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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
WH Officials: Mulvaney Orchestrated Quid Pro Quo; Witness Testimony Ties Mulvaney To Quid Pro Quo; Chief Of Staff Was No-Show At Deposition Today; WH Official Concerned Giuliani's Ukraine Work Was Illegal; Trump's Ex-Russia Adviser Testifies She Was "Extremely Concerned" Giuliani's Ukraine Work "Might Not Be Legal"; Trump Today: "I Hardly Know" Ambassador Sondland Trump Last Month: Sondland Is "A Really Good Man"; Michael Bloomberg Files for Democratic Presidential Primary; Warren Says She's Open to Suspending Deportations As She Courts Latino Voters. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 8, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are excited he's coming, but we should note an official familiar with the team said it wasn't the team who extended the invitation.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Alabama-LSU, you'll be there as well. We're going to be looking forward to it. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the President's Chief of Staff directly linked to Trump's Ukraine quid pro quo, that's according to two White House officials who testified under oath. Is there any way Mick Mulvaney wasn't acting on behalf of the President? Plus, John Bolton says he has information that's relevant to the impeachment probe according to his attorney, so when will he testify? And as the Biden-Warren battle gets uglier, Warren is going after loyal Biden voters, can she win them over? Let's go out front.
Well, good evening. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Erin Burnett on this Friday. And tonight the President's Chief of Staff orchestrated the quid pro quo. That's According to two White House officials whose closed door depositions were released today, Fiona Hill; President Trump's former advisor on Russia and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman; the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, both testified under oath in the impeachment inquiry.
And both said it all came back to Mick Mulvaney, the President's right hand man. A man you'd be hard pressed to imagine was acting on his own. According to both Hill and Vindman, who testified separately under oath again behind those closed doors, they had been told that Mulvaney was directing the quid pro quo with Ukraine in coordination with Trump's Ambassador of the EU; Gordon Sondland.
According to the transcript, Vindman was asked, "Do you understand how he," Sondland, "came to believe that this deliverable was necessary?" Vindman response, "So I heard him say that this had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff, Mr. Mick Mulvaney." Question, "What did he say about that?" Answer, "He just said that he had had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting."
And here's how Hill recounted that meeting in her testimony, "Ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians, as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations. And my director for Ukraine was looking completely alarmed."
So if Ukraine wanted a meeting with the President, they needed to investigate Biden, a quid pro quo that the Ukrainians were made aware of, according to this testimony. And then there's another quid pro quo, this one relating to military aid to Ukraine.
According to Vindman's testimony, "The hold on the military aid came from the Chief of Staff's office." And Hill quote, "It actually came as a direction from the Chief of Staff's office."
Now, of course, Mulvaney has already admitted to the world that there was in fact a quid pro quo. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all of the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody, get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So he later took that back, as we know. But this testimony from Hill and Vindman indicates his initial statement was the truth. Manu Raju is out front now on Capitol Hill. And Manu, you also have some new developments regarding another potential star witness in this impeachment inquiry, John Bolton.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. John Bolton is an individual who has been mentioned time and again by a number of witnesses, someone who was central to some of these discussions that were going on and who raise serious objections by the push by Rudy Giuliani and others to pursue these investigations that can help the President politically pushing the Ukrainian government to do so.
Even Fiona Hill's testimony today show that she quoted John Bolton saying that Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everything up. Now, in a new letter sent today by Bolton's attorney to Capitol Hill, he reveals that John Bolton has information about events, meetings and conversations about which you have already seen in testimony, but about meetings and conversations that have not been discussed in the testimonies so far. And this was revealed in a court case in which Democrats have
essentially said that they weren't going to fight to try to get John Bolton to come and testify, because John Bolton's attorney has that if he were subpoenaed, they would fight this out in court about his client as well a separate client will also serve under John Bolton. Democrats have no desire to go a prolonged court fight, so they're signaling they're not willing to go this route. But John Bolton's attorney says that if he were to come, he'll provide this information, but first they want to court the rule and decide whether or not he is required to come and testify.
But that'll create a big complication here, Pamela, because Democrats want to wrap up this impeachment probe in the coming weeks, potentially by the end of the year to actually impeach this president. But if they will go to pursue John Bolton who could have this key evidence that could delay this proceedings for months and at the moment it sounds like Democrats don't want to go that route, Pamela.
BROWN: All right. Manu, thank you so much. Interesting that the lawyer is dangling out there his client, John Bolton, has all of this information that hasn't been out there, but yet he wants the court to decide. So let's talk about all of this out front tonight. A Member of the House Oversight Committee who was inside the room for the Vindman deposition, Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Thank you so much for coming on. So let's start with what Manu was talking about. This fact that according to Johns Bolton's attorney, John Bolton has all of these knowledge of 'many relevant meetings and conversations' that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far. Are you willing, are the Democrats willing to put an impeachment vote on hold for another few weeks in order to possibly get John Bolton's testimony?
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, ATTENDED VINDMAN DEPOSITION: I can say, I think, although we have not discussed this, it just came up, we don't need him. If he wanted to come forward, he should have come forward much earlier. Look where we are, we have got this done by the end of December. Our cup runneth over.
We've heard from the staff, we've heard from people who are in the room. I think you're dealing with an official who remember was fired by Trump and this could be part of his comeuppance to Trump. And then he wants to say, well, of course, they made me do it.
BROWN: So you think we don't need him, you think you have everything you already need for the impeachment probe?
NORTON: I'm going to say, what you just heard of, kind of our first reveals, once you hear from a Lieutenant Colonel, decorated, and from his supervisor and the Lieutenant Colonel was in on the phone call, you're almost there right there.
BROWN: But what the White House and allies of Trump argue is you still don't have the direct link to the President. Couldn't someone like a John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser, provide that direct link that the Democrats might need to make the case stronger?
NORTON: What more direct link can you have than being on the phone call where you heard the President himself? So I do think we have the direct link to the President and I do think that Bolton would be helpful. But is he going to give us anything more than his staff who've already come forward and has given us? We've got to ask why is he so anxious to come forward? And if he's anxious to come forward, why would he say take me to court and let them decide it?
BROWN: We've talked a lot about quid pro quo, being in investigations in exchange for military aid, but both Vindman and Hill talked about these investigations needing to happen, be announced publicly in order for a meeting to happen with the President. Vindman even testified, "My understanding is this was all about getting the bilateral meeting." Does it matter to you if this was about aid or a meeting, that's my question to you. Is quid pro quo all the same whether it'd be about aid or the meeting?
NORTON: Look, it's very important what you ask because up until now we have been focused on the money and, of course, they needed that most of all. So why this emphasis on the meeting with the President, the President wants to look these people in the eye and get as much directly from them on Joe Biden. He wants, yes, the money but the money he can't withhold but so long. We have already voted in a bipartisan way for the money to go forward.
The icing on the cake is meeting and there he can have a direct conversation and perhaps we could overhear that conversation as we have the phone call and he could learn even more about Biden.
BROWN: But do you see a situation where there is Mulvaney and Giuliani and someone who are acting without the direction of the President?
NORTON: Impossible. If so then he should have fired them all. These people have direct access to the President. Mulvaney is the Chief of Staff, you mean to tell me he never talks to the President?
BROWN: So, again, you say that the Democrats have all you need, but White House sources I've spoken with tell me that the base of the White House was banking on the public, not fully grasping all of these different threads coming out these different names that it won't ultimately move the needle for them. It is a tangled web with so many names and different meetings all over the place, when you go through the transcript.
Do you really think that all of this is breaking through to the public outside of the beltway, outside of this bubble?
NORTON: Actually, not now. I don't think they have been watching these reports.
But wait until they testify.
BROWN: So you think the testimony is really going to be thing ...
NORTON: It's everything. You're going to see who I saw. You're going to see Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. And when they see this man ...
BROWN: Well, he's on the list, so far, are there negotiations right now to have him publicly testify?
NORTON: I really don't think he'll be able to avoid it. When you see witnesses like that willing to testify directly to what they heard, and the most important witnesses will be the witnesses on the call. The witnesses who were closest to the evidence we need.
It seems to me that we have enough of them now that unless we want to be here this time next year talking about this and remember 2020 is a - every Member of the House has to run again, I think you've got to finish this up before Christmas.
BROWN: OK. Eleanor Holmes Norton, thank you so much.
NORTON: My pleasure.
BROWN: I appreciate it. And OUTFRONT up next Trump and Giuliani, the two men still speaking regularly on the phone even as the impeachment probe is heating up according to sources I've spoken with. Plus, Trump hand-picked him even praised the job that he was doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gordon Sondland, thank you, Gordon. Where is he? Great job. Good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: But now he says he hardly knows the man who delivered damning testimony on Ukraine. And breaking news, Michael Bloomberg just filed for a presidential primary. Does this mean he's really running? We'll be right back.
BROWN: Breaking news, just released transcripts from the House impeachment inquiry revealing even more officials testifying under oath that they had great concerns about President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani's work in Ukraine. Fiona Hill, a former Russia adviser to President Trump testifying, "I was extremely concerned that whatever it was that Mr. Giuliani was doing might not be legal, especially after, you know, people had raised with me these two gentlemen, Parnas and Fruman."
Now, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, of course, Giuliani associates who were arrested recently were trying to flee the United States. And Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council saying this, about the July phone call, where President Trump urged Ukraine's president to help Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens.
"Frankly, up until that call, you know, in certain regards he was acting as a private citizen advancing his own interest to a certain extent. It wasn't until that call that it became, that he was pulled into kind of an official role."
All right. Let's discuss all of this. Out front now, Greg Brower, who was an Assistant FBI Director, Carrie Cordero, who was the Counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security. Also with us tonight, former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean, and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. It has been a very busy news day going through these transcripts from two top White House officials.
Carrie, to start with you, witness after witnesses testifying they had these concerns about Giuliani. What do you make of this of all these officials testifying that they knew what Giuliani was up to, they had these concerns.
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: They did. Well, because there was an individual, Rudy Giuliani, who was not in government, who was doing things that from their perspective as far as State Department officials or White House officials working on National Security related to Ukraine that he was stepping into interfering with what they were trying to carry out as legitimate foreign policy.
So on one hand, you have a person not in government at all who is interfering in National Security interests. But then the second thing that it also tells me is that there were a lot of people in the White House who knew what was going on and it took the whistleblower to actually report it through an official channel and start the fact that we - now that we know about it.
BROWN: This could be interesting part of this, I mean, you have Vindman, Hill testifying. A lot of people knew about what was going on, but you're right, it was the whistleblower who went through those channels. But what's interesting too is just the view of these officials of Giuliani.
They're trying to do their official government work, Greg, then you have someone going rogue outside doing their own thing. I mean, it kind of painted this picture of pure chaos when it came to Ukraine policy, Fiona Hill testified that John Bolton likened Giuliani to a hand grenade, to a live hand grenade. Do you think that's proven to be true with all of this as you learn more and more and as Giuliani's role becomes more apparent?
GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Yes, not surprisingly so and there was also the description by John Bolton of Rudy's drug deal as if to kind of dismiss this to some ...
BROWN: Rudy and Mulvaney, yes.
BROWN: And now we have more to understand the context around why you said that.
BROWER: Right. That's right. And it would be hard enough, frankly, to have the National Security and diplomatic bureaucracy dealing with some kind of rogue operation if that rogue operation was parallel, but legal.
BROWER: But in this case, it appears that perhaps it wasn't even a legal rogue operation. That not only complicates things for the government officials who are supposed to be pursuing National Security and diplomatic relations, but it creates a whole potentially impeachable situation and that's how it's playing out.
BROWN: It is how it's playing out, John, because this is all part of this, the Democrats' impeachment inquiry. I want to bring up what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman testify to about Acting Chief of Staff and OMB head, Mick Mulvaney.
Vindman was asked, "Do you understand how he (Sondland) came to believe that this deliverable was necessary?" And then Vindman responded, "So I heard him say that this had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney." Question, "What did he say about that?" Answer, "He just said that he had had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting."
How significant is it to you that he testified that the President's Acting Chief of Staff directed this quid pro quo essentially, John?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it certainly gets it closer to the President and whether they'll claim that the President had no knowledge of this, we don't know yet. Fiona Hill gave the same testimony which corroborates Vindman. So it's a pretty strong charge and it certainly puts Mulvaney in the loop, no question about that.
And Pamela, I would just point out that this whole thing is just one giant conspiracy to extort or bribe and it's very conspicuous.
It's just no question in how deep the President is. That's what the House is going to establish.
BROWN: And, I mean, so do you think this is an impeachable offense then because as we know bribery, according to the Constitution, is an impeachable act, John?
DEAN: They have managed in this instance to come right within the definition of impeachable offenses, because it is treason bribery and high crimes.
BROWN: But let me ask you this, but no one has made that direct link to the President, then how do you make that case that he should be impeached? DEAN: Well, it's interesting with Nixon when he was impeached they
stayed away from conspiracy charges. There is a reference in the minority report, of all places, that he conspired. But the majority, the Democrats with Nixon did not charge him with a conspiracy although that was very conspicuous in the evidence.
So I don't think by precedent, they'll try to draw Trump in through conspiratorial actions. They'll look for him being directly involved or they'll look for testimony. And where they're going to find that is in the document, the readout on the call on July 25.
BROWN: The call that the President continues to say is perfect. Really quick and I'm going to go to you, Carrie, I know you have a thought.
DEAN: Perfect, right.
BROWN: But Congressman Dent, President Trump has also had this to say about who the Democrats have called to testify so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They shouldn't be having public hearings. This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch-hunt. This is just a continuation of the hoax. It's a disgraceful thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: He says none of these witnesses have hurt him. Do you see it that same way and how do you think his supporters see it? Do you think that they are seeing this as a continuation of this being the 'hoax'?
FORMER SEN. CHARLIE DENT (D-PA): I think these witnesses, Taylor, Vindman, Fiona Hill have done enormous damage to the President, because those witnesses are quite credible. And I think I heard the President just say today that he's been the most transparent president we've had in a long time.
Well, if he's so transparent, he has nothing to hide, what's so bad about having all of this testimony, particularly from his staff, Mulvaney and Giuliani and others. And to answer something that was said earlier to John Dean, if you're the President of the United States, it's assumed that you had knowledge of what your staff was doing.
I was chairman of the House Ethics Committee and we used to have these situations all the time. A member would blame the staff, but we said there was imputed knowledge that the boss should have know what the staff was doing. And you just can't simply dump all of this on the staff and get away with it. We would sanction members regularly for actions of their staff.
BROWN: That's interesting. And what would it say if the President didn't know about what his chief of staff and other key officials were up to? All right. Thank you all for sharing your insights analysis, much
appreciated. We're going to see you again very soon in the show. OUTFRONT next, the President's big donor turned diplomat, Trump's own pick for EU ambassador is suddenly a stranger after his damaging testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Let me just say I hardly know that gentlemen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And breaking news, Michael Bloomberg on track to make a run for the White House but would skip early contest in four states, so how he win?
BROWN: And new tonight, President Trump claiming he hardly knows Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the EU who changed his testimony this week, suddenly remembering that there was a Trump- Ukraine quid pro quo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hardly know that gentlemen. But this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo and he still says that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So Sondland was handpicked by President Trump to be ambassador and to lead his Ukraine policy. Sondland donated a million dollars to Trump's inauguration and Trump has had glowing things to say about him in the past. Tweeting last month, "I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court." And that's not all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. Thank you, Gordon. Where is he? Great job. Good.
The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland who's highly respected was there's no quid pro quo. He said that. He said, by the way, it's almost sounded like in general. He said, by the way, there's no quid pro quo and there isn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Everyone back with me now, Carrie, I'm going to go to you first. I want to go back to you before, is anyone going to buy this new defense that Trump hardly knew Sondland and does it show a pattern to you of what the President does in situations where he feels like officials might be saying unflattering things about him?
CORDERO: Right. Well, I think we have seen this pattern with him before where when someone is doing things that he likes, then he's very laudatory towards them and then when they don't and when he think it might be not in his interest, then all of a sudden there's a whole sea of distance between them. The difficulty with the President trying to do that, though, with the testimony of Gordon Sondland or any of these other witnesses is that all of these facts that come out from the witnesses don't change the essential original information that we have from the original July 25th summary of the phone call that the President himself was on with President Zelensky. And that's the call where the president asks Zelensky to do him a favor.
He mentions investigations of the Bidens. He mentions investigations into this conspiracy about whether Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election and no matter how much distance he tries to put between him and witnesses, he's not going to be able to get away with the content of that phone call.
BROWN: What was so interesting about that, we were talking about this, Greg, it was the White House that put out that transcript and without that actual transcript of the call, it would be a harder case to make that link, right?
BROWER: It could be, but welcome to the twilight zone here because we have the call which clearly puts the president in the middle of this this-for-that exchange with the Ukrainian president and then we have the president's chief of staff do a press conference in which he concedes, yes, was there a quid pro quo and he said every other witness before the committee basically say the same thing. They learned about the quid pro quo either from the call or from the other people, they were alarmed by it.
And so, it's everybody against the president at this point, and you know, as a former prosecutor, I know Carrie would agree with this, when you have kind of a lineup of witnesses like that, one against many, it's typically the many telling the true version of what happened.
BROWN: And a lot of this is politics, strategy from the White House, from GOP allies from the Trump, Congressman Dent. We're seeing them throw the people around Trump involved with Ukraine under the bus. They were arguing they each acted without Trump's knowledge and some of this has been on this way this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Any time there was direct conversation with the president, there was no linkage. So, any linkage that has been alleged, obviously is based on many times second or third-hand information with either Rudy Giuliani or people believing that they understood what Rudy Giuliani might have wanted.
REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): It is Sondland's opinion. These are all folks' opinions.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): He said that in his statement. He says it was his presumption.
JODAN: Not based on a fact. It was his presumption.
BROWN: You served with those men, Congressman. What do you make of this apparent new strategy? Is it effective?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, trying to throw all of these people under the bus is simply not going to fly. Nobody's going to believe for a second that Mick Mulvaney or Rudy Giuliani was acting on their own without any consultation with the president. I think just like Michael Cohen. You know, who believes that, you know, Michael Cohen paid off Stormy Daniel, didn't he? He just did that on his own, the president didn't direct him to do it?
I mean, the same thing here. Of course, these people were operating under the direction of the president. Look, they may try to throw these guys under the bus and they'll do it in this order and they'll throw Sondland under the bus and then Mulvaney and then Giuliani in that order. But I don't think it's going to be effective. I think it's laughable.
The facts are simply not on the president's side. The noose is tightening. The quid pro quo has been established and all of these people who have spoken up did so out of concern for national security and also because of interference in our election. So, these are more distractions and they're not going to be effective.
BROWN: And what's interesting here, John, is that the president has repeatedly and publicly embraced Giuliani's work in Ukraine which included trying to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We've been investigating on a personal basis through Rudy and others, lawyers, corruption in the 2016 election.
Rudy's looking to also find out where the phony witch hunt started, how it started and I think he's got a very strong right to do it. He's a good lawyer and knows exactly what he's doing and it's very important.
I stand behind Rudy Giuliani. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And Rudy has said that he was acting on his client's behalf in regards to Ukraine. Based on these comments, John, if Republicans try to throw Giuliani under the bus, doesn't that effectively throw the president under the bus, too?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that would be very dangerous for the Republicans to do it, and I would think Trump would tell them to stay away from that strategy. Rudy at some point, if he sees himself being discarded by the White House, and discarded by the Republicans and on his way to the Bureau of Prisons for a long stay, he's somebody who can give up the president because there is a crime fraud exception in the attorney-client privilege that Trump can't block his testimony if that happened.
BROWN: And crime fraud exception, Carrie, is that there is an ongoing crime, right? That the lawyer is privy too and involved with and that doesn't make the lawyer immune. It remains to be seen if Giuliani will testify, the way things are going, it certainly doesn't seem so.
But what is so interesting here is sources tell me that the president continues to talk to Rudy.
That as recently as late October, he was the one calling Rudy up about once a day to talk to him despite all of these revelations coming out and this testimony about Ukraine. He really seems undeterred by it. What do you make of that?
CORDERO: Well, he is. I mean, he's a close advisor. He's been a close adviser of the president for a long time and the president has trusted him, and so I think he's been a central adviser.
I think Rudy Giuliani has a difficult claim of attorney-client privilege to begin with because the things that he's doing if he's running around Ukraine and trying to dig up political information for the president's political interest, that's not giving legal advice. The attorney-client privilege has to do with a lawyer providing legal advice to a client.
BROWN: This might be a silly question, and what might do something for an attorney-client privilege. Rudy said he's done it pro-bono. I'm like what, what provides that protection?
BROWER: There has to be an attorney-client relationship and the communications in question have to be for the purpose of giving or receiving legal advice, and there cannot be an exception like the crime fraud exception that applies to the situation, so that's basically it.
But, look, I think it's clear that Rudy knows everything about this Ukrainian deal. And so, to the extent the president continues to talk to him, I think the common sense explanation is that he wants to keep Rudy close so as to try to control Rudy and what he says publicly.
BROWN: And I wouldn't be surprised if he's doing that with Mick Mulvaney as well.
All right. Thank you all.
OUTFRONT up next, breaking news, Michael Bloomberg takes a closer step tonight to running for president. Does he have a chance?
And a new book claims White House officials resigning en masse. What stopped them? We're going to discuss, up next.
BROWN: Breaking news: Michael Bloomberg taking a major step tonight toward running for president, officially filing for Alabama's Democratic presidential primary. Bloomberg is reportedly concerned about the current candidates and their ability to beat President Trump.
Joe Biden responding tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every single poll that's run, I beat him like a drum as I said, and states in the South and states in the Midwest and states around the -- so I -- look, if he wants to run, he should just get in and run.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're not taking it personally?
BIDEN: No. No, no, no, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: OUTFRONT now, Matt Paul, Democratic strategist who met with Bloomberg about a potential 2020 run. He's also senior vice president for Cornerstone Public Affairs.
Also with us, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for the nation.
Thank you both for coming on.
Matt, to you first. Does Bloomberg really think he has a chance at beating President Trump?
MATT PAUL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think he would have done this, Pam, if he didn't believe he had a shot. When we talked in 2018 and it's been a while since he chatted and he said, look, I'm going to consider this if I believe I can win. So, clearly, something has happened from his --
BROWN: Why do you think he does?
PAUL: I think, look, why do you think he's taking a look at this? Because he cares about the country. He's interested. It's no secret to anybody that he's long expressed an interest of running and being president of the United States. I don't think there's any question about that.
But this is hard for him. We are 87 days away from Iowa, 97 percent of Iowa precinct locations are locked in and campaigns have been on the ground there for over a year working hard to organize it. So I think this is a challenge, but listen, I don't think anybody should underestimate Mike or the team that he will put around him.
BROWN: And, Joan, let's look at this recent "New York Times" poll of head-to-head matchups. Biden was barely beating Trump and other candidates that trailed him. Does Bloomberg have a point that the current field isn't strong enough?
JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think a lot of people, a lot of centrist Democrats are very concerned about Joe Biden.
I saw the vice president say in that clip, you know, I'm not -- I'm not taking this personally. He should take it very personally, it's personal. This is coming out of a real perception that he's a weak front-runner.
But on the other hand, you know, first of all, this lane -- the centrist lane is so crowded already. I think the person that this helps the most frankly is Elizabeth Warren, the person that he's out to stop along with Bernie Sanders is Elizabeth Warren and I think this really elevates her and wounds Biden.
BROWN: It's interesting because I was talking to a source close to the Trump campaign who said this could be good for Trump because the Democrats will be focusing their fire more on Bloomberg rather than on Trump. It could take some pressure off. Do you buy that, Joan?
WALSH: No, I don't buy that. They have plenty of fire for Trump and I think a lot of them will just ignore Bloomberg. I mean, you know, Pam, you could have a debate here between Michael Bloomberg and Michael Bloomberg because we have so much tape of him explaining very candidly, and clearly, in my opinion why he can't win and why there's no path.
So, I agree with Matt, he's a smart man. I can't believe he's going to waste his money. But --
BROWN: Yes. I mean, let's talk about what this path could be. He plans to skip the first early contest, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina. No one has done this successfully.
You advised Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign in Iowa. Can he win without those states?
PAUL: Well, it's not been done before. I do think it's important to point out there's been a lot of talk about Mike and he is certainly successful, he's a self-made guy.
I think it's important to remember he's also been very involved and done his politics, I think, wisely. He's been a strong supporter of climate and bringing the climate change and the need for policy there. He's done more on supporting choice and women's health care. He's done a ton on gun safety and the need for common sense gun reform in the country.
So he does have strong -- more than his money and one thing he's going to have to figure out is how does he thread this needle and move forward especially if it's Mayor Pete. I think this is an important consideration. I think there's a big impact on Vice President Biden's money which is a challenge for the Biden campaign. I think it's also this path, if it's not Elizabeth Warren as our nominee or coming out of Iowa, which the two are closely related, then this path is tougher.
And I think it's tough if it's Mayor Pete because he's built such a coalition quickly and personally in this election.
BROWN: And you talked about, Matt, some things that could work in Bloomberg's favor in terms of his record and there are other parts that will, no doubt, and are already coming under scrutiny such as stop and frisk and how that could impact voters.
BROWN: One source I spoke to close to the Trump campaign said, when it comes to Trump Versus Bloomberg, if that ever happens, said, look, the president has been battle tested over the last several years and Michael Bloomberg hasn't obviously in the same way. The question is, can he take a punch?
And the president today was asked about all of this. He seems to relish a fight with Bloomberg. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Little Michael will fail. He'll spend a lot of money. He's got some really big issues. He's got some personal problems and he's got a lot of other problems. There is nobody I'd rather run against than Little Michael, that I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, what do you think of that, Joan? What do you think of that potential matchup?
WALSH: Well, I think Michael has a lot more money than Donald Trump. He's a truly successful businessman so he could think about that.
But you go back to something that Matt said. Mayor Pete is very impressive right now, but he has not pulled together a solid coalition. He doesn't have black voters in his coalition. And right now, I have to stay, Michael Bloomberg as you just talked about, Pam, with a real, I think, in the hole with a lot of black voters because he continued to defend stop and frisk even after it was found unconstitutional.
So, you got black voters who are going to be a tough sell. I don't see him being Mr. Rust Belt guy, he's going to go back in and take Wisconsin, and Michigan and Pennsylvania. I'm not feeling that, either. So I again, the last person who tried this was his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. He was going go into Florida in 2008 and we know we never saw a President Giuliani.
BROWN: All right. We shall see how this all plays out. Thanks so much, Matt and Joan. Much appreciated.
WALSH: Thank you.
BROWN: Will OUTFRONT up next, how far were senior Trump officials willing to go to stop the president's mass resignations were reportedly on the table. So why did they end up staying?
And Elizabeth Warren is trying to win powerful Latino votes with a pitch that may pay off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am open to suspending deportations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Tonight, a midnight self-massacre. The anonymous author behind the new book "A Warning" claims that a group of senior Trump officials considered resigning en masse last year to warn about the president's conduct, but ultimately decided against it. They feared a mass resignation would further destabilize the government.
It's just one of the many revelations from the person who wrote "The New York Times" op-ed last year titled: I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration.
OUTFRONT now, Jennifer Szalai, "The New York Times" nonfiction book critic who reviewed this book.
Thanks for coming on, Jennifer. You know, this author is claiming to be a senior Trump administration official. They claim that that there was this plan to have a bunch of officials quit at once. What more can you tell us about what the author says about that incident?
JENNIFER SZALAI, NONFICTION BOOK CRITIC, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. The author doesn't say very much other than to say that it was something that was considered at some point during the first two years of the Trump presidency. And then the idea wads abandoned. And so, you know, that is one of the big revelations of this book. But it's a revelation about a road that actually wasn't taken. So --
BROWN: Yes, and so that raises this question of, what evidence this author has to back up these damning accounts, painting this picture of an incompetent president, someone who is dangerous and disturbing, who shouldn't be trusted running the government. In one case, the author describes what it's like dealing with the president's tweet, writing: It's like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants try to catch him, only your uncle doesn't have to lead the U.S. government once he puts his pants on.
Now, you know, that is a very vivid analogy, but what details does the author use to back that up?
SZALAI: Well, this is -- this is sort of big question with this book, which is because anonymous is committed at least for now to remaining anonymous and not revealing his or her identity, he or she says right at the beginning that there's not going to be too many specific details or too many even details that would necessarily give away who this person is. So, ultimately, you know, it's like an anonymously source the book where you just have to trust what the person is saying and trust that it's true.
I mean, there is indication that this is a senior-level official. There are sort of things that are mentioned that other people have said to this person, so this person seems to be trusted by other people on staff. But, you know, at the same time, we just have to take this person's word for it, which is this is sort of the naughty problem of this book I think.
BROWN: Quickly, you know, the White House responded calling this person a coward for remaining anonymous. How do you think this author will be remembered?
SZALAI: You know, I think we'll have to see. I mean, I would be surprised -- I would not be surprised if the identity is revealed at some point. I mean, the person who did write this book also does say that he or she may choose to reveal his identity in case it would help further the cause of the argument of this book. So I guess we'll see.
BROWN: We'll see. They say they don't want to reveal their identity now because they don't want to become the centerpiece of the conversation. They want it to be about the revelations in the book.
BROWN: We shall see. Jennifer, thank you so much.
SZALAI: Right. Thank you so much for having me.
BROWN: And OUTFRONT up next, Latino voters could propel a Democrat into the White House. Is Elizabeth Warren that candidate?
BROWN: Tonight, Elizabeth Warren making a big pitch to Latino voters. Warren revealing she would consider suspending all deportations as a bargaining chip for immigration reform.
Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her cry comes with her story. Her husband, she says, still detained by ICE. There were translators at the town hall, she asked Senator Elizabeth Warren --
TRANSLATOR: Will you pass a moratorium on deportations?
WARREN: I am open to suspending deportations, particularly as a way to push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.
SANTIAGO: That's new for Warren not included in her immigration plan.
After the town hall, we asked --
(on camera): You're learning toward one way or another a moratorium on deportations given that yesterday, Senator Sanders' plan does include that? And you were asked that today?
WARREN: So, the way -- the way I would describe it is I should not be spending its resources deporting those who pose no threat to us.
SANTIAGO: So, is that a yes?
WARREN: Well, don't spend your resources on our neighbors and friends.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): As Warren made her case, three daughters of immigrants sat in the front row eligible to vote.
BARBARA SOSTAITA, NORTH CAROLINA VOTER: In 2020, I'm looking for a candidate that will not only show their support for immigrants like me who have college degrees, who are fluent in English, who have upward mobility. I'm looking for a candidate who will support my parents, who will fight for people like my parents.
SANTIAGO: Barbara Sostaita is part of a fast growing piece of the potential electorate. Hispanics are projected to make up more than 13 percent of eligible voters in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, possibly exceeding the share of black voters for the first time. She says focusing on immigration is not enough to win her vote.
SERGIO GARCIA RIOS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT AND LATINO STUDIES, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: Health care is up there. But now, we see Latinos actually really worried about discrimination against Latinos and immigrants.
SANTIAGO: Sergio Garcia Rios is an expert on Latino and government studies. He argues they'll be critical in states like California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, in 2020, but they shouldn't be courted the same way by candidates.
(on camera): Are you doing any different for the Latino voters themselves?
WARREN: I think showing up is critical. And I also think talking about what would touch their lives is critical. And part of that is about immigration, but it's also about education.
SANTIAGO: As 2020 candidates figure out the best way to reach the Latino community, plans, town halls, tweets, Sostaita insists candidates must understand the diversity within the Latino community.
SANTIAGO: I spent a lot of time talking to Latino voters today here in Rally, North Carolina, and I had voters tell me they felt the Democratic Party at times took their vote for granted and acknowledged their past relationship with the last Democratic president, really celebrating President Obama for what he did for Dreamers, but also saying they haven't forgotten that he was known as the deporter in chief.
BROWN: All right. Leyla, thank you so much for bringing us the latest there from North Carolina.
And coming up on Monday, Erin hosts a Democratic town hall with Joe Biden. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.