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President Trump's Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Under Federal Criminal Investigation; Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch Testifies to Congress; Fires Devastate Parts of Los Angeles; Judge Rules President Trump's Plan to use National Emergency Declaration to Build Border Wall Unlawful; Senator Cory Gardner Evades Question on President Trump's Soliciting Foreign Aid in Reelection Bid; FOX News Anchor Shepard Smith Abruptly Resigns on Air. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 12, 2019 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. It is Saturday, October 12th. I hope the morning has been good to you so far. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

And we start today with a report that President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is now under federal criminal investigation. "The New York Times" reports that federal prosecutors are investigating if Giuliani's involvement with Ukraine violated federal lobbying laws.

PAUL: Of course, then we have the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine telling members of Congress yesterday that the president and Rudy Giuliani wanted her removed from her job. For nearly 10 hours behind closed doors, Marie Yovanovitch outlined how she believes President Trump and Rudy Giuliani smeared her reputation to Ukrainian officials.

BLACKWELL: At a rally last night in Louisiana, the president again defended his call with the leader of Ukraine. That call resulted in part in an impeachment inquiry. He also questioned the whistleblower's motive. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But nobody thought I'd release the call. Probably nobody thought we had a transcript. So when I heard the viciousness -- but here's the worst of all, worse than the whistleblower. Now, the whistleblower -- why are we protecting a person that tells you things that weren't true?


PAUL: Covering this from all of the political angles we have here, Sarah Westwood at the White House, White House producer Kevin Liptak is at our Washington Bureau.

BLACKWELL: Sarah, let's start with you. Again, the president, second night in a row, slammed this impeachment inquiry last night. What did you hear?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Victor, President Trump certainly not holding back last night at back-to-back rallies Thursday night and Friday night. President Trump was railing against impeachment, Democrats, the whistleblower. Last night in Louisiana he even claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must hate this country if she's pursuing this avenue on Capitol Hill. And he also claimed that the impeachment proceedings, which are enshrined in the Constitution, are unconstitutional. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The radical Democrats' policies are crazy. Their politicians are corrupt. Their candidates are terrible. And they know they can't win an Election Day, so they're pursuing an illegal, invalid and unconstitutional bull -- impeachment.


WESTWOOD: Meanwhile, the president gave evasive answers yesterday when asked whether Rudy Giuliani is still his personal attorney. The president appears to be trying to put some distance between himself and Giuliani. As "The New York Times" reports, Giuliani is under investigation for a potential violation of foreign lobbying laws. That's related to his efforts to dig up dirt on Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in an apparent attempt to get her recalled from Kiev. That did happen. Yovanovitch testified at length about that on Capitol Hill yesterday. But Giuliani defended himself to "The Times." He said he did that on behalf of President Trump, not on behalf of Ukrainian officials, so arguing it wasn't a violation of that lobbying law.

But still, sources tell CNN that President Trump has begun to have doubts, expressed them internally, about the ability of Giuliani to continue defending him, particularly after the arrests on Wednesday of two Giuliani associates. And a person close to the legal team tells CNN that Giuliani will continue to serve as the president's attorney, but he will no longer deal with any issues that touch on Ukraine, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood for us at the White House, thank you.

PAUL: CNN White House producer Kevin Liptak with us now from Washington. So Kevin, is there any indication that Democrats got what they wanted from Marie Yovanovitch yesterday?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE PRODUCER: Yes, I think they did. This was damning testimony from a 33-year veteran of the foreign service. She painted a scathing portrait of President Trump's foreign policy, characterizing it as shoving aside professionals for people seeking personal gain, and leaving the United States open to influence campaigns from foreign governments.

In her opening testimony, she said she was incredulous President Trump had lost trust in her, saying she had done nothing wrong. She said she was removed on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.

Just the fact of her appearance on Capitol Hill yesterday was remarkable in itself. You remember the White House sent a letter to congressional Democrats earlier in the week saying that the administration would not cooperate with their impeachment probe. The White House claiming that the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate and saying that officials requested to appear on Capitol Hill would not. Now, the White House attempted to prevent Yovanovitch from appearing on Thursday night according to Democrats, who say they then subpoenaed her. That placed her in the position of having to choose between the executive branch, for which she still works, she is still a State Department employee, and Congress. Under the threat of subpoena, she chose Congress. That's a choice that many officials are going to have to face in the coming weeks.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you, so Congress goes back next week. There are several people expected to testify. What's your expectation that they will show, and what are we expecting from lawmakers?

LIPTAK: Yes, it's a heavy roster of appearances that are on the schedule this week. A lot of former and current administration officials will face the same choice as Yovanovitch. Among them Fiona Hill, she's the former White House Russia advisor. She certainly has some insight into what was going on with the Ukraine policy over the last six months or so. George Kent, he's the deputy secretary of state. Ulrich Brechbuhl, he's the State Department counselor. And Gordon Sondland, he's the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He had been scheduled to voluntarily appear before lawmakers earlier this week. The State Department blocked him. He was subpoenaed, and he is now prepared to appear on Thursday.

It's a busy roster. Democrats are signaling it's just the beginning of their attempts to gain information about the president's dealings with Ukraine. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Chairman, wrote a letter to lawmakers yesterday saying that more subpoenas were prepared to come. Democrats are rushing forward with this impeachment inquiry, hoping, Victor and Christi, to get everything wrapped up by Thanksgiving.

BLACKWELL: We'll see what the start of the week brings. Kevin Liptak, thank you.

PAUL: Margaret Talev, the politics and White House editor for "Axios" with us now. Margaret, good to see you this morning. We just saw that full screen, if we can pull it back up, of the people who are going to be testifying this week or who are supposed to be in front of Congress this week. Which of these voices do you think is most important to hear from? MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS:

Gordon Sondland is the one that's going to get a tremendous amount of attention, although let me just say as an aside that Bill Taylor is the day when I want to be on Capitol Hill. When this eventually happens, if it eventually happens, he could have an enormous amount of insight and be able to express in detail some of his concerns about what he understood to be happening and the things that he didn't understand to be happening. And you can see that play out in those text messages between Gordon Sondland and Mr. Taylor and Kurt Volker where Taylor keeps trying to have the conversation on the text chain so that it becomes part of the record, and Gordon Sondland keeps trying to pull the conversation from the text chain.

PAUL: Margaret, we have that, actually. I just want to share that real quickly, just so people can remember the reference here as he was asking about the security assistance and the White House meeting, if they're conditioned on the investigations. And I think this is why you were saying Sondland is so important here, because all we hear from him is call me. There was another text where Sondland said, let's take this off the text, essentially.

TALEV: Yes, that's right. So those two are important figures for different reasons. Fiona Hill, who will be the first one up there on the Hill next week, is very interesting because she was the White House's top Russia expert over a period that spanned from H.R. McMaster's tenure up through John Bolton's tenure. We don't have a sense of how much direct knowledge she has about what Rudy Giuliani or his associates were doing, but she is able to offer insights, will be able to offer insights into how that kind of entered her space and how it moved into Russia terrain.

So again, if all of these were public hearings, we would have sort of an immediate and full sense of what they're saying. Instead, because the process is moving largely behind closed doors, as I think it would with any Congress, by the way, this is a situation where we need to rely on opening statements that perhaps get released, or impressions from members of the committees or their staffs who are willing to share insights here and there. But it is at this point a fact-finding mission for the committees. And so our ability to understand what's happening is sort of tied to what people are willing to tell us.

PAUL: I was going to say, and that's what's interesting. Let's listen to the Republican side of things with Lee Zeldin where he talks specifically to that, to transparency essentially.


REP. LEE ZELDIN, (R-NY) HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: You talking about an impeachment of the president of the United States, and everything is going to happen behind closed doors, offering no protection whatsoever, no transparency, no accountability, no due process. Substantively, you should know every single word that we just heard, but instead you heard none of it, the American public heard none of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Now, he talked about due process. I just want to make the note that President Trump will have due process if the House does vote on this and it goes to the Senate trial. That much we know. But is the argument he and maybe other Republicans are making about transparency, is that resonating with people?


TALEV: Well, it's an interesting argument. I think in the case of Ambassador Yovanovitch, I'm not sure that the Republicans wanted that to happen in full public view yesterday. From my understanding of that testimony, and there was 10 hours of conversations behind closed doors, some of it was very damaging to the president and the optics of what the president, Rudy Giuliani, and Giuliani's associates were trying to do. So there is a Republican argument now about the process, which is understandable, but some of these folks who want some privacy and want to be able to not become public figures, if they were public figures, some of what they were saying would be tremendously damaging and shaping in the public eye of what was going on behind the scenes in the administration.

PAUL: All right, Margaret Talev, so appreciate your thoughts today. Thanks for being here.

TALEV: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We've got the latest on those massive wildfires tearing through parts of Los Angeles, burning homes, scaring people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a scream like I've never heard before. My dad said it's in our backyard, it's in our backyard, but in a way that I've never heard him scream before.


PAUL: And a significant loss in court for President Trump's push to build a border wall.

BLACKWELL: Also, a shocking on-air announcement from one of the longest serving anchors at FOX News.


SHEPARD SMITH, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It's my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter.




PAUL: Four people are dead this morning and three others injured. This was after a shooting in Brooklyn, New York. BLACKWELL: According to a fire department spokesman, the four people

were dead when they arrived, and the others were taken to local hospitals with serious but nonlife-threatening injuries. Police say they do not have any suspects or a motive.

This morning, some people are starting to return home to see the aftermath of those massive fires that tore through neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

PAUL: Some chose to stay behind to try and save their homes, but these flames were moving just too fast.


JERRY DERMICI, LOST HOME TO FIRE: I'm devastated. I don't know what to tell. I just paid off my house last month. I made the last payment, and I was so happy that my house was paid off, I don't have to worry about the payment anymore. And this happened.


PAUL: CNN's Natasha Chen live in Granada Hills, California. Natasha, I know that you're really getting a good look here now that the sun is coming up this hour. What are you seeing?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi, now that we can actually take a closer look at things, we're seeing that there is no back to what used to be this house. And in fact, in looking at Google maps, we understand that there was a house actually behind this one. So what we're looking at is two completely destroyed homes. You can still see some smoke coming up from the hot spots there, and there actually is a fire crew on scene just monitoring the hot spots in the area. So a really devastating thing to come back to whenever these people do come back and take a look.

A lot of this area, a lot of this neighborhood is still evacuated at this moment. The good news is the wind is supposed to be dying down by midday, and that should help the firefighting effort. We did hear from some people in a different neighborhood who saw what could have been the beginning of the Saddle Ridge fire. The cause of the fire, we should say, is still under investigation, but here's what this woman and her neighbor saw.


DONNA PORCO, SYLMAR RESIDENT: He and his wife saw that the brush underneath that tower was on fire, and the wind was blowing so hard, it took off.


CHEN: Yes, and you can see up on that ridge right behind us there just where that fire got to. You see that fence line and the black part of the hill on top of that. You can see how close the flames came to some of these homes. And of course, it raced down this other side back to where we are here to destroy these two homes directly behind us. So a very challenging situation, very close call for many of these homes. And we know that about 30, at least, have been destroyed in the Saddle Ridge fire right now. Christi and Victor, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Thirty families and a significant loss there. Natasha Chen for us, thank you.

A federal judge blocks the president's plan to use a national emergency declaration to build his border wall and to re-appropriate some funds. We'll discuss with the lead counsel in that case, next.

PAUL: Also, talk about a surprise sign-off. FOX News long-time anchor Shepard Smith calling it quits, shocking everybody. His parting message on the truth and journalism.



BLACKWELL: Coming up on 22 minutes after the hour. Several setbacks for the White House this week. Yesterday a federal judge in Texas ruled that the president's plan to use a national emergency declaration to build his border wall is unlawful. And joining me now is Stuart Gerson. He is lead counsel in that case, and a former acting attorney general. Stuart, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So let's start here. The Supreme Court has allowed in another case, actually kind of exploring some different legal angles the administration to continue building, but you won this case. What's your degree of confidence that you'll continue to win on appeals?

GERSON: Well, we're very pleased by the decision. We believe the law is with us. This is the first case in which a court has actually ruled on the merits. The case that went to the Supreme Court had to do with just an injunctive relief. We haven't yet crossed the bridge of an injunction. That's going to be litigated with the court as to how broad it is. We'll certainly have an injunction. But for now our clients, which are actual human beings, the people who are in the county of El Paso and who are affected by the border wall and the border network are all very gratified.

BLACKWELL: OK. Let's turn now to another issue, the impeachment inquiry. You and several other -- more than a dozen conservative attorneys created this organization, Checks and Balances, offering what you call a conservative response, conservative angle to what you're seeing the president do and his supporters do. I want you to listen to and our viewers to watch. This is Senator Cory Gardner being asked if it's OK for a president to ask a foreign nation or another nation to dig up dirt on a political opponent. And here's how he handles that question.


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

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But senator, it's a yes or no question.

GARDNER: It's an answer that you get.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it OK for you to ask a foreign rival to investigate --

GARDNER: You know what I've said before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're not answering the question. We want to hear from you. You're a smart guy. You know the debate.

GARDNER: This is about the politics of the moment, and that's why they're trying to do this now.


BLACKWELL: He wouldn't just answer the question with a yes or no. What's your reaction to that?

GERSON: Well, he didn't give an answer at all. My answer to that is that using these channels for personal gain certainly represents probable cause to believe that a high crime and misdemeanor has occurred, something that's inconsistent with the oath of office, with the take care clause of the constitution, with the emoluments clause of the constitution, and the federal election laws.


Interestingly, another development you haven't asked me about is apparently not only are his two cohorts arrested, but Giuliani is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, a part of the Department of Justice. So the administration itself thinks that there's something here that's worth looking into or pursuing seriously, a different part of the administration, a part of the Justice Department. But the answer that Mr. Gardner gave was a non- answer. My answer is that it's illegal to use these diplomatic channels for personal gain.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the party, broader question, because the Republican Party has for decades sold itself, promoted itself as the party of law and order. The president, when he was nominated, said that he was the law and order candidate. How do you regain that mantle? Or do you even think that the party has lost it?

GERSON: Well, we as Checks and Balances, we're for country more than party. And we're for the rule of law. And party comes second. The role of parties has changed from what it's traditionally been in the history of the country. They have become more ideological, more polarized, more dominated by their fringes. That's as true of the Democrats as it is of the Republicans, one side far to the left, the other side off the edge. I'm certainly a figure on the right. But this is about the rule of law.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you on rule of law, the latest statement out from Checks and Balances, this group calls for an expeditious impeachment. Once that goes over to the Senate, Mitch McConnell has said that Senate rules give him no option, no choice but to take up the resolution if it comes over. Then he says how long you're on it is a whole different matter. Do you expect that there will be, as we saw in the Clinton impeachment, days of attorneys presenting their respective cases, or that this would be a quick dismissal, and what would that mean for the country?

GERSON: Firstly, I don't think it will be a quick dismissal, as you use the term. And the reason why I say that is that the Republican members of the House and some in the Senate who are very supportive of the president's position, or what they think is the president's position, it keeps changing, are claiming a lack of due process, that somehow the president is being denied the ability to call witnesses, to present evidence, and the like of that. That's not what the House is for under the Constitution. The framers intended to the House act something like a grand jury where you don't have those rights. On the other hand, the Senate is the trial body, if there is an impeachment. And if the president is serious about due process, he'll get plenty of process.

BLACKWELL: All right, Stuart, we've got to wrap it there. I thank you for being with us.

GERSON: Sure enough.

BLACKWELL: Stuart Gerson, thanks so much.

PAUL: And 2020 Democratic presidential candidates gearing up right now for another big presidential debate next week. We're going to talk about that, what you need to watch for.



BLACKWELL: 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are back on the campaign trail today, gearing up for another big debate coming up right here on CNN on Tuesday. And a lot of people will be watching Senator Bernie Sanders, who will be on the stage shortly after recovering from a heart attack.

Let's talk about all of this. Joining me now is CNN political commentator, former special assistant to George W. Bush, Scott Jennings, and Democratic strategist and former senior adviser for Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign, Mark Longabaugh. Welcome, gentlemen.



BLACKWELL: Mark, let me start with you. Bernie Sanders, first big event, that debate stage on Tuesday in Ohio, what does he need to do? LONGABAUGH: Well, I think he's got to show that he's rebounded from

the health incident, that he's as vigorous as ever, and that he can handle standing there for three hours taking all questions and delivering his message. And I think if he does that, I think he's going to go a long way to getting back on the trail.

BLACKWELL: We know that the president, Mark, has used an argument of stamina against Vice President Biden, he's used it against Secretary Clinton. Now that Bernie Sanders has suffered this heart attack, of course we all wish him well, if Democrats want someone in polls show just who can win, does that make Sanders a less formidable candidate?

LONGABAUGH: Well, look, my view is, is that this race is between Warren and Biden. They have squared off at the top of the field. And I think Sanders' campaign was struggling a little bit prior to the heart attack. But I don't think the heart attack is going to disqualify him. I think if he can come back to the campaign and show that he's just as vigorous as ever, and he's -- look, he raised more money than any other candidate in the field in the last quarter. He's sitting on the most cash on hand. He's still a very formidable candidate. And I think we've also got to remember that we've had presidents before who have served with heart issues. Eisenhower, Johnson both had heart attacks. Cheney served his time as vice president with a bad heart. So I think he can come back.

BLACKWELL: Let's take that over to Scott. We saw -- we hear Mark's argument here. Scott, I want you to listen to what the president said last night in Louisiana about Sanders.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Looks like Bernie lost his chance, right? Bernie was hitting a baseball today to show how strong he was.



TRUMP: There just wasn't a lot of bat head speed. Bernie, get better. But Bernie, get better. Get better fast. That's the only thing I've ever said anything good about him.


BLACKWELL: President typically, if he's going to hit you, he's going to hit you hard. Is he struggling with this argument, and is it one that gets him any vote that he doesn't already have?

JENNINGS: I think he just wanted to comment on it because it's in the news. I agree with my fellow panelist. I think the race has squared off between Biden and Warren. Although I would not sleep on the Sanders organization. It strikes me that they obviously have experience from the previous race. They have muscled him to the top of the field on fundraising. So their organization is obviously committed, and they don't strike me as the kind of people that are going to abandon a candidate over health issues. I'm not sure he's going to have enough support to get over the top for the nomination, but I think he's got the kind of organization that would allow him to outperform his polling. And I think Biden, Warren, and Sanders are the only three right now that have proven they can beat the 15 percent threshold that's needed to actually get delegates in these contests.

BLACKWELL: Mark, let me come back to you and a comment -- actually an answer to a question, I should say, from former Congressman Beto O'Rourke during the Equality Town Hall here on CNN this week. Listen and then we'll talk about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think religious institutions, like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?




BLACKWELL: Now, clearly there are some people in the audience who cheered that answer. But much like the statement he made during the debate about mandatory buybacks of certain weapons, does this have some residual impact, for better or for worse, on the rest of the field, on those who are higher in the polls?

LONGABAUGH: I don't think it does. I think O'Rourke is struggling at this point and he's swinging for the fences on a lot of issues. I thought the better comment in the town halls was Elizabeth Warren's comment on marriage being between a man and a woman. I thought she hit that one out of the park.

BLACKWELL: Mark, Scott, stay with us. We're going to turn toward the president. And Scott, I'm going to start with you after the break. But you can catch the Democratic presidential candidates in their next debate right here on CNN this Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, so be with us for that.

PAUL: Also, he's been about with FOX News since it first broadcast. Shepard Smith this morning has signed off with an abrupt announcement that shocked even his own colleagues.



BLACKWELL: Democrats are ramping up the impeachment efforts, so President Trump is stepping up his anti-impeachment rhetoric. At his rallies in Minnesota and Louisiana this week, he railed against Democrats, their impeachment inquiry, and even Democrats' qualifications to serve in public office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your father was never considered smart, he was never considered a good senator, he was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's --


TRUMP: I used to think she loved the country. She hates the country, because she wouldn't be doing this to the country if she did. She hates the country. Nancy Pelosi hates the United States of America, because she wouldn't be doing this.


BLACKWELL: Mark and Scott are back. Scott, let me start with you. Obviously, the people who go to the president's rallies love it. His base loves it. But what does that content and style do to get him back suburban women, college educated white voters, those who in large part walked away in 2018?

JENNINGS: Yes, it's a good question. And I think at those rallies what the president is trying to do is keep his people together. And the polling shows that that's largely happening. I think he sees this fight over impeachment the way the Republicans saw the fight, say, over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh last year. It's a shirts and skins exercise. Everybody is going to their corners and you have to hold everybody together to see it through.

I also think the president is probably enraged that he's going to go down in history as one of the few presidents that's actually going to face an impeachment vote in the U.S. House. I don't think he likes the stain that that puts on you, and it probably makes him pretty angry. I suspect he'll be acquitted in the United States Senate, but I wouldn't think anybody would want to be impeached. So my suspicion is his rhetoric will get even tougher throughout the next few weeks as the House barrels towards this vote.

BLACKWELL: Mark, the top 2020 Democratic candidates were critical of the president's both style and content. In 2016 many Democrats thought that the country would be turned off by the president's language and his presentation. Is that a mistake to do it again?

LONGABAUGH: I think it's a mistake on the president's part and the Republicans to buy into this. I just think the public is sick of his profanity and vulgarity in the White House. And look, the president -- the president seems to have a theory that somehow he's going to base his way to victory. The only problem is that when he does this stuff, he energizes the Democratic base. And as you suggested, he's losing -- he's hemorrhaging swing voters in the suburbs, noncollege women across the board. I don't know what his path to victory is at this point. He's losing in Wisconsin, he's losing in Michigan, he's losing in Pennsylvania. Georgia and Texas are coming into play. So I think -- I think the Democrats have a very good shot in 2020.

BLACKWELL: Scott, we all watched Senator Cory Gardner this week struggle with a direct question about if it's OK for a president to ask a foreign leader to dig up dirt or investigate a political rival. What's the problem, the challenge that this, I guess, silence from many Republicans dealing with the accusations against the president that are created down ballot for Republicans?


JENNINGS: Well, I think the right answer to this question is, is that it was bad judgment to do what he did. But if you don't think it's impeachable, just say so. A big chunk of the country thinks it was bad judgment but that it's not impeachable behavior.

BLACKWELL: So why won't they?

JENNINGS: Good question. I also think it's a fast-moving story and people don't necessarily want to play pundit every hour of every day like we get to here on CNN because they're going to have to deal with this eventually in an impeachment trial. But to me there's no downside in just telling the truth here. The truth is he shouldn't have done it, but that most likely a lot of Americans are going to think it's not an impeachable offense. If bad judgment were impeachable, a lot of administrations would have died 1,000 deaths.

Can I go back to a comment, though, my fellow panelist made a moment ago about the president's path to victory. I totally disagree with that. I think that when you see things like we talked about in the first segment about Beto O'Rourke trying to take away tax-exempt status, trying to have mandatory gun buybacks. When you hear Elizabeth Warren absolutely dismissing people of faith in this country, I don't see how that message is going to possibly sell in the Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida countryside. Those are the people that abandoned the Democrats in 2016, and this kind of divisive rhetoric is not going to bring them back. I would like to ask an African-American pastor what he thinks about losing their tax-exempt status. So I think those kinds of comments are going to really haunt the Democrats.


LONGABAUGH: Look, the decisive comments are all coming out of the White House. So I -- look, this election is going to revolve around Donald Trump. It will ultimately be a referendum on Donald Trump. And so the Republicans' notion that they're going to be able to turn this into an ideological battle I think is just fundamentally wrong. Much of this election is going to be fought out over the issue of corruption in the White House. And I think it's going to be a referendum on Trump.

And all I would say is you don't have to take my word for it on his path to victory in these states. Public polls have him down. His own polls have him down. So I just don't think he's got a strategy for victory here.

BLACKWELL: Got to wrap it there. Mark Longabaugh, Scott Jennings, thank you both.

JENNINGS: Thanks, Victor. PAUL: One of the most high-profile, longest serving anchors at FOX

News is off the air this morning, starting a whole new life. Shepard Smith shocked the media world and his own colleagues, really, yesterday when he signed off from what he revealed in that moment was his final broadcast on the network.


SHEPARD SMITH, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This is my last newscast here. Thank you for watching today and over the decades as I traveled to many of your communities and anchored this program, Studio B and FOX Report, plus endless marathon hours of breaking news. It's been an honor and my pleasure. Even in our currently polarized nation, it's my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive.


BLACKWELL: Let's talk now with CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter. Brian, these disagreements, the contentious relationship between Smith and some of the primetime anchors, that's not new. So why leave now?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think it was the accumulation of all of those tensions over the course of years, and especially the past few months that led Smith to decide that he had just had enough. That's what sources both at FOX and close to Smith tell me. They say it had been getting worse and worse for a while, because think about what's happened in the past few years. FOX has become largely a pro-Trump network with only a few exceptions, sycophantically promoting the president's message. Shep Smith has tried to resist that. He viewed his show as a counterbalance, trying to get some facts out there amid all the spin before and after him. But he felt that he was not being supported by management. He felt the tensions were too much and decided to leave.

It's really incredibly unusual to see someone walk away from a $15 million a year contract and decide to give that all up. We know that he has a noncompete which means he can't go on any other channel for a little while, but at some point he will, and his colleagues really are stunned.

PAUL: And that's what I want to ask you about, because when I was sitting there watching that, I thought what is happening in the control room? Because as we understand it --

BLACKWELL: The whole building.

PAUL: Nobody knew. So he's reading this and I'm thinking his own E.P. is probably sitting back there going, what is happening?

STELTER: He went to the bosses a few weeks ago and said he wanted to leave. They tried to get him to stay, and eventually they couldn't persuade him, so he did decide to leave. This was so tough for him that as soon as the show ended, he went straight to the elevator, headed straight home because it was so emotional, such a tough decision.

And it's not just about FOX, it's not just about Smith. It's about what's going on in our country writ large. This is a cultural moment where President Trump actively distorts the truth. Many of FOX's colleagues helped Trump do that. Smith was trying to resist that. I think that's partly why this was so surprising. Here's actually how Neil Cavuto reacted like a minute afterward.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Well -- I'm Neil Cavuto, and like you, I'm a little stunned and a little heartbroken. I don't know what to say. Shepard Smith, as I said just a few days ago on this very network, a decent human being, a heart as big as Texas. I didn't say Texas at the time, maybe just all of Manhattan. Wow.


STELTER: That really does sum up the reaction inside the network. I've been hearing from staffers again today who are really worried about the future of FOX's news operation. Yes, there are great journalists there, but they feel squeezed by all the pro-Trump propaganda, and they fear that without Shep Smith there, it's only going to get worse.

PAUL: It's hard for people, viewers to put a disconnect between primetime partisan talk that goes on and then the afternoon news. Yes, Brian Stelter, thank you so much, we appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: So the calendar says October.

PAUL: Does it?


BLACKWELL: Yes, but look at this. I'm just going to say the rest of what the prompter says. Look at this. Winter already close to breaking records in North Dakota.



PAUL: We want to introduce you to one of our CNN Heroes. We all have our bucket list, don't we? This week's CNN Hero is helping senior citizens embark on those exciting adventures they planned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality of living in isolation is out there and it's real, and that's really one of the driving forces for us to keep going, for us to take those people out of isolation and make an example of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we're moving. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked at it like much more than a hot air

balloon ride. There is a sense of accomplishment, a story that they get to take back to their community. It lifts their spirits.


PAUL: For the full story go to

BLACKWELL: You know, the leaves haven't even turned good, and there's snow on the ground.

PAUL: Not here.

BLACKWELL: In several places. Listen, winter weather alerts in effect across North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota this morning. The storm set new records in Bismarck, North Dakota, for October snow, and it's already -- it's only the 12th, I should say. Two feet of snow have fallen across that area of the state.

PAUL: And take a look at East Grand Forks, Minnesota. The Great Lakes aren't going to see nearly as much of this snow, but they are going to get it. So all of you hunker down and enjoy a little early winter storm. We hope you make good memories.

BLACKWELL: Thanks for watching. The next hour of CNN's Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield is up next.