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Trump Ordered To Pay $2 Million For Foundation Abuses; Interview With Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA); New Impeachment Testimony Revelations; Bolton Fails To Appear For Closed-Door Testimony, Democrats Won't Subpoena Him To Avoid A Court Battle; Stone Trial Highlights Volume Of Contacts He Had With Trump And 2016 Campaign; Bloomberg Filing For Dem Presidential Primary In Alabama; Key Ally Warns Of NATO "Brain Death" And Blasts Trump, Stunning Remark That May Give Comfort To Putin. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Democrats releasing a new transcript of testimony, as they prepare to make their case against the president on live television.

Christmas impeachment? There are new signs tonight that the full House of Representatives could vote on articles of impeachment before year's end. Why the holiday rush?

Illegal activity, a new portrait of alleged wrongdoing by President Trump, a judge ordering him to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit involving his defunct charity.

And Stone's Trump contacts. The president is a huge focus of Roger Stone's criminal trial, as prosecutors repeatedly mention Mr. Trump and present evidence from the Russia investigation.

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 have breaking news on just-released impeachment testimony.

State Department official George Kent confirming that top diplomats knew it was improper and potentially illegal to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt that could help President Trump politically. Kent testifying that Rudy Giuliani engaged in what Kent calls a campaign of lies, with his shadow diplomacy in Ukraine and his attempts to smear the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Also breaking, new details on today's testimony by an aide to Vice President Mike Pence who was on Mr. Trump's July 25 phone call with the new Ukraine president. We're told she acknowledged to lawmakers that the call was political in nature and not a normal diplomatic exchange.

I will get reaction from House Intelligence Committee member Denny Heck. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, State Department official George Kent will testify publicly next week. And, tonight, we're getting a taste of what he will say.


And if his public testimony is anything like what he said in private, we will hear strong words from George Kent next week. Kent's transcribed testimony really ripped into Rudy Giuliani, saying that Giuliani used a campaign of lies and slander against the former ambassador to Ukraine.

And Kent also said he believed there was a quid pro quo when it came to promising a White House visit, but not necessarily military aid, on Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the full extent of Rudy Giuliani's influence is coming into focus, with the release of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent's testimony transcript.

Kent detailing what he called a campaign of lies orchestrated by Giuliani that led to the ousting of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Kent also recalled a conversation he had about Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, saying that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the White House, felt uncomfortable by the call, adding: "He said that he could not share the majority of what was discussed because of the very sensitive nature of what was discussed."

The testimony transcript comes as the spotlight of the impeachment inquiry has turned to Vice President Mike Pence for the first time, his top national security aide the first from his staff to go behind closed doors and answer lawmakers' questions.

Jennifer Williams was one of nearly a dozen officials listening to Trump's July 25 phone call. A source says she testified that she found the conversation to be unusual because it was political in nature, but did not raise those concerns to her supervisors.

Williams, though, could clarify what the vice president knew about plans to withhold military aid in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens, which Pence was asked about today.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president's focus has been, as my focus was in my meetings with President Zelensky, on supporting President Zelensky's efforts to deal with a historic pattern of corruption in Ukraine. SCHNEIDER: As for Trump's call with Zelensky, which clearly shows him asking the Ukrainian leader to look into the Bidens, Pence mimicked the president's talking points.

PENCE: The American people have the transcript of the president's call, and they can see there was no quid pro quo and the president did nothing wrong.

SCHNEIDER: But questions continue about Pence's interactions with the Ukrainian president.

On September 1, Pence replaced President Trump on a trip to Poland, where he held a bilateral meeting with Zelensky. Pence has insisted the two did not discuss an investigation into the Bidens, but has acknowledged military aid and corruption were on the agenda.

PENCE: In all of my discussions with President Zelensky, we focused exclusively on President Zelensky's efforts to end corruption in Ukraine and also enlist more European support.

SCHNEIDER: While Williams was cooperating, former National Security Adviser John Bolton was a no-show on Capitol Hill, despite being invited to testify today.


Democrats never issued a subpoena for his appearance, as they have with other witnesses. And Bolton's lawyer previously said he wouldn't testify without one.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are lining up a list of witnesses they want at the public hearings next week. Top on that list? The whistle-blower.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is the guy who started at all. We think he should sit in front of us under oath, answer our questions, and do that in person.


SCHNEIDER: Democrats, though, have the ultimate say when it comes to which witnesses will testify publicly.

Now, as for George Kent, he will testify publicly on Wednesday, when he could elaborate on the testimony that was released today that he was told how extensive Giuliani's influence on the president was. And that could add another voice to the case that Giuliani manipulated U.S. foreign policy for President Trump's political benefit, Wolf, of course, that being key to the impeachment inquiry.

BLITZER: Very significant development, indeed.

Thanks very much, Jessica Schneider, for that report.

Also tonight, there are new signs that Democrats are fast-tracking impeachment, looking to wrap things up in the House of Representatives by Christmas.

Let's bring in our Congressional Reporter, Lauren Fox.

So, Lauren, so what are Democrats doing right now to streamline the process? And can it really be done before year's end?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's the big question right now, Wolf.

But I will tell you, things on Capitol Hill, they're speeding up. We are moving into this public phase of this impeachment inquiry with public hearings next week, including testimony from George Kent, Bill Taylor and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

All of that comes next week. Then we could see more public hearings the next week after that. But I will tell you, Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been very clear. Despite the fact they have heard from more than a dozen interviews behind closed doors, they don't need to hear from everyone in public.

So a couple of weeks of public testimony, then we will move into the Thanksgiving recess. After that, that will give time for the Intelligence Committee staffers, in coordination with Foreign Affairs and Oversight, to draft their full report on what their investigation has found.

Then things in December move over to the House Judiciary Committee. They could have public hearings, and then they will draft articles of impeachment. After that, those articles could go to the floor of the House of Representatives as early as the week of December 16.

Steny Hoyer, the House whip, already making it clear they have to be here potentially to deal with a funding deadline. Yes, there is another funding deadline potentially coming in December, depending on what they do with the C.R. in November.

So, Wolf, that gives you a sense of the timeline they're working on, but things could be wrapped up potentially by Christmas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Lauren, Republicans are calling on the whistle- blower to testify. Will Democrats let that happen?

FOX: Well, the House of Representatives, as they move forward into the public stage of this impeachment inquiry, Republicans have an opportunity to request witnesses, yes.

However, the Democratic chairman and the full committee has an opportunity to stop Republicans from getting all the witnesses they would want. And, of course, Adam Schiff has been very clear. He does not want to publicly oust the whistle-blower. Instead, what he wants to do is protect that person.

So you can guarantee that Democrats are not interested in a public hearing, where the whistle-blower would have to come before the American people. That is something they have been guarding against, as Republicans have amped up the calls to hear from that person -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lauren, thanks very much, Lauren Fox up on Capitol Hill.

As Democrats press ahead with impeachment, President Trump is attacking new reporting about his reaction to this entire Ukraine scandal.

Our White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is joining us.

Boris, the president is pushing back on reports that he asked the attorney general, Bill Barr, to hold a news conference that would clear his name on Ukraine. What are you learning?


According to a source, President Trump had been having discussions with aides about having Bill Barr go before cameras and declare him totally innocent of any wrongdoing in his phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine.

The president apparently feeling that it would help him with messaging, that it would make him look more innocent. This reporting was initially in "The Washington Post." And, apparently, according to "The Post," Trump has been lamenting to aides that Barr didn't hold that press conference.

The president today lashed out about these reports on Twitter, effectively saying that "The Washington Post" made up the story. It's clearly gotten under his skin. Take a look, the president at one point writing that: "Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine," also adding that: "The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good."

An important clarification here, Wolf. The DOJ did put out a statement saying that prosecutors found that the president didn't commit any campaign finance violations, but it was not broader than that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Important point.

Boris, thank you very much.

Let's discuss with Congressman Denny Heck. He's a Democrat, serves on the Intelligence Committee. They're taking the lead in the impeachment investigation.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

And I want to quickly get to the breaking news, the State Department diplomat George Kent testifying that Rudy Giuliani was involved in what Kent calls -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a campaign of lies."


Do you have evidence that President Trump directed this, or was Giuliani simply going rogue?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Rudy Giuliani was the president's lawyer, Wolf.

It reminds me a little bit, it's highly reminiscent of the situation with Michael Cohen, who was the president's lawyer, or then candidate Trump's lawyer, who is in prison now for violation of federal law.

And, as a matter of fact, it was the president who was identified as Individual 1 in the indictment procedure. So, in that case, obviously, there was coordination between the president's personal lawyer and himself.

In this case, look, here's what I want to say about Rudy Giuliani's campaign. What level of moral depravity does it take to engage in an insidious and long-term campaign to character-assassinate and destroy the reputation and the career of somebody who is as much of a patriot as Ambassador Yovanovitch was, 33 years in the State Department, with progressive responsibilities, not only widely respected, but beloved, because of her professionalism and her integrity?

BLITZER: And according to this testimony in the transcript today, that effort to degrade, to undermine the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was coordinated between Giuliani and these two individuals, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom Giuliani associates who have in recent days been charged with federal crimes.

HECK: Yes.

Giuliani is Trump. Trump is Giuliani. We will see how all that plays out.

But the fact of the matter is, that's just one of the pieces here. We have all these other bits of evidence. In fact, there's a mountain of evidence. As a matter of fact, there is more evidence to suggest that the president did the deed, that he did seek to coerce Ukraine into a politically motivated prosecution, threatened to withhold vital military assistance to a strategic partner and ally of us, than there is evidence to support the idea that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning.

The earlier discussion was about whether or not this is proceeding too much apace. I have to tell you that there are an awful lot of people saying, what's holding you back from getting there, given all the evidence that you already have?

BLITZER: Yes, that was video we were showing our viewers of Giuliani with Parnas and Fruman.

You also heard testimony today from Jennifer Williams, one of Vice President Mike Pence's advisers on national security.

To what extent was the vice president, Congressman, aware of this quid pro quo with Ukraine?

HECK: So, Wolf, again, we're not going to comment on the -- comment on the specifics of any witness testimony during a deposition.

But I have said to you before that the witnesses to date have, in every material regard, corroborated the narrative that was offered by the rest of the witnesses independently.

And that string goes unbroken with the testimony today.

BLITZER: Your committee has now decided not to fight to secure a testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Why not, considering what an important perspective he would have on these issues?

HECK: Sure, he does. But we're not going to play rope-a-dope ad infinitum, Wolf.

The fact of the matter is, again, there's plenty of evidence here. There's a mountain of evidence here. I would hope that, frankly, Ambassador Bolton would look himself in the mirror and reflect on it and maybe consult with his God, and ask himself what his patriotic duty is here, and reconsider the decision he's made.

But we're not going to go into court and have this drag out month after month after month, which is just another tactic to stall, delay and obstruct our efforts.

BLITZER: Public hearings are now going to be beginning next Wednesday with three witnesses Wednesday and then Friday.

Who else do you expect to testify publicly?

HECK: Not yet been fully determined yet. Stay tuned for that announcement.

I hope that Americans will tune in to all of these hearings, but, frankly, I especially hope that, if they can only tune into one, that they will tune in to Ambassador Taylor's testimony, because the truth of the matter is, he's somebody who really tied it all together, had a sense of all the different moving pieces.

Every one of them brings something a little different and new to add, another piece of the puzzle, as it were. And I think Americans are going to be -- I think they're going to be impacted, frankly, by the power of what is about to be shared.

BLITZER: You expect that we will also hear publicly from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council?

HECK: If I was in charge, he would be on a short list to bring back.

BLITZER: I suspect he will be appearing as well.

How long do you expect, Congressman, these public hearings to last before your committee produces a final report that will go to the Judiciary Committee, which presumably would begin these articles of impeachment hearings?

HECK: Well, I'd rather work back from the endpoint.

I think, without being hasty, again, but being expeditious and deliberative, that the House ought to set for themselves a target of having dealt with this in the Intelligence Committee and Foreign Affair and Oversight and the Judiciary Committee and on the floor by Christmas.


That's a tough schedule, but it's a doable schedule, given where we're at and all the work that's been done thus far.

BLITZER: Congressman Denny Heck, thanks so much for joining us.

HECK: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to have much more on all the breaking news just ahead, including this.

The former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be about to jump into the Democratic presidential race. We have new information.



BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news on impeachment, with public hearings now just days away, this as the president is dealing with other legal troubles tonight.

A judge has ordered him to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit involving his now defunct charitable foundation.

Let's talk about that and more with our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, what exactly did this lawsuit allege?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this goes back to news that came from "The Washington Post" mostly in the 2016 campaign that established that President Trump -- then candidate Trump -- was using his private foundation essentially as a piggyback -- piggy bank, using it for personal expenditures, not for charitable expenditures, most famously, most notoriously buying a $10,000 portrait of himself and putting it up at one of his country clubs.

I mean, those sorts of -- there it is. There's that beautiful portrait. And these sorts of expenditures, the New York state attorney general sued, because the New York state attorney general supervises charities in New York state, and said this was an inappropriate use of a charity.

What happened was, Donald Trump, notwithstanding his claim that he never settles lawsuits, he settled this one. He basically said, I will give away all the rest of the money if the lawsuit goes away, and the judge approved that settlement today.

But the settlement really acknowledges that this charity was profoundly, profoundly misused.

BLITZER: Because, as you point out, the Trump Foundation responded by saying it's pleased to donate the $2 million.

And the foundation goes on to say this: "The court, in rejecting the attorney general's frivolous requests for statutory penalties, interest and other damages, recognized that every penny ever raised by the Trump Foundation has gone to help those most in need."

Jeffrey, is that an accurate interpretation of this judge's ruling?

TOOBIN: Yes, that's like the Houston Astros claiming victory in the World Series.

I mean, this was a humiliation for the president. He made the smart decision of turning it into a one-day story by agreeing to settle it. But every piece of evidence that came forward was that this was a deeply flawed use of the charitable -- of charitable foundation.

It is true that the judge didn't add additional penalties. But this was a settlement where the president essentially ran up the white flag.

BLITZER: Yes, an important point.

Let's turn to a different story we have been covering. We have learned that President Trump wanted the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, to help defend him in the Ukraine scandal by holding a news conference.

The president wanted Barr to declare that he hadn't broken any laws in that July conversation with the Ukrainian president. What does that tell you about how President Trump views the office of the attorney general?

TOOBIN: Well, it sounds like the president was looking for the kind of support he got from Bill Barr from when the Mueller report came out, where the attorney general really mischaracterized the findings in a way that was much more favorable to the president than the actual findings were.

Bill Barr didn't do it this time. Now, I can't speak to his motivations, but there have been several occasions, including the partial transcript, as we know, of the phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine, where Barr has been invoked as if he was somehow on the president's team in this quid pro quo endeavor.

Barr has said, I know nothing about this.

And it does look, appropriately, that Barr's trying to stay out of this one, unlike the Mueller report.

BLITZER: An important point as well.

Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

Just ahead: We're learning more about why John Bolton didn't show up to testify before impeachment investigators today.

And we will also tell you what's happening in Roger Stone's criminal trial here in Washington, as prosecutors seem to be making it all about President Trump.



BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including newly released testimony by a top State Department official describing what he calls Rudy Giuliani's campaign of lies in Ukraine.

House Democrats releasing more transcripts of closed-door depositions before key witnesses testify in public next week.

One big-name witness who isn't testifying, at least not yet, the president's former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

We're learning more about why Bolton was a no-show today when he was asked to come in.

Let's bring in our experts.

And, Kylie Atwood, you have been doing a lot of reporting on this.

So, what are -- what were his calculations in deciding he wasn't going to show up today?


So, the former National Security Adviser to President Trump John Bolton did not want to be a star witness in this House impeachment inquiry that's led by the Democrats, because then he would be seen as a valuable asset to Democrats here.

And that is the bottom line, because I spoke with one person close to him, who explained that he still really wants to be involved in Republican politics after all this.


So that was blatantly on display just days after he left the White House. The injected money through his PAC and his other platforms into conservative Republicans, their campaign, that he feels ideologically aligned with.

So he's already showing, demonstrating that he wants to be involved. He also has a book coming out, right? So he wants his moment to come when he's ready for it to come. I mean, we heard from House lawmakers who are part of this impeachment inquiry that they were told by his lawyer that they were going to take this subpoena to the court and that would effectively delay this whole process. And so that is why the House Democrats decided not to subpoena him and are essentially saying, okay, fine, we know enough about this and we're going to go on with our process here.

BLITZER: But Bolton's testimony, Laura, would have clearly helped the Democrats. He left the White House an angry man.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely would have helped. You have the conundrum, if you are the members of the Democratic part of the House to say, how much corroboration do we really need? Are you beating a dead horse at this point or are you actually adding to the actual equation? And if they felt that Bolton's testimony was no longer going to be additive because you already had very good witnesses who are credible to talk about these discussions and they may have made that calculus.

And that would have been a very different calculus, however, if they had so much time ahead of them. They have this looming deadline, albeit an artificial one of the 2020 election, et cetera, and they would like to wrap it up. But I just think if they have had all the time in the world, they would have left no stone unturned, particularly one who has an axe to grind.

BLITZER: And knows -- I mean, who was in touch with dealing with the president on a daily basis as the national security adviser at the White House.

So, David Swerdlick, the inquiry has now released more testimony today including from this diplomat, a top State Department official, George Kent. He testified that according to Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., quote, POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton. That's enormous pressure coming from the president of the United States.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a lot of pressure. It's in line with the idea that this was a quid pro quo, and it's consistent with many of these other witnesses, like Ambassador Taylor, who have said, in effect, the same thing. It also, to me, suggests that the Democratic members of Congress are going to go back to that text message from Ambassador Sondland when he said the president definitely wants the deliverable.

And just to go back to what Kylie's reporting was saying and Laura was saying for a minute, Wolf, I just want to add. When you have all these witnesses, like Kent, like Taylor, saying all these things and they all dovetail together, if Ambassador Bolton waits until his moment, by the time his moment comes, it might be like he comes out and says, hey, I was steaming that on July 10th when this was all being cooked up, and people are going to say, yes, we already know. We've already talked about this. We've already -- this train has left the station. BLITZER: Mark Mazzetti is with us. And your newspaper, The New York Times, is reporting that President Zelensky was actually ready to give an interview to our own Fareed Zakaria on CNN and say what the president clearly wanted him to say. But in the end, the U.S. let the nearly $400 million in defense-related aid go through and that interview never happened.

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And so this one of the stories that I think think is hugely important and it might have lasting impact. I mean, think about it. This is a country we have lectured a long time about corruption, clean up your act, right?

A new president comes into power vowing that there won't be corruption, he won't investigate enemies. And the first thing he hears from the president of the United States is, well, you really have got to investigate my enemies. This is how things work.

And if that's what he thinks, this is something that in order to get needed military aid, he has got to investigate the American president's enemies, this is something where if you look at the lasting impact, it's something that other governments might look at the United States differently for a long time to come because our lecturing matters less.

BLITZER: Kylie, the Ukrainians are intelligent. They knew exactly what was going on. They were getting rumblings from these U.S. officials, including the president's private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. they knew what the president of the United States wanted him to do.

ATWOOD: They knew exactly what they wanted them to do. And that's why it's interesting that we heard some new details today from George Kent's testimony essentially saying that even after this U.S. security assistance was released and when the Ukrainians got it, there was an awkward moment later in September when still this was coming up, this ask from the Trump administration for the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and 2016, it still came up in a discussion.

And during that discussion, Ambassador Taylor essentially told Kurt Volker, who was the top U.S. envoy, that it was not a good idea for him to be equating a meeting with President Trump and President Zelensky with them announcing those investigations. So this is still something that is on the mind of the Ukrainian officials even after the security assistance was --


BLITZER: Very quickly, Laura, how much trouble is Rudy Giuliani in?

COATES: Well, he should be in an enormous amount of trouble because he's actually doing something -- trying to usurp the role of many people who are supposed to be in diplomatic relations and actually maybe violating the law.

But I want to go back to one point you raised. I want people to take note, Wolf, that John Bolton is saying he doesn't want to testify because he will be viewed as partisan. The Ukrainians were allegedly, according to everything we know, told to act in a partisan way. Otherwise, they would not get aid. Imagine the leverage and the calculus of John Bolton and what the calculus of the president of Ukraine was thinking. If I weigh into this, I lose bipartisan support. And yet John Bolton can say, yes, that's what I'm doing. I have a book coming out. That's shocking.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following, including breaking news Roger Stone's criminal trial underway here in Washington, as prosecutors detail his contacts with Donald Trump and the 2016 campaign in reference the movie, The Godfather.



BLITZER: Tonight, prosecutors in Roger Stone's criminal trial are zeroing in on Stone's contacts with Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. They're arguing that Stone lied to Congress to protect the president.

Our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is here in The Situation Room with us.

You've been at the trial, Shimon. You were watching it all day. What are we learning about Stone's contacts with the president?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I mean, if you are to believe the prosecutors and you look at all the evidence and the information that they are putting forward, there is a lot of information in the height of the WikiLeaks when WikiLeaks was threatening to release stolen emails, there was a lot of contact between Roger Stone and people inside the campaign. There was contact with Roger Stone and then candidate Donald Trump.

They're still in the middle of just laying all of this out. They used the flowchart today to show the number of contacts with Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon and Rick Gates. Rick Gates is going to turn out to be a very significant witness here for the prosecutors.

So they're still in the early stages of laying all this out and certainly showing how Roger Stone lied to Congress, they say, when they asked him, when they were investigating the Russia interference, how Roger Stone lied about his contacts with the campaign and with the president.

BLITZER: And so what are learning about Roger Stone's contacts with the president?

PROKUPECZ: They were extensive. I mean, they were many. As we have been reporting, there were several. There were at least three when it was revealed that the DNC had been hacked and there was a continuation of contacts of Roger Stone claiming that he can help the president win, claiming that he had contacts, that he had an intermediary who could help him. There's been a lot of funny moments today certainly at the trial because Randy Credico testified and that was certainly and entertaining. But this is comedian. Obviously, this is a person that Roger Stone had threatened that had he gone in and testify. So there is a lot going on there today, funny moments, but, nonetheless, the judge reminding them, so this one witness, this is serious business, you're a comedian but this is serious.

And so will have a lot more to go through. We've only seen this was only the second witness. But, certainly, we have people like Steve Bannon testifying as soon as tomorrow perhaps.

BLITZER: He is a reluctant witness.

PROKUPECZ: He is a reluctant witness. He's been subpoenaed. He is being compelled to testify. That's going to be interesting. Again, a lot of this is going to bring this closer and closer to the president as this trial goes one in the next few days.

BLITZER: I think some other big names are going to be appearing as well.

PROKUPECZ: Well, Rick Gates is going to be a pretty significant witness. If you look at the 302s of the FBI reports that just came out in the last few weeks and what he talks about, and how the campaign, how they were preparing for the release of the WikiLeaks information, he is going to highlight just how much Roger Stone was keeping them informed about his claims that he has this information, he knows what's coming and how the campaign was preparing to respond to it.

BLITZER: The federal judge also, this is intriguing, told the jurors not to watch a certain movie.

PROKUPECZ: That's right. Because what the prosecutors are -- they have text messages and emails from Roger Stone using tactics, claiming -- telling Randy Credico to stonewall, to plead the Fifth, to do what he called what Frankie Five Angels did in Godfather.

So she told them at the end of the day, as she was dismissing the jurors, she said, don't go home and download Godfather and start watching Godfather. Don't read anything about The Godfather, because those references did come up several times during the testimony of an FBI agent and also Randy Credico.

BLITZER: This trial could go on, what, two to three weeks?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, they expect up to three weeks. There's still a lot more to go through. We're only on our second witness. It's been really interesting few days. But the fact -- I mean, the big picture here, I think, that's always important to look at is that this is going to get a little closer and closer to Donald Trump as we go in the coming days.

BLITZER: We look forward to your reporting in these next several days. Thanks very much, Shimon, for that. Just ahead, a new curveball in the presidential race, as the former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, appears to be positioning himself to jump into the contest.




BLITZER: We have breaking news in the presidential race and surprise move by the former New York City mayor and billionaire, businessman, Michael Bloomberg.

Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining us right now.

Jeff, you're covering the race in New Hampshire tonight, but Bloomberg is shaking things up in Alabama. What's going on?


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is indeed. His advisors are saying that the former mayor is going through -- he's going through the process to gather signatures.

Why he's doing it in Alabama? That is the first primary deadline. The deadline is actually tomorrow, to have those signatures gathered to be on the primary next year. So, that is the first step here.

But, Wolf, it is -- there's no question -- Mike Bloomberg has long wanted to run for president. He's been flirting with this for a very long time, for several election cycles, including this one, of course, earlier in the year.

It was only a month or so ago, he ruled out running saying he could do more in the private sector. But I'm told a couple of things have changed. I'm also told he's making phone calls to a handful of connected Democrats, feeling out the market, if you will, for a Bloomberg campaign. But also the election results earlier this week in Virginia.

His anti-gun group spent a lot of money investing in those legislative races and they were very successful. That is one of the things he wants to sort of highlight here a little bit more.

But, Wolf, talking to a lot of Democrats in the last several minutes and several -- you know, since this news was reported, one points out to me that the clamor for Mike Bloomberg under this Democratic primary is largely coming from people on his payroll. There is not a significant sense of a void that he would bring to this race.

That does not mean he's going to get in here, Wolf. We may have a sense next Friday and that is when the New Hampshire deadline is to enter its primary and the New Hampshire primary very critical, and then some early deadlines in Illinois, Texas, and California coming in early December, Wolf.

BLITZER: He could clearly self-finance his presidential campaign if he so decides. We did some checking with Forbes. He's worth, what, $52 billion, and let's compare that to the president. Forbes said President Trump is worth $3.1 billion, a significant difference right there. I'm sure President Trump is very sensitive to those numbers.

All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Coming up, why the French president says we're experiencing -- and I'm quoting him now -- the brain death of NATO.



BLITZER: President Trump's continued disparagement of NATO has one key U.S. ally sounding the alarm.

Brian Todd is here with details.

Brian, the escalating NATO strike clearly welcomed news to Russia.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. Vladimir Putin is probably toasting this tonight. This was a shot across President Trump's bow from one of America's top allies and the man in the Kremlin will be all too eager to take advantage of it.



TODD (voice-over): French President Emmanuel Macron says we are experiencing, quote, the brain death of NATO and blames it on President Trump. Macron telling "The Economist", Europe needs to wake up.

Macron says he doesn't trust the president to stick to NATO's founding pledge that all NATO countries should defend any NATO country that's attacked. America, Macron, says is showing signs of turning its back on us, and Trump doesn't share our idea of the European project.

PROF. KEITH DARDEN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: You can only tell the Europeans that you don't have their back so many times before they actually listen and they realize that you don't have their back.

TODD: A reference to Trump's ongoing contempt for his NATO allies.

BLITZER: Do you think the United States needs to re-think U.S. involvement in NATO?

DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, because it's costing us too much money.

Number one, NATO is obsolete. Number two, the countries in NATO are not paying their fair share. NATO has not treated us fairly.

TODD: Trump, according to "The New York Times", even considered pulling the U.S. out of NATO several times, but tonight, the White House seemed to reject Macron's assessment.

A senior administration official telling CNN the U.S. looks forward to working with its NATO allies against current and future threats.

Still, analysts say Macron's comments and Trump's past disdain for NATO hand another victory to a certain former KGB colonel in Moscow.

HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: President macron's comments were music to the Kremlin's ears.

TODD: For years, Vladimir Putin has laid his marker down against NATO, pounding home the message to his people that the U.S.-European alliance is an existential threat to Russia. All the recent strains between Trump and NATO, analysts say, have Putin practically dancing in the halls of the Kremlin and he'll jump at the chance to exploit Macron's temper tantrum.

CONLEY: I am sure Russia Today and Sputnik and all of the other Russia propaganda outlets will use President Macron's statements, continually pouring them into the Baltic States and say it's not credible anymore and why are you holding on to NATO?

TODD: But experts warn Putin may not stop there. He could use this tension between the allies to poach some important NATO partners.

DARDEN: The Russians could potentially pluck Turkey away. That means control of the Bosporus, right, a critical strait that Russian ships go out of the Black Sea through, so as a result of fragmentation and NATO, we could lose some NATO members.


TODD: Analysts are also sounding a warning tonight about macron's separate outreach to Vladimir Putin, the French president has, on his own, recently tried to strike one-on-one security deals for France with Putin. Experts warn Macron shouldn't trust the former KGB colonel with any security deals and they say it will again, undermine NATO.

Wolf, again, Putin is just quarreling over this division with Macron and Trump.

BLITZER: Yes, the NATO allies are supposed to meet in London early next month to celebrate NATO's 70th anniversary.

Brian, thank you very much for that report.

Thanks to our viewers very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.