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Source: President Trump Calling McConnell As Often As 3 Times A Day, Seeking to Lock Down GOP Loyalty; Interview with Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 20:00   ET




We begin with breaking news. New indications of just how seriously President Trump is now taking the impeachment inquiry and how seriously he's pushing to keep Republican senators, potential jurors, remember, in line.

CNN's Evan Perez is breaking the news. He joins us now.

What you have learned?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, one of the things we've learned is that the president is so consumed with this impeachment inquiry that he's now calling Senator McConnell as many as three times a day. Now, this is something that the majority leader has had to deal with before at the height of the Mueller inquiry. The president was so exercised that he was doing the same thing.

Now, what his -- the president is worrying about is keeping senators in line. He is worried about disloyal senators, something he's already started tweeting about in recent days, he says that some senators are not being loyal enough and they should be holding the line.

Now, this is something that McConnell is going to have to be dealing with for the long-term obviously. He wants to make sure senators who are going to be the jurors should Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats impeach the president, he's going to need those people to hold the line.

And the president is increasingly lashing out, telling the majority leader that he believes in a some of the senators need to hold the line on what the White House is telling them to do.

COOPER: Evan, stay with us, because I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen as well, and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He first served as press secretary in the Clinton White House and is currently co-host of the podcast "Words Matter".

David, first of all, what do you make of Evan's reporting -- because the whole notion that the president is conducting business as usual and isn't solely focused and consumed by the impeachment inquiry, if he's calling McConnell three times a day, that seems to suggest otherwise.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does. He's been aptly compared to King Lear, you know, fighting off the darkness. And he's obviously preoccupied. And I could understand why.

But I must tell you in none of the reporting about what he's preoccupied with is there any mention of what's good for the country. The principles that we ought to have as a people, and what he is trying to uphold. It is all about personal survival and, you know, personally beating the other side.

COOPER: Well, it's also, David, about revealing who the whistleblower is. Which, again --


COOPER: -- I understand why he wants that for his own reasons, but in terms of the good of the country, I mean, if he reveals -- if the whistleblower is blown on this and revealed, that is a chilling message for anyone else who may ever want to consider being one.

GERGEN: I think that if he were to blow the cover of the whistleblower by whatever nefarious means, they could potentially add that to another charge on the impeachment. That would in effect be an obstruction because he really is trying to put a chill on anyone else coming forward. And, by the way, he's obviously subjecting the person who is the whistle-blower to enormous personal risk.

COOPER: Yes. Joe, even by saying publicly this person is not a real whistleblower, this person is a liar, I'm not even sure this person exists, there is tantamount of being a spy, we don't want spies in the White House, I mean, he is sending a message to other whistleblowers and trying to intimidate though.

What do you make, though, Joe, of calling McConnell, according to Evan Perez, three times a day to tell him he's going to amplify attacks on Republicans who criticize him?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's worried about the right problem, which is his problem is not with Democrats. Democrats, he's lost. His firewall is the Republicans and the Republican senators in particular.

A strategy of going after them and trying to intimidate them works when you are in a position of strength. His position is weakening day by day. So I don't know that that will work.

You know, in 1998 with President Clinton, we focused almost all of our efforts on Democratic senators because that's -- you know, that's what protected us. But I completely agree with what David is saying, you know, it's -- the big difference between then and now is this president is consumed with it and he's letting the public know he's consumed with it. He's not worried about the people, he's not worried about his job. He

spends all day long and increasingly all night long tweeting about this, whining about it, showing how afraid he is and he's revealing, I think, that it very much weakens his case and if you're a Republican senator and you're looking at -- you know, you don't like the trend.

COOPER: Laura, just from a legal standpoint, has he already set himself up for more perhaps obstruction charges or at least compounding the things he's already said?


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He is compounding it. What he's doing is essentially giving more ammunition to say that he is going to engage in obstruction of Congress essentially, from just the president saying, I'm the law and order president and one of the rules of the president of the United States is to faithfully execute the laws and they are being executed.

If he is saying, look, I'm not even going to comply with the subpoena at this junction, where we are right now, Anderson, he is saying before one article of impeachment has been drafted, he's saying he's not going to cooperate. He wants to be part of the investigation. He wants to know as if it was a grand jury witness. He wants to know who that person is and sit in on the proceedings. That is not done. It's really a premature request and a premature anxiety.

But on the other hand, doesn't this help his court of public opinion argument that said, look what happens when you have an impeachment. Your president is being consumed. Your president is being consumed by things other than what you care about in terms of kitchen table issues. Health care is not in my wheelhouse right now and gun control is not an issue right now. It's this.

And in that vein, about polling and thinking being that, that has an impact on whether the public is carried along. But the larger issue of the abuse of power, that is still there and the more he abuses it, the more ammunition they get.

COOPER: I'm not sure gun control or health care has been in his wheelhouse.

But, Evan, what are you learning about the president's overall view of this impeachment fight?

PEREZ: Well, look, I mean, he looks at this, Anderson, as a purely political thing and that is why in the phone calls with Mitch McConnell, he's pressing him to keep the Republican senators in line. He believes that, you know, the strategy here is simply to make sure that this is a partisan issue. This is about his re-election after all.

And, by the way, I should note, I failed to mention that we reached out for comment from Mitch McConnell's office and we did get a comment from Doug Andres and I'll read you just a part of it. It says that they're disputing that Mitch McConnell ever related some of this to some of his fellow Republicans and he said we -- where is it here.

OK. This story based on a single anonymous source is categorically false. Leader McConnell never said anything like this. They are disputing that Mitch McConnell has told fellow Republicans about some of his interactions with the president.

And you could understand why. The president and Mitch McConnell have forged a tight relationship in the past year, this despite for so long the president was criticizing establishment figures like Mitch McConnell. He needs Mitch McConnell very much now. And Mitch McConnell frankly needs the president to stay focused in order to protect him.

COOPER: David, the president is going after the person or persons who gave the information to the whistleblower saying he doesn't want to have spies in the White House. It is interesting that he's so focused on the whistle-blower because it seems like the whistle-blower at this point isn't even really the question any more. I mean, everything that the whistleblower has said has turned out to be true or mostly true. And there is the transcript and the president's own comments which prove that.

GERGEN: Well I think that it is conceivable the whistle-blower has some details that haven't been drawn out yet. And so I wouldn't dismiss the whistleblower's account. I do think it could have some importance.

But I also think, Anderson, when the American people have a sense that the rage and the obsession and sort of the craziness that is coming out of the White House, that is going to make more and more people feel uncomfortable about having him serve as president for another term. I think this is the -- the way he's acting is making it worse not better, in my judgment for his command and leadership of the country.

COOPER: Joe, it is interesting, though, to hear Evan reporting that the president is concerned that senators aren't being loyal enough. Really the senators haven't really -- most Republican senators haven't said anything other than Mitt Romney. They have been critical of what the president has done to the Kurds, the betrayal of the Kurds. I'm not sure if that is part of his calculus that he doesn't like what Lindsey Graham is going around saying and that is part of this.

LOCKHART: Yes, listen --


COOPER: Sorry, Joe. Go ahead, Joe.

LOCKHART: I think there's been a little bit of a trickle and that is worrying the president and his team. You've seen Senator Collins and Senator Portman and Senator Sasse say things like the president shouldn't be reaching out to China and making that while staying silent on Ukraine.

You know, listen, the president's relationship with both the House and the Senate when anyone has crossed him is to try to crush them. Mark Sanford running for president because he crossed the president and the president got him defeated in a primary. He has a stranglehold on the Republican Party right now.

The problem is these senators many of whom are up for re-election in the cycle in 2020 and have to face their voters are sitting and waiting to see what else will come out and that's what this big struggle is.


Will the president be able to keep all of the details at the White House and keep Congress from getting them because as this gets worse, Republicans will make a calculation at some point, you know, whether it is in their interest to continue supporting the president. That is what the president is so fearful of.

COOPER: Yes, Joe and David, stick around.

Laura, thanks. I know you need to go work on your 11:00 show, "White House in Crisis", that we encourage everyone to watch tonight.

Coming up next, former national security adviser Susan Rice on the president's recent decisions and actions on the impeachment question as well as northern Syria.

And later, Vice President Pence who, as you know, has spoken out against foreign interference in elections and that, of course, was a long time ago. We'll ask him if he still believes it now.



COOPER: Before the break, David Gergen referred to the way the president is acting and how it is affecting his presidency, which on top of the breaking news is part of the larger question tonight, namely, are we now witnessing what people, including those who used to be close to President Trump, have long worried and frankly warned about? Are we seeing on several fronts the consequences of a president without guardrails, without would be called the adults in the room, the people who could have experience and could steer him away from impulsive decisions and protect him against his own worse instincts, advisers to stop him, for instance, if only in his own best interest from leveling a threat today at the whistleblower whose complaint touched off the Ukraine affair?

The president saying that the whistleblower, he or she, should be, quote, exposed and should not be protected. Are we witnessing the effects of their absence or lack of influence? Are we also seeing the lack of so-called adults in his surprise decision after a call with Turkish president to pull troops out of northern Syria, which has now led to a Turkish invasion aimed at the staunch ally in the fight against ISIS?

Whatever the answer tonight, a whistle-blower who's entitled by law to protection from a boss's retaliation is facing an open call for just that from the president of the United States, the president who is supposed to uphold the rights and protections enshrined in our laws even if they are not in his personal best interest.

This president cannot do that. It is all about him. It always has been and likely always will be.

Tonight, whatever else you might think about the larger American involvement in the Middle East, the Kurds who fought and died along U.S. troops, who did the bulk of the fighting, 10,000 dead are being bombed by Turkey. Some will almost certainly die in the wake of the president's snap decision.

So, tonight, the broadcast is dominated by that and the whistle-blower story, two manifestations it seems of this same question. What happened when the guardrails go away?

We're going to hear in a moment from Susan Rice who serves as national security adviser in the Obama administration and strong thoughts on the subject. But first here is what President Trump said this afternoon about the whistle-blower.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What the whistleblower said bore to relationship to what the call was. Then it turns out that the whistleblower was in cahoots with Schiff. Then it turns out that the whistleblower is a Democrat, a strong Democrat and is working with one of my opponents as a Democrat that I might end up running against.

When you see what the whistleblower said about the phone call and it was totally different. He made it up. And I don't know why a person that defrauds the American public should be protected.


COOPER: All right. Keeping them honest, in order, the intelligence community whistleblower act specifically makes reprisals or threats of reprisal subject to so-called urgent concern complaints that need to be passed on to Congress. There is no evidence the whistleblower was in cahoots with anyone and the president offered none.

As for the president's claim that the whistleblower's account of the call is radically different from the rough transcript, not the word- for-word transcript which we have not seen, if there is one, that's not true either. The very first words on it after Ukrainian President Zelensky inquires about U.S. military aid badly needed desperately needed aid to fight Russians is President Trump saying and I quote, I would like to you do me a favor though, followed by pressure to investigate the Bidens.

Faced with evidence of the president's own words on the president's own transcript that contradict what the president himself keeps saying. When the so-called adult in the room try to stop the president from making such easily disprovable claims. Similarly would he or she try to stop the president from saying this about the staunch U.S. allies now under bombardment tonight?


TRUMP: Now the Kurds are fighting for the lands. Just so you understand. They're fighting for the land as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with -- Normandy as an example and they mention names of different battles and they're there to help us with their land. And that is a different thing.


COOPER: Well, it is hard to know what that even means. But the president seems to be suggesting that the Kurds have always just been in it for themselves and they didn't help us in Normandy and World War II. More than 10,000 Kurds have been killed in the fight against ISIS. We fight -- a fight, by the way, that we asked them to undertake.

He also said this.


TRUMP: Well, they're going to be escaping to Europe. That is where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes but Europe didn't want them from us. We could have given it to them. They could have had trials, they could have done whatever they wanted.

But as usual, it's not reciprocal. You know, my favorite word, reciprocal. That's all I want. I don't want an edge. I just want reciprocal.


COOPER: Whatever you make of all that, the president has taken steps that have now exposed them to what could become mass slaughter.


He's caused alarm among other allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Israel. And he's triggered a rebellion among many Republican lawmakers, including the very senators who may one day hold his political future in their hands.

Whatever you think of the president's statements, decisions or policies writ large, does any of this look like anything but a president determined to say and do what his gut and no one else tells him, to say and do anything to protect himself.

I misspoke on what he said to Zelensky. He said to do -- I would like you to do us a favor.

Perspective now from former national security adviser Susan Rice, who's also the author of "Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For". The book is just out this week. I want to -- I want to talk about your book because there is a lot in

it. I do want to start, though, with just the latest on President Trump's comments about the whistleblower. He tweeted today that the whistleblower should be exposed and questioned properly and now saying that the whistle-blower's perpetrated a fraud and therefore it doesn't -- shouldn't have any protection at all.

When you hear this from a sitting president of the United States -- I mean, I know on Election Day, I read in your book, you said you kind of convinced yourself, maybe it won't be as bad --


COOPER: The day after.

RICE: Yes.

COOPER: Maybe it won't be as bad.

Can you imagine the president of the United States calling for the whistle-blower protections to be completely tossed out of the window?

RICE: Anderson, it's appalling. And it is so much worse than I imagined. Every day, a lie, a disparagement, and a trashing of the institutions and the norms that we all believe have held us together.

And what's so extraordinary is it is all about him. I mean, we talk about foreign policy and he said his doctrine is America first. But I think we're seeing it is really me first. And that is how he is governing. Everything is about him.

And so the notion that you could attack a whistleblower with legal protections in our system which is set up to enable transparency and to guard against precisely the kind of abuses he's perpetrating and to assume that is therefore -- he's called it worse than that. He called it close to being a spy, treason in effect he's alleged.

COOPER: Not just whistleblower, but the people who the whistleblower talked to in the White House.

RICE: Yes. So he is arrogating to himself -- the institutions of the state.

COOPER: He is the state. I am the state.

RICE: Yes, right. That's what we're seeing now. It's that -- that is not an exaggeration. That is how serious it is.

COOPER: It clearly seems -- I mean, I don't know how much of what he does is truly by design or just instinctual, but it has to send a chilling message to anybody else in the government about the possibility of coming forward. It would stop a lot of people from considering coming forward.

RICE: Well, it could. But I think what we're seeing, in fact, is more people come forward. Now we have a second whistleblower with firsthand experience of what happened, corroborating exactly what is already out there and indeed President Trump's own transcript corroborates exactly what's the whistleblower statement. So I actually think, Anderson, that we have enough patriots still working in this government all throughout the agencies who have to be deeply disturbed about this.

COOPER: When you hear the president saying repeatedly it was the perfect phone call, nothing wrong with it, then asking China for help, that China should investigate the Bidens -- I mean, you've read the transcript of the call. The president clearly believes in just repeating a lie over and over again until everybody becomes so exhausted, they just give up and this is --


RICE: And he confuses people. Yes, that is his whole tactic. That is how he has -- you know, that's how he has arrogated himself so much power.

He's got several tactics that he repeats. One, lie, lie, lie, and two, confuse, deflect. And three, what we're seeing in this Biden thing is take what is Trump's greatest weakness, the perception that he's corrupt, that his children are corrupt, that they abuse the office to enrich themselves, and try to make it his opponent's greatest vulnerability.

COOPER: When you went on the Sunday shows and talked about the early reports and the intelligence community assessment of what happened in Benghazi and it was early reporting and some was not accurate and you pointed out it was early reporting, that obviously brought you into a whole maelstrom and you dedicated an entire chapter to this.

You've seen -- you've had people on Capitol Hill making up stuff about you. You've had people on Capitol Hill, you know, for political reasons going after you. When you see what the Republicans, the silence on the side of the Republicans regarding the president on Ukraine, regarding the president on China as -- I mean, asking a regime like China to investigate the Bidens is -- I don't even know what to say about it.


But when you see it, the Republicans response to this, senators and Congress people, does it surprise you? Even with all you've seen, does that surprise you, the silence? Or the saying oh, he's only kidding?

RICE: It's galling and it's disappointing. You know, Congress set up eight committees to investigate Benghazi. Not one of them found that I deliberately misled the American people, including the one led by Trey Gowdy who is now going to apparently defend Donald Trump.

What we see now is Mike Pompeo, who is one of the most avid prosecutors of the Benghazi so-called scandal refusing to cooperate at all with Congress. The Obama administration provided documents, they provided testimony.

Secretary Clinton sat for 11 hours. I sat for four hours before Gowdy and his crew behind closed doors. You know why? Because we had nothing to hide.

COOPER: The situation in Turkey, the president said today that the Kurds are fighting for their land and as somebody wrote in a very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy as an example, and in addition to that, we have spent tremendous amounts of money on helping the Kurds.

I'm not sure what the article is --

RICE: What is he smoking?

COOPER: Yes. I mean --

RICE: I mean, the Kurds were the pointy end of the spear who fought ISIS on our behalf.

COOPER: Ten thousand casualties.

RICE: They bled and died because they believed in the partnership they had established with the United States.

COOPER: They believed they would be protected --

RICE: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- and honored.

RICE: Yes. And we just threw them under the bus in 24 hours. It is appalling. And it's disgraceful.

And then, today, when the Turks quite predictably are bombing bejesus out of Syria, and Trump allegedly orders the U.S. military not to come to their defense, not to protect them. We've crossed a Rubicon here of betrayal that I think is going to haunt us for decades to come.

COOPER: I mean, you know, the end of -- when South Vietnam finally fell, there were a lot of people who helped the United States left behind who weren't evacuated. You know, there is criticism of not enough visas given to Iraqi translators and Afghan translates who risked their life.

RICE: All of which is wrong. But this is an order of magnitude worse than that. We're handing over our Kurdish allies to slaughter. And that blood is going to be on Donald Trump's hands.

COOPER: The book is "Tough Love", thank you so much.

RICE: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, Joe Biden's big announcement today on impeachment. We'll be right back.





ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our breaking news, a source tells CNN that President Trump is phoning Mitch McConnell as many as three times a day lashing out in his conversations with majority leader about senators he sees as disloyal over the impeachment issue. This comes as poll show a clear majority of Americans in favor of the House impeachment inquiry.

The latest one is from Fox News showing that 51 percent of those polled believe the President should be impeached and removed. That's up 9 points from July. That's a Fox News poll. Only 40 percent believe he should not be impeached.

Today, Joe Biden stood before New Hampshire voters in Rochester and for the first time called for President Trump's impeachment.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To preserve our constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached. We have to remember that impeachment isn't only, isn't only about what the President has done. It's about a threat the President posed to the nation if allowed to remain in office.


COOPER: And President Trump later called the comments "pathetic." Back with me are David Gergen and Joe Lockhart. David, what do you make of the former vice president coming out publicly in support of impeachment? It wouldn't surprise many people I suppose, but did it surprise you?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it's about time. You know, I've been surprised frankly, Anderson, that he hasn't been more in the forefront and been as cautious as he has been all the way along. One of the reasons I think Elizabeth Warren has done so well is that, she was out early. She was back last spring calling for impeachment inquiry, and she's been tough about it.

And one of the big questions that Democrats are going to want to resolve is not only who has a better chance of winning but who is going to be more effective against Trump in a debate, in a wrestling match on a debate. And so far she's done pretty well in that category.

COOPER: Joe, you saw Biden say and also nudge the President on not releasing his tax returns. Ambassador Rice brought this up earlier. It is sort of an easy issue to turn on its head. Like does President Trump really want to be talking about family finances and children's salaries?

JOE LOCKHARD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, it's-- I think Ambassador Rice articulated it very well, which is-- and it's an old tactic of the Republicans which is take your own weakness and project it on your opponent. You remember John Kerry was swift voted by someone who avoided serving in Vietnam and John Kerry is a decorated war hero. And it works if you don't fight against it.

So I think, you've seen in the last couple of days, Vice President Biden doing what I think is the right thing, which you can't let these things -- you can't chase every Trump charge down a rabbit hole, but you can't let something take hold. And you've got to push back and I think he's done that.


I agree with David that also that he has been late on impeachment. This should have come earlier. I would argue that some of the candidates were too early on it. It is critical that the public doesn't see this as 1998 revisited as a partisan act to punish the President and remove him, but as a constitutional act to keep him from doing more harm from the country. So I think the vice president was right on today. I just wish he had done it earlier.

COOPER: Well, David, what's interesting, I mean, you talk about Elizabeth Warren. She's one of the people in the Senate who would be called on essentially as a jury on the President and yet, as you said, she was out front in calling for his impeachment.

GERGEN: Well, that is right. And I think we've got a pretty good idea of how she'll vote if it gets to the Senate. But nonetheless, I just think that this is a time when issues facing your country are so grave that a person who wants to be president or a person who is president needs to go before the country occasionally with a very thoughtful speech, trying to help us understand the gravity of what we're going through, how it has to be done with great respect for traditions and needs to have a bipartisan quality and in an effect be presidential.

You know, those big speeches, I've kind of been missing in this campaign is, give us -- take-- stand up there for 20 or 30 minutes and really explore something in a serious way. So far we haven't had a lot of that. The debates are helpful, but I sure would like it with a more seriousness of times.

COOPER: David Gergen, Joe Lockhart, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, one of many Republicans in Capitol Hill who are upset tonight on what some of the GOP have called the betrayal of our Kurdish allies by President Trump.



COOPER: As President Trump lashes out in phone calls to Mitch McConnell about Republicans being disloyal during the impeachment inquiry, according to a new CNN report tonight. Republicans are angry or some Republicans are angry over his abandonment of Kurdish allies.

A senior US Defense official tell CNN tonight that Turkish incursion to Syria "has already had a detrimental effect on the counter ISIS operations, they have effectively stopped." In fact that's what some Republicans predicted.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is the pre-9/11 mentality that paved the way for 9/11. What's happening in Afghanistan is no concern to us. So if he follows through with through with this, it would be the biggest mistake of his presidency.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: And the thing I believe, if you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.


COOPER: Liz Cheney tweeted this, "News from Syria is sickening. Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian- backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why Donald Trump is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS."

They're not alone. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, Peter King, Pat Toomey, Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, all Republican, all critical, as is my next guest been as well, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks for being with us.

I'm wonder why do you think the President has gone to the mat on this? Why is he giving Turkey such a pass? Was it an impromptu thing and a phone call with Erdogan?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I think it's all of it. I think the President makes very impulsive decisions on foreign policy, he can made an impulsive decision without thinking through the results of that. I think Erdogan somehow convinced him with stars in his eyes that he would be humane.

And, you know, the reality of this is, it's disgusting, it's sickening, it's sad. Think about the fact that the Kurds have taken 10,000 deaths in this fight against ISIS because we didn't want to put troops on the ground, so they did it for us. We on the conversely have lost 17 in combat throughout this whole campaign.

We lost basically in Iraq and Afghanistan close to 7,000 people. So think about the impact that's had on the Kurds, but they stood with the United States, because they believe in us. And they could have turned to Iran. They could easily have turned anywhere else. They stood with the United States of America.

And because of a conversation with a basically dictator, President Trump pulled 50 soldiers, 50 people back, and those 50 people were holding back a Turkish attack. Those 50 people who I'm sure every one of them were in tears when they heard this. These 50 special operators are watching this horrified as we all are.

COOPER: I think what -- the point you make is an important one, to point out we're talking about 50 US service members. And I'm not in anyway indicating that 50 is not an important number and, you know, there's concern obviously about their safety and that's one of the things the President has said.

But if the idea is we can't have these endless wars, we want to bring troops home. We're not talking about thousands of troops here. We're talking about 50 who have held off this advance from Turkey. But their presence alone has stopped Turkey from their ambitions in the territory that the Kurds believe is theirs.

KINZINGER: Two quick points. On the endless wars thing that you hear from now the President, but Rand Paul forever, it's not our choice to do an endless war. It's really been the terrorists. They are the ones that haven't changed their goals. They haven't changed what they wanted to do.

And secondly, look, 50 American troops there, this is exactly what people like the President, and like Rand Paul, and some of those were advocating for when they said we don't want 100,000 troops in Syria. They were talking about putting special operators to train indigenous forces to fight for us. That's exactly what this mission is.

And for no reason, no discernible reason the President woke up one morning and tweeted about a bunch of tweets, changes the whole dynamic of the Middle East, and abandoned an ally and it's disgusting.

COOPER: You're a veteran and served in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You as a congressman have met with Kurds, you've gone there. Obviously, there are security concerns, legitimate-- some legitimate ones that Turkey has about, you know, terrorist attacks by Kurds in Turkey. But to paint the Kurds with such a broad brush sees just myopic, it just seems unfair.


KINZINGER: It is. I mean, you think about like 13 or 15 million Kurds in Turkey, Iraq has around 6 and Syria around 2. It is a big population and there is an issue with the PKK, this terrorist group. And, you know, Turkey has every right to defend itself against terrorist attacks. But the idea that we would embolden-- we would actually supply, equip, stand with the Kurds who are not PKK to defeat ISIS. And then, for no reason, pull out.

And by the way, 10,000 ISIS members are being held in cells, where they going to go? They are not going to go to Europe. They're not-- they're going to go back on the battlefield. The President's biggest promise in the campaign wasn't to get out of all these wars, it was to defeat ISIS.

COOPER: Does it make any sense to you that he said the Kurds, you know, they're fighting for their land. They didn't help us in World War II in Normandy, and then he talks about ISIS saying they're going to Europe as though that's OK.

KINZINGER: Yes. So first off, I love Europe and I hope -- there's no terrorist attack there. That's what America used to stand for. We're bigger than what we've become lately.

And the Normandy thing is, I don't get it. I don't understand it. Yes, I mean, the Kurds weren't-- there are probably some Kurds ethnicity in Normandy somewhere, but yes, they didn't invade with us. I don't hold that against them. There's a few other (inaudible) neither.

COOPER: Germany didn't help us in World War II either and we seem to be allies with them now. Congressman Kinzinger, thank you very much, appreciate it.

Vice President Pence is on the road in Iowa so as Randi Kaye. Up next, what he had to say to Randi about foreign interference in America's political process.



COOPER: Let's check in with Chris, see what he's working on for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, there's a lot going on as we all know, Anderson. And tonight our challenge is to make sense of it from the perspective of the challenges of both sides.

We got Senator Angus King, what does he think about what's coming happening in the House, what does he think about what's coming his way, what does he thing that right after the President said we're going to get out of Syria, you now have the Turks making a move on the Kurds, and how could this not be a bloodbath.

We're also going to talk to Congressman Slotkin about this, you know, he background from the Intelligence and Pentagon perspective. She worked on deconfliction in Syria. She wants us to know what the big risks are that are immediately ahead. And then, we're going to test the President's new arguments about why this impeachment is unfair with one of his faithful conservative friends Matt Schlapp.

COOPER: All right. Chris, thanks very much. We'll see you in about 9 minutes.

Up next, Randi Kaye asked vice president pence about if he's changed his mind about what he said during the election, be right back.



COOPER: 360's Randi Kaye has been in Iowa for the last couple of days trying to get answers from Republican officials about the whistleblower complaint, President Trump and Ukraine. Last night, she tried to pin down Iowa Republican Joni Ernst about it. She was met with a string of non-answers.

Tonight, she tried to get some questions to Vice President Mike Pence. And before we show you his exchange with Randi, there are two pieces of sound that you need to hear. The first is what then candidate for vice president Mike Pence said during the 2016 campaign about whether foreigners should interfere in American elections.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Now, you all need to know out there, this is basic stuff. Foreign donors and certainly governments cannot participate in the American political process.


COOPER: Wow, OK. It's basic stuff, he said. Golly gee. Seems simply, right? Here's the second piece of sound, this time from the president -- from the president less than a week ago on the South Lawn of the White House talking about Ukraine.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies, if you look at-- and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.


COOPER: You remember Marco Rubio said that was a joke. Clearly, it's not.

So, Randi, you had a chance to ask the vice president about all of this, how that go?

RANDI KAYE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Anderson, it was interesting to say the least. We started by asking him about those 2016 comments that you just played about a foreign government taking part or weighing in on the American political process. And he sort of took a turn from there. Here's a look.


KAYE: Mr. Vice President, during the campaign 2016, you had said that foreign governments cannot participant in the American political process. Do you still stand by that today?

PENCE: Well, I do. I think that's why President Trump is so concerned about a foreign interference in our election in Ukraine. If you read the transcript, you will see that the President said to President Zelensky that our country had been through a lot, and then he had a question about foreign interference in our 2016 election.

I mean, to be honest with you, when did you all lose interest in foreign interference in the 2016 election?

KAYE: But transcript show that there was participation --

PENCE: President Trump wants to get to the truth. He wants to know what happened in 2016. And the American people have a right to know --

KAYE: Right. But the president himself has said that he asked the foreign government to investigate his domestic political rival, so is that OK with you?

PENCE: I don't know believe that's the case. And again, but I know that's the way--

KAYE: You said, the President said this.

PENCE: I know that's the way Chairman Schiff characterized that in his manufactured version of the transcript.

KAYE: The President said it on the lawn.

PENCE: But the American people should read the transcript, and they will see that the President did nothing wrong. There was no pressure, there was no quid pro quo. The president simply raised issues of importance and interest to the American people.



KAYE: Well, Anderson, the vice president's handlers quickly ended the gaggle right after those comments. But you heard him there saying that President Trump -- he doesn't believe President Trump asked a foreign power, asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival.

We all know that is not true. How do we know that, because the President has said that. We know it. We've seen it in the transcript as you know, that the White House released to the public. And we also know it because the President as you just heard, doubled down on the White House lawn. We heard that in your introduction.

So for some reason, vice president pence just will not accept that, no matter how many times I tried to tell him there today, a very strange experience.

COOPER: I mean, he could read. I can't imagine he doesn't know the facts. He's just, I mean, he, you know, likes to seem as if he believes everything he says. But it just seems hard to imagine him the President called on China to investigate one of the most oppressive regimes around, the idea that -- yes, it's amazing. And it doesn't surprise me that they ended the gaggle.

KAYE: And not only was I seeing it but there were other reporters.

COOPER: Yes. KAYE: Yes. That there were other reporters even weighing in, backing me up, saying he said on the White House lawn. He doubled down on the White House lawn, and still he would not accept it.

COOPER: All right. Randi, to thank was to us. Thanks very much, appreciate it.

COOPER: Before I hand it over to Chris, don't miss "Full Circle," our digital news show. You can catch it streaming live weekdays 5:00 pm Eastern at or you can there later On-Demand.

That's it for us. I want to head over to Chris for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?