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House Intelligence Committee Reviewing Their Impeachment Report; Trump in London for NATO Meeting; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- CT) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Report by Democrats and Republicans; Giuliani's Associates Willing to Cooperate in the Impeachment Probe. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. We'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Reading the reports, members of the House Intelligence Committee are about to go behind closed doors to review the report that will be the basis for articles of impeachment against President Trump. And now, Republicans have just put out their own report defending the president.

Unfortunate, just two days before the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, Chairman Jerry Nadler laments the White House decision not to take part as the president and his lawyer blast the process as unfair and illegitimate.

GOP flip-flop. Republican Senator John Kennedy reverses course again and resumes pushing a Russian-backed conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign.

And done being quiet. Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page breaks her silence in an explosive new interview in response to President Trump's repeated twitter attacks on her former lover. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in "The Situation Room."

We're following breaking news. A key new step toward impeachment, the House Intelligence Committee is about to conduct a closed-door review of the report on their hearings which will be the basis of articles of impeachment against President Trump.

But House Republicans have gotten a jump on them with their own report defending the president which CNN was able to review just moments ago. And the Judiciary Committee has just released its list of witnesses who will testify in its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday.

We'll talk about the breaking news and more with Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional

correspondent Manu Raju is on the scene for us. Manu, we're only minutes away from the House Intelligence Committee members going behind closed doors to review the committee's impeachment report. What is the very latest information you're getting?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in just a matter of moments members of that committee will go behind closed doors, review this report and that is something they can do up until tomorrow when the committee will vote to release that report and send it to the House Judiciary Committee.

The house Judiciary Committee essentially will use this report as the basis of articles of impeachment against this president. Expect this Democratic report to be long, potentially hundreds of pages long detailing the findings of this two-month investigation into Ukraine.

The Democrats allegations that the president abused his power and dealings with that foreign country also and has asked for Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden at the same time a security aid was withheld for Ukraine and a key meeting that Ukraine sought also withheld, all of that will be detailed in this report.

We'll be waiting to hear the exact recommendations but undoubtedly this will form the basis of those articles of impeachment. Now, tomorrow the committee will vote to release that and send to the House Judiciary Committee.

And the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will have its first hearing. Earlier today, they released their witnesses for that first hearing. Several academics will discuss the grounds for impeachment. Essentially it will be a discussion over what constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors.

It will be the first in a series of proceedings before that panel. They will also carry into likely the following week. Now, the following week, they have yet to announce their schedule but we do expect according to sources, that's when the committee will move to actually impeach the president, hold a vote on articles of impeachment.

Then the full House will vote. That will likely happen before Christmas assuming the Democrats have the votes and Democrats are confident they do, that will move forward.

We're waiting to see exactly how they structure those articles of impeachment, but likely it could be multiple articles of impeachment focusing on abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, potentially obstruction of justice as well.

Now, the White House turned down an invitation to participate in Wednesday's hearing saying they were not given enough time to provide their witnesses. They're also saying this is a sham process as they've done so far.

Now, they can participate in future hearings, but they have until Friday to respond to that. But already Republicans are attacking this process. Democrats believe there are far more than enough evidence to say that the president abused his office and deserves to be impeached and the Democrats will detail more of their findings tonight and we'll see it publicly tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Republicans, they have just released their own report. How are they defending the president, Manu?

RAJU: Yes, Republicans released a report, a 123-page report that we obtained and we reviewed and it is a full-throated defense of the president's actions contending that none of the central allegations that the president did are wrong.

They're essentially saying the president was within his rights to withhold the military assistance to Ukraine saying it needed to be reviewed.

[17:05:00]

Saying that Ukraine is a historically corrupt country and he had -- it was within the president's responsibilities to ensure that money was not going to a country that could be misused in any way.

Suggesting that even the role of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, in investigating these matters, something that had raised alarm bells with a number of senior U.S. officials, saying that the Rudy Giuliani role was completely proper and actually saying there is nothing inherently improper with Rudy Giuliani's role.

Even this report suggests that the president's claim that Ukraine may have meddled in the 2016 election, something that has been refuted by a number of witnesses including in the U.S. intelligence community.

While they're saying that there is indisputable evidence that senior Ukrainian officials opposed President Trump in the 2016 election and did so publicly.

And also they're defending that July 25th phone call that the president had with President Zelensky of Ukraine in which President Trump urged Zelensky to open up an investigation into Ukraine, potentially Ukraine interference in the 2016 election as well as an investigation into the Bidens.

It says in the report -- it says the summary of their July 25th, 2019 telephone conversation shows no quid pro quo or indication of conditionality, threats or pressure much less evidence of bribery or extortion. The summary reflects laughter, pleasantries and cordiality.

President Zelensky has said repeatedly and -- publicly and repeatedly that he felt no pressure. President Trump has said publicly and repeatedly that he exerted no pressure.

So, Wolf, you're seeing the dividing lines rather stark here on Capitol Hill. After a two-month investigations, Republicans siding with the president offering their rebuttal. The Republicans on this committee plan to vote to move forward on this with this report that will essentially be the minority views of the larger Democratic report.

Democrats say this is conduct that is completely unacceptable and we'll see that play out this weekend in what will be a momentous month here in the House, Wolf.

BLITZER: Historic indeed. Manu Raju, thank you very much.

As the impeachment process kicks into higher gear, President Trump is in London right now for a NATO meeting. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president.

Jim, I understand the president's aircraft is about to land. House Republicans, they are defending the president as you just heard in their new report, but the White House --

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

BLITZER: -- at least so far is staying away from it all. What is the latest you're hearing?

ACOSTA: That is right, Wolf. The White House is saying no way. The president and his lawyers will not be participating in the next impeachment hearing set for Wednesda in the House.

White House officials all but ruling it out altogether and the House telling CNN the Democrats are nowhere near meeting their demands for a White House involvement.

The president is slamming the process calling it a hoax and a distraction as he is spending the week meeting with NATO leaders here in London. The president is latching on to comments by the way made by the leader of Ukraine even as those remarks don't really exonerate him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the clouds of impeachment hanging over his every move, President Trump all but accused Democrats of sabotage as he is set to sit down with NATO leaders in London.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats, the radical left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats decided when I'm going to NATO -- this was set up a year ago -- but when I'm going to NATO that was the exact time -- this is one of the most important journeys that we make as president. The whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Scrambling for a headline that will help him, the president is seizing on comments made by the leader of Ukraine about their infamous July 25th phone call.

TRUMP: If you noticed, there was breaking news today. The Ukrainian president came out and said very strongly that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong. That should be case over. But he just came out a little while ago and he said President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong and that should end everything. ACOSTA (voice-over): But that's not quite what the Ukrainian

president said as he complained to "Time Magazine" he believed Mr. Trump wasn't exactly treating him like a true ally when the U.S. held up military aid to his country stating, "Look, I never talked to the president from a position of a quid pro quo. I don't want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand we're at war. If you're our strategic partner then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness."

The president will be in London for NATO meetings so he won't be participating in the latest round of impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Neither will White House attorneys who told committee Chairman Jerry Nadler in a letter, "under the current circumstances we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing." Democrats are accusing Republicans of hiding behind arguments about the process.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I think the White House has put itself in a straight jacket of its own making by questioning the legitimacy of the constitutional process. And by questioning that legitimacy, it makes it difficult for them to participate.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Some of the president's top defenders are going further than that fuelling bogus conspiracy theory pushed by the Russians that Ukraine was meddling in the 2016 election.

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SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it has been well documented.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Louisiana GOP Senator John Kennedy has twisted himself into a pretzel on the issue resurrecting the talking point after he seemed to back away from it last week.

KENNEDY: I was wrong. The only evidence I have and I think it is overwhelming is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That is what the consensus is.

KENNEDY: I see no -- Yes, I've seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That was enough to earn some presidential praise where it counts, on twitter. "Thank you to great Republican Senator John Kennedy, the president tweeted, for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And just a few moments ago the president and the First Lady stepped off of Air Force One arriving here in London for these NATO meetings.

And Wolf, we should mention the White House, they like the split screen of seeing the president over here in London meeting with these NATO leaders while the House of Representatives is holding these impeachment proceedings.

And the White House, we should note, has until the end of the week to decide whether administration lawyers will play any part in the impeachment proceedings in the House.

One official though questioned whether the White House even needs to respond to the House hearing set for Wednesday as it includes constitutional scholars as Manu Raju was just mentioning, not witnesses who could shed light on the president's dealings with Ukraine.

The White House is not closing the door on being involved in these proceedings, Wolf. But it is getting very close, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Jim Acosta in London. Thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is a member of both the Judiciary and Armed Services Committee. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you.

BLITZER: So, there is about to be this new phase in the House of Representatives, the Judiciary Committee is going to -- about to consider the Intelligence Committee's report. What will you be watching for in this new phase?

BLUMENTHAL: I'll be watching first of all this week for the standard that is set forth by constitutional scholars and then the following week the vote by the Judiciary Committee on the articles of impeachment and of course the next week, the vote on those articles by the full House.

But make no mistake, the president's own words here are in many respects the most incriminating part of this case in that July 25th conversation. The president clearly is soliciting a bribe and bribery under the Constitution is specifically enumerated offense for impeachment.

And of course he says in the conversation that he will perform an official act, namely releasing the military aid, only if something of personal benefit to him, that investigation of Joe Biden is revived.

BLITZER: Treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. The House Republicans have just written this lengthy rebuttal to the Democrats saying there is absolutely no evidence of impeachable crimes as far as the July 25th phone call between the president and Zelensky.

They write this, "The summary of their July 25th, 2019 telephone conversation shows no quid pro quo or indication of conditionality, threats or pressure much less evidence of bribery or extortion. The summary reflects laughter and pleasantly and cordiality." What do you make of that?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, there is a lote more than laughter, pleasantry and cordialities. The president of Ukraine says we need those anti-tank missiles and the president of the United States said immediately thereafter I want you to do us a little favor though, meaning the investigation of Joe Biden, a personal benefit to him.

So, I think that characterization is completely distorted and distracting, which has been their strategy but it is also dangerous to our national security.

Because this falsity, the theory that Ukraine was responsible for meddling in elections, not Russia, actually is not only debunked by our intelligence community, by the Mueller report and by the Senate Intelligence Committee controlled by Republicans.

But also creates a false sense of complacency. It credits Vladimir Putin with his contention that the Ukrainians not the Russians attacked us.

BLITZER: A top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee has objected to what he describes is a short notice that the committee members are getting, who the witnesses are going to be, the nature of the report, the details of the House Intelligence Committee report. They say the process is totally unfair.

Is it fair to have a hearing on Wednesday, Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m., when they just now discovered who are the witnesses, the constitutional lawyers, the experts who are going to testify and they still haven't seen the basis of this report namely the House Intelligence Committee's conclusion?

BLUMENTHAL: The purpose of the hearing, this Wednesday, is to frame the standards and the legal issues. And I could tell you, as a former prosecutor, as the chief federal prosecutor, United States attorney for Connecticut and then the state attorney general of my state, the clear evidence here is enough to rest the case on impeachment.

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But even more important, the standards here have been set forth in the Constitution for centuries. They have been debated often. The constitutional scholars appearing before the Senate are well-known and the report is based on testimony that everybody heard over the past couple of weeks. So there are no surprises here.

BLITZER: The Republicans, they want the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, to testify. He's the one who led the inquiry to begin with. They say he has the command of the facts. Do you think it will be appropriate for him to appear and answer questions before the committee?

BLUMENTHAL: There is absolutely no reason for Adam Schiff to appear. He's the chairman of the committee that heard this testimony. If the president of the United States has exculpatory evidence that shows his innocence, he should come forward and present it. He has been blocking witnesses and testimony from some of the key

witnesses that have been sought by the committee and rather than hiding behind a commuter -- computer screen and tweeting, he ought to come forward and tell the American people.

BLITZER: The argument they make is that Adam Schiff led the investigation into all of this, the Ukraine investigation, the impeachment inquiry, and since there was no special counsel or independent counsel who did it -- Ken Starr, he led the investigation into then President Bill Clinton's impeachment process.

He eventually testified before the committee. Since there was no special counsel and Adam Schiff was leading the investigation, why not let him like Ken Starr actually come forward and answer questions?

BLUMENTHAL: Adam Schiff did not act as a special counsel as Ken Starr did.

BLITZER: There was no special counsel in this case.

BLUMENTHAL: And there was no special counsel. That is absolutely right. That is the key distinction. But here is the really important point. What matters here is not the debate back and forth about whether Adam Schiff should testify or whether the Republicans were somehow surprised by the witnesses, what matters here are the facts and the law.

And again, as a prosecutor, what I'm going to argue to the jury is facts and law. The testimony over these past couple of weeks corroborates what the president himself said in that July 25th conversation.

Those dedicated patriots and professionals like Taylor and Hill who came before the committee, the American people should base their judgment on what they saw.

BLITZER: Very quickly, if it does come down to a trial in the Senate, he's impeached in the House, do you see any evidence at this point that would lead you to acquit?

BLUMENTHAL: I want to see what the president has to say. If they -- is any evidence to acquit. So far he has refused, absolutely refused to come forward with his so-called exculpatory evidence. I would certainly listen carefully and closely to it. But right now the evidence shows an impeachable offense, bribery, abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Stay with us. We have more breaking news coming into "The Situation Room." Federal prosecutors have just revealed the extent of evidence they have in the case against some of Rudy Giuliani's associates.

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BLITZER: Breaking news in the federal case against associates of President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. CNN's Kara Scannell is in New York where there was a court conference earlier today.

Kara, you're learning that one of Giuliani's associates is what? Willing to cooperate in Congress' impeachment probe of the president? What's the latest? What are you hearing?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. So today in court an attorney for Lev Parnas, one of those associates, says that his client wishes to cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee's investigation.

But he said that much of the documents and materials that have been subpoenaed by the House are still in the government's possession because the government had seized dozens of electronic devices from Parnas and his associates and that he does not have them yet to give over to the House Intelligence investigators.

So we also learned that prosecutors have seized 29 devices, a chunk of them from Parnas and others from Igor Fruman, his co-defendant in the case, and this includes hard drives, laptops, cell phones.

And in the case of Fruman, the prosecutor said that they have obtained a satellite phone from his residence. So this is all part of the discovery process and a defense lawyer said that they received about 70,000 documents so far just before the Thanksgiving holiday from prosecutors.

But one of the attorneys said that within that material, it includes the search warrant affidavit -- that kind of gives you a sense of the case. And in that there were 26 pages that were redacted. So that is all related to uncharged conduct as part of the investigation that prosecutors are still undertaking.

And also today we learned that prosecutors are expecting to file additional charges against some of the men in the case, but the details on that were not -- they were not very many details about what those charges might entail, Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume we're going to be learning a lot more about these associates in the coming days and weeks. Kara Scannell, thanks for that update.

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Stay with us. We're keeping a very close eye right now up on Capitol Hill where members of the House Intelligence Committee will be looking over their report in the Trump impeachment probe. There is new information coming in. We'll be right back.

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[17:30:07]

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories as the push to impeach President Trump moves forward up on Capitol Hill. Members of the House Intelligence Committee are going behind closed doors this evening to review their report on President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Let's discuss this and more with our experts and our analysts.

And, Chris Cillizza, I want to play for you --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Sure.

BLITZER: -- some clips that have been pieced together. This is Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, saying -- what he originally said about a week or so ago, what he revised, and then what he said yesterday as far as Ukraine and Russia both interfering in the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their e-mails? Was it Russia or Ukraine?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I don't know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us.

I was wrong. The only evidence I have, and I think it's overwhelming, is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Then why do you think the President keeps saying something that he also knows is not true?

KENNEDY: Well, here is why. There is a lot of evidence, proven and unproven -- everybody's got an opinion -- that Ukraine did try to interfere along with Russia and probably others in the 2016 election. I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: OK, two things. One unproven evidence isn't evidence. I'm no lawyer, but that's true. Now, he can have an opinion that they both meddled in the election, but that is not a fact and there are no facts that bear that out.

Here is what we know. Thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Republican Senator Richard Burr, thanks to Bob Mueller's support, thanks to the unanimous ruling of the Intelligence Community, thanks to Tom Bossert, Donald Trump's former head of national security.

We know all of these -- we know that Russia meddled in the 2016 election with the express goal of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton because they thought Donald Trump was better for their interest.

Now, the Ukraine piece. Yes, it is true, some Ukrainian politicians, whether in an op-ed or on their personal Facebook posts, did say things like they didn't want Donald Trump to be elected. And you know who else said that?

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Lots of other people and lots of other foreign governments. If that is the bar of interference when compared to a broad, concerted, coordinated effort by Russia, it's -- it's apple and oranges. Does it a disservice. It's a different universe.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I just want to drill down on one of those groups that has said that it's not Ukraine, and that is the unanimous decision of the Intelligence Community.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BASH: None of us have seen the report. It's classified, OK, on the -- on who really meddled.

But what I'm told by somebody who did see it is that it is very, very clear, crystal clear, that the cyber issue, which is what the President and his allies are suggesting, which is that the DNC hack was -- was done by people in Ukraine, is flatly not true.

Not just because of cyber -- the investigation of the cyber situation but because of broader intelligence sources and methods that they wouldn't nor should not tell me about. And so that is really the key.

And then, just the second beat to that is that the implication of this is that the people that this is -- that this is all helping are the people in Russia -- the person, is Vladimir Putin. Because this all takes the heat away from him where it should be.

BLITZER: Right.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: If Bob Mueller had seen evidence of Ukrainian interference, he would have indicted the Ukrainians just like he indicted the Russians.

CILLIZZA: Right.

BASH: The 12 Russians.

BORGER: And he --

BASH: That's so key.

BORGER: And he did not. So this is all muddying the waters. This is all muddying, stirring the pot, whatever you want to do, or however you want to describe it, as a way to say, well, yes, the Russians did it, but maybe somebody else did it too. That is not the case.

CILLIZZA: That's right. SABRINA SIDDIQUI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:

This is really no different from when President Trump stood alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and accepted the Kremlin's version of the denials of Russian interference in the U.S. election over the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community.

And I think that it is obviously an effort by the President and some of his allies to delegitimize the allegations that are at the center of this impeachment inquiry.

[17:34:51]

But one of the most sobering takeaways from when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified on Capitol Hill was when he warned members of Congress that the Russians were still actively trying to interfere in the U.S. political process. He said we're doing -- they're doing it as we sit right here. And one of the key findings in the Mueller report was that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election in a sweeping and systematic way.

And so, it's not just about rewriting history, which is what the President and some of the Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to do. It also has significant implications for the upcoming election because it certainly casts doubt on what this administration is actually trying to do to deter Russian aggression as we move forward in 2020.

BLITZER: He's a very, Senator Kennedy, very intelligent guy.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: He was Rhodes scholar at Oxford.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: Why do you think he's doing this?

CILLIZZA: Because I think he understands, like virtually everyone else in the Republican Party elected officials, that the path of least resistance, the path of keeping your job, the path of keeping the President off your back, is supporting what he says despite the fact -- and Cory (ph) makes a point -- that it's just not true.

I mean, there's just not -- there's not much else to go with. An op- ed by some Ukrainian official is not the same thing as a coordinated, broad, strategic attempt to meddle in the election, online and offline, that led to the indictment of a dozen Russians by Bob Mueller, the former FBI director, right? It's not the same thing.

But John Kennedy knows that Donald Trump rewards him.

BASH: Yes, and he just did.

CILLIZZA: What did Donald Trump do this morning on the way --

BLITZER: He tweeted. CILLIZZA: -- on the way to the meeting?

BASH: Of course.

CILLIZZA: He tweeted, great job, John Kennedy.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, everybody, stand by. There is a lot more that's developing right now. A former FBI attorney often mocked by President Trump finally, finally, breaks her silence.

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[17:41:15]

BLITZER: All right, we're just getting this news into the SITUATION ROOM. Former President Jimmy Carter has just been admitted back into a hospital in America's Georgia this past weekend for treatment for a urinary tract infection.

According to a statement from the Carter Center in Atlanta, quote, he is feeling better and looks forward to returning home soon. We will issue a statement, the Carter Center says, when he is released for further rest and recovery at home.

We, of course, wish him a speedy, speedy recovery. Other news we're following right now, this week, the House is expected to take up a Senate-approved resolution condemning the Chinese government for its detention of an estimated 1 million people who are members of a Muslim minority.

Recently leaked pictures and documents have exposed the brutal conditions they're enduring. CNN's Will Ripley reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China doesn't want you to know the secret behind these walls. Men, women, children, sometimes entire families separated from each other, cut off from the outside world.

The U.S. State Department says they live in prison-like conditions. Locked up, not for what they did but who they are. Members of Muslim minority groups from Xinjiang province in China's far west.

Why they're kept here is a carefully guarded secret. And if China finds the person who leaked more than 400 pages of government documents to "The New York Times," they could disappear, too.

AUSTIN RAMZY, HONG KONG CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This person is a member of the Chinese political establishment who wanted the leadership to be held accountable for the decisions that were made in Xinjiang.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Decisions made by Chinese President Xi Jinping implicated in the mass roundup for the first time. What the U.S. calls the mass arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of more than 2 million people. Massive efforts to reprogram an entire ethnic group, Muslim Uyghurs.

China blamed the Uyghurs for deadly terror attacks five years ago, attacks that killed scores of people. That same year, 2014, President Xi made a series of speeches calling for a crackdown on separatists.

Show absolutely no mercy, he said in one speech. This video from Xinjiang suggests that's what's happening. Men with hands bound, heads shaved, and blindfolded at a train station.

CNN is not able to independently verify this video or when it was taken, but two former detainees from Xinjiang told CNN the same thing happened to them. They describe being herded together with other inmates, moved from jail to jail.

The Chinese government initially denied the camps exist. Now, it calls them voluntary vocational training centers teaching people how to integrate into Chinese society.

GULCHEHRA HOJA, JOURNALIST, RADIO FREE ASIA: Xi Jinping's dream is one nation, one country.

RIPLEY (on camera): What happens to people who don't fit into President Xi's dream?

HOJA: So they've been tortured, they've been -- starvation. Their life is, like, unimaginable.

This is my brother.

RIPLEY (voice-over): This Uyghur journalist, now in the United States, says her brother has been missing in Xinjiang for more than a year. She burst into tears as soon as our interview ended, pain shared by every family torn apart. Someone they love vanished. No message, no warning, gone.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: These reports are consistent with an overwhelming and growing body of evidence that the Chinese Communist Party is committing human rights violations and abuses against individuals in mass detention.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Tough talk from the Trump administration as the President praised Xi just this week.

[17:45:02]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a very good relationship as you know with President Xi. We're in the final throes of a very important deal.

RIPLEY (voice-over): China's human rights record has been a focus of six months of violent protests in Hong Kong. U.S. lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill supporting human rights in the Chinese territory. The President signed the bill on Wednesday.

CNN examined other secret Chinese government documents leaked by an investigative consortium. Guards are told never allow escapes. Detainees may not contact the outside world. China's Ambassador to the U.K. calls the mounting evidence pure fabrication.

LIU XIAOMING, AMBASSADOR OF CHINA TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: There is no so-called labor camps. The government gave them opportunity to learn the language, Mandarin, you know, to be a good citizen and effective worker.

RIPLEY (voice-over): That carefully woven narrative unraveling with each new revelation. Shining light on a dark secret. What many believe is the Chinese President's plan to erase an entire culture.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: Tonight, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is categorically denying to CNN that it was involved in any human rights issues in Xinjiang. They say what's happening there is counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will Ripley doing excellent reporting for us as he always does. Thank you, Will, very much. Very important story indeed. We'll stay on top of that.

Also coming up, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page breaking her silence about President Trump's attacks on her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:31]

BLITZER: One of President Trump's favorite Twitter targets is breaking her silence, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. CNN's Brian Todd has details. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Lisa Page says she has decided to take her power back. She's defending her conduct regarding her texts with a former FBI agent who she had an affair with, hitting back at accusations that her personal opinions of President Trump tainted the Russia investigation.

Still, this new interview continues to raise questions about the appearance of bias on Page's behalf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): After two years, Lisa Page says she's done being quiet. The former FBI lawyer says President Trump's lewd imitation of her text with former FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom she had an affair, broke the camel's back.

TRUMP: I love you, Peter. I love you, too, Lisa. Lisa, I love you. Lisa, Lisa. Oh, God, I love you, Lisa.

And if she doesn't win, Lisa, we've got an insurance policy. Lisa, we'll get that son of a bitch out.

TODD (voice-over): In a new interview with "The Daily Beast," Lisa Page says President Trump is, quote, demeaning me and my career. It's sickening. She says, it's like being punched in the gut, my heart drops to my stomach, whenever Trump tweets about her.

Like today, Trump tweeting, when Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being crushed and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter's insurance policy text to her just in case Hillary loses.

A reference to Strzok's text to Lisa Page on August 15, 2016, when he mentioned an insurance policy. Trump has interpreted that to mean the Russia probe. Strzok has denied that.

But earlier that year, Page and Strzok exchanged other texts about Trump, Page once asking Strzok, Trump's not ever going to become President, right? Right? Strzok replies, no. No, he's not. We'll stop it.

In March of 2016, Page texted Strzok, I cannot believe Donald Trump is likely to be an actual serious candidate for president. God, Trump is a loathsome human.

Page and Strzok both left the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling after Robert Mueller learned about their texts. And Trump has been slamming both of them ever since.

TRUMP: Are Lisa Page, who was forced to leave the FBI, and her lover, Peter Strzok, who we got their text messages -- and what they said in those text messages were shocking when you talk about bias.

TODD (voice-over): Next week, a Justice Department Inspector General's Report will come out, examining Trump's allegations of bias in the origins of the Russia probe.

Lisa Page told "The Daily Beast," my personal opinions had absolutely no bearing on the course of the Russia investigations. But analysts say even the appearance of Page's texts is troubling.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The right question is whether there was behavior that has the appearance of impropriety relating to bias, and the answer is, unmistakably, there was.

TODD (voice-over): Page claims she doesn't engage in partisan politicking. She says she is overwhelmed by dread and embarrassment that the public knows about her affair with Strzok.

TODD (on camera): Was it smart of her to speak out now, or should she not have allowed herself to be drawn into this further?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Lisa Page didn't have anything to lose by going public and telling her side since Donald Trump continues to use her as a foil and diversion for more substantive issues and continues to taunt her.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:54:57]

TODD: Lisa Page says Trump's attacks still affect her everyday life. She says she gets nervous when someone looks at her on a commuter train. Or if she sees someone wearing a Make America Great Again hat, she says she'll walk the other way just to avoid conflict.

Other than President Trump's tweet about Page today, the White House has not responded to Lisa Page's interview. The FBI would not comment to CNN. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Just ahead, members of the House Intelligence Committee, they're about to review the impeachment report.

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