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CNN TONIGHT

Republicans Don't Agree With Pulling Out Troops In Syria; Former E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland Set To Testify; Whistleblower Fallout; Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Is Interviewed About The Protection Of The Whistleblower's Identity; Trump Defends Syria Decision Amid GOP Backlash; The President's Unpredictability As Impeachment Inquiry Intensifies. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We'll see what the Democrats can make as a case.

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Thanks.

CIUOMO: And I always appreciate you sassing it out for us in a perspective.

SEKULOW: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well. I'll see you again soon.

SEKULOW: Thanks.

CUOMO: Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" will digest what happened here and so much more news with D. Lemon right now. There's his laugh.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: My friend -- my new friend Jay-z says, a wise man once told me --

CUOMO: You dropped something.

LEMON: Can you hear me?

CUOMO: Yes, I hear you. You dropped something.

LEMON: A name. Never argue with fools because people at a distance can't tell who's who.

CUOMO: Well, Jay Sekulow has got such good hair, they'll always know that it's not me. But I'll tell you what. I'll tell you a few things. One, you know my position on this. You've got to hear the arguments that could beat you.

Jay Sekulow is a talented attorney, and let's not forget this. If I were in a pinch like this president was with Mueller, I'd want someone like Jay Sekulow. They found a way to get this president out of his own head. Everything in his head was telling him to testify because he wanted to show that bravado, and I took on Mueller, and I win.

If he had sat in that chair, Don, you and I would have had a very different experience in processing the outcome of the Mueller report because that president's ability to sit in a chair under questioning and not say something that was abusive of the truth is very small. Jay Sekulow and the Raskins convinced him not to do that. He's a good lawyer.

LEMON: You mean we would have gotten the truth out of actually what was happening instead of --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Maybe. But I'll tell you what, as a lawyer, a lawyer protects you, not necessarily everybody else's interests.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And this same thing on the taxes. It's an important discussion to have because transparency matters. On impeachment, it's an important argument to have. You've got to admit when something's wrong, Don. Whether it's impeachable or not, it's a separate query.

LEMON: Well, everything you said may be true. I just think when you're -- when you're the leader of the free world, the standards are higher.

CUOMO: They should be.

LEMON: And if you are going to need people to protect you from your own lying self, then perhaps you should not be in that position. So that's where I stand on that. Maybe a great lawyer, maybe everything you said is right about a lawyer, but I think people sitting at home is -- I think people are like -- where --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes. But look, remember, we've lived through this before.

LEMON: Where are we right now.

CUOMO: Bill Clinton redefining the word is, lied under oath.

LEMON: It depends on with you --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: There's a whole impeachment process.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: All the Democrats were yelling that it was a coup. Now everybody has changed sides, and that's the biggest --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: I don't think -- I think that's a false equivalence. I don't

think that that is -- I don't think it's the same thing that what -- listen, lying is not right, especially when you're the president of the United States.

But you have to think about what man or what person would want someone to know that they were having an extramarital affair. It has been said that this president did not want his current wife to know that he was having an extramarital affair and that's why he did it.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes. I don't care about the context. I'm saying the parties played the same game, Don.

LEMON: Yes. OK. Well, not really.

CUOMO: They just played them in reverse.

LEMON: Because they're talking about two different things. One, something that you are -- this person is accused of using his office to benefit himself in a way that is detrimental to the country.

CUOMO: Yes, very serious.

LEMON: It had nothing to do with your own personal failings as a man and not necessarily what if -- not necessarily your personal failings in office.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I don't agree --

LEMON: Those are two different things.

CUOMO: I don't agree what this reflects about the person involved.

LEMON: But they're both bad.

CUOMO: You're right.

LEMON: They're both bad, but they're not equal if you understand, if you get my drift.

CUOMO: I totally understand. It's not a subtle point. But what I'm saying is the way it was handled politically was the same. Then it was a coup. Then it was a suborning of our election and a stealing of our votes. Now that's what the Republicans are saying.

Then you had Lindsey Graham walking around with brown hair saying, you don't even need a crime. You don't even need a crime. This is about -- and Mike Pence writing a piece saying this is about morality and how we would judge a neighbor.

Now they're all talking about high crimes and misdemeanors like it is the highest legal standard ever developed, like the man himself, the almighty gave it to us.

LEMON: That's not a very good Lindsey Graham by the way.

CUOMO: It's a game. It's a game.

LEMON: It's not a very good Lindsey Graham.

CUOMO: And that's why people don't pay attention. But we have to find ways to make it relevant to them because this process really matters. It is one of the biggest tests of a democracy you can have.

LEMON: I'm not going to argue with you tonight. I'm just going to say that is a terrible southern accent. It's not a very good Lindsey Graham.

CUOMO: Crime.

LEMON: You sounded more like the former A.G. than Lindsey Graham.

CUOMO: Listen, I don't want to impersonate him. I don't care about where he's from.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I felt you. I got to go.

CUOMO: I care about where his head and his heart come together when it comes to standing on principle.

LEMON: I got to go.

CUOMO: And if you're going to yell up and down about the president in Syria and judge him there but you won't on Ukraine, come on.

LEMON: I got to go.

CUOMO: Have a good show.

LEMON: Don't argue with a fool. And there's another one that says God takes care of babies and fools too.

CUOMO: Sekulow is no fool.

LEMON: I didn't say that.

CUOMO: he's smarter than I've ever been on my best day.

LEMON: All right.

CUOMO: You on the other hand -- have a good show.

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

[22:05:00]

And the impeachment inquiry is barreling full speed ahead tonight with one big development after another. The Ukraine whistleblower, the first of at least two still negotiating to testify as House Democrats are considering some pretty extreme measures to try to protect that witness using a remote location, limiting how many staff and members could be present, even disguising the whistleblower's appearance and voice.

That's how worried they are about the safety of the person who made the complaint at the center of the impeachment inquiry. And the president, well, definitely isn't helping. He's railing tonight about what he insists was a perfect call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The call was a perfect call. You had stenographers. You had people that took it down exactly. It was a perfect call. It's just a scam. This is a scam by the Democrats to try and win an election that they're not going to win in 2020.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And the fact is -- remember, facts first -- the transcript the White House released was not verbatim. It wasn't verbatim. But what the president said there tells you what he is really worried about. He's worried that a Democrat could defeat him in 2020.

And let's remember, all this comes with former E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland set to testify before three House committees in a matter of hours behind closed doors. The ambassador is a big-time Republican donor who gave $1 million to the Trump inauguration committee. So, his testimony could really be crucial in all of this.

All of this has the subpoenas are coming fast and furious really. House Democrats warning they'll subpoena three Rudy Giuliani associates if they don't cooperate. John Dowd not at all coincidentally, the president's former lawyer, now representing two of those Giuliani associates. As you would expect, objecting to the documents requested and the time frame.

Giuliani has already been subpoenaed. The deadline for him to turn over documents is next Tuesday, and the subpoenas, well, they just keep rolling in.

Democrats expanding the impeachment inquiry into brand-new corners of the federal government today with subpoenas to the Pentagon and to the Office of Management and Budget. Congress demanding information on the decision to freeze foreign aid to Ukraine.

And in the face of all of this, with the impeachment inquiry looming at a time when any other president would maybe be a little more careful about what he or she says or puts in writing, this president tweets this about his abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of the upcoming Turkish invasion.

Quote, "If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey."

In his great and unmatched wisdom. He actually tweeted those words. And remember this White House has told us that the president's tweets are official statements. Great and unmatched wisdom. Where have I heard something like that before?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I am the chosen one.

What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

We're talking about an invasion of our country.

I alone can fix it.

You have corrupt media in this country, and it truly is the enemy of the people.

I'm a very stable genius.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It might be funny if it were anybody else. But this is -- this is the President of the United States, and you know who he's talking about? He's talking about a 10-pot dictator -- he's talking like, excuse me, like a 10-pot dictator. A man who's apparently never met a dictator he didn't like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I get along with a lot of people. I have a tremendous relationship with President Xi. I get along with President Putin. I get along with Mohammed from Saudi Arabia. President Erdogan, he's tough, but I get along with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Yes, President Xi, Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salman, and President Erdogan. He forgot Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader he says he -- they fell in love. Remember he said that?

The president of the United States says he gets along with all of them, one brutal autocrat after another. Kind of makes you wonder why, doesn't it? The president pretty defensive tonight with the impeachment investigation going ahead at a dizzying pace.

[22:10:03]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, we've been in Syria for a long time, and it was supposed to be a very short hit, a hit on ISIS. But it didn't work out that way. They never left.

I spoke with President Erdogan of Turkey, and I said, got to treat them good. You've got to take care of ISIS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, the president upsetting his own allies right when he needs them most, right when he's got his back against the wall.

The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging the president to backtrack saying this, and I quote here. "A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime." And if that's not strong enough, there is this from the president's opponent-turned-ally, Lindsey Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I'm an ISIS fighter, I've got a second lease on life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator --

GRAHAM: I hope I'm making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Yes, that's pretty clear. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeting, "The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake."

The president even being slammed by some of his most reliable defenders, Evangelicals. Pat Robertson laying it on the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: The President of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Don't forget Pat Robertson stood by then-candidate Trump in the wake of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, which was released three years ago tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star. They let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Wow, that's been three years. While Republicans may be growing a spine on Syria, their new independence doesn't seem to extend to calling the president out on his public demand for China to investigate Joe Biden. Their latest strategy, it's all just a joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don't think it's a real request. I think, again, I think he did it to gig you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I doubt if the China comment was serious to tell you the truth.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You really think he was serious about thinking that China's going to investigate the Biden family?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All that, and we're not even two weeks into this impeachment inquiry. And after grumbling in the White House that there is no real strategy, sources tell CNN the re-election team is trying to take over now under the heading of telling the boss exactly what he wants to hear.

Mick Mulvaney reportedly predicted in a senior staff meeting at the White House last week that the president will win 45 states in 2020 if he's impeached by the House.

And like I said, that tells us exactly what this president is afraid of in the face of the impeachment investigation.

There are a handful of Republicans speaking out against the president on Syria, but why aren't there more on Ukraine? That is the question for -- there he is -- former Governor John Kasich, next.

[22:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: As the impeachment inquiry widens, President Trump's raging at House Democrats but claiming he's thriving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What they did to this country is unthinkable, and it's lucky that I'm the president because I guess -- I don't know why -- a lot of people said very few people could handle it. I sort of thrive on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, a lot to discuss tonight. John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, is here. Sir, good evening to you. So, you know, we've been talking.

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hello, Don. LEMON: The president says that he is thriving on impeachment, but at

the same time, he's getting huge backlash from his -- some of his staunchest Republican allies for his decision on Syria at a time when he needs their support more than ever. Do you think he weakened himself even further or do you think this won't matter?

KASICH: Well, you know, it's kind of hard for me to say, Don. I guess I would say that they're rolling their eyes and all that, but that's not enough to get them to step up to the plate and say they're ought to be an inquiry. There ought to be an investigation. We ought to get to the bottom of this. We ought to figure out what all the facts are. We're not hearing that.

I mean so, you know, the Syria thing threw him off because, you know, the Kurds have helped us in Iraq. They've obviously been fighting with us in Syria, so that's -- and I'm glad they've spoken out, you know. But there's no -- I don't know that you could link the two.

LEMON: Okay. So then --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: I don't know. They're rolling their eyes. They probably roll their eyes all the time.

LEMON: You say we're not hearing that. Should we be hearing that?

KASICH: Well, what I'm saying is people out here -- you know, I spent the weekend talking to a lot of people. The reason why a lot of these congressmen and senators aren't saying anything is because they get heat from their constituents, but they don't get heat from their constituents who are Republicans that say, hey, we need to get to the bottom of this. And there are a number of people --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Is that because the Republicans -- maybe is it the chicken or the egg? I mean is it because they're not saying anything because they have a duty to inform and to represent the people who are back home? Maybe it's because it's being spun by the --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Well, I think they should --

LEMON: -- conservative media that there's nothing there. And most of all, the biggest conspiracy theorist of all, the president of the United States. Maybe they're not actually hearing. Maybe as they have a duty as servants of the Constitution --

KASICH: Well, --

LEMON: -- to tell the folks out there that this is wrong --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: But you're just asking me.

LEMON: -- what the president actually did on the call. Read the transcript.

[22:20:03]

KASICH: Well, you're asking me why, and I'm giving you an answer. Of course, they ought to be saying there ought to be an investigation to get to the bottom of this.

LEMON: Thank you.

KASICH: I mean, you know, just to not sound repetitive, when the president calls a foreign leader and says, you know, I want you to do an investigation on my political opponent, some have come out and said they think that it was wrong that he said that.

But really what's at the bottom of it? We're in the middle of -- well, we're not even in the middle of the movie. We're a quarter maybe more than that in the middle of the movie. And every ought to demand OK, what the facts so that we can get to the end of the movie and figure out where we are.

I'm just trying to make the point to you, Don, that I don't find a lot of Republicans who are coming out and saying -- like we used to have an investigation. I hear -- I hear this, it's a blip. I hear, well, you know, all politicians do this stuff. You know, you hear that all the time.

I mean that's what I hear. Now, that's why it's incumbent on the Democrats to lay out a very strong case where people who are out here watching this say, you know -- because you're never going to get a big number of Republicans. You didn't have a big number of Republicans when they went after Nixon. You didn't get Democrats whether they went after Clinton. But you have to get to the point.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But this is not, but, John, you know this is not something --

KASICH: Hold on, just to get to the point.

LEMON: But you know -- but hang on. You know this is not something that all politicians do. All politicians do not call on a foreign country to help them out in their re-election process.

KASICH: No, I know that.

LEMON: Right.

KASICH: I agree with you.

LEMON: So.

KASICH: I agree with that. But I'm saying, but you've got to make -- the case has got to be so clear about how wrong this is so that people who are reasonable Republicans -- you heard what Colin Powell said. The Republican Party needs to grip -- get a grip on itself. We need the Colin Powells. We need the senior states people. We need --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, you're saying, you're making the point -- John, you're making the point that I made to you. Maybe it's incumbent on the politicians, the people who are actually leaders, to tell the people exactly what's going on instead of having the president and his apologists shape a message that is not true because anybody with half a brain who read that transcript knows exactly what the president was saying. There is -- it is obvious. It's not nebulous. It's not, well, maybe he meant that. You know exactly what he meant. All you have to do is read it.

KASICH: Don, Don -- wait, wait, wait. You can't say stuff like that.

LEMON: Yes, you can.

KASICH: You just can't say that.

LEMON: John?

KASICH: There are people that read that transcript --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: John, did you read the transcript?

KASICH: -- and have a disagreement with what it means.

LEMON: John, did you read the transcript?

KASICH: Yes. I read the transcript. Of course, I did.

LEMON: Were you confused by what it meant? Did you have -- do you have any --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Well, I will tell you this. In reading, look, in reading that transcript, I did not see a clear quid pro quo. We talked about this the day it came out. And what I'm saying to you is I think it's serious. There should be an investigation. We should have all these witnesses. We ought to get to the bottom line and see if we can establish that.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: John, if you ask me to do something, if you said, Don, I need something from you, and I said to you, John, yes, but I need you to do me a favor, though, what does that mean?

KASICH: Don --

LEMON: Answer my question, John. No, no, John, answer, John. KASICH: I'm just going to tell you.

LEMON: Please answer my question. If you --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Every -- I'm not going to -- no. I think that's --

LEMON: Then you're doing exactly what the apologists are doing.

KASICH: Don, let me just tell you something.

LEMON: You are not helping people --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: People disagree with the transcript and they're honest people.

LEMON: John, then you're not helping people understand the real problem, then you are part of the problem.

KASICH: Listen, I've told people, wait a minute.

LEMON: If you are --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: I've told people that -- I want to tell you what I've told people. Let me say this. I told a guy the other day in church, I said listen to me. When the president of the United States is asking a foreign leader to do something that digs up dirt on a political opponent, this is a serious matter. You know what he says? They all do it. I'm just trying to say to you --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And did you say, no, they don't all do it? Did you say, no, they don't all do it?

KASICH: Of course, I said that. Of course, they don't all do it.

LEMON: OK.

KASICH: We've never seen anything like this before. Now I'm suggesting to you that if you have an impeachment that doesn't bring the Republicans or some semblance of Republicans along, and this is done strictly along party-line votes, that is going to end up not helping this country. That's my view.

LEMON: OK. All I'm saying -- John, listen, all I'm saying --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: I think we've got to get to the bottom of this. LEMON: I respect that. But all I'm saying is do you think a bunch of

Democrats are going to convince a bunch of Republicans that you're talking to out --

KASICH: Don, I'm --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, who's going to -- who's going to do the convincing that this is not right?

KASICH: I'm not talking about a bunch. Look, let me tell you in the Watergate, the Republicans finally looked at the evidence and they went down to the White House and said, you've got to go. I'm just suggesting to you that it has to be simple. It has to be clear, and some Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I've got to go.

KASICH: -- they've got to get a lot of them. But some --

LEMON: I've got -- no, finish your though.

KASICH: Some Republicans have to say, you got a good point, and the guy has done the wrong thing. You've got to build that case, Don Lemon. That's my opinion.

LEMON: All right. This is how I feel. I think that the Republicans now would look at the information in the Nixon era and say there's nothing there. That's where we are now. It's the same thing. It is clear that it is there.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: I have more faith. I think Republicans -- Don, I think Republicans are fully capable of concluding that what was done here was wrong.

[22:25:00]

LEMON: The silence is deafening.

KASICH: I think they're capable of doing that. That's my view.

LEMON: If they're fully then they're --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Yes, it is now but I'm --

LEMON: It's deafening.

KASICH: Let's get to the end of the movie and see how it turns out.

LEMON: So, when are they going to do it? When are they going to do it?

KASICH: When the Democrats are done with the inquiry and they present the evidence --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's incumbent upon the Democrats to make --

KASICH: -- that's when it ends. And along the way they can build the case.

LEMON: -- the Republicans do the right thing? All right, John. I got to go. Thank you, buddy. See you next time.

Most Republicans defending President Trump --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: All right.

LEMON: -- for pushing foreign governments to investigate his political rivals, often using conspiracy theories pushed by the president's favorite TV network. But who is following and who's leading? We're going to take a look. That's next.

[22:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president's defenders on Capitol Hill and on Fox News have a similar strategy on the impeachment inquiry, saying things that are just plain out -- The president's defenders on Capitol Hill and on Fox News have a similar strategy on the impeachment inquiry saying, things that are just plain out there.

To discuss now, Wajahat Ali, Max Boot. Max is the author of The Corrosion of conservatism, why I left the right. Gentlemen, so good to see you. Let's see if this can be a little bit more productive. I love John, but that was -- that was interesting to listen to.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I got to say, Don, I'm with you. I don't see how -- I have a lot of respect for John Kasich. I don't see how he can say there is no quid pro quo, when, a, it's spelled out in the transcript. And, b, remember last week we got the text messages from the diplomats saying that Ukraine was not going to get a meeting with Trump. They were not going to get aid unless they investigated Joe Biden. I mean, that is in the texts from the diplomats. So that is the quid pro quo. The evidence is there.

LEMON: Yes, I don't want to view (inaudible), he is not here to defend himself, so I don't want to beat up on him, but I just -- I don't see how anybody could see it any other way. The president is defending his decision to pull troops from Syria. Let's talk Syria, and then we'll talk other things.

BOOT: Sure. LEMON: So, he's defending himself to pull troops from Syria, he

tweeted that it was in his great and unmatched wisdom that he had, right? Is this a declaration of someone that has a TV network praising his every move, you think?

BOOT: I mean, this is just crazy. I can't figure out anybody in Washington who thinks this is a good idea. Trump is betraying our allies, the Kurds, who have bled and died to defeat ISIS. He is handing a gift to this dictator, Erdogan, who is not pro-American. He is anti-American. He is playing footsie with Iran and Russia, and yet Trump is eager to do him a favor. And it's hard to figure out any legitimate reason why he is doing this.

Now, what's striking to me, Don, is that, I see a lot of Republicans actually attacking Trump for doing this and selling out the Kurds. And that is appropriate. I think that is good that they're attacking it. But what I don't understand is why are they attacking Trump for selling out the Kurds and they're not attacking Trump for selling out the U.S. Constitution? I just don't get that.

LEMON: Yes. Wajahat, I want you to listen too -- this is Republican Senator Ron Johnson citing conspiracy theories to defend the president's request for foreign powers to investigate his political rivals. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): And so what President Trump said to a doer -- a false accusation. By the way, you've got John Brennan on. You ought to ask Director Brennan, what did Peter Strzok mean when he texted Lisa Page on December 15, 2016. So, I'm here to report today that unlike the narrative of the press that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is he wants to an accounting of what happened in 2016. Who set him up? Did things spring from Ukraine?

TODD: You don't trust the FBI. You don't trust the CIA?

JOHNSON: No, I don't.

TODD: I'm a little confuse here.

JOHNSON: Absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wajahat, listen, first he is mentioning people who are no longer at those agencies. He is parroting conspiracy theories that have been cultivated on Fox News, many of them debunked. Does truth just not matter anymore? What is happening?

WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: As Rudy Giuliani said, truth isn't truth, right? And Trump said, don't believe your eyes and don't believe what you listen. And this is like a dictator playbook 101. You first attack the truth, Don Lemon. You attack all the institutions. You say, I am your leader. Trust me and only me. Whoever is critical against me, they are the enemy. Does that sound familiar?

Because he says that the press is the enemy of the people. You just saw Ron Johnson, Senator, Republican, who by the way knows better because he sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and in 2016, he is the one who wrote a bipartisan letter asking then- president of Ukraine to crack down on corruption.

So actually that Senator has actually bolstered Biden and the Democrats and debunked the conspiracy theory because he has himself said that Biden and western allies were putting pressure on Ukraine to go against the prosecutor general, who was not going against corruption, right? But then you saw the Faustian bargain right there.

How so many Republican men and women have sold out their honor, their dignity, and I will say their country for Trump. He is repeating a deep state conspiracy theory. That is QAnon. Which by the way, and this is what really serious, the FBI according to a Yahoo document that they uncovered, is saying QAnon and conspiracy theories like the one mentioned by Senator Johnson, about this deep state, about law enforcement against Trump, is now a domestic terror threat.

They're saying leading up to 2020, they feared that these conspiracy theories will mobilize individuals and groups to violence like the pizza gate conspiracy theory of 2016. Remember that when that guy showed up with a gun here in D.C. because he thought that Hillary Clinton and Democrats had a child sex ring in a D.C. Pizzeria? That is what we're dealing with, and QAnon now is at Trump rallies and deep state conspiracies are spouted by Republican Senators. It's serious business.

LEMON: Thank you both. That is all we have time for. We could continue this for a long time, but I appreciate it.

ALI: Sorry about that, Max.

LEMON: No, that is all right. Max got his turn as well.

BOOT: Good points.

LEMON: Thank you very much. One former U.N. Ambassador said today that President Trump's decision to end Syria amounts to, quote, leaving our allies to die. Trump's foreign U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, that is -- that is who said it. Mind you that is the kind of thing his supporters are saying. Reaction from former DNI James Clapper, next.

[22:35:00]

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LEMON: So the president has a pretty strange strategy in the face of the impeachment investigation. He is upsetting his own defenders with abrupt decisions like pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria. And Republicans are up in arms. Let's bring in now James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. We always love having you on. Thank you, sir. Good to see you. Republican backlash to the president's decision was swift, OK? The

majority leader, Mitch McConnell, says it would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. Senator Graham called Trump's decision short-sighted and irresponsible. Former U.N. Ambassador Nicki Haley says it leaves U.S. allies to die. Congresswoman Liz Cheney called it an undeserved gift to the Erdogan regime. Why does this decision have even the president's supporters up in arms?

[22:40:09]

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, actually, Don, I was quite taken aback by this rare criticism on the part of prominent Republicans, and I think the reason is because taking this action is really egregious.

First of all, the whole point of our aligning with the Kurds is to fight -- was to fight ISIS, which is not -- to disagree with the president, is not defeated. And our small presence there to train and assist the Kurds also served as a bulwark against the Turks taking them on. Now we're going to give free rein to the Turks, who consider all Kurds as terrorists even though there are Kurds of many political stripes.

The PKK specifically is regarded by the Turks as a terrorist group, but they just like to consider all Kurds as terrorists. You know, the president likes to claim that we're more respected now than ever. Well, on the contrary, all this is going to do is cause people to question our word and not trust us.

And here are the Kurds, who did everything we asked them to do. They did all the heavy lifting, took thousands of casualties, you know, basically at our behest, and this is what we're doing to them. So it's terrible, and I hope this is a harbinger of things to come in terms of Republicans speaking out.

LEMON: What is happening on these calls with foreign leaders? I mean the Washington Post had another example about a call Trump had with Peru's president where Trump promised that he would deliver a military cargo plane overnight, leaving the Pentagon and the West Wing scrambling. I mean, a mere impossibility. What is going on here?

CLAPPER: Well, you know, I'm reading all these media reports about the nature of the phone calls of foreign leaders that I think the Washington Post did a piece on this, about how horrified White House staffers were. And, you know, I was recalling when I was in the Obama administration and every few weeks I'd get a batch of memos of record of phone conversations that President Obama was having with foreign leaders.

And they were characteristically boring, because they were all kind of pre-scripted, pre-choreographed, pre-staffed, and they were pretty benign, vanilla things. And of course our stable genius, you know, kind of operates off the top of his head and makes commitments and says things that turn out to be difficult to follow up. And it's -- it would be almost amusing if it weren't so serious. LEMON: Well, I mean, you know, in his unmatched wisdom. Are you

worried about the president's increasing unpredictability as this impeachment inquiry intensifies?

CLAPPER: I am, Don. I mean, you know, with all the other concerns that we have in the world today, and we're so consumed with this impeachment inquiry and all the (inaudible), roll that goes along with that, and clearly the president, it's hard for him to concentrate on anything else, or when he does for a briefly, he makes some impetuous move like ordering our troops out of Syria.

So it just seems as though the more pressure that is building up here, the more irrational and impetuous he becomes. So this is not good for the security of the country in my opinion.

LEMON: Director, always a pleasure. Thank you.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: The impeachment inquiry expanding as House Democrats consider extreme measures to protect the whistleblower's identity. Why they're so worried. That is next.

[22:45:00]

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LEMON: Welcome back. There's so much more to our major story tonight as President Trump faces the prospect of impeachment. Now I'm going to bring in my friend Laura Coates. She is hosting a special hour tonight, the White House in crisis, the impeachment inquiry, coming up right after this show at 11:00.

So, Laura, the president talked today about his, quote, great and unmatched wisdom, but today one court rejected the view of the presidential power that the president's lawyers are using in his defense. What can you tell us about that?

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I guess that great and mighty wisdom is actually maybe a problem now. But I think the most significant legal development of the day, it happened 200 miles outside of the beltway, outside of Washington, D.C. I've spent the whole afternoon reading through a 75-page decision from a federal judge in New York, and it's a really tough rebuke of the whole Justice Department.

And it actually might just strike fear in the heart of this administration and the president himself. And the case is likely going to end up before the Supreme Court. And mind you, it could very well become one of those cases that defines the entire presidency.

So you got to stick around because tonight we're going to have something really special for you. At the top of the hour, I'm going to be joined by Jeffrey Toobin and David Gregory, and the three of us will take you through the biggest legal and political developments in the entire impeachment inquiry. It's going to be great. LEMON: Powerhouse legal and political minds. I will be tuning in.

Thank you, Laura.

The impeachment inquiry now spreading into new areas of the federal government as House Democrats consider taking extreme measures to protect the whistleblower. What Congressman David Cicilline of Foreign Affairs Committee has to say about it? That is next.

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[22:50:00]

LEMON: Congress doing everything it can to protect the whistleblower and allow him or her to testify. Which gives you some idea of just how worried they are about this person's safety.

Joining me now, Congressman David Cicilline who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us. Our reporting is that Congress is considering some pretty extraordinary measures to conceal the whistleblower's identity. Including limiting the presence of staff and members during testimony and disguising their image and voice. Are you worried that your Republican counter parts will compromise this person's identity?

[22:55:15]

REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D-RI): Well, I think we know that the president and his allies have already begun to attack the whistleblower without even knowing the identity of the whistleblower. So it's important that this person be able to come forward and testify and be protected. Not only for the testimony of this particular individual, but for future whistleblowers.

This is an important part of our system of holding people accountable. Do you have the ability to file a complaint and your identity be protected. So, we have to be certain that the information is revealed and the committee has the opportunity to hear, but of course that the identity of the whistleblower is protected.

LEMON: Would you say that you are close to getting testimony from him or her?

CICILLINE: I think the committee is -- you know, has been in negotiations with counsel for the whistleblower. I think, they will ultimately hear from the whistleblower. But, you know, it's important to remember, the whistleblower is important because that individual reveals, you know, sort of help catch the president. But we should understand the president admitted his wrong doing. It's confirmed by the transcript of the call released by the White House. And obviously it is also corroborated by the whistleblower report.

But, you know, if the president has already admitted that he attempted to persuade a foreign government to a foreign leader to interfere in the American presidential election that is illegal. It's unpatriotic. It's wrong. And the president released a transcript which confirmed that he attempted to do that. And this is at the same time that he held up $391 million of military

aid to Ukraine. At a very vulnerable moment. So, this is really shocking behavior by the president. But we already have really substantial evidence of wrong doing that undermines our national security. That betrays his oath of office and that invites foreign interference in another American presidential election. It should be deeply offensive to every single person in this country.

LEMON: There is now a second whistleblower that the White House has to contends with. The person claims to have firsthand knowledge of Trumps Ukraine phone call. What can you tell us about any other information this official is prepared to disclose?

CICILLINE: Wm again, I think we're going to continue to see information that corroborates what's contained in the original whistleblower complaint. But again, the president's own words where he acknowledged that he in fact had a conversation with President Zelensky in which he attempted to persuade him to dig up dirt on his political opponent. The president has made that admission on camera, then he released a transcript or notes of the call which confirmed that he asked for a favor from the new president.

That favor is to begin to dig up dirt on one of his political opponent. So, the whistleblower helped reveal this, but we have more, you know, overwhelming evidence of the serious wrong doing of the president, the committees are now kind of collecting additional evidence that further corroborates the wrong doing. But, you know, we have more than enough to demonstrate the president has engaged in very serious misconduct.

LEMON: Let's talk about what happens tomorrow. The million dollar Trump donor and ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland is going to testify. This is some of his text exchanges. OK? And it's important to look at these too that took place just a little over a week apart. September 1st is the first one, this is Bill Taylor, are you -- are we now saying that security assistance and WH White House meeting are conditioned on the investigations? Gordon Sondland says, call me.

OK. So, then on September 9th, Taylor raised the same concern. And this time Sondland said there's no quid pro quo. And then suggested let's stop the back and forth on text. And Congressman says, what questions are these text raise --

CICILLINE: Well, first of all. It's important --

LEMON: Hold on. What are the questions that this text raised? Because, if you look at what Ambassador Sondland is saying here, he's basically trying to take this offline, correct?

CICILLINE: Right. Well, first of all, you have to be very suspicious someone says call me. And that was you are trying to prevent a record from being created. But it is also important, you don't need a quid pro quo. The president of the United States asking a foreign leader to interfere by digging up dirt against a political opponent in an upcoming election to help him politically in his campaign is illegal. So, you don't need a quid pro quo. But we know we have one because of

the holding up of the military aid and because of the conversation in which a diplomat says as I told you on the phone this is a crazy idea. To link this military assistance to a willingness to gin up opposition research on an opponent or to help in a political campaign of an incumbent president.

So, you don't need a quid pro quo, but there's overwhelming evidence that one existed and that the president was pressuring this new president to dig up dirt. Make up dirt on one of his political opponent in exchange for military aid that Congress had already approved. It's shocking, it's wrong, it's illegal and ultimately the president has to be held accountable for it.

LEMON: All right. It's always a pleasure. Thank you.