Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) Is Interviewed About Impeachment Hearing; Sources: House Democrats to Spend Thanksgiving Week Preparing Impeachment Report; Sources: Intel Briefed Senate this Fall on Russia Campaign to Blame Election Meddling on Ukraine; Sources: Intel Briefed Senate This Fall on Russia Campaign to Blame Election Meddling on Ukraine; Biden "Embarrassed" for GOP Senator Graham Doing Trump's Bidding on Ukraine; White House Denies Blocking Access to Bolton's Twitter Account. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 22, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:15]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

Next steps. After two weeks of dramatic testimony, House Democrats move closer to impeaching President Trump with sources now saying articles could be filed against him by Christmas.

GOP conspiracy. As President Trump and his defenders continue to peddle debunked claims of Ukrainian meddling in 2016 election, CNN has learned that intelligence officials told senators this fall that the conspiracy theory is part of a campaign by Moscow to shift blame for its interference.

Embarrassed for Graham. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden goes one-on-one with CNN and says he's embarrassed for Lindsey Graham and his willingness to do President Trump's bidding which Biden predicts the Republican senator will quote, "regret his whole life."

And Bolton is back. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton breaks months of mysterious silence returning to Twitter and claiming the White House blocked his access to his account.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Sources say Democratic House aides are spending Thanksgiving week preparing a report that will spell out the case for impeachment and that they plan to continue deliberating with Speaker Nancy Pelosi's staff to determine the size and scope of the articles against the president with Pelosi making the final decision.

Also breaking, two U.S. officials are now telling CNN that intelligence officials told senators in a highly classified briefing that Russia has engaged in a year's long campaign to shift blame for 2016 election interference from Moscow to Ukraine. That as President Trump and his Republican allies continue to push the conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the last presidential election.

We're going to talk about that and much more with Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of the Judiciary Committee and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is watching all of this for us. Manu, the impeachment report is now being written. What is the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Behind the scenes a lot of activity among top officials on key committees as well as leadership staff to determine exactly how to structure the impeachment articles and impeachment going forward. And the first step will be writing that report that will come out from the House Intelligence Committee and two other committees that will detail the findings of this investigation that has been happening since late September. That report will be worked on through the Thanksgiving week and will ultimately serve as the basis of the articles of impeachment that will initially be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee.

Now, there is a discussion behind the scenes about the size and scope of those articles of impeachment. There is talk about including abuse of power, as well as bribery, obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress as part of that going forward.

Now, of course, it's going to focus on Ukraine and the president's handling of Ukraine and whether he abused his office by withholding a key meeting and military assistance in exchange for that country moving forward on investigations that could help the president politically. But there is also a debate about whether to include those allegations of obstruction of justice as detailed by the Mueller report as the president sought to allegedly interfere with the investigation into his campaign. There is discussion about whether to include that as well.

So all of the discussions, Wolf, will happen behind the scenes as efforts are intensifying to get this wrapped up and prepare for a momentous December that could ultimately lead for a vote before Christmas to make President Trump the third president in American history to get impeached by the House, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, you're learning that lawmakers received a highly classified briefing showing how Russia has behind the false conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election but Republican lawmakers are still touting that theory despite knowing that it is a lie. So what is the latest?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. In a classified briefing this fall senators and aides were told by U.S. officials about the impact and the efforts by the Russians to essentially blame the Ukrainians for interfering in the 2016 election suggesting that just a handful of Ukrainian actors who criticized the president mounted to a broader effort to interfere in the election, that is what the Russians want the Americans to believe in order to shift the blame away from the systemic efforts by the Russians to meddle in the U.S. elections and try to help President Trump. Now, Trump has touted the notion that Ukraine may have meddled in the election and rejected the notion from these officials that Ukraine did not play a role and we've heard from testimony this week from a number of witnesses and last week as well that Ukraine did not play a role, that it was Russia that interfered in the elections.

[17:05:01]

But nevertheless, Republicans that I talked to in the aftermath of all these witnesses and experts on national security issues coming forward, these Republicans are still siding with the president instead of the experts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): There is ample evidence of Ukraine having engagement and involvement with things talking about a 2016 election.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): It is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time.

RAJU (on camera): Saying falsely in our view that Ukraine interfered with the U.S. elections. This is going to help Russia. That is what she just testified to. Do you not believe her?

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): She's welcome to her opinions.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We all know that Russia meddled in the election but that's not to say Ukraine didn't try to influence the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also told me, I think they did. Referring to Ukraine meddling in the elections after Fiona Hill, the top Russia adviser for President Trump, testified and said very clearly, quote, "this is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

And of course, Wolf, this is central to the impeachment inquiry because President Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate whether or not Ukraine played a role in interfering in the 2016 elections and of course, that's been cited by a number of witnesses as a precondition for the security assistance of roughly $400 million as well as a key meeting that the Ukrainian president sought with President Trump at the White House. But nevertheless, Republicans siding with the president here as he demanded loyalty from his party amid this impeachment fight. Wolf?

BLITZER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is also working the story for us. Jim, the president has been speaking out about the impeachment crisis that is clearly hanging over him right now. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. President Trump was not in the mood to take questions from reporters over here at the White House about the impeachment inquiry. The president was on Fox News earlier this morning where he unleashed a torrent of falsehoods to try to skirt accusations that he attempted -- has tried to shake down Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden and facing the likelihood that he will be impeached. The president is daring Democrats to put him on trial in the Senate but there is still one wild card in the mix, John Bolton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still stinging from a week full of damaging testimony in the impeachment inquiry, President Trump has dug in, refusing to answer some of the looming questions hanging over his administration.

One top White House official tried to stop us from asking the question.

(CROSSTALK)

The president would not respond on the testimony from his former advisor on Russia, Fiona Hill, who told lawmakers this week that Mr. Trump's theory that Ukraine meddled in 2016 election is false. But the president kept repeating that debunked claim on Fox.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They gave the server to CloudStrike or whatever it's called and a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.

And I still want to see that server.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. Hill testified that's peddling Russian propaganda.

FIONA HILL, FORMER TOP RUSSIA EXPERT, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

ACOSTA: Well aware that Democrats are moving toward impeachment in the House, the president is now looking to Republicans to save him during a Senate trial. White House officials tell CNN a trial could actually give Mr. Trump a political boost.

TRUMP (via telephone): You know who I want as the first witness, frankly I want a trial.

ACOSTA: The president turned to Fox News to respond with falsehoods and fabrications. Mr. Trump continued to claim he barely knows European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland who testified there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

TRUMP (via telephone): Now, with this guy, who, by the way, I hardly know him, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sondland?

TRUMP: I've spoken to him a few times.

ACOSTA: That's not what Sondland says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's spoken to you often?

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: What is often?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well you said at least 20 times?

SONDLAND: OK, if that is often, then it's often.

ACOSTA: The president also slammed former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch insisting she was out to get him too.

TRUMP (via telephone): But this ambassador that you know, everybody says is so wonderful. She wouldn't hang my picture in the embassy.

ACOSTA: But the president offered zero proof to back that one up either. The president may want to consider a different figure in the Ukraine saga, former National Security adviser John Bolton who has yet to testify. But tweeted that the White House refused to return access to my personal Twitter account out of fear of what I might say, to those who speculated I went into hiding, I'm sorry to disappoint.

But the president says that is not true. The only question Mr. Trump would take from reporters on the inquiry, his feelings about the whistleblower.

TRUMP: Whistleblower. I don't think there is -- I consider it to be a fake whistleblower. Because what he wrote didn't correspond to what I said in any way --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And getting back to these accusations from the former National Security Adviser John Bolton at the White House blocked him from accessing his Twitter account.

[17:10:03]

The White House says that is not the case. We have a quote here from a senior administration official. They didn't want to talk about this on the record but the official says, quote, "The White House did not block Mr. Bolton from accessing his personal Twitter account and wouldn't have the technical means to do so."

In the meantime, GOP officials say to expect a trial in the Senate as the president is likely to be impeached in the House. One source said Republican leaders are already looking to the Clinton impeachment trial as a guide but White House officials are eyeing this trial as an opportunity, Wolf, to bring in a slew of their own choice witnesses from the whistleblower to Hunter Biden. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you.

Let's bring in Jake Tapper, the host of "The Lead," our chief Washington correspondent as well is here with a preview of his new documentary, special report, "All The President's Lies." We'll get to that in a moment. What do you think of the impact, first of all, of the president's lies has been on his presidency and on the country?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the experts we talked to are very concerned about the impact. Because, look, this country is still dealing with the lies told to the United States by Lyndon Johnson and Nixon about Vietnam, and by Nixon about Watergate. I mean, we still feel it. The distrust of government is part of that.

So the fact that this president says so many things that are just patently false, for whatever reason, is having an impact and a lot of experts are very concerned. What does it mean in terms of the word of the president to U.S. allies? What does it mean when the president makes up or conflates a phone call with China and the market goes up, perhaps as a result? What does it mean to people on Wall Street? What does it mean to our national psyche? So this is what we hope to explore.

BLITZER: You have some new reporting on what is going on behind the scenes, what the White House is thinking. Share with our viewers.

TAPPER: Well, a source familiar with the White House Counsel's Office tells me that they -- and you can believe this or not but this is their opinion. They are not convinced that the House of Representatives is, in fact, going to even vote to impeach the president. They think that if it does go to the Senate, that there is more than enough reason for the Senate just to dismiss the case. Both on the system, the process, that Adam Schiff and the House Democrats set up but also on the merits.

And then lastly, they think that a trial would potentially be even good for the president politically. So they're expressing a degree of confidence. I should note that a House Democratic leadership aide told me that the White House, whatever my source is, the White House Counsel Office and whoever is familiar with, they are living in fantasyland, that the case against the president was very compelling but the House has not made a decision yet about the articles of impeachment.

BLITZER: And as I mentioned, you have a very important documentary, special report, coming out Sunday night entitled "All The President's Lies."

I know you've been trying to get some reaction from the White House. What are they saying to you?

TAPPER: Well, we reached out to the White House to try to get them to participate in this documentary about the president's relationship with the facts, relationship with truth. They declined to participate and then when a reporter from "Politico" asked them to comments, they said that they knew about the documentary but they didn't even -- they didn't know the topic of the documentary and that is -- again, it is a lie. I mean, there was an email saying the documentary is about the president's relationship with the truth. So I mean, it is an infectious disease I would say.

BLITZER: We look forward to watching it on Sunday night. Jake, thank you very much. And once again, Jake's special report "All The President's Lies" this Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Also don't forget on "State of the Union," earlier in the day, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff joins Jake. You could see that Sunday morning at both 9:00 a.m. Eastern and noon eastern only here on CNN.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida is joining us. She's a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's get right to the news. You know that the House Intelligence Committee is now writing the report on the impeachment inquiry they've conducted. When do you expect them to submit that to your committee -- the Judiciary Committee?

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Well, I think that they're right now in the process of writing the entire evidence that they found in the last two weeks through the testimonies of all of the witnesses. But let me just start by saying, Wolf, I really think it is important for the American public to hear what I'm saying. We did not come to Washington to impeach this president. We have been faced a -- with an allegation by a whistle-blower that is confirmed by several career diplomats well respected and veterans and we have no other choice than to continue the investigation and to right now wait for all of the information to come to judiciary from the House Intelligence Committee.

BLITZER: We understand that the House leadership is debating the number, the scope of the articles of impeachment that may eventually be filed. I know it is early and I know you're still working on it. But what do you think the articles of impeachment might include?

[17:15:05]

POWELL: I don't want to give any details because we are not -- we haven't confirmed what we will be writing in terms of articles of impeachment but I do want to point out that one of the things personally that I have seen from this president is obstruction of justice, and also obstruction of Congress. And so, it will be interesting to see if we have enough evidence to include that in the articles.

BLITZER: Do you think it will just -- just include obstruction of justice issues related to Ukraine, the Ukraine inquiry or do you think it will go beyond and go back to the Mueller investigation at the same time?

POWELL: Yes, at this point we haven't decided. So I won't comment on that. BLITZER: The White House would like to participate in the House Judiciary Committee process, they say, including calling its own witnesses before your committee. Are you willing to accept the White House input?

POWELL: Look, we actually voted on procedures and rules that actually allow this president to have due process to participate in any further hearings. To be able to allow his White House counsel to question witnesses. So if that is something that he's interested in doing, we are absolutely open to that. We will allow the president to have due process. Now we'll see if he'll take that offer.

BLITZER: The White House thinks that the House of Representatives ultimately will back down and not vote to impeach the president. Do you think that is likely?

POWELL: I don't think that is likely, Wolf. I think that we have received clear evidence which has been confirmed by multiple fact witnesses that have alleged that this president used the power of his office to extort a foreign government to invite foreign interference into our elections and this is a very serious national security issue. So again we're not there yet. I really do take everything that is happening right now in this investigation one day at a time keeping an open mind. But I don't think that is likely at this point.

BLITZER: U.S. intelligence officials, Congresswoman, they briefed senators and they've told them that Russia has been working for years to frame Ukraine for Moscow's role in meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Why do you think some of your Republican colleagues continue to cite this conspiracy theory about Ukraine rather than Russia interfering in the election?

POWELL: Yes, it is definitely very worrisome that they continue to perpetuate completely debunked conspiracy theories and I think it is because it benefits them. And what happens is there are actually sowing further the divide that we see in this country and it is so important for us to put all politics aside. I know this seems very political but it is not. This is about protecting our Constitution. This is about protecting the future of our democracy for our children, for all of us living here, Wolf.

And if you don't mind I just want to say something very quickly. I was actually at a nationalization ceremony today welcoming 142 new Americans. And there is such pride in this country with who we are that if you work hard you can achieve your American dream. We need to make sure that we protect and defend the Constitution. We said that this morning. New Americans made that oath. I made that oath when I became an American and took the office of Congress. With you must protect the Constitution from all foreign and domestic enemies. That is what we need to do in Congress. I hope that my Republican colleagues realize that we're all Americans, that this is about country and not party.

BLITZER: Well said, thank you so much, Congresswoman, for joining us.

POWELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Stay with us for more on all of the breaking news. Presidential candidate, by the way, Joe Biden is now lashing out at a Republican senator who has opened an investigation into his and his son's contacts with Ukraine. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:23:48]

BLITZER: This hour's breaking news, CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence officials gave U.S. senators a highly classified briefing this autumn warning that Russia is engaged in a year's long campaign to shift the blame for the 2016 election meddling here in the United States -- away from Moscow and on to Ukraine. During this week's impeachment hearings, House Republicans repeatedly blamed Ukraine for election meddling. The president does exactly the same thing.

Let's talk about this and more with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He also served as CIA director during the Obama administration as well as White House chief of staff to President Clinton.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. What is your message to those Republicans including the president who continue to promote this debunked conspiracy theory that it wasn't Russia, it was Ukraine who interfered in the election?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it is really important for the president and the Republicans and the Republicans and the Democrats for that matter -- to think seriously about what is in the interest of the United States of America when it comes to our national security. And what is in interest to our national security is the intelligence that we have that makes very clear that Russia is an adversary.

[17:25:00]

And their primary goal is to undermine the United States of America. And that if there are those in this country who basically peddle the Russian effort to develop this conspiracy theory about Ukraine which everyone, including our intelligence people have made clear does not have one ounce of truth to it, but if people keep repeating that, all they're doing is basically fulfilling the objective that Russia and Putin are trying to achieve which is to hurt America.

BLITZER: Dr. Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the National Security Council slammed that theory as fictional during her sworn testimony. She said the president's actions in effect were helping Russia right now. Are Republicans, Mr. Secretary, advancing Russia's interest?

PANETTA: I think the biggest problem that I see is that what we're missing, and I realize the focus has been on the impeachment issues, but what I see as a greater concern, very frankly, is that the president and those who would support some of the things this president does are really undermining our strength as a country in terms of our national security.

Fiona Hill touched on this. And I think it is something we have to pay attention to, that while we're focused on the issues in the impeachment. The reality is this president is not protecting the Ukraine from the threat that Russia constituted to the Ukraine. This president has basically betrayed our own allies in Syria, has handed Syria to the Russians and to Iran.

And just today, frankly, Wolf, it is something that concerns me a great deal, this president even though he talks about our national defense and the strength of our national defense, this president is undermining the discipline of our military by basically saying to those that have violated laws in the military that he's going to support them, which undermines the most essential ingredient of our national security which is military discipline. He's undermining that. So these are things I think we need to pay attention to because they relate to the very security of our country.

BLITZER: It's been clearly a very historic two weeks here in Washington, Mr. Secretary. You served in Washington a lot of different capacities. You were a member of Congress, served in the White House and the Defense Department and the CIA. Have you ever seen anything like this?

PANETTA: You know, I think we all recognize that we're living at a time that I don't think any of us anticipated we would see. Where this president -- we have a president of the United States who engages in just multiple lies about what is happening. Not only in this country but abroad. That is undermining our national security and that does not embrace any of the values that I think all of us thought were so important to the president of the United States in terms of the truth and in terms of the moral boundaries that presidents should abide by.

I think this is a critical moment, for all of us in this country. And I say that not just to Democrats, but to Republicans and independents and everyone in this country. This is a critical time because the danger I see is that rather than bringing this country together, rather than bringing the parties together, what this president is doing is badly dividing this country and he is deliberately trying to divide this country. And if the Republicans embrace that division, and all we wind up doing is developing this kind of partisan warfare that we've seen time and time again, this country is going to pay a serious price and our children will pay that price as well. This is a time to govern this country, not a time to attack the very values that make this country great.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: We'll have much more on the breaking news coming up. House Democrats will spend Thanksgiving week writing reports spelling out the case for multiple articles of impeachment against the president of the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:34:59]

BLITZER: The breaking news. In the wake of House impeachment hearings in which Republican lawmakers repeatedly asserted Ukraine tried to meddle in the 2016 election, CNN has now learned U.S. intelligence officials gave American senators a highly classified briefing this autumn warning that Russia is engaged in a years-long campaign, a plot to shift the blame for the 2016 election meddling away from Moscow and on to Ukraine.

Let's discuss with our experts, our analysts, our correspondents. All right, Gloria, I want you to listen to some of the Republican statements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY: There is ample evidence of Ukraine having engagement and involvement with things talking about our 2016 elections.

NUNES: It is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time.

RAJU: -- saying falsely, in her view, that Ukraine interfered with the U.S. election, this is going to help Russia. That's what she just testified to. Do you not --

PERRY: And she --

RAJU: Do you not believe her?

PERRY: And she's welcome to her opinions.

JORDAN: We all know that Russia meddled in the election, but that's not to say Ukraine didn't try to influence the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: To quote Mick Mulvaney, I would say get over it. You know, at this point, as you just pointed out at the top of the show, reporting shows that U.S. intelligence officials briefed senators saying that it -- that it was the Russian narrative that Ukraine was meddling in order to take the heat off themselves.

This is exactly what Fiona Hill was testifying to yesterday where she said it is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.

So here it is: the Russians are the bad guys, and Ukraine are the -- is the good guys. Are the good guys?

(LAUGHTER)

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right, yes. No, I think this is right. And then, you know, to quote Nancy Pelosi, all roads lead to Putin.

You saw in the impeachment hearings the quote from Putin, you know, in 2017 --

BLITZER: In February of 2017.

HENDERSON: In February of 2017, right, a month after Donald Trump was inaugurated, touting this narrative that it was really Ukraine.

I think what this does is this weakens Ukraine's position. Ukraine in a hot war with Russia. Russia wants to, you know, take Crimea. The President as a candidate said, well, maybe that -- that's what -- that's what folks in Ukraine want, to have Russia take Crimea.

So, you know, and that -- that's one of the reasons we know that folks in Ukraine were a little bit disturbed by this President because he seemed to take Russia's side in this Ukraine fight and just more broadly.

HENNESSEY: And keep in mind what this means. It means -- this means that as Devin Nunes sat on the dais in Congress and made these accusations, he did so with the full knowledge that the U.S. intelligence community had warned him that the message he was spreading was Russian propaganda.

This is another example of Republicans placing, essentially, their personal political interests and the political interest of the President of the United States who they will defend at all costs, even at the expense of U.S. national security.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

HENNESSEY: That itself is just astonishing. It really is emblematic of the degree to which the Republican Party has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Donald Trump.

BLITZER: You know --

BROWNSTEIN: That --

BLITZER: Go ahead, very quickly, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say I think that point is really right. I mean, I would distinguish between them, you know, what we see here from the President and Republicans in Congress.

From the President, I mean, his repeating this discredited idea is a continuation of actions that he has taken that unequivocally benefit Russia and Putin. I mean, just withholding the aid from Ukraine, using that as his lever, was something that benefited Putin. Withdrawing from Syria. I mean, we -- we continue to see these -- these decisions.

For the -- for the congressional Republicans, I don't know if that is so much the issue as it is their willingness to do anything to defend Trump and their willingness to go down any road, no matter how kind of, you know, ill-gotten or -- or ill-conceived in order to try to defend him.

BLITZER: Ron, let me just shift gears to politics. We're learning that Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, has now placed at least $29 million worth of television advertising over the next two weeks in his bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination. How significant do you think this investment is?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, that's almost -- it's more than half of the total that's already been spent by all of the candidates, but I would say, Wolf, it's very good news for television owners --

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: -- in states like Illinois and California and -- and New York and Florida. But historically, spending on television in presidential races has less effect than other races.

Tom Steyer spent $40 million already. He's at three percent. I'm not sure television alone is going to solve Michael Bloomberg's issues in the Democratic primary.

BLITZER: All right, stand -- everybody, stand by. There's a lot more coming up on the breaking news. 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden slams the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lindsey Graham, in a brand-new CNN interview.

[17:39:41]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, Joe Biden is lashing out at Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking the State Department now for documents related to Biden's contacts with Ukraine back in 2016 as well as about the work with Ukraine done by the former Vice President's son, Hunter Biden.

CNN's Don Lemon sat down with Biden this afternoon in South Carolina for this exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Let me ask you, because Lindsey Graham now, who you've worked with, who is a friend, who I know there's video of him saying, oh, you are the nicest person he's ever met, you're the greatest man, and now he's asking the State Department for documents for you and your son. What do you say to Lindsey Graham and -- and folks like him?

[17:44:59]

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're asking Lindsey Graham. They have him under his -- their thumb now -- right now. They know he knows if he comes out against Trump, he's got a real tough road for re-election, number one.

I am disappointed and, quite frankly, I'm angered by the fact. He knows me, he knows my son, he knows there's nothing to this. Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn't yield to.

The Ukrainians would not yield to, quote, investigate Biden because there's nothing to investigate about Biden or his son. And -- and Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he is going to regret his whole life.

LEMON: What do you say to him?

BIDEN: I say, Lindsey, I just -- I'm just embarrassed by what you're doing for you. I mean, my lord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Be sure to watch CNN later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, for Don Lemon's full interview with the former Vice President.

The breaking news continues. Next, the White House now responding to John Bolton's claim that it blocked his access to his own Twitter account.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:06]

BLITZER: There's more breaking news. We're following the White House, and it's now denying publicly that it blocked John Bolton's access to his Twitter account.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with details. Brian, the former national security adviser speaking out after a relatively long silence after he was fired or he quit, what happened. And he's now expressing concerns about the blocking of his Twitter account.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And he really may be the most highly anticipated potential witness in the entire impeachment process. We did hear from John Bolton today, as Wolf mentioned, in a series of tweets, but it's what we may hear from him in the weeks ahead, which could cause some real upheaval in this inquiry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He's been one of the ghosts of the impeachment hearings on a list of key figures like Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani, and Mick Mulvaney who didn't testify. But former national security adviser John Bolton could know more than all of them about the allegations that President Trump abused his power to leverage the Ukrainians to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": John Bolton has been one of the most mysterious figures in this whole Ukraine sage. He was one of the biggest starring players in this whole episode with Ukraine, and yet he was an offstage character almost the entire time in the impeachment probe.

TODD (voice-over): But today, after more than two months of silence, a tease from John Bolton. In a series of tweets, he accused the White House of blocking his access to his personal Twitter account, which President Trump denied.

TRUMP: No, of course not. Of course not. No, I actually had a good relationship with John.

TODD (voice-over): In a tweet, Bolton asked whether the White House blocked his Twitter access, quote, out of fear of what I may say?

The specter of John Bolton loomed over the impeachment hearings in accounts his top aide, Fiona Hill, gave of Bolton's concerns about the Trump team's pressure on Ukraine.

HILL: He, then, in the course of that discussion, said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.

TODD (voice-over): Hill said Bolton physically stiffened at a July 10th White House meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian officials when E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland first linked a possible Trump meeting with Ukraine's President to Ukraine investigating the Bidens.

Hill said Bolton immediately walked out of the meeting and gave her an ominous directive afterward.

HILL: The specific instruction was that I had to go to the lawyers, to John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council, to basically say -- you tell Eisenberg Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.

TODD (voice-over): And American diplomate David Holmes testified that Bolton met with Ukraine's President in August and warned him what it would take to lift a hold on U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: It would hang on whether President Zelensky was able to, quote, favorably impress President Trump.

TODD (voice-over): But Bolton could know so much more. Two weeks ago, his lawyer wrote a letter to congressional leaders saying Bolton was involved in, quote, many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.

TODD (on camera): What could he have witnessed?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: John Bolton would have had more communications directly with President Trump than any witness we've heard from to date. So anything the President said in John Bolton's presence about the pressure campaign on the Ukrainians would be enormously significant testimony.

TODD (voice-over): Including one meeting that an aide testified Bolton had with Trump in August where the aide said Bolton tried and failed to get Trump to lift the hold on U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Among the crucial looming questions are when will John Bolton reveal what he knows about the Ukraine dealings and in what forum? Bolton's lawyer said he wouldn't testify at impeachment hearings unless a judge forced him to, and he wasn't subpoenaed by House Democrats.

But he might have to testify in a Senate impeachment trial, or Bolton's first revelations could come in a new book he's writing which is due out next year sometime before the election -- Wolf.

[17:55:02]

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Brian Todd, thank you.

There's more breaking news. Next, House Democrats writing their impeachment report right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)