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WH Refuses To Take Part In House Impeachment Inquiry; WH Declines To Participate In House Impeachment Inquiry After Complaining That They Weren't Being Included; Rep. Pramila Japapal (D-WA) Is Interviewed About Republican Party Turning Down The Offer To Join The Impeachment Inquiry; Officials: Trump Still Using Personal Cell Phone For Calls Despite Repeated Security Warnings From Staff; Saudi Military Trainee Kills Three In Navy Base Shooting; FBI Investigating Whether Terror-Related; Saudi National Kills 3 at Navy Base in Florida, Trump's Response Repeats Saudi Talking Points; Ex-GOP Lawmakers Urge Republicans to Back Impeachment. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 6, 2019 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: His words are as important today as ever. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the White House officially refusing to take part in House impeachment proceedings. But wasn't it team Trump that was complaining about being left out and asking for their lawyers to have a presence?

Plus more breaking news, a gunman identified as a Saudi military trainee opening fire at Naval Air Station in Pensacola killing at least three people. Was it a terror attack and why is President Trump responding using the Saudi talking points?

And two former GOP senators warn their party to put your country first. Will Republicans listen? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, no defense. President Trump's legal team will not mount a defense. They will not participate in House impeachment proceedings. Democrats had offered the President and his team the chance to attend the hearings, ask questions, raise objections, request witnesses and make a closing statement, but Trump said no.

Minutes before the deadline tonight, yes or no, defend or not, White House lawyer Pat Cipollone sending a short two paragraph letter to Chairman Jerry Nadler on the Judiciary Committee slamming the investigation. Writing in part, "Your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness."

Well, Nadler fired back saying, "Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair." Certainly not when they're provided with due process. House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, weighing in with tweet saying, "The White House said they wanted open hearings, not closed, and then they didn't want those. Then they said they wanted to participate in the proceedings, and now they say that they don't. All they really want is to hide the President's serious misconduct. It's not working."

Those are the partisan points, but what are they trying to hide? I mean, it is a fair question because President Trump's own words are out there. He himself once said, just a couple years ago on Twitter, "If you are innocent, do not remain silent. You look guilty as hell." That's President Trump's own words.

So tonight, he's choosing to remain silent in his own defense in his impeachment trial and that is incredibly ironic, because he had explicitly asked for exactly this, for his lawyers to have a chance to defend him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They don't give us any fair play. It's the most unfair situation people have seen. No lawyers. You can't have lawyers. You can't speak. You can't do anything.

The way they're doing it, they've taken away our rights.

We literally have no rights on the other side. We have no rights. We have no anything. And it's very unfair situation.


BURNETT: So tonight the Democrats give Trump what he asked for, offering Trump's lawyers a chance to participate and then Trump says no. So what is he really saying? Well, again, since he's not going to mount a defense, all we have are these words from his own past, "If you are innocent, do not remain silent. You look guilty as hell." Exclamation point.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House. So Kaitlan, what is the White House thinking on this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially what they're saying right now is they want these House Democrats to either end this impeachment inquiry or get it over with so they can go ahead and move on to the Senate, where they feel they're going to have a better chance of success and really mounting some kind of a viable defense here.

Now, if you read this short two paragraph letter from the White House counsel to House Democrats, it doesn't explicitly state that they're not going to participate on Monday, but we're being told by White House officials that's exactly what they're saying if you read between the lines here.

Now, you're right. For weeks, the President, as you just laid out, and other White House officials have been saying this is unfair because we can't even have an attorney in the room and now that they do have this opportunity, they're not using it. They're saying, "No, we're not going to send anyone to that second hearing on Monday."

But essentially what we're being told behind the scenes, the thinking is that it's too late and they don't think it would actually be worth it to send someone like Pat Cipollone to go into this hearing room. And a lot of what they're couching that on is what Nancy Pelosi said yesterday, recommending that they move forward with these articles of impeachment.

And they say that since she said that, it really will make no difference even if they did send someone because clearly you've heard the House Speaker and she wouldn't make a comment like that if she didn't feel like they had the votes to move forward with this. Today, a White House spokesman said that the President is looking forward to a fight in the Senate. He's ready to have it.

But Erin, what we're saying and what we're hearing from what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday, he doesn't really have an option here.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. OUTFRONT now, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Japapal. I appreciate your time, Congresswoman.

So are you surprised at all that the White House declined to participate in Monday's hearing and their final excuse is, well, Nancy Pelosi has made up her mind, so it doesn't matter what we say.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): It's really unprecedented and I think the American people should know this.


Nixon participated, Clinton participated, this White House is now, after crying foul on process for so long, saying that they're not going to participate. And it is, I think, sad. Frankly, it doesn't say anything about what the President has a defense. In fact, if you saw the hearing on Wednesday, the Republicans did not contest the facts. The facts are uncontested.

This president abused his power, tried to coerce a foreign ally into interfering in our elections and withheld aid. That is a serious abuse of power. It is also a serious undermining of our elections. If the President has a defense, he should present it, but he's not been participating.

BURNETT: So why do think they aren't showing up? What do you think the real reason is in your view?

JAYAPAL: Because I really don't think that they have a defense. Remember that the number one witness for this whole thing was the President of the United States when he went out there and he told us at the beginning that he did this and so he is the smoking gun here. And I think they have no other defense to present, otherwise they would be presenting it.

BURNETT: All right. So Republicans on your committee are trying to mount the defense instead, right, and they have requested eight witnesses. They want Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee presumably to talk about the whistleblower. They want Hunter Biden. They want the whistleblower. Will you all approve any of those requests?

JAYAPAL: No. I believe that this is the similar list to what they gave to Adam Schiff with the exception of Chairman Schiff. And this is, again, it just shows that this Republican Party has decided that they are all in for the President regardless of what abuse he has done, regardless of how he undermines our constitution and destroys the checks and balances. And I just think it's very, very sad.

I know you're going to have Republicans on who diverge from what the party is doing right now. The former U.S. Senator from my home state, Washington State, a Republican, broke with his party in the last impeachment and he wrote an article saying Republicans should impeach this president. And I think that we just need Republicans to listen to that.

BURNETT: And we will hear from him later this hour. I want to ask you, though, about some Democrats, two freshmen from swing districts are pushing back against adding Mueller evidence to the articles of Impeachment, which I know you've got to decide do you just keep this to Ukraine, do you go more broad and here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was against going through with impeachment, previous to this Ukraine matter. So with the understanding that I'm not going to entertain any hypotheticals, I was very serious when I came out and said that, very serious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we need to stay focused on Ukraine and that's what it's about.


BURNETT: Are you concerned you will lose democratic votes if you go beyond Ukraine?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think nothing has been decided. But what I would say is this, Ukraine is much worse than Mueller because the President is in office. At the same time, Ukraine is a pattern of conduct that relies on things that Mueller found in his investigations, obstruction of Congress, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power.

We need to make sure we don't define it so narrowly that we don't give the Senate what it needs for the trial to be able to really make the case that this president is just continuing to do this over and over again.

BURNETT: So Congresswoman, a moderate Democrat told CNN today on the background and I want to quote this person. "For me, right now, I am struggling to see how the evidence supports impeachment at this point." Does it concern you to hear that? I mean there has been 12 witnesses, two weeks of hearings. This person obviously doesn't want to be named, but a moderate Democrat is the best I can do to describe it for you.

Do you have any concern about where you stand right now in terms of the eventual outcome in the House with impeachment when you hear things like that?

JAYAPAL: I don't think so. I think this is a very difficult moment for everybody. I don't think that any of us moderate, conservative, however you want to describe us, want to be in this position. This is a sober moment for the country. We don't want to be impeaching a president and I think everybody is going home every night thinking about their oath, thinking seriously about everything in front of us and perhaps we should be concerned about whatever decision we're taking.

At the same time we have to uphold our oath to the Constitution, because we send a message not just to this president, but every future president that you can abuse power with no checks and balances. And if we do that, Erin, we do not live in a democracy anymore. We live in a monarchy.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Jayapal, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

JAYAPAL: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next breaking news, Trump ignoring stern warnings using his unsecured personal cell phone for all sorts of calls, including incredibly sensitive ones. Why is he compromising national security?

Plus, more breaking news, the FBI investigation into a deadly shooting at Naval Air Station in Pensacola is now global tonight. We have the identity. A man identified as a Saudi Arabia military trainee, training with the U.S. military opened fire, at least three people dead at his hands today.


And Republicans are continuing tonight to dodge some very basic questions.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How come he never mentioned that in his two phone calls with Zelensky?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Vice President Pence talked about it when he met with him.


BURNETT: But not answering the question. Why not? What is he afraid of?


[19:14:02] BURNETT: This news is just breaking, multiple officials are telling

CNN that President Trump is still using his personal unsecured cell phone to make phone calls. This despite repeated warnings. He's been told again and again by the best intelligence agency on the planet that his personal cell phone is a major national security risk. He doesn't care.

This is notable after the House impeachment inquiry revealed many calls between Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the White House with no indication that the calls were encrypted or protected from any kind of spying. I want to go back to Kaitlan Collins at the White House who is breaking this news.

Kaitlan, this is pretty incredible. What are you learning about what he's doing and why?

COLLINS: It's fascinating to see how something the President has been warned about since essentially day one in office, Erin, is still a concern that officials are having today and essentially this has been revived. This concern that the President has continued to use his personal device to make phone calls, despite warnings from top officials that no he shouldn't be doing so because, of course, the primary concern is that it could open him up and he could be subject to foreign surveillance.


Now, this has been a concern of theirs since he took office as I noted, but it's been resurrected in recent days, because of this impeachment inquiry and the testimony you've seen from

officials like Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union who openly admitted he made a call to the President from his cell phone while sitting in a restaurant in a company where Russian companies often intercept and surveil phone calls that are made there, something that clearly was not done on a secure line which is the typical protocol for an ambassador especially to the President of the United States.

But also this recent report from House Democrats of these calls that Rudy Giuliani had with multiple officials, some people outside the White House, some people inside the White House, though it's still unclear who it is that Rudy Giuliani was speaking with. But essentially what it suggests from the fact that House Democrats were able to get a call log of those calls that really Giuliani made is that they were not encrypted or not made on a secure line or otherwise, they likely wouldn't have been able to get them.

But despite time and time again, the President being warned by top officials not to do so, even in recent weeks he has continued to use his personal device to make phone calls, Erin. So it really just adds another twist to all of this that we're learning from this impeachment inquiry.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. I mean, pretty incredible when you hear Kaitlan's reporting, even in recent weeks. OUTFRONT now CNN Political Correspondent Abby Philip, former Director

of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Naftali and former FBI Special Agent, Asha Rangappa.

So let me start with you. People who are looking out for the President, his own staff are saying don't do this. Obviously, he's been told not to do it by the entire U.S. Intelligence Community and yet he's doing it. He is, even in recent weeks, using his own personal cell phone to make calls. Why do you think?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: So, Erin, there are three big reasons why you don't want the President doing this. One is that it's a national security risk. As has already been reported, when the President is making these kinds of unsecured phone calls, other countries can monitor them and they can actually be used as leverage or as kompromat, because they know things that we don't know.

The second reason is that it prevents our own executive agencies from doing their job. If they don't know what the President is saying to other people, what his motives are, they can design our military policy, our diplomatic policy, our political policy. But I'll also add that there is a democratic problem here, which is that we are built on a pillar of accountability. That's why we have things like the Presidential Records Act and call logs.

And when the American voter does not know what the President is doing in his official capacity, they cannot make an informed vote. And he is basically flouting his fiduciary duty to the American public, which is an abuse of power and essentially what the impeachment proceedings come down to.

BURNETT: So Tim, what could possibly motivate him to do this?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think two things, this is based on past practice, his practice. One is he doesn't trust the U.S. government even though he's at the head of it. He doesn't trust the Intelligence Community, he doesn't trust the law enforcement community.

BURNETT: He's worried about American spying more than (inaudible) ...

NAFTALI: Yes. He doesn't want to use the situation room landline, because of who's going to listen in. He doesn't really want to use a cell phone that the intelligence community gave him, because maybe it's fixed so that they can monitor him, so part of it is his basic paranoia.

The other is that he doesn't want to be transparent and throughout his career, he's not been that transparent. For all of his extroverted behavior, he's hidden things. I mean when he would call people up to pretend he was somebody else, John Barron when he was trying to push this or that.

BURNETT: Right. Or he would connect these people on the phone and then pretend he wasn't on the line, yes.

NAFTALI: So choosing his own phone is his way of controlling information.

Now, the Asha makes is so important. This is not just a matter of presidents being president, of following rules. The rules have a reason. One of the reasons we've seen in this entire impeachment inquiry which is that the Russians are very interested in what we are doing to help the Ukrainians. The Russians really want to make a mess of that.

They want us not to help Ukrainians. They want us to stop making it possible for Ukraine to defend its eastern border. So they can hear the President putting pressure through various channels on this very new and somewhat weak Ukrainian president. It's great for Russia.

Russians collect cell phone data that is not encrypted, like many countries do.


NAFTALI: The President has to assume the Russia now has the jump on Zelensky. Why would we, as Americans, why would our national security system want that to happen? We don't. But the President doesn't seem to care.


BURNETT: And he (inaudible) the national security. I mean, Abby, when we get to the point here about Ukraine you got what the President was doing and obviously it would appear, perhaps, on a personal device. Rudy Giuliani just left Ukraine and he's still at it. He was digging for dirt on Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, had meeting with lawmakers who have pushed unfounded conspiracy theories involving not just the Bidens but also the debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Giuliani is doing exactly what Trump is now on the verge of being impeached for. He's doing it right now, seeking foreign help to interfere in the U.S. presidential election and we all know about it. Democrats and Republicans, everybody knows about it. I mean, Abby, it's pretty incredible moment.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it really shows the boldness of the President's allies and how they're approaching this new phase that Rudy Giuliani is completely unfazed by all everything that is happening around him and is in fact doubling down.

I do think that there are a lot of risks here for Republicans as they move forward and for the President. And based on our reporting, White House aides are not thrilled with the fact that Giuliani continues to do these kinds of things, in part, because the people that he's dealing with in Ukraine do not necessarily have great backgrounds.

We've already learned from the hearings that have happened so far in Capitol Hill, that it was widely believed that some of these people that Giuliani was dealing with over the summer were people that the U.S. embassy in Ukraine knew to be corrupt individuals in Ukraine. They were known to be people who were not trustworthy.

And even now, The Washington Post is reporting that one of the individuals that he's been talking to on this latest trip is someone who was educated at a KGB school in the early 1990s.


PHILIP: So there are a lot of issues here and Giuliani is unfazed, but that's partly because like the President, he and Giuliani are swimming in the same pool of conspiracy theories. That might be great for them, it might work for them, but it's going to be problematic when it comes up against real facts as we go into this next phase of the impeachment inquiry.

BURNETT: And, of course, the problem is if he's doing these things, seeking for help in U.S. US election, which is exactly what he's doing right now. OK. And the President of the United States is directing it, then that is impeachable and he's doing it right now.

And Asha, Giuliani this week, admitted that he was not freelancing in Ukraine. I'm sorry. He says he's there for President Trump. Here he is.


ERIC BOLLING, AMERICA THIS WEEK: Well, I can't really describe it. I can't even confirm it. All I can tell you is that I am doing today, all day, and all night, maybe what I've been doing for a year and a half. I'm representing my client.


BURNETT: The question is he's representing his client, so does this client know about it because that really matters. And Asha, here is what White House Spokesperson Hogan Gidley said when he was asked that today, refused to deny that Trump knows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the President aware of what Rudy Giuliani is doing in Ukraine?

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: That's a question between Rudy and the President. I haven't spoken with him about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he comfortable with Rudy going to Ukraine?

GIDLEY: I haven't spoken with him about that directly. But obviously Rudy Giuliani can speak for himself.


BURNETT: I mean, pretty incredible, Asha, not even denying it. I mean Hogan, obviously, doesn't know and doesn't want to touch it. But I mean Trump may be directing this right now. RANGAPPA: Yes. Basically what Giuliani is doing is undercutting

Trump's defense, which is that he acted in good faith and in the interests of the United States. Giuliani is acting as his personal attorney without using official channels, endangering national security and leaving no official record which basically proves the Democrats' point at this stage, so this is not good for the President.

BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty incredible. All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.

And next breaking, news new details on the deadly shooting at a Pensacola navy base. Three people killed after a man identified as a Saudi Arabian military trainee working with Americans, open fire on them. A global investigation underway tonight.

And changing the subject, Republicans want to talk about anything but this.


RAJU: Is it ever appropriate for a president to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival?




BURNETT: Breaking news, a global investigation underway after a Saudi national killed three people at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. The FBI is now investigating the shooting is a possible terror attack. Pentagon says the gunman had been in the United States for two years and was training with the U.S. military.

He was a member of the Saudi military but here part of the team, training with Americans. According to the Defense Department, there are more than 5,000 students from overseas training with the U.S. military and nearly 1,000 of them are Saudi. Natasha Chen is OUTFRONT.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, four people are dead including the shooter after an attack on a Pensacola naval base by a member of the Saudi military. Authorities are now working to determine the motive.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There's obviously going to be a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Force and then to be here training on our soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHEN: Two law enforcement sources tell CNN the shooter has been

identified as Mohammed al-Shamrani. President Trump who stood by the Saudi government in the past relayed the message from King Salman of Saudi Arabia.



TRUMP: The king said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter and that this person in no way, shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people so much.

CHEN: Officials say al-Shamrani was part of an aviation training program on base and that weapons are not allowed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't bring a weapon on base.

CHEN: Eight others were injured in the attack that began just before 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time in a classroom building on base. Among the wounded, two deputies from the Escambia County sheriff's office who exchanged with the shooter.

CHIEF DEPUTY CHIP SIMMONS, ESCAMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: The two deputies who engaged the suspect, one was shot in the arm and one was shot in the knee.

CHEN: The FBI is now leading the investigation, and authorities caution it is still in the very early stages.

SHERIFF DAVID MORGAN, ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: This doesn't happen in Escambia County. It doesn't happen in Pensacola. It doesn't happen to our friends and neighbors who are members of the United States Navy, but it did, and has. And so, for now, we are here to pick up the pieces.


CHEN: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that the gunman was second lieutenant in flight training. Reporters asked Esper of whether he feels the vetting process should change or be looked into, and how we bring foreign nationals to the U.S. for training programs like this. And he answered that he did want to look into those procedures, but first and foremost, he emphasized that we need to find out what happened here and what the motivation was, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Natasha, thank you very much.

I want to go now to the man you heard briefly there in Natasha's report, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, joins me on the phone.

Sheriff, can you tell us the latest in your investigation right now?

MORGAN (via telephone): Well, again, we are in a support role. The FBI is the lead agency and information is starting to come in. Of course, they're starting to confirm more and more things. Unfortunately, at this juncture, we've been asked not to release information and we've confirmed the health and welfare of the deputies.

We know that the FBI has secured the areas on base where the shooter was actually residing and, of course, they've taken possession of laptops and cell phones and that sort of thing, and they're also in the process of interviewing any and all who had contact with the shooter.

We're expecting a more detailed briefing tomorrow where I believe things are going to be prepared to release more information. I know they'll be in contact with the director of the FBI and coordinating their effort as to what they're willing to release.

BURNETT: Congressman Matt Gaetz, his district obviously includes Pensacola. He calls this a serious failure in the vetting process, and obviously, the FBI has the lead right now and they are investigating, we understand, whether this was terror-related.

Do you think that there is a vetting problem?

MORGAN: Well, you know, any time we deal with, you know, individuals coming to our country from another country, we -- you know, we tend to as Americans we want to see in others, individuals and countries that we almost forget that they're the same as we are, and the reality of it is they're not. There are processes that they go through for selection for military members and their background checks. It's extremely difficult in some countries to ensure the validity of documents that are presented of another country. And so, you know, the whole process itself is problematic.

So, I share in the congressman's concern about the vetting process and it most assuredly is one of those things that our federal partners need to look at. I think if there's a failing that has occurred in that process with this individual, it will come to light, I'm sure.

BURNETT: Chief Morgan, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you, sir.

MORGAN: You bet.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama.

Juliette, look, this is somebody who had been, you know, embraced by the U.S. military, right, was brought in and had been vetted through the process that exists, nearly a thousand Saudis are in similar positions in bases across this country. Now, they're wondering whether this was possibly terror-related. What was your take given right now what you heard the sheriff say that the head of the FBI has been briefed and the FBI the lead agency tonight.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, obviously, the question is, of course, motivation. And here's what's interesting about this case, is he's been here for two years. So, the vetting process clearly took place two years ago and what the DOD vets for his drug use, criminal behavior or terrorism, or any terror nexus, that is a Defense Department review. We're not dependent on the Saudis for that or any other country.

Once the review happens, the person is then considered vetted, but he's been here for two years. And so, I'm being careful for motivation at this stage because a lot happens in two years. Was he radicalized by something abroad and was there something going on here, access to the gun, of course, becomes easier the longer you're here.


So, we're going to be very careful about motivation.

I do want to say one thing, though. People are saying, why are foreign nationals coming to military bases? There are 5,000 foreign nationals, 150 different countries. It is -- the overwhelming number of Saudis is something that was surprised with.

BURNETT: Yes, nearly 20 percent of the total are just from Saudi.

KAYYEM: And the Saudis are paying, and the president sort of went out of his way to essentially do everything but apologize that the Saudis had to apologize, right? In other words, at the very least, given the situation with the Saudis right now you just keep quiet because we don't know what is going on yet, and so the president felt compelled to offer this olive branch.

BURNETT: Let me play that moment again, Juliette, that you're talking about. Here's what the president said about the shooting today, Saudi Arabia's response to it. Here he is.


TRUMP: The king said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way, shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people so much.


BURNETT: And, you know, Juliette, to your point, let me just remind people what he said about the brutal murder of "The Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi.



TRUMP: I hate the crime. I hate what's done. I hate the cover-up and I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it.


BURNETT: Going against his own intelligence agencies there, but those two statements are quite similar.

KAYYEM: They are, and this just gets to the question of motivation and always with this president when it comes to the Saudis and when it comes to the Russians and it starts to get tiresome after a while.

It would be something to say simply of course, that he does not represent all of Saudi Arabia neither a Mexican would represent all of Mexico. But you always sort of wonder given the situation, the economic situation between the Trump family and the Saudis, why he bends over backward a million times to defend Saudi Arabia's egregious behavior.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Juliette.

And next, dodging the issue. The Republicans having a lot of trouble answering some very basic questions from our dogged Manu Raju.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Thank you very much.

RAJU: Should he have asked for a Biden investigation, sir?


BURNETT: And two former U.S. senators, both Republicans, calling out their party for not standing up and impeaching President Trump.




BURNETT: Tonight, the art of the dodge. Top Republicans refusing to answer the most basic questions about the impeachment investigations.

Take a look at what they said or rather, what they did not say to our Manu Raju.


RAJU: Is it ever appropriate for a president to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival?

MCCARTHY: OK. Let's stick to the facts. The president asked the country to participate in a case that happened in 2016. That's 100 percent legal. Thank you very much.

RAJU: Should he have asked for a Biden investigation, sir?

Why didn't the president mention the word corruption, instead ask the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens?

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Well, that's almost like saying, why don't you ask -- you know, frame your questions differently? RAJU: How come you never mention that in the two phone calls with


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): He talked about the vice president -- he talked about it --

RAJU: He didn't talk about Zelensky, though.

JORDAN: Well, he talked about other things with Zelensky, obviously.


BURNETT: Jim Jordan can do better than that, except for that he doesn't have anything better to work with because the facts are a problem.


Manu, I mean, look, this is just the tip of the iceberg and you've talked to all of them and when they say the president cares about corruption and you present them with the basic fact with why didn't he mention the word once in a call that he now says was all about broader corruption and they say, ah, Mike Pence. We could have played a lot more tape, like we just showed of you asking those questions and then dodging.

RAJU: Yes, no question about it, as the Ukraine scandals unfolded, I've asked these Republican members about the specific facts in the case, and there are no real good answers for a lot of the Republicans because a lot of them don't necessarily want to defend the president asking a foreign power to investigate his political rival and they also don't want to criticize the president and get on his wrong side of the president, the wrong side of his Twitter feed. So they may criticize him privately and publicly they don't want to say a whole lot and they pivot to another attack which is about the process, about Adam Schiff and about what they view here is nothing the president didn't -- ultimately didn't do anything wrong.

And what you will probably hear also is that particularly in the Senate and the Senate Republicans and they don't want to weigh in over whether what the president did is appropriate or not. They're saying they're not being asked about appropriateness. They're asking whether it was impeachable and they say they are two different standards and that's ultimately what they come out down on, while they might it's appropriate, they don't think it's impeachable, and that's probably what you will hear more of in the coming weeks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Manu.

And next, more than 500 legal scholars in an open letter to Congress tonight saying Trump engaged in impeachable conduct. They say the evidence is overwhelming.


[19:48:00] BURNETT: New tonight: More than 500 legal experts signing an open letter to Congress saying President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct in his dealings in Ukraine. The letter says in part: There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office. His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.

Yet, as of now, there are no signs that a single Republican in Congress will support impeachment or President Trump's removal from office.

Tonight, two Republicans who supported the impeachment of President Richard Nixon calling out their party, giving GOP lawmakers this warning: It's time to pick country over your party.

OUTFRONT now, Slade Gorton, a former Republican senator, and William Cohen, a former Republican senator and congressman who also served as defense secretary.

And I appreciate both of you so much being with me.

Secretary Cohen, you were a freshman member of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee when you voted to support two of the three articles of impeachment against President Nixon. You broke with your party and you were under enormous pressure from President Nixon not to do what you did.

You were willing to lose re-election over your decision. Do you think any Republican in Congress will do the same when it comes to President Trump?

WILLIAM COHEN (R), HOUSE JUDICIARY MEMBER DURING NIXON IMPEACHMENT: Well, I doubt if there will be any in the House, perhaps one or two. There may be one or two Democrats who don't vote for impeachment on the resolution of the articles.

When it gets to the Senate, I would guess it's going to be pretty hard to get many Republicans who support the articles. I think there will be several who will look at the facts and determine that, indeed, President Trump violated his oath of office by trying to engage a foreign power to intervene in our electoral system, not for the first time, but for actually the third time.

When he was candidate Trump, it was a -- Russia, are you listening, and then it was recently, China are you listening, and with Ukraine, as I said before, you better be listening. If you want your funds to go to help defend you, I need something from you and that is that they help gain some dirt on Joe Biden.


That, to me, is a clear, convincing, I think overwhelming case of an abuse of power, and I think it would support an article of impeachment. SLADE GORTON, CALLED FOR NIXON'S RESIGNATION AS AG FOR WASHINGTON

STATE: Yes, I think it's important to say there's an outside factor in this and that's public opinion. If public opinion swings towards favoring getting rid of the president, then Republican senators will reflect on that. It's not there at this point. But that's a very real possibility.

It's unfortunate that the Democrats that are running this impeachment (ph) so far haven't tried to appeal as broadly as necessary for that, but they may. I think it's an open question.

BURNETT: Top Republicans on two committees running the impeachment process are frankly, calling this whole process a joke. And "sham" is the word that they use.

Let me just play some of the top Republicans right now and what they're saying.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): This is a sham.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): They got caught running a sham impeachment process.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn't make it any less of a sham.


BURNETT: What do you say to them, Secretary?

COHEN: I would say listen to the witnesses. Listen to the professionals who came before the Congress to swear under oath their testimony that indeed a plan was under way to remove that professional, Ambassador Yovanovitch, put in a political appointee as the ambassador to the E.U. to kind of run things with Rudy Giuliani.

It was weeks, if not months, in the planning to remove the professionals, make it easier to put political appointees in and then carry out the deeds saying, if you want the support, you better come up with an announcement, not an investigation, but an announcement that you're going to investigate Joe Biden's son.

I think it's pretty clear and I think for Republicans to say that's a sham, you're saying that all those people who came before the committee are lying under oath, that they don't know what they're talking about, that this is all a hoax that they have participated in creating to get at President Trump.

And I think you have to go back and look at the entire spectrum from the Mueller report. There's a pattern here of saying, I'm not beholden to anyone. The law doesn't apply to me. I can't be charged with a crime. I can't be investigated. I am under no obligation under any circumstance to account to the Congress of the United States. That, to me, in itself is impeachable.

BURNETT: Senator Gorton, you were one of the first Republicans to call for Nixon's resignation when you were the attorney general for the state of Washington.

GORTON: Right.

BURNETT: And in a recent "New York Times" op-ed, you know, you said you were reluctant to do so, but that you followed the facts. And you went on to address Republicans in Congress now. You write, Senator: Republicans, don't fight the process, follow the facts wherever they lead, and put country above party.

And yet you hear Republicans now calling it a sham. How does that make you feel?

GORTON: They make me feel sorry for the people who are tying themselves so heavily to the president at this point. They should be waiting to hear all of the facts. They should -- I think -- I think it's very easy for them to determine that the president did this, did what he's accused of, did what he's going to be accused of with articles of impeachment.

And it's one thing to say we don't think that arises to the importance to take a man out of the presidential office. It's quite another to denounce it in advance when you don't know what's going to be presented to you.

BURNETT: Secretary Cohen, when you were in the House Judiciary Committee during the debate about articles of impeachment for Nixon, you said this.


COHEN: That an impeachment proceeding will tear this country apart. To say that it will tear the country apart to abide the Constitution is a proposition that I cannot accept. I think what would tear the country apart would be to turn our backs on the facts and our responsibility to ascertain them.


BURNETT: Secretary, are Republicans who oppose the impeachment investigation of President Trump at this point violating their constitutional duty?

COHEN: Well, in my opinion they are. I think they have an absolute duty to look at what the facts are. And the facts here are very clear in terms of what the president attempted to do.

I think there's also a burden on the part of the Democrats to explain why it's in our national security risk why we not allow the president to go unaccounted for this.

Many people say, why Ukraine, what's so important about Ukraine? Well, Ukraine is on the front lines of the defense against a very aggressive Russia. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an adversary. Russia is putting out disinformation.

So, by supporting them and preventing Russia and others from aggression, we are actually from a military point of view expanding our defense perimeter.

BURNETT: Both of you are Republicans but neither one of you supported President Trump in 2016. Of course, one of the professors, you know, who was the Republican witness this week made it clear he did not support the president in 2016, despite the fact that he does not think the law supports impeachment at this time.

Do you think any of the Democrats running for president would be better than four more years of President Trump, Secretary Cohen?


COHEN: The answer is yes.

BURENTT: And what about you, Senator?

GORTON: My answer is -- my answer is I hope we have a different Republican nominee.

BURNETT: Well, I guess that's your hope for the outcome of this whole process.

I appreciate both of your time so very much tonight. Thank you.

COHEN: My pleasure.

GORTON: Thank you.

BURNETT: Of course, we'll see if Republicans listen to what they are hearing from senior statesmen like those in their party who did stand up to their party when they had the chance in Congress.

We'll be right back.


BURNETT: All right. This weekend on CNN, Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa will name the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year. "CNN HEROES: AN ALL- STAR TRIBUNE" airs Sunday night. It is at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Have a great weekend. Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.