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Impeachment Timeline; FBI Cleared in Justice Department Probe?; Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); Biden: Sen. Lindsey Graham Under Trump's Thumb, "Angered" and "Embarrassed" by GOP Senator's Actions. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 22, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:06]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: writing the report.

AS House Democrats move toward impeaching the president, we're getting new details on how they're weighing the evidence and debating charges that could go beyond the Ukraine scandal.

Ignoring the facts. There's new evidence tonight that Republicans brazenly disregarded expert warnings that they're playing into Russia's hands by claiming Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

Clearing the FBI? New reporting tonight on the findings of a soon-to- be-released investigation of the Russia probe's origins. Will President Trump's claims of FBI bias against him be debunked?

And attacking a pariah. Joe Biden is slamming President Trump for intimating impeachment -- intimidating, I should say, impeachment witnesses and questioning their patriotism. Stand by to hear from the Democratic presidential candidate in an exclusive CNN interview.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the next phase of the impeachment investigation.

Sources now tell CNN that House Democratic aides will spend Thanksgiving week writing a report that makes the case for impeaching the president of the United States.

As the president tries to defend themselves by peddling conspiracy theories, there's now new evidence that Republicans are disregarding official warnings that they're simply spreading Russian propaganda.

CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence officials briefed senators this fall, sharing classified details on Russia's campaign to shift the blame for the 2016 election interference away from Moscow and onto Ukraine. This hour, I will talk with Democratic Congressman Raja

Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Intelligence Committee who took part in the impeachment hearings over the past couple of weeks. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill.

What are you learning, Phil, about the next steps in the impeachment process?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, while lawmakers may be home for the Thanksgiving holiday in their districts, the work on impeachment, and at least the impeachment inquiry, continues unabated.

Staff of the House Intelligence Committee plan to spend the next week continuing to write a report on their findings, what they have discovered over the course of a series of public hearings and closed- door depositions.

Once they are done with that, they will transmit it over to the House Judiciary Committee, which will then hold hearings of its own, talking about the process of impeachment and then the process of drafting the articles of impeachment.

The reality here, Wolf, is this. House Democrats are moving forward. They are moving forward quickly, and they are moving forward without the testimony of some key officials that have so far up to this point resisted coming in.

And that's a key point. While some people have asked, why not wait, those officials will actually in and of themselves form likely the basis for an article of impeachment themselves, obstruction. It's very clear that Democrats are moving forward.

And as they move through this process, at this moment, it looks like their target could be the week of Christmas, the week before Christmas, to actually have a full House floor vote to impeach the president of the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're also learning, Phil, that lawmakers received a highly classified briefing showing how Russia was behind the false conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

MATTINGLY: Wolf, that's correct.

U.S. intelligence officials had a classified briefing with senators and their aides, senators from both parties, this fall about the very issue that you heard Dr. Fiona Hill bring up in her testimony yesterday, the idea that Russia was trying to move Ukraine into the information flow in an effort to kind of push away all of the attention their now proven meddling in the 2016 election.

This was an operation that was a years-long operation, these officials told lawmakers. And it was an operation that focused on several Ukrainian officials who had voiced concerns or had problems with President Trump, trying to elevate those officials' complaints and trying to make that look like Ukraine was in fact involved in a similar type of information campaign, as the Russians, it proved, turned out to be working on themselves.

Now, why this is so interesting now -- I mentioned Dr. Fiona Hill. She, to some degree castigated Republican lawmakers who have been moving forward with ideas or theories that are now very conspiratorial. She called it a fictionalized narrative based on the fact that Ukraine was meddling and not Russia.

It's also something you have heard from the president of the United States as recently as this morning in a long interview on "FOX & Friends." He brought it up multiple times. So this is something that is continuing to be in the bloodstream of Republican officials, of top Republican officials, as high as the Oval Office.

But it's something that the president's own intelligence community has briefed here on Capitol Hill as a pure disinformation campaign pushed by Moscow in an effort to move the focus away from what they did, not Ukraine, what Russians did in 2016 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

[18:05:00]

Let's get some more how and when the House of Representatives will move toward impeachment.

Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, is also working the story for us.

These next few days and weeks, for that matter, Sara, will be very busy.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And lawmakers are officially on a break, but when they get back to Washington, they will be moving on a very speedy timeline that's likely to send President Trump careening toward impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Democrats are bracing for a busy December, with a possible vote to impeach President Trump before Christmas Day.

The House Intelligence Committee and two other panels are crafting a report to serve as the basis for articles of impeachment that the House Judiciary Committee will consider after Thanksgiving.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): We have to decide, what does it mean? And once we conclude our investigation, if we decide that it means that the president should be held accountable... MURRAY: December will be filled with public hearings and a likely vote in the House Judiciary Committee before a full vote to impeach on the House floor, which could come before Christmas Day, potentially making Trump the third president in history to be impeached.

House Democrats don't plan to wait for firsthand witnesses who have resisted testifying, like acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They keep taking it to court. And, no, we're not going to wait until the courts decide. That might be information that's available to the Senate, but we can't wait for that, because, again, it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice.

MURRAY: Then, in January, the impeachment battle is expected to shift to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will run the show. Republican lawmakers have already begun working with the White House to prepare for a possible a Senate, coalescing around the notion that an exhaustive process may be the best course to protect the president.

There, Trump's fate will collide with six Democratic senators looking to unseat him in the next presidential election.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be there for the trial.

MURRAY: But after weeks of hearings and impassioned arguments from Democrats...

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And, in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.

MURRAY: ... even Republicans who have been critical of Trump don't appear convinced impeachment is the remedy.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous. I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, we have heard some Republicans say that they don't approve of the president's behavior, they don't agree with his behavior, Wolf, but we have not seen them breaking ranks, saying they would be in favor of impeachment.

That is the work that Democrats still have to do to try to move members across the aisle. And it may not be possible.

BLITZER: We will see what happens every step of the way.

Sara, thank you very much for that report. Also breaking tonight, a source now telling CNN that the White House

legal team isn't convinced the House of Representatives will actually vote to impeach President Trump. That may be wishful thinking for a president who is basing much of his defense on false claims and conspiracy theories.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what are you hearing from the president, for example, tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, 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 another network earlier this morning, where he unleashed a torrent of falsehoods to try to skirt accusations that he attempted to shake down Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden. But he's facing the likelihood that he will be impeached.

And so, right now, the president is almost daring Democrats to put him on trial in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still stinging from a week full of damaging testimony in the impeachment inquiry, President Trump is 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.

ACOSTA (on camera): Any response to Fiona Hill? Mr. President, Fiona Hill says that the idea that Ukraine meddled in 2016 is false. Can you respond to Fiona Hill, Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're done.

ACOSTA: Can we ask a...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're done.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president would not respond to testimony from his former adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill, who told lawmakers this week that Mr. Trump's theory that Ukraine meddled in the 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 CrowdStrike or whatever it's called, which is a country -- which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. He will testify that's peddling Russian propaganda. FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: 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: You know who I want as the first witness, because, 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.

[18:10:12]

TRUMP: Now, with this guy, who, by the way, I hardly know him, OK?

QUESTION: Sondland?

TRUMP: Yes, I have spoken to him a few times.

ACOSTA: That's not what Sondland says.

SWALWELL: And he has spoken to you often?

SONDLAND: What's often?

SWALWELL: Well, you said at least 20 times?

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

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

TRUMP: But this ambassador that 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's not true.

QUESTION: Did you guys freeze his account?

TRUMP: No, of course not.

ACOSTA: The only question Mr. Trump would take from reporters on the inquiry, his feelings about the whistle-blower.

TRUMP: The whistle-blower, I don't think there is. I consider it to be a fake whistle-blower.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, in just the last few moments, the former National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived at Union Station. He is back in Washington.

He whisked past our cameras and looks like he's taking a couple of questions from reporters there. Not exactly sure what he's saying just yet.

But, Wolf, we should point out the White House has responded to his accusation that they tried to block him from accessing his Twitter account. He has -- he has -- you can see him right there talking to reporters as we speak.

But the White House said in a statement just a short while ago that they don't have the means to block John Bolton from accessing his Twitter account. And, in the meantime, Wolf, we should say, GOP officials, they do expect to have a trial in the Senate, as the president is expected to be impeached.

One source said that Republican leaders are already looking to the Clinton impeachment trial as a guide. But, obviously, as you can see, just a few moments ago, John Bolton drawing a lot of attention to himself, not only on Twitter, but out in public.

And one big bombshell that could drop in this impeachment inquiry that nobody thought was going to come is whether John Bolton actually testifies up on Capitol Hill. That could change everything -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly could. Could be a critical -- critically important witness.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Joining us, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat. He serves on both the Intelligence and Oversight committees.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

So, what do you think? John Bolton, the former national security adviser, he's teasing that the White House is worried about what he knows and what he might say. Is it a mistake to move ahead without pushing much harder to get his testimony, because I think you could be close to getting it?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Well, first of all, thanks for having me on. And you're right that his subordinates at the National Security Council, including Dr. Hill, including Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and others, did testify that he had significant concerns about what was happening on this irregular policy channel that was headed by Rudy Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and President Trump's domestic rivals.

That being said, at this point, I think that we need to quickly conclude this particular inquiry, if for no other reason than to stop the wrongdoing that's happening right now in our foreign policy at the White House, because, as you may have seen on my questioning of some of the witnesses, they can't rule out that the same thing that's happening in Ukraine is happening in other countries, whether it's Saudi Arabia or Russia or other countries.

And so I think that we have to move forward. If we were to go through some long court fight to get others, it would just accomplish what, unfortunately, the White House is engaged in, which is trying to stonewall and prevent this investigation from going forward.

BLITZER: Your committee, the Intelligence Committee, is now writing the report on the impeachment inquiry.

What will that report look like?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, the able staff of the committee is trying to put together all this evidence that's been gathered over many weeks at this point, and essentially try to just present the facts, and whether they support some of the different theories behind wrongdoing.

I suspect that the minority will also be given a chance to submit their report to the Judiciary Committee, and then the Judiciary Committee will have to decide next steps.

But I think that, at this point, everyone's trying to gather all the evidence, whether it's documentary or deposition evidence, and, of course, the hearing testimony.

I got to just say one thing. Those 12 witnesses who came forward, they were incredible witnesses. They were careful. They were consistent in their recounts of what happened. And they provided compelling, indeed riveting testimony at times.

[18:15:08]

BLITZER: They certainly did.

How soon, Congressman, will you send that report from the Intelligence Committee to the Judiciary Committee?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know the exact timing. I think Chairman Schiff would like to do it as quickly as we can.

But, on the other hand, I got to tell you, people are exhausted from what just happened. We had a marathon two weeks of hearings. And I think, today, people are just trying to get their bearings and then power through the next couple of weeks and get everything concluded in an orderly fashion, hopefully.

BLITZER: As you know, many of the witnesses we heard from -- and they were all impressive -- in these impeachment hearings are...

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

BLITZER: ... either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants, like yourself.

And I want to show this emotional exchange you had with Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISHNAMOORTHI: From one immigrant American to another immigrant American, I want to say to you that you and your family represent the very best of America.

I assume that you are as proud to be an American as I am, correct?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what's your reaction, Congressman, to the ongoing attacks on these witnesses over their heritage by some of these fringe groups out there and some that may not even be fringe groups?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it's reprehensible.

In Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's case, I personally believe that the attacks are in part motivated by his immigrant status.

This gentleman came over when he was 3.5 years old as a toddler from the Soviet Union. His father, he and his brothers came here with his grandmother. His mother had died when he was very young.

And you know what they did? They set about basically committing themselves to America. All three brothers are in the military, Wolf.

And the other thing that really bothered me about the attacks on Lieutenant Colonel Vindman had to do, I think, in part with his Jewish heritage as well.

This is something that I talked about with Dr. Fiona Hill. There has been a consistent smear campaign against her, Marie Yovanovitch, and potentially even Lieutenant Colonel Vindman in some of these right- wing circles, in part based on their Jewish heritage, and conspiracy theories with George Soros and just some crackpot theories.

In some cases, I believe that those same people who are fomenting those theories are trafficking in those crazy conspiracy theories with regard to Ukraine interfering in our 2016 elections.

I think it's just a nutty group of people who are kind of behind some of these strange theories that seek to smear Vindman and Hill and Yovanovitch and others.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you make an important point. I'm going to have more on this later this hour.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, the breaking news continues next.

We have the details of the Justice Department's probe of the Russia investigation. Does it clear FBI officials of acting on any anti- Trump bias?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:24]

BLITZER: We have some breaking news on the investigation of the origins of the Russia probe.

CNN has now learned that the Justice Department's inspector general is expected to conclude that the FBI's handling of the investigation was appropriate and legally valid.

We're told the report found mistakes were made by lower-level employees, but the findings are expected to clear top bureau officials of the president's allegations that they were biased against him.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.

Preet, the president wanted to investigate the investigators. Now we expect this report from the I.G. to clear top FBI officials of acting on an anti-Trump bias. How significant is that?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, on planet Earth, it's quite significant.

In the world in which there are folks who are allies of the president find things to justify their behavior or find exoneration where there's no exoneration, then I'm not sure how significant it is rhetorically.

Remember, this is an I.G. He's actually an alumnus of my old office, the Southern District of New York, Michael Horowitz, who has not minced words, who has not been shy about criticizing top leaders at the Justice Department, including former FBI director Jim Comey, not just once, but twice, also the former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.

So he's been tough about calling out people's conduct, in his view and in the view of his investigators, when he thinks it's called for. So I think, against that backdrop, if the overall -- if this is true, if the overall conclusion of the report is that that investigation was properly predicated, and the FISA warrants were done overall based on valid information, then I think that's very significant.

[18:25:05]

It won't stop people from criticizing it and using it to mean what they want it to mean. But I think it's a significant step.

BLITZER: We are told the report did find some improper conduct by lower-level employees, including an FBI lawyer accused of altering a document that was used to get that warrant to conduct surveillance on Trumped campaign aide Carter Page.

Despite that, the inspector general believed there was proper legal basis to grant that warrant. So how do you weigh the implications of that?

BHARARA: Yes, I think, again, the top-line conclusion that you repeated again, if it's true, that the overall investigation was valid, and that the instruments and tools used, including the FISA warrant, were validly predicated and based on sufficient evidence, notwithstanding whatever alleged misconduct happened here, then I think that's the important thing.

Remember, there are cases where lots and lots of people are involved -- and people you may not appreciate this -- every day in the country, and if someone shoots someone and is guilty of murder, and there's some low-level person the case who committed some conduct that's not right or not appropriate, that's very serious.

And that person should be held accountable. And, sometimes, you suppress evidence because there was someone in the chain who did something wrong. That's all fine and true and proper. And we will wait to see what the facts are of this.

But it does not necessarily mean that you let the killer go free. And I fear that, depending on what the circumstances and facts are and truth is, that people are going to use that conclusion with respect to one or two low-level people that didn't affect the overall standing of the investigation, to argue that the whole thing is bogus, that the whole thing should be thrown out and that the whole thing was a hoax.

That's not how it works, appropriately, throughout the justice system in this country every day in states and counties and on the federal level. And that's not how it will work here, not to minimize any misconduct on anybody's part.

But you hold them accountable, but you also hold the people who are the subjects of the investigation accountable as appropriate also.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, as usual, thanks so much for joining.

BHARARA: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, what former National Security Adviser John Bolton had to say to reporters just a little while ago when he arrived here in Washington.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: All right. We're back with the breaking news on the president's ousted national security adviser, John Bolton. He's speaking out just moments ago after accusing the White House of blocking his Twitter account over the past two months since he was fired. And just moments ago, CNN caught up with him as he arrived at Union Station here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: They attached software to it and Twitter unattached the software to it.

REPORTER: And how do you (INAUDIBLE)? I'm sorry. Could you repeat that, please? Twitter unattached software to it. And why is the White House blocking it?

BOLTON: You'll have to ask the White House that.

REPORTER: Are you concerned that they're trying to stop you from testifying?

BOLTON: I'm talking about -- no, I won't.

REPORTER: Are you concerned that they're trying to stop you from testifying?

BOLTON: I don't know. You'll have to ask the White House.

What I can say definitively, we have regained control of the Twitter account. Twitter detached the White House software, okay? Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss with our analysts. Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think? I see a smile on your face. But this is serious. Let me tell you why, because he potentially could be a critically important witness.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know what he has to do to be a critically important witness? Show up. That's all he has to do. I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I couldn't care less about his Twitter account. But what I could care about why he's running around the country giving speeches for money, why he's got a $2 million book deal but he's not doing his patriotic duty, which is testifying before Congress. That's an outrage. His Twitter account is a complete irrelevancy.

BLITZER: Pamela, what do you think?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, his explanation just is sort of mindboggling, I guess. MURRAY: It's just software unattached?

BROWN: I mean, that in and of itself raises a lot of questions. The White House is, of course, denying that it blocked his Twitter account and so forth. But, yes, he is a critical witness. And for the Democrats, he really could be the linchpin that they're looking for in this case to tie directly back to the president in the Ukraine investigation. Because as you'll recall, his lawyer had said that he has all this information that hasn't been disclosed about Ukraine.

So we'll have to wait and see what exactly he tweets and what the --

BLITZER: Because, Abby, as you know, he didn't just meet with the president on a daily basis, but often several time as day, he would have briefings, meetings with the president.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, I mean, in addition to that, Wolf, what Fiona Hill testified to is that John Bolton directed his staff to report to lawyers within the White House activities that he thought were inappropriate. So Jeffrey is right. He needs to actually testify under oath about those interactions if he wants to play a role in this.

Tweeting is not really an option, because all that does is undermine his credibility. Anyone can tweet. Anyone can say whatever they want to say on Twitter. But when you testify under oath, you are supposed to tell the truth under the penalty of perjury. And that's what's required under these circumstances.

Unless what he's talking about is some evidence that might exist within his Twitter account, I don't see how this is relevant to what's going on on the Hill.

MURRAY: And Fiona even said, people should do their patriotic duty and their moral duty, and they should show up if they have been subpoenaed. And they should provide any relevant evidence they have to lawmakers.

And meanwhile, John Bolton is running -- I have been fully indoctrinated by Jeffrey Toobin. I think it's crazy that John Bolton is like running around, talking about Twitter software, writing this book, which he will certainly fill with juicy nuggets so that he can make more money and sell more books, and giving speeches where he hints at the president's decision-making. And then he's saying, no, no, I couldn't possibly show up and talk to lawmakers about any of this stuff that I'm mentioning in speeches and presumably included in my book.

BROWN: And I will say -- and he also says, look, I will if the court makes me. But it looks like that case is going to go so long and the Democrats are not going to focus on it.

What will be interesting though is what happens on Monday with Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel, and what the judge rules on that, because that could have implications for Bolton.

BLITZER: It certainly could.

All right, guys, everybody stand by. There's a lot more news we're following, including the former vice president, Joe Biden. He now says he's embarrassed for his one-time friend and colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, as he does President Trump's bidding. Biden is speaking out in an exclusive brand new CNN interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, as House Democrats get closer and closer to impeaching President Trump, we have a clear sense of how the Ukraine pressure campaign played out. CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now in The Situation Room.

We learned a lot, Tom, over the last couple of weeks.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And what this testimony has done, more than anything else, is fill in holes, creating a much more complete timeline of what happened over the past several months and why that might be cause for impeachment now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Spring, 2019, as Volodymyr Zelensky is winning the presidency of Ukraine, a widely respected U.S ambassador to that country is losing her job. Marie Yovanovitch, according to testimony, was called home following a month's long smear campaign suggesting she was disloyal to President Trump.

Behind it, Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me.

FOREMAN: But now, testimony tells us Yovanovitch was simply in the way because she wouldn't buy into a disproven conspiracy theory Giuliani was pushing.

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: The facts are stubborn and, eventually, this is going to have to be investigated.

FOREMAN: Giuliani wanted the Ukrainians to investigated debunked allegations of corruption in Ukraine tied to the U.S. Democratic Party in the 2016 election, Joe Biden, a potential rival to Trump for the presidency, and Biden's son.

Giuliani insisted it had nothing to do with Trump's re-election plans and there is nothing illegal about it. And soon, Trump was saying, if a foreign country offered dirt on a political foe --

TRUMP: I think I'd want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Do you want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI.

FOREMAN: Summer, Team Trump keeps pushing for an investigation, a murky unofficial channel appears to be opening between the White House and Ukraine, as the U.S. ambassador to European Union, Gordon Sondland, becomes more involved in it, those on the official side grow alarmed, including Trump's then National Security Council Director for Europe and Russia, Fiona Hill.

HILL: Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand and we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things have just diverged.

FOREMAN: Ukraine has previously concluded there is nothing to the allegations of meddling in the U.S. election and the claims against Biden. They initially appear reluctant to dive into America politics.

Then the White House unexpectedly suspends nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. A visit to the White House, which the new president wants, is on hold too. Trump gets on the phone with Zelensky and drives the message home.

I would like you to do us a favor. He personally asked for an investigation. He mentions Biden by name. The next day, the Ukrainians commit. Sondland calls Trump with a message.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE LEAD LAWYER: President Zelensky, quote, loves your ass, unquote. Do you recall saying that?

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: Yes, it sounds like something I would say.

FOREMAN: Trump's defenders say this was all about fighting corruption in Ukraine. But Sondland now says everyone knew it was really about pushing for a public announcement that Biden was under suspicion.

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?

SONDLAND: I assume President Trump would.

MALONEY: There we have it. See?

FOREMAN: Then everything blows up.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We now know the whistleblower --

BLITZER: The whistleblower complaint --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The whistleblower scandal --

FOREMAN: An anonymous whistleblower files a report reflecting widening concerns about the call from a decorated military officer. VINDMAN: It was improper for the president.

FOREMAN: From an aide to Vice President Pence.

JENNIFER WILLIAMS, AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: It involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.

[18:45:02]

FOREMAN (voice-over): News of the suspended military aid erupts, Congress starts buzzing, did President Trump coerce a foreign government to investigate a political rival? As the scandal boils up, Trump releases the military aid, a rough transcript of the call and goes on defense.

TRUMP: You take look at the call, it was perfect.

FOREMAN: Even as his acting chief of staff seems to confirm pressure was applied.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time with foreign policy. And I have news for everybody: get over it.

FOREMAN: He walks it back.

Autumn, facing an impeachment inquiry, Trump orders officials to defy congressional subpoenas to explain what happened. And he insists there was never any kind of deal.

TRUMP: There was no quid pro quo.

There was no quid pro quo at all.

I want no quid pro quo.

FOREMAN: But his own ambassador, Sondland, under oath, says otherwise.

SONDLAND: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: The president and many Republicans are insisting this whole story, all this negative testimony is a conspiracy, too, an insidious effort to chase a duly elected president from office. But one after another, witnesses in positions to know the truth have said otherwise. This is not just based on the whistleblower, it's not all hearsay and there very much was an implicit deal to help U.S. powers be used to aid Trump's political campaign -- Wolf.

BURNETT: Tom Foreman, excellent reporting, thanks very much. We're doing that.

And stay with CNN for the big picture on two weeks of riveting testimony here in Washington. Anderson anchors a special report, "The Impeachment Inquiry: In the Words of the Witnesses". It airs Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead, an exclusive new CNN interview with former Vice President Joe Biden. The impeachment hearings have left him fuming at President Trump and his former pal, Senator Lindsey Graham.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:40]

BLITZER: Tonight, Joe Biden is firing back at President Trump and his GOP allies for falsely accusing him and his son of wrongdoing in Ukraine. In an exclusive new CNN interview, the Democratic presidential candidate directs some of his toughest criticism at his one-time friend and colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham.

Listen to the former vice president with CNN's Don Lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Let me ask you, because Lindsey Graham now, who you've worked with -- who was a friend -- who I know there's a 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 folks like him?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're asking Lindsey Graham. They have him under their thumb right now. They know he knows that if he comes out against Trump, he's got a real tough road for reelection, 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 Ukrainians wouldn't yield to. The Ukrainians would not yield to, quote, investigate Biden -- there's nothing to investigate about Biden or his son.

And Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he's 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: Biden says it's clear after two weeks of impeachment hearings that President Trump violated the Constitution and intimidated witnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Have you watched these hearings?

BIDEN: I've watched some of them because I've been on the road the whole time.

LEMON: What do you think of the defense when you hear them questioning the witnesses and the patriotism of these people who have come forward?

BIDEN: It angers me. It angers me. Especially, Trump trying to intimidate witnesses while they're testifying. What -- what kind of man is this? That alone is enough for him to be viewed as a pariah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You can see all of Don Lemon's interview with the former vice president at 10:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight, only here on CNN.

We'll have more news just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Finally tonight, during two historic weeks of impeachment hearings, the nation witnessed the courage of American diplomats and other public servants. Some of them faced awful accusations that they may not be sufficiently loyal to this country because of their immigrant background. But they pushed back defending their love and commitment to the United States of America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIE YAVONOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: My service is an expression of gratitude for all that this country has given to me and to my family. My late parents did not have the good fortune to come of age in a free society.

SONDLAND: Like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and hungry for opportunity.

HILL: I can say with confidence that this country has offered me opportunities I never would've had in England.

VINDMAN: Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals, talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This is all very personal for me. I'm the son of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States. This country welcomed my parents who established a wonderful life in Buffalo, New York. They were so grateful to this country and went on to become American patriots.

Let us never forget that the history of America is filled with examples of immigrants excelling because of the amazing opportunities this country provides.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.