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THE SITUATION ROOM

Feds Arrest Giuliani Associates Who Sought Dirt On Biden; Dems Subpoena Energy Secretary Rick Perry For Documents; Trump On Arrested Giuliani Associates: "I Don't Know Them"; Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) Is Interviewed About Rudy Giuliani's Associates, Rick Perry, Marie Yovanovitch And Aid To Ukraine; Sources: Trump Political Appointee Froze Aid To Ukraine; President Trump Says He Is Considering Tough Sanctions On Turkey As Casualties Dramatically Mount In Northern Syria. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:00:08]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, under arrest, FBI agents snap two associates of Rudy Giuliani as they try to leave the country on one-way plane tickets. The men had reportedly dined with Giuliani just hours earlier. We have new details on the indictment and their role in Giuliani's plan to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

Perry subpoena. Impeachment investigators subpoena Energy Secretary Rick Perry for documents as the probe expands into the President's Cabinet.

Blocking the money. CNN has learned about highly unusual maneuvers inside the Federal Budget Office that led to the freeze on military aid to Ukraine. One of President Trump's political appointee signed off on the decision raising alarm among career officials.

And Mitch, please. President Trump is actually (ph) calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as often as three times today, eager to take the temperature of Republicans who may turn against them on impeachment and leveling threats against potential defectors.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."

Breaking news tonight, two associates of Rudy Giuliani have been arrested for allegedly scheming to finance U.S. elections with foreign money. The two men nabbed by the FBI at the airport as they try to leave the country on one-way tickets were key players in Giuliani's crusade to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine.

Also breaking, Democrats subpoena Energy Secretary Rick Perry for documents as they probe his potential role in the Ukraine scandal. Lawmakers want to know if Perry told the Ukrainian leader about President Trump's demands for an investigation into his political opponents. We'll discuss with Democratic Congressman Harley Rouda of the Oversight Committee and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of today's top stories.

First, let's go to CNN's Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, these are very serious charges outlined by federal prosecutors. Give us the latest.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, very serious charges here brought by federal prosecutors here in New York obviously with the Ukraine matter. Now out there in the sphere, out there in the news, prosecutors today unveiling these new charges.

They were not supposed to be unveiled. It was only because the two men here seen on your screen, and they are Giuliani associates, were trying to leave the country. And F -- the FBI agents were alerted to this. They were alerted to the fact that they were at Dulles Airport, ready to leave and they moved in and arrested them yesterday.

Now as you said, Wolf, these are very serious charges, things that certainly concern U.S. officials, FBI agents that foreign nationals, people with ties to outside of the U.S. are trying to influence the election, trying to influence the President, trying to influence Congress. And in this scheme, according to the indictment, there was money, hundreds of thousands of dollars that went to a Trump pac, money that went to congressmen, money that went to other parts. We don't even know the entire scope of this indictment.

One other significant thing, Wolf, in this indictment is that the FBI is saying that these two men helped influence a congressman to try and get a U.S. ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her post.

Here is the U.S. attorney and the FBI, the head of the New York FBI office talking about the case today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6:00 p.m. last night at Dulles Airport as they were about to board in international flight with one-way tickets. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants broke the law to gain political influence while avoiding disclosure of who was actually making the donations and where the money was coming from. They saw political influence not only to advance their own financial interests, but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official, a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

WILLIAM SWEENEY, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR INTERVIEWER CHARGE, FBI'S NEW YORK OFFICE: These allegations are not about some technicality, a civil violation or an error on a form. This investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate law breaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: And, Wolf, it's very clear from the statements, the two statements that the FBI there and the U.S. attorney here in Manhattan from the Southern District of New York, they did not take any questions. They came out. They just read statements and then they went away. Leading us all to believe, and certainly seems that this investigation is still very much ongoing and we are likely to see other people arrested and charged in this case, Wolf.

[17:05:01]

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment, Shimon.

Evan, here's a key question, could Rudy Giuliani actually be in some legal jeopardy right now? "The Wall Street Journal" is, you know, reporting just hours before these two individuals were arrested in Washington's Dulles International Airport. He was having lunch with them at the Trump International Hotel here in Washington.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Shimon and I are told by sources that he is definitely being scrutinized. He is -- the investigators are looking at his involvement, his relationship, financial dealings with these two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

And of the questions that is being looked at is, again, where is the money coming from? The indictment lays out a lot about that the sources of the money were foreigners, right? Including a Russian national, according to the indictment.

The question I think the investigators are still trying to nail down is, is that it? Is there more money? What other business interests here that are at work? And how does this tie to some of the financial -- the political work that is being done here? We know that Rudy Giuliani has been very much involved, Wolf, in this effort to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. He said he had sources there. These two men were very much key in that part of this. So you can bet that that's one of the things that investigators are looking at.

BLITZER: I suspect we're only beginning to scratch the surface right now on what investigators are looking at right now. Everybody, stand by.

I want to go to Capitol Hill right now. There are important developments on the impeachment probe. Our Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is joining us right now.

So, Sunlen, why do Democrats now want documents from the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly have a lot of questions for the Energy Secretary, Wolf. And now they are issuing a formal subpoena for documents to be turned over by the energy secretary, specifically they want documents related to his knowledge, his involvement in that July 25th phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President. Trump has, of course, said that he made that call at the urging of Rick Perry. Rick Perry's office has said that he did urge him to make a call to specifically talk about energy issues, as is his capacity as the Energy Secretary.

They want to know, according to this letter, the rule that he played in, "conveying or reinforcing the President's stark message to the Ukrainian President." And they also want information related to a Ukrainian state-owned energy company, potentially Rick Perry's role in effort to make changes to the board. This letter says, "These reports have raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned company to benefit in individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani's push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election."

In the committees, they want this information turned over to them by October 18th. But very unlikely that he will comply given that very defiant letter that we saw, Wolf, sent earlier in the week to the House committees. This is just the latest subpoena in this latest round and wave of upcoming subpoenas sent from the committee. Wolf?

BLITZER: I suspect there -- once again there's be a lot more subpoenas coming as well. All right, Sunlen, thank you very much.

We're getting reaction from the White House where President Trump is sounding off on the arrest of these two men with deep connections to Rudy Giuliani. Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, the President says he doesn't even know these two men.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Posted his honest (ph) way to Minneapolis right now for a political rally later own tonight but he just talk to reporters about these two associates of Rudy Giuliani who were charged in federal court up in Manhattan.

The President was asked whether or not he knew these two men. He said he did not. He was asked why there are pictures of him appearing with these two men. He said he takes pictures with lots of people at his fund raiser and his political events. But when he was asked by reporters if he knew what these two associates of Rudy Giuliani were up to, he said you have to ask Rudy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With two men involved in his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani's efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden now suddenly indicted on campaign finance violations, President Trump sounded off to reporters as he left for a rally in Minneapolis.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do. But I don't know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You would have to ask Rudy. I just don't know.

ACOSTA: The arrest of Giuliani associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas as they were allegedly trying to flea the country are only adding to calls from Democrat for the President's outside lawyer to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Giuliani has been involved up to his neck in this entire mess. He has an obligation to testify under oath so he can be asked questions and so this can come to light.

ACOSTA: The President's lead impeachment lawyer, Jay Sekulow, responded in a brief statement, "Read the indictment. Neither the candidate nor the campaign have anything to do with the scheme these guys were involved in."

[17:10:04]

But photos are surfacing of Fruman and Parnas meeting with Mr, Trump and his family. Giuliani was just boosting earlier this week that he wants to tell a story to lawmakers.

RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: I would love to testify and give me a half hour to point out Biden, Inc. for decades of crime. I would love to do it.

ACOSTA: The President continues to blast the fast-moving impeachment proceedings tweeting, "The President of the Ukraine just stated again in the strongest of language that President Trump applied no pressure and did absolutely nothing wrong."

TRUMP: They have eviscerated the rules. They don't give us any fair play. It's the most unfair situation people have seen. No lawyers, you can't have lawyers, you can't speak, you can't do anything. You virtually can't do anything.

ACOSTA: But past supporters are coming forward to criticize the President's call on the leader of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his family, including Mr. Trump's former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it is appropriate for the President of the United States to solicit foreign interference in our political process? Thank you.

H.R. MCMASTER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes. Of course, no. No. It's absolutely not.

ACOSTA: George Conway, husband of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway has formed a group of conservatives slamming Mr. Trump's actions, saying in a statement "These acts, based on what has been revealed to date, are a legitimate basis for an expeditious impeachment investigation." Conway told CNN contributor, Preet Bharara, the White House refuses to cooperate with the impeachment probe doesn't hold up.

GEORGE CONWAY, AMERICAN ATTORNEY: The thrust of it is that there are some kind of constitutional obligations that the House has failed to meet that therefore render its impeachment inquiry illegitimate and unconstitutional which is complete nonsense, because all the constitution says is that the House has the sole power over impeachment.

ACOSTA: The President is lashing out at a new Fox News poll finding 51 percent wants to see Mr. Trump impeached and removed from office. Tweeting, "I have never had a good Fox News poll. Whoever their pollster is, they suck."

Mr. Trump is also losing some support from Republicans who are outraged over his decision to green light Turkey's invasion of Syria where pro U.S./Kurdish fighters are being killed.

TRUMP: They didn't help us in the Second World War. They didn't help us with Normandy, as an example.

ACOSTA: Some GOP lawmakers are rejecting the President's excuses.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS: Whether or not they were involved in Normandy, OK, they were involved in fighting Isis on behalf of the United States of America willingly because we didn't want to put forces on the ground.

ACOSTA: Others in the party want off the Trump train now.

REP. JOHN SHIMKUS, (R) ILLINOIS: I'm heartbroken. In fact I called my chief of staff in DC and said, "Pull my name off the I support Donald Trump list. I mean this was just -- we have just stabbed our allies in the back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And there long been a concerns inside Trump world about Rudy Giuliani's business activities overseas.

In the words of one Trump adviser I spoke with earlier this afternoon, "Rudy has issues." And the President was asked just a short while ago whether or not he believes Giuliani will be indicted. The President said, I hope not.

In talking to reporters, wolf, last week we should point out the President put out a tweet saying, look at this photograph. Wolf, the photograph of the President with these two associates of Rudy Giuliani posted on a Facebook page of one of these two associates is now out there for all the public to see. That is the photograph America is looking at tonight. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, indeed. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

For more and all the breaking news, we're joined now by Congressman Harley Rouda, he's a key member of the House Oversight Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. What's your reaction, first of all, to these charge against two of Rudy Giuliani's associates? How much influence do you think they had on the Trump administration?

REP. HARLEY ROUDA, (D-CA): I think we're seeing in this event as well as other events, this is an onion, it's slowly being peeled back. And as we dig in deeper, even though the administration is thwarting all of our efforts to uncover documents and be able to challenge witnesses, this is getting worse and worse for the administration. And we're appreciative of the action of the Southern District of New York took and we want to obviously to learn more and that's also part of the reason that we subpoenaed Perry to come to the Oversight Committee as well.

BLITZER: Even before the indictments today, your committee had subpoenaed both Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman for documents. And Democrats also want them to testify. Does this indictment today hinder your own investigation?

ROUDA: No. I think it actually makes it stronger. So when we see these indictments come down, we understand just how engaged these individuals are in running almost a black ops State Department operation being run by Giuliani and these associates. It is clear for the American people that we want to know more, that we need to dig in deeper in this obstruction of justice, constant obstruction of justice by the administration, the State Department and the attorney general has to stop. We all have to recognize what's going on here for what it is.

[17:15:10]

BLITZER: House Democrats have now also subpoena the Energy Secretary Rick Perry for documents. What do you want to learn from him? And do you expect him to comply?

ROUDA: Well, I think what we want to learn is a better understanding as President Trump pointed out that somehow this call was a basis of what Secretary Perry had asked for.

I think it's safe to say Secretary Perry probably had other ideas as to how this conversation was going to go with the President of Ukraine and that the direction that the President took it, if Perry knew about that and was part of that, that is what we want to find out. Or was it the administration specifically the President who took this in the direction he did. Whether he will comply with the subpoena or not, time will tell. I am concerned based on what we have seen the administration do, that he will not comply.

Let's remember too, just a week ago, the President of the United States stated publicly on T.V. that they would comply with the impeachment inquiry. And a few days later, they have completely stonewalled and not allowed a single witness or other evidence to be provided.

BLITZER: Yes, they prevented Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. from testifying. He was scheduled to testify. You're also scheduled to hear from the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch tomorrow. Are you confident she will appear or are you worried the administration in the end will intervene and prevent her from appearing?

ROUDA: I think it's hard to make any predictions based on the conduct and behavior and obstructionism that we are seeing by this administration. I hope she does the right thing, the patriotic thing and to honor that request as we have promulgated under our rights as an equal branch of the government. But time will tell. We shall see.

BLITZER: We've also learned that a political appointee from the Trump administration in the Office of Management and Budget was directly involved in freezing U.S. aid to Ukraine, economic and military assistance that had already been appropriated authorized by the House and the Senate. What questions does that raise?

ROUDA: We want to dig in and understand who gave that order? I think we know who it was. It was the President of the United States. But what was the basis for it? And what additional information can we garner from any communications that took place?

We know that from what we have seen in both the transcript, memorandum of the transcript of the conversation with the President of Ukraine as well as the whistleblower's report that the President certainly was taking action in trying to make sure that this information was withheld in the subsequent cover-up. And if we can dig in deeper and get a better understanding from the ambassador in that regard and other testimony that's certainly the direction we want to go.

BLITZER: We will see if she shows up tomorrow. She's a career foreign service officer, a career diplomat. She still works at the State Department. So she'll be presumably guided by what her bosses tell her to do.

Congressman Harley Rouda, thanks so much for joining us.

ROUDA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to have much more ahead on all the breaking news, the arrest of two men who've been helping Rudy Giuliani dig up dirt on Joe Biden. President Trump just said he doesn't know these two men. And a new round of subpoenas in the Trump impeachment inquiry, this time demanding documents from the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:23:19]

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories surrounding the arrest of two men who are trying to help President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, dig up dirt on Joe Biden. A federal indictment accuses the two men, as well as two others, in a wide- ranging conspiracy to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections, that would be a violation of U.S. campaign laws.

Let's bring in our political and legal analysts and experts.

And Evan, the suspects were getting ready to board an international flight out of Washington Dulles International Airport to Frankfurt, we're told, then continuing some place else, a one-way trip for both of them. That expedited, accelerated the arrest?

PEREZ: Right, Wolf. This is an investigation that's been ongoing for some time. And it is clear that prosecutors were kind of caught by surprise that this was about to happen.

Now, we don't know why suddenly they decided that they wanted to leave the country. But we do know, obviously, the clouds have been gathering. They know that their names have been in stories recently. We also know that Democrats doing the impeachment inquiry wanted to talk to them, wanted to get information from them.

Certainly their relationship with Rudy Giuliani is of interest, not only to federal investigators, who are doing this investigation in New York, but also the investigators here in Congress, who want to know more about what exactly was going on in Ukraine, who was behind it. Who was funding some of these efforts to essentially tar Joe Biden's name ahead of the 2020 elections.

BLITZER: The U.S. attorney for the Southern District who filed these charges is a Trump appointee, right?

PEREZ: He is a Trump appointee. Here is something to keep in mind. He still has never been confirmed. He's never been actually been nominated for the position. He's essentially in an acting position.

[17:25:00]

And so the big question now remains, you know, he's sort of in a difficult position because, you know, he's never been confirmed by the Senate. Donald Trump could at any point say I want a new U.S. attorney. And you got to think that at some point he's going to look at what's going on up there and not be happy about what's happening.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Now that you've said that he'll definitely do it.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Anne Milgram into this, our legal analyst, these two guys, Parnas and Fruman, they're charge with conspiracy, false statements, funneling money into U.S. elections, all serious charges. But how serious are they in terms of could this result, if they're convicted, in jail time?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they're serious charges. Conspiracy, for example, it's a maximum of five years in prison. So I think they're very serious.

It's also important to note that this is a paper case largely, meaning that, it's clear the government followed the money and followed how it came in and where it went out. In so it will -- generally in cases like this, they're highly provable cases. The government will have brought a strong case.

And so I think that this is very serious for them. I also think it's very serious for Rudy Giuliani, who has to be concerned if they information about him that ultimately they could make a decision to cooperate with the government and provide information, seeing that they're facing serious charges.

BLITZER: In this indictment, 21 pages, a lot of specifics, and including a lot of specific quotes from these two guys. What does that say to you about the investigation?

MILGRAM: It says to me it's a thorough investigation. They either have sources, or they have wire taps on phones but it shows you that this is a thorough investigation and that there will be considerable evidence of the crimes that they are alleged to have committed.

BLITZER: Gloria, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Rudy Giuliani had lunch with these two guys just hours before they were getting ready to board this international flight to Frankfurt. They were having lunch at the Trump International Hotel here in Washington. Watch how the President, just a little while ago, responded to all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't know those gentlemen. Now, it's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I have a picture with everybody here. But somebody said there may be a pictures something where -- at a fund-raiser or somewhere. And so -- but I have pictures with everybody. I have -- I don't know if there's anybody I don't have pictures with.

I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do. But -- I don't know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You would have to ask Rudy. I just don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think?

BORGER: Ask Rudy. I think he doesn't know them. I think he -- if he took a picture with them, he doesn't remember. And clearly, they know Rudy. They weren't hiding out.

BLITZER: By the way, we have a picture that the President himself tweeted.

BORGER: Right.

CRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: That Lev Parnas posted on Facebook.

BORGER: Facebook.

BLITZER: Here's a picture. You can see it right there, him and the President.

BORGER: So maybe he has a picture.

BLITZER: Here's the picture that Lev Parnas posted.

BORGER: Right. So, they were proud of their access to the President. Clearly garnered through Rudy Giuliani who, as you pointed out, had lunch with them. That would be yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they were big donors. BORGER: At the Trump hotel. Big donors.

(Crosstalk)

PEREZ: Yes, these were not nobody.

BORGER: Right.

PEREZ: These were hundred --

CILLIZZA: Yes, they did give $100, right.

PEREZ: Yes.

BORGER: To the election pacs and all the rest. And you know, it's so reminiscent to me of Trump saying, well ask Rudy. After the Stormy Daniels case, he's other previous attorney Michael Cohen, he said, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen about Stormy Daniels because I don't know anything about that. And this is -- this sounds very similar to me.

CILLIZZA: It's stunning to me, just watching that and then going through Giuliani, his interview with Chris Cuomo where he said no, I didn't ask the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and then 20 seconds later he said he did. When he was at Fox News, he said, shut up, shut up. You don't know what you're talking about, idiot.

It's amazing to me that you can still describe Rudy Giuliani as President Donald Trump's personal lawyer. I mean --

BORGER: Maybe not for long.

CILLIZZA: Maybe not for much longer after -- and that's what I thought when I was watching that clip where he says, ask Rudy, because that certainly seems like a foisting of it off of Donald Trump. To me, it's remarkable Rudy Giuliani has lasted this long. And I guess it's because they've known each other for a long time and Rudy is loyal and goes out and attack on T.V., but my gosh, that connection does not looking good for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: You know one of the things in this indictment, Bianna, that federal prosecutors say the suspects said they were working to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch fired, she was eventually removed from her post in Kiev. She is scheduled to appear tomorrow before the House. Do you think she will? Will the State Department try to block her under orders from the White House?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I have no reason to believe that she won't at least as far as she is concerned. It depends on whether the State Department will pull something that they did last minute last week.

But when it comes to Yovanovitch, every single person who knows her that has spoken out publicly about her has called her a diplomat's diplomat, but she's been doing this for decades, that she's been heavily involved in Ukraine and uprooting corruption there. So, there's nothing to suggest that her termination prior to when she was expected to leave was warranted.

[17:30:00]

And what is also interesting in this indictment was that these two associates of Rudy Giuliani's were doing this at behest of a foreign national, number one, assuming that is another Ukrainian or someone from Soviet Union who has not yet been identified.

And what makes it even more interesting is that this person and these two associates with tied to congressman Pete Sessions, no longer in Congress. But I would be very interested to hear, as I'm sure Democrats in Congress would possibly if they are going to even subpoena him, to hear what he has to say because he, apparently, was the one who complained about her to secretary of state Pompeo about her being fired.

Now he has already issued a statement saying he had done no wrongdoing and that this was just because he had overheard that she had been bad mouthing the president. But he had been accepting donations from these two and then this foreign national, and they were pushing for him to make an effort to push Secretary of State Pompeo to recall Yovanovitch, you have a huge scandal right here.

The one thing that Pete Sessions did say going back to what Gloria said earlier about all of these decades long's connection is that he has been friends and an associate with Rudy Giuliani for over 30 years.

BLITZER: Everybody, standby.

There is a lot more to report on. There is a lot of breaking news right now. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:36:25]

BLITZER: We are back with our political and legal experts.

You know, Gloria, just moments ago as he was heading out to Minneapolis, the President had an exchange with a bunch of reporters, including our Kaitlyn Collins. Listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned that Rudy Giuliani would be indicted in all of this?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I hope not. Again, I don't know how he knows these people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are his clients.

TRUMP: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are his clients. TRUMP: OK. Well, they are his clients. Well, he has a lot of

clients. So I just don't know. I haven't spoken to Rudy about it. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think? As far as we know, Rudy Giuliani, as of right now, is still the President's personal attorney.

BORGER: He didn't come out and say this is an outrage, this is disgusting. There is nothing to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witch hunt.

BORGER: I read this indictment and it's ridiculous. And you know, this isn't throwing under the bus yet but it is kind of driving it pretty fast, I think.

PEREZ: Let's remember, over the past year, there have been efforts by people close to the President to try to get him away from Rudy Giuliani.

BORGER: Right.

PEREZ: Warning him there were problems that perhaps he didn't know about. We know that Bill Barr, who took office in February was briefed on this case, Wolf, because it was already ongoing. And we know one of the things that happened in the last few months certainly was Bill Barr was keeping his distance from Rudy Giuliani.

So this is advice the President repeatedly has been offered and told he should take for his own good and hasn't done it. So let's see if that changes.

BORGER: Well, and I mean, just to add ta to what everyone was saying, you know, during the Russia investigation, we know that the attorneys who were representing the President were eye rolling a lot when it came to Rudy Giuliani, who became the Trump whisperer, not so much the real lawyer but the TV lawyer.

I just spoke with a source who said look, you know, Rudy does what the president really likes, which is he fights. He fights for him on television. And as long as he does that, he will be OK unless there becomes some legal issues in which case he won't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I mean, if you're Rudy Giuliani and you're like, I wonder what the President said before he left for Minnesota today and you watch that, Gloria is right. It's not him saying, look, Rudy is on his own here, but it's also nothing close to some of the more vociferous responses.

BLITZER: You know, Bianna, he was specifically asked by Kaitlin says Rudy Giuliani could be indicted on this and he says I hope not. I mean, that is not necessarily a vote of confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty-fifty. GOLODRYGA: And yes, the flash backs, the President on air force one

asked about Michael Cohen. I mean, when is this saga ever going to end. A reminder that none of this is normal, none of this is anything that we have seen in past presidencies. And it is very, very convoluted. And it is going more and more convoluted which is why Democrats as oppose to dragging things out as things had been as it become more and more complex. And the Russia investigation are moving at a much faster speed.

I will say going back to Rudy Giuliani, Trump clearly liked some of his methods, though many really didn't understand them when they watch him on late night television. During the Mueller investigation, they were fighting what they viewed as a political fight.

Gloria is absolutely right, if it becomes a legal fight, not only for Rudy, but that could have ramifications for the President and if for no other reason than his proximity to Rudy, I would assume that the President would cut ties with him sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: Anne, go ahead. And give us your thought.

MILGRAM: Well, one thing to remember also is remember that Giuliani had breakfast with Volker who was at the state department, working with Ukraine, and brought Parnas with him. And so, one of the big question is, what was Giuliani's role? Who was he representing?

And again, it becomes a serious problem that looks like -- and that was about the 2016 investigations and the investigation into Hunter Biden. But it does look like here we are talking about a serious level of corruption where we are thinking about was the President using his power in order to get a personal gain and Giuliani is there trying to do that with the state department.

[17:40:31] BORGER: He is at the center of everything. I mean, we did a story the other day that the energy secretary was sort of tasked with calling Rudy Giuliani after a meeting in the White House with the President when they were talking about Ukraine. And so the president said, you know, talk to Rudy. Talk to Rudy. So -- and now you have the energy secretary, whose documents are being requested, subpoenaed actually, by the House. So, Rudy is everywhere in this story. He just pops up.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There is more breaking news we are following.

We are also going to be going to Syria, live, where the count of dead and wounded is rising as a result of the Turkish military operation against the Kurds, who helped the United States defeat ISIS.

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[17:45:50]

BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump says he is considering tough sanctions on Turkey as casualties dramatically mount in northern Syria. The Turkish military strike (INAUDIBLE) targets in the region. And Mr. Trump's critics are accusing him of abandoning long-term U.S. allies.

Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us right now from the conflict zone.

Clarissa, give us the latest.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we spent most of the day in the town of (INAUDIBLE?. That is right up on the Turkish border. It's fair to say there was a steady stream of artillery coming from Turkey, hitting targets around the town. The streets largely deserted. Shops shouldered.

We found a handful of people who had gathered to stage or protest. Their plan was to walk right up to the Turkish border in a show of defiance. But Kurdish fighters came out and said, listen, guys, you need to move and you need to move fast because those strikes were still incoming.

We did see Kurdish forces returning fire. Heard at least two or three outgoing rounds from Syria into Turkey. So far, only reports of several civilian deaths here in Syria. And it does appear from what we saw, Wolf, that Turkish forces were really targeting military or fighting infrastructure.

But nonetheless this is still turning into a civilian catastrophe. One aide agency saying now 60,000 people displaced from their homes. They also said that number is likely to rise to hundreds of thousands in the coming days.

Everyone we spoke to who was fleeing said the same thing to us, Wolf. We want to get out of here. We want to get to safety, but don't now know where it is safe to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Terrible, terrible situation unfolding.

Clarissa, be careful out there. We will stay in touch with you and you will give us the very latest.

Stay with us. We will be right back with a preview of tonight's extraordinary CNN town hall event. Nine of the democratic presidential candidates will take questions of LGBTQ issues. Senator Bernie Sanders won't be there, but will be with us live with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM

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[17:52:55] BLITZER: Tonight CNN partners with the human rights campaign to present a groundbreaking CNN town hall event, "Equality in America." Nine of the 2020 presidential candidates will discuss issues facing the LGBTQ community. It will be held in Los Angeles.

Our Senior National Correspondent, Kyung Lah is on the scene for us.

Kyung, tell us more.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the door has opened just a short time ago. So people are just starting to arrive at this theater. In about an hour or so we are anticipating that the first candidate will be arriving, Senator Cory Booker.

He will be the first of nine candidates to take part in this historic town hall. Each candidate getting 30 minutes, taking questions of CNN moderators as well as people sitting in the audience. These are all questions in regards to LGBTQ issues. It is going to be wide-ranging.

And ahead of this town hall we did see some specificity coming from at least three of the candidates taking part of tonight's town hall. Senator Kamala Harris, senator Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg all released their platforms, their plans to address the issues affecting the community.

What is notable is how similar they all are. They are tent pole in passing the equality act, in expanding access to medical issues like HIV prevention drugs as well as rolling back some of the restrictions under the Trump administration.

Wolf, who people will be looking for tonight is what are the differences, what are the variations between these nine candidates. What we can tell you already is that remarkably, they all at least on these issues seem to agree -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important event coming up.

Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

Once again, starting at 7:30 p.m. eastern, a night of back to back town halls as the democratic presidential candidates discuss issues facing the LGBTQ community, and it is only here on CNN.

Just ahead, more on the breaking news, the arrest of two men who have been helping Rudy Giuliani dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

And Senator Bernie Sanders sits down with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a live interview to talk about his heat attack and much more.

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[17:59:57] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Rudy's associates busted. Two men who worked with Rudy Giuliani to try and dig up dirt on Joe Biden in the Ukraine have been arrested trying to flee the United States.