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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD); Crisis In Syria; Trump Lashes Out At Republicans Not Defending Him; Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) Confirms Secret Pierre Delecto Twitter Account He Used To Push Back At Trump; Complaint Seeks Investigation of Alleged Insider Trading That May Have Come from a Trump Administration Leak. Aired 6- 7p ET
Aired October 21, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: Stick together. President Trump complains his party isn't as united as the Democrats, suggesting he will be impeached no matter what. As he griped and blamed during a Cabinet meeting, Mr. Trump refused to talk about a sensitive subject, the Mick Mulvaney mess.
Censuring Schiff? Republicans are going after one of the president's favorite targets tonight. Why are they bothering to launch a futile effort to formally rebuke a top impeachment investigator?
Warren's payment plan. The 2020 Democrat says she will finally reveal how she would pay for Medicare for all. Elizabeth Warren feeling the pressure after taking sharp new jabs at the latest presidential debate.
And different paths. Prince Harry confirms tensions with his brother, the future king, in a rare and revealing documentary. Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, also is speaking out about the stress of royal life and their struggle as new parents.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following lots of news, including President Trump, who may be more concerned than ever about cracks in his GOP firewall against impeachment.
Tonight, Senator Mitt Romney says he has real concern about Mick Mulvaney's admission that U.S. aid to Ukraine was linked in part to the president's push to investigate Democrats, this as President Trump is refusing to talk about Mulvaney's future, even as he warns Republicans they need to stick together and get tougher in fighting impeachment.
This hour, I will talk with Congressman Anthony Brown, and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president seems to think Republicans should be doing more to protect to protect and defend him.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it was the second day in a row that you saw the president's anger with his own party essentially urging them to be tougher on impeachment and fight back harder than they are doing so right now.
The president making clear, Wolf, he feels he needs a more public showing of support, a show of support he didn't offer for his chief of staff today.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't need promotion. I don't need promotion.
COLLINS (voice-over): Under fire and in front of the cameras, President Trump was forced to defend himself on all fronts today.
But there was one person he left out.
QUESTION: Will Mick Mulvaney remain your chief of staff through the end of next year?
TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.
COLLINS: Trump making no mention of his embattled Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney during the 75 minutes reporters were in the room today. Mulvaney's job security is now in question after he backed off assertions that the White House sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine for military aid.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That is what people are saying that I said, but I didn't say that.
COLLINS: CNN was first to report there were efforts under way by Jared Kushner and other top officials to oust Mulvaney before Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry, revealing he's been on thin ice for weeks.
MULVANEY: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.
COLLINS: His Briefing Room appearance undercut the president's defense for why he shouldn't be impeached, a stance Trump maintained today.
TRUMP: The president of the United States should be allowed to run the country not have to focus on this kind of crap.
COLLINS: The president also pushing an unsubstantiated theory about the whistle-blower at the center of this scandal.
TRUMP: Was there actually an informant? Maybe the informant was Schiff. COLLINS: Trump claiming, without evidence, that House intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff was the whistle-blower's informant, then moments later praising Democrats for sticking together in their push to investigate him.
TRUMP: They're vicious, and they stick together.
The Republicans have to get tougher and fight.
COLLINS: Those comments coming amid some cracks in Republican support, cracks the president dismissed today.
TRUMP: I think I have great Republican support.
COLLINS: Trust has tested the GOP's patience with his decision and then reversal to host the G7 summit with world leaders at his own hotel next summer.
TRUMP: Doral was a very simple situation.
COLLINS: In the face of intense criticism, Trump now says he will pick a new location.
TRUMP: You don't think I get enough promotion? I get more promotion than any human being that has ever lived.
COLLINS: Ethics lawyers said payments from visiting governments could violate the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, which forbids the president from receiving gifts or bids from foreign governments.
TRUMP: You people with this phony Emoluments Clause.
COLLINS: The president did defend another move Republicans have criticized, his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria.
TRUMP: When I said we're bringing our soldiers back home, the place went crazy.
COLLINS: Trump says he got high praise for the withdrawal during a rally in Dallas last week. But those U.S. forces aren't going home, instead moving into Iraq. The move has opened Trump up to criticism he's abandoning the coalition of Syrian Kurdish fighters.
TRUMP: We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.
COLLINS: Today, he downplayed the U.S. ally's help in the fight against ISIS.
TRUMP: I'm the one that did the capturing. I'm the one that knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits.
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, the president praised Democrats today for being able to stick together.
But he criticized them for the impeachment probe too, saying -- quote -- "I have to fight these lowlifes at the same time I'm negotiating these very important things," essentially making the argument that the impeachment inquiry is getting in the way of his presidency, though we should note he was making the comments, talking about this impeachment probe at length at the beginning of his Cabinet meeting today.
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks for that report.
Now to the breaking news on Mitt Romney speaking out tonight about Mick Mulvaney and his quid pro quo debacle.
Let's go to Capitol Hill.
Our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is on the scene.
Phil, so what are we hearing from Senator Romney as we head into another big week in the impeachment investigation?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Wolf, Senator Romney has made no secret over the last couple of days in a series of public interviews that he's sharply critical of some of the issues that the president has brought to the forefront, and now he's focusing that criticism on acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Obviously, what he said in the press conference was a real concern, because he said, in effect, that they were holding up funding going to Ukraine, in part based upon a desire to have Ukraine carry out an investigation with regards to the 2016 election.
And holding up funds to a foreign nation, particularly one that is under military threat, in order to fulfill a political purpose, is a real problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, other Republicans we've been talking to tonight are not nearly in the same place that Mitt Romney is on most things. But on Mick Mulvaney, there seems to be agreement, at least broad frustration.
Senator Roy Blunt, a member of Republican leadership, saying he believed, if you ask Mick Mulvaney, he would acknowledge it wasn't his best performance over the last couple of interviews.
Senator John Thune, the number two-ranked Republican, said it has been -- quote -- "a rough patch" for Mick Mulvaney. What you're seeing is frustration about how the White House has addressed some of the allegations, how the White House has addressed what House Democrats are investigating up to this point.
What you're not seeing is a major break of Senate Republicans, and certainly no break from House Republicans as well. I asked Senator Romney, did he believe his comments were channeling what he thought his colleagues didn't have the political ability to say publicly that they were thinking behind the scenes?
He acknowledged he didn't think so, at least not at this point. And, Wolf, he made clear, if there is impeachment, and if it gets to the United States Senate, they will be jurors. And because of that, most people right now are taking it day by day and holding their fire, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will see what happens.
Phil, tomorrow, there's another big witness scheduled to testify in connection with the impeachment inquiry. Tell us about that.
MATTINGLY: Yes, a key deposition the Democrats have been waiting for.
William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who came to the forefront of the Democratic investigation based on his role in a series of text messages that were released by the committee based on other depositions of Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, Taylor, in those text messages, making clear, asking if it was administration policy to withhold the security funding for Ukraine because of political reasons?
At one point saying in one of the text messages it would be crazy to do such things.
He will go behind closed doors tomorrow. He is the key witness that Democrats want to talk to this week.
One thing to keep in mind, though, while there were a series of depositions scheduled for this week, that list has been narrowed for two particular reasons, one, out of respect for Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, who recently passed.
He will lie in state in the United States Capitol later this week, so some of the depositions have been moved. But also two key OMB officials, Office of Management and Budget officials, involved in that funding process have made very clear they will not be coming to those depositions, even though they have been asked by the House.
So the administration still keeping up some type of a wall on some of the officials, but as you have seen, Wolf, over the last couple of weeks, State Department officials will continue to testify.
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
Joining us now, Congressman Anthony Brown. He's a Democrat, serves on the Armed Services Committee, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, served in Iraq.
Thanks so much, Congressman, for your service as well.
REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D-MD): Great to be here. Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's get to some of the news.
First of all, the president's silence as far as his acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is concerned. Mulvaney has been trying to walk back his earlier statement that there was some sort of quid pro quo, aid to Ukraine would flow if there was an investigation into politics back in 2016, what do you make of this?
BROWN: Well, first of all, Mulvaney's comment last week really confirms what we knew when he saw the summary of the transcript of the July 25 call between President Trump and the Ukraine president, where President Trump said, hey, do us a favor.
And that was in direct response to the Ukrainian President Zelensky's request for Javelin missiles. So we know that the president has abused his power, undermining national security, withholding aid that Congress has appropriated in order to pursue political gains.
And so last week, when -- this is not about Mulvaney. When he said what he said, he essentially corroborated or confirmed what is going on in this White House.
BLITZER: What do you think of what Senator Mitt Romney is now saying?
He's one of the few, very few, sitting Republicans in either the House or the Senate who is willing to go out there and criticize the president.
First of all, I can respect a senator who takes a position that I'm going to act as a juror if and when an impeachment trial were to occur in the Senate.
But I can tell you, what we have seen, between the urgent and credible whistle-blower complaint, again, the transcript summary, what we're hearing from Mr. Mulvaney should give all members of Congress, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, concern that there is an abuse of power taking place in this White House, undermining national security, and should step up.
Again, I respect that they will eventually serve as jurors. But I think that it is important to communicate that this behavior is intolerable.
BLITZER: Do you have any cracks at all among your Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives?
Right now, they follow the president's advice, and they want to censure the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.
BROWN: Yes, and that is ridiculous. To censure Adam Schiff makes no sense whatsoever.
He has conducted the hearings, while in secret, right, closed hearings, because of the nature of the material. It is classified. It is sensitive. He has given Republicans and Democrats alike equal access to witnesses, to what documents that we have, unlimited opportunities to ask questions.
So the idea that you're going to censure Adam Schiff on the floor of the United States House of Representatives because he's doing his job, going to the truth for the American people, is ridiculous.
BLITZER: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, will testify tomorrow, we're told, before these various committees, once again in secret. How significant is what he has to say?
BROWN: Very significant.
First of all, let me tell you, Wolf, I served with Bill Taylor when I was in Iraq. He's the consummate diplomat, a real professional. He served for Democrat and Republican administrations. He's a West point graduate.
When he expresses the kinds of concern that he did in the e-mail exchanges to Ambassador Sondland, asking whether or not we're going to use -- we're going to base U.S. foreign policy on a domestic political agenda, which is what he was seeing out of this administration, that raises concerns. His testimony will be very important.
BLITZER: You're on the Armed Services Committee.
I want to show you some video. And this is very dramatic, very powerful. And you served in the U.S. Army in Iraq. You see these American troops in armored vehicles leaving Syria, heading towards Iraq. And the Kurds, you see these Kurdish civilians. They're throwing potatoes and rotten vegetables.
They're trying to underscore their anger and their frustration, given the cooperation, what they have done to help the U.S. over the years. As a military veteran, what is your reaction to this?
BROWN: Well, they feel betrayed, and rightfully so, and not by the men and women -- or the men in that case who were driving those armored vehicles, but by the president of the United States.
When he back in December of last year announced publicly that he was going to withdraw troops from Syria, leave the Kurds high and dry to fend for themselves against Turkey, that was a betrayal, and then recently proclaiming loudly that he was going to move 50 U.S. forces, which, quite frankly, at that point, he needed to do.
But that was the betrayal. They worked, they fought alongside of us, the Kurdish. They helped us defeat ISIS. They lost many lives, lost a lot of blood on our behalf, on the effort to fight ISIS. And now we walk away. And they should feel betrayed. And I would as well.
BLITZER: Very frustrating, indeed. Congressman Anthony Brown, thank you so much for joining us.
BROWN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's new evidence that the U.S. Justice Department is concerned about Rudy Giuliani's central role in the Ukraine scandal.
And a different story we're following. Harry and Meghan go public with their private struggles, including the prince's split with his brother, William.
BLITZER: Tonight, Republican Senator Mitt Romney is warning that Mick Mulvaney's apparent admission of a quid pro quo is a real concern, despite the acting White House chief of staff's denials, this as President Trump is refusing to talk about the Mulvaney mess.
Let's talk about the Ukraine scandal, the impeachment probe and more.
Joining us now, the former top lawyer at the FBI, Jim Baker. He's now a CNN legal analyst.
Jim, thanks very much for coming in.
Do you think that Mulvaney's attempt to do some cleanup changes potentially the president's vulnerability in all of this?
JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the key word that you just said a second ago, Wolf, is mess. This is a big mess that Mulvaney made last week.
And I think the efforts over the weekend to try to clean it up didn't work. And I think people are responding to that. And the president didn't seem to be supportive of him today at the Cabinet meeting. We're left to guess what that means.
But this is really distressing, because the chief of staff is such a critical role in the White House. And for that person not to have the complete trust and confidence of the president and the rest of the country really is -- and Congress -- is really significant for all of us.
BLITZER: And for the president not to say anything...
BAKER: Is shocking, really.
BLITZER: ... when he was asked by reporters today over at the Cabinet meeting at the White House about Mick Mulvaney, that says something.
BAKER: That says something significant. It is unclear to me whether they have a strategy that they are really
trying to implement with respect to impeachment. They seem to have a lot of tactics. They don't always work. And sometimes people say the truth, and that seems to not go over very well. And they try to clean up afterwards.
And so it looks like -- as I said, it's a big mess.
BLITZER: The top U.S. diplomat, Bill Taylor, in Ukraine scheduled to appear tomorrow before these committees that are investigating all of this.
But the officials from the Office of Management and Budget, who are responsible for withholding the military aid, nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, they are not cooperating.
So what advice, if any, do you have for members of Congress who are seeking this kind of cooperation?
BAKER: They should keep at it. It seems to me that they're doing a good job in terms of focusing on key witnesses, doing their work professionally and quietly behind closed doors, not making a big public show of it at this point in time.
It strikes me that they're trying to build their case, trying to think about it like building a criminal case. They're sort of in the investigative phase still. They're trying to figure out what charges they're going to bring.
They should be figuring out what defenses the president and his supporters might try to make. And so bring in the key witnesses that you need to have, hear what the stories are, and build the case and get ready to take the case to the Senate and to the American people.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
The Justice Department is now formally distancing themselves from Giuliani. Giuliani tried to secure -- he did secure a meeting with a top Department of Justice official, but the Department of Justice now says that meeting would not have happened if they knew about his association with these two individuals, two of his associates who have since been indicted and arrested.
How concerning should all this be for Giuliani right now, who, supposedly, according to a lot of reports, is under investigation himself?
BAKER: Well, it should be concerning.
I mean, to me, it's kind of depressing, as a former Justice Department official, just that it was a meeting that should not have taken place, given the facts and circumstances.
And I just am kind of shocked that people haven't started to recuse themselves with respect to this investigation, given all that's going on. I think Mr. Giuliani should be concerned about his criminal exposure. Perhaps that's why he's not been talking so much publicly.
That's probably a wise thing to do. So, hopefully, he's getting good legal counsel. He's not helping himself when he's -- when he goes on TV, when he starts texting and talking to reporters. It is not helping his legal position.
BLITZER: I'm sure all of his lawyers have told him to shut up right now, in the face of the arrest and indictment of these two associates. He hasn't really been tweeting much. A little -- I just checked. He tweeted a little bit about the Yankees. They lost to the Astros.
But he really hasn't been going on TV. He hasn't been saying anything, which says what?
BAKER: That's a smart thing to do. That is what you do when you're under criminal investigation like this and you have a propensity to talk too much, and to say things that dig yourself a bigger hole with respect to a criminal liability, criminal exposure.
He should keep his mouth shut at this point in time to protect himself and to protect his client, the president.
BLITZER: Jim Baker, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
BAKER: You're welcome. Thanks.
BLITZER: We will see if he accepts that advice down the road.
BAKER: We will see, yes.
BLITZER: As the president pleads with the Republicans to stick together, Senator Mitt Romney doesn't seem to be listening tonight.
Romney is speaking out about the Ukraine scandal just hours after a secret platform to criticize the president was actually revealed.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the fallout from Mick Mulvaney's latest attempt to -- at quid pro quo damage control.
Tonight, Republican Senator Mitt Romney says it's a real problem that the acting chief of staff admitted U.S. aid to Ukraine was linked, at least in part, to the president's push to investigate Democrats, this as President Trump is dodging questions about Mulvaney's future.
Let's bring in our analysts and discuss.
Bianna, I want to play a little clip, what Romney just said. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Obviously, what he said in the press conference was a real concern, because he said in effect that they were holding up funding going to Ukraine, in part based upon a desire to have Ukraine carry out an investigation with regards to the 2016 election.
And holding up funds to a foreign nation, particularly one that's under military threat, in order to fulfill a political purpose is a real problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bianna, how significant is this?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, thus far, it's Mitt Romney, who ultimately has been an outlier when it comes to speaking out against the president.
And we have seen potentially other Republicans also fall in line with similar views on what Mitt Romney had said in regards to Ukraine in particular, which is why Nancy Pelosi is trying to be very disciplined in terms of what to focus on during this impeachment inquiry.
They could literally throw spaghetti on the wall with the number of headlines that are coming out that could potentially be impeachment- worthy in terms of violating laws and rules. But when it comes to addressing concerns for the American public -- and you're seeing the polls slightly edge up in terms of Americans being open to the president being investigated for impeachment -- this is the reason.
The focus and discipline on Ukraine alone is the path Democrats so far are taking in going and pursuing this investigation right now. And that's why.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Jeffrey, and I was anxious to get your thoughts on this. We've also learned that Senator Romney used a secret Twitter account to defend himself, to criticize the president under the name Pierre Delecto. What does that tell you about the state of GOP opposition to the president?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANAYST: Well, we all need to learn the term sock puppet, which is like inventing a persona to say things that you're afraid to say under your own name. I mean, I think it's a sort of remarkable act of cowardice on Mitt Romney's part.
I mean, what's he afraid of? He was just re-elected, he -- elected to the Senate. He's very popular in Utah. Why does he have to use this fake name? It's indicative of how he's -- Republicans hide from the president. But I think Senator Romney should be a big boy and criticize under his own name.
BLITZER: Susan, back to Mulvaney for a moment. I want to play these clips how his explanation shifted over these past few days beginning with that ill-fated news conference he had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily, okay, three issues for that.
And there were two reasons that we held up the aid.
Did he also mention to me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money.
The money flowed without any connection whatsoever to the DNC server.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So he said one thing on one day and on Thursday and on Sunday, he says the opposite.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. And so the problem is that you really can't clean up a statement like that. Mulvaney was explicit in that press conference that this military aid was tied to political investigations of the president wanted. Reporters in that press conference gave him an opportunity to clean up the statement. He declined to do so. And so he's really not able to walk it back now.
This goes to the core of the White House's issue and that's it. They can't get their stories straight. They can't decide whether or not this didn't occur, there was no quid pro quo, military aid was not in any way linked to these political investigations or if, instead, it was perfectly fine. It all happened but it wasn't corrupt. This was a legitimate thing for the president of the United States to be doing.
And so the president himself has been vacillating on this and so it's no surprise that aides like Mulvaney that go out and give a statement on any particular day of the week whenever the president then realizes that he actually is damaging and tries to walk it back again.
BLITZER: We're also just getting in this report from The Washington Post, and Kim and David, I want both of you to react. It is a very significant potential report that -- and I'll read the lead sentence. President Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of the country by its regional adversaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Current and former U.S. officials said Trump's conversations with Putin, Hungarian President Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country, one that Trump now appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election, officials said.
This, potentially, is significant, Jim. Let me get your reaction.
BAKER: Very significant. I mean, the president and Mr. Giuliani really do not have significant national security experience and they certainly don't have experience in dealing with adversaries the likes of Mr. Putin. And he is playing simply a different game.
He and other, I think, foreign leaders try to manipulate the president through a variety of different ways by feeding him information, by flattering him, as we saw in the transcript of the phone call, by doing other things to appease him to make him do their bidding in some way, shape or form.
And I think this may be an instance where he has just fallen for it and he's just accepted what they've told him for whatever reason and that has influenced U.S. policy. So they're having an outside influence on U.S. national security and foreign policy than they should have, right?
BLITZER: David, the report says that neither of these leaders, neither Putin nor Orban of Hungary specifically encouraged Trump to see Ukraine as a potential source of damaging information about Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden nor did they describe Kiev as complicit in an unsubstantiated 2016 election conspiracy. But what they were trying to do is try to weaken U.S.-Ukrainian relations.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And they don't even have to say anything like that explicitly because President Trump can be nudged in these situations, as Jim was just saying. Right now, you've got the Ukrainian-backed military elements fighting Russian- backed military elements in the eastern part of Ukraine because there is a Russian separatist movement there.
Russia has annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia does not want to see closer Ukrainian-American ties or Ukrainian-European ties, meaning the E.U., because that weakens his position.
Let me just add one thing, Wolf, to what Jim said, which is that it's not just Putin, even though he is the master manipulator.
President Trump can be nudged. You had a Kim Jong-un who got him to give him summits to boost him on the world stage. You've got President Erdogan in Turkey who was able to talk him into pulling our troops back. The book is out on President Trump and world leaders know it.
BLITZER: Let me get Bianna. Go ahead, Bianna. I want you to weigh in.
GOLODRYGA: I was just going to say, one of the things the world leaders have in common is that they're authoritarian leaders, and specifically with regards to Orban and Putin. They have a very deep and complicated history.
Orban was seen as a pro-western rising star many decades ago in Hungary. Over the past few years, he has become much more skeptical of western democracy. He's actually pursuing a liberal democracy in the country and has closed many institutions there and gone after the judiciary. And if that doesn't make things as interesting as they already are given this article, the irony can't be lost here. Because if this president, this administration, the constant word that we've been hearing with regards to Ukraine and holding back any money has been corruption.
Well, there are so many corruption charges leveled against Vladimir Putin. We don't have time to go through them. But Orban himself has been criticized just this past year alone over corruption and accused of corruption by misappropriating money that was scheduled to be delivered to them by the E.U.
So I have yet to hear the president talk about corruption in Russia or in Hungary and yet the focus is Ukraine.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, go ahead.
TOOBIN: Why are these transcripts not public? I mean, we keep reading these leaks and I'm all for leaks. We all try to get leaks. But they ought to just release these transcripts so we could all make an informed judgment about what went on in these hearings or better yet hold the hearings in public rather than have people with agendas put out bits and pieces that they want the public to see.
BLITZER: The argument they make, the Democrats and the House Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committees, the Oversight Committees, the argument is that they don't want what one individual says to be public because that could influence witnesses down the road. That's the same reason they don't want grand jury testimony to be made public right away, because they don't want to influence future witnesses.
TOOBIN: Except lot of it is becoming public put out by people with access to grind (ph), which is potentially maybe not even accurate. At least if they put out the transcript, everybody will be dealing with the same playing field.
And the idea that people are going to be influenced, that seems rather farfetched to me. These are all government officials who have their own pieces of the story. A little more openness here would be -- I think would serve everyone's benefit, especially the public.
BLITZER: Susan, what do you think of this Washington Post report?
HENNESSEY: Yes. So, once again, all roads lead back to Putin. Donald Trump is, once again, not advancing American interests abroad. He's doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin and authoritarians like Viktor Orban.
Let's be clear, this is not the president making a foreign policy decision, taking in that case to the American public and pursuing it, saying things like we want to allow Russia to do whatever they want in Ukraine. This is the president instead surreptitiously working against the United States government, against the stated policy positions of the United States government, policy positions that have bipartisan backing in Congress working actively against those interests while also adding in his own corruption and saying, while I'm pursuing Mr. Putin's interests in Ukraine, I'm also going to see what I can get out in terms of dirt on my political opponents again.
And so, really, once again, that alignment of people like Orban, Putin and Trump, he is claiming his place with leaders that are frankly anathema to basic American values, they way we think about the office of the president.
BLITZER: And it was taking place, and according to this Washington Post report, Jim, and you used to be the top lawyer over at the FBI, at the same time as Rudy Giuliani was trying to sell this totally unsubstantiated notion that it was Ukraine that interfered with the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats to weaken Donald Trump.
BAKER: The president and Mr. Giuliani are trying to push aside the career diplomats and the other career professionals in the intelligence and national security community, the people who actually know what they're doing. And they've been trying to run this sort of fake kind of inept diplomacy and semi-undercover operation with all these people and so on.
And they are just, quite frankly, out of their league. They're susceptible to being manipulated. They just don't know what they're doing and they're not act in the interest of the -- in the national security interest of the United States.
BLITZER: How do you see it, David?
SWERDLICK: Yes, no, I think Jim is right and I think Susan is right. You have a situation again where world leaders now know that if they want to get something from the United States, you can get it without giving much in return and you can get it by sort of out-foxing or doing an end run around President Trump because he has sort of fixed views and has not demonstrated over the last two and a half years that he will adjust once he gets more information.
He sticks with the narrative that he wants to stick with.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I think what would also calm a lot of his advisers and those that are sort of experts in those that watch these countries and this part of the world closely is that the president is not coming out saying, listen, I reach out to world leaders all the time and get their views. I talk to Vladimir Putin. I talk to Viktor Orban. I also talk to Boris Johnson.
I talk to the leader in France and Germany, what have you. You don't hear that. So it's always this pull toward the authoritarians and not necessarily our closest allies when it comes to the president just wanting to solicit advice from others.
And that's what I think is also a big concern because, clearly, a lot of our allies in NATO and particular and our friends around the world are questioning this president's commitment to our previous alliances.
BLITZER: It's interesting because in this article in The Washington Post, Jeffrey, the former U.S. official says in this Washington Post article that it was in that May phone conversation, not with Zelensky and the president but the president and Putin that Putin did what he always does and said, Ukraine is just a den of corruption.
Clearly, the Russians and the Ukrainians, they don't have good relations. The Russians moved in to Crimea, annexed Crimea, took a big chunk of Ukraine, and they were trying to undermine the potential for improved U.S. relations with Ukraine.
TOOBIN: Yes. To say they have a bad relationship is an understatement. They're at war, effectively. I mean, that's why Ukraine needs this military aid that has been held hostage here. And the idea that the president is getting political advice and intelligence matters from Vladimir Putin, whose interest could not be more adverse to the United States, is just absurd.
But this goes back to 2013 when the president held the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. He's been trying to ingratiate himself and build a tower in Moscow since the 1980s. He came close before the election. But this is not the American national interest. This is the president's weird obsession and subservience to Vladimir Putin.
BLITZER: Where does Giuliani fit into all of this? Because he's -- as I pointed out to Jim just a little while ago, he's been very silent ever since two of his associates were arrested.
HENNESSEY: Yes. So it's not clear to what extent Rudy Giuliani was completely freelancing and to what extent he was operating at the direction of Donald Trump. It's clear that Rudy Giuliani was not pursuing U.S. interests abroad.
He was pursuing the political interests of Donald Trump, attempting to dig up this dirt on political opponents and apparently his own financial interest in dealing with Ukrainians as well, which is one really good example of why we expect presidents and everybody who was involved, either as official government employees or essentially special purpose employees to adhere to things like ethics rules and transparency.
What we've seen in this administration is the president completely ignore all of that, allow people like Rudy Giuliani to come in, undermine diplomats, actually attempt to get our ambassador to Ukraine fired and to line his own personal pocketbook at the same time. And so there is some level of irony that Donald Trump is accusing the Ukrainians of corruption here when it is plain that the president of the United States and his associates, people acting at his direction, are the people who are perpetrating, just astonishing brazen corruption before our very eyes.
BLITZER: There's going to be a lot hearings coming up, closed-door hearings. Jeffrey doesn't like the fact that they are closed-door hearings. All of us would like to know what's going on but they have their own reasons why these are in secret at least for the time being. Some of the information may be classified and other reasons as well.
But, presumably, you and I have covered Washington for a while, they're getting a ton of information during these hearings. I'm talking about the House Democrats.
SWERDLICK: Right. House Democrats are getting a ton of information right now. As a journalist, I get exactly what Jeffrey is saying about wanting to know and have some transparency around this. On the other hand, as you said, Wolf, you have this situation where I think Chairman Schiff has made clear, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, that he doesn't want, as you said, witnesses to sink testimony or know in advance what other people have said so that they can say just enough to stay ahead of any legal trouble for themselves but not put themselves further out on the cliff or up on the plank with the president.
BLITZER: Schiff and the others --
TOOBIN: Oh, please.
BLITZER: -- they say eventually, Jim Baker, these transcripts will be released and maybe little redactions for classified information, but, eventually, they will be released.
BAKER: Eventually, they'll come out. And someone who was interviewed for many hours in that exact same kind of setting and had leaks come out immediately after the hearings or the testimony that I gave, I understand what they're trying to do and to try to keep it quiet for the moment and it makes sense to me.
What the American people need now seems to me is clarity, and not more confusion. And so to the extent that the Democrats are pursuing a strategy to present a coherent, rational understandable case to the people in articles of impeachment and evidence before the Senate, that would help the country.
BLITZER: You think that, Jeffrey, that they'll release the transcript of the president's phone conversation with Putin or Viktor Orban of Hungary?
TOOBIN: Never in a million years. They're never in a million years. I mean, I think they have to regret that they released the Ukrainian president because it's going to get the president impeached. They're certainly not going to release more of them.
And, you know, I am shocked to see my journalistic colleagues defending the idea that, you know, government officials, Democrats, Republicans, they could always come up with reasons to keep things secret. It's our job to fight that and I think we should fight it whether it is Adam Schiff or Devin Nunes, whoever is trying to keep this stuff from us.
BLITZER: We always support transparency. We're with you on that.
All right. Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more news we're following.
Much more right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, new allegations of insider trading using a tip from within the Trump administration. An environmental group is asking federal regulators to investigate.
CNN's Senior Correspondent, Drew Griffin has explosive details for us.
Drew, this is yet another controversy involving the proposed goldmine in Alaska.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and now involving the EPA, which is already being sued over its reversal on environmental protections involving the Pebble Mine.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The Pebble Mine is controversial because of its potential to pollute pristine rivers, creeks and lakes that feed into Bristol Bay, where 35 million wild sockeye salmon return to spawn every year. Under President Obama, the EPA in 2014 put a special protection on the sensitive watershed, making it almost impossible for Northern Dynasty, the mine's Canadian parent company to get a mining permit.
Under the Trump administration, that all changed on June 26th when the EPA announced it was beginning the process to remove those special protections. The timing of that announcement was a surprise. Even EPA scientists were caught off guard.
But something was happening days before the EPA's announcement that former Canadian securities regulator and financial securities lawyer Joe Groya seems to think is more fishy than just salmon. Northern Dynasty's stock volume began to move.
JOE GROIA, GROIA & COMPANY: From very small amount, 100,000 shares a day or less, to very large amounts, 700,000, 800,000 shares on one a day, over a million. And someone looking at that is going to say what has caused that sudden interest in this company?
GRIFFIN: One-point-two million shares were bought on June 20th by a company insider and director of an offshore investment firm. The timing of stock purchases in advance of a major EPA policy change is raising calls for an investigation.
LIN DEOLA, ATTORNEY FOR EARTHWORKS: We believe what happened is that inside information was disclosed, insiders in the company traded on that information and then made a profit as a result of that.
GRIFFIN (on camera): And that's illegal?
DEOLA: Yes, it is.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Lin Deola is an attorney working for the environmental group Earthworks, which just filed this complaint with Securities and Exchange Commission and New Jersey's Bureau of Securities. At the heart of the complaint, did company insiders know in advance the EPA was reversing course?
(on camera): So does that suggest that the inquiry that you were looking for would also include who at the EPA may have tipped?
DEOLA: Absolutely. Absolutely, that's key here, because governmental employees are bound by the insider trading rules just as much as the average person or the person in the investment community.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Earthworks complaint is based on post on a stock tip website during an investor's conference that Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen attended: Had a half hour sit-down with Ron this morning, and later, if you are thinking about selling, don't.
The posts were removed shortly after CNN began asking questions about them and the company forcefully denies its CEO released any inside information to anyone. A company spokesman said Mr. Thiessen expressly did not tell investors in public or private conversation on June 19th, 2019, or at any other time that he expected EPA to imminently withdraw its veto.
CNN also obtained this. Official notes from an EPA meeting with scientific research teams and groups opposed to the mine on June 26th. The EPA notes participants at the meeting saying: Northern Dynasty Minerals and Pebble Limited Partnership have been telling investors that the EPA would be announcing a decision soon that would be very favorable.
GROIA: I'm not suggesting the OSC or SEC is investigating yet, but certainly, there is ample grounds that I can tell you that Canadian investors would hope this is a case that ought to be looked at by the securities commission.
GRIFFIN (on camera): And if you were in charge of making that decision, you'd do it?
GROIA: I would, absolutely.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The mining company has refused CNN's request for an interview, telling CNN: The insinuations you are making are entirely false and without merit.
GRIFFIN: Wolf, the EPA told us the agency didn't tip off anyone about its decision and certainly did not provide any advance notice to Northern Dynasty or any of its investors regarding what they say is either the timing or the contents of that decision on Pebble Mine. The EPA says its top lawyer, though, did meet with pebble officials in advance of the announcement but also met with the tribes and environmental groups opposed to the mine which the EPA says is common -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting as usual, Drew Griffin. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, Prince Harry confirms tensions with his brother. Duke and duchess of Sussex are opening up in an emotional new interview.
BLITZER: Tonight, royal sources tell CNN that Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are planning to take a break from their royal duties and divide their time between the United Kingdom and United States. This comes as the duke and duchess of Sussex open up in very candid and revealing new interviews about the pressures of life in the royal spotlight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I've tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. And what does internally is probably damaging and the biggest thing that I know is that I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And departure from royal protocol, Prince Harry responds for the first time to reports of tensions with his elder brother, Prince William.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: We're brothers. We'll always be brothers. And we're certainly on different paths at the moment. But I'll always be there for him as I know he will always be there for me. As brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The couple is set to start their hiatus from royal duties next month. It's unclear how long they plan to stay away from the public eye.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.