Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Sources: W.H. Preparing To Release Whistleblower Complaint As Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry For President Trump; House Speaker Pelosi: "The Actions Taken To Date By The President Have Seriously Violated The Constitution"; President Trump Fires Back At Dems, Calls Formal Impeachment Inquiry "Presidential Harassment!"; Whistleblower's Attorneys: We Applaud The Decision To Release The Complaint. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:18]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

There is news just breaking now at the end of an already historic day. The White House appears to have just now blinked in the standoff that today that left President Trump facing the specter of impeachment. He's certainly not there yet, not by any means.

But only two presidents have been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and Richard Nixon resigned before the House could act. So, President Trump is in rare company.

Today's action by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with the president's own statements and actions over the past days and weeks, have now put the White House and Congress on a path rarely traveled in the 243 years of this country's existence. Whether you agree with what Speaker Pelosi announced today or not, today is significant. It was just after 5:00 Eastern Time that Speaker Pelosi in a rising wave pro-impeachment sentiment in her caucus made the day historic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, at immediate issue is the intelligence the whistleblower complaint which the White House has, so far, been keeping from Congress and the president's phone conversation with the president of the Ukraine allegedly to get Ukrainian help in damaging his leading opponent, Joe Biden. Now, the White House is now promising to release a transcript of the

phone call tomorrow morning, which is not enough for House Democrats, who will soon get a chance to question the acting director of national intelligence who stopped the complaint from being forwarded to Congress, and the whistleblower.

Nor is it enough for the Senate which took rare bipartisan action late today on the whistleblower's complaint. And as we mentioned at the very top, that is not even half of it.

Let's begin with Jim Acosta with the breaking news.

So, what are learning about the possible release of the whistleblower complaint itself?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, we understand White House officials are looking at this right now. It could come out as soon as tomorrow. My colleagues are reporting that the president weighed in on this and decided ultimately on his own that he wanted to see this whistleblower complaint released.

We're not sure what form it will come in, whether we will see all of it. But there's a curious change of events. The White House essentially blinked in all of this. If we do see all of it, we're not sure if we will see all of it. But recall last week when the superior general for the intelligence community went on Capitol Hill talked to the House Intelligence Committee and essentially told the lawmakers we can't show you what's in this complaint.

And so, this is a major reversal for the White House. No question about it, Anderson.

COOPER: What about the release of the transcript of the president's call with the Ukrainian president? And I'm not -- I mean, were there multiple calls? Do we know?

Because the reporting for "The Wall Street Journal" initially was that there were at least eight mentions of -- or eight efforts of mentioning -- focusing on Biden.

Do we know if that was all in one call?

ACOSTA: Right. I think that's one of the key questions in the whistleblower complaint. Remember, the whistleblower complaint dealt with multiple interactions and so that may get us to that answer, and whether or not we see all of the whistleblower complaint, that remains to be seen.

But, Anderson, the president did authorize the release of that call transcript. He tweeted as much earlier this afternoon. He says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got permission from the Ukrainian side to go ahead and release this information.

But very important for our viewers to understand at this point, Anderson, the White House is starting to downplay expectations as to what is going to be in that call transcript. I talked to two White House officials this evening who said prepare to be underwhelm, prepare to see the contents of that transcript and find those contents to be underwhelming at this point. That puts a lot of pressure on what is in that whistleblower complaint and, Anderson, as you know, as we've all been following this, the White House mass gone to great lengths, including the president, to call into question the credibility of the whistleblower.

In the words of one White House official I spoke with this evening, they refer to the whistleblower as the so-called whistleblower. So, they're not putting a lot of stock in what that employee has to say at this point.

But, Anderson, put all of that to the side. Keep in mind what happened when the president walked in the United Nations earlier this morning before he gave the speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He admitted to reporter that is he held up aid to Ukraine. This after he admitted to reporters that he pressured the Ukrainian president in a phone call to try to get dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

That is what Democrats are focusing on at this point.

[20:05:00]

And the president all day long was saying there was no quid pro quo. Democrats were saying you don't need a quid pro quo because the president was pressuring the Ukrainian president to try to get dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's interesting, Jim, because President Trump and others in the White House have been saying well this was about overall concern about corruption in Ukraine. And what's odd about that is there are plenty of countries in the world that the U.S. has dealings with and sells military aid to and gives military aid to, which have widespread corruption. We haven't heard the president really talk about corruption --

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else.

And also, if he's very concerned about corruption in Ukraine, if the only example he is talking about -- and again it's totally an alleged example. There's no evidence -- if he is focusing only on the Bidens or Joe Biden's son, it's hard to imagine that that's the prime example of alleged corruption in Ukraine.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson.

And it's interesting, over the last 48 hours, we have seen the president shift in his rationale as to why, you know, he isn't in any hot water in all of this. He was saying earlier that they were holding up the money to Ukraine because of his concerns about corruption. As you said, the United States has dealt with many countries around the globe that have corruption issues. Keep in mind, Saudi Arabia executed a journalist it appears in Jamal

Khashoggi last year. We're coming up on the one year anniversary of that. That appears to be not a problem for the White House when comes to dealings with Saudi Arabia, and yet there's a concern about corruption when it comes to Ukraine.

The other thing that the president was talking about was, well, the Europeans aren't donating enough money. They're not contributing enough money to help the Ukrainians in dealing with Russian aggression. That also was not the case. Europeans have been at the table contributing money to help Ukraine deal with Russian aggression.

So, the president has been shifting this rationale. He's been dancing around all this issue all this week. The question is whether or not this is one of the episodes, Anderson, we have seen this movie before, whether the events and the facts and what the president said will eventually catch up with him -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

We have just heard from the whistleblower's attorney a brief statement which reads, quote, we applaud the decision to release the whistleblower complaint as it establishes that ultimately, the lawful whistleblower disclosure process can work. We await the release of the complaint in its totality.

With that, let's go to CNN's Manu Raju at the Capital.

Manu, do we know how the release of this complaint is going to affect the decision to move forward by Democrats?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know yet, because what the Democrats announced today was impeachment inquiry. What they didn't was actually voting to impeach the president. That would be presumably the next step.

So, if the complaint doesn't show any wrongdoing or if the president -- the transcript that he eventually releases doesn't show the president doing anything wrong in the eyes of Democrats or if there is no evidence the president sought to hold up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the Bidens, perhaps they'll have a different tactic. But if there are significant concerns, red flags, a smoking gun in there, that could, of course, expedite the push to impeach this president because the Democrats have been demanding the information.

But, Anderson, one of the reasons they were considering impeaching the president is because of the refusal to turn over this information. They say it would be obstruction of Congress. At least if that is provided perhaps that will be one less count to add to their impeachment inquiry, in putting articles of impeachment, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. What Speaker Pelosi was saying today was that, you know, this is now under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry and that the six investigations that are already underway will proceed under that umbrella. Does that actually really change anything? I mean, is this just -- you know, there was a lot of debate among Democrats -- well, it doesn't matter what you call it, it's an inquiry, it's investigation, whatever.

Does that -- is anything really new here other than Speaker Pelosi is now calling it an investigation -- an inquiry?

RAJU: In a sense, no. It's a essentially a continuation what have the Democrats have been doing. There are six committees that are investigating this president.

There are -- including the House Judiciary Committee -- House Intelligence Committee, looking at all aspects of the president, his businesses and his past. And what they have said in the last several weeks, particularly the House Judiciary Committee, is that this investigation will ultimately decide whether or not to impeach the president.

Democrats have been saying it's been impeachment inquiry because at the end of the day, they're going to make that decision. So what Pelosi said was the investigations will simply just continue, and ultimately, we will decide whether to impeach this president, which is the same thing essentially as what they have been doing.

So, there is not a whole lot of change. But the significant thing of her announcing her support of actually calling it an impeachment inquiry, a lot of Democrats interpret that to mean that she is ready to move forward when the time comes to eventually impeach the president. Of course, that would be a historic move. Only the third president in American history to get impeached even if ultimately unsuccessful in the Republican-led Senate where two thirds majority would be needed to remove the president from office.

[20:10:07]

But the Democrats are pushing to go forward in the speaker's blessing today makes it more likely that we could see articles of impeachment in the coming months, Anderson.

COOPER: So, what is the process in that inquiry from here on out?

RAJU: Well, expect these committees to continue their investigations. And afterwards, if they do believe it's time to impeach the president, then the articles of impeachment will be drafted, then the House Judiciary committee will actually vote on those articles of impeachment. The full house then would vote soon thereafter.

And then, it would go to the Senate where they would have the trial and presumably would acquit the votes at least on the votes they have right now, the president would not be convicted. But it's unclear exactly how long this will take.

Speaker Pelosi behind closed doors, Anderson, I'm told, told Democrats she wants to be done, quote, expeditiously and Jerry Nadler has said that he wants this done by the end of the year. So, the question is, can they do that and then if it runs into the election year, how much does it impact things? Anderson? COOPER: Yes. Manu Raju, a lot going on. Thank you, Manu.

One of the Democrats who came to this reluctantly is Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey. She's a former Navy helicopter pilot, a federal prosecutor. She's one of seven members with national security background who wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post". It includes the sentence: These allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect.

Congresswoman Sherrill joins me now.

Thanks very much for being with us.

What is your reaction, A, to the breaking news that according to CNN the White House may allow the whistleblower complaint to be turned over to Congress and according to "The New York Times", the White House think they may also have to let the whistleblower talk to congressional investigators?

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Anderson, the fact that we have gotten here, that we still don't have the whistleblower report shows that this was needed, this step was needed. We needed to pressure the president to turn that over.

He should not have involvement in the whistleblower complaint. The statute is very clear. We did this to protect whistleblowers. He is undermining that.

But we need the full report. We need the I.G.'s report, and then we need to keep pressure on the president, because we know he said in the past that he would turn over certain documents or do certain things and has not followed through.

COOPE: So, if -- you know, there is Jim Acosta's reporting some people in the White House are sort of saying this is going to be underwhelming when this transcript is released, there's not really any "there" there. Others on Capitol Hill, Republicans are saying this whistleblower may not actually, you know, have direct knowledge. And are sort of questioning -- the White House is saying -- you know, calling a person a so-called whistleblower.

If, in fact, the transcript is underwhelming and the whistleblower doesn't have firsthand information, does that end this inquiry? Or assuming something happened here, we know Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney was going around the Ukraine, talked to Ukrainian officials, I think meetings -- you know, arrange through the State Department. There must be other people involved.

With this continue then?

SHERRILL: Well, Anderson, I think we know that the I.G. had- the ICIG had serious concerns. And that's why he felt it was so important that this whistle complaint go forward and Congress see it.

So, even if it's underwhelming and it's drama, I think there are some concerns that relate to national security. That's what the ICIG said. And but we will go forward because we now know that the president held up support for one of our strategic -- one of our strategic partners Ukraine, as they were trying to deter Russian aggression, something we wanted them to do because we are concerned -- our national defense strategy cites problems with Russian aggression.

So, we were supporting them, Congress was supporting them in a bipartisan move. The president withheld that much-needed support. We also know the president talked to -- shortly after withholding the support, talked to the Ukrainian president about investigating corruption related to Biden, the president said this. So, yes, certainly, there are grave concerns that need to be investigated.

COOPER: Are you worried that -- the president is set to meet with the Ukrainian president tomorrow at -- you know as part of the U.N. General Assembly. Are you concerned if the president meets alone with the Ukrainian president would just maybe a translator present?

SHERRILL: Certainly, I would want to know what is going on in the meeting. I think we have seen already the president's conversations with the Ukrainian president have been incredibly concerning. I don't think the country wants to see him going forward continuing the threatening conversations.

COOPER: You were not publicly onboard with impeachment until yesterday as I understand it, when the -- you and some of your colleagues as I mentioned published the op-ed in "The Washington Post". Is the hold up for support of Ukraine, you just mentioned, what changed your mind to support impeachment? Or was there a particular -- something else in particular that changed your mind.

SHERRILL: I think particularly the threat to our national security, the threat to our Democratic elections. We have seen now for 2020 going forward, a forward looking threat with the president withholding support for a strategic partner.

[20:15:08]

We see the president then threatening another foreign power with that -- with the withholding support, and then trying to affect the elections, trying to get dirt on his opponent. That was simply a line that was crossed for many of us in the national security sphere. We have served all over the world. I'm a Navy helicopter pilot, former Russian policy officer. I have served all over the world, as have my fellow Democrats who wrote the op-ed with me.

We know how important the replaces with the allies are. We know what it's like to be at war and to need support and to know that Congress gave that support to our strategic partner, to know the president withheld that at a critical moment when they're hot war in eastern Ukraine was unacceptable to us.

COOPER: It is extraordinary just the timing of that phone conversation, the one that the transcript will be released of, the day after Mueller testifies. The idea that the president feels he is cleared of any collusion on Russia and then if, again, if all of this bears out, this is essentially asking -- it's an attempt to collude with Ukraine and get them to collude to affect the next election.

SHERRILL: Anderson, I think we see the president's behavior as we haven't -- as we have seen just getting worse and worse, more and more chaotic and reckless. And that's why we welt felt like it was time to step in, to operate as congress, as that check on a reckless presidency. We -- you know, we see him now really thinking that he is empowered not to turn anything over to Congress, to act in a way that really undermines our national security. And that's something that we saw as a real threat.

COOPER: Congresswoman Sherrill, appreciate your time. Thank you.

SHERRILL: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, our team of political and legal professionals here to put this in perspective.

Also, late reaction from the acting director of national intelligence who's due before Congress on Thursday.

And later tonight on this program, we'll talk to the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. Certainly got plenty to talk about tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:23]

COOPER: CNN's Jim Acosta called it a major reversal. Two sources telling us the White House is preparing to release the whistleblower complaint that essentially pushed House Speaker Pelosi to start an impeachment inquiry. One source saying the complaint is going through declassification and could be released within hours of the release tomorrow of the president's conversation with the president of the Ukraine, or at least one conversation.

In the meantime, acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who declined to reveal details on the complaint under administration orders and did not move it forward to Congress, is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. That's going to happen on Thursday.

Tonight, he issued a statement. It reads: I have sworn an oath to the Constitution 11 times in my 36 years of public service and view it as a covenant with every American that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office. In light of recent reporting on the whistleblower complaint, I want to make clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way.

The statement continues: As public servants, the men and women of the intelligence community have a solemn responsible to do what is right, which includes reporting wrongdoing. I'm committed to protecting whistleblowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately. I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to find a resolution regarding this important matter.

Another item, on what is truly a historic day.

Joining us to talk about it, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod, host of the "AXE FILES" and former top adviser to President Obama.

Jeff, there is a lot we don't know. There's a lot of people in Congress don't know. What do you -- what do you want to know that you're not going to know by the end of tomorrow if this transcript -- or that we may know if this transcript is released and the whistleblower is allowed to say something?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right, these stories tend to get more complicated, not less complicated the more you dig into them. But, just, for example, some of the things we need to know. How many contacts were there between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine? Was it just this one phone call?

COOPER: Because the "Wall Street Journal" had reported eight times that the president had sort of brought it back to Biden or pressured the Ukrainian president. We don't know if it's in one phone call or at least not clear to me, one phone call or multiple contacts.

ZELENY: Good question. What was the chronology involving this aid package? And why was it delayed? And why was it finally granted? What was the connection if any between the aid package and the discussions about getting dirt on Joe Biden?

What was the role of Rudy Giuliani in all of this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

ZELENY: Was he sending messages to the Ukrainian government about getting information on the Biden family?

COOPER: He had meetings and talks with Ukrainians. And he said on Hannity last night some of those were set up by the state department.

ZELENY: What was the role of the State Department in facilitating Rudy Giuliani's efforts on behalf of Donald Trump?

You know, all of those are questions that will not be answered tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be important. I mean, if this transcript of the conversation between the two presidents seems pretty benign, well, that's certainly a very good thing for Donald Trump. If the whistleblower's complaint doesn't have specifics that seem incriminating, that will be a good thing for Donald Trump.

We don't know, but all the questions certainly will not be answered tomorrow.

COOPER: David, there's -- you know, obviously, a number of Republicans saying, look the Democrats have moved too quick on this why not at least -- it's arguable point whether them announcing this prodded the White House to release information they hadn't previously been willing to release. [20:25:01]

But it does -- there is a big risk for Democrats in this. I mean, if tomorrow the conversation, the transcript doesn't show much and the whistleblower may -- is not all that they were made out to be, is that -- is that a danger for Democrats?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think this thing is fraught with danger for Democrats, which is why Speaker Pelosi has proceeded cautiously here. But I was interested in what Congresswoman Sherrill said when she pointed out that we are getting the information now because of the step gnat house took today. It was only end the threat of the impeachment inquiry that the president agreed to release this transcript and now later in the night we are hearing that the whistleblower can come forward.

I want to make a public apology to Jeff Toobin who just hours earlier I was accusing of being way too positive about the prospect of getting information, because we've seen a pattern of obstruction on the part of the White House. That's been their strategy to deny and delay and send everything to the courts.

And Jeffrey pointed out -- and he was right -- that there are certain things that are beyond their control. And this whistleblower is one of them. So, you know, my feeling is that the president has already put himself in a jam with his own admissions. He has acknowledged that he talked to the president about specifically about the Biden case, which is incredibly damning.

And it is particularly strange because president has never shown great interest in the issue of corruption around the world or, frankly, here at home. In fact, he's flouted ethics laws routinely here at home. So, the notion that he suddenly got religion on the issue of corruption and all focused on Joe Biden --

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: -- I think has much more to do with the fact that he is trailing by double digits in polls against Joe Biden.

COOPER: Yes.

AXELROD: And about his sudden interest in cleaning up government in Ukraine.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Gloria, if you were interested in corruption in Ukraine, probably going back ten years or more to when Joe Biden was in office and his son was on the board of this thing, that's probably not the best way to fight corruption in Ukraine if that's really what you are going for. It's odd that's what he focused on.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and don't forget he changed his story. At first he said he was interested in corruption and why shouldn't I be interested in corruption? Then the next day, he changed his story line and said, well, you know, this is about everybody paying their fair share. COOPER: Right, the Europeans aren't doing that.

BORGER: And the Europeans aren't doing that. And that's what I was concerned about. And it wasn't corruption.

So, which is it? I mean, I think we have to believe what he said at the outset is actually closer to the truth because that is what he said. He talked to the Ukrainian president about.

Now, we'll see some of this tomorrow when we -- when we see this transcript of the call. And we'll see whether the name Biden actually came up in it.

COOPER: But, Jeff, I mean that would be an interesting thing. Even if the transcript is released and Biden isn't mentioned, the fact that the president already said, yes, I spoke to the Ukrainian president about Biden --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- then indicates, well there were other conversations what was said.

TOOBIN: Well, that's right. And you know -- you know, we can invent reasons why he might mention Biden. There is only one reason why he would mention Biden, because he is running against Biden potentially. And the idea that there is some benign reason for raising with the government of Ukraine an investigation of Hunter Biden's activities several years ago, it's absurd.

And that's why the president seems to be floundering around for an explanation because the truth is incriminating.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, we're going to take a quick break. We'll come back in a just a moment.

We're going to look. Joe Biden makes his most direct statements on impeachment and President Trump. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:33:34] COOPER: The breaking news on a historic night, the White House preparing to follow the law, namely doing as the law requires and turning the whistleblower complaint over to Congress. That and releasing a phone call that is -- or transcript of a phone call that is said to be only part of the complaint.

Now as to the phone call, on the 25th of July, that according to a report in "Wall Street Journal" included around eight instances of the President pressuring his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. One call according to "The Wall Street Journal," but part of a complaint involving multiple items, we're told.

Meantime, Joe Biden gave his fullest most direct criticism of the Trump administration in this fair and how it treats legitimate inquiries by Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOB BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for this administration to stop stonewalling and provide the Congress with all the facts it needs, including a copy of the formal complaint made by the whistleblower. And it's time for the Congress to fully investigate the conduct of this President.

The President should stop stonewalling this investigation and all the other investigations into his alleged wrong doing. Using his full constitutional authority, Congress in my view should demand the information it has a legal right to receive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, back now with Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger and David Axelrod. Jeff, you know, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting the eight references to Biden in that phone call -- in that one phone call.

[20:35:00] But then according to other reporting, the whistleblower complaint, that the one phone call was just part of others.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's why, you know, the facts matter.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And you know, the Democrats, you know, may regret rushing so quickly into a formal impeachment investigation on the Ukraine matter before they know all the facts.

COOPER: Because if the transcript tomorrow doesn't have any references to Biden, then that would seem to make "The Wall Street Journal" report not accurate.

TOOBIN: And if there are no further phone calls, then there's a -- then there is a problem. But, you know, they -- there was obviously a great deal of pent up frustration, very interesting thing about what Nancy Pelosi did today.

When you look at the impeachment investigations of Richard Nixon in '74 and Bill Clinton in '98, the full House of Representatives took a vote to open the impeachment investigation.

Nancy Pelosi just did it herself. She saved her members from having to cast a vote on an impeachment investigation, which I think indicates her caution about getting members who have marginal districts anywhere near the record on impeachment.

COOPER: But, David, I mean, what Nancy Pelosi said today, again, it's not really any change, you know, what she said is the six investigations that have been ongoing will continue. Now it's under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry, which there were, you know, quibbles about whether it was that even before this. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, no, it was heavy with symbolism. And it was yielding to the moment and the will of a growing majority of her members who were frustrated.

And I think that thing that tipped the scale were those seven members who wrote a piece in "The Washington Post," all member -- veterans of the national security community who were from districts that Donald Trump had carried competitive districts. And she -- and Pelosi had been shielding them and they stepped forward and said if these facts are true, he is -- he has committed an impeachable offense.

One other point, you know, Manu said at the beginning that the thought was that they want to get this done by the end of the year. One thing that she did not do was appoint a select committee to examine this. And I think one of the reasons that she didn't do that was because that would have slowed the process down.

I think Pelosi wants to deal with this, but I think she also wants to deal with it with dispatch because she understands that if the House is mired in this for the next year, then her members are going to be subject to the attack that they are only focused on impeachment and not on doing things for the American people. And that is what you heard from Republicans today in response to this action.

COOPER: So Gloria, do they try to get Giuliani to testify?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No.

COOPER: Do they try to get people from the State Department who set up meetings? Do they -- I mean, where do they go from tomorrow if that transcript doesn't (INAUDIBLE)?

BORGER: I think they do all of the above and more. I think they're going to obviously want to hear from Rudy Giuliani. They're going to hear from the whistleblower. They need to get more information about that. Now we know that they're going to be allowed to do that.

And I think David is right, Nancy Pelosi has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. She wants to be able to say, look, we gave you 15 gun control measures that we gave over to the Senate and it is stalled in the Senate at the same time that we have launched this impeachment inquiry.

And she also believes -- and this is important to Nancy Pelosi, politically, I think. And she said this today, which is that this is a story unlike the Russia story that's a lot easier to explain to the American public. You have a President who is talking to a foreign leader and asking him to investigate the potential corruption as he thought it was of a political opponent.

That abuse of power is easy to digest and understand unlike all the thousands of threads of the Mueller investigation. And she believes that Democrats can make that case as moderate Democrats did today and on your show and make that case to the American public that this is not the way you want your President to behave. Do that, and do health care, do gun control, try and get some deal maybe on immigration that they can push over to the Senate at the same time. And that -- that's really her challenge.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: But I think you're absolutely right that it's a lot easier to understand.

BORGER: Yes.

TOOBIN: It's also not that different. I mean, remember, the Russia story --

BORGER: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- is about the Trump campaign and the people affiliated with Russia --

BORGER: Collusion.

TOOBIN: -- colluding to try to win the election and then lying about it.

[20:40:00] BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: What is this story? This story is about the President of the United States and a foreign power who by the way is very -- who is in a hostile relationship with Vladimir Putin, putting pressure on him to try to collude to win the 2020 election.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: So, there's a lot of overlap but you're right, this is easier to understand.

BORGER: As if, if Mueller never happened, right?

AXELROD: There is one other big difference and you alluded to it at the end of your point, Jeffrey, which is the complaint of Republicans has been that Democrats are sore losers and they wanted to reverse the verdict of the last election by relitigating the last election. This is really about trying to preserve the next election and keep it from being subverted.

COOPER: Yes.

AXELROD: So that makes it a more current issue.

COOPER: Yes, I think that's right.

BORGER: And, you know, after Mueller, nobody is going to say, oh, Donald Trump, he would never do that. He would never do that.

TOOBIN: It's a good point.

BORGER: Right?

COOER: Gloria, thank you, Jeffrey Toobin, David Axelrod, appreciate it.

Just ahead, Speaker Pelosi speech today aimed at two people, President Trump and the acting Director of National Intelligence who'll testify Thursday about the whistleblower complaint. We're going to talk to the former Director of National Intelligence about all of this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:45:01] COOPER: The acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, tonight says he looks forward to working with Congress on the whistleblower matter. In her speech a short time earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi laid down an ultimatum for the Director of National Intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This Thursday, the acting DNI will appear before the House Intelligence Committee. At that time, he must turn over the whistleblower's full complaint to the committee. He will have to choose whether to breaks the law or honor his responsibility to the constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We're joined now by James Clapper, who's a former Director of National Intelligence, also he's a CNN National Security Analyst and author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence." Mr. Clapper is also a frequent target of the President's ire and accusations. Director Clapper, thanks for being with us.

How unusual -- when you were DNI, did you ever not forward a whistleblower complaint?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, Anderson, I did not. In fact, I never knew I even had the option not to forward a whistleblower complaint. And typically the way it worked, was my inspector general, Chuck McCullough, who served during my tenure would notify me buy e-mail since he was physically located away from my headquarters of the -- if he received a whistleblower complaint, the general description of it and he would typically ask me whether I had any comment.

COOPER: Which is what the statute says? It says essentially --

CLAPPER: Exactly.

COOPER: -- that you can comment on it, but you're supposed to forward it to Congress.

CLAPPER: Yes, exactly. As I say, I'm not aware of the option not to forward it. Now -- and then I never did comment, by the way, other than tell him go ahead and forward it immediately. And the reason for that is I was very -- you know, I went through the Snowden aftermath and I wanted to be sure that there was a procedure that we followed religiously, conscientiously that allowed intelligence community employees who had a grievance, a complaint, whatever it was, and -- to protect the classified information so it wasn't exposed publicly.

COOPER: Right.

CLAPPER: And by the way, to insulate the employee in question from a potential retaliation. So, I was very consistent about that, my whole six and a half years, as DNI.

COOPER: I'm wondering what you make of -- there's a lot we don't know, obviously. And what you -- what we know based on what the President himself has said and his stories have changed over the several days, how concerning is it just what the President has already said?

CLAPPER: Well, as others have said, it seems to me that, you know, the President is his own worst enemy here. Just the gradual unfolding of his acknowledgement that, yes, he brought up the Biden family and their potential corruption. And then compounding that, I think, was the story changing from, one, this President is concerned about corruption to -- well, I withheld the money because other nation --

COOPER: Europe is not paying their fair share.

CLAPPER: Exactly, others weren't paying their fair share. So to me his own statements, I think, could come back to haunt him. And I also want to just highlight --

COOPER: Yes.

CLAPPER: -- a point that Jeffrey Toobin made earlier, which I think is exactly right, because these things always get more complicated. These -- you know, it appears that the whistleblower complaint will be made public or at least shared with the committees, as well as a transcript that I put -- I add air quotes to that, of the one phone call.

Well, as Jeffrey mentioned, and I think he's got a good point here, this is broader than that. It could be other interactions that aren't alluded to. I do think it's important to know what is the subsequent content of the whistleblower complaint particularly given, which was very significant to me, the reaction of the IC IG where he said it was both credible and urgent.

And I don't recall receiving a urgent whistleblower complaint. I could be wrong about that, but I don't remember that over my six and a half years.

COOPER: That's interesting. The idea that the President is concerned about corruption in -- corruption around the world and corruption in Ukraine -- I mean, you well know the reality of many regimes that we deal with for a variety of reasons around the world. If you are concerned about corruption in Ukraine, would you be focusing on things that happened allegedly occurred years ago? I mean, it would seem to be that there are many -- would be many more current examples that you would have access to the intelligence on if you really want to stop current corruption under the new regime, no?

CLAPPER: Well, exactly. And to be clear, the last -- the Obama administration had similar concerns about corruption in Ukraine, evidence of that was Vice President Biden's action. That since he was kind of given the lead by President Obama to work -- work this issue with Ukraine.

[20:50:09] And there are lots of other countries that have issues. Another issue we have with Ukraine was the penetration by the Russians, but that -- all of that notwithstanding. We have made a -- the administration had made a determination that we were going to support Ukraine in its contest, if you will, with Russia. And that was the overriding concern.

COOPER: General Clapper, appreciate it. We'll see what happens tomorrow. "Cuomo Prime Time" is at the top of the hour. Chris, quite a day. I mean --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It is. The question is, it is the beginning of what?

COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: Our shows work well together tonight. It's kind of like a one-two punch. You know, you've laid out brilliantly everything that has us, where we are right now. And the question becomes, well, where do you go? What is the real process? Is there really anyone? I mean, what did Pelosi -- what did it mean what she said today?

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: Where are we? What happens next? And what are the risks on both sides of this? History is suggestive, but also recent history.

Now, Toobin made a good point. The irony that the Russia investigation was about showing who if anybody went to a foreign power for an advantage in an election, this President put himself in exactly that position of accusation with Ukraine.

COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: How much meat on the bones, what happens next, we're going very deep on all of it tonight set up by your great reporting.

COOPER: All right, about eight minutes from now. Chris, I'll see you then.

Coming up next, we'll talk with the long-time GOP consultant about what might come next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:55:47] COOPER: Republicans have largely been downplaying the news today or accusing Democrats of trying to relitigate the 2016 election. Here's House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy talking about Speaker Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): What she said today made no difference of what's been going on. It's no different than that what Nadler has been trying to do. It's time to put the public before politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, it may not be as easy as all that. Lot's of uncharted territory to come. With me now, Stuart Stevens, long-time Republican consultant, former adviser to Mitt Romney, he's also a consultant to a political action committee supporting Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld.

I mean, what -- the first part of what McCarthy said is actually true. What Nancy Pelosi announced today sounded very dramatic, but it is just a continuation of the investigations under the rubric now officially of an inquiry.

STUART STEVENS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND WRITER: You know, it's so interesting seeing someone like Kevin McCarthy because you know that he can't stand Trump and what he said before about Trump. And it's just is amazing to watch them. I really don't understand. I don't understand why they just come -- don't come forward and say what they actually feel.

COOPER: But isn't it fear of --

STEVENS: Fear of what? I don't understand it.

COOPER: -- losing in your district?

STEVENS: I don't know. I mean, being an ex-congressman so bad? I don't really -- they just seem to have no sense of history here and how this is going to be regarded. I just find it incredible.

COOPER: It's not the Republican Party that -- I mean, that I grew up, you know, grew up with and --

STEVENS: It's not the Republican Party four years ago.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, all the talk of deficits -- I mean, where is that?

STEVENS: Character counts.

COOPER: Right.

STEVENS: Personal responsibility.

COOPER: Right. STEVENS: And these are all principles that you might disagree on issues, but you said get strong on Russia.

COOPER: Right. Conservatives used to make fun of liberals for, you know --

STEVENS: Situational ethics.

COOPER: And victimization that they were, you know, pretending -- you know, saying they were victims. That's --

STEVENS: Now, the party has just become this complete grievance- mongering sort of --

COOPER: How do you think history will see them?

STEVENS: I think terribly. I think all this policy stuff, no one is going to remember this. It will always go back to -- look at George Wallace, right? George Wallace actually did some good things as governor, passed free textbooks, but nobody's remember this like the free textbook George Wallace guy. You're the George Wallace guy.

COOPER: Right.

STEVENS: And I think it's just a complete fantasy that what has happened with Trump and what Trump has done to our norms, our rule of law, our sense of public discourse, our sense of truth, all of that's going to be more important than like a marginal tax cut for corporations.

COOPER: You can make the argument that what Nancy Pelosi did today, though not, you know, really much different, it certainly seems to have motivated at least the White House to move forward with releasing a transcript, the whistleblower and the whistleblower complaint. Do you think she made a mistake and moved too quickly on this?

STEVENS: I have no way of knowing. You know, I think the politics of this are imponderable. So I think you ought to go back to what is the right thing to do. Trump has committed impeachable acts. Therefore, it's only going to get worse.

I mean, there is a sense here if you don't do something now, it's just going to escalate. So, I mean, far be it for me to give Democrats advice, but I think you just have to kind of go out there and try to do the right thing and not try to war game it out. And --

COOPER: Based on what the President has said about so far what -- about Ukraine and what he did, does that seem inappropriate to you?

STEVENS: Of course it's impeachable.

COOPER: It is impeachable --

STEVENS: And all of a sudden -- of course.

COOPER: -- based on what he's already said. STEVENS: Look, I mean, impeachable is whatever, you know, they said, whatever they want it to be.

COOPER: Right.

STEVENS: But the idea that you're calling up another head of state and asking them to conduct an investigation into a son of one of your probable most likely opponents --

COOPER: Right.

STEVENS: -- you don't always get -- doesn't Donald Trump wonder like if there's a Democratic president, he has his children there in business. He's not worry this is going to happen to -- like someone is going to call up the Saudis and say, what about like Kushner? Can you look into him? What about Russia? Can you look into Junior?

COOPER: Right.

STEVENS: In China, like maybe Ivanka.

COOPER: Right. If you want --

(CROSSTALK)

STEVENS: I don't understand this. I mean, it's like the sense like this is the world is going to end when he's president? If these things become norms, it cuts both ways. We're seeing that with the whole filibuster thing. You know, this is a thin --

COOPER: And executive orders and all sorts of things.

STEVENS: Executive orders. And this is why, you know, this idea that there was a sort of thin thread that held democracy together in civil society, there's actually truth to that and I think, you know, we've just lost that.

COOPER: Yes. Stuart Stevens, thank you. Appreciate it.

STEVENS: Good to see you.

COOPER: Coming up -- the news continues. I want to hand it over to Christ for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Anderson.