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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Infighting Consumers White House, Trump Frustrated with Mulvaney; Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Inquiry and Public Hearings; NYT: Trump Considered Firing Intel Inspector General. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired November 12, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Tomorrow, for the first time in a generation and only the fourth time ever Americans will hear testimony in the impeachment of a president.

In a few moments, we'll be joined by one of the lawmakers involved and talk about what to expect.

But we also have new reporting on turmoil at the White House in advance of tomorrow's testimony. As well as president Trump weighing in the possibility of firing the intelligence community inspector general who decided the whistle-blower's complaint had merit in the first place.

We begin, though, tonight, keeping them honest with a look at how President Trump and his supporters may plan to battle back. The plan is outlined in a memo drafted by Republican staffers on the Hill and circulated to GOP members on key committees.

And it is important to look closely at this memo because whatever you may think of the president, or the case that he tried to extort Ukraine's president for political gain, there is a lot in the talking points which are just not true.

So, let's look at talking point number one for Republicans to use when discussing Ukraine affair. The rough summary of the July 25th phone call shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure. Now, this is not quite as far as what the president, of course, has been saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That call was a great call. It was a perfect call. A perfect call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So Republicans will be saying, yes, maybe not perfect but there was no pressure in the call.

Now, take a look. Here is the key sentence from the rough call transcript immediately after Ukraine's President Zelensky asked about the military assistance his country has yet to see, the president says right away, I would like to you do us a favor though -- clearly connecting the favor to the aid.

He then asked for investigations into the 2016 election and then the other thing, the Bidens investigating them. No talking corruption in general, no list of Ukrainians the president thinks should be investigated, no list for the Treasury Department of Ukrainians who are on a watch list. No, it's the Bidens and 2016.

And, of course, many of the impeachment witnesses have already substantiated this behind closed doors. But in any event, the best evidence of what the president wanted comes from the president himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call?

TRUMP: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Which brings us to Republican talking point number two, namely that neither side saw anything improper about the call. Now, that has been a familiar refrain from the president's defenders all along, including today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Well, the bottom line is the only two people that are at the heart of this are President Trump and President Zelensky and we've already seen the transcripts. So, what other people think about a conversation is really secondary to the fact that the two men that were participating in the conversation both said it was a good call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Or put another way, Congressman Scalise is saying that the alleged extortionist and his alleged victim agree that nothing happened.

Now, others were on the call. Some have already testified to what they heard. NSC staffer Alexander Vindman saying, quote, there was no ambiguity, and, quote, no doubt about what the president was doing. So, that makes them 0 for 2 so far.

Furthermore, "The New York Times" has reported concern about the pressure to investigate by Trump and Giuliani. Pressure they came close according to "The Times" to giving into in order to get the held-up aid.

So, let's see if talking point three stands up to the facts. Here it is, that the Ukrainians were not even aware that the military aid had been frozen. This is an oldie but a goody.

In fact, testimony throughout the closed-door hearings including from witness Catherine Croft released just yesterday suggest that the Ukrainians knew very early in the affair that the aid had been frozen by the Office of Management and Budget.

And finally, there's talking point four. You can call it no harm, no foul. No investigations were done and the aid eventually flowed. So, no problem.

Nikki Haley has lately been making this argument. Kellyanne Conway has and others.

But keep them honest, the aid only began flowing nearly a year after it was approved by Congress, shortly after, the whistle-blower complaint became known to the administration. So, there's no telling how this hold up impacted the fight in Ukraine. Did people die because of the holdup?

And, again, according to "The Times", Ukraine officials were close to giving in to the extortion, but then came the whistle-blower. So, furthermore, as many legal minds have also pointed out, attempted bribery and attempted extortion are still considered crimes.

More now on those new signs of infighting in the White House. Let's got to Jim Acosta for that.

So what are you learning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's a picture of chaos as the president heads into this very different phase for him in the impeachment inquiry, very public phase with officials testifying in front of cameras up on Capitol Hill.

Anderson, my colleagues and I over here at the White House are hearing from our sources that when Mick Mulvaney the acting chief of staff started these legal maneuverings a few days ago, first he would join this lawsuit in federal court that would determine whether or not he should respond to these congressional subpoenas up on Capitol Hill and testify.

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And then yesterday, he decided he's going to pull out of that legal challenge and pose his own legal challenge, file his own lawsuit and then this morning, we find out he's scrapping the whole thing altogether and going back to the original legal guidance from the administration that he's immune from testifying under this subpoena that has been issued for his testimony.

And, Anderson, what we're hearing from our sources is that the White House Counsel's Office is very upset. The president is very upset about this. They are aggravated with Mick Mulvaney for opening up this Pandora's box right before these public hearings get started.

In the words of one official inside the administration, what the hell was he thinking? And, Anderson, what it shows to us heading into these hearings is that, you know, there is a lot of in-fighting and chaos going on behind the scenes in this administration at a very critical moment for the president.

COOPER: Is there -- how are they gearing up for the televised hearings?

ACOSTA: Well, we understand that the White House is trying to put up a rapid response team and they've been talking about this for weeks. I talked to a source in the last couple of hours who said not all of the team members are in place, that the paperwork is still being put through for some key members of that rapid response team. The Trump campaign is going to be doing its own war room, its own rapid response in terms of what is coming out of the hearings.

But you do get the sense, Anderson, from the White House and the Trump campaign and Republicans up on Capitol Hill, that they're all sort of working off different and somewhat dated talking points. They're all trying to say the same thing that the president did nothing wrong but now the public will get a chance to decide for themselves watching this in living color.

COOPER: Yes. And, of course, the question, I -- you know, I assume the president will watch the proceedings and the White House said oh, no he's not and he's very busy but we know he watches in normal times.

ACOSTA: He watches everything. That's right. He watches us all time and he watches Fox to make himself feel better.

But, Anderson, my understanding is that, yes, the president will watch the proceedings. He's going to be glued to his TV, as always, with smartphone in hand, ready to respond. The question is, just how he responds to all this, and I talked to a source close to the White House earlier who said the president has pushed out of this administration, pushed out of this West Wing all of the people who push back on him.

And so, the message coming from the one source is an alarming one and that is the president is likely to be pretty unrestrained when it comes to his responses to what we're about to hear later on this week, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta -- Jim, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

COOPER: More on what to expect tomorrow. Proceedings begin at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Scheduled to testify, Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state, and the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Both have already spoken closed session. Opening stations will be heard at about 10:05.

According to the format, the chairman, Congressman Adam Schiff, and the ranking Republican will have 45 minutes to ask questions or have designated staffers do the questioning. Additional similar rounds may be added at the chairman's discretion. Following that, the members will alternate by party each having five minutes of Q&A time. The day is expected to end no later than 4:30.

I want to talk about it now with one of the lawmakers who will be part of the proceedings and the history being made tomorrow, California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, member of the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

Just in terms of the approach from the Democrats, could you give a sense of how planned it is, is there a coordinated effort from the top down where every Democrat has a certain part they are focusing on? What can you say?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Anderson, for your question.

We're going to let the witnesses speak for themselves. In this case, Ambassador bill Taylor was hand-picked by the Trump station to go to Ukraine to fix things up and the American people will hear them talk about the president's abuse of power and how the president did this whole pressure campaign to try to bribe Ukrainians to launch two bogus investigations into the DNC server, as well as Biden.

And we're going to have 45 minutes of uninterrupted time for one side and then it will flip to the other side and that gives a lot more time for the American people to get the story in big chunks.

COOPER: So that 45-minute chunk, do you know, is it Adam Schiff doing the questioning or is he going to make a statement and then hand it off to an attorney who's going to be questioning?

LIEU: So, we'll hear opening statements and under the rules of the House passed, either Adam Schiff or one of the staff attorneys can ask questions of Ambassador Bill Taylor as well as of Mr. Kent. I was at the witness deposition for Ambassador Bill Taylor and in that deposition, both Congressman Schiff and staff attorneys asked questions, as well as the Republicans.

And so you're going to have alternating 45-minute blocks and when that is done, then the members of the committee will get to ask five-minute questions.

COOPER: And you said there is opening statements. Is that opening statements by both the ranking Republican and Democrat or by the witness themselves also.

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LIEU: It is my understanding you'll get both will happen.

COOPER: OK. Both from the witness and the two --

LIEU: That is correct.

COOPER: OK. The Republican central message tomorrow is essentially President

Trump, you know, may have done this but his intentions were pure and there really wasn't a conditionality in the phone call. When you hear that, what do you think?

LIEU: The American people should watch the witnesses and decide for themselves because the witnesses are going to contradict every single Republican talking point. It is very clear that this phone call Donald Trump had with the Ukrainian leader wasn't just a one-off phone call. It was the entire pressure campaign to get Ukrainians to launch two bogus investigations to influence our election and the president used the withholding of critical security aid and dangling an important meeting with the White House in order to bribe Ukrainians to engage in this election interference. That's what all of the witnesses are going to say, not only this week, but also next week, where additional hearings have been announced.

COOPER: How likely is it that, you know, Republicans will, according to a plan, to push and debunk conspiracy theories that it was Ukraine that interfered in the election and not Russia and unsupported claimed about the Bidens, is it a tale of two different committee meetings and Democrats will ask questions and then Republicans will focus on their theories?

LIEU: The difference is you're going to have career diplomats, going to have Trump's own people testifying against him. The American people are going to see that these are witnesses that cannot have the credibility questioned. Bill Taylor is a West Point graduate. He served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne and you have amazing witnesses that are going to be able to push back on all of the Republican talking points.

And by the way, it was just announced today that the Justice Department is looking at expanding its case against a 13 Russians that interfered in our elections. Those are Russians. They're not Ukrainians.

And our entire intelligence community understands and has said it is the Russians that hacked us in 2016, not the Ukrainians.

COOPER: And this new reporting from "The New York Times" that the president has considered firing the inspector general who he actually appointed. If the president were to actually do that, is that something that could potentially become part of an overall impeachment inquiry?

LIEU: Absolutely. Inspector general's job is to root out fraud and waste and abuse of power, is not to be loyal to the president. And again this is Trump's own hand-picked person that is now trying to tell the truth to the American people, and tomorrow, the American people are going to see a story come out, a narrative that is unchallenged which is the president solicited foreign interference in the campaign and used all of the levers of governmental power and private attorney Rudy Giuliani to extract these bogus examinations in exchange for giving hundreds of million dollars to Ukrainians and an important White House meeting. COOPER: Congressman Lieu, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

LIEU: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, more breaking news. That new reporting from "The New York Times" Maggie Haberman on action that the president has been weighing against, as we just talked about, the intelligence committee inspector general, the man he is reportedly furious at.

Also tonight, Tony Schwartz who wrote the book "The Art of the Deal" on what's in the president's head, and how he may be with hearings starting tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:27]

COOPER: In addition to infighting in the White House on the eve of impeachment inquiry, there is breaking news on the president that would be radioactivity, a story in "The New York Times" with Maggie Haberman on the byline.

And according from the lead, quote: President Trump has discussed dismissing the intelligence inspector general, Michael Atkinson, because Mr. Atkinson reported a whistle-blower complaint about Mr. Trump's interactions with Ukraine to Congress after concluding it was credible, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

In fact, the report goes on to say the president has continues to talk about fire the inspector general.

Maggie Haberman joins us now by phone.

So, what more can you tell us about this reporting, Maggie?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): Sure, Anderson. Thanks for having me.

So, this is something we've seen of a pattern with President Trump over time where he talks about getting rid of people who are investigating him or who have done something connected to an investigation when he's appointed them and he believes they owe him their job. This is another one of those instances whereas the whistle-blower complaint was blowing up and deemed credible by the inspector general's office, the president started telling advisers that he wanted to see Atkinson, the inspector general, dismissed and continued talking about this since.

Now it is not clear this went anywhere. We have two officials telling us in strong terms that this was never under serious consideration. Some people close to the president saw this as another form of venting which we know that he does and we've all been told over time that aides don't take these ventilations from him seriously unless he makes repeated demands and is moving toward doing something. But it is indicative of a mindset. COOPER: And this notion, according to your reporting, that the

president believes Atkinson has been disloyal -- I mean, obviously, it is worth mentioning, it is not an inspector general's job to be loyal to the president of the United States.

HABERMAN: Right. The president tends to view number one that he's got sweeping powers as the head of the executive branch to dismiss people and he believes that people who he put in these jobs should be loyal to him. But to your point, inspector generals are supposed to be devoid of politics and freed from politics, and that is part of what made this striking in the first place, the whistle-blower's complaint is the inspector general had deemed it credible.

COOPER: So, has -- is this now off the table, has he raised this again recently? Do you know?

HABERMAN: Our understanding is that he has continued at times talking about it. I do not expect it will go anywhere.

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I don't expect anyone will move to get rid of Atkinson, but again it is worth documenting that this is something that the president has said about people who are investigating him and this is been recurring theme. We saw it throughout Mueller and here it is again.

COOPER: Right. I mean, ask Comey. Maggie Haberman, appreciate it. Thanks.

Joining us now, our legal and political team tonight, CNN legal analyst Ross Garber, HE teaches at Tulane University, his specialty, impeachment law. Also, with us, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Jeff, the president, I mean, based on this reporting, seems to think the inspector general works for and should be loyal to him, not surprising I guess that he has that opinion given the past.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, just remember Jeff Sessions who was the attorney general, who did the right thing in recusing himself from the Russia investigation and the president spent months fuming about that, and then ultimately humiliated Sessions by firing him on the day of the midterm elections. You know, it's always possible that one reason people come forward with stories like this is that they know it's so outrageous that once it sees the light of day in a story like Maggie's, that the story will be -- the idea will be killed.

But still, the principle remains as you pointed out, Donald Trump thinks everybody in the executive branch works for him, not for the rule of law or the taxpayer.

COOPER: Yes. Kirsten, just in terms of what you're expected tomorrow with the hearings. Obviously, you know, we've seen testimony given behind closed doors. We've seen transcripts of testimony that had been released. But often there is a lot of hype in front of whether it is Robert

Mueller testifying, about what that is going to be, what the impact is going to be. And then it's different than what Democrats expect.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, the Democrats are going to need to deliver. And I think that what they're going to do is be really -- trying to bring along people who aren't already on board. The base is already convinced of this, right, the Democratic base.

But what you need to do is lay this out in a really clear way, a very nonpartisan way, a very sober way. And make it very clear what happens and why this rises to the level of impeachment. And so I don't know that it necessarily needs to have any fireworks or anything like that. In fact, it would be better if there wasn't.

But what it does need to be is it needs to be very clear and they need to be ready for the Republicans who are going to be working overtime to muddy the waters, to poke holes into, you know, any claims made by the witnesses to impugn the credibility of the witnesses and to muddy the waters. So I think it is going to be a challenge for them. But I think that they also at the same time are very aware of the challenge and are trying to structure this in a way that is the most convincing possible.

COOPER: Yes. And, Ross, the hearings are not going to look like other impeachment hearings that we've seen before. Can you just talk about how you see the setup of it and what you make of it given your experience?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So there is no one size fits all for impeachment. We say it all of the time but it is worth kind of repeating, this is an incredibly unusual occurrence in American history.

We've never removed a president through the impeachment process. Only -- you know, this is the fourth time that we've actually gone through an investigation. So there is no kind of routine way to do it. But it will be interesting.

You know, it seems like the chairman and the ranking member will ask questions and what is interesting unlike congressional hearings is that staff members will probably carry the substantial weight of the performance tomorrow and that is going to be interesting to watch. There are two lawyers, one for the Democrats, one for the Republicans.

These are lawyers. But this isn't a typical court case. They have to make some pretty significant arguments in a way that captures the public attention and for the Democrats sort of meets that very high burden of treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanor. For the Republicans, as Kirsten noted, kind of poking holes --

COOPER: Right.

GARBER: -- in the Democrats' case and making a narrative of the Republican zone. COOPER: Jeff --

TOOBIN: Can I just -- can I just make a point about -- we're talking about the Republicans as if they're just sort of poking holes and making things up.

One point that is certainly going to be made and it is a fair point is that both of the witnesses tomorrow had no direct contact with President Trump. And that doesn't mean they can't give incriminating testimony but I think the Democrats had better be prepared for the argument of well why are we hearing from them if they didn't have contact with the president?

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Now, I know there are responses to that but I think unlike arguments -- some arguments the Republicans will make, that's a real argument. And I think it will be interesting to see how the Democrats respond to it.

COOPER: At which, Kirsten, that also points to the importance of someone like John Bolton or even Mick Mulvaney, though that doesn't -- that sort of runs afoul of the timeline the Democrats have set.

POWERS: Yes. It is unfortunate because I think having someone like John Bolton in particular testifying would be extremely powerful because it is somebody who is -- he's obviously had a falling out with the president but he is somebody who is in good standing in the conservative movement for the most part and certainly isn't considered part of the deep state or anything like that. And I think would have some information to share that would be very interesting to people.

So the Democrats have decided that they want to keep this on the timeline and I'm not sure that that's necessarily exactly the right answer or right decision. But I do think having staff asking the questions is very helpful because what happens too often in these hearings is you just get a lot of grandstanding and you get members of Congress -- now they are still going to be able to ask questions just not as much time. But it turns it into a bit of a circus and turns it into a partisan event, and I think it is important for this to look the least partisan possible as it can.

COOPER: Ross, CNN is reporting that Republicans don't plan to be overly aggressive with these two witnesses tomorrow but plan to press them in ways that sows doubt about what they were understanding happening in the White House. The 45 minutes, initially, I thought that was, you know, the two attorneys would be asking questions for 45 minutes but it seems like opening statements also from Adam Schiff and the ranking Republican are going to be included in that 45 minutes according to Congressman Lieu we just had on.

GARBER: Or questions from both leaders. It is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. And in terms of sort of the aggressiveness, one question I have it will each side be playing too its base or will they reach out and sort of -- whose definition of aggressive are we going to use. COOPER: Yes. Ross Garber, appreciate it. Kirsten Powers and Jeff

Toobin, thanks very much.

Coming up next, more of what happens tomorrow when the impeachment hearing gets under way. How will the president react? Up next, my conversation with someone who knows him well and wrote Mr. Trump's memoir "Art of the Deal."

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Trump, of course, has been railing pretty much non-stop at the Ukraine whistleblower in the impeachment inquiry ever since the affair began to unfold back in September. Now that actual public testimony is about to begin, the question is what will President Trump do during the coverage.

Perspective now from a writer who knows the President better than most, Tony Schwartz, wrote the "Art of the Deal," the best selling book that helped propel citizen Trump into celebrity status.

Knowing the President as you do, how do you think he is going to handle the next couple of days of this public testimony? He's obviously watches a lot of this they, often claim he's too busy to watch it, but he clearly does.

TONY SCHWARTZ, DONALD TRUMP'S CO-AUTHOR, THE ART OF THE DEAL: WELL. I think that he is in two places right now. I'm sorry to say this because one of them seems fine, which for me -- to be which is, I suspect he is in his nervous system, it's in a very high state of activation and God save you to be around him right now, because this is the ultimate humiliation to have his election called into question. You know, he doesn't --

COOPER: If the thing, he's been -- I mean, which had motivated the whole Russia -- his, you know, refusal to believe that Russia was involved or at least refusal to acknowledge it. Fear of his election being not legitimate.

SCHWARTZ: Yes. I mean, he has imposter syndrome at a level probably previously unknown to man. He doesn't even know he has it. But what it shows up as his rage and attacking, and all of the ways in which he tries to prop himself up.

But I think the other piece so he's going to be feeling that that worry. But the other thing is, there's a sport in this to him. And I get the sense, the eerie sense that there's a part of it when he's not in the rage that enjoys it. Because he actually believes right now, like every other time in his Teflon, Trump life, he's going to get away with it. And he may well.

COOPER: I mean, it is remarkable that this phone call that he had with Ukraine's president was right after the Mueller testimony. I mean, before that -- SCHWARTZ: That he would set himself up once again for a fall. He needs the action. He has a very strong self-destructive impulse. So I don't think it's a coincidence that he immediately started it up again the next day.

What's amazing is that only, you know, what, five or six weeks or somewhere around there since it happened. And it's hot -- it's murky, even to remember the call. Now, of course, it'll come up in the testimony.

I mean, in the -- yes, and all of the testimony tomorrow, but he is so relentless about attacking anything. It isn't, you know, his -- just from a marketing standpoint, his relentlessness in pushing the same message over and over, and over again.

[20:35:00]

Even when it's just demonstrably, you know, not true the -- it was a perfect call. I mean there's no Republicans really arguing it was a perfect call. I mean, there's no Republicans really arguing, it was a perfect call. And yet he continues to, I don't know if he believes it. I don't know --

SCHWARTZ: No. It isn't about believing, it's about kind of locking into an automatic reaction. No collusion, no collusion, no collusion, perfect call, perfect call, perfect call. You keep saying it and saying it, and it has a eventually a somewhat hypnotic effect.

And I think, you know, not for the people who are most clearly opposed to Trump, but that's not who he's worried about and not for the people who love Trump because they're ignoring this. But that little group in the middle, you know, he wants to pull them over to his side.

COOPER: I mean, nothing is really going to happen on this unless Republicans in the Senate peel away in some numbers.

SCHWARTZ: Yes, and they won't. It's almost inconceivable to me that they will. You know, what he's done is he has progressively pushed people backwards devolving. It's very unusual to move from one state of moral development back down to a lower state.

But I would say that if you look at what the republicans are saying to defend this man. It's evidence that he has them completely in his thrall. Not only voting, but literally morally in his thrall.

COOPER: Tony Schwartz, thank you. Appreciate it.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, speaking out tonight saying the House will have to decide with the factual bribery and treason of more than that, as well as an in depth look at the 20 year congressional veteran when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:00]

COOPER: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says tonight he's made no decisions about where the impeachment investigation will ultimately lead. He added the House will have to evaluate whether the facts "show bribery, treason high crimes and misdemeanors".

California congressman, of course, will be in the driver's seat as the hearings get underway. Let me take a closer look though at his background and his mindset going into tomorrow, here's our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, it feels at times like being in the eye of the hurricane. You can never tell when you're going to step out of the eye into gale force winds.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): But it's a sure bet that this week House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will be at the center of the storm, leading in historic public inquiry on impeachment.

SCHIFF: This, of course, much more intense now than ever before.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Shifty Schiff.

BORGER: Anyone not living under a rock knows that Schiff is one of President Trump's favorite targets.

TRUMP: Little pencil neck.

BORGER: And he's not subtle about it.

TRUMP: He should resign from office in disgrace. And frankly, they should look at him for treason.

Borger: Just months ago, Schiff was in the camp that believed impeachment was not a good idea. We've talked in depth about this.

Steve Israel is a close Schiff friend and former Democratic colleague.

STEVE ISRAEL (D), FORMER US CONGRESSMAN: Impeachment might have some consequences that would be harmful to the country, to the Democratic Party, to members of Congress.

SCHIFF: But when the President engaged in this phone call with President Zelensky, that was a bridge too far for him. What made this a necessity for me and so many of my colleagues is that, if the President believes that he can abuse his office, the power of that office, he can fail to defend our national security and there is no accountability. Even if the accountability is only in the house, that's too dangerous a prospect to persist.

BORGER: Schiff came to Congress from his Los Angeles County District almost 20 years ago, right when an election, a moderate democrat who beat the Republican incumbent, a leader of the impeachment fight against Bill Clinton. How's that for iron?

SCHIFF: Mr. Robbins priority has always been engaging in these national partisan ideological crusades, and ignoring the business at home in the district. And I don't think people value that.

BORGER: Schiff served in the State Senate, but his greatest impact came as an assistant US attorney when he prosecuted an FBI agent for selling secrets to the Russians.

SCHIFF: Well, it does feel at times like my life has come full circle.

BORGER: From a major role in the Republican-led 2014 Benghazi investigation to becoming chairman of the Intelligence Committee this year.

ISRAEL: What people don't understand about Adam want is that, he wanted to go on the Intelligence Committee for two principal reasons. Number one, it was bipartisan, and number two, it was quiet. And so, I often say to him, how that work out for you, buddy?

BORGER: Not as expected. Just weeks ago, House Republicans tried to censor him. How did that feel? You have Republican friends.

SCHIFF: Yes. Well, you know, I --

Borger: Or you used to.

SCHIFF: -- think my Republican colleagues finding they lack the courage to stand up to this unethical President, have consoled themselves by attacking those who do. And that's a sad reality, but it is where the House GOP is. Kevin McCarthy will do whatever Donald Trump ask him to do. He'll merely ask how high he wants McCarthy to jump and then McCarthy will jump.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORY LEADER: It's behind closed doors with the chairman who has lied three times to the American public, looking them in the eye. And somehow we're supposed to trust what comes out of that?

BORGER: It's ugly and very personal, illegitimate hearings, Republican say, run by a partisan.

MCCARTHY: It is a Soviet-style impeachment process.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R), NEW YORK: Chairman Schiff is unfit to chair the Intelligence Committee.

BORGER: The chairman is having none of it.

SCHIFF: For this President, they're going to destroy what America stands for in the world. They're going to countenance holding up aid or meetings, or whatever to get help in the next election campaign. They're going to normalize that, rationalize that. They're going to hunker down and put their heads in the sand about it. Where's people sense of duty? BORGER: If that sounds like a line out of a screenplay, it could be. Schiff has written a few of his own, and took some dramatic and controversial liberties in describing the President's phone call with the Ukrainian president.

SCHIFF: And I'm going to say this only seven times so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand lots of it.

[20:45:00]

BORGER: The performance turned into a political opening for Republicans, one in particular.

TRUMP: Shifty Schiff is a double corrupt politician. He took my words on the phone call, and they were so good. He totally changed it. But do you regret doing it that way?

SCHIFF: No, I made it clear. I was mocking the President, and just as clearly the President doesn't like being mocked. But it was a mafia kind of organized crime shakedown.

But I'm not surprised if the President was attacking me about this. He'd be attacking me about something else.

BORGER: What's his mood like these days? How would you describe it?

ISRAEL: He's got some overwhelming responsibilities, and they are on his shoulders. But he is excellent at relieving that burden with his humor. Look, he's got a goofy sense of humor that people don't see --

BORGER: Goofy is not a word people would use about.

ISRAEL: Well, he loves funny movies. Everybody knows that. He can take you from the first word of "The Big Lebowski" to the final scene of "The Big Lebowski".

THE DUDE, THE BIG LEBOWSKI: SCHIFF: I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me, you know?

BORGER: Are there any words from the Dude that would apply to your life?

SCHIFF: I've been asked in the past and not sure whether you can hear this or not as my only question. What line from "The Big Lebowski" comes up most in political life? And I have to say, it's the line. No, you're not wrong. You're just an just (inaudible).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was Gloria Borger reporting. Still ahead, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, a faithful defender, President Trump goes pretty far and finds a spot on "The Ridiculist".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:00]

COOPER: Busy night in the eve of the first public impeachment hearings, let's check in with Chris, see what he's working on for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: This is it, brother. These are the weeks of the most consequence for this President in his presidency thus far. I know some people will say, wasn't that what said during Mahler? Yes, that was a big deal.

This is a bigger deal, why? We've never had people speak about direct communications and direct action that they viewed as wrong or suspicious or worthy of this kind of scrutiny.

It's very big for both parties. We'll have tips tonight for what people should look for and what they should look away from, if they can. We have left and right here to talk about what the impact is and what matters from their perspective. And we will take you through the latest polls as well as in the Democratic side and what impeachment may mean to that.

COOPER: All right. Busy night, busy day tomorrow. Chris, thanks very much. Se you in just about eight minutes from now.

Coming up, what's the one thing most people can't honestly say about President Trump? Well, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has gone ahead and said it, "The Ridiculist" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:55:00]

COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist. And tonight, in the history of absurd testimonials, this one may take the big beautiful, elegant cake.

Involves Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor turned UN ambassador whose most remarkable achievement may have been escaping the Trump administration without being whacked by the President or having to wear a wire for the feds. It's usually blood in blood out for Trump hires but she remains unscathed.

And till now, she appeared on "The Today Show" this morning to plug her book and maybe angle to replace Vice President Pence in the 2020 ticket. You know, females suburban voters continue to run away from the President.

To her credit, Ambassador Haley is not trying to have it both ways. No. When you say Trump, she says train doesn't matter what the question is.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS HOST: What about his truthfulness? Did you think he was a truthful person? NIKKI HALEY, FORMER UN AMBASSADOR: Yes. And every instance that I dealt with him, he was truthful, he listened, and he was great to work with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Wow, Trump? Truthful? Great to work with? A listener? Who is this man she speaks up. I'd swipe right on him.

Before we even addressed the President's inability to lie, I mean, if I was on Tinder, which I'm not. Before we address the President's inability to lie, a superpower that apparently only Nikki Haley can see. Let's just quickly address the good listener part.

Have you ever seen him at a Cabinet meeting? You know, sitting there with his arms crossed. He kind of looks like a guy wishing he had some meatloaf in front of him the food or the singer, either would probably be more interesting to him than governing.

Just about everyone who has fled this White House has commented on the President short attention span and lack of interest in reading or listening to long detailed briefings. As for Haley's claim that Trump is a truthful person bless her heart, though, I'm not sure how she qualified aide, it's actually going to win her any kudos from the President if he was actually listening.

Did you notice she gave herself some wiggle room by saying in every instance I dealt with him he was truthful, is like when Vice President Pence or other politicians respond to a question that they don't want to answer or respond to by saying, well, all I can tell you is what I saw, actually no.

You all can speak to things you haven't seen also, but know to be true. For instance, I haven't been on the moon, but I know it's not made out of cheese. I'm sure Nikki Haley worked very hard as the UN ambassador, but she has eyes and ears, and the TV like the rest of us, and Trump make stuff up all the time on TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In many places like California, the same person votes many times, not a conspiracy theory folks, millions and millions of people.

They vote many times not just twice, not just three times. They vote, it's like a circle. They come back, they put a new hat on. They come back, they put a new shirt on.

President Obama wanted to meet and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting.

And if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: I put groceries this weekend and hope he carded me. Apparently makes step up in front of all of us, the American people but speaks truth directly to Nikki Haley. Bless her heart.

As for speaking truth to power, Ambassador Haley knows which way the wind is blowing, Republican politics. And she was willing to throw some people in the administration under the bus just the ones who don't matter anymore. The ones who are no longer in power, no longer in the good graces of daddy dearest.

Haley claimed that John Kelly and Rex Tillerson tried to get her to help them undermine the president. And when she stopped by the novelty sofa over at Fox and Friends, she continued to slam Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX & FRIENDS HOST: He's saying you're not telling the truth.

HALEY: I mean, that's so Rex.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So Rex, it's the long awaited sequel to that so Raven. John Goodman is going to start Rex Tillerson, a spunky retiree with psychic abilities who uses disguises to get himself involved in age inappropriate teenage high jinks. That so Rex, it's coming next fall streaming on Disney.

So in summation, Ambassador Haley may have survived the administration but it's not clear reputation can survive her book tours endless and kind of sad stops along (inaudible). Whether Pence gets the push and she somehow makes it onto the 2020 ticket or not, she'll certainly always be pulling well on "The Ridiculist."

And that does it for us, the news continues. I want to hand it over their Chris for "Cuomo Primetime."