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CNN TONIGHT

Things Started to go South with Rudy Giuliani; Two of Giuliani's Associates Arrested; President Trump Can't Get Rid of the Impeachment Saga; Mike Pompeo Senior Adviser Resigns; Gordon Sondland and Fiona Hill to Testify Before Congress; Four National Security Officials Alarmed by White House Pressure Campaign on Ukraine; Feds Arrest Giuliani Associates Who Sought Dirt on Biden. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 11, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- Mike Pompeo is leaving. Michael McKinley was brought in by Pompeo and leaves as the questions about Ukraine and how dealings with the country were handled escalate.

The Washington Post first reported his resignation, noting the person familiar with the situation says, "Like many others, McKinley was disappointed in the secretary's lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy."

We're also learning new details about other officials and plans for them to talk to Congress. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U. and million-dollar Trump donor, is expected to testify next Wednesday. That, of course, is if the administration doesn't block him again.

And on Monday morning, the president's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, is expected to testify. A source is telling CNN she'll explain to Congress there were things going on involving Ukraine that she didn't know about. Should she have been in the loop?

We're also learning tonight at least four national security officials were so alarmed by the White House pressure campaign on Ukraine. They sounded the alarm before that infamous July 25th phone call and then again just minutes after the call. But keep in mind here, the call was not the first red flag for them.

The Washington Post is reporting subordinates warned John Bolton, who immediately scrambled to get hold of that rough transcript of the call, but it was already being locked down at a highly classified server. The Post is also reporting a source says Bolton "went ballistic" after a meeting which Sondland seemed to be calling for Ukraine to re-up its investigations of Joe Biden.

We got a lot more to come on this in just a moment. But there is also the explosive development involving two of Rudy Giuliani's associates, who were involved in his efforts to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. The men, now under arrest, charged with conspiring to make illegal campaign donations and lying to federal election regulators. And listen, there's more. Here's where the plot really thickens. Those men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were picked up at Dulles on Wednesday night, just hours after The Wall Street Journal reports they had lunch with Rudy Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

All three were seen on video together in 2018. We got that video for you. It is not clear where it was shot, but what we do know is they're congratulating the chief rabbi of Ukraine. Parnas is on the right, Fruman on the left. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just congratulated Rabbi Moshe.

IGOR FRUMAN, ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: Hi, Moshe.

LEV PARNAS, ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: Moshe, how are you, baby?

FRUMAN: How are you doing? Rudy congratulates --

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I love that picture. I love that picture.

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI: I can't wait to come back.

PARNAS: See you in Ukraine soon.

FRUMAN: It's the best place in the world. We love you.

PARNAS: We love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Furman and Parnas were actually booked on a flight to Frankfurt Wednesday night. Giuliani when they were picked up, of course, Giuliani telling the journal the men were ultimately headed to Vienna. Giuliani then went on to tell the Atlantic he himself was headed to Vienna, though he since refused to comment.

According to the president's personal attorney, even though he and his associates were all planning to be in Vienna at the same time, they wouldn't be meeting up.

All of these are obviously raising a lot of questions. Questions House Democrats want answered. They have subpoenaed Fruman and Parnas, demanding they turn over the documents involving their communications with the White House, Ukraine, and Giuliani by next Wednesday.

Sources telling CNN tonight that Giuliani's financial dealings with Furman and Parnas are also under scrutiny by investigators who are overseeing the case against the two men. Giuliani tells CNN he's not aware of that scrutiny and says he hasn't been interviewed by the FBI.

And so, what does the president have to say about all of this? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know those gentlemen. 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 picture or something where at a fundraiser or somewhere, so -- but I have pictures with everybody.

I don't know. Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You have to ask Rudy. I just don't know. I haven't spoken to Rudy about it. I don't know. I will say this, from what I heard, I just heard about this, they said, we have nothing to do with it, we're totally -- we have nothing to do with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And there is, in fact, a picture. You see it right there. This is the president with Lev Parnas. Kaitlan Collins asked him about the news and about Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are you concerned that Rudy Giuliani could be indicted in all of this?

TRUMP: Well, I hope not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: So much to cover here. Samantha Vinograd and Juliette Kayyem are with us. Oh, where to begin?

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: There is so much going on. I do, though, want to start with The Washington Post. Again, we confirmed that the senior adviser to Mike Pompeo, Mike McKinley, is leaving. The Washington Post is saying that it's because of Pompeo's failure to support diplomats named in the Ukraine scandal. Sam, when you look at this, this is a career diplomat, is the dam starting to break?

[00:05:00]

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's quite possible, but Erica, one thing I'll note is now that this ambassador is a private citizen, he wouldn't have to coordinate any testimony with the State Department or the White House. He could speak with Congress at will.

And in his role as senior adviser to the secretary, he would have seen and heard a lot. His job was to be really the mini-me for Secretary of State Pompeo, and he likely would have seen restricted readouts of calls and meetings. So if I were Pompeo or the White House right now, I'd be a little worried on that front. With respect to your question about the dam starting to break, I think it's very possible. I think anyone with a conscience right now, especially career diplomats, are really thinking about whether continuing on really equals complicity at this point in the first instance. And second, whether they can actually do their jobs.

Pompeo has failed to come to the defense of Ambassador Yovanovitch. His silence has been deafening on that front. But President Trump has criticized ambassadors throughout his tenure. President Trump met with Vladimir Putin and said that he'd consider letting former Ambassador McFaul speak with Russian authorities.

So this is just a pattern for President Trump, and Pompeo is silent when it comes to Ambassador Yovanovitch. But he is essentially coming to the defense of Ambassador Sondland and preventing various people from testifying because perhaps he thinks that's damaging to him.

HILL: Pompeo, of course, brought McKinley in and the Post is reporting that part of McKinley's job was actually taking the temperature of the building for Pompeo. If he's now leaving, Juliette, what does that tell you about the temperature of the State Department?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's definitely being reported that it's not very good, and I think it is part of a consistent theme that you're seeing come out. I don't know if the dam is breaking. I don't know if the walls are falling yet. But basically there's a consistent theme going on in all of these stories that are sort of mind-boggling when you -- in your introduction, the eight headlines since 6:00 p.m.

Essentially, it's this, that the president, that Donald Trump, to become president, as president and to remain president, welcomes foreign influence. That's just -- that's every story is about that.

So, whether it's the Mueller investigation and Russia, whether it's Ukraine and him wanting to go against Biden's son, whether it's these stories that are coming out about Tillerson and a Turkish prisoner, all of them have the same theme, which is Donald Trump cannot be president without seeking foreign influence for his either to retain power or for his personal economic gain.

So, while I think viewers can get overwhelmed by these headlines, just take a step back, there's a theme here, and that's the theme that sort of represents Donald Trump's presidency.

HILL: And what will be interesting will be how much of that we do end up hearing. As you point out, Sam, if McKinley is leaving, right, as a private citizen, is a far different situation. That being said, we're all watching and waiting. Yovanovitch is supposed to testify in a matter of hours.

I have to say, I would be surprised if she does. The president even intimating earlier that, well, you know, we don't want too many people talking here. Sam, what does that say to you?

VINOGRAD: Well, let's be clear, President Trump has directly threatened Ambassador Yovanovitch. He has spoken publicly and said that things were going to happen to her. So, he has publicly bullied and harassed her, which is exactly what Secretary of State Pompeo accused Congress of doing when the House first tried to get these depositions scheduled.

With respect to what Ambassador Yovanovitch would say, I think it's really important for everyone to understand what being a career diplomat means, whether to Yovanovitch or McKinley if he goes and testifies or the deputy assistant secretary of state who is scheduled to testify next week, these are people that sign up to serve their country. They serve under Republicans, they serve under Democrats.

And to Juliette's point, they advance U.S. foreign policy. They do not operate from a political baseline. They are there to implement policy based upon the national security agenda of the country.

If Ambassador Yovanovitch testifies, she would have really unique insight about any kind of shadow process that was being run by Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker, Secretary of State Pompeo and who knows who else in the White House, and of course Rudy Giuliani, and could really speak to how that process was being run and why.

What kind of incentives the president was offering, for example, to get what he really wanted from Ukraine, which was a foreign campaign contribution in the form of political dirt.

HILL: Sam, Juliette, stay with me. Juliette, as you pointed out, there are about eight headlines since 6:00 p.m., so we're going to get to another one of those right now. News that multiple national security officials were alarmed by the Trump administration's pressure campaign on Ukraine, and this even before the president's infamous July phone call.

Joining me now on the phone is Greg Miller, who broke the story for The Washington Post. Greg, in your reporting, you say there are at least four national security officials who were worried about this before the July 25th call.

[00:10:00]

HILL: Specifically what were they concerned about, Greg?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Well, before the call, there were a series of troubling events and you've touched on one of them which was the abrupt removal of the American ambassador to Ukraine in May. I mean, that is one of the starting points here.

But things continued from there and there were officials inside the White House who are watching Rudy Giuliani go on cable television interviews and basically describe his plans to meddle in American/Ukraine politics. And then you had Ambassador Sondland insert himself and assert that he was now in charge of this relationship at the behest of the president.

And in our story today, we reveal a lot more about an event that happens at the White House in July that really upset and disturbed a lot of people. It was an event where Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, basically tells a visiting Ukrainian delegation that there are old investigations that they need to reopen.

HILL: Mm-hmm.

MILLER (via telephone): And everybody in the room kind of gasped and recognizes this is a reference to Biden and the company that Biden's son had served as a board member.

HILL: And you write there that someone tells you that Bolton went ballistic after that meeting. Did you learn about any efforts, though, by Bolton, to take the reins here?

MILLER (via telephone): Yeah, I mean, there's a lot that we're not able to get to in our story and there's more to tell here. Bolton makes a trip to Ukraine. I mean, that's -- he goes to Kiev the next month, and I think a lot of people believe that's his effort to try to get this thing back under control.

Of course, he's struggling at that point to hold onto his job anyway, he's had such a falling out with the president. But internally, you know, there are efforts, even before the July 25th call by national security officials, to keep the president off the phone, to hold off that call, delay it, cancel it, find a way for it not to happen because they were so worried about what Trump would do and say once that call was connected.

HILL: The other thing that really fascinates me that you talk about in this piece is the top legal adviser for the National Security Council, John Eisenberg, and that this is the person that these officials went to with their concerns.

At one point, according to your reporting, he says, we'll follow up on that, but it's not clear if he did follow up and he's known for having a disdain for Congress. What is the -- what is your sense of what he did with that information and what that may have been led to or not in the White House?

MILLER (via telephone): It's interesting because we get sort of conflicting information about him. I mean, people describe him as a conscientious and follow the rules kind of person. But he's in a White House that doesn't follow the rules. And so, how does he adapt to that circumstance?

I mean, he had to be -- he was at the center of series of legal crises, including the firing and investigation of former National Security adviser Mike Flynn, the Russia investigation. And he's in the middle of when this whistleblower complaint about Ukraine surfaces. He is a lawyer who is in the middle of trying to battle to keep -- prevent Congress from getting its hand on that complaint.

HILL: It is fascinating. Great reporting, Greg. I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you. Back with me are Samantha Vinograd and Juliette Kayyem.

Juliette, as we look at this, there are these different threads in here, and really I would like to focus on both Bolton and Eisenberg. Let us start with Eisenberg just based on a little bit of what we just learned there from Greg, and the fact that he was the person to go to and he took these concerns in and that it's not clear what happened with them. What are we to make of that?

KAYYEM: I think, as Greg said, there's still some reporting to do to know essentially what happened once Bolton made it clear that he was unhappy with this sort of Ukrainian agenda that was being run out of the White House with Giuliani.

But I think just looking at it overall, what is abundantly clear from Greg and his colleagues reporting is that the notion that Donald Trump picks up the phone and calls Ukraine and has some casual conversation about, you know, oh, you need to deal with corruption, it's just bogus at this stage.

This thing having to do with Ukraine, Biden and the arms was essentially being run from months beforehand by a variety friends of Donald Trump, his political appointees in the State Department, as well as now we learned from the arrest today, so, this is where Greg's reporting ties into the arrests today, as well as being read by the side deal going on with Giuliani and these two guys that were arrested today.

So, the overall takeaway is, you had a White House that was in a civil war about what Donald Trump was doing.

[00:14:58]

KAYYEM: Many people knew about it, including these four that The Washington Post is reporting about today, and some of them are coming forward. The most fascinating thing to me, to Sam's point, about the career diplomats, we always thought that it was the generals who would come forward and make it clear what was going on in the White House.

What you have is whistleblower and deputy assistant secretary and people who just know that this is no way for foreign policy to be run, nor any way that a president should behave as regards to national security.

HILL: It is also fascinating, the details in here about John Bolton, who was pinged, we learned, within minutes, according to the report here about the call, trying to get that transcript, that rough transcript, which, Sam, at that point, according to the reporting, was already being moved to this highly classified server.

VINOGRAD: Erica, we depend on a national security adviser to operate with more than a feeling. This reporting that John Bolton went ballistic really just doesn't cut it. What we've seen over the past few years were senior officials feeling concerned or going ballistic and expressing their feelings, but not actually doing anything about this behavior.

If John Bolton was really deeply concerned about what he saw, he, like everybody in that White House and perhaps even more than everyone in that White House, should have called the Department of Justice and tried to do something about it.

Trying to bury the transcript or trying to do damage control after the fact is not the job of the national security adviser. The president of the United States was undermining the national security of the United States, and people that let him do it are complicit in that.

The NSC lawyer that Juliette was just speaking about, when I was at the White House, the legal director had an open door policy, if anything concerning happened, any NSC staffer went in there and felt comfortable that their concerns were being addressed, well there is more reporting to do.

The fact of the matter is that the NSC legal directorate helped cover up the transcript. So the reason that we are seeing whistleblowers and the reason that we are seeing leaks is because the actual avenues for addressing these issues were blocked off.

The people that were supposed to be keeping the White House functioning from a legal perspective were complicit in the coverup. And so, again, all these feelings that senior officials have were one thing. They should have called the Department of Justice.

HILL: Sam, Juliette, I appreciate it. As always, your insight is essential here. Rudy Giuliani in the meantime, as we've learned, reportedly planning to fly at the end of the day after his associates were arrested at the airport as they were getting ready to fly there too on one-way tickets. So, what were the three of them planning to do in Vienna, and what does all of this mean for the president's personal attorney?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:20:00]

HILL: In the midst of tonight's torrent, frankly, of breaking news, there is yet another big story that we're following and trying to unpack at this point. Two of Rudy Giuliani's associates involved in his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, charged with funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. And now the scrutiny is getting ever closer to Rudy Giuliani himself.

Joining me now are Shimon Prokupecz and Elie Honig. So when we look at these two associates, I mean, the indictment is pretty clear and lays out exactly, you know, what prosecutors believe they did. There's video of Rudy Giuliani adn two of the men. We are not sure exactly when the video was taken, but we do have video of them.

What's fascinating to me is this reporting that they had lunch, the three of them, earlier this week at the Trump International Hotel, not too long before their arrests. And now we're hearing that some of Giuliani's dealings are being scrutinized.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Certainly the relationship between Rudy Giuliani and these two men has caught the eyes of investigators and they want to know more about this relationship, specifically what we're told is that they're looking at the financial dealings. What kind of business interactions, transactions were these men involved in, between Rudy Giuliani and these two guys.

So, right now, what we're told, at least, the relationship is of importance to investigators, but it's the money. That's the big question. What was going on here, who was funding these men, and who was funding Rudy Giuliani?

HILL: It's fascinating when we look at reading through the indictment, the money that was in there and where it was being sent, and how they were trying to, again, according to prosecutors, Elie, how they were trying to hide all this to, you know, blatantly skirt federal election laws.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, it looks to me like they're caught cold. Reading through this indictment, this is a strong case, a strong indictment, even though reportedly southern district had to speed up because these guys were about to get on a plane with one-way tickets.

HILL: Right.

HONIG: A little bit telling there. But it looks like they have some sort of either wiretap or e-mails or texts because there's direct verbatim quotes in here, which is powerful evidence, plus financial records, wire transfers, all that kind of thing.

HILL: And also what we learned in the indictment too is that a lot of -- this is connected to, right, trying to influence political candidates and things that are happening, right, politically, perhaps on behalf of at least one Ukrainian government official.

PROKUPECZ: Ukrainian government official but there is also a Russian citizen, a Russian national that is involved. This gets even more intriguing because, as we know, there is a big focus on Russian influence and that is what caught my eye, certainly, when I saw this. There was money coming from a Russian national to these Ukrainians.

The other thing you have to look at this is that you could almost argue that these men knew how to get to the president, right? They went to Giuliani. They said, we have this dirt, this information for you. And so they knew. They knew how to get to the president and perhaps try and influence the president.

They couldn't speak to him directly, but they were very good at is getting to Rudy Giuliani, getting to members of Congress. This indictment lays out how they were trying to influence a congressman to fire, to oust this Ukrainian ambassador.

So, these guys knew what they were doing. They were working with people. And who these people are and what was exactly going on here, that is the big part, I think, of this investigation.

HILL: Absolutely. We know House Democrats have already requested these documents. [00:25:01]

HILL: They want them by next week. Elie, when they're in the middle of the criminal case, how does that affect Congress getting those documents?

HONIG: It complicates. These guys are going to take the fifth, I think, in response to any congressional subpoena. They have the right to protect themselves against self-incrimination. But I think if I am in the prosecutor's shoes here, I would try to coordinate with Congress, say to Congress, let us take the first shot at these guys because the idea if you're a prosecutor is to flip these guys.

They might flip. They are looking at real jail time here. I mean, real time behind bars. And if you can flip these guys, boy, that will set the dominos in motion, just the way Shimon laid out to me.

HILL: Right.

HONIG: Rudy got to be very scared about that possibility and who knows who else.

HILL: The president is denying, obviously. He was asked about it earlier, saying he doesn't know them. It sounds like Rudy's associates. Look, who knows, he may not know them. Let us be honest here, just because you have a picture with somebody -- he does take pictures with a lot of people. That being said, it certainly doesn't create around him a very solid circle.

PROKUPECZ: No, it doesn't. And we've seen every time someone gets in trouble that's close to the president, we are seeing his denials --

HILL: Same response.

PROKUPECZ: It's the same response. We've seen it with Michael Cohen. We're starting to even see it in some ways with Rudy Giuliani.

HILL: You think he's starting to pull back a little bit?

PROKUPECZ: Yeah, 100 percent.

HONIG: And that's why the video is important evidence because this happens. The distancing game, I hardly know this guy. You throw that video up for a jury and that's all --

PROKUPECZ: Or when he says, well, I hope Rudy Giuliani doesn't get indicted. As more information starts getting out, there's so much we still don't know that is part of this indictment. One hundred percent, there are things -- there are intercepts. There are all kinds of work that the FBI has been doing on this. The fact they weren't ready to bring this case --

HILL: And there is still so much in there.

PROKUPECZ: There is still so much in there. They had to rush this indictment through because these men were getting on this plane. There is still a lot more here.

HILL: There is a lot more to talk about. Thank you, guys. Will the president be judged by the company he keeps? I'll ask Nixon's former White House counsel, John Dean, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says he hopes Rudy Giuliani isn't indicted after the arrest of two of his lawyer's associates. Also claiming he doesn't know anything about those two men.

Joining me now to discuss, John Dean. Always good to have you with us. So, the president says he doesn't know these two associates who were arrested. He is seen in pictures with them. But as he points out takes pictures with a lot of people. Fair point.

Jay Sekulow is releasing this statement, noting, "Read the indictment, neither the candidate nor the campaign has anything to do with the scheme these guys were involved in." But John, I know you've said, the president will be judged by the company he keeps. Does this hurt him?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It does. At least all past presidents have had that kind of judgment passed on them by history. Go all the way back to Warren Harding, where he was really pulled down by two of his cabinet officers who were friends, so, we don't know how history will judge this president, but rest assured, this incident and people like Rudy Giuliani and his friends, will all be part of a circle of his history.

HILL: In terms of that history, it was fascinating to watch as the president turned on Michael Cohen. And so, did Rudy Giuliani, in fact, here's a little reminder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: He doesn't have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.

There's nobody that I know that knows him that hasn't warned me that if his back is up against the wall, he'll lie like crazy because he's lied all his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Two very different assessments from the same man about the same man. How quickly do you think the president may end up turning on Rudy Giuliani if this gets a little too sticky?

DEAN: Well, we've already seen signs he's turning that, he sort of putting a distance between himself and Rudy. He is being kind of abrupt in the answers. He's not providing any kind of defense. He doesn't, probably, know the full extent of what kind of problems Rudy faces. None of us do. Rudy may have a glimmering of it. But he doesn't know what these guys may or may not do.

Whether they'll flip or not, as been discussed in this program. I thought Rudy's answer was fascinating when he was asked by a reporter what he thought of the -- whether they would flip on him, and his response was, good luck. That's all he had to say, which isn't very much.

But Trump is clearly putting a distance between himself and Rudy, as he's done with people like Paul Manafort and as he did with Michael Cohen.

HILL: As we look at all this, House Democrats, today, slapping subpoenas on Rick Perry, energy secretary, for documents. Frankly, if we look at the list of subpoenas, there is no shortage of them these days, as Democrats try to get this information, continuing on with their investigation, and it goes across several levels of the administration.

They've made it clear, Democrats, that is, that the more road blocks the White House, the administration throws up, the stronger they feel their case will be for obstruction. Do you agree with that assessment?

DEAN: Obstruction is a tough case to make, certainly, has been historically. Richard Nixon just blatantly obstructed the impeachment proceeding. He actually kind of cooperated with the Senate Watergate committee at the Senate level before they got to impeachment, thinking that he could beat it, that his aides would give the right story. And they did, they lied. They all got, later, indicted for perjury.

So, it didn't work out quite as planned. And then, when the impeachment proceedings started, he just stonewalled everything, as Trump is doing.

[00:35:00]

When they actually got the bill of impeachment, they had an article in there that was a close vote, straight party vote, it was 21 to 17, for an article on obstruction because of his behavior and refusal, basically to turn over his tape-recorded conversations.

HILL: Well, we will see how that plays out. John Dean, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

DEAN: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Seventeen former Watergate special prosecutors, speaking of Watergate, speaking out today, saying President Trump should be impeached. I'll speak with one of them next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: Seventeen former Watergate special prosecutors offering a stark assessment of President Trump today. Their op-ed in the Washington Post titled, "we investigated the Watergate scandal. We believe Trump should be impeached." Nick Akerman is one of those former special prosecutors. He was also

an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and joins me now. How did you get to the point that 17 of you came together and said, we want to write this op-ed, we want to put it out there today?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think it was because we've all been talking. We have our reunions every few years and I think that was sort of the start of it.

[00:40:00]

Phil Lacovara who was the counsel to our office was really the initiator of this whole idea. But I think it's something we'd all been discussing over a period of time and I think the one event that really, I think, has taken us over the line and probably much of the country over the line, is what has happened with Ukraine, and what Donald Trump did with the president of Ukraine.

HILL: So, you point out here that you specifically reference the three articles of impeachment that were drawn up for Richard Nixon.

AKERMAN: Right.

HILL: And you say you think that they apply here, writing, that in terms of these articles you think they could be specified against Trump because, quote, "he has demonstrated serious and persistent abuses of power that, in our view, satisfy the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors."

Give us some specifics there, beyond -- you mentioned the call.

AKERMAN: Right.

HILL: You mentioned that discussion. What else?

AKERMAN: Well, there's also the fact that he is stonewalling this investigation. He is basically directing people in his own administration not to cooperate, not to testify. He's interfering with it by also having his lawyer, not even his lawyer, it's the White House counsel who is supposed to be the lawyer of the people not of President Trump, but obviously he's acting as the lawyer of President Trump here, to say that they're not going to cooperate with this.

He basically put out what was a political screen that really mischaracterizes what the impeachment process is about. Talking about the fact that -- there must be fairness for the president so he can present witnesses -- that's for the trial before the Senate.

It misconstrues the whole process, which is, impeachment is like a grand jury proceeding where evidence is put forward, you determine whether there's enough evidence to bring it to trial in the Senate, just as you would with a criminal violation that you bring before a trial court.

HILL: So, to that point, based on what you write, you note that you feel there's enough evidence out there in the public view, right, that's either been put out or that the president has even said himself, that there's enough to move forward.

So, does Congress even need to worry about the fact that the president and the White House are once again stonewalling an investigation? Can they move forward?

AKERMAN: Well, they can move forward. I mean, what's good about this investigation is there are lots of people that know the facts. I mean, Donald Trump can try and keep certain documents away, he can try and keep certain witnesses away, but the bottom line is, this whole business about Ukraine has come out because there are good people within the government that are career servants, people who may be CIA analysts, whoever these whistle-blowers are.

There are a number of people that were disturbed enough about this whole matter that they have come forward and basically provided the information and I think there's going to be more of them that are going to do much of the same.

HILL: You close with a sort of lofty goal for the Senate, in saying that it's time to put aside partisan politics. Much as we saw happen with Richard Nixon, right? And look at this in terms of what is good for the country.

Do you believe that we are in a place right now where we could see that happen in the Senate, that lawmakers can put aside their partisan ideas and ideals and look solely at the facts?

AKERMAN: Well, I may be a bit of an optimist, but --

HILL: Listen, that's not the worst thing. We could use a little of that these days.

AKERMAN: But let me say this. I mean, this is the same attitude and reaction that people had when the House back in 1974, voted those articles of impeachment. That it was going to be very difficult to get the Senate to do it, although you did not have the same number of Republicans and it wasn't quite as divided.

But still, the Republicans stuck pretty much to the end until that one smoking gun tape came out about four days or six days before Richard Nixon wound up resigning, in which he's heard on this tape basically directing his aides to have the CIA to direct the FBI not to continue the investigation into the Watergate break-in.

That was kind of the tipping point. And I think we're going to find much the same here, as more evidence comes out, really kind of adding more detail to that conversation we heard on July -- the July conversation about Ukraine, where President Trump is talking to the president of Ukraine.

There's another conversation in April, we haven't heard anything about yet. There's other incidents surrounding that, where we haven't heard. There's ellipses in these conversations --

HILL: Right.

AKERMAN: -- that certainly underscore the fact that there may be more detail that was omitted from that conversation, that transcript that was provided to the public.

HILL: We will be watching to see where it goes. Thanks for coming in tonight. I appreciate it.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

HILL: President Trump railing against the impeachment investigation at a campaign rally tonight. Is he worried? We'll let you listen to what he's saying, next.

[00:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: President Trump lashing out against the Democrats' impeachment inquiry at his rally tonight in Minneapolis. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: From day one, the retched Washington swamp has been trying to nullify the results of a truly great and Democratic election.

They know they can't win the 2020 election, so they're pursuing the insane impeachment witch hunt. I've been going through it now --

(CROWD BOOING)

TRUMP: I've been going through it now for more time than I've been in office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining me now to discuss, Van Jones, Ana Navarro, and Ron Brownstein. So, Ana, as we see the president railing there against the impeachment inquiry, that of course is nothing new. But it really does seem in the last, I don't know, a couple of weeks, certainly the last couple of days, it's occupying a lot of the space in his head and a lot of the space on his Twitter.

[00:50:02]

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not how much space there is in his head, but whatever there is, is being occupied by this. And look, the clip you just played from that rally is probably one of the few moments that you can play on TV, even though it's -- you know, at this time, because it was expletive, failed, it was unhinged, it was incoherent, it was unpresidential, it was untrue.

It was -- I mean, just put in or un in front of practically every word and that's what it was. Inaccurate. And it was also getting lapped up by the people in the base. You know, I've noticed in the last few days, and remember I live in Miami. I live in a purple state and I have noticed people that never talked to me about politics coming up to speak to me about politics and the concern of having a president who is this unstable.

HILL: Really?

NAVARRO: Yes.

HILL: Van, what do you make of that? I mean, is this really -- are you starting to sense that a turn is happening? I mean, let's say something if people are coming up to talk to you for the first time about it.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The polling data says that. You now have even according to Fox News a majority of people in the United States are moving toward wanting him to either be impeached or to have some kind of censure and that -- and those number continued to move.

Look, I thought, you know, the rally was very, very telling. He was just bathing in the politics of grievance and resentment and self- pity. And the crowd was responding to that. And to me that's really, really -- you could be running on anything else. He mentioned the economy and he talked that kind of stuff out.

But the basic tone of what he's doing is poor me. I'm the victim. I'm so terrible and taking no accountability for the fact. Nancy Pelosi did not want to do this. Nancy Pelosi was -- she had both feet down in the back of the car like the Flintstones trying to keep the impeachment fray from moving forward but he just kept doing stuff that put it in a posture where she felt like I have to do something to send a signal that we don't think this behavior is appropriate.

HILL: Ron, you know what's fascinating is to watch all of these, right, and these rallies are --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

HILL: -- they're not new. We know what we're going to get, we know what it's going to be. But to Ana's point, they are escalating. The crowd is eating it up --

BROWNSTEIN: Sure.

HILL: -- and for the president, that's part of what he really enjoys there. Right. And we know that he feeds off the energy and the approval of that crowd.

BROWNSTEIN: And it is also, you know, the essence of his approach to campaigning and governing, which has been much more focused on mobilizing his base than on ever reaching beyond it. I mean, his message at this rally like his message all the time is that a contemptuous elite is trying to silence me as a way of disqualifying or disempowering you.

I mean, they're basically going after me because they want to nullify your voice. And there is an audience for that argument in the Republican coalition. The problem is, is that as we know he is the first president ever to go this far in his presidency without ever reaching majority approval in his job approval in Gallup polling from the public.

And what he is doing in not only through the original accusations here in Ukraine but in the way he is responding to them, I think, is confirming and reinforcing the doubts of that majority of the country that has disapproved of him.

And that's why you see support for impeachment and not only impeachment, but impeachment and removal in that Fox poll moving up to 50 percent or above because you're seeing now close to 90 percent of the voters who say they disapprove of his job taking the extraordinary next step of saying he should in fact be removed from office at this point.

And I think that's the danger to him. He's solidifying the majority that has been disappointed and disapproving of his performance from the beginning.

HILL: We know that he doesn't like that poll because he told us that. So, there is that. He may not see it the same way. What's fascinating to me is what we are and are not hearing from Republicans. That Colorado Senator Cory Gardner was asked some tough questions about whether it's OK, whether t's appropriate to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the question is, is it appropriate for a president to be --

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): Look, I think we are going to have an investigation. It's a nonpartisan investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to ask a foreign government to investigate.

But Senator, it's a yes or no question.

GARDNER: It's an answer that you get from a very serious investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But would you be Ok with it if it was a Democrat asking a foreign government for --

(CROSSTALK)

GARDNER: Look, here's what we're doing. What we saw -- I saw it needed -- it was a jump to a very partisan -- very partisan serious use of a tool in the Constitution. This is an investigation taking place in the Senate intelligence committee. That's where it should be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it OK for you to ask foreign rival to investigate -- (CROSSTALK)

GARDNER: You know what he's looking for. But this is about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: is it OK -- but you're not answering the -- we want to hear from you. You're a smart guy. You know the debate.

GARDNER: Look, this is about the politics of the moment and that's why they're trying to do this. Now, look, the American are going to have a choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: The American people will have a choice. Lawmakers also have a choice. And it is fascinating to see people are coming up to you and saying I want to talk about this now. I have some questions.

[00:55:02]

Republicans are having such a difficult time coming together and finding a defense on this.

NAVARRO: Look, I think it's a few things. First of all, they are afraid of him. Donald Trump has dedicated himself in the last three years to building a reign of terror in the Republican Party. If you confront him in any way he comes out and attacks you, and he attacks hard and he controls the Republican base.

And so that means that they lose primaries. Practically every Republican who ever spoke out against Trump either had to retire, lost primaries, lost generals, or died. And he still kept attacking even a dead man.

So, this is, you know, who Donald Trump is. This is why you see somebody like Lindsey Graham, who, when he was opposing Donald Trump, was dead man walking in the Republican primary in South Carolina. Now that he is Robin to Donald Trump's Batman he walks on water. And so, he has both this reign of terror. They are afraid of mean tweets from Donald Trump.

HILL: It will be amazing to see what happens when --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

HILL: -- someone actually decides to speak out. A lot of breaking news tonight. We have a lot to get to the impeachment inquiry rocking the Trump White House as we know, including now a senior advisor resigning. We have all of those headlines for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END