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Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Interview With Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); House Releases Text Of Impeachment Rules; U.S. Colonel Delivers Damaging Testimony Against President Trump; House Democrats Release Impeachment Resolution Ahead Of Thursday Vote; Twenty-Six Million Warned Of "Extreme" Fire Danger Fueled By Fierce Winds; Warren Slams "Morally Wrong" Trump. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A White House official testifies that he reported his concerns about Mr. Trump's phone call with Ukraine in real time, warning of risks to national security. We're getting new reaction to his account and the president's attempts to discredit him.

Whistle-blower outing? Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to blow the cover of the whistle-blower who sparked the impeachment probe. Stand by for new details on the shouting match that erupted behind closed doors.

And firestorm. A new warning tonight for more than 26 million people at risk, as multiple blazes rage across California. The danger intensifies, as powerful winds threaten to sweep the state.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: House Democrats take a new step towards formalizing the impeachment investigation.

They just released a resolution that will be up for a full vote by the House of Representatives on Thursday. As the probe moves into an urgent new phase, impeachment investigators are hearing important new testimony right now.

The top Ukraine expert at the White House telling lawmakers he was so troubled by Mr. Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's president that he reported his concerns to his superior. This is the first testimony by someone who actually listened in to the call in which Mr. Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

I will get reaction from House Judiciary Committee member Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Judiciary member Richard Blumenthal. And our correspondents and analysts are standing by.

First, let's go to our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, the impeachment resolution is now public.


And this sets up a big vote on Thursday in the full House, certainly a significant moment in the impeachment inquiry. This resolution lays out how they will be essentially conducting the next phase of this inquiry, the public hearings, how witnesses will be questioned, by whom and for how long, and the potential for reporting articles of impeachment.

Now, this all comes as today it was another day of explosive testimony that at this hour is still going on Capitol Hill.


SERFATY (voice-over): Bombshell testimony on Capitol Hill.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): This is a very, very important moment. This is a person that was there.

SERFATY: From Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert telling House investigators today he was so troubled by what was happening with Ukraine, he raised concerns twice to his superiors.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We have got all kinds of opinions from several witnesses over the last few weeks. But the fundamental facts are -- are just that, fundamental.

SERFATY: But Vindman is the first witness who was actually on the now famous July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president, telling lawmakers today in his opening statement obtained by CNN that he was concerned by what he heard on the 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."

Following the call, Vindman said he reported his concerns to the NSC lead counsel. Earlier that same month, Vindman attended a July 10 meeting in Washington with Ukrainian and U.S. officials, telling lawmakers that the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland -- quote -- "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."

At a debriefing afterwards, Vindman testified today that he confronted Sondland: "Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma. I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate."

Following that meeting, Vindman says he also reported his concerns then to NSC's lead counsel, as did Fiona Hill, the president's former top Russia adviser, who was also in the room. But that directly contradicts what Gordon Sondland told House investigators two weeks ago during his deposition on Capitol Hill, Sondland then telling lawmakers -- quote -- "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."

Meantime, inside the room today during Vindman's testimony, sources tell CNN a shouting match erupted, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff objecting to a line of questioning from Republicans, charging that Republicans were trying to out the whistle-blower's identity, whose anonymous account started the investigation.

Republicans pushing back, arguing they are just asking questions about who Vindman spoke with.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): This has been a tainted process from the start. What happened today confirms, even worse, just how poorly Adam Schiff is handling this process and denying the ability for Republicans to even ask basic questions that are critical to the heart of whether or not a president of the United States is impeached.



SERFATY: Meantime, the House committees are now trying to bring in Brian McCormack, who is at OMB now, but just recently served as chief of staff to Rick Perry at the Department of Energy.

Secretary Perry, of course, really at the center of this impeachment inquiry as well as far as his conversations, Wolf, with Ukraine, but also President Trump as well.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you, Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.

Let's go over to the White House right now, the White House reacting to the Democrats' new impeachment resolution.

Our White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is joining us.

Boris, there's a new statement just out from the Trump team.


Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary, putting out a statement condemning this resolution put out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, again repeating a common refrain that we have heard from this White House, calling impeachment an illegitimate scam.

No real change in messaging from the White House here. We also saw the president go after Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman with a familiar attack.

Meantime, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, someone who is not frequently involved in political attacks and verbal fights, he is getting into it with Joe Biden.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump attempting to discredit the first current White House official to appear as a witness before the House impeachment inquiry, the president labeling Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman as a never-Trumper witness on Twitter as he was set to testify.

Trump also claiming he doesn't know Vindman, one of the top Ukraine experts on his own National Security Council, writing -- quote -- "Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call?"

While some Republican commentators questioned Vindman's patriotism, because he was born in Ukraine and emigrated to the United States as a 3-year-old, others quickly dismissed that line of criticism.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm not going to question the patriotism of any of the people who are coming forward. I'm not going to comment on the merits of what is going forward.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): We're talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation, who have put their lives on the line, and it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in that process.

SANCHEZ: In a rare interview tonight, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tells Israeli TV that the Democrats are playing silly games when it comes to impeachment.

Kushner also taking exception to comments from 2020 contender Joe Biden, who told "60 Minutes" this weekend that having Trump family members in the administration is improper.

QUESTION: What's improper about that?

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it is just simply improper, because you should make it clear to the American public that everything you are doing is for them, for them.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: He's entitled to his opinion, but a lot of the work that the president's had me doing over the last three years has actually been cleaning up the messes that Vice President Biden left behind.

SANCHEZ: Tonight, the president celebrating another blow to ISIS via Twitter, announcing the death of ISIS spokesman Abul-Hasan al-Muhajir, who was seen as a possible replacement to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

But questions remain about Trump's claim of how the death of the ISIS leader went down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. SANCHEZ: Top Pentagon officials say they were not aware of how the

president knew those details, but would not publicly dispute his version, saying that perhaps he had spoken directly to teams on the ground.

Officials with knowledge of the president's speech announcing al- Baghdadi's death say Trump's speech did not resemble the remarks prepared for him.


SANCHEZ: Now, Wolf, we didn't get a chance to ask President Trump about those details that he shared regarding the death of Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi.

There were no public events on the schedule for President Trump today, though he is heading in a short while just down the street from here to his own hotel to host a fund-raiser later tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Boris Sanchez, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee. He is also one of the top leaders in the House Democratic Caucus. He is the chairman.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, the White House says this resolution that was just introduced confirms that the House impeachment inquiry has been an illegitimate sham from the start -- that's in the White House statement -- and that this still doesn't grant the president his due process rights.

How do you respond?

JEFFRIES: We have been proceeding in a serious and solemn and sober fashion, consistent with our constitutional responsibilities, and we will continue to do that.

This impeachment inquiry from the very beginning is simply about following the facts, applying the law, being guided by the United States Constitution, and presenting the truth to the American people.

And the resolution that we will be voting on, on Thursday is consistent with that direction.

BLITZER: Any doubts whether or not it will pass? Do you have the 218 votes for sure that you need?


JEFFRIES: It is my expectation that the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus will support our effort to continue to move forward to this next phase of the impeachment inquiry, which will allow for the public presentation of evidence, as well as give the president the opportunity to present any exculpatory information that he may have, which, by the way, Wolf, has yet to be forthcoming.

And Americans should be asking the question, if the president has nothing to hide, why does he continue to hide documents, hide evidence, try to prevent witnesses from coming forward?

It is because, to the extent that they do, it will further confirm the serious wrongdoing that took place in connection with the Trump- Ukraine scandal.

BLITZER: You recently said -- and I'm quoting you now from an interview earlier in the month -- "There is no requirement for a cosmetic procedural vote."

So is this new vote on Thursday a concession to Republicans?

JEFFRIES: Not at all.

This is an important step forward in the context of laying out the process by which information that has been collected, with great leadership from Chairman Schiff and members of the Intel Committee and others, to be able to transfer that information to the Judiciary Committee, to the extent there is a recommendation to potentially consider articles of impeachment.

It will also allow for the information that has been collected through the deposition process to be released, considering the fact that there may need to be some redactions for national security purposes.

But, fundamentally, we're going to continue to keep the focus on the fact that the president, by pressuring a foreign government to target an American citizen for political gain, abused his power and solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election.

That undermines our national security and the integrity of our democracy, and that is what this impeachment inquiry fundamentally is all about.

BLITZER: Do you expect to get any Republican votes on Thursday?

JEFFRIES: We will see.

You know, the Republicans haven't been very cooperative as it relates to what we have been trying to do in the context of presenting the truth to the American people, but we're going to continue to move forward. We're going to continue to try and drive down the high cost of lifesaving prescription drugs.

We pay more for prescription drugs here in this country, Wolf, as you know, than any other developed country in the world. That's a shame. We want to change that. We want do give Medicare the ability to negotiate lower drug prices.

We're going to try to do that in a bipartisan way, and we want to proceed in this Capitol by continuing to seek common ground with our colleagues, with the administration, and with the Senate.

BLITZER: Your colleagues in the House, they heard for the first time today from someone who was actually on that controversial July phone call between the president and the Ukrainian president.

We are talking about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. How important is that corroboration that he presented?

JEFFRIES: Well, it is particularly important, in that he is the first witness who both currently works in the White House and was on the July 25 phone call, where the president's own words, "Do us a favor, though," confirm that there was something illegitimate that took place in the context of trying to pressure the Ukrainian president and at the same time withhold $391 million in military aid that had been allocated on a bipartisan basis.

The lieutenant colonel, who is a patriot, who is a war veteran, a decorated hero of this country, has made it clear that this is a national security issue as it relates to the behavior that the president engaged in and the abuse of power.

BLITZER: Well, what is your reaction to these attacks on Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's patriotism by some of the president's allies?

JEFFRIES: Well, the attacks on the lieutenant colonel are disgusting and disgraceful and disingenuous.

And my Republican colleagues and those conservative commentators who have criticized him should cut it out. Let's focus on the fact that there's real concern as to whether the president of the United States betrayed his oath of office, the Constitution and the American people.

The challenge that we have here, Wolf, is that some of my Republican colleagues, in what I often refer to as the cover-up caucus, seem more concerned with defending the indefensible than it is with gathering the facts, applying the law and trying to present the truth to the American people. But that is what we will continue to do.

BLITZER: Yes, the attacks on Lieutenant Colonel Vindman by some of these commentators are disgusting. I think it is a fair statement.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thanks very much for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, I will get Senate reaction to the new House impeachment resolution and what it will mean for the investigation going forward.

We will get reaction from Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary Committee. He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


And we will also later will go live to California, where an unprecedented warning about the extreme danger from the wildfire disaster was just issued.



BLITZER: We are following breaking news on the impeachment investigation, House Democrats releasing the text of a resolution formalizing the probe.

It is up for a full vote on the House floor on Thursday.

Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat. He serves on the Senate Judiciary and Armed Services committees.

Senator, thanks so much for coming in.


BLITZER: Do you support this House decision to hold a full vote on the impeachment inquiry on Thursday?

BLUMENTHAL: It is a really wise decision, because it will mean that this impeachment proceeding goes forward methodically and logically, ending the private part of these proceedings, and public hearings, so the entire American public can see, making it very fair and transparent.

BLITZER: Based on what you have seen so far, Senator, do you support impeaching the president, and then, if he is impeached, if it comes to the Senate, where you will be a juror in the Senate, will you support -- based on what you know right now, do you support removing him, convicting him, removing him from office?

BLUMENTHAL: I strongly support the impeachment proceeding.

And I believe that the House will vote to impeach him, for very good reasons. Clearly, in his own words, in that notes, the transcript of his July 25 call, he has confessed to putting pressure on a foreign leader to try to help him in a political campaign to benefit him personally.

But even more important, as today's testimony from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman emphasized, compromised our national security, in fact, undermined our own national defense by holding American military aid hostage to a partner, Ukraine, that literally was fighting for its life against Russia, our partner and key to our defense in Europe.

And so I will certainly listen if there is exculpatory evidence, but, right now, the facts are really powerful in favor of impeachment.

BLITZER: So, if it were up to now, not just impeachment, we are talking about conviction, would you vote to remove him, to convict him?

BLUMENTHAL: Based on what I know now, certainly, the burden is on the president to come forward with exculpatory evidence. Remember, we're going to have a trial, and I'm going to be listening

to all of the evidence before I cast my vote. But what I am hearing right now is the story of betrayal of trust, in fact, compromising his oath of office, and undermining our national security. And those are powerfully severe violations of the Constitution.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, spent hours -- I think he is still being deposed right now behind closed doors.

What strikes you -- based on what we know, his opening statement for example, what strikes you about his testimony?

BLUMENTHAL: What struck me about his testimony, Wolf, is, first of all, his personal story of coming to this country, loving it, a career military officer 20 years, with everything to lose and nothing to gain by coming forward in the way he did, after complaining privately to the counsel for the National Security Council, and, second, his emphasis on national security.

One of the quotes in his testimony is, this would all undermine U.S. national security, after he goes through the details of how pressure on the president of Ukraine for the president's own personal benefit would undermine our aid to Ukraine and our own nation's national security. Those two points really struck me.

BLITZER: And, as you point out, an incredible personal story that he shared with members of the committee. He and his twin brother were only 3 years old when his father and his grandmother -- his mother had died in Ukraine -- in 1979, when Ukraine was still part of the then- Soviet Union, were brought to Brooklyn, New York, raised in Brooklyn, went to college, eventually Harvard, became a U.S. military officer, still active-duty, was wounded in service, still has shrapnel in his body because of his service in Iraq.

He was in an IED explosion. And now some of the president's supporters are accusing him, practically speaking, effectively of being a dual loyal American, he has dual loyalty, which goes against the grain of everything this young man has lived for.

BLUMENTHAL: It goes against the grain of everything he has lived for and everything that we all live for as Americans.

And many of us have that kind of immigrant story. My own dad came to this country in 1935 to escape Nazi persecution. He was 17. He came alone. He had not much more than the shirt on his back. He spoke virtually no English, and he knew virtually no one.

Nobody loved this country more than my father, and that is true of many of our immigrants. To castigate him just because he is an immigrant is sad and scurrilous, especially in light of his extraordinary military record.


BLITZER: And so many of these Soviet Jews who came in the late '70s, early '80s from the then-Soviet Union, they were trying to escape anti-Semitism, as your dad was trying to do when he escaped from Germany and came to the United States.

BLUMENTHAL: And, you know, this country means, as the beacon of hope and freedom, that we welcome people who are persecuted, seeking asylum as refugees to this country, just as Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's parents came here, bringing him at 3 years old.

And he has given back to this country in the way that many immigrants do. We are a stronger country. In fact, we are a nation of immigrants and the greatest country in the world because of our diversity.

BLITZER: And for those critics who start raising questions of his patriotism, his loyalty, is certainly disgusting.

Senator, thanks so much for coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead: Jared Kushner takes a swipe at Joe Biden, claiming he spent years trying to clean up the mess, he says, that Biden left behind.

Plus, breaking news: an unprecedented warning by the National Weather Service for fire-ravaged parts of California -- why things may get much worse tonight.



BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, as House Democrats charge ahead with their impeachment investigation, the White House is blasting a just released resolution formalizing the probe and how it will be carried out. It's capping a day of bombshell testimony by the first current White House official to appear before impeachment investigators.

Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Jeffrey Toobin, the White House says in their statement just released that this House Democratic resolution proves the impeachment inquiry has been, quote, an illegitimate sham from the start. But all of us remember when they were saying the whole thing was a sham because they hadn't taken a vote, now they're going to take a vote.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And since then, there's also been a district court opinion from Judge Beryl Howell in Washington who has said the inquiry is perfectly legitimate and according to the Constitution.

So look, you know, the president said the other day he wants the Republicans to stop talking so much about process. All we ever hear from the Republicans now is complaints about process, including this one, which really just makes absolutely no sense at all. BLITZER: The new resolution that's about to be passed on Thursday, David Swerdlick, it does grant the president and House Republicans some new powers in dealing with all of this. How do you think that will influence the proceedings?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it might help some flow of information. You do have that the minority committee chairs, the Republican committee chairs, will be able to call witnesses. You have committee staff, probably committee counsel, who will be able to question witnesses now more than those five-minute increments that we've gotten used to seeing in these televised hearings. But I agree with Jeffrey.

If the point of this resolution was to appease Republicans who threw a tantrum last week, stormed the SCIF, have said that this is a sham, I don't think it is going to change those facts on the ground because Democrats have been trying to proceed with this, calling these witnesses and getting information on the record, and Republicans have argued process and called the process a sham no matter what has taken place.

BLITZER: You know, Sara, the impeachment committees today heard for the first time from someone who was actually listening in on that controversial phone conversation July 25th between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine. How significant is that?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it is very significant for a couple of reasons. One, I mean, it takes another process argument off the table for Republicans. They've said a lot of those witnesses are just -- it's hearsay, they don't necessarily know what they're talking about. This is someone who was on the call who heard the president speaking to the Ukrainian president and after the fact aired these concerns, documented these concerns about the way the president was conducting foreign policy with Ukraine.

The other thing I think is significant is this person is a current White House official, and we've seen the way the White House has decided they want to completely stonewall this inquiry. They tried to block any witness from testifying, and this is someone who was at the White House who is saying, I'm going with Congress on this, I'm going to trust that this congressional subpoena is going to offer me more protection than essentially what the White House is threatening.

BLITZER: Yes, Lt. Col. Vindman, active duty, Mark Mazzetti, active duty for 20 years. Lt. Col. U.S. Army, he showed up in his uniform today as he went to testify in his deposition. And he noted that at least on two occasions there was a significant difference in what he saw and what we heard earlier from Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Let me read it to you.

Vindman contradicted Sondland testimony in this exchange. He said, Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma. That was the natural gas company that Joe Biden's son was on the board of. Ambassador Sondland said, again, 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.

Here is another example. Lt. Col. Vindman, Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president, at which time Ambassador Bolton, John Bolton, then National Security Adviser, cut the meeting short. I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.


Dr. Hill, a Russia adviser on the NSC, then at that time, then entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.

Once again, Gordon Sondland, when he was deposed before the committees, that if Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill or others harbored misgivings about the impropriety of what we were doing, they never shared misgivings with me then or later. Some are suggesting he may have committed perjury.

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There's certainly daylight between Vindman's testimony as well as Fiona Hill's testimony and what Gordon Sondland appears to have said. And the significance, one of the significances of Vindman's testimony is that it does corroborate other witnesses. It corroborates Fiona Hill's account that the concerns were raised, that Gordon Sondland had seemed to be saying that the aid was contingent and the meeting with Trump was contingent on movement on these investigations.

So it does appear that Sondland is the odd man out here in this testimony where his account isn't lining up with what Vindman and others have said.

BLITZER: Let me get Toobin to react. Go ahead.

TOOBIN: Well, just because two witnesses have different recollections, that doesn't mean that one of them committed perjury. It certainly would be good grounds to bring Sondland back and ask him some of these questions again.

It's important also to emphasize that the email traffic very much supports the Vindman and Hill view of what happened here, not the Sondland view. But it is also important to remember we haven't seen the full transcript of any of these people. We've only seen some opening statements.

So I think it's important to reserve judgment about whether somebody is lying, much less committing a crime, before we see the whole context.

BLITZER: You know, Samantha, could Lt. Col. Vindman speak to the accuracy of that rough transcript the White House released? And remember, when they released that rough transcript, they specifically said a memorandum of a telephone conversation is not a verbatim transcript of the discussion. I ask the question because Lt. Col. Vindman is fluent in Russian and Ukrainian, and President Zelensky, we're told, was speaking in either Russian or Ukrainian.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure, Wolf. I was the director at the White House. And part of your job during these calls is to take contemporaneous notes, that you can compare them with the situation room.

I will say that in Lt. Col. Vindman's written statement at least, he did not suggest that anything in the public record differed from what he saw.

But the big takeaway for me, Wolf, is someone who served on the National Security Council from this testimony is that Vindman is really being pilloried by the president for doing his job. His job as a director of Ukraine was to advance U.S. national security vis-a-vis Ukraine.

The fact that he reported these concerns to the NSC legal directorate was part of that work, was part of that responsibility. And the key question I'm left with is what happened to those concerns with the NSC legal directorate. The legal director report said John Bolton -- or reported to John Bolton, excuse me, and to White House Counsel, and I imagine that something investigators will be looking further into.

BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts, you know, Sara, on a different issue.

Jared Kushner gave an interview in Israel on Israeli T.V., responding to Joe Biden's 60 Minutes interview. And listen to what Jared Kushner said about Biden.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: A lot of the work that the president has had me doing over the last three years has actually been cleaning up the messes that Vice President Biden left behind.

Look, he has his opinion. I think that President Trump is entitled to pick his team and, you know, we've worked with him for a long time. And I think we've done a good job of trying to help him be successful.


BLITZER: Biden had said on 60 Minutes, if you remember, Sara, that it was improper for Jared Kushner or his wife, Ivanka, to work in the White House.

MURRAY: And I think a lot of ethics officials, former White House ethics officials agree with Joe Biden on that front. You know, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are working in the White House. Essentially what is done is done. I don't know what else we would expect Jared Kushner to say other than to try to defend the work that he has done there. But it has continued to present ethical concerns on the length of their tenure in the White House.

And I do think that is another thing that Joe Biden can use to deflect the attacks against him when people are coming after his son. It is pretty easy to point to the White House and say, the president's children are currently working in this administration which runs in the face of ethical guidance that all of these previous administrations would have put forward.

BLITZER: You used to work at the White House. What do you think?

VINOGRAD: Well, I mean, come on, when does the White House senior adviser go to Israel, one of our most important bilateral relationships, and play politics in a public interview? This is really unprecedented when you think will the role that White House advisers are supposed to be play. It really speaks to your point, Sara, that qualified professionals should be leading Middle East policy and not the president's son-in-law.

BLITZER: You've got strong views on that.

TOOBIN: But wait a second. Wait a second. They're also making millions of dollars off of their work.

MURRAY: Oh, right. There's that too.

TOOBIN: Ivanka Trump is getting valuable trademarks and copyrights from the Chinese government at the time we're negotiating with China.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's a lot more we're going to discover and report on, lots more on the breaking news.


Also, another breaking news story, millions of people right now are at risk as California wildfires keep spreading. Officials are now warning that dangerous winds are posing an extreme threat.



BLITZER: Breaking news tonight. More than 26 million people may be at risk as fierce winds are threatening to make California's wildfire crisis even worse. An unprecedented warning about extreme danger is now in effect.

CNN's Stephanie Elam reports from Los Angeles.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A blaze for days. California is battling wildfires across the state, and officials couldn't be more clear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the houses at?

ELAM: The worst conditions are yet to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in this critical really 24-hour window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fuels are critically dry.

ELAM: High winds, up to 80 miles per hour, are expected in parts of southern California over the next 48 hours, adding more fuel to the flames.

CHIEF RALPH TERRAZAS, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: It only takes one ember to blow down wind and start another fire.

ELAM: It is so dangerous that for the first time ever, an extreme red flag warning has been issued in Los Angeles. Preparing for what is to come, more than 1,100 firefighters in the L.A. region alone.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is a challenging time, 43 counties in the state of California were experiencing red flag warnings, were experiencing at or near historic wind events.

ELAM: Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti assessed the situation with teams on the ground.

This as authorities in northern California warned residents not to take any chances.

CAPT. ARISTOTLE WOLFE, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: I made a stop on a gentleman who had thrown a cigarette butt on the freeway. This is no time to add to the problem.

ELAM: Since the 1970s, the portion of California burned by wildfires each year has increased by 500 percent. A new study attributes the finding to climate change including dryer weather and less rain.

NEWSOM: The fact is the fires this year have been relatively modest compared to previous years.

ELAM: Just last year, 85 people lost their lives in California after a wildfire caused by electrical lines burned the town of Paradise to the ground.

NEWSOM: We're not even close to where we need to be in this state. This is not the new normal, and it doesn't take a decade to fix this damn thing.

ELAM: Now, utility companies are once again planning to shut off power for hundreds of thousands of Californians through at least Wednesday to avoid contributing to the danger.


ELAM: And the governor of California is saying that he has spoken with the electrical companies and said that they've now agreed to credit those residents who have been living without power as they are trying to avoid any sparking of any new fire with these high winds and low humidity that we're seeing here. And new tonight, Wolf, I can tell you mere at the Getty Fire, we've just heard that they've now lost 12 homes, but the containment is up to 15 percent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, thank you very much.

There's more breaking news just ahead.

Elizabeth Warren is taking new jabs at President Trump over his attacks on an impeachment witness.



BLITZER: We have breaking news from the presidential campaign. Elizabeth Warren taking direct aim at President Trump and his attempts to undermine the impeachment testimony of a decorated Iraq war veteran.

Our political correspondent M.J. Lee is joining us from New Hampshire right now.

So, M.J., what are you hearing from Senator Warren?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Warren just weighed in here in New Hampshire about the fast-moving impeachment proceedings back in Washington, D.C, including President Trump deciding to go after Lieutenant Colonel Vindman today. She said this was a ploy for him to distract from the impeachment proceedings. This is what she told us a few moments ago.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's just fundamentally wrong. This is just one more example of Donald Trump trying to distract from the substance of what's going on. We've now heard from one more person who was on the call who understands clearly that Donald Trump pressured the head of the government of Ukraine in order to protect Donald Trump's own political future. That is a violation of law and it is also morally wrong. Trump hopes we'll talk about something other than that, he's wrong.


LEE: Now, Senator Warren was also asked on how she plans on balancing campaigning and impeachment proceedings, she said that this is certainly more important than politics and that she plans on fully participating whenever the impeachment proceedings reaches the Senate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Warren like you in New Hampshire right now, M.J.. CNN is out, I know, with a new poll on the Democratic contest in that state.

LEE: That's right. This new CNN poll showing that the two top progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Senator Warren are fighting for the top spot in New Hampshire with Bernie Sanders with 21 percent support among Democratic likely voters, and Senator Warren with 18 percent support. Biden falling in his support since this poll was conducted in July to just 15 percent support. And the only other candidate with double-digit support right now in New Hampshire is Pete Buttigieg -- Wolf.

BLITZER: M.J. Lee, thank you very much.

Just ahead, a profitable decision for college athletes that could have a huge impact on the sports world.



BLITZER: Tonight, a monumental decision that could have far-reaching impact across college sports. In a unanimous vote, the NCAA board of governors is changing its rules to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. The ruling will allow student athletes to sign endorsement deals, but will prohibit direct payments from their school.

The shift comes amid growing pressure from federal and state legislators with California passing similar legislation last month. The NCAA wants to have new rules in place governing this decision by 2021.

Speaking of sports, go Nats.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.