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Mick Mulvaney Under Fire; Public Impeachment Hearings Set To Begin; Interview With Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA); Mulvaney Withdraws Request To Intervene In Lawsuit Fighting House Subpoena Power; Sources: State Department Troubled By Giuliani's Shadow Diplomacy. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 11, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: new releases. House Democrats put out the impeachment testimony from key witnesses, including the Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine policy.
Mulvaney hearing. Right now, a judge is weighing whether the White House chief of staff can join a lawsuit asking the court to decide who has to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
In public. We're just two days away from historic hearings, the first televised impeachment testimony the U.S. has seen in two decades. Will that build support for the Democrats' case against President Trump?
And shadow diplomacy. CNN has learned of serious concern inside the State Department and the National Security Council that Rudy Giuliani's efforts in not only -- not only in Ukraine, but also in other countries as well.
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: The breaking news tonight, new testimony by three key witnesses to the impeachment and great has just been released, including Laura Cooper, who oversees Pentagon Ukraine policy, as well as two senior State Department experts on Ukraine.
All of this just days before the inquiry goes public with the first televised testimony.
We will talk about the breaking news with Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's let's bring in Alex Marquardt and Phil Mattingly. They're both working the story for us.
Phil, you're up on Capitol Hill. You go first. You have been combing through this newly released testimony. What are you finding out? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, nearly
400 pages of new depositions, three career government officials, one from the Pentagon, Laura Cooper, two from the State Department, Catherine Croft, Christopher Anderson.
The two State Department individuals, former deputies to Kurt Volker, who was the special representative to Ukraine. All -- what's most, I think, drawn from what you see in this testimony is how they're all painting a consistent picture, a consistent picture that we have seen over the course of deposition after deposition after deposition.
But what Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official, does is really give an on-the-ground perspective of how -- just how unsettled the U.S. government was about the withholding of nearly $400 million in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.
Cooper laying out how the Defense Department at one point was concerned whether or not it was even legal, that they had been told by the Office of Management and Budget that it would be frozen, but they had no idea why, couldn't get answers when they reached out to individuals as to what the rationale was, something that made people both in the United States and in the embassy, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, trying to figure out what was happening.
There was also one specific meeting Laura Cooper lays out that is a new detail. She talks about an August 20 meeting with Kurt Volker, then the special representative from the U.S. to Ukraine, where he discusses the U.S. aid in question.
And she says -- quote -- "An effort that he was engaged in to see if there was a statement that the government of Ukraine would make that would somehow disavow any interference in U.S. elections and would commit to the prosecution of any individuals involved in election interference. And that was about as specific as he got."
What she said the context of that conversation was, Kurt Volker was saying that statement may be what would be contingent -- the release of that statement -- on the release of the U.S. security assistance.
Why this is important is twofold, one, the timeline. August 20, at that point, the Ukrainians they had been told were not aware that the U.S. assistance was being withheld. But also Kurt Volker, in his testimony, the deposition of which we have already seen, said repeatedly that the idea of a quid pro quo or an exchange for a statement for U.S. security assistance was not something that had been on the table.
This would appear at least to say otherwise. The statement in question something we have seen repeatedly in depositions by several administration officials, the idea that Ukrainian President Zelensky would come to the microphones, come in public and make a statement in exchange for something, either a White House meeting or, apparently, according to this testimony, U.S. security assistance, in order, the statement would say that there would be investigations into Burisma and Hunter Biden, as well as 2016 election interference. So there's one interesting element there. The other interesting
element is both Cooper, the Pentagon official, and Catherine Croft, the State Department official, making clear that the Ukrainians were aware that the -- of the hold on U.S. security assistance long before August 27, when they said they were -- the administration says they were aware based on a public news report, both individuals saying they were hearing from Ukrainians on the ground that they were aware, they were concerned and they weren't exactly sure what exactly was going on.
The administration has said repeatedly that the Ukrainians were not aware, and they were not aware that there was any potential quid pro quo on the table here. This would seem to suggest otherwise. That's noteworthy.
Another notable point from Catherine Croft's testimony that I thought was interesting -- now, this is a little bit separate from the Ukraine issue, but she says, in late 2017, Mick Mulvaney, then OMB director, now acting chief of staff, actually put a hold on the ability for the United States to distribute Javelin weapons systems to the Ukrainians.
Now, keep in mind, Wolf, the Javelins have been one of the key pieces of the Trump administration's defense that they have gone further than the Obama administration ever did in attempting to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia. And there's truth to that.
The Obama administration never Javelin missiles. They were concerned about the repercussions of that. The Trump administration did. However, at one point during the interagency process, Mick Mulvaney alone held up that process. The rationale? Concern with how the Russians would react.
So you start to see a picture of the U.S. policy here that brought concerns from some of those closest to the president, Mick Mulvaney, who has a very, very real and large role throughout the Ukrainian story, also going back to 2017 as it relates to weapons systems going to Ukraine, was involved in that as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed, and very significant.
Phil Mattingly, stand by.
I want to bring in our senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt.
Alex, this latest release of impeachment testimony, what, it comes just two days before the first public televised hearing.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right. That's exactly right, Wolf. And those are surely to be blockbuster televised events.
Now, the three officials that Phil was just talking about, Cooper, Croft and Anderson, they are not expected so far. They have not yet been invited to testify on TV. But I want to zero in on one thing that we just learned from Laura Cooper. She was talking about the confusion, the unease, the serious concern that there was for this holdup of some $400 million in aid for Ukraine.
She was at the Pentagon. And she was unclear, even when dealing with her Ukrainian counterparts, how and when that money was going to be released. And one important point that she did make was that all of the agencies at the federal -- in the federal government were united in the desire for Ukraine to get that military aid, that they had done enough to combat corruption.
One agency was the exception. That is the Office of Management and Budget that had been led by the now acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
So there are obviously a lot of questions for Mulvaney. He has been subpoenaed to testified on the Hill. He has defied that subpoena. But what we are going to see last -- later this week, Wolf, are three of the key witnesses in this impeachment inquiry who have talked about this rogue foreign policy that was led by Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The impeachment inquiry bursting into the open this week, historic appearances by witnesses who gave damning testimony behind closed doors about quid pro quo in Ukraine now set to do it in front of the TV cameras for the world to hear.
Democrats hoping the hearings will make their case the inquiry is necessary.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses.
MARQUARDT: Up first, Wednesday, the most senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Ambassador Bill Taylor, and his boss, George Kent, followed Friday by Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom the president pulled out of Ukraine after what she called a concerted campaign against her by Rudy Giuliani and others.
All three have testified to the shadow Ukraine policy that Giuliani was leading on behalf of President Trump.
A new report from "The New York Times" says that just before Ukraine's new president was sworn in, an associate of Giuliani's told the new leadership they would have to investigate the Bidens, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the inauguration and U.S. aid for Ukraine would be frozen.
The claim was made by a lawyer for the associate Lev Parnas, who has been indicted on campaign finance charges. But it has been disputed by Parnas' partner, as well as Giuliani.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn't make it any less of a sham.
MARQUARDT: Republicans have slammed the process for its secrecy. Now they're allowed to call witnesses, but Democrats have the final say. One big request from Republicans? The whistle-blower.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It is impossible to bring this case forward, in my view, fairly without us knowing who the whistle-blower is and having a chance to cross-examine them.
MARQUARDT: But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff rejecting that request, writing that testimony from the whistle-blower whose identity is still unknown, would be redundant and unnecessary and only place their security at grave risk.
The other main Republican request is Joe Biden's son Hunter, showing that the GOP intends to keep pushing the widely discredited line that the Bidens did something wrong and that this was all about corruption in Ukraine.
Another line Republicans are working on is their defense of the president, which for many on Capitol Hill has evolved into admitting he did something wrong, but not impeachable.
REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.
MARQUARDT: President Trump not pleased with any concession, tweeting that Republicans are falling for a fool's trap, saying: "It is much stronger than that. Nothing was done wrong."
MARQUARDT: And we have, of course, seeing the transcript of the now infamous call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky on July 25, in which President Trump asked for a favor from his Ukrainian counterpart, Wolf.
One thing that we are hoping to see is a transcript of another call between the two men, that call taking place some three months earlier, just after President Zelensky had been elected. It was a congratulatory call. And President Trump said we could see that transcript as soon as tomorrow, something obviously we would be examining very closely -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly will.
Alex Marquardt, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all the breaking news right now.
Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania is joining us. She's a key member of the Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news.
These transcripts from three more witnesses just within the last hour or so have been released, including the first witness from the Pentagon, Laura Cooper, testifying that the Pentagon's position was that money to Ukraine should flow. It had been appropriated, authorized by the House and the Senate, signed into law by the president.
But she was told all of a sudden in late August that Ukraine might have to commit to investigating the president -- investigating on the president's behalf in order to get that money.
So what's your reaction to that?
DEAN: And I read as quickly as I could some of the synopsis of her testimony
And what's damning about it is, it says that the president -- she testifies that the president directed through the Office of Management and Budget the withholding of the $391 million worth of military aid to Ukraine.
She worried about the legality of that. She was not alone in that worry. And she also said that Ambassador Volker implied the exact same thing. That's damning testimony, but it is showing of a pattern.
We have courageous career employees who have served in administrations Democratic and Republican who have come forward courageously to tell the truth about this -- this shadow State Department run by Rudy Giuliani, having messengers like Lev Parnas telling folks at Ukraine that, if they want to get that aid, congressionally authorized dollars, they're going to have to deliver in an extortion kind of way.
This is an administration that's in grave danger.
BLITZER: How do House investigators, Congresswoman, determine who specifically gave the order to withhold the money to Ukraine and why if the White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who also runs the Office of Management and Budget, and other officials at OMB won't testify?
DEAN: Well, I think, obviously, the Laura Cooper testimony is directly connected to that.
She's a corroborating witness to that. Lev Parnas is now becoming relevant witness, turning on Mr. Giuliani. I think it's also important to go back to -- and we will have the chance to hear from him in public -- the charge d'affaires, Mr. Taylor, Bill Taylor, who's first up on Wednesday.
He is eloquent in terms of our relationship with Ukraine and Ukraine's relationship with us. I think it's important to listen to what he has to say and the concerns that became very apparent to him of the secondary shadow foreign policy being run by Giuliani that was not in parallel with the best interest of our country, in the best interest of our elections, in the best interest of safety for Ukraine.
And then if you mirror that or marry that with Ambassador Yovanovitch, who will be testifying later this week, again, a career diplomat who wanted only the safety and security of our country and Ukraine and peace in that region against a foreign foe who had occupied, is occupying Ukraine, under military threat, Russia, and then the threats that she suffered, the smears that she's suffered, as somebody serving our country, these layers of pattern of behavior of, frankly, extortion by this administration of Ukraine to interfere with our elections in order to support the president's reelection, not peace and diplomacy, it's stunning testimony.
And it's corroborated over and over and over again.
BLITZER: The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, could have just followed President Trump's orders not to cooperate with the investigation.
Instead, Mulvaney asked that a federal court make that decision. That's strange. How do you interpret that?
DEAN: I'm not sure how to interpret it.
I'm not in on those legal arguments. I'm assuming he wanted clarity as to his obligations. What we do know is that the president's stopping of testimony by people who are under subpoena is not lawful. There is no blanket immunity that the president can offer these people who are public servants.
And so I'm not sure his motivation for seeking that. I believe what he ought to do is appear, testify and tell the truth about what has happened.
Of course, he did tell the truth in that famous, now infamous, press conference, where he said, of course there's a quid pro quo. We do it all the time. Get over it.
And then he tried to backpedal that. So he's going to have a problem of credibility, no matter when and where he testifies. But, certainly, he has an important front-row seat as to the withholding of aid by this administration, by this president to a foreign -- a foreign democracy, a friend of ours.
And, remember -- people need to remember, this is constitutionally -- it is congressionally authorized aid. This was not up to the president to decide if or when to distribute the aid.
BLITZER: The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says he's not waiting for the various lawsuits to play out. That could take quite a while.
Are Democrats in the process, though, forfeiting some valuable testimony from Mick Mulvaney, among others, that could be critical?
DEAN: We're not forfeiting, but we're not going to wait.
I know that our own Judiciary Committee is moving forward with lawsuits and seeking legal clarity from another co-equal branch, the judiciary. But we do know that that could take weeks, months or even years, which would be just to the benefit of this administration.
So we have to do both. We have to pursue our legal remedies to get testimony from others who have relevant things to tell us. But in the face of the extraordinary obstruction, we have never seen an administration who has told people to not obey a lawful subpoena by a co-equal branch of government.
So, in the face of that, we're going to get all the testimony that we can get. I'm very proud of the work of Chairman Schiff and his committee, the hours that they have poured into, along with our Republican colleagues -- don't forget, they're there in the room also -- that they have poured into gathering the evidence to put in front of the American people of the wrongdoing of this administration.
It is about the president's oath of office. It is about abuse of power, but it is just as equally important it is about our congressional oath of office.
I swore on January 3 that I would uphold the Constitution. And I know that all members of Congress honor and believe in that oath. So I'm very proud of what Intelligence is doing in the meantime, now bringing them to public hearings.
And then, of course, at some point, Judiciary will get a full report, so that we can consider what articles of impeachment we would want to move forward with.
BLITZER: As you know, "The New York Times" is reporting that Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuliani's indicted associates, now says he told the Ukrainians in may -- in May -- that they wouldn't be getting military aid and a visit from the vice president, Mike Pence, unless Ukraine opened up an investigation into the Bidens.
Both Giuliani, by the way, and his associate Igor Fruman, also indicted, deny this.
How do you assess the credibility of this latest claim?
DEAN: It's difficult to assess.
These -- both gentlemen are under indictment. It's problematic that they were working for Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani acting as the president's private attorney, unpaid, puzzling, in that, and also having other clients that would be in direct conflict with anything to do with the president and the administration.
But what the testimony that Lev Parnas, Mr. Parnas, is putting forward is that he was the messenger, that Giuliani made him a messenger to Ukraine representatives, upper-level representatives in Ukraine, to say, you need to play ball with us if you want that aid released.
I can't assess the credibility. We haven't seen his testimony, nor have we seen him testify. But we can assess the credibility of Mr. Giuliani, whose credibility, he has himself poured away in buckets.
He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. But he also is doing a very grave injustice to this country to say that he represents the president personally and is interfering with the State Department and our diplomatic efforts in Ukraine.
There's very serious behaviors there.
BLITZER: The public televised series will start Wednesday morning.
What lessons have Democrats, Congresswoman, learned from the Mueller hearings going forward now with this new round of impeachment hearings?
DEAN: Lessons learned, I think -- I believe, on our side, we were quite disciplined to try to get at the facts.
We were faced with a Republican Party that tried -- the Republicans on the other side of the dais, who tried to make a circus of that hearing, that was disappointing. We did have really talented cross- examination by Barry Berke, our staff attorney, at the end of the hearing.
And I guess one thing that we may have learned is, change the timing around. Sometimes, it's better to get right to the testimony right up front that -- while people are paying attention.
I know we need -- many of these hearings go on for hours and hours. And we need to be able to lay out as many of the salient facts as possible early, so we keep the attention of the American people, so that they will see the evidence and the facts, so that they can judge for themselves.
In the end, impeachment is a very serious and somber place to go. Our caucus takes no joy in it. And we can't go there without the support and the persuasion of the American people, of corruption and wrongdoing by this president that would be worthy of this last resort of impeachment.
So I hope what we have learned is to continue to do what we did, which was, in a disciplined way, put forward the facts that we could, even combating the circus of the Republican members of the committee, but right up front make sure that we get the most salient, important facts in front of the American people.
BLITZER: Republicans, as you know, they want to focus on the motivations of the so-called whistle-blower and on the Bidens' work in Ukraine.
Do Democrats have a strategy to keep these hearings on track? DEAN: Yes. Our strategy is to focus on the facts.
This nonsense about process is -- shows the weakness of the Republicans' hand and the willingness to continue to stand for a president. Instead of saying, you're right, there's something gravely wrong with trying to extort a foreign leader for help in interfering with the next election of this president, instead of saying, no, I get it, there's -- that's basically just very, very wrong, they're going to holler about process, holler about process and who should they have in.
And imagine trying to expose a whistle-blower. There's an important whistle-blower set of statutes that protect courageous people who want us to know things that are going wrong in our government.
So, I call upon my Republican colleagues to stop that and to focus on the facts. If the president has exculpatory information and witnesses, evidence, bring it forward. We have laid out a process that allows them to do that.
But you notice that there's none of that. It's only a pounding of the table over process and the Bidens.
The American people see through that. And we, the Democrats, take this occasion and this journey very, very seriously. But we have to do it. We have to uphold our oath of office to the Constitution, to the rule of law, and say that this president and anyone around him is not above the rule of law.
BLITZER: These will be historic hearings, no doubt about that.
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, thanks so much for joining us.
DEAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The breaking news continues next, with new details emerging right now from the transcripts of three key impeachment inquiry witnesses that have just been released.
Plus, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani now reportedly claiming the president's personal lawyer directed him to deliver an ultimatum to Ukrainian officials.
BLITZER: We have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Let's go immediately go to our chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, a potentially very significant reversal by the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The president, as you know, Wolf, is heading into a period of massive uncertainty this week, as the inquiry's public hearings get under way. But one thing that we should point out, his own acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, he has been seeking guidance from a federal judge as to whether or not he is able to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
Earlier, Mulvaney was trying to insert himself into a lawsuit filed by a separate national security official over here at the White House, Charles Kupperman, who is no longer on the National Security Council.
But now Mulvaney just filed something in federal court essentially saying that he's no longer going to insert himself into that proceeding and is going to launch into his own lawsuit against the White House, against the administration, seeking this guidance from a federal judge as to whether or not he can testify.
The White House says he has immunity, but Democrats want him up on Capitol Hill. But, at this point, the White House is insisting there's nothing wrong with Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, going into a legal battle against the White House.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As public hearings loom in the impeachment inquiry, President Trump is pleading with Republicans not to stray from his talking points on his phone call with the leader of Ukraine, tweeting: "The call to the Ukrainian president was perfect. Republicans, don't be led into the fool's trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. Nothing was done wrong."
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who has yet to hold a briefing with reporters, complained about the inquiry on FOX, arguing that the public hearings this week won't be open enough.
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are public hearings starting this week, but, clearly, they're not going to be public, because we don't get to have anybody from our side out there to tell our side of the story.
So this is going to be -- excuse me -- more of the same as last week. We don't expect anything different.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSECORRESPONDENT: Also sharpening their message, Democrats who are insisting Mr. Trump did something far worse than engage in a quid pro quo and seeking dirt on Joe Biden.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): When you're trying to persuade the American people of something that is really pretty simple, which is that the president acted criminally and extorted in a way a mob boss would extort somebody, a vulnerable foreign country, it's probably best not to use Latin words to explain it. ACOSTA: Democrats hope to hear from acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who wants to join the lawsuit against the president that would determine whether he should follow White Houseorders and defy a subpoena to testify. It was Mulvaney who essentially conceded there was a quid pro quo, adding, get over it.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Mick Mulvaney put himself in the center of this controversy and therefore, I think, needs to account for himself.
ACOSTA: A White House official defended Mulvaney's move saying in a statement, having the president be on the lawsuit is a technicality given the competing instructions given to Mr. Mulvaney. The lawsuit is non-adversarial as to the president and in no way indicates any distance between the president and acting chief.
There are also questions of the future of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine adviser who testified in the inquiry and was blasted as a never-Trumper by the president. The national security adviser hinted Vindman may leave his position at the National Security Council.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS HOST: But his time is coming?
ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There's only a point for everybody who's detailed there that they detail will come to an end, they'll go back to their agency.
ACOSTA: And there is a reminder of the turmoil in the administration that existed long before the impeachment inquiry began. As former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley writes in a new book that former Chief of State Rex Tillerson and ex-Chief of Staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to undermine the president to, quote, save the country.
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Instead of saying that to me, they should have been saying that to the president, not asking me to join them on their sidebar plan. It should have been go tell the president what your differences are and quit if you don't like what he's doing. But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing.
ACOSTA: Now, as for Alexander Vindman, a senior administration official said the lieutenant colonel remains on the job at the National Security Council. The official said, Vindman would likely cycle out of his position at the National Security Council when it's his scheduled time to leave.
But, Wolf, getting back to the breaking news just coming in a few moments ago, the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is saying in federal court that he no longer wants to join in on the lawsuit filed by the former national security council official, Charles Kupperman.
Now, Mulvaney wants to essentially sue the administration on his own. So a very strange situation heading into this week of public hearings where the acting chief of staff is legally on the opposite end of his own boss. And there are big implications if Mulvaney is cleared by the federal judge to testify, we could see the acting chief of staff testifying in this inquiry. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, that would be really, really significant. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper into all of this with our experts and analysts. And, Jeffrey Toobin, so what's your reaction in this dramatic shift in Mulvaney's strategy to try to avoid testifying?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I'm going to say the three words you're never allowed to say on cable news. I don't know. This whole thing is so bizarre.
I mean, let's keep in mind that the Democrats who run the Intelligence Committee have already said they're not going to court to get anyone to testify. They're going with the people that they have. So this whole court battle is sort of a side show. Bolton is not testifying, Mulvaney is not testifying, Kupperman is not testifying, they can fight themselves silly in the courts. But the Democrats who are on the committee are moving forward anyway.
So I don't understand why Mulvaney feels obligated to go to court when he's not going to be testifying anyway.
BLITZER: But the difference between Kupperman and Bolton, Jeffrey, is that they're former officials and have got private attorneys. Mulvaney, instead of going through the White House Counsel to resist testifying, is doing it through a private attorney he's hired. How do you explain that?
TOOBIN: I can't explain it. I find his behavior very bizarre. I don't understand why he's going to court at all, where if he just sits there in the White House, he's not going to testify, because the committee is not going to try to force him to testify.
There are any number of White House officials who have simply said, I'm not coming and the committee is leaving them alone. Mulvaney could do the same thing. I don't understand why he feels obligated to go to court when the fact of going to court is not going to -- he still going to not testify one way or another. It's just very strange and I wish I could explain it.
BLITZER: Well, let me get Susan Hennessey into this. The only thing I suspect, and it's totally just my suspicion, is that it's connected to a certain degree with Mulvaney being on thin ice right now with the president after that disastrous news conference he had a couple of weeks ago.
The president has been asked several times to voice his support for Mulvaney. It's been lukewarm at best.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think it is a result of sort of the precarious political situation the White House finds itself in.
Now, there is no legal provision that actually prevents somebody like Mulvaney from going and complying with a congressional subpoena. And that's been revealed by the fact that Gordon Sondland, Bill Taylor, Alexander Vindman, Laura Cooper, Tim Morrison, current official after current official has defied the president and gone and testified anyway. And that leaves very little room for somebody like Mulvaney to hide, and has suggests somehow he isn't able to testify. It makes it very, very clear that this is really just about his choice.
And so I think what's doing in attempting to find some recourse in the court is he's trying to find some excuse, getting a court to either declare that he has immunity or getting a court day to essentially decline to weigh in.
Now, Mulvaney had attempted to join the suit by Kupperman and John Bolton, and, actually, Bolton and Kupperman had objected to that. They said that Mulvaney was in a different position in part because he had given this press conference.
Now, some people have speculated one of reason Mulvaney might have wanted to join that suit because it had been assigned to a judge who has known to be relatively overtly partisan and having use about executive power that might be quite favorable to the president.
Now, Mulvaney is saying, well, I'm going to go it alone. But at the end, this is really all about a delay strategy. If there is ongoing proceedings that might take a very long time to resolve, that will give Mulvaney something to hide behind some reason to justify the reason he isn't testifying. Because, remember, it's the president of the United States that is blocking that testimony.
Donald Trump is coming out and saying, this was a perfect phone call, it was a beautiful phone call, and yet we do not have an explanation for why a president who believes that is attempting to block the testimony of his own aides, people who he claims will be in a position to actually vindicate him and defend him. And so I think this is really about sort of a distraction and the fundamentally untenable position that the president has put his entire staff in.
BLITZER: Bianna Golodyrga, do you think Mulvaney is worried that he potentially could be the so-called fall guy in all of this?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he likely feels very worried. And just to follow-up on what Susan said, the only other person who has come out publicly close to this administration, who has been involved throughout this drama with Ukraine is Mulvaney, who said also that there was nothing wrong with this call.
Now, whether he thought coming forward last month, remember, that was all about Dural and bringing the G7 there. That was the purpose of him coming out and having that press conference. Whether he thought he could just slip in the rationale for withholding the aid and the meeting and explaining that transcript and the phone call and that the story would be over, whether he thought that's what would transpire clearly was not the case. And it seems to blow up this argument or strategy that many Republicans have now that say, hey, it's not the president that should be to blame but it's these three other associates of his that concocted this plan, and that Sondland and Mulvaney and Giuliani.
It's clear that they are not willing to take the bullet for this president at this point. Because as you have mentioned, Mulvaney could have well said I'm just not going to come forward and speak because the president and the White House told me not to. He is proceeding down the legal path right now.
And everything that we're hearing from this transcript that's coming out from all of these testimonies points the finger to him being implicitly involved in withholding that money. In fact, it was the July 23rd phone call that we're now hearing about, a conference call where Mick Mulvaney was telling an aid that it was the president himself that wanted that money to be withheld.
Mick Mulvaney, throughout all of this, has been implicated and this is a very precarious situation for him to be in as well.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
Phil Mudd, we've now seen the testimony, the transcript just released from the Pentagon's perspective, a senior Pentagon official's testimony. The Pentagon thought it was essential for Ukraine to get this nearly $400 million in defense-related assistance. They got absolutely no answers as to why the money was being withheld. How concerning is that?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think this is more interesting than it looks. If you start reading the transcript, it's very boring at the outset. If you want to understand why government is a pain, start reading that transcript.
But there is a critical clue in there and that is the confusion around how the president decided that corruption was critical when the government -- the U.S. government had said the Ukrainians are doing fine, and the fact, Wolf, that when you get around that confusion is really simple. The White House, when there's a decision, brings in the people from around the government, the secretary of state, secretary of defense, Office of Management and Budget that has to release the money and says, the president has made a decision based on policy reasons, go execute and we'll talk about this every week going forward to the Ukrainians comply.
None of that happened. Why? It's because the president made a political conclusion that he wanted research into the Bidens, this had nothing to do with Ukrainian corruption and everybody was confused because only the president and his political advisers knew what was going.
That's what happened. BLITZER: David Swerdlick, it's interesting, because Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, testified that in late August, Kurt Volker, who was then the special envoy for Ukraine, no longer, told her that Ukraine might get that money if they agreed to launching those political investigations that the president wanted. Does that change our understanding of the timeline?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf, we've all seen that footage of President Zelensky and President Trump talking to each other at the U.N. in September, and Zelensky sort of waived of the idea that he felt like he was under pressure from the White House.
But if you look at the Deputy Assistant Secretary Cooper's testimony and you'd at some of those text messages between these various ambassadors, back in July, Ambassador Volker had texted Andrey Yermak, Zelensky's aide, that, look, when the president talks to Zelensky on the phone, July 25th, way ahead of this, that he was going to ask him to, quote, get to the bottom of what was going on in 2016, whatever that means.
Then you go to August, there's a flurry of text messages between Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker about the president wanting the deliverable. And then you get to the end of August, you just had Senator Johnson on with Jake on Sunday acknowledging that he had to pressure the president to sort of move forward with releasing the aid or at least saying he wanted to know why the aid wasn't being released, I should say.
So you have a situation where even though upfront, there was this idea that there was no worry from the Ukrainians. Behind the scenes both on the Ukrainian side and the American side, there was this back and forth going on about whether or not aid would be released and what needed to be done for the aid to be released.
BLITZER: And just a few minutes ago, Susan Hennessey, the president tweeted this, and let put it up on the screen. In order to continue being the most transparent president in history, I will be releasing sometime this week the transcript of the first and therefore most important phone call I had with the president of Ukraine. I am sure you will find it tantalizing. What do you think?
HENNESSEY: Yes. I think this is part of the president's strategy of trying to get everybody to focus just on this phone call. So, initially, it was just on that second July 25th phone call the question of whether or not that phone call, that transcript or call memorandum that the White House released, actually there was evidence of a quid pro quo in that call.
Now, I think he is trying to use this new transcript, seeing if he can muddy the waters a little bit more in order to sort of get to build some momentum and build something for his defenders to actually grab to. And, really, their strategy has been attempting to limit the scope of the question. They're saying, no, no, no, this is just about what occurred on these phone calls.
The problem is that what we're seeing in all this testimony is that these phone calls were just the culmination or one point in a broad, wide-ranging, systematic campaign that was being driven by the White House to actually hold up that military aid until the Ukrainians gave the president what he wanted, whatever the president might have said on those phone calls themselves, which are, of course, important, but there were other channels that were being undertaken to communicate the fundamental message, what the president wanted, what the deliverable was.
Part of that was being communicated through official U.S. government channels, places like the State Department. And, of course, part of that was being conveyed through this sort of shadow foreign policy essentially being run by people like Rudy Giuliani.
And so I think the president is showing to the extent to which he's incredibly nervous, really, really trying to say this is just about these calls, this is just about my specific behavior. And that's why it's so incredibly important that we're seeing the House Intelligence Committee release the transcripts of all of these other officials who can provide the context of a larger situation and what was going on around the period of time and, really, what those phone calls meant.
BLITZER: Very briefly, Jeffrey Toobin, step back for a second and give us the big picture, the history of what we're about to see this week with these televised hearings.
TOOBIN: Well, this is a defining event of the decade. In the 1970s, Peter Rodino supervising the House Judiciary Committee that wound up recommending the impeachment of Richard Nixon, Henry Hyde supervising the hearings that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. In every review of the decade, you see that.
And here, it's going to be even more dramatic because most of these people have never been seen in public before. By the time we got around to the impeachment hearings of Nixon and Clinton, the cast of characters was familiar. This will be new and the public will be hearing it all for the first time.
BLITZER: Very significant. Good wrap-up of that.
Everybody stick around. An important note to our viewers, be sure to watch later tonight as former Vice President Joe Biden takes questions from voters in a CNN Democratic Presidential town hall. CNN's Erin Burnett moderates live from Iowa, that's later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern.
Just ahead, CNN investigates Rudy Giuliani's shadow diplomacy. It turns out Ukraine is only one of several countries where the president's personal lawyer is exerting his influence.
BLITZER: The impeachment inquiry has put intense scrutiny on Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine.
But that's not the only country where the president's personal lawyer has exerted outside influence.
CNN senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, has been looking into it.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Brazil's president attended a U.N. General Assembly in late September, he was recovering from surgery, only on the ground for 30 hours. He reportedly didn't meet with any heads of state. He did, however, meet with Rudy Giuliani.
It's a prime example how Giuliani's position as President Trump's pro bono lawyer has given him unprecedented access to foreign leaders and how those leaders treat him as a representative of the president.
A CNN review finds Giuliani has met or communicated with top government officials of at least seven countries since becoming Trump's attorney. His actions so troubling sources inside the U.S. State Department tell CNN they track Rudy Giuliani's comments which sometimes contradict U.S. policy.
ANDREW MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There are those in the state Department and the professional U.S. national security apparatus who view Giuliani as a shadow secretary of state.
GRIFFIN: Giuliani left public office as New York's mayor back in 2001. Since then he's made millions in speaking fees and security and safety consulting contracts all over the globe.
But being associated with Donald Trump has opened new doors at the top levels. He traveled to Uruguay where he met with the president. He got rare access to the king of Bahrain and the crown prince and sat down with the defense secretary of Armenia.
Usually introduced or referred to as President Trump's adviser. And in almost every case, there is something else. The president's unpaid trusted adviser is seeking to cash in -- security contracts in Bahrain, hired in Uruguay, speaking fees in Armenia.
Former State Department official Andrew Miller says it's hard to tell who Giuliani works for and foreign governments are taking no chances.
MILLER: It is dangerous when you have someone who's interests are not aligned with the U.S. government, and that makes it a possibility that there's going to be some type of compromising of U.S. national security interests.
GRIFFIN: The top example so far is Ukraine, where Giuliani was paid $500,000 by a shady businessman who wanted the U.S. ambassador ousted. Giuliani convinced President Trump to get rid of her and also pushed for a Ukrainian investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. But it's not the only example where Giuliani's business interests contradicted or directed U.S. foreign policy. In Romania, he was paid to write a letter in support of a corrupt businessman, in direct contrast to the U.S. policy of urging Romania to crack down on corruption.
SEBASTIAN BURDUJA, NATIONAL LIBERAL PARTY OF ROMANIA: There was Mr. Giuliani basically siding with the crooks.
GRIFFIN: In Albania, he advocated for regime change in Iran. This is also not the official policy of the United States.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Hi, Mr. Giuliani, Drew Griffin with CNN.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Yes, sir, how are you?
GRIFFIN: Can I ask you a few questions?
(voice over): Asked this week about cashing in on the Trump presidency, Giuliani became defensive.
GIULIANI: That is the -- that is a totally unfair question. Not unexpected from the corrupt news network. And the reality is that everything I've done is totally legal.
GRIFFIN: Senator Tom Udall is one of a half dozen Democrats in the Senate asking the Department of Justice if Giuliani's actions and failure to register under the Foreign Agents Act is breaking the law.
SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM): With what we see out there and the multiple clients around the world, his meetings with the Trump administration, with the president, with various administration officials, there's no doubt that I think that there's a real issue here.
GRIFFIN: Giuliani insists he is only guilty of one thing, defending the president.
GIULIANI: I am in private law practice. I practice law honorably and well. Never had a complaint, never had an issue ever in 50 years of private law practice.
And I am being targeted by CNN because I am proving that you are corrupt in your coverage of the president all throughout this impeachment proceeding.
GRIFFIN: And, Wolf, while Giuliani thinks he's done nothing illegal, others in the U.S. diplomatic corps aren't so sure, one of which, the president's own top former Russian adviser, Fiona Hill, who testified she thought there may be some legal questions as to what was behind Giuliani's work -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Drew. Thank you. Excellent reporting as usual.
And to our viewers, stay with us. There's more news just ahead. (COMEMRCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Finally, tonight, the nation is honoring our servicemen and women who keep our country safe. Vice President Pence place a wreathed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and President Trump addressed the opening ceremony of the New York City Veterans Day parade.
On behalf -- on behalf of all of us here at CNN, we thank our military veterans for their service.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.