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CNN TONIGHT

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Was Interviewed About What He Learned from Kurt Volker's Nine Hours Testimony in Congress; Text Messages Gave Light to Trump's Ukraine Scandal; President Trump Now Says Both China and Ukraine Should Investigate Bidens; Republican Senator Grilled Over Support for Trump at Iowa Town Hall; How Do Candidates Make Their Voices Heard in the Midst of Impeachment Inquiry?. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Five major breaking news developments in the impeachment inquiry. And we're going to go through all of it for you covered in this hour ahead.

A U.S. diplomat no longer on the job testifying before Congress today about text messages between American envoys and we've got brand new information on that tonight.

President Trump urging China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

And a source telling CNN that the Ukrainian government, not U.S. diplomats, wrote the initial statement for public release committing to pursue investigations of corruption which President Trump wanted. But Rudy Giuliani didn't think the statement went far enough and tried to change it.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Trump ordered the removal Of the U.S. ambassador of Ukraine because Rudy Giuliani and others complained she was undermining the president and blocking efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

And sources telling CNN that Vice President Mike Pence was told about the July call between Trump and Ukraine's president the day after the call took place. Today he tried to defend that call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: One of the main reasons we were elected in Washington, D.C. was to drain the swamp. I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, I want to start with the breaking news on Capitol Hill now. Joining me now is Sunlen Serfaty with the very latest information. Sunlen, good evening to you.

These text messages, there is one from Volker advising Zelensky's adviser Yermak on the morning of the July 25th, 2019 ahead of a call between Trump and Zelensky.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. And certainly, this is the significant moment. This document released from the House intelligence committee late this evening or more than 25 pages of documents text messages back and forth.

And first and foremost, this came from the testimony that Volker his deposition that he gave over nine hours today behind closed doors appear on Capitol Hill. Volker, of course, being the president's former special envoy to the Ukraine.

And one thing I want to highlight just before we get to this, going through these text messages, and again, our team is still going through them. Really underscores how much that the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani here was really amaze (Ph) in U.S., Ukrainian policy.

The fact that a text show that Giuliani was involved in arranging that July 25th phone call between President Trump and the president of the Ukraine when he, of course, urged that investigation into Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.

They also show that one big thing is that how cognizant the Ukrainians really were here that they essentially wanted to -- they knew the importance of this investigation to Giuliani and thus, to President Trump.

There were some reporting early in the day coming from a small portion of this text message released that talked about how some U.S. diplomats were helpful in drafting part of a document to give to the Ukrainians on talking about investigation.

We now know according to sources though, that document was actually started -- started by the Ukrainians. They were aware that the U.S. and President Trump wanted them to make a statement in some form about calling for an investigation about cracking down on corruption.

[23:05:04]

Some back and forth between the U.S. and Ukraine. Again, the puzzle pieces just coming together how extensive these conversations certainly were behind the scenes. Don?

LEMON: I mean, listen, I'm just getting some of it. I wonder what else you found interesting. I saw this one. This one said, you know, Kurt Volker, good, had breakfast with Rudy this morning. Teeing a call with Yermak Monday. It must have helped. Most important, this was Zelensky, to say that he will help investigation and address any specific personal issues if there are any.

I mean, you're right, it's interesting. I mean, what else stand out to you?

SERFATY: Yes. One other thing that definitely stood to me. I mean, there are just a slew of breakfast meetings, a slew of text messages. Just how much energy was put into this around that July 25th phone call. In August there's a slew of text messages changed. Certainly, the significance of the amount of those communications.

But one other thing that really struck was interesting to me and the committee really noted this when they released this. Tonight, they said that this reflects serious concerns raised by a State Department official about, they say, the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine.

And there is a portion of this transcript where Bill Taylor, a top U.S. envoy he expresses concerns about where this is all going. Saying I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for the help with a political campaign. So, I think we will see a lot of Democrats, Don, in the coming days saying that this shows somewhat of a quid pro quo here. Of course, which is at the center of their investigation.

LEMON: So, Sunlen, go through these with me here. Let's go to page five if you have it there. I think you have it in front of you, and it's right, sort of in the middle of the page. Which says, Volker advises Yermak ahead of Trump's-Zelensky call.

And it says, on Monday, on the morning -- excuse me -- on the morning of July 25, 2019 ahead of the planned call between President Trump and President Zelensky, Ambassador Volker advised Andriy Yermak.

And this is at 7-25-19, 8.36.45 a.m. Kurt Volker, good lunch, thanks. Heard from White House assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck, see you tomorrow. Kurt. So that's one.

SERFATY: Yes. I thought that was interesting too because you have there, President Z, assuming President Z the Ukrainian president there convinces Trump he will investigate.

And we've talked a lot about in recent days. And certainly, Democrats have been worried that, you know, a meeting between the two of them would have been contingent on the Ukrainian president promising that he will investigate. So, reading through those lines there on that -- on that text message chain ahead of that call. Certainly, important there, Don.

LEMON: OK. There's another one, this was on page four, OK? And it's towards the bottom of the page. And it says, concerns about Ukraine becoming an instrument in U.S. politics, on July 21st, 2019 Ambassador Taylor flagged President Zelensky's desire for Ukraine not to be used by the Trump administration for its own domestic political purposes.

Seven twenty-one nineteen, 1.45.54 a.m. Bill Taylor. Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyluk's point that President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic reelection politics.

And then again at 4.45 the response -- 44, it says, Gordon -- Sunlen -- this is Gordon, Sunlen. Absolutely. But we need to get the conversation started in the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext I am worried about the alternative.

And then there's another one. Go on, do you want to discuss that? There's another one that I want to discuss with you.

SERFATY: I think, yes, I think this is like paints again a picture of how aware everyone was of these demands that were being put on Ukraine. This ask being put on Ukraine and how eager the Ukrainians in their communication and how the U.S. officials in their communications acknowledge that that was certainly something that was floating in the ether, and certainly important that they were aware and wanted to not only make Rudy Giuliani happy, but potentially President Trump as well.

LEMON: OK. And then this one is on page eight, Sunlen. Towards the bottom of the page. And it says, on September 1, Ambassador Taylor sought clarification of the requirements for a White House visit.

Nine one nineteen, 12.08.57 p.m. Bill Taylor. Are you now saying that's security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? And then at 12.42.29 It's Gordon, Sunlen, call me.

SERFATY: Yes. There's certainly a lot to be revealed from the short messages.

[23:09:54]

And again, I think that this underscores what a lot of Democrats have been raising that there was some sense that this meeting between President Trump by a lot -- between President Trump and the Ukrainian president was somewhat contingent on them agreeing that they would -- it would be conditioned on launching an investigation making some sort of statement.

And that's why, to go back to the first part of our conversation, this drafting of this document for potentially the Ukrainian president to read at some point who started that document and who was involved in, you know, editing the document is so important.

Now there was early reporting that this started with the U.S. But now we know according to a source familiar, that they say that the Ukrainians started drafting that document talking in general terms about corruption and investigation not mentioning the Bidens.

This source tells CNN though, that draft was given to Paul Volker -- excuse me -- Kurt Volker and Volker showed it to Giuliani, and Giuliani essentially said it didn't go far enough that it had to specifically mention the Bidens and the energy company that Hunter Biden was part of. So, again, this back and forth this piecing together of these

conversations and these text messages, again shows how much importance was put on these demands that were very clear clearly expressed in many of these text messages.

LEMON: Sunlen Serfaty going through that. Again, these text messages are just in. Sunlen just got them, I just got them. We're reading through them in real-time here. So, Sunlen, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

SERFATY: Thanks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So, joining me now is Congressman Eric Swalwell who sits on the intelligence committee. Congressman, I really appreciate your time. I know it's been a long day for you. Nine hours of testimony from Volker. What did you learn?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Don. We learned that there's been an ongoing shadow shakedown by Rudy Giuliani, it looks like, at the direction of Donald Trump to have the Ukrainians investigate and exonerate the Russians for their role in the 2016 election, and also to investigate the Biden family in exchange for security assistance from the U.S. to Ukraine.

LEMON: What evidence did Volker provide to back up his testimony?

SWALWELL: Voluminous amounts of text messages and, you know, different e-mails and exchanges that he had with other State Department officials. And again, you know, we're going to hear from these officials going forward. But we have the best evidence yet that there was an ongoing scheme. As the whistleblower described to quote, unquote, "play ball" to have the Ukrainians "play ball" with the president's request to investigate the Bidens and exonerate Russia.

LEMON: Well, let's talk about this. Because CNN is reporting that Volker told Giuliani not to trust the Ukrainians who are giving him dirt on the Bidens that they were corrupt themselves. Did he testify to that?

SWALWELL: Yes, Don, I can say this, Rudy Giuliani had all the evidence in the world to not believe any of the misinformation about the Bidens. That that was made clear to him. He proceeded anyway.

What's kind of frustrating I imagine for Ambassador Volker is that he's a career diplomat who is working for free especially as a special envoy. And you have this rogue emissary of the president who's running a second shadow track with the Ukrainians.

And we have evidence now that there were other State Department officials who were concerned about Mr. Giuliani's - his own engagement with the Ukrainians and one who went as far to say that it's crazy that the United States would condition security assistance in exchange for help in a political campaign. LEMON: Volker also warned Ukraine's president in a meeting after the

July 25th call not to interfere in U.S. politics. I mean, what was behind that warning?

SWALWELL: Well, I'm not going to characterize, you know, every part of Volker's testimony. What we do we are going to release evidence, that we have released evidence, I believe, on, you know, the text messages exchanges.

But it is improper for another foreign government to involve itself in a United States election. That is accepted standard practice any diplomat Republican or Democratically appointed would not go for that. But here you have Rudy Giuliani at the direction of the president who is not -- Rudy Giuliani is not appointed. He's not serving any official government role. He's Donald Trump's personal lawyer out running this rogue shadow shakedown for Donald Trump.

LEMON: What about -- what about this statement that Volker and another envoy were drafting a written commitment from Ukraine that they would investigate the Bidens?

SWALWELL: So, we understood from the testimony today that as soon as President Zelensky went into power for Ukraine, that he was made to understand that the only way to get a meeting with the White House was that if he were to investigate and exonerate Russia in the 2016 election and investigate the Bidens.

[23:14:54]

We also had further evidence today that again the security assistance your taxpayer dollars, $390 million was being withheld, as one State Department described because we were leveraging that against the Ukrainian supporting President Trump for a political campaign.

LEMON: OK. A couple of things. You know he said in the meeting he didn't feel pressured from that phone call at least where there was a transcript. Right? So, if he didn't feel pressure then he could only get a meeting if he agreed to it? Can you square that for me?

SWALWELL: Yes. We had clear evidence now that the Ukrainians understood that the only way to get a meeting with Donald Trump was to investigate the Bidens, exonerate Russia. That was made clear. Donald Trump was using various officials in the State Department to make that clear to the Ukrainians.

LEMON: Do you have evidence to back that up on Mr. Volker?

(CROSSTALK)

SWALWELL: Yes, we do.

LEMON: OK. OK. So, then if President Trump was looking for a written commitment, isn't that quid pro quo? Isn't that a quid -- isn't a quid pro quo implied there why sign a contract without an understanding that you would get something in return?

SWALWELL: And Don, in the history of quid pro quo as no one has ever said, hey, I have a quid pro quo for you.

LEMON: Exactly.

SWALWELL: But the president came pretty damn close in the way that he conducted, you know, business with the Ukrainians. And also, in that presidential call read out that he released his version of the events. He says I have a favor to ask, though. So, it's like a quid pro though that the president was putting out for the Ukrainians. They knew what was going on.

LEMON: House Republicans Volker's hearing does nothing to advance the case for impeachment. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): The administration is in even stronger place today than it were this morning as a product of Ambassador Volker coming to testify.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Not one thing he has said comports with any of the Democrats impeachment narrative. Not one thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What's your response?

SWALWELL: Well, first, Don, none of those two individuals sat through all eight hours. They left for the cameras. I stayed the whole time. And I am more concerned today than ever that the president has tried to leverage our taxpayer dollars to advance his political interest and he's using State Department officials to carry out those endeavors.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, sources tell CNN that President Trump raised Biden and Elizabeth Warren's political prospects in a call with China's President Xi Jinping. The president today saying that he considers asking China, an authoritarian government, to investigate the Bidens. Is this more ammunition than the impeachment inquiry?

SWALWELL: This is the pattern of cheating and corruption by President Trump. We're focused right now on the Ukraine act. We have a confession on the Ukraine act. We're now just talking to other officials who were clearly involved.

But this should be used to show, you know, that the president has this motive. It's his M.O. is to leverage, you know, U.S. resources and U.S. policy to help himself in a presidential election. And he is going to be held accountable for that.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, thank you so much.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Don.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Conversation with the congressman held shortly before this program tonight. Our breaking news, text messages between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainians

released by House Democrats tonight. That on a day that one big story after another. We're going to dig into all of it next.

[23:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Our breaking news. Text messages between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainians released by House Democrats.

And I just want to read this one. It's from July 25 at 8.36 a.m. from Kurt Volker to Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak.

And it says, good lunch, thanks. Heard from White House. Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate. Get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck. See you tomorrow. Kurt.

So, let's bring in now Elie Honig, Kylie Atwood, and Shawn Turner. Good evening, one and all. Shawn, just give me your reaction to what I just read. Is that a quid pro quo meeting for investigation?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's an easy one, Don, yes, absolutely. Look, there are multiple examples throughout this list of text messages that clearly lay out that the individuals who were trying to coordinate this meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump were clearly of the mind that in order for this meeting to go forward something was going to happen. That Zelensky was going to have it make a commitment to this investigation.

And I mean, you've read several of them. But, you know, when they talk about, are we saying now that the meeting is based on this investigation and whether or not it goes forward, that's clearly the case.

When someone says the president wants to deliver them. I mean, it's all here. The president might say that there was no quid pro quo. But the text messages don't lie. Clearly, there was a concern there and I don't know how they spin this to suggest that there was not.

LEMON: OK. I just want to get -- this a passage on page four of the text that we just got. And his -- Sondland briefs Zelensky ahead of call with President Trump. And I just want -- it just says, this is in July 18, 2019.

Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and Mr. Taylor had the following exchange about the specific goal for the upcoming telephone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. OK.

So, it says, Kurt Volker, can we three do a call together say noon Washington? And then Gordon Sondland writes back. It looks like POTUS call tomorrow. I spike. And then it sic directly to Zelensky and gave him a full briefing. He's got it. OK?

And then Gordon Sondland said, sure. And then Kurt Volker, good. Had breakfast with Rudy this morning. Teeing up call with Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most important is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation and address any specific personnel issues if there are any.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's great evidence. It's a prosecutor's dream.

LEMON: What is happening here?

HONIG: So, this is why this is such good evidence. First of all, it's in the word of the real insiders, the people who understand the dynamic. It is their own words. There's no spin ability. And it's from the time when this was all happening.

[23:25:01]

And what you see here is the people who are really on the inside who are working in these channels understand that really what comes through all these texts there's only one thing that Donald Trump cares about and that's these investigations to benefit his own political campaign.

It just, it comes through from the direct players who are involved and it corroborates, it backs up it supports the call that we've all seen. It supports what the whistleblower told us. So, this is really important evidence. It gives us a real insight into what was going on.

LEMON: OK. So, for those who say well, we don't need there -- I don't know. I guess you have to have evidence of a crime. Or others say you don't need a crime. What does this say to you?

HONIG: Well, I think this helps build the case that there is a crime. Correct. You do not need a crime in order to impeach. An abuse of power is enough. But I also do think we have a crime. And this builds the case that there was an exchange of bribery, a quid pro quo, whatever you want to call it. And it's pretty darn close to an actual stated quid pro quo. Here's the deal.

LEMON: OK. OK. So that was the Ukraine call. And then we have the other thing here. Kylie, let me bring you in. Because tell us about the new CNN reporting of a call that president had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This was in August.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So, we are now learning that there was a call between President Trump and Xi Jinping back in July. And during that call, President Trump did bring up Joe Biden. He also brought up Elizabeth Warren and brought them up in the political prospect sense. He was not at that point encouraging Xi Jinping to investigate Joe Biden. He was talking about his political rivals here. Right? Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren being two of them.

Now this is significant because just today President Trump went further and publicly suggested that China investigate Joe Biden. But this shows that Joe Biden was always on his mind when it comes to China. And he did bring it up in a phone call with Xi Jinping earlier this summer. LEMON: OK. Yes. So, listen, I got that wrong. The Chinese call was in

June. The Ukrainian call was in July. The Ukrainian call was later but we found out about that one first. The one with the Chinese president was in June. And we're just finding out about that one.

The president suggested China started -- start an investigation today. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, now we know that the president's conversation with Xi Jinping was moved to the secret server. It seems that he was getting this out before that information became public, Kylie.

ATWOOD: Yes, that's right. He did get it out today. He talked to reporters publicly about it as we were working on this story. But I want to note that it definitely took the Chinese by surprise.

I spoke with a Chinese diplomat today who said to me that it was chaotic. They were trying to process these reports and they were asking allies of Trump if Trump was really serious. If he really wanted them to investigate Joe Biden.

Now I'm told that Trump allies said yes. That is the way to gain points with this president. But I also was told by a Chinese diplomat that they didn't want to get involved into the domestic politics of the U.S. But we have yet to see a formal response from the Chinese government on this.

LEMON: All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it you helping us with this breaking news.

The White House in crisis as the impeachment inquiry takes wild new turns. Does President Trump have a strategy?

[23:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president now openly saying that he wants Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden. Let's discuss now. Guy Smith is here. He served as special adviser to Bill Clinton during his impeachment. And John Dean, the former White House counsel for President Nixon joins us well. Thank you so much, gentlemen. I really appreciate it.

Guy, the White House is in crisis now. It's clear that Trump is handling his own impeachment strategy by Twitter, seat of his pants, pressers out, you know, on the lawn. How is he doing? GUY SMITH, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR BILL CLINTON: Well, I think he's holding the smoking gun. I think that it's just nuts what he's doing. He's -- the thing with China this morning was another example of an unconstitutional and illegal act.

And for some reason, he seems to think the American people are not going to notice this. I mean, they are. You see it from the polls from before. And there's no apparatus in the White House to cope with this.

The big thing that should tell us all what's going on and how successful or not he is being is the deafening silence from the Republican senators. None of them but maybe Lindsey Graham that are saying anything. They're all staying in their hole.

Senators don't normally not talk. They talk all the time. And they're not talking. I think what we're seeing is an unraveling here. And the Democrats are methodically building a case. There's all the Ukraine stuff. Today is with the diplomats. Next week, the fired ambassador is going to be there.

LEMON: Yeah.

SMITH: And we're just getting started on this.

LEMON: John, listen, the first rule. He said you talk about a hole, right? The first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. But today alone, Trump flat out said he flat out pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and for good measure China, too.

[23:35:01]

LEMON: Does he not get how serious this is? What is happening here?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's hard to ever fathom his mind as we know, Don. What he is showing in his action is that he knows he's in trouble. He is slashing out and getting angry like somebody who has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

They are concocting something on the Hill. It is not going to work. That is they're going to litigate this. They're developing a letter from the White House to the speaker, and they're going to try to get a court to intervene to claim that they can't have an impeachment proceeding because they don't have a formal resolution of the House. They don't need a formal resolution of the House.

They site, however, the Nixon impeachment and the Clinton impeachment, where there were resolutions. But they weren't at the very beginning. They were when they got more formal. But there's nothing that is going to stop, for example, the House Intelligence Committee which is doing its own job, building its own case.

As the speaker said, there are six committees working on this right now. And the White House really has no strategy. And the players on the Hill are really just running a fog machine.

LEMON: Listen, Guy, you were a special adviser to President Clinton during his impeachment. You heard what John just said there. Why would they be against investigating? Right now, it's an inquiry, right? If there's no evidence, if he's fine, why would they be against investigating? How should this be going?

SMITH: Well, they should be building a defense. And the entire apparatus at the White House -- John just was talking the absence of the apparatus -- is about distortion and distraction, not about defending. And if they -- I mean, they put out the Ukraine readout of the presidential call. Are they going to put out the readout of President Xi's call? Probably not.

Pompeo is hiding behind the -- not giving out anything. What we're seeing here is an absence of strategy. They don't know what to do, frankly. And the president is not letting them do anything even if they knew what to do.

LEMON: John, let me ask you -- no pun intended, but is this whole Ukraine conspiracy theory with Joe Biden and his son, is that the Trump card? Is basically the strategy is to dig in with that and then deny, deny, deny, even if you read the text messages that just came out and if you read the readout from the call and on and on?

DEAN: I think they are surprised at how fast information is coming out. The information that came out today, I'm sure they weren't prepared for. They weren't prepared for the reaction that got when they put out the transcript of the president's call with the president of Ukraine. They are not prepared for anything, Don.

The president apparently got angry at his acting chief of staff for not having a plan in place.

LEMON: Right.

DEAN: Well, how do you put a plan in place when you just learned it minutes before you're going to do it because the president gets a whim?

LEMON: That's got to be the last word.

DEAN: This is a mess (ph) and --

LEMON: Go on, finish --

DEAN: -- himself.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, gentlemen. I really appreciate it. It's fascinating to see how this -- as you said, how quickly this is moving. The information is coming out. I appreciate both of you. We'll be right back.

SMITH: Thank you, Don.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Republican Senator Joni Ernst in the hot seat at a town hall in Iowa today. Listen to what happened when a constituent confronted her over her support for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just this morning, we have President Trump saying, oh, we need to talk to Xi Jinping and have, you know, President Xi and have him investigate Joe Biden. How is that helping anybody?

(APPLAUSE)

AMY HASKINS, IOWA RESIDENT: Where is the line? When are you guys going to say enough and stand up and say, you know what, I'm not backing any of this, because we constantly have everybody, oh, well, it's not this, it's not that or, you know, everything else? But yet, you still stand there silent. And your silence is supporting him and not standing up.

(APPLAUSE)

HASKINS: You didn't put an oath to the president. You pledged it to our country. You pledged it to our Constitution. When are you guys going to start standing up and actually be there for us?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): OK, so, President Trump. I can say, yay, nay, whatever. The president is going to say what the president is going to do. It's up to us as members of Congress to continue working with our allies, making sure we remain strong in the face of adversity. That's what we have to do, continue to encourage the other countries. So, that's what we will continue to do.

HASKINS: I beg your pardon. But all of our allies, he is pushing aside. He is making fun of them on Twitter. He --

ERNST: Mam --

HASKINS: -- and then we end up with, oh, we love people from North Korea or we love Russia. Where -- I mean, I understand it's a non- answer answer. I understand. I get it. I know what you're saying. But --

ERNST: I can't speak for him. I'll just say that I can't speak for him.

HASKINS: I know you can't speak for him, but you can speak for yourself.

[23:45:00]

ERNST: And I do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Whew! Wow! Let's discuss now with Republican Congresswoman Mia Love and senior political analyst Ryan Lizza. Listen, American voters are really smart. Hello to both of you. Mia, Republicans are going to be hearing about this in their districts, aren't they? I mean, from the looks of it, they already are.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah, they are and they're asking those questions. But there's another side of this also that I think is actually fair. The blue dog Democrats are very silent about this also. They're literally hiding under the umbrella of the speaker not bringing this vote to the floor.

And I think that if the speaker really wants to get the American people to come along so that they can know exactly who stands with this inquiry and who doesn't stand with the inquiry, they actually would have a vote on the floor so she can say, see, I've got the support.

These are the people that are closest to their districts. They know exactly what they want me to do. We're going to move forward. But right now, she stands to take the brunt of all of this. And you have to ask why. Why isn't she --

LEMON: Won't that come in time when they get the information and the investigation continues? Right now, it's just an inquiry. Once all of the evidence comes out, don't you think she will take it to the floor and have a vote on it, Ryan?

LOVE: Well, I hope so. I hope so. I mean, there's information that is coming out. I hope so. There's no indication that this is going to -- as a matter of fact, I spoke to a lot of people, a lot of former colleagues --

LEMON: Yeah.

LOVE: -- and they're saying that, you know, this is something she wants to avoid --

LEMON: OK.

LOVE: -- at all costs because it puts blue Democrats in a very difficult position.

LEMON: OK.

LOVE: Look, there is --

LEMON: Mia, I got to -- I don't have much time. I got to run.

LOVE: OK. Go ahead.

LEMON: I got to get Ryan in. Ryan, I want to get your response to what she said and to that clip that we looked at.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm just a little confused. I have absolutely no idea what the blue dog Democrats have to do with the clip that we just looked at. To me, what we saw is an Iowa voter. Anyone that travelled to Iowa knows a lot of voters there are very sophisticated and pay attention to things very closely.

You saw them expressing this frustration with why don't Republicans in Congress call out behavior that they know is beyond the pale. Why don't they talk about the president normalizing, inviting foreign election interference? We know --

LOVE: It has to do with blue dog Democrats.

LEMON: I got to run.

LIZZA: Just one second, Mia. Just one second --

LEMON: I got to run. Quickly, please.

LOVE: It has to do with them.

LEMON: Ryan, please, quickly --

LOVE: It has to do with them --

LEMON: Mia, hold on. I got to -- you spoke for a long time, Mia. I got to get Ryan's response and then get to the break. Go ahead, please, Ryan.

LIZZA: I think that's -- I thought that Senator Ernst's response showed, you know, just sort of how weak a member of Congress can be when they're scared of their own leader, the president, what can do with a tweet.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Sorry about that. Thank you both. We'll be right back.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LOVE: OK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, with the torrent of news on the impeachment inquiry, how do the Democrats vying to run against the president make their voices heard? Joining me now is David Plouffe. He is a 2008 campaign manager and then White House adviser for President Trump. David is also the host of the new podcast "Campaign HQ" from Cadence 13. So, thank you. President Obama. What did I say? Did I say President Trump? Oh, sorry, President Obama.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You scared me for a minute there, Don.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: It's been a long day.

PLOUFFE: Didn't sound right.

LEMON: David, thank you so much. Listen, multiple headlines are coming out of this White House at such a furious pace. It sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the 2020 campaign coverage. What do candidates need to do to break through all this impeachment noise?

PLOUFFE: It's going to be hard nationally. Of course, if this heads to a trial in the Senate, a bunch of people running for president will be, you know, helping answer that question. I do think, though, in the early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, impeachment is going to be important to those voters, but, you know, I still think you'll be able to get your message across there on the economy, on health care, even on impeachment.

What's interesting, there was a story last week in two critical battleground states, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, they've lost the two most manufacturing jobs in the country --

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

PLOUFFE: -- and that should be death to a president. I think there's a way to combine this. What we need is a president that's going to focus on saving our jobs, not asking a foreign government to save his.

So, it's going to be hard nationally for a while, but I think in those states -- ultimately those states are going to help decide who the nominee is. I think you'll be able to be heard.

LEMON: You make the point on your podcast that there are currently six democratic candidates who are United States senators. How could an impeachment trial impact their race?

PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, they're going to be stuck in Washington. They have to be. So, for that period of time, they'll be in Washington. Obviously, they'll have an opportunity. Every, you know, network is going to want to talk to them. So, it's an opportunity there, and maybe one can outshine the other.

But at the end of the day, I'd be personally surprised if, you know, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, as we get into the March primaries, that impeachment is driving the selection of our candidate.

I think what this does mean -- I think particularly if he does get impeached, does not get convicted by the Senate, my view is if you want to get rid of Trump, you better not count on conviction or resignation. The only path is winning the election. Laser focus on who can beat Trump.

What's clear is, whether it's, you know, calls to Ukraine and China and Australia on Biden and now we've seen maybe Warren in China, he wants to reprise the "lock her up" from 2016 no matter who the candidate is. He's going to say they're the most corrupt human being in the history of the world. So his playbook is pretty clear. But, you know, I think at the end of the day, I don't think our primary is going to be decided by impeachment. That would be my sense, anyway.

LEMON: Interesting. So, you know Joe Biden -- him getting political dirt on Joe Biden is at the center of all of this. And you know Joe Biden spoke out, gave a statement last night. How do you think Biden, the Biden campaign should handle Trump's attempts to saddle them with this conspiracy theory or scandal?

PLOUFFE: Well, my sense is this is an opportunity for them. And I think Vice President Biden tried to seize on that last night which is clearly I think Biden is best positioned when people see him as the likely candidate against Trump, the person Trump is afraid of.

[23:55:00]

PLOUFFE: So, I would take advantage of that. Even if you're going to get tough questions, you know, about your son, I think those are easily handled -- this is a phony, you know, scandal that Trump is trying to create -- and just say that he's afraid of me.

So, go toe for toe. I'd be out there even more than he is and trying to seize this moment, which doesn't come along very often in a crowded primary field. You've got the opportunity, I think, to elevate. So, I would seize it.

I think that it is important to understand though, one of Trump's advantages here as it relates to the general election is, how are swing voters to undecided voters, how is impeachment going to play in their vote? It is too early to know.

But the other part of an election is registration and turnout. And our candidates really are focused on winning the nomination, so they're in Iowa, they're in New Hampshire. Trump is focused on the general election.

I do think a lot of their ads they're running on YouTube and Facebook are very well done. You know, they're aimed at trying to strengthen his organization, grow intensity, add registration and there are a lot of unregistered potential Trump voters out there, they are not just Democrats.

So, I think as a Democrat, we need to be mindful of that. Trump is going to try even as tough as this is going to be. I don't think Trump ever really has a playbook. I assure you it wasn't heading into re- election with an impeachment proceeding over his head. But they're going to try to maximize the benefit of it. I think that largely resides in trying to drive a lot of registration, donations and volunteers on his side.

LEMON: David, great information. I really appreciate you joining us. Please come back. Good luck with your podcast, OK?

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much. And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Five major breaking news developments in the impeachment inquiry. And we're going to go through all of it for you covered in this hour ahead.

A U.S. diplomat no longer on the job testifying before Congress today about text messages between American envoys and we've got brand new information on that tonight.

President Trump urging China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

And a source telling CNN that the Ukrainian government, not U.S. diplomats, wrote the initial statement for public release committing to pursue investigations of corruption which President Trump wanted. But Rudy Giuliani didn't think the statement went far enough and tried to change it.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Trump ordered the removal Of the U.S. ambassador of Ukraine because Rudy Giuliani and others complained she was undermining the president and blocking efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

And sources telling CNN that Vice President Mike Pence was told about the July call between Trump and Ukraine's president the day after the call took place. Today he tried to defend that call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: One of the main reasons we were elected in Washington, D.C. was to drain the swamp. I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, I want to start with the breaking news on Capitol Hill now. Joining me now is Sunlen Serfaty with the very latest information. Sunlen, good evening to you.

These text messages, there is one from Volker advising Zelensky's adviser Yermak on the morning of the July 25th, 2019 ahead of a call between Trump and Zelensky.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. And certainly, this is the significant moment. This document released from the House intelligence committee late this evening or more than 25 pages of documents text messages back and forth.

And first and foremost, this came from the testimony that Volker his deposition that he gave over nine hours today behind closed doors appear on Capitol Hill. Volker, of course, being the president's former special envoy to the Ukraine.

And one thing I want to highlight just before we get to this, going through these text messages, and again, our team is still going through them. Really underscores how much that the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani here was really amaze (Ph) in U.S., Ukrainian policy.

The fact that a text show that Giuliani was involved in arranging that July 25th phone call between President Trump and the president of the Ukraine when he, of course, urged that investigation into Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.

They also show that one big thing is that how cognizant the Ukrainians really were here that they essentially wanted to -- they knew the importance of this investigation to Giuliani and thus, to President Trump.

There were some reporting early in the day coming from a small portion of this text message released that talked about how some U.S. diplomats were helpful in drafting part of a document to give to the Ukrainians on talking about investigation.

We now know according to sources though, that document was actually started -- started by the Ukrainians. They were aware that the U.S. and President Trump wanted them to make a statement in some form about calling for an investigation about cracking down on corruption.

[23:05:04]

Some back and forth between the U.S. and Ukraine. Again, the puzzle pieces just coming together how extensive these conversations certainly were behind the scenes. Don?

LEMON: I mean, listen, I'm just getting some of it. I wonder what else you found interesting. I saw this one. This one said, you know, Kurt Volker, good, had breakfast with Rudy this morning. Teeing a call with Yermak Monday. It must have helped. Most important, this was Zelensky, to say that he will help investigation and address any specific personal issues if there are any.

I mean, you're right, it's interesting. I mean, what else stand out to you?

SERFATY: Yes. One other thing that definitely stood to me. I mean, there are just a slew of breakfast meetings, a slew of text messages. Just how much energy was put into this around that July 25th phone call. In August there's a slew of text messages changed. Certainly, the significance of the amount of those communications.

But one other thing that really struck was interesting to me and the committee really noted this when they released this. Tonight, they said that this reflects serious concerns raised by a State Department official about, they say, the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine.

And there is a portion of this transcript where Bill Taylor, a top U.S. envoy he expresses concerns about where this is all going. Saying I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for the help with a political campaign. So, I think we will see a lot of Democrats, Don, in the coming days saying that this shows somewhat of a quid pro quo here. Of course, which is at the center of their investigation.

LEMON: So, Sunlen, go through these with me here. Let's go to page five if you have it there. I think you have it in front of you, and it's right, sort of in the middle of the page. Which says, Volker advises Yermak ahead of Trump's-Zelensky call.

And it says, on Monday, on the morning -- excuse me -- on the morning of July 25, 2019 ahead of the planned call between President Trump and President Zelensky, Ambassador Volker advised Andriy Yermak.

And this is at 7-25-19, 8.36.45 a.m. Kurt Volker, good lunch, thanks. Heard from White House assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck, see you tomorrow. Kurt. So that's one.

SERFATY: Yes. I thought that was interesting too because you have there, President Z, assuming President Z the Ukrainian president there convinces Trump he will investigate.

And we've talked a lot about in recent days. And certainly, Democrats have been worried that, you know, a meeting between the two of them would have been contingent on the Ukrainian president promising that he will investigate. So, reading through those lines there on that -- on that text message chain ahead of that call. Certainly, important there, Don.

LEMON: OK. There's another one, this was on page four, OK? And it's towards the bottom of the page. And it says, concerns about Ukraine becoming an instrument in U.S. politics, on July 21st, 2019 Ambassador Taylor flagged President Zelensky's desire for Ukraine not to be used by the Trump administration for its own domestic political purposes.

Seven twenty-one nineteen, 1.45.54 a.m. Bill Taylor. Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyluk's point that President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic reelection politics.

And then again at 4.45 the response -- 44, it says, Gordon -- Sunlen -- this is Gordon, Sunlen. Absolutely. But we need to get the conversation started in the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext I am worried about the alternative.

And then there's another one. Go on, do you want to discuss that? There's another one that I want to discuss with you.

SERFATY: I think, yes, I think this is like paints again a picture of how aware everyone was of these demands that were being put on Ukraine. This ask being put on Ukraine and how eager the Ukrainians in their communication and how the U.S. officials in their communications acknowledge that that was certainly something that was floating in the ether, and certainly important that they were aware and wanted to not only make Rudy Giuliani happy, but potentially President Trump as well.

LEMON: OK. And then this one is on page eight, Sunlen. Towards the bottom of the page. And it says, on September 1, Ambassador Taylor sought clarification of the requirements for a White House visit.

Nine one nineteen, 12.08.57 p.m. Bill Taylor. Are you now saying that's security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? And then at 12.42.29 It's Gordon, Sunlen, call me.

SERFATY: Yes. There's certainly a lot to be revealed from the short messages.

[23:09:54]

And again, I think that this underscores what a lot of Democrats have been raising that there was some sense that this meeting between President Trump by a lot -- between President Trump and the Ukrainian president was somewhat contingent on them agreeing that they would -- it would be conditioned on launching an investigation making some sort of statement.

And that's why, to go back to the first part of our conversation, this drafting of this document for potentially the Ukrainian president to read at some point who started that document and who was involved in, you know, editing the document is so important.

Now there was early reporting that this started with the U.S. But now we know according to a source familiar, that they say that the Ukrainians started drafting that document talking in general terms about corruption and investigation not mentioning the Bidens.

This source tells CNN though, that draft was given to Paul Volker -- excuse me -- Kurt Volker and Volker showed it to Giuliani, and Giuliani essentially said it didn't go far enough that it had to specifically mention the Bidens and the energy company that Hunter Biden was part of.

So, again, this back and forth this piecing together of these conversations and these text messages, again shows how much importance was put on these demands that were very clear clearly expressed in many of these text messages.

LEMON: Sunlen Serfaty going through that. Again, these text messages are just in. Sunlen just got them, I just got them. We're reading through them in real-time here. So, Sunlen, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

SERFATY: Thanks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So, joining me now is Congressman Eric Swalwell who sits on the intelligence committee. Congressman, I really appreciate your time. I know it's been a long day for you. Nine hours of testimony from Volker. What did you learn?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Don. We learned that there's been an ongoing shadow shakedown by Rudy Giuliani, it looks like, at the direction of Donald Trump to have the Ukrainians investigate and exonerate the Russians for their role in the 2016 election, and also to investigate the Biden family in exchange for security assistance from the U.S. to Ukraine.

LEMON: What evidence did Volker provide to back up his testimony?

SWALWELL: Voluminous amounts of text messages and, you know, different e-mails and exchanges that he had with other State Department officials. And again, you know, we're going to hear from these officials going forward. But we have the best evidence yet that there was an ongoing scheme. As the whistleblower described to quote, unquote, "play ball" to have the Ukrainians "play ball" with the president's request to investigate the Bidens and exonerate Russia.

LEMON: Well, let's talk about this. Because CNN is reporting that Volker told Giuliani not to trust the Ukrainians who are giving him dirt on the Bidens that they were corrupt themselves. Did he testify to that?

SWALWELL: Yes, Don, I can say this, Rudy Giuliani had all the evidence in the world to not believe any of the misinformation about the Bidens. That that was made clear to him. He proceeded anyway.

What's kind of frustrating I imagine for Ambassador Volker is that he's a career diplomat who is working for free especially as a special envoy. And you have this rogue emissary of the president who's running a second shadow track with the Ukrainians.

And we have evidence now that there were other State Department officials who were concerned about Mr. Giuliani's - his own engagement with the Ukrainians and one who went as far to say that it's crazy that the United States would condition security assistance in exchange for help in a political campaign.

LEMON: Volker also warned Ukraine's president in a meeting after the July 25th call not to interfere in U.S. politics. I mean, what was behind that warning?

SWALWELL: Well, I'm not going to characterize, you know, every part of Volker's testimony. What we do we are going to release evidence, that we have released evidence, I believe, on, you know, the text messages exchanges.

But it is improper for another foreign government to involve itself in a United States election. That is accepted standard practice any diplomat Republican or Democratically appointed would not go for that. But here you have Rudy Giuliani at the direction of the president who is not -- Rudy Giuliani is not appointed. He's not serving any official government role. He's Donald Trump's personal lawyer out running this rogue shadow shakedown for Donald Trump.

LEMON: What about -- what about this statement that Volker and another envoy were drafting a written commitment from Ukraine that they would investigate the Bidens?

SWALWELL: So, we understood from the testimony today that as soon as President Zelensky went into power for Ukraine, that he was made to understand that the only way to get a meeting with the White House was that if he were to investigate and exonerate Russia in the 2016 election and investigate the Bidens.

[23:14:54]

We also had further evidence today that again the security assistance your taxpayer dollars, $390 million was being withheld, as one State Department described because we were leveraging that against the Ukrainian supporting President Trump for a political campaign.

LEMON: OK. A couple of things. You know he said in the meeting he didn't feel pressured from that phone call at least where there was a transcript. Right? So, if he didn't feel pressure then he could only get a meeting if he agreed to it? Can you square that for me?

SWALWELL: Yes. We had clear evidence now that the Ukrainians understood that the only way to get a meeting with Donald Trump was to investigate the Bidens, exonerate Russia. That was made clear. Donald Trump was using various officials in the State Department to make that clear to the Ukrainians.

LEMON: Do you have evidence to back that up on Mr. Volker?

(CROSSTALK)

SWALWELL: Yes, we do.

LEMON: OK. OK. So, then if President Trump was looking for a written commitment, isn't that quid pro quo? Isn't that a quid -- isn't a quid pro quo implied there why sign a contract without an understanding that you would get something in return? SWALWELL: And Don, in the history of quid pro quo as no one has ever

said, hey, I have a quid pro quo for you.

LEMON: Exactly.

SWALWELL: But the president came pretty damn close in the way that he conducted, you know, business with the Ukrainians. And also, in that presidential call read out that he released his version of the events. He says I have a favor to ask, though. So, it's like a quid pro though that the president was putting out for the Ukrainians. They knew what was going on.

LEMON: House Republicans Volker's hearing does nothing to advance the case for impeachment. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): The administration is in even stronger place today than it were this morning as a product of Ambassador Volker coming to testify.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Not one thing he has said comports with any of the Democrats impeachment narrative. Not one thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What's your response?

SWALWELL: Well, first, Don, none of those two individuals sat through all eight hours. They left for the cameras. I stayed the whole time. And I am more concerned today than ever that the president has tried to leverage our taxpayer dollars to advance his political interest and he's using State Department officials to carry out those endeavors.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, sources tell CNN that President Trump raised Biden and Elizabeth Warren's political prospects in a call with China's President Xi Jinping. The president today saying that he considers asking China, an authoritarian government, to investigate the Bidens. Is this more ammunition than the impeachment inquiry?

SWALWELL: This is the pattern of cheating and corruption by President Trump. We're focused right now on the Ukraine act. We have a confession on the Ukraine act. We're now just talking to other officials who were clearly involved.

But this should be used to show, you know, that the president has this motive. It's his M.O. is to leverage, you know, U.S. resources and U.S. policy to help himself in a presidential election. And he is going to be held accountable for that.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, thank you so much.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Don.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Conversation with the congressman held shortly before this program tonight.

Our breaking news, text messages between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainians released by House Democrats tonight. That on a day that one big story after another. We're going to dig into all of it next.

[23:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Our breaking news. Text messages between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainians released by House Democrats.

And I just want to read this one. It's from July 25 at 8.36 a.m. from Kurt Volker to Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak.

And it says, good lunch, thanks. Heard from White House. Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate. Get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck. See you tomorrow. Kurt.

So, let's bring in now Elie Honig, Kylie Atwood, and Shawn Turner. Good evening, one and all. Shawn, just give me your reaction to what I just read. Is that a quid pro quo meeting for investigation?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's an easy one, Don, yes, absolutely. Look, there are multiple examples throughout this list of text messages that clearly lay out that the individuals who were trying to coordinate this meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump were clearly of the mind that in order for this meeting to go forward something was going to happen. That Zelensky was going to have it make a commitment to this investigation.

And I mean, you've read several of them. But, you know, when they talk about, are we saying now that the meeting is based on this investigation and whether or not it goes forward, that's clearly the case.

When someone says the president wants to deliver them. I mean, it's all here. The president might say that there was no quid pro quo. But the text messages don't lie. Clearly, there was a concern there and I don't know how they spin this to suggest that there was not.

LEMON: OK. I just want to get -- this a passage on page four of the text that we just got. And his -- Sondland briefs Zelensky ahead of call with President Trump. And I just want -- it just says, this is in July 18, 2019.

Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and Mr. Taylor had the following exchange about the specific goal for the upcoming telephone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. OK.

So, it says, Kurt Volker, can we three do a call together say noon Washington? And then Gordon Sondland writes back. It looks like POTUS call tomorrow. I spike. And then it sic directly to Zelensky and gave him a full briefing. He's got it. OK? And then Gordon Sondland said, sure. And then Kurt Volker, good. Had breakfast with Rudy this morning. Teeing up call with Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most important is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation and address any specific personnel issues if there are any.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's great evidence. It's a prosecutor's dream.

LEMON: What is happening here?

HONIG: So, this is why this is such good evidence. First of all, it's in the word of the real insiders, the people who understand the dynamic. It is their own words. There's no spin ability. And it's from the time when this was all happening.

[23:25:01]

And what you see here is the people who are really on the inside who are working in these channels understand that really what comes through all these texts there's only one thing that Donald Trump cares about and that's these investigations to benefit his own political campaign.

It just, it comes through from the direct players who are involved and it corroborates, it backs up it supports the call that we've all seen. It supports what the whistleblower told us. So, this is really important evidence. It gives us a real insight into what was going on.

LEMON: OK. So, for those who say well, we don't need there -- I don't know. I guess you have to have evidence of a crime. Or others say you don't need a crime. What does this say to you?

HONIG: Well, I think this helps build the case that there is a crime. Correct. You do not need a crime in order to impeach. An abuse of power is enough. But I also do think we have a crime. And this builds the case that there was an exchange of bribery, a quid pro quo, whatever you want to call it. And it's pretty darn close to an actual stated quid pro quo. Here's the deal.

LEMON: OK. OK. So that was the Ukraine call. And then we have the other thing here. Kylie, let me bring you in. Because tell us about the new CNN reporting of a call that president had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This was in August.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So, we are now learning that there was a call between President Trump and Xi Jinping back in July. And during that call, President Trump did bring up Joe Biden. He also brought up Elizabeth Warren and brought them up in the political prospect sense. He was not at that point encouraging Xi Jinping to investigate Joe Biden. He was talking about his political rivals here. Right? Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren being two of them.

Now this is significant because just today President Trump went further and publicly suggested that China investigate Joe Biden. But this shows that Joe Biden was always on his mind when it comes to China. And he did bring it up in a phone call with Xi Jinping earlier this summer.

LEMON: OK. Yes. So, listen, I got that wrong. The Chinese call was in June. The Ukrainian call was in July. The Ukrainian call was later but we found out about that one first. The one with the Chinese president was in June. And we're just finding out about that one.

The president suggested China started -- start an investigation today. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, now we know that the president's conversation with Xi Jinping was moved to the secret server. It seems that he was getting this out before that information became public, Kylie.

ATWOOD: Yes, that's right. He did get it out today. He talked to reporters publicly about it as we were working on this story. But I want to note that it definitely took the Chinese by surprise.

I spoke with a Chinese diplomat today who said to me that it was chaotic. They were trying to process these reports and they were asking allies of Trump if Trump was really serious. If he really wanted them to investigate Joe Biden.

Now I'm told that Trump allies said yes. That is the way to gain points with this president. But I also was told by a Chinese diplomat that they didn't want to get involved into the domestic politics of the U.S. But we have yet to see a formal response from the Chinese government on this.

LEMON: All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it you helping us with this breaking news.

The White House in crisis as the impeachment inquiry takes wild new turns. Does President Trump have a strategy?

[23:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president now openly saying that he wants Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden. Let's discuss now. Guy Smith is here. He served as special adviser to Bill Clinton during his impeachment. And John Dean, the former White House counsel for President Nixon joins us well. Thank you so much, gentlemen. I really appreciate it.

Guy, the White House is in crisis now. It's clear that Trump is handling his own impeachment strategy by Twitter, seat of his pants, pressers out, you know, on the lawn. How is he doing? GUY SMITH, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR BILL CLINTON: Well, I think he's holding the smoking gun. I think that it's just nuts what he's doing. He's -- the thing with China this morning was another example of an unconstitutional and illegal act.

And for some reason, he seems to think the American people are not going to notice this. I mean, they are. You see it from the polls from before. And there's no apparatus in the White House to cope with this.

The big thing that should tell us all what's going on and how successful or not he is being is the deafening silence from the Republican senators. None of them but maybe Lindsey Graham that are saying anything. They're all staying in their hole.

Senators don't normally not talk. They talk all the time. And they're not talking. I think what we're seeing is an unraveling here. And the Democrats are methodically building a case. There's all the Ukraine stuff. Today is with the diplomats. Next week, the fired ambassador is going to be there.

LEMON: Yeah.

SMITH: And we're just getting started on this.

LEMON: John, listen, the first rule. He said you talk about a hole, right? The first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. But today alone, Trump flat out said he flat out pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and for good measure China, too.

[23:35:01]

LEMON: Does he not get how serious this is? What is happening here?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's hard to ever fathom his mind as we know, Don. What he is showing in his action is that he knows he's in trouble. He is slashing out and getting angry like somebody who has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

They are concocting something on the Hill. It is not going to work. That is they're going to litigate this. They're developing a letter from the White House to the speaker, and they're going to try to get a court to intervene to claim that they can't have an impeachment proceeding because they don't have a formal resolution of the House. They don't need a formal resolution of the House.

They site, however, the Nixon impeachment and the Clinton impeachment, where there were resolutions. But they weren't at the very beginning. They were when they got more formal. But there's nothing that is going to stop, for example, the House Intelligence Committee which is doing its own job, building its own case.

As the speaker said, there are six committees working on this right now. And the White House really has no strategy. And the players on the Hill are really just running a fog machine.

LEMON: Listen, Guy, you were a special adviser to President Clinton during his impeachment. You heard what John just said there. Why would they be against investigating? Right now, it's an inquiry, right? If there's no evidence, if he's fine, why would they be against investigating? How should this be going?

SMITH: Well, they should be building a defense. And the entire apparatus at the White House -- John just was talking the absence of the apparatus -- is about distortion and distraction, not about defending. And if they -- I mean, they put out the Ukraine readout of the presidential call. Are they going to put out the readout of President Xi's call? Probably not.

Pompeo is hiding behind the -- not giving out anything. What we're seeing here is an absence of strategy. They don't know what to do, frankly. And the president is not letting them do anything even if they knew what to do.

LEMON: John, let me ask you -- no pun intended, but is this whole Ukraine conspiracy theory with Joe Biden and his son, is that the Trump card? Is basically the strategy is to dig in with that and then deny, deny, deny, even if you read the text messages that just came out and if you read the readout from the call and on and on?

DEAN: I think they are surprised at how fast information is coming out. The information that came out today, I'm sure they weren't prepared for. They weren't prepared for the reaction that got when they put out the transcript of the president's call with the president of Ukraine. They are not prepared for anything, Don.

The president apparently got angry at his acting chief of staff for not having a plan in place.

LEMON: Right.

DEAN: Well, how do you put a plan in place when you just learned it minutes before you're going to do it because the president gets a whim?

LEMON: That's got to be the last word.

DEAN: This is a mess (ph) and --

LEMON: Go on, finish --

DEAN: -- himself.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, gentlemen. I really appreciate it. It's fascinating to see how this -- as you said, how quickly this is moving. The information is coming out. I appreciate both of you. We'll be right back.

SMITH: Thank you, Don.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Republican Senator Joni Ernst in the hot seat at a town hall in Iowa today. Listen to what happened when a constituent confronted her over her support for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just this morning, we have President Trump saying, oh, we need to talk to Xi Jinping and have, you know, President Xi and have him investigate Joe Biden. How is that helping anybody?

(APPLAUSE)

AMY HASKINS, IOWA RESIDENT: Where is the line? When are you guys going to say enough and stand up and say, you know what, I'm not backing any of this, because we constantly have everybody, oh, well, it's not this, it's not that or, you know, everything else? But yet, you still stand there silent. And your silence is supporting him and not standing up.

(APPLAUSE)

HASKINS: You didn't put an oath to the president. You pledged it to our country. You pledged it to our Constitution. When are you guys going to start standing up and actually be there for us?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): OK, so, President Trump. I can say, yay, nay, whatever. The president is going to say what the president is going to do. It's up to us as members of Congress to continue working with our allies, making sure we remain strong in the face of adversity. That's what we have to do, continue to encourage the other countries. So, that's what we will continue to do.

HASKINS: I beg your pardon. But all of our allies, he is pushing aside. He is making fun of them on Twitter. He --

ERNST: Mam --

HASKINS: -- and then we end up with, oh, we love people from North Korea or we love Russia. Where -- I mean, I understand it's a non- answer answer. I understand. I get it. I know what you're saying. But --

ERNST: I can't speak for him. I'll just say that I can't speak for him.

HASKINS: I know you can't speak for him, but you can speak for yourself.

[23:45:00]

ERNST: And I do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Whew! Wow! Let's discuss now with Republican Congresswoman Mia Love and Senior Political Analyst, Ryan Lizza. Listen, American voters are really smart. Hello to both of you. Mia, Republicans are going to be hearing about this in their districts, aren't they? I mean, from the looks of it, they already are.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah, they are and they're asking those questions. But there's another side of this also that I think is actually fair. The blue dog Democrats are very silent about this also. They're literally hiding under the umbrella of the speaker not bringing this vote to the floor.

And I think that if the speaker really wants to get the American people to come along so that they can know exactly who stands with this inquiry and who doesn't stand with the inquiry, they actually would have a vote on the floor so she can say, see, I've got the support.

These are the people that are closest to their districts. They know exactly what they want me to do. We're going to move forward. But right now, she stands to take the brunt of all of this. And you have to ask why. Why isn't she --

LEMON: Won't that come in time when they get the information and the investigation continues? Right now, it's just an inquiry. Once all of the evidence comes out, don't you think she will take it to the floor and have a vote on it, Ryan?

LOVE: Well, I hope so. I hope so. I mean, there's information that is coming out. I hope so. There's no indication that this is going to -- as a matter of fact, I spoke to a lot of people, a lot of former colleagues --

LEMON: Yeah.

LOVE: -- and they're saying that, you know, this is something she wants to avoid --

LEMON: OK.

LOVE: -- at all costs because it puts blue Democrats in a very difficult position.

LEMON: OK.

LOVE: Look, there is --

LEMON: Mia, I got to -- I don't have much time. I got to run.

LOVE: OK. Go ahead.

LEMON: I got to get Ryan in. Ryan, I want to get your response to what she said and to that clip that we looked at.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm just a little confused. I have absolutely no idea what the blue dog Democrats have to do with the clip that we just looked at. To me, what we saw is an Iowa voter. Anyone that travelled to Iowa knows a lot of voters there are very sophisticated and pay attention to things very closely.

You saw them expressing this frustration with why don't Republicans in Congress call out behavior that they know is beyond the pale. Why don't they talk about the president normalizing, inviting foreign election interference? We know --

LOVE: It has to do with blue dog Democrats.

LEMON: I got to run.

LIZZA: Just one second, Mia. Just one second --

LEMON: I got to run. Quickly, please.

LOVE: It has to do with them.

LEMON: Ryan, please, quickly --

LOVE: It has to do with them --

LEMON: Mia, hold on. I got to -- you spoke for a long time, Mia. I got to get Ryan's response and then get to the break. Go ahead, please, Ryan.

LIZZA: I think that's -- I thought that Senator Ernst's response showed, you know, just sort of how weak a member of Congress can be when they're scared of their own leader, the president, what can do with a tweet.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Sorry about that. Thank you both. We'll be right back.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LOVE: OK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, with the torrent of news on the impeachment inquiry, how do the Democrats vying to run against the president make their voices heard? Joining me now is David Plouffe. He is a 2008 campaign manager and then White House adviser for President Trump. David is also the host of the new podcast "Campaign HQ" from Cadence 13. So, thank you. President Obama. What did I say? Did I say President Trump? Oh, sorry, President Obama.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You scared me for a minute there, Don.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: It's been a long day.

PLOUFFE: Didn't sound right.

LEMON: David, thank you so much. Listen, multiple headlines are coming out of this White House at such a furious pace. It sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the 2020 campaign coverage. What do candidates need to do to break through all this impeachment noise?

PLOUFFE: It's going to be hard nationally. Of course, if this heads to a trial in the Senate, a bunch of people running for president will be, you know, helping answer that question. I do think, though, in the early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, impeachment is going to be important to those voters, but, you know, I still think you'll be able to get your message across there on the economy, on health care, even on impeachment.

What's interesting, there was a story last week in two critical battleground states, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, they've lost the two most manufacturing jobs in the country --

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

PLOUFFE: -- and that should be death to a president. I think there's a way to combine this. What we need is a president that's going to focus on saving our jobs, not asking a foreign government to save his.

So, it's going to be hard nationally for a while, but I think in those states -- ultimately those states are going to help decide who the nominee is. I think you'll be able to be heard.

LEMON: You make the point on your podcast that there are currently six democratic candidates who are United States senators. How could an impeachment trial impact their race?

PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, they're going to be stuck in Washington. They have to be. So, for that period of time, they'll be in Washington. Obviously, they'll have an opportunity. Every, you know, network is going to want to talk to them. So, it's an opportunity there, and maybe one can outshine the other.

But at the end of the day, I'd be personally surprised if, you know, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, as we get into the March primaries, that impeachment is driving the selection of our candidate.

I think what this does mean -- I think particularly if he does get impeached, does not get convicted by the Senate, my view is if you want to get rid of Trump, you better not count on conviction or resignation. The only path is winning the election. Laser focus on who can beat Trump.

What's clear is, whether it's, you know, calls to Ukraine and China and Australia on Biden and now we've seen maybe Warren in China, he wants to reprise the "lock her up" from 2016 no matter who the candidate is. He's going to say they're the most corrupt human being in the history of the world. So his playbook is pretty clear. But, you know, I think at the end of the day, I don't think our primary is going to be decided by impeachment. That would be my sense, anyway.

LEMON: Interesting. So, you know Joe Biden -- him getting political dirt on Joe Biden is at the center of all of this. And you know Joe Biden spoke out, gave a statement last night. How do you think Biden, the Biden campaign should handle Trump's attempts to saddle them with this conspiracy theory or scandal?

PLOUFFE: Well, my sense is this is an opportunity for them. And I think Vice President Biden tried to seize on that last night which is clearly I think Biden is best positioned when people see him as the likely candidate against Trump, the person Trump is afraid of.

[23:55:00]

PLOUFFE: So, I would take advantage of that. Even if you're going to get tough questions, you know, about your son, I think those are easily handled -- this is a phony, you know, scandal that Trump is trying to create -- and just say that he's afraid of me.

So, go toe for toe. I'd be out there even more than he is and trying to seize this moment, which doesn't come along very often in a crowded primary field. You've got the opportunity, I think, to elevate. So, I would seize it.

I think that it is important to understand though, one of Trump's advantages here as it relates to the general election is, how are swing voters to undecided voters, how is impeachment going to play in their vote? It is too early to know.

But the other part of an election is registration and turnout. And our candidates really are focused on winning the nomination, so they're in Iowa, they're in New Hampshire. Trump is focused on the general election.

I do think a lot of their ads they're running on YouTube and Facebook are very well done. You know, they're aimed at trying to strengthen his organization, grow intensity, add registration and there are a lot of unregistered potential Trump voters out there, they are not just Democrats.

So, I think as a Democrat, we need to be mindful of that. Trump is going to try even as tough as this is going to be. I don't think Trump ever really has a playbook. I assure you it wasn't heading into re- election with an impeachment proceeding over his head. But they're going to try to maximize the benefit of it. I think that largely resides in trying to drive a lot of registration, donations and volunteers on his side.

LEMON: David, great information. I really appreciate you joining us. Please come back. Good luck with your podcast, OK?

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much. And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)