Return to Transcripts main page


New Ukraine Scandal Revelations; Senators Sworn in For Impeachment Trial; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Giuliani Associate Directly Implicates Trump In Ukraine Scheme; Pompeo Silent About Possible Surveillance of Ex-U.S. Ambassador. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 16, 2020 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Mr. Trump is lashing out at the impeachment process and attacking a potential trial witness, Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.

Parnas is now speaking out and directly implicating the president in Ukraine -- using Ukraine pressure, a campaign at the center of this impeachment charge.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, another momentous day in the impeachment of the president. First of all, take us through what we saw.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, no question about that. It started today with the seven House Democratic impeachment managers walking those two articles of impeachment over to the United States Senate floor.

And, when they arrived, it set off a series of events, a series of somber events that have only been seen three times as it relates to the president in the country's history. Take a watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear ye, hear ye.

All persons are commanded to keep silent, upon pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president of the United States.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): The managers on the part of the House will now proceed.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

With the permission of the Senate, I will now read the articles of impeachment.

President Trump used the powers of the presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States' democratic process.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The presiding officer will now administer the oath to John G. Roberts, chief justice of the United States.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: I am now prepared to take the oath.

GRASSLEY: Will you place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand?

Do you solemnly swear that, in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws, so help you God?


GRASSLEY: God bless you.

ROBERTS: Will all senators now stand or remain standing and raise their right hand?

Do you solemnly swear that, in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice, according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?



MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, I was sitting in the chamber as that whole process played out, and the thing I was struck by -- and, look, you know the Senate chamber well.

When you're in the Senate chamber, traditionally, it's fairly loud, the senators are mingling with one another, having conversations, talking about policy, talking about families, maybe vacations.

And it was dead silent. The senators as they walked up to sign the oath, kind of underscoring the stakes of the moment, the grasp of what they were dealing with right now, and it made me recall something a senator told me a few weeks ago, which was, once you're in there, once this is actually happening, it hits you of the moment.

Whether or not you have already made up your mind, whether or not you're a supporter of the president or believe he should be removed from office, you recognize what you are officially now sitting in.

And that underscores the reality of the next couple of days. You're not going to see anything public until Tuesday. But over the course of the weekend, the president has now been summoned for the impeachment trial. The White House and his defense team will have to respond.

Also, the White House defense team and the House managers will file their first briefs and responses over the course of the next couple of days, all leading into Tuesday. Tuesday will be the time when the Senate comes back into session. The trial begins in earnest again at 1:00 p.m., and they will be debating a resolution, laying out the rules of the road for at least first stage of the trial.

And one thing to keep an eye on there, Wolf, Democrats have made clear this is a resolution that has been drafted and worked through by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate. They will likely offer amendments and try and force votes on things related to witnesses right off the bat.

So things will get interesting rather quickly on Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are you learning, Phil, about the support among Republicans to call witnesses during this Senate trial?

MATTINGLY: Wolf, this is one of, if not the biggest question, obviously, heading into this trial.

And the reality remains that it takes 51 votes to essentially do anything you want in this trial. And that includes subpoena witnesses or documents.

For Democrats who have made clear this is the focal point of their efforts over the course of the next couple of weeks, that means when they control 47 members of the 100-member body, they need at least four Republicans.

And one of those Republicans just put out a lengthy seven-point statement on her position as it relates to witnesses and evidence. That's Senator Susan Collins. She's somebody Democrats have been targeting in the hopes that she will come over and join them in their efforts.

She is a moderate, always one of the swing votes in the United States Senate, faces a tough reelection in 2020.

And I want to read one point in particular the senator lays out here. It says -- quote -- "While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful. It is likely I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial, just as I did in 1999."

And that point the senator is referring to here, Wolf, is after the initial presentations from the defense team, from the House managers and after senators have 16 hours to ask questions.


Let me give you some context behind the scenes here that people haven't been able to see. Senator Collins has been working relentlessly, I'm told, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to add specific language into that initial resolution guaranteeing an up- or-down vote on whether or not the Senate wants to hear from witnesses and evidence. That is what she's kind of obliquely referring to in this statement.

And what I'm told, at least at this moment, Wolf, is that language will be in the final resolution. So, Senators Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have all been working assiduously over the course of the last couple of weeks to get that language in.

It doesn't guarantee witnesses, and they don't specify who they would specifically like to hear from. But it does appear, at least at this moment, that Senator Collins will get what she wants, in terms of the language in the initial resolution.

What does that mean for when or if anybody will actually come testify if the votes even exists to get there, the 51 needed? That, Wolf, is still an open question and likely will be until those initial presentations and senator questions are completed.

BLITZER: Yes, both sides will make their arguments, the House managers calling for the removal of the president from office, the president's lawyers saying that is not necessary -- that should not be done.

And then there will presumably -- if she gets her way, there will be a vote at that point. That's what happened in 1999 during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial as well.

We will see what happens.

Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

Tonight, President Trump is predicting the impeachment trial will go quickly, as he stands by his insistence he did absolutely nothing wrong.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president is once again railing against the trial. He's slamming Rudy Giuliani's indicted associate Lev Parnas, who says he wants to testify.


And despite a growing number of photos and even videos showing the two men together, President Trump kept repeating himself today over and over that he doesn't know Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.

The White House is attacking Parnas, saying he cannot be trusted. And in the Oval Office, the president suggested Parnas, who has been indicted, is simply trying to cut a better deal for himself.

As we tried to press Mr. Trump on all of this, at one point, the president told us to be quiet.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With the administration's alleged dirt-for- dollars scheme heading to trial in the Senate, the president is sounding angry and firing back at Lev Parnas, who is pointing the finger at Mr. Trump in the Ukraine scandal.

(on camera): Mr. President, what is your response to Lev Parnas, who says that your efforts in Ukraine were all about 2020?


I don't know Parnas, other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people. I know nothing about him. He's trying to probably make a deal for himself.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president insisted he's only posed for photos with the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani and nothing more.

Mr. Trump did not respond to Parnas' claim that multiple officials in the administration knew about the alleged pressure campaign for information on Joe Biden, telling CNN at one point to be quiet.

(on camera): So, when he says Mulvaney knew about this, that Bolton knew about this...

TRUMP: Quiet.

You just have to take a look at the pictures. You just have to take a look at the polls. You see, I don't need anybody's help.

I don't need the help of a man that I never met before.

LEV PARNAS, INDICTED GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: I welcome him to say that even more. Every time he says that, I will show him another picture.


PARNAS: He's lying.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Parnas is offering to do more than just produce more photos standing with the president, saying he's willing to testify on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: How you have personally viewed it, that this is about 2020 to help him get the next four years?

PARNAS: That was the way everybody viewed it. I mean, that was the most important thing is for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it.

ACOSTA: The president also maintained he didn't know anything about a letter written by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to the leader of Ukraine requesting a meeting, a letter that claimed to have Mr. Trump's consent.

TRUMP: I didn't know about a specific letter. But if he wrote a letter, it wouldn't have been a big deal.

ACOSTA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Republicans who are resisting calls to hear from witnesses like Parnas and former National Security Adviser John Bolton during Mr. Trump's trial in the Senate.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They are afraid of the truth. They don't want to see documents. They don't want to hear from eyewitnesses.

ACOSTA: The president's defenders say Parnas doesn't deserve the attention he's getting.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No, no, this man lacks all credibility.

ACOSTA: One more piece of damaging information surfaced, as the federal watchdog the Government Accountability Office found the White House broke the law in withholding aid to Ukraine, saying in a statement: "Faithful execution of a law does not permit the president to substitute his policy for those that Congress has enacted into law."

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): I have been here since the time of President Ford. I have never ever seen a report like this objecting so strongly to actions of a president.


ACOSTA: And we also attempted to ask about former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and whether there was an effort to intimidate or conduct surveillance on her.

But the president did not respond to those questions as well, as aides in the Oval Office shouted us to leave the room. At the moment, the president says he is still heading to the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland next week, a trip that would take him far away from the impeachment trial in the Senate, at least temporarily.


The president guessed in front of reporters that the trial would go quickly. But as the White House knows and as Mr. Trump knows, there is no guarantee of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Absolutely no guarantee at all.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Joining us now, one of the senators who was sworn in today for the president's impeachment trial, Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She's a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Thank you.

BLITZER: We watched you sign the oath book today as you were sworn in for the impeachment of the president.

Tell us about the gravity of that moment.

HIRONO: The chamber was unusually quiet. You could hear a pin drop, but the solemnity of the proceedings really was brought home to us as we took the oath and signed the book.

BLITZER: Take us inside the Senate chamber.

What were you thinking, Senator. What were you thinking, Senator, as those two articles of impeachment were read aloud by the lead House manager, Adam Schiff?

HIRONO: In my view, Adam Schiff, who read the two articles of impeachment, made a clear case for how the president abused his power and obstructed Congress.

And that's what this impeachment proceeding is going to be all about. And for the president to continue to call it a witch-hunt and a hoax, the man is in serious denial and in a deluded state.

BLITZER: The trial begins as new relevant information is being released.

Would you, Senator, like to have Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, testify in the impeachment trial in the Senate?

HIRONO: I'm still very focused on having John Bolton, who called this whole scheme a drug deal. I'm very focused on having him testify.

So, where -- you know, that's where I'm coming from. And as for Lev Parnas, he had a lot to say, and much of what he said is corroborated by the evidence that we already have and testimony we already have from people like Sondland, who is the president's guy, who said everybody was in the loop.

And then you have Parnas all the -- giving the names all the people who were in the loop, including, of course, the president, who was like the ringmaster of this entire scheme.

And, by the way, when the president said he did nothing wrong, well, the GAO, which is an independent government agency, said, no, with certainty. The president violated the law.

BLITZER: By withholding that nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

HIRONO: Yes. He can't do that.



HIRONO: So he did what he did. And he continues to say he did nothing wrong. Well, the GAO says you did, you broke the law, and you got your people to break the law.

That includes OMB and everybody else who has continued to cover up for what the president did.

BLITZER: Because that $400 million had been appropriated by the House and Senate and then signed into law by the president. HIRONO: Yes.

BLITZER: That's why the GAO concluded there was a violation of the law.


BLITZER: Some of your Republican colleagues, Senator, have raised serious concerns, though, about Parnas' credibility. He's under criminal indictment, as you know. Do you share their concerns?

HIRONO: As I said, it's not just his testimony, but there is evidence, such as the letter that Giuliani wrote to the president of the Ukraine, saying he's acting on behalf of the president in the president's personal capacity.

And there's all kinds of evidence of the e-mail trail between Parnas, and all the phone calls between Parnas and Giuliani, not to mention, by the way, going back to the July 25 phone call that the president had with Zelensky, I was very curious as to why the president at least three times in this phone call with Zelensky mentioned Giuliani and Attorney General Barr in the same sentence.

And I thought, well, that is very strange. Meanwhile, here's Barr. You would think that the attorney general would care that there's this illegal scheme going on, which the GAO has said is illegal. You would think that he might be more interested in finding out what's going on.

But then it turns out nothing is happening on that score because he is involved. He knew what was going on, according to Parnas.

BLITZER: Your Republican colleague Senator Susan Collins of Maine just released a new statement clarifying her position on calling witnesses during the trial.

She writes -- and I'm quoting her now -- "It's likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial, just as I did in 1999."

She's referring to the Bill Clinton impeachment trial. After the opening arguments from both sides were made, then they had a vote on calling witnesses.

Are you optimistic you will have the votes needed eventually to call witnesses?

HIRONO: I would like her to say more than it's likely, and at least she's attempting to be consistent.

And I don't know if clarifying is the word for what she's doing, because the Republican position has been that the House should have done all of this, in spite of the fact -- get all the evidence -- in spite of the fact that the president has been comprehensively stonewalling the House's efforts at getting witnesses to testify and documents to be presented.


And for the Republicans to take the position they didn't do their jobs, no, it's the president who stonewalled everything.

So she's going in the right direction. But using words like likely doesn't give me that much comfort. And, of course, we need three more Republicans to say we need a fair trial that includes witnesses and documents, relevant witnesses and documents.

BLITZER: Senator Mazie Hirono, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, the president's impeachment trial is now under way, but there are significant battles ahead over how it will play out.

We will hear more from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, talking to CNN's Anderson Cooper about his efforts in Ukraine and what the president knew.




ROBERTS: Senators, I attend the Senate, in conformity with your notice, for the purpose of joining with you for the trial of the president of the United States. I'm now prepared to take the oath.


Senators, I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice for the purpose of joining with you for the trial of the president of the United States. I'm now prepared to take the oath.

GRASSLEY: Will you place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand?

Do you solemnly swear that, in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws, so help you God?


GRASSLEY: God bless you.


BLITZER: He said, "God bless you."

That was the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, sworn in. He will now preside over this trial. He then swore in the 100 members of the United States Senate to weigh the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

The third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history now getting under way, with the swearing-in of the senators by the chief justice.

Let's talk a little bit more about the momentous events of this day and what happens in the days ahead.

And, Jamie, let's talk a little bit about this. This is a huge challenge for the chief justice right now on how to handle what will be a multiple -- multiple number of questions that will come up.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think so, but I also think he's taking his lead from what Chief Justice Rehnquist did. He wants to preside. He wants the will of the Senate to lead the way.

But there's no question that we're going to see -- as you just reported, Susan Collins just put out a statement clarifying that she would be likely to want witnesses. These kinds of procedural things are going to come up, as well as a lot of political things.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara is with us.

Give us your sense, Preet, of the enormity, the history that's unfolding right now.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it's an unbelievable event that by its nature is solemn, because you look at the tableau there, and you have the head of one branch of government, the chief justice of the United States of America, mingling with members of another branch, the United States Senate, about to deliberate and have a process that might determine the removal of the head of the executive branch.

So it's momentous in all those ways.

And for me, on a personal note, I worked in the Senate for four-and-a- half years, and the most somber moment that I remember experiencing on the floor of the Senate is a staffer sitting in the back, plus all 100 senators sitting there, and voting on what, voting on whether or not John Roberts should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.

And to see 14-and-a-half years later, that justice, having been confirmed, now presiding over a trial with such important consequences is -- you know, it's a sobering thing. I know that word has been used a lot, but it truly is.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

And, Jeffrey Toobin, you were watching very, very carefully as well. What was your reaction as you saw this unfold?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I had a somewhat different reaction, because I remember so vividly covering Bill Clinton's trial 21 years ago, where the facts were really not in dispute at all. Everybody knew about the relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica

Lewinsky and that he had made the false statements about them in the grand jury and in the civil deposition. And even the three witnesses who had testified previously, nothing new came out.

What we are seeing in this trial is that it's a real trial, or it should be. A lot of the facts about the United States' relationship with Ukraine and what the president tried to do to the president of Ukraine are coming out day by day

And what we have here is a situation about whether the Senate is going to decide they want to know the facts, or they're simply going to just put fingers this their ears and say, let's get this thing over with and acquit the president.

The vibe around the trials are very different.

BLITZER: I remember that trial 21 years ago as well.

Pamela Brown, only -- you were a little girl 21 years ago, so you probably don't remember that trial as vividly as Jeffrey.




BLITZER: And I remember it.

But the president seems to be stating some conflicting ideas right now about how he wants this to unfold.

BROWN: Yes, look, he vacillates. It depends on the day exactly what he wants.

Today, he said that he wants this trial to go very quickly. You have seen a bit of an evolution. During the House hearings, he was watching that and he was getting really worked up watching these witnesses and his own administration give damming testimony against him.

So, during that time frame, he couldn't wait for the Senate trial. He wanted his own witnesses to testify in his favor. Now it seems like he's coming around more in that regard to what Mitch McConnell wants.


And that is no witnesses and a speedy trial. But there is still a lot hanging out there in terms of what the president wants, whether there will be those GOP allies in the House on his defense team.

The president, we were talking about this, wants that. Mitch McConnell has made clear he doesn't want that. And so there are still some last- minute decisions that the president has not made yet, including who exactly is going to be arguing for him on the Senate floor. And let's not forget, this Senate trial, this is not on the president's terms, right? This is a solemn event. It's highly formalized. There are rules set, so the president may even change his mind as he watches this unfold next week.

GANGEL: Just to add quickly, he was tweeting today, and those were not happy tweets, about a hoax over a perfect phone call, all capital letters, and also, as we saw in that press availability, he -- it may have been a record number of times of the use hoax.

This is getting under his skin.

BLITZER: He's clearly very, very angry.

Phil Mudd, what do you think?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I tell you, I'm disturbing by the whole process.

I'm marginally older than Pam, a lot younger than you.


MUDD: My memories are less of Bill Clinton, as I was a child.

I was 11 or 12 remember Judge John Sirica almost 50 years. And I remember thinking, even as child, knowing a little bit about civics, this reinforces my faith in America, that both parties get together on a serious issue and have a serious conversation in front of the American people.

I come forward almost 50 years and say, boy, we have Republicans in a serious moment who are willfully ignorant. I don't want to hear the facts in the case. John Bolton would be critical. I don't want to hear the facts.

Democrats -- Nancy Pelosi handing out pens like they just signed the Civil Rights Act. It's almost a celebration of sending over the articles of impeachment.

I step away saying, I have faith in the country I grew up in, but compared to what I saw with Judge Sirica 50 years ago, man, ugly.

What did you think?


I mean, we are going to see that tested here. And as someone who is a little bit younger and didn't watch previous impeachment trials, I am curious about how that plays out, and how these senators actually prove that they are taking -- they are committed to the vow that they have taken here, and that they are objective, because, obviously, this is a political process.

But the controls in place here and the commitment that they have made is to be impartial. BLITZER: You know, Jamie, I want to play a clip.

Our Manu Raju, one of the best congressional reporters out there, highly respected across the board, he works really hard, does an amazing job for us, he asked a legitimate, fair question to Senator Martha McSally of Arizona today.

Let me play this clip, and watch how she reacts.

GANGEL: Right.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?

SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): Manu, you're a liberal hack. I'm not talking to you.

RAJU: You're not going to comment about this?


BLITZER: You saw that, the disgusting statement that she made.

GANGEL: I watched it soon after it happened. I have watched it several times since.

At first, I thought, she's angry, she's popping off. And then you look on Twitter, and she retweeted it, and she said, A, you are, meaning, repeating what she said, B, here's the video.

She is fund-raising off of it. I think it's foolish on any politician's part to do something like this. You don't want to answer, don't answer.

Bottom line, Manu is a great reporter, and he was doing his job.

BLITZER: Yes, she thinks that that is going to score political points for her. She's up for reelection in Arizona. And I suspect it won't. People in Arizona are smarter than that.

All right, everybody, stand by.

There's a lot more we're following, including Rudy Giuliani's indicted associate giving a preview of the testimony he's offering to share at the president's impeachment trial.

We will hear more from Lev Parnas and discuss the significance of his allegations.


[18:30:00] BLITZER: We're following the start of President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, new allegations emerging by a potential witness. Rudy Giuliani's indicted associate, Lev Parnas, is offering to testify and directly implicate Mr. Trump in the Ukraine pressure campaign.

Let's listen to more from Parnas speaking out at length in this interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: President Trump has said he did not direct Rudy Giuliani when asked about this. He said he didn't direct Rudy Giuliani to do anything on Ukraine, he said, no, I didn't direct him, but he's a warrior, he is a warrior.

LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: Again, President Trump says a lot of things. It's the public's decision to see if that's true or not. I mean --

COOPER: This letter that you gave to the House, the first line in it, which is the letter from Rudy Giuliani, to President-elect Zelensky, it says, I'm private counsel to president Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a citizen, not as president of the United States. This is quite common under American law. Duties and privileges of a president and private citizen are not the same.

So he is making a very clear point that he's not representing the interests of the United States writ large, American national security, he's representing the interests of Donald J. Trump?


PARNAS: That was always the point.

COOPER: That was. That was always made --

PARNAS: That was always clear. He always made it clear that he doesn't represent -- wherever we went, he said, I don't represent the government, I represent the president of the United States.

COOPER: So anything Rudy Giuliani wanted the government of Ukraine to do, that wasn't official U.S. policy. That was a personal benefit to the president of the United States?

PARNAS: Well, you know, when I was doing it, I thought it was all and the same. But obviously now, as I can see with the situation the way it is, I mean, it was strictly for him. But, again, I thought he was the -- our leader, he's the chief, he's the president and it was all about 2020 to make sure he had another four years and -then -

COOPER: But that's how you personally viewed it. This is about 2020, to help him get the next four years?

PARNAS: That was the way everybody viewed it. I mean, there was -- that was the most important thing, is for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it.

COOPER: The administration says, and Jim Jordan in Congress and a lot of the president's defenders in Congress say president was deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

PARNAS: Like I said, I'm not going to go into personal attacks on anybody here, but they all know. They go home at night, they all have a conscience. I've been there when they liked him, when they didn't like him, when they talked behind his back, when they agree with him or disagree with him and to see the things that they're doing now and just blindly just -- I mean, it is a sham, it is a shame. And --

COOPER: They know the real story?

PARNAS: Absolutely, they all know. They were all part -- I mean, they all know.

COOPER: Did the president care about corruption in Ukraine?

PARNAS: I mean, you have to ask him. But as far as I know, the only thing we cared about and we were part -- we were the team was to get Zelensky or Poroshenko or somebody to make a press release, an announcement into the Biden investigation.

COOPER: What's so fascinating about what you just said is that it's not to launch an investigation and to investigate even the Bidens and Burisma, it's to make an announcement of an investigation. That's what mattered.

PARNAS: Right. Well, because nobody trusted them to do an investigation.

COOPER: In terms of who knew about what you were doing in Ukraine, did Vice President Pence know?

PARNAS: Of course.

COOPER: Because his offices said he was unaware of, you know, that he had met with Zelensky after not going to the inauguration, but he wasn't delivering a message of a quid pro quo.

PARNAS: Look, again, like I said, I'm not here to debate. I'm here to get the truth out. I got my records.

COOPER: How do you know that the vice president would have known what Giuliani was up to, what you were --

PARNAS: Because we would speak every day. I knew everything that was going on. I mean, after Rudy would speak with the president or come from the White House, I was the first person he briefed. I mean, we had a relationship. We were that close. I mean, we were together for morning to night. I mean, he took me, I mean -- in an interview, he would do -- I would be sitting over there while he was doing the interviews. I mean --

COOPER: So Giuliani knew everything you were doing? PARNAS: Everything.

COOPER: You're saying Vice President Pence knew.

PARNAS: I don't know if the vice president knew everything we were doing. I'm sure he was --

COOPER: He knew about the quid pro quo.

PARNAS: Of course, he knew. Everybody knew. Everybody that was close to Trump knew that this was a thorn in the side and this was a serious situation.

COOPER: Bolton?

PARNAS: Bolton.

COOPER: Mulvaney?

PARNAS: Mulvaney.

Bolton, I don't think, agreed with it. I think there were certain people that agreed with it and didn't agree with it.

COOPER: He called it a drug deal, according to Fiona Hill.

PARNAS: I think Bolton is a very important witness because I think between me and Bolton, we could fill in all the dots. I think because I was on the ground there and he was over here --

COOPER: And you would be willing to testify?

PARNAS: I would be very willing to testify.


BLITZER: A quick programming note, you can see more of Anderson's interview with Rudy Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, later tonight, 8:00 Eastern on Anderson Cooper 360.

Certainly a lot to discuss about that truly remarkable interview, our correspondents and analysts, they are standing by. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and analysts covering the start of President Trump's impeachment trial, and new allegations by Rudy Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas.

Preet Bharara, you just heard What Lev Parnas is saying. He has been criminally charged by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. You used to run that operation over there. What do you think? How credible is this guy? BHARARA: So he's got credibility problems. In many ways, I feel like he is Michael Cohen, 2.0. And we're having some of the same conversations we had about the president's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, some months ago.

You have a person who has criminal liability, who has been charged by the same prosecutors in my old office who charged Michael Cohen who, by the way, seems not to be beloved by the U.S. Attorney's Office from what I can see, he does not have a cooperation agreement with them in the same way Michael Cohen did not have a cooperation agreement with the Southern District of New York.

He is trying to save himself a little bit. He's making a lot of statements about the knowledge of the president of the United States, all of which makes complete sense to me and seems to be corroborated by some things, but he is not providing a document saying or a recording saying the president knew certain things. He's speaking from his experience after he has been charged with a crime and has a reason to try to help himself.

That said, you often have that in criminal conspiracies and you have to make sure that the things he is saying are corroborated and figure out whether he has a reason to lie now.


BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey Toobin, Lev Parnas makes the -- makes the case that everything he and Giuliani were doing at the request of the president, at the order of the president, was simply designed to get dirt on the Bidens in exchange for U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.

TOOBIN: He does, and what's so interesting about what he talks about in that interview is that he's always very clear that the demand to the Ukrainians was not for an investigation of the Bidens. It was for the announcement of an investigation of the Bidens.

In other words, all that they cared about was getting a bad publicity hit on the Bidens. They didn't care if there was anything to be actually found, but the president's team wanted to be able to say that the Biden family was under investigation in Ukraine. That's extremely incriminating to Giuliani and Trump, and you know, the only question raised by his testimony -- well, actually, there are quite a few questions -- is what is the connection between Giuliani and Trump in terms of what Parnas knew?

Because Parnas only interacted with Giuliani, and if you were preparing him for a trial, what you would do is day by day go through what he knew from Giuliani and how much Trump himself, his footprints or fingerprints could be seen there. That's what you would do in a real investigation.

BLITZER: You know, Pamela, you heard the president repeatedly say I don't know the guy, I take pictures with thousands of people. I never met the guy. He's nothing. BROWN: And he said that today, he said, look, I don't know him at

all, like you said, I take pictures with all kind of people. Parnas for his part has said, look, I've met with him several occasions, here's a video of me standing with him at Mar-a-Lago and a group of people, Parnas in a video right here.

So, Parnas claims, yes, I did talk to him, what the White House and to Jeffrey's point is going to hone in on is the fact that Parnas has said that he never spoke directly to the president about Ukraine, that it was conversations directly with Rudy about that, getting briefed about Rudy's meetings with the president as it has to do with Ukraine. But at the same time, what Parnas is saying does corroborate what other witnesses have said, who also didn't have direct evidence but other witnesses like Sondland who said that the president was directing Rudy to carry out this operation as it pertains to Ukraine to announce this investigation on Bide.

And one of the most damming pieces of evidence in my view that's been released by Parnas is this letter that Rudy wrote to Zelensky saying he was doing this on behalf of the president with his consent.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by, there's a lot more news we're following as evidence emerges of possible surveillance of ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Why is the secretary of state keeping silent?



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

And I want to talk about an emerging allegation of possible surveillance of ex-ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Why is the secretary of state, Kylie, and you cover the State Department for us, silent in the face of these allegations?

ATWOOD: Well, his silence is particularly striking now and there are a number of reasons for that. The first is which is, the Ukrainians have already announced that they are going to be doing an investigation into this alleged tracking of the ambassador.

The other fact is that the State Department actually usually comes out and talks about the safety of its diplomats. I just asked them last week about sending the U.S. ambassador back to Iraq, they gave me a statement, they talked about why they sent him back. They talked broad terms but they did acknowledge it.

So, the fact that Secretary Pompeo and the State Department aren't saying anything is a choice that they are making.

And the other thing to consider here is Secretary Pompeo's own history. Obviously the Benghazi hearings were an integral part of his own political history. He pressed the State Department, he pressed secretary of state then Hillary Clinton, for answers in terms of what the State Department was doing to provide security then to the U.S. ambassador at the time, who had been in Benghazi, and he was really leading that charge. So it is striking that he is now silent when all the lights are on him.

GANGEL: Wolf, can I just underscore one thing Kylie said? Ukraine is having an investigation about the security of our ambassador. Donald Trump wanted an investigation, this was not the one he wanted.


PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Quickly, secretary of defense and secretary of state, Government Accounting Office didn't say this was wrong, it said it was illegal. What are you going to do to your officers who are involved?

And, finally, for the secretary of state, who preaches and speaks publicly and teaches on leadership, this is leadership? One of my people is being surveilled and I can't manage to say a single word? Unbelievable.

ATWOOD: And it's also been almost 48 hours since this came to fruition. So it's not like we've been waiting for a few hours. There has been time for the secretary of state to say something.

BLITZER: Certainly, absolutely right.

Everybody, stand by.

Much more news right after this.



BLITZER: A truly historic and somber day in American history. For only the third time, a Senate impeachment trial of the president of the United States is now under way.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): House Resolution 755, impeaching Donald John Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?



BLITZER: Twenty-one years ago, I covered the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. That was an experience I remember like it was yesterday. Like so many of you, I'll be watching to see how all of this unfolds right now, this impeachment trial. To all of our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer


"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.