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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
House Moves to Advance Trump Impeachment Investigation; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) is Interviewed About the House Impeachment Investigation; Federal Courts Weigh Fate Of Defiant Impeachment Witnesses As Democrats Vow They Won't Be Slowed; Top House Republican Says Tim Morrison Testimony Undercut Dems; Top Democrats: That's "Ridiculous"; Top Trump Adviser Backs Up Quid Pro Quo Claim As House Votes To Move Forward With Impeachment; Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon Digs In For Impeachment Battles Ahead. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired October 31, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
For only the fourth time in this country's history, impeachment proceedings against an American president are underway. Just three other presidents have faced this formally out in the open -- Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Today, Donald J. Trump joined that list.
But whatever you may believe about this president, wherever you stand politically, however you view the evidence so far, there is no overstating the significance of the moment itself. That's because those two buildings you see there, which have seen and made and embody so much history between them are about to make more.
What happened today in one chamber of the bigger of the two has set the stage for so much yet to come. Tonight, we will, of course, bring you reporting on the testimony today of a former senior White House official who despite saying he did not believe what he saw was illegal, did not dispute the problematic facts so far, adding to the picture of a president using the power of his office to extract personal political assistance from a foreign government.
We'll also bring you the latest on two court hearings which could decide when or even whether certain other key witnesses will testify. Because this is now primarily a political battle, we'll speak to the president's former chief strategist who remains a very vocal supporter, Steve Bannon.
We begin, though, with this remarkable historic moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this vote, the yeas are 232. The nays are 196. The resolution is adopted without objection. The motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Joining us for that, three people who know a lot because they've seen a lot, CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod, host of "THE AXE FILES" and former senior adviser to President Obama; CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and David Gergen, who in addition on being a CNN senior political analyst, has also served as Republican and Democrat presidents, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon.
David Gergen, the significance of this moment, what do you -- I mean, at the end of this historic day, what do you make of it?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the bad news here but some good news as well. The bad news is how much more partisan the impeachment process has become. When Republican Richard Nixon was in the White House, over 180 members of his own party voted to open impeachment proceedings, in his own party, over 180.
When Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was in the White House, 31 members of his own party bolted and voted to begin the impeachment proceedings.
Today, Republican Trump is in the White House. Zero members of his party broke. I think that's a really interesting, important distinction.
One more thing -- two more quick things. The other thing is the weaponization of impeachment proceedings that has gone so far in our country. The founders didn't want to do this very often.
And the first 36 presidents of our country, only one, only one, Andrew Johnson, faced serious impeachment proceedings. Of our nine presidents since, three, one out of three has faced serious impeachment proceedings. That's a real change in our politics.
The good news is I think as you back away from this and look at it from a long way away, it is also true, the good news, is that checks and balances still work in our system. No president is above the law. Presidents who do things that are right on the boundaries or violate things are going to get investigated, and they may have impeachment proceedings against them.
COOPER: David Axelrod, did it surprise you at all? I don't imagine it did that no Republicans broke ranks on this.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it didn't. Look, I think this is the -- there are two elements to the Republican strategy here, because they're not really able to argue the substance very effectively. The facts are pretty damning, starting with the transcript or the memo of a transcript that we've seen.
So, the first tactic is to partisanize this to the nth degree. We're a very polarized country. They want the make this a test of partisan loyalty. And that's very important to keep their people on board.
So I wasn't surprised about that. I think later you're going to hear the argument, particularly if it gets to the Senate as it appears likely that we're in an election year now. Let the people decide. Let's put this case before them.
So, they're going to argue process. They're going to try and polarize, and they're going to argue timing. But we haven't heard a whole lot of arguments about substance just yet.
COOPER: Though the president says that's what he wants the argument to be from -- and Kevin McCarthy said they will start doing that.
Gloria, how important is it going to be for Democrats to get some Republican support as impeachment proceedings play out? If this just continues along partisan lines, you know, whether -- obviously, some people will believe it. Some people won't.
But it certainly -- it doesn't look good for Democrats if it's all just, again, along partisan lines.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It doesn't. I think they know that. You've already stated the history. About 31 Democrats in the Clinton years voted to open an impeachment inquiry.
The president said, I want all my Republicans to stick together, and they decided they would stick together. Not only is this entrenched partisanship, as we've been talking about, but these are members of Congress in the House who are afraid of this president. They're afraid that he will support primary challengers.
And remember, there aren't a lot of moderate Republicans left in the House now, because those seats were taken by Democrats. And, in fact, what the White House is now arguing today is that the Democrats were the ones who defected, because there were two Democrats who said, you know, we don't want to go along with this inquiry at this point.
And, you know, at some point, Anderson, and at some point, Anderson, they're going to have to start talking about what was in these hearings. They're going to have public hearings. We're going see transcripts.
And then what they're banking on, I think, is that public opinion may start to shift once they see people testify. And the Democrats I think are taking a risk obviously because now they have decided that they're unafraid of being the pro-impeachment party of Donald Trump. And I think that's a risk, but a risk they're clearly willing to take.
COOPER: David Gergen, I seem to recall an awful lot of Democrats putting a lot of faith in the public testimony of Robert Mueller --
COOPER: -- as that was going to be the damn breaking --
COOPER: -- you know, for those who believe in such a thing. Kevin McCarthy today argued we should let voters make the decision at
the ballot box. He said, follow the principles of our Constitution. The counterargument is that the impeachment process is expressly laid out by the Constitution.
GERGEN: Well, it's true. But I think it's well understood now. A very, very high likelihood there will be a pro impeachment vote coming out of the majority in the House, but then it will be defeated in the Senate. There will be an acquittal as happened under when Bill Clinton was impeached.
And the argument we made, but this is not where it will be settled. It will be settled at the ballot box. However this comes out. But I think that's what we're pointing toward.
And at this moment, you know, Donald Trump still is a very formidable candidate still.
COOPER: No doubt than. Hold on -- we're going to take a quick pause.
I want to quickly bring in Jim's Acosta at the White House with some late reporting on how they see the vote today and the testimony.
Jim, what's the reaction?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, I talked to a source at the meeting familiar with the president had earlier today with these Republican senators over here at the White House. You know, the president, White House aides, they've been reaching out to these Republican senators, concerned about these news reports that perhaps the Senate won't play out the same way that it played out in the House.
And according to the source familiar with what happened in this meeting, the president was very pleased as your guests were just talking about a few moments ago that no Republicans broke ranks with the president in the House. The president was very pleased by that and he was also continuing to hang his hat on the released transcript -- not the complete transcript, the summary transcript with his phone call with the leader of Ukraine as if it's somehow exonerating for him.
One other big takeaway, Anderson, from this meeting earlier today, there is a growing sense I guess among Senate Republicans that perhaps they will stay home, they will stay loyal to this president once the process gets out of the House and makes its way over to the Senate for trial. I talked to a source familiar to what happened in this meeting today who said if this person were a betting man, he would say that the only person who would break from the president at this point is Mitt Romney.
Now I did talk to another Republican official up on Capitol Hill, high-ranking Republican official on Capitol Hill, Anderson, who said hang on, it's way too early for that. They haven't even seen the articles of impeachment at this report. But there is a growing confidence that these Republicans, like what we saw in the House, will stay loyal to the president over in the Senate.
COOPER: And, Tim Morrison, you know, national NSC official at the White House, just wrapped up his testimony. What you -- what is the White House saying about that, about what's essentially come out?
ACOSTA: Yes, my colleagues here and I in the White House, you know, we've been reaching out to our sources on this. And it sounds at this point that the White House is pretty happy with what Tim Morrison said in his testimony earlier today.
While he did essentially agree that what Taylor testified in all of this, Bill Taylor testified in all of this was accurate, and that there was some kind of quid pro quo, according to the White House, they feel pretty comfortable in all of this because Morrison explained to the lawmakers earlier today that he didn't see this as a legal problem for the president. He saw this as more of a political problem for the president. If it's a political problem, obviously they feel like they can survive all of this.
Now that flies in the face, Anderson -- I mean, that is obviously a White House spin because it flies in the face of what we've been seeing over the last couple of weeks, which is administration official after administration official testifying and just offering damaging information to these lawmakers, saying that the president was essentially engaged in a quid pro quo with the president of Ukraine.
The question I think over the next week, Anderson, is whether or not we see more damaging testimony that matches up with what Alexander Vindman and Bill Taylor said and so on, and it may all come down to, Anderson, what John Bolton has to say. If he indeed testifies, that could be the Super Bowl in all of this -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
ACOSTA: You bet.
COOPER: Back now, David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, David Gergen.
Gloria, I mean, the idea of it all coming down to Bolton --
COOPER: -- I mean, that's an incredible roll of the dice. I don't know that anybody really has any idea of his perspective. There was that story he said compared something that he was hearing from Sondland and others as a drug deal.
BORGER: A drug deal.
COOPER: But what he actually testifies to, it's kind of amazing that it could possibly come down to that.
BORGER: Yes, I think so. Look, it's very clear from the testimony we've seen that Bolton was completely unhappy with what was going on vis-a-vis Ukraine. He referred to it as a drug deal. He thought that it was a rogue policy that was being directed by Rudy Giuliani, and he referred to Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney when he was talking than drug deal.
The question that I have is how are they going to get him up there and what venue. You know, his attorney is also the attorney representing somebody else who wants it to go to court first to see if he can -- if he can testify.
Seems to me they're going to subpoena him the same way they've subpoenaed everyone else. Would he just say, you know, I'm going to fight this, I'll only testify behind closed doors but not in public.
He has a real story to tell here. He was not on the phone call, but he can tell you a lot about this policy and what upset about it, and whether he thought it was rogue and improper for a president to be conducting foreign policy this way.
Trump can always say, well, you know, I fired him. He is disgruntled. But he is a conservative and a hero to conservatives in many ways.
So, I agree with Jim. He is completely key in all of this. I'm just not sure whether we're going to hear him.
COOPER: David Gergen, what do you think?
GERGEN: Well, my bet is that he will be more protective of the president than the Democrats would like, but he'll be very severe with Rudy Giuliani. It's clear he detests Giuliani and what he stood for.
But if he does exactly what Morrison said, I thought it was inappropriate and wrong, but I didn't think it was illegal, that does take some of the force out of it. I mean, by the way, Morrison is not a lawyer. He is not being asked to give his views on the law here. He was asked is there a quid pro quo. I think he made it very clear today from his perspective there was a quid pro quo.
I mean, if I can just add one other point, Anderson, about where we are in impeachment. There was a very disturbing news story out today about what's happening in the Republican Senate where there are candidates who are in very close race, and whether the president is shoving money in their direction.
GERGEN: At the very time the White House would really like to have their loyalty.
COOPER: David Axelrod, formalizing this inquiry means public hearings can now happen, which is obviously something Republicans have said they wanted for some time.
COOPER: Do you -- do you believe that this is what they wanted for some time? AXELROD: Well, look, no, I think they wanted it until they got it.
Now they have it. I don't think they're that keen on it.
They wanted to -- they wanted to -- you know, they wanted to suggest that the process was unfair because it was behind closed doors. Now it's not going to be behind closed doors. They're unhappy about that.
But let me make a larger point that ties some of all of this together. And Gloria kind of referenced this before. Ninety percent of Republicans approve of this president. Republicans are terrified about the base and how he impacts on the base.
John Bolton -- you know, there is no doubt that John Bolton went to the president. He was a national security adviser and said, why are we holding up military aid to Ukraine? It is impossible to believe that he didn't ask them that question.
And -- but I don't think he is going to want to look like the guy who is eager to tell this story. So if he ever testifies, he is going to have to get dragged there so that that base of the Republican Party doesn't think that he has gone rogue on them --
AXELROD: -- and betrayed the president.
COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, thanks.
Coming up next, one of the Democratic lawmakers who heard Tim Morrison's testimony today. What he expects to see and hear as the proceedings go public.
And later, the man who says he has yet to see any intensity, his words in defense of the president. Steve Bannon on the war room he says he is building and why he believes this president deserves defending.
COOPER: As the House was voting on the rules for the upcoming public impeachment proceedings, outgoing White House adviser Tim Morrison was testifying behind doors. As Jim Acosta reported, the White House is viewing it as a win for the day in that he told lawmakers he did not see anything illegal in the president's July 25th call with his Ukrainian counterpart. He also corroborated the elements of a quid pro quo, which not surprisingly the White House is not talking about.
In his opening statement which CNN just obtained, Morrison says he was concerned about three things. First, quote, how it would play out in Washington's polarized environment. Second, how a leak would affect the bipartisan support of Ukrainian partners currently experienced in Congress. And third, how it would affect the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S./Ukraine relationship.
I want to be clear, he said, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed.
So there's that.
At the same time, as we mentioned, he did apparently corroborate the key facts that diplomat William Taylor laid out in his testimony, namely, that congressionally approved military aid would not flow to Ukraine until the government there committed to investigating Burisma, the company where Hunter Biden once served on the board.
Morrison defers slightly in saying that the deal as he understood it only required Ukraine's prosecutor general to announce the probe and not President Zelensky. He also took minor issue on where a meeting he had with Ukraine's national security adviser took place. Ambassador Taylor said hotel room. Morrison said hotel business center.
With that, we're joined by New York Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, member of the House Intelligence Committee.
So, the White House is saying that they see Morrison's testimony as helpful to their case. Was it?
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): You know, without commenting on the specifics, I can't -- that sounds a lot like whistling past the graveyard to me. I think, you know, I have no reason to dispute the reporting he just did, the statement that has been released, and it says -- it lays it out pretty clearly, that he confirms Ambassador Taylor' version of the events. That's extremely damning for the president.
COOPER: But if Morrison didn't think there was anything wrong with the call legally, that his only concern was sort of how it would play out in a polarizing environment, isn't that good news for the White House?
MALONEY: No. I think that's code for I knew something was really wrong, and I don't want to say it. It would be my interpretation of that.
But I think the reason we're moving this to a public forum is because we're going to lay all this out for folks to see and they can make their own judgments. I think what I give -- what I give Mr. Morrison credit for is responding to a lawful subpoena coming in, testifying under oath, and together with the other evidence we've gathered and just a very short period of time, I think you will see that -- you'll get a very clear picture of what happened.
COOPER: Would you want Morrison to come back and testify publicly?
MALONEY: You know, that's up to the chairman. I'm not sure I would view that as necessary. I think there are other witnesses that would be more important, but I think the way you judge that is will the public get all the facts they need to understand what happened. COOPER: Because, obviously, Republicans hearing that would say, well,
look, you probably want Taylor to testify. You probably want Vindman to testify. But why not call back Morrison if he is corroborating things. It sounds if you don't want him back, maybe he doesn't tell the story that you're hoping he does.
MALONEY: Yes, that's not -- that wasn't my point. My point is I think we're going to be under some pressure to tell a crisp story and to really make that compelling. I do not --
COOPER: You think public testimony is critical?
MALONEY: What I can tell you is I think Republicans' interpretation of that is not going hold up. That's not going to wear very well.
Look, these guys come out every day. They say something that's going to blow up 24 hours later. When Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan say things like that, I would take it with a grain of salt. I do not view this witness as -- without getting into the testimony -- as helpful to the president. I view it as another significant piece of the puzzle that will paint an overall picture that will demonstrate clearly an abuse of power that is extremely damning to the president.
COOPER: CNN's reporting, and I can't confirm stuff, but CNN is reporting that at various times today Morrison instructed his attorney not to answer questions about his interactions with the president.
Can you say if there were specific questions that the committee had for Morrison that remain unanswered, or were you satisfied overall with what you heard in terms of its totality?
MALONEY: I'm satisfied overall that I understand the role that Mr. Morrison played in this. I understand where it's coming from. He was helpful in filling in some gaps.
But the big picture is the big picture. I think you will find that on the core set of events, there is not going to be a big dispute about what happened here. I think there will be an interpretation of how much you care about it, and people can differ on that. But I don't think the core facts are going to be in dispute.
For me, it paints a pretty serious abuse of power, and one for which the president needs to be accountable.
COOPER: The timeline, a lot of Democrats are saying or floating this idea that they want this done by the New Year. They don't want to go into the election year, that it's going to suck up all the oxygen, it's going to occupy the time of senators who are on the campaign trail.
That comes at the expense, if that is true, that comes at the expense of potentially getting other witnesses that might involve a court battle, Rudy Giuliani, obviously foremost comes to mind. Are you OK with that kind of a timeline?
MALONEY: Right. Well, I'm OK with the chairman's judgment on that, and I think what you're going to see is that the yardstick is going to be are we getting the core facts to the American public. If you can do that with the witnesses you got, then you do that.
I think that there is diminishing curve there of return when you start engaging in litigation to chase down maybe minor details or additional information when you've got the core facts.
Remember, this may be a case where the most important evidence came out first, where the call memorandum, the whistle-blower complaint, which as far as I can tell has been confirmed in every respect by independent evidence and the White House admissions, the chief of staff, the president, the text messages. I mean, there is a mountain of evidence that paints a clear picture of presidential abuse of authority.
So I don't know that it would be worth the time to spend months and months chasing down all the details.
COOPER: Do you see this as being one charge? Obviously, you're not there yet. But do you see this as being one charge or, you know, there is people talking about going -- including obstruction of justice from the Mueller report.
MALONEY: For me, personally, and it's above my pay grade, but for me personally, I think we should keep it narrowly focused on the strongest evidence of presidential abuse of power. If you look at the historic practice, it tends to be pretty high levels, the articles of impeachment. I think that's the precedent we should follow.
And I think we should -- we should explain in detail to the American public why we think this extraordinary step is necessary. It's right to have a high bar for this 13 months before an election. For me, it's been satisfied because the president's conduct is inexcusable, and it cannot be tolerated. We have to take a stand and hold them accountable.
COOPER: Congressman Maloney, appreciate your time. Thank you.
MALONEY: Thank you very much.
COOPER: All right. Coming up, more breaking news on today's testimony by Tim Morrison and where our legal team believes it could lead.
[20:30:51] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Today's closed door session with Tim Morrison, the outgoing National Security Council official, is another part of what appears to be a brick by brick collection of testimony that House Democrats hope will build a solid wall of evidence against President Trump.
I want to get some perspective from Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and CNN's Chief Legal Analyst, and Preet Bharara who served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and is a senior -- CNN Senior Legal Analyst and author of the book, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law."
Jeff, Tim Morrison saying he didn't see any legal problem with the President's July 25th phone call. The White House obviously sees that as a win.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, that is -- and that is a good fact for them. Remember, though, he's not there as a lawyer evaluating what's legal, what's appropriate, what's a high crime and misdemeanor. He's there to talk about what happened. He's a fact witness.
And as far as his facts went, as far as I can tell based on what's been disclosed, he has ratified, confirmed what the other witnesses have said, that there was this quid pro quo engineered by Rudy Giuliani.
COOPER: That aid was being held up in order to affect an investigation.
TOOBIN: Which is in the view of many people, including it seems Republicans in the Senate wildly improper, if not impeachable.
COOPER: Although how many Republicans in the Senate are really saying that?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, they have -- none of them have said, as the President has said, that phone call was perfect. I haven't heard one. Now, you know, Mitt Romney is the only one who went out and said it's actually improper, but you have not heard great endorsements of it.
COOPER: Preet, I mean, the White House is already saying that the testimony was good development. I mean, do you see any illegality in that phone call?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Illegality?
BHARARA: Yes. Look, depending on what the other evidence shows with respect to there being a quid pro quo that could amount to extortion, like a lot of other witnesses have said, yes, the amount of criminality. But the important thing to remember here that I think we've forgotten in the last couple of years is the President is not going to be charged with a crime. What matters now is impeachment.
And there's no document in the sort of curriculum of the founders or in the constitution that makes it necessary for something to be a technical violation of a criminal statute. It can be an abuse of power, because only the President can abuse his power in a way that you and I could not possibly. Only the President can call a leader of another country and ask him to do something for the President's own personal aggrandizement.
So, you know, whether or not it's illegal, what matter here is, because it's a political process and always has been is whether or not a sufficient number of members of Congress think he a abused his power by asking -- and not just asking, but putting the arm on a foreign leader to help him politically with respect to an investigation of a rival.
COOPER: But, Jeff, I mean, supporters of the President can in the end in the Senate, when it get downs to there, essentially say, look, I wish he hadn't -- you know, I thought it was not a good thing for him to do. I wouldn't have done it myself, but I don't think it's illegal, and I don't think it rises to the level of impeachment.
TOOBIN: And, you know, impeachment is above all a political process. And these senators, if it comes to a trial in the Senate, will make an evaluation of the evidence, but they will also look at their own political situation.
And they will all -- and, you know, as you mentioned earlier, and as we all know, the President remains enormously popular within the Republican Party. These Republican senators, they don't want to offend the President, court a primary in their own elections. So, you know, it's entirely possible that they will say, look, I wouldn't have handled it this way, but it is not something we're going to overturn an election over.
However, you know, the country has to decide whether this is an abuse of power, whether it is acceptable to go to a foreign leader as president and say, you know, help me on my political campaign or you'll lose money appropriated by Congress. That's the core of this question, but I don't think there's any clear -- necessarily clear answer of how it's going to turn out at this point.
BHARARA: But it's very hard for senators to do this thing. There is a rational, reasonable way to defend the President to say, you know what, it was inappropriate. It shouldn't have been done. That's not the way we should be conducting foreign policy and those weird thing with Rudy Giuliani doing the shadow thing was terrible.
[20:35:09] But you know what, it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. I haven't heard a lot of people saying that either, you know why? Because the President of the United States keeps insisting that the phone call was beautiful and perfect and has signaled very clearly that he wants everyone to be saying the same thing as he is.
So he's not giving a lot of wiggle room to these senators to sort of thread the needle and say, not great, not good. Like -- by the way, a lot of members of Congress did that with respect to Bill Clinton. They said, the relationship he had was not good. The way he spoke about it and lied about it was not good, but are we really going to derail a presidency over something like this?
That's more credible and I think has more ability to shape public sentiment. But this President insists that everything he did was perfect and beautiful and that's what everyone else should say too and that's a problem I think for folks.
COOPER: Jeff, just these other federal court hearings today, one was about former White House Counsel Don McGahn, whether he has to testify, and the other was about this former Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman who is refusing to testify.
TOOBIN: Let's talk about this Kupperman hearing and let's just talk about federal judges. I mean, this just makes me insane. I admire the federal judiciary a great deal. But here we have an impeachment, perhaps the most important thing that a -- that the Congress can deal with.
We have an important witness, Charles Kupperman, the Deputy National Security Adviser, also represented by Charles Cooper who represents John Bolton, an even more important witness. And the question is, and it's not a simple question, should they be forced to testify?
And what is Judge Richard Leon do in the federal district court? He says, I'm not even going to hold a hearing until December 10th, like get off his behind and decide this case. The idea that he is not even going to hold a hearing for six weeks, it's a disgrace.
COOPER: Why -- what's the reasoning behind that?
TOOBIN: Got me. I mean, I think it's just disgraceful. I mean, these federal judges, they serve for life, and they think they can decide everything on their own terms, in their own timetable, and I think it's awful.
BHARARA: The other judges have been deciding things more quickly. This is not one of those cases.
COOPER: Right. Preet Bharara, Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.
Coming up, I'm going to talk with President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, about the 2020 election and his advice to President and his allies about the looming impeachment fight.
[20:41:13] COOPER: The White House is still not hiring any communication professionals to spearhead their impeachment response, nor they brought on any new lawyers to front legal strategy.
CNN reports that some aides inside the administration view this as a serious error. The White House is ramping up its outreach to Senate Republicans today, as we reported earlier in program, several had lunch with President Trump. One senator said that the subject of needing Republicans to better defend him did not come up. This comes after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised the President stop attacking Senate Republicans.
One of President's staunchest supporters, he's his former chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, even though he left the administration, he's now begun a daily syndicated radio on Podcast program called "War Room: Impeachment," which gives you an idea of the kind of political combat he expects and is participating in right now. He joins me now. Thanks for being here.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: The -- first of all, what do you make of the White House's strategy thus far?
BANNON: Look, I think it has a strategy. President Trump believes he didn't do anything wrong. He's adamant about that. I think he's busy running the country. He's got USMCA, the Chinese, what's happening in Syria. He's got a day job. I think he feels, you know, he's got the team. I think it's a solid team. It's a good team.
COOPER: Do you think he's not focus on this? You think he's running --
BANNON: I think he's focus --
COOPER: I mean, he seems very focus on this in the Twitter world.
BANNON: I think he's focus on this the way he focuses on it. He didn't feel he needed a war room. He doesn't feel like he needs additional personnel right now. I think that's fine.
COOPER: But doesn't it --
BANNON: I think its incumbent upon people, that's why we start this outside "War Room" with -- one of the people was Jason Miller who is, you know, a former CNN Contributor, was our communications director on the campaign in the transition. Other people are starting to volunteer and come in.
We got Reince Priebus on our show tomorrow, former head of the RNC. We're going to have Bossie and Corey come on and do hits on this. I think its incumbent I think for people that support President Trump's program and President Trump to gather around and do this. The campaign is doing things. The RNC is doing things. I think he's got enough cover.
COOPER: Do you believe that phone conversation with the Ukrainian president was perfect?
BANNON: Here's -- the bid in the ass (ph) is he says it's perfect and Morrison said it could have been better. It's either perfect or it could have been better, you know.
COOPER: Other people say --
BANNON: Well, I know. But I'm saying Morrison --
COOPER: -- it was totally inappropriate.
BANNON: I know, but Morrison is Fiona Hill's relief. Look, I look at --
COOPER: Fiona Hill, though, does not see it the same as Morrison. BANNON: I look at -- and the reason people can disagree, because this is a policy. To me this is a policy difference. I think when you look toward President Trump, I haven't seen anything in the transcript, I haven't seen anything in the drive. I looked to Mike Pompeo's speech today. I haven't seen anything he's done that I think is wrong or inappropriate. And I think --
COOPER: So just in general, is it OK for a president, any president, to ask a foreign leader of a country fighting a war against our adversaries in need of aid to do a political favor and investigate his political opponent and hold aid over it?
BANNON: This is where your premise is wrong. Number one, one of the things that started this was "Secret Empires," the book that Peter Schweizer did, the one after "The Permanent Political Class." This is where Biden and Mitch McConnell and others there talked about, you know, where they get their money from. And Biden -- and China --
COOPER: But is that OK?
BANNON: Hold on, and China and Ukraine, and the issues were when he was vice president. I don't buy the assumption -- see, you have this premise that it's about a political opponent. What he's -- what they're investigating is the corruption --
COOPER: Oh, come on, give me a break. You're a smart guy. You know very well that that's his goal.
BANNON: It's not.
COOPER: It is.
BANNON: No, it's a -- as a constitutional office --
COOPER: Right. If you're concern about --
BANNON: Number one --
COOPER: Hold on, if you're concerned --
BANNON: -- Joe Biden should be more -- Anderson, should be more investigated I think about China and what he did at the time in China with his son --
BANNON: -- how he got --
COOPER: Well, the President agrees with you and he's asked China to investigate.
BANNON: Hold it.
COOPER: But, no --
BANNON: Now, islands in the South China Sea -- COOPER: OK. But on the question --
BANNON: So I don't buy your premise.
BANNON: And I'm not putting you on. I'm not kidding.
COOPER: No. OK.
BANNON: I don't buy the premise.
COOPER: But how can you say -- if he's -- if you're concerned about corruption -- if you're concerned about corruption in Ukraine -- look, I've been there. There's a lot of corruption.
[20:45:03] The only example of corruption in the Ukraine the President can state is Joe Biden, the guy he happens to be running against --
BANNON: No, no, no, no, no.
COOPER: -- and this conspiracy theory about (INAUDIBLE).
BANNON: He talked about the 2016 campaign.
BANNON: He also talked --
COOPER: Right, the conspiracy theory about CrowdStrike and the server being in Ukraine.
BANNON: Remember, what Pompeo talked about today that nothing that the President has done is the outside --
COOPER: But you haven't addressed, though, what I just said, which is he's talking about a conspiracy theory and Joe Biden, that's conspiracy.
BANNON: Ukraine -- Ernst and Young says that Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in world.
COOPER: Right, yes, yes.
BANNON: Hold on.
COOPER: But you're telling me that Joe Biden and CrowdStrike, that's parts of Ukraine? The President has access to U.S. intelligence --
BANNON: By the way, we have no earthy idea, and that's what this process is about.
COOPER: We do actually have a lot of earthy idea about who is corrupting Ukraine.
BANNON: No, no, no. COOPER: And because we actually have diplomats working on it, because that's been U.S. policy and the President cannot name any other Ukrainian official who's corrupt who he wants investigated? The only one he can name is Joe Biden?
BANNON: That's why this process starting now, you know, and now we're going to have an impeachment process. We're going to have an impeachment process and you're not going to have a star chamber down this.
COOPER: That doesn't make any sense.
BANNON: I was there for 20 hours. OK.
COOPER: The President has access to we have corruption fighters in the Treasury Department. He could have called up Steve Mnuchin and said, you know what, give me a list of the most corrupt players in Ukraine. I'll talk to the President about it. He didn't. The only thing he sites as a favor is --
BANNON: First off, you're going to see --
COOPER: -- CrowdStrike server, Biden.
BANNON: You've seen a select curated group of witnesses, and you haven't seen the transcripts. We don't know what they said.
COOPER: We've seen the transcript.
BANNON: Their opening statements.
COOPER: No, we've seen the transcript of the President's phone call and it says a favor for us. The favor is servers, and another one, Biden.
BANNON: We're going to get to see in this process, you're going get to see all the information. It will all be laid out.
COOPER: OK. Let me tell you honestly what I believe. I think you're an incredibly smart guy. I think you believe --
BANNON: That's not a compliment.
COOPER: No. I'm not saying that as -- and I respect your positions, but I think you believe you got to circle the wagons, just like after the "Access Hollywood" tape. You're either with us or against us.
BANNON: You're so cynical.
COOPER: No, I'm not.
BANNON: You're so cynical. But it's not. No, because here's the thing.
COOPER: I think you're going to overlook --
BANNON: This is --
COOPER: You know what --
COOPER: -- so easily that he's doing good things in your mind and you support him.
COOPER: Why can't people argue that? That I understand.
BANNON: Anderson, I am arguing the fact that I don't think he's done anything wrong. I think this is a huge opportunity cause for the country.
BANNON: Now we're going spend the next 12 weeks instead of focusing on Hong Kong, instead of focusing in U.S. --
COOPER: That's a valid argument.
BANNON: This is going to engulf. You know your show. This whole network is going to be overwhelmed in a firestorm covering this between now and the end of when they impeachment him, and they're going to impeach him. They're going to bring two charges, OK, and then we go trial. It's going to consume that.
It's going to consume much of the political world to hurting the United States, OK, which could be doing other things right now. And all I'm saying is that I've set up a "War Room" so that we can get the information and people can weigh and measure. We're going to have Democrats on there.
COOPER: Democrats would argue with you saying, you know what hurts the United States is using taxpayer money as a weapon against an ally who's fighting our enemy and it's not like its Donald Trump's money buying information about the Bidens.
BANNON: Was Joe Biden a constitutional officer when China happened and when it happened in Ukraine? Was he not the point man for President Obama in Ukraine?
COOPER: Yes, yes, he was.
BANNON: Should that -- should China and that not be investigated before you give money of corruption, at least, American corruption in Ukraine, helping corruption?
COOPER: If you can cite some specific thing, there's been no evidence. The President hasn't cited any evidence. He's just throwing this out.
BANNON: And China --
COOPER: Well, he's not. He's just -- all he said is, oh, and then China too. He hasn't cited anything. There is no facts.
BANNON: I'm sure that will come over time. But in China we have the facts.
COOPER: OK, all right.
BANNON: You know that the private equity firm, which his son was not an expert in, got funded --
COOPER: Listen --
BANNON: -- around the time of 2013.
COOPER: -- I'm not defending those funding.
BANNON: You are.
COOPER: No. I think a kid being on a board, I think it's shady. I think it makes no sense.
BANNON: It's shady? It's corrupt.
COOPER: Well, I don't think Joe --
COOPER: There's no evidence Joe Biden benefiting anywhere. I'm not --
BANNON: No, his son -- this is where his son is --
COOPER: You can give the evidence. Give the evidence. But there's no -- nobody has given evidence so far.
BANNON: Have you read "Second Empire"?
COOPER: I have not.
BANNON: Have you (INAUDIBE)?
COOPER: No, I have not.
BANNON: We have to sit down and talk about it.
BANNON: I would love to come back and get -- and start giving you the --
COOPER: You do not agree the premise of my question. So, let me just give you just in general --
BANNON: No. And it's not circling the wagons. COOPER: No. OK.
BANNON: It's not circling the wagon.
BANNON: This is I think in --
BANNON: -- for the good of the country.
COOPER: If a president does in fact have a quid pro quo for a counterpart in a country that's in badly need of aid and is fighting a war and says --
BANNON: You're asking about Trump.
COOPER: No. Just -- I'm not asking about Trump. I'm just saying, is it OK for a President of the United States to ask a foreign president to investigate a political rival?
BANNON: There is no evidence at all that there is a quid pro quo here.
COOPER: I'm just -- OK. I'm not saying --
BANNON: And if there was a quid pro quo --
COOPER: So you won't answer just a hypothetical of, is it OK for a president, any president --
BANNON: No, but I think --
COOPER: -- to ask a foreign president for to investigate a political rival?
BANNON: I think Andy McCarthy and other constitutional scholars are coming out now --
BANNON: -- and saying this whole concept of not even having -- not making your foreign aid or your military system contingent upon some acts is wrong (ph).
COOPER: I just don't understand why Republicans will not ever answer that question that I just asked you. Like, OK, any president asking another president investigate my rival and I'll give you aid, is that OK?
BANNON: It's not rival. He is a constitutional officer at the time. That's what (INAUDIBLE).
[20:50:00] COOPER: OK. So that's OK.
BANNON: American --
BANNON: No. American involvement in corruption in either China, Ukraine, or any in the -- anywhere in the world should be investigated.
COOPER: All right, still --
BANNON: I'd love to come back here and walk you through the evidence on China and Ukraine.
COOPER: All right. Well, nobody's presented real evidence. Steve Bannon, I appreciate it. Thank you for coming.
BANNON: Thanks, thanks, thanks.
COOPER: I really do. Up next, we premiere spin off of "The Ridiculist" franchise. We'll be right back.
COOPER: It's been another slow news day. I want to check in with Chris to see what he's trying to find to do something to fill an hour with. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I liked listening to your interview with Steve Bannon.
COOPER: No one will answer that question. I mean, you do this as well. I mean, you do this better than anyone. No one ask -- will just say is it OK?
CUOMO: It's not OK. They know it's OK. And what we're going to try to do tonight is show people that unlike Bannon, Bannon is here to spin and you did a beautiful job of exposing the weaknesses in the spin, but we will show that the President knows it was wrong.
[20:55:11] And you can tell not because I'm inside the mind of the man, that's too spooky even for Halloween, but you see it in his actions. We also have Adam Schiff here to talk about the reality of what has been fair in impeachments past, what he thinks the likelihood of how this ends and his take on the Republican arguments of what's wrong with the process.
So, we'll lay it out with his side. I also have one of the acolytes of Bannon on the show tonight, Kelly Armstrong, one of the President's defenders in Congress, to ask the same question we ask every night, is it OK to ask a foreign power to help you in an election? Now, they'll say he didn't do that.
CUOMO: Not only did he do it, he inserted his own lawyer into the diplomatic process without any portfolio to do only that and we know it because Mr. Giuliani admitted, screaming and --
COOPER: Right. It wasn't in one phone call. This was a lengthy campaign. Anyway, Chris, we'll be watching four minutes from now.
CUOMO: Well done, brother. Happy Halloween.
COOPER: To you, too. Donald Trump Jr. on Hunter Biden, it's "The Ridiculist" without comment.
COOPER: Chris and I were yammering we run out of time for "The Ridiculist." So the news continues. Let's hand over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?