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CNN TONIGHT

Top Ukraine Diplomat Giving More Light To A Quid Pro Quo; Democrats Gaining More Momentum Against President Trump; Top Diplomat In Ukraine Testifies; Interview With Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) About Taylor's Closed-Door Testimony Today; Putin And Erdogan Announce Deal Over Northern Syria. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 22, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Trump was on the phone with Putin before deciding to pull out in Syria, now Russians are in our bases. Be on the lookout. Why is this president always benefiting Putin?

Thank you for watching us. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: What did the House speaker say, all roads what?

CUOMO: Lead to Putin.

LEMON: Lead to -- what do you think? That's the answer, right there.

CUOMO: I think you have some explicit and implicit reasons for it.

LEMON: Yes. Did you read the entire letter today?

CUOMO: I did. What letter? You mean the testimony?

LEMON: The opening statement.

CUOMO: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: I hope everyone reads it because there's really, again, for me, this is like the transcript, me speaking, Don Lemon, it's like the transcript, there's no other way, no two ways about it. What is described here is explicit of what the president wanted and what Mr. Taylor experienced. He wrote it down. Implicitly, he wrote down everything, everything. Everything. Took copious notes. And then it all came out today. It's a pretty explosive letter.

CUOMO: Now, the Republicans are going to say can't trust this guy, I think it's a weak argument. You know, he took all these notes, why? Because he was nervous that he was part of something wrong and he didn't like it.

LEMON: Maybe he's a professional.

CUOMO: You know, look, I'm sure. But this level of meticulousness, I think Mr. Taylor knew this day was going to come someday, that he would be held to account for what he was a part of. I don't think you can have a good faith argument about what happened or why. The argument is, what should be the consequence.

LEMON: Well, I'll leave that up for Congress and the American people to decide. I just think everyone should read his opening statement and then you can decide for yourself. I don't think there's pretty -- I don't think there's a lot of deciding that you have to do. It's there. It's all it is. And I'm going to get to it because I got a lot to get to. I'll see you later.

CUOMO: You do, it's a big night.

LEMON: Yes. It's a big night.

CUOMO: Make the most of it.

LEMON: And again, this is really important. I hope everyone, everyone reads this letter. I'm going to read a lot of it to help you along.

This is CNN Tonight. See you, Chris. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

A bombshell development in the impeachment inquiry tonight. And this is the whole ball game, OK? Stay with me here. The framework that puts everything we learned before into perspective. For anyone who maybe wasn't 100 percent sure, what the top diplomat in Ukraine told Congress today really says it all.

The President of the United States masterminded a conspiracy to hold lawfully designated American military aid to Ukraine unless he got personal benefit to himself.

This is from the explosive opening statement of William Taylor, the top United States diplomat in Ukraine. OK? And this is a quote. He said, "By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and the alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by a regular policy and a regular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani."

So just a week or two before the president's infamous Ukraine call, the top American diplomat in Ukraine knew that the White House meeting was not going to happen unless there was an investigation of both the energy company that had Hunter Biden on its board and conspiracy theories that alleged Ukraine was behind 2016 election interference, not Russia.

Mid-July. Just before the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. Here it is.

It says, "When President Trump said I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it, I would like you to find out what happened with the whole situation with Ukraine. They say, note that word, CrowdStrike, I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it." OK? Part of a conspiracy theory.

And later in that call, this. "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went out bragging that I stopped the prosecution, so it could -- so you can look into it, if you can look into it. It sounds horrible to me."

William Taylor testified today about deep concerns about the aid package, concerns that we already knew about because of these text messages that came to light earlier in the investigation.

[22:04:58]

You know the ones, where Taylor said, are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? And Sondland said, call me.

Well, today we got the story of what happened next. When Taylor called Sondland about his fear that the White House was holding up aid to Ukraine in exchange for politically motivated investigations of Trump's opponents, OK?

This is a quote. "During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognizes that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian official to whom he spoke at a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations.

In fact, ambassador Sondland said, everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations."

That couldn't be more clear. I mean, it is pretty crystal, don't you think? And let's be clear about this. The quid was military aid and the White House meeting. The pro quo, investigations. And it was the president who orchestrated the entire thing.

More testimony. This is Bill Taylor describing how he learned the aid the Ukrainians were waiting for wasn't coming and who was holding it up. So, listen to of this.

He said, "Toward the end of an otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call, the person was offscreen, said that she was from OMB and that her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending on security assistance for Ukraine until further notice.

I and others sat in astonishment. The Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted not only the training and weapons but also the assurance of U.S. support. All that OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the president to the chief of staff to OMB." The directive had come from the president to the chief of staff.

That's Mick Mulvaney, who comes up again in Bill Taylor's testimony, by name this time when he recounts a conversation with former Russia, Russia adviser Fiona Hill and national security council official Alexander Vindman.

"Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman tried to assure -- reassure me that they were not aware of any official change in U.S. policy toward Ukraine, OMB's announcement notwithstanding. They did confirm that the hold on security assistance for Ukraine came from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and that the chief of staff maintained a skeptical view of Ukraine."

Let's remember, it was Mick Mulvaney who in a disastrous press conference last week admitted the quid pro quo. Later claiming that he didn't say what he said. Even though it was right there on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: 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. That's why we held up the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, what you described is a quid pro quo, it is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.

MULVANEY: We do -- we do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be a political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Like I said, this is the whole ball game. Bill Taylor's testimony puts everything in context. It lays out the quid, the pro, and the quo. And quid pro quo is not some magic phrase that the president needs to be caught on audiotape saying in order for that to be what happened, because even if he were, he would still deny it.

But no one reading this testimony can deny its impact. And they try. But you can't. Please read it for yourself. It's about 10 pages long or so. Please read it. He may want to deny it.

[22:10:03]

If you're politically motivated, but you can't really deny the impact and you can't deny what it says. It's pretty explicit. And now the president is on the ropes.

A source telling CNN the president's allies are telling him to accept the fact that he will almost surely be impeached by the House of Representatives. And what does this president do when he is feeling threatened, when he is feeling all poor, woe is me, poor me, the world is against me? He tries to distract and divide us. And he's doing it again now. Regardless of how many times that we have seen it, there's no excuse

for the President of the United States tweeting, and I'm quoting here, "All Republicans must remember what we are witnessing here -- a lynching."

A lynching? Comparing impeachment, which is an investigation and a trial by Congress provided for in our Constitution, to the brutal murders of almost 5,000 Americans? Three-quarters of them black, that's according to the NAACP, by the way.

Now, others have used that word in the same way. But they were wrong. Just like this president is wrong. Thousands of African-Americans. They didn't call them African-Americans back then. You know what they called them, right?

Thousands of people who looked like me were murdered, simply for who they were. This president uses that word as if it all means something that he thinks is unfair to him. That's not what lynching means.

Let me tell you what it means. It means being -- if you can even really describe how horrific it is, it means being ripped from your home and family, taken away by a mob, tortured, hanged from a tree, left there for everybody to see.

A brazen public murder meant to send a message that they can do anything they want, anything they wanted to black folks, and no one would stop them. That's what lynching is. That's what Billie Holiday sang about in the song "Strange Fruit," a song she first sang in 1939, when lynching was still happening in this country.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

LEMON: That is what lynching means. And nobody, nobody, especially this man in the White House, should be playing politics with that.

Bombshell news tonight. Frank Bruni is here, Laura Coates, Harry Litman, they're going to break down all of this what it means in the big picture in the impeachment investigation, that's next.

[22:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The breaking news and bombshell testimony, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor saying that he was told President Trump would withhold the military aid to the country until it publicly declares that investigations would be launched that it could help Trump's reelection chances.

Joining me now is Frank Bruni, Laura Coates, and Harry Litman. Good evening, one and all. I appreciate you joining us here.

Listen, this is, as I said this is bombshell testimony, it's an explosive testimony from this top diplomat.

Frank, I'm going to start with you. Bill Taylor -- I just want to read a little bit more from it, OK? So, I read a lot of it in the opening but I just want to read some.

"Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to put up before signing the check. Pay up, excuse me, before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same terms several days later."

Pay up before signing the check? He says that is -- that is the definition of --

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A quid pro quo, absolutely.

LEMON: What is -- is there --

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: It's amazing testimony. Because what you just read, he names who he's talking to. He says what they said. I mean, the specificity of this testimony is extraordinary. The sweep of this testimony is extraordinary. It all blows you away.

[22:19:55]

And also, something we haven't noted enough, the tone of it is extraordinary. He's already being smeared by the White House as some radical bureaucrat. But he goes through his biography, he's a West Point grad, he's been a civil servant for 50 years. He wasn't sure he wanted to go back to Ukraine.

But, you know, one of his mentors, a Republican, said, no, if you can serve your country, you go.

LEMON: If your country asks you to serve, I think this is what you do.

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: Yes. This is an earnest, earnest man, like some of the generals who come out against Trump. And he is not -- he is not trying to stage a coup or ignore the Constitution as this ridiculous statement of the White House press secretary was alleging.

This is someone who's watching something happen in his country by his country's leader that he can't abide. And he's pained by it and that pain and that earnestness comes through in every sentence of this testimony which, as you said, I wish everyone in America would read.

LEMON: Everyone to read. I've had -- I mean, I've read it twice because I just -- I wanted to get the full --

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: It is --

LEMON: -- as they say, in full effect. And it is the full force of this. And it is unbelievable. And I know that you guys have read it. Harry, to you next, and then Laura.

Remember those text messages, Harry, between Trump's million-dollar donor, Ambassador Sondland, and Taylor? Here is what Taylor writes.

He says, "Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?" And Sondland respond, "call me."

Well, here's what he says happened when they did have the call. He said, "During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election."

He wanted a public announcement. There it is, right? No?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. First of all, a subtext here. Sondland, Volker, maybe others, are now in hot water. And it's going to be a favorable dynamic for Congress because they're going to have to try to exculpate themselves.

But it's as you say, if you believe Taylor, and why wouldn't you, as Frank says, an honest, earnest guy with no motive to lie, it's game over. For a prosecutor the question is do you put him up first or do you put him up last. It's overwhelming testimony.

Here's what, look, I -- here's one piece you haven't read. According to -- Trump said no quid pro quo but he did insist that Zelensky go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference and Zelensky should want to do this himself.

You don't need to know Latin to know that's a quid pro quo and exactly what they were talking about. The facts of the matter will now be 100 percent clear and it will fall to Republicans to somehow make some defense and saying it's not no quid pro quo, a, it's nonsense, but b, I don't see any purchase there.

LEMON: All right. Let's bring in Laura. We need you to put your stamp on this, Laura, because we've all seen the call, the call transcript, the text messages, we heard from Giuliani, we heard from the president and Mulvaney. Did Taylor's testimony put together all of those pieces into a very damning story for the president?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an extraordinarily long receipt, Don Lemon, a receipt that lists names, that gives dates, that talks about a memorandum that was contemporaneously written to memorialize what was heard.

It talks about his evolution of his skepticism from thinking, well, perhaps these two different channels, the formal communication channel that I'm accustomed to in a diplomatic situation versus the informal channels used and exploited by Giuliani and the like, perhaps this was all leading to conditioning the receipt of military aid on a White House visit. No. It's even more than that.

He goes through and talks about the Burisma and how everything is conditioned on it and that he wants to have suddenly the perfect sound bite and put the president of Ukraine in a box to be able, presumably, to be used time and time again in a subsequent campaign.

He talks about how, frankly, he undermines President Zelensky's statement that he made just a few weeks ago in New York City when he said I didn't feel as though I was compromised in some way or that I was manipulated by the president. What he outlines in his actual letter that says Zelensky had no interest in being the pawn in a political game like this.

He was well aware of the conditioning. What this is extraordinarily and objectively damning. The only question you have now for the House of Representatives is whether or not it is subjectively impeachable to them.

It's always been their prerogative to decide what that is. We're talking about whether or not there was a conditioning of military aid.

And I want to repeat to everyone, Don, we're talking about not a slush fund or a private checking account of the president of the United States or even citizen Donald Trump. These are taxpayer dollars.

LEMON: American people's money.

COATES: Each of us has now contributed by providing it. We provided money for the president to be able to condition military aid. And I love the fact that this particular person, Mr. Taylor, pointed out the very thing that gets lost in all of this.

[22:24:58]

While all of this game is being played, thousands of people's lives were at risk and were dying while this game went on.

LEMON: Yes. Everyone, stay with me. We have much more to talk about. We got a lot more on this bombshell testimony.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine giving details about what Ukraine's president was told to say to President Trump and how he felt about possibly being used as a pawn in Trump's reelection campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with Frank, Laura, and Harry.

So, Frank, let's talk about. We're going to get -- we're getting a sense of what was going on in the background leading up to that now- infamous Trump/Zelensky call.

[22:29:58]

And here he is describing the conversation that he had a few days before the call, OK? He said, "Later on July 20, I had a phone conversation with Ambassador Sondland while he was on a train from Paris to London. Ambassador Sondland told me that he had recommended to President Zelensky that he used the phrase, I will leave no stone unturned with regard to investigations when President Zelensky spoke with President Trump.

Also on July 20, I had a phone conversation with Mr. Danny Luk (ph), during which he conveyed to me that President Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. reelection campaign. The next day I texted both Ambassadors Volker and Sondland about President Zelensky's concern.

This illustrates the degree to which they were feeding Zelensky the language to use with Trump to try to butter him up, but he didn't want to do it.

BRUNI: Right. No, no and that is one of the really kind of fascinating things about this, he knows exactly what's going on and he doesn't want to be a U.S. pawn. This is also so important, because we have focus so much on that July 25th phone call, because we had that transcript of it and the transcript is so damning.

But this is an ongoing, sustained, intricate operation to get the Ukrainian president to do what President Trump wants. This just doesn't happen in one phone call. There are many people deployed to do this. It goes on over weeks and months. And one of the things that makes this testimony so credible is as he goes to the timeline, he says very candidly, at this point I wasn't sure what I was seeing, at this point I still wasn't sure --

(CROSSTALK)

It's like at this point what I was seeing was so crystal clear I could no longer avoid acknowledging or live with it. He threatens to resign some of that.

LEMON: It's starting to become clear that there were two channels, right? There was the official channel and there was a back channel.

BRUNI: Meaning the Giuliani channel, the channel of craziness.

LEMON: OK, Laura, can we talk about all the people being pulled into this? So, let's go back to the testimony. OK? Ambassador Bolton recommended that I send a first person cable to Secretary Pompeo directly, relaying my concerns. I wrote and transmitted such a cable on August 29, describing the folly I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government.

And according to Taylor, he heard that Pompeo took the cable to a meeting at the White House. It certainly appears like Pompeo was very much in the know about this quid pro quo.

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we also must know at this point why it is he had to be subpoenaed, because he wasn't offered up by the State Department to provide all of this information at this point in time. We now can see why. You hear the names Bolton. You hear the names Pompeo, you hear about Sondland and Volker, other people involved. You hear about Yovanovitch, and a whole and the host of other people

including Rudy Giuliani and what this says is, couple of those people have already testified here, Don. And so if they are listening or reading this particular letter of 15 plus pages, guess what, they're wondering if they gave the exactly the same story in the detailed sense, with the gravitas and credibility that Mr. Taylor has now expressed, and I bet they're biting their nails about whether they'll have to be called back, number one.

Number two, it's about who has not yet testified, which leads me to believe that that original timeline that the House had for before thanksgiving to say, OK, we can probably wrap all this up, we have the obvious, it's about the objective quid pro quo. Well, now you want to hear from people like perhaps, like Bolton or Pompeo who are going to be much harder to get into the chair to talk about these issues.

And so, it adds a bit of delay, but perhaps a necessary one to get the full picture. Of course, all of this is essentially pride the American people saying, well, what more would you need to have this particular evidence at play?

Remember, impeachment, in terms of the process, is the first part, the indictment aspect of it. The second part is getting it to the Senate for a trial and the evidence have to be there comprehensively. So part of this is about them building the case even when it's already obvious that the person is actually holding the bag in their hands.

LEMON: Wow. Do they expect people to say, hey, this is a quid pro quo? No one is ever going to say that.

COATES: This is a meeting of the minds here, Don.

LEMON: Not even the most foolish person. Harry, I got to ask you this, just to clear things up, you don't need to explicitly use the phrase quid pro quo in order for there to be one.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Of course not. You know, it's obvious, he doesn't need to use it in order for there to be an impeachable offense. He doesn't need to use it in order for there to be a crime.

But its telling that they are -- that this is what they are depending on and you know, there's an interesting exchange with Sondland where he has, were he hears from Taylor and then he sends this sanitized CYA memo, oh, the president wants to be clear, there's no CYA -- there's no quid pro quo, which is preceded by a phone call we know between him and Trump. They somehow think that they can do all these things in plain sight and just, you know, sprinkle magic dust and say no quid pro quo and, you know, obviously it just won't work at all.

[22:35:13]

LEMON: Thank you all, I appreciate it.

Gasps, groans during today's explosive closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was in the room, he joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine demolishing the president's claims of no quid pro quo, testifying. That is exactly what this president wanted. Bill Taylor laid out how President Trump made a promised White House meeting and military aid contingent on a promise from Ukraine's president to launch investigations that might help his reelection effort. So joining me is Congressman Patrick Maloney who sits in the House Intelligence Committee and heard Taylor's closed door testimony today. Congressman, I really appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

[22:40: 05]

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): It's good to be with you.

LEMON: So here's what sources are telling CNN that there were audible sighs and gasps during Taylor's opening statement. I would like your take on what it was like, and on what you heard as well.

MALONEY: Right. Well, I know you know I can't get into specifics, but sure, my takeaway and my emotional reaction, you know, is consistent with that. It was gripping testimony. He's a key witness.

You know, guys like Bill Taylor who spent 50 years serving as an infantry officer in Vietnam, with 101 Airborne, serving as a foreign service officer in some really hardship posts, guys like that don't pull their punches. And he came and told the truth. And it's going to be a big part of getting that truth to the American public.

LEMON: So, Taylor directly contradicted Gordon Sondland's testimony. And this is what Sondland, this is Sondland from last week. OK? Again, I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former Vice President Biden or his son, nor I do recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens.

But Taylor described Sondland relaying Trump's insistence that President Zelensky go to the microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and the 2016 interference and that President Zelensky should want to do this himself. Given that discrepancy, will you again subpoena Gordon Sondland to clarify his testimony?

MALONEY: Yes, that is above my pay grade, but listen, I think anybody who comes before Congress and swears an oath should tell the truth and if they don't, they should be held accountable. And if they have some concerns about the veracity of their testimony, then maybe they should some back in and clear it up, because the evidence we are putting together is going to round out the real facts about what this president did, who helped him, why they did it. And it's because of guys like Bill Taylor who came in and told the truth.

LEMON: All right. Here's Taylor talking about a July 19th phone call where he was briefed on an earlier meeting between Ukrainian and White House officials. Specifically they told me that Ambassador Sondland had connected investigations with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky which so irritate Ambassador Bolton that he abruptly ended the meeting, telling Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman that they should have nothing to do with domestic politics.

He also directed Dr. Hill to brief lawyers. Dr. Hill said that Ambassador Bolton referred to this as a drug deal after the July 10 meeting. Does your committee need to hear from John Bolton on this?

MALONEY: You know, Ambassador Bolton obviously has important information. And I think it's important that we hear from everybody who has important facts and evidence so that the American public can get the truth. Can I make one point?

LEMON: Sure.

MALONEY: You know, the guys with a lot of the evidence right now are sitting down at the State Department, who are refusing to produce documents. And we know, Ambassador Taylor and others provided those documents to the State Department in response to a subpoena. Their documents are supposed to go to their employer who is supposed to produce them.

Instead the State Department and others are stonewalling those requests. Why are they afraid of the facts? We should get all the facts. And so that is a good place to start.

LEMON: Congressman, this morning Representative Mark Meadows came out and said no quid pro quo, but by this evening he is telling CNN, we have yet to find the person -- the person who said the president or the secretary or anybody conditioned this stuff. Are they moving the goal posts here?

MALONEY: Yeah, that comment isn't wearing very well, let me put it that way. And I think what these guys on the Republican side told themselves was they could erect this phony standard that if there wasn't an explicit quid pro quo, well, then there is nothing to see here. Which of course, has always been ridiculous. It is wrong, unpatriotic, almost certainly illegal, just to seek a thing of value from a foreign government to help you in an American election.

But let's play in their ballpark for a minute, let's play the there has to be a quid pro quo game. You know, look at the evidence being accumulated that there was absolutely a concern by the president to condition American military assistance and a meeting on getting an investigation into the Bidens and of the Democrats and the DNC.

I don't know what else you call that, A quid pro quo, it's not necessary, it's not the only impeachable offense floating around out there, but it sure looks like there was just that at work here. And it is depressing to believe that any American president would trade away the strategic interests of an ally and a critical partner like Ukraine, our national security would put his own shabby political interests ahead of the country's interest, ahead of our national security. That that is what the evidence is showing. When you trade one thing for another, that's called a quid pro quo.

LEMON: Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

MALONEY: My pleasure.

LEMON: Putin and Erdogan making a deal today over Syria. Now they're calling the shots on NATO's southern border.

[22:45:04]

Did President Trump play right into their hands? The former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is going to weigh in on that and today's bombshell testimony, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor's testimony today could be one of the most important moments in the impeachment inquiry. Taylor testified that he was hold Trump would withhold military aid to Ukraine, until it publicly declared an investigation into the Bidens.

So, joining me now James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence. Director always a pleasure. Thanks for coming on.

So, Taylor testified that he went to the front lines of Ukraine battle with Russia. Knowing U.S. aid was being withheld.

[22:50:01]

And he wrote, he said, Ambassador Volker and I could see the armed and hostile Russian led forces on the other side of damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war. One or two a week. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance. So lives were on the line. The president was willing to overlook that for political investigation that would personally benefit him?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It was incredible. You know, when I read that passage, Don, I found it heart rending. And you know, good on the ambassador or charge I guess technically here. For going to the front lines and the line of demarcation that exists with the (inaudible) region, in eastern Ukraine.

And when you read that, it's just dreadful to think that the aid that is required for that Ukrainian people to defend themselves against the Russians being held up for purely political individual, personal political agenda here in the United States. It just really egregious.

LEMON: The Washington Post reporting that Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban helped to sour Trump on Ukraine. I want you to take a look. This is a time line of what we have learned. On May 3rd, Trump and Russian President Putin speak on the phone. Trump wants Putin's opinion on Ukrainian President Zelensky.

May 13, Trump meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the White House post reporting, Orban solidified Trump's pessimistic view of Ukraine. May 23rd, The New York Times reports that Trump called the Ukrainians, terrible people in a meeting with his top adviser. June 28. Trump again meets with Putin this time at the G20 in Japan.

July 25th, Trump's infamous call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. Where Trump pressures Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and then July 31st, Trump speaks to Putin again. The Post makes clear that neither Putin nor Orban said anything about the Bidens or Ukraine's role in 2016, but does it look like Putin and Orban were running an influence campaign on President Trump? That is the question.

CLAPPER: Well, of course. I mean, this is especially plays into Putin's hands. So, of all people that are our president could consult with about another country and asks Putin. And again this is all part of this, you know, strange relationship between our president and Putin.

LEMON: Let me play this. Because you bring up a very good point. This is the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly called on Trumps calling out his relationship with Putin. Watch this and then I'll let you continue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact that we would be here in an inquiry that relates to the president. Asking a foreign government to help the president in his reelection. And undermines our national security. We were sending that military assistance and because of Ukraine needing that vis-a-vis Russia. All roads seemed to lead to Putin with the president.

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LEMON: Is she right?

CLAPPER: Well, yes, she is. You know, I never have understood this strange deference to Putin that our president displays. And obviously has influence on him. And all the people to get asked, particularly in his own country, his own State Department. There are all kind of experts and expertise on just about anywhere, but especially Ukraine.

So, what does he do -- he goes. And I think he was, you know, looking for a narrative that he wanted to hear in both cases. You know, I'll talk to autocrats to get the more appealing narrative. And I think that is what was going on here.

LEMON: Today we learned about a deal between Putin and Turkish President Erdogan. They agreed to allow Russian troops to patrol the border between Syria and Turkey. The president reacted on Twitter by saying good news seems to be happening with respect to Turkey, Syria and the Middle East. Is there actually anything in this new agreement or overall situation that is good news for America?

CLAPPER: Well, this is (inaudible). This crisis is good news. You know, up is down, black is white sort of thing. It's bad news. It's good news for everybody except the United States and the Kurds. And everybody else is a winner. And Putin has got to be just kicking his heels here at his good fortune. And our president playing right into his hands. [22:55:02]

You know, gloating over taking over our bases and of course chipping away at the southern flank of NATO. Where Putin is which always, you know, is appealing to him. So, it's just an ingratiating himself with Erdogan. I mean, the list goes on here. This is bad.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you director. I appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Ten hours of bombshell testimony on Capitol Hill today. As sources tells CNN the president's allies are telling him to just accept the fact that he is going to be impeached. Stay with us.

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