Return to Transcripts main page


Sources Tell CNN Ex-GOP Rep. Gowdy Accepted Offer to Be Outside Counsel to Trump; Bernie Sanders Scaling Back Campaign Schedule After Heart Attack; Kamala Harris Revamping Strategy As She Struggles in Polls. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired October 8, 2019 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, the breaking news, the White House declaring war over impeachment, putting the nation on the brink of a constitutional crisis.

In this angry eight-page from Trump's White House Counsel, the president says he will not cooperate with the impeachment investigation. Accusing Nancy Pelosi of conducing proceedings in secret and violating Trump's right to due process. So much for the president saying this about Democrats demands about Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you cooperate with those subpoenas?



BURNETT: He is not playing word games tonight, it is war and Trump's Counsel writes in this letter, many Democrats now apparently view impeachment not only as a means to undo the Democratic results of the last election, but as a strategy to influence the next election.

The irony, of course, seems to be lost, that the impeachment investigation itself is about Trump trying to influence the next election by forcing a foreign country to investigate his rival, Joe Biden.

That's what happened on the phone call at the heart of this crisis, and tonight we are learning that one official listening to that call found it crazy and frightening. Those are the exact words a member of Trump's team used to describe Trump's call with the Ukrainian president.

This official spoke to the whistleblower, who wrote a memo quoting these disturbing words the day after the call occurred. The official went on to say that he or she was, quote, shaken by what transpired between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Crazy, frightening, not what the president has said nearly half a dozen times in just the past 24 hours about that call, to the American people. He hopes that if he says what you're about to hear enough that it will seem true to enough people.


TRUMP: The call was a perfect call. It was a perfect call. Perfect call. That call is a very -- a terrific call.


BURNETT: OK, there's one thing I want to say here, which is perhaps, for Trump, this actually true, because after all, the President of Ukraine told him he stayed at his hotel, that Trump was a great teacher, that Trump's plane was better than his. And, of course, when the Ukraine President brought up the desperately needed military aide, Trump said he needed a favor. That investigation into Joe Biden.

So, maybe it was a terrific call to him, but to so many others on that call it was far, far from perfect. Not just the official who says it was crazy and frightening. There were others.

According to three sources, soon after the call ended, multiple aids talked about whether they should report the call and at least one National Security Counsel official alerted the White House National Security lawyers about what Trump said. So, those lawyers then moved the call transcript to the highly classified server to prevent people from seeing it.

A lot to get to tonight. I want to start with Kaitlan Collins, out front outside the White House.

Kaitlan, the White House tonight -- this is -- this is no -- no games, no nuance, this is it. Eight pages, no cooperation unless.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, White House officials have been frustrated for days after Pelosi launched that impeachment inquiry, arguing they didn't think it was legitimate and now you're seeing that argument behind the scenes that we've been hearing come to life in this scorching letter that they sent out to Capitol Hill today, saying that they are not going to cooperate with this because they said it was constitutionally invalid.

They believe it violates president and the president's due process rights, and they're basically telling them flat-out, we're not going to give you any of these documents that you've been requesting and we're also not going to provide you with any testimony from any of those officials that you've been asking to speak with either.

This is essentially them telling them they are not going to cooperate. They are basically going to war with Democrats over this impeachment inquiry, but what's interesting here and what to watch for going forward is, during a briefing call with reporters after this letter was sent to Capitol Hill, a senior administration official was asked, well, what are you going to do if the House does take up this impeachment inquiry vote that we've been hearing behind the scenes officials want them to take, so they can say this can be a legitimate probe. That official said they weren't going to entertain hypothetical various situations. We're going to get into that yet.

So, basically they are not saying yes, we're going to cooperate if the House does take an impeachment inquiry vote and it does prove successful. So, that's going to be something to watch going forward, that even if Democrats do take that measure, it still doesn't sound like the White House is going to cooperate, at least not willingly here, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Kaitlan, and an important point, right? They're not saying, vote, and we'll give you everything. They're saying vote, and that's all they're saying.

Up front now, Democratic Congressman, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, former Assistant Secretary of State under President Obama, when the prosecutor at the center of the Biden's accusations was fired, and I know you and I have talked about that, and how you say everybody wanted it done and told Joe Biden to be the messenger.

Congressman, I want to first get your reaction tonight to the White House's letter to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Chairman of your committee, Eliot Angle. They call the impeachment investigation, in this letter, invalid and unconstitutional. Your response, sir.


REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: I guess they haven't read the Constitution, because impeachment is right there. It is a power of the House of Representatives. As you know, the role of the House in this process is not to convict the president.

We -- we play a role akin to a grand jury. We investigate the charges and we decide whether the president merits being put on trial by the Senate, and in a grand jury you don't get the things that the president is demanding, the right to cross-exam witnesses and so forth. So, whoever wrote this is completely unfamiliar with the -- the most basics of the law in America, not to mention the Constitution.

I would also say that, look, we're giving him a chance here. We already know most of the facts. We know that President Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in our 2020 election.

We're giving them a chance to tell their side of the story. We're trying to give them due process by having these interviews and collecting this information. So, if they choose not to avail themselves of that opportunity --


MALINOWSKI: -- it's actually their loss.

BURNETT: So -- so, let me ask you though what happens here, because they're -- they're very clear here, they're not cooperating. The letter -- the quote is, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.

I want to be clear, as Kaitlan pointed out, they don't say whether if the House goes ahead and votes for a formal inquiry that they would cooperate then either. And it is pretty clear that they would not. Is this a constitutional crisis? I mean, what do you do next? They just said they're not cooperating, what are you going to do?

MALINOWSKI: Well, it's absolutely clear that noncooperation can, itself, be a charge against them in an impeachment process. It's obstruction of a constitutional process. And it's not necessarily going to stop us from getting the facts, because again, we already know many of the facts. The president has admitted that he did what he did, which the vast majority of the American people consider to be highly inappropriate.

So, we'll continue to talk to people. And by the way, the president can't order people at the State Department, for example, not to talk to the Congress. We've already conducted one interview, we will conduct more. Anybody who wants to talk to us can still talk to us and I believe many people will. So, they're only hurting themselves by taking this position.

BURNETT: And they're saying, obviously, that you all are threatening to withhold the salaries of State Department people who choose not to cooperate. I mean, you -- in terms of non-cooperating, Gordon Sondland, today, was supposed to appear and he willing appeared, you didn't have to subpoena him, he was there. He flew in from Brussels, he came in.

Moments before he was supposed to testify Team Trump said, you can't go. And he's important, right? He's the guy who received the text message saying, I think POTUS really wants the deliverable, when talking to then Special Representative for Ukraine.

You have now subpoenaed him tonight to appear next Wednesday. So, what are you going to do if he doesn't show up? They're saying basically, I mean, they're not -- it looks like they're not even going to go with the subpoena.

MALINOWSKI: Well, if -- look, again if they don't defend themselves against the evidence, the copious evidence that we already have, then I think it disadvantages them. This is, again, it's not the kind of investigation where we're starting with nothing. We're starting with almost everything.

And, we're trying to give them a chance to -- to have a little due process here and to tell their side of the story. My guess is, is he wants to tell his side of the story. Maybe he things he didn't do anything wrong, despite what those text messages show.

BURNETT: Yes. And let me ask --

MALINOWSKI: But if he doesn't show up, then we will -- we will assume what we -- what we know to be true. BURNETT: So, Congress Malinowski, I want to ask you one other thing from this letter. OK? It says, in the history of our nation, the House of Representatives have never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the president without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step.

Now, I want to make it clear. They are -- it appears very clearly, not going to cooperate with you even if you were to take that step. But, they are correct, that they House did vote to authorize impeachment inquires into Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. That there was a formal vote taken. Why not hold such a vote?

MALINOWSKI: Well, there's -- there's not requirement to hold such a vote at the outset. And I think -- look, I think most Americans -- these are -- these are procedural issues that -- that are not remotely as weighty as the what the president appears to have done, trading our national security to -- for political favors, for personal political favors.


MALINOWSKI: And you know, I suspect - I think the Republicans in the House have been pressing this partly because they want a diversion and partly because I think they see the way this is going. They see that each day we're learning new things that are outraging Americans of both parties. They see the way in which the polls are going, and they'd like to have this vote as quickly as possible to lock their members down -



MALINOWSKI: -- because they're - I think they're afraid they may start losing votes.

BURNETT: All right, Congressman -


MALINOWSKI: So yes, we're focused on getting the facts right now and providing the administration with due process. It's up to them to avail themselves of that.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate your time. And next up more as this breaking news moves this hour, prominent conservative lawyer saying the White House's response to the Democratic investigation can be an impeachable offense in and of itself. Plus the president hiring a Republican who had been one of his staunchest supporters in Congress to represent him in the impeachment investigation. And breaking news, Bernie Sander revealing new details about his campaign after suffering a heart attack. Really, really important words out of Bernie Sanders tonight and everyone needs to hear them.



Breaking news, House Democrats slamming the White House over its letter claiming its conducting an illegitimate impeachment inquiry because a formal vote has not been held, but Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, he just responded to the eight-page letter on tweet, quote, "The White House says there is nothing wrong with pressuring a foreign government to intervene in a U.S. election. They say they will not cooperate with an impeachment inquiry unless its on their terms. They mean the president is above the law. The Constitution says otherwise."

Upfront now CNN Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger; former advisor to four presidents including Nixon and Clinton, David Gergen; and CNN Legal Analyst, Ross Garber. He's defended four Republican governors facing impeachment. Also with me former Associate Independent Counsel for the Whitewater Investigation, Kim Whaley, and I appreciate all of you taking the time tonight.

Kim, let me just start with you. You have read the letter. The White House says the impeachment investigation is illegitimate. That's what is says. Is that true?

KIM WHALEY, WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: No. I also have the book out on the Constitution in June, and people can read in there what the Constitution says which is there's a three- part system of government, and Congress in this moment is the only branch available to oversee the presidency.

The letter essentially says impeachment itself is unconstitutional. You don't need to be a lawyer or a law professor to understand that that's nonsensical and tithetical (ph) to the very notion of congressional oversight of the Executive Branch.

So Congressman Schiff is not off in suggesting that this position is really - moves towards an imperial presidency, and that's exactly what the founders were rejecting in Kind George III.

BURNNET: So Ross, in light of what Kim just said, you know, Kellyanne Conway's husband - and you know, you have to say that is who is he is - George Conway, an incredibly respected constitutional lawyer, on his own tweeted about the letter, quote, "it is hard to count the number of ways that this letter is constitutionally and legally garbage. This letter in and of itself is an impeachable offense." What's your reaction to that and to the letter?



GARBER: Yes, I mean, this letter was not so much a legal letter I think as a public relations and political effort and I think specifically probably was there to appeal to the president's base. This was an effort to tell the president's supporters, hey look, we don't like this process. We think it's totally unfair, and here's why we're not going to participate in it because it's an effort to undo the last election and interfere in the next election. I think that's mostly what it is.

There is a kernel of something there in the letter that potentially actually is something that appeals to persuadable voters, and that's the piece about fairness. And in the letter, they're actually right that previous impeachment efforts, both Nixon -


GARBER: -- and Clinton, involved processes where the president's lawyers got to actually be at the hearings, participate in the hearings, cross examine witnesses, call witnesses. I think that's the one piece that actually does potentially appeal to the common person who says, hey, wait a minute. Why not do it the same way here?

BURNETT: And Gloria, that's a good point, right? And the letter notes rightly that there was a vote on an impeachment inquiry in both the cases of Nixon and Clinton. Basically though what that allows is the minority power - party the power to issue their own subpoenas.

So in this case, that would appear to be the big stumbling block (ph) for Democrats. I mean, if that happened, Republicans would then subpoena who? Hunter Biden? Joe Biden? I mean, that - it would be a circus.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: (inaudible) everyone and it would go on forever, but I do agree that it is a PR point that could become a problem for the Democrats because the American public wants this to be fair and the polls are showing that there is more interest in an impeachment inquiry.

And so, I think that they're - you know, they may have to find some accommodation to Republicans if they - if they hold these hearings, but obviously Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to hand over power to the Republicans because she wants to be able to control this. She wants to be able to keep it as short as she possibly can and get it done -



BORGER: -- before the new year.

BURNETT: So David, what is the significance to you of this letter, this total defiance, you know, in an impeachment inquiry? When we say, you know, the White House is declaring war, a possible constitutional crisis, is that fair?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVSOR TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: Yes, absolutely. Let me - let me go to a smaller point then the bigger point. The smaller point is I agree with this argument about fairness.


I think not doing that was a mistake. In the Nixon impeachment, Peter Rodino was head of the House Judiciary Committee and he was the lead player. What did he do? He wanted to make it bipartisan and he went out and found a very, very respected registered republican, John Doar who came in with Eisenhower, was there for civil rights under Kennedy to be the general counsel, one staff, not two staffs. One staff headed up by John Dore.

He brought in a democrat to be his deputy. Hired over 100 people but the whole thing was conducted with an eye toward bipartisanship and trying to keep the country together over this and not turning into a partisan brawl. I think the bigger point is we are now in a midst of a partisan brawl. It could lead to a constitutional crisis if the courts weigh in and tell the White House you've got to hand over the documents and you've got to allow the witnesses and the White House refuses. That would be a true constitutional crisis. We're close to that but right now it's a big brawl.

BURNETT: So Kim, how close to that are we? You have the letter and you don't have a vote and even if you get a vote and that's a big if. I'm just saying the letter is pretty clear; they're not going to cooperate even then. You have a subpoena now issued to Gordon Sondland who was supposed to appear today and he actually was there. He had flown in from Brussels to testify; the White House pulled him out. He's now got a subpoena to appear next week. So what happens when they defy one of these specific subpoenas, Kim?

WHALEY: Well, the House could move to compel in a court, in a civil action. They could use their inherent power to call the sergeant of arms to actually take custody of the witness. That's not going to happen, obviously. That's kind of an old tradition or number three, what typically happens is you go to the Attorney General of the United States to actually take up that as a Contempt of Congress action, but of course, Attorney General Bill Barr is not going to do that.

So, I think, in a lot of fronts we are in -- because of this black and white sort of dog-eat-dog fight that we're in politically, this is probably a Constitutional crisis at least in the making. We are in the moment where the democrats either have to invoke the courts or go around the process and talk to people that are independent and not controlled by the president and impeach based on incomplete information.

BORGER: Can I just say one more thing Erin about this letter which was sort of striking to me and I read it and I may be wrong, but it seems to me that their defense of the president's actions are included in one paragraph in this eight-page letter and they call it a completely appropriate call, you know?


BORGER: But this is a -- this is a letter that's about process, and about democrats and about them trying to steal the election. It's such a political document and --


BORGER: And no real defense of what the president actually did aside from saying everybody knows it was okay.

BURNETT: Right, Ross, and is that an issue? Yes. What do you read into that?

GARBER: It is a process and procedure document and just to address one thing my friend, Kim, noted. I don't think we're anything close to a constitutional crisis here. I think this is exactly the process that the framers had in mind, believe it or not. You've got attention between the executive branch and Congress that was built into the Constitution and virtually every president since Washington has had kind of dust-ups with Congress over information and that's what's going on here.

I think the way this is going to play out is, you know, the White House has sort of laid down their gauntlet. Congress -- the House is now going to come -- is now going to, you know, issue some more demands. It's going to issue a subpoena and it's going to have to decide what to do with that subpoena and that's going to be a potentially perilous thing for the house.

BURNETT: Absolutely.

GARBER: Because the right move is probably to file an action in court to enforce the subpoena. That's what's been done in the past.

BURNETT: All of you stay with me and this is the time to read the constitution, right? Kim's new books by the way, "How to Read The Constitution and Why" is out now. They're all going to be back in just a moment because we have more breaking news. We now know who the president is tapping to help represent him in the impeachment investigation, former Congressman Trey Gowdy. It looks like perhaps a war room is in the offing. Keep in mind, Trey Gowdy is the guy who once said it was wrong to withhold information from Congress no matter who is in charge plus one of Trump's staunchest supporters with a warning to the president tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this a threat to the president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it's a mortal threat to his presidency.




BURNETT: Breaking news, former republican Congressman Trey Gowdy now on Team Trump. CNN confirming that the former prosecutor will be working as counsel for the president. Kaitlan is out front so Kaitlin, tell me what you know.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So basically Erin what we're hearing from sources is that in recent days and weeks Trump allies had reached out to Trey Gowdy asking him if he was going to be able to help the president with this impeachment fight.


That is what brought him to the White House today, where we're told by sources he had a meeting with the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and essentially, what he's going to be doing helping with the president -- helping the president with his impeachment strategy from the outside, serving in more of a general counsel role, helping not only the legal aspects, but also the public aspects of this.

And this comes as you're seeing this fight inside the administration over how they're going proceed going forward with this impeachment defense strategy because initially we reported last week, the president had been resistant to changes like that. Not only setting up a war room, but also this idea of hiring additional lawyers. So, we are now learning that Trey Gowdy will be helping the president from inside the White House.

Right now, he is not expected to join the administration and work internally. Instead, he'll be serving and consulting from the outside.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

And Trey Gowdy, of course, was a very powerful figure in Congress, right? He led the Benghazi probe. He's a former federal prosecutor, has sided with Trump on some key things, but not everything and that could be important.

Everyone is back with me.

Ross, when you see someone like Trey Gowdy, though, who does know Congress so well in addition of being a prosecutor, is this a sign that Team Trump is truly worried now, realizes the gravity of the risk they face?

ROSS GARBER, DEFENDED FOUR REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS FACING IMPEACHMENT: Well, whether they're worried or not it just makes good sense. This process whether you call it a so-called impeachment process or impeachment process, this is real. There are real investigations going on. There are real witnesses coming forward. There are real whistle-blowers.

This process is real and it should be taken seriously by the White House and the president. It makes good sense to bring in somebody like Trey Gowdy who can help interact with Republicans in Congress.

BURNETT: It's interesting on that point. I just want to jump in here because obviously, Trey Gowdy side the with the president on getting rid of Jeff Sessions. You know, he led Benghazi, and you can see from a resume perspective why Trump might look him and think he's great. He's been on Fox News a lot, as well, recently, Kim.

But Trey Gowdy is not the kind of person who was always just a sycophant. Not that way, you know. Not at all. Here he is in 2012, they were talking about whether to hold A.G.

Holder in contempt on Fast and Furious. The Justice Department refused to hand over some documents and here's what Trey Gowdy said.


THEN-REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you're the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.


BURNETT: So, Kim, do you think he just doesn't feel that way anymore?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: Well, I think he made the case for why the White House's letter attempting to justify basically stonewalling Congress completely, not with respect to specific issues is flat-out wrong constitutionally. It will be interesting to see if he ends up the Rudy Giuliani of the Ukraine situation, and that is most lawyers in practice would be defending or attempting to defend this on the merits and that is on the facts.

And as Gloria mentioned, we don't see that in the letter and given the kind of evidence that's out there out of the president's own mouth, that's very difficult. So, he could be coming onboard to act as the spin person that's going to put out the message that the entire thing is unconstitutional, even though it's in the Constitution, given how things work with Mr. Trump and the loyalty that he expects and the messaging he expects consistent with devotion to him and fidelity to him versus the rule of law and the Constitution. I don't expect Mr. Gowdy to function as a traditional lawyer might.

BURNETT: I mean, David Gergen, it's fascinating, though. I mean, Trey Gowdy, no doubt, remember saying that he certainly knows the media, would find it and maybe a few minutes earlier than he expected. But it's pretty hard to say that respect for the rule of law must mean something irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles, and you have to hand over documents whether you're the party or not, party in power or not. I don't know if you can swear that with this letter.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't either, and I think we'll see quite a bit of that tape in the day ahead as these fights continue.

I think it is unclear, still, and I think Trey Gowdy is a lawyer and he fights hard. So, he brings to this enterprise the spirit of Trump. Whether he'll agree with him on a lot of the issues and what he'll do is unclear. You know, is he going to actually run the war room for the White House or is he an outside counselor and the White House does that and Mulvaney do it? Who is in charge here?

And if they don't figure that out, they're going to be with 6s and 7s inside and have more letters like this. I do think the letter was -- it's not a work of what a law firm would turn out. [19:35:06] It's more of a screed.

BURNETT: Yes, it certainly, it certainly does not appear to hit that standard by what everyone is saying legally.

Gloria, this comes in the context, though, of a new poll. This is the "Washington Post"/Schar School poll and the majority of voters now back the impeachment inquiry, 58 percent. That includes three in ten of Democrats which is a third of Democrats would be significant if it is borne out of other polls and unclear if that will happen, and 57 percent of independents.

If these numbers are accurate directionally and how this is moving, how significant is it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it would be very significant because it's up substantially from where it was just a month or two ago. So, I think it would show a change in the American electorate. But again, this thing is just starting, Erin, and so, people are focused on this, and then it will recede a little bit, I would predict, we have to see how this all plays out.

We still know that generally, although it's down a little bit, Republicans are still quite loyal to this president and don't by and large support an impeachment inquiry, although that's up, but I -- you know, I do think these things are dangerous right now to read too much into it.

BURENTT: They absolutely are because it's unclear. It's early, as you point out.

David, a Quinnipiac poll out today on impeachment and the point on what Gloria is making, Republicans, a totally different number, 9 percent. So, I think we'll have to wait and see how these things shake out.


GERGEN: Absolutely.

BURNETT: But on independence it matches what is in "The Washington Post" poll, 55 percent of Republicans supporting to remind viewers, it was 57 percent in the "Washington Post" poll.

What does that say to you, David? You look at the overall population and less than a quarter people are registered as Republican. So independents may matter more?


GERGEN: They do matter more. They do matter more, and right from the beginning the question has been, which party is going to get the independent support because that party is likely then to be able to drive not only the numbers up, but then have a big, big voice in what happens. So everybody's watching these polls with great interest. The Quinnipiac poll and "The Washington Post" poll are opposite on

some angles such as the Republican, but they both make the same point that Democrats have been making a lot of gains among independents. They could blow it.

If this fairness argument gains credibility, if it gains weight, we could be talking about it and that could give the Republicans back on what they're losing.

BURNETT: Kim, before we go, I want to ask you, Lindsay Graham, obviously, a Republican senator, has been staunchly behind the president on this issue. He's now saying he wants Rudy Giuliani to testify. You know, Democrats have been leery of that on Republican terms. But Dianne Feinstein seems to be behind this.

What do you expect? Rudy Giuliani, will he appear?

WEHLE: Well, that's hard to say. I mean, if he appears in the Senate, he's obviously made clear what his terms would be and if that is the way the Senate hearing goes, then it would make it difficult, I think, especially picking up on the process argument and the fairness argument for the House then to come back and ask the kinds of questions the House would want.

It's important for people to understand, there's a lot in that letter about due process. Due process tends to apply to criminal proceedings and what the Framers cared about was a government that bullied regular people. That's what due process. Before you can go to jail, before someone could execute you, you'd get process. It's not very accurate frame for an impeachment proceeding, which is really about retaining a job and not withstanding a job that's very difficult to get.

BURNETT: Thank you very much. Let me put it up so everyone can see it. Kim, your new book "How to Read the Constitution and Why." All of us Americans could benefit from that right now. Thank you.

And next, more on breaking news: the White House calling the impeachment investigation invalid and unconstitutional and one of Trump's staunchest supporters warns it could be a mortal threat to his presidency. One of his staunchest supporters.

Also breaking this hour, Bernie Sanders making a big announcement about his campaign going forward? What is he saying? What does it mean?



BURNETT: Breaking tonight: President Trump refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. The White House sending a scathing eight- page letter to House Democrats, here it is, calling the process illegitimate this as a longtime friend, a confidant, a loyalist of President Trump's is sounding the alarm tonight.

Chris Ruddy warning that the investigation is, quote, moving in a bad direction for President Trump. Here is Mr. Ruddy.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Is this a threat to the president?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, LONGTIME FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I believe it's a mortal threat to his presidency. He certainly should treat it that way.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

Senator, what's your reaction? It sounds like he's saying this is a mortal threat and he should be treating it that way referring to the president.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the appointment of Congressman Gowdy shows they're ratcheting up the interest and concern at the White House. They should.

I mean, as they know in the case they're making in this letter and other places that the -- that the Democrats are serious. They want to get this president and they've been trying to get this president from day one, and they have something, they believe, as you see from the poll, that has some traction.

And so, they're going to continue to go after him and they won't stop at just this. They're going to continue to dig and dig and dig and find anything they can to try it pile together a bunch of charges to try to create this impression that he's not fit for office.

BURNETT: OK, on a couple of points -- on a couple of points, though, I want to ask you, look, as you're well aware, Senator. There are senators in your party who have said very clearly that what the president did on that phone call is wrong and they don't need any other information, of course, they want more information, blah, blah, blah, but what was wrong in the transcript that all Americans saw. Mitt Romney, Rob Portman, Ben Sasse and Susan Collins said about what the president said about asking China to investigate the Bidens was absolutely inappropriate.


So, those are significant, thoughtful people and you know that and you respect all of them. Is there a chance that some of them say enough? That you actually have some Republicans asking for impeachment?

SANTORUM: I'll go back to what I know well which was the Clinton impeachment and I was there and I was very involved in the whole process that the House and Senate negotiated in going through the trial and the Senate. And what the problem was with what you're saying is that members of Congress may say, a lot of Democrats have said and what President Clinton did was wrong. What he did was inappropriate, what he did was unethical, what he did -- so they went all over the map just like you're hearing from some of these members, they didn't like what he did, but it didn't reach the level that you should remove someone from office and nullify the election.

And here's the difference. We're talking about doing this a few months from an election when this is all said and done, as opposed to at the end of another person's term.

So there was no accountability, the electorate wasn't going to get a shot to remove Bill Clinton and this was it and that's the big difference.

BURNETT: Senator, can I just ask you, I've always enjoyed talking to you and I always thought of you as a very thoughtful person. Is it fair to say that what you read in the transcript is not the way you would have conducted a call?


SANTORUM: Absolutely not. This is where as a Republican I would say as a Republican is what the president troubled me, what the president said was I think, you know, wrong, but I don't -- I don't -- I don't believe that rises to the level that it rises to the level that you should remove a president from office because he said that.

BURNETT: At what point does it, though, to you, right? I mean, if it's just -- someone was describing it the other day that it's sort of running a red light and everyone says it's just one red light and by the time you've run ten and other people run them because nobody's running a red light. At some point, you say enough is enough. We'll start enforcing red lights.

Is that a fair analogy?

SANTORUM: I don't think so because I think this is simply poor judgment. I don't think we're going to impeach the presidents for poor judgment. I don't think the president committed a crime there. I don't think he jeopardized the security of the country there. I think he simply made a bad judgment and if we started impeaching presidents because of poor judgment --


BURNETT: And you don't care that he did it publicly about China and he certainly doesn't learn from his poor judgment?

SANTORUM: Again, I think it was poor judgment. I don't think the president should be asking foreign powers to do that. But again, I go back to this is a judgment call. The public, as we all know, we've heard this repeatedly from this network, they knew exactly the kind of person they were voting for who would say outrageous things and at times do things that are clearly not what most presidents would do and he's doing it.

And so the question is the public at least, I think, Republicans would think the public would have a vote as to whether he's removed or not, not this political process.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator. As always, I appreciate your time.

And next, Kamala Harris settling on a new strategy to break her freefall.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you nominated Barack Obama to be, you guys did that.


BURNETT: Breaking news from Bernie Sanders, an announcement that he is making about his campaign tonight. That's next.



BURNETT: Breaking news: a big development on 2020. Senator Bernie Sanders just speaking about the future of his campaign after suffering a heart attack last week. Here's what the senator said.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit. Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, "New York Times" politics editor Patrick Healy.

Patrick, look, he has just gone through a major life event with a heart attack. And on a human level, you would expect nothing different. But yet, this is -- could be significant he is going to possibly change his campaign a bit.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we don't hear admissions like this from leading candidates often, Erin. And it is a real acknowledgement of a human condition.

The reality is Senator Sanders is 78 years old. He had a heart attack last week. He saw a cardiologist today. And then he made these comments.

And as we know, he is one of the most intense, energetic campaigners that we've seen on the campaign trail, both in 2016 and this time around. I mean, I've been at rallies where Bernie Sanders was talking at full steam, full energy for a good hour on top of three or four other events in day. So, I think it is, you know, an acknowledgement of certain health reality.

But I have to tell you talking to pollsters, talking to strategists just this evening, it's putting more attention now on his age, on his health. And even they say, it's really unclear what this may mean for really the future of his campaign.

BURNETT: I mean, it certainly is. As you say it was even the tone in his voice. I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit. It wasn't said in a bombastic, combative way. It was said, you know, sort of like a normal person would say it, who had just had a life re-evaluation.

HEALY: Yes, and that's an interesting thing. In recent days, Erin, with be, we have heard from advisers for the Sanders campaign, that was, you know, steady as she goes, he was going to be back out there soon, you know, nothing was changing. And then, this admission from Senator Sanders.

As we both know well, you know, he is someone oftentimes when the media is asking questions, he can get defensive and intense. But here a real acknowledge of some reality.

BURNETT: You know, the reality, you know, the humanity of it, and, obviously, very significant possibly.

Thank you very much, Patrick.

And this comes -- as development of Senator Sanders comes as Kamala Harris is trying to turn things around with a big performance in Iowa caucus less than four months from tonight. And that is going to be a crucial contest for her.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kamala Harris betting big on Iowa, hoping to give mere stalled campaign a needed jolt.

HARRIS: Justice is on the ballot.

LAH: A revamped stump speech from this college campus to a suburban park, recalling Iowa caucus history in breaking barrier.

HARRIS: When did you that, when you nominated Barack Obama to be -- you guys did that.

LAH: Less than four months to the Iowa caucuses, this is part of Harris' newly sharpened Hawkeye State strategy.

HARRIS: Are we having family dinner? Yes.

LAH: Delivering 2020 kitchen table issues directly to this Iowa family's home, more intimate events says the campaign.

HARRIS: Ready to rock and roll this.

LAH: Aiming to finish in the top 3.

Harris's campaign says it's doubling in state staff, leaning in on women and younger voters, getting volunteers to the door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Brooke. I'm with the Kamala Harris campaign.

LAH: Too late for some Iowa Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do know she is a strong person for the Senate, that's where I think she would be best at.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got more on the street, so here we go.

LAH: Others still keeping an opening mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll think about it.

BROOKE BLACK, "WOMEN FOR KAMALA" CAPTAIN: They may not be completely decided that she is the one. But they -- I'm feeling this tide turning.

DIEDRE DEJEAR, HARRIS CAMPAIGN IOWA STATE CHAIR: It's about recognizing where we are, in this campaign and realizing the potential we have and realizing what arsenal we have in order it make sure that we execute this thing.

LAH (on camera): Is it fair to call it a reboot? How would you characterize it?

DEJEAR: I wouldn't call it a reboot, because for the most part, our campaign and how we've been building has been that, building.

LAH (voice-over): Talk to Iowans in Harris's town halls, there is genuine curiosity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really excited hear her speak today.

LAH (on camera): Why are you here?


BENJAMIN WHITTINGTON, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: She's kind of had like a really good start, but she's been dragging a bit.

LAH (voice-over): From younger voters to older women.

VICKY THORNLAND, IOWA RESIDENT: I need a candidate who has able to convince me that they can lead the country in the right direction.

BETSY WEST, IOWA RESIDENT: I'm having trouble knowing where she really stands on issues.

LAH: After the town hall.

(on camera): Did she win you over tonight?

WEST: No. She has said the right things. But I don't -- I don't have any real sense of where her real passions are. LAH (voice-over): Seeing Harris did move Vicky Thornland.

THORNLAND: I was impressed with how intelligent, how articulate she is.

LAH: But not the college students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we have Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

LAH (on camera): Are you going to add Kamala Harris to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As of right now, probably not.

ANNALIESSA MICHELOTTE, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I want to know what Kamala Harris's plans are.

LAH: You didn't hear that.

MICHELOTTE: I don't feel like I did. I'm excited to see her on the next debate stage and see if she addresses some of those things.


LAH: No one we spoke with said they were completely ruling her out. Most people we spoke with are undecided. Harris did get some bad news, news that was expected. Fellow California Senator Dianne Feinstein decided to publicly endorse Joe Biden. And that, Erin, certainly hurts considering that these two women come from the same state -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Lah, live in Des Moines tonight.

And next, Jeanne Moos on how Captain Kangaroo has found himself at the center of the impeachment investigation.


BURNETT: Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you see kangaroos start to hop around the web, many of them dressed in judicial robes, it's a safe bet president Trump had something to do with it. Kangaroos are holding court, because the president accused the impeachment inquiry of being a kangaroo court.

His defenders picked up the refrain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a kangaroo court.

MOOS: Representative Matt Gaetz took it a step further.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court and Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious captain kangaroo. CAPTAIN KANGAROO: No, no, no.


MOOS: Many wondered if Congressman Gaetz thinks the term kangaroo court comes from the show which only rarely dabbled in politics.

CAPTAIN KANGAROO: What's this nonsense about you running for president?

UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: Why can't a moose be president?

MOOS: Or even a kangaroo.

(on camera): The thing is, unless you're of a certain age, you're probably saying captain kangaroo, who?

(voice-over): OK, I Googled Captain Kangaroo and I have only more questions now. Someone helpfully explained famous for getting ping- pong balls rained on him unexpectedly.

CAPTAIN KANGAROO: The sky is falling.

UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: That's the one. That's the one.


MOOS: The president's kangaroo court tweet caused the term to trend it was Merriam Webster's number one search, the origin of the term is uncertain. But this guy didn't coin it some took offense to --

GAETZ: A malicious Captain Kangaroo.

MOOS: Morphing President Trump with a captain instead. Captain Kangaroo got his name from the pouch-like pockets in the coat. He wasn't expert in impeachment but might have appreciated the political circus.

CAPTAIN KANGAROO: The circus and all the fun you can have at the circus.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Have you ever seen kangaroo's fight? Google that.

Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.