Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

New IRS Whistle-Blower?; Interview With Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D- CA); Trump Openly Calls on China to Investigate Joe Biden; Biden Slams Trump's "Grotesque Choice of Lies"; Wall Street Journal Reports, Trump Ordered Removal Of Ukraine Ambassador After Complaints From Giuliani And Others; Trump Publicly Urges China And Ukraine To Investigate Biden, Openly Engaging In Behavior That Prompted Impeachment Probe; Washington Post Reports IRS Whistleblower Claims Treasury Political Appointee May Have Interfered With Audit Of Trump Or Pence. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: He warned that a foreign investigation of Joe Biden would be seen as election interference. What more did Paul (sic) Volker reveal?

No inner monologue. President Trump goes beyond urging Ukraine to investigate Biden, now openly encouraging China to do the same. Will his public remarks become evidence for impeachment investigators?

And blowing the whistle. We're getting new information about a second whistle-blower complaint. An IRS official reportedly warned of possible tampering with the audit of President Trump's tax returns.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We are following a lot of breaking news on the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

Tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the president ordered removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani reportedly felt the ambassador was obstructing his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, this as the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine reportedly told House investigators that he warned Giuliani he was getting bad information about Biden and his son.

"The Washington Post" reports Kurt Volker also told Ukrainian officials they would be seen as interfering in the election if they investigated Biden.

Tonight, President Trump is taking his push for a Biden probe even further, publicly urging China, as well as Ukraine, to look into his potential 2020 opponent. This hour, I will talk with a Democrat on the House Oversight

Committee, Congressman Jimmy Gomez. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

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

Jim, a new report is underscoring Rudy Giuliani's influence over President Trump and their push to investigate Joe Biden.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting President Trump recalled the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, because she wouldn't play ball with his effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

The president was asked why the ambassador was recalled earlier talking to reporters, but he danced around the question, and did not give a straight answer.

We should point out, in just the last few moments, CNN's Michael Warren, one of our colleagues, was on the phone with Rudy Giuliani and has confirmed some of the details in that "Wall Street Journal" report.

But, Wolf, that was not the most remarkable moment here at the White House today, as the president, as you said, publicly called for foreign interference in the 2020 election, asking China, a U.S. adversary, to investigate Biden.

Unlike his conversation with Ukraine's president, no call transcript was necessary today, as the president said the quiet part out loud.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): In what is fast becoming a game of chicken, with House Democrats threatening impeachment, President Trump is calling on a U.S. adversary, China, to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating his unproven conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter's business activities overseas.

The president issued his plea after admitting he wanted the same from Ukraine.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They should investigate the Bidens. China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

ACOSTA: Biden's campaign immediately pounced, comparing Mr. Trump's statement to the one he made in 2016, when he asked Russia to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. ACOSTA: At a campaign event overnight, Biden accused the president of

acting out of fear.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He did it because, like every bully in history, he's afraid. He's afraid of just how badly he may be beaten in November.

ACOSTA: The president is counting on Republicans to remain loyal, pointing to his latest poll numbers and fund-raising figures in a tweet, and thanking the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, for his support.

McConnell would play a pivotal role in a Senate trial of the president, if Mr. Trump is impeached in the House.

TRUMP: He read my phone call with the president of Ukraine, Mitch McConnell. He said that was the most innocent phone call that I have read. I mean, give me a break.

ACOSTA: And the plot is thickening after the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani admitted to "The Washington Post" he has discussed his unproven Biden claims with an attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is in prison.

Contrast that with Vice President Mike Pence, who is trying to keep his distance from the Ukraine investigation.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is great to be in Arizona.

ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN to expect the vice president to spend much of his time over the coming weeks on the road, as his aides worry about the Ukraine fallout back in Washington. With questions swirling about what Pence knew and when, he has latched onto Mr. Trump's allegations.

[18:05:13]

PENCE: There are legitimate questions that ought to be asked. And we're going to continue to ask them, since the American people have a right to know whether or not the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position.

ACOSTA: The president is amping up his accusations on social media, tweeting out a video slamming the Bidens featuring music from the rock group Nickelback, only to be shut down by Twitter after the band complained that was a copyright violation.

The president is grumbling about the prospect of being impeached even at official White House events.

TRUMP: That's why they do the impeachment crap, because they know they can't beat us fairly. That's the only reason that they're doing it. They can't win.

ACOSTA: That's not swaying the growing number of Democrats coming out publicly to state the impeachment inquiry must continue.

REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): We have no choice now but to proceed with an impeachment inquiry. And the only person that the president has to blame is himself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, another key sign the administration is gearing up for an impeachment battle, the Justice Department has instructed White House employees to preserve documents and e-mails that may have to be turned over to House Democrats as part of the inquiry.

It has become more difficult, by the way, for the White House and its defenders to accuse the whistle-blower complaint that started all of this of relying upon hearsay to accuse the president of asking a foreign government to interfere in the upcoming election, as Mr. Trump did that out loud today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly did.

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

Now to the first witness to appear before Congress in the impeachment investigation.

Our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is up on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, what are you learning, first of all, about the deposition of the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Kurt Volker is behind closed doors, telling lawmakers about warning flags that he was giving to President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

"The Washington Post" reporting this evening that Volker said that he told Giuliani he was receiving untrustworthy information from the Ukrainians about Joe Biden, about his son Hunter Biden.

And he essentially said to Giuliani, do not trust these sources, you should be careful about putting faith in those accounts.

This certainly keeps in line with what we were hearing from a source familiar with Volker's thinking going into this deposition this morning, when he said that he was essentially trying to get the Biden- Giuliani issue off the table.

Now, this has been a very, very lengthy day on Capitol Hill. Volker arrived here a little after 9:30 this morning. So, now it is entering in the eight-hour mark of his testimony -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill, I know we're going to get more information coming out. Thank you very much.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Congressman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat who serves on the Oversight Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. We certainly have a lot

to discuss right now.

Let me start with this report from "The Wall Street Journal" that President Trump ordered the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after she was targeted in a smear campaign by Rudy Giuliani.

What concerns does that raise?

REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D-CA): It raises a lot of concerns.

It raises that anybody that doesn't agree with this president, anybody that doesn't follow along to try to make sure that they can get dirt on a political rival is going to be removed.

And he has sent a message to everybody: Do not cooperate with Congress, because, if you do, then we're going to remove you.

BLITZER: The former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, a career Foreign Service officer, a career diplomat, will appear before your committee -- we're talking about the Oversight Committee -- along with the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, next week.

What do you want to ask her?

GOMEZ: We want to really find out who was pressuring her, what questions were asked. Did anybody try to get information that was made up?

Did she explicitly tell the president and the White House that the information that we're looking for did not exist or was completely false? We really want to see what kind of interactions we had. And was there undue pressure on her just to make things up in order to comply with the president's request?

BLITZER: You also serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

And, as you know, "The Washington Post" is now reporting that a career IRS official, a whistle-blower, was told that at least one Treasury Department political appointee tried to interfere with the IRS audits of either the president or the vice president's tax returns.

Do you know the specifics, first of all, of that complaint?

GOMEZ: I do not. I haven't seen the complaint.

BLITZER: Do you want this complaint to be made public? Because, as you know, there are privacy laws when it comes to tax returns.

GOMEZ: Yes, I would want to first consult with the chairman of the committee, as well as the rest of the committee, to determine that.

[18:10:03]

But I want to make a few points when it comes to this whistle-blower complaint. It really adds credibility to our request of the presidential tax returns. And the reason why is that, from the very beginning, we wanted to audit, we wanted to make sure that the presidential audits were done in a way that was free of political pressure and it was done in a way that really was true to its core.

And that's why we started to look into it. That's why we asked for the presidential tax returns. And that's why we invoked 6103-F, the statute that lets us get it.

So, this is something that goes to the heart of what we have been doing, if the whistle-blower complaint is true.

Additionally, it just shows the importance of whistle-blowers. Whistle-blowers will inform the public, inform Congress that something is going on in the executive branch or any other department, that something is not -- something is going on that's not right.

And they can report it without fear of repercussions, without being fired, without being demoted, without being suspended. And that's why it is important to have this whistle-blower protection, is because it is necessary to get this information.

BLITZER: As far as you know, Congressman, are there other whistle- blower complaints in addition to those involving Ukraine and now the IRS that have not yet been made public?

GOMEZ: Not that I know of.

But you never know. And I think different committees handle it differently. Chairman Neal has been very -- holds his cards close to his chest to make sure that we're protecting the integrity.

And he believes that the lawsuit within the Ways and Means Committee to get the presidential returns is necessary and is the best course of action.

So, I'm not sure if there are other whistle-blower complaints. But we will -- I guess we will find out soon enough.

BLITZER: Congressman Gomez, I want you to stand by for a moment.

Our Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill. He's getting more breaking news.

What are you learning, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

We're learning a little bit more about this testimony that Kurt Volker has been in, the former U.S. envoy in Ukraine, about eight hours and counting behind closed doors, and some details now coming out.

We're told that he told the Ukrainian government not to get involved, not to interfere in U.S. elections. He said to stay out of politics. Essentially, that's what he -- the message that he conveyed to the Ukrainian government.

And, of course, that's significant because the president of the United States had a phone call with the president of Ukraine. And in that phone call, the president urged President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, along with his son, Hunter Biden.

Now, in the aftermath of that, we're told that the ambassador -- that Kurt Volker has -- says -- told the Ukrainian government to essentially stay out of U.S. politics.

Now, we're learning some more, Wolf. We're learning that he told lawmakers today that the Ukrainian government had a lot of questions about why that military aid had been withheld. He did not have any good answers, apparently, for the Ukrainian government when he was asked about that as well.

And, Wolf, we're also learning about a meeting that had actually been planned between the Ukrainian government and the incoming Ukrainian administration of President Zelensky and President Donald Trump in Washington. But that meeting had been put on hold.

And it's not entirely clear why that was put on hold. But Volker said that the Ukrainians had raised concerns that that meeting had been put on hold. And if you will recall from that transcript that the White House -- the rough transcript that the White House released about that phone call, in that phone call, the president, they do discuss a possible meeting.

The president says, feel free to call and come to the White House whenever you want. Give us a date, and we will work that out. I look forward to seeing you.

And at the same time, we also are hearing that there were concerns about Rudy Giuliani's source of information, according to our sources, that he did -- Volker did raise concerns to Giuliani that the source that he was relying on for his information was not credible, and he perhaps should not rely on that.

And that's how that conversation transpired. But, again, this has been going on all day. There are a lot more details to learn. But we're getting some early glimpse here about exactly what happened.

But the fact that here is the president of -- after the president of the United States talked to the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, afterwards, we are hearing now that the U.S. special envoy at the time to Ukraine told the Ukrainian government, don't interfere in U.S. politics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I take it the Ukrainians, understandably, were upset that there was a freeze on U.S. military and economic aid to Ukraine, that the meeting, the high-level meeting with the president was being put off.

Tell us a little bit more about that.

RAJU: Yes, that's been a big source of questioning all along, whether or not the president of the United States used any political leverage to try to get the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens by either holding off on the military aid, why not providing that military that would -- had been approved by Congress, but -- and also now this meeting, this meeting that apparently they had been discussing to have in Washington with the Ukrainian government.

[18:15:05]

And there had been, apparently, from what we're told, a lot of questions about why this meeting was not happening.

And this was discussed in this closed-door testimony and also discussed that phone call with -- between President Trump and President Zelensky. So it was clearly on Zelensky's mind as they discussed moving forward, as they discussed all those aspects in that phone call.

And the president, of course, in that same phone call said investigate -- you should investigate Joe Biden, you should investigate Hunter Biden.

So, in that context, someone may raise concerns about whether the president was using that meeting at all as leverage. Now, we don't know if Volker has said that's exactly -- that was the president's intention at all. But at the moment, that was -- we're learning, though, that was a clear source of concern from the Ukrainians about why that meeting didn't come forward and why also that aid did not come forward.

And according to what we're hearing is that Volker didn't have any real good explanation for the Ukrainians why at least the aid had not been provided -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the suspicion was they were using that high-level meeting that didn't happen, as well as the economic and military aid, as pressure on the Ukrainians to come up with dirt on Joe Biden.

All right, Manu, stand by.

I want to bring back up Congressman Jimmy Gomez of the Oversight Committee.

Your committee was involved in today's deposition of this special envoy, Kurt Volker. Does Manu's reporting line up with what you're hearing from colleagues who were in the room? And this deposition has been going on now for, what, seven or eight hours.

GOMEZ: Wolf, we haven't been briefed on the deposition.

But when we get back, we will be briefed. And I look forward to that. But I also want to -- just according to the reports, what we're hearing. I want to be very clear that it doesn't matter if the information that Rudy Giuliani was seeking was inaccurate or it wasn't truthful.

The reason why is that the president of the United States never should have asked a foreign government to investigate a political rival, so he can win the 2020 election. He should never have asked China to interfere in the -- and investigate Joe Biden in order to win the 2020 election.

And it's always done in this context, right? There's always something outstanding. It's the money for the defense of the Ukrainians that's out there. He kind of put some meetings off.

Right now, this administration is going into trade negotiations with China. China is suffering because of this trade war. So are our farmers. So are our people in the United States.

But what kind of incentive, what kind of pressure is this going to put on China, right, when this trade war is costing them billions of billions of dollars?

So this president is abusing his office and trying to put pressure on foreign governments to interfere in our election. And that is something -- that is at the core of why we're conducting this inquiry. That is why a lot of people think he should be removed from office.

BLITZER: Congressman Jimmy Gomez, thanks so much for joining us.

GOMEZ: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to have a lot more on the breaking news. And there's lots of breaking news unfolding right.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:51]

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our analysts. We have got a lot to discuss, lots of breaking news.

Jeffrey Toobin, let me start with you.

We're following the news involving Kurt Volker's deposition. It's been going on now for seven or eight hours and it's continuing even as we speak, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.

He testified that he warned Rudy Giuliani, not a diplomat, not a government official, the president's personal lawyer, not to trust the information he was getting from his Ukrainian sources.

Volker was clearly walking a fine line, trying to contain Giuliani, at the same time doing what U.S. national security required.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, all the developments today, the one thing they have in common is that they all raise the question of, what does American foreign policy exist for?

Does it exist to get Donald Trump reelected or does it exist to advance the national interest? Because the idea that Rudy Giuliani is engaging in foreign policy for the sole and exclusive purpose for getting Joe Biden is exactly the same as Donald Trump saying China should investigate Biden too. I mean, all these stories go to the heart of the issue of abuse of

presidential power, and we're going to see whether Congress cares about it or not.

BLITZER: And, Bianna, Marie Yovanovitch, who was a career diplomat, still is a career diplomat, a career foreign service officer who worked in Democratic and Republican administrations, was removed from her post because she apparently wasn't doing what Rudy Giuliani wanted her to do.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And she apparently was hated by the prosecutor Lutsenko in the Ukraine because she was pushing for them to do more reform in Ukraine, once again going back to the point that all of the controversy focuses on the president wanting to go after Joe Biden for his own personal gain, as opposed to promoting any sort of U.S. foreign policy interests.

In addition to that, Yovanovitch is still employed by the State Department, is constantly being raked through the mud by this president, by those around him.

And we need to remind ourselves and the viewers especially, Rudy Giuliani was never an employee of the State Department or this government. Why he was doing government or the president's business in Ukraine is beyond me.

[18:25:07]

But it does seem like people like Yovanovitch and in particular Volker were trying to go around him in some way, shape or form to still continue promoting U.S. foreign policy, also knowing at the same time that this was the president's right-hand man, and needed to work with him in any capacity they could.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by, because there's more information we're getting right now.

I want to bring in our political correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, you have been doing a lot of reporting on this. What are you learning right now?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you pointed out, this is someone who has worked at the State Department for a very long time, whose reputation is now being dragged through the mud by the president.

And even though the president is acting like he has no idea what's going on, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that he is the one who wanted her out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that President Trump ordered the removal of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, after Trump's allies and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani complained that she was hampering Giuliani's efforts to dig up dirt on Trump's political rival Joe Biden.

Today, Trump said he couldn't remember if he was the one who recalled her, while trashing her reputation.

TRUMP: I don't know if I recall or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a long period of time, not good.

MURRAY: Throughout this, Yovanovitch has been silent. The State Department downplayed the decision to recall her in May, months before she was slated to leave, saying she was concluding her three-year diplomatic assignment in Kiev in 2019, as planned.

Documents that made their way from Giuliani to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ail to the State Department inspector general landed with Congress Wednesday. They included accusations against Yovanovitch.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Apparently, the material came in May of this year. And so it coincided with the moment in which Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled. So it was clearly targeting her, as well as some other people.

MURRAY: Claims with no supporting evidence circulated that Yovanovitch disparaged the president and gave a Ukrainian official a do not prosecute list.

Also among the documents, exchanges with State Department officials who tried to shield her from the fake narrative. Yovanovitch, who remains a State Department employee, has spent more than three decades there and served as an ambassador under three presidents.

JAMES MELVILLE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ESTONIA: Ambassador Yovanovitch is one of our most experienced diplomats and one of the most successful Foreign Service officers that I knew in my whole career.

MURRAY: In Ukraine, she made tackling corruption her mission.

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: The old oligarch system is still clinging to life. And corruption is its life support.

MURRAY: The whistle-blower complaint and Trump's July call with Ukrainian President Zelensky now setting off alarm bells about why she was removed.

"The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news, and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news. So I just want to let you know that, Trump said on the call," according to the White House's rough transcript.

"It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador, because I agree with you 100 percent," Zelensky replied.

Then Trump said, "Well, she's going to go through some things."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, diplomats have condemned the president's attacks on Yovanovitch. And they have rally to her defense.

She will have an opportunity to break her silence next week when she is slated to provide a deposition to Congress.

BLITZER: I'm sure that will be intriguing, very, very important.

Sara Murray, thanks for that report.

Dana, it's pretty amazing what's going on. Here's an American diplomatic, a career professional, 30 years working in the State Department, doing all sorts of important assignments, and all of a sudden, she's being attacked, first by Rudy Giuliani, but then the president of the United States.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, you know this.

It is the president's prerogative to put whatever or whomever he wants into countries around the world. I mean, that is up to the president. But what is highly unusual, and just downright wrong, I think, objectively, to say is for -- as you said, for president to publicly trash somebody who doesn't seem to have done anything bad when it comes to her fundamental post and her fundamental mission, which is to represent the United States.

What she seems to have not done right, in his view, is carry out his political wishes, which, according to Manu's reporting, the special envoy to the Ukraine also told the Ukrainians, please don't listen to the president. It is not your job to get involved in American politics.

BLITZER: Because it was a special U.S. envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who is out testifying before Congress behind closed doors, but there was a sitting U.S. ambassador in Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, who was there as well.

And, apparently, they both agreed that what Rudy Giuliani wanted to do, namely, pressure the Ukrainian government into digging up dirt on the president's potential political rivals in the 2020 election, was a bad idea.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, absolutely.

[18:30:02]

And, look, I have always defended the president's right to have the advisers that he or she wants to govern. But this is not a case of the president looking at this particular adviser and saying that you're not doing what I'd like you to do to govern. This is a case of looking at someone who is a career foreign service officer who has an outstanding reputation by all accounts, who has done fantastic job, looking at that person and saying that you are not getting on board with what I am trying to accomplish. Look, I think that between the testimony that she will give, the testimony that Kurt Volker gave today, the picture is coming into focus here with regard to what exactly the president was trying to do. And if we look at these sort of historical ones, if we look at just happened in 2016, look, it's absolutely clear that if the Intelligence Community were to find through routine intelligence collection that a foreign government was interfering in our election, a package would be produced and would be given to the sitting president so that the president could make a determination as to how to deal with that issue.

That's exactly what's happening here, except in this case, it's the president himself who's actually inviting that foreign interference. If that were to happen and it was found that the U.S. person was actually soliciting that foreign country, that person will be guilty of a crime.

BLITZER: Interesting, Jeffrey, that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, according to these reports, he supported getting rid of the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, and that's causing all sorts of distress inside the State Department, the career diplomats, the foreign service officers, the morale, I understand, is not very good right now based on what they're seeing from the leadership.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, there's an interesting difference between what went on when the president was trying to fire Robert Mueller. There were all these people around the president who were trying to protect him from himself. There was Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, there was Rob Porter, the Staff Secretary. They were trying to preserve the rule of law.

All those people have left the building. There's no one left who will tell the president, no, even though what he's engaging in appears to many to be impeachable conduct. He is surrounded, his attorney general, secretary of state, they're all enablers at this point.

BLITZER: And the vice president, you heard , Bianna, what the vice president, he totally came out and supported everything the president said earlier in the day today, including let's bring in China, let China, of all countries, investigate the former vice president of the United States.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the vice president had a couple of days to mull the president sort of laying out there that why don't we release the transcript of the vice president's call with Zelensky as well. So who knows what he was implying with that.

But I do have a hard time believing that this vice president, especially in light of the fact that he was publicly lied to by Michael Flynn about having conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions, and had to hire a lawyer subsequently, after that, would then just say, listen, I don't really read any of the transcripts, I take you at your word, prior to going and having a meeting with Zelensky in Poland. This was only a couple of pages. He had an eight-hour flight for that meeting to not have read the transcript and to not have had his own personal adviser, Kellogg, tell him what was said on that phone call is very difficult to believe.

He also, a few years ago, had talked about the need to root out corruption and to never take any foreign information from any other world leaders when it comes to elections or anything. So now he seems to be placating and saying that what the president said is absolutely correct. I really have a hard time believing that he had no idea what was said in that transcript or that he thought that that was kosher.

BLITZER: Dana, let me play a clip. This is the president earlier today, not asking Canada or the United Kingdom or a friendly country to look into the former vice president, but China to do so. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I would think if they were honest about it, then start a major investigation into the Bidens. It is a simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies -- and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I mean, what do you think? Even if China were to investigate the Bidens, could the U.S. really believe anything the Chinese informed the U.S. government?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not.

[18:35:00]

But let's just take a step back. The initial outrage, even among Republicans who may be just called it troubling, but inside, they definitely felt outrage, was about the notion of any U.S. president asking any foreign leader to dig up dirt on his domestic opponent. It just so happened at that time it was Ukraine. It wouldn't have mattered if it was Canada or England or any of the U.S. allies, and it doesn't matter if it's China also.

It makes it especially egregious, which is your point, that he's in a trade war with China right now. He makes clear he doesn't trust China at all, which is the whole reason why he is making it difficult for farmers, not because he says you've got to do what's right patriotically so we can hold China's feet to the fire, this is the country, this is the leadership that he wants to investigate his domestic political opponent. I mean, it just makes no sense.

TOOBIN: And there's another point about that, which is whose interest are we supposed to be following when we deal with China? As Dana points out, we're in a big trade negotiation. Should we give them a better deal if they agree to give us dirt on Joe Biden? That seems to be what the president is saying. I mean, if the national interest is dictated by which country gives dirt on Joe Biden, that's a complete perversion of everything that American foreign policy has ever stood for.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the president already alluded to that when it was reported earlier that he had specifically said to President Xi that he would not speak out vocally about the protests in Hong Kong, and perhaps that was in return for a trade deal as well.

But if the president is thinking that this helps him with regards to a trade deal, he needs to remember one thing. He is not President Xi. He is not president for life. And the Chinese and the Ukrainians and whoever else the president may be pressuring in one way, shape or form about helping him are now between a rock and hard place. If they help him, they may benefit now, but they also know that this president will not be around forever, they've got to deal with Democrats at some point in the future. So it's not in their best interest to give in to the president, knowing that they may have a Democratic president to deal with in just a few years.

TURNER: Yes. Wolf, a lot of people wonder why it matters so much. I hear people say, what's really the national security interest here? You know, presidents need to deal with other countries on a level playing field.

If you have a situation like what the president is creating here, wherein he gets one country to give him something while he gives them something, Wolf, the next time that our president needs to negotiate with that country, if he does this under the cover of darkness, no one knows about it, well, tat country has leverage over the president of the United States.

And when it comes to national security issues, the president of the United States can never be in a situation in which another country has leverage because of some sort of backroom deal that he's made.

BLITZER: Did we ever find out, Dana, by the way, if Rudy Giuliani has security clearances, because he seems to be leading the way in conducting U.S. national security policy towards Ukraine?

BASH: I've asked that question a number of times. I still have not gotten an answer. I'll keep at it.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. A lot more, lots of breaking news, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We're back with our experts, and we're getting new details about a second whistleblower complaint involving the president of the United States.

Jeffrey Toobin, The Washington Post reporting that this second whistleblower was told that at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of either the president or the vice president's tax returns. I suspect there's going to be a whole lot more whistleblower complaints, but what do you think about this?

TOOBIN: Well, let's see if it's true. I mean, I think, you know, that is a potentially serious allegation. Remember, the president has said that all his tax returns are under audit basically from the beginning of time. That's why he doesn't release his tax returns. I mean, that seems to be a complete lie and has always seemed to be a complete lie. But as president, there is a custom, I think it's even a law, that the president's tax returns are always audited so it would be improper if some political appointee tried to put the finger on the scale one way or the other.

BLITZER: And, Dana, you have been doing reporting on this as well.

BASH: Absolutely. Look, this is an issue that has been dogging the president since when he was a candidate, why he didn't release them. But Jeffrey -- and I defer to Jeffrey on the law. Whether it is proper or not to release them, political history says that it is.

BLITZER: Every president since Nixon has done so.

BASH: That's right. And if any of these Democrats become president, they're going to make it the law, they all say. But tampering with it is a totally different thing.

TURNER: And we've never even really got a straight answer to the question of whether or not the president is under audit. So you would think the IRS could at least answer that question.

BLITZER: Well, they routinely supposed to do every sitting president --

TOOBIN: I actually hope the IRS doesn't answer that question. I mean, one thing the IRS is very good at is protecting the privacy of taxpayers. The person who should answer that question is Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump should be able to answer the question of whether he's under audit and how many audits he's had. I mean, it's completely improbable, to say the least, that he has been audited every year, basically, for decades.

[18:45:06]

The fact that he hasn't released his tax returns, I think, the answer clearly is that he doesn't want to release his tax returns. And, you know, he got elected in spite of it. So, why should he -- why should he release them now?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You know, Bianna, let's get back to Ukraine for a moment. CNN has been doing some checking.

And we've gone back to 2016. Interestingly enough, there were several presumptive Republican nominee senators who were on the exact same page as then sitting vice president, Joe Biden, calling for reforms to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office, and judiciary and saying that was a priority. They were all sort of agreeing with each other.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, Rob Portman.

And, look, I mean, this is something that was easy to check. It was easy -- we have been discussing this over the past few days as well. This was only a few years ago you had not only the president of the United States who sent Joe Biden there to focus on getting rid of some corruption there as far as their prosecutors. But you also, and this specific prosecutor, Lutsenko, you had U.S. politicians as well from both sides of the aisle, and you had many other leaders from other western European countries. In particular, you had the head of IMF.

I mean, there are only so many times you can keep repeating this. Of course, you have the president and those of his supporters who will deny that and continue to focus on this narrative, this false narrative that this was somehow Joe Biden and Joe Biden alone going out there, focusing on getting rid of one person to benefit his son financially.

BLITZER: Yes.

They signed a letter, these Republican senators, back in 2016, Rob Portman, Mark Kirk, Ron Johnson among them.

Everybody, stick around. A lot more on the breaking news as the president and his allies keep trashing Joe Biden. The former vice president is now firing back with even more fury.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:50]

BLITZER: Tonight, as President Trump is openly urging Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice president is firing back.

Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, as Mr. Trump escalates his attacks, Biden is wrapping up his defense.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is indeed. Joe Biden is in California this evening and he is, of course, keeping one eye on what president Trump is saying. His campaign pushing back on that all day long.

But Joe Biden also giving a bit of news tonight at a fund-raiser just a short time ago in Palo Alto, California. He's announcing his fund- raising haul for the last three months of this summer, $15.2 million.

Now, Wolf, important to note how this squares with the rest of his rivals there. As you can see, Bernie Sanders, $25.3 million. Pete Buttigieg, $19.1 million. Kamala Harris, $11.6, and Cory Booker, $6 million. So, Biden, the frontrunner in some polls, but certainly not in fundraising for the last three months. We are still waiting for Elizabeth Warren's figure. She has not yet released that, but, Wolf, all of this is coming as all eyes are on Joe Biden. He's long wanted a face to face one-on-one competition with President Trump. Of course, he has a primary to get around and that's exactly what he's getting in terms of rhetoric on Ukraine.

This is what Joe Biden said last night in Reno to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going anywhere.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: You are not going to destroy me, and you're not going to destroy my family. I don't care how much money you spend, Mr. President, or how dirty the attacks get. Trump knows there are no truth in the charges against me. None. Zero.

Every independent news organization that has reviewed the charges at length has found it to be a flat-out lie, his assertions -- every single one of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So, Joe Biden pushing back aggressively on President Trump.

Wolf, we should point out, the Trump campaign raising $125 million over the last three months. So certainly has a lot more money to wage this fight.

Now, most Biden advisers say it's a good thing to have him elevated into one-on-one competition with the president, but, Wolf, that is unclear because certainly a lot of information and disinformation out there about Biden's family, as well.

BLITZER: Separately, Jeff, what are you learning about Bernie Sanders' health?

ZELENY: We are indeed, Wolf. He is still in a Nevada hospital this evening, but he is sending a message that he does plan to be in that debate in Ohio in October 15th. Jane, his wife, is by his side and he's recovering, expected to be released soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let's hope for the best. We wish him the best and a speedy recovery.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:59:14]

BLITZER: Well, breaking news out of Vancouver in Washington state. An active shooter situation is unfolding. Police confirm a suspect has barricaded himself inside an apartment building for retirees. Three people apparently have been shot. Officers are communicating with the suspect trying to get him to surrender peacefully. Some residents have been evacuated from the building and others are sheltering in place.

CNN, of course, will continue to follow this story and bring you updates.

Also, a U.S. military training exercise went dangerously wrong in Mississippi. At least 22 paratroopers were injured when wind blew them off their course from their planned drop zone. Some got tangled in trees and had to be rescued.

It happened at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg during practice jumps by a combat team based in Alaska. Seven were hospitalized.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

[19:00:00]