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Lawmakers Review Whistleblower Complaint as Rough White House Transcript Shows President Trump Pushed Ukraine's President to Investigate Bidens; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) is Interviewed About the Whistleblower Complaint; Attorneys: Whistleblower Tentatively Agrees to Testify. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired September 25, 2019 - 20:00   ET




We began last night's program noting the day's historic significance. Well, today is no different because we now have a rough transcript, not a verbatim transcript, provided by the White House of the president of the United States asking a foreign leader to investigate a U.S. political rival, Joe Biden. As far as we know, that has never happened in the history of the United States.

Also this afternoon, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees got their first look at the whistle-blower complaint connected with the call. Then, late today, reaction from the president.

Now, we're going to talk about all of it in this hour as well as in a special report with "THE LEAD's" Jake Tapper at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

But before we get into all the reaction, we want to focus on the call itself because it is so significant. The key points from July 25th, which is the rough transcript, itself warns, again it's not verbatim.

The president saying, I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Then after a brief digression, the president continues, quote, the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening. They're not good. But United States has been very good to Ukraine.

Then the president of Ukraine, Zelensky, replies, yes, you are absolutely right. Not only 100 percent, but actually 1,000 percent.

Now, bear in mind that when this conversation is taking place, President Trump had already delayed $391 million in aid to Ukraine, $250 million of that was in military assistance, aid that was approved by Congress already was being held up by the president. So, that's what's dangling or hanging over President Zelensky's head as he says and I'm quoting again, I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to cooperate -- we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins, which are anti-tank missiles, from the United States for defense purposes.

President Trump then replies, I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike, he later adds, I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.

Now, CrowdStrike is the cyber security firm the DNC called in when its servers were hacked during the 2016 campaign. It's also at the center of a conspiracy theory that seems to deflect blame from Russia for the hacking.

Then the president asked for more help. The other thing, President Trump says, there's a lot of talk of Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution. A lot of people want to find out about that. So, whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.

Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution. So, if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me.

And, finally, President Trump says, I'll have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I'm going to have Attorney General Barr call and we'll get to the bottom of it. I'm sure you will figure it out.

That is the heart of it. That's also all the president talked about beyond exchanging pleasantries with the president of Ukraine. There was no talk about current corruption in Ukraine, no talk of specific, ongoing concerns the president claims to have about corruption. No information the president would have gotten from his intelligence services about current, ongoing corruption in Ukraine. Just Biden.

As we said at the top, a short time after the transcript of it came out, members of the two congressional intelligence committees got a look at the whistle-blower complaint.

Joining us now is Democratic member of the committee, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Obviously, I know there's a lot you cannot say at this point. What you read is a classified document.

What can you say about the whistleblower's complaint that you read?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sure. Thanks for having me on.

First of all, I think that most of it should be declassified tonight and it should be shared with the American public. I think transparency is absolutely essential here.

But what I can say about the complaint is that it's thorough, it's careful, it's credible, it's consistent and it raises a lot more questions than it answers, but it's obvious why the inspector general who, by the way, was appointed by the Trump administration found it to be both urgent and credible enough to pass along to the DNI.

COOPER: Can you say how much more there is in the original whistleblower complaint beyond what was laid out in the rough transcript that was released today? I mean, was it solely based on that conversation?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I can't get into the specifics of that particular complaint, but what I can say, Anderson, is that it talks about a lot more witnesses.


It talks about more documents. It talks about more materials that have to be pursued to get to the bottom of what exactly transpired with regard to this national security situation.

COOPER: Your colleague on the intelligence committee, Eric Swalwell, he was on CNN earlier saying that in the complaint, the whistle-blower evokes other witnesses to disturbing contact that the whistle-blower -- he or she, conduct -- disturbing conduct, I should say, that the whistle-blower was alarmed by the number of people who knew what was going on and hadn't said anything.

Can you say approximately how many other people did know what was going on?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It was a bunch. I'm sorry for being so imprecise.

COOPER: No, I understand.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: But I think that the main point, though, which I do want to hammer home is that, there are other witnesses here who need to be talked to and who need to quite frankly be interviewed or brought before our committee to understand the full extent of the misconduct here.

I just want to say one other thing, which is that this whistle-blower needs to be commended. He's courageous in coming forward and for that matter, the inspector general is also to be commended for his professionalism.

You know, there's no incentive for him to shade his analysis in favor of forwarding this whistle-blower complaint. If anything, telling the truth on the inspector general's part puts his career in jeopardy as well.

COOPER: I'm not asking obviously who this whistle-blower is or what their position is. Do you know after reading this what position -- maybe you probably don't know their name, but do you know what position they hold? Or how they would have gotten this information?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. No. And the inspector general actually invokes a certain provision of the law which allows him to mask the identity of the whistle-blower. COOPER: Because I ask that question because the president today had

started to -- I mean, started doing it yesterday but today started basically impugning the whistle-blower, calling him -- sort of so- called whistle-blower saying that, you know, basically implying that they are Democratic operative or just -- tangential to this entire event. Is there anything that raises in your mind about the motivation of this whistle-blower?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. Actually, inspector general does a very good job of actually -- we got to see the classified determination or analysis that the inspector general performed on the whistle-blower's complaint and he himself made an independent judgment that it was both credible and urgent. And as you know, the inspector general doesn't have a liberal or Democratic bias.

COOPER: So, just -- finally, the -- what you just said about the inspector general had looked into this whistle-blower and the complaint and judged it --


COOPER: -- worthy of moving forward. Does what the inspector general has already done on assessing this complaint and the names that the whistle-blower has said are eye witnesses or, you know, have some information and should be talked to, is that essentially providing you roadmaps forward? I mean, specific people to talk to to call in?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it's fair to say that he's definitely giving us some indications of further investigation that needs to be done, so I think that both the inspector general and the whistle-blower point us to other avenues for inquiry for sure.

COOPER: Congressman, I appreciate your time. By the way, is it --


COOPER: You said you think this should be declassified?


COOPER: You're saying that could be easily done, there's just some things to rule (ph) --

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think, look, there's certain appendices or certain materials that are classified in nature and sensitive that should probably be withheld, however, the vast majority of the material should be declassified immediately. And the fact that the White House has not done so just begs the question why. Why do they not want us to see the full -- why do they not want the American people to see the full whistle-blower complaint? Why do they not want the press to see the full whistle-blower complaint at this point?

COOPER: And just finally, the president has talked about this whistle-blower. To your knowledge, would it be inappropriate if the president had been told the identity of this whistle-blower? KRISHNAMOORTHI: I personally think so. I think that quite frankly

given all that we know about how certain witnesses have been treated in different investigations, I think it's best for this whistleblower's identity to be shrouded at this point.

I just want to say one last thing, Anderson, which is that, you know, this is a national security issue.


I hope that folks can come at this with an objective point of view. I was heartened in the last hearing that we had, which is closed door, that the Republicans on my committee seem to show an unusual amount of engagement with the inspector general. I think they had no choice because he was so credible.

I hope they can display the same viewpoint coming into tomorrow's hearing and going forward because it's national security. We cannot afford to let this get bogged down in partisan politics.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir. Thank you.

COOPER: He's talking about meeting tomorrow the director of the national intelligence will be coming in to testify.

Joining us now is CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN senior political commentator and "AXE FILES" host, David Axelrod, who served as a top advisor to President Obama.

Jeff, this rough transcript not verbatim as it itself says, how damaging is it? Yes, how damaging is it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's extraordinarily damaging. I think it is a definition of an abuse of power of the president. I mean, as you pointed out at the beginning -- there has never been in American history a president who in such explicit terms went to a foreign power who is in debt and in need of the United States and said, give me dirt on my political opponents. It has never happened before because it is a violation of the president's oath of office and as the president likes to say, we'll see what happens because it looks like the Republicans are going to rally around him.

And we may be back to just another Mueller report with the standoff. But the magnitude of the misconduct revealed here cannot be overstated.

COOPER: David, the president basically pooh-poohed what Jeff just said today, saying, well, look, I didn't do this, but, you know, this is what Obama did to me. You know, they were the source of everything related to Russia. And this is what, you know, senators and congresspeople do all the time. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And I think

that's moral relativism at the core of Trump's message always which is this is a cold, hard world. Nothing's on the legit and everybody does these things and, therefore, it's OK that I do these things.

But the truth is that this is not what everybody does as Jeff pointed out and you pointed out. No president has done this before. What makes it so stark is it's right there in black and white. There's no speculation there.

This is a little bit different than the Mueller investigation which was a little bit hard to follow because witnesses were secreted and there was no direct sort of testimony from the president. This is an attestation really, you know, in print of what happened. It's shocking. It's shocking not just because of the way in which he appeared to be delivering this message but in the references to the attorney general and involving the United States attorney general with Ukraine and going after a domestic political opponent, incredibly explosive.


AXELROD: And then the role of Rudy Giuliani in this mix. It is a really, really stark document.

COOPER: Gloria, it's also remarkable, you just kind of step back for a second, I think, wait a minute, the president of the United States is telling the Ukrainian president how great his personal attorney is, really smart, really capable guy.


COOPER: And, you know, take a call from him. He's going to fill you in on the details. I keep coming back to when, you know, Marlon Brando in "Godfather" sends Tom Hagen out into Hollywood to make a deal, that the guy can't refuse.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: I mean, what is Giuliani rolling around, you know, like creeping around Ukraine to talk to the president of Ukraine about -- allegedly about corruption in Ukraine, which is such a ridiculous fig leaf.

BORGER: Well, first of all, I think Trump was behaving as if there were just another real estate deal, OK? You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. This is what we do in real estate. I don't think he's ever adjusted to the fact that there are different norms and behaviors and ethnical requirements when you're president of the United States.

As for Rudy Giuliani, he's always been there. And this relationship as you know and all of us know from the Mueller report, and from -- Rudy was the TV lawyer, as you called him constantly. And he used to gave the real lawyers heartburn every day, because he'd go out on television and say something they would then have to pull back. But he's always been the Trump whisperer and he remains a Trump

whisperer. I think once Mueller was over, and "The Washington Post" did a great piece on this today, I think Rudy and the president got together and said, OK, what can we do for 2020?


2016 is over. Well, we have to discredit Biden and by the way maybe Ukraine can help figure out the Hillary Clinton server thing.

Both of them are false conspiracies. They love trading in that together. I think they feed off of each other, to tell you he truth.

TOOBIN: And to that end, it is worth nothing that this now celebrated notorious phone call was the day after --

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: -- Mueller testified in Congress where he didn't make a big or great impression which the president refers to in his conversation.

And the other thing to point out about Giuliani is that in one of his many Fox interviews, he said, well, I was just operating at the instruction of the State Department. What?

BORGER: We'll hear -- we'll hear about that.

COOPER: But it also seems like if what Congressman Swalwell and the congressman we just talked to said, essentially that in the whistleblower complaint, you know, the whistleblower names other people who have information. Certainly, the former ambassador who Giuliani apparently sort of launched a -- you know, a Giuliani attack against and got removed from office, they must be somebody who would be worthwhile talking to as well?

BORGER: Absolutely, absolutely. Look, I think that ambassador who got sent home, about why she was sent home who was a career diplomat and must have a story to tell about why she was sent home and discredited and trashed really by the president in the conversation with the president of Ukraine.

You know, Rudy Giuliani's work is in here too. If you don't believe the conspiracy theory, you won't help me dig up dirt on Joe Biden, then what good are you?

COOPER: We're going to go --


AXELROD: Yes, you know, I also wonder -- I also wonder, Anderson, about the recently departed NSA director, John Bolton. He certainly has an incentive to be forthcoming on this having been apart from it and now being dispatched by Trump and the way he was. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about this.

COOPER: Yes, unless he wants to be a Fox analyst or something. I mean, there's -- you know, or be on the lecture circuit.

AXELROD: Well, there's that.


We want to hold that thought. There's breaking news just in on a tentative agreement by the whistleblower on testifying before Congress. We'll have that next. Talk about it as well.

Rather remarkable press conference from the president today responding to all of it. I'll show you parts of that as well.



COOPER: We just learned we could be a step closer to the whistle- blower at the center of the president's potential impeachment problems, telling his or her story to Congress. According to correspondence obtained by CNN, he or she has tentatively agreed to meet lawmakers.

CNN's Pamela Brown is on the phone, joins now.

What are we learning about this, Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): This is according to correspondence that CNN has obtained, Anderson, that shows that this anonymous whistle-blower, who filed the complaint with the intelligence community's inspector general, which includes as we know allegations about Donald Trump, has tentatively agreed to meet with congressional lawmakers.

Now, this is all contingent on whether the DNI approves appropriate security clearances for the individual's legal counsel so that they can accompany their clients to testify on Capitol Hill in front of the House Intelligence Committee.

Now we know Adam Schiff, the House intelligence chair, wrote a letter to Maguire making that request today after the whistle-blower's lawyers agreed to meet with the lawyers, if that condition is met, and requested assistance in expediting approval for the acting DNI. And so, this certainly is a step forward in the whistle-blower actually appearing before lawmakers.

Just remember, last week, you know, we were far from this point. The DNI wouldn't even provide anything having to do with the whistle- blower complaint. Now, the acting DNI will be testifying tomorrow. We are expecting the classified version of the whistleblower complaint to be released by the end of this week.

And now, we're learning a tentative deal has been reached for this unanimous whistleblower to go before lawmakers in the House Intelligence Committee pending the lawyers getting their security clearances. Now, we're told this won't happen tomorrow, and that there is no, you know, final deal or date set for the whistleblower to meet before Congress. But that's the way it is, Anderson.

COOPER: The original complaint, was it classified? Or was it just declass -- was it classified after the fact by the White House before giving it to members of Congress to look at? Do we know?

BROWN: So, the original complaint did contain classified information, we're told. And declassified version of the complaint, the original complaint that contained the classified information was provided to Congress today. And so, there's a separate process that's been going on to then declassify the complaint so it could go out wider, to the public, and not just to lawmakers who can go into a SCIF to review it.

COOPER: And, Pam, we may not know this, but the president spoke today as if the president knew who this whistle-blower was, in terms of kind of raising doubts about them. Is it known -- if the president actually -- would the president know who this whistle -- the identity of this whistleblower?

BROWN: At this point, Anderson, there is no indication that the president knows the identity of this whistleblower and yet, as you pointed out, the president continues to attack the whistleblower, calling the whistleblower partisan, raising questions about the whistle-blower, whoever he or she is.

The president himself said late last week he didn't know the identity and there's been no that has changed.


Now, what's interesting here, Anderson, is as you know, President Trump has railed against leakers. He has consistently, you know, criticized leakers for going to the media. This whistle-blower actually did follow the proper channels in filing the complaint, and that is according to, you know, letters from DNI general counsel to the whistleblower's lawyer, saying that they had ever reason to believe the whistleblower follow the proper procedures.

And yet, even by doing that, you're seeing this criticism from president Trump really going after the whistle-blower without necessarily knowing the identity as far as we know, Anderson.

COOPER: Right. I mean, it was basically the White House and Department of Justice which made this into a blockbuster story because they refused to allow the DNI to forward basically for the first time ever DNI not forwarding a whistle-blower complaint.

BROWN: Right, that's exactly right, because the law stipulates that the inspector would, the I.C. would determine whether it was credible, give it to the DNI, and then the DNI would then pass it along to Congress that could provide comment. But the DNI, under the advice of DOJ and the White House, told Congress essentially that it wasn't going to do it because the complaint didn't meet the requirements under the intelligence whistle-blower law.

COOPER: Right. BROWN: That is -- that is has been a big sticking point in all of

this. But now, as you just said, a live developments where, you know, Maguire is going to be testifying tomorrow. We're going to be seeing the declassified complaint, according to sources. And now, it looks as though the whistleblower will be testifying to Congress once they work out the security clearance.

COOPER: Pamela Brown, appreciate it, with the breaking news.

More now as the president's thinking as this all plays out. For days before the transcript to this call with Ukraine's president came out, he was using the word perfect to describe the conversation. He did again late today at the United Nations, during a press conference that had several key moments. It was entirely disconnected from verifiable facts, easily verifiable facts.

CNN's Jim Acosta was there, joins us from Trump Tower, where the president is spending the tonight.

I mean, we watched with a lot of, you know, rambling, weird conferences. This one was low energy and rambling. The one thing the president didn't talk about was his request that the Ukrainian president do a favor for him.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. A lot of angry denials, a lot of false conspiracy theories spread by the president, unproven conspiracy theories. What he did not explain as to what he was mentioning -- what he meant when he was telling the president of Ukraine that he wanted the president of Ukraine to do a favor for him.

Just after the president much Ukraine was saying in that transcript that we all read earlier today, that rough transcript, that the president of Ukraine was asking for a military aide from the United States, and then at that point, you saw in the transcript, the president was saying, well, we'd like to you do a favor for us. Anderson, that was never explained during this press conferences. The president was also asked during the day, earlier in the day about the role of Rudy Giuliani, and why he was essentially doing the work of the government, conducting government business, talking to the Ukrainians about, you know, this desire on the part of the president and his political team to investigate Joe Biden.

The president tried to explain all of that. He's trying to root out corruption and that sort of thing. But during this press conference, he was asked at one point, it was a very revealing answer, what he thought about the prospect of impeachment. And that is essentially when he started to lash at the press and here's what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I used to be the king of getting good press. I was very good at it and I got good. I mean, they covered me well for otherwise I probably wouldn't be here. And once I ran, I said, boy, this is incredible. But if you see the way they treat -- my family used to be treated great, my family works so hard, the people that work with me, these people -- all of these people, they work so hard. They've done such -- look, we have the greatest economy we've ever had. We have a military -- $2.5 trillions, we've rebuilt our military. You don't hear the vets complaining. We got choice approved, it couldn't be approved.

But when you see what happened with the viciousness and when you see little Adam Schiff go out and lie and lie and stand at the mike -- smart guy, by the way -- stand at the mike and act like -- he goes into a room with Nadler and they must laugh their asses off.


ACOSTA: The other thing that was notable from the president's press conference is that they were starting to lay the groundwork, you see the president laying the groundwork that we saw from other White House officials leading up to this to really disparage and undermine the credibility of this whistleblower who as Pamela was just saying a few moments ago, has tentatively agreed to testify.

Anderson, you saw the president during this press conference to say that the whistleblower is working with what he described as second hand information, trying to say that this whistleblower doesn't know what he is talking about.

I did talk to a White House official earlier this evening who said that this declassification process for the whistle-blower complaint is continuing and that they are planning --


[20:30:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He doesn't know what he is talking about. I did talk to a White House official earlier this evening and he said that this declassification process for the whistleblower complaint is continuing and that they are planning to plan still at this point to declassify that whistleblower complaint. That's the latest from the White House.

But, Anderson, we're already starting to see lawmakers walk out of those briefings, Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, walked out of his briefing, looked at some of the information that was in that whistleblower complaint and said he was concerned about some of the things that he saw. And so there seems to be some bipartisan concern about what is contained in this whistleblower complaint.

The big question at this point coming up on the end of the week is whether or not the White House will follow through with what they've been saying over the last couple of days, and that is addition to this call transcript, we're going to see the details from the whistleblower complaint, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's also interesting hearing the President talk about people laughing, that Adam Schiff is laughing, with Nadler countries are laughing at us. It's -- that to the President seems to be the worst possible thing, people laughing at him, laughing in his direction. Just as a --

ACOSTA: That's right, yes. He was essentially saying impeachment for what, was one of the other comment that stood out --


ACOSTA: -- to us, Anderson. He doesn't seem to be taking those process seriously, the prospect that he might become an impeached president. And despite the fact that he was saying, well, this could be good for him politically, that is not always the case when president's go down this road.

They don't always emerge from this unscathed. And even though Bill Clinton has saw his popularity rise, you know, just talk to Hillary Clinton as to whether or not, you know, the baggage from that old saga worked out well for her, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks. Back now with Gloria Borger, Jeff Toobin, and David Axelrod.

President Trump, David, clearly during that press conference trying to avoid questions on Ukraine. He told reporters asking about the U.N. and quickly handed, you know, things off to Secretary Pompeo for a little while. He typically likes to hammer anything that he deems unfair and obviously there were a lot of legitimate questions to be asked today.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I think that his problem is that this is unlike anything else he's had to deal with. This is something where the evidence is right in front of people to judge for themselves and it's much harder to spin that. I do think that people to some degree of guns in their partisan corners and ways that you could anticipate and they will try and go after this whistleblower.

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted tonight about the lawyer representing the whistleblower having had Democratic context notwithstanding the fact as Representative Chris Murphy said. The inspector general was a Trump appointee who passed this law.

But this is a much more difficult problem for them because of this summary that was released today. And you really have to suspend -- you know, you have to suspend belief to -- or what your own eyes tell you to dismiss this and say it was benign.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, former GOP House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, you know, not a Democratic apologies, he went out of his way after the President's news conferences to say how not normal this is, that it's "dangerous thing," in his words, for people to just accept this standard operating procedure, which is the argument essentially the President was making saying, oh, you know, Obama did this, everybody does this. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Nobody does this. I mean, nobody does this. And, you know, we don't even know so many of the surrounding circumstances. I mean, you know, these investigations take some time and they get more complicated not less.

If you want to do a serious investigation, you need to find out, what is the chronology of events involving contacts between the President, Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian interest. The President in his news conference said, well, it's fine if you want to get a transcript of my first phone call with the president of Ukraine, if you want transcripts of the vice president's context with Ukraine, help yourself.

Well, you can be sure the Democrats will take him up on that offer. And, you know, the role of Rudy Giuliani is, you know, begging to be explored but the idea that this is in any way normal or even precedented is simply not true.

COOPER: Well, also, Gloria, you think about all the lies they told about the backroom dealing on Stormy Daniels.


COOPER: And, you know, what they denied and then turned out to have taken place, negotiations between attorneys, you know, Michael Cohen, you can only imagine, you know, meetings Rudy Giuliani has with folks in hotel rooms in Madrid, in Ukraine, in Kiev, and wherever else.

BORGER: Right. I mean, he was through attorney's kind of trying to figure out about a pardon for Michael Cohen, if you'll recall, and he got himself involved in that. Look, I think Giuliani is doing the President's bidding here and wanted to find a hook into Joe Biden and Joe Biden's family one way or another.

[20:35:10] And then the President comes out today and plays the victim card, effectively saying that he's the victim of the deep state and that the whistleblower has got some problem. So I think he put it certain things have come out about the whistleblower that are interesting.

COOPER: Right, people are talking.

GORGER: People are saying, you know.

COOPER: Yes. Everyone is talking about it.

BORGER: And so -- right.

COOPER: You it, I know it.

BORGER: And so he said, look, I get transparency well. Hunter Biden and Joe Biden should get transparency, even though there's absolutely no validity to what he's charging. This is how the President fights.

And Joe Biden, in fact, may have a problem in the end with this. This is not going to be great for him, because he's going to have to respond and it becomes an issue. That's what he does.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria, thank you, Jeff, David Axelrod. Still to come, more on President Trump's first news conference since the impeachment inquiry began. We'll discuss the day that was with former CIA director and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.


COOPER: President Trump's performance today was like none we've seen from any president even this one. Again when he released that rough transcript, not verbatim of his July call with the Ukrainian president, which he asked for the president to investigate the Biden clan and also told the president "do us a favor."

Now, when asked about selling Ukraine anti-tank missiles, President Trump follow that up with a rambling sulking news conference today as we've talked it. It was his first since the impeachment inquiry in which he accused several Democratic senators without a shred of evidence of trying themselves to strong arm the Ukrainian president. He even said that one of them, Chris Murphy, had "literally threatened Ukraine's president."

For more on this, I'm joined by a man who has worked at the highest levels of the White House, Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta, you served as Secretary of Defense, Director of CIA, White House Chief of Staff, you served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In all of that time with all you've done at the highest levels of government, have you ever heard of anything like this?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, CLINTON ADMIN.: Anderson, I've served in one way or another under nine presidents. I've worked directly for two presidents. I have never seen another president do what this President has done.

COOPER: There -- do you have any doubt after reading -- it's not really a transcript, but do you have any doubt after reading the elements of the conversation that were released about what the President's intentions were here? You know, basically setting it up and handing -- wanting to hand it over to Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, asking for a favor? Is it clear to you what went on here?

[20:40:11] PANETTA: Well, I don't think there's any question with that. That transcript is a smoking gun that points to a President having used his office and his responsibilities as commander in chief in dealing with military aid, having used that as leverage to try to get the president of the Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. There isn't much question when you read that transcript as to what the President was trying to get the president of the Ukraine to do.

Now, there's obviously a lot of other facts that have to be looked at, the whistleblower's complaint. I think there has to be testimony from the inspector general. There has to be testimony from Rudy Giuliani. There are a lot of things that have to be looked at, but there's no question in my mind that a prima fascia case against the President was clearly laid out in that transcript. COOPER: I still don't quite understand how with a straight face Rudy Giuliani can claim that it's normal that he is the personal attorney for President Trump. He's not working in the government. He is going allegedly investigating corruption in general in Ukraine.

I mean, there's plenty of ways to investigate corruption in Ukraine through the arms of the United States government, through intelligence services. And there's probably a lot of current corruption one could investigate and that the President probably has access to intelligence on that he could have brought up to the president of Ukraine.

But instead, Giuliani like Tom Hayden going to Hollywood sent by Marlon Brando in "The Godfather," it's like he's on a personal mission to Ukraine clearly to talk about the Bidens and focus on the Bidens.

PANETTA: Yes. You know, this isn't rocket science here. I think Rudy Giuliani has been kind of Trump's henchman for a while and he basically will say or do whatever is necessary to kind of -- either confuse the issue or try to raise political arguments with regards to the issue.

I don't think there's any question that both the President and Rudy Giuliani thought that it was important that the Ukraine conduct this investigation in order to give them something to go after on Joe Biden to fulfill this political environment that both were interested in. I don't think there's any question that that's what was involved here.

And Rudy Giuliani frankly will have to testify and there's not much question in my mind that the issue of a potential conspiracy here between the President and Giuliani in order to violate the law dealing with getting foreign assistance for political purposes, that could become an issue for Rudy Giuliani.

COOPER: You were also a member of the House of Representatives. Given the experience on the Hill that you've had, I wonder what you make of Nancy Pelosi's announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry yesterday. Because in effect, she wasn't really -- she wasn't pointing us, you know, calling for a select committee.

She essentially was saying, well, they'll continue the six investigations that have been underway just under the umbrella of it being called an inquiry. So it's not actually anything new, though it was certainly dramatic. Is that something that Democrats might, you know, regret come Election Day? I mean, does it all -- I guess it all depends on what they find.

PANETTA: This involves an allegation of an offense committed by the President of the United States. This is a moment in time, very frankly, both Democrats and Republicans have to look at their responsibility.

They oath -- they swear to the constitution and act not politically, act on the basis of carrying a responsibility to fully investigate this issue to determine what happen and then determine what the consequences should be. That is a sacred responsibility and one that I hope both sides respect. COOPER: Secretary Panetta, appreciate your time. Thank you.

PANETTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Just now, we have even more breaking news. There are new details just coming out on what is in the whistleblower complaint. We'll have that in a moment for you. Also, as Democrats decides which direction to take their impeachment inquiry, President Trump has a suggestion, Mike Pence.


[20:47:46] COOPER: Well, the breaking news hasn't let up tonight. There's more from "The New York Times" right now, specifically on what is in the whistleblower complaint, sharing the byline.

Joining us by phone of "The Times" is Julian Barnes. Julian, a lot of detail in your that just coming now, the whistleblower believed, according to your reporting, the President's action with the president of Ukraine may have create a national security risk. What else have you learned?

JULIAN BARNES, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We learned that intelligence officer who file the report had raised along not just about what the man said in the phone call, but how the White House handled those records. There was something troubling in that.

And the whistleblower also identified multiple White House officials who were potential witnesses. And we know that the inspector general from the Intelligence Committee, Michael Atkinson, interview those witnesses corroborating some of the complaint.

COOPER: Right. In your report, you say that the inspector general "found reason" to believe that the whistleblower may not support the reelection of Mr. Trump and may clear that the complainant was not in a position to directly listen to the call or see the memo that reconstructed it before it was made public. Obviously that's part of what the President is alluding to in his comments today about sort of impugning the motives of this whistleblower.

BARNES: That's right. That is the reason that element of the Justice Department memo is what led Mr. Trump to make those accusations against them. Now, we do not know how serious this is. We don't know if this is a minor bit of partisanship, if this is a wholesale sort of anti-Trump person.

But what we do know is that despite that evidence, the inspector general found reason to go forward, reason to find the complaint credible and forwarded it on to the DNI and asked for it to go to Congress.

COOPER: Right. And that's an important point. The inspector general, who's actually a Trump appointee, even while pointing out this person doesn't seem to want the President to get reelected and didn't actually hear the call, they felt this was credible and urgent and wanted Congress to see it. [20:50:05] All the details are in "The New York Times" report. Julian Barnes, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in our CNN Senior Political Commentator, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, and CNN Political Analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers.

Kirsten, there was some concern even among Democrats that they may have jumped the gun yesterday. Was that concern misplaced? Do you have those concerns still?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I definitely do not have those concerns. I don't see how any gun could be jumped in this situation. I mean, I think this is like slow motion watching democracy die. We've been watching it throughout this Trump presidency and I think what we've seen in the last couple of days is absolutely horrifying. And the fact that there are Republicans that are defending it is what makes it even more horrifying.

Look, regardless of what we know about the whistleblower or don't, Donald Trump has already admitted to doing this. We have at least a partial transcript of a call that completely confirms that this is in fact what he did.

He is also blatantly lying about Joe Biden. I mean, the entire reason that he even is asking for this never happened. It's actually the opposite of that. So, I think that this is, you know, absolutely a crisis and that the Democrats are absolutely correct in treating it as such.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, the President says --

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You may be surprised to hear that I disagree with this.

COOPER: OK. Well, let me ask you, Senator Santorum, because the President today said, well, essentially, look, senators, Congress people, everybody does this. Would you ever call up the president of Ukraine if you were in power, if you were the president and say, hey, do me a favor, you know, I got this aid hanging over your head, do me a favor not for the country, but for -- against one of my opponents?

SANTORUM: OK. Did you -- you guys need to read the transcript, because I'm listening to this throughout the whole show.

POWERS: I read the transcript.

SANTORUM: OK. I just read it again, because I thought maybe I missed something. The transcript says do me a favor. And what does he talk about? He doesn't mention Joe Biden's name. He talks about crowd strike. He talks about election --

COOPER: Right. And then he said there's another thing.

SANTORUM: Hold on. He talks about election meddling. He finishes his thing talking about the Mueller report and how all this started in Ukraine and I want you to look into this. Then the president of Ukraine says, you know, we'll look into this, Mr. President. I got good people around me. We're going to look into it.

And then he brings up Rudy Giuliani, talk -- who, by the way, I agree, has been talking about the Biden situation. The President, of course, knows that he's been talking about the Biden situation.

He finishes -- the president of Ukraine finishes talking about Giuliani and that's when President brings up, yes, OK, well. Then he goes into, yes, I agree with you, that needs to be looked into also. But he didn't ask a favor --

POWERS: No, it's not, oh, I agree with you.

COOPER: That's not an I agree with you thing.

SANTORUM: He didn't a favor about the Bidens.

POWERS: That is not what it says.

COOPER: That's not what it says.

SANTORUM: That's exactly what it says. I just read it.

POWERS: That is absolutely not what it says, Rick. And this is outrageous the way that you are trying to cast this --

SANTORUM: Read it.

POWERS: -- that he did not -- that this was not him looking for a favor from them.

SANTORUM: Read it.

POWERS: And also, by the way, let's talk about the foreign policy implications here. Where is your condemnation? Because I remember when the Republicans were always outraged when Barack Obama wasn't supporting the Ukraine enough against Russia and now the Donald Trump --

SANTORUM: And so did the -- by the way, the President gave them actual weapons.

POWERS: -- has withdrawn --

SANTORUM: Obama gave them --

POWERS: He has withdrawn military support from them.

COOPER: OK. Let me just -- OK, let me just read this. The President: The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution --

SANTORUM: After he mentioned Giuliani.

POWERS: So what? COOPER: Right. By the way, mentioning Giuliani is acknowledging that he knows that Giuliani is skulking about and meeting with Ukrainian officials in Madrid and in Ukraine and elsewhere. And we know what Giuliani is skulking about. He is skulking about the Bidens. He is not --

SANTORUM: I understand. But if you look at what he ask the favor about, the President spoke at length about Mueller and about the --

COOPER: Right. Then he said the other thing. This is the second part of the favor. The other thing --

SANTORUM: But it was disconnected from the favor.

COOPER: It's not. It's not at all.


COOPER: It follows --

POWERS: They've already said that there would be nothing wrong with it if they did it. I mean, they've admitted to doing this, Rick. So I don't even understand what you're saying.

SANTORUM: No, I disagree with you.

COOPER: That other thing -- let me just read it. The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son. Really?


COOPER: There is a lot of talk among whom? That Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out, again, the President's go to. There's a lot of people, you know, want to know. There's a lot of people want to find out about it. The President: Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution. If you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me.

SANTORUM: Yes. I would say this. I would agree with you that is bad judgment. I agree that the President should not have said that. But to suggest that the President was somehow creating a quid pro quo or brokering or asking a favor to do that, I think is a misreading of the transcript.

COOPER: Come on.


COOPER: If hanging over the Ukrainian president's head is hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that he needs to fight an ongoing war in his country, he knows that, the President knows that. You're saying in order for there to be a quid pro quo the President has to spell it out and say, by the way, I've stopped the aid. I'm holding it up, even though Congress passed it, you know, on a bipartisan basis [20:55:08] And you, you know, do me this thing on crowd strike and, you know, my conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. Oh, and by the way, Biden. I mean, why is he bringing up Biden if it's not a favor?

SANTORUM: Because -- he brought it up because the Ukrainian president brought it up.

COOPER: Oh, come on, Rick.

POWERS: This has been something they've been pushing.

SANTORUM: I mean, that's the way I look at it.


POWERS: This has been something they've been pushing and it's also so crazy making because Biden did the opposite --


COOPER: And by the way, of all the things the brand new Ukrainian president has top of his list of concerns is Joe Biden's son from years ago and his board seat.


COOPER: I mean, that's amazing to me. We got to go. I'm out of time. Rick Santorum, thank you, and Kirsten Powers.

Joining me now, Minnesota senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. She serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, I want to get your reaction to this new "New York Times" reporting that the whistleblower raised alarms about how the White House handled records of the conversation.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not surprise by that and it's something I'm very glad that we're getting the whistleblower complaint. I have not personally seen it yet, but we have to get to the bottom of all of this, which is why Speaker Pelosi opened this impeachment inquiry and this proceeding.

I think that when you really look at this, and I agree with what Kirsten said there, is that this is about our democracy, our fundamentals of our democracy. You look at why do we have impeachment proceedings.

You go back to the founding fathers and it was James Madison who actually said at the constitutional convention, he said that you need it because a president might betray his trust to foreign powers. Of course, they were concerned about other foreign powers back then, but that is exactly what this looks like. He was putting his own political and personal interests first. I have been to Ukraine several times. I went there with John McCain and Lindsey Graham and stood right after Trump got elected, but before he was inaugurated. John McCain wanted to go there because he wanted to show our allies that despite what Trump had said during the election, that we stood with our allies, including Ukraine, and Georgia, and Latvia, and Lithuania.

And we stood there in a blizzard in the frontline with the former president. And I could see, as we met those widows and saw those troops, what this was about. It was about them, a very small country trying to hold on to their independence against Russia.


KLOBUCHAR: And they needed America. So this idea that they don't need us, they need us, they needed our missiles, they needed our help. And then for this President to go on a phone call, admit that we've been giving them a lot of help, talking about that and then tying it to this -- to favors and to bringing up Joe Biden and his son of which there was no merit, you can -- you know it when you see it and this was it.

COOPER: You know, the use of the word favor is interesting. I hesitate to use it ever in conversation, because if you're asking somebody a favor, it's something that's not in their interest or it's going to be unpleasant for them but it means something to you.

If you're the President of the United States, asking him to investigate corruption, that's not a favor, that's just -- that's the business of the United States. A favor is take your time and your resources and go look into crowd strike and, you know, Hunter Biden. I mean, that's --

KLOBUCHAR: Well, not to mention I think what president brings up their private attorney and says go talk to him.

COOPER: Well, right.

KLOBUCHAR: And we know that Giuliani was there for this one purpose.

COOPER: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: And people working with him to uncover dirt and that is exactly, by the way, when I came out for impeachment months ago, it was because this President was implying that he wanted to get dirt from other countries again.

This is the same tune over and over again, starting with when he stood in front of that wall, that sacred wall of the CIA with those stars honoring those anonymous people who served our country, who died in the line of duty and gave a political speech.

And you just go -- you can just connect the dots, believing Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence officers. This is something bigger and I like what Leon Panetta had talked about. This shouldn't just be about Democrats coming forward. This has to be Republicans as well, because we have an obligation to put our country first.

We have an obligation to uphold the rule of law and to make sure that we don't have a president that's selling our nation out to foreign entities and selling them out for his own personal reasons. That's what this is about.

COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: A quick reminder, join me, Jake Tapper, 11 p.m. Eastern tonight, just two hours from now, for a special CNN report, "The Impeachment Inquiry." Right now, the news continues, of course. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?