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Don McGahn Compelled To Testify In Congress; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Is Interviewed About The Judge's Federal Decision; DOJ To Appeal Judge Jackson's Ruling; Supreme Court Blocks House From Receiving Trump's Financial Records For Now; Indicted Giuliani Associates Sought Corrupt Deals In Ukraine, Gas Company Executive Says; GOP Senator Promotes Debunked Ukraine Conspiracy Theory. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 25, 2019 - 18:00   ET





We're following breaking news. A federal judge's ruling on whether the former White House counsel, Don McGahn must testify before Congress has just moments ago been handed down and the judge has concluded that he must in fact talk to House investigators.

Evan Perez, among others joining us. We're following the breaking news. Evan, tell us about the judge -- the judge's decision, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Well, her ruling essentially means that the president does not have absolute immunity, at least according to her. Now obviously, this is not the final word. We expect fully that the Justice Department is going to appeal this ruling.

But right now, this district court judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson has said that Don McGahn and the president's aides don't enjoy absolute immunity, don't have to show up essentially.

The administration has been arguing that they don't have to show up to respond to these subpoenas. Don McGahn has been fighting the subpoena for about seven months now. And according to the judge's ruling, she says, it goes without saying that the law applies to former White House counsel Don McGahn just as it does to other current and senior White House officials.

And so, of course, the implications are huge. If, again, if this ruling stands, Don McGahn is going to have to show up and provide some testimony to the House that has been requesting information about what he said to members of -- to the Mueller investigation about the president obstructing justice.

And of course, the obstruction of justice question is very much ripe in the impeachment question. As you know one of the possibilities that the Democrats are approaching is whether the president is obstructing Congress in his refusal to allow some of these witnesses to apply -- to show up to provide testimony.

For now, right now, this means it's a huge win for the Democrats who have been arguing that the president's aides do not have absolute immunity, Wolf. Obviously, there's a lot of other people that the Democrats have been looking to possibly bring in for testimony.

Of course, John Bolton is at the top of that list. It's not clear whether this ruling would necessarily apply to John Bolton because he's in a different category. But certainly, according to this judge nobody is above having to respond to these legal subpoenas from the -- from members of Congress.

BLITZER: Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill. He's getting reaction as well. Manu, once again, a major win for the Democrats in the House of Representatives. A major setback, at least for now for the president.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It will be a big question for the Democrats of exactly how they decide to pursue this going forward. Now we do expect an appeal to happen on this ruling which could drag the process out for some time, which is why Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chairman who is leading the impeachment inquiry put out in his letter today to his colleagues making very clear that, in his words, they will not let the president, quote, "and others drag this out for months on end in the courts."

So he signaled before this ruling, which is expected today that they would not necessarily go down the route of trying to get some of those other people who could be impacted by this ruling to testify, whether it's someone like a Mick Mulvaney or former national security advisor, John Bolton or his former deputy, Charles Kupperman who is resisting the efforts to get them to comply.

The Democrats are signaling that they are now prepared to go the route in order to get some of these folks to come forward. And ultimately, too, a question for the Democrats is going to be whether or not to include in their ultimate articles of impeachment allegations of obstruction of justice laid out in the Mueller report because after all, that's why he was called to testify before the House judiciary committee which have launched his own allegations to allegations of obstruction of justice.

Then they got locked into this court battle that went up for some time, then the Ukraine matter came up and that became the focus of the impeachment inquiry while the court fight over McGahn took place on a separate track.

Now the question is whether they too converged in anyway, whether the Democrats decide whether or not to conclude as part of their allegations, there are articles of impeachment allegations of obstruction of justice detail what McGahn could ultimately testify before this committee, before the House committee and wrap that into the larger articles of impeachment against the president.

But at the moment, Wolf, Democrats are signaling they'll fight it in court but they're ready to move on which is to move forward an impeachment but on the issues of Ukraine, the president's handling of that, his allegations of abuse of power, as well as obstruction of Congress by defying other subpoenas.

They believe they are going to focus on that in the days ahead. But still, a lot of deliberations that will have to happen in the aftermath of this victory that ultimately could get Don McGahn to come before the House judiciary committee, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, stand by. Susan Hennessey, our legal analyst is with us. While the federal does say McGahn would have the right to invoke executive privilege where appropriate.


SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, this is really significant. What the White House has been arguing is this concept of absolute immunity. Essentially, he doesn't even have to recognize or respond to the subpoena.

What this court is saying, no, where there is a different branch of government. This is a valid subpoena. Now Don McGahn can come in and make valid assertions of executive privilege. He's allowed to do that. He doesn't mean that Don McGahn has to tell the committee absolutely everything they want to know. It doesn't mean the that president doesn't have certain limit to executive privilege.

But as we've seen with some other officials, going forward, they're going to have to make a limited assertion of privilege that can be litigated at that time.

Now this is really, really significant because Don McGahn is at the center of one of the -- one of strongest charges of obstruction of justice, that the claim in the Mueller report that the president of the United States directed Don McGahn to create a false record, something that Mueller determined that all of the elements were criminal obstruction of justice.

BLITZER: Yes, he did testify before the Mueller, the Mueller panel.

HENNESSEY: He did. So, he cooperated 30 hours of reportedly of testimony with the executive branch testifying within the special prosecutor. This was the question about whether or not now he has to go before Congress and answer Congress's question in an adversarial setting.

This also has significant precedent for other individuals in, you know, the related impeachment inquiry now. They -- it's going to be much harder for them to claim that they don't have to recognize the subpoenas at all.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that's true. But I do think that we are going to see everyone who is currently fighting a subpoena come up with their own unique argument for why they are special and they should not necessarily have to comply.

I mean, when it comes to Kupperman, for instance, he's in a national security position, we've seen them make that argument about whether they can supply that information to Congress because of his role.

You know, when it comes to Mick Mulvaney, I don't think he's all of a sudden going to be saying, OK, I'm going to show up and testify now before Congress because of this judge's ruling. You know, if they were brought to court, they would argue that he is currently a White House employee and they would make their own arguments.

So, while, I think members of Congress are going to hold this up as an example for why everyone should now come forward and testify, I don't think all of a sudden, we're going to see officials lining up to do this.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin is going through this decision by this federal judge. What's jumping out at you, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is a tremendous victory for the House of Representatives. The question is, is it going to be just a symbolic victory because of the element of time?

The issue here is when any of these former or current White House aides will testify. This is a victory but it's just the beginning of the legal process. The White House has already indicated it's going to appeal this to the D.C. circuit. That is a process that will certainly take not weeks but months.

And then the losing side may well seek review in the United States Supreme Court.

The impeachment process is going on now. Nancy Pelosi wants it over by the end of the year. There is absolutely no way that the legal battle over Don McGahn's testimony will be resolved by the end of the year.

And so, the question is, will any actual testimony come forward at a time that it's useful to the Democrats when they're trying to do the impeachment process. That question is very much unresolved even by this ruling.

BLITZER: Well, does Don McGahn, the former White House counsel need to now await legal appeals by the White House, the Justice Department or potentially could he make a decision on his own, since he has been ordered to appear before the House of Representatives by this U.S. district court judge, he's simply going to decide to obey what the judge ordered?

TOOBIN: He could. But my sense is having gone this far he will probably continue. There are a number of witnesses who we saw for the past two weeks who defied the White House demand to testify.

The State Department officials, the National Security Council officials, Fiona Hill and Alex Vindman, they testified even though the president said they shouldn't. Don McGahn could reject that advice especially now he has a district court opinion on his side. But given the fact that he went this far, it seems to me it's likely

he will wait for the appellate process to play itself out. But you're making a good point that he could decide to testify tomorrow and he would have the protection of this district court opinion if he wanted to do it.

BLITZER: Yes, I ask the question, Jeffrey, because he did spend 30 hours testifying before the Mueller -- the Mueller report inquiry.

TOOBIN: He did. But that was at a different time when the White House wasn't interposing these objections. At the time, the White House, when Ty Cobb was the lawyer who was coordinating the White House response to the Mueller investigation, the president was allowing people to testify.

The president has not allowed people to testify before this congressional investigation, or any congressional investigations.


So, the question is, will Don McGahn continue to honor the president's current ruling or go by either the district court opinion that came down today or his previous instruction to cooperate with Mueller? That's really up to McGahn.

BLITZER: Evan, you're continuing to look, it's a pretty lengthy decision by this federal judge.

PEREZ: Right. I think the most important thing that the judge is saying, is just because you work for the president, just because you work very, very close at the top of the, you know, the food chain there at the White House doesn't mean you don't have to show up for, you know, what is a lawful subpoena.

I'll read you a part of it. It says, "As a matter of law, senior level current and former presidential aides, including White House counsels must appear before Congress if compelled by legislative process to do so. This means that such aides cannot defy a congressional subpoena on the basis of absolute testimonial immunity even if the president for whom they work or worked demands that response."

And it's important, she goes on to talk a little bit, Wolf, about the fact that, you know, it doesn't matter whether you worked as a White House counsel or in the national security. And that's an important thing, because what the White House has been arguing, the Justice Department has been arguing, is that there's a certain number of people, very close aides to the president in national security sphere that they believe enjoy even super immunity. Right?

Don McGahn has absolute immunity. They're saying that there is even another category that is essentially super absolute immunity. And so, what she is doing is essentially, you know, going ahead and striking down not only those arguments, the current arguments that Don McGahn has been making but also these other ones that other people have been making, saying essentially, you got to show up. Now you can still, as Susan Hennessey pointed out, you can still

absolutely say, look, I can't answer those questions because that goes to executive privilege and then you can fight that out. But you are not allowed to just stiff the Congress just because you say that you have absolute immunity.

BLITZER: So, a significant decision by this federal judge.

HENNESSEY: I think it is. And I think it's a significant victory. We'll see whether it holds up on appeal that a significant victory for the notion of congressional oversight.

PEREZ: Right.

HENNESSEY: One that this is a valid impeachment inquiry that the House of Representatives is undertaking, and two, the idea that people who work in the White House are still ultimately accountable to another branch. We saw the president stand on the White House lawn in front of television cameras and say we're fighting all these subpoenas. Really rejecting the notion that --


PEREZ: Actually, two branches. Because they're even saying that the judges, Wolf, -- I was in court when they were arguing this. One of the arguments they made was really astonishing one, which was, judge, you have no business even trying to decide this. And so, really, what the judge is saying, no, you actually have to answer to two branches, the judicial branch and the congressional branch.

HENNESSEY: Yes, I think that's right. And to the extent that this administration wants to cloak themselves in the lar of the Constitution the way Bill Barr has offered this sort of sweeping theory of sort of executive powers. This is the courts and Congress pushing back and saying, no, we are co-equal branches, you are accountable to us and you're accountable to the American people.

So, we'll see whether or not these legal victories hold up on appeal, we'll see how various individuals respond to it. But I do think it's going to make it harder and harder for the White House to do this, and harder and harder for the White House to make, to have this to be politically sustainable.

MURRAY: Right.

HENNESSEY: Because the harder they're fighting, the less it looks like this is good faith interpretation of the Constitution more it looks like --


BLITZER: You know, Sara, you're going through this sad decision as well. Some pretty harsh language by this U.S. district court judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a harsh language as far as the White House and the Justice Department are concerned. MURRAY: Well, yes. The judge made a similar point as Susan was making. That, you know, this is not actually what the Constitution is laying out. Part of this decision says DOJ, the Department of Justice counsel repeatedly emphasized that the power to invoke absolute testimonial immunity with respects to current and former senior level aides belongs to the president.

And the judge continues that this highlights the startling and untenable allegations of DOJ's absolute testimonial immunity argument and also amply demonstrates its incompatibility with our constitutional scheme.

Which basically to say, you cannot be the White House and the Justice Department and stand here before me and argue that the president and everyone who works at the top tier of the White House is somehow immune from any other arm of our government here. This is not what the Constitution has set forward.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, is it an absolute certainty that if the Justice Department and the White House appeal this district court decision, the court of appeals, the higher court will in fact listen, will take it up or might they decide, you know what, we're accepting the lower court decision?

TOOBIN: They are going to hear this appeal. This case is too important. They are not going to simply just affirm the district court without hearing argument. This is a major separation of powers issues. And I think it's completely inconceivable that the D.C. circuit would simply just ratify this, the district court's opinion. They may yet, at the end of the day, affirm the decision. I think this is likely the result.


This is the claim of absolute immunity here is really beyond what any court has ever offered the White House before. So, I think this is a solid ruling that is likely to be upheld, even if there are some Republican appointees on the D.C. circuit panel.

However, that is going to take time no matter who's -- no matter what the result is, and I think time is just a very important part on what's going on with this whole legal fight, how long it's going to take.

BLITZER: If the higher court, Jeffrey, does decide to uphold the district court decision, is it an absolute certainty that it would go to the Supreme Court?

TOOBIN: Well, no. I think their -- you know, the D.C. circuit has to hear all appeals of appeal -- when a losing side appeals from the district court, this D.C. circuit has to take the case. There's no read of certiorari, there's no discretion involve there.

You know, the Supreme Court gets thousands of requests to hear a case every year, and they only hear about 70. The odds are always that the Supreme Court will decide not to hear a case. They may yet resolve some of these cases involving the president's claim of, you know, he doesn't want to produce his tax returns, some of the subpoena issues. I mean, I think it's likely they'll take some case but any individual case the odds are always against the Supreme Court granting review.

BLITZER: I want to go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. I understand, Manu, you're beginning to get some official reaction from members of Congress.

RAJU: Yes. The chairman of the House judiciary commission, Jerry Nadler just issued a statement. And of course, it was his committee that issue that subpoena in May for Don McGahn to come and testify before its panel that which Don McGahn of course fought which led to this court ruling just now.

And what Nadler says in his statement, he's praising the district judge's decision and he also calls McGahn a central witness of the allegations in the obstruction of justice over detailed in the Mueller report.

And he says this. He says, now that the court has ruled, I expect him to follow his legal obligations and properly appear before the committee. So that is the expectation of Jerry Nadler. Of course, we do of course expect that appeal to take place.

We're not expecting any sort of immediate decision by Don McGahn to come before his committee. But Jerry Nadler says, now that the court has ruled it is time to come, time to end this fight, at least testify, at least if you want to -- if you don't want to testify that's your obligation. You can certainly not testify -- you cannot answer questions, you can claim privilege, as this judge said.

But what Nadler is saying here, he needs to appear before his committee, a pretty stark warning from the chairman of the House judiciary committee.

But ultimately, Wolf, the question for the Democrats again, is whether or not they will delay their proceedings in any way to try to pursue this key witness, whether it'll be part of obstruction of justice that they want to detail that could be included in overall articles of impeachment against the president.

At the moment, the Democratic leadership is signaling that is not the route they want to go. They want to wrap this up in just a matter of weeks. They don't -- Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee does not want this dragged into court, neither does Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. So, while they're calling for him to testify there are probably some expectations that it's not going to happen any time soon.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, everybody, stand by, I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He's a member of the judiciary committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us. So, this is breaking news. What's your reaction to this federal judge's decision?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, all of us on the judiciary committee were in favor of the subpoena. We voted for it and we're very happy that the judge ruled the way she did because that's what we all thought she would do.

Chairman Nadler has been our leader and pursue these subpoenas. We've been defied in our attempts to have proper oversight to the constitutional Houses because of this administration's stonewalling.

And so, it's good that the judge agreed with us. It's the law, it's oversight as American as apple pie. It's part of article one, it's part of our job and the judiciary committee has been doing its job and had a proper and appropriate and I appreciated our victory today.

BLITZER: So, remind us, Congressman, what questions you would have for the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, assuming he does show up.

COHEN: Well, if he shows up, of course the questions would be about obstruction of justice and what did President Trump ask him to do in relation to former Attorney General Sessions and did he ask him to contact him and to have him un-recuse himself and get back involved in the Mueller report and try to take over the Mueller investigation? Did he try to ask him to do things to try to get Mueller fired.

What we saw in his testimony to the Mueller report, thus, if he would testify consistently seem to meet all of the elements of the obstruction of justice and the Mueller report was strong.

The problem with the Mueller report was that Bill Barr got the chance to go out in front about a month and a half, or two months, whatever it was, before its release to the public and paint a false picture and say no obstruction and no collusion.


Well, the fact was there were 11 instances of obstruction of justice and the -- Mueller said he did not in any way whatsoever hold the president harmless and didn't say that the president was not involved in something, and he said that it was up to the Congress and the Congress specifically to deal with it. In essence, saying impeachment, but he left it up to the Congress.

So, Barr painted a picture that then set in the public's mind that there was nothing to it. And then even on the day that he released it he came out with Rosenstein behind him and said that again, similar comments and gave another two hours of false painting.

And then when it finally came out nobody wanted to read 435 pages of legalese. And there then it was a long time before Mueller came before us. And when Mueller came before us he wasn't the same dynamic person that he'd been when he ran the FBI when he fought in Vietnam, and when he was dynamic he was attorney in San Francisco.

BLITZER: He could, McGahn, Don McGahn also shed light on the president's attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, as you point out. But would you like to see the articles of impeachment that are now being considered include misconduct uncovered during the Mueller investigation? COHEN: Well, we're all working as a team. And Speaker Pelosi has done

a marvelous job of bringing us all together, all the committees and all the chairman and the caucus. And we're going to continue to work as a team. And I'm sure there will be meetings to discuss this, but Chairman Nadler and Chairman Schiff and Speaker Pelosi and others will be talking about that and they'll make those decisions.

BLITZER: We'll see you when you get back to Washington after Thanksgiving. Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks so much for joining us.

COHEN: You're welcome, Wolf. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

BLITZER: Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

All right. We're staying on top of all of the breaking news. Significant developments. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: All right. We're just getting word the Department of Justice will appeal the said decision by this U.S. District Court Judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson -- Ketanji Brown Jackson. That will force Don McGahn, the former White House counsel to appear and testify before Congress.

But now the Department of Justice has just announced, Evan, that they're not surprised, they're going to appeal this decision. I assume they were bracing for this decision --


BLITZER: -- against them in favor of the House of Representatives and they're ready with their statement.

PEREZ: Yes. You know, the head of the civil division was in court when Ketanji Brown Jackson, the judge here was essentially ripping apart their argument. So, they fully expected that they were going to lose this round, Wolf.

And I'll read you a little bit more of what she says, including, essentially saying that 250 years of the United States Constitution has shown us that essentially, quote, "presidents are not kings," and then she goes on to say, even with respect to the underlying contention of the president himself is entitled to absolute testimonial immunity.

She cites a Supreme Court ruling in the Meyers case in which she says they found that binding Supreme Court cases that compelled the opposite conclusion. Essentially suggesting that, Wolf, it's not just Don McGahn who has to show up if he were -- if he were presented with a congressional subpoena, but the president himself, if he were subpoenaed would have to show up. And that's really kind of striking thing. Because again, this judge

was given one question to answer, right, having to do with whether Don McGahn had to show up. But she goes beyond that. She goes on to address some of the national security officials like John Bolton who she says would have to show up, but also the president himself, according to her.

So, look, she really was kind of ripping apart their arguments up and down, making sure that when this goes before the appeals court and certainly, eventually by the Supreme Court, I think those are important questions that might have to be answered as well.

BLITZER: The -- read me the sentence that she says that the presidents -- that presidents are not king.

PEREZ: There is a part where she says over 250 years of constitutional -- I lost it here on my phone here, but she says, quote "presidents are not kings." And I think it's a very important thing for a judge to say those words simply because it is one of those things that the Justice Department has been arguing.

I'll read it right now. It says, "Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings."

And again, Wolf, this is -- this is an important thing for a judge to say, because if you look at what Bill Barr, the attorney general who spoke to the Federalist Society just a couple of -- a few days ago, one of the things that he made clear is that the Justice Department essentially looks at presidential immunity to be a very serious thing, to be absolute and to be, essentially, to trump everything else.

And so, that's one -- you know, that's a sort of declaration of war that Bill Barr made just a few days ago, that this judge essentially is saying, not so fast.

MURRAY: There is --



MURRAY: Sorry.

HENNESSEY: The statement are also, potentially really significant for other witnesses. One thing that we've seen over the past week, is that witnesses coming forward and testifying over the objection of the White House. The White House cannot prevent people from testifying before Congress.

And so, we have individual people, both current officials and former officials, who basically have to decide. DOJ is offering one theory of the law. Congress is offering the other.

[18:30:03] They have to decide which version to comply with. And so this is the court weighing in a way that directly speaks to those individuals and saying, you actually do have an obligation to comply here. So it's not just whether or not McGahn will have to testify but what other people might take away from this decision.

MURRAY: Right. And I think one of the things the judge says to these administration officials once they've left, it's another sort of spicy line in his decision, is that the trump card should at most be a rain check. So it really gets to this idea that you cannot, as the White House decide, carte blanche that nobody can ever go before Congress even after they've left the administration.

BLITZER: And I just want to bring Jeffrey Toobin back into this and I want to reread that key sentence from this, the U.S. district court judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and I'll read it right here once again for you, Jeffrey.

Stated simply, the primary take away from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings.

TOOBIN: Well, what's so peculiar about the Justice Department's position here is that they took such a broad claim of this notion of absolute immunity was invented by the Trump Justice Department. If you look at the big Supreme Court cases on these issues, United States versus Nixon, which was the Nixon tapes case in 1974, the Paula Jones Case in 1997 or 9, when Bill Clinton was president, that said he had to give a deposition, they never talked about absolute immunity.

Now, it's important even though the House clearly won this case, there is room for further fighting here, that even if Don McGahn shows up to testify. What Judge Jackson says here is that there are certain individual questions where he might be allowed to assert executive privilege, what questions, what could he refuse to answer, that could begin a whole additional round of litigation, that it is not clear, the courts have never made clear what the precise contours of executive privilege are.

So even though this is clearly a victory for the notion that you have to show up when Congress issues you a subpoenas even if you work in the executive branch, the scope of the questions that you have to answer is not resolved and that could lead to more litigation, even if this case is upheld.

BLITZER: And, Jeffrey, there's more breaking news just coming in The Situation Room right now. The U.S. Supreme Court in a major win for the president and the White House, specifically for President Trump.

Ariane de Vogue, our Supreme Court Correspondent, reporting now that the House of Representatives will not get President Trump's financial records for now. The Supreme Court said on Monday dealing (ph) and when to the president who is fighting on several fronts to shield the records from disclosure. We're talking about eight years of financial records. At least for now, the Supreme Court has just decided the House of Representatives is not going to get them, Jeffrey. TOOBIN: Well, I'd like to know a little more about what the Supreme Court. Sometimes they do what's called an administrative stay, which is basically, let's -- we're not going to do anything now while we review the papers and those sometimes last only a few days. A true stay for the end -- until litigation is over and could last for months. So since this is very much breaking news and all, I know about this case is what you just told me, I don't know exactly how significant it really is.

PEREZ: And Jeffrey is right, Wolf. I mean, I think what the Supreme Court is saying here is that, essentially, they're going to set up a schedule for both sides to file some briefs in order for them to hear this out and decide whether or not they're going to take on the larger case.

So for now, at least this was hurtling down to a finish and they were about to have to produce these records. So what the Supreme Court is doing here is essentially tapping the brakes, making sure that everybody has time to decide whether or not this is something that they want to continue fighting over. And so at least for now, the Supreme Court is going to give it a little bit of a pause.

BLITZER: Yes, the key words, for now, but that could change. We don't know how quickly.

Jim Acosta is over at the White House. Are you getting reaction over there to all the breaking nws that's unfolding?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are sure to get some reaction to all of this that's been breaking over the last several minutes, Wolf. I can tell you, talking to Jay Sekulow, the president's outside attorney, he has been talking to reporters for several weeks now about this matter before the Supreme Court about the president's personal tax records.

Jay Sekulow has been arguing for weeks that this raises important separation of powers issues, that Congress should not be able to go into the personal financial records, tax records of the president of the United States no matter who is in office. And it sounds like, at least for the moment, the Supreme Court is going to hear that out.


But what this raises as a concern, and Democrats have been talking about this all along, is that they don't -- when it gets back to the impeachment inquiry, this is one reason why Democrats say they don't want to fight all of these matters out in court, for example, this whole notion that Mick Mulvaney should come in and testify in the impeachment inquiry, John Bolton and so on. Democrats have been saying, listen, we could go to a court to bring these officials in to testify, to try to bring these officials and to testify, but that's going to take months for all that to be adjudicated.

And you can see now as an example in all of this, the Supreme Court, at least for now, temporarily blocking the House from obtaining these tax records, it just goes to show you how long these things can play out.

And I think the Don McGahn ruling is also a case and point, Wolf. Don McGahn left the White House Counsel's Office in October of last year and here we are almost at the end of 2019 getting a judge's ruling in all of this. And, of course, the Justice Department is saying they want to appeal.

But just talking to a legal source who is close to the Don McGahn situation just in the last several minutes, Wolf, this certainly has major implications, according to this source, for Mick Mulvaney, for John Bolton and so on. It might not have as many implications, theoretically speaking, Don McGahn, because Don McGahn does not really wanted to testify quite as much as he once was.

But as it relates to the White House and what they're going to be saying about this Don McGahn ruling, Wolf, I think we should get some kind of statement at some point later on this evening. We'll see how sson that comes in. But as you've been reporting in the last several minutes, the Justice Department says it will appeal. But this all goes back to this concern the Democrats have had for weeks.

And then something that works to the advantage of the White House, Wolf, is that White House attorneys, the White House Counsel's Office, attorneys over at the Justice Department, they can block these administration officials from testifying in these very important matters and it does raise critical separation of powers issues if the White House, if the administration can block these officials from testifying.

These court proceedings, I think, are bearing out a point that, yes, they can essentially freeze these officials in terms of how they cooperate in the investigation. But it sounds as though, at this point while Don McGahn, he may be forced to testify on all of this, and his attorney, William Burck, is releasing a statement to us saying that he will testify unless the Justice Department appeals and it sounds like they will appeal.

But, really, the big implications are for people like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and so on, who have been trying to stay very far away from Capitol Hill during all of this.

BLITZER: Yes, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, a lot of people trying to stay away from this investigation up on Capitol Hill.

Stand by. Everyone stand by. Lots of breaking news unfolding as we speak. We will resume our special coverage here in The Situation right after a quick break.



BLITZER: Following two major decisions just reached by judges and courts here in Washington, D.C., the U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia, Ketanji Brown Jackson has just ruled only moments ago that Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel, must, in fact, go ahead and testify before the House of Representatives. That's a win for the Democrats in House of Representatives even though the Department of Justice has just announced they will appeal this decision.

At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court has just given the president a victory, at least for now, that could change, for now, ruling that the president must not necessarily or at least for now give up eight years of his financial records to the House of Representatives, significant court decisions on both fronts, Susan.

HENNESSEY: It is significant. So one significant thing regarding the tax case out of the U.S. Supreme Court, so they've set a briefing schedule of December 5th, indicating that they intend to move rather rapidly on this case, also the fact that they are willing to grant an administrative stay, probably an indication that they do intend to take up the case.

And we might have this very, very consequential decision not just for the immediate question of whether or not Trump has to produce his finances, but also for the scope of executive power and the scope of the United States presidency overall.

Also incredibly significant in the Don McGahn case, that the court is ruling that this is what's called a justiciable question, that this is not a political question that is supposed to be up to between the executive branch and Congress to work out among themselves.

This is the court saying, no, it is our responsibility and our jurisdiction to basically decide when you have the president of the United States making astonishing broad assertions of immunity and showing an indication to not comply with congressional subpoenas at all. The courts will step in and decide where the boundaries of the law are.

BLITZER: What's that legal word? What kind of decision is that?

HENNESSEY: A justiciable decision.

BLITZER: Yes, all right. Jeffrey, go ahead. You learned a legal word there.

TOOBIN: Yes. There's just an important development that just happened, which is William Burck, who is the lawyer for Don McGahn, he just issued a statement. And it's one sentence, and I wonder if I could read it because it's important.

He says, Don McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson's decision unless it is stayed pending appeal. The DOJ, Department of Justice, is handling this case so you will need to ask them whether they intend to seek a stay.

Now, that's different from simply honoring an appeal just because an appeal has been filed. It's very different from an appellate court -- when an appellate court simply hears an appeal and that could take months.


The -- what Don -- what William Burck is saying here is that he's going to testify unless the D.C. circuit grants a stay. And that's something pretty extraordinary. They don't always grant stays.


TOOBIN: So, you know, I was saying earlier, you know, this could take months. It could take, you know, if they don't grant a stay, this could actually move pretty quickly. So, there is now at least a realistic chance that McGahn will have to testify while impeachment is a live issue before the House of Representatives.

BLITZER: Let me get Shawn Turner into this.

Go ahead, Shawn.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Wolf, look, you know, after hearing Jeffrey read that statement, I think there are huge implications for all the other senior administration officials who have gone to the courts who were kind of waiting in the wings to see if they're going to the get a favorable ruling.

Look, you know, I think it's time for the White House to re-evaluate the strategy here. Earlier, Susan talked about the degree this is politically sustainable. And it is the case that we know from polling that there are people out there in the electorate who has said that if the courts determine that these senior officials should testify, do you believe they should testify and people have said, yes, they absolutely do.

So, what that means for the administration as they've been kind of benefitting from and pushing these narrative, these people are not testifying because the Democrats have already made up their mind, they know where they're going with this, that narrative is not longer sustainable as the White House continues to stretch this out and continues to fight this, particularly in an environment where the details of the involvement of these people continue to leak out.

So, I think that as these move forward, the White House is really going to have to look at whether or not they're going to start to lose supporters and lose people as these individuals likely go up and testify.

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And to Jeffrey's point earlier, this does raise a prospect you have Don McGahn testifying sooner than we thought, potentially right into the middle of this ongoing impeachment inquiry which, of course, then changes the dynamic what the inquiry is about, right? We know the Democrats, at least Nancy Pelosi, thought about keeping it a narrowly focused inquiry, looking at the holdup of aid to Ukraine, the dynamics around that.

Don McGahn doesn't know anything about that presumably, right? He was long gone. He was central to the Mueller inquiry, the question of obstruction of justice, does it become a broader and even potentially messier inquiry that, you know, may go either way for the Democrats. But it's a very new, interesting dynamic.

BLITZER: It's a very important point, Jackie.

JACKIE ALEMANY, AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST, "POWER UP": Yes, it's still a little early, we're seeing how people are responding to this ruling. But I think there's a key distinction that needs to be pointed out here, which is those who already agreed to testify before Congress are bureaucrats, career, public servants, don't make a living off being in the Republican party. Those who have decided to abide by President Trump and defied his congressional subpoenas, are career politicians, political appointees.

I can't really see them changing their minds and agreeing to go testify. I think the likely scenario that we're going to see here is what Adam Schiff told Jake Tapper yesterday, which is the Chief Justice Roberts potentially calling forth new witnesses impeachment trial when it goes to the Senate.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by. We've got a lot more news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM after a quick break.



BLITZER: Breaking news: CNN has learned that federal prosecutors are taking a very close look at a business owned by the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Meanwhile, in his first interview since cooperating with federal prosecutors, an executive of Ukraine's state-owned gas company now tells that Giuliani associate Lev Parnas and another Giuliani associate were seeking corrupt deals in Ukraine.

Andrew Favorov talked to CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin. Here's his report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andrew Favorov thought it was a joke. The two shady businessmen from South Florida had no backing, no experience, but what they did have, they said, was the Trump administration's ear, and they wanted a cut of Ukraine's national business.

ANDREW FAVOROV, NAFTOGAZ SENIOR MANAGER: This was completely crazy. It was the first time in my business when two private actors were offering or discussing the issues that are supposed to be part of U.S. foreign policy.

GRIFFIN: He says what Parnas and Fruman were proposing was a takeover of management at the Ukraine's state-owned oil and gas company, Naftogaz. Favorov would be their new CEO. Parnas and Fruman would then get sweetheart deals and anyone who got in their way, like U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch who opposed this old style corruption would be removed.

FAVOROV: Honestly, I didn't take it seriously at first. You know, crazy old (INAUDIBLE) told crazy stories. Then it actually took place. That's when it was just a moment of, wow, for me. How is this happening?

GRIFFIN (on camera): Did you fear that they really were connected to the Trump administration and had the power to carry out what they were doing?

FAVOROV: After the events transpired with Ambassador Yovanovitch, yes, I thought that it was distant possibility.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Parnas and Fruman have been indicted for violating federal campaign laws.


Federal prosecutors in New York allege the two men illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign funds into Republican Party candidates and a Trump super PAC in an effort to buy political influence for their new gas company called Global Energy Producers. They have pleaded not guilty. Igor Fruman's attorney declined comment for the story and attorney for Lev Parnas has yet to respond.

Favorov says he immediately turned down the offer Parnas and Fruman were making to him this past March and reported their actions to the U.S. embassy in Kiev. He is also cooperating with the federal investigation which CNN reports is also focusing on the actions of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

(on camera): Hi, Mr. Giuliani.

(voice-over): A source familiar with the matter said federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani's possible business ties to Parnas, Fruman, and their company Global Energy Producers.

An attorney for Giuliani told CNN Mr. Giuliani had no interest in GEP at any time.

Earlier this month, Giuliani vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: And the reality is that everything I've done is totally legal.

GRIFFIN: Favorov says he never met or discussed anything with Giuliani but says the two men who came to him with a corrupt plan used their association with Rudy Giuliani as proof they could carry it out.

(on camera): Did they mention Rudy Giuliani?


GRIFFIN: As their conduit?

FAVOROV: They mentioned that, yes, he's one of the channels of communication and getting the right message across to the decision- makers within the U.S. administration.

GRIFFIN: They thought they could remove the ambassador of the United States?

FAVOROV: To this day, I find it hard to digest how it's possible.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Favorov says what's at stake is much bigger than just Naftogaz or even Ukraine. Russia, he says, is hoping Ukraine will fail and that Russian style and even Russian-supported corruption will creep back into Ukraine's struggling economy helping Russia to further destabilize Europe. Rooting out corruption is the best way for the U.S. and the West to fight back. He only hopes the leader of his adopted country still believes that.

FAVOROV: That's why people all over the world look to the United States to set the standard, to show how things can be done in a moral and ethical and a transparent way and I certainly hope as a U.S. citizen that this beacon does not lose its value because of some bad actors and because of some greed and, you know, opportunism.


GRIFFIN: Wolf, Favorov spoke with prosecutors and the U.S. attorney's office this past week. He wouldn't give us details.

But as we've learned in details about the sweeping subpoenas in the case, Rudy Giuliani's business appears to be a major part of the investigation into whatever deals were being cooked up in Ukraine -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important reporting. Drew Griffin, thanks very much.

Finally tonight, President Trump has often questioned the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a view held by the entire U.S. intelligence community. Some of the president's GOP allies including most recently Louisiana Senator John Kennedy are now pushing the debunked theory that it may have been Ukraine.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their emails? Was it Russia or Ukraine?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't know nor do you nor do any of us.

WALLACE: The entire intelligence community says it was Russia.

KENNEDY: Right. But it could also be Ukraine.


BLITZER: But we do know that the president's own top national security officials say it was Russia, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former homeland security advisor Tom Bossert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: As I have consistently, Russia attempted to interfere with the last election.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am sure that all-Americans share my concerns about the efforts of the Russian government to interfere in our presidential election.

DAN COATES, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Do you accept the conclusions of the I.C. regarding Russia's measures?


TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It is not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked. The United States government reached its conclusion on attributing to Russia the DNC hack in 2016 before it even communicated it to the FBI.


BLITZER: Now, all of these officials were appointed by President Trump. None of them are Never Trumpers or members of the so-called deep state. In fact, the president's own intelligence community recently briefed senators that Russia was promoting this conspiracy theory to shift blame away from Moscow and now to Ukraine.

We invited Senator Kennedy to join us. He declined. We hope he will join us soon.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.