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THE SITUATION ROOM

White House won't Take Part in House Impeachment Proceedings; Interview with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); WH Signals No Cooperation With House Dems' Impeachment Process, Calls it a "Charade"; Giuliani Ally Says He'll Testify About Alleged Ukraine Role in 2016 Election; Saudi Military Trainee Identified as Gunman in Deadly Attach at Naval Air Station in Florida; "The Post": New Concerns Russia is Spying on Trump-Giuliani Calls. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 6, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:23]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

We're following breaking news. The White House has just informed the House Judiciary Committee, it will not participate in further House impeachment proceedings calling them, and I'm quoting from the letter right now, "completely baseless and a reckless abuse of power."

White House lawyer Pat Cipollone goes on to quote, President Trump saying, "Impeach me now so we can have a fair trial in the Senate." This comes as Democrats on the Judiciary Committee plan to spend the weekend preparing for next week's hearing and that starts on Monday.

Let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, the president's team says that they are waiting for a Senate trial now before they take part in this impeachment.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And it is made very clear in the letter from Pat Cipollone, very blunt, all that telling House Democrats to get lost. We could read it to you. This is essentially what the White House counsel is saying.

To the House Judiciary Committee, basically, they're saying we are not going to participate in this House impeachment inquiry process. It says, as you know - Dear Chairman Nadler, "As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness. Nevertheless the Speaker of the House yesterday ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your committee has heard a single shred of evidence."

The letter right here, Wolf, goes on to say "House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings. Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats," the letter says. "And would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan, and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation's history. Whatever course you choose, as the president has recently stated," and this is going back to that tweet you were just mentioning, Wolf. "If you're going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business." The president's tweet is quoted here and this letter from the White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

One - a couple of things to point out, Wolf, one is, is that letter right here from the White House counsel does not specifically say we are not going to participate in your process. But I just talked to a senior administration official just before coming out here, Wolf, who said the letter means exactly that. The letter communicates that we will not be participating in this process.

Though I suppose you know legal experts will look at this and say, well perhaps the White House is leaving itself some wiggle room. Democrats are already pouncing on this letter and accusing the White House of hypocrisy. You recall all throughout this process, Wolf, in the Intelligence Committee and now in the Judiciary Committee that the White House is essentially said all along -- well this process has not been fair. You've not allowed us to have our lawyers in the room for some of these proceedings. We've not been able to cross-examine witnesses and so on.

That is essentially what the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler was inviting the White House to do through the rest of this process, to have lawyers in the room, to be able to participate in the process and the White House is now saying all of it is a sham. All of it is a hoax. We're not going to be involved in what they describe as a baseless process and a baseless inquiry.

The other thing we should point out, Wolf, and this has been happening over the last 48 hours, ever since the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out and said that they're moving forward with articles of impeachment, moving towards articles of impeachment in the House.

Over here at the White House, a White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley and also, Tony Sayegh, who is a communications adviser to the president on the impeachment process, they have essentially been warning over the last 24 hours that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to pay a political price for all of this. That if she proceeds with impeachment, she's going to lose her majority in the House.

Wolf, expect that to be the message from the White House here on forward until this process gets to the Senate whereas you were saying just a few moments ago, they see that as a much more favorable setting of course because the Senate is controlled by the Republicans and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have a greater control over the process than they obviously have at this point over in the House, Wolf.

But getting back to this letter, it is just two paragraphs. We've seen much lengthier letters from this White House in the past but this one makes it very clear telling House Democrats they will not be participating in this process while it is in the House, Wolf.

BLITZER: But they will participate once the trial begins presumably in January in the Senate, right?

ACOSTA: That is right. And what we expect at this point and again all of this is fluid and as we've noted in this letter they're giving themselves a lot of wiggle room here. What we're expecting to see happen in the Senate if articles of impeachment come out in the House, the president is impeached in the House and a trial happens in the Senate that Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, will essentially be the lead attorney for the White House. That is the current planning at this point. Of course, all of that can change.

[17:05:03]

Now, the question is whether or not once it gets to the Senate, will the White House counsel call witnesses? Will he want Joe Biden or Hunter Biden or will he call for the whistleblower for example. That is all sort of up in the air and what you're hearing from officials and we've talked to our sources over here at the White House and advisers who talked to the president from time to time, there is a debate going inside - going on inside the president's legal team and inside in the White House Counsel Office as to whether or not any of that is productive.

Keep in mind, you know, that would lengthen the process if they bring in witnesses like Joe Biden, like the whistleblower. Democrats are going to want to bring in Mick Mulvaney, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and there is a debate inside the White House Counsel's Office, inside the president's legal team as to whether or not a lengthy process or a very quick process in the Senate is good political, you know, medicine for the president.

At this point, they are arguing over here at the White House. This is a political win for the president that as long as this drags out, it is not good for the Democrats and as I was just saying a few moments ago, Wolf, they believe very strongly that this is adding up to Nancy Pelosi losing her majority in the House come next fall when the elections roll around, Wolf.

BLITZER: And if all of those witnesses come in, that trial in the Senate could go on for weeks and weeks.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is watching all of this from Capitol Hill. Manu, the White House clearly has turned down the invitation to participate in the House Judiciary Committee hearings. So what's been the reaction up on Capitol Hill? I understand you're getting new information?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Republicans actually have just released a witness list, people that they are demanding to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. They've -- in separate proceedings before the House Intelligence Committee they asked for witnesses, many of them they did not get. Here they are asking for witnesses as well. Probably most of them, if not all of them they will not get.

But of among the people that Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, is asking for is that Chairman Adam Schiff. They want him to testify. They've asked for him to testify in the past. As well as Hunter Biden, vice president's -- former vice president's son, including - they also want to talk to the whistleblower, people who may have spoken to the whistleblower and another individual who could be the whistleblower. That is an individual that is separate witness that testified to and spoken with that there was concerns that perhaps they were trying to -- this person could be a whistleblower. This is an individual that the Republicans want to talk to.

They want to know everything that they've been raising concerns about how the whistleblower complaint came about. To get to the bottom of Joe Biden's involvement or alleged involvement with his -- the firm Burisma in Ukraine - the son - Hunter Biden himself, they want him to come. All of which is almost certainly going to be denied by the Democrats but this is just the one -- the latest part step in the process here, Wolf.

We'll wait to hear what the Democrats ultimately -- how they react to the White House's decision not to participate. It is not a surprise on Capitol Hill. They already had decided they were not going to participate in this first House Judiciary Committee hearing. There was not much expectation they were going to participate in future proceedings but Democrats will say they've given the White House every opportunity to participate and it was a White House decision not to. So they had the opportunity, they just decided to go a different route, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Manu, Democrats -- I understand they are preparing for a very consequential week ahead in the impeachment probe starting with the hearing Monday morning with the Judiciary Committee and the decision over the articles of impeachment has been very closely held and it is causing, I understand, some heart burn, some concern inside the Democratic Party. Is there a red line -- some sort of red line for Democrats?

RAJU: Yes. That is being held -- closely held, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, is working on that behind the scenes but Democrats don't really have a good sense of exactly what that entails. They'll probably get more details in the days ahead. There is a debate right now about whether or not to keep the articles strictly focused on the Ukraine scandal or if not, focused on the Mueller evidence, allegations of obstruction of justice, should that also be included.

But talking to freshmen Democrats, particularly ones from swing districts, they are telling me today that they should be focused exclusively on Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: What do you think about adding Mueller evidence to potential obstruction of justice charge?

REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): Here is what I would say to that. 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.

RAJU: Do you think that Mueller evidence should be part of this as well?

REP. GIL CISNEROS (D-CA): I think we need to stay focused on Ukraine and that is what it is about and that is what me and my colleagues wrote the op-ed. It was about Ukraine and the president put our national security at risk and that is what I'm ready to vote on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: For the next big step, Wolf, is Monday in the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, counsels are going to present the evidence from their investigation. And also, the House Judiciary Committee counsels will also present evidence. That is still an open question, Wolf, about what exactly the House Judiciary counsels will present in that open hearing on Monday.

[17:10:02]

I could tell you lawmakers on that committee, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee themselves don't know but they will get a better sense when they go behind closed doors and prep for that Monday hearing this weekend, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thanks very much. Manu Raju is watching all of this up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee is joining us. He's a key member of the Judiciary Committee. Congressman thanks so much for joining us. Let me get your reaction. The White House, as you just heard, has now turned down your committee's invitation to participate in the impeachment hearings in the House, they're calling the inquiry completely baseless and a charade. What is your response to the Trump administration?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, it is pretty clear from the hearing we had Monday that the Republicans couldn't answer any of the issues concerning Trump's behavior. They all did process and just try to stay in the process. The facts are clear. The president abused his power. He betrayed his oath and he corrupted the country's election process or tried to. This is classic founding fathers fears concerning betrayal of the nation and why we needed to have an impeachment article and not just an election to save the country from another prejudice, illegal election and from foreign relations that could jeopardize our national security. They don't have a defense.

And Trump - don't go in the House - won't go in the House but go to the Senate. They've kind of cooked the books there. That is home cooking. He's even been buddies with Mitt Romney over there. But the fact is Trump would never testify in the House because Trump and an oath are two things that don't go together and he was not going to testify under oath because he'd be guilty of perjury.

BLITZER: Do you think your committee Chairman Jerry Nadler should have negotiated with the White House more to try to encourage its participation?

COHEN: I don't think there was no way to negotiate with them. They were never going to come to the House. They're going to save everything they've got for the Senate. They'll try to get the rules to be most acceptable to them where they can do whatever they want to do.

And Justice Roberts might be able to stop some of the shenanigans they're going to try to pull there but I'm sure Mitch McConnell will work with them. And you know they -- the president is guilty. He will not be found guilty by the Senate but he is guilty of committing impeachable offenses, obstruction of Congress, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. It is clear as the nose on his face. It is clear as the gray hair underneath the orange powdered hair he has on his head.

BLITZER: As you know, some of your colleagues, moderate Democrats I should say, they're growing frustrated with your party leadership warning that including the Mueller investigation findings, for example, in the articles of impeachment could make it more difficult for them to vote in favor of these articles you just heard a couple of them make that point. Where do you stand?

COHEN: Well, I would like to see personally if I was you know running the show, I would like to have some of the Mueller information there. But I understand that we need to work with our caucus and that is what Nancy Pelosi does so beautifully and we do have a tight case on Ukraine and the fact that the president will be impeached and will not be convicted no matter what we had, if we had him shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue right in front of -- I was going to say FAO Schwarz but it is no longer there. But right there about the Plaza Hotel, they would not convict him, with the whole Republican Senators saw it. They would not convict him. So let's make it the easiest we can for the process and for our moderates and keep the caucus together and I would say stick with Ukraine.

BLITZER: One of those more moderate Democrats you just heard from him, Max Rose, was asked specifically if he's spoken with some of the more liberal members of your committee. And he said this and let me quote him. He said, "I have emphasized no more bringing buckets of chicken to hearings." As you know, that sounds like a reference to your decision a while back to bring some fried chicken to a hearing when the attorney general failed to appear. We're showing some video of that to our viewers. So what is your response to that comment?

COHEN: I have a great deal of respect for Gil Cisneros. He made a nice statement and I agree that we probably should stick to the Ukraine issues.

BLITZER: Well what about Max Rose, what he had to say?

COHEN: I don't really know Max Rose very well. He's not a very significant player in the House.

BLITZER: Well, he's a Democrat from New York. So he's obviously got some say and he's clearly concerned about what is going on.

Let me ask you this. When will a decision on the scope of the articles be made?

COHEN: I suspect it will be made over the weekend. We'll probably have it Monday or Tuesday with our committee. Monday, of course, we'll be receiving information from the Intelligence Committee and that we may find out Monday, it may be Tuesday. A lot of this would be kept close to the vest and that makes sense.

BLITZER: On Monday the Intelligence Committee lawyers, they will present their evidence to your committee. The hearings Monday morning. So, walk us through. What do you think is going to happen during the course of that hearing?

COHEN: I suspect the Republicans will try to attack the information the Intelligence Committee is going to report. They're going to suggest that a lot it hearsay. They're going to object to hearsay evidence which is of course is admissible but they are going to try to claim that their Perry Mason like are judged - so whatever her name is, Judge Judy and try to object and they would probably make motions -- to adjourn and they'll try to -- obstruct the hearing but they will question the facts and they'll question some of the facts that were presented and say that they're hearsay and of course, a lot of here.

[17:15:18]

But the president's statement about talking to the president of Ukraine, saying by the way there's a favor we would like to ask. That's the biggest admission against interest that we've ever had. And that's sufficient to prove it. And then you got Mulvaney coming out and going that is just politics get used it. He basically admitted it too. And Sondland said they were all in the game. They were all in the loop. And that they wanted to go on CNN -- well I'm happy to be on CNN. But if you are concerned about national security, you just want him to have a press - first we want to have him to an investigation and not let the people you're investigating know you are investigating them. And they even want him to announce indictments and have it on every TV station in the world. The fact that he wanted it just announce the investigation and to announce it on CNN shows some kind of a sick political mind that is strictly looking out for himself and not for the national interest.

BLITZER: Very strong views from Congressman Steve Cohen. Congressman thanks so much for joining us.

COHEN: Nice to be with you, Wolf. It's nice to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Good to have you with us. And stay with us for more on the breaking news. The White House signaling that the Trump team won't repeat -- won't participate in the upcoming House impeachment hearings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:21:12]

BLITZER: Breaking news. The White House signaling no cooperation with the House impeachment proceedings. Just minutes ago one of the president's attorneys released a letter calling the impeachment inquiry completely baseless and a charade.

Let's ask our correspondents and our analysts what lies ahead. Abby Phillip, the White House made this announcement. What are you hearing behind the scenes about what is going on?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, the White House has decided not to cooperate. But it was interesting to see in Pat Cipollone's letter that they didn't explicitly say that. They essentially said that they believe that the investigation is illegitimate which has been their take from the beginning. Now I don't know exactly why the letter wasn't more explicit in that regard. But I think there are some questions now about whether or not Republicans on the Hill, the president's allies might try to use the impeachment hearings to the president's advantage by trying to call witnesses, for example, that are advantageous to him.

And so, you know, I think the strategy clearly is to de-legitimatize the process, but at the same time, it leaves open some questions about whether the president's allies outside of the White House might take an adjacent strategy that is designed to help the president by bringing people forward who advances his view of this whole impeachment process.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, Abby makes an important point because the letter from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, did not specifically come right out and say the White House would not be participating. They just slammed the entire process. Do you think that was a strategic decision?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Possibly. It possibly gives them some wiggle room to engage maybe not now as it is going through the House but ultimately when it becomes a Senate trial. Jim Acosta reported at the top of the show that he's hearing from his sources that it doesn't mean - that they didn't mean to leave any wiggle room there. But these are lawyers. And lawyers are used to writing carefully crafted bits of information so I don't have any reason to doubt what Jim is reporting in the short-term. But perhaps it leaves a little built of a window for later because the process will be quite different when it gets to the Senate, it will be run by Republicans.

BLITZER: Yes, the Republicans are majority in the Senate and the Democrats the majority in the House. So, Mark, was sending the letter quotes the president from a recent statement of his, if you're going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate. That comes at least some Senate Republicans say they don't want an impeachment trial to become a circus. How is this process likely to play out?

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think if you think about it as a regular trial what this letter indicates is you are kind of waiting to mount your defense, right? You're letting this process play out. You know how it is going to end. There is going to be probably an impeachment of the president. You kind of hold your fire until the trial when -- as Dana said, you're in more control and you can call witnesses and you could mount a defense that you think might, you know, change some people's minds about the wisdom of it. Not ultimately changing the minds of lawmakers but maybe in the public. So, maybe the feeling is that people are sort of accepting this as foregone conclusion and you don't call witnesses now. Just wait until January when attention picks up again. So there does seem to be some strategy here.

BLITZER: You know, Kylie, the decision comes as there clearly some increasing tension among Democrats over the scope of the articles of impeachment. What is at the center of this rift?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. There are Democrats who want to see the Mueller investigation, elements of that investigation as part of the articles. And then there are others who say that is not a great idea. We don't want to broaden this. We want to keep it digestible for the American people.

[17:25:01]

But we are also getting new evidence tonight, Wolf, with regard to the Senate trial. And we now have a Ukrainian, a former Ukrainian diplomat who says he has been contacted by the Senate staff and that he has agreed to give an interview. Now the scope of what he's agreed to speak about is 2016. And he is someone who has promoted the debunked theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia who is behind meddling in the 2016 election.

So this is really new tangible evidence with regard to where that Senate trial is headed because the Senate is controlled by the Republicans. And they're going to want to look back at 2016. They are not going to want to focus on what has been the evidence that has been produced by the House Intelligence Committee.

BLITZER: That is an important point, too. Dana, does it appear that the Democratic leadership is willing to risk alienating some of the more moderate members of party?

BASH: This is really the big question left on the table. My sense is likely not because we heard from Manu earlier, Max Rose, just one example of one of the so-called "front liner" lawmakers, Democrats - mostly new Democrats who help make the majority turned the House from Republican to Democrat and are in their Trump districts. That is one publicly. I've been talking to some privately who say the same. You know, that they kind of allowed this process to happen by voting yes on the inquiry but they really wanted to stay narrow. And really just on potentially two articles of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, and also you know the notion of abuse of power. So there definitely is a very, very big push internally on the leadership to do that. And at the same time they are hearing from more progressive members to say, you know, no, we got this moment, you yourself, madam speaker, have said that this is all about Russia, let's include that. So that's probably what the Judiciary Committee is going to be grappling with along with the leadership all weekend.

BLITZER: We just heard some of those differences emerge, Congressman Max Rose versus Congressman Steve Cohen.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: Very different perspectives. We're going to have a lot more. Everybody, stick around. We're just beginning. We're going to continue our coverage of the breaking news right after this.

[17:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Dana, you've had a chance to text with the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in recent days. As far as you know, is he still in Ukraine? What exactly is he doing over there?

BASH: I asked him that the last communication we had, that very question, are you still there, and the answer was no. And I haven't heard back from him since. I don't know; it's a long flight.

So I'm not exactly sure where he is now, but he -- you know, he's very open as he now has been with many about why he was there. And that is because he is not going to let go of his insistence that Ukraine was involved in 2016.

The way he puts it is that he wants to vindicate his client. And he doesn't say it this way but this is obviously part of it, a big part of it, vindicate himself. And he's going after what the intelligence community here and even many of his fellow Republicans who have access to that information in the intelligence report say, flatly, are conspiracy theories.

He's not giving up on it, though. And he is now working with conservative media even more than he was before -- before it was print. John Solomon, the -- is the reporter who printed a lot of -- a lot of information. And now, he's doing it through conservative television.

BLITZER: You know, Kylie, a former Ukrainian diplomat, Andriy Telizhenko, forecasted at least some of Giuliani's moves while he was in Ukraine. He now says that he will testify about Ukraine in the 2016 election if he's asked. What do you think this Giuliani ally could reveal?

ATWOOD: Well, he could reveal everything that Rudy Giuliani wants him to reveal, and that's what he has been doing publicly. He has been publicly promoting these debunked conspiracy theories as we have talked about at length that Ukraine was behind the meddling in 2016 and not Russia.

And it is important to note that this former Ukrainian diplomat knows Rudy Giuliani very well. He, in fact, met with him in May in New York City for a number of hours, and they discussed things including the involvement of the Bidens in Ukraine.

And so, we are, for sure, to see that he is going to present, unearth, all of these debunked theories when he goes before the Senate and speaks with them about what he knows or at least what he has gathered in terms of information, which does not align with what U.S. officials have told the House in -- in the rest of this impeachment inquiry.

[17:34:58]

BLITZER: You know, Mark Mazzetti, we know that we've reported that Giuliani is already under some sort of federal investigation. Do you think he is making matters worse for himself by now returning to Ukraine?

MAZZETTI: I mean, it's hard to imagine that he's making things better for himself by returning to Ukraine, especially since, as we believe, what's central to this DOJ investigation into his businesses is some of this work and involvement with some of these people who he is now engaged with now. So I can't imagine it helps matters.

At the same time, tying together what we were talking about earlier, the question of, you know, why is Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine, you know, it's very possible this is part of trying to mount some kind of a defense for his client, right?

There is going to be a trial in the Senate presumably early next year, and perhaps he is scouting possible -- you know, scouting information, scouting witnesses. That they are, you know, going to mount a defense for the President to try to, to Kylie's point, like, continue to throw up smoke around this issue that maybe Ukraine was involved in the 26 -- 2016 election meddling.

BLITZER: You know, Abby Phillip, where do you see this all heading?

PHILLIP: Well, for starters, I think it's important to note that, you know, our reporting is that White House people look at what Giuliani is doing, and they are just about as puzzled as we are about what the object is here and where this is -- where this is all going.

One of the problems for Republicans is that some of these people that Giuliani has been involved with in this process are known to be bad actors. That was testified to under oath by multiple U.S. officials in the last several weeks.

And so, now, he's back in Ukraine. He's continuing to seek dirt of -- and seek information on all kinds of different subjects, and I don't know that there is a sense among Republicans or among people in the White House that they know what Giuliani is really up to, who exactly are these people. And if they do, at some point, put them in a public space and maybe

put them in front of the Senate, are these people actually unimpeachable witnesses? I'm not sure that they will be.

That's one of the big problems going forward on the Republican side, is that some of these conspiracy theories really are rabbit holes, and they're going to be very, very difficult to defend once they are pressed on both sides, not just by Republican questioners but also by Democrats as well.

BLITZER: Well, let me get Dana to weigh in as well. Dana, there are some potentially very significant pitfalls down the road for Democrats.

BASH: Absolutely. I mean, first and foremost, it's that it's hard to see anything but an acquittal when you get into the Senate. And what does that mean? Even though Nancy Pelosi said to Jake last night, she said to Manu yesterday, I mean, she says to anyone who asks her the question, that this isn't about politics.

And, you know, she is focusing on her constitutional role as the Speaker and more broadly as Congress, the equal branch of government, but she's also a -- about the most, you know, effective and knowledgeable pall (ph) that we've seen in our times, so she understands this.

As do senators. And, you know what, yes, it could be negative for the Democrats in the Senate, but you also have to look at Republicans because, for the most part, they are the ones who are in the toughest reelection battles when it comes to the Senate and the notion of Republicans keeping control of the Senate.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news, but there is other important news we're following including this. Is terrorism behind today's deadly shooting attack at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida? Authorities say the gunman, who is now dead, was a member of the Saudi Arabian military.

[17:38:48]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following a very disturbing breaking story in Florida. At least three people are dead, eight others wounded after a shooting attack at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. The gunman, who is also dead, was a member of the Saudi Arabian Air Force who was training there.

CNN's Natasha Chen is joining us from Pensacola right now. Natasha, one of our authorities -- what are authorities saying?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Wolf, two law enforcement sources are telling CNN that the gunman has been identified as Mohammed al-Shamrani.

And now, we're learning from the Department of Defense that he was here as part of a U.S. Air Force foreign military sales training case that was funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So he was here starting in August of 2017 and would have finished by August 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN (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 is obviously going to be a lot of questions about, you know, this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Force, and then to be here training on our soil.

CHEN (voice-over): President Trump, who stood by the Saudi government in the past, relayed a message from King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 (voice-over): Officials say the shooter was part of an aviation training program on base and that weapons are not allowed.

CAPT. TIMOTHY KINSELLA, JR., COMMANDER, NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA: You can't bring a weapon on base.

CHEN (voice-over): 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 are two deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office who exchanged gunfire with the shooter.

[17:45:07]

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

CHEN (voice-over): Tonight, as authorities search for a motive, they caution the investigation is still in very early stages.

DAVID MORGAN, SHERIFF, ESCAMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: 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 it has. And so, for now, we're here to pick up the pieces.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: And just within the past half hour, we've seen on the Naval Air Station's Facebook page that more residents are able to go home on base via the west and main gates. And in just talking to at least one member -- a family member of

someone on base, she said it was very scary this morning, particularly because this happened right next to a library and mini-mart, she says, places where people would have been getting breakfast, families getting gas, for example, when this happened right there.

So the community is definitely shaken from this and will be changed for quite some time, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of unanswered questions. Natasha Chen, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up, new concerns that Russia is eavesdropping on President Trump's phone conversations with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Could Vladimir Putin know more about the Ukraine scandal than congressional investigators?

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[17:51:19]

BLITZER: President Trump's phone calls with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are -- about Ukraine are sparking very serious new concerns. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now.

Brian, the fear is that what adversaries might be listening in on the President's phone conversations?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are real concerns tonight that the cell phones used for the calls between Giuliani and Trump, and Giuliani and others, might not be encrypted or otherwise secure.

And given that Giuliani has made and received several of his calls while he's been in Ukraine where Russia has a massive spy network, well, the concerns are even greater.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, there are new concerns that Rudy Giuliani's communications with President Trump about possible dirt in Ukraine on the Bidens could be monitored by the Russians.

ERIC O'NEILL, NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIST, VMWARE CARBON BLACK: One concern would be that, say, the Russians maybe have compromised Giuliani's phone.

TODD (voice-over): "The Washington Post," citing current and former U.S. officials, reports that President Trump has routinely communicated with Giuliani and others over cell phones and other lines that are not secure. "The Post," citing one former senior White House aide as saying it happened all the time.

Giuliani, experts say, is likely a huge target for Russian intelligence every time he goes to Ukraine. AKI PERITZ, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

AGENCY: For him to be talking on an unsecured cell phone is a bonanza for an intelligence service like Russia.

TODD (voice-over): Phone records released by the House Intelligence Committee this week show that Giuliani had several calls with people at the White House and others who allegedly were involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine.

The fact that House investigators were able to get those records from a phone company raises concerns that Giuliani wasn't using a phone that was encrypted or otherwise protected.

Former CIA and FBI analysts tell CNN, if Giuliani's phone wasn't secure, the Russians could easily have listened in on conversations Giuliani had while he was in Ukraine since the Kremlin has spies and electronic surveillance all over Ukraine.

O'NEILL: I would not be surprised if Russia has compromised Ukraine's telephone system. And if they're able to do that, that's the easiest way to listen into a call that originates or is received within Ukraine.

RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Have a safe trip, bye-bye.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say if the Russians listened in on Giuliani's calls with Trump and others and picked up secrets on the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump's political rivals, Moscow could exploit the information for its own gain.

Vladimir Putin and his spies could put out more propaganda on the false claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, or they could pull a classic Kremlin tactic and feed false information to Giuliani.

PERITZ: Rudy Giuliani is a person who takes in all kinds of information. The Russians could feed him this information that he would, in turn, give to the President of the United States.

TODD (voice-over): The latest concerns, all the more surprising considering that Trump slammed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign for her e-mail habits.

TRUMP: She routinely sent classified e-mails on an insecure private server that could be easily hacked by hostile foreign agents.

TODD (voice-over): Since then, whether at the White House, Mar-a- Lago, or elsewhere, President Trump has been criticized for using cell phones for sensitive calls, mobile devices which are harder to secure than landlines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Neither the White House nor Rudy Giuliani has responded to CNN's request for comment on "The Washington Post" report and other reporting by CNN and others on the concerns about their use of unsecured phones.

But last year, when CNN did similar reporting, a senior White House official did brush back, claiming the President's cell phone was secure, and that he had accepted the security protocols recommended by the White House I.T. office -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much.

[17:55:02]

The breaking news next, the White House blasts the House impeachment proceedings and makes it clear it will not be participating until the Senate puts President Trump on trial.

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