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Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Interview With Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA); Republican Senate Leader to Coordinate With White House on Impeachment Trial; Judiciary Committee Votes For Impeachment Articles Against President Trump. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 13, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A crucial step closer to the ultimate sanction by the House of Representatives, after a fiercely partisan vote by the Judiciary Committee, this historic battle now heading to the full House.

"No chance." Mitch McConnell declares there's no way Mr. Trump will be convicted in a Senate trial. Tonight. Democrats are outraged that the Republican leader is coordinating with the White House.

Taxing decision. The Supreme Court just agreed to hear President Trump's appeal to keep his financial records secret. Might he be forced to finally release his tax returns before Election Day?

And Rudy at the White House. As the president faces impeachment, he meets on this personal lawyer at the center of the Ukraine scandal, Mr. Trump reportedly pressing Rudy Giuliani about his latest hunt for dirt on Joe Biden.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following a huge story with ramifications for this country for generations to come. President Donald J. Trump now stands on the brink of impeachment after a party-line vote by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this morning.

The panel approving both articles of impeachment against him, teeing up a historic vote for the full House next week and an expected Senate trial early next year.

I will talk with a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Madeleine Dean. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's get the very latest on impeachment.

Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining us.

Phil, the president is on track to be impeached next week by the full House. Walk us through what happens in the days ahead.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

The vote in the Judiciary Committee today on those two articles of impeachment along party lines setting the path forward to that full House vote to impeach the president, just the third impeachment in the history of the country.

Here's how it going to work going forward. On Tuesday, you will have a Rules Committee meeting, which is important in this sense. It will dictate the rules of the road in terms of how the debate will go, how long each side will get, who will the managers be as they move forward in this process?

And it will all be leading into Wednesday, where, at this point, it looks like that will be the day where the House will vote on both articles of impeachment. Now, Wolf, it's worth noting there's another thing to keep an eye on as well, the votes.

Democratic leaders very confident they have the votes to pass both articles of impeachment, but everybody keeping a close eye on those front-line Democrats, those Democrats who made Speaker Pelosi the speaker of the House when they won seats, many of them in Trump-won districts, back in 2018.

And, Wolf, I will tell you, over the course of the last 24 hours, we have already seen more than a half-dozen of those front-line members come out in support of impeachment. Eyes are really right now on about four or five members that may defect and decide to vote against, but at this point in time no clear sense yet.

So keep an eye on that front as well. But, Wolf, it's worth noting folks are also looking beyond the House into that looming Senate trial, and some words by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell making clear he is coordinating at this point with the White House, rubbing some Democrats the wrong way. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): The foreman of the jury, Mitch McConnell, the guy that decides all the rules, is actually going to coordinate with the defendant. That makes no sense whatsoever. It is an outrage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, some context here that's important. It's not without precedent that McConnell would be talking with the White House.

Democrats back in 1999 in the Senate did coordinate with Bill Clinton's White House as they worked through how the trial would be structured, kind of the nuts and bolts of the length of the debate, the presentations and the trial. That's some of what's going on here.

But the majority leader has also made clear he does not believe the Senate will ever give the 67 votes necessary to actually remove the president from office. And keep in mind, Republicans, unlike in the House, hold the majority in the Senate, 53 seats to 47 seats for the Democrats. While there will still be negotiations between McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to see if they can reach a bipartisan agreement on the road map for that Senate trial, one number matters in the Senate when it comes to impeachment, 51.

A majority vote, no matter what the compilation of that vote is, can decide how the trial will go, whether there will be witnesses, whether it will end, whether it will be dismissed. That's the number to keep an eye on going forward. Obviously, the majority leader making clear how he thinks this is going to end, but a lot to come in the course of the next couple of weeks ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

The Judiciary Committee vote to advance impeachment came after a very contentious debate that stretched over three days.

Our senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is here with us.

Alex, it was heated, it was historic, and it was played out, so much of it, on live television.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So much of it, Wolf.

And what's really remarkable is that, after all of this drama, after all of this anger, the hours upon hours of hearings that we saw these last few weeks, these votes today went relatively quickly. They were relatively short this morning, both along party lines, not a single member of the Judiciary Committee voting with the other side, meaning that, tonight, going into this full House vote and then the Senate trial, both parties are dug in and not budging from their positions on impeaching the president.

[18:05:12]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT (voice-over): History in the making.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): The Judiciary Committee will come to order.

MARQUARDT: For only the fourth time in U.S. history, a vote by the House to approve articles of impeachment against a sitting president.

NADLER: The question now is on article one of the resolution, impeaching President Donald J. Trump for abusing his powers.

MARQUARDT: In an otherwise quiet and methodical process, Republicans make their anger known.

(CROSSTALK)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): May I ask how I am recorded?

NADLER: How is the gentleman recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gohmert, you are recorded as no.

GOHMERT: I want to make sure.

MARQUARDT: In just minutes, the two of articles impeachment, obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, approved in the House Judiciary Committee along party lines.

NADLER: The article is agreed to. The resolution is amended as ordered, reported favorably to the House.

MARQUARDT: The result predictable, but causing the Republican ranking member, Doug Collins, to storm off.

No rejoicing among Democrats, who emphasized it was a solemn and sad day.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We're defending the Constitution and we are defending the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.

MARQUARDT: Republicans, knowing their efforts would fail, argued that for Democrats it's only ever been about impeaching a president who they don't like.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Impeachment is their drug. It is their obsession. It is their total focus.

MARQUARDT: Next up, the full House vote set for Wednesday, meaning that, by Christmas, President Trump will almost certainly be impeached.

Then, early in the new year, this Senate trial, where it's Republican turf. Leader Mitch McConnell insists, that's where impeachment stops.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's no chance the president is going to be removed from office.

MARQUARDT: Even though Democrats agree, they were outraged after McConnell told FOX News he is in lockstep with the White House, despite being on the jury.

MCCONNELL: Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel.

MARQUARDT: One House Democrat telling CNN McConnell should recuse himself, another calling it outrageous.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): The foreman of the jury, Mitch McConnell, the guy that decides all the rules, is actually going to coordinate with the defendant. That makes no sense whatsoever. It is an outrage. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Now, we have to remember that this impeachment process all started because the whistle-blower was disturbed by what was said on that July 25 call with President Zelensky of Ukraine.

And as a result of the Ukraine scandal, we're now learning that the White House has cracked down even harder on who is allowed to listen to the president's calls with foreign leaders. Multiple White House officials are telling CNN that now only the most senior politically appointed officials close to the president are allowed to listen, like the national security adviser and the secretary of state.

But those career officials, advisers, experts who are detailed to the National Security Council, they are no longer allowed to participate. It results in, according to one official telling me, a smaller circle of loyalists involved in all policy-making discussion.

And it reflects the fear of leaks and distrust that has gripped this White House. Wolf, one White House official told our colleague Pam Brown that this has been called the Vindman rule, after Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

He, of course, was detailed to the National Security Council as an expert. I was told by an official that if he were -- that if there were a Zelensky call tomorrow, he would no longer be allowed on that call.

Wolf, we have also very importantly learned that these transcripts of these calls are no longer being disseminated in the same way, that the people at the expert level, those mid-level officials, are no longer allowed to access those transcripts in the same way.

So what is resulting is you have essentially two parallel tracks, where the president is on a call with his closest advisers, could be pushing one policy or another, and then the people who are in charge of maintaining that relationship with those countries, with that region on a day-to-day basis, they don't know what is being said and they are working on all other policies.

So what you could end up with is a muddled, chaotic foreign policy.

And the last thing I should note, Wolf, is that Kellyanne Conway, the senior adviser to President Trump, she was asked about our report. She said that she is all for this, all for this limiting of the number officials on these presidential phone calls.

BLITZER: Very disturbing developments, indeed.

All right, Alex, thank you very much, Alex Marquardt reporting.

Now to the other important new development we're following, the United States Supreme Court agreeing to step into the legal battle over President Trump's financial records and whether they should be handed over to investigators.

Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell.

Kara, so break it all down for us. What has the Supreme Court agreed to do and what does it all mean?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, this was a big development today out of the Supreme Court.

They are agreeing to hear Donald Trump's efforts to block subpoenas for his financial records. This comes down to three separate subpoenas. The first one was from a Manhattan grand jury. That's part of an investigation into the president and his company.

That subpoena was sent to his accountant asking for his tax returns. That raises big questions about the president's immunity. Now, the other two subpoenas were sent by Democrats in the House to both the same accountant and also Deutsche Bank and Capital One, also seeking Donald Trump and his family's financial records.

[18:10:10]

Now, that -- those two cases combined raise big questions about separation of powers and the scope of Congress' oversight over the executive branch. So, both of these cases really tee up two big, important constitutional issues.

And the outcome when it's decided will have implications far beyond the Trump presidency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly could get a Supreme Court decision before the election in November.

All right, thanks very much, Kara, for that.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta is, joining us.

Jim, first of all, what are you hearing from the White House about the Supreme Court's decision to hear the president's appeal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president's legal team is certainly welcoming this news that the Supreme Court is going to review all of this. The Supreme Court may well be the last line of defense in keeping the president's tax returns, his financial records out of the hands of Democrats and those prosecutors up in Manhattan.

And so they are hopeful that that will stay a secret that the president has kept for so very long.

There's a statement we can show you from Jay Sekulow, one of the president's outside attorneys. And it says: "We are pleased that the Supreme Court granted review of the president's three pending cases. These cases raise significant constitutional issues."

And the statement goes on to say, "We look forward to presenting our written and oral arguments."

Of course, the president has another concern that he's dealing with today, and that is impeachment. The president is ripping into House Democrats, after the Judiciary Committee approved those two articles of impeachment.

While the president is painting himself as the victim and claiming he still wants to hear from the whistle-blower, Mr. Trump may be thinking twice about his hopes for a circus-like trial in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Just days away from an historic vote on impeachment in the House, President Trump acknowledged what is coming.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment, which is supposed to be used in an emergency.

ACOSTA: The president and his team are already coordinating with Senate Republican leaders on the trial to come after next week's expected impeachment vote in the House.

Mr. Trump sounded open to the idea pushed by most GOP senators of a shorter trial that limits the potential for bombshells, even as he mused about his preference to grill the whistle-blower who exposed his alleged scheme with Ukraine to dredge up dirt on Joe Biden.

TRUMP: I will do whatever I want. Look, there is -- we did nothing wrong. So I will do long or short. I wouldn't mind a long process, because I'd like to see the whistle-blower, who's a fraud.

ACOSTA: True to form, the president twisted the facts to claim his likely impeachment is already a political gift, arguing that his poll numbers are skyrocketing, when they're really not.

TRUMP: My poll numbers, as you know, have gone through the roof.

ACOSTA: Arriving at the White House, the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who just wrapped up a trip to Ukraine that he's touting as beneficial to Mr. Trump.

Giuliani told "The Wall Street Journal" that as he landed back in the U.S., Mr. Trump asked him, "What did you get?"

"More than you can imagine," Giuliani responded.

Giuliani told Trump-friendly Sinclair Television that the president still faces an attempted coup in the U.S., with zero evidence to back that up.

QUESTION: Who's leading the coup?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Democrats are.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Democrats are using the FBI to remove Trump from office?

GIULIANI: And the FBI and law enforcement has become intimidated by the press. They are afraid of the press.

ACOSTA: There are a few signs Republicans will defy the president and the Senate, where the GOP is in control. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will be deferring to the White House.

MCCONNELL: Again, I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers. But, yes, if you know you have the votes, you can certainly make a case for making it shorter, rather than longer, since it's such a weak case.

ACOSTA: Democrats aren't sure about that one.

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): You shouldn't be worried about working with the president and doing the president's bidding. That's not the role that the Senate plays.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And some Republican officials up on Capitol Hill are all but pleading with the White House for the president to accept the idea of a shorter trial in the Senate.

A source familiar with discussions over here at the White House says the president may be leading -- or listening to that advice. He is hearing out his lawyers, who are advising him at this point that a shorter trial is the way to go.

As that source put it to me -- quote -- "You just don't know what's going to erupt."

Wolf, that might be the understatement of the day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Joining us now, one of the 23 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee who voted today to approve these two articles of impeachment against the president, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Good evening. How are you, Wolf?

BLITZER: Good.

So, your votes this morning certainly will be among the most important votes of your career, votes to impeach a sitting president of the United States.

Tell us what was going through your mind as you cast those votes.

DEAN: I was very mindful of the gravity of the moment. It felt very weighty, to be very honest. I felt the weight of history, the weight of our founders.

It was just yesterday marked the 232nd anniversary of Pennsylvania coming into the union in 1787. And I pictured the founders right here in my city of Philadelphia so carefully crafting a Constitution that I have an obligation to protect, not just for us, but for my grandchildren and for generations to come.

[18:15:17]

So I have to tell you that today felt very weighty. I feel a little beat up. But I feel confident in the extraordinary work of the Judiciary Committee, the other committees of oversight in particular, the Intelligence Committee.

And, actually, let me raise up the patriots who came forward in the face of such obstruction to tell the truth about the wrongdoing of a president.

So, today's two votes, I'm pretty sure, in my career, whether it's short or long, will be among the most important.

BLITZER: All 17 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted against these two articles of impeachment.

And the top Republican, Doug Collins, had this to say. I will read it.

"Today's vote highlights the pettiness of last night's delay and the folly of articles of impeachment that allege no crime and establish no case."

What's your response to him?

DEAN: Well, my response is what I reflected on while I was sitting through these hearings and offering my own perspective throughout the course of this investigation and then the impeachment hearings.

This is not about anything petty. This is about something so extraordinarily important, the wrongdoing of a president, taking his office and abusing it for his own personal political errand, a domestic political errand, as Dr. Hill told us.

He went to a foreign power yet again, and said, I will need you to do us a favor, though. Dig up dirt on my next political opponent for my advantage. I want you to change the -- basically, that means, I want you to change the course of the election.

He was reaching his own hand into the ballot box. He was asking a foreign leader to interrupt and change your vote and my vote. It's just extraordinary wrongdoing.

But the other thing is the pattern. And your reporting -- I have to tell you, Wolf, I thought I'd heard it all. But your reporting tonight is chilling, the pattern of cover-up. Don't release the financial records. Obstruct Congress at every turn. We have the sole duty of impeachment. The president has no right to

decide what we get to investigate. And yet he has obstructed in an unlawful, unconstitutional way.

And he has a Senate who is complicit? It is absolutely chilling, the combination of factors that is going on. This is a president who's trying to cover up a pattern of abuse.

The other thing that was interesting was the Supreme Court taking up cert on these three cases. Again, a president who doesn't want anybody to know what his tax returns look like, what his financial dealings look like.

In addition to serving on Judiciary, I serve on Financial Services. So we're very interested in seeing the Deutsche Bank information, the Mazars information, but, again, a president determined to cover it up.

BLITZER: We will see when the Supreme Court exactly hears arguments, when they reach a decision.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, thank you so much for joining us.

DEAN: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead: Is Rudy Giuliani opening himself up to more legal peril, as he keeps digging for political dirt in Ukraine, apparently with the president's blessing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:19]

BLITZER: We're looking ahead to the next big steps in the Trump impeachment saga, after the House Judiciary Committee sent articles of impeachment to the full House earlier this morning.

Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who will be making judgments during a Senate trial. We assume that will happen in early January.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

And, as you heard, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, says he's coordinating fully -- in his words -- with the White House on the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

Do you believe that's appropriate?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): It is improper.

He said not only that he's coordinating, but he is taking his cue from the White House. He seems to be abandoning all pretense or semblance of objectivity and independence. And it's also unprecedented.

In every one of the past impeachment proceedings, Republicans and Democrats have worked together. And especially in the Clinton impeachment proceeding, there was cooperation between Daschle and Lott, the majority and minority leaders, to come up with a framework of procedures that was approved unanimously by the United States Senate.

So I think it's really regrettable that the majority leader is already undermining the credibility of this proceeding in the eyes of the American people.

BLITZER: Some Democrats in the House, including Representative Val Demings of Florida, they have suggested that Mitch McConnell should think about recusing himself from this upcoming trial in the Senate.

You think that's necessary?

BLUMENTHAL: I think it's unlikely, but I think he should really change the tone and substance of his approach.

[18:25:04]

And, you know, Wolf, realistically, he is more than just the foreman of the jury, as some of our House colleagues have characterized him, because the foreman of a jury has only one vote.

And Mitch McConnell potentially controls a lot of votes through the sway and influence he has over his fellow Republicans. And that's why he should really take himself out of this kind of coordination with the White House, meeting with lawyers.

He's undermining the credibility of the Senate, not just himself.

BLITZER: As you know, it takes a simple majority in the House to impeach a president, but it takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict a president.

There are 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats. Do you see any scenario at all in which the president will be convicted and removed from office by the Senate?

BLUMENTHAL: The American people really deserve the truth here.

They deserve the facts. And Donald Trump has stonewalled the House committees. They have done an extraordinary job, given the obstacles, the sweeping obstruction that he has shown.

And I hope my Republican colleagues will be offended by that obstruction. And it's one of the articles of impeachment. I hope they will also be offended by his seeming to sell out American national interests and, in effect, shake down a foreign leader to benefit himself with American aid, military aid, that was so necessary to Ukraine.

I have hope that my Republican colleagues will, in fact, face their obligation under the Constitution. This vote will be for the history books. It will haunt them. And so will history and the voters in November as well. And so I see anywhere between five and 10 who may, in fact, face that

historic duty. It may not come to the 67 that we need or the -- part of that vote that we need from Republicans.

But I still have hope, even though I have been disappointed in the past.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the march toward impeachment and what the historic Judiciary Committee vote revealed.

Plus, Democrats calling on the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, at least some Democrats in the House, to recuse himself from President Trump's impeachment trial as he coordinates strategy with the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: The House Judiciary Committee has approved articles of impeachment against the president of the United States for the fourth time in U.S. history. Now, the full House is preparing for a full vote next week and Senate Republicans are ramping up preparation for a trial. This is a very serious and somber moment for the Congress and for country. But there are also major political concerns for both parties heading into a presidential election next year.

Let's bring in our analysts to discuss.

We take a look at the four previous presidents who faced this kind of prospect of being impeached. Andrew Johnson, 1868, Richard Nixon, 1974, Bill Clinton, 1998, Donald Trump, 2019, right now. Richard Nixon, he was -- there were articles of impeachment passed in the Judiciary Committee against him but then he resigned before the full House could vote because he knew he was about to be impeached and he was told he was likely to be convicted and removed and the Senate. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached but they were acquitted, were not removed in the Senate. Give us a little historic perspective, Michael.

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is a very, very significant moment in American history. As you pointed out, it's rare. This is something no president wants on his resume. That's what Donald Trump said, because it marks you for all time. Richard Nixon, as you pointed out, didn't resign after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against him. But he resigned, and that gives you some idea of how forceful, how potent those articles are when they get approved and we think they will be approved by the House. And this will be -- we're going to see the Constitution in action and history unfolding before us.

BLITZER: At the same time, Abby, it's unlikely that President Trump will be convicted and removed by the Senate where there's a Republican majority.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that feels like something that's a little bit different about this moment, because in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it very clear that he knows what the outcome is going to be. There are not 67 votes to remove President Trump. And as a result, it kind of makes all of this feel a little bit prejudged. There has been no Senate trial yet but the president feels confident he is not going to be convicted.

And as a result, he has started to want to kind of mount his own defense. He has had his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, digging up more dirt and he's supposedly going to present to Congress in some form or another. So you have a president who is on the verge of impeachment but at the same time still trying to create his own narrative around why he believes that he is innocent of the charges, even in the face of all this.

BLITZER: The only way, the only -- and people ask me, you think you can be convicted, 67 votes, two-thirds of the majority in the Senate, Jim Baker.

[18:35:03]

The only way that would happen is if something new, a major bombshell emerges, if the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, comes up and says something that is so damaging to the president or if there's some new audiotape or whatever, that's probably very unlikely.

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Low probability. But it's a bigger probability if the president allows or demands a long trial with lots of witnesses. Who knows what's going to happen there. So if he's wise, in my view, he would listen to his advisers who are telling him, let's keep this short, let's keep this tight, we know where this is going to go, let's get this over with as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: Yes. I think that's probably what the president should want. I'm not sure he wants it but I'm sure his advisers and the Republicans in the Senate, they want it to be as quickly as possible without witnesses, even that the president would like Hunter Biden and some others to show up, the whistleblower, for example.

Another issue, we're now learning, and, Samantha, you used to work in the National Security Council during the Obama administration, that the White House has now further restricting who can listen in and have access to the president's phone conversations with foreign leaders because they're so upset about the leaks that emerged from his July 25th phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. And that really means we don't know if the president is still repeating some of the behavior that's under investigation by the House right now.

I used to work on the lists and calls and readouts. There are two separate related lists, Wolf. You have the call participants and you have call readouts. There is a small group of people that listen to calls, the situation room, national security adviser and a few staff. Arbitrarily listening -- limiting who listened to the calls means that there's less firsthand accounts. It makes it more possible the telecon or memorandum of the conversation could be altered in some way. The president could use that to cover up a crime.

Even more concerning, Wolf, is a reporting that the call readouts have been restricted as well. Even if their own officials don't know what happened, foreign officials do know. And that means if the president is knowingly giving foreign governments a leg-up, our officials need to know what happened on those calls so that they can incorporate it and use it to make policy. And yet, again, Wolf, we have to ask ourselves, why is the president giving foreign officials more information than he's willing to give to his own?

BLITZER: What's the answer to that?

BAKER: I don't know. It seems suspicious. It makes no sense because foreign leaders and foreign intelligence services are all over every utterance of the president, every action of the president. And so why precisely he's trying to keep it from our folks, it's unclear.

BLITZER: What does it tell you, Abby, about the distrust the president has for some of these career officials who are detailed to the White House, whether the National Security Council, from the U.S. military, from the State Department, from the Intelligence Community?

PHILLIP: Yes. It took the president a long time to realize that the scope of the federal government, even the people within the White House, is so deep. There are layers and layers of people he does not know come from agencies who he doesn't trust.

And this goes all the way back to the very beginning of his presidency when some of his first calls with world leaders, the summaries of those leaked out in the media that was embarrassing to him. So he's always had this level of distrust that's why we've seen this list grows shorter and shorter.

It's also why, as we've reported, he continues to use sort of personal cell phone to make calls both to his friends and also giving out that number to world leaders. This is a president who wants to handle his own business having as few people that he doesn't trust around him listening in as close as possible.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's more news we're following, including Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, today visiting the White House as the president faces impeachment. Why won't Mr. Trump's lawyer let go of Ukraine and the various conspiracy theories?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, there is no evidence that President Trump or his personal attorney are adjacent by the prospect of impeachment as Rudy Giuliani visited the White House earlier today. We're joined by our Senior Legal Analyst, the former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara.

Preet, as you probably saw, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that right when Giuliani returned from Ukraine, he was on the runway as he arrived at the airport, he spoke to President Trump and asked him what did he get, and he responded, and I'm quoting now from the article, more than you can imagine. Isn't this what got the president in trouble in the first place?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it exactly is. So I don't know exactly what's going on here. I think Rudy Giuliani wants to be close to the president and he wants to help the president and he wants to argue on behalf of the president.

There are a lot of implications to what Rudy Giuliani is doing by going on these forays back to Ukraine, which some people would call the scene of the crime. I think it causes more scrutiny to be brought upon him. And as we've seen reported, he's under investigation himself. I think it raises eyebrows in the political sphere.

But I think something that's important about it and relates to impeachment. It undermines his forays into Ukraine undermine a central defense of the president.

[18:45:04]

It's a weak defense, but it's central one, that a lot of Republicans have tried with a straight face to make. And that is that the president of the United States when he called the Ukrainian president was not asking for an investigation to the Bidens per se. He was -- he cared about corruption generally. Obviously, that's belied by the circumstances of the call, it's belied by the president of the United States himself standing outside the White House saying, I wanted them to open an investigation into the Bidens.

And now, in the midst of impeachment, as that vote looms, you have his private emissary, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, basically trying to find more dirt on the Bidens and these other debunk theory about whether the Ukrainians were involved in the interference of the 2016 election. The very thing that all the defenders of the president are saying didn't happen.

And I saw a Republican congresswoman asked the question, do you think it's appropriate for the president to ask for an investigation of his rival? And she says, well, he didn't do that. Well, it's hard to argue he didn't do that when you have your private lawyer going about trying to do exactly that thing.

BLITZER: In "The Wall Street Journal" article, the -- Mr. Giuliani said the president asked him, what did you get? And he told the president, quote, more than you can imagine. When he's talking more than he can imagine, what do you think that details?

BHARARA: I -- I don't know. I've heard before me a U.S. attorney on television talking about all sorts of threads that he's put together and facts that he thinks about something. I think it's very odd on a continuing basis, after this is -- you know, basically the foundation of the impeachment inquiry and impeachment vote itself. And you have a State Department and you have a Justice Department and you have other channels and means looking into these other kinds of things, but you still have Rudy Giuliani, whose two associates have been indicted by my former office and his former as well, and is under investigation, and you have him both doing these kinds of things and apparently seeming to gloat at the quantum of information he's gotten.

I'd quite see what it is before I trusted it. But it's -- the whole thing is very odd.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks so much for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the White House rushes to Melania Trump's defense as she's silent about her husband mocking teen activist Greta Thunberg.

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[18:51:54]

BLITZER: Tonight, as the president faces impeachment, the White House is weighing in on a new controversy of Mr. Trump's own making and the backlash for the First Lady Melania Trump. The anti-bullying advocate has been under scrutiny for staying silent after her husband mocked 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.

We're joined by CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett. She's the author of a brand new, very important excellent book entitled "Free, Melania", an unauthorized biography of the first lady. And here it is. I recommend it highly to our viewers.

I want to read the president's tweet yesterday about the 16-year-old.

So ridiculous. Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend. Chill, Greta. Chill.

You know, it's pretty awful what the president, 73-year-old man is saying about this 16-year-old woman, young girl.

You were the first reporter to obtain a response from the White House. Are they justifying the first lady's silence in this whole -- on this whole issue?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think she's a teenager and this was clearly a case of bullying, if you will or making fun of her for being on the cover of being "Time Magazine's" Person of the Year. People wanted to hear from the first lady whose Be Best initiative addresses bullying.

So, yes, I got a statement from Stephanie Grisham, the White House communications director, and press secretary. Let's take a look at this. She says: Be Best is the first lady's initiative and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It's no secret that the president and first lady often communicate differently as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He's a 13-year-old who wants to -- wants and deserves privacy.

Now, Wolf, she's referring to tweet last week that Melania Trump put out chastising the law professor who was on the Hill who used Barron Trump's name in an analogy describing something to do with the president. Melania Trump spoke up, put out a tweet saying kids are not involved, shouldn't be involved in public and politics. So, this was a response there.

Seems like it doesn't apply, however, to children who are activists or who are on the global stage.

BLITZER: You know a lot about the first lady, written this excellent book about her, unauthorized I should say. The president is about to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Should we expect the first lady to come out and make some strong statements?

BENNETT: I don't think so. I think, you know, last week when she weighed in on that Baron Trump moment that we saw on Capitol Hill, it was really an instinctive reflex as a mother. That was the first time she commented at all publicly about the impeachment inquiry that's affecting her husband and her family. I don't think this is first lady who was going to, you know, be like Hillary Clinton and go lobby for her husband on Capitol Hill or sort of speak up about this.

She feels that her life and her role is separate than what's happening on the Hill. I don't think we're going to see it.

BLITZER: Really a terrific book you've written. Thank you so much. I recommends it highly to our viewers.

BENNETT: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate Bennett, the book is entitled "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography."

Appreciate it very much.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right.

[18:55:00]

We got more news right after this.

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BLITZER: Tonight, after watching history unfold with the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment vote, I keep turning back to this -- the Constitution of the United States and a pivotal passage: Article 2, Section 4. The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Right now, Americans have a unique opportunity to reflect on the constitution, not just the rules for impeachment, but the principles of which this country was founded. I'll keep this document very, very close as we face another historic week ahead.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.