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Sources: White House Official Who was on the Ukraine Call Characterized Transcript as Mostly Accurate; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is Interviewed About Lt Col. Vindman Deposition and the Ongoing Impeachment Inquiry. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 20:00   ET




The tone of this potentially very significant day in the impeachment proceeding was set early this morning, as Capitol Hill and the White House braced to hear from the first witness who was actually on the multiple calls between President Trump and Ukraine's President Zelensky. That witness, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, arrived on Capitol Hill in uniform, his body still carrying the shrapnel he received during an IED attack in Iraq for which he received the Purple Heart.

And he corroborated and expanded upon what we know about the allegations involving military aid for Ukraine. We know he did that because we obtained his opening statement last night. We also know he was prepared to say that he witnessed a pressure campaign, what he called, quote, outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine.

Here's what his opening statement said about the call between the two presidents. Quote, I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen. He added, quote, I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play.

Meantime, Republicans largely didn't want to talk about what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman had to say, like literally didn't want to talk about it.

Listen to the question asked of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and then listen to his answer.


REPORTER: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman says that what he heard on the president's call, that conversation with the Ukrainian leader was so concerning that he worried that it might undermine U.S. national security. Does it concern you? Are you worried about the president's behavior at all?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I'm not going to question patriotism of any of the people who are coming forward.


COOPER: He ignored the question if you didn't notice.

Nevada Republican Congressman Mark Amodei did him one better, though. Watch what happens when CNN's Manu Raju tries to ask him about some of the facts uncovered so far.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The substance of the things that have come out is that the president asked for a public investigation into his rivals and also Ukraine aid was being withheld. And Bill Taylor testified --

REP. MARK AMODEI (R-NV): That's your conclusion.

RAJU: No, no, that's not my conclusion. I'm saying that's what come out and everything that has come out.

AMODEI: It's not a conclusion to me so we disagree.

RAJU: The president has asked for the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. Is that OK?

AMODEI: The president has asked for the whistle-blower complaint to go through the normal processes, and we've seen nothing of that. So, beyond that, when you say you've made the conclusion, you're a gifted guy because guess what, it isn't over and you already know what you think.

RAJU: The White House transcript that was released had President Trump asking President Zelensky to open an investigation into the Bidens.

AMODEI: Do you know they have plans to call the whistle-blower because I heard they didn't? Now, I don't know if that's true.

RAJU: You're not answering my question about the substance of the allegation.

AMODEI: I disagree with your conclusion. It's a conclusion, not a question.

RAJU: I'm asking you about what's in the White House transcript?

AMODEI: Well, my English teacher says, you've got a conclusion. So, if you want to interview yourself, go right ahead. You're interviewing me.

RAJU: Why don't you want to answer the question? Is it OK for the president to ask a foreign country to investigate the Bidens?

AMODEI: Why don't you do an interview instead of interviewing yourself? RAJU: The president asked on the White House lawn, on the South Lawn --

AMODEI: You want to answer my question?

RAJU: On the South Lawn of the White House, the president asked China to investigate the Bidens. Is that OK?

AMODEI: You know what? If you don't want to interview me, then interview yourself.

RAJU: I'm asking you a question. If you don't want to answer --

AMODEI: I don't understand.

RAJU: You don't understand?

AMODEI: Yes, thanks for doing the best you could.


COOPER: Where do these people come from? Do you ever wonder that?

President Trump for his part went after the lieutenant colonel in a different way, saying over Twitter, quote, supposedly according to the corrupt media, the Ukraine call concerned today's never Trumper witness. And how many more never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call when all anyone has to do is read the transcript?

Keeping them honest, there's no evidence whatsoever that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is a, quote, never Trumper, whatever that means exactly. By the way, never Trumpers are what the president also referred to as human scum.

We do, however, know that he served presidents both Republican and Democrat over his distinguished two-decade career of service to this country. The president's defenders on TV took their attacks much farther in saying that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman has dual loyalties to Ukraine, where he was born, when it was part of the Soviet Union.

One said Vindman had an affinity for Ukraine. Another said he was simpatico of Ukraine. John Yoo, a legal scholar, threw out the word "espionage".

Capitol Hill Republicans immediately pushed back on the characterization. At least some of them did. Congresswoman Liz Cheney called questioning Vindman's patriotism, quote, shameful.

For more on all of it, Congressman Eric Swalwell joins us. He sits on the Intelligence Committee, which leads the investigation.

Congressman Swalwell, how much more were you able to learn from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman today beyond what he said in his opening statement?


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Anderson.

The opening statement actually frankly says a lot. But we did, of course, learn more. And it was very powerful to see him enter that committee room in full military uniform, knowing this was a Soviet- born immigrant, a wounded warrior, a reluctant witness in the sense that this is not what he was seeking to do, but it's what he thought was the right thing to do.

COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was the first witness who actually was on the call according to CNN's reporting. He testified that the call transcript that we've seen was mostly accurate.

Can you say what he said was inaccurate about it, or did he know -- did he have other details about it?

SWALWELL: We did hear more details about the call record, but, Anderson, we're going to accept the call record that the White House put out, and that is damaging enough because if all the president did was ask the Ukrainian president to investigate his opponent, that would be a gross abuse of power. But he did more than that. He leveraged $391 million in taxpayer dollars over the Ukrainian president, as well as a White House meeting.

So I don't think the White House call record is really in dispute. We see that as the president's confession.

COOPER: In his opening statement, Vindman didn't specifically say that what he heard being talked about on that call or what was going on was a quid pro quo.

Can you say if he characterized it that way in his actual testimony?

SWALWELL: No, that opening statement describes the scene in the White House ward room with the Ukrainians president right next to the Situation Room, which is also, you know, inappropriate. And he heard Ambassador Sondland tell the Ukrainians that to get a White House meeting, that they needed to deliver on investigations into Vice President Biden. That, Anderson, is a "this for that," in other words, a quid pro quo.

A White House meeting to the Ukrainians was of paramount importance. Again, there's other evidence, though, in our investigation that it wasn't on a White House meeting. As Ambassador Sondland told Ambassador Taylor, everything is on the table, not just the meeting, but also the security assistance.

COOPER: I also want to ask you about this reporting today that Democrats accused Republicans of trying to out the whistle-blower during Vindman's deposition, which apparently, according to the reporting, let to you and your Republican colleague, Congressman Mark Meadows, getting into a heated exchange. Can you say what happened?

SWALWELL: Yes. Well, out of respect for my Republican colleague, I'm not going to say which colleague that was. I will say I got pretty fired up when I saw Republicans attempting to get the identity of the whistle-blower after repeatedly being told that that was not appropriate and hearing that the witness did not want to do that as he identified in his opening statement.

We're going to protect the whistle-blower outside the hearing. We're going to protect the whistle-blower inside the hearing. And, Anderson, as far as I'm concerned and as many as my colleagues are concerned, the whistle-blower pulled the fire alarm. Once the first responders showed up and saw the smoke and the flames and the president holding a can of gasoline and matches in his hands, you don't really need to hear from the person that pulled the fire alarm unless they have anything new to offer. And much of what the whistle- blower alleged has been corroborated.

COOPER: And am I correct in my reading of his opening statement, Vindman said in the opening statement that not only was he not the whistle-blower, that he didn't know who the whistle-blower was. Is that correct?

SWALWELL: Yes, Anderson, he did not want to speculate as to what that person is. And that's because of the great security risk to the whistle-blower and the whistle-blower's family. That's why it's so irresponsible for my Republican colleagues to seek to get the whistle- blower's identity for no other reason than to be punitive and to protect the president when, again, the president has himself, you know, admitted to the call record. And we don't really have a reason right now to hear from the whistle-blower, who has the right to remain anonymous by the way.

COOPER: Yes. We should point out, we just heard Vindman's testimony has just ended for the day.

"The Wall Street Journal" tonight is reporting that the legal team representing the whistle-blower has received multiple death threats that have led to at least one law enforcement investigation.

Did that come up in today's hearing at all?

SWALWELL: I'm not going to go into the specifics of the hearing, Anderson, but we on the committee are well aware of the threats that this whistle-blower faces because it comes from the very top, the tweets and the statements from the president of the United States.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, I'm sorry.

OK, I just got to jump in. Adam Schiff is making a statement. I just want to play that live.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): -- the service that continues and today took the form of coming before our committees to bravely answer these questions. We hope that his example of patriotism will be emulated by others.

I want to say also how deeply appalled I was at the pernicious attacks on him last night on Fox, the suggestion that because he's of Ukrainian origin, that he has some dual loyalty. This Purple Heart recipient deserved better than that scandalous attack.

I also want to say this because I've been asked questions about this all day as I go to vote and come back. The president would love to punish the whistle-blower. The president's comments and actions have jeopardized the whistle-blower's safety.

The president's allies would like nothing better than to help the president out this whistle-blower. Our committee will not be a part of that. We will not stand for that, and I would hope that more of my GOP colleagues throughout the Congress on both sides of the capitol would express their support for whistle-blowers who have the courage to come forward and expose wrongdoing.

They have the right to remain anonymous. They certainly should not be subject to these kind of vicious attacks and other words and actions that threaten their safety for doing their patriotic duty. And so, we will make every effort to make sure that notwithstanding the president or his allies' desire to out and exact political revenge on this whistle-blower, that our committee is never used for that purpose. Thank you.

REPORTER: Mr. Schiff, is he worried about White House retaliation?

COOPER: That's Adam Schiff.

I want to go back to Congressman Eric Swalwell who is still with us. Sorry to interrupt you like that, Congressman.

Let me just wrap up with you by asking you last week you said there was, quote, direct evidence that very key witnesses in this case have talked to each other about their testimony. You didn't want these witnesses to manufacture alibis.

This is obviously the Lieutenant Colonel Vindman now leaving. That's a live picture right now on Capitol Hill.

Is there any rule, Congressman Swalwell, that says witnesses can't talk to each other at this phase in an inquiry?

SWALWELL: In investigations, Anderson, investigators would like to keep the information as a close hold. You don't want the witnesses to tailor their testimony to one another. You don't want them to cook up alibis. You want to get the unvarnished truth.

We do have direct evidence that two relevant witnesses talked to each other before a witness testified. We'll be voting this week to allow our deposition transcripts to become public, and that will be seen very soon by the public.

COOPER: And are there any witnesses you believe have not been forthcoming who you want to have called back?

SWALWELL: We have a number of witnesses who have told one version of events about this, quote, irregular channel as Ambassador Taylor described, that President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Ambassador Sondland trying to shake down the Ukrainians. Of course, that's in contrast with what Ambassador Sondland said, but I'm going to reserve judgment on the truthfulness of all witnesses until we get to the end of this investigation.

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

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

COOPER: Up next, more to talk about including some highly anticipated depositions happening tomorrow and Thursday.

Plus, I'll talk with "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman about whether critics are correct and President Trump made up details of the death of the former ISIS leader. The president said was, quote, whimpering and crying before he was killed.



COOPER: Moments ago, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman wrapped his day-long testimony. There he is leaving a few moments ago.

Details of what he said are now coming out. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the whistle-blower's team has been receiving death threats.

More testimony is expected this week in the impeachment inquiry. Tomorrow, a Defense Department official and two others with the State Department are scheduled to testify. Thursday's expected to be a big day. Another person on that July phone call between the two presidents, national security aide Tim Morrison is scheduled to testify. Also on Friday, the senior adviser to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, is expected to give his deposition.

I want to talk about all this now with CNN's chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, I wonder what your sense of things is at the White House tonight after this latest testimony.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So there was actually a fair amount of calm at the White House earlier today. I think that they recognized that Vindman was going to be somebody whose credibility they had to attack in a different way, and we certainly saw that in ways that were condemned by Adam Schiff a second ago, but ways that questioned Vindman's patriotism, ways that questioned his allegiance and what his actual goal was in testifying.

They're looking at it as there is not a whole lot of new information as best as they can tell because we don't know what yet was said. But as best as they can tell from him going into it, they did not anticipate he was going to offer up a ton new information over the picture that house investigators already had. Whether that's true remains to be seen when we learn more about the transcript of today's testimony, we can find out.

But, look, the White House is looking at this as this is a single event. We know basically the contours of it, and they are going to hope that public opinion doesn't get swayed based on more details. There is something dramatic about watching somebody come in in full dress uniform who has served the country in Iraq and at a certain point, I think that the White House has to be careful that those attacks don't backfire on them.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, the fact that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was on that July 25th call obviously, you know, is critical. It's the first time they've heard from somebody who was actually listening in on the call. And in his opening statement, he said he was, quote, concerned by what the president said, that he thought it undermined U.S. national security. It does not -- the opening statement at least didn't say quid pro quo, and it's not clear if he actually said that during the testimony.

Does that matter?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what's so interesting about his reaction in the moment was that he thought the president's behavior was outrageous even without knowing whether there was a quid pro quo.


He thought the mere act of the president trying to get this investigation going by the government of Ukraine for his -- that is, President Trump's political benefit -- that alone was enough for him to go to the lawyers and say this is wrong. So, it just shows how this sort of quid pro quo issue has become kind of be-all and end-all of everything, and it seems to have been proven by other evidence.

But I think what's so interesting about this is that even without proof of whether there was a responsible, this person, who is hardly a hysteric and hardly a, you know, critic of the president since he worked for the president, he was outraged by the offer alone.

COOPER: Well, and, Dana, I mean, not only did the president make that offer or that request on the phone call, I mean, he's now done it on the -- you know, at the White House on camera, not only to Ukraine but also to China, asking them to investigate the Bidens as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And he did that in part to normalize the behavior that he had on the call and to make it seem like it's no big deal, like this happens all the time. But this is a very classic, clear-cut example of how when you have a member of the military, just as Maggie said, somebody who came in dressed as he is, as a lieutenant colonel, and we know that he walked in with shrapnel still in his body from the attack that he was under while serving America in the Iraq war, and was hurt by a roadside bomb.

The fact that he -- you know, yes, he is a human being, and maybe he has some partisan impulses deep down, but he is a trained soldier, and was defending the country that he thought drove him to raise concerns when he heard this call real time because it is just not the right thing to do. And even Republicans have said this, for a president to ask another foreign leader for political dirt on his domestic opponent.

TOOBIN: And, Anderson, just looking ahead, the Intelligence Committee is going to hold public hearings. That's what today's announcements were basically about. It seems very likely to me that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman will be one of those witnesses, so that picture that Maggie was talking about will be even more vivid because people will be able to hear him speak as well as see him in his uniform.

COOPER: Maggie, to your point earlier, though, about the president perhaps needing to be concerned about going too far in attacks on him, I mean, he refers to him now in tweets today as a never Trumper even though there's, A, no evidence of what his, you know, political beliefs are and military personnel come from lots of different political beliefs and serve the Constitution. The -- you know, the never Trumpers are the people that the president and his White House spokesperson, you know, say should be referred to as human scum.

HABERMAN: Never Trumper has gone from being an actual thing, which it was in 2016 in the election, to Donald Trump's version of anyone who doesn't like -- who criticizes me or doesn't agree with me or might take issue with my policies or my behavior in office, they are a never Trumper.

You are right, there is no evidence that this person was a never Trumper, other than the president saying that on his Twitter feed. So far, based on what we've seen from the testimony, Vindman, who talked a lot about patriotism and about his service based on the opening statement, is reluctant to join the president in turning this into an up or down referendum on the president as opposed to his conduct.

This president has been pretty successful in defining people as up or down against him over the last three years. We shall see if he succeeds here. But, again, I do think his credentials in the military and his displaying them as he walked through the Capitol, I think, is going to make that harder.

COOPER: Yes, Maggie Haberman, thank you, Jeff Toobin, Dana Bash.

Just ahead, conservative commentators denigrate Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his background even before his testimony, one likening his actions to espionage. Details ahead.



COOPER: Recapping our breaking news, the day-long testimony of a national security aide who witnessed the July phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine just ended. When I say witnessed, heard the call. Details of his testimony just now coming out. We touched on the background and on the attacks against Lieutenant

Colonel Alexander Vindman at the beginning of the program, but here's a lot more to know. There's a lot more to know.

He and his twin brother came to the United States when they were 3 years old. He joined the Army back in 1999 and has had a distinguished career. He served in Iraq as we mentioned. A source says he still carries shrapnel in his body from an IED attack there for which he earned a Purple Heart.

Still he was denigrated and pounced on by conservative commentators as soon as the news broke that he would be testifying today in that closed door session.

Here's Fox News host Laura Ingraham and her guest, former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo last night.



LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Interesting angle on the story.

JOHN YOO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTORNEY: I find that astounding and, you know, some people might call that espionage.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Espionage. And on this network earlier today, former Republican Congressman and CNN Political Commentator Sean Duffy claiming Vindman was selfishly advocating for the place he was born.


SEAN DUFFY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's a former Ukrainian. He wants to make sure that taxpayer money goes in military aid to the Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Why does matter where he was born-- I'm sorry, Congressman Duffy, why does matter where he was born.

DUFFY: I'm going to explain it to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that came up in Fox News. He's an active duty military member, an American who was awarded the Purple Heart.

DUFFY: But you know what, I'm an Irish descend. I still love the Irish. And has an affinity probably for his homeland.


COOPER: By the way, he came here when he was three. Some perspective now from Mike Shields, former Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee and CNN Political Commentator, Max Boot, Washington Post Columnist and CNN Global Affairs Analyst.

Max, you know, the idea that a decorated veteran who continues to serve his country, maybe some sort of a double agent. Is this a fair line of attack?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Six years old, three years old in his case, I came here with my mother and grandmother just as he came here with his father and grandmother. And, you know, when you're -- from America, I think you tend to be even more intensely patriotic because you're so grateful.

COOPER: Max, sorry. We're having a hard time hearing you, something with our audio. So I'm just going to go to Mike Shields for a second. We'll come back to you. We're trying to get that fixed.

Mike, I'm wondering what you make of what your, you know, what some folks on the, you know, on the television at night are saying.

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I don't agree with going after someone because of where they were born. And he was hired. He speaks to Ukrainian. He was hired on that desk because he has some expertise in it. I think the real issue is what his testimony said today.

First of all, his testimony said that the transcript that President Trump released and his testimony matched. So we already know what was happening on the phone call. And I think there was a really, really deep issue that we should be having as a country right now, which is that there are people.

And I respect him for his duty. I'm a military brat. The fact that he served our country makes him a great American. But he's now in a policy making position apparently. And he disagrees with the President's policy on something. And I believe that is at the heart of what this entire impeachment investigation is about is that, someone on the National Security Council didn't like something the President did and now we're going to impeach him over it.

And I think that is outrageous as well. I don't think you should question his patriotism, but I also don't think that someone who files a complaint up through the legal office of the NSC and says, you know what, I heard something. He said in his testimony, I thought it was inappropriate.

But with all due respect, thank you for your opinion. You think it's inappropriate. We'll handle it from here. We'll investigate internally and people can look at that. Instead, it's leaked by someone who does seem to have more of a political motive. He went straight to Adam Schiff's staff, they got him a lawyer, and now we have an impeachment over it.

And I think this is a very dangerous president. Because one day we're going to have a Democratic president, and they are going to be on the phone call (inaudible) NSC may not like their policy.

COOPER: Mike, the whistleblower was following protocol. SHIELDS: Someone on the NSC may not like their policy. Someone on the NSC, the future president may not like what they're saying, are we going to impeach every president that someone on NSC disagrees with. I think it's a very dangerous president.

COOPER: But, Mike, are you OK with a president asking a foreign country to investigate his domestic political rival? Because that's what Vindman is saying he heard, and that he's saying, concern and nothing about policy to Ukraine.

SHIELDS: (Inaudible) President released the transcript. So here's the thing that I find interesting. Democrats will only ever refer to this a political opponent. I heard the President asking about the former vice president of the United States while carrying out his duties as a federal constitutional officer of the United States may have been involved in corruption, and we would like to investigate that. And if you're not going to help us investigate it, then we need to wonder if you are our friend.

Elizabeth Warren just said she would hold aid from Israel if they don't do what Elizabeth Warren wants when she's president. This is something that presidents do all the time.

COOPER: OK, OK. It's just weird that the only example of corruption the president, Max, can come up with is, you know, something that happens to be about his domestic political rival.

BOOT: I mean, this has nothing to do, Anderson, with the legitimate security interests of the United States. This is all about Donald Trump, helping Donald Trump misusing the authority of his office for personal political gain. And we know there was a quid pro quo because Bill Taylor testified to it, Gordon Sondland testified to it. Now, you're hearing it from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.

And what I wanted to say earlier is, you know, the attacks that you're hearing on Lieutenant Colonel Vindman I think are especially nauseating, especially troubling and something I feel very personally as a fellow Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union, somebody who came here as a small boy in the 1970s just like Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.


And when you have that kind of background, I think, you tend to be even more intensely patriotic. You believe in the ideals of this country. And in his case, he fought for those ideals. He took shrapnel. He fought for our country. He blood for our country in Iraq. And now, you're seeing these right wing Trump accolades defaming this American hero by claiming his dual loyalty connard (ph).

I mean, that is, you know, they are stooping so low to do that when, clearly, what he is doing is, he is acting out of the sense of duty and patriotism as he explained in his opening statement, because he was outraged by what was happening here and he felt the need to blow the whistle. Because he was thought a legitimate public policy that he was saying, this was a misuse of public authority. COOPER: All right. I've got to leave it there, just on time. Mike Shields, Max Boot, thank you.

Up next, where is John Bolton? No doubt, House investigators would like to hear from President Trump's former national security advisor. If he testifies, of course, what's not clear is what would he say. In a moment, I'll talk to someone who knows how Bolton ticks and what his relationship was like with the President. They offer some clues.


COOPER: Again, our breaking news tonight. Key testimony just wrapping up from the National Security Council official who was on the President's July phone call with the president of Ukraine, and who said he had concerns. Meanwhile, a lot of people on Capitol Hill would still like to hear from John Bolton, President Trump's national security advisor.

Last month Bolton resigned or was fired, depending on who you ask. Democrats called Bolton an important witness. His lawyers are in talks about him possibly testifying.


The question is will Bolton, a Republican hardliner, can he be or will he be a star witness for impeachment or protect the President.

Let me try to get some insights from Dexter Filkins, a Staff Writer for New Yorker Magazine. His profile piece "How John Bolton Got the Better of President Trump" was published last month. He joins me now.

You spent time with Bolton. Based on what you know about him, do you think he will testify willingly? And if so, what kind of a witness would he be?

DEXTER FILKINS, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: That's like the $64,000 question. I mean, everybody in Washington is wondering about that.

I think, you know, on one hand he knows everything. He had total visibility and, you know, he left on bad terms with Trump. Trump said I fired him. He said, no, I quit before you could fire me. But on the other hand, he's always been, you know, he's a partisan. He's always been a stalwart Republican. And he came from Fox News, he came from that whole thing.

So, it's really hard to tell, I think, potentially what's so interesting is, if he does testify to what other people had said that he did and he believe than he said, then I think it's potentially devastating for the President just because of his stature as one of the premiere Republicans in the Republican establishment.

COOPER: What do you think it comes down to? I mean, again, it's impossible to really get inside somebody's head and predict future behavior. But, you know, does he, I mean, does he want, you know, a post-White House career on Fox News and, therefore, does it matter to him, the ramifications, if he, in fact, did -- was unhappy as is the reporting, you know, and calling it, referring to it as a drug deal, what the President was trying to do.


COOPER: If that is the case is it, you know, is he such a patriot that it's, you know, he's appalled by that and testifies about it, or is there another or, you know, are there other factors in play?

FILKINS: Well, I mean, you just hit -- I mean, that's going to be the first question, the drug deal. Bolton was quoted as saying I don't want to be part of the drug deal that Giuliani is cooking up. And Giuliani --

COOPER: Yes. I think, by the way, I made a sentence as if it was reference to the President. It was in reference to Giuliani.

FILKINS: Yes. Yes. Well, I think what's interesting here is that from the very beginning, I mean, from day one when he got hired by Trump, they never saw eye to eye on anything. I mean, they just have entirely different world views.

And so, they were mismatched from the very beginning. I mean, Trump wants to kind of pull America back. You know, he's kind of America first. He's an isolationist. Cut the commitments, stop spending money. Whereas, you know, Bolton believes in a forceful American foreign policy. And in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, I mean, that's what he spend his whole career advocating.

So in that way, he's not a Trump ally. He's not Trump's friend. And so, this is what's so beguiling to people in Washington right now. Nobody can really figure out what he's going to do.

And he's, you know, he's a smart guy. I mean, he's a Yale lawyer. He's really smart. He was in the middle of it so he knows everything.

COOPER: What stood out to you from your time with him, from reporting on him?

FILKINS: Well he's, you know, he's extremely self-confident. He's extremely self-assured. And it was that, and I think really the other thing was, what I just mentioned which was, you know, what is he doing here. Because, you know, this is a guy who wants to, you know, he wants a prominent American role all around the world. You know, whether it's --

COOPER: So what was he doing in the White House? I mean, was it the chance to work in the, you know, the inner sanctum and influence US policy which would be totally understandable?

FILKINS: I asked him that question. I said, basically, what are you doing here? And he said, look, I -- whenever you work for the government, you have to realize you're not going to win every battle. And so, I'm going to do what I can basically.

And I think the place where he and Trump differed, I think most sharply, was over North Korea. You know, I mean, I think that Bolton has publicly advocated attacking North Korea, and taking out their nuclear facilities. And, you know, Trump is trying to do a deal. And I think Bolton made it clear, he certainly made it clear since he left that he just thought that was ridiculous.

And so, yes, they were just like that from the very beginning. So the amazing thing was that, you know, over there to begin with.

COOPER: Yes. Dexter Filkins, we'll be watching what happens.

FILKINS: Thank you.

COOPER: And it's a fascinating article of the New Yorker. I'll recommend it.

FILKINS: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Still ahead, what we're now learning about President Trump's speech and the death of ISIS later, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Tom Friedman for the New York Times joins us next.



COOPER: Tom Friedman from the New York Times joins us in just a minute. First, let's check in with Chris, see what he is working on for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We're going through the Vindman testimony today, what we've heard about it. There was a lot in the opening statement to go through. Now we have some reporting context for it.

We know that the testimony obviously matters to this President and his proxies because they're going after this guy, like no one else we've seen testify yet. Reveal something about the President and also their inability to deal with the facts. So where are we in the state of play of this process? We'll go through that tonight.

COOPER: All right. Chris, see you in about 10 minutes from now. Look forward to that.

Did President Trump know the ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was whimpering and crying before his death? Up next, we'll talk to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman about that, whether their terror group will now collapse.



COOPER: It's still unclear where President Trump might have learned that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was, in the President's word, whimpering and crying before he was killed. A White House spokesman said he wasn't going to get into any specifics about any technology that could have made it possible and the Defense Department didn't offer anymore information about that or if the President might have talked to the commandos who were there.

What is clear, according to reporting by CNN's Barbara Starr, is that, the speech the President delivered didn't resemble what had been put together before hand. The President wanted a tough speech according to one source, and both he and one of his closest aides, Stephen Miller, worked on in the language up until the last minute.

No one better discuss this than New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman, author of "From Beirut to Jerusalem" winner of the National Book Award.


COOPER: Tom, the fact that no one seems to know where the president got this information about Baghdadi supposedly whimpering, along with the fact he wanted a speech to be "tough", it does kind of tell you about where this President's leadership style and priorities are.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you were hoping this kind of situation, Anderson, you would have sat down with intelligence experts, and basically said what kind of message do we want to convey?


Clearly, the message they wanted to convey was that, oh, Baghdadi was a coward. He was whispering. He was crying.

The argument for that message is that, there was nothing heroic about this guy. There was nothing heroic about this movement. He went down as a coward. There's nothing and no one you want to emulate. This is not a heroic movement. That's one argument for his approach that I could imagine coming out of the intelligence community.

The other argument would be very low key, just be very straight forward, don't be spiking the football on his grave because you don't want to stimulate someone out there, some marginal guys to say, you're trying to humiliate my leader, my guy. Well, let me find a suicide vest.

So I don't know which approach they took-- I know what approach they took, I hope it was on the basis of consideration, not the president and Stephen Miller flying by the seat of their pants.

COOPER: The role that the Kurds played in all of this, I mean, the intelligence they provided which led the US to Baghdadi, the fact that it's coming right on the heels of the US leaving them high and dry in Syria. When the President was asked about the contribution that they made to the raid, all he could said was they gave us some information that turned out to be helpful. Certainly, seems like it was a lot more than that.

FREIDMAN: Well, certainly from our reporting in the New York Times and I know CNN, it was clear the Kurds managed to infiltrate and steal some of his underwear and even get a blood sample, so we were able to identify that he was the guy there, and then identified that we killed him.

Look, the Kurds, they come from this area. They know this area. We've been depending on them since the very beginning of this fight. They made an incredible sacrifice. They lost 11,000 people, men and women, fighting ISIS, basically beyond their area, fighting ISIS for us at the behest of the United States, and allowing us blessedly so to lose, I think, only five or six soldiers.

COOPER: The president in the announcement on Sunday, he did hale the work of US intelligence agencies rightly. But as you pointed out in your piece, these are the same intelligence agencies he has been consistently disparaging and undercutting really from the beginning.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. The same intelligence agencies who did the remarkable work with the help of others tracking down Baghdadi to this little tiny spot in Syria, the same people who told us that Russian agents participated in using cyber weapons to tip our last election, to attempt to tip our last election, on behalf of President Trump and away from Hillary Clinton, same agencies, same people, same work ethic, same oath to protect and preserve the constitution.

And you can't say in one place they are traitors and ignoramuses, and on the other place they are wonderful heroes. They are the same people.

COOPER: Just lastly, obviously today, Lieutenant Alexander Vindman, who, you know, have served decades, two decades in the military, has shrapnel in his body from an IUD attack while serving in Iraq. He is being accused by President Trump's allies of being disloyal to America over his testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

Is this, I mean, does this only go downhill from here? I mean, I'm not sure how much lower it can get but -- it doesn't seem on a trajectory that makes any sense.

FRIEDMAN: Anderson, I have to tell you, I worry about the future of my country today more than any time in my life. I'm 66, lived through the Cold War, lived through Watergate, live through Vietnam. Because what we're seeing is we're seeing a group of Republicans who know very well that with Trump engage in, and that phone call and well beyond it, was an impeachable offense. And instead of calling that out, getting to the bottom of it, instead of attacking that, they are attacking the process and the very system of our government.

This is so dangerous. This is so despicable. These are people who every day run around boasting and bragging, and praising all these American soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom. And these people, these people wouldn't make the tinniest sacrifice, not the tinniest sacrifice to just fulfill their constitutional oath to see this impeachment process to its true and honest end. They are disgusting and they are hurting our country.

COOPER: And that's based -- or just on political calculation?

FREIDMAN: It's all based on political calculation. They are political cowards. They will praise the soldiers when they serve their interests. They will praise them for making the ultimate sacrifice. And these people won't make the smallest sacrifice because Donald Trump might tweet them or they might not get invited for the next golf round? They are disgusting, they are shameful and they are hurting our country.

COOPER: Tom Friedman, appreciate it. Thank you, Tom.


COOPER: Well, a quick reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," our digital news show. You can catch it, streaming live weekdays at 5:00 pm Eastern at We cover a lot of stories, you wouldn't see on this program on any given night. A lot to cover, that's online.

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?