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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Judge: Ex-White Counsel Must Testify In Impeachment Probe; Trump May Not Be Immune From Testifying; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Is Interviewed About The Ruling Of Don McGahn To Compel Others Like John Bolton And Mick Mulvaney To Testify; Federal Judge On Trump's Attempt To Prevent Former WH Counsel From Testifying; "Presidents Are Not Kings"; Subpoena Indicates Federal Investigators Interested In Rudy Giuliani's Business; Buttigieg's Challenge: Courting Black Voters; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Is Interviewed About 2020 Election And The Impeachment Probe. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 25, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We invited Senator Kennedy to join us, he declined. We hope he will join us soon. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a federal judge ruling moments ago that the former White House Counsel must testify in the impeachment probe. The judge saying even Trump may not be immune from testifying under oath. Also breaking, federal prosecutors digging deeper into Rudy Giuliani, but the President still coming to his lawyer's defense. What's the 'insurance policy' they're both talking about? And a top Democratic senator reveals what his Republican colleagues are telling him behind closed doors. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, a major ruling that could have a big impact on the impeachment investigation. A ruling that opens the door to President Trump himself testifying under oath. A federal judge just ruling that former White House Counsel Don McGahn must cooperate with the impeachment investigation.

Now, this is a huge win for Democrats tonight because they have called McGahn a 'principal witness'. According to the ruling and obviously it was one of the hundred pages here. But according to the ruling key line, "As far as the duty to appear is concerned, this Court holds that Executive branch officials are not absolutely immune from compulsory congressional process - no matter how many times the executive branch has asserted as much over the years - even if the President expressly directs such officials' non compliance."

Now, that shatters Trump's claim that his top aides have a 'absolute immunity' from testifying. So that means it could open the floodgates for other crucial witnesses in the Ukraine impeachment investigation, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Ambassador and Security Advisor, Ambassador John Bolton. I mean all of them could be forced.

Three men who could incriminate the President, according to a letter tonight from the House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. Now, this judge also ruling in McGahn's case that Trump himself may not be immune from testimony. And again, that crucial line here from the ruling, "Even with respect to the underlying contention that the President himself is entitled to absolute testimonial immunity. Miers," referring to a prior case, "found binding Supreme Court cases that compelled the opposite conclusion."

The opposite conclusion. I want to go straight to Evan Perez who is OUTFRONT Live in Washington on this breaking news. So Evan, obviously, a lot in this ruling but some crucial developments tonight. What's the bottom line?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. Some very harsh words from this judge who says over 250 years of U.S. history, essentially what she arrives that is presidents are not kings and you can see that she is basically taking not only the Don McGahn question, the question of whether Don McGahn has to show up in answer to the subpoena.

But she's also saying that it goes beyond Don McGahn. It goes to the National Security officials such as John Bolton, because John Bolton, and some people in the administration have claimed that even if you make Don McGahn testify, you can't force a small cadre of officials who are really, really close to the President, national security officials to show up.

She is saying absolutely not and then, of course, as you pointed out, she's saying that the President is himself not immune. Of course, what does this mean when Don McGahn shows up. If he does show up, eventually it means that he may still, however, refuse to answer certain questions because of executive privilege. And we don't know, Erin, how long it'll be before this all gets resolved.

We know the Justice Department tonight says that they're going to appeal this ruling and so we're looking at an appeals court ruling perhaps in the next couple of months before it may even get to the Supreme Court. So we're still looking at several months of litigation, during which time, of course, the Democrats say that they want to wrap up their impeachment inquiry.

BURNETT: All right. Evan Perez, thank you very much. I want to go OUTFRONT now to Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She's a Member of the Judiciary Committee which, of course, will be drawing up articles of impeachment. I appreciate your time tonight.

So Congresswoman, obviously, you're right now looking at potential articles when it comes to Ukraine. Do you think this ruling about Don McGahn will compel others like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney to testify imminently?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, I think that the victory was a resoundingly victory for the rule of law and for our Constitution. The judge very clearly says that the President's claim of absolute immunity is absolute absurdity. And I think that at the end of the day, we have an obligation to get the facts and to get witnesses in front of us. In fact, the judge was still reading the full opinion but the judge

says in the opinion that blatant disregard of Congress' ability to compel witnesses to come and testify before us is an affront to the mechanisms that the framers put into the Constitution to control abuses of power.

[19:05:10]

So I expect that this President will continue to try to obstruct justice, will continue to try to stop people from coming to testify. But I hope that these witnesses, Don McGahn and others, will look at the courage of the people that have been testifying for the last two weeks. These civil servants who came before us and said, "We're going to put country above party." And I hope that they do the same thing.

BURNETT: Now, in the ruling though, the judge also noted, I know you've obviously seen it, Evan was just talking about this part, "The law requires the aide to appear as directed, and assert executive privilege as appropriate."

So there's a lot of assumptions here, but one, let's just assume here that the DOJ appeal is quick. McGahn actually shows up, he comes in to testify. Do you worry he just exerts executive privilege? Sure he's there but all he's saying is nothing to say here, nothing to say here.

JAYAPAL: I do worry about that, because as long as Don McGahn is following the President's orders, I worry that what he will claim is not true executive privilege but a bogus kind of executive privilege. They're going to continue to try to put roadblocks in the way and what it's going to take is for a Don McGahn or John Bolton or others to do what Fiona Hill did, to do what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman did and to actually say we have to make sure we are giving all of the information here, so that Congress can appropriately act as that check of abuses of power.

And that's what we're seeing as constant abuses of power coming from the White House where he is so shaking down Ukraine to get a political personal gain.

BURNETT: Now, when you're talking about Ukraine here, obviously, the McGahn testimony that this was all about was related to the Mueller investigation, not about Ukraine. He was long gone before this President of Ukraine even took office, never mind before these phone calls.

When you're thinking about articles of impeachment, Congresswoman Jayapal, do you think they should solely focused on Ukraine?

JAYAPAL: Well, we're waiting to get all of the information in front of us. But remember that an article of impeachment is not based on a topic area. It's not like you have an article around Ukraine. You have an article around the high crime and misdemeanor. The issue of obstruction of Congress. That was the third article in the Nixon impeachment issues of obstruction of justice, abuse of power. These are the high crimes and misdemeanors that would actually frame

an article. Now, within that you might have a lot of what we just heard in Ukraine as a bulk of that article. But you could also have the same pattern that we were investigating, that Robert Mueller was investigating around obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress.

So you can pull in other things and certainly the Don McGahn testimony was an important part of the Mueller investigation because he was at the center of so much of that obstruction by the President.

BURNETT: Does the ruling today change anything on your timing. I mean, obviously the Intel Chairman Adam Schiff says his committee's report is going to you, to your committee soon after Thanksgiving. In other words, you guys can draft your articles, pass into the House and this thing is done before Christmas. Does this really change anything on your timing?

JAYAPAL: Well, let's see. I think we obviously want to get this done as quickly as possible, but we are going to follow the facts. And if we feel that we need a little bit more time, we're not going to be bound by some imaginary timeline. We need to make sure we're upholding the Constitution and the rule of law and that we have everything in front of us to be able to do that.

However, we are not going to succumb to a president who continues to try to obstruct justice by telling witnesses not to comply with, as the judge said, centuries old precedent around Congress' ability to compel witnesses to testify.

BURNETT: When all of this comes down to it though, it's going to come down to a vote. Chairman Schiff in his letter today acknowledges what I've heard from several Republicans I've spoken to, which is that Republican minds really haven't been changed in this public testimony.

His quote in the letter, Congresswoman, he says, "It has been our hope all along that our Republican colleagues would seek the facts and give due consideration to the weighty constitutional decision before us, placing country above party. We still hope that will be the case. But we cannot relinquish our constitutional responsibilities because others may choose to do so." And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this pretty bluntly today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I can't imagine a scenario under which 67 Members of Senate would remove the President from office in the middle of a presidential election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Have you seen any signs that Senator McConnell is wrong?

JAYAPAL: I am just heartsick that Senator McConnell would say that before seeing any evidence presented for a trial. It just shows that Republicans have no ability to actually look at this not from the perspective of defending an indefensible set of actions from the President but from the perspective of an actual jury and a trial.

[19:10:06]

Remember, the President has been wooing these Republican senators, offering them money for their re elections. We are better than this, Erin. And I just bring into the room, Elijah Cummings, who would have said that over and over again. We need to be looking at the facts and Republicans need to understand that the damage they are going to do if they refuse to put country over party and over their own personal re- elections is tremendous to the history, the possibility and the greatness of who we are as the United States of America.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Jayapal, thank you very much for your time tonight.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, our breaking news coverage continues. The judge ripping into the President and the White House writing presidents are not kings. So does that mean Trump will have to testify? Plus, the Navy Secretary fired after Trump's intervention causes chaos in the military? That Secretary is speaking out tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: What message does that send to the troops?

DAVID MARTIN, CBS EVENING NEWS: Well, what message does it send?

SPENCER: That you can get away with things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And Pete Buttigieg's problem with black voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has to find what makes us tick in South Carolina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:30]

BURNETT: Breaking news, a major victory tonight for House Democrats, a judge just ruling moments ago that the former White House Counsel Don McGahn must testified before impeachment investigators. This late ruling has immense implications for the impeachment probe. But according to the judge in this case, the bottom line is quote, "Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings."

OUTFRONT now, Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Reporter for Yahoo News, Greg Brower, former U.S. Attorney and FBI Assistant Director. And I thank you both.

So let's start with this, Greg, how significant is this judge's ruling?

GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, it is just a district court judge's ruling, Erin, but make no mistake about it, it is significant because she didn't find this to be a close call at all. She said in her ruling what most lawyers believed that the outset in that is that there is no absolute immunity of the type that DOJ was arguing here on behalf of Mr. McGahn. It wasn't a close call in her opinion.

She described DOJ's arguments as baseless and so there likely will be an appeal. Apparently DOJ has already indicated that it will appeal but I don't think most observers think there's much of a chance of a successful appeal in response to this decision.

BURNETT: And it meaning, I'm sorry, meaning what? You think that this decision will hold or it'll be overruled? I just want to make sure I understand.

BROWER: Oh, excuse me, no, I think this decision will hold. It's a 120-page opinion. It seems to be very, very solidly reasoned. As I've said, the judge - at least this judge thought DOJ's arguments were baseless and I just don't think there's a good chance or much of a chance at all that an appellate court will overrule it.

BURNETT: So then Michael Isikoff, this comes down to the timing and, obviously, there's this appeal as Greg is saying, he thinks that this ruling will hold but nonetheless should go through this process. And then even if McGahn comes in for testimony, he could still cite executive privilege, right? "OK, I'm forced to be here, but I'm not going to say anything."

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Right.

BURNETT: So Michael, how does this impact Democrats' timeline on impeachment?

ISIKOFF: Well, in an odd way although this was a huge victory for the House Democrats, it does put them in a bit of a bind, because they're now wrestling with this decision, do they rapidly move forward with the Articles of Impeachment solely on the Ukrainian issues or do they expand it to include obstruction in the Mueller inquiry, emoluments and others.

And I think that a ruling like this which does strike at the heart of the White House stand of denying testimony from anybody, including key figures in the Ukrainian matter like Bolton and Mulvaney and others. It would seem to increase the argument or enhance the argument of maybe we should take this further.

And just final point on that, if they don't and they go forward with the impeachment just on the Ukrainian issues and the result is what everybody now expects, which is an acquittal of the President by the republican controlled Senate, there will be an argument. Well, if only we were able to bring the full case and if only we could get all the testimony from key individuals, the outcome might have been different.

BURNETT: Maybe. Although, I mean, I don't know if you share my skepticism, I don't know in that Senate ...

ISIKOFF: I'm just saying that will be argued, that's all, right.

BURNETT: Right. That'll be their -- a lot of (ph) regrets, so who knows? So, Greg, what does this mean in terms of you take this ruling, obviously, it's a different judge but the same court as another case for National Security Advisor, John Bolton - what's it mean for him? Is he going to end up having to testify? Obviously, that would be specifically related to Ukraine?

BROWER: Well, what I think this means is that, at least, as you say, one judge has said and I think it will be affirmed on appeal that there is no absolute immunity that the White House can assert to prevent senior officials from testifying at all from even showing up.

BURNETT: Yes.

BROWER: So that, I think, will be established. The question will be at what point will that that finally be established. If every adverse ruling is appealed, how long were those appeals take and at what point does the House simply say as it, perhaps, has said already, you know what, we're going to chalk this up to obstruction. We don't necessarily need these witnesses' testimony to make our case and they move on.

[19:20:05]

BURNETT: And so, Michael, the other issue is, of course, the judge says the President himself is not immune from testifying. Obviously, the chances of that would be - I mean, I don't know, what do you say?

ISIKOFF: I don't think there's any likelihood of that happening that takes it to a whole new level when you demand testimony from the President. But just one more point on McGahn, as you pointed out, this was only a ruling on the broad claim of testimonial immunity that he doesn't even have to show up.

He can show up and then seek to invoke privilege on executive privilege on some of the questionings that could lead to further litigation on that front alone or he may end up giving just simply the words that he gave to Robert Mueller and simply repeat them.

BURNETT: Right.

ISIKOFF: And I'm not sure how much that advances the case for the Democrats, either, if that's all he does, because they've got those words. The hope was that McGahn would go there and by putting in front of TV cameras, that would somehow change public opinion. But I'm not sure after what we've seen in the last two weeks with the green hearings that that's the case. BURNETT: Greg, quickly from a political perspective, if they go ahead

and get their vote, they impeach him in the House, he's not removed in the Senate, but still these cases are continuing, these other cases that are out there, one that may have implications for John Bolton and therefore others.

Is it possible that the Democrats could go ahead and have those witnesses come forward, whether it's McGahn or John Bolton or anyone else in the spring as part of oversight in a way that people would hear the testimony, if it's damning, it affects the election but it's not relevant to impeachment.

BROWER: I doubt it, frankly. If the impeachment processes been completed, the House loses a lot of its legal basis for litigating these issues and trying to force these witnesses in for hearings. I doubt that A the house will be interested in those hearings and B that it will be able to successfully litigate the issue of witnesses not wanting to show up.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it. And next, federal prosecutors zeroing in on Rudy Giuliani and his business. We have a new subpoena tonight. We're learning a lot from that. Plus a top Democratic Senator tells me what Republican senators really thought about the public impeachment hearings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:26:59]

BURNETT: Breaking news, Rudy Giuliani could be in deeper legal trouble. We're learning this hour that federal prosecutors are investigating not only his associates but his business. We're learning a subpoena is sent to one potential witness indicates a range of charges against Giuliani are being considered including obstruction of justice, campaign finance violations and money laundering.

Boris Sanchez is OUTFRONT from the White House. Boris, I mean, this is incredible stuff. You think about this person who's a mayor of New York City, known around the world and now here he is, this investigation. What is the President saying about his personal attorney tonight?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Erin, President Trump has not yet weighed in on this specific news about these charges being considered by prosecutors, very serious charges potentially against Rudy Giuliani. The President though lately has been nothing but effusive in his praise of his personal attorney.

Notable because as news of this investigation broke a few weeks ago, the President was relatively mum about Giuliani as some of his allies, Republicans, were trying to create space between this White House and Giuliani, some like Congressman Mark Meadows suggesting that Giuliani was acting as a rogue agent. Insinuating that he was doing things with Ukraine policy that President Trump wasn't aware of.

Giuliani was actually asked this weekend about potentially being thrown under the bus by Trump or other Republicans. He joked about having insurance against Trump. Trump was asked about that today. In his response, he said he didn't know what Rudy was talking about and he added this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rudy is the best mayor in the history of New York. In my opinion, the strongest mayor, the best mayor. Rudy is a great crime fighter. Rudy is a great person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Yes. We should point out, Giuliani after that interview in which he talked about an insurance policy, backtrack and said that he was simply being sarcastic. He says that his real insurance policy is a trove of negative information that he has about Joe Biden, a potential 2020 rival to President Trump, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Boris, thank you very much. And I want to go now to the former Defense Secretary and CIA Director under President Obama, Leon Panetta, who was also White House Chief of Staff to President Clinton. And I appreciate your time, Secretary. It's always great to have you with me.

So Rudy Giuliani's lawyer just come out with a statement saying that his client, Giuliani, has nothing to hide. But when you see all of this investigation, these subpoenas, how much trouble do you think Giuliani could be in?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it's pretty clear that they're facing a lot of trouble from the prosecutors in the, obviously, the U.S. attorney's office that are looking at a number of issues here. The other prosecutions that are going on with regards to his associates. I mean, you're looking at several things.

Number one, this effort to take over the natural gas company in the Ukraine. The effort to get a campaign contributions From the Ukrainians that they funneled into PACs in this country, and the whole issue with regards to what was his involvement in the Ukraine affair, particularly with regards to Ambassador Yovanovitch.

[19:30:15]

So, there's a lot to focus on in terms of this investigation.

BURNETT: And it's not just Giuliani, of course, Secretary. As "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight, I don't know if you saw this, they're reporting that the White House counsel's office found emails between the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and White House budget officials.

And these emails were basically trying to -- discussing how they could legally justify President Trump's hold on military aid to Ukraine and these emails were all being sent after the hold was already placed. So, they're looking for justification for something he's already done. Does that make sense to you or does that look to you that they were

trying to cover up what they were doing somehow?

PANETTA: Well, I don't think there's any question they were trying to cover up their rear end on an action that there were a lot of questions in their mind about the legality of suddenly holding up 400 million in military aid to the Ukraine. They were basically trying to backfill and see if they could find any kind of legal justification.

So, you know, I think -- I think all this really points out that based on the judge's decision today with regards to the consul, that I think it opens up the possibility that all of these individuals were part of the Ukrainian affair, whether it was the chief of staff, whether it was the secretary of state, whether it was the other individuals that have been involved here.

All of them could be subject to the requirement to testify now. And I think the search for the truth requires that they do that.

BURNETT: Which obviously would be very significant to everyone in this country to see that if that happened.

I want to turn, Secretary, if I may, to the Navy SEAL, Eddie Gallagher, who, of course, was convicted of posing for a photo with a corpse of an ISIS fighter after being acquitted of pre-meditated murder and attempted murder. He was at risk of being expelled from the SEALs, demoted. He had been through this entire process in the military courts. The president intervened and wanted to undo that.

Here's what he said about Gallagher today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was a great fighter. He was the -- one of the ultimate fighters. Tough guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Secretary, how damaging was it that the president intervened to overrule what the military courts and military had decided?

PANETTA: I think it seriously undermines the discipline that is critical to our military fighting force. You know, we've got some of the fanciest weapons and technology on the face of the earth but, frankly, none of it is worth much without the men and women in uniform that are the warriors that have to fight for this country. And the only way they can fight is with discipline. They have to have discipline in order to take a hill, in order to conduct a mission.

And so, the president of the United States undermining that process of discipline that is absolutely essential to having an effective fighting force I think is very damaging to our military. They have to operate based on discipline, and the president has to respect the disciplinary process, not only in the military commanders but at the Pentagon as well, in order to make sure that these people are getting due process and a fair trial, not interfere in that process. I think that's damaging.

BURNETT: And, of course, that's what he's done. You know, I know obviously you know Secretary Esper and Secretary Spencer now, former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. He says Trump's decision to stop a Pentagon review of Eddie Gallagher sends the message that you can, quote, get away with things.

And in his resignation letter, he continued to say, quote, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath that I took.

How big is this? For someone to write this to the president of the United States and I know there's different versions about who's firing whom and how all of this went down. command to their commander in chief.

PANETTA: You know, the bottom line is about the rule of law, and this president has a pretty callous approach to the rule of law. He basically does whatever he wants to do regardless of the law, regardless of the requirements of good discipline and good order, particularly within the military.

[19:35:06]

I mean, how can this president stand up and say we have the greatest fighting force on the face of the Earth and then undermine the very discipline that is critical to that fighting force?

BURNETT: All right. Secretary Panetta, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much, sir.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

BURNETT: And next, Pete Buttigieg may be leading in important polls, but he is struggling with black Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess his personal life might come into play.

REPORTER: And by his personal life you mean because he's gay and married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because he's gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, Michael Bloomberg's 2020 warning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, 2020 presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg says that leading Iowa will put him in a, quote, trajectory straight towards the nomination. But can he do this without a key voting group?

Abby Phillip is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's Sunday morning in South Carolina and this is Isaiah McCall's church.

Isaiah is young, black, gay, from the South and he supports Pete Buttigieg.

ISAIAH MCCALL, PETE BUTTIGIEG SUPPORTER: When Barack Obama did it, he was the first black president, so he inspired other African-Americans to, you know, take that step.

[19:40:05]

So like with Pete Buttigieg, he's inspiring other LGBT individuals to, you know, run for office so you can change laws that needs to be changed.

PHILLIP: His flock is small but committed. A little bit like the South Bend mayor's support among black voters here which right now doesn't even register in some polls.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning.

PHILLIP: Buttigieg is the front-runner in Iowa and a top contender in New Hampshire, but he's hitting a wall with black voters, which presents a crucial challenge for him. No Democrat has claimed the party's nomination without winning black voters in more than 30 years.

BUTTIGIEG: A majority of black voters in South Carolina say they don't have an opinion of me right now.

PHILLIP: If he's going to break through here, it might start with voters like Isaiah.

MCCALL: He has to find what makes us tick in South Carolina. He got me, so that's why I'm out here spreading the word about him.

PHILLIP: Isaiah says he is drawn to how openly Buttigieg talks about his faith.

MCCALL: Back in the day for most African-Americans, we got together in the church. So, if he can connect with the faith community, that would be a strong way to get the African-American vote.

PHILLIP: That's something the campaign is ready to seize on.

BUTTIGIEG: It is time for a White House where no one ought to look on the news and ask themselves, whatever happened to the Scripture that says whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker?

PHILLIP: Here in South Carolina, the message from voters to Buttigieg is simple. TRAVIS PAULS, SOUTH CAROLINA: Spend time in the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come out to more events.

PHILLIP: Buttigieg has been slow to organize here, only recently building up senior staff in the state. City councilwoman Nikita Jackson hasn't endorsed in the race, but she introduced Buttigieg at a recent rally in Rock Hill.

NIKITA JACKSON, ROCK HILL, SC CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: This is an exciting day in --

PHILLIP: That wasn't attended by many black voters.

JACKSON: Sometimes you need to meet people where they are if you want to get your message across to them.

PHILLIP: And this year more than ever, voters are hesitant to take chances, says Jamie Harrison, a Democrat running against Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham.

JAMIE HARRISON, FORMER CHAIR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: But you also have to understand these voters. They're extremely pragmatic. The drawing force is we have to get rid of Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Another concern --

DEWANDA LEGETTE, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I guess his personal life might come into play. It might throw them off a little bit and make them a little standoffish about it.

PHILLIP (on camera): And by his personal life, you mean because he's gay and married?

LEGETTE: Yes, because he's gay.

PHILLIP (voice-over): But for a supporter like Isaiah, he is proof that change is possible.

MCCALL: How can you expect to move forward if you don't embrace the new? You have to embrace the new.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: The campaign does not by any means believe that this problem is insurmountable. In fact, just this weekend they are planning to kick off what they're calling a southern cities tour starting in North Carolina at the church of Reverend William Barber, an anti-poverty advocate and a major figure in the social justice world. The campaign also is trying to address this issue of how many voters actually know who Pete Buttigieg is, pouring $2 million into ads right here in South Carolina -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Abby, thank you.

And next, you've heard what Republicans are saying publicly about the impeachment hearings but what are they saying in private now that we've heard all of those people say quit pro quo? Senator Sherrod Brown tells me next.

And Conan gets a hero's welcome at the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:41]

BURNETT: Tonight, Michael Bloomberg making his feelings for the Democratic field loud and clear today holding his first formal presidential campaign event. The former New York City mayor was asked if he thinks the current field is too weak and his answer was pretty damning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me phrase it this way, I think there is a greater risk of having Donald Trump re-elected than there was before and in the end, I looked in the mirror and said you just cannot let this happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He has a new book, "Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators who changed America.

And I want to talk to you about the message of that in a moment, because I think it's really important and relevant to the field as we look at it. But when it comes to Mayor Bloomberg, you considered running for the White House. You thought long and hard about whether to do it. You decided not to.

Do you agree with him, that there is a greater risk of President Trump being re-elected now than there was a few months ago?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): I do not. First, Trump is in more trouble now. But I -- it's like, it's in the gene. It's in the Democrat's gene pool, I think, their genetic makeup, that we always whine about the candidates, where I say, woe is us, we can't win with these candidates, and who will win with one of these candidates, we're going to beat Trump. We have a really good shot of beating them.

In my state, my state is harder than the other Midwest industrial states. And he will leave the White House sometime in early 2021.

BURNETT: All right. So, well, OK, I want to ask you about your date on that, too, because obviously that's important in the context of the current conversation --

BROWN: The operation, OK.

BURNETT: I'm thinking about the impeachment conversation.

BROWN: I thought of that, I didn't really -- not really commented on that.

BURNETT: OK. You told "The New York Times" in July, and the words were, quote, you never thought Joe Biden would be the nominee. Do you still feel that way?

BROWN: I don't know. I think that -- I think it's wide open. I think any number of five or six or seven people, I'm not going to let you narrow it down to which five or six.

BURNETT: Yes.

BROWN: I think it really is a wide open race. And the leader in state by state at this time in the campaign often isn't the one who wins that state. I think we all have to talk about it. That's what we do. I'm not really that concerned. I think we're going to win.

BURNETT: So, in your new book, you write about the generations of progressives who occupy your seat basically, right, when you thought desk 88 in the Senate chamber.

Now, President Obama recently has been talking a little bit, and he's been warning progressives sort of becoming intolerant in a sense. He's talking about purity tests in the 2020 race, and how that something which concerns him.

[19:50:03]

Here's what he said at a recent event, Senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly. The world -- the world is messy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Right, and he wasn't saying that for a laugh line. He continued, Senator, we will not win just by increasing the turnout of the people who already agree with us completely on everything, which is why I am always suspicious of purity tests during elections.

So, do you share that concern? When you look at Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, are they pushing the Democratic Party too far on the issue of purity tests?

BROWN: I would like everybody on the stage to look at it this way. Take health care, for instance. Every Democrat, every reasonable Democrat, everybody on this field wants to get to universal coverage at different speeds, and different paths perhaps, but everybody wanting -- wants to get to universal coverage.

The issue is that Donald Trump wants to take it away. Every time they criticize each other, every time they debate within the confines, all -- they're all progressive, some more progressive than others, that they always make the contrast with Trump. I mean, Trump has betrayed workers. Democrats are the party of

workers. Trump has betrayed workers. He's fought against an increase in minimum wage. He's stripped overtime from 40,000 Ohioans and hundreds of thousands, millions of Americans.

And I think we make that case. We beat Trump with any number of these candidates.

BURNETT: So, you say Trump will be gone in January 2021.

BROWN: Yes.

BURNETT: Obviously, and I know you said you didn't mean that.

But on this issue of impeachment, two weeks ago, you were on CNN in the morning and you said Republican senators you've talked on have been talking to you about how they think the president acted improperly. That conversation that you had was before the public hearings.

So, now, there's been these public hearings, and we've heard the word quid pro quo from everyone. What are your Republican senator friends telling you now?

BROWN: Well, what they say privately is very different from what they're doing publicly and saying publicly. It's clear that this president committed this, this president did something that Richard Nixon never even did.

He tried to bribe a foreign official. His own, some of his own staff people he had promoted and who work for him and who had given him big campaign contributions have said that, tried to bribe a foreign official to help him in a campaign. That's never been done in American history.

So, clearly, it's an impeachable offense. Then it comes to the Senate. And then we have to decide, has it reached to a level --

BURNETT: Are they clamming up now? I mean, are they now not wanting to talk about it?

BROWN: They -- no. No, they make excuses. Some of them make public excuses. I haven't talked to a lot of people in the last few days since one after another intelligence official, military person, diplomat came forward.

All people whose jobs it is to protect this country and all of whom are pretty upset that the president keeps trying to blame Ukraine when that undermines our policy and helps Russia. And it does help Russia, and there's no question about it.

BURNETT: So, if none of your Republican friends in the Senate vote for removal, will you think less of them?

BROWN: I don't think it matters what I think of them, really. I -- it's hard to have a lot of respect for colleagues that have shown no spine in standing up to a president who lies a lot, who clearly is, clearly, clearly, went to a foreign power to help him. It's just hard.

It's -- I mean, I will continue on work with my colleagues. I work with many, many Republicans.

BURNETT: Yes.

BROWN: And it's disappointing all the time.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Senator Brown, thank you so much tonight.

BROWN: Good to be with you. Thanks.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, the top dog at the White House today. Well, there he is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:52]

BURNETT: A hero was at the White House today. The president kept his distance.

Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember the time President Trump said --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn? Would that be -- feels a little phony.

MOOS: Well, here he is, walking with a dog out of the White House, the hero dog that chased down the leader of ISIS.

TRUMP: So this is Conan. We just gave Conan a medal and a plaque.

MOOS: You can almost hear Conan thinking, I was told there would be junk food, you know, like those athletes get.

Even Fox News hosts analyzed the body language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mike Pence was snuggling up to that delicious Conan. President Trump a little bit further away.

MOOS: The president was hands off while Vice President Pence couldn't stop petting Conan and Conan kept sniffing and nosing Pence.

(on camera): Conan himself had nothing to say to the White House press. Not a whimper, not a bark.

(voice-over): Unlike "SNL's" version -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a sip of water.

MOOS: With a canine interpreter providing Conan's commentary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this fake medal the president put on my neck? It has a picture of a paw on it. What the hell is that? You don't give humans a medal with a foot on it.

MOOS: When the real Conan emerged, he was greeted with --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, boy.

MOOS: Well, actually, the poor reporter was told that Conan is a good girl. A female.

But then a White House official reversed gender and the pool reporter noted, Conan is a good boy. Again. Finally resorting to Conan is a good dog.

Which led to comments like, did not anybody just look? It's not like dogs wear pants. Conan is dog had better clarify their gender situation before Trump tries on ban them from serving.

At the last minute, a report he yelled --

REPORTER: Melania, do you want to adopt the dog for Barron?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: No.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: But Conan didn't take it personally.

TRUMP: Conan is a tough cookie.

MOOS: Don't call him a cookie. Give him one. Make tail wag even more.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.