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New Report Reveals That Trump's Advisers Repeatedly Warned Him About Freezing Ukraine's Military Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Reacts To President Trump's Pending Impeachment Trial; Suspect In Horrific Hanukkah Attack Now Facing Federal Charges; Biden Fires Back At Buttigieg Over "Judgment" On Iraq. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 19:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We wish him well in this fight. I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next game changer. Democrats stepping up their calls for witnesses at Trump's impeachment trial, this after a new report reveals that Trump's advisers repeatedly warned him about freezing Ukraine's military aid.

Plus, Trump and Putin have a weekend chat. Well, we wouldn't have known about it had the Kremlin not revealed the call.

And hate crime charges filed after a machete attack at a Rabbi's home, serious concerns tonight about anti-Semitism in the U.S. growing.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Erin Burnett tonight. In OUTFRONT tonight, a game changer. That is what Senator Chuck Schumer is calling a damning report about the length President Trump went to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in crucial military aid from Ukraine.

In e-mails obtained by "The New York Times," the President's Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney tried to freeze the aid nearly one month before the infamous Trump-Zelensky phone call. At the time, an adviser warns, quote, "Expect Congress to become unhinged."

But that did little to deter the President or the West Wing according to "The Times." Trump's top national security officials Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and then National Security adviser John Bolton tried to convince Trump to release the aid during a private meeting in the Oval Office in August, telling him it was in the country's best interest to do so.

But the President did not listen. Reportedly responding quote, "Ukraine is a corrupt country. We are pissing away our money." And yet Trump is now trying to rewrite history.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never had a direct link between investigations and security assistance.


SCIUTTO: No direct link? That defense echoed by some of Trump's strongest supporters.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): The Democrats know there is zero direct evidence in this record of these proceedings to show that President Trump engaged in any abuse of power.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): There is no linkage. There is no quid pro quo.


SCIUTTO: But these new details paint a very different story and it will no doubt put even more pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call Bolton, Pompeo, Esper to testify during the impeachment trial, which is why Schumer had this message today.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Simply put, in our fight, to have key documents and witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a game changer.


SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins traveling with the President. She is OUTFRONT live in West Palm Beach, Florida near the President's Mar-a- Lago resort. So Kaitlan, the President, of course preparing for the trial. These revelations contradict many of his defenses to date. Has he finalized his team yet? Does he have an answer to these new reports?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. We haven't heard any comment from the White House yet on this report from "The New York Times" revealing these new details about that hold on the aid, including that pretty stunning meeting in the Oval Office where his three top National Security aides were trying to convince him to make a decision he didn't want to make.

And of course, he did not make that in the end until later after that whistleblower filed that complaint. But as far as the President's defense team goes, Jim -- that is still not something that the President has finalized.

We know that our reporting shows he really wants those aggressive House members to be part of that team. But he's also being advised to bring in outside attorneys to help out with that Senate impeachment trial. Some of that advice is coming from people like Senator Lindsey Graham,

who was seen golfing with the President today at his club at Mar-a- Lago and he is someone who has advised the President to bring in an expert in constitutional law, in addition to the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, essentially saying he doesn't think Cipollone is going to be able to handle it just by himself.

Now, of course, that's not the only person the President has been golfing with while he's here. On Sunday, Jim, he was seen with Trey Gowdy, who, of course, not only the former Congressman from South Carolina, but he also was the person that Mick Mulvaney, the President's Chief of Staff wanted him to bring on inside to help with impeachment before it got started in the House.

But then the President citing Federal lobbying rules said he wasn't going to be able to join until January. Now, here we are. He has been advising the President from the outside. And of course, the question is whether or not he is going to be someone who could potentially be brought on.

But essentially, Jim, the President still has a lot of decisions to make. He is still down here, a lot of outside influence, as you're seeing on this President, which we reported aides have been concerned about, and of course, those decisions are going to have to be made soon by the time the President returns to Washington.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins in Florida, thanks very much. OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, we appreciate you taking the time tonight.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Oh, you're welcome, Jim. Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So Senator, according to "The Times," Mulvaney was warned Congress could become unhinged. I mean, naturally because of course, Congress in bipartisan votes passed this aid and by the Constitution, it is Congress that has the control over the purse strings in effect.


SCIUTTO: Yet, the President was defiant here. Bolton, Pompeo, Esper -- they tried to stop him. He refused. What does this mean about the Senate trial? Should Bolton, Pompeo, and Esper testify?

MERKLEY: Absolutely. We are being charged with an oath that will take the beginning of the trial to have a completely impartial role in evaluating the evidence, but you can't evaluate the evidence if you don't have the evidence in front of you.

And so we have this whole check and balance in our Constitution and the Senate plays a critical role. It is our role to go beyond our Democratic or Republican parties and really be defenders of the Constitution and pursue this trial as if the President was of the opposite party. Otherwise we're simply failing at our task. SCIUTTO: Well, as you know, the numbers in the Senate, Republicans

have the advantage, 53 to 47. To get the witnesses you want, you may need to do some horse trading here. And I wonder, would you be willing to in effect trade, a demand for Joe Biden's testimony in return for the testimony of senior Trump administration officials such as Bolton, Mulvaney, Esper and others?

MERKLEY: You're right that there is going to be a negotiation of that that sort and Schumer is leading and will continue to lead that effort for the Democrats.

My feeling is that for it to be a fair and full trial, the defense needs to be able to pull in and present people that feel have relevant information and a way to frame that information.

And so if they are -- I personally believe if they think that there's value in certain witnesses to come forward, those folks should testify and be present. But in the House --

SCIUTTO: That sounds like you're leaving the door open to the former Vice President Biden testifying in your mind. Would you support that as a member of the Senate? You're going to be a juror.

MERKLEY: Well, I'm trying to approach it as that impartial juror saying you need to have the information brought to bear by the prosecutors, but you also have to allow the defendant, the President to be able to present his case fairly.

And hopefully those two visions could both be fulfilled, and then we'd actually be able to have something akin to what the Constitution envisioned.

SCIUTTO: As you know, Senator Schumer, Democratic Leader McConnell, they have yet to reach a deal on the parameters of the trial, which is what Speaker Pelosi has been asking for before she hands those Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate.

Have you been kept abreast of those negotiations? Do you know where they stand? And will there be some sort of agreement or will McConnell just go forward as he pleases?

MERKLEY: There's been no conference call today in which we've been filled in on the latest turn and twist, but this is fascinating development, because no one really envisioned that we'd have a situation where the Majority Leader of the Senate would proceed to say that they were not going to work towards having the trial the Constitution envisions, instead we're going to work hand in fist with the defendant.

And thus, what Pelosi is doing is drawing attention to that and saying this is an absurdity. It is meaningless for us to hand over information if the system is rigged from the start and the Senate is not going to do its job.

So I think she's do something very valuable in using this moment of holding up the transfer of the impeachment documents to the Senate. SCIUTTO: But I wonder how that if that in your view undermines the

Democrats' argument going into this, which is that this is an urgent matter, that this relates to the 2020 election, and therefore we have to proceed quickly and yet now once those Impeachment Articles have been passed by the House, American say, but wait a second, you're waiting to transmit them to the Senate? How can it be an urgent matter if they are not urgently moved on to the next step of the process?

MERKLEY: Well, actually, I think they are compatible because it is urgent that we proceed with a fair and full exploration of the facts in the Senate. And if Mitch McConnell is not going to fulfill his constitutional responsibility to lead that effort, then it's appropriate for Pelosi to call attention to that and try to create some leverage to kind of slap the Senate leadership upside the head and say, remember, you're taking an oath of office. You've already taken an oath to the Constitution. Now, you're taking one to the trial. You have a responsibility here and it needs to be fulfilled.

SCIUTTO: Senator Jeff Merkley, we appreciate you joining the broadcast and wish Happy Holidays to you and your family tonight.

MERKLEY: Happy Holidays, Jim.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, President Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke over the phone this weekend but is the Kremlin the only reason we know that the call took place.

Plus, new details about the stabbing spree inside a Rabbi's home. The suspect's journal shining new light on what may have motivated his attack.

And Joe Biden says he would consider a Republican running mate.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But here's the problem right now, the well-known ones, they've got to step up.




SCIUTTO: New tonight, Putin's invitation to President Trump once again extending an invite for Trump to visit Moscow in May for Russia's Victory Day celebration. That's a military parade.

This as the White House confirms Trump and Putin talked yesterday, a call initiated by the Russian President. Both sides saying that multiple issues were discussed, including Putin thanking Trump for sharing information that helped thwart a possible terrorist attack.

It is first phone call between the two men since July, of course, we learned about it from the Kremlin 24 hours before the White House commented at all.

OUTFRONT now, former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press. Julie Pace, former Director of the Nixon Library. Tim Naftali. Thanks to all of you.

So, Joe, I mean, unusual, but unusual, I guess there's normal now, typically, and you worked in a White House. The White House would effort to put out its readout of a call with a foreign leader first.

Here you have the Kremlin doing so 24 hours before, given this administration's willingness to cover up or just dispute the contents of past phone calls with foreign leaders, should we trust their account of what took place in this call?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think we can trust because they have put out -- I mean, even the Ukraine call that's now at the center of impeachment, their readout was inaccurate.

They said that in the readout, the President raised the idea of corruption in Ukraine, which he didn't. He raised Joe Biden, but not, you know, the corruption in Ukraine. You know, it is not really important anymore for them to put it out because people don't trust it, which is a problem.


LOCKHART: And I think you know, there are real optical and I think national security problems with putting -- talking to Putin so often, bringing Lavrov into the Oval Office when our ally there, and our NATO, you know, NATO, which is our ally, is trying to stand strong against Russia here. And you know, President Zelensky can't get an invite to the Oval Office.

So keeping it secret just raises, you know, all of these big questions about, you know, what is that relationship and why does Trump seem so subservient to the Russian President?

SCIUTTO: Julie, you've covered this White House for a long time. Following that Ukraine call, we know there were efforts by this administration to limit the number of people who were on calls. They didn't want other ears in there listening who might have a disagreement with what the President raised or how he raised it.

Based on your reporting, has this become the new normal? In other words, that perhaps there will be some calls that they won't say happened even with crucial foreign leaders.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think it's important to put the way that this President does business in in context when it comes to foreign leader calls. Yes, there are some calls that they that the White House wants to keep more secretive. They want to do that because they want to limit leaks.

But there's also a whole another group of calls. You know, this is a President who gives out his cell phone number to foreign leaders. He has talked about that, other foreign leaders have talked about meeting him at Summits, and he'll hand out his phone number. So there's this other set of calls that might happen completely outside of any National Security channel where they're not, there's not a note taker there, where there may not be other officials there with talking points prepared for the President, people to sort of record that call for posterity.

That's incredibly unusual. Presidents normally try to go into these calls extremely prepared, and with advisers around them. Trump just doesn't operate in that way.

SCIUTTO: And of course, there are circumstances where the President in a meeting, it wasn't a phone call, it's a face-to-face meeting in the Oval Office, shared classified information with Sergey Lavrov.

Tim Naftali, you're a historian, you know a thing or two about how presidencies operate or have operated in the past. President Putin has invited Trump to go to Moscow's Victory Day celebration, which is nominally a celebration of the victory in World War II, but really, in more recent years has been a celebration of Russian military might.

For a U.S. President to accept that invitation, tell us how unusual? What the precedent would be? What the message would be?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you always want our President to interact with powerful foreign leaders. The question is whether our President is representing U.S. national interest or representing his own interests. I mean, after all, that is at the heart of this entire impeachment issue.

If the President is going to Russia simply to help cheerlead for Vladimir Putin, who has challenged the security of Europe, who has undermined American goals in the Middle East, who has undermined U.S. goals in Latin America, let's not forget the Russia has been supportive of that horrific regime in Venezuela.

If you're there to cheerlead for that person, you're not cheerleading for U.S. national security.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that was -- I mean, the substance of "The Times" reporting on this, on the Ukraine issue was that Pompeo, Esper, Bolton all went to him and said, giving that aid is in U.S. national security interest.

Joe, "The New York Times" reporting, what's key about here, right, is it shows a direct line to the President. That's been the substance of the G.O.P. defense here, which is that insufficient evidence that the President knew about this, which is already strained credulity because then you'd be thinking all these guys were freelancing.

But tell us what this means for the Senate trial, if anything, given the partisan nature of this process so far?

LOCKHART: Well, I think it completely strengthens the argument that the Democrats have made and a sole Republican here and there that there are things that we don't know. We didn't know about this meeting. The Democrats investigated this. They brought in witnesses, you know, a dozen witnesses. Deposed 19 people, and this meeting never came out, which means it was so closely held.

And so you have to look at who it was closely held with -- the President, Pompeo, Mulvaney and Bolton, and they're the ones the President is keeping from testifying. It's very difficult for the Republicans now with a straight face to say that they shouldn't come and tell what they know.

I think it also represents, you know, a new part of this, where there's some people, particularly the Secretary of State, who we think is about to leave to run for Senate in Kansas, maybe looking to before he leaves clean up his piece of this.

And if we start getting into everyone trying to protect their own flank, then I think we're going to hear more and more about this, and that makes it more likely that they'll have to testify.

SCIUTTO: Julie, Joe makes a great point there. The House investigated this, did not know that this Oval Office meeting took place, it may very well be because the three folks who were in that meeting -- Pompeo, Bolton, and Esper had been blocked from testifying by the White House, by the President and really their own decision to do so.


SCIUTTO: I mean, I wonder if the message here is that other than for good reporting here, you know, the obstruction by the administration has worked.

PACE: I think you're going to start hearing Democrats make that case, and one of the Articles of Impeachment is obstruction of Congress, which is because of the fact that Trump was blocking witnesses and documents, including some of these administration officials from coming before the House.

And what we heard Pelosi, Schiff and others say is that that prevented Congress from getting vital information. Now, it's up to Democrats in the Senate to try to make that argument to Mitch McConnell.

I think, you know, what we will want to watch for is how many Republicans start to pick that up? You know, do Republicans simply start making an executive privilege argument and say that well, that's now the reason why these officials don't have to come forward.

I agree with Joe that I think it becomes harder to say that there's nothing that these people can offer and use that as the defense if you're a Republican.

SCIUTTO: Tim, you know the Nixon story very well. And there were, of course, that was a highly partisan process early on. But there were rubicons, right, where it became too hard, even for the most loyal Republicans to defend the President. And in that case, I suppose, of course, it was the tapes.

I mean, applying your historical knowledge and experience here, is there a shoe to drop? A smoking gun or something that could move the partisan sort of defenses that we have here?

NAFTALI: Well, yes, there always is. The question is whether the jurors and the senator jurors are more interested in their own legacy or the legacy of Donald Trump. When their mind shift from the President's legacy to their own because of new effort evidence, then they'll move against the President.

But it's all about legacy. Do they want to be remembered in history for defending the Constitution and the prerogatives of Congress or for defending a corrupt President?

In 1974, they decided they would go and defend the Constitution.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, we'll see. There's still time. Tim, Julie, Joe, thanks to all of you.

OUTFRONT next this hour, the suspects in a horrific Hanukkah attack now facing Federal charges as we're learning disturbing new details about what authorities say they found in his home.

And Elizabeth Warren's campaign is lowering expectations about money as a fundraising deadline approaches. What are they trying to tell us?



SCIUTTO: New tonight, the suspect in a stabbing spree in a Rabbi's home during a Hanukkah party is now facing Federal hate crime charges. Grafton Thomas appearing in Federal Court today as authorities reveal, they found handwritten journals filled with anti-Semitic comments in his home. The attack coming amid growing concern about a rise in anti-Semitic attacks across the country.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, Federal hate crime charges lay out what prosecutors say was the anti- Semitic motivation behind a machete wielding attack on Hasidic Jews at a Rabbi's home in the middle of the Hanukkah celebration.

Investigators say, on the suspect Grafton Thomas's phones internet history from recent days, searches for synagogues in New York and New Jersey. The search terms, why did Hitler hate the Jews and prominent companies founded by Jews in America?

From the 37-year-old's home, investigators say they recovered handwritten journals expressing anti-Semitic sentiments and references to the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement which asserts they are the true descendants of ancient Israelites and Jews are interlopers.

The teachings of the same group were connected says a law enforcement official to the attack on a kosher market in New Jersey earlier this month.


JOSEF GLUCK, WITNESS: He is coming after me, hey, you I'll get you.


MARQUEZ (voice over): Josef Gluck was in the Rabbi's home when Thomas walked in and announced say investigators, no one is leaving.

Wielding an 18-inch machete, according to court documents began stabbing and slashing people. Five people suffered serious injuries including a severed finger, slash wounds and deep lacerations.

One remains in critical condition with a skull fracture.


GLUCK: I started to come back to the front door, I opened the door and saw one older gentleman bleeding. He stayed in there and the attacker came back from the kitchen to the main room.


MARQUEZ (voice over): Gluck had the presence of mind to chase the attacker to his car and get his license plate number. Less than two hours after the attack, Thomas was arrested by NYPD officers as he returned to Manhattan.

The video of that arrest captured on security camera and released by NYPD. Investigators say his clothing and hands had blood on them and the car smelled of bleach in a possible attempt to wash away evidence.


MICHAEL SUSSMAN, SUSPECT'S ATTORNEY: My impression from speaking with him is that he needs serious psychiatric evaluation.


MARQUEZ (voice over): Thomas's family says he is a former Marine and not anti-Semitic, but does have mental health issues. His lawyer says he looked over the same journals described by investigators.


SUSSMAN: There is no suggestion in any of those ramblings and pages of writing of an anti-Semitic motive.


MARQUEZ (on camera): So while the case against Grafton Thomas is not yet proven, the ADL or Anti-Defamation League says that physical assaults against Jews is up 105 percent from 2017 to 2018. And this year, it seems to be on that same target -- Jim. SCIUTTO: A significant rise no question, Miguel Marquez, thank you.

OUTFRONT, Aron Wieder. He is a legislator in Rockland County where that Hanukkah attack took place, and has known the Rabbi whose home was the site of the attack for some 15 years.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. First, our sincere sympathies to you and your community over this attack. I've spoken to people involved. They say the fear is real. You're there on the ground. Tell us what the concerns are going forward in your community and what your community wants to be done now.


ARON WIEDER, LEGISLATOR, ROCKLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK: Good evening, Jim. The fear and angst is something you could feel on the streets. People walking down the streets, especially late at night, they'll look over their shoulders. I look over my shoulders. My wife has instructed my two children to go to school to be more alert. People are fearful.

I'm not saying that we're on a level that we're panicking but people are very concerned and looking for the local, federal, state and law enforcement to protect them, because that is what they're here for, to protect the constituency.

SCIUTTO: Understood. You know, as this investigation goes on, that authorities have found handwritten journal entries in the suspect's hope, including a swastika and references to Hitler and Nazi culture and this is key because Internet search history on the suspect's phone found searches on why did Hitler hate the Jews.

The suspect's family, as you know, are saying he has no history of anti-Semitism. His lawyer saying that these are the ramblings of a disturbed individual. From what your perspective on what you know now, do you have any doubt the motivation here was anti-Semitism?

WIEDER: Let's be very clear -- anyone who is infested with hate is mentally deranged, no matter what the motives are. So, separate those two things and say they are mutually exclusive, that's nonsense. Actually, they go hand and hand. Someone who has hate in their heart for no other reason because someone is different than them is mentally deranged.

SCIUTTO: It is a fair point. I want to ask you, now, you ask about police protection, we have Governor Andrew Cuomo talking about categorizing these crimes as domestic terrorism as a step forward. But a lot of this comes from online groups, people sharing these kinds of thoughts coming together, et cetera, what do you think could be done to stop this kind of sentiment from developing into the violence that we saw take place in your community?

WIEDER: Well, we are embracing freedom of speech, but at the same token we know you can't scream "fire" in a theater and I think that the social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, they need to take this very seriously. Words have consequences. Words can hurt people.

And to see all of the rhetoric on social media, even on the local level in Rockland County, on Facebook page -- Facebook pages where orthodox Jews are called a cancer, leaches onsite and accusations we don't pay taxes, these words have serious consequences. And I hold these companies to a certain extent, I hold them responsible.

People are going after the manufacturings of guns to be held accountable for what guns do, well, social media could lead to violence and we all know that and have seen that.

SCIUTTO: Aron Wieder, share our best with the community as it goes through the repercussions of this attack.

WIEDER: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, retired FBI supervisory special agent, James Gagliano.

James, we've talked about a lot of a whole host of hate crimes, terrorist incidents and so on. You heard Aron Wieder there talking about going at the source of this online. You and I know that was a big target of counter-terrorism efforts when it calms to Islamist terrorism. I wonder if you think that there is -- there is something there, that should be a potential target of law enforcement's efforts to stop this kind of violence before it happens?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Jim, my heart goes out to the community there in Monsey, New York, and the Rockland County legislator you just had on.

You and I have gone through this a number of times. It's difficult from this perspective. We have a First Amendment that protects free speech. We have a Second Amendment that gives us the right to bear arms. And we have the Fourth Amendment which protects American citizens from unlawful searches and seizures.

The question here is how deep into the Internet can we go and can we, quote/unquote, spy on individuals. We can't do it without probable cause, Jim. And the problem we have here is, is that protected free speech allows for hyperbole, satire and even heat of the moment commentary and that is what makes this so difficult, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, tell us, one, what do you think is behind this rise in the anti-Semitic attacks? I mean, it's in numbers there. You see in the Justice Department numbers, FBI numbers, what do you think is behind us and how serious of a concern is this when you see a jump like that?

GAGLIANO: So I live 30 miles north of Monsey, New York, Jim.


So I'm very familiar with the Satmar community down there. I have a lot of friends down there.

This is a difficult situation. I mean, New York is a unique place. It has a very high population of Jewish folks, they should be able to walk around in their own town or city safely, or in the case of what happened this weekend, be in their own homes celebrating safely.

Look, I've had friends, Jim, tell me I'm not going to wear a yarmulke out in public. I'm going to be careful when I'm on a bus or when I'm taking mass transit.

And that said, what can be done? Well, law enforcement is on high alert in New York City. And that's New York state police, local police, as well as the FBI. They're going to make sure that through the rest of the holiday season as well as going forward, this will not be tolerating. Bias and hate crimes will not happen here in New York.

SCIUTTO: James Gagliano, thanks very much.

OUTFRONT next this hour, Democrats duke it out over the Iraq War vote. How big of an issue is that?

And a turning point for Pete Buttigieg as his term as a small town mayor comes to an end.


SCIUTTO: Tonight, five weeks until the Iowa caucuses and two of the front-runners there, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg facing off over who has the judgment to be commander-in-chief. Buttigieg on Sunday calling Biden's support for the 2003 Iraq invasion, quote, the worst foreign policy decision of his lifetime.

Biden in New Hampshire today welcoming that fight.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud of my record. And I'm delighted to debate foreign policy with my friend.



SCIUTTO: Buttigieg this evening not backing down.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just don't believe that there is a justification for that vote. And I think it is an example of the difference between tenure and judgment.


SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT tonight, Jonathan Martin, "New York Times" national political correspondent, and O. Kay Henderson, news director at Radio Iowa.

Thanks to both of you tonight.

Jonathan, so, Buttigieg essentially making the same argument that Obama made against Clinton in 2008 about the Iraq war decision and more broadly, that judgment beats Washington experience. But I wonder, is Iraq war do you think too far in the rearview mirror for most voters to just to be a -- you know, a biting issue in this election cycle?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLTICIAL ANALYST: Jim, I think that what the mayor is doing here is less about the Iraq war itself and than it's about trying to allay concerns about his own inexperience and basically using the Iraq war as a vehicle to say, you think that Biden is the safer pick than me, but he was for what a lot of folks believe is the most colossal foreign policy misjudgment in our lifetime.

And so, I think it is less about the war and less about Biden's authorization vote in 2002 than it is just a sort of defensive strategy by Buttigieg to say, don't think that your concerns about experience amount to a whole lot if you look at what we've actually done in terms of key foreign policy decisions.

SCIUTTO: Kay, give us a view from the ground there in Iowa. Iowa voters, I met them during the caucus cycle and they are extremely knowledgeable and they take pride in being knowledgeable. And it seems like Buttigieg is trying to draw a connection between himself and Obama in 2008, of course, who made something of a name for himself in the Iowa caucus. Do you think that that is a strategy there to appeal to Iowa caucusgoers?

O. KAY HENDERSON, NEWS DIRECTOR, RADIO IOWA: Well, one of the things that Barack Obama said in 2007 in the fall was that it is time to turn the page. And I think that is what is at the heart of what the Buttigieg argument here is. Tenure versus judgment is about old versus new.

When I'm talking to Iowa voters, I hear a lot of them talk in relationship to Buttigieg that he brings new blood to the party which is an odd phrase. But you hear it here in Iowa among an older electorate. As we know, 60 percent of the people participating in the caucus are over the age of 50.

And they are attracted to bringing someone new into the party. And so I think Buttigieg is trying to build on that.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Jonathan, Biden was asked during a New Hampshire town hall, an early voting state, whether he could consider choosing a Republican running mate and he had an answer. Listen and I want to get your opinion.



BIDEN: The answer is I could but I can't think of one now. There are some really decent Republicans that are out there still. But here is the problem right now, of the well-known ones, they've got to step up.


SCIUTTO: Of course, current Democratic Party extremely unlikely to allow this to happen but Biden also made a broader point saying, I'm the guy who can work with Republicans because I've done it in the past.

Is that a message -- in the general, does that message work in the primary cycle?

MARTIN: Jim, you touched on what his thinking is here and that is precisely what he's trying to get at here, is conveying to Democratic voters and some independent voters of, look, I could work across the aisle and I could get stuff done.

Now, there are people in the party skeptical of that assertion but that is what he's trying to get at by keeping the door open to naming a Republican running mate. Is that going to happen? Almost certainly not.

But I think his answer there is about the larger strategy about being somebody who could kind of take the temperature down there Washington which, you know, does actually appeal to a segment of Democratic primary voters who simply want to restore some degree of what they believe is normalcy to the nation's capital.

It is not going to appeal to folks who are more on the left, but I think it is going to appeal to people who just want to simply beat Trump and who are consumed with finding a nominee who they believe could appeal to both Democrats and independents and even some sort of soft GOP voters.

SCIUTTO: Kay, tell me how it is from the ground there, because that is a consistent message you here and it is in the polling too, right? That, you know, Biden maintains the lead but also he's seen as the candidate most likely to beat Trump. As you caucus -- Iowa caucus voters, as you canvass them, are they saying -- are they saying to you they want a moderate candidate who could appeal to a broader portion of the country, of the electorate?


HENDERSON: Well, the data indicates that the majority of people who will be participating in the caucuses on February 3rd are, indeed, moderates, even some conservative Democrats will be participating. And I think Biden's message here is maybe even for Republican voters what might be inclined to be a Republican -- I mean, a Democrat for a day and participate in the caucuses and help get Biden over the finish line.

The other thing here is that this is more about I think the general election than actually governing because there is this sense among voters that if we nominate someone who could appeal across party lines, that is our best means of defeating Trump, and as you mentioned, the other part of the party is really insistent that there is no reason to reach out to Republican voters, our main aim should be energizing the Democratic base and beating Trump that way.

SCIUTTO: OK, Jonathan, happy New Year to both of you.

MARTIN: Thanks, Jim. Happy New Year.


SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, can small town politics launch a mayor into the Oval Office?


BUTTIGIEG: Washington experience is not the only experience that matters.


SCIUTTO: And a candidate's three favorite words.


BIDEN: Come on, man.

Come on, man.

Come on, man.



SCIUTTO: Tonight, the small-town mayor turned potential president. Pete Buttigieg has just one day left as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. But his record follows him on the trail.

Abby Phillip is OUTFRONT.


UNFIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we doing to promote business?


I always like to think of trains as being commerce, right? That's a sound of commerce.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pete Buttigieg's City, South Bend, Indiana, is vibrant again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For many folks, that's the sign of comeback of South Bend.

PHILLIP: The Studebaker plant that was once the center of this Midwestern industrial town at the center of its comeback story.

During Buttigieg's eight years as mayor, he not only led what he calls a turn around city, but also deployed to Afghanistan, announced he's gay and is now setting his sights on the White House.

BUTTIGIEG: South Bend is back. PHILLIP: His small-town accomplishments, 3.7 percent unemployment,

nearly $200 million in investment downtown, a reinvigorated stadium and tackling urban blithe are a big part of his presidential campaign.

BUTTIGIEG: Washington experience is not the only experience that matters.

PHILLIP: Then there's what's happening outside of downtown South Bend.

TRYEE BONDS, BROTHER OF ERIC LOGAN: I mean, they don't, 100 percent don't care about the community. They care about what's going on downtown.

PHILLIP: Tyree Bonds lost his brother, Eric Logan, killed by police this summer and sparking racial tensions across Buttigieg's city, now following him on the campaign trail.

REPORTER: Why should you be president if it doesn't -- if you don't care about South Bend?

BUTTIGIEG: So let's be really clear. Most people in South Bend believe I did a good job.

PHILLIP: But his black supporters here feel their voices are being drowned out literally.


PHILLIP: This meeting ended in chaos with city council member Sharon McBride, who supports Buttigieg, interrupted by protestors.

SHARON MCBRIDE, SOUTH BEND COMMON COUNCIL: I was born and raised in the hood. I love my city.

PHILLIP (on camera): This is personal for you?

MCBRIDE: It's personal. So it's very hurtful but I love what I do.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Bonds was there, too.

BONDS: What he said was the truth. Who put them in a place to say they was our black leaders? Cause they was not our black leaders.

PHILLIP: Those close to him say this summer's protests changed Buttigieg.

KAREEMAH FOWLER, FORMER CITY CLERK & BUTTIGIEG SUPPORTER: I think that was absolutely a learning experience for Pete. I think that he welcomed and maybe needed if he's going to be -- if he's going to be the president of the United States.

PHILLIP: And McBride feels some of the criticism unwarranted as this problem goes far beyond South Bend.

MCBRIDE: I don't think anybody can solve the problem with race, you know, overnight. In time you can make steps, and I think that in South Bend we have done so.


PHILLIP: And, Jim, some of the South Bend residents that we spoke to, particularly in the poorer areas, say they have not felt some of this economic boom that we see here in downtown, but in the new year, Pete Buttigieg's former chief of staff is going to be the new mayor, and Buttigieg says that is a sign that South Bend residents want to continue the work that he started -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

OUFRONT next this hour, one candidate's catch phrase that's caught on.

And on New Year's day, tune in for the new CNN film, "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE".


UNIDENTIFED MALE: She came to Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, it's Linda Ronstadt.

LINDA RONSTADT, SINGER: I was 18 years old and we formed a little band. We called ourselves Stone Ponies.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: The L.A. scene was in gear, and then the whole damn thing broke loose.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: It was rock music, folk music, comingling.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: How can we define what this is going to be?

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Linda was the queen. She was like what Beyonce is now.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: She was the only female artist to have five platinum albums in a row.

RONSTADT: "I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love With You" was a hit on the country charts, "You're No Good" was a hit on both the R&B chart and the pop chart. I became the first artist to have a hit on all three charts.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: She was the first female rock 'n roll star.




SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Here's Jeanne Moos. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the ultimate Joe Biden come-on.

BIDEN: C'mon, man.

C'mon, man.

C'mon, man.

MOOS: Used to convey everything from sarcasm.

BIDEN: My heartbreaks. C'mon, man.

MOOS: To enthusiasm.

BIDEN: C'mon, man. Let's do it.

MOOS: In just a single interview, we counted four of them.

BIDEN: C'mon, man.

C'mon, man.

Oh, c'mon, man.

MOOS: Oh, sure, other Bidenisms might be plentiful.

BIDEN: Look. Look. Look. Look.

Guess what?

The fact of the matter is. The fact of the matter is.

Folks. Folks. Folks. Look, folks.

MOOS: Let's look, folks.

BIDEN: C'mon, man.

MOOS: It's so much more expressive.

BIDEN: It is all about around the clock sex, it's all -- c'mon, man.

MOOS: Whether he's dismissing outdated attitudes, or challenging President Trump to a push-up contest.

BIDEN: C'mon, Donald, c'mon, man. How many push-ups you want to do here, pal?

MOOS: At least "C'mon, man" is G-rated for expressing exasperation. It's a handy alternative to stuff that needs bleeped.

TRUMP: With ridiculous bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

MOOS: Joe Biden's former boss employed it.


MOOS: But did Obama get it from Biden or Biden from Obama?

BIDEN: C'mon man.

MOOS: Or Biden from Obama?

Maybe one or the other got it from the ESPN sports segment --


MOOS (on camera): Joe Biden's "C'mon, man" has got to the point that right-wingers have come to his defense.

A "New York Times" columnist wrote about the bro-iness of Joe Biden calling "C'mon man" a rhetorical device that men use among themselves in locker rooms and barbershops to reinforce masculinity.

Conservatives criticize the criticism for being PC.

Comic sidekick Andy Richter credited Biden when describing his dog crowding him in the car: In the words of Joe Biden, 'C'mon, man,' an expression Joe hangs on to like a dog with a bone.

BIDEN: C'mon, man.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos --

BIDEN: C'mon, man.

MOOS: -- CNN, New York.


SCIUTTO: Well, happy New Year, man. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AC360" starts now.