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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sen. Graham Introduces Resolution Condemning House Impeachment Process, Calls It "Out of Bounds"; Dems Discussing Scope and Scale of Article of Impeachment; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is Interviewed About Democrats Weighing Articles of Impeachment; W.H. Russia Adviser Expected To Testify Next Week And Corroborate Diplomat's Account Tying President Trump To Ukraine Quid Pro Quo; Justice Department Opens Criminal Inquiry Into Its Own Russia Investigation; President Trump Suggests Kurds Relocate To "Oil Region". Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 24, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We have new reporting tonight on when the public will get to see public impeachment hearings on who may testify as well as the drafting of articles of impeachment against the president. And in the face of that, there are new signs tonight that his defenders still have few good answers on the actual substance of the Ukraine affair, even though behind the scenes they are reportedly troubled by it.
CNN's Jamie Gangel is citing Republican sources who say that senior diplomat William Taylor's testimony this week was, quote, a game changer, unquote, that is still reverberating within their ranks. Privately, that is. Publicly, for the second straight day, Republicans for the most part avoided directly confronting or discussing the evidence he gave. Instead, they objected to the way the hearings are being conducted and the way Ambassador Taylor came to know what he knew, anything it seems but the actual details from this career nonpartisan civil servant and West Point graduate and Vietnam War vet who detailed with contemporaneous notes and was hand-picked for the job by the president's secretary of state.
Yesterday, Republican Senator John Thune certainly took what he said seriously enough to gravely say the emerging picture painted of President Trump is, quote, not a good one. Today, however, it was a different story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Right now, we're hearing one side of the story. Until we get the full picture, I said this yesterday, I think it's hard to draw any conclusions.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The picture that painted the president wasn't great.
THUNE: Yes, based on the reporting of what you guys were saying about it. But I went back yesterday and actually read what was said. And there is. There is a lot of second-hand information, a lot of sort of hearsay -- not hearsay, but in the sense it was passed on. It wasn't a direct conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A short time later, Senator Thune had lunch with the president and a number of other Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, who raised the same hearsay objection as Senator Thune.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Did he talk to the president?
RAJU: He talked to Ambassador Sondland who talked to the president.
GRAHAM: Oh, that's hearsay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The word "hearsay" has been getting quite a workout lately, and not just where Ambassador Taylor is concerned. It was the first line of defense when reports first surfaced of the whistle-blower who set this whole story in motion. He had no direct knowledge, they said, just a secondhand hearsay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call, heard something.
GRAHAM: We're not going try the president of the United States based on hearsay.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): He had no firsthand knowledge. He heard something from someone.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: If I understand it right, it's from someone who had secondhand knowledge.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): He said he heard this from other people.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): The complaint relied on hearsay evidence.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's always I talked to somebody else. It's hearsay.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): The secondhand account of something someone didn't hear isn't as good as the best evidence of what was actually said.
(END VIDEO CLP)
COOPER: And that's what they're looking for right now. Hearsay or not, the subsequent testimony, but mainly the White House's own rough transcript of the president's call with Ukraine's president substantiated every key point that the whistle-blower raised. But, hey, that was last month. Who remembers last month?
Senator Graham today introduced a measure condemning the House impeachment process, taking to the Senate floor today complete with poster boards and bullet points.
Keeping him honest, it is, though, basically a stunt. The measure is nonbinding in one of his central objections today on the secrecy of the proceedings so far rings kind of hollow.
Take a look at his views on testimony and secrecy back when he was a congressman leading the effort to impeach Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: The depositions I think will determine whether or not we go forward with hearings. I think it's a very smart thing to do is to depose these people and find out what they've got to say and not drag this thing out unnecessarily. And it's going to end by the end of the year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Which oddly enough is pretty much what the Democrats are doing. Sources telling CNN they're now planning to transition to public hearings by the middle of next month and releasing transcripts and bringing back some of the witnesses they've already deposed behind closed doors, which gives today's resolution like yesterday's storming of the secure hearing room more than a whiff of just theater.
As to yesterday's stunt, which delayed but didn't prevent a Defense Department official deposition, a quick reminder, a Republican on the appropriate three committees, they were not in any way kept out of this. In fact, we've learned since that directly from a Republican participant just how far from the truth that notion is.
Congressman Mark Meadows telling the "Washington Post" that each side in this SCIF alternates questioning in set time blocks, and there has been no limit provided for the number of questions that each side can ask the witnesses. Adding to that, lawmakers and aides telling CNN that Democrats and Republicans have traded off hour-long and 45-minute rounds until all of their questions have been exhausted. In other words, both sides have equal time and plenty of it.
We've also learned the names of three Congress members who stormed the hearing yesterday with great bravado. They were actually on the proper committees that gave them the right to be in the room that they allegedly were breaking into. That's where we are.
Those folks are Fred Keller of Pennsylvania, Ron Wright of Texas and Carol Miller of West Virginia, none of them actually needed to storm anything. A spokesman for Congressman Keller telling us he was acting in solidarity with non-committee members who were not allowed in. Wright's spokesperson saying, quote, he walked into the SCIF with his colleagues to show support and believes that all Congress deserves to know the facts.
As for Congresswoman Miller, she sent a statement which did not at all explain why she stormed the SCIF that she was perfectly entitled to be in and ask questions of witnesses in. She did, however, say, quote, the American people deserve transparency and President Trump deserves due process.
Joining us now, two Republican former congressmen and now CNN political commentators, Sean Duffy and Charlie Dent.
Congressman Duffy, I want to especially welcome you. It's my first time having you on the show. I appreciate you being here.
SEAN DUFFY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me, Anderson.
COOPER: So, Congressman, let's start with you, Congressman Duffy. If Republicans don't think the president did anything wrong here, shouldn't they focus on that rather than focusing on the process which, as you know, is in the early stages like a grand jury doesn't -- isn't open, then it's going to move to open hearing.
DUFFY: The Congress is not a grand jury. So the concern with the process, Anderson, is the fact that the American people don't have all the evidence. And so what happens is the secret hearing kind of Soviet-style.
COOPER: The transcripts are going to be released --
DUFFY: Hold on a second, I'll tell you why we're concerned about it. We don't have it all.
So, in secret style, Schiff has these hearings, and then he spoon feeds leaks out to the media, and then Democrats come out and talk about it, and there is almost a public trial in the media of President Trump without all the facts.
So, if you have a different process where every American, every member of Congress, all the media get to see all the testimony, then we can all judge it for ourselves, instead of looking at what Adam Schiff wants us to see and convict the president on evidence that we have not seen and do not have.
COOPER: OK, let me ask you about it. First of all, you're implying that only Democrats leak, which as we all know that's not the case, and certainly Republicans have leaked things that were said in this. And opening statements have been released.
Also, full transcripts are going to be released and they're going to call back these people for public hearings. So how is this like a Soviet style star chamber?
DUFFY: Well, so the reason we go to the SCIF, Anderson, is when you have classified information. So I sat on Financial Services. I was the chair of the Oversight Committee on Financial Services, and we had public hearings. The Congress has public hearings unless it's classified.
Why would Adam Schiff have closed hearings? If you're not confident in the evidence you have against the president, you close it down and spoon feed the media and the American people. If you are confident and you had smoking guns, you would open it up and let us all look at it.
COOPER: OK, which they're going to do.
DUFFY: If you look at what happened with Clinton and Nixon, there is an open process that we all get to see. It's not closed door.
COOPER: OK, Congressman Dent, what about that?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I don't think the process is ideal either and they should be a little more transparent. I do understand why they take that position sometimes behind closed door. I was chairman of the Ethics Committee. We did all behind closed doors because they were personnel matters.
But at the end of the day, this really isn't so much about process and procedure. If the facts are not on your side, if the policy is not on your side, well, then, you argue process and procedure. That's what's happening here, because let's face it, the substance of these allegations are very serious, and that Bill Taylor testimony yesterday or his opening statement was very compelling. And basically, he is pointing out there is a quid pro quo, aid was withheld until -- it was being withheld.
DENT: Until he made a public statement. It was being withheld unless he was going to dig up dirt.
DENT: This is really bad. This is wrong. You cannot use your federal law office to dig up dirt on your political opponent, even without the quid pro quo.
COOPER: Congressman --
DUFFY: Charlie, if you ever spend any time in a courtroom, you don't let people give an opening statement and then convict them on the opening statement.
DENT: But this is not a courtroom.
COOPER: As you yourself said, it's not a grand jury, and that is not a courtroom.
DENT: This is a political process, not a legal process.
DUFFY: And so with the political process, you're trying to judge the president on an opening statement when you haven't heard the ten hours of testimony and the cross-examine.
COOPER: Which is why he is going to be called back and the transcript is going to be released. I don't understand --
DUFFY: But the problem, Anderson, is that there is people like Charlie who are out here trying to convict the president based on the leaks. If everyone was silent, if there was no leaks and just depositions, and it was buttoned down and we didn't have any information, that's one thing.
COOPER: The transcript, by the way, wasn't leaked. And the opening statements, those are released.
DENT: I'm not trying to convict anybody. I just want to get the facts. I want to get the facts.
DUFFY: Right, but specific about what benefits Adam Schiff and his narrative gets leaked out. And so, if you don't have all the evidence, it's hard to sit and say we're going convict the president --
DUFFY: -- when I haven't heard all of the testimony. That's what's so frustrating for Republicans. I think if Democrats were smart, they would bring Republicans in, make them part of the process --
COOPER: But, Congressman Dent, Congressman Dent, Republicans, just to be clear, are part of the process. There is an equal number of Republicans in that SCIF yesterday who could ask questions. And as Mark Meadows said publicly, they can ask as many questions as they want. They have equal time, and they go as long as they want. That's the benefit of having private hearings at this point, and that will then go public.
I want to play something that Trey Gowdy said in 2018 about public hearings. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Public hearings are a circus. That's why I don't like to do them. I don't do many of them. I mean, it's a freak show. I mean, the private interviews are much more constructive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Congressman Dent, are they more constructive?
DENT: Well, having conducted investigations really on the ethics committee, and Trey Gowdy served with me on that committee, and he was a very constructive member of that committee. And I found that sometimes in those private settings behind closed doors, we could have very candid conversations among members.
And again, the ethics committee is a little different because we're dealing with personnel matters. Everything is behind closed doors. I found because we could operate in that way, sometimes you couldn't distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats because we're just trying to get the facts and get the truth before we made a judgment, whether it was to sanction somebody or to exonerate them. So, there are advantages to being behind closed doors.
That said, I do think at some point these hearings have to come out into the public, and I think the transparency will do them some good. I do think the Democrats should also have a vote on the inquiry, even though they don't need to. I would do it just as a matter of form and frankly take away a talking point from the president.
COOPER: Congressman Duffy, I want to give you the final word.
DUFFY: Yes, I agree. There is a time and a place to have behind-the- scenes interviews done by lawyers and members of Congress. But the whole investigation thus far shouldn't be behind closed doors. I think if Democrats open it up, let us all have the respect, the American people and the members of Congress, see the testimony, and make judgments for themselves, not based on just leaks, but based on the actual testimony.
I think the American people will be better off. Democrats will be better off. The president will be better off. This will be a process that we could all buy into.
But when you close it off, then you get these process arguments because we don't have all the information. I think we're entitled to. We deserve all of the information. Charlie does, you do, Anderson, and I do, and so do the American people.
So, I hope Adam Schiff opens it up and we can have a transparent process, American-style, not Soviet-style.
COOPER: I don't think you'll find anybody in the press who does not want public hearings so we can hear all the details. Whatever side of the political aisle you're going to be on, it's going to be fascinating.
Congressman Duffy, I appreciate it. Good to have you with us. Congressman Dent as well.
We also got breaking news next about how close Democratic lawmakers are getting to sitting down and drafting articles of impeachment. Also, we'll be joined by members of the House Intelligence Committee, talk about what happened yesterday with the storming of the SCIF, that's what it was. What's really going on today is they probably heard testimony.
And later, the White House's other defense tactic, blaming it all on what they call the deep state, but what used to be called nonpartisan professionals doing their duty and following the rules. One of those professionals is here with us, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, when we continue.
COOPER: We got some breaking news right now on just how far along Democrats are in the impeachment process. House Judiciary Committee senior member David Cicilline telling CNN that talks are preliminary, but both staff and committee members have discussed the broad shape of what articles of impeachment may look like. One member who spoke with CNN on background said while there could be just a few articles focused on larger transgressions, the accompanying report could be an opportunity to provide Democrats room to include more specific violations, including emoluments violations or even alleged obstruction of justice from the Mueller report.
Joining us now is House Intelligence Committee member, Jackie Speier.
Congresswoman Speier, thanks for being with us. What can you tell us about an overall timeline here?
House Majority Whip James Clyburn says the inquiry could be wrapped up between thanksgiving and Christmas. Is that realistic?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Well, I don't think any of us really know yet what the timeline is. I think we're moving as expeditiously as we can. We've had three weeks on the job and have had some outstanding interviews with witnesses I'm sure will be called back at public hearings. You know, I'm reminded that during the Benghazi committee, there were 107 private closed door interviews that took place, and they didn't have their first public hearing until four months in.
So, if you're comparing what we're doing with the impeachment inquiry versus the Benghazi committee work, which was held and controlled by the Republicans, we're on a fast track.
COOPER: Obviously, as you said, one of the criticisms from Republicans that the inquiry is conducted behind closed door, even though the Republicans who were able to ask questions just like Democrats, Chairman Schiff has said there will be public hearings. What has to happen before those begin? I mean, is there some threshold that has to be met? I know more people are supposed to be interviewed next week.
SPEIER: So I think it's just waiting for these final sets of interviews. I can't say whether there is four or eight. I don't know that. But I can suggest that after we finish this next tranche of interviews, we will be in a position to have open hearings.
And I am as interested as Chairman Schiff is and I think the Democratic Caucus to making sure that there is a very fulsome open hearing discussion on what is a really serious issue, and that's why the Republicans aren't talking about the actual corpus. That is the conduct of the president trying to get a foreign government to interfere in our election on his behalf.
That's the crime, and that's not what they want to talk about.
COOPER: Do you have a sense of if it's going to be all witnesses that have already appeared that would be called to publicly testify? That seems unlikely, I would imagine. Do you know -- who actually makes the selection?
SPEIER: Well, the selection will probably be made by the chairman, Mr. Schiff. But I am certain we will all be able to weigh in as to who we think are appropriate witnesses to lay out the case.
And let's also remind everyone that not only was this a whistle-blower who came forward and provided a very comprehensive complaint, the president then corroborated it himself by releasing the summary of his telephone conversation with President Zelensky.
COOPER: It's interesting that the Republicans have been using the same hearsay argument that they used against the whistle-blower against Taylor. Obviously, there are going to be more people, the Morrison from the National Security Council staff, I think he is a senior official from the National Security Council, who is going to come next week and according to Taylor will back up some of the things that Taylor had said.
But you don't hear them talk about hearsay anymore. You don't even hear them talking about the whistle-blower anymore. They're now saying it's all hearsay from Taylor.
SPEIER: And the other thing that's quite interesting is if you go to Mr. Volker, who was the special envoy to the Ukraine, he then released, because they were on his personal cell, his text messages from WhatsApp. And again, we saw evidence to corroborate that in fact money to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress was being withheld because the president wanted his pound of flesh from Ukraine in terms of an investigation, placing the country at great risk and all the people and all the soldiers who were fighting in Donbass.
So, it is -- it's really in my view, a very clear case.
COOPER: Congresswoman Speier, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
SPEIER: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: I want to get perspective now on the breaking news and another day of Republicans attacking the process.
Joining us is CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, the argument from Republicans that, you know, this is all happening in secret, logically, that is just -- the Republicans in there, it's not as if it's all Democrats, this cabal of Democrats with witnesses. Public hearings, though, clearly Democrats want those as much as anybody wants them.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right.
COOPER: They believe it supports the charges against the president.
BASH: Right. The whole argument that the Democratic leadership makes is that the best thing for them is to have as much public support behind what they're doing as possible. And you can't get that unless you demonstrate your case in public. I mean, that's just the kind of a basic fact.
What is striking and one of the reasons why still it is people are disgusted by the place where I live, Washington, D.C. is because there is always amnesia when another party takes control. What she said about Benghazi is true. Republicans did act in private as they investigated before they went in public. And that is exactly what Democrats are doing.
Having said that, Republicans understand how critical it is for as much as Democrats want to increase public support for impeachment, Republicans want to decrease it, which is why they're attacking the process, because they think it works.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I just add? I mean, it is true that Taylor's testimony as dramatic and persuasive as the opening statement was, it is mostly hearsay as far as the president is concerned. He didn't interact with the president. He interacted with people who interacted with the president. Now --
COOPER: Right. Just as the whistle-blower didn't interact from what we know.
TOOBIN: Correct. And that's -- I mean, hearsay evidence is admitted every day in courtrooms in America. And this isn't a courtroom. But it is true that Taylor did not have one-on-one contact with the president, and that's something that you're going hear from Republicans.
And, you know, I think it's a legitimate point to raise. It doesn't discredit him as a witness. He doesn't claim to have spoken to the president.
But I just think it's worth -- it is in fairness worth pointing that out.
COOPER: Sure. David Gergen, when you hear the Republicans making arguments about the process, is there validity there in your opinion?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I believe for some time that right from the beginning the Democrats could have played this differently and should have. I think they should have voted up front to have this impeachment process go forward as has happened the last two impeachments like this.
And I think it's important -- it would have been helpful to call witnesses of their own for their period of the process, when everything is secret.
And I think as they go forward, the Democrats ought to be looking for ways to send a message to the public that this is a fair game.
Having said that, having said that, I think it's also very, very clear that the Republicans are overstating their criticisms of the way this is going on. If -- this is being played by the Benghazi rules, essentially, which Republicans themselves came up with.
And if you go back to Bill Clinton, before they went to impeachment, before the process started, there was Ken Starr and a lengthy process of inquiry that was done behind closed doors and built that up so that when they handed it to the committee, a lot was already done. Similarly in the Nixon case, there were Watergate hearings with Sam Ervin and Howard Baker and others that got huge publicity, and there were also lots of private investigations that went on before the Judiciary Committee actually started writing articles of impeachment.
So there is a -- it's worth remembering that. I think that the Republicans, as I say, are overstating their case.
And on the hearsay question, listen, we don't need hearsay. We have the tape. We have a transcript. What Taylor is so good at is helping us understand the environment and what the network and what people around the president believed they were doing.
COOPER: David, stand by. Everybody else, we have breaking news. More on the key testimony expected next week in the impeachment inquiry that could make the White House pretty uneasy. Details from Capitol Hill in just a moment.
[20:31:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More breaking news tonight. We touched on it just in the last segment, promises to be big. Sources telling CNN that when a top White House Russia and Europe adviser from the national security council testifies before House impeachment investigators, he's going to corroborate key elements of William Taylor's testimony. This could be the first such testimony from directly inside the west-wing and could bring this all that much closer to the President himself.
CNN's Manu Raju joins us now with the late details. So, this is this National Security Senior Official Morrison, what are you learning about it?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We do expect that Tim Morrison will cooperate and will appear before House investigators next week. He is asking for a subpoena. He will get a subpoena undoubtedly and he will testify.
What we are told -- so what the team has told from multiple sources is that he is expected to corroborate a key elements of Bill Taylor's testimony from earlier this week when the top diplomat from Ukraine had testified that the President had withheld vital military aid in exchange for pushing for an investigation or the Ukrainians to publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens.
Now, Morrison's name is important, because he is cited about 15 times throughout that opening statement from Bill Taylor. And Bill Taylor had referenced multiple conversations that they had about why the aid had been withheld, concerns that the diplomats had, that Taylor had about the aid being withheld.
And at one point, one of the conversations Morrison told Taylor about a conversation that the President had with his top ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, in which the President had asked, has said that the president of Ukraine needed to go publicly to the microphones and say that they were investigating the Bidens and also say they're investigating 2016 election interference. And that's something, according to Taylor's testimony, that Morrison had some concerns about. So we do expect there to be some corroboration of Taylor's testimony.
Now, we are also told that he does not believe that the administration necessarily had done anything wrong with all of this and we don't -- we believe that his testimony, from what we're told, will have some nuance about whether there was any quid pro quo or not so he may not raise as many alarms as Taylor. We'll just ultimately wait and have to see.
But, we do expect that he'd be -- we were told that he has taken notes about his past conversations and those notes will also provide a basis of his testimony. But of course, Anderson, this comes at a key time as the impeachment investigators are trying to figure out exactly what happened here.
And here's an individual who is a key person in the White House, currently serving in the White House who will testify about all these matters. The question, though, ultimately the Republicans will raise is whether or not he has firsthand knowledge of any of this. They're already pushing back on Bill Taylor's testimony saying he didn't have firsthand knowledge of it. But we are hearing that Republicans and the White House are concerned about this upcoming testimony.
COOPER: And is the White House going to block this? You said he asked for a subpoena.
RAJU: He did ask for a -- we're told from his attorney that he will -- he has informed the House committees he will appear if there is a subpoena. And I asked this attorney whether or not he's definitely going to appear and she said, currently, yes. So at the moment it appears that he is.
Now, the White House has told other people within the administration not to appear. State Department officials and the like people are currently serving, they have listened to the subpoenas and not the instructions from the administration. So, we expect probably the White House to urge him not to appear.
But, what they will ultimately do to stop him is unclear. But at the moment, all expectations are that he's going to deliver testimony that will at least back up this key U.S. diplomat's account, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Manu Raju. Manu, thanks very much.
Back now with our team. Jeff, significant?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, because, you know, one of the core issues here is was aid withheld because the President wanted dirt on Joe Biden? And this official is someone who is involved in the decision to withhold aid. Now, I don't know what he's going to say. We'll have to wait and see. But to the extent that story can be fleshed out or refuted, that's good.
[20:35:04] I mean, look, you know, I think any reasonable person should want more evidence, should want to know whether the story is, you know, is fully told and whether the President and the administration did anything wrong. Certainly, this is someone you'd want to hear from and I would say they're going to hear from.
COOPER: And certainly John Bolton, obviously, the national security adviser is somebody they would like to hear from as well.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. They've been pretty quiet about that, how they're going to deal with John Bolton. And John Bolton himself has been eerily quiet. It makes you wonder how close the book deal is or whether or not there is more coming out. I mean, I don't even say that facetiously.
TOOBIN: Yes, absolutely.
BASH: He certainly did not leave on good terms at all with the President. But you're absolutely right, this is the one of those questions about private versus public. These are depositions. They're trying to build a case, just like you do in a court of law. And let's just say that Morrison does corroborate what Bill Taylor said about the core issue, about whether or not the money was withheld.
COOPER: That Sondland had this conversation with Ukrainian official.
BASH: Exactly, which is all about spelling out, this is why we're withholding money
COOPER: Which by the way, Sondland, supposedly in his testimony said he didn't remember those -- any kind of conversation like that.
BASH: Exactly. But what you -- what the Democrats want in order to make their case publicly is not just these officials to lay it out in private. But ultimately when we get to the public hearings, for somebody like Morrison or others to be a John Dean, to be willing to come forward and say in public, yes, this happened, and I didn't think it was right. That is a moment that if they don't have, it will be easier for Republicans to poke holes in it.
COOPER: Just in terms of the process, will -- the idea of transcripts -- I mean, Adam Schiff has said that transcripts would be released from even the skiff area. TOOBIN: Correct.
COOPER: Do we know a timeline on that at all?
TOOBIN: I think they want to do it fairly soon.
TOOBIN: The most important thing that has to happen is classified information review. They have to take out anything that's classified, but it's not a grand jury. That shouldn't be all that difficult.
COOPER: David Gergen, I mean, do you see the White House suddenly deciding to try the stop Morrison from testifying?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they'll do everything they can to stop him. His testimony is significant, Anderson, because Taylor had delivered this blockbuster testimony, but it's very much in conflict with Sondland. And they need to call Sondland back, and then we're going have a comparison between the two.
And to have Morrison come in behind this and say Taylor's got the right version here of the truth will really help to bolster the credibility and diminish the force of Republican anti-arguments saying, you know, Taylor, it's all secondhand, it doesn't matter, it doesn't mean anything.
Morrison is really critical, as we've just heard in that 15-page statement. He was a key player. I'd never heard of him, but suddenly, you've got to get this guy up there to testify because he is really critical.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean, can the White House stop him? I mean, when Manu asked Morrison's attorney, he said, currently, yes, he is going to appear.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, they can fire him. I mean, that's what they can do. I mean, they --
COOPER: But would firing stop him from --
TOOBIN: Not necessarily, but they could threaten to fire him and he could back off. I mean, if he wants to testify, there is --
BASH: What about because he works in the White House, executive privilege, not applicable?
TOOBIN: You know, as I understand it, his story is not about conversations with the President. I suppose they can go to court and try to get -- right, see, you're learning. Try to get an injunction to stop it, but that seems extremely unlikely to me. I don't -- I can't believe any court would do that in advance.
You know, what's so interesting about how these hearings unfolded, it has really become a test of conscience for these government officials because it's quite clear the White House doesn't want anyone from the State Department, anyone from the Defense Department to testify, but they have testified.
They have been subject to subpoena, and they would have had to fight the subpoena. But, you know, they could have stretched it out and gone to court, and they haven't so far. And, you know, fundamentally, I think it's going to be up to Morrison.
COOPER: Yes. David Gergen, Dana Bash, thank you very much. Jeff Toobin is going to stay here because there is yet more breaking news and I want Jeff's take on it.
CNN has learned that Attorney General William Barr's probe into the intelligence and origins of the 2016 Trump Russia investigation is now a criminal investigation. It's a big deal. Joining us as well will be former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. We'll be right back.
[20:43:05] COOPER: More breaking news tonight. CNN's Evan Perez reports that Attorney General William Barr's probe into the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation has now expanded into a criminal probe, according to a person familiar with the matter. "The New York Times" first reported this just earlier tonight.
Here's a key passage from "The New York times." "The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to impanel a grand jury and to file criminal charges."
Back with me now, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and retired Lieutenant General James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence and the CNN National Security Analyst, also the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence."
Jeff, explain why this is significant.
TOOBIN: Well, as you quoted, once there's a criminal investigation, the prosecutors have criminal process. They can get search warrants. They can get grand jury subpoenas. They can use -- brings people to a grand jury. You know, it ratchets up the pressure on the people who are the subjects of the investigation.
It's important to point out that just because there is a criminal investigation doesn't mean any crime occurred much less that specific people committed a crime. But for the people who have been the targets of what seems like a right-wing conspiracy theory, you know, led by Sean Hannity and Donald Trump, it's got to be an unnerving experience to know that this is now ratcheted up to that level.
COOPER: And for those who believe that the Justice Department and Attorney General Barr in particular is essentially, you know, being a henchman for President Trump, this will only reinforce that idea?
TOOBIN: I mean, when you consider all the legal issues facing the United States of America that that -- the attorney general has traveled to Italy and other places around the world on this what seems to me wild goose chase is really remarkable, but it shows how much this obsession with showing that the Russia investigation was somehow illegitimate in inception has been a guiding principal of this Justice Department.
[20:45:05] COOPER: Director Clapper, as the man who, you know, was there and oversaw the launch of the Russia investigation, what do you make of this?
LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, I'm very curious. Presumably, I guess I'm one of those under investigation. And I --
COOPER: And you just heard about this?
CLAPPER: Yes. I just, you know, read a clip about 20 minutes ago. I found the timing interesting given the increasing heat around the impeachment inquiry. And so the timing is interesting, I'll just let it go with that.
And the other thing I wonder about is whether we're talking about the overall investigation of the Russian reporting on the Russian interference or are we talking about the counterintelligence investigation that was launched in July by the FBI about potential engagement into collusion, whatever you want to call it, between the Russians and the Trump campaign. So, again --
COOPER: Do you think -- what do you think it is?
CLAPPER: -- I'm very curious about what is the alleged criminal activity that prompted this.
COOPER: Do you have any idea even -- I mean, what they might think may rise to the level of a criminal offense?
CLAPPER: No, I don't. That's obviously an item of great interest to me. What is it that any of us did that would rise to the level of a criminal infraction? I just don't know.
TOOBIN: I can tell you what the theory has been, is that there is this Mifsud character who is a -- you know, who works in a university in Italy, and the theory has been that somehow the deep state, people in CIA, planted with him the idea that the Russians were, you know, helping Trump.
Mifsud told it to various campaign officials, George Papadopoulos among others, it got back to the FBI, and that's what launched the investigation. So the claim is that, you know, the deep state started this investigation. There's no evidence, as far as I'm aware, to support that hypothesis. It is a clearly -- I mean, it is at this point just a right-wing fantasy, but that I think is the core allegation.
COOPER: It's Mifsud, I believe.
TOOBIN: Mifsud, my apology. CLAPPER: If I might add to what Jeffrey just said, I just make the point that that had absolutely nothing to do with the intelligence committee assessment that was done in January of 2017 and briefed to President-elect Trump and his team in Trump Tower on January 6. So those are, again, separate things.
And that is a really far-fetched theory in my view that somehow Mifsud was set up by the FBI to create this conspiracy that, you know, he was trying generate the impression that the Russians were in cahoots.
TOOBIN: One of the other -- the big problems with this conspiracy theory is that, you know, Mueller had two enormous indictments. One of, you know, the same -- in the internet research agency, you know, using social media out of St. Petersburg to help the Trump campaign. And the other one, to hack the Democrat DNC e-mails.
You know, those are -- you know, they haven't been proved because the defendants haven't shown up in court, but those have nothing to do with Mifsud -- how do you say his name?
COOPER: It's Mifsud.
TOOBIN: Mifsud, or any of that. So I -- this has never made any sense to me.
COOPER: But, Jeff, CNN is reporting that the last week that some witnesses have refused to be interviewed. So, now that -- I mean, this will allow them to compel testimony, won't it?
TOOBIN: Well, it will allow them to subpoena them, but you can always take the fifth if someone subpoenas you.
COOPER: But -- so they could not testify?
TOOBIN: They could not. And now, you know, just to go ahead, they could give them immunity and force them to testify. So, I mean, there are ways the government can try to compel someone to give testimony and a criminal investigation has more tools at its disposal than the inquiry -- the status it was before.
COOPER: All right, Jeff Toobin, thank you. Director Clapper, as well, thank you very much. Not what we originally planned to talk about, but it certainly looks like you're in the middle of this, so I appreciate you being on. Thank you.
The remarkable suggestion coming up that President Trump had today for Kurds being driven from their homes by an invasion that he essentially greenlighted.
[20:53:46] COOPER: Another busy night. Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." A lot to choose from, Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You oppose this President and you're in his party, you're scum, Anderson. That's what you are.
COOPER: That's scum.
CUOMO: Stephanie Grisham, yes, they deserve to be talked about that way. One of the things I'm doing with all my guests tonight on that side of the aisle as a point of civility, how we disagree matters that is something that cannot stand, that cannot be approved. If you can't get past that point, I'll have no further discussion with anybody. If you can't own that we can't be that way with each other just on the basis of opposition, there's nothing else to talk about.
On the point of substance, if this guy, Morrison, who's still in the White House who was on the July 25th call is as expected corroborative of what Taylor said, how can you say that nothing done here was wrong? Not impeachable, not worthy of removal, just wrong.
COOPER: We'll be looking forward to it, Chris. A lot to cover. Thanks very much, about five minutes from now.
Up next, having already taken credit for saving their lives, President Trump now has a suggestion for the Kurds of Northern Syria now facing Turkish troops in their home territory. We'll read it to you word for word and show you why the Kurds may not exactly be thrilled to hear the President's advice.
[20:59:02] COOPER: More tonight on the ongoing Syria crisis. President Trump says he's had a conversation with the leader of the Syrian Kurds, "I really enjoyed my conversation with General Mazloum Abdi," the President said in a tweet. "He appreciates what we have done, and I appreciate what the Kurds have done. Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the oil region."
By saying that, the last part, the President is in fact suggesting the Kurds move far away from their traditional homelands, in effect ethnically cleansing themselves from the entire region and instead move hundreds of miles away to a region dominated by Arabs who may not exactly welcome them with open arms.
Military experts say the Syrian democratic forces, a mixture of Kurdish and Arab fighters, do have a presence in that area. However, relocating the entire Syrian Kurdish population is something that has never been previously suggested.
The President's tweet came after two defense officials told CNN that the Pentagon is considering plans to deploy tanks to those oil fields. Other officials said it is possible that lighter-weight armored vehicles like Bradley or Stryker fighting vehicles could be sent because tanks could require an extensive number of troops to operate.
The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris in "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time." END