Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Sondland Amends Testimony, Admits Telling Ukraine U.S. Aid was Tied to Announcing Biden Investigation; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) is Interviewed About Trump Ally Changing Testimony, Admitting Ukraine Quid Pro Quo; GOP's Bevin Trailing In Kentucky Gubernatorial Race. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 5, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:19]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

The man who gave a million dollars to President Trump's inaugural and was then awarded by being named ambassador to the European Union has just blown a large hole in President Donald J. Trump's cover story. Gordon Sondland's impeachment testimony was released today but it turns out he revised his previous testimony. Apparently, his faulty memory was suddenly restored after details of other witness testimony made clear that Sondland's original story didn't quite add up.

Sondland now says yes, there was a quid pro quo. And he was the guy who was trying to deliver it for the president. The scheme he testified got more insidious, his word, over time involving activities he said would be improper and though he said he is not a lawyer, assumed could be illegal. Sondland now admits he knew the bottom line, his testimony indicates his Ukrainian counterparts knew it as well and knew the demands were from President Trump.

In short, no U.S. military aid until Ukraine publicly did the president two political favors. And if that were the sum total of what Sondland, the ambassador of the European Union, told House investigators that will be plenty. But it wasn't. His testimony that of Kurt Volker, the president's former special Ukraine envoy also lays out of some of the mechanics of this thinly veiled shakedown masquerading as foreign policy.

It puts one man in the middle of it all, Rudy Giuliani, the president's private attorney. Not elected to anything, not confirmed by anyone, acting on no one's behalf but the president and possibly his own, given his interest in doing business bigger business in Ukraine.

Giuliani emerges as the central figure in what was according to the testimony exactly what the president and defend he is have been saying it was not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No quid pro quo. There is no quid pro quo.

No quid pro quo.

No quid pro quo.

No quid pro quo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that, as you know, was the pillar of the president's defense, even before we saw the rough transcript of the July 25th call with Ukraine's President Zelensky. In it, you remember Zelensky asked for the aid.

He says, quote: I would like to thank you for your great support in area of defense we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes. To which the president immediately reply applies, 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. He then asked Zelensky to investigate a conspiracy theory about Ukraine being behind the hack the DNC not Russia. Mr. Trump also wants help with the other thing, which is really all about Joe Biden and his son and investigation investigating them.

So this is what he says on the so-called transcript, the president wants everyone to read allegedly. And it already seems explicit enough. But now, here is what Sondland says in his revised testimony referring to a conversation on the 1st of September with the top adviser to President Zelensky.

Quoting from Sondland: I now recall speaking individual with Mr. Yermak where I said the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.

Now, you might look at that and say, well, corruption, of course, that's all the president has been interested in. He wants to clean up corruption in Ukraine. That's been the White House main line of defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is a corrupt place, I don't want to send them a bunch of money have them waist it, have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was about helping the Ukrainians to get graft out and corruption outside of their government.

TRUMP: Corruption is incredible in Ukraine which bothered me a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: But keeping them honest -- I mean, let's be real, there's never been any evidence of the president being interested at all in fighting corruption anywhere until this story came to light. And as Ambassador Sondland said in his opening statement, the only so-called corruption the president was concerned with happened to involve the president attempting to absolve Russia of the responsibility for the DNC hack and digging up dirt against the Bidens, his main political rival.

Sondland describes talking about it with Rudy Giuliani starting in August. Quoting now from Sondland: In these short conversations, Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky, committing Ukraine to look into anti-corruption issues. Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma as two anti-corruption investigatory topics of importance for the president.

So, the message was corruption, meaning, the Bidens and 2016. And as this was unfolding, aid that had been approved last year by Congress was still not flowing to Ukraine.

[20:05:02]

Remember too that on the July 25th call, the Ukrainians had been in touch with Giuliani and the president was asking Zelensky to talk with him directly. Giuliani is clearly at the heart of this Ukraine adventure, but now, it seems that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has explaining to do. Thanks to Gordon Sondland's testimony, we know that Secretary Pompeo knew full well Giuliani was up to something.

Question: Did you ever discuss Rudy Giuliani with Secretary Pompeo? Sondland: Only in general terms.

Question: And what did you discuss. Sondland: That he is evolved in affairs and Pompeo rolled his eyes and said, yes, it's something we have to deal with it.

And as Kurt Volker explains, the Ukrainians knew that as well. In this testimony, he refers to May and what he saw as a negative narrative forming in the president's mind about Ukraine. Quoting from Volker now: After sharing my concerns with Ukrainian leadership, an adviser of President Zelensky asked me to connect him to the president's personal lawyer, Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I did so. I did so solely because I understood that the new Ukrainian leadership wanted to convince those like Mayor Giuliani who believes such a negative narrative about Ukraine but times have changed, and that under President Zelensky, Ukraine is worthy of U.S. support.

Volker goes on to say that he made it clear to the Ukrainians that Giuliani does not represent the U.S. government.

Now, Volker was right about that technically. Giuliani wasn't representing America. He was representing Donald J. Trump and possibly his own business interests. Giuliani was essentially the bagman. He had the money or at least

access to the money through the president. Ukraine desperately needed that money. And it was clear to the Ukrainians what they were expected to do to get it. That's the quid pro quo. The quid pro quo that diplomat William Taylor had heard Gordon Sondland conveyed to a top Ukrainian official which Sondland now admits, yes, he did in his revised testimony.

An NSC staffer Alex Vindman also testified that Sondland mentioned a quid pro quo, saying, quote: Ambassador Sondland spoke about Ukraine delivering specific investigations to secure the meeting with the president. At which time, Bolton, the national security adviser, cut the meeting short.

So, we're waiting transcripts of their testimony. Meantime, one leading Republican senator who once claimed he was open to new evidence now says he has heard enough and doesn't want to read anything.

Listen to Lindsey Graham just last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Are you open minded if more comes out that you could support impeachment?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Sure, I mean, show me something that is a crime. If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call that would be very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Wow, OK, well, that's pretty clear, because now all the testimony shows that.

Well, today, Lindsey Graham says he will not be reading any of these transcripts, telling reporters, quote, I've were written the process off.

A lot to cover, starting with one of the lawmakers who has been hearing all this testimony, Democratic Gerry Connolly of Virginia. I spoke to him just before air time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman, the big revision in Sondland's testimony, does it strengthen your case, you think, the fact that he suddenly remember there was a quid pro quo?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): You know, I think the revision by Ambassador Sondland is very significant. First of all, it dawned on him that he could find that his testimony previously could be construed as lying to Congress under oath, which is a crime. And so, he hastened to correct it after he saw the other transcripts contradicting him. But more importantly, I think for the president's defense, and his

acolytes, his supporters in Congress, is that his defense in case anyone hasn't noticed is now on the floor. It's crumbled because Ambassador Sondland explicitly admitted that his corrective testimony today that a quid pro quo most certainly did occur. And that he -- Ambassador Sondland was propounding it.

COOPER: He didn't directly connect the quid pro quo to President Trump, though. Does that provide the president with some cover here?

CONNOLLY: I don't think so. We have -- we have the president's own words in the transcript of the phone conversation of July 25th with the new president of Ukraine. And we have lots of other testimony corroborating that it was the will of the president. And it was directly coming from him that these so-called investigations, meaning get dirt on Joe Biden -- had to be insisted upon in return for the release of military aid and the promise of a presidential visit between the two presidents.

COOPER: Do you believe that he just forgot this stuff? That -- I mean, of all -- you know, I'm sure he has a lot of important things on his plate. But in would seem a pretty major thing to have just kind of forgot it.

CONNOLLY: Yes, I think that's highly unlikely. Remember that the whole defense rested on the assertion there was in quid pro quo.

[20:10:04]

And all of Trump's Republican acolytes who attend these sessions went out and had a press confrontation saying, see, we only heard from Ambassador Sondland and no quid pro quo. Now there is a quid pro quo, according to Ambassador Sondland. So, now, what do you do? How do you take back those words? How do you take back that insistence?

And so, they seem to be doing what quickly becoming known as the full Mulvaney. OK. There was a quid pro quo. So what? Get over it.

That's quite an abrupt change in course and direction but it's probably the last defense they have for indefensible actions.

COOPER: One of the big players in all of this is Secretary of State Pompeo. I think just yesterday, you called him a coward. You said he's, quote, disqualified himself from continuing to serve as the secretary of state.

What specifically do you believe that Pompeo has done that should disqualify him holding his position?

CONNOLLY: Remember that as the secretary of state, you are charged with helping to develop and execute American foreign policy. But you're also charged with the duty of fostering, nourishing, growing, protecting the foreign service of the United States, the men and women who are charged in embassies and consulates all over the world who put themselves in danger on occasion. And your job is to protect those people, defend those people as the agency head, not to turn your head away from an active campaign of slander to essentially force Ambassador Yovanovitch out of her job.

And Pompeo turned the other way, pretending he didn't know anything, he didn't act on any of the concerns brought to his attention. And an honorable public servant, Ambassador Yovanovitch, had her reputation damaged and security put at risk in Ukraine. And that's dishonorable and that's cowardly.

COOPER: Doesn't it seem, though, that Secretary of State Pompeo essentially sees himself as, you know -- and wants to be in the inner circle of President Trump and that's who he sees his -- his paymaster is as opposed to, you know, the rank and file of the State Department or, you know, the American people. It seems like this is part of the, you know, paying fealty to the president.

CONNOLLY: Well, you and I both know, Anderson, there is more to the job than that. He takes an oath. And that oath isn't to the president of the United States. It's to the Constitution of the United States.

And he has a broader set of responsibilities than to one individual. We have lots of examples going into American history in the past where honorable men and women served the secretary of state and willing to take on the president when they thought he was wrong.

I can think of George Shultz during the Reagan years. Cy Vance resigned during the Carter years when he disagreed with the policy. He thought that was the honorable thing to do.

Where is the honor here?

COOPER: Congressman Connolly, appreciate your time. Thank you.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Anderson. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More perspective now, joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffery Toobin and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod, host of "THE AXE FILES", and former senior adviser to President Obama.

So, Jeff, there was now a quid pro quo so remembered suddenly Ambassador Sondland. This is a big deal. I mean, Connolly certainly thinks it is. Do you think so?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's a very big deal. I mean, because he was in the middle of the foreign policy. I mean, he was the point person that was established very early on in this process and the fact that he now acknowledges it is I think close to conclusive evidence of what happened here.

You know, the issue of his changing testimony, a lot of people have been raising the specter is he going -- did he commit a crime? Does he get out of committing a crime by changing testimony? The short answer is no prosecutor is going to bring a case when someone voluntary comes forward and corrects the record. So I don't think he is in legal trouble. He is probably going to be

very unpopular in the White House in the future.

COOPER: David?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, one of the interesting things about it, it seems this has been going on for years but it's been just weeks ago people sat here on your show and other places defending the president saying well it couldn't be a quid pro quo if the Ukrainians didn't know that this aid was being withheld for that reason. Now we have someone attesting to the fact that he delivered the message to an aide to the president of Ukraine. So, the Ukrainians very well knew that that was what was at stake and knew what was being asked.

COOPER: Dana, even based on "New York Times" reporting, you know, and others and "Washington Post' and others, they knew going back to the prior regime in Ukraine -- Giuliani was operating there as far back as last February.

[20:15:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And what David Axelrod just said is so key, because it does take away the argument on the timeline and on -- well, even the Ukrainians didn't complaint about it.

But the other thing it does is as far as we know, it takes away any witness so far who has given a administration that says anything other than the fact that there was a quid pro quo. It's unanimous.

COOPER: Right. And also -- I mean, Jeff Sondland is not a -- not a deep state actor for all those with the conspiracy theory who believe that there is the deep state working against the president. He is the guy who gave a million dollars for the inaugural.

TOOBIN: The first thing you said on the program tonight was that the whole reason he is there is not because he is an expert in central -- Central European politics. He is there as ambassadors frequently are rewards to big campaign contributors. He gave a million dollars, which even today is a substantial amount of money for a political campaign. He gave a million dollars to the inaugural.

So, I mean, he is a lifelong Republican. He is in the Pacific Northwest. He's in Portland. His hotels are in Seattle.

He has been sort of in a beleaguered minority in a very Democratic part of the country. And he was rewarded. The idea that you could call him a member of the deep state or never Trumper is just absurd.

AXELROD: More of a shallow swamp character than deep state character.

BASH: One thing I wonder -- maybe Jeffrey, you know, having been a prosecutor can answer this -- is whether or not he is going to be -- it's hard to imagine he won't be invited or asked to come as part of the public testimony and whether or not he will then be a credible witness if Republicans are going to point out the fact that his story changed, and if that will hurt the Democrat's case.

AXELROD: I have a question -- I have a question that wasn't clear to me from the coverage today or corrected testimony. Who exactly told him that in aid was dependent on -- was it Rudy Giuliani? Did the president himself?

So -- so, you know, I think that question has to be answered

COOPER: Yes, he did not tie it directly to President Trump.

TOOBIN: And I think that's going to be one line of defense, that all the people who have testified with the exception of the people who are actually on the call with Zelensky did -- they didn't have much contact with Trump himself. So, one of the lines of defense will be this is all hearsay. We don't have anyone saying Trump want add quid pro quo.

This is why John Bolton's testimony is so important, and we'll see whether it happens, because he was someone who had direct contact.

COOPER: They've been arguing hearsay though from the time the whistle-blower came forward and that collapsed as more people confirmed what the let whistle-blower said. We're going to pick it up in a minute but there is breaking Republicans election news.

A potential upset in Kentucky's race for governor, a key test for the president.

CNN's John King joins us now with that.

John, what's going on?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Democrat is leading in the race right now, Anderson that's what's going on. Up to 87 percent of the vote. You think of Kentucky as ruby red state, the president was just there last night, Matt Bevin is the incumbent Republican governor seeking a second term. At the moment, he's trailing.

Andy Beshear is the state attorney general. He's the son of a former Democrat governor. So, yes, there's a Trump factor here, but there's also some local politics at play and polarizing Republican governor, a Democratic attorney general who's family has a history in the state.

And at the moment, 50 percent for Democrat Andy Beshear, just 48 percent for the Republican governor we're up to 87 percent.

So, what are we looking for right now? Number one, Andy Beshear's is leading, I mean, he was behind early on. His lead comes from here Louisville on the suburbs remember the suburbs part. Urban turnout good for Democrats, the suburban turnout as well. Running at 66 percent to 32 percent. More than two to one in the largest population center of the state. That's a big number.

I want to go back in time for you here. The Democrat carried this last time but not by this margin. So, you're see not only in the urban area but in the suburbs of Louisville as well, Andy Beshear overperforming the last Democratic nominee, and another reminder, the suburbs have been difficult for Republicans in the age of Trump.

One more reminder of that. You come up here, this is the Covington area, Campbell County, Cincinnati, Ohio -- these are suburbs of Cincinnati here in the state. Andy Beshear, the Democratic 100 percent is in with 53-45.

If you go back to the last governor's race, it was Matt Bevin who won with 54 percent of the vote here. This is a textbook case we saw it in 2018. Suburbs that used to be rock solid Republican, moving away from the Republican Party you're see going in Kentucky tonight.

Let's come back again to tonight's vote watching it come in. So, what are we waiting for one thing if you're the Republicans and asking can we come back you're glad near at 100 percent counted in Fayette County. This is Lexington a Democrat area in the city, but again suburbs here.

And again, I want to go back in time, look at the 65 percent. The governor's race last time only 54 percent process for the Democratic candidates. So, Andy Beshear well overperforming the Democrat from four years ago.

The question now, Anderson, is, with 88 percent reporting, what's out and missing?

[20:20:04]

You see the counties that are gray, not -- but the issue in the counties is -- yes, they will most likely come in red, not a lot of people if you look at the vote four years ago. So, if you're doing the math now in both campaign headquarters, you know, the Democrats thinking, can we pull off the upset, you're trying to do some math. How many votes possible out there and how many still to count right here?

COOPER: All right. John, thanks very much. It could be close to a call there.

We're also looking at the race in Mississippi as well as races in Virginia.

Coming up next, more on the Ukraine story, Rudy Giuliani's role as well. What happens to all the witnesses this week who have refused to testify? Will anything happen to them? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ambassador Gordon Sondland said I understand stood as far as late May that if the Ukrainian president wanted to a meeting with the president, he needed to make a public anti-corruption statement. That's what they're officially calling it. The demand Sondland told House investigators had been communicated by Rudy Giuliani.

[20:25:04] Quote, I understood, Sondland said in revision to his deposition, that that satisfying Mr. Giuliani was a condition for scheduling the White House visit. The visit we should point out that wouldn't have been just ceremonial. Ukraine has been fighting Russian-backed forces for five years. It's trench warfare in Ukraine.

Signaling American support for Ukraine is vital to Kiev, and President Trump knows it.

Back now with Dana Bash, Jeff Toobin and David Axelrod.

David, I mean satisfying Mr. Giuliani, that is -- I mean -- what that took to satisfy wasn't a giant anti-corruption drive on Ukrainians official that Giuliani never heard of. It was going after the Bidens and it was --

AXELROD: Yes. Nor is Giuliani an diplomat, and really isn't an agent of American foreign policy. He was on a political mission, and that political mission was to try and get back up for some of the -- for the 2016 kind of conspiracy theory about Ukraine and that election, and to dirty up Biden.

And we should point out that Republicans, particularly when this whole caper started were deeply worried about Joe Biden. They still -- there was a poll today had him 17 points ahead of Donald Trump.

So, scuffing Biden was a major item and sending Rudy Giuliani as his political agent gave him some insulation. He didn't want the diplomats to handle this. This was a political job.

COOPER: Dana, the former U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker in his testimony said he wasn't aware of the quid pro quo. The White House is clinging to that today. It doesn't mean there wasn't one.

BASH: Right, it doesn't mean there wasn't one. That's really the key -- the key here.

They'll cling on to what they can find. I mean, if you actually look through Volker and the transcript, he did kind of give something for everybody. I thought one of the things that -- that Democrats can and should point to just on the political level is that he makes very clear, he sees no evidence in any of the conspiracy theories that Rudy Giuliani was pushing.

Just on the -- just basic facts of it about Joe Biden that would -- the suggestion that Joe Biden, you know, tried to get somebody fired, that Hunter Biden benefitted -- all of those things he says flatly in the interview under questioning from Republicans, that's not true. It didn't happen and goes on to say not just that but this -- the goal of trying to push that instead of trying to help the bilateral relationship flourish was really, really detrimental to national security.

COOPER: Jeff, you know, the idea that there has to be somebody who testifies that the president said hold up the aid because I want to get dirt on the Bidens and I want them to investigate this -- you know in server thing, A, I mean is that true -- in order to build a case -- obvious hi this is not a legal case. It's a political -- it's a political issue at this point.

TOOBIN: I think you just answered the question. I mean, this is -- if you are a Republican who is looking for a reason to either vote against impeachment or vote against conviction, you can find one. You can say there is not enough evidence against the president, that you only have secondhand people saying there was a quid pro quo.

You can say that this is not important enough, that this was within the realm of a president's authority, and we don't overturn elections in light of it. You can say any of those things and vote no.

But -- I mean, was there a quid pro quo here? I don't think you can seriously entertain looking at the evidence we have seen. And by the way, we are going to see several of these people testify live and in person --

BASH: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- before the Intelligence Committee, which is likely to have probably more of a political impact than just a bunch of nerds like us who sat around reading this all day. That I think is likely -- if anything is going to change minds, that's going to be it.

COOPER: Yes. We got to take a break. Dana Bash, Jeff Toobin, David Axelrod, thank you.

Coming up next, all eyes on the Kentucky right now. The governor's race, we're going to revisit that in just a moment. It is a very close to an upset. We'll bring you the live update, ahead.

[20:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're watching some of the potentially big election night news unfold right now in front of us, it's happen in Kentucky. John King has been watching the vote totals grow and with them a possible defeat for the Republican incumbent, the governor. John, what's the latest in the numbers?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Anderson, this is a very close race and you have the Democrats. Andy Beshear leading right by-- just shy of 22,000 votes, 92% of the vote counted, the Republican incumbent Matt Bevin at 48%. He is trailing in a race that was been closely contested, very nasty and personal, and has the presidential involvement because President Trump went and visited just last night, a state the President carried easily in 2016. Let's go back and take a look at that.

If you go back to the presidential race and look at the state of Kentucky it was a blowout, right? So this is Trump country. If you go back to 2015 when Matt Bevin was first elected governor, he won in a more competitive race but still almost 10 points there, 8.9 point margin there. And so, what's happening tonight? Watch the blue on the map her as we come in. Number one, here in Jefferson County, Louisville and the close-in suburbs, Andy Beshear running it up, running it up significantly, close to 100,000 vote margin there. Now, this is the cushion if you will. This is what brought him back when he was trailing when these votes came in. And again, it's a pattern we have seen in recently elections. Urban areas, close-in suburbs, the Democrats winning and winning big.

[20:35:06]

You find it the same when you come over here at Fayette County, Lexington, the suburbs around Lexington. Look at the margin for Andy Beshear, 100% percent of the vote counted here. But look at that tonight, 65-33, just go back in time. Yes, the Democrat won in this area four years ago, but the margin much greater tonight, again more Democratic strength in the cities turnout and in the suburbs as well.

Pop it out just a little bit more. I want to show you, we showed this a little bit earlier. You come up here, the Covington, Kentucky Area, which is Campbell County, Cincinnati, Ohio is right here. These are the suburbs of Cincinnati Ohio. Andy Beshear winning the suburban area there, a eight-point lead.

Go back in time, Matt Bevin won it by a significant margin just four years ago, so more proof of the suburban shift, the suburban run if you will, away from the Republican Party in the Trump era.

It's not all Trump. Matt Bevin has been a very polarizing controversial government. Andy Beshear is the state attorney general. He is the son of the last Democratic governor so the name is well- known. We will focus on the urban areas and close-in suburbs, Anderson. I just want to point this out as well. Because the Beshear name is well-known, look at the rural areas out here.

You see the blue out here, you see the blue here. You watch this play out here. Most of this, the vote count comes from the urban and suburban areas. But Andy Beshear is in play to possibly have a big upset back in Kentucky if you go back in time. A lot more red in this area four years ago, a lot more blue tonight, Andy Beshear running stronger in the smaller rural counties that have drifting to the Republicans. So he is making the gains in the cities and the suburbs that we have seen Democrats make in other states and he's also running very strong in these rural areas, helping him. Right now, we're up to 93% and the Democrats on the verge, we're not there, we're still counting votes but on the verge of in play for a major upset.

COOPER: All right. John King, stay with us. I want to bring in Political Team David Axelrod is back. Joining us as well, CNN Political Director David Chalian, USA Today Columnist Kirsten Powers and former RNC Chief of Staff Mike Shields.

David Axelrod, let's start with you. How significant is this if in fact it continues in this way?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is significant. I mean, with all the disclaimers that John just offered about how unpopular Bevin was.

COOPER: Why was he so unpopular?

AXELROD: He is an abrasive figure. He had controversies with the teachers. He had controversies over Medicaid there. But fundamentally, he is a disagreeable character and that has dogged him throughout.

But, you know, he won by almost 9 points last time. You know, he clearly a struggling here. And the president of United States went there last night and would not have gone there if he thought that he was going to lose. They were looking forward to the races to jump start to signify that he still has, you know, strength, that he still has momentum. But what it's doing is underscoring things that are concerning, and particularly the drift away from Republicans and him in the suburbs. And that's something that we're going to have to watch.

The other people who will be watching this is Mitch McConnell, who is up for re-election next year. Now, with Trump on the ballot, you would think that he would be fine. And Donald Trump is not loose the state of Kentucky, but you can see the disquiet that's out there. And if you extrapolate to other battle-ground states, this is big concern.

COOPER: David Chalian, what stands out to you right now?

David Chalian, CNN Political Director: Yes. Well, what David was saying is certainly true. I mean, John was comparing it to how Bevin performed in those suburban counties four years ago, Anderson. In those areas around Cincinnati, Donald Trump won those counties by 24, 26 points that Beshear is winning now.

Now, two things, it is true. Beshear is a certain kind of Democrat who can do this in Kentucky. So I do think it will launch, should he win tonight, some conversations about what kind of Democrat can indeed extenuate these advances that Democrats are making in suburbs, and maybe also dig into some rural areas or deal with some more conservative and moderate voters. That will be a conversation around sort of around how a Democrat can make inroads in Trump country. That's one.

But two, no matter how much Republicans will try to distance Bevin as his own guy, David called him a disagreeable fellow. He certainly got that issue. He has not been wildly popular. He challenged Mitch McConnell in Kentucky you remember. So this is not your most idealized Republican, no doubt about that.

He is not doing as well as the other Republicans on the ballot. But I would note, as much as Republicans may try to separate him out and say this is a Bevin thing, I think you cannot lose sight of Donald Trump going in there at the end. We've seen him do this in other areas where it really has juiced turnout. And if he was not able to do that here even for an unpopular Republican, that is going to be a question mark that hangs around his head.

COOPER: Kirsten, how do you see this. KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I think that last point that David was just making, which is that Donald Trump, you know, Bevin closely aligned himself with Donald Trump. There's no question he was looking for the president to pull him, you know, over the finish line. And Donald Trump went down there and made it very clear that he was behind him.

[20:40:07]

I also think this is -- they were running on impeachment as well. You had Republicans running ads against the Democrat, basically tying him to the impeachment process. And so, this is sort of the first referendum we're seeing of how people are going to respond to the idea. Will it get Donald trump's voters excited enough to turn out? And if they don't, then I think that's a data point for the Republicans, and for the Democrats

COOPER: Mike Shields, how do you see this as a Republican?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, full disclosure. My firm did some work on the campaign, and so I have a unique insight to this.

Bevin started down double figures. He did have a huge popularity problem in this race. And on the same ticket as him, Daniel Cameron is winning the attorney general race by 20 points. So you have a lot of Beshear-Cameron voters he is by the way a very promising young African-American attorney general who was a -- who was a protege of Mitch McConnell. So Mitch McConnell is actually having a great night because people see him as the successor to Mitch in the future if his career keeps going the way that it does.

So Republicans in the state of Kentucky are actually doing pretty well. Bevin is not doing well. And I think if Democrats think they want to extrapolate something from this, look at the way that Andy Beshear ran the campaign and look at how the Democrats are running for president are talking. They are not even remotely in the same party. This is like Conor Lamb winning a special election by shooting an AK- 47 and talking about how he didn't like Nancy Pelosi pro-life in Pennsylvania.

The kind of Democrat that can win in Kentucky, what they need is an extremely unpopular governor who is down by double digits. And they need someone like Andy Beshear and that's just not who the Democrats are right now and it's none of their presidential candidates.

COOPER: Yes. I do want to check in with John as he's following the vote count. John?

KING: Anderson, we're up to 95% now and lead, it was 21,000 I think last time we talk. It's down to about 12,000 now. So again, this is nail biting time in any campaign headquarters when you go through a close one, no matter where you are.

So you're looking at the gray areas on the map here. And if you look at them, all of these gray areas, this means we don't have vote yet. These are small rural counties.

There's not a lot of people in the counties. The question is, are there enough? All of these counties that you see with no red or blue, the gray, no votes yet. All of them went for Bevin. All of them are Republican rural counties. Now, Andy Beshear is doing better in a lot of these counties even if he's losing than the Democrat four years ago to the Mike Shields' point he just made.

And so, here you are, 95%, your 12,000 votes. The question is, how much does Bevin win assuming he wins all these rural counties, how many people turn out? What's the margin there? Are there enough votes?

The only thing we're really waiting for in the democratic side for more potentially decent amount of votes is, you still only have 96% in Jefferson County. So you have late precincts coming in there and you see the margin. So Andy Beshear can count on some more votes there.

When you go to the other areas of the map that are blue, you just seeing here Franklin County, where Frankfort is, 100% reporting. You move over here to Scott County, 100% reporting. You pop down to Fayette County, which is a major population center in Lexington, in the suburbs, 100%.

So now, you're in nail biting time. You're counting the final precincts, but the lead just shy of 13,000 votes. The Democrats think they're within striking distance to pull this out.

COOPER: All right. We'll see where the numbers go. We're going to take a quick break. More updates when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:45:00]

COOPER: As you can see by the totals there is on the screen, 96%. We're waiting for some of the very last votes to be counted in Kentucky, where Democrat Andy Beshear is holding a very narrow lead in the raise for governor, about 11,000 votes right now.

President Trump campaigned in Lexington for the incumbent governor just last night. Certainly, not just a referendum on the President but the shifting vote in suburban areas might say something about his shifting appeal there. Back now with the team starting with John King. John?

King: And, Anderson, right now Matt Bevin is hoping, and hoping, and hoping that these counties in Western Kentucky, rural areas that he won last time four years ago not only come in red when the votes come in, but come in red by convincing margins.

I'll say that you start to see some of them right in here. Hart County, we have nothing in so far. Just want to go back in time. It's a pretty small county. You see the vote totals last time, he won with 57-plus% of the votes. The question is, can he run up a percentage like that and also run up the numbers, because that would get you a net gain of about 800 votes if he repeated four years ago. 800 votes does not going to do it if he's going to try to make up what is now an 11,000 vote deficit here.

But I just want to show you a couple of places we're waiting on. You come over along, McCracken County, here in the western part of the state. You see it here. Matt Bevin, the Republican incumbent, winning this county by almost 10 points. So the question is, with 75% in, what's left? And does he keep that margin? And again, is it enough?

This is its frustrating time, Mr. Axelrod and Mr. Shields have both been through this in campaign headquarters on the close ones. You're calling all your local precinct captains. You're saying what do we know, how many people voted. You try to figure out when this small company county comes in for example.

If you go back four years ago, Matt Bevin won it, won it pretty convincingly. But again, you see here, it's 2,400 votes combined there. It's all right, it get close to the map sometimes when you get sensitive, you pull it back out now, just want to come back in here as we come into the race. This is back in time. Let's come back to where we are now.

96%, 11,000 votes, the question is in the small rural counties, both the ones where we have no votes yet and the ones where we're still waiting for the count to be finished. Again, Livingston County, 8 2% in.

Again, that's a big margin for Marr Bevin. The question always is, when the rest of the people vote, how much more can you get, 728 to 1,300. But when you got eight or ten little counties like this out, the math is possible. It gets very hard. He essentially has to thread the needle with the rest of the vote coming in.

But this is a red area of the state. That's where the outstanding vote is. We're going to wait. I just want to check one more time. If you're in Democratic Party headquarters, you also think you got a little bit more coming in in Jefferson County. It's the last of the big reliable Democratic areas, now at a 100%, but a little bit more likely coming in for Andy Beshear here. And again, this is brew the coffee, wait it out, and count them time.

COOPER: All right. We're going to be doing that obviously all night long on CNN. We continue to monitor what's happening in Kentucky. There are other races we're following. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:00]

[20:30:00] It is a very busy election night. CNN is going to be watching it all this evening. Let's check in with Chris, see what he's working on. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And a fascination, my friend, about why this Andy Bashear-Matt Bevin race matters. And, you know, context is going to provide some clues. Kentucky obviously is a state that the President won in huge fashion, Matt Bevin did not.

The President did go down there and, you know, just this past week and said Bevin is the man. But he had popularity problems in that state that wasn't so much a function for personal foibles, as it was missteps on issues that matter, specifically Medicaid.

And that may be a boring subject for people but it isn't when you're living hand to mouth, and you need that kind of government service. Andy Beshear supposedly or reportedly went to the countries that Trump won most, in rural areas of Kentucky, and said, in less than five minutes, here's what I'll do for you. So he kind of pulled the Beto, Coop, you know what I mean?

He went everywhere. And I know Beto is out of the race now but that worked well for him in Texas, in a race that shouldn't have been close for him with Cruz. So Beshear did that, the question becomes what does it mean for Democrats, just Beshear a reflection or is he different than the national picture?

[20:55:04]

COOPER: Yes, we'll take a look at that. Chris, see you six minutes from now. Up next, the latest results in the Kentucky race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The race for governor in Kentucky is very close, 99% of the vote now in. Democrat Andy Beshear holding a narrow lead there about 10,500 or so over the Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, just about 10,000 votes.

As I said, President Trump campaigned for him just last night, sure to be watching these returns closely. The state has seen the city go blue, which is not unexpected, but in a shift from the last election, key suburbs have seen a substantial move away from the Republican candidate. That, of course, might have national implications for Republicans next year.

Of course the kind of candidate that Beshear is, is also something that's going to be-- Beshear is also something that's going to closely watched as our statewide races in Virginia where special attention is being paid to the state Senate there in Virginia.

It's now narrowly in Republican control, that too could change overnight. Races in Mississippi as well, look at our returns throughout the evening. Of course, CNN is going to bring it to you all as it happens.

I'm going to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?

END