Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Transcripts Of Two Impeachment Witnesses Released; Trump's Threats On Alexander Vindmand; Appeals Court Rules Over Trump's Tax Returns; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Is Interviewed About The Impeachment Inquiry; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) Is Interviewed About The Impeachment Inquiry; Ex-Advisor's Testimony Contradicts Pompeo Statements; German City Declares "Nazi Emergency" Over Rising Extremism; Accused Russian Spy Maria Butina Speaks Out. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 4, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. You can follow me on Twitter, @jaketapper. Thanks so much for watching. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, transcripts released. Hours of impeachment inquiry testimony by two key witnesses are made public, revealing their concerns about Rudy Giuliani, bullying tactics and diplomats being used to advance President Trump's political objectives.
White House stonewalls. More administration officials defy congressional subpoenas and fail to appeal before the committees investigating President Trump including the top White House National Security lawyer.
Outing the whistleblower. President Trump steps up his attacks on the whistleblower who first sounded the alarm over his Ukraine call, with Mr. Trump now demanding the whistleblower be brought forward to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
And Warren under fire. Rival Democratic presidential candidates target Elizabeth Warren after she releases her plan to pay for Medicare for all without raising middle class taxes. Will it help or hurt her race for the White House? I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news. House Democrats releasing transcripts of testimony by two key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, aormer U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former State Department official Michael McKinley.
In their depositions they both expressed concern about shadow diplomacy conducted by President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a smear campaign which they believe help lead to the ambassador's ouster and a lack of support from the State Department which McKinley says was part of the reason he resigned.
We'll talk about the breaking news with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of the Intelligence and Oversight Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go straight to Capitol Hill.
Our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is covering the story for us. Sunlen, this testimony was released even as more administration officials defied subpoenas from the impeachment committee.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf, four key administration officials refusing to show up here on Capitol Hill today in defiance of those congressional subpoenas.
And this comes as the House committee deciding to move forward essentially to the next phase of their impeachment inquiry, the more public phase of all of this, releasing over 470 pages of depositions and testimony from two key witnesses who testified behind closed doors last month.
(voice-over): Tonight, the Democrat's impeachment inquiry is intensifying with the release of transcripts from two key witnesses who testified behind closed doors. Former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch whose abrupt removal from her post in Ukraine earlier this year has become a focal point of the impeachment inquiry.
REP ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): One of the first witnesses to this irregular back channel that the president established with Rudy Giuliani --
SERFATY (voice-over): Laying out for House lawmakers that she believed she was removed because of pressure from Trump and his allies, including Rudy Giuliani in a smear campaign behind the scenes, and a timeline for when she first became aware of Rudy Giuliani's interference in U.S. Policy with Ukraine in November of last year.
She testified that in early 2019 she was warned by a senior Ukrainian official that she needed to watch my back as Trump associates worked to have her removed. Ukraine's interior minister telling her that he believed it was dangerous to engage with Giuliani because of his concerns about what they were doing.
Yovanovitch, according to the transcripts, said she was shocked and apprehensive when she learned that President Trump on that now famous July 25th phone call told the Ukrainian president that she was going to be going through some things.
"I didn't know what it meant. I was very concerned. I still am," she told lawmakers. Did you feel threatened she was asked? Yes.
The former ambassador also describing how the State Department she believes did little to protect her, unwilling to issue a statement of the support because it could be undermined by President Trump.
"What I was told is there was concern that the rug would be pulled out from underneath the State Department if they put out something publicly."
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The president of the United States first of all can have whoever he or she thinks is going to serve the interest of our country as an ambassador to whatever country.
SERFATY (voice-over): Meantime, House investigators also releasing the transcripts of Michael McKinley's testimony. McKinley, the former top adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling lawmakers he resigned in part because of failure by the State Department to defend Yovanovitch's removal and the use of ambassadors to advance domestic political objectives.
McKinley telling lawmakers that "seeing the engagement of our mission to procure negative political information for domestic purposes." And what McKinley saw as a failure "to provide support for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time. I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough."
SCHIFF: You also see in reading his transcript his growing alarm at the degree to which the apparatus of the State Department itself was being used to seek political information for a political purpose by the president of the United States and others.
SERFATY (on-camera): And Yovanovitch also testified that in the wake of attacks from Trump's allies that she reached out to the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, to essentially get his advice. And she said that he told her that she needed to go, "go big or go home" and advise her to tweet out some sort of support for President Trump essentially to save her job.
Now, tomorrow the committee is readying to not only release the transcripts of Sondland's testimony but also that of former special envoy for the Ukraine, Kurt Volker, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill. Thank you. Let's go to the White House right now. Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta is covering the story for us. Jim, the president is clearly pushing back against all of this.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. President Trump is responding to the mounting evidence in the impeachment inquiry by attacking the whistleblower. He just did that a few moments ago as he was leaving the White House for a rally in Kentucky.
He's also going after some of the key witnesses in the investigation including Alexander Vindman. The president is sending a clear warning to witnesses who testify against him in the inquiry threatening to disclose damaging information about Vindman.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): With transcripts of damaging testimony being released in the impeachment inquiry, President Trump is taking aim at the investigation's most crucial witnesses. The president took a swipe at former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch who testified she felt threatened by Mr. Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the transcripts, the president of Ukraine was not a fan of hers either. I mean, he did not exactly say glowing things.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president is still saving his toughest rhetoric for the mysterious whistleblower who prompted the probe claiming without proof that he is a partisan Democrat.
ACOSTA (voice-over): If he is the whistleblower, he has no credibility because he's a Brennan guy, he's a Susan Rice guy, he's an Obama guy and he hates Trump.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president wants to blow the lid off of the whistleblower's identity tweeting, "The whistleblower gave false information and dealt with corrupt politician Schiff. He must be brought forward to testify.
But that's not accurate. Much of the whistleblower's account has been confirmed by the rough White House transcript with Mr. Trump's call with the leader of Ukraine and as well as by witnesses like National Security official Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. The president is hinting he will go after Vindman's character.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What evidence do you have that Colonel Vindman is a never Trumper?
TRUMP: We'll be showing that to you real soon, okay.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That's despite the fact that the White House is still struggling to answer whether the president sought a quid pro quo.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Was there a time when military aid was held up because the president wanted Ukraine to look into the Bidens?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I don't know.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is pushing back on any notion that GOP senators are beginning to concede Mr. Trump's Ukraine call was inappropriate tweeting, "False stories are being reported that a few Republican senators are saying that President Trump may have done a quid pro quo, but it doesn't matter. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not an impeachable event."
Democrats point to the witnesses who have testified there was a quid pro quo.
REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): If all of those things are true and largely the testimony that I've heard has corroborated that, then we really do have something that is very, very serious and grave. ACOSTA (voice-over): The president was handed another major legal
setback when a federal appeals court ruled Mr. Trump must turn over his long secret tax returns.
Mr. Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement, "The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court. The issue raised in the case goes to the heart of our republic, the constitutional issues are significant." The president has argued repeatedly he shouldn't release the returns while he's under audit.
TRUMP: I'm always under audit it seems. But I've been under audit for many years because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name you're audited, but until such time as I'm not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The foul atmosphere in Washington may explain why the president is clinging to the World Series champions Washington Nationals who were invited to celebrate at the White House.
TRUMP: America fell in love with the Nats baseball. They just fell in love with Nats baseball. That is all they wanted to talk about. That and impeachment. I like Nats baseball much more.
ACOSTA: The president slammed the suggestion today that the whistleblower could be allowed to respond to written questions in the impeachment inquiry, but the president is forgetting something very important. His own legal team was just fine with written questions when Mr. Trump was answering them in the Russia investigation.
One other thing we should point out, Wolf, as the president was leaving for that rally in Kentucky he's having later this evening, he did not answer reporters questions about when he's releasing those tax returns, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House. Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois is joining us. He's a member of both the Intelligence and the Oversight Committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We've all now seen and read the transcripts of those two depositions. What concerns you most about these accounts from ambassadors of both Yovanovitch and McKinley?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sure. I think with regard to Ambassador Yovanovitch, it looks like what she's basically saying is that a smear campaign was devised to remove her to make room for people like Volker, Sondland, Rick Perry and Giuliani to basically conduct a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine to advance the president's political objectives. So she was basically viewed as an obstacle for this pressure campaign
to start. When Ambassador McKinley later learned about this, he, of course, resigned especially in light of the fact that in his 37 years of service, he had never seen anything like that.
And so I think both of their testimony was very powerful. Again, career public servants who are apolitical and who came forward and testified, again, at risk of their careers.
BLITZER: What does it say to you about Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer and his influence on the State Department?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think both of them basically said that Rudy Giuliani was essentially running foreign policy in the Ukraine along with these others, Volker Sondland and Perry.
Again, to help not the best interest of America, but instead to help the best interest of his clients, whether that was President Trump in his personal and political life or whether it was other clients potentially even international clients.
BLITZER: What do these transcripts show you about your Republican colleagues as they approach these depositions? They were also participating in these closed-door sessions.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: They sure were. And I think you can see that in these transcripts, that the Republicans are engaged constantly, whether it's, you know, raising objections or whether it's their questioning. They had equal time to question the witnesses.
They made opening statements and they, quite frankly, they questioned the witnesses on a range of topics, some of which had nothing to do with the topics at hand. And so for them to say that the process was somehow unfair is really unfounded and proven by just looking at the transcripts.
It also shows that they are trying to deflect attention from the serious allegations at issue with regard to whether or not the president pressured the Ukrainian government to try to investigate his political rivals here in the U.S.
BLITZER: You were supposed to hear from four White House officials today in these depositions but they're refusing to appear, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry and top officials over at the Office of Management and Budget who are stonewalling your inquiry. Do you have enough evidence already without all of their testimony?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I'm withholding judgment on the ultimate question of impeachment until all of the evidence comes in. That being said, you know, these folks are not complying with their subpoenas even though what they had at risk is it pails in comparison to what the dozen or so witnesses who came before us do.
They are at this point, to be considered folks who are engaging in obstruction of our inquiry and I think that really the reason why they may not be testifying is that the White House fears that their testimony could corroborate the claims against the president. And that is really at the essence, I believe, of what is going on here.
And therefore, I think that we should consider their testimony as corroborative of the whistleblower's complaints as well as the other claims that have been made against the president at this point.
BLITZER: Are you running out of cooperative witnesses right now? Do you need to move into the public hearings to keep this momentum you're trying to establish going?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know who else is going to come forward this week. It seems like just when we think that we're done with talking to cooperative witnesses, more come forward. That being said, I think there is a momentum right now to the proceedings.
As you can tell, the transcripts are coming out every day and the public hearings will start soon. I think that the more that people learn from these witnesses, the more they get to see these witnesses, and they'll realize what we were realizing in the room, which is that these folks are career public servants.
They're apolitical and they are very compelling. And I think that people should look at these folks themselves and decide whether or not they're telling the truth. I found that they were, but I think the American people need to look at them as well.
BLITZER: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, thanks so much for joining us.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more ahead of the breaking news. Will what we're learning from these newly released transcripts of the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine change any minds about impeaching President Trump?
BLITZER: Breaking news. House Democrats today began releasing transcripts of the question and answer sessions with impeachment witnesses.
In today's release, two veteran diplomats told of their deep concerns that U.S. foreign policy was being undermined by President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Joining us now, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: How concerned are you to hear these details from the testimony of Ambassador Yovanovitch and Ambassador McKinley?
BENNET: Well, I'm deeply concerned. It confirms really what the whistleblower had said and it just put more of a face on the interference that Rudy Giuliani was running for Donald Trump as he was on the one hand blowing up the careers of respected diplomats on the Democratic side -- on the American side while at the same time trying to get the Ukrainians to investigate his political rival, in this case Joe Biden. It is very, very troubling.
BLITZER: What are the implications of Rudy Giuliani, the president's private attorney, effectively running his own foreign policy with Ukraine and do you know if Giuliani had security clearances?
BENNET: I don't have any idea. That is something that we have to look into, but it is very clear that he's been running his own foreign policy away from the State Department for much of his presidency.
He's doing a lot of it by tweet just this weekend and to reminder of why it would be good to have a president who actually followed the law and followed the protocols that are required for the commander-in- chief.
BLITZER: There are new documents --
BENNET: Think about this --
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
BENNET: -- think about this Wolf. Just think about this in the context and all that is happening. He spent the entire weekend sending out tweets that would get you fired from any company in America while at the same time Iran was doubling the number of centrifuges it's choosing to enrich uranium.
China was entering into a trade pact with six other Asian countries and a whole bunch of other countries as well that we would like to trade with. And now you've got this stuff going on with Ukraine. And oh, by the way, he's pulling us out of the Paris Agreement making us the only country in the world that is not part to the Paris Agreement.
This is a radical position and it is a dangerous position that he's put the United States in while he's tweeting in a way that any other -- one of us would have gotten fired.
BLITZER: New documents from the Mueller probe just released including the CNN that show that as early as 2016, Paul Manafort, who was then the president's campaign chairman was peddling a theory pinning election meddling on Ukraine not Russia.
BLITZER: Does that appear to be guiding still to this day President Trump's actions?
BENNET: I think it is. Look, the guy still hasn't admitted -- the guy, meaning President Trump -- still hasn't admitted that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
The last time he was on the record on that was standing next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki where he rejected our intelligence agency's assessment and said I don't see any reason why Putin would lie about that.
Now, we knew then and we have known ever since then that our intelligence agencies, all of them, and every intelligence agency in the world said that Russia was the one behind it not Ukraine.
And then President Trump went to Japan and again made it all into a joke. It is not a joke. The rest of the world, there is western democracy throughout Europe that are desperate for leadership from the United States to stand up against Russia and they're getting none of it.
And instead what is Trump is trying to do is mask his own tracks by pointing toward Ukraine instead of admitting that Russia was to blame.
BLITZER: Former Vice President Joe Biden who is a fellow 2020 contender says the impeachment inquiry should be looking more broadly at President Trump's conduct beyond Ukraine going back to what was in the Mueller report for example. Do you agree?
BENNET: I do agree. I think that when you've got an impeachment inquiry like this and it's been, you know, on both sides, during Watergate and then when Bill Clinton was impeached, I think it is perfectly appropriate for us to look wherever the investigation leads us.
BLITZER: You have --
BENNET: And I think that is one of the things that Donald Trump is so worried about. I mean, that is why every day he goes out on his twitter account, tries to intimidate the whistleblower and any subsequent whistleblowers.
You know, he's trying to demonstrate that you won't be protected, you know, by the whistleblower's statute. And can you imagine a president doing that. We now have one doing that as a way of trying to intimidate other people from testifying. I don't think it's going to work.
BLITZER: Our final political question, you haven't qualified for the November Democratic presidential debate. Will you stay in the race even if you aren't up on the stage?
BENNET: I'm going to stay in the race, Wolf. I've just spent three days in Iowa. We had a tremendous time there. People have been on the debate stage. There are people that are actually polling below me, if you could imagine such a thing is possible.
It happens to be true. And I know that Iowans and folks in Hampshire haven't made up their mind yet. In Iowa, the last poll shows that undecided voters are actually the largest portion of the voters that they have ever been. So, I think this race has ways to go.
BLITZER: Senator Michael Bennet, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck out there on the campaign trail.
BENNET: Thanks, Wolf. Good to see you.
BLITZER: Coming up, more on what we learned today from the release of transcripts from diplomats who testified in the Trump impeachment probe.
BLITZER: The breaking news. House Democrats, today, started releasing transcripts of testimony by key witnesses in the Trump impeachment probe. Let's discuss what we've learned with our experts.
And, Dana, you're an expert. The Brazil Ambassador Michael McKinley, a career diplomat, a top foreign policy adviser to Secretary of State Pompeo, he was asked -- and we have the transcript -- if he ever raised his concerns about the way the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was being treated. And he said he raised that three times with -- with Secretary Pompeo. Listen to what Pompeo said only a couple of weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I never heard him say a single thing about his concerns with respect to the decision that's made --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: So you were never asked to put out a --
POMPEO: Not -- not -- not once. Not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say something to me during that entire time period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Ambassador McKinley was testifying under oath.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
BLITZER: Pompeo was doing a television interview. But this is a serious problem, one of these guys isn't telling the truth.
BASH: That's right. He was -- McKinley was talking under pain of perjury, and it was a very important anecdote in the larger story that he was telling in this transcript about why he resigned. Somebody who was very close to -- to Pompeo, despite the fact that he wasn't a political appointee.
And he was asked, point-blank, is it -- if it's fair to say he resigned in part because he couldn't be blind to using the State Department to dig up dirt on a political opponent, and he said that's fair. He underscored that in 37 years in the foreign service in different parts of the globe, he had never seen that.
So he was upset about two things -- one, the -- in his view, the use of the State Department for political purposes and, two, the fact that he raised concerns about it and nobody listened.
BLITZER: How did Ambassador Yovanovitch start to understand what Rudy Giuliani -- and thanks to Dana, we've just confirmed he does not have security clearances even though he was in the top leadership of what U.S. policy toward Ukraine should be. Does not have any security clearances. How did she get the sense of what Giuliani was up to?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Apparently, she learned it from the Ukrainians. The Interior Minister and other people there were communicating to her that, as far back in -- as November and December of 2018, Wolf, that there was this -- essentially an effort to stab her in the back and essentially warning her that -- you know, that she was being -- being undermined.
And, you know, they -- they certainly -- the Ukrainians perspective was, are you leaving? Is there a new policy in Ukraine? Is this what -- what Rudy Giuliani and -- and his colleagues and his people who are -- are doing this, are they speaking for the President of the United States or are you?
And so, it was a very, obviously, perverse way to -- to learn exactly what was happening, you know, with her own embassy right there in Kiev, the fact that Rudy Giuliani is running around doing his own thing that she had no idea about.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, the accounts of these career diplomats, all professionals, very disturbing on what's going on. What are the consequences of what we're hearing right now?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the consequences are significant, Wolf. I don't understand how Republicans who were in these hearings because, of course, there were Republicans in these hearings -- and they were there able to ask questions to all of these diplomats and all of these witnesses -- how their hair wasn't on fire after what they had heard.
The focus had been, the past few weeks, about specifically just that phone call and whether or not there was quid pro quo. What we've learned from all of these witnesses is that it goes much deeper and much further back than that. In fact, it goes before Zelensky was even sworn in and elected president. This goes back to his predecessor
And Petro Poroshenko, who, as we now learned, had gotten the -- the financing and the military aid from President Trump because, in fact, he was happy to go along with Rudy Giuliani's investigation and trying to massage President Trump's ego and -- and look into the Bidens because they needed that military aid desperately.
So you see what happened in May when there's a new president coming in and you have the President of the United States and those around him now a bit concerned as to whether the new president will comply with these investigations. But how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allowed those who worked for him to be undermined and smeared repeatedly has significant ramifications going forward.
And as you played that video, there is a lot of explaining that -- that I believe he has to do, given that so many people and so many professional lives now have been really undermined without his support.
BLITZER: Yes. And so many of his -- his aides said you got to say something nice about Marie Yovanovitch, and he refused to do so. It's a significant -- significant element.
You know, Chris Cillizza, Yovanovitch testified that when she asked the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, for advice -- remember Gordon Sondland, the political appointee, gave a million dollars --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's right, gave a donation. Yes.
BLITZER: -- to the Trump inaugural committee -- he encouraged her, he said, you know what you got to do, you got to start tweeting, praising President Trump. So what does that tell you?
CILLIZZA: Well, so some of this stuff I feel like -- you know, because you have Donald Trump and his allies, saying, oh, those are Never Trumpers, blah, blah, blah. And at some of this stuff, use your -- use your brain, use your common sense, use your smell test.
Does it seem like that's probably advice that someone who knows Donald Trump would give? Yes. Because we know that the thing that gets you in good with Donald Trump is praising Donald Trump. He retells how all foreign leaders praise him --
PEREZ: Isn't that how cabinet meetings go actually? That's the whole (ph) --
CILLIZZA: Yes! I mean, remember that -- remember that one cabinet meeting where it was, literally, they're just trying to out-praise -- Pence, of course, won.
CILLIZZA: But they were trying to out-praise one another. This feels, to me, exactly how someone like Sondland who knows Trump would advise someone like the Ambassador. The problem is we're not talking about, hey, can you come and speak at my political rally? We're talking about our dealings with a foreign country and withholding something to get something of political use to this President. I mean, that's the problem here.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There is more we need to discuss, including some other important stories. There are very disturbing developments right now as a German city declares what's being called a Nazi emergency in response to rising violence and extremism.
BLITZER: We're following very troubling developments connected to the rise of extremism both overseas as well as here in the United States. Federal authorities just revealed the arrest of a 27-year-old man who allegedly plotted to bomb a synagogue, a historic synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado.
Court papers say he posted comments online about wanting to kill Jews and also wanting to poison the synagogue's water supply. He was arrested while examining inert pipe bombs prepared by undercover agents. We'll follow that story for you as well.
Overseas, the city of Dresden, Germany has declared what officially is being called a Nazi emergency over deep concerns about rising extremism and violence. Let's go to CNN correspondent Scott McLean. He's joining us from Dresden in Germany right now. Tell us more, Scott.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. It is easy to see that the rise of the far-right here in Dresden and across Germany is becoming a big problem for mainstream politicians, targeting not only their policies but sometimes even their lives. Now, the city of Dresden has declared this Nazi emergency, but is it really? Watch.
MCLEAN (voice-over): The city of Dresden, Germany is declaring a Nazi emergency, approving a controversial declaration. But the unorthodox symbolic resolution has a question mark in the title and the party behind it is actually a satirical one that began as a parody on a well-known T.V. show but is now a real-life player in German politics. They have seats in the European Parliament. And on the Dresden City Council, too.
Richard Kaniewski is not a comedian. He's a mainstream member of the Social Democratic Party and voted for the Nazi declaration.
RICHARD KANIEWSKI, CHAIRMAN, SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY: It's not the joke. It's a very, very important issue. And also, a satiric party can bring very, very important issues on the table. And this party did it and I'm proud that I had the chance to vote for this resolution.
MCLEAN (voice-over): Kaniewski says the city has been home to right- wing extremist activity for decades, and lately, it's growing. The far-right party Alternative for Germany earned 27 percent of the vote in the state election.
The anti-Islam Pegida Movement got its start in Dresden six years ago bringing regular mass protests over refugee resettlement to the city center. We got a frosty reception at the latest rally. This man told us there is no Nazi emergency. MCLEAN (on camera): What's the emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (through translator): Islam is the real emergency.
MCLEAN (voice-over): The rise of the far-right is not just a problem for Dresden. Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to fight right-wing extremism after politicians with a range of views received death threats, at least one of which reportedly ended with the phrase, "Heil Hitler."
Just last month, a heavily-armed man launched an unsuccessful attack on a synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur before killing two people nearby. In total, 39 of 68 city councilors voted for the declaration.
At least one member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union allied with Angela Merkel called it an intended provocation and voted against it. And so did Dresden's Mayor, Dirk Hilbert.
The Mayor says the growing intolerance and right-wing extremism is a big problem in Dresden but calling it a Nazi emergency is a bridge too far.
MCLEAN (on camera): Is there a Nazi emergency in Dresden?
MAYOR DIRK HILBERT, DRESDEN, GERMANY (through translator): No. We had just recently had a proposal in the city council that had the title, Nazi Emergency. It shows a completely wrong picture of Dresden.
MCLEAN (voice-over): Kaniewski disagrees.
KANIEWSKI: Maybe it's a dramatic term. Maybe it's a dramatic title. But sometimes, you have to be very hard in your communications so that people discuss the first time about this topic.
MCLEAN: And, Wolf, the Dresden Mayor says he worries about the impact this Nazi emergency declaration is having on his city's reputation, but the councilor that you saw there at the end from Angela Merkel's party says that reputation has already been damaged by politicians sweeping this issue under the rug for too long.
BLITZER: Scott McLean in Dresden, Germany for us. Scott, thank you very much.
Coming up, the Russian woman accused of trying to infiltrate the NRA finally speaks out. What did Maria Butina have to say for herself before she got out of prison and was deported?
[17:51:00] BLITZER: For the first time on camera, we're hearing directly from
the accused spy, Maria Butina, speaking out in a T.V. interview shortly before her release and deportation back to Russia. CNN's Brian Todd is here with details. Brian, she remains rather defiant about the allegations against her.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She really does, Wolf. Maria Butina has some strange denials in this interview. She says she merely doing some social networking, not spying. And at one point when she was cornered, she pulled an odd claim of racism against Russians in the U.S.
TODD (voice-over): Maria Butina calls it nonsense, the accusation that she tried to infiltrate the NRA as a means of getting to higher level Republicans and influencing U.S. policy.
MARIA BUTINA, ALLEGED RUSSIAN SPY: If I were not Russian, that would be called social networking.
TODD (voice-over): The accused Russian spy spoke to CBS's "60 Minutes" just before she was released from a federal prison in Florida and deported back to Russia.
Butina, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, previously admitted she was directed by Aleksandr Torshin, a former top Russian Central Bank official with ties to President Vladimir Putin. But she denied that Torshin was close to Putin, denied that Torshin acted like her case officer.
BUTINA: Wolves have teeth, but not all animals with teeth are wolves. You cannot judge a person based on appearance.
TODD (voice-over): But "60 Minutes" presented Butina with direct Twitter messages it says she exchanged with Torshin as the 2016 election was approaching.
Butina writes to Torshin -- we made our bet. I am following our game.
Torshin writes back -- this is the battle for the future, it cannot be lost. Patience and cold blood.
A few days later, Butina wrote to Torshin -- only incognito. Right now, everything has to be quiet and careful.
LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS HOST: Incognito, patience, cold blood, what is that?
BUTINA: Let me take you back to 2016 around the elections time. Do you remember how, at that point, American media treated Russia? Everything was toxic. Tell me that there is no racism here against the Russians. Oh, please, it is.
TODD (on camera): When she says, incognito, be careful, I'm following our game, is she protecting herself from racism? ERIC O'NEILL, SECURITY STRATEGIST, VMWARE CARBON BLACK: No, she's --
Butina is certainly working for Russian intelligence. Now, she wasn't convicted or tried for espionage, but she certainly was working for someone in Russia who was gathering intelligence against the United States.
TODD (voice-over): Journalist Elena Nicolaou, a one-time friend of Butina's, told CNN Butina was fun-loving, like when she sang "Beauty & the Beast" with her American boyfriend, Republican political operative Paul Erickson.
But Nicolaou says Butina also displayed some mysterious behavior, like missing a whole day of activities at Disney World saying she'd chipped a tooth.
ELENA NICOLAOU, FORMER FRIEND OF MARIA BUTINA AND PAUL ERICKSON: She may have done something to her tooth or maybe she was gone for different reasons, but I don't know.
TODD (voice-over): Butina told "60 Minutes" she faced tough conditions in American jails.
BUTINA: It is a torture. It is not normal for a human being to be locked for 23, 22 hours in a cell by your own.
TODD (voice-over): That could be an appeal to Putin who, former FBI counterintelligence agent Eric O'Neill says, might treat Butina harshly because she was caught, because she cooperated with, and she was debriefed by U.S. intelligence.
O'NEILL: I think what is going to happen is that she is going to go through a period of interrogation to learn what secrets we may now know about how Russia engages in trying to recruit spies and trying to learn intelligence. And it is not a pleasant process.
TODD: But Eric O'Neill believes that Putin's government may stop short of incarcerating Maria Butina for a long period of time or punishing her more harshly. If they did that, he says it might be an acknowledgment -- too much of an acknowledgment, really, to the United States that Butina was a valuable spy, that she decent information from the U.S. or gave good information to the U.S.
Interestingly, Butina is, tonight, in her home of Siberia where Russian political prisoners, Wolf, as you know, were often sent.
BLITZER: Yes, they were. Brian Todd, thank you.
There's breaking news next. The testimony of two key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry is made public, revealing what they told lawmakers about Rudy Giuliani's efforts for President Trump in Ukraine.