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Defense Department Official Wraps Up Testimony After Republicans Storm Deposition, Causing Delay; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Ongoing Impeachment Inquiry; Ukraine's President Felt Pressure from Trump Admin. And Giuliani to Launch Probes Before Inauguration. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 23, 2019 - 20:00   ET




We begin the program last night saying that yesterday could prove to be one of the most consequential days in Donald Trump's presidency. Well, today could prove to be one of the weirdest. It's because the day after the diplomat and five-decade-long public servant William Taylor laid out the Ukraine quid pro quo to House impeachment committee members, about two dozen conservative Republican lawmakers decided to engage in a publicity stunt, storming the secure conference room or SCIF where a senior Pentagon official, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper was about to testify to Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Some of them held up their phones, record their storming of the secure room and held up proceedings for about five hours, demanding to witness the closed door testimony, complaining loudly about due process and the way the hearings are being run.

But keeping them honest, there are several reasons why the complaints do not add up. For one, it's not like Republicans are being locked out. As long as they're members of the appropriate three committees, there's not a Democratic star chamber. There are Republicans in the room listening to all this testimony.

Nor are closed door proceedings anything new, back when Republicans controlled the House, portions of the Benghazi hearings were conducted that way. This very short video, in fact, shows then-committee chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy, escorting Republican Congressman Darrell Issa after out of one such session after Issa tried to crash it.

And here is Congressman Gowdy back then extolling the virtue of the secret proceedings.


THEN-REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Let me ask you this, what serious finder of fact can you name that identifies information in five minute increments and does it on television? And then flip from one side to the other? I mean the grand jury doesn't do it. The local sheriff doesn't it. Your United States attorney doesn't do it.


COOPER: So that's then Congressman Gowdy defending the very thing the Republican Congress members were supposedly protesting today. Now, by the way, it's a security violation to bring phones in a secure room.

But you know what? When you're really desperate for attention and you're a member of Congress, apparently security regulations don't apply.

Today, the president tried to rebut the time line of the Ukraine quid pro quo arguing that there is no way it was a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians had no idea the aid was being held up. He tweeted out a quote from a Republican congressman on "Fox and Friends", reading it now, quote: Neither he, Taylor, any other witness has provided them that the Ukrainians were award military aid was being withheld. You can't have the quid pro quo with no quo.

First of all, logically, that's not true. When a small country is reliant on military aid from a big country and not received the aid, even if any expect it's going to come, it doesn't mean they can't be made to feel beholden to the larger country. And secondly, it turns out not long after the president was pushing the idea that Ukraine had idea the aid was being held up, "The New York Times" posted a story based on interviews and documents that they obtained showing that actually, yes, the Ukrainians did know by early August.

Also, tonight, there is new CNN reporting which we'll bring you later on in the broadcast that Ukraine's president was actually feeling pressure as far back as early May to publicly investigate the company tied to Joe Biden's son.

And, of course, there is the Taylor testimony which even some Republicans concede was damaging. Senator John Thune of South Dakota saying although hard in his words to draw hard and fast conclusions, the picture from initial reports was, quote, in his words not a good one. Short time ago, Laura Cooper wrapped up her testimony.

Joining us, of the lawmakers who are was in the room and not there in protest, California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

First of all, how much did you learn from Laura Cooper today? Because Republican Mark Meadows says there was no ah-ha moment. Was that your takeaway?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, based on the public information, I think there is further evidence that here there was a quid pro quo, that the president basically is withholding aid, Zelensky is being told that you have to have a public press conference announcing a investigation into Joe Biden. And that's completely unacceptable.

COOPER: Congressman Meadows also said that some of Cooper's testimony conflicted with what Ambassador Taylor told Congress yesterday. Is that accurate?

KHANNA: Well, you know, I'm going to follow the rules, Anderson. And unlike others not be commenting on things that were not supposed to comment on.

But based on the public testimony here is what we know. There is a lot of reason for other people to come in and clarify their previous testimony because what you have on Mr. Taylor's testimony, which I think on the public reporting is most explosive, he says the president basically ordered or directed Zelensky to investigate Biden and we were at a stalemate if he wasn't doing, the aid wasn't getting to him.


COOPER: Cooper only testified I think for three and a half hours. A lot of the other witnesses obviously have sat for much longer. Did the five-hour delay because of the strange publicity stunt by some Republicans, did that impact the length of her testimony? I mean, were you able to get through everything you wanted to find out from her?

KHANNA: We got through everything. But I want to focus on this publicity stunt. It was more than a publicity stunt. I mean, in this country, we have a rule of law, not a rule by mob.

And no one can go in a city council meeting and obstruct the proceedings. No one can go to a school board meeting and they don't like it and obstruct the proceedings or obstruct the proceedings in court.

I don't understand why being a member of Congress gives you a right to obstruct the rule of law. And as you pointed out, you know, in Benghazi, there were these depositions in the SCIF, the Democrats participated. We thought it was total bogus, the investigation against Hillary Clinton but not a single Democrat was thinking of disrupting the proceedings.

So, this is just contrary to everything the country stands for to interrupt proceedings when the Republicans have every due process.

COOPER: Can you just explain what it was like in the room? I mean, did they just barge into the room? Were some of them yelling? I read some report that Louis Gohmert was yelling, which obviously wouldn't be any suprise.

KHANNA: They barged in. Mo Brooks was outside yelling in the cameras. They barged into the room. And then, later on, there were pizza boxes just strewn all over the SCIF. I mean, they didn't even clean.

COOPER: They brought pizza with them?

KHANNA: There were pizza boxes. I mean, I was in and out but I went the later on with the deposition and there were pizza boxes there lying there that had eaten pizza. But think about this. You know, if someone gets a traffic ticket

imagine -- and you think it's totally unjustified traffic ticket, the cop was wrong, imagine what would happen to you if you went to traffic court and you just went and created a parade, you started yelling and you said this proceeding is ridiculous. I don't have enough rights. You'd be locked up.

So, I guess the question is what makes someone who is a member of Congress think that the rules don't apply to them, that they can just act whatever way they want?

COOPER: I mean, it's -- I guess maybe if the president tells you that's a great idea do it. It's like in a jury if friends and acolytes of the defendant storm the jury room and, you know, start -- try to help the defendant. I mean, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I know they sent a letter to the sergeant at arms asking to, quote, take action against the Republicans who breached the SCIF. He doesn't specify what that should look like.

But some of the folks sent out videos of themselves violating federal law. Do you think --

KHANNA: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- action will be taken?

KHANNA: There should be consequences. I mean, these are the places where the most sensitive classified information is shared. No one -- everyone knows this, you are not allowed to take any electronic device. Or comment anything about anything said there.

And yet you have people there taking phones, tweeting out about this. It's making a mockery of the process.

And it's not just a mockery of the rule of law. I mean, think about in a sports game or something, if you didn't like the call of the ref, imagine someone storming the court or the field. I mean, we would -- we teach our kids this is not how America works.

Then you've got elected officials thinking the rules don't apply. I think -- Anderson, this is the problem with the president. He doesn't understand that we live in a constitutional democracy where the rule of law matters more than any individual. And that's what we're losing in this country.

COOPER: I feel like -- I remember you know over the years you know newscasts have played videos of politician in South Korea fighting and/or in some Eastern European country battling each other. And it seemed like a joke. Can you believe that that would happen there?

I mean, this is like one step toward that. I mean, who knows where we'll be a few months from now. Congressman -- yes.

KHANNA: You know, it was sad. I don't want to reveal who, but I was in the elevator going back to the office, and you had members of Congress yelling at each other today which I've never seen before. I mean, usually, people are civil. But there is a tension now that is really undermining the hauls of Congress. And it's sad to see.

COOPER: Yes. Well, maybe that person didn't get enough pizza.

Congressman Khanna, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

KHANNA: Thank you.

COOPER: And to underscore how eager some Republicans are to simply blow up Ambassador Taylor's testimony. Listen to what Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama said about it today to CNN's Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm asking about the substance of what he said. He said that --

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): It doesn't make any difference. We don't know whether what he said is true or not, because of the sham process that's being used. We have a judicial system, we have a Bill of Rights that is designed to guarantee to process so that fact finders have the best chance of reaching the true conclusion.


And if you rely just on bits and pieces, if you do not allow cross- examine witnesses, if you do not allow rebuttal witnesses, then you're apt to be fooled.


COOPER: It doesn't make any difference he said when asked about the substance of Bill Taylor's testimony.

Others, including Republican Senator John Thune seemed to believe otherwise. And plenty of Republicans as we should mention are eager to create distractions to it.

Let's get some perspective now from investigative reporter, author and CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, also CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, I mean, the Republican, sort of, the oddest storming of a secure location I've seen.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: My favorite part of the protest was that several of the protesters were actually members of the committee who were inside. So they had every right to be inside even though they were protesting. So, in that solidarity, I am protesting my failure to be allowed on AC360 while being on AC360. I think that's the level of protest that we saw today. Consider that.

COOPER: Carl, have you -- is it just a publicity stunt? Is it just, you know, a sign of where we're headed? What do you make of it?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's an indication of the total lack of interest in the Republicans in the House and Senate at getting at the truth and confronting the abuse of power by the president of the United States.

We have a situation now that there are three things happening at the same time with the president. He is undermined the national security of the United States by engaging a foreign power to subvert our American electoral process. He has gone into Turkey and endangered our national security there, and allowed the Russians once again almost inexplicably to be the winners. He is behaving and in conducting himself in a way that Republicans themselves especially talking with reporters privately are questioning his sanity and his stability.

All this happening at once, and at some point, the Republicans are going to have to confront the fact that he has abused the power of the presidency, that there is a really strong case for high crimes here. And they're going to have to confront that reality and look down the road about knows Republicans who don't confront it.

COOPER: Gloria, the fact that this whole stunt comes the day after the most damaging testimony to date hardly seems like a coincidence. I mean, it sort of seems like a presidential play to kind of steal back the narrative and have this be the story that overshadows what the -- you know, the devastating testimony from yesterday.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, yes. It's about deflecting and changing the subject. And don't forget, Dana Bash reported today that the president was in on this, that in whole stunt had his blessing, that informs performance art, performed for of an audience of one. And that's Donald Trump.

And that these are people, don't forget, who know the rules of the House. Who have a certain amount of clearance and maybe now they'll lose their security clearance. I have -- I have no idea since any brought in re telephones into those SCIF and damaged the integrity of the SCIF, many believe.

COOPER: Right, but if they were a low level, you know, member of the military, without a high rank or even any rank and any did that, their career would be destroyed.

BORGER: Destroyed and instead there were people in there recording on their phones.

COOPER: Yes, and tweeting it out.

BORGER: Exactly.


BORGER: So, you know, this is -- this is a serious issue, and, of course, when they concocted it with the blessing ever the president, many might have had no idea or even worse maybe some of them did.

TOOBIN: But remember -- I'm sorry just, the president's twitter feed today he threatened Republicans following them human scum who don't follow his lead, so he wants to keep them in line and that's what we saw today. COOPER: Human scum, such nice words from the president, he has the

best words.

TOOBIN: It's the highbrow appeal.

COOPER: I mean, we have to take a quick break. When we come back CNN reporting on the timeline more evidence the Ukrainians knew and knew early on what President Trump really wanted from them.

Later, we'll talk to someone outside Congress who has become a member of the Democrats' impeachment brain trust, constitutional lawyer and scholar, Laurence Tribe, joins us ahead.



COOPER: The president as you know began his day by trying to cast down doubt on the notion of a quid pro quo with Ukraine based on the timeline.

Well, tonight, as we mention at the top of the broadcast, there is breaking news on precisely that, on how early in the process Ukraine actually began feeling the heat.

CNN's Rene Marsh has the details and joins us now.

So, what did you learn?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, we've learned that two weeks before Zelensky was sworn in as president of Ukraine, the new leader, as well as his team, discussed the pressure that they were already feeling from the Trump administration and President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to essentially launch investigations into corruption cases, including Burisma, which is the energy company that Joe Biden's son Hunter was on the board for.

The source said that the meeting was originally supposed to be discussing issues surrounding energy, but eventually evolved into discussing this pressure that Zelensky was already feeling before he was officially even in office and this meeting went on for some three hours with the Zelensky trying to figure out how does he navigate this and what should he do about it?

COOPER: So, this was before he became president?

MARSH: Right, this was before he became officially sworn in.

COOPER: Months before he had the phone call at the end of July with President Trump and now the phone call which we have seen the transcript or the rough transcript of.

MARSH: Absolutely, and just two weeks before he initially had a first call with the president.

[20:20:05] So just two weeks prior to in meeting Trump and Zelensky did have a phone call. It was the president calling to congratulate him on his win, this happened on April 21st, after Zelensky won the presidential election in Ukraine.

And we did get a White House readout of a call that said the two leaders discussed working together to root out corruption. However, what is unclear is whether the president in that April 21st phone call specifically asked for investigations into Ukraine's role in the 2016 election or investigating Burisma. That is unclear because we haven't seen the transcript from that April 21st call.

COOPER: So, you said there was -- you are saying there was a read out. That's different than the rough -- kind of the rough transcript that is done during the call. Is that --

MARSH: Absolutely. So we don't know verbatim exactly what was touched on in this call. We just know that on April 21st when Zelensky won as president of Ukraine, the president, according to the White House, made a congratulatory call. And we know the issue of corruption was discussed. But we don't know much more beyond that.

COOPER: But according to your reporting, Zelensky already had met and knew that when the president -- or I guess when the president talked about corruption, what Giuliani and the president wanted was an investigation of Biden. Whether he -- instantly links that with corruption or not, we know he was already aware of what the president really wanted?

MARSH: Yes, I mean, by the time that Zelensky called this May 7th meeting, where he was trying to figure out how do I deal with the pressure from the Trump administration, he clearly knew one very clear item here, which is the meeting he wanted to have with President Trump, that face-to-face meeting --

COOPER: Right.

MARSH: -- was at stake if he did not support an investigation into --

COOPER: Got it.

MARSH: -- companies like Burisma.

COOPER: Rene, thanks so much. Fascinating reporting.

Back now with Carl Bernstein, Gloria Borger, Jeff Toobin.

I mean, Jeff, the fact that the president today is talking about no quid pro quo, timeline doesn't make no sense. The fact before he is in office, he's feeling pressure from Giuliani and Trump world.

TOOBIN: You know, what's so extraordinary about in story is that every single piece so far fits together. Now, it's usually not the case. Usually, there is sort of weird, stray facts. Everything that's coming out suggests that the only interest Rudolf Giuliani, Donald Trump or anyone allied with him had in Ukraine was getting dirt on their political opponents and figuring out what happened in 2016 with the mysterious server. That's the only interest they had in Ukraine.

And every fact that has come out, whether it's from Trump personally or through witnesses like Taylor who had secondhand information, suggests the same thing. And this -- what Rene's story gives us some sense of the origin of how early in the process in obsession with Burisma and 2016 came up.

COOPER: Gloria, it's fascinating. You mention you got in president -- the guy who is, you know, not yet the president.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: He has no political experience. He was a comedian. And he -- he knows he needs U.S. aid. He is fighting Russia.

And he suddenly has Giuliani kind of putting out feelers and whispering in people's ears in Ukraine. It's got to be surreal.

BORGER: Well, I'm sure it was surreal. I'm sure that's why they took hours talking about it instead of energy policy. It's clear that the president knew exactly what Donald Trump wanted. A couple of things here, number one, in that Easter Sunday phone call that Rene was talking about, what did the president exactly say to him? We don't have any idea. Did the president talk about corruption and that Zelensky knew what that meant because of other channels and other people he had spoken with?

And secondly, the interesting part about Rene's reporting tonight is that Republicans are saying you can't have a quid pro quo, not that you need it, but cannot have a quid pro quo unless the Ukrainians knew about the pressure.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: This story shows, well, yes, the Ukrainians did know. And they spent hours even before he was inaugurated trying to figure out what to do about it.

COOPER: Well, Carl, even if any did not know that immediately on that July -- late July phone call, that the aid was being already held up, the fact gnat aid was not there and the president had control of it and they desperately needed it. This is essentially a sword hanging over them.


BERNSTEIN: And you just described the high crime. You know, the impeachment clause of the Constitution refers to treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. This is about bribery, this is about the president of the United States attempting to bribe another president of a foreign country by -- with withholding aid.

COOPER: Bribing without even his money. I mean, he is bribing -- attempting to bribe with American taxpayers money. BERNSTEIN: Exactly. But bribery is the operative word. And we need

to focus on it.

I think in has something to do with why Mitch McConnell is moving away to some extent in denying that he spoke with the president about that phone call and why John Thune is so worried. They understand the import of bribery as a high crime. And that looks like what has occurred here.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, Gloria Borger, Jeff Toobin -- thanks.

Up next, as some Congress people coordinating theatrics on Capitol Hill, House Democrats are staffing up. We'll talk to a Harvard Law professor who reportedly has become a source of regular advice to those leading the inquiry. In fact, he taught two of them.

We'll be right back.


[20:30:36] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: As Republicans stage theatrics on Capitol Hill to show the President just how loyal they are, House Democrat are girding for the long combative impeachment process ahead. According to 'The Washington Post," they're getting some legal advice on their impeachment.

Maneuvering from Harvard Laurence Tribe, Professor Tribe helped authored the book, "To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment." His co-author was recently added to the House Judiciary Committee's legal team. And interestingly, two of Professor Tribe's former students now help lead the probe, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and committee member Jamie Raskin, also Jeff Toobin is his former student.

Professor, obviously, I know you don't or can't comment on reporting about your communication with House Democrats, but generally speaking, do you think they are on the right path with this impeachment inquiry? Is the current course of action working in the way that it should?

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: I think it is, Anderson. And I maybe could begin where Carl Bernstein left off. This is bribery, but it's not just bribery. You know, it would be soliciting a bribe if the President said to President Zelensky, you know, if you do me a favor, maybe give me a few bucks, stay at the Doral hotel, for example, I'll give you a signed copy of "The Art of the Deal" and let you take a photo-op with me. That's not what's going on.

What's going on is our President is saying to President Zelensky, you are under attack by Russia with Russian tanks. Your people are dying and I'll let that go on and hold off the aid that our Congress has voted unless and until you go on T.V. and announce that you are investigating my opponent, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, with Burisma. I mean, that is an extraordinary thing.

He is stealing taxpayer's money, using as it though it were his, basically dangling and saying I won't let you have it even though you need it to survive unless you help me win. So he is violating the separation of powers by usurping the power of the purse. He's not just bribing, he is committing extortion and he's abusing power in the most dramatic way.

If there were ever a model case for an impeachable offense, a high crime and misdemeanor that includes bribery, this is it. And I think that Nancy Pelosi was wise to hold off until she had what amounts to not just a smoking gun, but a smoking howitzer.

And now she has it with the testimony we heard and I haven't heard all of it, but just the prepared statement was dynamite from the former ambassador to Ukraine. And that testimony established that this guy who is not a partisan, he is half century, you know, civil servant, he was in the 121st airborne. He was --

COOPER: Yes, Vietnam vet, west point graduate.

TRIBE: -- brought back out. He's just -- yes, absolutely. You couldn't have a stronger witness, so this is really it.

COOPER: What do you make of, you know, the White House arguing that, well, the president of Ukraine didn't know about -- that the aid had been held up in that late July phone call, so therefore there was no pressure, no quid pro quo. Just the logic of that argument does not make sense to me given the unequal --

TRIBE: Right.

COOPER: -- balance of, you know, Ukraine, people are dying, they're desperate. The aid is not there, whether he knows it's being held up or not. He knows the White House has, you know, a sword over his head.

TRIBE: You're right about that, Anderson. But on top of that, it's a lie. We now know --

COOPER: Right.

TRIBE: -- that from -- before he became President Zelensky was aware that for some weird reason this money that Congress had appropriated in a bipartisan way to help him fight off Putin's army, that that money was being withheld. He couldn't figure out why. And then he began to get the picture. It's being held up because you haven't yet satisfied exactly what we want from you, which is not really investigating corruption.

COOPER: Right.

TRIBE: Actually, it was just making a show of investigating corruption.

[20:35:03] So, this is just the most transparently clear abuse of power and an impeachable offense that I can remember in the history of the United States.


TRIBE: And I've studied it pretty thoroughly, this is -- this makes the Nixon situation look silly by comparison. This is way more serious.

COOPER: How quickly do you think the House Democrats should be operating when it comes to having public hearings taking this to a full House vote?

TRIBE: Well, it seems to me after another week or two at most of taking depositions in a perfectly normal way, they're doing it this way because William Barr refused to conduct a criminal inquiry so they've got to do the work that would otherwise be done by a grand jury or a special counsel and it's ludicrous to claim that there's something utter wrong about doing this part in closed session.

They do that for another 10 days or so. They get all of their ducks in a row and then they go into public session. We all get to hear what Carol -- I guess it's -- Laura Cooper has to say, and we all get to hear what Fiona Hill has to say, and we hear in detail what the ambassador has to say. And then they're ready to vote articles of impeachment, which they haven't drafted yet because as Nancy Pelosi said, it's not exactly a time line, it's a truth line.


TRIBE: But when the truth is all lined up, they vote articles probably around Thanksgiving or maybe into December and then it's a Senate trial. It's a trial in which it's going to be very hard for Republicans, even ones who have been loyal to the end to look at themselves in the mirror and actually expect to be reelected if they don't do their constitutional duty.

COOPER: Do you really believe that? I mean, it seems like --

TRIBE: They're cautiously optimistic.

COOPER: It seems they're very able to look themselves in the mirror no matter what, or even, you know, look themselves in their cell phones as they're broadcasting from inside a supposedly secure room in violation of federal law.

TRIBE: Well, they clearly have been willing to put on a crazy show. But when push comes to shove and they realize not only that their grandchildren will never forgive them and that history will never forgive them, but that their voters will not forgive them, I think they will begin to get into line. And it really doesn't take more than a few more to get at least a majority, if not two thirds, to convict the President. At that point, I think, you know, we'll be off to the races.

COOPER: Professor Tribe, appreciate you being on. Thank you so much.

TRIBE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, there's breaking news. We just learned that the President's T.V. lawyer is talking about lawyering up. Also, those two associates of Rudy Giuliani indicated -- or indicted last month, they appeared in court today to enter their pleas. Up next, we'll tell you what happened and why one of their lawyers just tied his client to the President.


[20:41:32] COOPER: As breaking news on Rudy Giuliani goes, this particular item is both big but perhaps not really surprising given that two of his closest associates were in court today pleading to federal charges. Giuliani is talking about getting his legal representation. Our Evan Perez broke the story. So, what's this -- who is he trying to get?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is reaching out to some of his legal friends. He's got a lot of lawyer friends in New York, Anderson. And so, we know over the last few days he's been reaching out to some of them. Some of them have not been able to take on his representation, but apparently a lot of them are actually trying to help him figure this out.

Obviously the need for a lawyer has been certainly impressed upon him by many of his friends, even though Rudy, himself, obviously has been resisting hiring a lawyer for the last few -- at least the last couple of weeks.

COOPER: We're talking about a defense attorney.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. We knew -- right, ever since his two associates were indicted, people have been telling Rudy that he should hire a lawyer, just to defend and also to protect himself and he's been resisting that.

COOPER: Do we know what if anything has changed as far as federal investigators are concern? Because as you say, just last week Giuliani was saying, you know, he wasn't looking for a lawyer. He hadn't heard from the FBI.

PEREZ: Right. I think the message just come across to Rudy, Anderson, that he is certainly somebody who is at the center of this investigation. He is now more than just a peripheral figure, which is what a lot of people naught early on. It's clear that he's under very close scrutiny by the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

And so, that's the reason why a lot of his friends have been telling Rudy that you need to hire someone at least to protect yourself. You also notice, Anderson, that he stopped commenting to the media, that's another sign that he realizes the seriousness of the troubles that are potentially coming down his way.

COOPER: Yes. Evan Perez, thank you, fascinating reporting.

More now on Giuliani's two associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, they pleaded not guilty today to federal campaign finance charges. Surprisingly, an attorney for Parnas suggested that he might claim executive privileges because the lawyer said Giuliani was Parnas' attorney and Giuliani was also working for President Trump during the time in question.

That claim, of course, could link President Trump to the government charges. Its clear Fruman and Parnas have been in Giuliani's orbit for some time now, but the question is, who exactly are they.

CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin looked into it.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All you need to know about Rudy Giuliani's now indicted clients is that a long list of people who did business with Lev Parnas or Igor Fruman from a home rental, a property lease, money loans, even basketball tickets have sued them.

BRUCE MARKS, ATTORNEY: There's a saying in Russia, don't go in the forest if you're afraid of wolves. And these guys, they just weren't just wolves, I mean, they were radioactive wolves. There were warning signals, unfortunately, that I don't think that Mayor Giuliani picked up.

GRIFFIN: According to prosecutors, Parnas and Fruman were illegally dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign contribution to Republican campaigns. They were also dropping something else, Rudy Giuliani's name.

The two men used their political connections, photos of themselves with Giuliani, even attending George Bush's funeral with the former mayor. There they are hugging Florida Governor Ron deSantis and, of course, reams of photos with Donald Trump and his family, all to use as currency in their scheme.

MARKS: In parts of the world like Russia, Ukraine, if you have photos like that and show those to people, that these are countries where connections mean a lot.

[20:45:06] GRIFFIN: Giuliani needed Parnas and Fruman's connections in Ukraine to carry out his private mission from President Trump to investigate Joe Biden. Parnas and Fruman used Giuliani's name to hustle business. Florida attorney Bob Stok says it's how the two men swindled his client out of $100,000.

ROBERT STOK, ATTORNEY: If someone tells you that they're dealing with the President of the United States' attorney and he is also your attorney, and you have very, very good relationship with him, most people would believe that you must be a credible person.

GRIFFIN: Stok says his client, a wealthy South Florida businessman, loaned Parnas and Fruman the money last year. According to this lawsuit, the two men boasted about their close relationships to Giuliani and other Republican power players who they said would help Parnas and Fruman in their new business, Global Energy Producers, a gas export company that the two claimed would be the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the U.S. Stok says, the two men suddenly paid back the loan just days after news broke about Giuliani pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

STOK: We went through these guys personal histories and they seemed to have a series of business failures and personal failures. And they seemed to -- in our opinion, not to be credible.

GRIFFIN (on camera): That didn't take long to find out, did it?

STOK: No. It took maybe half an hour searching the public records. We didn't have to hire investigators. We didn't have to do any deep vetting. We -- it was evident from the public records.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Giuliani has failed to answer CNN's questions about his involvement with Parnas and Fruman. CNN's own record search found a decade of red flags, lawsuits and judgments, and a list of questionable businesses, Global Energy Producers, the liquefied natural gas powerhouse the men bragged about had no income or significant assets. Even Parnas' company fraud guarantee that paid Rudy Giuliani's $500,000 fee doesn't appear to be a company at all. Its registration is expired.

According to Philadelphia attorney, Bruce Marks, Parnas and Fruman approached his client, a Ukrainian billionaire earlier this year. They wanted a 6-figure payment. In exchange, they told the billionaire they could set up a meeting between the new Ukrainian president and a delegation of American officials. Marks says his client threw them out.

MARKS: Let's be real, he really in my opinion should have been more diligent. They're fraudsters and he has a security consulting company. So if there's anybody who might do a bit of due diligence, it would be Mayor Giuliani.


COOPER: Yes, you would think. Drew Griffin joins me now. There's evidence that right up until the day of the arrest, these two guys were still working with Giuliani and -- all on behalf of Donald Trump. Is that right?

GRIFFIN: Very closely, Anderson. On the day of their arrest, sources are telling CNN they were on their way to Vienna where they were going to meet Rudy Giuliani and all of them were going to be involved in facilitating an interview between Sean Hannity at Fox News and a former Ukrainian prosecutor who was going to go on T.V. and support this conspiracy theory that the President has about the Bidens, and corruption, and Ukraine. Obviously, that didn't happen. And, again, we have no comment from either of these men's attorneys on that.

COOPER: And, again, the fact that one of their attorneys is now claiming -- or talking about claiming executive privilege, what exactly would he base a claim of executive privilege on?

GRIFFIN: Well, honestly, that attorney didn't really know. I think he was fishing about this. But here's the theory. The theory is, these guys share an attorney with the President. And they were working for the President's attorney in a role that the President wanted that attorney to fulfill. So if you put that all together, you could say these guys were working for or on behalf of the President and therefore would get some kind of executive privilege. We'll find out.

COOPER: Yes. Drew Griffin, appreciate it. Fascinating.

More ahead tonight, including a reality check on President Trump's claim today that he's done "a great service" to the Kurds and others in Syria.


[20:53:38] COOPER: Coming up, we'll have a reality check on Syria. But, first, let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: How you doing, Coop? We're going to take a look at this new tactic by the Republicans to frustrate the investigation of the president, which was basically to just bums rush the process itself. And we're going to look at what is fair, what is not fair, what is behind this tactic, where the real state of play is in the case.

And the weird thing to me isn't the Republicans running around like that, it's what they're doing in court. They are literally arguing the, I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it argument, like for real.


CUOMO: And we'll take you through what that means. I got players on both sides. I got Baker and McCabe. We'll do it the right way.

COOPER: All right. Chris, that's about five minutes from now. I look forward to it.

Just ahead, President Trump's special envoy to Syria publicly breaks with him on Turkey war crimes and the capture of ISIS fighters.


[20:58:39] COOPER: Quick update on the chaos in Northern Syria that's follow up President Trump's order to pull out U.S. troops there. President Trump's own special envoy to Syria says that forces backed by Turkey may be guilty of war crimes, even as the President lifted sanctions on Turkey and once again praised Turkey's leader.

Jim Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Turkey's incursion was a "tragedy." He also said, "We've seen several incidents we consider war crimes." On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that those responsible should be held accountable and that it many cases "it would be the government of Turkey." None of that kept President Trump from applauding Turkey today and once again hinting that its leader would soon visit Washington. "People are saying, wow, what a great outcome. We've done a good job. We've saved a lot of lives."

During his testimony, Jim Jeffrey also gave an update on the number of ISIS fighters who escaped prison since the U.S. pull out from the North of Syria. He said the number who escaped is "now over 100. We do not know where they are." And the President still says the opposite that all the fighters have "been largely recaptured."

And a quick reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," our daily digital news show. You can catch it streaming live weekdays, 5:00 p.m. Eastern at or watch it there any time on demand.

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

CUOMO: All right, thank you, my friend. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time."