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THE SITUATION ROOM

Dems Expect Ousted Ukraine Ambassador to Testify About Smear Campaign and "Corrupt Shakedown Scheme"; Pelosi: What Trump did Regarding Ukraine "Makes What Nixon did Look Almost Small; White House Sizing Up new Witnesses, Throwing Cold Water on Potentially Damaging Testimony from Diplomat; Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) is Interviewed About Impeachment Hearing, Gordon Sondland, and David Holmes; Phone Call Between Trump and Sondland; Lawmakers Prepares for Hearing with Witness who Overheard Newly Revealed Trump Phone Call; Former National Security Officials Say Russian Spies Likely Intercepted Trump's Phone Call with ASondland; Trump Taking Fight Over His Tax Returns To Supreme Court; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is interviewed About Trump's Tax Return, Impeachment; Experts: Russian Spies May Have Intercepted Trump-Sondland Call; Two Dead, Multiple Injuries in High School Shooting; Trump Hotel Pitch Promises Lucrative Foreign Business. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 14, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thank you so much. Appreciate it. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @jaketapper or you can tweet the show @theleadcnn. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news in the impeachment investigation of President Trump. Democrats are preparing for another round of potentially explosive testimony, this time with the ousted Ambassador to Ukraine. Marie Yovanovitch's testimony tomorrow could shed new light on the apparent smear campaign against her orchestrated by the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Also tomorrow, behind closed doors, a new witness is poised to share his account of a previously undisclosed phone call between President Trump and U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland. That hearing could corroborate yesterday's very dramatic testimony alleging that the President said that he was more concerned about investigating the Biden family than helping Ukraine.

We're also monitoring a school shooting in California. Two students dead and the alleged killer in critical condition right now after he turned the gun on himself. We're going to bring you all the late- breaking developments this hour.

But first, let's bring in our Political Correspondent, Sara Murray, for the latest fallout from the impeachment investigation and a look ahead to tomorrow. Sara, tell us more.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Democrats say yesterday delivered a bombshell. Republicans insist there is nothing new to see here, as everyone is gearing up for another round of testimony tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your right hand.

MURRAY (voice-over): By Republicans' accounts, the first impeachment hearing delivered little more than hearsay, while Democrats insist it was damning.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I am saying that what is -- what the President has admitted to and says it's perfect, I say it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): With all of that, we found out nothing new.

MURRAY: Both sides are gearing up for another public hearing on Friday, as they tussle over the gravity of the revelations from Wednesday's testimony. Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, revealed in his testimony that just a day after President Trump spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Trump was already pressing a U.S. ambassador for updates on the investigations Trump had asked Ukraine to launch into his political rival, Joe Biden, and the 2016 election.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): So your staff member over hears the President asking about the investigations, meaning Burisma and the Bidens and 2016. And Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: He did.

SCHIFF: And I think you said that after the call, when your staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought of Ukraine, his response was that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden? Is that right?

TAYLOR: And Burisma, yes, sir.

SCHIFF: And I take at the import of that is he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine?

TAYLOR: Yes, sir.

MURRAY: Republicans have dismissed the account as little more than second-hand information.

MCCARTHY: We did hear from the witnesses was that they had never spoken to President Trump. They had not met with the chief of staff. Their understanding, which is the foundation of the case for the Democrats, was based on second-hand information. PELOSI: On the one hand, they say, that it is second-hand. On the other hand, they obstruct all of the people who they would consider to have first-hand knowledge from testifying. Obstruction of Congress. Obstruction of justice.

MURRAY: The "it's all just hearsay" claim could soon reach its expiration date. On Friday, the Taylor aide who heard the call will give a private deposition. And next week lawmakers are set to learn more first-hand when the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, testifies publicly.

Democrats are already calling for Sondland to do some cleanup after his private testimony.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): I think he misled the committee.

REP. HARLEY ROUDA (D-CA): He certainly had gaps in either his memory or in his testimony.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I think he shaves a lot of truth from his answers. And I think he's going to have to pay for it.

MURRAY: But before Sondland, lawmakers, and the public will first hear on Friday from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post early at the President's request.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really don't know her. But if you look at the transcripts, the President of Ukraine was not a fan of hers, either.

MURRAY: She's expected to tell lawmakers about the smear campaign the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, waged against her and the conspiracy theories he was spreading.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, that call between Gordon Sondland and President Trump, Wolf, on a cell phone in a restaurant is raising a number of counterintelligence and security concerns. Experts say that it is almost certain that other nations were able to listen in on that call, particularly the Russians.

BLITZER: That's a sensitive issue indeed. All right, thanks very much Sara for that report.

Also tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is weighing in on the Democrats' dramatic opening salvo in the impeachment inquiry. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining us from Capitol Hill. Give us the latest, Manu.

[17:05:12]

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a shift in the speaker's messaging and an uptick in her rhetoric, saying the President may have committed bribery when discussing what happened here with Ukraine, with the call for the Ukrainians to announce investigations into the President's political rivals, at the same time as nearly $400 million of military aid had been withheld from the country and the time in which Ukraine was looking for some support from Washington. A key meeting in Washington that had been withheld, as President Trump was urging the Ukrainians to move forward with these investigations.

Now, the speaker made very clear earlier today that she said that she has not made an ultimate decision on impeachment yet, but all signs are pointing to the road that the President could be just the third person in history to get impeached by the House. But the speaker made clear also that what she sees here is a president committing bribery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: What President Trump has done on the record, in terms of acting to advantage his foreign power to help him in his own election and the obstruction of information about that, the cover-up, makes what Nixon did look almost small.

The President has admitted to and says it's perfect. I say it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, Wolf, as public hearings began this week, many Democrats hope that public sentiment would shift more dramatically towards the Democrats' push for impeaching and removing this President from office. But I'm told from multiple Democratic sources that Democrats are acknowledging privately that perhaps public opinion won't shift that dramatically in their direction. In large part because they say that this electorate is very polarized and that just like in Richard Nixon's time, there was -- overwhelmingly the public was divided until closer to the time that he ultimately resigned from office. And these times, of course, are different.

And this was a topic of conversation, I'm told, at a closed-door meeting earlier this week with the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, as well as with her top lieutenant. So Democrats still plan to push forward. Even though the politics could be murky, they say that it's uncertain whether wide swaths of the American public will be ultimately behind them. They believe the public will probably still be divided, no matter how they proceed in the coming weeks here.

BLITZER: All right, that's an important point. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent right now, Jim Acosta. He's got more on the White House game plan for tomorrow. Jim, what are you learning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh that's right, Wolf. And we should note that the President just left the White House a few moments ago for a rally down in Louisiana and he could be seen inside the Oval Office, having a chat with the Attorney General Bill Barr and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel here at the White House. There's some video of that right now. The President did not talk to reporters as he was deporting the White House for that rally.

Now, the White House is sizing up the next round of witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. A White House official raised questions about the next witness to appear at a public hearing. That's the former Ukraine Ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch. Noting, this White House official said that the diplomat was not on President Trump's July 25th phone call with the leader of Ukraine and this official arguing she could not lend any validity to allegations of a quid pro quo. That's the line coming out of the White House.

And aides to the President are anticipating that Yovanovitch will tell lawmakers about an alleged smear campaign against her. That was in her closed testimony that was held behind closed doors, but officials here are asking how that could add weight to the impeachment inquiry. Is that an impeachable offense? One official asked, adding, ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President.

As for that overheard phone call between President Trump and the E.U. Ambassador, Gordon Sondland, aides are throwing cold water on that call, as well. On the revelation that came out of yesterday's testimony, as well, with one official exclaiming to me over the phone earlier today, stop the presses. So they're not taking that very seriously.

But Wolf, we should note, the White House was caught off-guard by that new piece of information in the inquiry. They did not see that one coming.

Now, we're also anticipating that the White House will soon release the rough transcript of the President's first call with the leader of Ukraine. That transcript, we are told, has cleared all of the necessary hurdles to be released to the public and is just waiting on a green light from the President. We should note Mr. Trump showed off that transcript to a group of Republican senators over at the White House earlier today. Apparently, the President in that rough transcript congratulates his Ukrainian counterpart, but he does not mention the Bidens or investigations according to senators coming out of that meeting.

But, Wolf, we should caution very quickly, it is the July 25th phone call with the leader of Ukraine that matters. That's at the heart of this inquiry, as it lays out this alleged dirt for dollars scheme that the President had in his -- in some of his allies had with the leader of Ukraine, Wolf.

[17:10:01]

BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting from the White House. Thanks very much.

Let's get some reaction right now from a key Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. Congressman thanks so much for joining us.

And I know you say the case for impeachment is built on this one phone call, the President's call with President Zelensky on July, but there was a second phone call in which the President following up on his request for investigations with Ambassador Sondland. We learned about that yesterday.

Rudy Giuliani and his associates were intervening at the same time in Ukraine policy since at least 2018. President Zelensky, he's getting the military assistance, but he still hasn't received his one-on-one meeting with the President over at the White House. Does that broader pattern at all concern you?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Well, no, Wolf. And the reason being is that everything you described there is related -- or, I'm sorry, unrelated or explainable. And I think Manu got it right in his previous reporting. And that is the Democratic -- my Democratic colleagues are disappointed that there isn't -- this ground swell of support for impeachment because there just isn't a case for impeachment. There just really isn't.

And Ms. Pelosi can come out and exaggerate it and make it worse saying, this is worse than we thought, this is bribery. I think people look at that and they go, I don't get it. I think it's nonsense, frankly, for her to make that claim.

And let me make this prediction, Wolf. I think next week when we've had maybe half a dozen of these open hearings, I think the public support for impeachment is actually going to go down rather than go up. Because I think most Americans look at this and go, you know what, we already knew that, there's nothing new, and it seems to me like it's an enormous stretch to take these incidents and say, we should remove the President of the United States because of this. I just don't think they're going to be able to persuade most people.

BLITZER: But what if Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, he's going to be testifying next Wednesday. He spoke directly to the President on this issue on several occasions. What if he confirms, for example, that that phone call we learned about yesterday, when he testifies publicly next week, what if he confirms this notion that there was -- that the President wanted to hold up military aid and a meeting with Zelensky until they got more dirt on the Bidens. What if he confirms that?

STEWART: Well, look, he's not going to confirm that, Wolf. He's just not. He's not going to say, the President told me to withhold military aid until we got more dirt on the Bidens. I can promise you, he's not going to say that.

We know what he's going to say by and large. I mean, there may be a few minor adjustments, but we've already spent hours and hours with him. And people are anticipating this bombshell. They are anticipating something new and dramatic. They think it's Watergate and John Dean. And I'm telling you, it's just not. And it's not going to be.

BLITZER: But --

STEWART: And at the end of the day, Wolf, it really does come down to that one transcript. It really does come down to one phone call. And the American people look at it and just say, I don't see where they're making their case.

BLITZER: But Ambassador Sondland, he did revise, he updated his initial sworn testimony in that deposition. He issued an addendum through his attorney, also a sworn statement in which he said, yes, there was, for all practical purposes, this notion of a quid pro quo.

STEWART: Well and some of the other witnesses have made not necessarily addendum, but they have made clarification to their testimony, and that's not terribly surprising.

But the question isn't -- is really, does it matter? And is there something new here? And in his case, there really wasn't.

Once again -- look, we withhold aid all the time. And as we made the point yesterday, we were actually required to withhold aid. We had a new President in Ukraine. We had no idea who he was, Wolf. No one had ever heard of him before he came to power.

And it's perfectly appropriate to say, look, we don't know if this individual is a good guy or a bad guy. We don't know if he's aligned with U.S. interests or not. Let's be careful before we give them $400 million in military aid.

Now it turns out that he is, I think, a good guy. He is a reformer. He is aligned with us. But we didn't know that in April, and May and June. It was just too early.

BLITZER: You did get some new information, though, yesterday. And tomorrow, the -- your committees are going to be hearing behind closed doors with David Holmes. He's the counselor for Political Affairs over at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine who overheard that sensitive phone call between Ambassador Sondland and the President. So what questions, Congressman, do you have for him?

STEWART: Well, I think I would start with, how confident are you in what you heard? I mean, he's describing a conversation where someone has a phone pressed to their ear and he is supposedly able to hear the President's words through that? And to know what the President was talking about? I find it, I think, fairly, fairly outrageous to think that we're going to convict a President based on what someone heard, standing next to someone, who is having a phone call. I just don't think it's very credible.

And even if he hears the word investigation, he doesn't know the context of what he's talking about there. He didn't hear the conversation in its entirety. He heard a few snips of that conversation.

[17:15:05]

BLITZER: Well, let's see what he says tomorrow in that closed-door deposition. And that they then next week they bring him forward for public testimony.

That phone call, though, and you're a member of the Intelligence Committee, you're very sensitive to national security. The phone call between President Trump and Gordon Sondland, it took place in a restaurant there in Ukraine. Officials tell CNN there's a high probability the call was intercepted, maybe even by the Russians, for example, who are listening in on all of those kinds of calls, and certainly they know who Ambassador Sondland is, they know who David Holmes, the counselor --

STEWART: Yes.

BLITZER: -- for Political Affairs is. Here's the question. Is the Trump administration falling short in following national security protocols that are important to U.S. interests?

STEWART: Well, look, I don't know the answer to that question. I think probably some individuals do fall short from time to time. That happens probably in every administration.

I would emphasize two things on this. Number one is we have to anticipate that our adversaries and enemies around the world have credible capabilities. And I think people need to be aware of that and take necessary precautions.

But by the way, Wolf, the second point is I think the most important. We've hurt ourselves in that area. And I'll give you one really good example. Someone leaked that General Flynn was having a conversation with the Russian ambassador and that we were monitoring that. Once that was leaked, it absolutely was destructive to our national security, because we then lost that source of information.

So, you're right. I mean, whether it's through leaking, that reveals our capabilities or whether it's through some people perhaps not being as careful on a phone call, this is something that we've all got to take seriously and do everything we can to make sure that we can protect those types of communications.

BLITZER: And I'm sure Ambassador Sondland next Wednesday when he testifies in open session with all the television cameras there will be asked that question.

STEWART: Yes.

BLITZER: Did you just pick up your cell phone and have a conversation with the President of the United States on clearly some sensitive issues?

STEWART: Well --

BLITZER: Yes? You want to make a quick point?

STEWART: I would just add real quickly. Look, you can have a conversation with the President. And it does -- and not every conversation has to be in a secure means. It's just but you have to be careful what you're saying and not discuss anything classified.

BLITZER: Right. And if they're talking about digging up dirt, for example, on a potential political adversary, Joe Biden, that could be pretty sensitive.

STEWART: Well, and once again, I don't think that he's going to say that that's what that conversation was about. And he certainly didn't say, go dig up dirt on Mr. Biden.

BLITZER: Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

STEWART: Yes. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Stewart of Utah, member of the Intelligence Committee, we appreciate you joining us.

STEWART: Thank you.

BLITZER: You're welcome. An update on breaking news in California, where authorities now say a high school student pulled a handgun out of his backpack and started shooting leaving two students dead, much more on that and all of the day's news when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:31]

BLITZER: Here's some breaking news coming into "THE SITUATION ROOM." President Trump has decided to go to the U.S. Supreme Court in his fight to keep from releasing his tax returns. The request follows a lower court ruling that the President could not sue New York State officials to stop the release of his tax returns. We have more on this story coming up.

Joining us now, another Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois.

A statement released, Congressman, from Jay Sekulow, the counsel to the President, says we have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Second Circuit decision regarding a subpoena issued by the New York County district attorney. So, what's your reaction?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): It's not a surprise. In my mind, this is the most opaque administration in our lifetime. We've seen it from day one. We're seeing it in the actions that are taking place in the investigations at the forefront of the impeachment inquiry. The fact that so many of these important witnesses are being blocked. The fact that he refused to testify before the special counsel. The fact that they haven't released a single document under lawful subpoena. Well, this is a President who doesn't want to cooperate and doesn't really want the world to see what his actions have been.

BLITZER: Well, let's get back to the information, the impeachment investigation that we've been watching. Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, as you know he revealed some sensitive new information when he appeared before your committee yesterday about a conversation between the President and Ambassador Gordon Sondland that one of the ambassador's aides, David Holmes, overheard a conversation between the President and Ambassador Sondland, in which they discussed the Giuliani investigation of the Bidens among other things. Will he -- he'll be deposed tomorrow behind closed doors, but will he eventually become publicly and appear before your committee?

QUIGLEY: Look, I think what -- that deposition will tell us a great deal, but I also think it points an extraordinary arrow on Ambassador Sondland's public testimony on the heels of his deposition. And the fact that he had to amend that deposition with things that he had recollected.

I would like to think, my philosophy on all of these things is, it's never too late to do the right thing. If the ambassador has some new memory catch-up, that he'll let the American public know about this phone conversation as well, as well as any other conversations that are pertinent to the investigation.

[17:25:08]

BLITZER: Do you believe Ambassador Sondland was truthful when he spoke to your committee?

QUIGLEY: I think he had an extraordinary lapse of memory. I am not going to condemn anyone on this because I truly believe we need people to move forward and tell us the whole truth. And I'm going to give him every opportunity to tell the American people what he knows.

BLITZER: What do you hope to learn from him next Wednesday when he appears in public?

QUIGLEY: Did this conversation take place? What exactly did he say? What did the President say in return?

And I think, again, it's going to be very important, what else don't we know. What other conversations do you have about the investigations with the President of the United States and what were you sent there for? It clearly was not his assignment, as the ambassador to the E.U., Ukraine's not a part of that. Why was hep sent there? And why was an extraordinarily well-functioning ambassador removed?

BLITZER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the President's conduct, which is under investigation right now, in her words, makes what Nixon did look almost small and calls it bribery. Do you agree with her?

QUIGLEY: Look, let's remember what Richard Nixon did. At the very least, he kept it within the bounds of the United States. He committed obstruction. There was a conspiracy. He obstructed Congress at least four times. That's all very important.

I think what the President has done is in his three years is obstructed an ongoing basis and I do believe that there are issues that we don't necessarily have fleshed out yet about what happened in the 2016 involvement by the Russians. But here he extorted or however -- whatever legal term we want to use, an ally at a very vulnerable time. And he did it for his own political purpose.

If that's left unpunished, what is the precedent for future presidents? Is this going to be OK? Is this the new norm that you can use? Withholding military aid to help yourself personally or for your political gain? That's going to be very troubling for our country.

BLITZER: Congressman Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Glad to be here. Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, could the Russians have intercepted that previously unreported cell phone conversation about Ukraine between President Trump and his E.U. ambassador, who was in a restaurant in Ukraine?

[17:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, we're hearing from national security experts who are worried the Russians may actually have intercepted the previously undisclosed phone call between President Trump and his E.U. ambassador who was in a restaurant in Ukraine at the time. And individuals could overhear what the President was saying, what he was saying, this at least according to testimony we heard yesterday.

Shawn Turner, let's talk about that. From a national security perspective -- and you worked in the intelligence community for a long time -- what do you think?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. Look, I think those analysts are absolutely right.

Look, Russia is one of about two dozen nation-states, two dozen countries, that have significant signals intelligence collection capability. And Russia, in particular, puts a lot of resources, a lot of effort into listening in on the phone calls and the communication of senior U.S. intelligence officials. So that's -- that analysis is spot-on.

Now, most people might hear that and they might say, well, so what? You know, nations spy. But here's why this makes a difference.

Look, Gordon Sondland is going to go up and testify next week about this phone call and whether or not it actually happened.

And if he is -- if he denies that this actually -- this phone call happened or if he's less than forthcoming about it and other nation- states, other intelligence agencies around the world can demonstrate otherwise, then, at that point, what they have is they have leverage over the United States.

They have leverage over the President of the United States, and, obviously, that's a terrible situation for everyone.

So I -- I know members of Congress are really concerned about the content of this phone call if it actually happened, but I think they also have a responsibility to look into whether or not this is typical behavior. And if they do, from a counterintelligence perspective, they need to address this issue.

BLITZER: That's an important point. Gloria, what does this -- this episode tell us about the -- the President's national security practices when it comes to picking up a cell phone and talking?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- I think Shawn makes the point. I think it's awful. I think the fact that -- I don't know what kind of phone Sondland was using. I don't know where the President was speaking from.

Was he in THE SITUATION ROOM? Was he on his personal cell phone? Was it an encrypted conversation? Why did Sondland -- was the President just talking loud so that people could listen, or did Sondland allow them to listen in?

These are questions that need to be answered. But the bottom line here is that this should not have been done in a public restaurant, which -- in -- in which the Russians and anybody else, quite frankly, can -- can listen in to the President of the United States.

BLITZER: You know, it's -- it's a -- it's a serious issue. Abby, you've been doing some reporting on this as well. The President loves to talk on the phone with individuals. I assume he's calling from the Oval Office. He's got a hard line, sensitive line.

[17:34:57]

But -- but Sondland, the ambassador, he was in a restaurant. There was the -- the counselor for political affairs sitting next to him. He could overhear -- at least according to the testimony we heard yesterday from Ambassador Bill Taylor, he could overhear this conversation. So it does raise questions.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does raise questions, Wolf. And, yes, Sondland was in a restaurant, which raises its own set -- set of questions, but this goes back to something that's been a problem for the President's staff for a long time.

President Trump likes to take phone calls from people in all sorts of venues, not just in the Oval Office or in THE SITUATION ROOM, but often from the residence. Late at night and early in the morning, these are times when President Trump often does the most of his calls, especially the ones that are not -- that are not going through an intermediary.

And based on the recollection of this conversation, it suggests that Sondland had some kind of direct access to the President. He was able to pick up the phone, dial some kind of number, and get the President on the phone pretty quickly. So it -- it really raises some questions about where this conversation was.

Were other White House officials aware that this conversation happened? And what was the President's objective? He seemed to be following up on this phone call that had happened the day before.

And -- and I think the nature of the conversation is really important. He's discussing, ostensibly, this idea that he wants Ukraine to do something in exchange for getting that money released. And I think that that is one of the many reasons why this call is so concerning. And the way that it was handled is so concerning, as well.

BLITZER: A very interesting conversation Jake Tapper had today with former President Bill Clinton, Dana. And -- and Jake asked him how a president can be an effective leader during a time of impeachment, a subject that President Clinton knows well. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What would your message to President Trump be about, when he says, well, I can't work with these people, they're impeaching me?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): My message was -- would be, look, you got hired to do a job. The fact is you don't get today's (INAUDIBLE). Every day is an opportunity to make something good happen.

And I would say I've got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry, and they should just have at it. Meanwhile, I'm going to work for the American people. That's what I would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Dana, what do you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what he did do.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: Yes, that's right.

BASH: That's what he did do.

BLITZER: I covered that -- that whole year.

BASH: You did, of course. This is the same advice that the President, I'm told, has been getting from his own advisers for weeks and weeks, particularly at the beginning.

Stop tweeting about it. Stop talking about it. You're -- you're breathing oxygen into this. Focus on the issues that will help you get re-elected, the economy, other things that you can talk about when it comes to your policies. Follow the Clinton motto.

That has been the advice, I'm told, that he has been getting from his advisers, his friends on Capitol Hill, and he doesn't have it in him. It's not in his DNA to do that, Wolf. He -- he feels that he is his best messenger. He feels that he can -- can send that message out the best on Twitter, full stop.

BLITZER: What are the chances, Chris, that he's going to listen to the former president and change his ways? CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Is there a number less

than zero? Because it's about that. Because, to Dana's point, he can't compartmentalize. Bill Clinton was an expert compartmentalizer. As he said, the lawyers are handling this, I'm going to go over here.

Everything is in big -- one big pot when it comes to Donald Trump. He can't pick things out. It's just not in him.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. We're about to go live to California on the scene of a school shooting that left at least two students dead.

[17:38:35]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In California, authorities say a student pulled a gun out of his backpack at a high school near Los Angeles and shot five other students then shot himself. Two of the victims are dead.

Our national correspondent Sara Sidner is joining us from Santa Clarita right now. What are you learning?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a terrifying start to the day here at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. Students told us that chaos reigned for the two minutes it took law enforcement, just two minutes before they arrived on campus.

Law enforcement told us that the shooting began just before classes started at about 7:30 in the morning, and a sheriff's captain told us that the student who is behind the shooting is a 16-year-old Asian male who went to the school.

He was carrying a backpack. Inside that backpack, he had a 0.45 caliber semiautomatic pistol. He pulled that out of the backpack and started gunning students down. In the end, we learned that two students, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, both succumbed to their wounds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard the one shot and then four after, and we just started running. And just -- all I heard was -- heard was all these kids running and just screaming and calling their parents.

CAPT. KENT WEGENER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: It's a 0.45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, which had no more rounds in it. It had no more bullets in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Now, the sheriff's captain said that the shooter's last bullet he used on himself, shooting himself in the head. But so far, this hour, as we have been told by authorities, that that student who is the accused shooter is still alive in the hospital. It turns out that the suspect was actually picked up along with the

other wounded students. And at the time, emergency crews didn't know that he was the potential shooter. He was taken to the hospital, but later on, sheriff's investigators began looking through surveillance video and noticed that the suspect and shooter was among those taken to the hospital.

[17:45:07]

It turns out, also, that it was the shooter's birthday. And on this day, he decided, according to investigators, to gun down fellow students.

We should also mention that sheriff's investigators have spent the day talking to -- to witnesses, but also, speaking to the shooter's mother and his girlfriend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sad story. Sara Sidner, thank you very much.

Just ahead, President Trump's hotel business is fighting off multiple lawsuits for allegedly raking in cash from foreign governments. But now that the luxurious Trump International Hotel here in Washington, D.C. is up for sale, that liability is beginning to look like a selling point.

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[17:50:39]

BLITZER: Tonight, the Trump Organization is courting potential buyers for its glitzy downtown Washington, D.C. hotel with a very unusual sales pitch. Brian Todd is on the story for us right now. The President's business is -- is promising a rather tantalizing source of revenue.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, the Trump Organization has put together a high-end sales pitch with a brochure targeting some very exclusive potential buyers for the Trump International Hotel here in Washington.

For what's reported to be about $500 million, the new owner would get the chance to keep the Trump-style spinning for wealthy visitors from foreign governments. But that's just the kind of clientele that's gotten the President into trouble with some watchdog groups.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): For sale, a crown jewel in the Trump real estate empire.

TRUMP: With the notable exception of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the most coveted piece of real estate in Washington, D.C., the best location.

(APPLAUSE) TODD (voice-over): Since its opening just before President Trump was

elected, the Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House, has been one of the places to be seen in the nation's capital. Saudi officials, business elites, political power brokers constantly shuttling through the lobby.

CNN has seen but can't show a glossy brochure for possible buyers of the hotel. It highlights the elegant architecture, the luxurious suites, the Himalayan salt chamber spa.

But the brochure also says there's, quote, tremendous upside for a new owner to fully capitalize on government-related business. Trump's been skewered by ethics watchdogs for doing just that, booking rooms to officials from foreign governments.

LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Every time they do that, it violates the constitutional prohibition of the President making profits from foreign governments.

TODD (voice-over): The new brochure says the Trump Organization has actually turned down a lot of foreign business at the hotel, more than $9 million worth. But it doesn't say how much of that business the hotel has accepted.

Several groups are suing Trump for making money from foreign officials' visits to the hotel. And legal experts say the new brochure won't help the President in court.

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It will make it harder for the President to deny that foreign governments are a significant portion of his business there.

TODD (voice-over): Trump's lawyers deny he's violating the constitution with the hotel bookings. Trump turned over day-to-day operations of his hotels to his sons, put the properties in a trust, and the Trump Organization has promised to donate profits from foreign government spending at their hotels to the U.S. Treasury.

Still, the President's son, Eric, recently said that because people are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel in Washington, we may be willing to sell. The "Wall Street Journal" reports the Trump Organization is hoping to get more than $500 million for the property, one of the highest prices ever paid for a hotel in Washington.

But tonight, there are questions about whether it will turn out to be worth it. If he sells the hotel, does it lose its cachet?

DAN HAWKINS, SENIOR DIRECTOR, BERKADIA HOTELS & HOSPITALITY GROUP: It shouldn't lose its cachet at all. There are other hotel companies that have loyal followers. And if the Trump brand is to come off the hotel and another brand goes on the hotel, those followers would be more than happy to stay in a hotel with this location, with the recent renovation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, Trump previously reported on financial disclosure forms that the Trump International Hotel pulled in just over $40 million in revenues each year in 2017 and 2018, but the Trump family has never disclosed whether that hotel has actually made a profit.

The Trump Organization did not respond to CNN's request for comment on the brochure and the possible effort to sell off the lease of that property, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting, thank you.

Coming up, my interview with the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, right here on THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask her about all of today's news including the President's demands to reveal the identity of the whistleblower who launched the impeachment investigation.

[17:54:44]

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BLITZER: Happening now, new testimony. Lawmakers and the White House brace for a potentially explosive day in the impeachment inquiry with an ousted ambassador set to testify about the Giuliani smear campaign against her, and a closed-door testimony by a diplomatic aide who overheard a potentially incriminating call between President Trump and his E.U. ambassador.

I'll talk about that and much more with the former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley.