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THE SITUATION ROOM

Shadow Diplomacy; Interview With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Interview With Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD); White House Releases Details of Trump-Putin Call Hours After Kremlin Confirms Conversation; Gunman and Victims Identified in Texas Church Shooting; New York Times Report: Bolton, Pompeo, Esper Tried To Persuade President Trump To Release Ukraine Aid. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 30, 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]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: New reporting reveals his top policy advisers desperately tried and failed to stop him.

Shadow diplomacy. It turns out Rudy Giuliani's unofficial intervention in U.S. foreign policy goes beyond Ukraine. Why did he reportedly make back-channel contact with Venezuela's president?

And Putin's call. The White House confirms Mr. Trump had a friendly phone chat with the Kremlin leader hours after Russia publicly shared details. Was there anything about the conversation that the U.S. did not want to talk about?

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

Authorities say the attempted murder of Hasidic Jews at a Hanukkah celebration in New York was an act of hate. The suspect in the stabbing attack appeared before a federal judge a short while ago and was ordered to remain behind bars, as he faces new hate crime charges.

Investigators say they found anti-Semitic journal entries in his home pointing to a possible motive.

And also tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to travel to Ukraine this week, as impeachment continues to grip Washington. With a Senate trial looming, "The New York Times" has revealed new details about President Trump's decision to freeze Ukraine aid and how his top policy officials pleaded with him to release the money.

This hour, I will talk with House Judiciary Committee member Jamie Raskin and with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. And our correspondents and analysts also are standing by.

First, let's go to CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner. She is at the scene of that Hanukkah attack in Monsey, New York.

Sarah, what more do we know tonight about the suspect and this stabbing? SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have talked to

several members of the Jewish community here in Monsey, New York, and they are telling us they are frankly terrified about what is happening in their community and across the country, including what's happened in New York recently.

Lots more details coming out about the suspect. A lot of people concerned about what they're hearing from authorities, where he is linked to certain groups, who has talked with anti-Semitic words, according to authorities, and now he is facing five federal hate crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): Tonight, the man accused of going on a stabbing rampage during a Hanukkah celebration in New York is now facing federal hate crime charges. Federal authorities revealing chilling new details discovered in what they say was Grafton Thomas' handwritten journal, including a reference to Adolf Hitler and Nazi culture, on the same page as a drawing of a Star of David and a swastika, as well as recent Internet searches by the suspect, including the location of synagogues in New York and New Jersey.

The suspect's attorney, though, disputes the allegation of an anti- Semitic motive.

MICHAEL SUSSMAN, ATTORNEY FOR GRAFTON THOMAS: Reverend Page and I -- and review scores of papers which frankly show the ramblings of a disturbed individual. But there is no suggestion in any of those ramblings and pages of writing of an anti-Semitic motive.

SIDNER: Witnesses say the suspect slashed his way through a house full of Orthodox Jewish worshipers, injuring five and leaving behind a terrible blood-soaked scene during what was a Hanukkah celebration.

Josef Gluck was inside that home.

JOSEF GLUCK, ATTACK SURVIVOR: When I first saw him, he came -- I just saw him wielding his knife back and forth, trying to hit guys.

SIDNER (on camera): Was he saying anything?

GLUCK: Nothing. He didn't say a word to anyone inside. He just spoke to me outside once.

SIDNER: What did he say?

GLUCK: "Hey, you, I will get you."

SIDNER (voice-over): Gluck managed to get out there.

GLUCK: There were kids in there, so I decided to run back in.

SIDNER: Run back in and fight. His only weapon? The furniture around him, now in shambles. GLUCK: Picked it up from the back. And I tossed it at his face. He was three feet away from me. I hit him in his face. And he started -- and I -- and he started coming after me out towards the door.

SIDNER: When the attacker left, Gluck followed at a distance, worried he was about to go into the synagogue next door. By then, the ambulances were arriving, treating the wounded.

JOSH HANS, HATZOLOH EMS OF ROCKLAND COUNTY: It was a very jarring see. There was a lot of blood. There were patients that were laying on the floor severely injured. And it's just something that you don't see every day.

SIDNER: His team whisked away four of the five injured in the Hatzoloh Ambulance Service, a volunteer service made up of Jewish community members.

Less than two hours later, police tracked down the suspect using the license plate number Gluck had given them. When the New York police officers captured him, they said he was covered in blood and smelled of bleach, a possible attempt to clean away the blood.

GLUCK: Thousands of Jewish mothers went to sleep more calm that night, not worrying about their kids going to school the next day, or their husbands going to pray the next day, or their going shopping the next day, not knowing what's going to happen.

SIDNER (on camera): You have a guardian angel.

GLUCK: God is the guardian. I'm a messenger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:02]

SIDNER: Now, as far as those who were injured, we know that four of the five people who were injured have been able to leave the hospital. But one elderly gentleman remains in the hospital with very serious injuries.

I do want to also mention and talk about the fact that there have been so many of these attacks across New York. And some of the attacks have been where children are there and they're having slurs thrown at them or their families, and people have literally been physically attacked.

And some of the attacks have just been words. And a lot of people here say it's those attacks, the smaller ones that you don't hear as much about, that really have people disturbed, because it's everyday people on a subway, on the street that are coming out with these words.

We should also mention, you will remember, back in November, you had an attack in New Jersey, and that was linked to the Black Hebrew Israelites. Well, the suspect in the complaint, according to prosecutors, the suspect also had mentioned the Black Hebrew Israelites as well when they went through some of his dealings, some of his writings.

And so they are looking at all kinds of possibilities as to why exactly he perpetrated this attack on people who were simply trying to enjoy their Hanukkah -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sara Sidner in Monsey, New York, thank you.

And, tonight, the Trump administration is planning new outreach to Ukraine, as we're learning more about the freeze in U.S. aid that helped lead to the president's impeachment.

CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is with Mr. Trump in Florida.

And Ukraine and impeachment, Boris, continue to loom over the president's holiday getaway, even today.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna.

This potential upcoming Senate trial hanging like a dark cloud over the president's holiday here in Palm Beach. He spent yet another day at his golf resort. No clear indication that he's angry or upset. Not that many tweets from the president today, but his foreign policy is getting a closer look, and it is raising questions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): With a Senate trial looming, President Trump hit the links at his West Palm Beach golf club today facing renewed scrutiny over foreign policy and his decision to freeze aid to Ukraine.

"The New York Times" reporting Trump's top foreign policy advisers tried talking him out of it, one by one. Then National Security Adviser John Bolton, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who's scheduled to visit Ukraine later this week, took turns imploring Trump not to withhold the aid during an Oval Office meeting in August, arguing that helping Ukraine is in the country's best interest, but Trump dismissing them, saying he does not trust Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to weed out corruption.

And -- quote -- "Ukraine is a corrupt country. We are pissing away our money."

Newly released e-mails also reveal acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney playing a key role in freezing the funds, writing to an aide just two days after Trump's call with Zelensky -- quote -- "I'm just trying to tie up some loose ends. Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?"

The aide responding that it was possible, but wouldn't be pretty, adding Mulvaney should -- quote -- "expect Congress to become unhinged."

According to "The New York Times," when another aide, Mark Sandy, later questioned if freezing money appropriated by Congress was legal, the White House took the unusual step of removing his authority to oversee the funds.

New questions also emerging tonight about this shadow diplomacy effort by the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that appears to go beyond Ukraine. "The Washington Post" reports Rudy Giuliani held a back-channel talk with Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro last summer, Giuliani trying to establish a separate line of communication between Trump and the Venezuelan leader, while attempting to coax Maduro into abdicating power.

Sources familiar with the effort say Giuliani's attempts were dismissed by then National Security Adviser Bolton, with a former senior administration official telling "The Post" White House officials did not understand why Giuliani was even involved in Venezuela policy.

The White House tonight also facing heightened foreign policy challenges in the Mideast, an Iranian-backed militia vowing vengeance following U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq over the weekend, the attacks in response to the killing of an American contractor last week.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Today, what we did was take a decisive response that makes clear what President Trump has said for months and months and months, which is that we will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy.

SANCHEZ: Pompeo and Esper, joined by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, stopping in Palm Beach for roughly three hours Sunday, briefing Trump and reporters on the attacks and vowing to continue exerting maximum pressure on Iran, reviving concerns about whether Trump, despite previously condemning U.S. military action in the region, would risk another war in the Mideast heading into the 2020 campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:10:18]

SANCHEZ: One more bit of news, Brianna.

We have learned that President Trump shared a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, the two men apparently discussing counterterrorism measures. The Kremlin reporting that Vladimir Putin for the second time invited President Trump to Moscow for Victory Day celebrations, marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

President Trump had previously expressed an interest in attending -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Boris, thank you so much in West Palm Beach, Florida.

And another story that we're following tonight, a federal judge just dismissed a lawsuit that was filed to challenge a House subpoena in the impeachment inquiry.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is here with us now.

Explain to us what happened here, Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this really was a key case that could have put the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches to the test, but it has now been dismissed by a federal judge right here in D.C.

It's Judge Richard Leon, and he has said that a lawsuit filed by former Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman, he says it is now moot. And that's because this was a lawsuit asking the federal court to decide whether Kupperman had to comply with a subpoena that has since been withdrawn that had been in effect during the House impeachment hearings just earlier this month.

But Judge Leon points out that this subpoena, it was no longer in effect, it had been withdrawn. And the House has since promised not to reissue a subpoena. That's, of course, because the impeachment has already gone forward. The president has been impeached.

And, also, the executive branch has promised that Kupperman will not be punished for defying that original subpoena.

Now, this was a case that was of key interest at the height of the House hearings, but it has since lost really all of its urgency. Kupperman's boss, John Bolton, was also implicated in this case, since the two men shared a lawyer.

And this lawyer had really dangled the possibility that John Bolton perhaps would testify in House hearings if a judge ruled that Kupperman had to testify.

And it was at the same time that Bolton's attorney floated this idea that Bolton did have personal knowledge of meetings and conversations that could be crucial to the House's inquiry about the withholding of military aid to Ukraine.

But the court now staying out of the fight, at least for now, Judge Leon writing this in part, saying: "Have no doubt, though. Should the winds of political fortune shift and the House were to reissue a subpoena to Dr. Kupperman, he will face the same conflicting directives that precipitated this suit. If so, he will undoubtedly be back before this court seeking a solution to a constitutional dilemma that has longstanding political consequences, balancing Congress' well-established power to investigate with a president's need to have a small group of national security advisers who have some form of immunity from compelled congressional testimony."

But, Brianna, really, that still begs the question, what if witnesses are called in this upcoming Senate trial? Could Kupperman or even John Bolton be issued subpoenas? And then would this fight be right back in the courts?

Of course, it's unlikely that either would face a subpoena with a Senate Republican majority, but Judge Leon in this ruling, he makes clear, Brianna, that this fight is over for now, but really maybe not forever -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that report.

And joining me now is Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin. He serves on the Judiciary and the Oversight committees.

And, sir, thank you so much for joining us.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I'm delighted to be with you.

KEILAR: So, this decision, this judge's ruling, the reason he's basically saying this is a moot issue is because Democrats withdrew the subpoena of Kupperman.

Do you wish that, in a way, that Democrats had not, so that there was this possibility of getting more information that could have helped your case?

RASKIN: No, I don't think so.

We had 17 sworn witnesses under oath, all of whom essentially told different parts of the exact same story, which is, the president engaged in the shakedown of President Zelensky in order to get him involved and embroiled in our presidential election by going after the Bidens and by reviving the discredited 2016 conspiracy theory that it wasn't Vladimir Putin and the Russians that had engaged in a sweeping and systematic campaign against our election; it was the Ukrainians.

And so these were two bogus things that President Trump was trying to get President Zelensky to do, and lording over him hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance, as well as the much- sought-after White House meeting that Zelensky had wanted.

So the evidence was not just overwhelming. It was uncontradicted. It was unrefuted. So, if we had 18 witnesses, instead of 17 witnesses, maybe it would have been a tiny bit better, but the point is, is that there was overwhelming evidence for the prosecutor in this case, the House of Representatives, to say, we have seen enough.

[18:15:03]

This president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the American people. It's a crime in progress, and it's a danger to the republic.

KEILAR: It could certainly help Democrats case if Congress heard from John Bolton, who has the same lawyer as Kupperman.

According to some of the testimony that we saw on the House side, he said, this was a drug deal. He said, Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade who was going to blow everybody up.

Knowing that, and with Democrats pushing to have witnesses testify in the Senate trial, does that affect anything there? RASKIN: Well, it does.

It underscores the absolute importance of having a real trial in the U.S. Senate. The way the Constitution is set up in Article 1 for impeachment purposes is, the House acts like a grand jury and a prosecutor. It brings the charges.

Two charges have been brought forward, abuse of power, and then obstruction of Congress in our impeachment investigation. Now it goes to the Senate. But the Senate must conduct a real trial.

And the problem is, is that Senator McConnell said, basically, he'd seen enough, and he's coordinating with the White House. And then Lindsey Graham, the chair of the House -- of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was saying he didn't need to see any evidence or any facts at all.

That's an absolutely disgraceful abdication of their constitutional duty. They're going to have to swear an oath, along with the 98 other senators, to say that they solemnly swear that, in the matter of the impeachment of Donald Trump, that they will render impartial justice under the Constitution and the laws.

It's not an impartial justice if you say you have already made up your mind, you don't need to see the facts and evidence. And that's true, not just for Republicans. It's true for Democrats too. Democrats should be open to the possibility that they come forward with exculpatory evidence.

Right now, we haven't seen any, but maybe the president comes forward with an alibi that we haven't seen yet.

KEILAR: There's a "New York Times" report that has new details on the aid that the president withheld from Ukraine as he tried to get them to investigate Joe Biden and Joe Biden's son, Hunter.

They're reporting that the defense secretary, the secretary of state, and then the national security adviser, John Bolton, lobbied the president intensely in the Oval Office, saying, you need to let this go forward. This is actually good for America that Ukraine gets its military aid.

He disregarded them. What does that tell you? And what does that mean for your impeachment case?

RASKIN: That tells us that this was Donald Trump's decision and Donald Trump's alone, and it's not going to work to be able to blame it on Pompeo or Rudy Giuliani or anybody else, that the president made this decision.

And those Cabinet members that you just cited who are saying...

KEILAR: But how do you prove that if you don't hear from John Bolton?

RASKIN: Well, that's why we need a real trial and we need real witnesses. And I trust that our colleagues over on the Senate side will render

faithful constitutional service by making sure there's a real trial.

But those Cabinet members that you just mentioned who were urging the president to let the money go through, as he was legally obliged to do, because that was money that was adopted by Congress, it was approved by Congress. It went through the anti-corruption screen at the Department of Defense.

All they had to do was let it go through. But they weren't letting it through. Those same members of the Cabinet who urged the president to do the right thing were the ones who President Trump told not to go testify. He blockaded the witnesses. And he didn't turn over a single subpoenaed document.

Think about that. This is the United States of America. Anybody else in America would have to participate in the trial. And the president thinks he's above the law.

KEILAR: You're back on the 7th.

And the articles of impeachment, at some point, we would expect that they would go to the Senate. I have heard a lot of Democrats say they will. They don't exactly know when. Have you been strategizing? Has the -- have Democrats been strategizing about when that's going to happen?

Do you have any idea?

RASKIN: Well, we want them to go over there as soon as possible, because we think that this is not only a series of high crimes and misdemeanors.

KEILAR: So, in like a couple of days after you leave -- after you come back?

RASKIN: Well, it is a crime in progress. It's still going on.

There's still people like Rudy Giuliani who are going over to Ukraine and are still trying to perpetrate...

KEILAR: Are you going to send them over on the 7th?

RASKIN: Well, here's the thing. We want to make sure that the Senate is going to do its job.

And that's the thing. The Senate has got to have a real trial. They're sworn under oath to render impartial justice in this case.

KEILAR: But when would you like to send them over?

RASKIN: As soon as there are procedures in place for a fair trial.

And everybody in America knows what a fair...

KEILAR: Before mid-January? RASKIN: Well, I hope it's as soon as possible. I hope it's next week.

I hope that they will be able to come up with an agreement. Look, 100 senators in the Clinton trial agreed to the procedures. It's not that difficult. Americans know what a fair trial is.

A fair trial is when all the evidence is heard, all the relevant witnesses come in and are able to testify, and we get at the truth of the matter. So it's not a big mystery what a fair trial is.

The mistake is when some of the GOP leadership say, oh, this is just a political process, it's not a real trial.

Read the Constitution. It is a real trial.

KEILAR: Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you so much.

RASKIN: Brianna, thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: Appreciate you coming into the studio.

And just ahead, I'm going to talk with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio about the Hanukkah stabbing attack and the surge in anti-Semitic incidents that we have seen in and around New York City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:50]

KEILAR: We're following new hate crime charges filed in the Hanukkah stabbing attack in New York state.

Authorities say they discovered anti-Semitic journal entries at the home of the suspect accused using a machete to wound five people. And this comes as anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise in the New York area.

Joining me now is the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.

Thank you so much for coming on to talk about this, sir.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an important topic, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: It's so important. And the details of all of these attacks, but this one specifically, are just horrific.

And New York's Jewish community has been targeted in these anti- Semitic attacks really almost every night of Hanukkah this year. What do you think is behind this violence?

DE BLASIO: Brianna, there is a very dangerous, growing anti-Semitism in this country. Let's start with this.

It has been appearing more and more all over the United States of America just in the last year or so, that horrible massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the attack in Poway, California.

I mean, we're talking about what happened in Jersey City, obviously. We have never seen anything like this. I think it is directly connected to the rise of hate speech in this country over the last few years. It's connected to the real American problem of how social media is giving open season to hate speech without a serious effort by social media companies to create some boundaries and some limitations.

[18:25:15]

All of this is conspiring. And what we're seeing is, here -- we're in a city -- this is a city with the largest Jewish population of any city on Earth. Historically, there's been good relations between our Jewish community and surrounding communities.

Something is changing, because I think of this bigger backdrop, but we have to answer it very assertively and make clear that hate is not going to be given any opportunity to grow here. And that means a lot of police presence, a lot of work educating our young people and making sure they understand how wrong it is to act on hate or think in terms of hate.

We're going to have community patrols that are multiethnic to show solidarity, to show ever -- whoever is thinking of hateful things that people from their own community are going to be there to interfere and stop it.

We have got to do all the above. But the bigger problem in this country is that this hate speech is getting normalized. And people, including folks with mental health challenges and young people who are impressionable, they're hearing this, and they're acting on it spontaneously.

And that's a danger to all of us.

KEILAR: So, what do you do? I'm hearing you say you want to counter this with young folks.

Is that going into schools? Is that adding something to the curriculum? And then just social media is such an issue. It's -- I mean, how do you police something like that?

DE BLASIO: Well, Brianna, we can in our schools give positive messages. We can help young people to understand what the Holocaust was, what the Jewish community has gone through for centuries.

We can help young people understand, when you commit an act of hate, it spreads a kind of domino effect that's going to come back to hurt all communities. That's something we're going to be doing immediately in our schools, particularly in some of the neighborhoods where we have seen these problems.

But this point about having community safety coalitions, having folks from different ethnic backgrounds banding together to be out in the streets in force, community presence -- and we have seen this Cure Violence movement here in New York City. It's worked really well to stop shootings and stop other violence at the grassroots level.

And it's community members banding together and intervening, particularly with young people, even gang members, to dissuade them from acts of violence.

We're taking that same concept, but we're applying it to these hate crimes and the bias that is out there. Young people need to hear from people of all backgrounds, but particularly from people from their own communities, that this is a very destructive and negative path.

And I think that kind of intervention makes a big impact.

KEILAR: You say that Governor Cuomo's idea of having a state law about domestic terrorism, not just hate crimes, but calling this domestic terrorism, you say it has merit.

What sort of legislation would you want to see?

DE BLASIO: Look, we need the right kind of penalties to add to our efforts to stop this kind of thing from happening.

I will give you a really powerful example, Brianna. For years and years, the NYPD built a strong intelligence-gathering capacity focused almost entirely on international terror threats to New York City.

We still take those very seriously. But, more and more, we have to focus on domestic threats. We have a new unit we have created to focus exclusively on racially and ethnically motivated extremism. That wasn't needed even a few years ago.

But we know this is a growing problem. We're going to try and identify these trends and any systematic efforts that may be growing out there. But then there have to be the penalties to go with that.

Anybody who's plotting acts of hate on a systematic level, violence on a systematic level, those penalties have to be really, really strong, so people know there's no coming back if you do something like that.

KEILAR: Mayor, thank you, Mayor Bill de Blasio joining us. We really appreciate you coming on today.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And just ahead: President Trump reportedly warned by top administration officials against withholding aid to Ukraine.

We will talk to one of the "New York Times" reporters who broke this story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Tonight, as the standoff over the president's impeachment trial hangs over Washington, there's new reporting by The New York Times that's raising additional red flags about President Trump's decision to freeze aid to Ukraine. So let's break down all of the new revelations with our analysts, including one of The Times' correspondents who broke that story, Mark Mazzetti, with us.

Your reporting is shedding new light on what was going on behind the scenes with the president, with the administration, as he was choosing to freeze this military aid, almost $400 million, to the Ukraine. There were serious concerns that were raised. Tell us about how you detail this.

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: One of the things that was lost in the impeachment hearings was exactly how this began, what was the origin of the aid freeze. Because you have a lot of officials hearing about it second-hand and the question is who ordered it and what was going on behind the scenes.

So one of the things we unearthed was an email that goes from Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, to one of his aides basically saying, the president wants to know, in effect, can we do this and so can we? And the email response is, yes, but it won't be pretty. Expect Congress to, quote, become unhinged.

Now, that was an understatement, of course.

[18:35:01]

The president got impeached in part of this. But it shows that there really was early warning about what might happen if, in fact, the aid was frozen. And so that was one of the things that we unearthed in the story.

KEILAR: And that they were telling him that this was good for America, for Ukraine to have this aid.

MAZZETTI: Right. So later on in this summer, you have a little bit of a crescendo and then you have senior cabinet officials, Esper, Pompeo, Bolton, when he was national security adviser, basically in the Oval Office making this case that the aid needed to be unfrozen because this is critical support to an embattled ally fighting a war with Russia. And the president was stuck in on this point about Ukraine is corrupt.

So what we tried to do is see where the whole track of investigating the Bidens and freezing the aid, where those tracks came together.

KEILAR: And despite that warning, Sam Vinograd, from top administration officials, the president still disregarded their advice. What does that tell you?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's certainly much harder to argue that this freeze had anything to do with policy when the policy professionals expressly disagreed with it, Brianna. That has been a prime GOP talking point that this was about U.S. policy objectives in Ukraine.

And the timing here is critically important. I participated in a lot of briefings with the president related to high stakes policy decisions. And guess what, national security professionals, like the secretary of state, the national security adviser and others express their analysis before the president took a decision.

From Mark and other's reporting, it indicates that they expressed these views after the fact. So it's really unclear who the president consulted with ahead of taking this decision.

And finally, the president did not unfreeze this aid directly after this meeting. Based upon The New York Times reporting, this Oval Office meeting occurred in August. The aid was not unfrozen until September, weeks later after pushback from Congress and the public. So it really discounts -- all this reporting really discounts any reasoning that this had anything to do with actual policy versus politics.

KEILAR: And Susan is our national security and our legal analyst. We have learned there that Mulvaney has said to have stepped out of the room wherever Mr. Trump would talk to Mr. Giuliani to preserve Mr. Trump's attorney-client privilege. What does that tell you was on their minds as they tried to preserve that privilege?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So it's not hugely unusual that White House officials would leave the room when the president is speaking to a personal counsel. The president has attorney-client privilege with his own lawyers. That doesn't --

KEILAR: But someone could get around it if, say, Mulvaney had witnessed it.

HENNESSEY: Exactly. The privilege would not exist if somebody like Mulvaney was in the room for that. So it's not unusual on its face. That is incredibly revealing on what was actually happening. And that's Rudy Giuliani was acting in his personal capacity on behalf of the president, president's political interests.

Now, there's a real question about whether or not he was a lawyer at all, whether or not there was sort of attorney-client privilege would apply to this situation. That said, it is pretty clear that this was not Rudy Giuliani carrying out the policy of the United States. This was not Rudy Giuliani coordinating with other government officials in order to carry out the president's national security mission.

This is the president being who was being warned by his own top officials that this is harmful in the national interests, essentially cutting them out in order to have this private conversation with Rudy Giuliani. Because what this really was about was not corruption, it was not about the national interest but was instead about the political -- personal political benefit to the president.

KEILAR: The question over privilege. I mean, Rudy Giuliani is working pro bono for the president but was accepting huge payments from a Belarusian-American and a Ukrainian-American businessman to the tune of many many thousands of dollars, just important to point out where the money was coming from. Toluse, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, reacted, tweeting, this shows all four witnesses we requested, Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffey, Blair were intimately involved and had direct knowledge of President Trump's decision to cut off aid to benefit himself. That makes even stronger the case for why these witness must appear.

Will this make it harder if Chuck Schumer is able to have a vote where he is requesting witnesses and he's trying to peel off just a few Republicans to join him, saying they want more information, does this make it possible that we could see testimony from these folks?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Republicans so far have been lockstep with President Trump, who has said that he does not want some of these officials to testify. But if there are a few, a handful of Republican senators who tend to be more independent than the Republicans in the House who are looking towards their re- election, some of them may want to actually find out what happened. And anyone in the Senate who wants to find out what actually happened with the president and Ukraine would need to hear from these witnesses, including John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney.

[18:40:05]

Mick Mulvaney may say that he stepped out of the room every time President Trump was talking to Rudy Giuliani. But I was at a press conference that he gave a couple of months ago where he said that the president did mention to him directly this idea of corruption related to the DNC server, this conspiracy theory that the DNC server was in Ukraine, and he said that's why we held up the money.

So Mick Mulvaney has clear understanding of what the president was doing. He's spent a lot of time with the president. He was on Air Force One in this dramatic scene that was in this New York Times article. And he would be someone to hear from if the senators wanted to know what happened.

KEILAR: He certainly would be. Toluse, Sam, Mark, Susan, everyone stand by for me. We're going to go live to Moscow where the Kremlin was in a bigger rush than the White House to reveal what President Putin and Trump discussed in a weekend phone call.

And we'll tell you what we're learning about the criminal background of the gunman in a Texas church who was shot dead moments after he opened fire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:39]

KEILAR: Tonight, President Trump's latest phone call with Vladimir Putin is raising questions after the White House waited a full day longer than the Kremlin to confirm the conversation happened.

I want to go now to Moscow and CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen.

And, Fred, we finally heard from both countries about this phone call. Tell us.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, I mean, there's two topics that both countries have said were involved in this phone call. One fighting against terrorism where Vladimir Putin apparently thanked President Trump for a tip-off the FBI gave to Russian intelligence services that allegedly led to the arrest of two individuals planning a terror attack in St. Petersburg for New Year's Day.

Now, the Russians after that said the two leaders also discussed points of mutual interest to both countries. The White House went a little bit further saying they also discussed arms control as well. And that's something that's extremely interesting, Brianna, because just three days ago, Vladimir Putin came out and said that Russia now has its first regimen of hypersonic weapons which they say can beat American missile defense systems and therefore are a threat to the U.S.

Let's listen into what Vladimir Putin had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, we are in a unique situation in our newest history. Everyone is playing catch-up with us. Not a single country in the world has hypersonic weapons, let alone continental range hypersonic weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: Now, one of the things, Brianna, that both leaders in the past have said they want to do is normalize relations between the U.S. and Russia, and one of the topics that could have been uncomfortable that doesn't take place in this conversation and that was Ukraine. Of course, President Trump has had a lot of issues because of Ukraine. There's a lot going on. Vladimir Putin had his first meeting with President Zelensky and there was a prisoner swap that went on. None of that was mentioned in the read-out of the phone call, instead, the Russians today sent a greeting message to President Trump inviting him over to Moscow for Russia's victory day parade in May -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Fred. Thank you so much. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.

And just ahead, we are getting new information about that deadly church shooting in Texas and the armed worshipper who took down the gunman within seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:34]

KEILAR: Worshippers are gathering in Texas tonight to continue the Sunday church service that was disrupted by a deadly shooting. We have a chilling new look at the attack and how the shooter was gunned down by a volunteer security official.

CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher reports from Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new video showing the moment the shooter opened fire during a Sunday church service.

(GUNFIRES)

GALLAGHER: In this West Freeway Church of Christ live stream, you could see 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen. He stands up, speaks to a man, and then pulls out a gun and fires twice.

Two armed parishioners react, one taking him down.

JACK WILSON, WEST FREEWAY CHURCH OF CHRIST DEACON: I fired one round.

GALLAGHER: That man, Jack Wilson, head of security at the church.

WILSON: You train but you hope you never have to go to that extreme. But if you do, you're training kick in and that was evident yesterday.

GALLAGHER: Today, the Texas attorney general praising the church for its quick response to the shooting.

KEN PAXTON, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: He's not just responsible for his actions, which ultimately saved the lives of hundreds of people, but also responsible for training the people in the church.

GALLAGHER: A following shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, two years ago, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing handguns in places of worship and churches to form security teams.

PAXTON: If there is any church in this state or America that was prepared for this, this was this church.

GALLAGHER: Authorities are still learning more about the gunman who's been described as relatively transient by the FBI.

PAXTON: My understanding, he is more of loner and probably going to be very difficult to determine exactly what his motivations were other than maybe mental illness.

GALLAGHER: The two victims identified as Richard White and Tony Wallace shot in just six seconds. They both later died. Wallace's family says that he was a long time parishioner of the West Freeway Church of Christ.

SARAH WALLACE, TONY WALLACE'S DAUGHTER: We just say God wanted him more than we did. They couldn't handle his perfectness here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: And that service continuation is getting underway in just a couple of minutes. Brianna, the parking lot full of strength, resilience and defiance as they continue that service, mourn their loss and say they're not going to be defied by the man who turned their community into a crime scene.

KEILAR: Dianne Gallagher, thank you for that report from White Settlement, Texas.

A civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, facing the fight of his life after a very disturbing diagnosis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:59:22]

KEILAR: Lawmakers from across the political spectrum are offering their support for Congressman John Lewis after the civil rights icon announced he's been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In a statement, the Georgia Democrat says, I have been in some kind of fight for freedom, equality, basic human rights for nearly my entire life. I have never faced the fight quite like the one I have now.

The 17-term congressman's colleagues are calling him a friend and hero for his work during the civil rights movement of 1960s and for his half century of public service. Lewis says he plans to continue working as he undergoes treatment and we certainly wish him well in this fight.

I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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