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Washington Post: Russian President Putin and Hungary's Prime Minister Helped Sour President Trump on Ukraine; President Trump Defends Syria Decision as U.S. Troops Pelted With Food; President Trump Says He's "The One That Did The Capturing" of ISIS Fighters in Syria. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 21, 2019 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening. Chris Cuomo is off tonight. Topping the Special Edition of 360, we have breaking news on the influence that Vladimir Putin may have had on President Trump when it comes to Ukraine.

There is new reporting tonight, in the Washington Post, on conversations with Putin, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, and the President.

In them, according to the Washington Post, the two foreign leaders sought to reinforce the President's notion of Ukraine as a dysfunctional, corrupt state, a country, as you know, that Russia has invaded.

This was happening, as his TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was pushing conspiracy theories about Ukraine, to the President, and with hundreds of millions of dollars in American military aid on the line.

I spoke about this and more tonight, with Democratic Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Member, Jim Himes.

Congressman, what do you make the Washington Post reporting, the idea that Vladimir Putin might have helped color President Trump's view of Ukraine? I mean it does seem like yet another example of something that at this point is shocking but, I guess, not surprising.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes. I - I read that story. And - and - and - and I guess I'm not surprised. I - I didn't happen to be, in that particular moment, of the testimony. But I'm not - I'm not at all surprised if that is true.

Look, obviously, Vladimir Putin has every interest in causing our President to believe that Ukraine, apparently all the things that the President believes that it's a corrupt country, that it's beyond repair, if Putin can have the President thinking, and of course the story also referred to President Orban of Hungary, who has his own reasons. But if President Putin can get our President thinking in those terms, it can drive a wedge, and ultimately allow Putin to succeed, in his desire to, you know, ultimately control half of that country, retain Crimea, and - and do whatever he wants in this - in - in - in Ukraine.

COOPER: At least part of what the Post is reporting comes from what State Department official George Kent apparently told the Congressional investigators last week.

I know you said you weren't in there for the - for - for that part of it. You're on the Intelligence Committee. Can you say - I don't know if you heard anything that Kent said. Did you find him to be a credible witness?

HIMES: I did. I did. In fact of all the - the witnesses that we have interviewed, Kent was remarkable. Kent is one of those people with - with near photographic recall, who when you ask him a question, he can tell you dates, times, and locations, so truly a remarkable guy.

I mean, again, we've had this experience on a number of occasions with different witnesses. When you have an opportunity to spend a lot of time with our professional diplomats, you get a feel for what just incredibly high-caliber people they are.


COOPER: The Post also cites a former White House official who described the struggle to contest the influence of Putin, and Giuliani, and the Kremlin-allied Prime Minister of Hungary, in these terms that, quote, "Over time you just see a wearing down of the defenses," and essentially saying, according to the Post that a lot of the people, Mattis and Kelly, who had been able to kind of limit the damage that Putin could do with this President, without them being around, the - the - the President is more susceptible to Putin or to the - to Orban from Hungary, who the President met with, without anyone else present?

HIMES: Yes, or, by the way, certainly Giuliani. I mean my guess is that the President talks to Rudy Giuliani a great deal, more often than he talks to Vladimir Putin or - or Prime Minister Orban.

Now, you know, the questions you ask obviously make it that much more important that we have a better sense than we do for the topic, because conversation when our President talked to Putin.

But I almost worry more about Rudy Giuliani because, as we know, and you - you only need to look at Rudy Giuliani's Twitter feed to know that he trades in these conspiracy theories about the DNC server being located in Ukraine, about the attack on our elections, not being what every single Member of our Intelligence Community believes an attack by Russia, but being an attack by Ukraine.

You know, Rudy Giuliani whispers those things in the President's ears that resonate that are about his self-interest. Professional diplomats, the Secretary of State, others, you know, foreign policy is really, really hard. Victories and foreign policy are measured in inches. So, when Rudy Giuliani calls up the President, as I'm sure he does and, you know, spews crazy conspiracy theories about - about the President's enemies, no question in my mind who the President listens to more acutely.

COOPER: The - the Washington Post does make a point of saying that, according to the sources, neither Putin nor the Hungarian Prime Minister sought to use the Biden family, or the 2016 election conspiracy theories, to turn the President against Ukraine.

But the newspaper also says that the whole thing just basically reinforced what President Trump already thought, and made it all the more difficult for others to convince him, to support the Ukrainian government, despite the fact that they were under attack from Russia.

HIMES: Yes. And I mean this is one of the really sort of ugly themes in this Presidency with respect to our foreign policy.

Of course, Putin, who's a very savvy individual with a background in intelligence, a background in manipulating people, and getting people to do things that they don't necessarily start out wanting to do, of course, he's going to know how to manipulate our President.

We just saw an example of the Turkish President, Erdogan, manipulating our President into a practically impossible position, where Republicans are criticizing him.

You know, we've - we've seen a North Korean Dictator, hardly a sophisticated individual. But all of a sudden, rather than being, you know, subject to sanctions, and - and - and - and - and - and difficult initiatives by the United States, the President is in love, by his own statements, with the Dictator of North Korea.

So, I mean, again, this is just it's - it's not hard how to figure out to use flattery, to use conspiracy theories, to be on his team, in such a way that you pretty quickly get Donald Trump on your side, and I think world leaders recognize that.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman Himes of the Intelligence Committee, appreciate it, thank you.

HIMES: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Let's talk now about this with CNN Legal Analyst, Carrie Cordero. She's also a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

You agree, Carrie, with Congressman Himes that this sort of provides a roadmap for any world leader looking to influence the President and that he's highly influenceable, you know, he's finally - highly susceptible to influence?


What it does is it highlights how impressionable, how malleable the President is. It's an issue that speaks really to his intellect, to his character, and to whether or not he is so impressionable by these outside leaders.

And it also speaks to how much he looks to authoritarians or other "Strongmen" type government leaders, and how he is unduly influenced by their views, in particular.

COOPER: Yes, I mean the idea that - I mean, you - you worked in national security.

The idea that, you know, Mattis, and Kelly, and others, who used to be in the White House, were able to kind of keep the President from being influenced by a Putin or - or somebody like - like Orban, but that essentially those people are all gone, and now the President is taking advice from Putin, what kind of impact does that have on the security of this nation and also the kind of the entire, you know, national security establishment, who is powerless in the face of somebody who is willing to, you know, just talk one-on-one without anybody in the room, with Putin or Orban?

CORDERO: Well this is a central problem of the Trump Presidency.

So see, Anderson, there were people who thought that they could go into, in the national security community, who thought that they could go into this Administration, and that they could influence the President that they could change his world outlook that cooler heads would prevail that he would listen to advisers, who are experienced in national security, and foreign policy.

And three years in, what we're seeing is that he doesn't. Instead, he constantly chases out individuals who have experience, who have spent decades in national security, who actually know what they're talking about.

He doesn't trust the U.S. Intelligence Committee - Community, excuse me. So, he has marginalized the advice of his Senior Intelligence officials, including the Director of National Intelligence, which now is in an acting capacity.


So, he's pushed out the people with experience, and he's left with people who don't have experience. And so, what we've seen is now several different examples. We could go back to him appearing to believe Putin over the Intelligence Community on 2016 Russian interference.

Kim Jong-un, when it comes to nuclear weapons in Korea, most recently, Erdogan, when it comes to the Kurds in Syria, where he believes these Strongmen over the advice of--


CORDERO: --national security officials.

COOPER: Yes. Carrie Cordero, appreciate it. Thank you. Coming up next--

CORDERO: Thanks.

COOPER: --two views of the President's abandonment of the Kurds in Northern Syria, Republican Congress - Congressman, Adam Kinzinger, and Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary, CIA Director, and Clinton House - White House Chief of Staff.

Also later, we'll talk impeachment with former Republican Presidential candidate, John Kasich.


COOPER: Tonight's story on the President Putin and Ukraine capped a day that saw the President speak out on Ukraine, Syria, the G7 Doral controversy, and more, at a cabinet meeting that, to put it mildly, made headlines.


On the American pullout from Northern Syria, he said, and I quote, "We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives."

Here's how some Kurds, longtime allies of the United States, or at least one-time allies, now seem retreating American forces. They pelted American armored vehicles with rotten fruits and vegetables.

By the way, The New York Times reported this weekend that the U.S. had recently encouraged the Kurdish forces to eliminate many of their own defenses, as a sign to the Turks, that they were not a threat.

The sense of betrayal felt by many Kurds is unlikely to improve now that the President has also questioned their courage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A lot of people are good when they fight with us. You know, when you have $10 billion worth of airplanes shooting 10 miles in front of your line, it's - it's much easier to fight. But with that, they were a good help.


COOPER: President also improbably claimed that our relationship with the Kurds is good. And when asked about reporting, he's now considering leaving a limited number of troops in Syria, the President said, and I quote, "We do not think it's going to be necessary."

Just before airtime, I talked about the President's Syria policy, and the questions about it, with Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger.


COOPER: Congressman, the - the mixed messaging that - that we continue to get from the President and the Administration over the Syria strategy, the - the need, or lack thereof, for U.S. forces there, I'm wondering what signal you think that sends to the rest of the world?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Not a great one!

You know, look, it's - when it comes down to it, I think we all have to take a step back. We're kind of in a fog of war right now, not the actual war, but just confusion of information. Everybody's kind of throwing different things out.

The question, as Americans, we have is like, what is our role in the world? And if our role is to just come home, well that's one thing. But I - I think, frankly, we have all the great things we have, because we've understood that we have a much bigger role than that, one that we can uniquely play.

And so, when you send conflicting messages, "We're leaving. We're staying. The Kurds aren't great. The Kurds are fine," I think it makes our allies question. It makes our enemies question our resolve, and - and, frankly, it's not a good thing in the long run.

COOPER: It's also extraordinary. When you just think about, relatively speaking, the small number of U.S. forces--


COOPER: --who have been in Syria, and the outsized importance that they have played in - in keeping, you know, Turkey from invading, you know, helping out the Kurds, you know, it's not as if this is the number of troops, which are in Afghanistan, for instance.

KINZINGER: Yes. That's what's been actually pretty confusing to me is, you know, some of these advocates, the early advocates against intervention, so people like Senator Rand Paul, use examples, and people that support him, use examples of, "Hey, just use Special Forces, and let all the locals do the fighting."

This is the model--

COOPER: Right.

KINZINGER: --for that. This is exactly what, you know, not having to put a 100,000 U.S. troops in looks like.

And so this idea that it's an endless war that, you know, this is just some commitment that's beyond what we're capable of handling, we have a crisis of confidence in this country, and it's one that I think we have to come to grips with, and change.

COOPER: I want to play for our viewers something that Secretary of State, Pompeo, said in an interview today. He was talking about the U.S. Kurdish alliance. Let's just listen.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We jointly took down the threat from the Caliphate of ISIS. It was to the benefit of the SDF, it was to the benefit of the United States of America, and indeed, to the benefit of the world. The commitment that we made to work alongside them, we completely fulfilled.


COOPER: He said, "We fulfilled." I'm not sure the Kurds would agree with that - that assessment.

But - but, you know, the Kurds, and not to take anything away from U.S. Special Forces certainly, but - but the Kurds were, you know, they lost an 11,000 - 10,000 or 11,000 people.


COOPER: We were doing, you know, training, logistical stuff, air support, all sorts of incredibly key important things. But to say that, you know, we - we both did it, and we fulfilled the obligation, do you buy that?

KINZINGER: Not really! I agree with what he said in terms of we had a common enemy. We fought the common enemy.

I think where the disagreement comes is not - first off, ISIS isn't defeated. I'm afraid they're reconstituting, as we speak, even just psychologically, they can call this a victory.

But secondarily, if you're going to extract yourself from Syria, that's a decision the President has a right to make. But I think you can do it under different circumstances.

When you're there, you actually have a seat at the table. You can help to determine the future of what Syria looks like. And we didn't do that.

And now, by just basically tweeting one morning, and making the decision to leave, we're kind of left - the Kurds feel left behind. We're confused in terms of what the future is. Our enemies are confused. And our allies are confused.

Whereas we could have taken the last few months to a plan, we had one with Turkey that was working, and stick to that.

COOPER: I read something in The New York Times this weekend that I - I was really stunned by. I hadn't read before, and all the research that I've been reading. According to The New York Times, the U.S. actually encouraged the Kurds to dismantle their defenses in Northern Syria--


COOPER: --as a way to show the Turks that they weren't a threat, which they did at our request, only to then be deserted by the U.S. I mean that's - that is a particularly galling fact.


KINZINGER: Yes. It's - it's - it is.

And - and that's from what I understand as well is in this joint patrols, we were doing with Turkey, basically as a way to assuage Turkey's fear, and as a way to assuage the fears of the Kurds, which again, the United States has the ability to negotiate things like this, the Kurds have brought down their defenses.

We were living in kind of relative ease. And then Erdogan calls the President.

Now, I got to tell you. Anybody that actually thinks Erdogan would have attacked if the President would have said, "Look, I'm going to defend my forces with everything of the United States military," they never would have done it.

This isn't - this is Turkey. This isn't the Chinese military. This is Turkey. They would not have made the attack. But I think a bluff was called and that worked out.

COOPER: Just lastly, I spoke to a Republican Congressman, Francis Rooney, a bit ago, who, by the way, says he's not, you know, running for re-election.

He - he told me that he's fine with the impeachment inquiry, and is happy that Mitt Romney is speaking out. He's not sure where he lands on impeachment. He hasn't seen enough evidence, he says.

I'm wondering where you stand on - on those points. Do you support the inquiry itself?

KINZINGER: I support, you know, getting answers to questions. Here's the problem. When you say impeachment inquiry, that's - the end goal is impeachment, and that has a whole different meaning.

I'd say this. We need answers to these questions. I wish the Democrats would do this in the open, for everybody to see, and - and - and we could get these answer to these questions.

So, I'm looking at this, saying, whatever evidence is prevented - presented before me, I will make the right decision. But I'm not on any of these, you know, committees that are dealing with it. I just know what's right, what's wrong. We'll see what the evidence presents.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, appreciate it, thank you.

KINZINGER: You bet. See you.


COOPER: Well digging deeper now, someone almost uniquely qualified to talk about this, Leon Panetta has served Democratic Presidents as CIA Director, Defense Secretary and White House Chief of Staff.

Secretary Panetta, just generally, what do you make of how this whole withdrawal, non-withdrawal, is being handled by the White House? I mean, once again, we're seeing the Administration trying to walk back a broad policy announcement from the President.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I think from the very beginning this has been a probably the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in recent history.

And there is no way when - when you commit a - a blunder like this, that involves the consequences we're now seeing, there's no way to - to paint this picture, as if somehow everything's going well.

COOPER: I want to play something else that the President had to say today about ISIS.


TRUMP: I'm the one, meaning it was me, and this Administration, working with others, including the Kurds, that captured all of these people that you're talking about right now. Because President Obama, it was a mess.

I went over to Iraq, I met with our generals, and then we figured out a plan, and it was done within a month and a half. So, I'm the one that did the capturing. I'm the one that knows more about it than you people or the - or the fake pundits.


COOPER: He - he also apparently said a similar thing, and we first heard this in that meeting where, according to Nancy Pelosi, he had a - he had a meltdown, and he said General Mattis, you know, was overrated, and that it was he who did all this.

I mean as someone who served as Secretary of Defense in the Obama Administration, how do you respond to a President who believes that he is the one who captured ISIS?

PANETTA: Well, you know, we've gotten - we've gotten accustomed to President Trump saying stupid and - and outrageous things about somehow what he is responsible for, and what he has done.

The bottom line is, I think, most Americans know the truth. And the truth is that President Obama began this policy of trying to go after the ISIS Caliphate that we developed the policy of working with the Kurds to assist us in that effort.

And President Trump, to his credit, basically embraced that same strategy, and that's what allowed us to be able to ultimately defeat the Caliphate.

COOPER: I also want to ask you about the - the continuing fallout from Mick Mulvaney's quid pro quo comments. The President, despite speaking for like 75 minutes today, refused to answer questions about whether Mulvaney's job was safe.

If you had made that kind of mistake, when you were Chief of Staff, and I'm not even sure it was a mistake. He was actually telling the truth. And in this White House, that is a mistake.

But if you had counter - countermanded what your boss was saying, would you - would your job have been safe?


PANETTA: I can't imagine that a Chief of Staff could have done anything worse to have hurt his credibility than what he did. He stood up, and you're right, he did tell the truth that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo, and admitted to it.

And then, he tried to reverse it with a comment that was put out. And he's continued to try to defend that remark. But I think it is continuing to undermine his credibility when he does that.

I think he's been badly damaged by what took place. And I would be very surprised if his days are not limited.

COOPER: There's breaking news from the Washington Post, and they're saying that President Trump was - was taking the advice of Vladimir Putin, with regards to Ukraine.

A former White House official told the Post, and I'm quoting, "Over time you just see a wearing down of the defenses," describing the struggle to contest the influence of Giuliani, Putin, and - and Orban, the - the Hungarian Prime Minister.

Does that - I mean that - that's stunning to me. If he's taking advice from Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, we are in a lot of trouble, in a lot of ways.

PANETTA: You know what? Speaker Pelosi said it best of all. "All roads seem to lead to Putin."

And I think there's a lot of truth to that. It is - it's incredible that the President of the United States relies on the advice of our primary adversary, Vladimir Putin, for guidance on these kinds of issues.

Russia is our enemy. Their intent is to undermine the United States. Their intent is to weaken the United States. And now, they have the capability of, through the advice of Putin to Trump, they have the ability to give our President the kind of guidance that basically plays into their hand.

That's what he did in - in Syria. That's what he did when he stood up with Putin, and said, he believed in Russian intelligence more than our own intelligence, when it came to what happened in the 2016 election.

This President has continued, rather than standing up for America, and for what we believe is right, this President continues to cater to the views of an authoritarian government, like Vladimir Putin. And that, from my perspective, is very dangerous to the security of the United States.

COOPER: Secretary Panetta, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

PANETTA: Thank you. COOPER: President Trump sat down for a new interview, and we've just gotten the - the video. That's next.



COOPER: President Trump spoke with Fox News Host, Sean Hannity, at the White House, this afternoon. The video was released. Once again, the President defends his handling the phone call with Ukraine, now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.


TRUMP: The President of Ukraine came out and said that was a perfectly fine call. There was no pressure. There was no anything.

The - the - one of his top people, I guess, one his heads of state came out, and said this was a perfect call. There was no pressure. They didn't even know what we were talking about.

To think that they're using that - now they don't talk about that anymore, because that letter was so good.


COOPER: The White House transcript, of course, was only released after Administration officials had ordered it to be placed in a highly classified server.

With me now is CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings, and Angela Rye. Scott was a former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. Angela is a former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus. Welcome both.

Scott, the - the President, again talking about how Zelensky said, "It was a perfectly fine call, no pressure," I mean, just looking at it, as an outsider, the President of a country, who is dependent on the United States for continued aid, do you have any doubt that, you know, he's the first-time leader, he has no experience, and he's certainly going to say what he needs to say to get continued military aid for his country?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, of course, he's going to say what he has to say. I mean the Ukrainians need the United States to support them because, obviously, you know, they're up against the Russians.

And they, you know, they talked about the fact that they need American weapons in the phone call. So yes, I think he was probably feeling some pressure.

Now, whether that's an impeachable offense, I mean, you're going to have disagreements about that, and the President obviously doesn't think it was. Democrats are going to say it was.

I suspect they're going to impeach him over it and then Senate's going to acquit him, so we'll have a difference of opinion on that.

But sure, I mean the Ukrainians, I mean this is a terrible place, full of people with bad judgment, long history of corruption, and a long history of being dependent upon, you know, other places.

And so, in this particular case, they are dependent on the United States for some of their being able to stand up against the Russians.

COOPER: Angela, it's interesting that the President really hasn't developed his defense of the phone call beyond saying that it was perfect.

And, in this case, it seems like he must believe that because it was the White House and him, who actually released the rough transcript, which has frankly caused all of the ripple effects that - that we are now seeing.

ANGELA RYE, IMPACT STRATEGIES PRINCIPAL & CEO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Yes. I think what's really fascinating here is we continue to expect that Donald Trump has any type of understanding about how to have an effective foreign policy agenda, that he would have any ethical gall, that he would have any moral, like responsibility, at this point.


He's not demonstrated that long before he even began running for President. So, I think that what's really fascinating to me is that we would expect anything different now.

I definitely understand why people would say, "All right, well this kind of goes beyond the pale of what they normally would do." But I don't know that it really, really does.

I think that the issue here is people, especially Donald Trump supporters, have been desensitized to what is egregious behavior, to what is unethical behavior. And now, for whatever reason, it is - folks have decided that this particular instance of - of a lack of ethical behavior responsibility crosses the threshold of impeachment.

I've been thinking he needs to be - he needed to be impeached for long before now. So, I think that it's unfortunate that it's taken us this long, because there are more than 3,000 instances of con - conflicts of interests.

This is just one of the latest issues that demonstrates Donald Trump's inability to be ethical and to be Presidential in any way.

COOPER: Scott - Scott, how much the - the Mulvaney comments coming out, how much do you think that threw a wrench or made more difficult the White House's defense of this whole thing?

I mean Mulvaney's now attempted to clean it up. Obviously, anytime you come out to clarify - to, you know, explain something, and then you have to later put out a statement to clarify the clarification, that's never a good, you know, situation. How - do you think the Mulvaney thing has done significant damage because it seems like certainly a lot of Republicans were, you know, upset with Mulvaney's piling on, essentially.

JENNINGS: Yes. It certainly cost the Republicans, you know, the news cycle over the weekend. Look, I - I don't think whether Mulvaney made a mistake, or didn't, or held a press conference, or didn't.

I don't think that was going to change what the ultimate outcome is going to be. The House is going to impeach the President. They can't put it back in the tube now.

And I think unless something else comes out that we don't know about, he's highly likely to be acquitted in the Senate. So, I don't think this will have a material impact on the final outcome.

But yes, I mean, any time you're trying, as a party, to mount a defense of, in this case, a President, and somebody on your own team, essentially comes and scores an own goal, makes it more difficult.

And I think there's probably some frustration on Capitol Hill because they're doing their level best, try to defend the President. And when your own side makes it harder, I'm sure there's - it's a frustrating moment.

But by the time the House gets around to impeachment, and I'm not sure this will be a - a moment that we remember too much about, because so much more is going to happen between now and then.

COOPER: Angela, do you have any doubt that - that Scott's right that the House will vote to impeach, and that, you know, Republicans in Senate will not go along with it?

RYE: I certainly hope that the Democrats who are now the majority of the House move forward with impeachment.

And I hope that the Republicans in the Senate find the moral standing to do the right thing, despite the fact that they've benefitted substantially for that - from this unethical behavior.

I think what's maddening, Anderson, is the fact that there are people who know the Hill well, who know politics well, but should have some type of moral compass.

And the fact that all of that could be thrown out the window just for the sake of winning at all costs, and telling people, "To hell with Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, I'm going to do the wrong thing, if it gets me to the goal," is a problem.

And I hope that my friend, Scott, as well as many of his colleagues find it in their hearts to do the right thing, and stand on the right side of history.

COOPER: Scott, if the President was using American pact - taxpayer money to hanging that over the head of a, you know, of the Ukrainian President, who's trying to fight a war, and hanging that taxpayer aid over his head, in order to get a political gain, political dirt on his opponent, is that OK for any President to do?

JENNINGS: No, it's not - no, no, it's - it's not OK. And it was not good judgment for the President to bring it up on the call.

They see it, I think at the White House, as a matter of U.S. policy that they wanted to, you know, hold this aid up over, you know, what they see as an investigation into corruption.

Other people see it the way you just described it, which is an effort to get dirt on a possible political opponent, although I have my doubts that Biden is going to be the nominee.

So no, I don't think he should have brought it up. I don't think it's good judgment. Whether it's impeachable or not, I don't personally believe the President should be impeached. I think it's going to further divide--

COOPER: But - but he didn't say--

JENNINGS: --an already-divided country. And I--

COOPER: Sorry.

JENNINGS: Go ahead, sorry.

COOPER: I - sorry to interrupt you. But - but just - just to clarify, I mean I know the White House is characterizing this as his interest in corruption, anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.

But the truth is there's plenty of ongoing corruption and, you know, reasons to focus on corruption. You know, a - a fantasy about a server, and unproven - completely unproven allegations or allegation without any evidence against the Bidens, that's not ongoing corruption in Ukraine.

JENNINGS: Well I mean the issue with the Bidens, I mean you asked the right question at the debate the other night, which is if it was OK for - if it's OK for the 2020, you know, Biden White House, it was OK for a future White House, why wasn't it OK for the 2014--

COOPER: Right.

JENNINGS: --you know, Biden White House. You had the - you - I think you framed it in the way that is most appropriate. I don't believe in the server stuff. I don't believe in sort of the - the conspiracy theory stuff.


JENNINGS: I don't think the Hunter Biden stuff is an illegitimate topic.


[21:40:00] JENNINGS: But I also don't think that it's a reason to hold up aid to the Ukraine because, you know, we need these people to help us fight off the Russians--


JENNINGS: --who are our real enemy.

COOPER: I'm sorry. I'm just short on time. Scott Jennings, I appreciate it, Angela Rye as well.

More on this question of what Republicans will do about this, I'll talk to a former GOP Presidential Candidate, John Kasich, ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, a deep Washington secret is a secret no more. Former Presidential candidate, Utah Senator, and critic of the President, Mitt Romney is also a Twitter user named Pierre Delecto. 360's Randi Kaye has the story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mystery of Pierre Delecto is solved.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Thank you, thank you. Wow!


KAYE: He is Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney is him.


ROMNEY: Thank you so much.


KAYE: Romney, a.k.a. Delecto, uses the Twitter handle, @qaws9876, to follow about 700 people, including family members, journalists, late- night comedians, and athletes. His tweets are often Trump-related, and echo much of what he said publicly, dating back to the campaign in 2016.


ROMNEY: Now, Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart.


ROMNEY: I'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [21:45:00]

KAYE: So, when the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin called Romney's more recent Trump strategy "Verging on spinelessness," Romney, I mean Delecto, fired back in Romney's defense.

"Jennifer, you need to take a breath. Maybe you can then acknowledge the people who agree with you in large measure even if not in every measure."

Delecto again defended Romney when MSNBC's Joe Scarborough pointed out on Twitter that Trump had admitted to pressuring Ukraine's President. Delecto, on defense, tweeting, "Says WSJ. Credible but not certainty. Let's see the transcript."

And after Romney recently suggested the U.S. was an unreliable ally, because Trump pulled out of Syria, Fox News Anchor, Brit Hume, accused Romney on Twitter of being an unreliable ally too.

It was Delecto to the rescue again, jumping to Romney's defense, tweeting, "Loyal to principle Trumps loyalty to party or person, right Brit?"

In one tweet, Delecto even refers to Romney by name, when calling out a reporter for not including Romney on a list of Senators, supporting the subpoena of Donald Trump Jr., in the Russia probe.

Delecto tweeting, "Romney too. Said to Post that he has confidence in Chairman Burr."

And just to make things weirder, when Romney isn't secretly posting, he's secretly liking.

According to Slate, some of the tweets Pierre Delecto likes are dripping with praise for Romney himself, like one citing how Madeleine Albright called Romney "Prescient" for saying back in 2012 that Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe.

Delecto liked this tweet too, juxtaposing Trump's rage at Romney over his Ukraine comments, with a sweet photo of Romney, smiling with children in a pumpkin patch. The tweet asks, simply, "Who is having the better Saturday?"

Delecto also likes tweets that don't mention Mitt Romney, including this one, gently offering support for the 25th Amendment, and the President's removal from office, something Romney himself has not yet endorsed publicly.


ROMNEY: I'm going to leave at what I've said and - and let - and let the process gather the facts.


KAYE: After online magazine Slate published speculation about the secret Twitter account, Mitt Romney was asked by a reporter from The Atlantic, if he was Pierre Delecto. He replied simply, "C'est moi" "It is me."

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Wonder how he picked the name, Pierre Delecto. Coming up next, another former Republican Presidential candidate, and Trump critic, John Kasich joins us ahead.


COOPER: We'll be right back.



COOPER: Tonight, the President is urging Republicans to, quote, "Get tougher and fight" against his impeachment, specifically calling out Mitt Romney, for not sticking with him.

Earlier I spoke with Congressman Francis Rooney, a House Republican, who has questions about some of the President's actions, and has now said he's going to be retiring when his term is up.

I want to bring in another Republican, former Presidential candidate, and former Ohio Governor, John Kasich. He's a CNN Senior Political Commentator.

He is not, I can say firmly, Pierre Delecto. He is the Author of it is - "It's Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change," a new book that is just out.

Governor, I do want to just start out by asking, I'm wondering what kind of reaction you have received from fellow Republicans or just folks you talk to since saying that you support impeaching the President?

KASICH: Well, I don't want to overstate it, Anderson. I think a lot of people don't quite know what to say to me. But I was on a plane - I'm here in San Francisco, and I stood outside waiting for my colleague to get off the plane.

And I had a number of people come up and thank me. They say, you know, we want to thank you for what you've been doing for our country. And it wasn't just one. It was a number.

And I don't know if it just has to do with what I've said about impeachment or the fact that I've tried to say that we ought to have people come together, and all this fighting, and everything, this doesn't make any sense, and that we all need to be participating in healing this country. But people are very, very kind, very generous. Now, I was on a radio show on Friday night, and we had a lot of calls.

And they were all attacking me, but that comes with the territory, depending on the show. But I would say overall, people have been very kind to me, and I appreciate it very much.

COOPER: How hard a decision was that for you, A, to come to, and, B, to - to be public about it?

KASICH: Was very, very hard, Anderson. You know that. I've been on your show, and I've been on Don Lemon, and it was agonizing. And Friday was a - a really terrible day for me to have to say any of those things.

But, you know, throughout my lifetime, I've learned that sometimes when you're a leader, you have to walk a lonely road. And I've walked a lonely road from the time I got into politics, and most of my lifetime, and it's not always comfortable.

But, you know, you've got to be true to yourself. And that's what, you know, I would like these people in Congress to do.

And I think you're starting to see a little sense of, "Well wait a minute. I have to look back on my career, and I have to determine, you know, the kind of person that I've been that have I been true to myself?"

And I think those things are starting to add up in people's minds, and at least they're beginning to express deep concern.

COOPER: Well I mean it's interesting. Almost the same time as Congressman Rooney said he was open to at least impeachment inquiry, hasn't made up his mind about impeachment, he also announced his retirement.

I mean it does seem to be that that's how these things go. Other than, you know, Mitt Romney in the Senate, you know, a lot of folks kind of will speak out and then they're getting out of the House or the Senate.

KASICH: Well, Mitt's in for five more years, and he's been around for a long time. I think he says, "Hey, I'm going to let it all hang out, and I'm going to express myself."

In - in - in - in terms of Congressman Rooney, I was shocked that he actually ran for Congress. I didn't know him really well, but I knew him a little bit. He was Ambassador to the Vatican. He's very successful. He's a, you know, a well-to-do guy.

And I think he just - when he said is he just had enough of the vicious partisanship, and - and the fighting that goes on.

And, you know, Anderson, you know, when you keep going to Washington, and then things don't seem to be getting done, and everybody's fighting everybody, it - it creates a - a vitriolic atmosphere that you have to ask yourself, "Why am I there?"

And he doesn't need it. He doesn't need the money. He doesn't need the fame.



KASICH: I - I give him a lot of credit. I give him a lot of credit for what he did.

COOPER: Just very--

KASICH: And what he said, and who he is.

COOPER: Just - just very briefly, the Washington Post tonight reporting that the President talking to Vladimir Putin, and the - the Prime Minister of - of Hungary, an ally of Putin, basically them kind of pushing him on Ukraine, you know, badmouthing Ukraine to him, is that appropriate?

I mean it - does that concern you?

KASICH: Well, look, I think that any President has to - has to operate within some guardrails. I mean you have to respect your military. You have to respect the Intelligence Community.

But, at the end, you have to decide for yourself what is proper. And you might think back to what we read about with the Cuban missile crisis, where Kennedy basically didn't listen to his Generals, and his advisers, and sought another way, and defused the situation.

But you must listen to them. You must respect them because they have great knowledge. And you just can't be shooting from the hip, and making phone calls, and deciding this on your own. You can't do that--


KASICH: --in - when it comes to international politics. There's too - there's too many sensitivities, and there's too much that matters, and too much at stake, to just go off the cuff.

COOPER: Yes. And we're certainly seeing that right now with the Kurds. Governor Kasich, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

KASICH: If you see Pierre, tell him I said hi, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. Au revoir. We'll be right back.

KASICH: See you.


COOPER: That's it for me. Want to turn it over to Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT.