Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Impeachment Testimony Continues; House Approves Public Impeachment Hearings; Interview With Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); House Votes To Advance Trump Impeachment Investigation; New Blaze Engulfs Homes As Strong Winds Stoke Wildfire Crisis; Nats Return Home As World Series Champs Uniting Divided D.C. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 31, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:13]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: historic vote. Members of the House of Representatives go on the record advancing the impeachment investigation. Democrats now pushing toward televised hearings and potential charges against President Trump.

Negative consequences. In new testimony, a Trump adviser on Russia shares his account of the president's phone call with Ukraine urging an investigation of Joe Biden. He acknowledges he was worried about the fallout if the transcript became public.

Questioning privilege. We're following new hearings on whether the courts can force witnesses close to the president to testify in the impeachment probe. At least one federal judge is sounding skeptical, as the White House defends its stonewalling.

And D.C. heroes return. The Washington Nationals are coming home tonight as World Series champs, a first for the team. This hour, a divided city has a reason to unite and celebrate.

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 a turning point for Congress, the Trump presidency and the nation.

A divided House endorsing the impeachment investigation in a mostly party-line vote. This opens an urgent new phase in the battle between Democrats and the White House that could lead to articles of impeachment against the president by the end of the year.

Also breaking, another key impeachment witness wrapped up closed-door testimony just a little while ago. CNN has learned the White House adviser on Russia revealed he was specifically warned to steer clear of Rudy Giuliani's shadow Ukraine policy aimed at securing investigations that could help the president politically.

I will get reaction from the House Judiciary Committee member Steve Cohen. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, the House voted on this impeachment investigation for only the fourth time in this country's history.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

It was a momentous occasion, one with historic significance and also significance throughout the Capitol, really throughout the country. A House divided, no doubt about it, but a House that is now very clearly moving towards impeaching President Donald Trump -- Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this vote, the yeas are 232, the nays are 196.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With that historic drop of the gavel, the House entering a new phase of its impeachment inquiry, one exceedingly likely, aides say, to end up with the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Democrats today holding the first official vote on the matter, the resolution to establish rules for the process, the vote almost entirely along party lines, with no Republicans supporting it and two Democrats voting against.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Today, the country just witnessed the only bipartisan vote on that floor was against.

MATTINGLY: The vote determined how the House Intelligence Committee will hold public hearings moving forward and allows Republicans to request witnesses to be called. But it does not grant them subpoena power, unless Democrats agree. Republicans today blasting their colleagues.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Clearly, there are people that we serve with that don't like the results of the 2016 election.

MATTINGLY: Calling the inquiry a sham.

SCALISE: When you look at this Soviet-style process, it shows you that they don't really want to get to the truth. They want to remove a sitting president.

MATTINGLY: Democrats, many of whom were wary of impeachment before explosive allegations related to withholding money from Ukraine for political reasons, defending the impeachment inquiry as necessary to preserve and defend the Constitution.

PELOSI: Right in the here and now, we are keeping the republic from a president who says Article 2 says, I can do whatever I want. Not so.

MATTINGLY: The inquiry itself saw new testimony today from Timothy Morrison, the top adviser on the National Security Council for Russia and Europe. Morrison is the second official who was on Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president to testify so far.

According to multiple sources familiar with his testimony, Morrison said he was concerned the transcript of the call would have a negative implication if leaked and was involved in discussions over how to handle the call.

Morrison corroborated much of the testimony given by William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, about interactions they had related to President Trump's insistence on investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election. Morrison also testified that he was warned by then White House official Fiona Hill to avoid Rudy Giuliani's shadow Ukraine diplomatic mission, according to a source familiar with the matter.

[18:05:01]

But the source said, Morrison was clear that he was not concerned Trump asked Zelensky for a favor and that he did not think -- quote -- "anything illegal was discussed in that July 25 call."

Republicans leaving the deposition saying Morrison's testimony may have contradicted other witnesses and helped President Trump.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Mr. Morrison's testimony is very damaging to the Democrat narrative. That's why you haven't seen any leaks from my Democrat colleagues today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, as this impeachment inquiry moves forward, Democratic leaders have been reluctant to put a timeline on it.

As one aide told me earlier today, every time we meet with someone behind closed doors, we just find that we need more information about what we were told.

That said, there will be at least one more week of scheduled closed- door depositions and, shortly after that, public hearings will start. From the public hearings, it will move to the Judiciary Committee, where articles of impeachment will be drafted.

They will move those through and then another House floor vote, if they get to that point. After that, Wolf, over to the United States Senate for a trial, where at this point, as you know well, the United States senators watching, waiting, mostly holding their fire -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

We have more breaking news on new legal tests of White House stonewalling. Judges -- federal judges are reviewing whether the courts can force witnesses close to the president to testify in the impeachment investigation.

Let's bring in our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, outside a federal courthouse here in Washington.

Evan, what is coming out of these hearings tonight and what does it mean for the White House efforts to claim executive privilege?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.

The White House and the Justice Department are making the argument that Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, has absolute, total immunity from having to testify to the House in this impeachment inquiry.

The judge simply is not buying that. She clearly is skeptical of some of the arguments that the Justice Department was making in court today. I will read you part of what she said.

She said -- quote -- "We don't live in a world where your status as a former executive branch official somehow shields you or prevents you from giving information."

She also raised the point, Wolf, that there are former administration officials that are now TV commentators, people doing commentating on television on cable networks and so on, and she pointed out that that obviously means they should be able to provide information to the House as well.

She says -- quote -- "I see almost every day people who are former executive branch officials giving information in the media. People are out there talking," she said.

Wolf, this is obviously a big fight that we want to see -- we should see wrap up. Certainly, to get Don McGahn's testimony, the House is trying to move very quickly on impeachment. So we will see how quickly this judge makes a ruling.

BLITZER: There was another key legal fight today, Evan, this one involving John Bolton, the president's former national security adviser.

This fight involved his -- Bolton's former deputy, Charles Kupperman.

PEREZ: That's right, Wolf.

Right down the hall from the earlier hearing, this was essentially a scheduling hearing. But it was clear that the judge wants to move very quickly, at least quickly by court standards. The question is whether or not they will be able to get the testimony from Charles Kupperman or from John Bolton if he gets subpoenaed in time for this inquiry.

As you know, the Democrats have set a very aggressive timeline, perhaps an impeachment vote by December. This judge, Richard Leon, today said that he's looking at holding a hearing in early December, December 10, to be exact.

So if that schedule holds, Wolf, it's not clear to me that the House Democrats are going to get the testimony that they need. This is why the lawyers for the House today were in court saying that the judge should dismiss this lawsuit, because they say this is simply a delay tactic. BLITZER: Evan Perez in Washington for us, Evan thank you.

Let's go to the White House right now, where President Trump has been lashing out, now that the Democrats have formalized their impeachment investigation.

Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, first of all, what are you hearing from the president and his allies?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the White House is portraying the impeachment vote in the House as a partisan attack on the president, taking pride in the fact that no Republicans strayed from Mr. Trump in that vote.

Earlier today, the president invited GOP lawmakers to the White House earlier today for a discussion that included some talk about the impeachment process. The Trump campaign, we should also note, released some talking points earlier today on impeachment that attempted to poke holes in the Democrats' case.

But that ended up trampling on some of the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With Democrats voting to move forward with impeachment in the House, President Trump is tweeting as he's pleading, read the transcript, insisting he's the victim of the greatest witch-hunt in American history.

The president chose an ally in the British media, Brexit activist Nigel Farage, to make his case.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats are desperate. They're desperate. They have nothing. They have got nothing going. And it's the only way they're going to try and win the election this way, because they can't win it the fair way.

[18:10:07]

No, the transcript of the call that I had with the Ukrainian president is a perfect and totally appropriate document. And they're using that to try and impeach the president of the United States, who won one of the greatest elections in history.

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who has yet to hold a briefing with reporters, appeared on FOX News and indicated Mr. Trump's team is still formulating its counterimpeachment strategy.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Now that we're in phase two of the impeachment inquiry, I don't think I want to get into strategy of what the legal strategy will be going forward, until we learn kind of what the ground rules are.

The Dems have been really good at continuously moving the goalposts on that, so I don't want to get into any of our strategy just yet.

ACOSTA: The president's family is stepping up, with Ivanka Trump quoting Thomas Jefferson, who once lamented he was "surrounded by enemies and spies, catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen and inventing where facts fail them."

Ivanka added: "Some things never change, dad."

Donald Trump Jr. defended his father's quest for dirt on Joe Biden, complaining children shouldn't be able to make a buck off of their family name.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I wish my name was Hunter Biden. I could go abroad, make millions off of my father's presidency. I'd be a really rich guy. It would be incredible.

ACOSTA: CNN has obtained Trump talking points that mischaracterize the testimony of national security official Alexander Vindman.

The talking points said Vindman's testimony supports President Trump's message and that Vindman stated that the released transcript of President Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian President Zelensky was accurate and that there was no quid pro quo on the call.

But here's the reality. Vindman told lawmakers the transcript was incomplete and added there was a quid pro quo. With his presidency on the line, Mr. Trump is being urged by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to avoid attacking fellow Republicans who may end up deciding his fate.

GOP lawmakers are remaining loyal to the president.

QUESTION: The president is now asking all of you to defend him against the substance of these allegations. Will you do that? Will you all go on the record and say that the president did nothing inappropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Yes.

MCCARTHY: And I think you heard members up here being very clear.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And the White House is seizing on the testimony of Tim Morrison, the senior White House official, as a positive, trying to spin that as a positive. They came out of the Capitol earlier today.

A senior White House official telling our colleague Pamela Brown that they saw Morrison's testimony over here at the White House as being beneficial to the president's cause because Morrison, according to the White House, told lawmakers that he saw the Ukraine call as more of a political than a legal problem for the president.

But the problem for the president, Wolf, as you know, and this all began with the whistle-blower, is that a growing number of administration officials have stepped forward to testify that Mr. Trump was wrong when he sought Ukraine's help in investigating Joe Biden.

And there are more officials coming out of the woodwork to testify in the coming days, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, there are.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. He's on the Judiciary Committee that plays a very major role in the impeachment process down the road.

Thanks so much, Congressman, for joining us.

This was an historic and important vote today in the House of Representatives, the first full House vote on the impeachment inquiry. What does it say to you, though, that not a single Republican joined Democrats in voting for this resolution?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, I think it's important that all Democrats but two voted for it. That says we have got strength that Speaker Pelosi has garnered, the facts have encouraged, and that we will have the votes if we do have an impeachment resolution to honestly vote on the matter.

The fact that the Republicans weren't there was a bit surprising. I thought there might have been a few who came over. Justin Amash, who is now an independent, voted for the resolution and told the Republicans the president will be here for a short period of time. You should worry about your place in history and what you're doing now, while the Constitution is being subverted.

Those were important, telling words from Justin Amash. I'm not sure if those Republicans will listen to him. But once they hear the information -- not everybody has heard the information in public, open hearing -- but once the information and the testimony is put in public hearings, and the depositions are released, and the American people hear them for themselves, I think that the constituencies of the Republicans will tell them to vote to impeach Donald Trump, because he has abused his power.

He has corrupted his position, and he has been a person who has betrayed his oath to the Constitution and to the American people, trying to get an ally, Ukraine, leveraging congressionally funded military support to defend themselves against the Russians, and he's using that as a way to try to leverage them to get dirt on his opponent Joe Biden.

It's strictly illegal. It's unconstitutional. It's against his oath of office. And once it's out in public, I think the public will show their congresspeople they need to vote correctly.

[18:15:02]

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about what's happening down the road. As I said, you serve on the Judiciary Committee, which eventually will

introduce articles of impeachment. How soon, Congressman, will you start getting material from the Intelligence Committee, which is, at least right now, leading the inquiry?

COHEN: I think we will get it certainly before Thanksgiving, I suspect maybe the second week of November.

There's no cut -- timeline. But they're going to start to go into public hearings probably in about a week or two. And I think they will be turning information over to the Judiciary Committee to look at, to analyze and to synthesize.

BLITZER: Tim Morrison, a top official on the National Security Council, testified today behind closed doors that he didn't see anything illegal about the president's demands on Ukraine.

But he was also worried about the transcript of that July phone conversation leaking. So, what do you make of that?

COHEN: Well, I think it says that the transcript must be released.

This is not a transcript that has anything in it that releases information that the CIA would want to keep from a foreign power. It's not about our operations and the way we do things with the CIA. And it doesn't have anything about any intelligence officials.

That phone call, which has become a controversy, the president calls it a transcript. It's not a transcript. It's a memorandum of the phone call. The transcript has been locked up. Mr. -- Colonel Vindman said it was not complete, that there were ellipses where there should have been statements and there were things changed.

I would like to see it. And I think the American people should see it. And Donald Trump's claim that it's a perfect phone call, he should want it to be seen.

The fact that he's not releasing it and doesn't want it to be seen has nothing to do with national security, because there's nothing in there about sources and methods. There's information in there that will show that Donald Trump's -- quote, unquote -- "transcript," which is a memorandum, is not complete, was basically a lie to the American people because it omitted certain information. And we need to see it all.

BLITZER: A federal judge here in Washington weighed in today on your committee's fight to hear testimony from Don McGahn, the former White House counsel.

The judge said -- and I'm quoting now -- "We don't live in a world where your status as a former executive branch official somehow shields you or prevents you from giving information."

Are you encouraged to hear that?

COHEN: Very much encouraged. I don't think there's any question but Don McGahn should testify and

will be ordered to testify. It's just an issue of when he testifies, so that we can get the information in time to make a difference.

The Trump team has put up the most specious legal arguments that basically Judge Howell and other judges -- there's been 100 former prosecutors and judges who've written that these arguments are just off the wall.

They are -- they probably wouldn't get you out of law school. And yet they are doing -- they are just throwing up what they can to try to hide information and guard people from testifying to the American public.

If Trump's world is perfect, if he's done nothing wrong, if he didn't obstruct justice, there's no reason not to have McGahn testify.

But McGahn went and talked to Mueller. And Mueller's report made it clear that McGahn was asked to take actions that show obstruction of justice.

And the elements are all there. This man has obstructed justice, and he has abused his power and he's subverted the Constitution, as Barbara Jordan said Nixon had done, and he's done it in spades.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks so much for joining us.

COHEN: And go, Nats.

BLITZER: All right. Well, they are the World Series champs.

Thank you very much.

COHEN: Champs.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming up next, with more on the historic impeachment vote launching a new phase of the inquiry.

The former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara -- there you see him -- he's standing by live. We will discuss that and more.

Plus, the hometown heroes return, and Washington welcomes back baseball's champion Washington Nationals, expected to land outside of Washington at Dulles Airport momentarily.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:47]

BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news at this historic moment for the Trump impeachment investigation.

The House of Representatives voting today to formalize the inquiry, setting the stage for televised hearings. All but two Democrats voted yes. All the Republicans voted no.

We're joined by the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. He's a CNN senior legal analyst.

Preet, how significant is today's full vote in the House?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's very significant.

Any time you have an event like this that's only happened for, I think, the fourth time in all of American history, it's a significant event just as a historical matter.

I think it's significant also because it takes away, I think, some of the arguments that President Trump's allies have been making about this proceeding only in secret proceeding in a non-public way and proceeding without rules and procedures that have been agreed upon by a majority of the House.

And those procedures, in particular, I think, are going to call for a fairly interesting and more streamlined and I think more organized hearings going forward, when they -- when they become public.

Among other things, the resolution calls for there to be extended questioning by the chair and vice chair of the Intel Committee, where all the action is going to be, not the Judiciary Committee, which has been the case in the past.

And they will have up to 45 minutes apiece. And they will be able to delegate some of that questioning to career professionals, to employees and staff members of the Intel Committee, before they go back to the sometimes circus-like five-minute rounds that members of Congress have in other hearings that we have talked about, and a little bit made fun of here and elsewhere.

[18:25:15]

So I think it'll be a rational, reasoned process. And they finally got the vote that everyone has been clamoring for. On the other hand, it is not a great thing that there were no Republican defections, that it was a more partisan vote than we have seen before.

I think, in the Clinton era in 1998, when they had a similar kind of vote, there were several dozen Democrats who agreed with the resolution. And in Nixon's time, I think the majority of members of Congress voted to proceed.

There were differences in timing and other sorts of differences in how much evidence had been developed. But I think those are the major takeaways from the vote.

BLITZER: Yes, very significant, indeed.

Let's get to something very close to you. Prosecutors in your former office -- we're talking about the Southern District of New York -- they are now looking very closely into Rudy Giuliani's role in all of this.

But CNN has learned they're also weighing the upcoming 2020 election and the difficulties of prosecuting foreign lobbying violations, maybe especially during an election year.

How does all that impact their next steps?

BHARARA: You know, so I don't know if any of that is true.

And even without there being reporting on it, I would assume that those are considerations. They would have been considerations when I was a U.S. attorney. We did sensitive political investigations.

We wanted to make sure that you were far enough away from an election so that you're not affecting it. There's not a lot of time. So, on the issue of whether or not the election affects how they think about it, I think, for reasons of fairness and justice to both Mr. Giuliani and also the upcoming election, you want to make sure that you can get those things squared away as far in advance as possible.

Sometimes, that's not able to be done, because there are witnesses in far-flung places and you can't check all the boxes. But that's definitely something that is right and appropriate to be thinking about. You don't want it to go too far into 2020 before you shut the door on it.

And with respect to the other issue, that statute that you mentioned, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, that apparently they're looking at with respect to Rudy Giuliani, it's a tough statute. We brought cases when I was there successfully under that act. But there have been a couple of high-profile cases that have been brought by the Justice Department that have ended in acquittals.

So it's not a statute that's been used a lot over the course of years, more recently. And it's a tough statute to get a conviction under. And, again, we don't know the facts with relation to Rudy Giuliani.

So we will have to see.

BLITZER: We certainly will. We will watch it closely.

Preet, as usual, thank you so much.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're going to have much more on the newest closed-door testimony in the impeachment inquiry and what we learned about the president's Ukraine phone call which is at the center of all of this.

Plus, there's another big story right here in Washington, live pictures coming in from Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C. The world champion Washington Nationals, they're just arriving back here in the D.C. area.

We're following the team's triumphant return to D.C. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: A very important day here in Washington. We're going to have much more on the historic House vote to go forward on impeaching President Trump.

But right now, there's another important development unfolding, this is the scene over at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., as the World Series champion, Washington Nationals, they are arriving home. We'll go back there live in a few moments.

Our Brian Todd is on the scene for us. Lots of excitement on all fronts.

Let's bring in our correspondents and analysts first to discuss the history that unfolded in the House of Representatives today.

David Chalian, a big moment for House Democrats but they failed to get even one Republican member to support this resolution formally authorizing the impeachment inquiry.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. I think it's so important that you stress both of those things. It is a big moment. It's historic. There's no doubt about that. But it is important also to note how today's vote is emblematic of the time we live in, very polarized times, very partisan times.

And this is not yet sort of meeting the standard that Nancy Pelosi herself set way back when she was reluctant to move toward impeachment because she understood that it is such a divisive issue, Wolf, and that it needs to be bipartisan in nature.

This is not yet bipartisan in nature which gives the president, when he has that kind of unanimity, a bit of a political ground to stand on and engage in this battle. Of course, he would not want to be here at all to be the fourth president threatened with impeachment.

BLITZER: Yes, that's absolutely true. The final vote was 232 in favor of the resolution, 196 opposed. All the Republicans united against the resolution, two Democrats split from the Democratic majority.

David Swerdlick is with us. The Republican argument is that this new process is too little too late. The Democrats are wasting a lot of time. They've got a lot of other important issues that are being neglected in the process, like healthcare, military funding, infrastructure funding, and this is simply a waste.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I think some people will buy that argument but it's not going to go very far, Wolf, I think, for a couple of reasons. One, for three or four weeks, they've been clamoring for a full House vote on impeachment, now they've got it.

[18:35:04]

They don't like all the rules that were put in place but they got what they've been asking for and they still seem to be saying that this is a sham, this is a waste of time.

The other thing is that it's not as if in the House or in Congress, in general, a lot of major legislation was moving slowly through. One House is controlled by Democrats. The other House is controlled by Republicans. They don't agree on the big issues. They're not going to get a lot done between now and Election Day regardless of impeachment.

BLITZER: There's been almost, Abby, a hundred hours of secret closed- door hearings involving key witnesses and the depositions, sworn depositions that have been coming forward. And witness after witness, they seem to be corroborating this notion that there was some sort of quid pro quo that Ukrainians would get the aid they want, the meeting with the president that they want in exchange for dirt on the Bidens. And that's a significant moment.

But moving from secret to public televised hearings will be very significant.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It will be. And it will change the nature of the impeachment inquiry thus far.

There has been, as you pointed out, a remarkable amount of unanimity among all of the people who have testified, even the ones who disagreed on their interpretation of the events that occurred. For the most part, most people corroborate the events as they have been laid out by multiple. And so when you get to the public phase, it's going to sort of put all of that in its entirety in the public sphere.

Now, what we know of this testimony has come a little bit from the Democrats, a little from the Republicans. It will be important for everybody to see all of it because it's going to be probably a little bit less cut and dried than it has seemed up to this point.

But the challenge for Republicans is that, are they going to ever get to a point where the facts are going to bolster the president? I'm not sure that they are, because everyone basically agrees on the facts. It's a question of whether or not they think it was improper or a crime or something that rises to the level of an impeachment.

BLITZER: Kylie, the testimony today from Tim Morrison, the top official at the National Security Council behind closed doors, once again. But we're getting new information on what he actually said. You've been doing a lot of reporting on this. What are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So Tim Morrison is key here because he was on that July 25th call. We keep referencing back to between Trump and Zelensky when the president urged, asked for a favor from Zelensky to investigate, to look into Biden and Biden and his son.

But Tim Morrison told lawmakers today that he was not worried about the legal nature of that conversation. He said, quote, in his opening statement today, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed. But he did turn over the transcript of that call to the lawyers at the White House. And he says the reason for that is because of how politically divisive Washington is right now.

And so he wanted to make sure that they were looking over it. He was worried about it leaking out because of how divisive Washington is and also because of how it would be perceived by the Ukrainians, the fact they'd be looking at U.S. assistance in a different way.

But the other key element here, and Abby referenced this, is that he did back up what we heard from Bill Taylor. He's the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. And he is the one who said that it was the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, that had hold the Ukrainians at some point in early September that they wouldn't be getting any U.S. security assistance unless they announce an investigation into the Bidens.

And so that is the key part here. He did corroborate that. But Tim Morrison told lawmakers that he was confident in the NSC process here and how it went down legally.

BLITZER: David Chalian, you are our Political Director. How is all this stuff that's going on in the House of Representatives now playing politically out there?

CHALIAN: Well, we've seen in polling, when you look at national polling, Wolf, we've seen a slim majority in the country saying they're in favor of impeachment and removal. But when you look at critical battleground states or even more specifically in critical districts, battleground congressional districts where a lot of these Democrats who helped Nancy Pelosi become speaker, majority-makers, they won districts that Donald Trump won. Impeachment is not a popular position there.

And I do think that that is what the Trump campaign, the White House, the RNC, all of that apparatus is banking on is that in the states and in the districts where this really matters, this is not a slam dunk popular thing to be doing and they want to keep making that case, which is why today's vote, if you are a Democrat in a vulnerable district, you got a lot of incoming from Republicans today as they try to hang that vote around the neck of those Democrats. We'll see if that works as this moves into the public phase.

BLITZER: A historic day here in Washington indeed.

Everybody stick around. There's a lot more we're following. Another big story that's breaking here in the nation's capital, the World Series champion, Washington Nationals, they are returning home right now.

[18:40:02]

Stand by. We're going out to Dulles International Airport. Our Brian Todd is on the scene. We'll have a full report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:04]

BLITZER: Tonight, new flames and destruction in California's wildfire crisis. Another blaze erupting and engulfing homes just east of Los Angeles. Millions are on alert for powerful winds and other dangerous conditions that could spark new fires at any time.

CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from San Bernardino covering this breaking story for us.

So, Nick, what are you seeing there on the ground?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in California, still more than 17 million people are under these high wind red flag warnings. That's not far off half of the population of this entire state. You mention new fires, too, popped up in this area. On this cul-de-sac, the fact only two homes were lost, well, that's considered something of a victory. That's where we are right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Sixty-mile-an-hour gusts, homes burning in the predawn dark. The hillside fire broke out in the early hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is getting engulfed in flames.

WATT: Sunrise --

MATTHEW VALDIVIA, LOST HOME TO WILDFIRE: This would have been the bedroom.

WATT: And the Valdivia family returned to -- well, nothing. Speaking with my colleague Omar Jimenez.

VALDIVIA: My kids' baby pictures and a laptop and destroyed. Destroyed. My heart broke, man. We have good memories in this house.

WATT: All week we've seen dangerously strong winds flipping tractor trailers on the freeway, fanning flames, spreading embers across the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The embers are blowing into neighborhoods out here.

WATT: East of L.A., residents evacuated from a senior center through the smoke. In west L.A, the Getty Center and many multimillion dollar homes were threatened. Some of them badly burned. North of the city, hurricane-force winds whipping flames, forcing 30,000 to evacuate, a close call for the Reagan Library, resting place for the former president and first lady.

And in northern California, hundreds of structures destroyed. Nearly 80,000 acres burned. This is California's new normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT: Some good news, though. The winds are forecast to drop. A lot of those red flag warnings will be lifted in just a couple of hours from now. A few will remain around Los Angeles and Ventura for Friday and across much of the state, the fire risk will just be elevated, not extreme -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nick, thank you. Nick Watt on the scene for us.

We have a lot more news. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:23]

BLITZER: Right now, the new World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, they just landed back home. This politically divided city now united in celebrating the Nats' historic come from behind victory.

Brian Todd is over of Dulles International Airport, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Brian, so what kind of welcome are the Nats getting tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A joyful one, Wolf, just a few moments ago getting a first glimpse of the victorious Washington Nationals touching down in their hometown after their dramatic win in game seven in the World Series against Houston last night.

Just a few minutes ago, they got off this charter plane from Houston, greeted by family and friends, kind of what it turned out to be a small mob of people who rushed to the foot of the stairs and family friend, team staffers, airport employees, first responders here who were escorting them out, all greeted them at the foot of the stairs.

One of the players carried the World Series trophy as he got off first, and other players carried their children with them and everybody was cheering and they just got on some buses, a caravan of buses to my left here and loaded up and are heading down we presume to Nats Park in downtown Washington, about 25 miles from here.

Wolf, you mentioned a politically divided city and that's what makes this such a big story. Of course, the city of Washington and the sports fans are going crazy over the Nats win, but again, this was a victory that really united a politically divided city. People from all political stripes were rallying around this team, not just for the World Series, but over the past few weeks as they made their incredible run through the postseason. That is one of the big stories regarding the Nats' victory.

The other track is the adversity this team had to go through to get to where they are tonight. They were -- they had 19 wins, 31 losses on May 24th. That was a third of the way through the season. Everybody was writing them off and analysts were talking about them trading the big players and rebuild the team from scratch.

They stuck with it. Their manager David Martinez stuck with it. He was under fire and he also, by the way, was treated for a heart condition near the end of the season and missed a couple of weeks as they got ready for the playoff run. So this team has come through so much adversity.

And another thing you have to talk about is that so many games in the World Series, they were behind in elimination games and I think in five elimination games they were behind. They rallied in all of those games to win and you couldn't ask for a more dramatic series victory than this and a bigger story than just baseball. This Nats victory united a very politically divided town in the middle of an impeachment scandal.

[18:55:03]

BLITZER: Yes, because I've been to a lot of the Nationals' games and I go out there, I see Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, a lot of folks who don't care about politics and all, but they all love the Washington Nationals.

Brian Todd, stick around. We'll have much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Finally tonight, they say there's no place like home, but the Washington Nationals are the first-ever team to win the World Series entirely on the road. They stayed in the fight and were so proud. Congratulations to our Washington Nationals. Excellent, excellent work.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.