Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Discusses The Evidence To Impeach President Trump; IG Report: FBI's Launch of Russia Probe Justified and Unbiased; Saudis Send High-Ranking Diplomat & Lawyers to U.S. Naval Base After Saudi Killed Three Americans. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired December 9, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Another historic day here in Washington. More to come. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. CNN's special coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett OUTFRONT.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, Democrats present their case for Trump's impeachment and tonight meeting behind closed doors as they prepare the articles of impeachment.

Plus, a highly anticipated report and the launch of the FBI Russia probe knocks down years of Trump's talking points. The former Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, a target of the President is OUTFRONT.

And did the Saudi national who killed three in a Florida naval base act alone? We have new information tonight as President Trump continues to defend the Saudis. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, a clear and present danger. Democrats painting a damning picture of a lawless president during a pivotal and contentious 10-hours impeachment hearing which just wrapped up moments ago. One witness telling lawmakers the evidence is 'overwhelming' at times.

Frankly watching this, the hearing became a complete circus, a partisan circus, and it really could be the Judiciary Committee's last public hearing. A hearing which now paves the way for the House to move full steam ahead with those formal articles of impeachment against President Trump.

The first vote on those articles could come any day out of that committee. In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is meeting with Democrats behind closed doors tonight. So after 10 hours of hearings, they're not waiting till tomorrow morning, they're meeting tonight to map out their next steps. That is how urgent this situation is.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. And Manu, this hearing just wrapping up moments ago, I know there's votes and then what's next?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's when we expect the final language to ultimately will be drafted and unveiled. That could happen in just a matter of -- as early as tomorrow, potentially, we could see some language potentially maybe even slip into Wednesday.

We do expect those votes in the House Judiciary Committee to occurred this week still on articles of impeachment. Now, we're getting a sense from talking to the members of that committee. They're not expecting any more hearings. The next step is votes. The next step is determining exactly what that language looks like.

Now, behind closed doors, it is Nancy Pelosi's call. She's the one ultimately who's going to decide how many articles of impeachment there will be exactly. The focus whether or not they will bring in any of the Mueller report or they'll exclusively focus on Ukraine. That is something that she is discussing with Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, also Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and then there'll be multiple meetings.

There'll be meetings with different groups of members. Tomorrow they'll be meeting with a full caucus. A regular weekly meeting that they're going to have. Undoubtedly, there will be questions that will come up there. And then on Wednesday, I'm told there's a meeting that the speaker is convening also with the full caucus and tellingly potentially, Erin, no topic has been announced on that meeting for Wednesday.

So we'll see if they brief the full membership of the House Democratic Caucus about the details of the articles of impeachment. But we could be getting into those votes by Wednesday, if not by Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee, and then that'd be one or two days before we see the full House action next week and that will undoubtedly make President Trump the third American president to get impeached by the House.

BURNETT: All right. And there is your latest timing and as Manu was saying, 10 hours of hearing and meeting with Pelosi tonight. They are not wasting an instant at this time. And this comes after those 10 hours, no shortage of clashes and fighting between the two parties in that hearing. Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): The diametrically opposed Democrats and Republicans repeatedly at odds during what was likely the final public hearing on impeachment.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The President welcomed foreign interference in our elections in 2016. He demanded it for 2020, then he got caught. The evidence shows that Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States has put himself before his country.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): And at the end of the day, all this is about, is about a clock and a calendar, because they can't get over the fact Donald Trump is President of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER(voice-over): The hearing spotlighted counsel for both sides

arguing their clashing cases. Democrats' counsel Daniel Goldman described President Trump's efforts to convince Ukraine to investigate the Bidens as a threat to American democracy.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL: President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.


SCHNEIDER(voice-over): While Republicans' Steve Castor portrayed it all as a ploy to remove a president Democrats don't like.


STEVE CASTOR, COUNSEL FOR HOUSE REPUBLICANS: To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're here (inaudible) ...


SCHNEIDER(voice-over): The day long debate often erupted into disputes over process and the witness list.


REP. MATT GAETZ (D-FL): Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff and the members get dealt out of this whole hearing and for the next four hours you're going to try overturn the results of an election with unelected people giving testimonies.

NADLER: The gentleman will suspend ...

COLLINS: We got a problem here.


SCHNEIDER(voice-over): Republicans railed against Democrats' refusal to call House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff as the main witness, since Schiff authored the 300-page impeachment report sent to the Judiciary Committee last week.


COLLINS: Where's Adam? Where's Adam? It's his report, his name. Mr. Goldman, you're a great attorney but you're not Adam Schiff and you don't wear a pin.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER(voice-over): Republicans press their own competing

narrative, blasting Joe Biden and drilling into a disproven claim that Biden push to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to stop an investigation into Burisma where Biden's son served on the Board.


COLLINS: So Joe Biden of everybody that we've discussed about is the only one that's done a quid pro quo. He's the only one that's used taxpayer dollars to actually threaten a foreign government and yet we're sitting here pretending that this is not happening.


SCHNEIDER(voice-over): And Republican counsel Castor tried to validate claims Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.


CASTOR: Contemporaneous news articles in 2016 noted how President Trump's candidacy led Kiev's wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before. Intervene, however indirectly, in a U.S. election.


SCHNEIDER(voice-over): Something the Intelligence Community concluded is not true. Republicans also seized on a speedy pace at which the impeachment inquiry has proceeded, saying it's rushed.


CASTOR: Obviously, we all wish there was an easy button but congressional investigations of consequence take time.


SCHNEIDER(voice-over): Democrats though urge time is of the essence.


NADLER: The integrity of our next election is at stake. Nothing could be more urgent.



SCHNEIDER: And Democrats are laser focused on pressing their points that impeachment is necessary since President Trump put himself before the country and abused his power. But as we saw, Erin, Republicans repeatedly interjected their complaints about the swift pace of this impeachment process and also really tried to muddy Democrats' message by arguing this process isn't fair.

But as we know, it could be a quick turnaround. Democrats expected to bring forward those articles of impeachment this week which could mean debate and possibly a vote by week's end, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jessica. And OUTFRONT tonight, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. He was in the room for all of today's 10 hours in that hearing. I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you for joining us.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): You're welcome, Erin.

BURNETT: So obviously, it sounded as if this was the closing argument that Democrats made that, as your Chairman concluded that hearing. Do you have enough evidence now to impeach President Trump?

COHEN: I think there's unquestionably plenty of evidence to impeach him. It's been made clear by the scholars, made clear by the facts and I think everybody feels that he's definitely abused his power, betrayed his oath and corrupted our election process. And the election processes the fundamentals upon which democracy rests. It's what the founding fathers laid out as making us the special nation formed in the 1700s for the rest of the world, a beacon of hope and liberty where the people, not the kings through votes determine who their leaders were.

And if you get the election process furloughed, you lose that special privilege and that's what he tried to do with Ukraine. He used the bipartisan congressionally mandated military funds to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression, an ally, and use that for his personal benefit and that's this plum wrong.

BURNETT: And obviously, you're talking about Ukraine here, I know though Congressman you've you said that were you running things here, you would include evidence from the Mueller investigation. Are you going to push for that behind closed doors as your Committee drafts the formal articles?

COHEN: We're going to talk about it and certainly I think he obstructed justice. I think Mueller made it clear he obstructed justice, but he couldn't indict him because of the opinion of the Justice Department's office legal counsel that you can't indict a president. I think we can do it.

There's two schools of thought. One is to keep it tight. The other is to put everything in it and it's not going to make any difference. We're not going to get any votes to speak of in the Senate from Republicans and we'll probably won't get any in the House.

We might lose a couple of democratic votes if we go that way and so I think that we don't want to lose Democratic votes and we don't want to hurt Democratic members. Because it's important that we, for the future of the country, for minimum wage, for prescription drug prices, for all kind of important laws, we need to have a majority in the House and the Senate both and a Democratic president. And that's important if America is going to go forward and have a good future.

BURNETT: Which I understand your point then and what that would mean for perhaps not including Mueller in this. COHEN: Yes.

BURNETT: I understand you're meeting tonight with your Committee, that your Committee is going to -- I mean, how quickly do you go from here?


Do you anticipate having draft articles ready in the next day or so? What's your plan?

COHEN: I'm not sure what the timeline is. I would suspect Wednesday or Thursday. Certainly, one of those two days. I suspect we'll have articles that'll be presented and we'll have a mark up.

BURNETT: All right. So by Wednesday or Thursday. All right. Congressman, the President was not in office for a year before you had originally introduced five articles of impeachment against him, including one first pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one for his words attacking certain news anchors and Republicans say Democrats have been out to get the President from day one. Your articles were just a part of that process. Here's what they said today.


REP. STEPHEN SCALISE (R-LA): We know from day one, the day that Donald Trump put his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office, they wanted to impeach him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been after this president since 2016.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): They've been out to get the Presidents since the day he was elected.


BURNETT: Why are they wrong, Congressman Cohen?

COHEN: Well, it was not for his impeachment from day one. I didn't think he was a good human being from when he came up with The Trump University stuff, that was way before he got elected and I thought he didn't get the nomination. He's been a bad person for a long time.

But it wasn't until he went to Charlottesville and he said they were fine people on both sides. I represent a district where the majority is African-American and Klansmen are not fine people, and I'm Jewish. Nazis aren't fun people.

And for anybody who said that, it was too much for me and that was the straw that broke the camel's back. He had done other things. It's clear that he violated an emoluments clause in my Opinion. The self- dealings of Trump hotel, the self-dealings of the Trump Tower and other office buildings.

There was the disparagement of judges calling them Hispanic judges and not American judges. And that was the judge he gave a $25 million of consent decree for defrauding students at Trump University. So the fact that the people like myself who came forth with impeachment articles and I didn't do it until November, because I waited to get it done as the best that I could and the most timely and try to get as much support as I could.


COHEN: It's because Trump took these actions. He self-dealt. He did not put his monies into a trust. He did not take himself out of decision making and he took his daughter and his son-in-law and put them in the White House and they took care of 666 Fifth Avenue that would have been in receivership, but for the access Jared Kushner had to the Middle Eastern money people.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Congressman Cohen.

COHEN: You're welcome, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the House Speaker meeting with Democrats tonight and the Judiciary Committee meeting and they are full steam ahead. So now the big question, how many articles of impeachment will there be? Because we'll see them perhaps in hours.

Plus, Democrats saying Rudy Giuliani is just one reason they have to act immediately against Trump.


NADLER: The President's personal lawyer spent last week back in Ukraine ...


BURNETT: And the highly anticipated Inspector General report. The one the President said on the Russia investigation was going to blow the whole thing open. Well, it contradicts him and his Attorney General.


BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.


BURNETT: Well, he thought wrong. The former Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, is OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: The Democrats' lawyer and the House Intelligence Committee trying to make the case against President Trump in today's impeachment hearing, saying there is clear evidence that the President was behind a 'scheme' in Ukraine.


GOLDMAN: We're here today because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, abused the power of his office, the American presidency for his political and personal benefit. The President's scheme is actually quite simple and the facts are not seriously in dispute.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now CNN Political Analyst David Gregory, our Political Correspond Abby Phillip and impeachment expert and constitutional law professor at Brown University, Corey Brettschneider. So Corey, let me start with you. You agree the facts are not in dispute.


BURNETT: And they really shouldn't be since they're in black and white on an original transcript. But you say right now there's evidence for what you think are three articles of impeachment against President Trump, what would they be?

BRETTSCHNEIDER: Absolutely, I think the first is clearly abuse of power. And when the framers talked about high crimes and misdemeanors, what they meant was a president who engaged in actions that would really threaten our democracy and I think that's the bulk of what we've seen.

I think a second one, though, and I am in favor of going broad because this is about constitutional obligation, not just about politics and there's an obligation I think of Congress to defend itself. So when it comes to obstruction of Congress, the blanket refusal really to cooperate with any aspect of this investigation. The President threatening a witness in the case of the former ambassador.

All of those things suggest the obligation of Congress to have a second article about obstruction of Congress. And then the third is relevant to the discussion you just had, we need to look again at part two of the Mueller report ...

BURNETT: Obstruction.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: ... and obstruction of justice, because the DOJ has a policy at the Department of Justice that says sitting president can't be criminally indicted. That's a mistake, in my view. But if that's the policy, then there's no choice but to pursue the route that the framers imagined if there wasn't going to be an indictment and that's impeachment.

BURNETT: Because you have no legal outlet, so then you only have impeachment.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: That's right. BURNETT: I mean, Abby, this, of course, then runs into the politics.

Of course, making the case for the constitutional obligation and then there's the politics of this, which we just heard a little bit from Congressman Cohen.


BURNETT: He wants Mueller in there but seemed pretty clear that you couldn't put Mueller in there because you'd lose Democratic votes.

PHILLIP: Yes. I think Democrats in purple districts who in places where Trump won in the last election are very nervous about this, because they know that it runs right into Trump's talking point, that they are trying to get through this with as little political damage as possible. And it's made difficult if the case for impeachment broadens beyond Ukraine into the Mueller investigation, which from a political perspective, is sort of viewed as litigated already in the public.


And the President has already claimed vindication. A lot of democrats disagree with that, but some of these democrats are probably right to say, we can't go back there because we're just handing him a talking point that he's going to deploy as he has been, which is to say, you guys have been trying to get me from day one. And this is yet another example of that.

BURNETT: So David, at this moment or very soon, you got Nancy Pelosi meeting with Democratic leadership, you got the House Judiciary Committee meeting again tonight after a 10-hour hearing. They're not waiting a day. They're not sleeping on it. They're going. We're going to get this, you heard, tomorrow or maybe tomorrow, possibly by Thursday but not later than that.

So do you go broad or go narrow? You look at Nixon, right? I mean, sorry, you look at President Clinton, you had two articles approved by the House, two others defeated. So they put out four to get two. Nixon, they put out, what was it, five to get three. You don't get everything you put out there.

So does that argue for just putting the one you know you can get which is probably abuse of power in Ukraine or going broader on the obstruction?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the power of abuse of power is that it's particular to the President and it's timely. When republicans are saying they're in a rush to impeach because they've always wanted to do it and because they don't want to let the voters decide and that is a danger for Democrats.

They're saying, no, President wants to actually undermine the 2020 election just like the Russians tried to undermine 2016. We can't let them do that. We had to remove him now.

As you say, these are all set pieces. There's nothing spontaneous here in the past nine hours this. Chairman Nadler when he had his final remark like that was ready to roll at 9 am this morning, that he didn't need to hear (inaudible) ...

BURNETT: Right. This was the kind of summary of if you're paying attention, here's your (inaudible) ...

GREGORY: Right. Here it is and there's value to put that out in front of the public.


GREGORY: I think they go narrow. I think it'll be a robust discussion. I think they go narrow, because I think they want as much party unity as possible. They want to keep it focused on something that Americans can understand, which is there is a clear and present danger represented by the President. That's their argument who is trying to undermine the election.

Now, he didn't succeed but that's what he tried to do. And that last point is important, because Republicans are going to say over and over again, they said it today, they'll say it in a senate trial. These were words. He didn't actually do anything. I think that's going to hang up Republicans and I think it'll be a problem for Democrats that he talked about doing things that were wrong, he didn't ultimately get away with.

BURNETT: Which, again, we can all say until we're blue in the face ...


BURNETT: ... that he only released the aid two days after he found out ...

GREGORY: ... this investigation into him and it's clear. But nonetheless, you're right, they've got their talking points.

I mean, here's the thing, Corey, the GOP Council for the House Intel Committee, Steve Castor, who was there today. We've seen Mr. Goldman. He said this about the Democrats' case against the President. I want to play this particular point.


CASTOR: They'll try to convince you that the Trump administration, the same administration Democrats regularly accused of being incompetent, orchestrated an international conspiracy at the highest levels.


BURNETT: Does that work as a defense?

BRETTSCHNEIDER: No, because we've seen the evidence, the smoking gun was there out front and it was the readout of that phone call. And what you saw there was a president trying to use a foreign power, the President of the Ukraine to influence the U.S. election. It's the paradigm of abuse of power.

And then what you saw throughout these hearings and it all came together, I think, today, was corroboration of the fact that this wasn't -- we're not reading -- the common sense reading of that phone call is not a mistake, it actually is exactly what it looks like. It's a president using a foreign power to try to really benefit himself. And that's not just about one high crime and misdemeanor, it's really an assault on the idea of the office as those ones are as well.

BURNETT: Well, certainly if child, a young person were taking the S.A.T., they would see that that's what the call said. Although Castor today said that he ...

GREGORY: Unless there was an essay question there which make an argument that ..

BURNETT: ... had a very bad score on the S.A.T. because he did not see that. OK. All of you stay with me though. Next, President Trump defending Rudy Giuliani's trip last week to Ukraine, right there right now to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He says he has a lot of good information. I hear he's found plenty.


BURNETT: Plus, the report on the origins of the Russia investigation is out. The report that the President has been saying, wait, wait, wait, it's going to expose this huge deep state. Well, guess what, it said the exact opposite. Andrew McCabe, who's been a target of Trump's attacks for two years, he's mentioned more than 200 times in the report, he's OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, claiming Rudy Giuliani's trip to Ukraine last week, yes, last week, it's not a mistake. It wasn't last spring, it was last week, and it was to dig up dirt on President Trump's political rivals. And Nadler says it's a proof that President Trump presents an ongoing threat, an immediate threat to democracy and elections in the United States.


NADLER: The President's personal lawyer spent last week back in Ukraine meeting with government officials in an apparent attempt to gin up the same so called favors. They brought us here today and force Congress to consider the impeachment of a sitting president. This pattern of conduct represents a continuing risk to the country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And everyone is back with me. So David, is Rudy Giuliani - I mean, it is pretty incredible, right, my jaw just drop on this that he's over there meeting with people and the political fringe who are making the exact same arguments right now, does this help democrats make their case that this is not past, this is ongoing?

GREGORY: Well, the audacity of it is such - I don't know that they need much more help to make their case.


But at the same time in such a partisan environments, Republicans will use that boldness, that audacity of Giuliani and try to build up their defense of Trump.

Look, be very clear, Trump is standing by him because he likes how bold he is. He likes how shameless he is --


GREGORY: -- in defending him on these matters, and so, he'll encourage him to do it. What we know based on the evidence, based on direct testimony that people who the president put in places of very high authority thought Giuliani was out of control. And we know from reporting in "The Washington Post" today that even Bill Barr, who couldn't be any closer to the president and on the same page, is saying, look, this guy is a liability. He's out there, you know, and potentially enriching himself and undermining your administration.

BURNETT: I mean, and, Abby, look, the president of the United States is standing by him, right, this weekend, saying, I think he's found plenty of stuff. But what's amazing is that some of the president's most die-hard Republican fans are not standing by him on this one. And let's just play what they've been saying when they found out.

Here are Mr. Collins and Mr. Gaetz.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Do you have any concerns about Rudy Giuliani continuing this effort amid this impeachment inquiry?

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): I don't have any comments with Rudy Giuliani.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It is weird that he's over there.



BURNETT: We just watched today's hearing, you see one of the most defenders, when you lose them. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, when you lost Matt Gaetz, it's hard to lose him on this stuff, and it's because Republicans know that there's only so much they can defend some of this conspiracy theory plunging that Rudy Giuliani is doing. It doesn't help them because it's paper thin. It has been ripped apart numerous times in these hearings and public by Trump's own administration officials. People he appointed to their positions.

So, Giuliani is out there doing this because he thinks this is the direction to go in to defend the president but people who have to be in halls of Congress answering these questions do not want to answer for some of these characters that Giuliani has been paling around with in Ukraine, people who are known to be bad actors or suspected of corruption and other things that have made them on the ousts for the U.S. government for years.

So, Trump is standing by him for now. He stands by people when he thinks they are being loyal to him. Right now, Giuliani is being loyal. The question is how long will that continue especially when there is this parallel track in the Southern District of New York that is completely separate from all of this and it is criminal?


GREGORY: He can also say, look, what Rudy was doing, I wasn't always aware of. What's hard when you have more testimony that we've heard when the president says, oh, talk to Rudy. Talk to Rudy, he's my point man on this shadow foreign policy.


PHILLIP: Rudy has been saying he's the president's attorney but Republicans are saying that Rudy is acting on his own.

BURNETT: And, Corey, the president just this weekend about Rudy Giuliani says he has a lot of good information. He's not told me what he found but it's clear he doctor and directing him. I mean, that's pretty clear. But I think he wants to go before Congress. I hear he's found plenty.

COREY BRETTSCHNEIDER, IMPEACHMENT EXPERT & CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: You know, Rudolph Giuliani is a walking argument for this impeachment. If you don't stop the president now, you don't bring these articles of impeachment about obstruction of justice, about abuse of power, he will keep doing it. And Giuliani is showing that, that he continues to go to the Ukraine, he continues to lie about these fake conspiracy theories and it's sort of walking argument for what happens when you leave power unchecked.

BURNETT: Abby, you know, here's the thing. You have these moments in this when today from Mr. Castor, the Republican lawyer, where you sort of say to yourself, what's going on? I mean, there's some basic facts here.

This one is perhaps one of the most basic facts of all the facts out there and still, this guy was unable to say it was a fact. Let me play the exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, would you agree that Joe Biden was a leading Democratic contender to face President Trump in 2020?

STEVE CASTOR, GOP COUNSEL: I wouldn't agree with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You disagree with it. So, sir, it's your testimony --

CASTOR: It's too early.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that President Trump did not view President Biden to be a legitimate contender?

CASTOR: I don't know what he believed or didn't believe, but it's too early.


BURNETT: This is a basic fact. Just to remind viewers not just what the president saying and the president tweeted, but in every single poll Joe Biden was the runaway front-runner when it all of that occurred.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, he didn't say, do you think Joe Biden is the leading contender. He said a leading contender. It's a broad characterization. And, you know, I happen to be covering president Trump during this time when he was tweeting about Joe Biden on a regular basis talking to reporters about him regularly, attacking him regularly.

But you don't have to have been there like I was, you could literally, as long as you weren't under a rock, you were aware the president thought Joe Biden was the guy that he was likely to be up against or one of them. So, it was unbelievable. But I also would say that if you look on Castor's face, it almost like he couldn't believe what he was saying with his own words.


He had to say it, but it was not --

BURNETT: David, there is on a serious level a stunning moment when you can't even accept a fact like that.

GREGORY: Well, I think there's a bigger point to be made. There's no room for anything other than being in total lock-step on these questions. It's a real problem in our politics right now. It's one of the reasons why - people who were central to what was going on in Ukraine, like John Bolton, national security advisor, who presumably was opposed to what was going on will not come out and testify. I'm sure part of that reason is how he'd be vilified if he would be seen as somehow aiding the Democrats.

That's the political moment we're in and it's a dangerous one.

BURNETT: And a sad one if that is indeed the calculus, is that he runs that, the answer to that equation.

Thank you all very much.

And next, the Justice Department's inspector general destroys what Trump and his allies have been claiming.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They actually spied on my campaign.

They were spying on our campaign.


BURNETT: But there wasn't.

Plus, why is President Trump's instinct to defend the Saudis again?


BURNETT: Breaking news, a long awaited report from the Justice Department's inspector general finding the FBI's launch of the Russia probe was valid and unbiased. Valid and unbiased.

The report also says there was no spying on the Trump campaign which is a conspiracy theory that Trump has pushed since taking office.



TRUMP: All of their spying -- spying. They actually spied on my campaign. Can you believe it?

There was spying. They were spying on our campaign.

TRUMP: They were talking about spying on my campaign. It's a story bigger than Watergate as far as I'm concerned.


BURNETT: Except for it was false.

OUTFRONT now, a man named more than 200 times in this inspector general report, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

And I appreciate your time, sir.

So, look, the bottom line conclusion here, the inspector general report, right, the one the president said everybody should watch and be ready for, has concluded the Russia investigation was launched in a legal and unbiased way. You were there at the start. What's your reaction tonight?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Erin, a lot of people have asked me today, am I relieved? Am I happy?

The answer is no. I'm not relieved. I expected this result.

I was there. I know that we didn't do anything wrong. Rather than do something wrong, rather than plot the coup that the president and the Republicans have been talking about for two years, what we did was our job. We presented with facts that clearly called for an investigation. We opened those investigations and pursued them the way the American people would expect us to.

BURENTT: And you mentioned this has been going on for two years and it has. The president has made it personal about you for that amount of time, saying things like this.


TRUMP: The people that started that investigation are McCabe.

When you look at what happened at the FBI at the top levels with McCabe and the dishonesty.


BURNETT: On a personal level, since he's been going after you personally, do you feel vindicated tonight that this report concludes that you did the right thing?

MCCABE: You know, as I said, I've known all along that we did the right thing. Not just me but the group of people that I worked with at the FBI. It's been disgusting to watch how the president talks about all of us, how he debases and degraded our organization, how he and the attorney general to some extent have leveled all kinds of false, baseless accusations about the work that we did.

So, is it satisfying today to see the IG come out with truly inescapable conclusions based on evidence? Yes, it is satisfying, but it's been a long time coming.

BURNETT: So, you know, you mentioned, you know, the word coup, the president likes to throw around. And today, he said, you know, the report proves there was an attempted overthrow of the government, but -- and I think this is really interesting, Deputy Director, his handpicked FBI director now, Chris Wray, right, Trump's -- the guy Trump put in the job. He is standing up for the report, therefore against the president and I wanted to play the juxtaposition of what they both said today because it is jarring.



TRUMP: This was an overthrow of government. This was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it. And they got caught -- they got caught red-handed.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The inspector general did not find political bias or improper motivations impacting the opening of the investigation.


BURNETT: Wray is clearly willing to stand up to the president on the truth here.

MCCABE: Well, I think he has to, right? It is the truth. The IG has exposed that truth for what its, and the director of the FBI, if he's an honest person in charge of an honest organization which I have every reason to believe he is, then that's what he has to say regardless of the fact that it pits him against the president and maybe against the attorney general.

But the fact is the president's position on this has been false narrative from the very beginning. I know it's politically important to him, so he'll probably continue to say things like that but it's simply not true.

BURNETT: And, obviously, you have the headline here that it was unbiased and that it was proper and valid. But, of course, there were mistakes made and the report does go through those in detail, right? At least 17 significant errors or omissions in the FBI applications to monitor Carter Page, right, specifically the Trump campaign adviser.

It admitted -- it includes admitting the Steele dossier was funded by Trump's political opponents in that FISA application. It includes overstating corroboration of the things that Steel put many that dossier.

Now, the IG does that you and other senior leaders couldn't be expected know about those errors, that this would have happened at a much lower level. But Director Wray acknowledged he accepted there's mistakes. He says he's taken more than 40 steps to correct them.

Do you acknowledge and accept there were mistakes and specifically with that FISA application?

MCCABE: Absolutely. I have no reason to disagree with the IG's conclusion about those factual inaccuracies. They were, of course, not something that I or anybody that I spoke to around the decision making the case had any idea about.

And let's be honest. The FBI needs to be right about every fact that we present to the FISA court.


And it appears that in this case, we got many of those things wrong. Seventeen different mistakes that are brought out by the I.G., that's something that needs to be rectified and people should be held accountable for that. But you can't forget also, Erin, that this is an organization of human

beings and people make mistakes. They should not have on this case or really on any FISA application, but these things do happen and that's why we have investigations to find out how well we did and to correct those mistakes when we make them.

BURNETT: Right. I think it's important to note, right. Obviously, there were mistakes, but that doesn't change the fundamental conclusion is the probe into Russia was valid and unbiased which is important so people don't confuse those two things.

I want to take a break. If you could stay with me, Deputy Director, the I.G. report obviously is now putting Bill Barr at the center of this and the attorney general's credibility in question tonight. How much trouble could Barr be in? We're going to talk about that.

Plus, Saudi Arabia sending the teams of people to help Saudi nationals after a deadly attack on a naval base. The president tonight is sticking by the Saudis.



BURNETT: So, Attorney General Bill Barr, Trumps hand-picked head of the Department of Justice, released a statement about the I.G. report today saying, quote: The inspector general's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that in my view were insufficient to justify the steps taken.

It's sort of a bizarre otherworldly thing to say in the face of the inspector general investigation and report, which concludes that there was no evidence of political bias behind actions taken in the investigation.

I am back with the former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe.

As I said, Deputy Director, you're mentioned in this report many times and you know all about what happened. So now we have tonight the top law enforcement officer in the country, Bill Barr, coming out and saying his own inspector general report is wrong and basically calling it a farce. I mean, seriously, can you believe this?

MCCABE: I can't, Erin, I really can't. I've never seen anything like it.

Typically at this point, an attorney general would step forward and acknowledge the work of his or her I.G. and then immediately address what steps they were going to take to address the recommendations in the report. In this case, Attorney General Barr has decided instead of doing any of that to attack the report and then to continue to flog this false narrative about FBI leadership malfeasance and, you know, suggestions of echoing back to all the worst tropes of the deep state conspiracy. Look, we have to acknowledge the fact that he does this for one

reason. It is a narrative that is politically important to the president. And the attorney general has indicated with a statement today that he is willing to keep supporting that narrative, despite the facts.

BURNETT: And look, the facts, right, the report says that despite mistakes made, which as you and I have discussed there were some.

MCCABE: There were.

BURNETT: The FBI did have a, quote, authorized purpose to monitor Carter Page, right? So they're saying there were all these mistakes made in obtaining that warrant, and yet the conclusion of the report is that the FBI did have an authorized purpose to do exactly what it got permission to do. And yet here is what Barr said to Congress.


BARR: I think there is spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.


BURNETT: And then in "The Wall Street Journal", he gave an interview. He said government power was used to spy on American citizens. Given what he's saying tonight, it doesn't sound like he's going to take those words back and admit that he's wrong.

How much damage is he doing to the country by talking like he's talking now?

MCCABE: Well, he's doing a lot of damage to an institution and the people in it that the people of this country rely upon to protect them and to support the Constitution. The attorney general, if he didn't know it then, and I suspect he did, he certainly has to confront now that his accusations of spying, calling the men and women of the FBI a bunch of spies, something he should be apologizing for and not repeating.

BURNETT: And one final question before we go, on the Steele dossier, obviously you were unaware of any mistakes that were made and the report concludes that there was an authorized purpose to monitor him. You're quoted in the report, though, as supporting the dossier being included in the FISA warrant. You said I hear you, I understand, but we can't pull any punches and we've got to do it and let the chips fall where they may.

Do you have any regrets about including that dossier in the warrant now?

MCCABE: I don't. You know, we felt and I say we, the investigators and the FBI, felt very strongly that we had enough factual predication to go up -- to request FISA coverage of Carter Page even before we had the dossier. Some of the lawyers in the justice department disagreed and so the package didn't go forward. Once we had the dossier, we felt that those were the facts that

essentially put us over the threshold and that was the decision, that was our position and DOJ agreed with that position. They wrote the package, they included the infamous footnote that explained the providence of that information and, of course, it was approved by the court. So I don't regret the decisions we made in moving forward with that package.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Deputy Director. I appreciate your time tonight.

MCCABE: Sure, my pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump's defense of Saudi Arabia now alienating him from members of his own party, members that he desperately needs right now in Congress, right, following the deadly attack at Pensacola naval base.


BURNETT: Tonight tensions rising between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia after the Navy base shooting in which three servicemen were killed in Pensacola, Florida. The Saudis sending a high-ranking diplomat and lawyers to deal with the fallout of an attack the FBI is investigating as an act of terror.

Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT. She's live in Pensacola tonight.

Brynn, what more are you learning about the investigation?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin. Well, investigators are still working with up to a dozen Saudi nationals who are being confined to the military base, the naval base behind me by their Saudi commanding officer. And we're hearing that they want to leave base. Tensions are rising really between the two countries, so much so as you said a high-level Saudi attache has come to the U.S. to work with military officials and deal with this issue.

This as the president almost every single day since the attack has almost praised the Saudi kingdom about their response to this attack, even still as investigative threads are coming out about the possibility that this gunman was radicalized and even still as even his own allies have been more condemning on the Saudi government that the president has not done as of yet -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Brynn, thank you very much. Brynn Gingras live in Pensacola, of course, as that continues tonight.

And thanks very much to all of you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.

"AC360" with Anderson Cooper starts right now as Nancy Pelosi is meeting with House Democratic leaders as I speak.