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President Trump in Meltdown Mode; Democrats and GOP Members Voted Against Trump's Foreign Policy; President Trump Had Meltdown During White House Meeting; President Trump To Erdogan, Don't Be A Tough Guy, Don't Be A Fool; Interview With Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), About The President's Behavior On The Ongoing Impeachment Inquiry On Capitol Hill; Gordon Sondland Expected To Meet Tomorrow With Impeachment Investigators; McConnell Reviews Possible Senate Impeachment Trial. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired October 16, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: -- bolo and other Republicans may fear a similar warning shot and stay silent on issues they might actually oppose. Be one the look out, so we'll we.
Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with D. Lemon, the man, starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I'm really mad at you. Look at how red my eyes are. You know why? Because I stayed up late into the night watching you. You guys were great.
CUOMO: That's not going to be my guess.
LEMON: Don't even go there. What, are you kidding me? Do you think -- so let's talk about the Mitt Romney thing. I mean, come on. This is, this is a joke. You know why this is happening. Because there's concern about impeachment, real concern. I know you reported these numbers. We've been reporting them.
You saw this new Gallup poll, right? Fifty-two percent of Americans favor impeaching Donald Trump and removing him from office. So, all of his apologists, him, they're spinning. They're trying to come up with a way to discredit everyone, including Republicans who are speaking out about what was said on that Ukraine call.
CUOMO: I got to tell you, one of the guys that voted that Syria, the Syria move was OK, right, is Tom Reed. I had him on the show tonight were attesting his argument.
When it came to impeachment, I said look, my concern about you guys being quiet on this one is if you don't think abandoning the Kurds was bad because you're making a political play --
CUOMO: -- forget about voting against this president on impeachment. He said, I don't see anything impeachable yet. I'm open, he said, but I don't see anything impeachable.
I don't know how you can think that based on what we know already. I don't know if you watched the top of the show, but Rudy Giuliani looks like Medusa on my wall. There's so many different things growing out of his head with different issues on this board we have.
LEMON: And connections, right? And they're not circuitous. They're pretty direct. Yes, you're right about that. Listen, it's up for the politicians to decide on impeachment or not. I'll leave that to them.
But for -- my thing is you cannot read that original transcript that came out of the call that the president released or the White House released, thinking that this was somehow exculpatory, is going to exonerate him. You can't read that and think any other way. It is what it is.
CUOMO: I thought you were going to leave it to them.
LEMON: No, no, no. I'm not saying that they should impeach him, but people who are saying, there's nothing in there. He didn't mean anything. There's no quid pro quo. We're not stupid. The impeachment part, that's for the politicians to decide. I'm strictly talking about the evidence and the way that letter reads.
LEMON: And also, the text messages coming out. My goodness, come on, people.
CUOMO: And if it's just fake news --
CUOMO: -- if it's just us, then why did so many people around this president, part of his team, see it the exact same way? And now it's not just Ukraine. It's Turkey.
CUOMO: It's this Iranian Turkish gold trader. It's this cleric that Rudy Giuliani wanted to help. And then that letter --
CUOMO: -- you know what the good news about that letter that was leaked? Obviously, this is more proof of something they thought looked good for them.
LEMON: He can't leave it out.
CUOMO: You know this president wrote it.
LEMON: Yes, of course.
CUOMO: That is his. If you want to know what it sounds like when this president wrote it, that's it.
LEMON: You know what? I remember -- this is -- first grade, you remember fun with Dick and Jane.
CUOMO: I don't know what you're referring to.
LEMON: See Jane run. Run, Jane, run.
CUOMO: I'll call you later.
LEMON: This is Dick. Hey, Chris, I got to go. I'll call you later.
CUOMO: That's what he put in a text, I'll call you later to the president of Turkey, who you just said, don't be stupid. Don't be a fool. I'll wreck your economy.
LEMON: It sounds like one of our text.
CUOMO: Call you later.
LEMON: TTYL. See you later. Have a good one.
CUOMO: See you later.
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Should Americans be worried about the behavior of President Trump? Democratic congressional leaders abruptly left a meeting at the White House this afternoon. Did you hear about that? There was a meeting with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She said this. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We witness on the part on the president was a meltdown, sad to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: She was there to talk about the very dangerous situation in Syria, where Turkey is attacking Kurdish forces, who are U.S. allies in the battle against ISIS. But President Trump just pulled U.S. forces out of the region. Well, today the House voted overwhelmingly, 354 to 60, to approve a resolution opposing the president's move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Most importantly, it asks for a clear plan on how we're going to fight ISIS. I think that vote, the size of the vote, more than two to one of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did, probably got to the president because he was shaken up by it. And that's why we couldn't continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: In other words, what she calls a meltdown. Of course, the president is always good for one of his I know you are but what am I moments, right?
Tonight, tweeting this photo of Nancy Pelosi standing and pointing at him with words nervous Nancy's unhinged meltdown. Clearly, there he is trying to insult her, but she turned it back on him, tweeting out the photo on her own, showing her confronting the president. And she went further.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I pray for the president all the time, and I tell him that. I pray for his safety and that of his family. Now we have to pray for his health because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Wow. Well, our very own Manu Raju caught up with her just a short time ago and asked her about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You said that you pray for his health now in the aftermath of what you're calling a meltdown. Are you suggesting that he's mentally unwell in any way?
PELOSI: I'm not talking about mentally. I'm just talking about handling -- just handling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: President Trump firing back tonight, and guess what? A tweet. "Nancy Pelosi needs help fast. There is either something wrong with her upstairs, or she just plain doesn't like our great country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her. She is a very sick person."
Now, what I want you to remember here is that he is already rattled by the very swift expansion of the impeachment inquiry and the continuous march of officials to Capitol Hill to testify about his controversial phone call with Ukraine's president that I just talked about with Chris, the one urging him to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
So, he's already seething at the House speaker, and he is likely seething at Republicans who voted to rebuke his decision to withdraw U.S. forces, thereby abandoning the Kurds and leaving them open to attack by Turkey, their mortal enemy. And we know when Trump is cornered, he goes on the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: He was insulting, particularly to the speaker. She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician. He said that there are communists involved, and you guys might like that. I mean this was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, he actually used the term correctly, third-rate, if you're going to use it. But just for the record, Pelosi later said that Trump called her a third-grade politician. You didn't get that part, right?
President Trump is swinging against his critics in all directions, and he clearly is angry about the blowback that he is getting from Republicans in Congress on his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. No one has been more strident, though, in his criticism than Trump's ally, Senator Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He will have American blood on his hands if he abandons Kurds because ISIS will come back. And if any American is killed anywhere because of a resurgent ISIS, it will fall on Trump administration like it did Obama.
I blame the terrorists. I blame Erdogan for the violence, but I do look to President Trump to fix it.
He is not listening to his commanders. He's not listening to his advisers. He is not -- he's making the biggest mistake of his presidency by assuming the Kurds are better off today than they were yesterday. That is just unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Compared him to Obama. He won't take that well. Graham also called Trump's decision a disaster. As expected, the president fired back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people's wars. I want to get out of the Middle East. I think Lindsey should focus right now on the judiciary, like Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats as I call them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I feel like I'm watching an episode of "Dynasty" in the 1980s. Like you can't even write this. When is Alexis Colby-Carrington going to show up or J.R.?
But there's more, and let me tell you this one is a doozy. This is a letter. It's up on your screen, but I have it right here. So remarkable, so unbelievable that most people's first reaction was wait, what? Can this possibly be real? It is real.
[22:10:02] I'm talking about the contents of the letter the President of the United States sent to Turkish President Erdogan on October 9th. And just remember, as I read this to you, this is the president of the United States in an official communication to another world leader, who is also, by the way, a strongman, OK? You ready?
"Dear Mr. President, let's work out a deal," exclamation point. "You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy," hyphen, "and I will. I've already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson. I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past.
I am confidently enclosing -- confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received. History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool," exclamation point. I will call you later. Sincerely, Donald Trump.
Sorry, I mean it's a serious situation happening over there, but I'll call you later. You hang up first. Don't be a tough guy? Don't be a fool?
This letter is the president's response to a dire situation unleashed after he made an announcement a few days earlier to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. The Turks went in. Violence and chaos ensued. Don't be a fool. I will call you later.
Even -- but even worse, General Mazloum is the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. As CNN reported last week, he told a senior U.S. diplomat that the U.S. has sold out the Kurds to Turkey, that America has left the Kurds to be slaughtered.
President Trump just forwarded General Mazloum's letter to Turkey's leader, his mortal enemy, saying that Mazloum and the Kurds are willing to negotiate and make concessions. How is it possible that anyone in the White House thinks that that's OK? How is that possible? And why would any world leader trust Trump going forward?
So, I ask you again, should Americans be worried about President Trump's behavior? Read the letter. A lot going on on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and meltdown could be summing up a lot of it. Abby Phillip, Susan Glasser, Max Boot all here to discuss after the break.
LEMON: So, President Trump reeling from the combined pressures of the impeachment inquiry into Ukraine and the overwhelmingly negative reaction to his decision to pull American forces out of Syria. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying he had a meltdown today. Let's discuss. Abby Phillip is here, Susan Glasser, Max Boot. Max is
the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." Thank you all for joining us.
And Abby, you as well because I saw you working early today, and here you are with us this evening. I appreciate it. Let's start with you. This White House meeting, I mean, it really seems like the pressure of the impeachment inquiry and the blowback from Republicans on Trump's Syria decision -- it seems like it's getting to the president.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really does, and Nancy Pelosi, when she came out to the mics today, she told reporters that she thought it was because Republicans had broken with the president on the issue of Syria, delivering him kind of an embarrassment by repudiating his policy there.
But at the same time, if you look closely at what the president actually said about Pelosi, calling her a third-rate politician saying I'll see --
LEMON: Well he said third grade, but he meant third rate, right?
PHILLIP: Third. Right. Yes. And saying, I'll meet you at the ballot box. I mean, it's clear that the president views Pelosi as something of his nemesis. This impeachment inquiry has been something that is on his mind at all times. It is coloring everything that he sees that is affecting his administration, and he blames Pelosi personally for a lot of that. I think that's why you saw the blowup you did.
Then ironically it was the Republicans who pointed the finger at the impeachment inquiry when they came out. They were like, well, it's because Pelosi is so concerned about politics and she's impeaching the president.
I think they understood that the president's anger had a lot more to do with the pressures of that inquiry, which have gotten quickly out of his control than really anything having to do with Syria.
LEMON: Nancy Pelosi shielded him from impeachment for such a long time.
PHILLIP: Yes. She did. I mean she didn't really want to get to this point. I mean I don't know if Nancy Pelosi felt like she wanted to get to this point just at a later date, but she resisted getting here because she thought it was too toxic. But she's here now because she essentially feels like she has no choice.
The president's own actions were far and beyond what she thought was necessary to at least get into the inquiry part of this. But, you know, I mean the president never bought that to begin with. He's always thought that all Democrats wanted to do was just impeach him from the moment that they took control of the House of Representatives. So, he feels like this is just a fulfillment of something that's been in the works for a long time.
LEMON: I'm sure that's what he says, but I don't think anybody really buys that. I just think that's all political rhetoric. They know better than that.
And Abby the way, Max, let me bring you in here. The two -- I'm not saying that it is true. Democrats can want to impeach the president, and his behavior can be impeachable at the same time, it doesn't have -- or it can be reprehensible, or it can be worth a censure or worth criticism at the same time. The two aren't necessarily -- they don't have to be related. They can exist at the same time.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean there's a lot of really lame Republican talking points out there, Don. But to suggest, as Liz Cheney and others have done that somehow Trump's inexplicable decision to give the Turks the green light to invade Syria -- that was somehow the fault of Nancy Pelosi --
LEMON: Because of Pelosi.
BOOT: -- because of the impeachment process? What?
LEMON: What did you think -- I just read this letter that he wrote to Erdogan.
LEMON: I mean, listen, I didn't want to -- you could really make fun of this letter. Because when he says thirds grade --
LEMON: You should make fun of it. I mean, it's sub literate.
LEMON: Well, it's like a thirds grade.
BOOT: I mean, this is like a child.
LEMON: I remember this was in first grade when it was fun with Dick and Jane. I said that to Chris. See Dick run.
LEMON: Run, Dick, run. Right? It was just, I mean it's that simplistic.
LEMON: What did you think of this? What's your reaction to this letter?
BOOT: Well, you got to admit Trump wrote it. I mean, this is the authentic Trump voice.
LEMON: To Erdogan, to a president. BOOT: Right. No. I mean, with any other president, it would be shocking. But I mean, it's basically sub literal. I mean, we've had an American foreign policy, we've had the Monroe doctrine. We've got the Truman doctrine. We've had the Reagan doctrine. This is kind of the Mr. T doctrine I pity the fool. I mean, that's basically what Trump has said.
LEMON: Don't be a fool.
BOOT: You can't make this stuff up, right?
LEMON: Yes. Be a good guy.
LEMON: Don't be a tough guy.
LEMON: Don't be a fool.
BOOT: Don't be a fool.
LEMON: Don't be a fool.
Susan, listen, beyond the don't be a tough guy, don't be a fool thing, I will call you later, there's a key part that deserves a lot of scrutiny. Where the president writes, "You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received."
Why is the president handing a letter from a U.S. ally over to their enemy?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first of all, what Donald Trump has shown very much in the last few days is that there is no such thing as a permanent U.S. ally or U.S. friend. He not only is willing to abandon partners like the Kurds but to pivot on them with astonishing speed, you know.
And so that's what's happened. These folks were literally fighting alongside U.S. troops, essentially still at the time he was sending this letter abandoning them to the Turks, number one. Number two, there's nothing confidential in Donald Trump's world. I would suspect that the Kurds were probably already aware of that.
Remember that Donald Trump has already spent months and months and months signaling in every way that he wasn't really committed to this. In fact, this is why General Mattis quit over it. We haven't mentioned that at all, but in fact in that meeting with the congressional leaders, President Trump, in addition to attacking Nancy Pelosi, went after General Mattis, who had been his first defense secretary, and he apparently said he was actually the world's most overrated general. He also claimed personal credit -- Donald Trump is claiming personal
credit for having vanquished ISIS in one month. That is what he told the congressional leaders.
We've gone beyond the realm of untruth, Don, into the realm of terrifying fantasy, right? Like I personally, Donald Trump, vanquished ISIS in one month, and nobody said it could be done. Really? Like this is -- there aren't words to express what has happened in the public space today.
LEMON: Yes. You're a wordsmith, and, you know, have a very sophisticated vocabulary. I've never heard you -- I've never seen you be at a loss for words. And then, listen, I got to go, Susan, but just real quick. This letter was supposed to tamp down blowback? Is that what they really thought or he really thought when they put this out?
GLASSER: Don, you flagged that. They leaked this, I guess, to a Fox Business anchor --
GLASSER: -- as if it was going to be something exculpatory.
The final thought I would just leave you with tonight is there is a common thread here. Russia is the common thread. It is what is animating and behind the Ukraine impeachment inquiry, and it is the thing that Nancy Pelosi said that triggered his outburst.
LEMON: Yes. Yes.
GLASSER: She said to him, Mr. President, how come all roads with you lead back to Vladimir Putin? Good question.
Didn't like that. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
A meltdown of a meeting backlash over the president's Syria policies both as the impeachment inquiry is expanding. What's going on with President Trump? Well, guess what? Anthony Scaramucci is here. I'm going to ask -- he's once a top aide to Trump -- what's going on. He's here next.
LEMON: The Trump administration characterized by constant turnover and turmoil.
The president routinely -- shedding experienced advisers who disagree with his decision, his decision making and his policies. Democrats say he had meltdown today as the investigation into his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, widens. Joining me now for some perspective is Anthony Scaramucci, once part
of the president's inner circle. Anthony, it's good to see you. Boy, there is a lot going on here. Because -- there's this pressure over impeachment. There's bipartisan backlash to his Syria decision. And then he has this, quote, meltdown. What do you think the president's state of mind is right now? What's going on?
ANTONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, FOUNDER/ MANAGING PARTNER, SKY BRIDGE CAPITAL: Well, you know, he obviously knows a lot more facts about the case that are going to unfold over the next, you know, two to six weeks, Don. And so, I think that's got him rattled, and I think he's also looking at the future, and the future does not look good for him, because as more facts unfold about Syria, as more facts unfold about the people that have been arrested recently and the conjoinment of all those issues over there, it's going to be devastating for the president.
And what will ultimately happen, which I predicted on CNN's air two months ago, the full-blown meltdown we're experiencing, Speaker Pelosi described it today, but what will eventually happen is the criminal activity will be so great that the GOP -- and there will be 20-plus Senators who will say, OK, I can't take this anymore, reminiscent of what Harold Baker and Barry Goldwater did in the 70's and called Richard Nixon and said, look, no mass. You got to go.
And so that will eventually happen, and that is the reason why he is pressurized. But I really wish the White House press would just ask him what was in it for him personally to do what he did in the Kurdish situation and the withdrawal of those troops. Because there's nobody in the national security complex that can understand that. And you know I've been to Afghanistan. I've been to Iraq on troop support missions.
LEMON: OK. OK. OK.
SCARAMUCCI: A good understanding of the region. Why would he do that? What was in it for him personal?
LEMON: So what do you think the answer to your own question is?
SCARAMUCCI: I don't know the answer. I think -- I think the answer is something that is very scary, and we try to normalize situations because it's the office and the institution of the president, but I think --
LEMON: I've never known you to hold your tongue, Anthony. You say it's a scary answer. What is it?
SCARAMUCCI: I think there's a -- well, I think there's a personal conflict of interest there that goes beyond those two towers in Istanbul. I think there's something else going on there, and very smart investigative reporters -- and there will be enough people around the story that will figure that out.
And so I definitely think that this is a personal transaction for the president of the United States. He's turned our foreign policy decisions into a personal transaction. And so that -- I think that will also unfold here. I don't have the evidence of that, but, you know, I've got a lot of insight into the guy's personality, because I've been describing what's going to happen over the last 10 weeks pretty accurately.
LEMON: That is what you've deduced from all of this?
LEMON: You had differences, though, with General Kelly.
LEMON: But he was one of the adults in the room that everyone said, you may not have agreed with him all the time, but at least he appeared to be an adult room most of the time in the room.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, he didn't get a chance to agree with him or disagree with him, because he fired his (inaudible).
LEMON: I mean, you in a general sense. I meant the understood you, meaning most people. But listen, he was an agent of restraint mostly. Maybe he would have prevented Trump from sending that bizarre letter to Erdogan.
SCARAMUCCI: That would have gone in the paper shredder. I think a presidential historian, 25 years from now will look back and say, when General Kelly left the White House, he was the last sturdy person in the room that could push back on some of this idiocy and some of this nonsense. There's no way that a guy like General Kelly would have let a thing like that go out of the White House.
That would have gone immediately in the paper shredder. And I should point out that General Kelly did fire me, but we've subsequently built a very nice relationship. He came to my conference. He'll be speaking at our conference in Abu Dhabi in December. I have an enormous amount of respect for General Kelly, and I said to Anderson Cooper a few months back, history is going to treat him very kindly because he was really trying to tamp down this cauldron of insanity that is going on inside the White House right now.
LEMON: I didn't mean you personally. I meant not everyone --
SCARAMUCCI: I just throw in that joke in my own expense, Don.
LEMON: No, no. Not everyone always agreed with what he did, but he appeared to be the adult in the room is what I was saying.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, his first official act, I didn't 100 percent agree with. I've got to be honest about that.
LEMON: Well, that happens.
SCARAMUCCI: I got blown out of the seat like I was an Austin powers villain. So, I wasn't in love with that, but in general I think he was very good for the president and he did a very good job. LEMON: Well, speaking of an Austin Powers villain, because many
people have compared him to a lot of characters like that -- Rudy Giuliani. The fact that there is a counterintelligence investigation into the president's personal attorney, I mean, that's got concern the president, don't you think?
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, I think that's a combination or the factor, you know, it's like, you remember that scene in Star Wars where the trash compactor is closing in on Luke Skywalker and Han Solo with the princess and the walls are coming in.
So, I think that is another element of it. You know, I've known the mayor for 30 years, so I pray for that guy every day. My heart goes out to him and his family. And I would like to think that given his crime-fighting nature, who he has been as a human being, I just pray for him that nothing super nefarious has happened there, but the facts on the ground as they read right now, they're not flattering to the mayor. And so I hope he has good counsel, and I hope he -- whatever his side of the story is, I hope he can get that out there as quickly as possible.
LEMON: Quickly before you go, do you think -- I mean it because I'm over time here. Do you think the president is underestimating Nancy Pelosi and the trouble he is in?
SCARAMUCCI: Oh, totally. I mean Alexandra Pelosi, her daughter says she can cut your neck off without you feeling it, OK. And I'm watching her in action. She's currently my favorite Italian. So she makes me proud to be Italian. Happy Columbus Day, Speaker Pelosi, but it's time for him to go, and I really wish the GOP would recognize their best chances for 2020 are without him on the ballot. And so hopefully they'll start realizing that soon.
LEMON: I've got to go, but I have a word of advice for you.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Go ahead.
LEMON: Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool. I'll call you later.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, call me later, Don, OK? I need that advice, OK?
LEMON: Thanks, Anthony.
SCARAMUCCI: Don't write it in crayon though next time, please. Don't write it in crayon, OK?
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: So the president is feuding on Twitter with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after an explosive meeting with Democratic lawmakers today. Does the president's behavior have anything to do with the ongoing impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill? Well, let's discuss now. Democratic Congressman Denny Heck is here, a member of the House Intel Committee. Good evening, sir. Appreciate you joining us.
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): You're welcome.
LEMON: I got to get your reaction first to what happened in the White House meeting today where Democratic Congressional leaders walked out after what Speaker Pelosi described as a meltdown by the president.
HECK: So, Don, I'm a whole lot less interested in the insults that the president somehow felt obligated to throw at Speaker Pelosi. She is entirely capable, as the later photograph revealed, of defending herself. She doesn't need my help, but if she did, I'd be glad to be there.
I'm a lot more focused on the object of that meeting and the underlying recklessness of the president with respect to pulling the troops back in northern Syria. Don, we've talked about this before, and unfortunately if you fast rewind, virtually everything we said would happen has happened.
We said if the president pulled those troops back, that Turkey would invade Syria, that Kurdish civilians would be killed. They have been. And we said that ISIS prisoners would somehow escape either purposefully or in the chaos of the Kurds being redirected to defend themselves. And that is happened as well.
The only thing that hasn't yet happened -- and we pray that it never does -- is that ISIS is able to stand back up itself as a considerable force in that region, a military force, which will definitely threaten America's national security.
LEMON: You did mention that the president is saying none of this is any fault of his own. Since we're on that subject, I wanted to talk to you about Ukraine, but since we're there, let's talk about this letter, OK? The letter that he wrote to Erdogan, and he handed over to the lawmakers, where he says, don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool. And then he turns over a possible concessions relaying -- related to him by the Kurds. It's stunning, don't you think?
HECK: So, Don, I was in the skiff all day obviously in the interview with former special adviser and Ambassador McKinley. So I didn't see that until late afternoon. My staff handed it to me, and frankly, I had the same reaction I think most people did, which was, you're kidding, of course. And they said, no, this is real. I read it again, and I said, no, you're kidding. And I literally did not believe them until I saw it on the news. That is how stunning I thought it was.
LEMON: What can you tell us about McKinley? You said you were there all day. What did you learn?
HECK: So we obviously aren't talking about the specifics or the content of what it is that our witnesses are sharing with us. I would generally characterize that we continue to bring this picture into clearer relief. I'm reminded of the old 35 millimeter cameras where you had to twist the lens in order to get the focus sharper. That is what's happening now, one step at a time frankly.
But, look, I thought that Ambassador McKinley said it pretty well in his opening statement, which was released to the public, namely he resigned in protest over the treatment of a foreign service professional, a diplomat frankly of the highest reputation being treated as shabbily as she was, having been frankly driven from her post --
LEMON: You're talking about Marie Yovanovitch.
HECK: Yes, Ambassador Yovanovitch, but also -- and this is getting a little bit lost -- because of how deeply concerned he is about the administration effectively weaponizing the Foreign Service in order to achieve domestic political objectives.
Those two things should be disturbing to every American frankly, because it does compromise our national security. It compromises our standing in the world, and it limits our ability to be effective with other people. They either cannot trust that we're engaging in behavior other than that of a banana republic, or they can't trust us to keep our word a-la turning our back on the Kurds, who I want to remind you lost more than 10,000 soldiers in the fight against ISIS. We lost three, I think, in that battle, or we're turning our back on the Paris Accord, or we're turning our back on the Iran agreement.
LEMON: I want to get this one question in before we leave. Ambassador Gordon Sondland is scheduled for tomorrow. Are you ready for him?
HECK: I think so. These are staff-led depositions, Don. We have investigative staff who are adhering to the highest standards of investigation. They're trained lawyers and all former prosecutors. Members have the opportunity to weigh in with questions. Believe you me, we do, but it's principally being undertaken by the staff attorneys, and every single witness, every single one that has come forward, has added to the richness and the texture of our understanding of the sordid affair, and understanding that it goes very deep and very broad.
As a matter of fact, Don, what I would say about the whole process going forward is, at some point we're going to have a difficult time determining where is it we're going to draw the line and just say enough, because we already know quite a bit, but we have work left to do, and we will undertake it.
LEMON: We'll leave it there. Thank you, Congressman Denny Heck. I appreciate your time.
HECK: Thank you, sir.
LEMON: Senator Mitch McConnell briefing Republicans today, laying out the rules to a possible impeachment trial in the Senate. Exactly what would it look like? How will it go? Next.
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LEMON: The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, holding a closed- door lunch with Republican senators today laying out the ground rules, should the House vote on articles of impeachment. It's been less than a month since Speaker -- House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, formally announced the impeachment inquiry.
The investigation is moving at a rapid pace and according to a GOP source, Republicans in the Senate are already preparing for the possibility that the House could pass articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving, putting the ball in their court.
So joining me to discuss now, Ross Garber, John Dean. Good evening. Ross and I were talking before the show. You said this is moving really quickly, don't you think?
ROSS GARBER, TULANE IMPEACHMENT LAW PROFESSOR: Incredibly fast. The notion that the whole thing is done by Thanksgiving and articles of impeachment are over to the Senate. And that Senate would dispose of them by Christmas. It's an incredibly fast timeline.
LEMON: You know, impeachment is real enough now that Leader McConnell, John, is actually laying out ground rules like these. These are some of them -- Chief Supreme Court Justice Roberts would preside over the trial which would be conducted six days a week, early afternoon, unnecessary chatter could get Senators removed from the floor. Does this mean, John, that they know it is likely coming their way in the Senate?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think they're getting prepared, Don. They don't want to declare, but they do want to prepare and what it -- what he is telling them are the rules that are already in place. They were adopted back in 1986. There is a wonderful guiding document called the Dove Memorandum, issued by one of the parliamentarians of the Senate and it spells out in great detail how these rules work.
And that is what he was going through with the fact they can't talk during the trial, which he thought would be good for the Senators and bringing some of the high points up and they really go into place as soon as the House announces to the Senate it has managers for articles of impeachment.
LEMON: Interesting. Ross, you noted on Twitter, the Supreme Court has ruled that -- how the Senate conducts an impeachment trial is entirely up to the Senate, practically speaking. So what does that mean? Entirely up to the Senate practically speaking?
GARBER: Yes. So the constitution just says that there has to be a two-thirds of vote to convict in the Senate and otherwise, the Senate has the sole responsibility for impeachment. And so the Senate sets its own rules. John is right. There are actually rules in place, but the Senate can amend them and there is also that a lot that is not spelled out in the rules, including whether the Senate even has to hear from live witnesses in the Clinton impeachment trial. There weren't live witnesses that testified before the Senate. So the Senates going to have some pretty interesting and tough decisions to make about how to actually take on this case, if they get it.
LEMON: And what about John Roberts? Justice Roberts, how much power does he have in the process?
GARBER: Yes, so the constitution says that the chief justice presides, but it doesn't define what that means.
LEMON: That's really the House. The House has more power in this --?
GARBER: Well, no, the chief justice has to preside, but there had only been two trials of presidents in history and both trials --
LEMON: Sorry, the Senate, not the House.
GARBER: Yes. Exactly. In both trials the chief justice took a -- sort of a backseat. The chief justice ruled on evidentiary issues, but sort of agreed that he could be over ruled on those evidentiary issues by the House.
LEMON: He's there just to sort of keep him on track and focused is basically --
GARBER: That in our very limited experience with this, that is the attack of the two chief justices have taken.
LEMON: John, I've got to ask you, the president's disastrous decision in Syria, I mean, stunned even a lot of Republicans whose support him. These are the same Senators who will be voting in an impeachment trial. The president has a lot of confidence that no one will cross him.
DEAN: I think he does. He's got a -- he's got the power of his base, which may not be enough to get him elected. He's going to have to reach beyond that to get reelected, but it's certainly enough to put fear in the Republican Party, because if he starts to -- tries to gets somebody primaried (ph) and so up until all the filing deadlines are over, these guys are jumping through hoops when he asks them to do so. So, right now, it's -- he is really in charge of the party.
LEMON: Wow. Interesting. Hey, I've got to go, Ross. But just can you say something about this letter? Are you surprised that this letter, even -- Erdogan even made it?
GARBER: Well, I think it shows that the president doesn't seem to have people around him to tell him no, and I think that is very concerning. I mean, this is not a letter you'd expect to see come from the president to a foreign leader. And you would expect that the president's advisors would tell him not to send something like this.
LEMON: Ross, John, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
An explosive meeting at the White House leading Democrats to walk out and declare that the president had a quote very serious meltdown. All the details next.
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. We have five big developments --