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THE SITUATION ROOM

More Impeachment Testimony Comes to Light; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) Is Interviewed About the July Phone Call Between the Donald Trump and the Ukrainian President; Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Is Interviewed About Vindman; Source Says, Vindman Testified White House Lawyer Told Him Not To Talk About Trump's Ukraine Call; Trump Changes His Official Residence from New York to Florida; Beto O'Rourke Drops Out of the 2020 Presidential Race; New California Fire Erupts Forcing Thousands to Flee. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 1, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Beto O'Rourke just revealed he's ending his campaign. So what will it mean for the race?

"Good riddance," that's the reaction from the New York governor, as President Trump ditches his longtime home state and declares himself a Florida resident. We will tell you how the move will profit the president.

And explosive fire. Another fast-moving blaze erupts in California, forcing thousands of new evacuations. Is there any end in sight to the wildfire disaster tearing through the state?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the impeachment investigation, a source revealing more about that critical closed-door testimony by the top White House expert on Ukraine, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman telling lawmakers that a White House lawyer warned him not to talk to anyone about President Trump's controversial phone conversation with the leader of Ukraine.

It's more evidence that the administration was concerned about Mr. Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and tried to keep it quiet.

Other news that's breaking, Beto O'Rourke announcing he's dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, saying it's clear he doesn't have the means to move forward and win.

This hour, I will talk with House Intelligence Committee member Jackie Speier, and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who also served as a Clinton White House chief of staff. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, what more are you learning about the testimony by that key impeachment witness?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a source familiar with Alex Vindman's testimony telling CNN that Vindman earlier this week behind closed doors testified that he was told by top NSC lawyer John Eisenberg not to discuss the call that the president had with President Zelensky of Ukraine.

Alex Vindman, that NSC official, was on that call. He had expressed concerns to the NSC lawyer Eisenberg, and he was told, essentially, according to the source, to keep quiet about the call.

Now, "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that it was more about the concerns about his call. But this is significant because this shows, Wolf, yet another example of a White House efforts to conceal this phone call that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, the phone call that the president continues to say is perfect.

It's also significant because Alex Vindman, Wolf, as you know, was a Ukraine expert in the NSC. His job is to talk to other administration officials about Ukraine. And it would be important for him to talk about the call that the president had with Ukraine's president.

Now, Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary of the White House, responded to this reporting, saying, "We can't comment on testimony we didn't get to be in the room to hear."

Of course, the White House has commented extensively on other testimony, like yesterday, Tim Morrison, which it views as in its favor, aspects of it.

BLITZER: I know you're doing a lot of reporting. You're getting some new information also about Republican efforts to help guide the president's strategy in dealing with this impeachment inquiry.

What are you learning?

BROWN: Yes, that's right.

So we have learned that two of the top -- two of the president's top allies on Capitol Hill, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, have been trying to guide the White House as it grapples with these closed-door hearings, the closed-door hearings, as well as the leaks that are coming out from Capitol Hill.

We're told that they're essentially trying to help him understand whether there are any mischaracterizations of what has been publicly reported, what has been out there, in the face of these leaks and the closed-door hearings.

Now, Mark Meadows telling CNN that he is only sharing broad characterizations with White House lawyers, not sharing specifics, Jim Jordan also telling CNN that you never divulge information to the White House that should not be divulged, saying that he would not answer any questions of substance.

So they have been very careful in talking to White House lawyers about not to divulge anything that could break House rules. But what they have been trying to do is help guide them, as White House lawyers try to shape the legal strategy.

And, as we know, a big sticking point for the administration is they don't have lawyers in the room during these hearings. And so the White House is turning to allies on Capitol Hill to help them as they shape the strategy.

BLITZER: I'm sure they're getting plenty of help from those allies.

Thanks very much for that excellent reporting, Pamela.

As we're learning more about an impeachment -- impeachment testimony, President Trump has been lashing out at the investigation as he heads to a campaign rally later tonight.

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

Jim, the president, I understand, just spoke to reporters, answered a few questions.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The president was just a few moments ago railing against the impeachment process, sounding incredulous as to how he could be impeached when he sees the economy doing so well right now. The president is planning to fight the this impeachment battle as a one- man war room, tossing out the idea that he might read the transcript of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine on live television.

[18:05:08]

The president continues to lead a deeply divided country on the subject of impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Top aides in the West Wing are now preparing for what may be inevitable, that President Trump will be impeached in the House of Representatives.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: But I'm prepared for the president to be impeached. I'm prepared for the votes to not go that way, depending on what the evidence -- the evidence says.

ACOSTA: When it comes to his battle against impeachment, the president may be going from live-tweeting to live reading, defending his phone call with the leader of Ukraine, telling "The Washington Examiner: "At some point, I'm going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it's a straight call." DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't impeach the president who did nothing wrong. 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's didn't see anything wrong with it.

ACOSTA: That's despite more damaging testimony in the inquiry. Democrats say the latest administration official to testify, Tim Morrison, confirmed the president was dangling dollars as he dialed for dirt on Joe Biden.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So you're saying he corroborated the charge that there was a quid pro quo?

REP. AMI BERA (D-CA): Yes. So, in my mind, that is an abuse of power.

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who is refusing to hold briefings with reporters, told FOX News the counter impeachment strategy seems largely set, with the president calling the shots.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is the war room. The difference between Clinton and Nixon, which is what people constantly compare us to, is that those two did something wrong. The president has done nothing wrong. So, at this time, he feels confident with the people that he has in place. We don't feel the need for a war room. And we will see what happens.

ACOSTA: The latest polls show the public is deeply divided over whether the president should be impeached. Republicans are staying loyal to the president, to the consternation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We took an oath to protect and defend our democracy. And that is what he has made an assault on. And if the Republicans have a higher loyalty to the president than they do to their oath of office, that's their problem.

ACOSTA: As for the president's plan to change his residency to Florida, New York's governor noted on Twitter, "It's not like Trump paid taxes here anyway," and arguing on CNN that Mr. Trump may be trying to evade an effort by Manhattan prosecutors to obtain his long- shielded tax returns.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This is a desperate legal tactic, whereby they're going to argue, well, we're not New York residents anymore, we're Florida residents, so New York doesn't have a right to the tax returns. I don't think it's a legal tactic that's going to hold up.

ACOSTA: The president is not being straight about the latest jobs, numbers, tweeting: "Wow, a blowout jobs number just out, adjusted for revisions and the General Motors strike, 303,000."

But that's not accurate. The actual numbers, 128,000, a strong showing, according to the experts. The president is also taking misleading shots at the city of Chicago, tweeting: "The police department there will never stop its crime wave with the current superintendent of police."

But hold on. Murders for the month of October fell more than 20 percent there compared to October of last year.

EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: The fact of it is that numbers do matter, facts matter. And the facts are that we have steadily been bringing these numbers down over the past three years. So that's what we need to focus on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The president raised some more eyebrows this afternoon in that interview with "The Washington Examiner."

He was asked about his relationship with the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. The president was asked to whether he's happy with Mulvaney's performance. The president asked -- happy, and then went on to say, "I don't want to comment on that."

Just a few moments ago, as the president was departing for a rally in Mississippi this evening, the president did go on to say that he has a good relationship with Mulvaney, so perhaps trying to patch some of that up after making those comments to "The Washington Examiner."

We should also note, Wolf, the president is expected to attend an Ultimate Fighting Championship event in New York City this weekend, heading back to the state where he will no longer be a resident.

As one Trump adviser said of the president's weekend plans, "He likes fistfights."

That's exactly how this impeachment fight is shaping up. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Joining us now, Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat who serves on both the Intelligence and Oversight committees that are so central to this whole impeachment inquiry.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

So let's get to the breaking news right away. According to Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, he was directed by White House lawyer John Eisenberg not to discuss what transpired on that July phone call between the president and the Ukrainian president with anyone.

What concerns does that raise?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): So, Wolf, I'm not going to speak to what he said in that deposition. It will all become public very soon, probably next week.

But it's very consistent with what everyone has told us generally. They were told not to come. We then subpoenaed them, and they came, even though they were again told not to come.

[18:10:02]

So, it doesn't surprise me in the least that the general counsel recommended to him or ordered him not to speak about it.

BLITZER: When do you think that committees will start releasing that closed-door depositions, the transcripts of all those interviews, I think about 100 hours?

SPEIER: I think the interviews are slated to begin to be released next week.

BLITZER: Early next week, middle part of next week?

SPEIER: I don't know.

BLITZER: I know the House is in recess next week.

SPEIER: Right.

I think they will be released day by day. I don't think they're all going to be released on the same day. But I don't know that for a fact.

BLITZER: So, some maybe Monday, some Tuesday, Wednesday?

SPEIER: Correct.

BLITZER: All right, we will watch it. We will be anxious to read all those depositions.

Some of those individuals answered questions for eight, nine, even 10 hours. And it will be fascinating to hear what they had to say.

As you know, this White House lawyer, the National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg, he's on the schedule to testify behind closed doors on Monday.

Do you know if he's actually planning to show up and cooperate with this inquiry?

SPEIER: I don't know if he has yet indicated whether he will show up or not.

He has certainly been someone who is in a position to know a great deal. And that's probably one of my greatest concerns about the president, his obstruction of Congress.

I mean, we haven't even been able to get documents out of the State Department of memos that were exchanged between various ambassadors that we have already interviewed.

So there is a concerted effort to shut this investigation down at every turn. And, again, it becomes another article of impeachment, I think. BLITZER: Well, why does it become another article of impeachment? Because of, what, an alleged cover-up? Is that what you're suggesting?

SPEIER: Because it would be an obstruction of Congress by not cooperating with what we have guaranteed in the Constitution in Article 1, is the ability to provide oversight over the executive branch.

Our Founding Fathers were very concerned about putting someone in that position as president that could become a monarch of old, where they had total control over the government.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to what we just heard from our White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Two of your Republican colleagues, Congressman Mark Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan, they have been acting as the eyes and ears for the White House inside your closed-door depositions.

Does the White House have a right to get some guidance from committee members on what's going on?

SPEIER: Well, I think they certainly have been communicating with the president to give him their opinions on how he should move forward.

I'm also pretty confident that the lawyers for many of these individuals who have testified have shared information. Certainly, some of the questioning that went on by some of my Republican colleagues just today with Mr. Morrison would suggest that there was some information that was shared that was certainly not known to the House Democrats.

BLITZER: The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says that public televised hearings will likely begin later this month.

Are you getting closer to securing witnesses who are ready to appear in open session?

SPEIER: I think we will have a stable of witnesses ready to testify.

And it will be very important for the American people to hear what we have heard. And I think it will create a great deal of light on what has been a very murky situation for so very long.

BLITZER: I know, next week, the House is in recess. But do you think those televised hearings could begin the week after?

SPEIER: Conceivably, they could be the week after or possibly the week after that. It'll be within the month.

BLITZER: But no final decision, as far as you know, has been made?

SPEIER: Not yet.

BLITZER: The House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, says we could see transcripts of the closed-door depositions as early as next week.

But what stands out to you? You have attended a lot of these sessions. When we read the transcripts, what do you think will jump out to the American public?

SPEIER: Clarity. It will become crystal clear to the American people that we have some great patriots in our country who wanted to do the right thing.

And then we had others in this country who were interested in only one thing. And that was diminishing the chances of damage that might occur, and, frankly, not even interested in what the rule of law is.

And that will, I think, provide a great deal of light for the American people.

BLITZER: I want you to clarify something that I heard you say.

Is it your understanding that the White House is providing sensitive information to Republicans on the -- on your committees to help them deal with all of this?

SPEIER: I don't know if they're providing information.

I wouldn't be surprised if the attorneys for some of these individuals are providing information to the Republicans, because, certainly yesterday, it was apparent to me that they were aware of information that was not available through the testimony.

[18:15:08]

And so it could be conceivable that they were corresponding either through a third party or even by phone. I'm not sure.

BLITZER: All right.

Well, we will look forward to reading the transcripts of all those interviews. And we will certainly look forward to these public televised hearings that are coming up presumably later this month.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thanks so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead, we're going to have more on the breaking story.

A key impeachment witness says he was warned by a top White House lawyer to stay silent about the president's Ukraine phone call. Is there -- is that evidence of a cover-up?

I will talk to former Defense Secretary, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.

There, you see him. He's standing by live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:50]

BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on testimony by an official who was on the president's infamous phone call with the leader of Ukraine.

CNN confirms that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman told lawmakers that he was directed by a White House lawyer not to discuss that call with anyone.

The lawyer, John Eisenberg, was involved in moving the transcript of that phone conversation into a top-secret, code word, very high security system.

Let's talk about that and more with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He also served as CIA director in the Obama administration and as White House chief of staff during the Bill Clinton administration.

Mr. Secretary, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

And let's get right to the breaking news.

What stands out to you, a man of incredible experience in the administrations, from this account by Lieutenant Colonel Vindman? Were those actions by the top by National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg, appropriate?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, there's a couple of things that stand out from that testimony.

Number one, that a White House lawyer clearly saw in that transcript of the call a concern that the president may have violated his oath of office by asking a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. So that's number one, that there was a clear concern about what was in that transcript.

Secondly, the fact that he told Vindman not to talk to anybody raises additional concerns that this individual was trying to make sure that Vindman would not be able to confirm that with anyone else, which raises an obstruction of justice issue that people ought to look at here.

BLITZER: And what about moving the transcript of that conversation to that top-secret server?

PANETTA: Well, that obviously was an additional issue.

Why was a transcript that normally is not moved to a secure server moved there? It was obviously moved there in order to try to protect it and ensure that that information from the transcript would not be released?

That's something, at least in my experience, we have never done with regards to a transcript of a call with a foreign leader.

BLITZER: Well, I'm curious. And you know a lot about this.

And I'm hoping you could give me a straight answer on this, because there have been some questions whether the rough transcript, the memorandum of conversation, officially released by the White House included everything, was -- it clearly was not verbatim. It says on the document itself, this is not a verbatim transcript.

But are those conversations with foreign leaders not recorded? Is there no audio tape of that conversation?

PANETTA: Well, it depends on the particular administration.

Sometimes, they are recorded, depending on the importance of the call. And those calls are then kept. Generally, however, it usually is a transcript that is written by someone who's listening in on the conversation and jotting down notes as to what that conversation is about.

That's the more common procedure, but it's not unheard of to record some of those conversations if, in fact, the president feels that they should be.

BLITZER: Interesting.

The president's defense strategy right now is to simply dig in his heels and argue there was absolutely nothing wrong with that July phone call, that it was perfect in every way.

He may -- he says he may even wind up reading the transcript of that July call out loud in what's been described as a fireside chat to the American people. What do you make of that?

PANETTA: I think that's the president's greatest vulnerability, is the fact that he's saying -- and I heard the press secretary again say that there is no wrongdoing by this president.

[18:25:06]

So they, in fact, are not developing any kind of defense to the evidence that we all know about, the transcript and the testimony of many witnesses with regards to what the president was asking.

There's no defense that I have heard them make. I haven't even heard the president basically say that talking to a foreign leader and asking a political favor somehow is not a violation of law.

So what they're trying to do is basically say, there's no wrongdoing here, the president saying that that transcript is perfect. And yet, when you read the transcript, it clearly says that the president's asking for a favor from a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. It's there in the transcript.

So the only thing I can sense here is that, because they don't have a defense developed to the actual evidence that's being presented, what they're trying to do is to create a situation where sheer loyalty of the Republicans will be enough to basically protect the president. So he's going to basically play to the divisions that are present in

the Congress and in the country, and hope that those divisions alone and the loyalty of Republicans, by virtue of those divisions, will be enough to basically be able to avoid impeachment.

I think that's a dangerous tactic on the part of the president, because it really underestimates the quality of evidence that could be presented here.

BLITZER: Because, if the president does do a fireside chat and read from this rough transcript that the White House released, he will have to read these words -- quote -- "I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot, and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike" -- dot, dot, dot, ellipses -- "I guess you have one of your wealthy people" -- dot, dot, dot, more ellipses -- "The server, they say Ukraine has it," referring to the Democratic server that these conspiracy theorists suggest wound up for some reason in Ukraine, when clearly it didn't.

What's your reaction to that?

PANETTA: Well, again, it's pretty obvious from this transcript that you have got a prima facie case involving the president of the United States asking a foreign leader to get involved in a political issue, whether it's the server, whether it's investigating Biden.

The bottom line is that the president took a step which not only violates his oath of office. It violates the law. And so the president is basically saying, and almost, I think, trying to say to the American people that, even though that transcript reads the way it does, that somehow it doesn't involve a violation of the law.

That's a real stretch. And I think there are a lot of Republicans who are going to have to weigh the evidence in this case that are going to find it very difficult not to at least look at the evidence that shows that the president violated his oath of office here.

BLITZER: So is it impeachable, from your perspective?

PANETTA: I think that what is obvious, from what we have seen so far, is that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that the president did ask a foreign leader to get involved in domestic politics, and also that he made it a quid pro quo with regards to the aid that we were providing, which violates really his responsibility to our national security.

I think the question is going to be whether this president at some point decides to say that, yes, he did violate those issues, but that somehow it's not -- it doesn't rise to an impeachable offense.

That's a hell of a better defense than basically taking the position that there's absolutely no wrongdoing whatsoever.

BLITZER: One final question.

You were once in the House of Representatives. If you were still there today, would you vote to impeach?

PANETTA: Well, I'd want to hear all the testimony.

If I wasn't a member of the committees that were looking at the evidence and talking to the witnesses behind closed doors, I would want to see the transcripts. I would want to hear the testimony in open hearing.

[18:30:00]

And then based on that, decide or not I would vote for impeachment, and I frankly and I hope that both Republicans and Democrats.

This is an important and serious responsibility under the Constitution. And I realized that we're in a political divide here. But I hope that they understand that their first responsibility is to enforce the Constitution of the United States. And I hope they give that in a professional and dignified and respectful way. That's what the American people, frankly, are entitled to.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

PANETTA: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news coming up on the president's impeachment defense and GOP lawmakers guiding the White House on closed doors hearings. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new revelation from closed-door impeachment testimony. A source tells CNN that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said he was warned by White House lawyer not to talk to anyone about the president's controversial call with the leader of Ukraine.

Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts.

Jeffrey Toobin, what does that tell you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'd certainly want to read the transcript itself. It is frustrating that we are dealing with leaks from people who usually have an axe to grind in this. That's what we do as journalists. We try to get the story as best as we can. But there is a transcript out there which presumably we'll see as early as next week.

The question about this story is whether the lawyer told Vindman to be quiet because he knew there was something wrong with this transcript. He knew that this was a problem so he tried to hide both the transcript and get Vindman not to talk about it. But it would be important to hear the context and the full explanation. And, of course, we would want to hear from the lawyer's testimony, though I don't know if he's going to agree to testify.

BLITZER: This lawyer, John Eisenberg, not only told Vindsman, according to our reporting, not to say anything to anyone but also move the transcript to the top secret code word server.

Sabrina, what do you think? Do you think he'll show up? He's scheduled to appear on Monday.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that remains to be seen. And we have seen some of these officials to try to delay this process by asking the courts if they can appear on Capitol Hill and saying they're balancing, competing demands based on the request they have received from Democrats while the White House, of course, has asked these witnesses not to testify. So it's not clear.

But I do think that it's important to note what we've seen from the testimony thus far. A parade of witnesses would come forward, have established a pattern where there was, in fact, this consensus that President Trump tried to make aid contingent upon Ukraine launching an investigation into Joe Biden.

I think the latest revelation is important because it also reinforces that the White House and members of the administration wanted that call to be withheld from public knowledge, that they clearly thought it was problematic. They were concerned about the perceptions of what the president was asking for in that call.

And so it's not just about the pressure campaign and the potential quid pro quo, it's also about what Democrats see as a cover-up, which is going to be a very key part of this investigation.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Pamela. You've been doing some excellent reporting on how Congressman Mark Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan are actually guiding the White House through these depositions. They are limited though in what they can say, right?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, because House rules prevents them from disclosing details of what is actually being said behind closed doors from this testimony and the impeachment inquiry.

But what we are told is basically White House lawyers have turned to two of President Trump's top GOP allies looking for guidance on some of the public allegations that are troubling for the president that have come out.

And so, essentially, there have been phone conversations, in-person meetings at the White House where we're told the lawmakers try to guide the White House more broadly on whether what's out there publicly from the leaks and from these closed-door hearings is a mischaracterization or not.

Very similar to what we've already seen from Mark Meadows, in particular, publicly, as you saw yesterday. He said publicly after Tim Morrison's testimony that what he had said would be damaging to the Democrats.

And so this is the White House's strategy in dealing with the fact that they are left out of the room during the hearings. BLITZER: It's interesting, Sara, because the president is standing by his belief that he did absolutely nothing wrong during that phone conversation with the Ukrainian president.

In an interview with The Washington Examiner, he goes on and he says this, quote, at some point, I'm going to sit down perhaps as a fireside chat on live television and I will read the transcript of the call because people have to hear it. When you read it it's a straight call. That's what the president told The Washington Examiner.

He is also considering printing T-shirts with a slogan, read the transcript. How do you think Republicans are going to react to that strategy?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure that a dramatic reenactment by the president of this phone call is what Republicans on Capitol Hill are itching for. I mean, I think you've heard in there -- when they do try to defend the president, most don't say there was nothing wrong with the call. They say, essentially, it's not an impeachable offense. So I don't think showing the American public exactly what it sounded like in the president's own words and in his own inflection is going to make the contents of that call seem any better than they do right now.

[18:40:01]

TOOBIN: I think the Democratic National Committee would pay to have Donald Trump -- they'd buy the time and have Donald Trump read that.

MURRAY: Yes, it's readymade ad.

TOOBIN: I mean, I just think this idea that the transcript is perfect and this phone call was perfect, the only person who is saying that is Donald Trump. Even his most loyal supporters in the Republican Party are making excuses and it's really not so bad. It's not impeachable. He's the only one who is saying it's perfect.

BLITZER: Pamela, you're our White House Correspondent. And what was interesting in that Washington Examiner interviewer, he was asked about his acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, he was asked if he was happy with the job, Mulvaney is doing for him, Trump, according to the interview demur, happy, question mark, mulling the question. I don't want to comment on it.

BROWN: Yes, not exactly confidence inspiring but it's hard to really read too much into that because the president has also praised officials and then the next minute they are let go. And so it's tough to say.

But through my reporting, Wolf, it doesn't appear that Mulvaney is going to be fired anytime soon, at least until after the impeachment inquiry. The very at least the president doesn't want to lose someone from the White House who knows a lot about this Ukraine situation and could be a liability essentially to the White House.

But, certainly, ever since that press conference that Mick Mulvaney held, where he basically confirmed there was quid pro quo and then walked it back, the president was clearly irritated by that and he's not really giving him space.

BLITZER: Let's see what Toobin says. Go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: I don't know. I mean the White House merry-go-round of people, I mean, what difference does it make? There's only one person who matters in the White House. All this business, are they going to hire a spokesman? Are they going to have a war room? It doesn't matter because Donald Trump is on Twitter and talking in front of the helicopter every single day making up strategies as he goes along.

And they can hire anyone they want and fire and fire anyone they want. That's the person who is going to be Deciding all this.

BROWN: And Stephanie Grisham said that. I mean, she said it on Fox News, he is the war room. We don't need to have a war room. He is the war room.

BLITZER: That's what she said.

TOOBIN: Trivia question, who is Stephanie Griffin?

BROWN: Grisham.

TOOBIN: I'd like -- I've never see her before. Yes.

BLITZER: We'll get an answer for you down the road.

TOOBIN: Okay. All right, just - I --

BLITZER: We'll Google it and find that out.

TOOBIN: Okay, good. Yes.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're learning more about Beto O'Rourke's just announced decision to drop out of the Democratic presidential race.

And we'll break down the reasons President Trump has changed his official residence now from New York to Florida. Bye-bye New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:33]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, President Trump is officially a resident of Florida, ditching his longtime home state of New York.

There's a lot to unpack about the move. Let's bring in our business and politics correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich.

Vanessa, the president's decision to change his official residence has both financial and political advantages.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump has spent all of his life living in New York. Many of

those years spent right here at Trump Tower. Now, he is changing his residence to Mar-a-Lago, which has some asking, including the governor of New York, why now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: It's great to be at Trump Tower. It's great to be in a wonderful City, New York.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): But not anymore. President Trump is now officially a Floridian.

TRUMP: Mar-a-Lago, one of the most spectacular states anywhere in the world.

YURKEVICH: And now, home to Trump and the first lady who changed their permanent residence from Trump Tower to their resort in Florida, a state with no income tax.

TRUMP: I pay millions of taxes, millions and millions of dollars in New York and they never treated me, you know, since I became president, they just haven't treated, I think, the office with the kind of respect.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Good riddance to Mr. Trump.

YURKEVICH: And they aren't sad to see him go.

CUOMO: He's leaving New York. I don't believe he was ever a New Yorker any way.

YURKEVICH: Trump is not the only person leaving states with higher taxes.

DONNA OLSHAN, OLSHAN REALTY INC: In December of 2017, Congress passed a law which eliminated state and local tax deductions. They capped them at $10,000. So, for wealthy, well-to-do, upper, middle class people, this was catastrophic.

YURKEVICH: That new tax law policy imposed by Trump is now one he is evading with the move.

The Trump name is synonymous with New York.

He built his business --

TRUMP: Rhona, can I have my calls, please?

YURKEVICH: His persona and home here, even boasting about it on his TV show.

TRUMP: I show this apartment to very few people, presidents, kings. They walk in, look around and really can't believe what they are seeing. They just feel it's amazing. YURKEVICH: Trump also launched his 2016 presidential campaign at

Trump Tower. But since he was elected, he spent 99 days of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago, five times more than New York.

And now, as Trump mounts his 2020 campaign, the president will vote in Florida, a state he won in 2016 and critical to his reelection.

[18:50:05]

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Florida has been trending Republican in some high profile races of late and Donald Trump clearly wants to ensure that Florida remains in his column next year. So, a high profile move to the Sunshine State he hopes is going to help that cause.

YURKEVICH: The move was also prompted by Trump's anger over a New York district attorney's pursuit of his tax returns, according to "The New York Times". It is unclear if switching residences will affect the suit.

CUOMO: I think the president is in desperate times, as we know. And we know that he'll take any legal tactic imaginable. We see it with impeachment. We see it with witnesses and this is just more of the same. He does not want to release his taxes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YURKEVICH: With this new move to Mar-a-Lago, President Trump will presumably be filing future tax returns out of the state of Florida, but in the main time, it remains to be seen whether or not this new move means he will spend more time at Mar-a-Lago and, Wolf, ironically, the president will be in town in New York City tomorrow night for an event and he will be staying right behind me at Trump Tower -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting, Vanessa. Thank you very much for that.

There's more breaking news in the presidential race we're following. Beto O'Rourke announcing tonight that he is ending his campaign.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Des Moines, Iowa, for us right now.

Leyla, so what are you hearing about Beto O'Rourke's decision?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the congressman is speaking right now at a pre-rally to the L&J celebration where we are right now and he's really thanking supporters for their -- their support and their hard work over the last few months. Remember, he announced or said he was going to announce -- kind of gave the first hint of it back in February and since then, he's sort of had a few different turns -- twists and turns in his campaign and several reboots and really sort of found his voice after the shootings in El Paso.

So, really, no surprise that right now, as he speaks to supporters, he is bringing that up. He is saying, look, we did some bold things when it came -- or we made some bold proposals when it comes to climate change as well as gun control and the need for gun reform.

And he really is saying you did that. You did that as a movement. But remember, that's happening right now.

Wolf, you had him on last week. Here's what he had to say then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Will you stay in the race if you don't qualify for the next debate?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm planning on qualifying for that next debate.

BLITZER: What if you don't?

O'ROURKE: And I'll stay in the race.

BLITZER: Any chance you might drop out and run for the Senate in Texas?

O'ROURKE: No.

BLITZER: No chance?

O'ROURKE: No chance. I'm in this to win this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: So here's what we know right now. He is planning to head back to El Paso. There are no indications right now that he will run for Senate in Texas again, and we're waiting to see, you know, what will -- what will that mean here in the race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Leyla, thank you. Leyla Santiago in Des Moines, Iowa, for us tonight.

There's more news we're following. They're bringing in reinforcements tonight to fight a new fire that's forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:02]

BLITZER: We are following another fast-moving wildfire that's erupted in southern California. Firefighters are asking for additional help as this blaze forces thousands of people from their homes.

CNN's Nick Watt is on the scene for us in Santa Paula, California.

Nick, give us an update.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the last time we spoke this time yesterday, there was a lot of optimism around here. Red flag warnings were being lifted, and then last night, as kids and families were out trick or treating, another fire broke out here in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That fire's coming right up on him.

WATT (voice-over): The Maria Fire scorching 5,000 acres in just a few terrifying hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they've got a lot of fire down here. So, this truck's going to have to go right through this wall of fire. Hats off to these firefighters for doing what they do because it is a dangerous job especially in these wild land fires.

WATT: Thousands evacuated, their homes in danger, 500 firefighters, and some civilians, doing whatever they could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They let the water go over there.

WATT: There is now an end in sight.

ASSISTANT CHIEF JOHN MCNEIL, VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Based on the location, it's eventually going to run out of fuel.

WATT: Still no cause for this blaze, but that 46th fire that popped up yesterday, burning three homes, police now telling us that was sparked by a vehicle fire after a police chase, but the underlying issue with all of the dozen or more fires burning across California, low humidity, dry brush and those high, hot, seasonal Santa Ana winds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And as you mentioned, Wolf, they are bringing in more firefighters just in the next couple of hours to tamp down this blaze and the forecast is looking good. The winds are dropping and there are no more Santa Ana winds in the immediate forecast.

So fingers crossed, no destruction, at least until the next time, Wolf, and there will be a next time.

BLITZER: 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.