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President Trump Defends Pulling U.S. Troops From Syria; Biden Supporters, Aides Worry about Trump Attacks. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You can always tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, taking witness protection to the extreme. Democrats considering a secret location, special technology if the whistleblower will testify. What has them so afraid? Plus, the President's closest allies turning on Trump after a controversial new decision that could affect American security. How is the President responding to them tonight? And new concerns about the damage Trump's attacks are having on Joe Biden. How is Joe Biden responding to him? Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, going to the extreme. Sources telling CNN Democrats are preparing to take drastic and unprecedented steps in order to protect the identity of the whistleblower if he or she testifies. Though let's not forget, President Trump has said he wants to know the whistleblower's identity. He has called the person a traitor, suggesting that he or she should be executed.

This as Democrats are widening their impeachment investigation, subpoenas going to more people around the President tonight. Trump today defiant saying he's not afraid.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. You know why? Because it's so important that we get to the bottom.


BURNETT: He's talking about getting to the bottom of the investigation itself. Well, Trump is not the only one who wants to get to the bottom of it. It depends how you define it, right? Democrats, they do too. Their inquiry now touching just about every part of the American government from the White House to the State Department to as of today the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget.

Democrats just firing off new subpoenas targeting the President's Defense Secretary and Budget Chief, demanding documents about his conversations with Ukraine and about the hundreds of millions of dollars that Trump withheld in military aid. And the investigation could soon engulf his personal attorney's team. Democrats warning they're going to slap Rudy Giuliani's personal associates with subpoenas if they don't cooperate. They've been defying requests for information.

And yet as the tentacles of this investigation spread tonight, the president refuses to budge in his defense of that damning phone call with Ukraine's President.


TRUMP: The conversation that I had with the Ukrainian president, Zelensky was a very cordial, a very good conversation. We had a great conversation. It's a very normal, nice conversation.


BURNETT: Cordial, great, normal, nice, the same call, of course, on which President Trump requested a favor from the Ukraine President. He asked for the favor of an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden, when the Ukraine President brought up military aid. So tonight, more cracks are starting to appear when it comes to Republican defense of that call.

Senator Rob Portman of the crucial state of Ohio now the fourth Republican to slam President Trump. He tells The Columbus Dispatch, "The president should not have raised the Biden issue on that call, period. It's not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent."

Portman's slam coming as senator Susan Collins this weekend told a Maine newspaper that Trump's call for China to investigate Biden is 'a big mistake' and 'completely inappropriate'. They joined Senators Romney and Sasse in condemning Trump's behavior. Kaitlan Collins is out front live outside the White House this hour.

And Kaitlan, the President just spoke, continuing nonstop defense tonight.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Erin, he's making clear just how aggrieved he is by all of this, saying that he's being unfairly targeted, so soon after the Mueller investigation ended and really turning the attacks around on Democrats saying that people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have committed treason here, he believes, and that they should be impeached.

Even though, of course, Members of Congress cannot be impeached. What you're saying is essentially this tactic that we've seen the President employed before, which is where he accuses people of what they are accusing him of. That's what we're seeing with the whole Pelosi strategy and, of course, the President is continuing to ramp up his attacks.

As we know, behind the scenes, sources are telling CNN there was a call with Republican lawmakers today where they are being briefed by leadership on polling that they basically did through Trump districts, like these areas that voted for President Trump that are now seats that are currently held by Democrats where they say there is higher opposition to impeachment than there is support for it.

Of course, that comes as there's been a lot of CNN polling that has shown actually the number of Americans that are interested in an impeachment inquiry, just people finding out what it was the President did is rising. So you're seeing this round the clock defense coming out of the White House as they are trying to figure out what their strategy is going to be as they're watching just how quickly this is moving on Capitol Hill.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. And I want to go to Capitol Hill now, Manu Raju is out front there. And Manu, you have new reporting about those worries on Capitol Hill over the whistleblower's safety. And when I said drastic measures, drastic is the appropriate word, right?


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it comes amid concerns after the President himself has said that he wanted to know the identity of the whistleblower and also his consistent attacks against the whistleblower's credibility and concerns that some of the President's allies may tried to help him by potentially leaking the name of this individual.

Now, as a result behind the scenes, conversations are underway with the House Intelligence Committee and the lawyers for the whistleblower to discuss extreme measures to protect this person's identity. That could include doing something offsite, that could include disguising this individual's voice, do something and allowing staff or just a handful of members to interview this person in a way that they actually would not be able to see the person while they're interviewing them. A range of things that are typically not done here on Capitol Hill, but it's all part of an effort to secure this person's testimony.

Now, of course, Erin, this all comes amid this ramped up investigation with more subpoenas flying also more depositions happening, including the President's Ambassador to the European Union testifying tomorrow and we've seen text exchanges showing that he was aware of everything that was happening in the aftermath of the President's ask for the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden.

The question is ultimately how much is you revealed to this committee and does he shed new light on efforts and concerns that the President sought to withhold the military aid and deny a meeting to the Ukrainian president in exchange for the investigation, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much and, obviously, that testimony is going to be crucial and you remember the text exchange that envoy Volker produced last week. So that's going to be crucial. We're going to learn a whole lot more about Mr. Sandland later this hour. Out front now though, I want to go to Democratic Congresswoman Kim

Schrier. She flipped her district from red to blue in 2018. I appreciate your time, Congresswoman. And I want to start with what Manu was just reporting.

The House Intelligence Committee and lawyers for the whistleblower are talking about extreme drastic measures to protect this person's identity if they testify, because of fear about safety to try to protect this person from Trump and his allies. Do you really think this is a real concern?

REP. KIM SCHRIER (D-WA): Oh, I think this is absolutely a real concern. I mean, we see all kinds of threats and I believe most of us have recognized since day one that although being a whistleblower in our country is really fundamental to our democracy and that the law of the land is that whistleblowers are protected. We have an administration that seems to see things differently.

We have a President who has befriended Putin and we know how whistleblowers would be dealt with in those countries. And so I am absolutely concerned and I think that every step to protect the whistleblower, him or her, and including some of our members of Congress is absolutely justified.

BURNETT: So Manu was going through some of the possibilities. You could be disguising the voice or putting a screen up or something to protect the person's identity so that Republicans literally don't actually see the person. I guess the question I have for you, Congresswoman, is that I feel like if the roles were reversed and the Republicans were going to deny Democrats knowing who the person was, altering the voice, putting them behind the screen or the equivalent thereof, technologically, you would be yelling from the rooftops. Are you worried that you're falling into a partisan trap here?

SCHRIER: Well, that's a really good question, how believable is your witness if your witness is then hiding in every way. Look, I hope that my Republican colleagues would have the sensibility to maintain confidentiality. I believe that these interviews should be done without a camera and I would like to hope that all of us could rise and understand that this is a matter of patriotism and not a political issue and that the protection of whistleblowers is fundamental to our democracy. This is not partisan.

BURNETT: So today, Democrats expanded the impeachment probe even further. I was just mentioning new subpoenas to the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget. You've already subpoenaed the State Department and the White House, the President's personal attorney could be others in his orbit who are also to receive subpoenas. Do you expect any of these agencies to cooperate?

SCHRIER: Look, I hope they will. I think that what we are seeing is that people in circles closer to the President are putting up their hands and saying, gosh, enough is enough. This really has gone beyond the pale and that this is unAmerican. We have a president who has betrayed the American people, has abused his power for personal and political gain and threatened our National Security in addition to Ukraine's.

And I think that the tighter these screws are, the more they will say, "I want to be on the right side of history."


And standing by and allowing this to happen is setting a precedent for future administrations that will just not be tolerable and that undermine our democracy.

BURNETT: So republicans were briefed today on impeachment polling that they had, which doesn't jive with all of the polls out there but they're talking specifically about districts that Trump won in 2016 that Democrats won in the midterms. They say that in those districts that disapproval for impeachment far exceeds support and obviously that could be very crucial.

Now, you flipped your district from blue to red. Obviously, Trump didn't win there and that it was close, but you did flipped it. Are you worried that you could be barking up the wrong tree on impeachment, that you could be handing a victory to the president?

SCHRIER: So I think it's an interesting question. But I, again, think that this goes beyond politics that I did flip this district from red to blue. I'm the first Democrat who has ever represented Washington's 8th district. I'm the only woman doctor in Congress and I was put here for a couple of reasons.

One is to take the voices of the people in my district to Congress and others to fight for health care and bring down the cost of prescription drugs. And another is because that they trusted the judgment of a pediatrician, they knew I would be thoughtful about these matters. I didn't jump to this.

What I want is an impeachment inquiry and I think that polling is really depends how you ask a question, right?

BURNETT: That's true.

SCHRIER: And I think question for me right now is do you support an impeachment inquiry, meaning, do you support getting to the information, getting to the facts. And I can tell you from my 19 town halls, from my discussions with people all over this district that the people in Washington's 8th district want the information. They want to be able to make a good decision about who they vote for in 2020.

BURNETT: All right. Congresswoman Schrier, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SCHRIER: Thank you so much for having me. Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Trump's former lawyer speaking out what he's accusing democrats of doing is they are zeroing in on Rudy Giuliani's inner circle. Plus, one of the President's biggest supporters no longer seeing eye to eye with Trump.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view.


BURNETT: So what's behind the split and would it bleed into the impeachment fight? And a millionaire who liked Trump made his fortune in construction now at the center of the impeachment investigation. You heard me right, so who is he? We'll tell you.



BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's former lawyer accusing House Democrats of harassment and intimidation in their impeachment inquiry. Those comments from John Dowd who is actually now representing two associates of Rudy Giuliani, including one who admitted he arranged a call between Giuliani who was digging for dirt on Trump's rival, Joe Biden, and a former Ukrainian prosecutor.

This as a source tells CNN that House Democrats are prepared to subpoena these individuals if they refuse to testify and hand over documents. Out front now former counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security Carrie Cordero and former Senior Counsel to Ken Starr for the Whitewater investigation, Paul Rosenzweig.

So Paul let me start with you, the White House has been subpoenaed, Rudy Giuliani, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Office of Management and Budget, it's widening, the Pentagon. And it is clear that the response is stall and delay, so ultimately who does that help more, Democrats or the President coming into an election year?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL, KEN STARR'S WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION: Well, I think the President thinks it assist him, but I think in an odd way it's actually going to wind up helping the Democrats in the following way. They're going to make a case that the President is stonewalling everything and refusing to cooperate in any way manner shape or form.

So article one of the articles of impeachment is going to be about the Ukraine call and article two is going to be about his obstruction of justice, his perversion of the processes of law and his refusal to abide by lawful subpoenas from the Congress, so I think he's actually going to short-circuit the process and this is going to go more quickly than they expect.

BURNETT: Would you agree, Carrie, that that can make it go more quickly even as the whole goal is to slow it down as Democrats would use the formal word, obstruct?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: I don't know if it'll go more quickly. I do think that the Democrats that are leading the impeachment inquiry do need to think about focusing the investigation, because they really do have somewhat of a timeline here.

The Speaker has said that she wants to try to wrap this up, I think, by the end of the calendar year. We are in a campaign year and so there are political reasons to try to not meld this into the heightened period of the 2020 campaign. And so if they are on an expedited timeline, I do think they it would benefit the impeachment process to focus on the most important witnesses.

So, for example, in the House Democrats that they quickly called the State Department and former State Department representatives who were specifically involved in these conversations, making the deal on behalf of the President with the government of Ukraine, I think those people and the fact they called them quickly is important. But I do think it would be helpful to them to focus who they're calling for witnesses and what documents they really need.

There's a lot of evidence already out there. They don't need a whole lot more.

BURNETT: I mean, I guess, that is the question, Paul. The bottom line is, I understand that you just heard the Congresswoman there, from a district that had been Republican, she flipped it to Democrats.


So she's trying to walk the line of I support an inquiry, I want more information. Well, of course, that's what you should do, but it does seem that a lot of people have reached a conclusion of what is right and what is wrong based on the information the entire American public has which is the transcript of that phone call.

ROSENZWEIG: Well, that's right and it's not just the transcript, of course, it's the telephone calls and text messages that the Ukrainian ...

BURNETT: Exactly, yes, the one Volker produced.

ROSENZWEIG: ... ambassadors have exchanged. I think with Carrie, the facts are very clear and I agree with her completely that the best witnesses here are the ones who are not going to listen to the White House's order to withhold evidence, people like former Ambassador Volker, people like the Ambassador Bill Taylor, who I'm sure will respond to any subpoena with alacrity.

I think that by working on these two tracks, by sending subpoenas that the White House routinely refuses to honor and taking testimony from people who are willing witnesses, the House can move as quickly as they need to.

BURNETT: So Carrie, just a couple of moments ago and we don't even yet have this sound in, but the President was just yelled some questions by reporters and what they were yelling was, "Did you mean what you said when you called on China to investigate the Bidens?" Which, of course, we know he did publicly the other day, right, and he doesn't answer. Another reporter follows up, "Mr. President, were you joking when you suggested China look into the Bidens?" And he just says, "Thank you all very much." And, of course, he had publicly said China should look into the Bidens.

Now, the reason the reporters asked those questions - actually, it just came in, so let me play it so everyone can hear it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, were you joking when you suggested China look into the Bidens?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that way. Thank you. Thank you, guys --

TRUMP: Thank you all very much.


BURNETT: No interest in answering it. And Carrie, the reason that's significant is because he said what he said, right, which is, hey, China you should be investigating the Bidens. And his defenders, his Republican defenders who are trying to say that that would be OK are saying it's OK because he didn't mean it, because he was joking.

This is the excuse they provided for him. Here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You watched what the President said. He's not saying China to investigate ...

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): 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 is going to investigate the Biden family?

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


BURNETT: So they gave him an out, Carrie. Reporters just asked him and he did not take that out.

CORDERO: He didn't take it back because he said it. It's such a garbage argument to say, oh, we're supposed to believe some things the President says, but we're not supposed to believe other things. The fact of the matter is that the Mueller report showed that he said, "Russia, if you're listening," and then hours later Russia actually conducted a cyber activity to try to affect the 2016 election.

We know that privately on a phone call with the President of Ukraine, he asked for a 'favor' in the context of a discussion over defense purchases, excuse me, and security assistance to Ukraine. That was a private conversation, that became public and so now he is trying to say in public what he says in private as well. There's no reason that we shouldn't take what he says seriously and we can't have somebody who is in the office of the presidency and the commander-in-chief whose words don't mean anything.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time. And next, Trump's biggest backers have turned, slamming the President over a hugely controversial decision today. So the big question is, could this break spread to impeachment in the Senate?

Plus, Bernie Sanders out walking with his wife, Jane, after suffering a heart attack. What he's saying tonight about his health?



BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump responding to Republican outrage over his decision to abandon a U.S. ally and immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from northern Syria.


TRUMP: I fully understand both sides of it, but I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home. We're not a police force.


BURNETT: Senior Republicans though are not buying it. They are not backing their man this time. Here is Senator Lindsey Graham.


GRAHAM: 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. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see.


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


BURNETT: Yes. That is the voice of the same Lindsey Graham who has blindly parroted Trump's defense on Ukraine.


GRAHAM: This seems to me like a political setup. It's all hearsay. You can't get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So perhaps Republicans have been looking for a way to take

on the President, because Lindsey Graham is not alone. Congresswoman Liz Cheney calling Trump's decision 'catastrophic'. The Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slamming Trump's troop pullout as 'precipitous' saying ISIS is still a dangerous threat. But while the GOP stands against him and Trump's ally, Lindsey Graham, says Trump's move 'ensures' ISIS' come back. Trump is living in a totally different world on this issue. His bottom line ...


TRUMP: We defeated ISIS. We did it very quickly, far quicker than any general from here told us we could do it. We have some great people over there. They did it quickly.



BURNETT: Out front now, Patrick Healy, New York Times' Political Editor, Nia Malika Henderson, our Senior Political Reporter, and Colonel Cedric Leighton, former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a CNN military analyst.


Colonel, obviously, the president and -- you know, we just gave you Lindsey Graham there, are diametrically opposed on this issue of ISIS and the troops. Trump's allies are slamming him. They're saying he's wrong on basic facts, like that claim to have defeated ISIS.

Does it concern you to hear what he's saying?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, Erin. I mean, I think the move was completely ill-considered and quite frankly dumb to do this at this time. You know, we spent over 50 years so far in Central Europe, actually more than 70 years in Central Europe after World War II. That's something that you have to consider.

We are there to keep the lid on bad things from happening. And since we haven't done that completely in Syria, this was a very bad time to move. What we're looking at here is the Turkish troops coming in, destroying the allies we have been working with and it's a very bad thing to do.

BURNETT: So, Patrick, your reaction when you hear Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio has also come out. They're coming out forcefully against the president on this move in Syria, because what I'm pointing out here, this is after days of defending him against impeachment when it came to the Ukraine call, and it seems like are chomping at the bit to jump in on something.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you're right, Erin. I mean, this really points up how much Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, other Republicans see Ukraine and the Joe Biden issue, essentially a partisan, political issue that will be thought of in the impeachment inquiry, will be fought in the presidential campaign. But that fundamentally, this is about Ukraine. It's been about protecting the president vis-a-vis his voter base and not getting all those voters angry at them because they're not protecting the president.

Whereas with Syria, this goes to how a lot of Republicans from when Trump was a presidential candidate have had concerns about him on foreign policy. They have not liked the fact, particularly, that he is broken with Republican, at least part establishment orthodoxy that has supported the military interventions that went on in Iraq, that went on in Afghanistan, in Syria. This was a major clash for years between President Trump and John McCain.

And so, I think in that regard, a lot of these Republicans sort of have never quite felt good about him on foreign policy, use of military force, his desire to bring home troops and sort of what they see as kind of a geopolitical move that they clearly don't like.

BURNETT: So, Nia, but there are others, really powerful others who are jumping on board here, right? Removing U.S. troops, you know, is happening as Turkey, you know, led by the author authoritarian autocrat Erdogan, he's about to invade Syria. Now, he's long wanted to do that, right? To attack the Kurds, he says they're terrorists.

They have been long standing allies of the United States who fought with this country for years. So, Trump is now removing the obstacle for Erdogan to go after American allies.

And his own former ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, tweeted today, quote: We must always have the backs of our allies if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria, leaving them to die is a big mistake. Turkey is not our friend. That is her hashtag.

It is pretty stunning to see such a clear aggressive take on of the president, Nia.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Sure, from Nikki Haley. And if you recall Jim Mattis left his post at the Pentagon as a secretary of defense over this very issue of withdrawal from Syria and his notion that the same thing that Nikki Haley said that America was abandoning its allies and you have a president in that instance kind of back down. Here, he is finally following through with something that he has long wanted to do.

So, as a candidate, he, of course, talked about this. He felt like America was spread too thin. That allies weren't pitching in and American troops shouldn't be policeman of the world. So, here he is finally making good on something that he has long wanted to do.

And, you see, of course, Republicans remembering that they were Republicans in this notion, remembering sort of their -- they have been the party of national security. They've been hawks in terms of America's engagement in the world and this president winning on a very different approach to foreign policy. And, you know, he may be more in line with where the country is in terms of foreign policy and engagement in the Middle East. BURNETT: Perhaps. Right, he cares more about that than what experts may tell him.

I mean, Colonel, Trump also angry at talk that Erdogan may have been outmaneuvered him, right? Erdogan got what he wanted and there is Trump, you know, like a Trump.

So, he said this late today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane, to use the word a second time.


We talk about Hong Kong, we talk about this. They could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy.


BURNETT: The wrath of an extremely decimated economy. Look, you know, we hear him talk about fire and fury with North Korea. He likes to do this, Colonel.

He also tweeted today, 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.

Maybe Republicans would say he was joking with part of that. But, you know, I checked. The U.S. is the seventh business trading partner of Turkey, a distant seven. Does Erdogan take that kind of a threat seriously?

LEIGHTON: Not really. And, you know, it's a lot harder to do anything against Turkey if you're not in the neighborhood. Yes, we have military bases in Turkey, but they're not going to be helpful in a situation like this. You won't have any leverage and this is basically empty rhetoric and Erdogan knows that.

BURNETT: Nia, what do you make of that? I in my great and unmatched wisdom, obviously, you know, he wants people to latch onto that?

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, this is a president who obviously thinks very highly of himself. He called himself a very stable genius in other respects. So, yes, I mean, he believes he's the person who has the vision. He alone can fix these issues and he believes he's delivering on campaign promise as well in a time when he's obviously facing lots of scrutiny, that his behavior with Ukraine and also his behavior with calling on China to investigate Joe Biden.

So, it's a tricky time for him. He's been kind of holding the line with Republicans in terms of them not jumping ship but on this issue of Syria is a whole different thing.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

And next, he's a millionaire, he is a hotel owner. So, how did he end up at the center of Trump's impeachment investigation and such a core? That's next.

Plus, we are learning tonight of new concerns surrounding Joe Biden. Are Trump's attacks and Warren's rise in the polls taking a toll on the frontrunner?



BURNETT: New tonight, a millionaire Trump donor at the center of the Ukraine call. We're hours away from his testimony on Capitol Hill. You see him there. His name is Gordon Sondland. He was the ambassador to the E.U. He was named in the whistleblower complaint.

His text messages with fellow diplomats were released last week and they were at the heart, that shocking text message.

Before he was a diplomat, though, he was a GOP donor with a career similar to the president.

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A wealthy donor given a large but uncontroversial role in the Trump administration has been thrust into one of the biggest scandals to grip the White House. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, is testifying to Congress on Tuesday, now a key player in the impeachment inquiry because of his high level dealings with Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, considering your title, you're the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., but you've been spending a great deal of time in Kiev. Why is that?

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: Well, President Trump has not only honored me with the job of the ambassador with E.U., but he's also giving me special assignments, including Ukraine.

MARQUARDT: Overseeing that relationship meant carrying Trump's message to the Ukrainian president.

SONDLAND: I had a wonderful hour-long meeting with President Zelensky. That followed on the heels of his telephone call yesterday with President Trump.

MARQUARDT: Text messages released by the House Intelligence Committee show that Sondland was well-aware that for the president, the U.S.- Ukraine relationship was deeply intertwined with the president's desire for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

The group message he's on is full of references to Rudy Giuliani. The president's personal lawyer, assigned to pushing a Biden conspiracy theory that has zero supporting evidence.

On September 1st, the ambassador to Ukraine asked Sondland if hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance were conditioned on investigations. Sondland responded, call me. A week later, the ambassador told Sondland, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

Sondland denied it was, saying President Trump has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind. The president is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms.

Sondland has ended up in the hot seat in Washington after a career in business, like President Trump, building hotels across the country and making a lot of money.


MARQUARDT: In the 2016 campaign, the long-time Republican donor first supported Jeb Bush. He slammed Trump for going after the Gold Star Khan family who lost a son in Iraq, but his tune soon changed. Once the election was over, Sondland donated a million dollars to Trump's inauguration and secured his E.U. ambassadorship.

Once there, he linked up with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and now, former special envoy Kurt Volker managing the relationship, calling themselves "the three amigos".

SONDLAND: And we've been tasked with overseeing the Ukraine-U.S. relationship between our contacts at highest levels of the U.S. government and now the highest levels of the Ukrainian government.


MARQUEZ: There is one more part of that trove of text messages that really need to highlight, a message in which Sondland he thinks that President Trump really wants what he calls the deliverable. Erin, that deliverable, which we understand from the other messages, is a public statement from the Ukrainian president that Joe Biden and his son will be investigated -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex Marquardt.

So, that's the deliverable but he doesn't sigh it as a quid pro quo. Fascinating testimony, that's going to be tomorrow.

OUTFRONT next, the fight to 2020. Joe Biden with a new message to supporters as he's struggling to deal with Trump's attacks.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on the newest symbol for impeachment.



BURNETT: Tonight, in the fight for 2020, growing concern that President Trump's attacks could be doing serious damage to Joe Biden's campaign. CNN learning tonight that some supporters and advisers are troubled by how the Biden campaign has been responding to Trump.

OUTFRONT now, Jeff Zeleny who has been following the campaign, and Mark Preston, our senior political analyst.

So, Jeff, let me start with you and your reporting. Tell me what you have learned.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, talking to a variety of advisers and supporters and donors by the former vice president, there has been a worry over the last week or so, you know, really how this is going to play for the former vice president.

Initially in the first few days of this back and forth between the president and Joe Biden, Biden advisers thought this was finally what he wanted. That head to head match up with the president that he had been hoping for, but then as it, you know, sort of increased and deepened, there was some concern inside the campaign he was not pushing back hard enough.

We have seen a dramatic shift over the last several days. Joe Biden coming out hard in an op-ed, telling donors over the weekend, I'm told, in a Philadelphia, at a retreat there, that he is going to push back but he does not want his campaign to be hijacked by this. So, that's the balance they are trying to find.

But, Erin, one confidant I spoke to said, look, anyone says they know how this is going to play out, they don't know. They are uncertain about the politics of all this, of course, as we all are.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, Mark, that seems to be the key, right? There's some who say this gives you the head to head. And there are others who say this comes with a taint, although unproven and there's -- a conspiracy theory is being thrown out there.


That may not play well with voters. They'll say, look, I just don't even want to go near that and we don't know.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we certainly don't know. And what we're seeing from the Trump campaign and his allies is that they're trying to soften Joe Biden up now, thinking that if he is going to become the nominee by the time they get into April, May, June, July, August, all the way up until November of next year, that people would have made up their minds of Joe Biden. That they will have believed the lies that have been said about Joe Biden.

You know, this comes at a time, too, that as Jeff points out in his story where Joe Biden is fighting multiple fronts right now.


PRESTON: He's fighting Trump. He's fighting Elizabeth Warren. He's trying to protect his family.

At the same time, you have three Democrats who have gone after Joe Biden on three very, very, very important issues, race. You saw that with Kamala Harris. Julian Castro questioned his age. And then Kirsten Gillibrand who's no longer in the race now, she questioned his commitment to women.

So, imagine being Joe Biden right now. You are taking it from all sides.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, that's a key part of it. And then you also, Jeff, have this coming as, you know, you talk about -- Mark brings up Elizabeth Warren and how he's fending that off on the other side. We've got Bernie Sanders today coming out for the first time that we've seen him since his heart attack, video taking a walk with his wife. Obviously, he's off the campaign trail while he's recovering, but he came outside his home.

And, look, this comes, Jeff, as there are questions. Now very impossible to avoid questions about age for Bernie Sanders, for Joe Biden, even for Elizabeth Warren.

ZELENY: No question at all. And, Bernie Sanders, of course, says he's going to be back to the campaign trail at some point. We don't know when. And, of course, we wish him the best.

But the reality here is the campaign was not transparent about his heart attack. It was three days until we learned that. So, this does raise the bar for transparency in terms of health, I believe.

Joe Biden has already said he will release his medical records before the Iowa caucuses. I look for this to be something that's going to have to happen before that. This without a doubt raises a question.

But as to what M ark was saying, you know, the Democrats have come after him on a variety of fronts, his rivals have, but they've not been very successful of doing that. I mean, those three examples have fallen.

So, I think most Democrats are being very quiet and defending Joe Biden and saying the president is out of bounds here. The question here, is at the debate next week, is there going to be a moment where others say, look, my child would not work, you know, abroad for a company if I was in the White House.

So, those are things that Biden is going to have to deal with here. But so many challenges on so many fronts for the front-runner.

BURNETT: And, Mark, you know, it does come as, you know, seeing Bernie Sanders again, you know, just a whole another set of questions for Biden. When you raise race, women, age that Julian Castro brought up, that issue is now on the front burner. Again, not just for Bernie Sanders but, of course, for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

PRESTON: For Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well, and it's going to be an issue in this campaign. But it's really going to be an issue on this campaign depending on who's left in the campaign. So, it's an issue right now because we have some younger candidates who are trying to make an issue of it. But are they going to be around come Iowa? Questionable at best. So,

the question is, can Joe Biden get through the next couple of months with just a few digs?

BURNETT: Right, and not have it all be about Ukraine which is not what he is looking for, his donors are looking for.

Thank you both very much.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the emoji that has become a new political statement.



BURNETT: Here's Jeanne with a peach of a story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember when President Trump used to be symbolized by an orange? Well, there's a new fruit in town thanks to impeachment.

The singer Lizzo slapped the peach emoji to make her point now it's on everything from t-shirts to pillow cases.

(on camera): You have to peel back multiple layers of meaning.

(voice-over): There's the anatomy of a peach with that deep crease that has come to represent at lease online a derriere which explains bring Lizzo was padding hers publicly.

LIZZO, SINGER: Im-peach-ment.

MOOS: Making impeachment the butt of jokes is something graphic designer Nick Lacke has been doing for a couple of years with sales of his impeachment peach pins took off after the "Washington Post" published how the sexy peach emoji joined the resistance.

Nick cites three layers of meaning.

NICK LACKE, GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Symbolizing butts, peach and impeachment, the president's alleged skin color.

TRUMP: The light's no good. I always look orange.

MOOS: He looked peach on the cover of "Time Magazine." Someone at the White House had peach on the brain two years ago when describing President Trump's goals in the Mideast. Promote the possibility of lasting peach.

Who knew it would last this long. It was even a parody of the Nike logo, impeach Trump, just do it. Colbert used the fruit to brand a segment.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Tonight's edition of Don and the giant impeach.

TRUMP: That call was perfect. It couldn't have been nicer.

MOOS: Some prefer a mixed fruit cup of criticism. Impeach the orange.

On Anti-Trump dessert menu, there is impeach pie and at the library of Congress cafeteria, they offer peach mint crumb cake until management got wind of it and banished it.

Look what they gave Trump opponent Joy Behar on her birthday. Though Joy got her fruits confused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a peach with a toupee.

JOY BEHAR, TV HOST: I thought it was an orange.

MOOS: As Marie Antoinette never said, let them eat impeach cake.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: How did she manage to eat that thing?

All right. Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts right now.