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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Source: Vindman Testified White House Lawyer Told Him Not To Walk About Trump's Ukraine Call; Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) Discussed About The Problems In Closed Door Meetings; Trump Praises WH Aide Who Said He Did Not Think Trump's Ukraine Call Was Illegal, Ignores Testimony Of Quid Pro Quo; Dems Call On Rick Perry To Testify In Impeachment Probe; Beto O'Rourke Suddenly Drops Out Presidential Race; Buttigieg in Top Tier of Candidates in New Iowa Poll. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 1, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Let's hope for the best. Nick Watt on the scene for us. Thanks very much. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a key impeachment witness says he was silenced and told by a White House attorney never to mention Trump's call with the Ukrainian president, why? Plus, Nancy Pelosi talks about the articles of impeachment. She won't rule out including obstruction of justice in Robert Mueller's probe. Is that a good move? And a lifelong Republican, former top Bush advisor quitting the GOP, giving advice to Democrats on how to beat Trump. He's my guest. Let's go out front.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, silenced, breaking news we are learning that President Trump's top lawyer on the National Security Council tried to silence concerns about the President's call with the Ukrainian president. A call that President Trump even today still insists was perfect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call it a perfect conversation because it was totally appropriate, very good and everybody is saying it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, everyone wasn't and isn't saying it. According to a source, President Trump's top Ukraine expert, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified that Trump's lawyer told him to never discuss the details of Trump's call with Ukraine's President.
John Eisenberg, the lead counsel for the National Security Council instructed Vindman to be silent after Vindman went to Eisenberg to report his concerns with Trump's behavior on that call. Now, this matters because Eisenberg was in a position of great power. As the lead counsel on the National Security Council, he was on the receiving end of two complaints by Vindman about the President's behavior on Ukraine and of another complaint by Fiona Hill, then Trump's top Russia advisor on the NSC.
So what did Eisenberg do? Well, tonight we have learned that after at least three complaints including the specific concern about Trump's call with President Zelensky, Eisenberg did two very important things. Number one, he broke protocol, moving the transcript of the call onto the top secret server. Two, he told Vindman to never say a word about the call to anyone, even after Vindman had expressed all of these concerns.
So what were Eisenberg's motives? Well, we hope to find out very soon. He is slated to testify under oath on Monday. We have a lot of breaking details to get to this hour. I want to go straight to Kaitlan Collins.
And Kaitlan, you also have some new reporting tonight. We know the White House's attorneys have not been allowed inside those closed-door depositions on Capitol Hill, but they seem to be getting some help from some allies who have been inside that room.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that would be Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, two members of the Freedom Caucus who are close allies of the President speak with him frequently and they are in the room during these closed-door testimonies, Erin, and we are now being told by sources they have been informally helping the White House counsel's office sort through the publicly reported aspects of these testimonies that are happening on Capitol Hill, some that spans several hours from current and former administration officials.
Now, what exactly they're doing to help them how much they're telling them is still something that's an open question. They're saying essentially they're just helping them get a better grasp on what's being said because, of course, no White House Counsel is present in the room for these closed-door depositions, something that the White House has vented about several times, saying that they at least need to have a voice in the room, because they don't know exactly what's being said since these transcripts haven't been released either.
And Mark Meadows responded to CNN's request for comment on this. He said he was essentially just offering broad characterizations of what exactly it is that's going on in those rooms. But, of course, that kind of gives you a glimpse, Erin into how the White House is responding to this, because they feel like they've been blindsided. They have been not told exactly what's going on while Democrats say we're doing our work behind closed doors, we'll go public eventually.
Adam Schiff saying they're going to start releasing the transcripts next week before moving on to those public hearings. But we should also note, there have been some Republicans who have not even been sitting in on these depositions. A few of them including Ted Yoho who admitted this week he had not been to one of them until he went to Alex Vindman, the official that you were just referring to there this week.
Now, of course, the White House is going to essentially be wrestling now with what they're going to do once these hearings go in to the public. Once everyone can see what it is these witnesses are saying about the President and his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian officials.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. And I want to go out front now to Democratic Congressman Andre Carson who is on the Intelligence Committee and as has been inside the room for those depositions. And Congressman, I appreciate your time.
So I want to start straight with the news right here, which is that two other people who have been inside some of those depositions; Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, apparently, we understand have been informally helping attorneys in the White House for the President to sort through some of the testimony they're saying publicly reported aspects of that testimony even though those White House lawyers have not been allowed in those closed-door depositions. Do you see any problem with this?
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): I absolutely do. For me and those of us who serve on the Intelligence Committee, we take our responsibilities, we take our oath to the Constitution and our commitment to the committee very seriously. I think that repeated leaks, I think repeated posturing and doing the White House's bidding is unacceptable to me.
The founders as many of my Republican friends like to mention constantly and had envisioned separate but equal branches of government. And so for my colleagues to do such a thing to me is unpatriotic.
BURNETT: And look, it's a significant thing to say. I mean here's what we understand happened here with Colonel Vindman, I don't know if you just heard our reporting. But apparently, we understand he testified.
But after he went to John Eisenberg, the Chief Counsel on the NSC to say, look, he had deep concerns about the President's behavior on the call with the Ukrainian president, Eisenberg told him not to talk about the call with anyone. Now, you were inside the room for Vindman's testimony and I know that you can't talk about what you heard.
CARSON: Thank you.
BURNETT: But my question for you is did you get the impression from what Vindman said that Eisenberg was just being cautious or was something more going on here with his instruction for silence?
CARSON: It's difficult to say, but what I can say is that given the history of President Trump and his cronies and the administration, it is clear that they have repeatedly tried to silenced detractors, silenced those who were concerned about the preservation of the Republic. And so I think given the behavior, we can only determine their behavior based on their behavior. Given their behavior, they seem to be dedicated to protecting Donald
Trump even though his violations are repeatedly blatant and disrespectful and unethical.
BURNETT: Now, Tim Morrison, and the National Security Council's top Russia and Europe adviser, I know testified Thursday that he had concerns over that call, but his main concern was about the transcript actually leaking. He didn't think that there was anything illegal with the call itself. He had that in his opening statement, which we have all obviously read those excerpts from.
Is it possible Eisenberg was being cautious in the same way that he just didn't personally think there was anything wrong here?
CARSON: I can't speak to what's in his mind, but it's clear having read the transcripts as you have, Erin, that you have hundreds of millions of dollars that have been approved by both the House and the Senate that President Trump is using as a bargaining chip, a perfect example of quid pro quo to encourage the Ukrainian government to investigate a political rival, i.e. Joe Biden.
That to me is beyond unpatriotic, unAmerican, illegal and unethical. It's worthy of impeachment.
BURNETT: All right. So when you say worthy of impeachment, obviously it seems clear to me you've seen enough information to know how you're going to vote on this. I mean you just said it right there.
BURNETT: So I'm curious how you respond today to what Speaker Pelosi said and her situation, here's what she said about a vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We haven't even made a decision to impeach. This is what an inquiry is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you wish that she was being more definitive as you just were about how she sees this?
CARSON: Well, I think while Director Mueller's report wasn't necessarily conclusive, he lays out 10 or 11 provisions that would help aid us in making that kind of determination. I think what was important about our vote yesterday was that we were finally able to get on record to move forward with not only public hearings, but we were able to move forward with the public hearing being led initially by the Intelligence Committee and then by judiciary to allow the American people to watch this political process, watch these hearings unfold.
So they can contact their Members of Congress and their Members of the Senate and urged them to move forward with what must be done to preserve our democracy. BURNETT: Congressman, I just wanted to tell you The New York Times is
now reporting that Mr. Eisenberg, of course, we were just talking about him, lead counsel on the NSC who instructed Vindman to keep concerns about the call to himself, but he has now been subpoenaed. Do you expect him to honor that and to appear for his scheduled testimony on Monday?
CARSON: He certainly should and if he doesn't, we will take other measures. So I don't want to speak for Chairman Schiff, but if he is concerned about our country, I would hope that he would be cooperative with our subpoena.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Carson. I appreciate your time.
CARSON: Thank you, ma'am. What a pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, the President is going out of his way to praise a key witness in the impeachment probe. Plus, more depositions scheduled including key players in the White House so the big question will they show with subpoenas like the one I just referenced?
And more breaking news this hour, Beto O'Rourke suddenly dropping out of the race and it was sudden. He was scheduled to speak at a major event tonight, just a couple of hours before boom shocked everybody, why?
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump praising the National Security Council aide who testified that did not see anything wrong with Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say to the White House officials that did testify that your phone call was not perfect, that they were concerned about what they heard on that phone call?
TRUMP: Well, all they have to do is read the transcript. Now, the gentleman that came in yesterday, Morrison, he was terrific. He was supposed to be their primary witness. He was terrific and he said he didn't see anything wrong with it. And by the way I have a lot of never Trumpers that have been in different positions for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the president leaving out some key details including that Morrison, the person to whom he was referring backed up key parts of testimony from other witnesses, including claims that linked Trump to a quid pro quo involving U.S. aid to Ukraine and a probe into the Bidens. Of course, Morrison said he didn't see anything wrong with a particular phone call, that part is also true.
Out front now Ambassador Nancy McEldowney who served in the State Department for 31 years, former Republican Senator and Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, Joe Lockhart who was Press Secretary for President Clinton during his impeachment investigation and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams who also served as judiciary counsel to now Senate Minority Leader Schumer.
All right. Thanks to all of you. Ambassador, let me start with you, what do you make of the President and in his, basically, anytime someone comes out, and this is in fact been every time, someone has come out and criticized him, he has said they're never Trumpers?
NANCY MCELDOWNEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BULGARIA: I think it's outrageous because first of all it's factually incorrect. He has accused a number of people of being never Trumpers without any evidence that indicates that they are, that they signed the never Trump letter. But also he's gone further and said people who are never Trumpers are human scum.
He has referred to people who are decorated war veterans, distinguished ambassadors, loyal public servants and he has unleashed this kind of profane and vulgar attack against these people simply because they disagree with him. I think it's wrong and I think it is yet more evidence of him subverting the process across the board.
BURNETT: Now, when we get to this process, Senator, the latest witness, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, I don't know if you just heard our reporting, but I'm sorry I have a frog in my throat tonight, a source familiar with his testimony says that he obviously with his concerns which we all know about because he said that in his opening statement to the lead counsel on the NSC who then told him, "You know what? Don't ever say a word about that. Don't ever publicly say a word about it."
Even as John Eisenberg, that lawyer moved the transcript of the call to the secure server. Do you think, Senator, that this could be a significant part of this?
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, 2012 & 2016: I don't know. I mean, look I mean you have the transcript and the fact that Vindman, his interpretation of the transcript was concerned was a concern is one person's opinion and I guess I look at that transcript and I see something and I know other people have looked at it and they see something else.
I'm not overly concerned with that transcript. Were there things left out? Vindman mentioned a couple of things, but nothing in any kind of substantial parts of the testimony that were not. So I think what the president is trying to say is that you can look at the transcript. People, again, have different interpretations of it, but from my perspective and I think for most Republicans' perspective, it's not an impeachable offense what he said on that call. BURNETT: Now, Elliot, again, impeachable and illegal are not
necessarily the same thing nor do they need to be and I think it's always important to make that point. Impeachment is, obviously, you could impeach someone for something illegal but it does not need to be formally illegal to be impeachable.
To the point though that the Senator is saying, the transcript obviously a favor would be a quid pro quo, some people think it's impeachable, some people think it isn't. It's the context around the transcript in which we have learned so much that this aid, the pressure that was put on the Ukrainian president to get a meeting first and exchange for the aid and then it went even further, the investigations into Joe Biden.
So how far along are we here, Elliot?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. So it's interesting, so I think the President in latching on or commenting on the testimony and saying that it was, I guess, exonerating in whatever he said was because Morrison had said that he didn't think that the behavior was criminal. But exactly as you said in your question, Erin, that's really not the standard.
Now, certainly Congress over the years has generally found the three sort of buckets of conduct, constitute impeachable conduct, exceeding or abusing the powers of office, behavior incompatible with the office or misusing the office for personal gain. And it's just hard to see how - regardless of the fact that reasonable minds can disagree with what happened on the call, it's hard to see that the first and third things there.
So one, exceeding or abusing powers or two misusing the office for personal gain were not done on that call. So again, you can disagree about what might have been under a particular ellipsis or whether the President ought to be charged with a crime, which he shouldn't. But did the President abuse the powers of his office, it's just almost unmistakable and I think most frankly scholars of impeachment would say the same thing and so that's where we are.
BURNETT: And certainly they have.
BURNETT: I mean, at least, all of the ones that I have spoken to who've written all of the books on Andrew Johnson, Nixon, everybody else, they are in agreement on that, Ron Chernow, the expert in Hamilton papers, Joe, has said the same thing.
So when it comes to this phone call though and again it is the context around that, that is important, and the Republicans may want to focus in on the call, Democrats are going to want to focus in on the context. The role of Eisenberg here saying move it to the server and don't say a word about it, maybe he's going to show up with the subpoena and give his motive. But a lot is now going to rest on that of why he was urging secrecy.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think this is a critical piece of the puzzle. The president and the White House want you to think that this whole thing surrounds the call. It's only about the call, but it's really what we're finding if that was it we wouldn't have to do a hundred hours of depositions. We're finding that there was a massive effort here on behalf of people who work for the President, some people who work in government and Rudy Giuliani outside the government to abuse the power of the presidency to have the Ukrainians impact our election here at home.
So the reason this is important is it's one thing to try to do it, it's another thing when you show how conscious they were of their own guilt and how big a deal it was that they wanted to hide it. So I think, again, it's just another piece of a puzzle, but we know from this reporting that Vindman was told don't talk about this, don't talk about this.
If it was a perfect call, why would they want to bury this and instruct someone not to talk about it?
BURNETT: Keep your concerns to yourself.
BURNETT: And I just emphasize here with you that this was, at least, the third complaint that we know of that Eisenberg had received about the call and other meetings. And he was guy, like this was the man at the center of this because of his position in the council.
LOCKHART: Yes. And on Morrison's testimony, it's not relevant whether he thinks it was a crime or not. He's not a lawyer. He's a Trump loyalist and the importance of his testimony is not that, the importance is that he corroborated what all of the other people who Trump says are never Trumpers. One of his guys went in and said, "Yes, that's all right. All those things that those human scums testified to are right."
BURNETT: Right. I just don't have a problem with it.
BURNETT: Of course, the President is focusing on the latter part. All right. All please stay with me. Breaking news, we are just learning that the President's Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, has now been asked to testify on the impeachment investigation. Perry could be a key witness because he did personally meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky. And Pete Buttigieg surging in a new poll, which is raising the stakes for major speech, which he is going to give moments from now.
BURNETT: Breaking news, House Democrats now calling outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Perry has met with Ukraine's President on at least three occasions and a White House official said he was one of the 'three amigos' who handled Ukraine policy for the Trump administration.
OK. These developments we are having right now and it comes in addition to nine witnesses scheduled for next week in the inquiry, that includes John Bolton and the White House lawyer John Eisenberg. He was just subpoenaed.
There's a lot of concern though that many of these witnesses, most of these witnesses are not going to show up. Phil Mattingly is out front on Capitol Hill. Phil, so first of all you've got people who may not show up even defying subpoenas and not showing up, what does this mean for the impeachment timeline?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, obviously a lot of flurry laid on a Friday evening as they try and figure out how they can get people to Capitol Hill for those closed door depositions, but you've laid out the reality here. There's not very high expectation that anybody will show up next week. Maybe one or two people.
But what that does is it compresses the time table. I think Democrats right now that I'm talking to feel like they're reaching the point of diminishing returns with the closed-door depositions. One, they understand that a lot of people aren't coming in and they aren't willing to wait for long drawn-out court fights to try and get them in.
Also, when you talk to Democrats, Erin, they make clear they believe they have enough to move forward now and here's what that means, at least for next week's still scheduled closed-door depositions, likely after next week or the week after. They're going to start moving into the public phase of this hearing. They're going to start releasing publicly those closed-door depositions, the transcripts of those depositions.
Then, they will have their first series of public hearings, something a lot of people have been talking about, wondering who may come up and testify. A crucial component of the Democratic piece of this investigation as they try not just rally Democrats around this, but also the broader public.
After those public hearings, then they'll release a public report. Laying out everything they found over the course of this process. Then, things move over the Judiciary Committee. That's where articles of impeachment will be drafted. That's where they will be considered.
Erin, what this all means is if there is a compressed timetable, the reality is simply this, if you want a bottom line sooner rather than later President Trump is more than likely to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Democratic leaders have made clear, they're moving, they're moving quickly and they aren't stopping at any point soon, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil Mattingly. And everyone is back with me. Elliot, you hear if they'll go through the timeline they think they already have enough. Look, Democrats now adding Rick Perry to the list of people they want to hear from. We hear from The New York Times, subpoenaing Eisenberg who may defy that subpoena.
Obviously, it appears that they are ramping this up and they feel they don't have much time left behind closed doors.
WILLIAMS: I think it's accurate. I wouldn't call it that they feel they have enough. The simple fact is what else can they learn that they haven't already learned from that, number one, from the initial whistleblower report, then the call transcript memorandum and then the testimony that filled in the gaps in that.
And what they're doing at this point is sort of gilding the lily and so certainly Rick Perry's testimony might be useful. But at the end of the day, he's likely not adding any additional facts. What we know, number one, from the President's own statements about this, number two, from his Chief of Staff statements that he had to walk back.
And number, from all the testimony and evidence that we've seen thus far is that they have enough to move forward with an article of impeachment, I think even Rick Santorum would agree with me on that.
Now, the question, you know, will it pass -- audit to pass and where will it go in the Senate? But and will they have enough now to go ahead.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, one of the reasons that they -- you know, they feel that time is of the essence and the things that matters obviously is the impeachment is inherently political, Ambassador, we've got a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows an even split in the country on whether the president should be impeached and removed from office, which would mean, obviously, a yes vote in the Senate, 49 percent say yes, 47 percent say no. Independents, obviously, is the big kahuna here and that is split marginally against, 49-47.
You know, the president believes that public hearings are going to help him. He thinks this is going to help him. Here's what he just said moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think it helps us. Look, my poll numbers are very high, we've raised, as you know, record-setting money. Record, numbers that -- people -- I don't think people have has ever seen it before. That's a poll, and on the swing states when it comes to an impeachment word, it's an ugly word to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Ambassador, this has played out so much on television, just the constant comments and the opening statements. You know, do you think President Trump could be right? Open hearings could play to his advantage?
NANCY MCELDOWNEY, SERVED IN STATE DEPARTMENT FOR 31 YEARS: Well, anything could certainly happen especially with televised hearings, but my guess is that when the American public, the electorate is able to see witness after witness, very credible people coming forward and laying out their concerns about our foreign policy being subverted for personal, political gains, our national security being put at risk as well as likely violation of campaign finance laws, an overall reckless approach by this president to foreign policy issues from Ukraine and other issues that may be brought in, the Syria decision and abandoning Kurdish allies, when the American people see the facts put forward my guess is that they will tend to support a very different approach than you get right now with this very open and balanced divide.
BURNETT: So, Senator Santorum, you know, President Trump's campaign manager today, Brad Parscale, tweeted, Nancy Pelosi's impeachment resolution, they turned into a massive fund-raising day for Donald Trump, $3 million raised online alone in a day, $19 million raised in October. Impeachment sham backfiring.
Do you think that this helps Trump?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what President Trump said on the lawn there is right. I think these public hearings as this becomes more public are going to help the president. The president has wide, wide authority, constitutional authority when it comes to foreign policy. More than in any other area of power that he has, number one.
Number two, what was he doing? He was asking the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption. Two levels of corruption, one, having to do with the election and the other to do with Vice President Biden.
And you can say, well, you know, there was a quid -- there might have been a quid pro quo or there was that. The reality is the president has broad authority in these areas. The president could have been asking them to do these things and legitimate things for them to ask and by the way not holding back, as he says, not holding back aid. It's possible to advance one and not the other.
And that's the point I think the president is going to make. Yes, I did those things, but that I didn't require the Ukrainians to do anything and for us to do something in response to that.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Candidly, if that's the best response they have, they're in big trouble. I think the risk that --
SANTORUM: I don't think they're in trouble at all, Joe. I really don't.
LOCKHART: OK, I do. The risk that you take and any time you have a big, public hearing like this is they could change the political dynamic. I think the political dynamic is pretty good for Democrats right now, so there is some risk. But the president is not being candid when he says my poll numbers are great. ABC News came out with his lowest approval rating since he took office, 38 percent. He's never reached 50 percent. The only president since the job approval poll.
So, his poll numbers are bad. I think the Democrats have so far shown a lot of discipline and they need to continue to do that. These hearings can't spread out three or four weeks and it has to be just the facts and not a lot of political drama, just people, tell your story and then take it to a vote.
There is some risk. There is always a risk when you have something this high profile. But, you know, again, I would just say to Rick that if this was so perfect as the president said, why would you try to hide this? You're trying to hide it because you're trying to get a foreign government to interfere with our election and the Constitution was specifically written to prevent that.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.
And next, breaking news, Beto O'Rourke very suddenly dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And a lifelong Republican, top adviser to George W. Bush, tonight, leaving the party. What pushed him over the edge? He's OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Breaking news: Beto O'Rourke is out. The former Texas congressman suddenly dropping his bid for the 2020 presidential nomination. The hasty announcement made just hours before he was supposed to speak at a major event in Iowa.
Here's what he just told supporters in Des Moines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: This is a campaign that has prided itself on seeing things clearly and on speaking honestly, and on acting decisively. We have to clearly see at this point that we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT. I mean, Jeff, look, this surprised a lot of people. He was about to
make the cut for the November debate possibly, not what anyone expected. One of O'Rourke's top advisers said he found out about an hour or so when this was announced and this decision was made so quickly.
Beto O'Rourke's own wife could aren't be there when he addressed supporters.
Why the sudden announcement, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, in one respect, Beto O'Rourke accepted the political reality that was before him for weeks if not months, but the timing was certainly very curious. You can see this big Democratic dinner behind me, people taking down Beto O'Rourke signs. We've seen supporters crying, sobbing.
We are told by someone close to the former congressman he made the decision personally this week, earlier this week and decided to announce it right before this dinner, but it certainly took everyone by surprise including supporters who flew in from across the country to see him here at the biggest night in Iowa politics. One supporter said it was a selfish decision, and others were crying and the race is moving on without him, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes, it surprised so many as he was so close to make that cut.
Look, another major story on the night that Beto O'Rourke is getting out is Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Buttigieg is just moments away from giving one of the biggest speeches of his campaign in the very room you're in right now.
Jeff, we've got a new poll of Iowa. The top tier of candidate, he's there, Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg. You see him actually, look, within the margin of error but a tick ahead of Biden.
Is the Buttigieg real and growing?
ZELENY: Certainly, the momentum is real, Erin. We've been seeing it on the ground for several months as we've been traveling for the last few weeks.
But he is, you know, been building a big campaign organization and they're modeled after the Obama campaign, of course. Senator Barack Obama had a big night here 12 years ago, and some Buttigieg supporters hope he follows in his footsteps.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That America can believe in him. ZELENY (voice-over): At this point, in that presidential campaign,
this 46-year-old senator from Illinois was still an underdog, but slowly starting to catch fire.
This year, the youngest candidate in the race is also on the move.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you ready to go into that hole and leave no question about who has the momentum in Iowa right now?
ZELENY: It's too soon to know if Pete Buttigieg will follow the rise of Barack Obama, but he's turning some of the same heads in Iowa like Terri and John Hale.
(on camera): Does he remind you of Senator Obama?
TERRI HALE, IOWA BUTTIGIEG SUPPORTER: Absolutely. It's the intelligence, it's that cool composure. It's the ability to be presidential.
JOHN HALE, IOWA BUTTIGIEG SUPPORTER: Pete is catching on. The more people that see him, the more people that support him.
ZELENY (voice-over): It was 12 years ago when Obama's long-shot candidacy turned a corner here, dazzling thousands of Democrats at the state party's fall gala.
Two months after that speech, he won the Iowa caucuses. This time, the Hales are among Obama admirers now on the Buttigieg bandwagon.
J. HALE: Pete and Obama both have a certain amount of pragmatism to them.
ZELENY: At a recent rally, Terri Hale introduced the South Bend mayor.
T. HALE: Right now, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
ZELENY: And she said she felt like she did in 2007.
T. HALE: The energy and the excitement and positive and hope, that's what I feel at events like Pete and I have not felt that since Barack Obama.
ZELENY (on camera): You didn't feel it four years ago?
T. HALE: No, no, I didn't. No.
ZELENY (voice-over): Buttigieg was also watching that race closely, volunteering for Obama in the final days of the Iowa contest.
BUTTIGIEG: It's what's going on on the ground and what kind of relationships you're forming that serves you well when the caucus day rolls around.
ZELENY: No two campaigns or candidate are the same and yet both men represent a fresh face and are calling for change.
BUTTIGIEG: I believe we need leadership to step forward.
OBAMA: Same, old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do in this election.
ZELENY: The Buttigieg campaign is embracing the comparisons, trying to use its $23 million cash on hand and momentum in the polls to build a modern-day Obama-like operation.
Tommy Vietor, part of Obama's original Iowa team, says the burden is now on Buttigieg to meet these expectations.
TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER OBAMA IOWA TEAM: Barack Obama came up as a grassroots organizer and I think that made the whole campaign sort of make sense and flow from him, it still remains to be seen if that will deliver on caucus day.
ZELENY: Now, Iowa Democrats are looking for the next Barack Obama. Is it Pete Buttigieg? We will find out in three months' time.
But, Erin, you can see and hear the excitement in this arena in downtown Des Moines. You can see the Pete Buttigieg supporters, the mayor of South Bend, will be taking the first of 13 speeches here tonight.
The slogan is: we can't wait. There clearly is a sense of urgency in the Buttigieg campaign. Again, there are many differences between Barack Obama and Pete Buttigieg, but I can tell you covering both campaigns, there is a sense of similarity between message and certainly campaign movement and momentum.
Erin, it was 12 years ago on this dinner, on this same time in the 2007 campaign when Barack Obama was finally taken seriously by many Democrats in Iowa, including Hillary Clinton -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.
And next, a life-long Republican. He says he's had it with the GOP and he will be voting for a Democrat. So, what does President Trump have to do with the timing now? Well, I'm going to ask him, he is my guest.
And rolling out the red carpet at the White House for a hero who barks.
BURNETT: Breaking news, "The Washington Post" reporting a growing number of Republican senators are considering acknowledging that President Trump had a quid pro quo with the Ukrainian president, but they say it does not rise to the level of impeachment. This comes as President George W. Bush's top economist and Mitt Romney's economic adviser on his presidential campaign says he's leaving the party and will vote in the Democratic primary.
OUTFRONT now is Greg Mankiw.
And, Greg, I really I appreciate your time tonight.
First, a chance to respond to the breaking news here about those Republican senators. They're going to seems to come out and say, look, there was a quid pro quo and acknowledge that.
GREG MANKIW, FORMER COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS CHAIR FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm glad they're doing that. There's no question in my mind that the president's phone call with Ukraine was far from perfect and was an abuse of power. Whether that rise to the level of impeachment is, of course, an issue for any legal scholars and congressmen. But there's no question it's a troubling sign of poor judgment for a president who's consistently shown poor judgment throughout his term.
BURNETT: When you talk about poor judgment, I know that that in part is why you are leaving the Republican Party, registering as an independent and voting for a Democrat. Why and why now, Greg?
MANKIW: Well, two reasons. First, it's job of Congress to be a check and balance to a president especially when the president shows poor judgment like this one often does. The Republicans in Congress haven't done that. They have been enablers for the president rather than a check and balance. The second reason is that the Democratic primary is really very important right now.
The Democratic Party is at a crossroads, and that's there's only two groups of candidates. There's the center left people like Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg who -- I think would be actually reasonable presidents a and there's the far left populist, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are much more troubling. They're troubling for two reasons, for a couple of reasons. One, I think their policies are wrong but even worse, they will provide a temptation for those people in the center and center right like me to hold their noses and vote for Trump's re-election. I think that would be a very bad outcome.
BURNETT: Would you be able to do that? I know, obviously, you are switching your registration so you can vote in the Democratic primary and have a voice in what you see as the most important part of this.
But if it were Elizabeth Warren versus President Trump, would you hold your nose and vote Trump?
MANKIW: I would struggle with that decision because I think it's a choice of someone that is ill-suited to the office, which is Donald Trump and someone's whose policy I disagree with. I know Elizabeth Warren a little bit from her days of the Harvard faculty. I like her. She's -- no question, she's very smart but she's much more of statist
than I am. She really wants a big federal government having much control over our lives. I think that would be a step in the wrong direction.
So, I would feel very sad -- I hope I don't have to make that decision.
BURNETT: So, you know, you mentioned the center left, is the ones that you want to vote for, right? Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and we just showed Mayor Pete Buttigieg, obviously, now, right, in that top group, echelon in Iowa.
Biden is obviously still the front-runner nationally, but he's being slammed by the candidates on the far left for being too moderate, by others on the field for his age. Here are a few instances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLI)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Joe Biden doesn't like that, I'm just not sure where he's going. Democrats are not going to win by repeating Republican talking points.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In this campaign, Joe, as I understand, that has not done particularly well in getting a lot of donations from working class people.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all across the end line without fumbling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you believe Joe Biden has what it takes to beat Trump? Guess the translation is in that primary, which you will vote in, Greg, who are you going to vote for?
MANKIW: I don't know. I'm still deciding. I think Biden could beat Trump and I might vote for Biden in primary, but I'm also very intrigued by some of the other candidates. I saw a spot for Mayor Pete in part because he's a Harvard grad. I have a fond feeling more my students and also I know one of the economists who's working with Mayor Pete in his campaign and he's terrific.
BURNETT: All right. Greg Mankiw, I appreciate your time. Good to see you again, sir.
MANKIW: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the White House may be stock up on kibbles and bits. Jeanne Moos explains.
BURNETT: A top dog is headed to White House.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We no longer have to say a generic "good boy". The good boy's name is Conan, like the comedian who tweeted that dog is clearly the better Conan.
It's enough to make a studio audience say.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I like this.
MOOS: Very cute recreation is how the president described the photoshopped image he shared but the "live" version of Conan will be leaving the Middle East for the White House some time next week.
The photo shopped is based on an actual Medal of Honor recipient. James McCloughan was a medic in Vietnam. His head was replaced by the dog's leaving some to wonder how James McCloughan feels about this.
JAMES MCCLOUGHAN, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: The first time I looked at it, I thought, well, paying tribute to a dog that did something very brave and very heroic.
MOOS: When the dog visits the White House.
MCCLOUGHAN: Maybe the president will invite me to say hi to the dog. I don't know.
MOOS: The dog is fully recovering after touching electrical cables while hunting down leader of ISIS. Apparently one good photoshop begets another from Putin putting medal on President Trump to the dog giving the president a medal labeled der. Even so Eric tweeted out a version.
(on camera): The Trump campaign is doggedly raising funds off Conan the K9.
(voice-over): Selling USA camo dog bandanas for 15 bucks. Conan was a hit on late night.
JAMES CORDEN, COMEDIAN: If you look closely enough, you can practically hear Donald Trump whispering to the dog, you know a doctor can get you out of military service, right?
MOOS (on camera): Given the president's penchant for magnificent fast food buffets, can't wait to see what Conan gets fed at the White House.
(voice-over): Some were already imagining. Like other heroes, Conan is likely to get patted and even hugged.
As for pet owners who wonder do you think my dog would be trained for such greatness. Oh, sure. That dog will take orders for a latte.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
TRUMP: A beautiful dog. A talented dog.
MOOS: -- New York.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much for joining us. And don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN Go.
"AC360" starts right now.