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Shouting Match Erupts During Ukraine Deposition; Report: GOP Worried They Could Lose White House and Senate in 2020; Sources: Trump's Remarks on ISIS Leader's Death Don't Resemble What Officials Wrote for Him. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump's top Ukraine expert who was on the President's call with the Ukrainian leaders still behind closed doors at this hour. What more is he saying? Plus, more breaking news, democrats releasing their plan for how they'll proceed with impeachment hearings. Will they give the President a chance to make his case? And a 2020 sweep according to one report, Republicans are growing concerned, they could lose the Senate and the White House in the election and keep the House, really? Let's go out front.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, new details at this hour about the explosive impeachment testimony from a decorated veteran. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House's top Ukraine expert defying President Trump, testifying before impeachment investigators for about nine hours.

Shortly after he arrived this morning in full uniform, Colonel Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient delivered a devastating blow to President Trump, telling investigators that he twice reported concerned about Trump's behavior and his team's insistence that Ukraine investigate Joe Biden. Now, Vindman was on the phone call between Trump and the Ukraine President Zelensky.

He testifies and I'm going to quote here from his opening statement, "I was concerned by that call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine."

So Vindman reported those concerns to the lead lawyer for the National Security Council after that call. And I want to just emphasize that that is not a small thing to do. Colonel Vindman is a 20-year veteran. He is the National Security's top Ukraine expert. He testifies, "As an active duty military officer, the command structure is extremely important to me."

So he's choosing to report what the President United States did on a phone call as inappropriate was not a small decision. In his testimony today, of course, totally refutes what the Commander-in- Chief continues to insist.



I made a perfect call. Not a good call, a perfect call.

This was a perfect conversation.


BURNETT: But Vindman did not only raise concerns about that call and Trump's behavior on it, Vindman also reported a meeting that he had with Trump's Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland. A meeting in which he testified, "I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with National Security."

That damning statement contradict Sondland's testimony, a Trump defender, a man who donated a million dollars to Trump's inauguration. Sondland under oath said that no one from the NSC where again Vindman is the top Ukraine advisor ever expressed any concerns. That's a quote from Sondland.

As for Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, he says he raised his concerns out of duty. He tells lawmakers, "I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics." Yet, that has not stopped the President and his allies for trying to smear this Purple Heart recipient. Here are two of them implying Vindman is a spy working against the United States because he was not born here.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Here we have a U.S. National Security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the President's interest and usually they spoke in English. Isn't that kind of an interesting angle on this story?

JOHN YOO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I find that astounding and some people might call that espionage.


BURNETT: I mean, it is stunning. Of course, he came here when he was three years old. Trump himself is trying to say Vindman is a politically motivated liar, tweeting, "How many more never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call?"

Now, there's no evidence Vindman is a never Trumper nor frankly would it matter to whether he tells the truth under oath as an American citizen. And this is not the first time though that Trump has gone after a member of the military for coming forward. Listen to how he referred to 30-year public servant Vietnam War vet Ambassador Taylor who served under presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you calling him a liar?

TRUMMP: Here's the problem, he's a never Trumper.


BURNETT: Of course, Taylor also testified about a quid pro quo from the President. Phil Mattingly is out front live on Capitol Hill. And Phil, we are learning much more about what Vindman is saying behind closed doors on these nine hours and counting. What can you tell us?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and counting still behind closed doors. What we're learning right now from sources who were inside the room is that Alexander Vindman kind of addressed one of the questions people have had since the White House released that rough transcript of the July 25th phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president and that is, is it entirely accurate.


Vindman who, as you'll recall, was actually in the situation room listening to the call. The first person to come to Capitol Hill was on the call to actually testify, said that he believed the transcript was mostly accurate, but there were two specific changes that he thought he would have made based on the notes that he had taken from that call.

One of them related to a specific reference to the company Burisma that had hired Hunter Biden in the transcript related to something Zelensky said to Ukrainian President. It says just company. Today, he testified that he would have said or believed that the correct interpretation would have said to mention Burisma directly.

He also noted during the testimony, we're told, that he raised some of the concerns. You'll note that he went to National Security Council lawyers twice based on concerns related to two separate incidents related to the Ukrainian funding. He actually told his brother as well, his twin brother who also works in the White House, also works in the National Security Council in the ethics office to raise some of those concerns as well.

I'm also told that Republicans throughout the course of this testimony including very early on in the testimony when there's actually a shouting match that broke out between a Democratic member and a Republican member were continuously asking about specific names. Democrats interpreted that as an effort to try and surface who the whistleblower was.

Vindman told lawmakers explicitly he did not know who the whistleblower was. But Erin, this is something that has come up on multiple depositions and looks like it's going to continue to as republican search for who made this initial complaint.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Of course, searching for who made it is not frankly relevant. As everyone should understand at this point what's relevant is whether what the person said is true, which of course, everything thus far has shown it to be. Kaitlan Collins is out front at the White House. And Kaitlan, the

Democrats just released new details on the impeachment resolution that they've put out there. How is the White House responding now that they have seen some of the specifics?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, they're not pleased and you can see why because of the White House's position so far. They said they were waiting to see what the text of this was going to be. And when you read this resolution, it shows that essentially they are handing the reins of this to Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Chairman who is going to have a pretty broad latitude here.

And that is something that the White House is attacking directly tonight in a new statement going after this vote that the House Democrats have announced they are slated to vote on, on Thursday, this first impeachment inquiry vote that they are going to have. Something the White House has been saying for weeks that they need to have before they even consider cooperating or see this as legitimate, but now they're not pleased with the terms of what they're getting.

In a statement tonight, the press secretary saying that essentially by voting on this, it shows that this has been quote an illegitimate sham from the start. They go after the fact that Adam Schiff is going to have so much power here, essentially, so really essentially holding the reins of this.

And then, of course, Erin, they say that essentially they feel like they are not getting enough say here. This was kind of what we reported on last night that they felt they were torn that a vote would empower them to have counsel present to be able to review the evidence of this. But the White House is disputing that in their statement tonight, saying essentially they don't feel like they're going to be able to participate fully until more of this moves over from House Intelligence to the House Judiciary Committee.

Now, this is something that you've heard from Republicans. You're going to see them start to turn their defense as the White House is essentially putting out this statement pushing back on this. But there are going to be questions about what they've been doing so far. Because you heard from one Republican today who is on one of those three committees that right now is allowed in the room for those closed door depositions, something that the White House has been complaining is being done in secret, Ted Yoho is saying he hasn't even attended any of the depositions so far.

We're hearing from the White House tonight officials so far have not been pleased to hear that a Republican member isn't even sitting in on the room. The question is how they change their tactic if it all going forward after this vote on Thursday.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. And, obviously, you lose all ground to stand on if you say you're not getting access when you actually have access, you never bother show up. Out front now Democratic Congressman David Cicilline. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees. And Congressman, so let me just start with you with the impeachment

resolution that Kaitlan was just talking about. In it in part it says, "Republicans may request witnesses to be called and issue subpoenas." But it continues to say those subpoenas can only be issued 'with the concurrence of the chair', which, of course, means Democrats are the chairs that Democrats get to sign off on any subpoenas republicans want.

So let me just cut to the chase, OK? If Republicans want to subpoena Hunter Biden, will you guys let him?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, look, that will be a decision that the full committee makes by vote, but the reality is this resolution contains protections that are greater than the protections that were afforded to President Clinton and President Nixon. So this is a resolution that sets forth the procedures we will follow in the public hearing phase of the impeachment inquiry and ensures that the President has an opportunity to present witnesses that the Republicans have the opportunity to call witnesses.

And so all of that is set forth in the resolution. There's even a process if they attempt to do it and it's not permitted by the chair to ask for vote of the full committee.

BURNETT: Of course, the committee though, there's more Democrats than Republicans.


What I'm just getting at, the Hunter Biden example would be basically no way, because the Chairman say, "No," they can appeal to the Committee, there's more Democrats, they build it down, there's no Hunter Biden.

CICILLINE: Look, the Democrats have been the ones that have been leading the effort to collect evidence and to get at the truth. I think we will continue to behave in that spirit. We certainly don't want to waste time with witnesses that don't have anything to contribute. But if there are witnesses that the Republicans suggest that will actually contribute to the fact finding, I think the Committee will embrace it.

But we shouldn't lose sight of what this is really about. This is about the President of the United States, getting on a telephone call, attempting to bully a foreign leader into ginning up a phony investigation of one of his political rivals and holding up military aid to that country and holding up a meeting with that President until that investigation is announced.

This is a betrayal of his oath of office. It's a betrayal of the integrity of our elections and it undermined the National Security interests of our country. The conduct of the President is really our focus.

BURNETT: OK. So you heard, obviously, the statement from the White House in response to the resolution thus far. They're not happy. I know that you all say the President's lawyers will have an opportunity to present their case, to attend the hearings, to raise objections, due process. It also says if Trump doesn't make witnesses available though and he doesn't provide all requested documents, then essentially all bets are off.

So are you really giving him due process and the chance to make his case?

CICILLINE: Of course. Look, we should remember we are still in the investigation phase. This is akin to the grand jury. I was a criminal defense lawyer, defendants don't have the right to cross examine witnesses or attend grand jury proceedings. These are done in secret to protect the integrity of the investigation, so witnesses don't align their testimony by reading the transcript or watching the testimony of other witnesses.

This is standard procedure investigations. Due Process attaches at trial, so when the President is tried in the Senate, if in fact we move forward with articles of impeachment, he will have all the due process rights that anyone has. He will be able to call witness, he'll be able to cross examine witnesses, he'll be represented by counsel. It's in the trial proceedings that process applies and that's the case when he's tried in the Senate if we move forward on an articles of impeachment.

BURNETT: In the Senate, OK. And before we go, Congressman, is it safe to say - if you could just let me know if you're in the room today and did you learn anything specific from Colonel Vindman beyond what we have all seen in the opening statement?

CICILLINE: Yes. I mean, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was an extraordinary witness. A person of incredible integrity. He was a very credible witness. He was, of course, an eye witness in a sense, he was on the call in which the President asked the new President of Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. So he had firsthand knowledge which he shared with the Committees during his testimony.

Again, when you hear these incredible patriots, these foreign service officers and military officers share information that they've learned in the course of their work, it's shocking. And this, again, is the President of the United States asking a foreign leader to interfere in an American presidential election.

Our elections are decided by the American people. It's unpatriotic and unAmerican to have anybody else weigh in, particularly a foreign government, and that's what the President did in that phone call and he has to be held accountable for it.

BURNETT: Congressman Cicilline, thanks for your time tonight.

CICILLINE: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, Trump has touted his EU ambassador's testimony.


TRUMP: He said by the way there is no quid pro quo.


BURNETT: But did Ambassador Gordon Sondland commit perjury? Did he lied to Congress? Plus, the impeachment investigation descending into a shouting match, what sparked it? And new questions tonight about where President Trump got this information?


TRUMP: He died a coward. Crying, whimpering, screaming ...




BURNETT: New tonight, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro accusing President Trump's hand-picked Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland of perjury, lying under oath. After hearing from President Trump's top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. So Vindman says this about a July meeting in Washington with Ukrainian and American officials and I quote Vindman's opening statement.

"Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine, delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short." All right. Now, following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland is to emphasize the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma.

Now, this is extremely significant. Yes, it does fit with everything else that we've heard from other witnesses except for one, right? This one. Because when Sondland testified he said this, "I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former Vice President Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens."

OK. Both of those men testified under oath. Out front now, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Defense Department, Ryan Goodman, Greg Brower, who was an Assistant Director at the FBI and Republican State Senator in Nevada, CNN Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip and David Urban, who is an Advisor to President Trump's 2020 campaign and the Washington Corporate Lobbyists.

OK. Let me start with you, Ryan. So here's the thing and I wanted to say it again, both of these men testified under oath, OK? It's a really sacred thing we do in this country, you testify under oath. And they have completely contradicted each other. Vindman says this is what Sondland did, Sondland says, no, I didn't.

How damaging is this to Sondland and perhaps to the President, because by the way, Vindman's version completely dovetails with Taylor and anyone else that has testified thus far.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL COUNSEL: It's very damning to the President, because this was supposed to be, according to Axios, Sondland was supposed to be their silver lining and that hasn't happened.

And you're correct, it's not only that, it's Vindman's testimony, it's Taylor's testimony that flatly contradict what Sondland said.


And then there's reports about Fiona Hill's testimony. So it's all three, which those three individuals don't have any incentive to lie. They're speaking under oath and it's directly contradicting what Sondland said. Sondland also said that Fiona Hill and no other National Security Council official raised any concerns with him.

They didn't say that anything he was doing was acting improperly. That's his word for it. And Vindman told Congress today that he's directly said and Fiona Hill directly said to Sondland's face that he was acting Inappropriately. So there's no daylight between inappropriately and improperly. There's no other way around it.

BURNETT: And they express those concerns, Abby, so strenuously that they then went and reported it to the lead counsel for the NSC. So it wasn't just a, "Ah, maybe I shouldn't have said that." It was obviously very formal and very specific.

But, Abby, Ambassador Sondland is the person in all of this, not just is his testimony is sort of on an island. He is very close to the President.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that's what makes his testimony so important and why getting to the bottom of what those differences are and why they seem to exist is really important. Sondland is the only person who's testified so far, who's had extensive direct contact with the President on the issue of Ukraine.

He had phone calls with the president. He had a lot of conversations with the President and with Giuliani about his wishes, about what he wanted to convey to President Zelensky before they agreed to a meeting. And so it's critically important that Congress get to the bottom of whether this is actually a case of lying or maybe Sondland doesn't quite remember things the same way that Fiona Hill and other individuals do.

Is he trying to protect the President? Is he trying to protect himself? There's a lot of reasons for him to potentially protect himself, because the closer and closer you get to the person at the heart of this, which is the President, the more at risk you are of some kind of jeopardy one way or another in this.

BURNETT: And Greg, look, Vindman also testified just to go through another point here that after Sondland linked to the investigations in Ukraine to the U.S. military aid, Vindman says, "I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with National Security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate."

And obviously, Bill Taylor, when he testified, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, his version of events supported Vindman's 100 percent. He was on a phone call. Vindman was on that phone call. Hill was on that phone call and he says that, "They told me that Ambassador Sondland had connected 'investigations' with an Oval Office meeting for Presidents Zelensky, which so irritated Ambassador Bolton that he abruptly ended the meeting."

I mean, that the words here echo, these are obviously, as I emphasize, statements under oath. Because again, Greg, I want to make the point Sondland's testimony, "If Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill or others harbored any misgivings about the propriety of what we were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me, then or later." I mean, it's very explicit and specific. He mentioned by name, the very people who testified under oath that they did exactly what he says they didn't do.

GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Right, Erin. That appears to be very potentially problematic for the Ambassador. All of the evidence so far and as a prosecutor, I look at the evidence. The evidence so far tells us that the version of events that we heard from the colonel today has been corroborated by other witnesses, including Ambassador Taylor and other documentary evidence, emails, et cetera. The entire context and simple logic.

And so you put it all together and it looks like there is a version of what happened that is the truth. And then there's Ambassador Sondland's version. Now, the other thing that I think is important to look at here Ambassador Sondland can be described, I think, as an outlier. Everyone else in this equation is a career public servant.

No relationship with the President, no reason to defend him or lie about any of this. And Ambassador Sondland, and I'm not suggesting he's lying, but let's just look at the facts. He's the only one of all of the players so far who is a political appointee, close to the President and would arguably have a reason to carry the President's water or defend him against a narrative that would be harmful to him and his presidency.

So it's not hard, in my view, so far to figure out which side is telling the truth and which side is not.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, David, here's the other question. I mean, not in all instances but in some of them Sondland uses the 'I don't recall', right? When he says they never shared those misgivings is obviously definitive, but in many other cases he says 'I don't recall', which I feel like the President of the United States write in his written testimony to Robert Mueller, he used a word or a phrasing similar of that in 19 out of 22 of his answers.


People generally use that when they - go ahead, David.

DAVID URBAN, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN ADVISER: No, people generally use that, Erin, when they don't recall. I mean, any lawyer, all of the lawyers on this panel tonight will tell you that's a perfectly acceptable legal answer.

And let's just not forget here, let's step back and look what the Colonel testified about today. In his testimony today, the Colonel talked about the phone call it he participated in. He said that his recollection of events track exactly, almost to the word, he said, with the transcript which was released by the White House.

He never said, never mentioned once that he thought that there was a mention of a quid pro quo. He did not like the fact that the President was talking about an investigation, but there was no quid pro quo. He didn't testify about that today. He testified ...

BURNETT: Well, I don't know. We don't know what was discussed.

URBAN: (inaudible) the opposite.

BURNETT: We do know that - OK, on that I mean ...

URBAN: We do know, Erin, because it would have been leaked up by Schiff.

BURNETT: The President of Ukraine (inaudible) military aid and the President of the United States says, "But first I want you to do a favor." I don't (inaudible) ...

URBAN: No, Erin, his written testimony ...

BURNETT: ... I know, but this is ridiculous, this is when we get at let's use the words quid pro quo. No one uses those words and actually doing a quid pro quo.

URBAN: No, Erin, listen, stick to the facts.

BURNETT: Yes, I am sticking to the facts.

URBAN: I'm reading a statement which was released. Yes. Well, in his statement, you show me where, in a statement which were released that he says there was no link between the meeting and aid. He specifically discusses that.

BURNETT: He doesn't say any such thing. He just talks about the fact that he was extremely concerned by what was on the call. He's concerned about the President's behavior on the call.


URBAN: And he also said I never met the President, never talked to the President.

BURNETT: He does say never - go ahead, yes.

BROWER: Look, I'm surprised that we still hear from people who are trying to defend the President by trying to explain to the rest of America that somehow there was not a quid pro quo. There was clearly a quid pro quo. Now, I think reasonable minds could differ as to whether or not that's an impeachable event or offense.

But let's be honest, there was a quid pro quo and just one more thing about ...

URBAN: Based on what?

BROWER: ... Mr. Urban's statement about what lawyers do and how they advise their clients. Lawyers advise their clients to say I don't recall when their clients say to them that they don't recall. Lawyers do not advise their clients to say I don't recall in an effort to protect somebody like the President of the United States, when in fact they do recall. So let me just make sure we understand what good lawyers do.

URBAN: So if Ambassador Sondland was trying to protect the President of the United States, he could have just ignored the subpoena as many others have. He could just not showed up.

BROWER: That's right. But oftentimes in my experience, David, this is ...

URBAN: So that kind of blows a big hole - that just blows a big hole in your proposition.

BROWER: No, no, it doesn't. Let me tell you about witnesses. Witnesses often ...

URBAN: he does, if he was trying to protect the President he just won't show up.

BROWER: If you could let me finish. Let me explain how witnesses, especially witnesses who are wealthy, intelligent people, they often think they're too clever by half and they can fool the investigators by expressing a narrative with confidence. Clearly, I think what happened here is Ambassador Sondland had a narrative, he had a story that he thought would protect the President, he confidently share that narrative and now other witnesses, something that Ambassador Sondland apparently did not anticipate, other witnesses and other evidence are coming forward to contradict his narrative. That's the explanation.

BURNETT: All right. We're going to hit pause. All of you are staying with me. I will just emphasize that it is something to point out that everybody else involved in these conversations or calls remembers exactly what we said except for one person. The one person whose version doesn't fit with anybody else's version.

I point that out because I think it's relevant. Hold on. Hold on, David. You're all going to stay with me. We are going to take a break, but you are all going to come back. Next, I also want to talk about Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to oust the whistleblower. Republicans say no way. They are just asking questions and we're going to talk about that. Plus, a new poll shows Joe Biden in third place in a crucial early state. Third place. Should he be worried?



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, a shouting match erupting between Democrats and Republicans in today's impeachment deposition, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to out the Ukraine whistle- blower prompting a warning from the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Outing (ph) the whistle-blower is an unpatriotic action. They shouldn't even go near that.


BURNETT: This after President Trump resumed his attacks on the whistleblower, tweeting, where is the whistle-blower? Just read the transcript. Everything else is made up garbage by shifty Schiff and the never Trumpers.

OK, everyone is back with me.

Ryan, let me start with you on this round. This has been a point, the president wanted the whistle-blower's name for a while. But I think this is maybe a moment to take a step back and say the whistle- blower's identity, never mind the law that it needs to be protected, is actually irrelevant because what the person has said is now being investigated in all of these depositions.

RYAN GOODMAN, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: And that's the way the system it's supposed to work, that a whistle-blower is supposed to maintain their confidentiality so that investigation can be launched, to verify and determine whether or not the concerns they've raised are true or not, and that's what's happening. And on top of that, it does seem as though almost everything in the whistle-blower complaint has been corroborate order confirmed based on the testimony, based on the transcript that comes out after the fact, and then based on the reports about what we've heard has gone on inside of the hearings that all of this actually supports the whistle-blower, so there's no reason to go and identify who the person is.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, it's sort of like a -- it's a distraction in a sense, Abby, right about this. I mean, one of -- Jim Jordan, one of the president's most loyal allies on Capitol Hill, is actually pushing back on this saying, we're not trying to out the whistle-blower.

Here's what he said today.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are saying that you're trying to -- that Republicans are trying to out the whistle-blower.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): No. We're trying to get information. Adam Schiff will not let the witness answer questions even though his attorneys are right there.

RAJU: Do you want to know who the whistle-blower is?

JORDAN: The American people want to know. I want to get to the truth.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The implication there was that in the hearing itself, what Republicans were trying to do was use process of elimination to try to narrow down who this person might be because they were asking about all of these potential people who were in the environment around this call. So, it is entirely feasible that that was what was happening and Democrats interpreted that as an attempt to kind of ferret out the name.

What this is is just an effort by the president and his allies to try to get some kind of offensive capabilities here in this impeachment inquiry. The president has always, you know, his aides have told me for the duration of his presidency, he needs a foil. He needs a person that he can fight back against.

This has become a very diffused fight for him. There are a lot of people, as he said, he has no idea who they are. They're testifying behind closed doors and he wants the whistle-blower to be the person that he -- that becomes the face of this investigation who he can in some ways villainize, what he's been trying to do.

But he doesn't have a name. He doesn't have a face. He doesn't have much information about the person and so, this is why there's such a desire on the president's part and his allies to get to the point where the whistle-blower maybe -- has no choice, but to come forward and his name is revealed in some other way.

BURNETT: So, David, is that -- do you think that's what the president's trying to do, to sort of have the whistle-blower become the faceless face behind all of this for people?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Erin, I honestly have no idea and I agree with you. I think it's completely irrelevant.

I think the facts are what they are.


The transcript's out. The president said what he said. And the issue is, what was the president's mens rea at the time? Did he -- was there -- did he have a corrupt intent here? And was he trying to withhold military aid for this -- for this in return for an investigation?

I think that's the nub of the issue, not whether -- and whether the whistle-blower's identity comes forward or not I think is irrelevant. I think what is relevant is to kind of drill down the people who are on this call. There will be another Mr. Morrison who's testifying Thursday, he participated in the call.


URBAN: First-hand -- first-hand witness.

You know, Mr. Taylor, and you know, references him many, many times during his statement.


URBAN: So I think it's important to hear from Vindman, from Morrison, from folks who participated and hear what their take was.

And again, I will say, in the statement that was provided by Mr. Vindman, he does not talk about aid being withheld. I mean, he took a great deal of umbrage with the notion of politics getting involved in the Ukraine relationship, saying it would complicate things and make it not bipartisan.

BURNETT: That's true.

URBAN: He doesn't really talk about aid being withheld or any of the specifics being talked about by the Congress.

BURNETT: So, Greg, let me ask you on the issue of the whistle-blower, because I think we can all sit here and say that it doesn't matter, right? Because what matters is if what the person said is true or not true, but it is clear, Greg, that it matters to the president and it's clear it matters to him because of what he said multiple times.

Here he is talking about the whistle-blower.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have to find out who the whistle-blower is that would give all this false information.

The whistle-blower got it all wrong? Who is the whistle-blower? Who is the whistle-blower? Who is the whistle-blower? We have to know. Is the whistle-blower a spy?

You know, these whistle-blowers, they have them like they're angels, OK? So do we have to protect somebody that gave a totally false account of my conversation? I don't know. You tell me.


BURNETT: Greg, he cares deeply about finding out who this person is. That's clear. GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FORMER GOP STATE LAWMAKER:

He's obsessed with it like he has been obsessed with FBI agents who are investigating him and prosecutors who are looking at potential criminal conduct and others who judges who have ruled against him in litigation. He's always going after those who he feels are somehow out to get him.

You remember several months ago when he made a point of criticizing cooperators, as he call them rats or snitches in criminal investigations. And so, it seems to be just a way that he attacks those who appear to be looking at potential criminal wrongdoing on his part, and so the whistle-blower is just the latest target for the president in that regard.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time.

And next, a new report says Republicans are worried about losing the Senate and the White House in 2020. Could Democrats have a clean sweep? Is that possible?

Plus, officials say this week, they prepared with President Trump about the raid that killed al-Baghdadi was very different from the one he delivered including this part.


TRUMP: The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear.




BURNETT: Tonight, a Democratic sweep in 2020. Well, there's a new report out from "Axios" and they report that Republicans are increasingly concerned that they could lose not only additional House seat, but both the Senate and the White House in 2020 which would, of course, give Democrats free reign to do any policy they want to taxes and healthcare. Senate Republicans in particular are fretting over poll numbers and strong fund-raising.

OUTFRONT now, Patrick Healy, political editor at "The New York Times."

OK, this is -- this is not something we hear a lot about. It's sort have been -- the assumption has been if Democrats win the White House, they certainly don't get the Senate.


BURNETT: So, then, this is a whole new conversation. This would be, you know, the empire of Democrats.

HEALY: No. And this is the way that Elizabeth Warren gets her big, structural change through. If she's president, she needs the Democratic Senate if any of these plans are going to go anywhere. The especially interesting thing that's happening right now is on the Senate side and this is what Mitch McConnell is concerned about, about the direction that impeachment will take and about the degree to which all of these advisors around the president are raising the concerns about his conduct.

You have Republican seats in Maine, Iowa, Colorado and Arizona that are in serious jeopardy for Republicans to varying degrees on fund raising, on polling, and pretty strong Democratic challengers. And the reality is Mitch McConnell knows that those, you know, those four seats are in states where the president's numbers are not great, where they saw problems in the midterms.

Iowa lost two Republican seats to Democrats in the midterms and plus they have Steve king running for re-election. That's --

BURNETT: Right, who was censured by his own party.

HEALY: Absolutely.

BURNETT: OK, for racism.

Let me -- now, here's the thing and you mentioned Elizabeth Warren and that's how she would get the agenda.


BURNETT: I know you said that on purpose. I mean, just look at the polls here, I mean, who knows what will happen? But, obviously, you look at New Hampshire.


BURNETT: You know, Joe Biden, the once easy front-runner is not so in many polls. Third after Sanders and Warren in New Hampshire. In the latest Iowa poll, he is tied at the top and tied with Warren and she's been gaining momentum.

So what does this mean? I mean, this comes as, you know, you're talking about a real race for that.

HEALY: You're talking about a real race. I mean, right now, Elizabeth Warren has had momentum for weeks. Joe Biden has been under a spotlight. He's trying to sort of stabilize his number, but his direction and the reality is that his poll numbers have been in a downward direction, you know, give-or-take, the last number of weeks and that's not, of course, where he wants to go.

And in Iowa and New Hampshire which, you know, every four years, we'll say, oh, it's going to be a national map, it's going to be about these other states, everybody is going all in on Iowa, everyone is counting on that spring board for New Hampshire. And the Biden campaign, you know, has to look at these numbers and they see Elizabeth Warren again going up, and Bernie Sanders who a lot of people thought wasn't going to be such a huge factor -- at least in New Hampshire -- showing real strength.


BURNETT: So, this comes as -- after poll after poll, we're seeing the top same four candidates, OK?

HEALY: Right.

BURNETT: So, those four -- Warren, Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg.


BURNETT: Those are the top four. Now, they're very different in many ways, right? But you've got the most diverse Democratic field you have ever had, right?

You got Kamala Harris. You got Cory Booker. You got Andrew Yang. You got Julian Castro. You had Amy Klobuchar.

I mean, you have a diversity of gender and race and you have the four white candidates are still leading the pack.

HEALY: It's really, really striking. When we started this race in early 2019, it looked like this diversity is going to build on all the momentum for candidates of color, women who won in the midterms, that this was going to be a different face of the Democratic Party.

And now you have four white candidates leading the pack. Three of them men, three of them in their 70s and that diversity is a real concern. We were talk about it earlier with the Senate and the House, Democratic Party -- a lot of the Democrats want a nominee who is a woman, who is a person of color and there's concern that the base of the party won't have that energy, won't have that sort of fighting spirit in the midterms if it turns out to be, let's say, they're in an all-white ticket or a white male at the top of it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Patrick Healy.

And OUTFRONT next, President Trump describing al-Baghdadi's final moments and in great detail, but was it a tall tale?

Plus, Jeanne Moos on the dilemma to name or not name the dog to help take down the ISIS leader?



BURNETT: Tonight, new details about who crafted Trump's speech to the nation, announcing that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed. The president repeatedly described Baghdadi as whimpering and crying in his last moments.

But so far, no official has been able to publicly confirm those details.

Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi's last minutes alive described by President Trump in explicit detail.

TRUMP: The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.

STARR: Trump emphasizing Baghdadi's emotional state.

TRUMP: He didn't die a hero, he died a coward, crying, whimpering, screaming.

STARR: But how does President Trump know that? So far, this remains an unanswered question.

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't have those details. The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I don't know what the source of that was. But I assume that was talking directly to unit and unit members.

STARR: The White House has not responded to CNN's inquiry on whether the president spoke to any members of the military team and aides ignoring questions on how the president knew Baghdadi's emotions in those final moments.

REPORTER: How did the president learn about Baghdadi whimpering and crying in his final moments?

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Yes, I'm not going to talk about specifics on technology of what we do during those moments.

STARR: CNN did learn that Trump told aides he wanted a tough speech after the raid, according to one source. Officials who worked on the speech Saturday night later told colleagues the version Trump delivered on Sunday did not resemble what they put together. Trump was changing words until the last minute.

One defense official tells CNN, it's not likely the president's comments are based on him hearing Baghdadi's voice inside the Situation Room where he monitored the mission unless special arrangements were made. The raid is a success against ISIS without any embellishment.

But Trump's full-court press continues. Tomorrow, General Kenneth McKenzie, who was the senior officer overseeing the mission, is expected to make public declassified video from a drone flying overhead during the raid.

Another question, did the president give out too much information when he said things like --

TRUMP: It was approximately 1:10 flight and we were flying over very, very dangerous territory.

MICHAEL LEITER, FORMER NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER DIRECTOR: I'm not quite sure the president has a finally tuned ear for what is sensitive and what's not sensitive.


STARR: One item still classified, the name of the military working dog that helped chase Baghdadi down -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara, thank you very much.

And as Barbara said, the name not yet fully released, and Jeanne has the story on the dog.


TRUMP: He died like a dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Baghdadi died like a dog but the dog is also the hero. Very mixed messages about dogs in this story.




BURNETT: Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump made the memorable introduction.

TRUMP: A canine as they call -- I call it a dog.

MOOS: And now it's become.


MOOS: The dog that has other canines clapping, celebrated for chasing al Baghdadi down a tunnel where the terrorist blew himself up while the dog was --

MILLEY: Slightly wounded and fully recovering.

MOOS: Fans say put him on the $20 bill. The last thing al Baghdadi saw tweeted someone else.

Pet owners paid homage by posting their less capable dogs. Forget catching terrorists, Elvis can't stop the squirrels from eating tomato plants. We know that heroes breed, Belgian Malinois, but the Pentagon won't

confirm his name.

MILLEY: Protecting the dog's identity.

MOOS: Hide those eyes retroactively, accessorize him with high tech optics.

Told his name was classified, jokers took that as his name. Forget Lassie. It's Classie for classified.

(on camera): We're dogged by dilemmas. To name or not to name? Was it a good boy or a good girl?

(voice-over): Some inspected the photo and determined good girl will bite and chase cowardly terrorists for food and belly rubs. Though "Newsweek" reports the dog is male.

Remember the Bin Laden raid movie, "Zero Dark Thirty"? Well, movie posters are already being reimagined.

VOICE-OVER: Tray Parker has just purchased my life's story. Working title, "zero bark thirty".

MOOS: Minutes before President Trump praised the canine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I called it a dog.

MOOS: The president said of the terrorist.

TRUMP: He died like a dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Baghdadi died like a dog but the dog is also a hero. Some very mixed messages about dogs in this story.

MOOS: President Trump's first wife Ivana once wrote, Donald was not a fan of the dog.

You think?

TRUMP: Sweating like a dog.

He was choking like a dog.

MOOS: Here's a dog that definitely didn't choke.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.

TRUMP: I call it a dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call them dogs. Not like other people, who called them furry lizards or barking cats.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: "AC360" starts now.