ENGEL: Yes. I would hope everybody would appear, because that's -- we didn't make up this list cavalierly.

And I am very grateful to people who are appearing who have nothing to hide.

BLITZER: Do you understand, when this inspector general showed up today and delivered this packet, why he decided this was an urgent matter that had to be presented right now?

He's had it for a while, apparently, for several weeks, if not months. All of a sudden, he shows up and delivers it to your committee.

ENGEL: Well, the only thing I can think of is that he didn't only deliver it to our committee. He delivered to it a lot of people.

The only thing I can think of is, he wanted to get it away from his hands because he knows it's a bunch of garbage. And I think that he probably thinks it's important for people to make their own judgments about it.

BLITZER: Secretary Pompeo, he confirmed today that he was listening in on the phone call that the president had at the end of May with the new president of Ukraine, even though earlier -- a few days earlier, he was suggesting he didn't know much about it, if anything.

But he was listening into the whole call. Is he -- is it appropriate for him to be involved in making these kinds of decisions right now who testifies, what documents are made available, or does he need to recuse himself?

ENGEL: Well, I think he needs to recuse himself, because, first of all, he listened in on that conversation. He told nobody about it. He went on numerous shows, didn't say a word.

And finally he decided to confess. That's not the kind of straight shooter that we need. I think he's now part of the investigation. I don't think he can be part of a solution. BLITZER: What do you think you're going to hear from these two

ambassadors, one appearing tomorrow who resigned from the State Department, and one who is still a State Department career Foreign Service officer, a career diplomat?

ENGEL: I have no idea.

All we want to hear from them is the truth as they see it. We don't tell them what to say or hint at what they should say. That's what we want.

That's what's so disturbing about this administration. They're afraid to let people come in and just speak the truth. They're afraid to come and just speak the truth. They're afraid to do what's necessary in this great democracy of ours.

Instead, the president levels personal insults at members of Congress and other people. That's not the America we all know and love, and I think it's a disgrace.

BLITZER: Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for coming in.

ENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next with more on President Trump's furious attacks on the man driving the impeachment inquiry, Congressman Adam Schiff, including the president's unfounded accusation that Schiff wrote the whistle-blower report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:50]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the president taking his attacks on the House Intelligence Committee chairman to a new level.

He's now claiming -- without a shred of evidence -- that Adam Schiff helped write the whistle-blower complaint that helped prompt a formal impeachment investigation.

We're joined now by the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. He's a CNN senior legal analyst.

Preet, thanks so much for coming in.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the late developments.

The root of the president's accusation is that the whistle-blower actually contacted a House Intelligence Committee staffer for guidance before filing the formal whistle-blower complaint.

In your view, was this process appropriate?

BHARARA: Yes.

And the arguments being made are a function of our living in a time when there are people who have a political interest and a self- interest in sometimes making the trivial sensational and the sensational trivial. And this is one of those occasions.

I read "The New York Times" article very carefully. And it's odd that now folks like President Trump want to rely on "The New York Times" that otherwise -- that they otherwise denigrate as being fake news and being failing.

The article states very clearly, among other things, that the whistle- blower wanted to get the information out, wanted to cross every T, dot every I, first went to the general counsel of the agency for which he works, which agency, by the way, then gave an early heads-up to the White House, whose occupant, Donald Trump, happens to be the subject of the allegation.

[18:25:15]

So to the extent there was any early heads-up, most inappropriate, it seems, it was given to the very person who was being criticized in the allegations.

Then, when there was a concern that those allegations wouldn't get a full airing, again, crossing every T, dotting every I, this whistle- blower apparently went to a staffer at the Intelligence Committee, like happens dozens of times a year, if you know anything about the Intelligence Committee.

And what did the Intelligence Committee folks do? They did not assist in writing the complaint, if you read the article. And they suggested that he follow procedure and go to the inspector general of the intelligence community.

They didn't do what I would imagine Donald Trump might have done had he come into possession of derogatory information about a political rival, and that is hand it to Rudy Giuliani and have him go on FOX News and wave it around.

This person seems to have done everything appropriately. And the fact that there was some vague heads-up during the time after the White House learned about it and after there was a concern that it wasn't going to -- nothing was going to happen about it, and after which he went to the I.G., there's nothing to see here.

BLITZER: Earlier today, the president repeated his accusation that the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, should be investigated for treason. He used the word treason.

How concerning is that?

BHARARA: Hugely, hugely concerning.

I once went on a television show, a late-night talk show, where the host tried to get me to use the word treason and traitor with respect to the president of the United States, and I refused to do so, because I think these words have meaning.

And even though there's a lot of evidence during a period of time where the president seems to have had loyalties and more trust in a foreign leader like Vladimir Putin vs. his own intelligence community, that's a crazy word to use.

And I'm a pretty vocal critic of things that the president has done and the way he's operated his office. And I don't use that word. And a lot of people don't use that word because I think it's inappropriate to use if you understand what it means.

And for the most powerful person on Earth, who has the largest megaphone on Earth, to bandy it about to talk about political opponents is not just beneath the dignity of the office. It's beneath the dignity of any American person.

And I don't -- I don't know how to respond to those kinds of things anymore. But he gets to say it. It gets repeated because it comes out of the mouths -- the mouth of the president of the United States. And I think it's horrific.

BLITZER: Well, define treason for us legally speaking. And what's the punishment for treason?

BHARARA: I will take the second question first.

The punishment for treason, up to and including the death penalty. It's one of the most serious crimes you can commit. It's actually one of the crimes that very specifically involves being in a state of war or conflict with a foreign power and giving aid and comfort to that enemy.

The fact that Adam Schiff, with proper caveats, probably a misjudgment, exaggerated a little bit for effect, for parody effect, some of the words of the president of the United States doesn't make out any element, even casually speaking -- forget about the legal specified terminology that he's using there -- it doesn't come anywhere close to that.

So I think the president should knock it off. I don't think he's about to.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our analysts.

And, Gloria, the president clearly was so angry today at that news conference, especially when Jeff Mason, the White House correspondent for Reuters, a man we all know, very solid, good journalist, tried to get a straight answer from the president.

And he had this exchange. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: The question, sir, was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter?

TRUMP: Are you talking to me?

QUESTION: Yes, it was just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir.

TRUMP: Listen, listen, are you ready? We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question.

QUESTION: I have one for him. I just wanted to follow up on the one I asked you, which was, what did you want...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Did you hear me? Did you hear me? Ask him a question.

QUESTION: I will, but...

TRUMP: I have given you a long answer. Ask this gentleman a question.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Don't be rude.

QUESTION: No, sir, I don't want to be rude. I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question that I asked you.

TRUMP: I have answered everything. It's a whole hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's pretty incredible as the president would respond to serious questions, a serious question from Jeff Mason, who's an excellent journalist, in a manner like that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you have seen the president today at this availability and at one he had earlier in the day, he is completely in a tailspin over this, not to mention his profane tweets and his profanity even at his availability today.

This is affecting the president. And I think what we saw in that clip is the president that a lot of people who work in the White House are seeing every day, as he gets angrier and angrier.

I have been in touch with a source who talks to a lot of people inside the White House. And this source said to me, it's chaotic in there. People are just trying to keep out of his way.

There is nobody inside the White House who can say to the president, stop this.

Now, I know you will say, that's always been the case, but it seems to me that there is no door-keeper now for him at all and that people just want to stay out of his way. This person predicted there will be more people leaving and maybe more whistleblowers if this whistleblower is protected.

And you see this president now feeling under such strain that he is lashing out publicly into what he does privately (ph).

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: And speaking of that, Jeffrey -- go ahead, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I just add one point about Jeff Mason's question that was so important, is that he asked him why did you talk -- why did you talk to the president of Ukraine about Biden? And the president of the United States, Donald Trump, never answered that question. He never dealt with the fact that that's what's so inappropriate, and that's his problem is that there is no good explanation. There is no innocent explanation about why you're going to a president of a foreign country asking for dirt on a political opponent.

What made Mason's question so good and why it was so good that he pursued it is because it's the heart of this whole scandal and Trump wouldn't engage with it at all.

BORGER: And he's good at calling Biden crooked, stone cold crooked or whatever he called him, but he can't explain why, because, as you point out, Jeff, there is no real reason why.

BLITZER: It's pretty disgusting when you think about this, John, the president using words to describe democratically elected members of Congress, including Committee chairman, as savages, savages. He referred to Schiff and Nadler as savages, plus Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez and the women who are part of her coup. He said he's a low life, he's a sick man.

And then the president tweeted last night, what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a coup. And, you know, he's saying all this kind of stuff in front of a visiting president from Finland.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. Once again, just totally abdicating any sense of U.S. leadership on the world stage when he talks about this, and it's obviously completely inappropriate and completely wrong. This is not a coup, it's not even an impeachment right now. It's just an inquiry into legitimate concerns about his behavior on the world stage. I think it's totally unbecoming of the office.

BLITZER: Kylie, you've been doing a lot of excellent reporting for us on the State Department. The inspector general made an appearance, met with some staffers before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. What are you learn about that?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So it was kind of a confusing meeting in a sense that what the inspector general presented to these folks on the Hill today was dozens of unsubstantiated reports about Biden and about the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, that we have seen before, right? We have seen these theories passed around. But the point is that those had been passed to Secretary Pompeo. We don't know exactly if Secretary Pompeo then distributed those throughout the State Department, but what we do know is that they were passed from the legal office at the State Department to the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department back in May. And it's taken from then until now for the OIG to then bring them to the Hill. Obviously, they thought that they were important here to this discussion.

But what's important, however, is there are also some emails in there from State Department officials, career State Department officials, talking about this ambassador, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador Yovanovitch, and saying that the narratives that were out there were basic fake narratives, that she wasn't this big Democrat that she was being cast as, that she was actually a really solid and a reliable representation of the U.S. government. So we see some pushback on behalf of State Department officials.

It's unclear who exactly who was giving those emails to the OIG. Was it the actual State Department or was it passed along from these other sources? We still have a lot of unanswered questions here that we're diving into.

BLITZER: And the former ambassador, Marie Yovanotvich, a career foreign service officer, a career diplomat, and she was pushed out early. It's causing a lot of concern over at the State Department among the career professionals right now because morale, what they see what's going on to someone like her, Kurt Volker, the special envoy, they're very angry.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there certainly have been a significant blow to morale within the State Department and there has been separately concerns raised over whether or not there would be an effort to retaliate against officials at the State Department were they to speak out or were they to cooperate with members of Congress. This is also developing as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted efforts by congressional Democrats to haul certain officials from the State Department to Capitol Hill for questioning.

But these career officials would really be the ones who would have insight into how the administration may have been leveraging U.S. military aid when it comes to their negotiations with Ukraine. And they might not know a lot about the president's motivations in trying to withhold aid to Ukraine, but they could perhaps shed light on some of the other steps that the administration may have been taking behind the scenes to put pressure on the Ukrainian government.

[18:35:12]

BLITZER: You know, John, you saw The Washington Post move the story just a little while ago that the president, and I'll read the headline, involved Pence, the vice president, in efforts to pressure Ukraine's leader, though aides say the vice president was unaware of the pursuit of dirt on the Bidens.

This is a pretty serious development on this front as well.

KIRBY: It is. And I guess we have to learn a lot more to see just how truthful it is that Pence didn't know.

But I don't think we should lose sight of the central element here, which is whether there was a quid pro quo or not, whether aid was held up and when it was held up is not the important thing. It's that the president of the United States asked a foreign leader to help him dig up dirt on a political opponent in an upcoming election here in the United States. And that's really the red line.

BORGER: Can I just ask a question about Pence? How come he never knows anything about anything? I mean, he is the vice president of the United States. His person was apparently, according to that Washington Post piece, on the call. So Pence didn't know that Flynn was lying, Michael Flynn was lying, Pence didn't know about that.

Pence's trip got to the Ukraine, to the inauguration of the president of Ukraine got canceled. You might ask why. And then if he asked the president why, you think maybe the president -- of course, he would talk about corruption. Do you think maybe he mentioned Joe Biden? I mean, he says it to everybody, everybody else in the world.

So I think this is another interesting piece --

BLITZER: It was -- clearly, it's not the Zelensky that sent the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, instead.

Everybody stand by. There's a lot more we're going to discuss, a lot more on all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: Tonight as President Trump is exploding with anger over the impeachment investigation and a whistleblower complaint, most of his fellow Republicans remain conspicuously silent about the Ukraine scandal.

Our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us.

Dana, GOP lawmakers, they are in a sort of duck and cover mode.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Wolf, you remember during the Russia investigation, the president successfully set the narrative by calling it a hoax and a witch hunt. He's trying to do the same thing now.

But some Republicans on Capitol Hill tell us that this is different, that they are very worried that the president and even some top White House aides don't get that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: What you mostly hear from congressional Republicans on impeachment is the sound of silence. GOP sources tell CNN they have a good reason for that, fear. They have no idea what else House Democrats investigating will uncover. Along with the GOP fear, frustration with the president, performances like today's in the Oval Office.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The whistleblower was so dishonest.

BASH: And later in the east room.

TRUMP: This is a fraudulent crime on the American people.

BASH: He's rambling, shoot from the hip comments, his stream of consciousness tweets not exactly an anti-impeachment road map for his fellow Republicans. In fact, a source involved in Senate GOP discussions tells CNN, he is taking it upon himself to tweet about every shiny object that is not helpful right now.

To be sure, lots of Trump GOP allies eagerly came out to defend the initial bombshell, the transcript summary of the president asking Ukraine's leader to do him a favor and investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It was a nothing-burger for me, the phone call with the president and the Ukrainian president.

BASH: But GOP span on behalf of Trump is not aging well, especially confronted with facts about the call.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS HOST: President Trump replies, I would like you to do us a favor though.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You just added another word.

BLITZER: : No.

MCCARTHY: You said, I'd like to do a favor though?

BLITZER: : Yes. It's in the White House transcript.

BASH: and about the whistleblower.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You had a bureaucrat who didn't like the president.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. What are you talking about?

JORDAN: We know he didn't like the president.

TAPPER: No, we don't know that.

BASH: Baseless attacks like that on the whistleblower.

TRUMP: We have a whistleblower that reports things that were incorrect.

BASH: Plus repeated brazen threats from the president did compel Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, a long-time champion of whistleblowers, to release a statement warning no one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.

Also noteworthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rarely grants interviews, this week he did, declaring if the House impeaches the president, the Senate will have no choice but to start a trial.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Under the Senate rules, we're required to take it up if the House does go down that path and we'll follow the Senate rules.

BASH: Senate GOP sources say they're bracing for more shoes to drop, a politically dicey waiting game for more than a handful of Senate Republicans on the ballot and potentially vulnerable in 2020. Cory Gardner in Colorado to Martha McSally in Arizona, to Joni Ernst in Iowa, Susan Collins in Maine to Thom Tillis in North Carolina.

It's not just their own political future at stake but control of the Senate, which Republicans could lose with three or four seats, something McConnell is well aware of.

MCCONNELL: What I want to do is spend our time accomplishing things for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:45:04]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, several congressional Republicans we talked to complained they're getting very little guidance from the White House. Despite an initial flirtation with the idea of setting up an impeachment war room in the mode of Bill Clinton, the White House there had one during his impeachment, the Trump team is not going there now.

Instead, Wolf, the president is relying on something Clinton did not have and that is an active re-election campaign. But for all the email, tweets, videos and ads the Trump campaign is producing, and it's a lot, GOP sources on Capitol Hill say it's not the same. They argue impeachment is official dire business which should be led by a White House team, not a campaign, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Excellent report. Dana, thank you very much for that.

And, Jeffrey, let me get your reaction to the relative silence we're hearing from so many Republicans.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Because they're worried that facts are going to come out. Facts matter. You know, there has been no follow-up yet on the accusations of the whistleblower. The whistleblower is going to talk to the Intelligence Committee relatively soon and he will then give leads that will allow people, the Intelligence Committee, to follow up and interview people. That's where the real investigation is going to start. It hasn't really even started yet. BLITZER: A lot of nervous Republicans, right?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this has a really different feel from the whole Mueller investigation. It's a lot more digestible for the American public, it's very clear cut. John was laying out the issue before.

And I think Republicans are waiting because -- and some have come out and called it very troubling as Mitt Romney has said and Ben Sasse said, don't circle the wagons just yet.

So we know that Republicans are hanging back because they don't want to get stuck. If there is something that they feel is very egregious, they're going to be given an opportunity to speak about it. And that's what Mitch McConnell was talking about. And as Dana points out in her piece, I think Mitch McConnell is the man to watch.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And you heard in Dana's piece, some of the president's closest allies on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Congressman Jim Jordan, echoing the president's attacks on the whistleblower and the process by which the whistleblower collected the information, the allegations at hand.

But for most Republicans, the challenge is nothing changes the fact that the evidence is in what the president has himself acknowledged. The summary of the call really reveals the substance of the issue, which is that the president asked a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent. The president is not denying that very fact.

So that is why a lot of Republicans are struggling with this inquiry because they know that this is different. It's very much out in the open. They don't know what else may be uncovered as this investigation continues.

BORGER: Let me add one more thing too, and held up aid while asking somebody to investigate his political opponent. And that is something also. This timeline is going to be very important and Congress is going to be doing it day by day to see when the aid was held up, why, what did that have to the with the phone calls, what was Rudy Giuliani doing. They're going try to piece it altogether.

BLITZER: And I know, Kylie, there's going to be a whole bunch more very angry officials in the executive branch of the U.S. government, whistle-blowers, who are seeing what's going on and will be encouraged to speak up.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, they are. Secretary Pompeo, it took him almost a week to admit that he was on this call after the transcript was put out by the White House. So he really did not take the opportunity there. And when you mentioned Mitch McConnell, we know that behind closed doors he has been advocating for Secretary Pompeo to get out of this position and run for Senate. So how is Pompeo balancing those two factors here, the fact that he is on President Trump's team right now and is the secretary of state and maybe has political ambitions that are separate from this White House right now? REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: And

just let me -- I want to go back and hit one more item, which is the whistle-blower talked to many people on the National Security Council. We have to allow for the possibility that it goes beyond just Ukraine.

BLITZER: Right.

KIRBY: The processes and the policies in place that led to where we got to on Ukraine and the way he conducts himself in foreign policy could very well lead to other incidents with other countries that we don't even know yet.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.

There's a lot more news we're following, including a stunning reaction tonight as a former police officer gets a ten-year sentence for murdering her neighbor in his own apartment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:54:20]

BLITZER: Breaking news in Texas. A Dallas jury sentenced a white former policewoman to 10 years in prison for a murder of her black neighbor. She could have received life in prison.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera.

Ed, the sentence sure to be rather controversial.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were a number of people outside the courtroom, protesters who were unhappy with the ten-year sentence for Amber Guyger. She will be -- could be eligible for parole in five years, but at the end of the trial, after everything was over, Botham Jean's family was allowed to speak to Amber Guyger, and what unfolded there was one of the most breathtaking moments you'll ever see in a courtroom. Botham Jean's 18-year-old brother turned to Amber Guyger and said he forgives her and that the does not want to see her go to jail.

[18:55:05]

And then what he did next left everyone in the courtroom speechless.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDT JEAN, BROTHER OF BOTHAM JEAN: I don't know if it is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMAL: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Botham Jean's brother Brandt, 18 years old, showing unbelievable, strength and courage and composure there in that moment. They hugged, Wolf, in that courtroom for nearly 40 seconds. Afterwards, as family members had gathered their composure came out,

Alice Jean had this to say to Amber Guyger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLISON JEAN, MOTHER OF BOTHAM JEAN: That ten years in prison is ten years for her reflection and for her to change her life, but there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas. The corruption that we saw during this process must stop. And it must stop for you because after now I leave Dallas, but you live in Dallas, and it must stop for everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: So, Wolf, Botham Jean's family left the courthouse without answering any questions, but really, it was the moment there between Botham Jean's brother and Amber Guyger that has left an indelible mark here on the end of this trial. It has been a highly unusual trial.

This is not the type of officer police-involved shooting that has normally garnered headline across the country and a very different set of facts than what we've normally seen. So, a highly emotional ending to this trial -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us, thank you very much.

Other news we're following, Russian President Vladimir Putin poked fun at President Trump's troubles and actually joked about Russia's election meddling.

Let's go to CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. He's joining us from Moscow right now.

What's the latest, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Yes, President Putin seemed to at one point talking about President Trump's own talking points and when he ripped into the inquiry made fun of the U.S. and possibly meddling in future elections. Here's what we're learning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, Russian President Vladimir Putin trolling the United States, joking about meddling in the presidential election and saying he'll do it again.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'll tell you a secret. Yes, of course, we'll do it, to finally make you happy. Just don't tell anyone.

PLEITGEN: Putin also backing the demands of some in Washington to see further transcripts of President Donald Trump's interactions with other world leaders, including the Putin summit in Helsinki last year.

PUTIN (through translator): When there were attempts to launch a scandal regarding my meeting with Trump in Helsinki, we directly told the administration to just publish it. If somebody wants to know something just publish it. We don't mind.

PLEITGEN: But Vladimir Putin also echoing President Trump's talking points on the now infamous Ukrainian phone call.

PUTIN (through translator): They began this impeachment proceeding and always bring up Nixon. Nixon's team was wiretapping their rivals, but this is a completely different situation.

Trump was wiretapped. Some anonymous special service staffer leaked this information and based on what we know from the call, there was nothing wrong there. Trump asked his colleague to investigate possible corruption schemes of previous administrations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: It's a remarkable statement there from the Russian president, seemingly showing President Trump that even as things heat up around President Trump in Washington, the Russian president seems to still very much be in his corner, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks for that.

Also tonight, authorities just confirmed that seven people were killed in the crash of a vintage warplane. The World War II era bomber crashed while trying to land in an airport near Hartford, Connecticut, shooting flames and huge column of black smoke into the air. Thirteen people were onboard the plane, including the seven who were killed. At least one person was on the ground was injured.

Officials say the pilot reported a problem shortly after takeoff. Witnesses say the plane wasn't gaining altitude. The bomber known as the Flying Fortress was part of an air show featuring historic fighter planes.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.