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House Intel Report Accuses Trump Of Misconduct, Obstruction; WH: Dem Report "Reads Like The Ramblings Of A Basement Blogger"; House Intel About To Vote On Impeachment Report; Schiff: Nunes Conversations With Giuliani As Shown In The Phone Records Are "Deeply Concerning"; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Is Interviewed About Donald Trump, Impeachment, And Devin Nunes; House Intel Report: Trump "Compromised National Security To Advance His Personal Interest"; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) Is Interviewed About Trump, Impeachment, And Kamala Harris; Sen. Kamala Harris Drops Out of 2020 Presidential Race; Why The Founding Fathers Added Impeachment In The Constitution; Dems: Phone Records In House Intel Report Shows How Trump Allies Coordinated "False Narratives." Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 3, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM and we're following breaking news. Take a look at these live pictures coming in from Capitol Hill where the House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote very soon to send its sweeping impeachment report on the Ukraine scandal to the Judiciary Committee which will almost certainly use it as a basis for articles of impeachment against President Trump. The report cites what it calls overwhelming evidence of misconduct and obstruction by the President of the United States in his effort to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
As he moves one step closer to impeachment, Mr. Trump is in London right now for a NATO meeting, but has taken time to launch new attacks against the Democrats and the impeachment process. The White House responded to the report just a little while ago saying and I'm quoting now, it "reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger."
Our political correspondent Sara Murray has been combing through the lengthy report and this very, very lengthy -- I don't know if you had a chance to read all 300-plus pages but you've got some detailed information on what it includes.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I mean, this newly released report is very damaging for President Trump. It says he sought foreign election interference from a foreign government. This is House Democrats' stopped short of fully calling for the President's impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MURRAY (voice-over): House Democrats concluding evidence of the President's misconduct is overwhelming as lawmakers take a big step forward in impeaching the President.
By pressuring the Ukrainian President to open investigations into the Biden family and the 2016 election in exchange for a White House meeting and security assistance, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process and endangered U.S. national security, according to the newly released impeachment report. The 300-page document expected to serve as the framework for articles of impeachment sharply condemned the President's efforts to block witnesses from testifying saying, "It would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began."
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and the other committee chairs leading the inquiry stopped short of recommending impeachment saying, "It will be up to the Congress to determine whether these acts rise to the level of an impeachable offense, whether the President shall be held to account, and whether we as a nation are committed to the rule of law or instead whether a President who uses the power of his office to coerce foreign interference in a U.S. election is something that Americans must simply get over." But the sharply-worded document lays the groundwork for a U.S. President to be impeached for the third time in American history.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: If we don't care about this, we can darn well be sured the President will be back at it doing this all over again.
MURRAY: The document makes the case that President Trump's efforts to shape foreign policy to benefit him political stretched beyond his July 25th call with President Zelensky. The call was a dramatic crescendo in those efforts.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He abused his office to leverage your taxpayer dollars to have a foreign government try to cheat an election.
MURRAY: Other administration officials, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry allegedly knew of or aided the President's efforts according to the report. The document also provides new details on Rudy Giuliani's efforts to peddle conspiracy theories about Ukraine and aid Trump in his pursuit of investigations.
After subpoenaing phone companies, Democrats laid out calls between Giuliani and officials at the Office of Management and Budget as well as Giuliani and Congressman Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence panel.
SCHIFF: It is I think deeply concerning that at a time when the President of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity.
MURRAY: And you really get a look in that Wolf into the awkward dynamics between the two parties on this committee when it comes to this report and our colleagues on the Hill caught up with Devin Nunes and tried to ask him for comment about being named in the Democrats' report, he did not comment.
BLITZER: Yes, all right, the 300 pages indeed a very thick report. All right, thanks very much Sara Murray for that report.
President Trump is in London right now. He's far from the impeachment storm. But he and the White House are lashing out at these latest historic developments back here in Washington. Our chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the President in London right now. Jim, the President's trip is clearly being overshadowed by all of the breaking news here.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. The White House is tearing into the report from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee calling it, "the ramblings of a basement blogger," that's mild compared to President Trump's description of Adam Schiff earlier in today as I, "deranged human being." This deeply personal attacks came as the President was clashing with NATO leaders and then doing some clean up here in London.
ACOSTA (voice-over): In between meetings with Prince Charles, the queen and leaders of NATO in London, President Trump made it all too clear he has a royal pain in the form of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for a lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he's a very sick man, and he lies.
ACOSTA: In response to the Schiff report alleging the President abuse the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, the White House got personal as well saying in a statement, "At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump. Chairman Schiff's report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing."
The President warn Republicans will just torn (ph) on a Democratic president with impeachment in the future.
TRUMP: You'll have a Democrat president, you'll have a Republican House and they'll do the same thing because somebody picked an orange out of a refrigerator and you don't like it so let's go and impeach them.
ACOSTA: While the White House is living little hope that it will cooperate with House Impeachment hearings, the President hinted he may allow some top officials to participate in a trial in the GOP controlled Senate.
TRUMP: So when it's fair, and it will be fair in the Senate, I would love to have Mike Pompeo, I would love to have Mick, I'd love to have Rick Perry, and many other people testify. But I don't want them to testify when this is a total fix.
ACOSTA: But unlike the House, there are Republicans in the Senate who worry the White House like Mitt Romney who said he is not buying the President's bogus theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH: I saw no evidence from our Intelligence Community nor from the representatives today from the Department of State that there is any evidence of any kind that suggest that Ukraine interfered in our elections. We have ample evidence that Russia interfered in our elections.
ACOSTA: In London, Mr. Trump was lacking horns with French President Emmanuel Macron who had said the NATO alliance had suffered a brain death, a shot aimed at the U.S. less than one week after a terrorist attack in London. Mr. Trump responded to Macron with a joke about releasing Isis fighters into Europe.
TRUMP: Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I could give them to you. you can take everyone you want.
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: Let's be serious. The very large number of fighters you have on the ground are the fighters coming from Syria.
ACOSTA: That was hardly the only jarring moment of the day as the President rattle the financial market saying his trade deal with China may have to wait until after the 2020 election.
TRUMP: I have no deadline, no.
TRUMP: In some ways I think it's better to wait till after the elections.
ACOSTA: And when he initially said the U.S. doesn't support protesters in Iran.
TRUMP: I don't want to comment on that. But the answer is no. But I don't want to comment on that.
ACOSTA: Only to walk that back. We do support them totally and have supported them from the beginning.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Now setting aside the nastiness baked (ph) into the White House response to the Schiff report administration officials aren't really attacking any of the specific accusations raised by Democrats just yet. As for the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, the President says he won't be watching as he'll be wrapping his meetings with NATO leaders, that would be out of character for Mr. Trump who is glued to those hearings chaired by Adam Schiff. Wolf, it's hard to believe the President won't be watching. Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is there for us.
Manu, the committee will be voting on the impeachment report very, very soon. So what comes next?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the committee is going to adopt that report likely along party lines, then it moves to the House Judiciary Committee. And things are going to move pretty quickly. Expect over the next couple of weeks that committee to begin those proceedings. Tomorrow a hearing with legal experts to discuss the articles -- to discuss impeachment whether or not a high crimes and misdemeanors were met particularly in this episode. Then there will be future hearings as well.
Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman signaled today that his staff counsels are likely present some of the findings on today's report before the House Judiciary Committee.
And then there could be action on articles of impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee and that could happen as soon as next week before the full House could vote the week after to actually impeach the President before the Senate would take up the trial and that could go into next year and the Republicans will have to decide whether or not to remove the President from office or they will allow him to stay in office. At the moment they're signaling they will absolutely let him stay in office. But nevertheless the Democrats here in House are still making decision about what to do with -- even if the report is very clearly lays out the case for impeachment.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee today, I asked him if he would get behind impeachment at this point, he's still stopped short.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Do you support impeaching and then the Senate removing him from office?
SCHIFF: I'm going to reserve any kind of a public judgment on that until I have a chance to consult with my colleagues with our leadership. I'm gravely concerned that if we merely accept this that we invite not only further corruption of our elections by this President but we also invite it of the next President. (END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, he didn't say that he is supporting articles of impeachment yet. He made very clear in his press conference that almost certainly he's going to get behind that. The question ultimately is going to be how many articles of impeachment Democrats decide to move forward with. It sounds like according to the report and the way it was laid out, obstruction of Congress will likely be one of them, abuse of power potentially other.
And then other questions how they deal with the Mueller report, those findings of obstruction of justice as detailed by that report whether that's included in the report, that's a continuing discussion among the Democratic caucus. But expect that to be clear here, Wolf, in the coming days.
BLITZER: We also learned, Manu, that the committee subpoenaed call, a phone call records between key players including the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes. What's the latest on that?
RAJU: Yes, this was a development in this report. We have been told by members of this committee that actually that they subpoenaed third parties, AT&T, to get information from them about some of these interactions that occurred. And they learned that this connection with the conservative journalist John Solomon was linked to Devin Nunes as well as other players, Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas as well as the White House Budget Office as part of what the Democrats contend was an effort to dig up dirt earlier this year against Joe Biden.
And they came around the same time as Solomon wrote articles in the Hill newspaper going after Marie Yovanovitch, the now ousted Ukrainian ambassador. This is all part of what the Democrats called a smear campaign. With multiple witnesses also called a smear campaign to get Yovanovitch out of the way.
So this is the first time we're seeing a direct link between Devin Nunes as well as -- so this effort allegedly to dig up dirt on the President's political rival Joe Biden. Adam Schiff said he had serious concerns about the revelation. But they were still trying to learn more facts about this situation. I tried to ask Devin Nunes just moments ago to react to this. He ignored the question. We'll see how other members react in the moments to come here, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will. All right, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.
Let's get more on all of this. Joining us now Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a key member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
Congressman thanks for joining us. In your lengthy report, 300 pages, it says this and I'll put it up on the screen, "the President placed his own personal and political interest above the national interest of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process and endangered U.S. national security." So what do you believe the consequences, Congressman, would be of not impeaching the President following that conclusion in your report?
SWALWELL: He gets worse. And, Wolf, if we do nothing, we lose our ability to hold any president accountable in this Congress and every future Congress. But with this President, the fact that this phone call to President Zelensky was made the day after Bob Mueller testified shows how emboldened he can feel that he can abuse his power. And we want to show him, one, that he can't do that, and two, that actions like this have consequences.
BLITZER: So, have you already personally decided to vote in favor of impeachment?
SWALWELL: No. I'm actually going to, you know, support the process. A fair process. Fairer than Donald Trump would give to anyone who he makes an accusation against. But right now, Wolf, we have powerful, clear, uncontradicted evidence that the President has abused his power.
If he has evidence that could exonerate him, now is the time to start cooperating, turn over the 71-document requests that we've asked for, send the 12 different witnesses that he has blocked from testifying. If he's not going to do that one can only conclude it's because he has a very powerful consciousness of guilt himself.
BLITZER: As you just heard from Manu Raju, the report also contains phone records showing that the top Republican on your committee Devin Nunes was in communication with Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas who is the indicted associate of Giuliani during key dates on the Ukraine timeline. Do you believe Devin Nunes should recuse himself?
SWALWELL: You know, I'm going to leave that to Devin Nunes, Wolf. You know, this isn't about Devin Nunes, this is about the President of the United States. It's disappointing though that he used a serious impeachment inquiry to falsely attack Adam Schiff every single day suggesting that Chairman Schiff was a fact witness when all along it now seems that Devin Nunes, in fact, was the fact witness, and he was just projecting his own guilt, his own involvement in this shakedown scheme on Mr. Schiff. But this isn't about Devin Nunes as much as he may want it to be. This is about the President's conduct.
BLITZER: How long have you had all these phone records?
SWALWELL: Yes, I'll let the chairman speak to that. You know, he drives our investigation. And I think they also speak for themselves in the report.
BLITZER: What about the records of Rudy Giuliani's phone calls to the White House and the Office of Management and Budget, will your Committee continue investigating those calls?
SWALWELL: Yes. And also you can deduce that, you know, you see the Office of Management and Budget involved. They are the office that made the call that many ambassadors were on where they learned that we're going to hold up the aid to Ukraine. So that is run by Mick Mulvaney who said on television that we need to get over it, the fact that we are asking the Ukrainians to conduct investigations, and that that was a reason that the aid was held up. So it's really laid out there, Wolf. This is one of the simplest cases of this magnitude that I think the American people will ever see.
BLITZER: The Judiciary Committee, and you're a member, will hold its first impeachment hearing starting tomorrow morning. So what can we expect and how do you keep this from becoming what some of your colleagues fear could be a circus?
SWALWELL: Yes. And we don't want it to be that. And so tomorrow it is essentially, what is impeachment? Why did our Founders give us this extraordinary remedy against a chief executive? Two, where do the facts that we have here relate to what the Founders envision for impeachment? And then three, laying out, you know, the different ways that you could hold an abusive executive accountable. You know, that's going to be tomorrow's hearing. I think it would be very educational for the American people.
And again the Republicans, now that they've seen this report, now that they've seen that the ranking member on their side was, you know, possibly complicit in this, it's time to take a hard beat and ask yourself, do you want to go down that way or do you want to be a part of the team Republican and Democratic that sought to restore the integrity of our democracy?
BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much you for joining us.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks Wolf.
BLITZER: And stay with us. We are waiting the House Intelligence Committee's final vote on its impeachment report. We'll update you with all of the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: Breaking news this afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee Democrats released a 300 plus page report concluding President Trump "compromised national security to advance his personal political interest." That's a direct quote.
With us now is Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's also a Democratic presidential candidate. Senator, thanks so much for coming in.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank -- thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me read a sentence from this report that just was released. The House Democrats impeachment report says, "The damage to our system of checks and balances and to the balance of power within our three branches of government will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President's ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked." Do you agree, is impeachment the appropriate check right now on the President?
BENNET: I agree. I think that the President has basically admitted that he tried to extort a foreign leader with withholding $400 million from that country. And we can let it stand because the President would be terrible. The next time we have a president who is lawless like this President is. So I think what we got to do is run a process in the House and the Senate that respects the rule of law and elevates the rule of law again and reminds us why we need a president to restore integrity to the White House.
BLITZER: Well, do you think there is any evidence that could surface that potentially could lead you and others in the Senate to acquit?
BENNET: There is always the possibility. There is evidence we haven't heard. I doubt that very much because all of the evidence we have heard has been consistent with each other and consistent with the whistle-blower report. And the White House has stonewalled the investigation all along the way, which is the point the House was trying to make in their report. And, so I think it is very unlikely that any exculpatory evidence is going to come forward. But if there is, I certainly will consider it.
BLITZER: So, but if the vote were today based on what you know, right now you would vote to?
BENNET: I think if the vote were taken today, I would vote to convict.
BLITZER: CNN has learned that your Committee, and we're talking about the Senate Intelligence Committee, and it's led by Republicans, the Republicans are the majority in the Senate, looked into the allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and found no evidence, no evidence at all to back that up. What can you tell us about that investigation?
BENNET: Yes, I can't -- obviously, I can't say what's in the committee but I can tell you that there is not a single finding by an American intelligence agency that Ukraine interfered in our 2016 election. There is huge amount of findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, which is exactly what Mitt Romney said today. And I completely agree with what he said. You know, Putin has been trying to make this a smoke screen to hide behind, this idea that Ukraine was involved. There is absolutely no evidence that they are. And I think the President's supporters, you know, on Capitol Hill are trying to obscure the reality here, which is really unfortunate because our national security is at stake when some, you know, when Russia interferes in our elections.
BLITZER: Let's turn to politics. Were you surprised that Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the race today? BENNET: I was surprised. She's a good friend of mine. We're good pals in the Senate. And she -- I thought she brought a really important voice to this process. And I'm sorry to see her step down.
BLITZER: She had qualified to be on the stage at the next Democratic presidential debate. You haven't qualified yet. So what's happening with you?
BENNET: What's happening with me is I'm -- got a great team in Iowa and I have a great team in New Hampshire. We're actually adding office space, we're adding staff. And I believe as the only person that has won two elections in the swing state, that I am the person to take on Donald Trump. I think I've got the experience to do it. I think I've got the message to do it. I haven't yet been heard by nationally, which is why I haven't gotten on the debate stage, but I do think we're making real progress in the early stages.
BLITZER: Do you believe the rules are fair?
BENNET: No, I don't -- I think the rules weren't fair to the American people. Obviously, that sounds self-interested but I know for a fact that Iowa has not made up its mind, New Hampshire has not made up its mind. And I'm committed to staying in until the voters in these early states have a chance to say what they want.
BLITZER: So you'll be in the race at least through Iowa and New Hampshire?
BENNET: I absolutely will. Wolf, it's so important, we're at a moment when we got to restore opportunity to the American people. We got to restore integrity to the White House. And you know what, we got to make the White House normal again, Wolf. When you see what the President was doing today in Europe in his weekend watching cable television and tweeting this crazy stuff out. It's really time for a change.
BLITZER: Senator Bennet, good luck out there on the campaign trail.
BENNET: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll have you back here in "The Situation Room."
BENNET: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. And stay with us. We have more on the surprise evidence in today's impeachment report. Phone records tieing the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee to efforts by President Trump allies to spread false narratives about Ukraine. And we're also standing by for the House Intelligence Committee's final vote on the impeachment report. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: (AUDIO GAP) narrative. How strong is the Democrats' case? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think the case
they made and the narrative in this report is very strong. It's not any different -- there are some additions, some phone records -- from what we heard during the Committee, but they really did spin it out into a narrative that explains why many of them will vote for impeachment.
And instead of just saying this was about Donald Trump and one phone call, this narrative makes the case that it was what they call -- this report calls a dramatic crescendo of a month's long campaign driven by President Trump in which senior U.S. officials, and lists them, were either knowledgeable or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President.
That's pretty clear. And then it goes on to make the case that it's not just about President Trump, but it is about the very nature of our democracy and our checks and balances. And that if Donald Trump could get away with this, then any future president would have no incentive to play by the rules or be ethical or -- and if another president wanted to be corrupt, could get away with it.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And the White House has really been, you know, going after this report, I mean, releasing a statement not long after it came out, the 300 pages.
And the President himself, this is clearly top of mind for him even though he's in London. He's dealing with, you know, NATO meetings. He was at Buckingham Palace. He has gone after Chairman Schiff in such a personal way, calling him deranged, a very sick man.
This is clearly on top of mind for him and bothering him, getting under his skin. Now, we're told he hasn't received that detailed briefing yet of this report, but people back in Washington in the White House have been pouring through it to update him.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting --
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Sabrina.
GOLODRYGA: Oh, well, it's Bianna. I was just going to say --
BLITZER: I mean, yes, Sabrina, Bianna. Go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: I love being called Sabrina, too.
GOLODRYGA: It's an honor. You know, what else this does is it lays out the narrative, as Gloria said, of the fact witnesses that we saw for two consecutive weeks and lays out their storyline and the facts that they brought to the table and weaves it together beyond just one phone call.
And what really struck me -- well, actually, two things struck me. One, we all know the personal pain inflicted upon Ambassador Yovanovitch and so many of those other diplomats who also said that they were outraged by how she was treated.
What this report does was not only talk about the emotional toil this -- toll this had on her but also the national security interests that her removal had on the country. That at a time when the U.S. was trying to rid Ukraine of corruption, which is what she was there to do, and at a time when we were supporting Ukraine against a hot war with Russia, to have an ambassador taken away, where Ukrainians knew exactly why she was removed, was something that hurt U.S. national security and policy toward Ukraine.
And also, something else that Chairman Schiff focused on, both during the hearings and once again today, is the date. The date that all of this transpired, that the President ended up making this phone call the day after we heard from Robert Mueller where he said there's a huge threat to this country coming from Russia interfering in our elections.
For after all of that, the toll that this had on this country, for the President to pick up the phone and proceed in asking for another country to intervene was where he says he drew the line. And that's explicitly clear in this report as well.
BLITZER: Susan, go ahead.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's right. And, look, this narrative doesn't just lay out the very strong evidence that we already know in a pretty clear and compelling fashion. It also has some new evidence in it, which I think is a little bit surprising, namely these phone records that appear to have been subpoenaed -- Rudy Giuliani's phone records.
They demonstrate that he actually -- Giuliani was himself in contact with lots and lots of different government officials. I think that shows pretty clearly that Rudy --
BROWN: On the same day of Yovanovitch's removal.
HENNESSEY: Exactly. And that Giuliani --
BROWN: Inside the White House.
HENNESSEY: -- was not just freelancing here. He was clearly somebody who was communicating with White House officials, communicating with officials at OMB, the agency that ultimately put the hold on that military aid, and then, of course, with Representative Devin Nunes, raising serious questions.
BLITZER: Sabrina? SABRINA SIDDIQUI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
And we don't have a full picture of what may have transpired in those conversations because the White House has blocked some of these witnesses from testifying before Congress as well as withheld key documents that were sought by the investigators on Capitol Hill.
I think the Nunes component is especially striking. This is the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who is now at the center or one of the key figures, perhaps, in the very inquiry that his Committee is investigating.
And he has been a loyal defender of the President, but it really cast even more scrutiny on the line of questioning that he had throughout these hearings thus far where he was really going to bat for the President perhaps because he himself was hiding his own involvement in any of the allegations.
BORGER: And it was Nunes who said that Adam Schiff was in cahoots with the whistleblower.
BORGER: Right? And now he is a part of the report.
BLITZER: He is, and he's under scrutiny right now himself.
Everybody, stand by. There is more we're following. A closer look at what the nation's founding fathers had in mind when they made impeachment part of the U.S. constitution.
BLITZER: We're following important breaking news. The House Intelligence Committee will meet shortly to vote on the Trump/Ukraine impeachment inquiry report, a step that makes the impeachment of the President of the United States one step closer.
CNN's Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel has been looking into what the country's founding fathers had in mind when they made impeachment part of the U.S. constitution. Jamie, tell us more.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it turns out, Wolf, that, in 1789, they were pretty good at seeing into the future. So we asked three historians to help explain just what the founders were worried about.
Why did they even need impeachment? And why did they come up with those now-familiar words: bribery, treason, and other high crimes and misdemeanors? It came down to making sure that presidents would live up to these words.
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt --
JOHN KENNEDY (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, John Fitzgerald Kennedy --
LYNDON JOHNSON (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- do solemnly swear --
RICHARD NIXON (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- I will faithfully execute --
GERALD FORD (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- that I will faithfully execute --
JIMMY CARTER (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- the office of President of the United States --
RONALD REAGAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- and will to the best of my ability --
GEORGE H.W. BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- preserve, protect and defend --
BILL CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- preserve, protect and defend --
GEORGE W. BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- the constitution of the United States.
BARACK OBAMA (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me, God.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me, God.
GANGEL (voice-over): Two hundred and thirty years ago, the founders were so worried about their fragile republic, they felt they needed an impeachment clause -- how to get rid of a president before they even decided how to elect one. Thomas Jefferson called it a formidable weapon.
JEFFREY ENGEL, FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: We have to remember that the great fear of the constitutional convention delegates was tyranny.
JOANNE FREEMAN, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND AMERICAN STUDIES, YALE UNIVERSITY: They had just recently had a revolution. They had broken away from a monarchy. Power was a very big concern.
GANGEL (voice-over): They trusted George Washington to be the first president to put the states' interest before his own, but Benjamin Franklin warned nobody knows what sort may come afterward.
FREEMAN: How do we rein in a president?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, KATHERINE TSANOFF BROWN PROFESSOR IN HUMANITIES, RICE UNIVERSITY: The founders knew that they had to do something to stop tyrants and despots. GANGEL (voice-over): As North Carolina's Hugh Williamson said, he
will spare no pains to keep himself in for life and will then lay a train for the succession of his children.
But what would warrant impeachment? James Madison worried a president might lose his capacity, pervert his administration, or even worse, betray his trust to foreign powers.
BRINKLEY: This is a theme that George Washington hammers over and over again, no foreign influence in our early republic.
GANGEL (voice-over): And in the 18th century, impeachment was certainly more civilized than the alternative.
ENGEL: Before there was impeachment, the only course would be assassination. Better to be put on trial, Franklin argued, than to face the knife.
GANGEL (voice-over): After much debate, the constitutional Congress settled on these charges: treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
ENGEL: It's actually remarkably simple. It's a crime against the state, a crime against the people. You have don't need to break a law to commit a high crime.
GANGEL (voice-over): The founders expected the process would be partisan, but they probably didn't envision this.
DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: President Zelensky, quote, loves your ass.
GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.
GANGEL (voice-over): Or this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A corrupt witch-hunt. It was a perfect call. A perfect call.
This is a hoax.
GANGEL (on camera): What do you think the founders would think about Donald Trump?
FREEMAN: Oh, boy. I'm going to plead the Fifth on that one.
FREEMAN: Let me answer it this way. Tyranny was one of the main things that the founding generation was worried about; demagoguery was the second one.
BRINKLEY: James Madison and Donald Trump have nothing in common, but the Trump character was alive and well at the time of the American Revolution. Somebody with blarney and salesmanship, a penchant for being a demagogue, those characters have existed forever.
TRUMP: No quid pro quo.
GANGEL (voice-over): But whether you think Donald Trump is guilty or innocent of high crimes and misdemeanors, the underlying questions today are exactly what the founders were concerned about.
ENGEL: What if a president perhaps has lied? What if a president worked with a foreign power? What if a president started to make money off the office of the presidency? That's the President that should be removed.
GANGEL: It all sounds very familiar, Wolf. Today's impeachment report even mentions the founders' fears. It says, quote, the framers of the constitution well understood that an individual could one day occupy the office of the president who would place his personal or political interests above those of the nation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, very important, very interesting. Jamie Gangel, thank you very, very much. The breaking news continues next with details of newly-revealed phone records in the House impeachment report.
BLITZER: The breaking news. This hour, the House Intelligence Committee about to vote on its sweeping impeachment report. It contains never before seen phone records which Democrats allege show how Trump allies coordinated what they call false narratives about the President's opponents and Ukraine.
CNN's Brian Todd is working that part of the story. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. As you mentioned, a big surprise today in this House report. We learned, as Wolf mentioned, that House investigators got hold of reams of phone records of some key players on President Trump's side of the Ukraine story. The phone records showing that during an important period early in the Ukraine saga, in April, they communicated with each other very frequently.
And the Democrats on the Committee are using these phone records to accuse President Trump's top supporters of coordinating with each other to find information in Ukraine that would help Trump politically and peddle false theories about Trump's opponents.
Some of the most surprising information in these phone records? They show that Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, was engaged in a flurry of calls with Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and one of Giuliani's associates, the now-indicted businessman, Lev Parnas. The records show many of those calls occurred in mid-April just before
former Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine.
Also, John Solomon, who wrote several controversial columns on Ukraine, was also in touch with that Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, according to these records. They show that many of those calls occurred in April when John Solomon was publishing columns filled with what Democrats call discredited conspiracy theories about Marie Yovanovitch and about Joe Biden.
The phone records also show that on April 23rd and April 24th, there were several phone calls between Rudy Giuliani, the White House, and the White House Budget Office. Late on the evening of April 24th, the State Department called Ambassador Yovanovitch in Ukraine and abruptly brought her back to the United States.
Now, Congressman Nunes declined to comment when CNN approached him today about the release of this report and the phone records.
An assistant to Rudy Giuliani sent us an e-mail, saying, in part, this phrase here: he was involved in gathering evidence to defend the President against false Democrat-manufactured claims of Russian collusion, including corruption that Democrats are covering up in Ukraine, end quote.
These records do not show what was discussed on those calls. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with people in politics calling each other to talk or to strategize. But for Democrats, it's one of the few pieces of documentary evidence they can present in a case where they have really not had access to some key witnesses or documents.
Now, as to the origin of these calls, the House Democrats say they got the phone records from AT&T. AT&T owns CNN.
AT&T said in a statement that, like all companies, they are required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement agencies and that, in all cases, AT&T ensures that requests for information are valid and that the company acts in compliance with the law -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd, thank you very much.
The breaking news continues next as we await the House Intelligence Committee vote that will move President Trump one step closer to impeachment.