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WSJ: Trump Urged Ukrainian President About Eight Times to Work with Giuliani to Investigate Biden's Son; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) is Interviewed About Trump Pressuring Ukraine's President in July Phone Call to Investigate Joe Biden's Son; U.S. to Send Troops, Equipment to Saudi Arabia As President Trump Announces New Iran Sanctions Following Oil Field Attack; Biden Fires Back At Trump After New Reports President Asked Ukraine's President To Investigate Biden's Son; NYC Mayor De Blasio Drops Out Of Race; SUV Plows Through Mall; Driver Arrested; Two Dads: "This Is How It Should Be"; "It's Kinda A Shame" This Video Went Viral. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us.

CNN has learned that the president of the United States pressed a foreign head of state to work with his personal criminal defense attorney to investigate the son of a political opponent. When you strip away all the complexities surrounding it, including where it fits in the whistleblower affair, there's one simple central point to this story, which first broke in "The Wall Street Journal" late today.

According to "The Journal", in a July 25th phone call, President Trump in his official capacity asked the president of Ukraine to do something in his official capacity that would benefit not this country, but President Trump himself both politically and personally. Citing sources familiar with the matter, "The Journal" reports that he pushed the Ukrainian president about eight times on that one phone call to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe of Joe Biden's son, Hunter, who worked for a time with a Ukrainian gas company.

Now, according to "The Journal" -- and you'll hear shortly from one of the reporters who broke that story for "The Journal" -- this did not involve an explicit offer of something in return.

Quoting from the story: Mr. Trump didn't mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine on the call, said this person, who didn't believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid pro quo for his cooperation on any investigation.

Now, similar reporting as well from "The Washington Post" on that and the hard sell on Hunter Biden. But unlike "The Journal", "The Post" goes one step beyond, saying the call is at the center of the whistleblower complaint the White House is trying to squelch.

The president meantime had this to say.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a partisan whistleblower. They shouldn't even have information.

I've had conversations with many leaders. They are always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that. Always appropriate. At the highest level always appropriate.

And anything I do, I fight for this country. I fight so strongly for this country.

It's just another political hack job. That's all it is.


COOPER: He also called it a beautiful conversation with the Ukrainian president, his words.

By the way, the president says the whistleblower there is partisan. Later, he admitted he doesn't know who the whistleblower is.

As we mentioned, "The Wall Street Journal" source said the president did not offer any quid pro quo for the Ukrainian president's cooperation. But we should also point out that at the time of that call, Ukraine was anticipating receiving a quarter billion dollars in military aid from the United States. At the time of the call, the aid had been appropriated by Congress but not yet approved by the president. And in fact it was later blocked by the president pending a review.

So I just want to zero in for a moment on the time line as we know it. The call is on July 25th, and sometime in the early weeks of August, Rudy Giuliani met with and spoke by phone with emissaries of the Ukrainian president. On August 12th, the whistleblower complaint was filed. At the end of August, President Trump ordered a review, effectively blocking that military aid to Ukraine that Congress had already approved.

September 1st, Vice President Pence meets with the Ukrainian president, Zelensky. Eight days later, three House committees begin investigating all this, and by September 12th, that hold on the aid that the president put was lifted.

Now, we don't know exactly who said what to whom, but it's clear that even as private citizen, Giuliani was pressing the Ukrainians, the president in his official capacity was blocking money they badly needed. And now, we know, if these reports bear out, the president was directly and repeatedly leaning on the Ukrainian president to essentially make trouble for his political opponent, Joe Biden.

We also know the president has made it clear that when it comes to foreign dirt on political rivals, the door is always open.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept it or call the FBI?

TRUMP: I think you do both. I think you might want to listen. There's nothing wrong with listening. If something called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, I think I'd want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it.


COOPER: So having already said that he would take it, the question now -- and it's kind of sickening to even ask -- would he also try to demand it or even extort it?

More now on the new reporting from "The Wall Street Journal's" Rebecca Ballhaus, who shares a byline on it.

Rebecca, what are you learning about President Trump's call with the president of Ukraine?

REBECCA BALLHAUS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: So what we understand is in this July 25th call that he had with the president of Ukraine, he repeatedly pressured him to investigate Joe Biden and his son and mentioned on at least or around eight occasions, that he should talk to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been mounting a very public campaign to have Ukraine look into what he believes is inappropriate behavior by Joe Biden and his son.

But this is the first inclination that we have or the first revelation that we have that the president personally raised this in a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart.

COOPER: Based on your reporting, there was no explicit quid pro quo on that call. If you go after the Bidens or that company that Hunter Biden was affiliated with, you'll get the military aid that we're holding up. On the call, there wasn't a quid pro quo, is that correct?

BALLHAUS: That's right, and that is a major piece of this because "The Washington Post" reported earlier this week in a really great story that this whole whistleblower complaint that we've been talking about centers on a promise that the president made to a foreign leader. And at least as far as this call with the Ukrainian president goes, we're not aware of any specific promise that he made on that call. We don't believe that he mentioned the foreign aid that his administration in August was reviewing whether to send to Ukraine, and we don't believe he necessarily dangled any other quid pro quos to the Ukrainian president.

COOPER: And also what we know is that Rudy Giuliani has admitted that he met with top Ukrainian officials back in June and August about the prospect of an investigation. BALLHAUS: Right. And Giuliani was pretty public about the fact that

in May, he was planning a trip to Ukraine to meet with the president, with Zelensky, who I guess who was at the time the president-elect, and that President Trump was aware of his plan to go to Ukraine, which he ultimately ended up canceling.

But as you say, he met in June in Paris with an official from the Ukraine prosecutor general's office, and he met in Madrid in August with a top aide to Zelensky. And we believe he raised this Biden investigation on both occasions.

COOPER: What's fascinating is when you see Rudy Giuliani on television, you really never know what he's going to say, and it's not even clear that he's entirely clear what he has just said. And so one can only imagine in these meetings with Ukrainian officials in which there may be no transcripts at all, what he has actually said or what sort of arrangements have been made, it's such an fascinating story.

Rebecca, appreciate your reporting. Thank you so much.

BALLHAUS: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Well, as we mentioned, this is all now being investigated in the House, including by the Oversight Committee.

Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly is a member. I spoke to him just before air time.


COOPER: Congressman Connolly, the president said it doesn't matter what he said to the president of Ukraine, whether he talked about Biden eight times or not. Does it matter to you?

REP. GERALD CONNOLLY (D-VA): It should matter to every American, Anderson. It is not OK for the president of the United States to talk to a brand-new, newly elected foreign leader, who has no experience, I might add, in the political realm or in foreign policy, and extort from him a pledge to dig up dirt on a prospective political opponent.

That is not normal. That is not ethical. It is probably not legal. And none of us should accept that as the new norm in American politics.

COOPER: You say -- you used the word "extort." "The Journal" is also reporting the president did not offer anything in exchange on that call. There are obviously large commitments by the U.S. that were being held up, military aid and the like, which has now been released.

So after that call, the aide -- the military assistance gets released. Are you saying you think that would be a quid pro quo even if it's unspoken?

CONNOLLY: Well, I used the word "extortion" deliberately, Anderson, because you accurately recall, inexplicably, President Trump decided to suspend almost a quarter of a billion dollars of foreign military aid to Ukraine. This at a time when combat continues in the eastern part of the country, when Russian troops occupy eastern part of the country and illegally occupy, illegally annexed Crimea, which is part of Ukraine.

COOPER: Why should the American people have confidence in Congress' ability right now to get answers from this White House, whether it's in testimony or, you know, it seems like just stopping not cooperating is the White House strategy, you know, probably up through the elections and beyond?

CONNOLLY: Well, I am one, Anderson, who has called for the revival of inherent contempt. I think Congress has to enforce its own subpoenas and demands for documents by having a menu of disciplines -- disciplinary action against those would refuse to cooperate to the legitimate oversight and accountability requirements of the legislative branch of the United States government.


And that would certainly come into play here. This is another example of where Trump has fired a confirmed director of an agency and put in place one of his own, an acting director, who certainly does not feel that he has the flexibility or maneuverability to respond to legitimate requests from Congress. He takes his marching orders from the guy who put him in the job and can take him out tomorrow morning.

COOPER: If this is true, would this be collusion, an effort to collude with a foreign power?

CONNOLLY: Yes. Well, I would say, Anderson, it's at the very least attempted collusion. And remember, many of us condemned Rudy Giuliani for saying he was going to do this very thing a number of months ago. And at the time, it was thought that he received enough negative pressure from both sides of the aisle and from the media that he backed off.

Apparently, he didn't. Not only did he not back off, the president himself got in on the act. And it's another sordid chapter in a sordid presidency.

COOPER: But realistically, what steps do you really have? I know you said there should be a change in inherent contempt, but without that right now, does this just die on the vine?

CONNOLLY: Well, the only remedy, Anderson, in front of us frankly is going to be impeachment.

COOPER: Congressman Connolly, I appreciate your time. Thank you.


COOPER: I want to get two more perspectives. Joining us, two distinguished CNN legal analysts, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin, and James Baker, former legal counsel at the FBI.

Jeff, what does -- what are the remedies? What does happen next on this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think Congress doesn't have many. There's an unusual provision in the law surrounding the inspector general in this area which says it is not subject to judicial review, which means that any attempt to go to the courts to try to obtain this transcript or this audio or whatever it is the whistleblower has, I think is very likely doomed to failure.

COOPER: The whistleblower could go directly to Congress if they were willing, couldn't they?

TOOBIN: That would be a legal risk for him because -- or her. The law says anyone who has this sort of classified complaint has to go through the inspector general. Now, if the whistleblower were to go to the Intelligence Committees in a secure location, then I think it's unlikely the person would be prosecuted. But with this Justice Department, which is so politicized, I'm not sure of that either.

COOPER: Jim, what do you think about that? I want to talk about what the president's role is in a second. But just for this whistleblower, is that a viable option?

JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a viable option, but it's risky for that person. So, if you're an attorney advising the whistleblower, you're going to -- you're going to urge caution because as Jeff just said, you're exposing -- the person would be exposing himself or herself to potentially criminal prosecution, you know, by the Justice Department. So, it's risky. It's definitely risky.

COOPER: Jim, the president of the United States, though, I mean he can declassify anything. He could say, fine, release the transcript of this phone call, correct?

BAKER: Absolutely. He could do it. We assume there's a transcript. We should assume probably there's an actual tape-recording of this conversation.

And, yes, absolutely the president could release it, and I think Congress, among other things, should put pressure on him to do that. It can be done in a secure way, in a secure facility up on the Hill. But they should be screaming for that basically.

TOOBIN: The real key person here, I think, is Senator Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who is the only person who has the stature and the clout, I think, to really shift the politics on this. You know, the Republicans have been such toadies throughout this whole process. Burr has shown occasional signs of independence, but I wouldn't hold my breath on this.

COOPER: So, let's just talk legalities here. Jeff, in your opinion, if the president of the United States says to the Ukrainian president, I think you should talk to my criminal defense attorney who has lots of contacts in Ukraine clients about investigating Joe Biden's son and this company and talks about it eight times, and hanging over this is U.S. aid to Ukraine, that the president then holds up, and finally then passes on, agrees to go, is that illegal? TOOBIN: You know, I don't think it is a crime. I don't think it is a

violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, which defines all the federal crimes.


However, I think it is the very definition of an abuse of power. It is an abuse of the power of the presidency. It's a violation of his oath. It is a violation, I think, of Article 2 of how the presidency is defined.

And I think it's an impeachable offense. But that is a political judgment, not a legal judgment.

COOPER: Where are you in this, Jim?

BAKER: Yes, no, I agree with that completely. We're outside, I think, of the realm of criminality with respect to the president. The president has broad authority under Article 2 to conduct the foreign relations of the United States.

But as Jeff was saying, yes, this is -- if these facts are true, right? So, keep in mind we're going off of press reports here, so we don't actually know what happened yet. So I urge a word of caution with respect to that.

But if these stories are accurate, then it appears to have been an abuse of power in the sense of asking a foreign leader to provide the president with political dirt on one of his likely political opponents. That should not be acceptable in the United States. We should think of that as an abuse of the president's power, and that can be dealt with through an impeachment proceeding, or if Congress is unable to exercise its vast power that it has under Article 1, then the people have to step in, and they'll have to take care of this in November 2020 by dealing with the president, and if the members of Congress can't deal with it, by dealing with them as well.

COOPER: Jim Baker, Jeff Toobin, thank you. No doubt we'll continue on this.

Coming up next, more on the political dimension. What if anything Democrats may do about this and how Republicans are defending the president.

Also in the wake of the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, we've just learned more U.S. troops will be heading to the region. Details on that when we continue.



COOPER: The president says his interactions with foreign leaders always put the good of the country first. Tonight's breaking news paints a different picture. We talked before the break about the possible legal ramifications, why the political arena may be where this works its way out.

Joining us right now for a look at that is Wajahat Ali, contributing op-ed writer for "The New York Times". He's a CNN contributor as well. Also, CNN political commentator and former George W. Bush special assistant, Scott Jennings.

Welcome both of you.

Scott, if President Obama had done this, and again there's a lot we don't know about this, but as we know the facts based on what has been reported -- and, again, that's, you know, assuming those are correct, if Obama had pressed a foreign leader to investigate Mitt Romney and his family ahead of the 2012 election, would that have been appropriate?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know if we know that's what happened or not. What I hear Republicans saying tonight is that they don't find this matter unimportant, but they do find this matter to be like a lot of the other matters in the Trump presidency where you have leaks coming out of certain quarters. You have single, you know, anonymous sources saying certain things, and they want to know more. And they want to know what the facts are before they go jumping out of the window about whether --

COOPER: But just --


JENNINGS: -- this hypothetical something to be concerned about.

COOPER: Is it appropriate -- I mean assuming -- OK. Hypothetically, is it appropriate for a president of the United States to involve a foreign -- a president of another country in an upcoming campaign, in a way that gets that person involved in the campaign that will benefit the president?

JENNINGS: Well, no. I don't think it is appropriate. Also I don't know that we know that's exactly what happened.

COOPER: Right.

JENNINGS: I think what we have heard is a snippet of a story from a source that we don't know what it is, that took place in a much larger context.

Again, that doesn't make this an unimportant matter. There are things that trouble me here. Number one, I'm troubled by the continuing leaks against this president. All presidents should get some kind of privacy in their conversations.

Number two, frankly I'm troubled by the blurring of the lines between the president's official duties as president and his personal legal counsel being involved in this. I would prefer if we were trying to investigate corruption, I'd prefer it to be happening through official channels, through the State Department or other agencies.

COOPER: Right.

JENNINGS: That would be, frankly, more appropriate than involving your personal or political counsel.

COOPER: Right. Waj, it's kind of weird to have your personal criminal defense attorney or lawyer allegedly investigating corruption. I mean, it doesn't -- that's not really what -- how that works.

WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's nothing normal about this presidency, and I can tell you that the Republicans probably would have impeached Obama for wearing a tan suit if they could get away with it. But they will not.

I'm going to make a bold prediction on your show, Anderson and only your show. With 100 percent confidence, I will tell you that the Republican establishment will do not except support Trump and be entirely complicit. They will not care whatsoever that Donald Trump allegedly called a leader of a foreign country and asked them or extorted or bribe them to dig up dirt and attack a political rival.

Also, let's not forget that this whistleblower followed the procedure, took it, was so disturbed by the way by this phone call, took it to the inspector general, who found it credible, who then took it to the director of national intelligence, who then stalled it allegedly because William Barr, the attorney general, intervened. This is the same attorney general, Anderson Cooper, who of course is going to spend $30,000 for a holiday party where? At Trump hotel in D.C. because there are no other hotels.

So what should happen is you're going to get the Republicans to do nothing, all right? They're going to do nothing. They're going to be complicit and die on this orange corrupt hill.

The question I have here and Scott might like this, is for the Democrats. How low will Trump have to go for you to impeach him? That's a question that should be asked of all Democrats around the fence. What will be impeachable for you? What will get you to vote formally to impeach this man, who by the way agrees with Vladimir Putin, throws his own intelligence under the bus and says Russia is a fake news story even though it isn't, and now is asking Ukrainian president to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections. That's the question.

COOPER: Scott, do you see any possibility -- I mean the president has said, look, there was nothing -- it was a beautiful conversation, and this is a partisan whistleblower even though the president mentioned he doesn't know who the whistleblower is.


Couldn't the president, if this is nothing, just put out the transcript? He can declassify anything. Couldn't he put out the transcript of the conversation?

JENNINGS: I guess he could although I would presume other world leaders think when they're talking to the president of the United States, they're also having some privacy in those conversations. So I don't know what that would do to our --

COOPER: Don't most presidents know when leaders talk, I mean that there are other people on the call?

JENNINGS: Yes, but in most cases up until this presidency, you have some level of privacy. You have some level of protection of the information. That went for President Bush, President Obama, President Clinton. I mean all these presidents talked to other heads of state.

And this presidency has numerous leaks against him. It's happened time and again. Again, that doesn't make the matter unimportant, but it does beg the question, why is the intelligence community leaking against this president when they don't do the same thing to others?

And, by the way, you brought up Obama in a hypothetical. I'm going to give you Obama in a real-world scenario. He told the Russians, you know, I'll have more flexibility after the election.

COOPER: Right.

JENNINGS: Now, that actually happened. And, no, the Republicans didn't go out and impeach Obama after that, although if you look at the body of work Obama had with the Russians in his second term, it might have been impeachable as bad as it was.

So, I think we need to know more here, but I think there's something going on with this presidency and his conversations with other world leaders.

COOPER: Waj, just factually, this was not a leak. This is a whistleblower. This is a concerned citizen following the procedures that were --


JENNINGS: If it's in "The Wall Street Journal" based on a source, what is that?

ALI: And the inspector general found it disturbing enough to report it to the DNI --

JENNINGS: Who's the source? Who's the source of "The Wall Street Journal"?

ALI: -- DNI, and they did not follow the procedure. Listen, if I potentially have committed an impeachable offense allegedly, I would not want it out. Why would I want transparency if I called -- if I'm the president and called the leader of another country and said, hey, dig up dirt on my political rival, or I might withhold money, that's bribery, extortion. That could be high crime and misdemeanor, that's an impeachable offense. I would not want to be transparent either.

In fact, I'd put Rudy Giuliani out there with this insane interview with Chris Cuomo yesterday where he essentially admits it. So, again, Scott, if you're perfectly fine with maybe impeaching Obama with his treatment of Russia, what about Donald Trump who is throwing his own intelligence agencies under the bus and believes Vladimir Putin's word over the Mueller report, over the CIA, over the FBI, over everybody else?


ALI: You will never impeach him. That's why it's up to the Democrats. The Democrats have to do the right thing.

COOPER: Scott, final thought.

JENNINGS: Well, you're right. It is up to the Democrats.

And you guys want the Republicans to go jumping out of a window over this when Nancy Pelosi can't get her own ducks in a huddle on impeachment in the House.

And so, until the Democrats coalesce around this strategy, I don't know why you would expect the Republicans to help them, especially when they have seen this movie before. We sat here time and again on hypothetical stories on the Russia probe and a lot of it did not pan out. Again, doesn't make it unimportant, but I want to see more than a single-source story in "The Wall Street Journal."

Look what happened to Brett Kavanaugh last week --

COOPER: All right.


ALI: Why would the Republicans put country over party?

JENNINGS: Totally melted down.

COOPER: Scott Jennings, I appreciate it. Wajahat Ali, I appreciate it as well. Thanks very much.

There is more breaking news tonight. Just a few minutes ago, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the president is sending additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon tonight with more.

So, what do we know about the deployment?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is came as soon as Esper and General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, left the White House. They came here back to the Pentagon and talked to reporters, saying that the decision has been made. There will be a deployment of U.S. troops and air and missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

As far as Saudi Arabia goes, of course, it's at the request of the Kingdom after that Iranian -- believed to be Iranian attack on their oil facilities that was so devastating, that did impact world oil markets. The Pentagon says the weapons were of Iranian origin.

So, what this tells us is now they are basically agreeing that the Saudis are not able to fully defend their own oil installations. There will be have to be U.S. assistance. This may be Patriot missiles. It may be aircraft.

They're going to work now to identify the units and the troops that will be going to Saudi Arabia. Expect to see several hundred troops go in the coming weeks, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

I'm going to return to the Trump, Ukraine, Biden breaking next because Joe Biden has weighed in. You'll want to know what he has to say. We'll be right back.


[20:34:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Just a short time ago, Joe Biden reacted to tonight's breaking news in the President pushing his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden's son, Hunter, according the "Wall Street Journal."

I'm quoting now from his statement which reads in part, "If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country." He goes on to day, "Such clear-cut corruption damages and diminishes our institutions of government by making them tools of a personal political vendetta."

Now, whatever the President's actions and motivations happen to be, there are facts at the center of it all about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and Ukraine. Today, the President urged reporters to look into it. CNN's Sara Murray has more.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Years after Joe Biden ousted a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor, he was still touting his accomplishment.

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: I looked at them and said, I'm going to leave in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch, he got fired.

[20:35:00] MURRAY: As Vice President Biden threatened to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. aid if the country refused to oust its top prosecutor. By 2015, the Obama administration, the International Monetary Fund and other western leaders had grown frustrated that the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, failed to crack down on corruption in Ukraine.

After Biden's ultimatum, Shokin was removed in 2016. But this is what has President Trump and allies like Rudy Giuliani all riled up. At the same time that Biden was cracking down on that Ukrainian prosecutor -- BIDEN: I'll be back in Ukraine.

MURRAY: -- his son, Hunter Biden, was serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company. Trump's allies claim Biden wanted that Ukrainian prosecutor out because his son's company, Burisma, was under investigation.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I found out this incredible story about Joe Biden that he bribed the president of the Ukraine in order to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son. That is an astounding scandal.

MURRAY: For a time, Burisma was under investigation, but at least one former official in the prosecutor's office said the investigation into Burisma had already been shelved by the time Biden threatened to withhold the U.S. aid. And there's no evidence that either Joe Biden or Hunter Biden did anything wrong even if the optics aren't that great.

BIDEN: There's not been one sensible of evidence that my son ever in the field did I ever asked him to meet anything (ph), that I ever got involved in anything other than doing the job I was supposed to do or that he ever contacted anybody in the government (INAUDIBLE). And so I'm proud of him. I have -- I just think it's the way these guys play.

MURRAY: Hunter Biden told "The New York Times" earlier this year that he never discussed company business or his decision to join the board with his father. He added, "I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation Burisma, or any of its officers."

Hunter Biden also said he left Burisma's board earlier this year, deciding to part ways with the company in a political season "where my qualifications and work are being attacked by Rudy Giuliani and his minions for transparent political purposes." Of course, that hasn't stopped Giuliani from digging for dirt.

GIULIANI: It's a case that is crying out to be investigated.

MURRAY: Earlier this year, Giuliani planned then cancelled a trip to Ukraine depressed officials about Biden related investigations. He later met with a representative for Ukraine's president to discuss Biden.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said in an interview in May that he had no proof Joe Biden or his son did anything wrong. An entity connected to Hunter Biden made millions from its work with Burisma.

But, "From my point of view, a board member can be paid whatever a company decides. They didn't violate any Ukrainian laws," Lutsenko said. "Whether Burisma's board members violated U.S. law is not for me the judge."

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Up next, how the 2020 Democratic presidential race is shifting and getting just a bit rougher.


[20:41:51] COOPER: New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped out of the 2020 Democratic race for the White House. As the field gets smaller and on average shorter, with the very tall mayor are now out of the race, the stakes get higher. The remaining candidates are going after those at the top and the polling more pointedly.


PETTE BUTTIGIEG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Warren is known for being straightforward and was extremely evasive when asked that question and we've seen that repeatedly. And I think it's puzzling that when everybody knows the answer to that question of whether her plan and Senator Sanders plan will raise middle class taxes is yes.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think everybody has to answer questions for where they stand on policy. I certainly have been in terms of my position on Medicare for all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a lot of great people running, but some of these ideas are better left in the college faculty lounge than right here at this port.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The overwhelming, overwhelming majority of our contributions comes from the working people of this country and I'm proud of that. We contrast that with how my good friend Vice President Biden is raising money today.


COOPER: With their perspective on the up tick in that, CNN Political Director David Chalian and former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton in 2016 in presidential campaign, Karen Finney, who is now a CNN Political Commentator.

David, it does feel like there's the beginning of a shift in the campaign. Is this just going to be the new reality, these kinds of attacks?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, I think as we get closer to the voting and I think we're some 136 days or so from Iowa now, you're going to see some of the folks who are not at the very top of the heap taking their shots because time is growing a little short here.

Obviously, there's fluidity if this race, Anderson, but this is the time where you really can't leave to chance that voters will just kind of come around to you. You've got to make the case why you are the stronger person to be the Democratic nominee to go up against Donald Trump than anyone else in that field.

And you can't do that without sort of, you know, squaring off and measuring up against what the other Democrats are putting forward.

COOPER: Karen, I mean, was it only a matter of time before this happened?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I mean, in the fall this is really the period where you expect people, this is what you would see, right? People are starting to pay closer attention. This weekend we've got a lot of candidates descending on Iowa for the infamous Steak Fry. It's a, you know, the kind of event you can't miss.

And so, you know, this is where you're going to see -- I think the candidates would call them contrast, not necessarily attacks but absolutely. And, you know, we saw Pete Buttigieg, you know, kind of go after Elizabeth Warren a little bit in terms of this question about whether or not her health care plan would result in an increase in middle class taxes.

You're going to start to hear more of that because, again, you know, these candidates there, there are a lot of similarities and generally in what they're talking about, now is the time when you've got to start to show where there are differences because you're trying to find your voter.

COOPER: David, in terms of the Sanders campaign, I mean, they had a staff shake up this week in Iowa, which just days after they had a shake up in New Hampshire. How much of this do you think is related to Elizabeth Warren's, you know, poll growth?

CHALIAN: Well, it's related to Elizabeth Warren in the sense that, yes, she's clearly taking some vote share from Bernie Sanders in this race, but it is related to Bernie Sanders path to the nomination, Anderson.

[20:45:07] This is somebody who basically, you know, came up just short, almost tied Hillary Clinton in Iowa and trounced her in New Hampshire. He can't leave those two states to chance.

So if the staffing situation was not ideal and working out for them, they weren't like what they were seeing on the ground there, they needed to shake that up fast because he needs those two states as a part of his path to the nomination.

COOPER: Karen, how much can somebody move at this stage of the race? I mean, obviously when you have -- you know, its Biden, you have Warren, you have Sanders and then single digits it seems for pretty much everybody else. I mean, yes, today it's find, we're still 136 days away from Iowa and a lot can happen. But --


COOPER: -- is it set or can there be really big changes?

FINNEY: Absolutely. There can be massive changes. I mean, look, a lot of it goes to spending the time in Iowa. One of the things about Iowa, and I know David knows this, the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire, they want you to come, you know, sit on their porches and sit in their living rooms and that's what they're used to, right, that real person to person kind of campaigning. So being there makes a difference.

Certainly remember that we've got debates coming up. We've got one per month, so that's another opportunity to get exposure to a national audience. You know, there's can always be a gaffe that is unrecoverable. You never know what can happen.

So absolutely, there's the potential to move -- and, you know, I'm also one who believes that just because, you know, you don't -- let's say you place three -- third or fourth in Iowa, you can still, I think given the way the calendar is scheduled at this point, that doesn't mean you're not going to win the nomination.

COOPER: David, I want to ask you about Mayor de Blasio dropping out today. It's not exactly a surprise. Do you think we're going to see more candidates dropping out just in the coming weeks, particularly those who won't be on the debate stage next month?

CHALIAN: Yes. Well, there are two big moments coming up that will probably sort of concentrate the mid for some of these candidates. The third quarter fundraising reports are going to come out and you're going to see who has money and who doesn't to really be able to compete.

And as you noted, we're about to have another debate, a fourth debate and if it is once again with only sort of half the field participating are there about, Anderson, it's just going to get so incredibly hard for the people not on that debate stage and not raising enough money to make the argument as to why they should still stay in this race.

COOPER: Yes. David Chalian, Karen Finney, thank you very much.

FINNEY: Thanks.

COOPER: Well, there's a lot more ahead on this Friday night, including why an SUV plowed through the inside of a mall and what happened when it did. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the (beep). What the (beep).



[20:51:53] COOPER: A big scare for shoppers in a mall outside Chicago this afternoon. Take a look at the video. An SUV crashed through the doors of a sears store. You can see the damage there and didn't end. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop, stop driving. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo, this is not happening right now. What the (bleep).


COOPER: It was actually happening. The SUV kept going through the sears and into the mall striking Kiosks (ph). Shoppers were running for safety. It happened at the Woodfield Mall, the largest shopping center in Illinois. Thankfully there were only minor injuries reported. The driver of the SUV was arrested.

I want to check in with Chris, who I imagine has been getting a lot of response from Rudy Giuliani today. That was an incredible interview last night. You just -- that was just incredible to watch.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: What was your takeaway, Coop?

COOPER: I don't under -- I mean, it's amazing to me how it contradicts himself. I mean, the moment where he, you know, says I didn't talk about Biden. And then he goes, you know, well, of course, I talked to the President about this company which Biden is associated with. I mean, it's -- I don't know that -- I think he thinks he comes off well in those things.



CUOMO: Yes, he does. In fact, we know that because he went on Fox after our show to do a little clean-up and they watched the interview and you could see he was enjoying himself. I think the right way to look at it is he is often off his game but there is, in fact, a game afoot. And one of the things I want to do tonight for the audience is deconstruct exactly what that game is.

He has an agenda. He came with an agenda and I would argue more often than not he is effective at getting out what he wants to be out there. And what he said last night wasn't just a distraction, Anderson. I mean, I know you know this.

It is fundamentally important that the Trump base and as many of us as possible believe that Rudy Giuliani and this President have deep belief that Joe Biden and/or his son were or are corrupt. It's fundamental to defending what is surely to come about this President's actions vis-a-vis Ukraine through its president.

COOPER: Interesting. I look forward to that deconstructing interview from last night. Just to watch (INAUDIBLE) is worthwhile. Christ, seven minutes from now, we'll see you then.

Coming up next, something to end your week with a smile -- you probably seen this video. I love this video, a powerful hug between best friends. Van Jones just talked to those little boys and their dads. The story behind this video that's gone viral, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:58:30] COOPER: You may remember the two toddlers here in New York City, one African-American, one white, who have shown the world what friendship is all about. This video is amazing. It's been seen by more than a hundred million people. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friend, you are just --


COOPER: They are so sweet. They are best friends Maxwell and Finnegan, both are 2 years old. This video went viral earlier this month when Maxwell's dad posted it on Facebook.

Today, Maxwell and Finnegan stopped by our CNN offices here in New York. That is them running down the hall. And today, their dads talked about the video with CNN's Van Jones.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why do you think they have struck such a deep cord in this country right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I just think with the climate of the country and, you know, the world really with all the hatred and racism and, you know, just the angry -- the anger that's going on right now between everybody and just to see just maybe a little hope for the future, a little inspiration. You know, this is how it should be. And you know, and it's not, which is sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I mean, I've definitely said to some people that it's kind of a shame it went viral. I mean, I love that millions of people love both of our boys and I love sharing that and, you know, it seems to have made a lot of people happy.


JONES: But this should just be normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be normal.

JONES: Two beautiful kids, like each other, they play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And they were just being themselves. Like they hug all the time. Like there wasn't anything --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, they hold hands walking down the street, and they dance together, and they get in trouble together.


(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: They're so adorable that -- just being themselves. See more of that interview with Maxwell and Finnegan with their dads tomorrow night on "The Van Jones Show" at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

His other guest will be Andrew Yang, a Democratic contender, of course, for the White House. Hard to compete, though, with Maxwell and Finnegan.

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time."