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Two Key Witnesses Testified Against President Trump; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Was Interviewed About the Next Thing That Could Happen After the House Impeachment Inquiry; American Voters Not Paying Attention to the Impeachment Issue; The Impeachment Inquiry; White House Spokesman Says President Trump Wants a Trial in the Senate; One Bright Note in Otherwise Dark Chapter. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired November 21, 2019 - 23:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Eleven p.m. here in New York and in Washington where two witnesses today provided a powerful ending to this chapter of House impeachment proceedings.

Fiona Hill, the president's former top Russia expert and embassy staffer David Holmes who overheard the president's phone conversation with Gordon Sondland, the E.U. Ambassador in Kiev.

Their firsthand accounts pack at emotional and factual punch adding to what, two weeks of public testimony indicates was an effort by the president to squeeze personal political favors out of a country at war and in dire need of American assistance.

The question tonight given all the testimony and with all facts before the House intelligence committee appear to establish what happens next. How politically risky is it for Democrats to move forward? And what does it say that given all the evidence not one Republican has so far moved? What does that sat about the party is now and where it seems to be going?

We'll talk about that in the hour ahead. But first, CNN's Alex Marquardt with some of the key moments from today and the last two weeks.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump --


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On the first day of open hearings the top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told committee members about his discovery of the Trump administration's unofficial policy in Ukraine and the people who were running it.


WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I encountered an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policymaking with respect to Ukraine. Unaccountable to Congress. A channel that included then special enjoy Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. And I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani.

The odd push to make President Zelensky publicly commit to investigations of Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election showed how the official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.


MARQUARDT: He testified alongside deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent, who also found Rudy Giuliani's actions in Ukraine deeply troubling.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What interest do you believe he was promoting, Mr. Kent?

GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS: I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle.

TAYLOR: I agree with Mr. Kent.


MARQUARDT: Two days later, former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch sat down for questioning. She was fired from her post in May and accused Rudy Giuliani of being behind her ouster.

Trump has publicly criticized Yovanovitch who is a career diplomat who has served for more than 30 years. As she spoke, he kept his attack, tweeting about her during the hearing.


SCHIFF: Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying the president is attacking you at Twitter.

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I mean, I can't speak to what the president is trying to do. But I think the effect is to be intimidating.


MARQUARDT: Democrats pounced saying his tweet amounted to witness tampering. And Yovanovitch testifying she felt threatened by what Trump had said about her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: What was your reaction when you heard the President of the United States refer to you as bad news?

YOVANOVITCH: I couldn't believe it. I mean, again, shock, appalled. Devastated. That the President of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that.


MARQUARDT: Taylor, Kent and Yovanovitch set the tone for the inquiry. Stark dramatic warnings from career apolitical officials.


SCHIFF: I will begin by swearing you in.


MARQUARDT: Then it was the turn of two people who heard directly from President Trump. Talking about investigations that he wanted during a July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy aide to Vice President Mike Pence listened in on that call.


GOLDMAN: In this call July 25th call between the Presidents of the United States and Ukraine. President Trump demanded a favor of President Zelensky to conduct investigations that both of you acknowledge were for President Trump's political interest, not the national interest.

And in return for his promise of a much-desired White House meeting for President Zelensky. Colonel Vindman, is that an accurate summary of the excerpts that we just look at?


GOLDMAN: Miss Williams?



MARQUARDT: Vindman was so concerned he went to the NSC lawyers.


VINDMAN: It was inappropriate. It was improper for the president to request and to demand an investigation into a political opponent.

SCHIFF: And raise your right hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [23:05:03]

MARQUARDT: Later that day, former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker testified, alongside former senior NSC director, Tim Morrison. Volker, a witness that Republicans had been counting on said he is now aware of a request for an investigation into the Bidens. Though he claims he didn't realize it at the time.


KURT VOLKER, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS: In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former president -- Vice President Biden. I saw them as different.

In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently. And had I done so I would have raised my own objections.



MARQUARDT: House Democrats inched even closer to the president by next calling Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to European Union. Sondland is the only witness so far who spoke directly to President Trump about investigations. He previously said it was crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind. But he then reversed his testimony, admitting in his opening statement it happened and it was not a secret.


GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.


MARQUARDT: Republicans jumped on Sondland. Saying he was merely assuming a quid pro quo.


STEVE CASTOR, REPUBLICAN COUNSEL: Did the president tell you personally about any preconditions? For anything?



MARQUARDT: Dr. Fiona Hill was next. And expressed her frustration with Sondland while she was working as the top Russia expert at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FIONA HILL, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE & RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are.


MARQUARDT: Hill said she didn't realize that at that time Sondland was carrying out a very different mission than her own.


HILL: He was involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged.


MARQUARDT: Next to Hill David Holmes from the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, testified that he overheard Trump speaking with Sondland by phone.


DAVID HOLMES, STATE DEPARTMENT AIDE: Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine. And went on to state that President Zelensky, quote, "loves your ass." I then heard President Trump ask, "so he's going to do the investigation?" Ambassador Sondland replied that he is going to do it. Adding that President Zelensky will do anything he ask him to do.


MARQUARDT: Making him one more witness who heard the president himself talking about investigations.

Five days of testimony. Twelve witnesses. Democrats ready to move forward. Republicans saying none of this shows evidence of a crime.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

COOPER: So, having set the stage, let's talk about the drama. Joining is Max Boot, David Gergen, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jennifer Rodgers, Kirsten Powers, and Scott Jennings.

David Gergen, let's start with you. Two weeks of the hearings. From the tone of Chairman Schiff tonight it sounds like he's more or less wrapped up his phase. Do you think the Democrats make a solid case or not out of this?


DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they made a very solid case on the merits. On the question of whether in fact there was a misdeed, a series of misdeeds on the part of the White House as cohorts. I think the evidence there is overwhelming. It's compelling. Where I think they may not have judged properly is how it's going to

play in the country. And we still don't know fully yet. But the early signs are that the country is not paying attention. There was a survey of what's the top down priorities of the country ought to be it was taking here in the last couple of days. Impeachment number 10. Number 10

And I think it's been hard for the public to follow it. You got 10 different characters who come on stage. None of them are known to the public before this all happened. And trying to keep up who's who, and you know, there's no chronology. We're not walking our way through it chronologically. We've been jumping around. And the format having various members of Congress ask questions.

It has really given it a very jumpy, jumpy, jumpy where it ends. I think it's just really hard for people to follow. I think a lot of people are mostly exhausted by this.

It does not to say the Democrats can't recoup. It is to say, I think this is still very much we're still going to look in toward settling this at the ballot box in November.

COOPER: Nia, do you think that's the case?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, I think that's right. You know, there are more phases to this in the House that we report that will go over to the judiciary committee. At some point the things that you're talking about in terms of whether the public understands this. Whether or not a clear narrative was set forth. Maybe that's something the House judiciary can get to.

You know, there are no more depositions. Apparently, some transcripts will be released possibly from some of the depositions that happened behind closed doors.

But, listen, I think the case had very compelling moments. You know, the fact that impeachment is number 10 on this list that you talked about. In some ways, it suggests it's probably not a voting issue for people.

You know, we have all these polls that suggest maybe it's under water in battleground states, maybe it's split nationally. But it's not clear for who it's going to be a voting issue for. Right?

If you're a Republican you don't like, you know, this impeachment. If you're a Democrat you like it and you think the president should be impeached. But it's unclear like, where it's going to fall if you're an independent, if it's going to motivate somebody to actually change their vote in either way.


KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well that was a key thing actually in the Politico/Morning Consult poll, was that independents, and actually in the Marquette poll as well, that independents are clearly against impeachment. So that's the thing I think that should be concerning, because you're

right. I mean, we kind of know where Democrats are going to end up and where Republicans are going to end up. But Democrats do need to be concerned about what independents are doing. And they do need to be concerned about what is happening in battleground states. And there's at least one poll in Wisconsin showing that it's not working to their advantage.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, I think, we need to pull away from the politics although the politics is important, and let's not lose sight of the right and wrong.

And after the conclusion of this impeachment hearings I don't see any way that any kind of fair-minded, neutral, open-minded observer can possibly doubt that Donald Trump was in fact guilty of trying to extort Ukraine into helping him politically and withholding U.S. aid to do that.

There is no way to reach any other conclusion based on these hearings. Because these witnesses were very clear, very consistent and their evidence corroborated each other, and also corroborated the outside pieces of evidence that we have, such as the rough transcript of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky on July 25.

I mean, this is the very definition of a high crime and misdemeanor. And it is very frustrating to me to hear, even Republicans like Will Hurd who are, I think are somewhat more fair-minded than the Jim Jordans or Devin Nunes' of the world. Even Will Hurd saying, this is improper, but not impeachable.

Well, to Congressman Hurd I would say, if this is not impeachable, what is impeachable? This is the most impeachable conduct I think we have ever seen from a president of the United States. And we have to hold him account no matter what the politics are.

COOPER: Scott, do you see that way?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, that's been the refrain from the most of the Democrats since President Trump was elected and from a lot of people who don't support the president. They wanted to impeach him from day one.

And I actually think that's one of the things that's worked against the Democrats' ability to change minds here. Even if you think that everything that's been said is true, everything that's been said has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there have been a lot of moments during this presidency where, as Republicans would see it, the Democrats have cried wolf. They wanted to impeach him time and again.

And with an election looming there will be a lot of Republicans like Will Hurd who will say yes, I don't love everything I heard here. But I think the American people ought to get a chance to weigh in on this. Because by the time an impeachment trial wraps up, we're about to start casting the first ballots in the presidential election.

I think the Democrats succeeded in one thing. They scratched the itch in their party that has existed since election night but they did not succeed, apparently, in convincing one Republican in the United States Congress to see it their way, which I actually find pretty remarkable.


COOPER: Do you think -- do you think the facts are on the Democrats side on this?

JENNINGS: I think -- I think they have laid out a case here that shows bad judgment for sure. Some people did dumb stuff. Inserting Rudy Giuliani into this was a dumb idea. I've said this on your show many times.

But I also think along the way they have done things that have been hyper partisan that have drained the trust out of this process and have caused Republicans to question the process itself.

And so, I think that they have made some interesting points, but I don't think they ever got to a place with any of these witnesses or any of these hearings where a Republican would say you know what, I've heard enough and I'm coming to your side.

Will Hurd's speech today I predict is what you're going to hear out of a lot of Republicans on the House and Senate floor. Varying degrees of discomfort. But nobody wants to throw a president out of office for the first time in American history over a process that will be totally one sided in terms of its partisanship at the end of the vote counts.

COOPER: Jennifer, I mean, you're a former federal prosecutor. This is not a legal case. I guess the closest thing in the court system it's akin to is a grand jury. How do you think the Democrats did prosecuting their case?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think they did a good job given the limitations they had. I mean, remember the most important witnesses and virtually all of the relevant documents were blocked by the White House and the administration from being released.

But I think what they need to do now is what Max was talking about, and this is the part of the grand jury process where a prosecutor would make his or her argument to the grand jury right before they vote. And this is the chance that they have to talk to the House before the vote. And that's where they can put it together in a logical way, in chronological order so that it's not piecemeal and people have to pay attention to all of this different witnesses.

They have a chance to put the case out there in a way that people can understand. And I don't know whether it will move the House Republicans or not but that will be the opportunity to do that, to persuade them and the American public.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have more ahead to that point. We're going to look at to the next chapter as well, hearings in the House judiciary committee and to the potential final chapter, a Senate trial.

Joining us later one of the perspective jurors, Senator Bob Menendez in New Jersey. We'll be right back.



COOPER: As we look ahead to House judiciary committee hearings, we always want to look what could come after that during a possible trial in the Senate.

At this fashionable hour I'm joined by New Jersey Democratic Senator, Bob Menendez. Senator, thanks for being up with us late. Just looking at the last two weeks of hearings how do you think it went for your Democratic colleagues in the House?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Well, I think that Chairman Schiff outlined very clearly a series of witnesses including many Republican witnesses. Those who are working for the administration. An outline that is troublesome.

That seems to appear to have created a real picture of an abuse of power by the president. And one that I think Fiona Hill, Dr. Hill today made very clear. What's the consequences to the average American?

The consequences that we have a narrative that undermines our democracy, that invites a foreign government to get involved in our election.


And that creates a national security threat because some of our colleagues and the president continue to put out a false narrative about Ukraine when it's really Russia that we should be concerned about. And Russia that is still seeking to interfere as we approach next year's presidential election.

COOPER: So, you think House Democrats need to get some Republican support before this goes to a full House vote?

MENENDEZ: Well, you know, all I can say is listening to the information that has been brought forth at these hearings, where the narrative is pretty well established including with Ambassador Sondland. And today Ambassador hill. And the political attache at the -- the U.S. political attache at the Ukraine embassy that overheard the conversation between Ambassador Sondland and the president.

And it's pretty clear that there's a direct line where the president abused his power, invited a foreign government to get involved in our elections, and undermines the national security of the United States.

If that is not of concern to our Republican colleagues, I don't know what will. And if you take oath of office to uphold the Constitution seriously, then I think that some of the them have a real cause to think about what vote they're going to cast in this regard because it's beyond a partisan issue. This is about the nation's democracy. It's about the nation's

security. And at the end of the day, you know, that oath of office is to the Constitution not to the president of the United States.

COOPER: There's reporting tonight that Republican senators are in talks with the White House about possibility of limiting the impeachment trial in the Senate to two weeks. Is that something you would support? I mean, is two weeks enough time in your opinion? Because it would also add the advantage of not tying down Democratic senators who are running for president from being able to go out and campaign.

MENENDEZ: Well, I'm not for the limitation of time. My only limitation of time is whatever it takes to present a full case to the Senate for its consideration about guilt or innocence.

And you know, to my colleagues who are running for president, you know, I'm sure that they would take equally as serious their oath of office. And that means being in the Senate for whatever period of time is necessary to make a full and complete case of all the facts. And then an opportunity for a determination by the Senate.

And so, I'm not for artificial time lines here at all. This is too serious. There's a reason that the founders created the ability of impeachment in the Constitution of the United States. They did not want the president ultimately to act as a king. They wanted to act, that person to act as a president.

If we allow the president of the United States to abuse his office with impunity and he gets away with it, then ultimately, what we are inviting is not the democracy with checks and balances. We are inviting a tyranny. And that is something I think is far too serious at the end of the day for the concerns of who's running for president or Republicans wanting to limit the time so they have less exposure.

COOPER: The Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as you know told reporters earlier this week, he can't imagine a scenario under which President Trump would be removed from office.

Is it appropriate for the majority leader to essentially deliver a verdict in a Senate trial that hasn't happened yet? I mean, everybody can't be expected to be completely impartial. This is a political process.

MENENDEZ: Well, it's true. But you know, the -- the when you take oath of office you say I seek to uphold the Constitution of the United States, not when it's politically convenient, but to uphold the Constitution.

And so, to prejudge the decision at the end of the day is in my mind a political decision. Not an upholding of the oath. So, as far as I'm concerned, I don't know how one can make that determination. If you already have a decision before you've heard all the facts and while, you know, I haven't sat through every moment of the impeachment hearings because I have a job to do. But when all of those facts are presented to the Senate, that's when a

verdict should be rendered, not before. And so, I think that that's a political decision by the majority leader. If that's what he's saying is going to happen before it happens.

And so, I would say to my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle what the nation needs right now is patriots not partisans.

COOPER: Senator Bob Menendez, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, what our political legal team make of a possible Senate trial. That and a late report on White House reaction as we continue the end of this long historic week.



COOPER: It is remarkable when you stop and think about it. That it is only been a little more than 10 weeks since the whistleblower report became known and this story erupted.

By congressional standards that's barely a heartbeat. Though we should point out that Andrew Johnson was impeached in a matter of days. Still, proceedings are going quickly by modern standards. We spoke with a potential juror, Senator Bob Menendez a moment ago.

Back now with our political and legal team. Do you think it would behoove Democrats, David, to -- to sort of get this moving along quickly? I mean, to get a trial in the Senate to be in the neighborhood of two weeks?


GERGEN: I don't think they should rush it. You know, obviously, you would like to conclude it before Iowa and New Hampshire and that sort of thing. But I don't -- I don't think they have found -- they haven't found their groove yet. I think they need time to figure that out.

You know, they need a message. I think that they have to -- from my point of view, Adam Schiff has done a very fine job pulling us together. He has become quite an articulate spokesman. I do think he would be helpful for him to have a partner, perhaps a woman with moral authority. But I think somebody -- we need another couple of voices on the democratic side who can appeal to the various part of American psych.

You know, I think Max was absolutely right about the seriousness of this. We have a moral responsibility with the people. But this is a political trial. The ultimate jurors are going to be the public. I think Democrats haven't quite figured out yet how to bring the message to them.

COOPER: Max, do you agree?

BOOT: I agree, obviously, that the public is the ultimate jury. I think most of the Republicans, however, are a hopeless cause. You're not going to convince these Republicans because it's not for a lack of evidence.

It's not because they are fairly weighing the evidence or saying that if there is somewhat different procedure -- I mean, you know, Devin Nunes is complaining the impeachment hearings should be in the Judiciary Committee, not the Intelligence Committee. Does anybody think he would be supporting impeachment if in the Judiciary Committee, or they are making these lame conspiracy theories which Fiona Hill slapped down today?

These are not serious arguments. At the end of the day, they are standing behind Trump because he has the support of about 85 percent of Republicans. And as long as that is the case, they are going to turn a deaf ear to all of the overwhelming evidence that they are hearing. They are going to turn a blind eye to all of the overwhelming evidence that they are seeing.

HENDERSON: I think that's right. I think America is a partisan and very divided place. And I'm not sure bringing on a woman, I'm not sure explaining it, keeping it short, making it longer, I'm not sure if that makes a difference. I think a lot of the stuff is baked in.

People are in their corners. I do think the Democrats moved part of the public along. It sort of 50-50 in terms of where people are and that was before they even put on a trial. It seems like it's essentially stayed that way. But I don't know if individual voters are thinking about who they vote for based on whether or not they voted for impeachment.

That's the point I was trying to make before. We just don't know if it's an actual voting issue. I think Democrats clearly know that, you know, Republicans for these last two years have stood behind this president in every single way.

I don't know that they went in here thinking that they were going to move a block of Republicans in the House or the Senate. I think they want to put on the case. They want to say that an American president can't do this.

GERGEN: If they lose the case and also lose the country, lose the argument, that's going to imperil them for November.

HENDERSON: I don't know that we know that. I mean --

JENNINGS: I think if they have a trial in the Senate and only Democrats vote to convict Trump and he goes out and spend the next several months saying, look, for the second time, they came after me and I was totally exonerated, now, the Democrats will howl when he does that, but that's obviously what he's going to say.

To your point, David, about finding somebody to help sell the message to the American people, I can't think of a worse person to put the face of this than Adam Schiff for Republicans. If you're trying to convince Republicans of something, putting Adam Schiff in charge of it, I can't think of a worse idea.

So for whatever job you think he did in the committee, which I'm not disputing his job as committee chairman wasn't well executed, but his performance during the Mueller inquiry, his promises to the American people that didn't come to pass, he drained any probability or possibility that he ever had of convincing a single Republican of anything.

And so to your -- I think you're right. If Schiff is the face of your campaign to convince a Republican of something, you fail before you start.


POWERS: There is no person that could have been. I mean, the thing is you had Republicans saying there was no quid pro quo. Well, there was. Then it was like, well, the Ukrainians didn't know about it. But they did. And then it was the Trump -- you know, he is so concerned about corruption. And yet it turns out he never mentioned corruption and he pulls back the ambassador whose known for fighting corruption.

COOPER: And didn't care, by the way, if the investigation actually even took place.

POWERS: Yeah. And then, you know, it goes into this whole thing yesterday about how it's just because he doesn't like foreign aid. At the same time, but why would he ever pull back foreign aid from Ukraine, because all we have heard about is how much he loves Ukraine and how much he cares about Ukraine.

Literally, every single argument Republicans have made has been shut down. And it just shows they don't care about what's true. They just don't. It doesn't matter if it's Adam Schiff.


POWERS: It doesn't matter who is saying it. Every single argument that you guys have made has been knocked down.

JENNINGS: Well, first of all, I haven't made these arguments.

POWERS: I'm sorry, not you.

JENNINGS: I mean, my arguments have been A, they should have just admitted this from the beginning. B, they should have thrown Rudy under the bus. C, it was highly probable that the Democrats were always going to be able to show at least, you know, approaching something that they would be able to sell as quid pro quo.

I don't think it was smart to switch to bribery because I think they have not gotten there obviously with Republicans. So I'm not sure they pursue the correct arguments, to your point. But I always thought it was highly unlikely that putting Adam Schiff in charge of any process in which you want to have any hope of convincing any Republican to do anything was destined to fail. And of course, here we are.

POWERS: Of course, you can't -- I said this last night. You can't throw Rudy under the bus because Donald Trump was the one that was leading the whole thing.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Kirsten's point about the facts, President Trump's reaction to today's testimony and his efforts to shape a possible trial in the Senate, ahead.




COOPER: White House official tells CNN tonight that they believe today's two witnesses were not damaging. Separately, a White House spokesman in an interview tonight says that while President Trump feels there is no basis for impeachment, quote, he wants a trial in the Senate, he wants to bring up witnesses.

For more on the reaction there, CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez joins us. So, with the hearings wrapped up for now, at least, talk to me about the president and the White House, how they're feeling tonight, what people are saying there.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as of right now, the president feels pretty comfortable with where things stand. White House officials don't believe that he's really in any danger of being convicted and removed from office.

As you said, White House officials today told CNN that they didn't really feel that Fiona Hill or David Holmes provided really damaging testimony to the president. One official is saying that something was missing. A smoking gun was missing from their testimony.

Notably, these same officials said that they were made uncomfortable by the testimony of Gordon Sondland yesterday, that they initially felt that he was very strong in proclaiming that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

But they got more confident and felt more comfortable once Republicans started questioning him and started making the case that his argument was based on assumptions and suppositions of what the president actually wanted.

We should point out one White House official did admit that if there were testimony from other officials, say former National Security adviser John Bolton or the acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, that that could potentially change the equation. But seeing as how that's highly unlikely that they would testify, they're pretty confident with where things stand, Anderson.

COOPER: We should point, I mean, the State Department and the White House have refused to turn over any documents --


COOPER: -- making it obviously as difficult as possible. The president weighed in this morning, trying to cast doubt on Holmes's testimony on Twitter. What did he say?

SANCHEZ: Right. So this goes back to that account from Holmes that he was at this cafe, at this restaurant with Gordon Sondland, and that he overheard what President Trump told Sondland on the phone. The president is dismissing that account on Twitter today, saying that he has been watching people make phone calls his entire life. He says, my hearing is and has been great.

He even says that he tried to do this himself. He says, I even tried to hear or understand a conversation that someone else is having on the phone to no avail. He suggests that people should try it live. Of course, the president not at all addressing the substance of what Holmes testified to.

He says that Sondland told him about the president's priorities in Ukraine. It is though amusing to imagine the president in the Oval Office trying this out for himself, Anderson.

COOPER: Boris Sanchez, thanks very much. I want to bring back to our political and legal team. Jennifer, where do you see this -- the process moving forward, I think it is still sort of confusing for a lot of us. I mean, there is the Judiciary Committee and then in the Senate. What does it look like in the Judiciary Committee? Do we know?

RODGERS: Well, we don't really know except that they will be taking this up. There will be some form of public hearings there before the House votes. And that's where the Democrats really have their opportunity to put this case together in a way that is understandable, digestible, that makes sense to people, that hits all of the highlights of all of this testimony in one place at one time in a couple of hours.

COOPER: Mm-hmm.

RODGERS: And that would be the most compelling case that they can make.

COOPER: It's interesting because, you know, time and time again, I feel like, certainly in the Mueller investigation, but also in this, you had Democrats coming forward saying, you know what, as soon as Lieutenant Colonel Vindman shows up in that uniform and he is talking, that's going to do this.

And then when you have Sondland and now it's, you know, when the Democrats are finally able to make their case in the Judiciary Committee, then it is going to sort of, you know, the pieces are going to be tied together. It doesn't seem to work out that way.

HENDERSON: I actually don't think the Democrats did that this time, like the actual folks putting on the case. Maybe folks in the media did that. I do think they did that before with Mueller, right? Mueller is going to come. He is going to bring this thing to life. You had all sorts of Democrats on air saying that. I don't think Democrats put on this case thinking that they were going to bring Republicans along. I think Adam Schiff wanted to, you know, lay out the facts, call these very compelling witnesses.


HENDERSON: Clearly people tuned in. Our ratings have been great. Folks have been talking about it. You get into an Uber, you know, they get CNN on listening to it. In that way, I do think they informed the public and laid out their case. I don't think they really tried to lay out this idea that they were going to bring any number of Republicans along.

JENNINGS: You said they informed the public. So that's the purpose of oversight hearings. That's the purpose of, you know, most hearings that go on in Congress. The purpose of this hearing is to remove the president from office. And so I wonder if your theory is correct. Why pursue an impeachment instead of just a series of oversight hearings that could have allowed them to make the same case?

BOOT: Because he committed impeachable conduct.

JENNINGS: Her theory is that all they needed to do is inform the public.

HENDERSON: I think the point of this is to say the president has to be held accountable if he does something like this.


HENDERSON: That is what Adam Schiff said. Adam Schiff said --

JENNINGS: I think that --

HENDERSON: -- if the minimal is that they impeach him in the House, then that at least is holding him accountable for something and showing, you know, the next president that you have a consequence if you --

JENNINGS: Be careful what you wish for if I were the Democrats on that front because as they're going to have a trial in the Senate. They may call witnesses they're not going to want to hear from and he may not get a single Republican vote to convict and that will give a big boost to Trump on the back end of this thing. I think the Democrats --

HENDERSON: I mean that's your theory. I don't think we know.

BOOT: Keep in the mind that Democrats at the end of day realize they are running a political risk but they have no choice. They cannot allow Trump to wait until the election when he is trying to fix the outcome of the election. What he's doing threatens the integrity of the 2020 vote. Imagine what he will do if he escapes these charges. This is going to be field day for further foreign interference. The other point that I will make is I think it is way too soon to say that these hearings are not bringing the American public along. Keep in mind that the polls are showing that roughly 50 percent of the public already supports impeachment and removal.

At the height of the Bill Clinton impeachment, that number never went above 36 percent. This is the highest number of Americans who support the impeachment and removal of a president since the summer of 1974. So Democrats, I think, are actually doing a pretty good job of making the case to the public, even if they're never going to bring along the Fox News viewers or brainwashed to think that Trump has been exonerated.

GERGEN: There are some signs that the numbers are going down. There's one poll that's unreliable. People don't talk about it very much because of the unreliability. It shown a 10 points drop in the number of people who think he should be removed from office. That's national poll. We'll have to wait and see what happens from here.

COOPER: That is an unreliable poll.

GERGEN: It is unreliable but it's the first one, the first evidence we have seen. Let us see what happens from here. This was not about winning Republicans. It's about bringing on independents so that you have enough of a coalition that you can actually come close to winning this fight, winning in November. It's a dereliction of duty to say we have no responsibility to go after these people.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. Up next, one bright note in this otherwise dark chapter. That's ahead.




COOPER: The three immigrants we saw testify publicly the past two weeks. Dr. Fiona Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, and former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch came to this country from either an oppressive regime or a harsh economic situation, the very (INAUDIBLE) yearning to be free Emma Lazarus has wrote about and whom we say we want here.

These three found success in service to their new country. Now, they face accusations of disloyalty because they chose honor and country over all else. Here's today's witness, Dr. Hill, on questions about her loyalty and those of the others.


HILL: I do not believe that my loyalty is to the United Kingdom. My loyalty is here, to the United States. This is my country and the country that I serve. And I know for a fact that every single one of my colleagues, and there were many naturalized citizens in my office and across the National Security Council, felt exactly the same way. I think it's deeply unfair.


COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman no doubt knows just how unfair that is. He's faced innuendo and accusations of dual loyalty, that he is, quote, an affinity, unquote, for his home country of Ukraine. One commentator floated the word "espionage." And yet, this is the message he had for his dad, who brought the family to the United States.


ALEXANDER VINDMAN, UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL WHO SERVES AS THE DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to elected professionals. Talking to elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.


COOPER: Their faith ultimately is in American principles, of right and wrong. Marie Yovanovitch, another Soviet immigrant, was the first to testify. She was called "bad news" by the president in that July 25th call and was the target of lies and conspiracy theories by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani. That and that alone cost Yovanovitch her job after decades of service.

That should never happen in America, but it does and it did. But if there's any good news in all of this, it's that these people, these Americans stood up and didn't cower.


COOPER: It is their model that best fits the final lines of that Emma Lazarus poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty: Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The news continues after this break.