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John Bolton Invited To Testify In Impeachment Inquiry; ISIS Raid Images; Interview With Thomas Friedman; Interview With Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL); White House Denies Witness Claim Of Omissions In Call Transcript; Lawyer: Bolton Won't Appear at Impeachment Probe Without Subpoena; Thousands Evacuate As Hurricane-Force Winds Stoke Wildfires. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 30, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This as we're learning more about John Bolton's concerns that politics was influencing Mr. Trump's Ukraine policy.

Transcript omission. New questions tonight about the White House record of the president's very controversial phone call with Ukraine. A major witness revealing that key words were left out of the transcript, including a reference to Joe Biden.

ISIS raid images. The Pentagon just released the first video from the U.S. raid that led to the death of the terrorist leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi. What do the images reveal?

And hurricane-force. Ferocious winds stoke California's rapidly growing wildfire disaster, the flames threatening thousands of homes and coming dangerously close to the Reagan Presidential Library.

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: We're following breaking news on what could be one of the most important witnesses yet in the impeachment investigation.

Sources tell CNN that House Democrats have invited former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify behind closed doors next week. The impeachment probe is moving at a rapid pace tonight, with growing evidence against the president just hours before the full House votes on formalizing the investigation.

Also breaking, a new fire in Southern California forces about 26,000 people to evacuate the blaze, fanned by hurricane-force wind gusts. At one point, the Reagan Presidential Library was completely surrounded by flames.

I will talk with House Intelligence Committee member Mike Quigley and "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman.

And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

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

Sunlen, the impeachment witness list keeps growing and growing, Democrats now want to hear directly from John Bolton.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

This will certainly be a potentially huge moment on Capitol Hill in the House Democrats' impeachment probe. Now, it's not clear at this point if John Bolton will appear without a subpoena, but the House committees have officially made the request to him to appear, potentially next week.

Now, this comes as another key witness, Tim Morrison, who's a top White House official on Trump's National Security Council, he is set to testify up here on Capitol Hill tomorrow, but sources now confirming to CNN that he is going to be stepping down and leaving his job soon.

Certainly, a flurry of fast-moving developments in the impeachment probe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, House investigators have extended an invitation to former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify next week, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Bolton would be the most senior official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, though it's not clear Bolton will agree to appear without a subpoena.

Sources also tell CNN Bill Taylor, the president's top diplomat in Ukraine, is willing to return to Capitol Hill to testify in public, a particularly monumental moment in the House Democrats' intensifying impeachment inquiry.

Taylor's testimony last week behind closed doors sent shockwaves through the Capitol, where he completely undercut the administration's defense that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.

Meantime, two new witnesses testifying on Capitol Hill today. Christopher Anderson, aid to former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, speaking to lawmakers behind closed doors, about the concerns voiced by Bolton over Rudy Giuliani's shadow Ukraine operation.

Anderson, according to his opening statement obtained by CNN, saying Bolton "cautioned Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine, which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement."

Catherine Croft, a State Department special adviser for Ukraine, also appearing today, corroborating the testimony the committees have heard from other witnesses about the push to oust the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and testifying today she was informed that acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, put an informal hold on security assistance to Ukraine.

"The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the president," Croft said today.

All of this as the fallout continues from the explosive testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert. Vindman, who was on that now-famous July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president, directly contradicting Trump's public description of the transcript released by the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a transcript done by very, very talented people, word for word, comma for comma, done by people that do it for a living. We had an exact transcript.

[18:05:01]

SERFATY: President Trump touting over and over again that it was an exact transcript of the phone call. The White House in September saying the ellipses that showed up did not represent missing words or phrases

But not so, says Vindman, who told lawmakers what the White House released was not exact and had at least two parts omitted, a reference to a Joe Biden tape and a specific mention of Burisma, the company where Biden's son Hunter was on the board, Burisma, according to Vindman, appearing in the transcript as just the company.

Sources tell CNN Vindman testified that he tried to make changes to the rough transcript, but his efforts were blocked.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And back on Bill Taylor and the potential for a public testimony, sources tell CNN that a public testimony request has not officially been made by the committees yet, but certainly many Democrats see him as a very ideal first witness, as they move to the next phase of this investigation, Wolf, the public phase -- Wolf.

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

As Democrats are urging John Bolton to testify, President Trump is on the attack once again against another key witness in the impeachment probe.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, there's a new White House response to Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's testimony about omissions in the rough transcript of the president's Ukraine phone call.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The president shifted his attacks today from the whistle-blower to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House official who says he was alarmed by some of those admissions in the administration's transcript, as he described them, of Mr. Trump's phone call with the leader of Ukraine.

Those admissions, of course, raise serious questions about the president's claim that the White House provided an exact transcript of that call, as it appears now that is not the case, but the White House is insisting tonight it is the case.

The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, just released a statement. We can put this up on screen and show it to you.

It says on all of this and some of the testimony from Alexander Vindman: "President Trump released a full and accurate transcript of his call with President Zelensky, so the American people could see he acted completely appropriately and did nothing wrong. The media is reporting that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman claims he proposed filling in words that were missing in areas were shown in the transcript. That is false."

But, Wolf, there are other aspects of Vindman's testimony that may cause trouble for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With more administration witnesses stepping forward in the impeachment inquiry, the president is taking swipes at Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official who raised questions about Mr. Trump's phone call with the leader of Ukraine.

The president tweeted that the Army officer and Purple Heart recipient was a never-Trumper witness who could find no quid pro quo in the transcript of the phone call.

But sources tell CNN Vindman testified that aid to Ukraine was contingent on an investigation of the Bidens. Mr. Trump is urging Republicans, as he tweeted, to go with substance and close it out. But top GOP lawmakers are still quarreling with the process, complaining that the upcoming vote on the House impeachment inquiry is too little, too late.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): No due process now, maybe some later, but only if we feel like it, is not a standard that should ever be applied to any American, and it should not applied here to the president of the United States.

ACOSTA: Democrats say they want to talk substance.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): The president was pressuring a foreign government to target an American citizen. That's an abuse of power. The president said, focus on substance. We're going to focus on substance.

ACOSTA: One key piece of testimony from Vindman, that he was concerned about glaring omissions in the White House transcript of Mr. Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president. That flies in the face of what President Trump has repeatedly told the public.

TRUMP: An exact transcript of my call, done by very talented people that do this, exact, word for word.

It was an exact transcription of the conversation.

I released a transcript of my conversation, an exact transcript.

ACOSTA: Democrats are firing back at some of the president's defenders.

JOHN YOO, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I find that astounding, and, you know, some people might call that espionage.

ACOSTA: Who question Vindman's patriotism. Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, a veteran himself, says that crosses a line.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ours is the patriotism that would never question the integrity of someone who blows the whistle on official misconduct, least of all a war hero, acting out his loyalty to the republic for which we all stand.

ACOSTA: More questions are being raised about the operation to take out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. At a briefing behind closed doors, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted administration officials for leaving top Democrats in the dark on the mission.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was also briefed on the operation after it was over. But a White House official pushed back on the notion that Mulvaney was out of the loop, saying: "He was home for the weekend family. The operation began very quickly and, while he was not able to get a secure location in time to participate, he was briefed on its success upon conclusion."

[18:10:02]

Mulvaney has been on shaky ground since he acknowledged a quid pro quo with Ukraine earlier this month.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.

ACOSTA: But the president has found somebody under his command to praise, the dog from the Baghdadi image, tweeting this Photoshopped image of the canine commando receiving a medal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, with the whistle-blower and Vindman offering damaging testimony in the impeachment inquiry, there are growing concerns about the safety of both men.

The whistle-blower has been on the receiving end of some threatening messages. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier in the day that he has sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting that efforts be made to guarantee Vindman's safety -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens, that he is secure. Thank you so much, Jim Acosta, over at the White House.

Let's get to another breaking story right now, the Pentagon just releasing the first video from the raid that led to the death of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the images just declassified.

Quickly want to go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are we seeing, what are we learning from these images?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary to see this, Wolf. This is a highly classified mission. Clearly, President Trump wanted the world to see these images.

Three videos were released a short time ago here at the Pentagon. The first one shows as U.S. helicopters are beginning to approach the compound to land U.S. commandos to begin the mission. They come under fire from the ground. There are other militants there not to be believed to be ISIS, and those on board the helicopter quickly fire back and eliminate this opposing force on the ground.

Then they rapidly move towards the compound, an extraordinary image here. Hopefully, you can take a second and see there are dark figures moving towards the compound. These are U.S. Special Forces. They are moving in, and they find Baghdadi in a tunnel area.

That tunnel collapses, fills with water. There are wires there. It collapses because, in part, he has detonated, obviously, his suicide vest. That is -- the tunnel is where two U.S. service members and the military working dog are injured with electrocution injuries. All three have returned to duty.

A very interesting detail coming to light here. General McKenzie, who briefed the Pentagon press corps a short time ago, says they are looking at this. They think it is possible that Baghdadi fired his weapon back.

General McKenzie, along with the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, publicly unable to confirm the president's account that Baghdadi died whimpering or crying. They say they simply don't know anything about it.

And the last video we see is, of course, U.S. aircraft rolling in, destroying the compound from the air. General McKenzie saying they wanted to do that to make sure that it did not become a shrine and that this is simply just another piece of ground.

So, one of the most interesting things is, they were certain Baghdadi was there. And it was not an area of Syria where they expected to find him. So, when these missions are planned, it is with certainty that they know, not just when they're taking off, but when they land, that their target will still be there. And he was -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very dramatic video, indeed. Thanks very much, Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon.

Joining us now, Congressman Mike Quigley. He's a Democrat, serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to get back to the breaking news on the impeachment inquiry.

You have now invited the former National Security Adviser to President Trump John Bolton to testify next week. Many different witnesses have testified about Bolton's role in all of this. How important is it, Congressman, for all of us, for you specifically behind closed doors next week, to hear from him directly?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Well, we have learned from other testimony how important he would be as a witness.

I'm hoping that he really wants to testify to show the courage that the others have so far, Colonel Vindman and the ambassadors who have testified so far. They have shown real -- and the whistle-blower. They have talked truth to power, that the president of the United States abused their power and muscled an ally who is very vulnerable at this time.

And if indeed what we have learned is true, that he thought this was a drug deal, he thought that Mr. Giuliani was a hand grenade, that he was repulsed by this and canceled a meeting and said, go talk to the lawyers, then tell the American people, because they have a right to know.

And I think he's also very concerned about Ukraine and its importance. All the more reason for him to let the public know what happened, and try to make sure it never happens again.

BLITZER: How confident are you, Congressman, that Bolton will appear?

His longtime aide Charles Kupperman has decided not to testify until a federal court weighs in.

QUIGLEY: Look, there are people close to the White House -- and every time I show up to hear testimony, I think it's probably 50/50 whether or not they will show up.

[18:15:05]

I would like to think that he could show the same courage that was seen with the witnesses so far, those who have put their careers on the line and, unfortunately, with the whistle-blower, those who had to put his life on the line to tell the truth.

BLITZER: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, is willing to testify publicly. He's already been deposed behind closed doors. How influential will he be in an open hearing?

QUIGLEY: Look, just taking -- working from his opening statement, it's clear he was witness to this scheme.

And he details this scheme of a shadow foreign policy led by someone who has no security clearance, no foreign policy experience, operating under directions by who knows who, Mr. Giuliani.

So, he was an extraordinary witness. I think his presence, again, just working off his opening statement, will be commanding.

BLITZER: We just heard from our correspondent Kylie Atwood that Tim Morrison, the top White House official on the president's National Security Council for Europe, he's leaving his job. We expect that he will be leaving his job very soon.

He's supposed to testify behind closed doors before the impeachment inquiry tomorrow. What do you anticipate from that?

QUIGLEY: I -- here's what I expect from all such witnesses, first, that they will tell the truth, that they will show courage to do so.

None of them have contradicted the transcript, the complaining witness, and the text that we have learned so far. I think the majority of the case have been put before the American public. They know that the president abused his power.

All the witnesses have done so far is to corroborate that, to build upon that case, and to continue to fill in the gaps of knowledge.

BLITZER: You were in the room today, the closed-door room following -- during the depositions of two more witnesses.

What sort of context did they provide on the timeline of this pressure on Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani's specific role?

QUIGLEY: Yes, and I can't talk about specific testimony, but I will say the witnesses continue to be uniform, not contradictory, corroborating what we learned at the very beginning, building the case, filling in gaps.

Often, what one witness does is lead us to questions, other questions, and other people we would like to bring before the committee to ask questions about.

BLITZER: Are you any closer to fully understanding, Congressman, why the nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid that had been appropriated, authorized by Congress, signed into law by the president, was actually frozen by the president at the last minute?

QUIGLEY: I personally have no doubt as to why it was frozen.

The president of the United States was using whatever leverage he had, military assistance and a meeting in the Oval Office, to get the Ukrainians to do research for him, to do his political dirty work against his opponent. I don't have any doubt about that.

But we continue to build the case, because the American people has -- a right to learn about other crimes and misdemeanors and how to fill in the gaps of the existing case.

BLITZER: Have witnesses confirmed what you're telling us? QUIGLEY: Oh, I -- all they have done is -- even if all you did was

read the opening statements, I think all they do is corroborate the original whistle-blower complaint and the transcript that the White House released.

All you can do is build upon that. The fundamental case is there. There's a lot more to learn, but I do think the body of the case is there. The American public is well aware that the president abused his power.

BLITZER: The Austin Army Lieutenant Colonel Vindman serves on the president's National Security Council, testified yesterday that the White House omitted additional mentions of the Bidens and Burisma -- that's that Ukrainian natural gas company that Hunter Biden was on the board of -- in the rough transcript of that July phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky.

How do you interpret that? As you just heard the White House is formally denying to assertion by the lieutenant colonel.

QUIGLEY: Yes, I guess I would ask the American public. We don't leave our common sense at the door.

If the White House was so forthcoming about this, why did they hide this phone call in a secret server right out of the back? Why did they try to hide this? And why have they tried to obstruct every witness who would come forth in front of the American public, through its elected body of Congress to tell us exactly what took place?

They don't want the American public to know all the details.

BLITZER: Tomorrow, the House will vote on the impeachment inquiry moving into this new official formal phase, a full vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

[18:20:00]

You speak to a lot of members, including your Republican colleagues. Do you expect to get any Republican votes?

QUIGLEY: You know, I don't.

It's unfortunate. We know one member has left the Republican Party and has talked about why the president of the United States should be impeached.

But other than that, I don't. First, the Republicans talked about wanting this resolution, this vote, and then, when it's being offered, they're saying, oh, it's not enough.

It's just proof that they want to talk about process because they don't want to talk about what the president did. And the fact is, I have been part of this investigation since day one.

And can I tell you firsthand that the Republicans have worked hand in glove this administration to obstruct all of his crimes and misdemeanors. It continues today.

BLITZER: Congressman Mike Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, will John Bolton agree to testify in the impeachment investigation? We're going to talk about the breaking news story that's unfolding right now with "New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman.

He's standing by. There you see him. He's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we will also go live to Southern California, where wildfires and hurricane-force winds are raging.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:58]

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, impeachment investigators add a big name to their witness list.

House Democrats are now asking the president's former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify next week.

Let's talk about the investigation with "New York Times" columnist and author Tom Friedman, the author of "From Beirut to Jerusalem."

The book came out a long time. And it's coming out again. It's still very relevant. There, you see the cover of the book.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Tom, thanks for joining us.

So, John Bolton, a man you have covered, I have covered, we have known him for a long time, the speculation is, from the president's perspective, worst-case scenario, he could be the John Dean of this impeachment inquiry. What do you think?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think there's probably a lot of tension within John Bolton now, because he is someone who believed in a very, very strong presidency, even going back to the George W. Bush administration.

Probably wouldn't want to be the agent of weakening the presidency. At the same time, he's a person of integrity. He clearly, from all the other witnesses, Wolf, was someone who was onto this. I think he was quoted as describing all of Giuliani's parallel Ukraine policies as a drug deal.

And every time his name has come up, it's come up as a person who opposed this policy, thought it was wrong, illegal, and immoral. And so, if he does testify, I think it could be enormous.

What we do know, though, is he's represented by the same lawyer as another NSC deputy --

BLITZER: Kupperman.

FRIEDMAN: -- Kupperman, who's chosen not to testify so far. They have thrown it to the courts to try to sort of out the impeachment rights vs. the rights of executive privilege.

And so I sit with bated breath to see if he comes out. It would be a bombshell.

BLITZER: Yes. It certainly will be.

The president wants Republicans to defend him very vocally on the substance of that controversial phone call he had with the Ukrainian president.

Do you think any Republicans are going to step forward? Because they're really going after the process.

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think what's going to happen here, Wolf, is this.

They clearly are not comfortable defending the substance, against diplomats, Army officers, independent public servants who have really exposed all the chicanery here.

So, what they have done is to attack the process and to attack the people, these civil servants who bearing witness to this.

It's just shameful. But I think eventually -- especially the pushback that's come in the last day, Wolf, over the attacks on the Ukraine officer who -- the Ukraine specialist Army officer.

BLITZER: Alexander Vindman, lieutenant colonel.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: I think what you're going to see is Republicans are going to conclude that that's really a bad strategy.

The American public will not like that. So, I think what they will do in the end is, they're going to say, yes, Trump did it, it was awful, but it's not impeachable.

And, therefore, the House will impeach him, the Republicans in the Senate won't convict, because they will say the American people should bring this judgment, not us.

I think they will realize that attacking our civil service, our Army officers, some really distinguished people, is not a winning hand.

BLITZER: When you go back and read this rough transcript that the White House released of the president's controversial phone conversation with the Ukrainian President Zelensky, it says right at the bottom of page one, this is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. It's called a memorandum of a telephone conversation. And if you go through it, on several points, there are ellipses.

'Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it" -- dot, dot, dot -- "it sounds horrible to me."

So we don't know what's in the dot, dot, dot.

Another point: "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike" -- dot, dot, dot -- "I guess you have one of your wealthy people" -- dot, dot, dot.

"The server, they say Ukraine has it."

Now, as you know, in this whole operation, Colonel Vindman, a decorated U.S. army officer who serves on -- the national security adviser -- who speaks Ukrainian and Russian, he says that those dot, dot, dots eliminated certain very sensitive points, he says Trump telling Zelensky there were tapes of Biden.

Zelensky mentioned Burisma, rather than -- the company, the natural gas company.

So, who do you believe?

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: Do you believe that Lt. Col. Vindman who says he wanted to insert some of those missing words in the transcript or do you believe the president's press secretary just released a statement, Stephanie Grisham, who said, what we can't confirm is that he never suggested filling in any words or any points where ellipses appear in the transcript?

The media is reporting Vindman claims he proposed filling in words that were missing in area where ellipses were shown in the transcript. This is false, she says.

FRIEDMAN: I wouldn't believe her if she told me it was dark outside right now, Wolf. The president has lied at every juncture of this story. He told us early on that the whistleblower, his analysis of the conversation in transcript, it was completely wrong. It turns out to be exactly right. And as you've reported, every single witness has confirmed what the whistleblower said.

And you can assume that Vindman was taking notes, as he's listening. He's obviously got those notes. He went to them with him and somebody obviously turned this down.

So these are people who -- they lie as they breathe, really, the president. I mean, every other word out of his mouth is a lie. We have a White House spokesman who -- I don't think -- does she appear in public? I don't know what she looks like.

BLITZER: She's done some interviews on Fox News.

FRIEDMAN: On Fox News, yes. That's really courageous. And so none of them, hey, come on out, let us question you about this. Everything is kind of a blast from the White House, picked up by Fox News, which is very happy to cater to all of these conspiracy theories and the truth will come out. We'll find all of this out.

BLITZER: And these attacks on Lt. Col. Vindman that have been going on now for 24, almost 48 hours, raising questions about his loyalty, raising questions about his patriotism, raising questions about his intelligence, that he's a never-Trumper and all these kinds of things, it's disgusting.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, it's disgusting and shameful. And the best sign that I don't think it has a long life with Republicans, that attack mode is that people like Liz Cheney have come out and said, do not go there.

BLITZER: She's right.

FRIEDMAN: She's absolutely right. And so a lot of Republicans have been uncomfortable with this. And that's why I said, in the end, Wolf, what they're all going to do, I believe, is they're going to say, well, what Mulvaney said, yes, he did it, okay? And, yes, it wasn't good, but it's not impeachable. That's where they're going to hide at the end of the day.

BLITZER: And what's really worrisome, and you heard the Democratic minority leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, he's now asking the U.S. Army, and this is an active duty U.S. military officer assigned to the National Security Council, what kind of plans they have to protect Lt. Col. Vindman from retaliation, because there are serious threats now being leveled against this war hero. He was injured. He received a Purple Heart during his service in Iraq.

FRIEDMAN: These people, they really have no -- they know no bounds. We have had a baseball umpire talk about going out and buying an assault weapon if people take down their Trump. And I think that we can't the intimidated by these people. And I think it's necessary to protect these witnesses but also to call out this kind of behavior and let them know they want to make us afraid. They want to put us in this situation where we say, God, I don't want this conflict. I don't want any conflict. Maybe we should kind of dial it back.

No, we should not be afraid of these people. They are cowards, okay? Someone who would attack an army officer with a Purple Heart for telling the truth. Who are you people? Come on out in the open.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, they're clearly reluctant to do so right now. This is an awful situation that's unfolding right now. We, of course, wish only the best for Col. Vindman. He's got an incredible story, came here as a three-year-old with his twin brother from Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union in 1979. They went to Brooklyn, where so many other Soviet Jews eventually wound up. And he became -- he went to Harvard, became a U.S. Army officer and has done really great work.

FRIEDMAN: Wolf, these are people who every day go around, very happy to tell our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice, and none of them will make even the smallest political sacrifice to stand up to a president who is violating his oath. They are such incredible cowards.

BLITZER: Tom Friedman, thanks so much for coming in.

FRIEDMAN: A pleasure.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next. Will House Democrats subpoena the former national security adviser, John Bolton, if he declines their invitation to testify in the impeachment inquiry?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

BLITZER: We're following a lot of the breaking news in the impeachment investigation right now, including a potentially very powerful new witness.

Sources telling CNN House Democrats have invited the former national security adviser at the White House, John Bolton, to testify behind closed doors next week, but his attorney has just told CNN's Ariane de Vogue that Bolton will not appear without a subpoena.

Let's bring in our team of experts. And, Kaitlan, I think it's fair to say, he will be receiving a subpoena.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that seems likely. So far, they had been waiting on that. They had just issued an invitation so far, but a subpoena was definitely likely.

The question is what happens when they do issue a subpoena, which does seem likely right now. Because, remember, he has this attorney, Charles Cooper, the same attorney that his deputy, Charlie Kupperman, has.

And so far, they've gone to court with Charlie Kupperman over his request to appear before these House investigators, essentially wanting a court to decide whether or not they have to show up or not.

Now, that ruling will likely affect what John Bolton does as well, though, of course, he is someone people definitely want to talk to because he has got firsthand knowledge of a lot of this.

BLITZER: And he was deeply upset, Pamela, about the role that Rudy Giuliani was in organizing, conducting U.S. policy towards Ukraine.

[18:40:03]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I mean, he could really provide one of the most consequential testimonies in this whole proceeding just given his front row seat to so much of this, including that July 10th meeting at the White House, the meeting with Ukrainians, as well as Ambassador Sondland, where he was abruptly ended the meeting because he was concerned about what Sondland was saying. About the investigations that President Trump wanted. And so what he can do is corroborate other testimony from Fiona Hill, Alex Vindman from yesterday and also shed new light. Remember, it was Bolton who apparently told Fiona Hill to raise her concerns with the lawyer at the NSC. So one of the big questions is, why was that and did he do anything to actually intervene.

Also, remember, he left the same week that the Ukraine aide was released. There were questions about why he left the White House, and he didn't leave on great terms, as we know, with President Trump. And so that also makes him a concern to the White House.

BLITZER: Yes, awful terms in some of the statements coming in from Official White House press people suggesting that this guy was totally unqualified for this important position.

Jeffrey Toobin, how do you see all this unfolding?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think there is much legal ground in which to object to his testimony. This Kupperman case seems sort of silly to me. I mean, this is a subpoena. It's a valid subpoena. All the other witnesses have responded to the subpoena. The idea that when you get a subpoena, you have to go to court and say, judge, should I comply with this, I just don't get that.

I mean, the fact that the White House Counsel has raised in this eight-page letter of a few weeks this blanket objection to the entire investigation, that doesn't seem to have any legal base at all. And the fact that these other witnesses have come through and testified about these conversations, I can't imagine that a judge would say, you, John Bolton, don't have to testify about the very same conversation.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm sorry, Wolf, I couldn't hear what he was saying.

BLITZER: Oh, you couldn't. Well, he was suggesting that the case of not appearing even with a subpoena is very, very weak. He doesn't think any judge who would uphold that.

BAKER: Would force him to appear with the subpoena, yes. I mean, I think if I was his attorney, I'd be advising him to get a subpoena too, because he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

BLITZER: But if he has a subpoena, he has to appear.

BAKER: He has to appear. He may try to assert, as others have done executive privilege, which does make sense, all right? His conversations with the president would be covered by executive privilege, and that's one of the things that I think that he could add compared to many of these other witnesses. He likely had direct interactions with the president of the United States and would know what was said, so --

BROWN: And sorry to interrupt you, but go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, just -- you know, you can't refuse to testify about any subject on executive privilege. That has to be litigated on a question-by-question basis. There is a possibility that some conversations are covered by executive privilege, but certainly these other conversations, where the president is not present, certainly those, I don't think, there would be any valid claim of executive privilege.

BROWN: And it's worth noting this is a big week on the legal front that ties into all of this, because you have the Don McGahn case tomorrow before a judge, a judge will hear on both sides.

BLITZER: Former White House Counsel.

BROWN: The former White House Counsel who also had been subpoenaed and isn't showing up. And so depending on how the judge rules now, we don't know if it's going to happen tomorrow or at a later date, that could also play into all of this.

And in Kupperman's case, it was asked to be rescheduled, I think for early November. We don't know whether that has actually happened yet. But that could also, of course, as Kaitlan noted, play into whether Bolton testifies.

BLITZER: What do you think, David?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I do see what Jim is saying about executive privilege. Bolton is a principle. He was the national security adviser and not a staffer. On the other hand, because some of these other figures over the last two weeks, like Ambassador Taylor, like Fiona Hill, have already testified and they've sort of set a precedent and the Congress is proceeding with an impeachment proceeding, not just a regular hearing.

If you're Bolton, you also have to make a political calculation, not just a legal calculation, where you essentially say, do I look like I'm covering for the president at this point or do I want to get my version of events on the record before I'm sort of put further on the hot seat. These subpoenas are sort of functioning as cover for folks saying, look, I didn't want to necessarily testify, but because I was subpoenaed, I'm going to go ahead and testify.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more we need to cover on all of this breaking news.

Also, other important news we're following. We're going to take you inside some dramatic White House meetings on Ukraine that went sour. It helps explain why impeachment investigators are so eager for John Bolton to testify.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:49:35]

BLITZER: We're back with breaking news. A lawyer for John Bolton now says the former national security adviser will not appear before impeachment investigators without a subpoena. Bolton was involved in very sensitive talks on Ukraine policy that are at the center of the impeachment probe right now.

Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, has been digging on all of this for us.

Sara, what are you learning from your sources on the latest testimony?

[18:50:00]

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. Obviously, we know that the transcript of the call, when the White House released it, or the rough transcript was a bombshell. But the latest testimony coming out is showing that there were explosive developments happening behind the scene at the White House in the weeks leading up to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Weeks ahead of President Trump's controversial July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president that sparked the impeachment inquiry, the riff over Ukraine spilled out in a series of dramatic White House meetings.

On July 10th, Ukraine secretary of national security and defense counsel travelled to Washington to meet with then national security adviser John Bolton, then special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

U.S. career national security officials who are experts on Ukraine and Russia, Fiona Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman were also there.

In public, it was all smiles. Perry tweeted a picture of the delegation. The Americans heaped praise on their Ukrainian counterparts, tweeting, great discussion. Good team work. We stand with Ukraine.

Privately, though, things were going sour. The Ukrainians were angling for an in-person meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump, an important sign of solidarity between the U.S. and Ukraine as the country continued to face threats from Russia.

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. Vindman, the White House expert on Ukraine, testified Tuesday.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I want to thank Colonel Vindman for his courage in coming forward.

MURRAY: After Bolton cut off the meeting, there was another meeting where Sondland talked with the Ukrainians and pressed once again for the political investigations Trump was demanding. Vindman testified: Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that

Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma. Then Vindman and Hill confronted Sondland. I stated to Ambassador Sondland that the 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, Vindman testified. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): He heard Ambassador Sondland tell the Ukrainians that to get a White House meeting that they needed to deliver on investigations into Vice President Biden. That, Anderson, is a "this for that", in other words, a quid pro quo.

MURRAY: But Sondland offered investigators a different version of events. Testifying, if ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill or others harbored any misgivings about the prop righty about what they were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me then or later.

He also said he was not aware that Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company Hunter Biden served on the board of was connected to the Bidens until much later.

Bolton encouraged Hill to report what he had seen to the National Security Council lawyer. Hill told investigators that Bolton explained he wasn't going to get involved if whatever drug deal Sondland and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney were cooking up, sources told CNN.

SCHIFF: John Bolton is a very important witness. He has relevant information and we do want him to come in to testify.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, Wolf, obviously, there is conflicting testimony on some of these key, events and one person who was there that can clear it up, John Bolton, and it still remains to be seen if he will speak to these investigators.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens next week. That's very much. Excellent reporting from Sara Murray. Appreciate it very much.

We are also following breaking news on the California wildfire disaster. A new blaze stoked by hurricane-force wind gusts has forced new evacuations.

CNN's Bill Weir is on the scene for us in southern California.

Bill, what are the conditions like right now?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's surreal, Wolf, to be honest. For one reason, I'm standing in the middle of highway 23 in the Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks area, and it is, I can use the war metaphor, because it fits because there's been surprise attacks from this fire, the Easy Fire named after Easy Street where it started and surprise attacks and long skirmishes and defenses like this one.

You can see the Cal Fire crews in yellow up there and the guys in orange are firefighting inmates who are selected and paid two to three bucks a day to do this, as well. But what's interesting about these hurricane-force winds and sustained 40 mile-an-hour winds, Wolf, and gusts up to 60 miles an hour is that there's no way to stop these embers from flying all over, so this, they thought Highway 23 could be a fire break.

As you see, there's one of the choppers and there's about, I believe, 15 helicopters dropping this Phos-Chek. It's the pink flame retardant or they're pulling water out of the nearby lakes to put it out there.

As I was saying, they thought they stopped the fire in Highway 23, but somehow one of these embers flew over the wall. Let me show you through this little window and you'll see that all the fire crews that are here, once they contain this hillside, they have a whole other front over here.

[08:55:12]

And, Wolf, this is just one of ten fires in southern California. It's brutal.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Be careful over there, Bill. We will stay in close touch with you.

Much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have some exciting news to report. A new grandson for our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. George Haight Morgan was born last night weighing in at just over six pounds. We are told he and his parents Maine and Evan are doing well along with George's older sister Harper. And Gloria says she and her husband Lance are simply enchanted.

We are so happy for the entire family and thrilled to welcome another new member to our SITUATION ROOM family.

Finally tonight, we are watching a developing story, the decisive game seven of the World Series. The Washington Nationals dramatically came from behind last night to tie the series with the Houston Astros at three games a piece. Win or lose, we Nats fans are so proud of our team for this truly amazing season and remarkable playoff run.

We know they'll stay in the fight and we leave you with these words. Very important word, indeed -- go Nats. Let's hope for a win.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.