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DOJ's Watchdog Expected to Say FBI Russia Probe Launched Properly, But Lower-Level Employees Made Mistakes; Rep. Denny Heck (D- WA) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Probe; House Dems to Prepare for Trump Impeachment Report; Trump Says Democrats "Looked Like Fools" During Hearings; How CNN and Fareed Zakaria Got Caught Up in the Impeachment Inquiry. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired November 22, 2019 - 20:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The president's own Justice Department on the president's own orders investigating the president's own conspiracy theories about the 2016 Russia probe and largely debunks them.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

It is breaking news and it is big. The Justice Department inspector general's report on the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation is done.

CNN was first to learn that a former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation for allegedly altering a document related to the 2016 surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Tonight, there's more. Much more. In "The New York Times," this is the lead, a highly anticipated report by the Justice Department's inspector general is expected to sharply criticize lower-level FBI officials as well as bureau leaders involved in the early stages of the Trump/Russia investigation, but to absolve the top ranks of abusing their powers out of bias against President Trump, that's according to people briefed on a draft.

According to "The Times", the report concludes the FBI met the legal standard for opening the investigation and that none of the evidence to launch the investigation came from the controversial Steele dossier. The report, which is expected to arrive early next month, came up in what was described as in what appeared to be a tense Oval Office meeting late last week caught on camera between Attorney General Barr, the president and others.

According to "The Times," the draft debunks a series of Trump conspiracy theories and insinuations about the FBI, fired FBI Director James Comey, fired Acting Director Andrew McCabe and these two mentioned just this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): And when you look at Strzok and Page with the insurance policy where, you know, the two lovers, the two great lovers from the FBI, where he's saying, oh, she's going to win 100 million-to-nothing, but just in case she loses, we have an insurance policy. Well, that means, you know, we're going to take him down. We're going to take down the president. You wouldn't --


BERMAN: -- in mind, even as the president was saying that this morning, it's likely he already knew that it wasn't true. He likely has already been told perhaps in that Oval Office meeting that the investigation that he himself ordered while it does identify a number of mistakes, real mistake, a measure of sloppiness and perhaps wrongdoing on the part of the lower level FBI attorney. It debunks most if not all of the big stuff.

Joining us with details is Adam Goldman, who shares a byline on "The Times" story.

Adam, thank you so much for being with us.

Let's start which might be the bigger headline here of what the report doesn't say or doesn't find. Go ahead.

ADAM GOLDMAN, JOURNALIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, one of the main takeaways is the report doesn't say that the FBI, in particular its leadership, weaponized this surveillance tool, right, the FISA, to spy on the Trump campaign. What it does say is that while putting together the application to obtain this secret wiretap they made a number of, you know, serious mistakes, omissions, it was basically unprofessionalism by, you know, the agents and officials and lawyers putting this thing together.

BERMAN: What is the difference in this case between violations of procedures -- serious though they may be -- and what would amount to a finding of political bias, which they did not find in this case?

GOLDMAN: I mean, if they had found that the FBI had moved forward and gotten this wiretap, this FISA because of political bias, that would have been extremely damaging to the FBI. I mean, it would have been a major black mark on the FBI's history, right up there with some of its worst --

BERMAN: And it is my understanding from your reporting that this report will find that the investigation, the launch of the investigation met the legal standard, correct?

GOLDMAN: Yes, it's going to debunk a number of Republican conspiracy -- right wing conspiracy theories that have asserted that this investigation, the opening of the Russia investigation in July of 2016, code name Crossfire Hurricane, used information from an ex- British spy named Chris Steele and the information he had compiled. They said that is false.

They also said that the information used to open that investigation didn't come from the CIA, right? It wasn't being done by John Brennan, right, the puppet master in all of this, according to some of these conspiracy theories. And also two other important points, you know, well, in particular, one, also that the FBI wasn't working with this Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, who made an offer of assistance and coordination to campaign -- former campaign official named George Papadopoulos.


BERMAN: It does, though, mention Christopher Steele, I understand, at fairly great length. What does it say about him?

GOLDMAN: I think -- you know, one of the takeaways from Christopher Steele, it's our understanding that the I.G. isn't going to say that the FBI shouldn't, you know, have used this political research. But I think what will come out is that, you know -- you know, the way that Steele was portrayed in this application, this warrant, you know, this surveillance application was misleading. Some of the information was just flat out wrong.

BERMAN: Adam, stick around, if you will.

I want to bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Phil Mudd, former FBI senior intelligence adviser and former CIA counterterrorism official and our counterterrorism analyst.

A lot of titles for you, Phil. Still you're going to have to wait, because I'm going to Jeffrey first.

So, what do you make of this? I mean, this is one of the things the president and his allies have talked about for some time. That this campaign was launched on false premises, this report does not find that.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Including during the impeachment hearings, and the phrase that keeps -- that I think of when I read Adam's brilliant reporting here is deep state because the -- one of the main hypothesis of the entire Trump presidency has been that the deep state, the FBI, the CIA, the State Department people who are apparently according to the president secret liberals have been out to get him from the beginning and using their powers to discredit the Trump campaign and now discredit the Trump presidency.

And what this report does, it seems, based on Adam's reporting, in a conscientious way to say that's not true. That didn't happen.

BERMAN: Phil, you know, Michael Horowitz, who is the inspector general at the Justice Department, is seen as a straight shooter and hard hitter. If he finds wrongdoing, he calls it out.

So, what does it say to you in this case that when it comes to the senior levels of the FBI, he says there was no political bias here?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, I'm with Jeffrey Toobin on this. I've been watching this thinking there's going to be a sledgehammer come down. I mean, I went to Catholic school in grade school. Catholic school,

you can't do this anymore, but the nuns would slap you on the back of the head if you did something wrong.

They're not going to bring a sledgehammer down unless it's a serious offense -- though I don't remember a sledgehammer in grade school. This is not a sledgehammer. This is not saying there is a deep state that the leadership of the FBI did something wrong. This is a slap on the back of the head saying you guys really screwed this up.

I'll take it a step further. You mentioned the I.G., the inspector general. I never met an I.G. I liked. The I.G. is known for saying if you didn't shine your shoes right today, you're going to get whacked.

I'm not saying that the FBI didn't do something embarrassing among my colleagues -- this report is really embarrassing, but it is not what many people would have expected, that is at the leadership levels of the FBI, there is a deep state effort to take down the presidency with an investigation.

This is actually in my world of inspector general investigations relatively modest.

BERMAN: And, Adam, the major finding that has gotten all the attention so far was that this line attorney falsified a document, that is the allegation and that's a serious charge and there is a criminal referral for that. But to be clear on what it was, it was falsifying a document on a renewal for the FISA application, not even the original FISA application, and would the FISA application still have been accepted even if that hadn't been altered?

GOLDMAN: Yes, let's not minimize that, right? This is a false statement. It's a serious charge.

I'm not certain whether what he did during the renewal process was actually material to the application and whether or not, you know, a judge would have determined there was probable cause.

I want to hit on something, though, what's important -- one of the important takeaways here is that the president and his allies have been calling this a witch-hunt, a hoax, right? This was a legitimate properly predicated law enforcement investigation, right? Let's remember that. They had -- they had articulated reasons to investigate. And the I.G. has backed that up.

And like many, many, many investigations and you have a former one on TV with me, will tell you not all investigations end in charges, right? And this is what we're seeing now. So, this idea that somehow it was a hoax is false.


The other important takeaway here is, look, this was maybe the most important FISA ever done in the history of the FBI, right? And they screwed it up, OK. They couldn't get this one wrong and they got it wrong, OK? So let's remember that and that raises questions about what do the other FISAs look like.

TOOBIN: Well, let's also remember how much Donald Trump has invested in the idea that the FBI improperly investigated him. Going way back to the beginning of the administration where remember he said Obama wiretapped my campaign. I mean, that's out of this investigation. Total lie.

Total lie that the president told and all -- we now know that all of his claims about how the deep state were out to get him, total lies.

BERMAN: Go ahead, Adam.

GOLDMAN: I was going to say, you can see this and Trump has already pivoted to, well, we got to wait for Durham, right? We got to wait for Durham, right? They -- so, you know, I don't know what Durham is going to find. It sounds like this Kevin Clinesmith, the lawyer who is accused of wrongdoing, the false statement, is an add-on to what Durham is doing, looking at the intelligence community assessment of Russian interference.

You know, it's not clear where this is going to head and let's be frank, is any of this going to matter? The inspector general of the Department of Justice is going to put out a report with facts but the truth has been so eroded the last few years, you know, what is the public going to take away from this?

BERMAN: You know, Phil, again, you've been on the inside here. Is it embarrassing for these FBI officials who will be named as being clumsy at best and criminally at worst?

MUDD: Oh, hell, yes. If that lawyer and I gather that lawyer has left his position in the government. If that lawyer was in government, I think he should be fired immediately, not like last minute, I mean like now, that person needs to go.

That said, there's a difference between mistakes on the periphery of the investigation. Those mistakes are significant. I agree with Adam. This is -- this cannot happen in a FISA application.

I don't agree this is the most important FISA application ever. It may be the most public. It's not the most important.

That said, this is embarrassing, but if you compare it to the core of the investigation, what did the leadership of the FBI say and do? What happened in terms of Roger Stone's interaction with WikiLeaks? Why did Don Jr. suggest that he wanted to accept information from a Russian lawyer?

This is embarrassing on the inside. In the outside, I think it's chump change. I don't think it's that significant at the core of the investigation.

GOLDMAN: Can I make one point?

BERMAN: Go ahead. GOLDMAN: I think -- for the most part, I agree with Phil. Let's remember, this FISA application, the investigation into Carter Page was a small part of a massive sprawling investigation into Russian interference. This FISA, you know, somebody said, you know, it was 10 percent even less. I mean, Carter Page was not a big player in this so let's not magnify the significance of this.

This was a huge investigation and that's part -- I think that's part of what will be the criticisms that, you know, the FBI didn't bring more people into this, right? Because they were afraid -- actually were afraid he was going to leak, which it didn't.

BERMAN: Adam Goldman, thank you for your reporting. Phil Mudd, thank you for being with us. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for sitting next to me. I appreciate it.

So, next to Adam Goldman's earlier point about facts and the impact they have, remember yesterday when Fiona Hill warned against embracing another conspiracy which also happens to be Russia's cover story about the 2016 election? Well, the president must have been tweeting at the time and missed it because when it comes to embracing, he is all arms and all in. What he said today and why he should know better, why lawmakers should too -- keeping them honest.

And later, the next steps in the impeachment of a president. What they are and new reporting on how soon they might happen. .



BERMAN: Tonight's breaking thus that the Justice Department's investigation of the 2016 Russia investigation has debunked a number of President Trump's conspiracy theories about it, comes at what you might call an apt moment. A moment when the president and his supporters are pushing yet another conspiracy theory that, yes, also happens to absolve Russia of meddling in the 2016 election despite being told that this too is nonsense and just remind you, the U.S. intelligence community determined in late 2016 and early 2017 that Russia was to blame in a very big, very systemic top down way.

First, candidate then President Trump was briefed on it. His own intelligence officials have testified to it. Yet the president has never bought it. Instead embracing conspiracy theories about the FBI and deep state and for months now he's also been pushing a conspiracy theory blaming Ukraine.

He talked about it again today during that nearly hour-long phone interview on Fox and by our fact checker's count, he made at least 18 false statements.

This is what he said about Ukraine, the Russian hacking of the DNC and the company CrowdStrike the Democrats hired to investigate it.


TRUMP: It's very interesting. They have the server, right, from the DNC, Democratic National Committee --

REPORTER: Who has the server?

TRUMP: The FBI went in and told them get out of here, you're not getting -- we're not giving it to you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it's called which is a country -- which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server.

You know, the FBI's never gotten that server. That's a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?

REPORTER: Are you --



BERMAN: That's just a lie.

So keeping them honest, CrowdStrike is an American company co-founded by an American citizen who was born in Russia, not Ukraine. There is no single server and the DNC did not give any server to anybody. That's not the way it works.

The president provided no evidence to support his claim, saying only that's what the word is. And funny thing is, his own top former Russia expert says the word, that word he was talking about comes from Russia.


FIONA HILL, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISOR: There's some questions and statements I've heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.


BERMAN: A fictional narrative, she says. The woman who literally wrote the book on Vladimir Putin, who has spent her entire career studying Russia who's had access to all intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 election says the Ukraine allegations are part of the Kremlin's cover story and a leader of the free world is embracing it, so are Republican lawmakers despite many of them being told otherwise.

CNN has learned that intelligence officials have in recent months briefed senators and their aides, reiterating the case that Fiona Hill made yesterday, that blaming Ukraine is part of the Russian effort to deflect blame for 2016. And so far, the most powerful individual on Earth is convinced.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Denny Heck who serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

You know, President Trump has long said this claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

Are you surprised to see your Republican colleagues especially those with an intelligence background, especially those who were presumably were briefed by the intelligence community get on board with this lie?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): John, at times, I can't tell if they're self- deluded or that cynical. But I vacillate between those two. It's got to be one or the other because the facts are what they are.

They all seem to have remembered that old expression about the big lie, if you tell a big lie enough and keep repeating it, and people will come to believe it. But here's what I said, is what they should consult is the more enduring wisdom that is often quoted by President Abraham Lincoln. You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Facts matter, John.

BERMAN: This briefing that "The New York Times" reported CNN reporting that members of Congress were briefed by the intelligence committee that this is a Russian effort to blame Ukraine.

Were you aware of these intelligence briefings?

HECK: Yes.

BERMAN: And were they convincing and should they have been convincing to the Republican members who were also briefed?

HECK: It's no longer arguable, John. This is all a fiction that is being propagated by them as a part of the big lie theory. They're going to tell this big lie and they're going to repeat it until enough people believe it that it will help provide them for a defense for President Trump for his misdeeds.

That's what this is about. That's what the motivation is or they're just incredibly, as I suggested, self-deluded.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the next week of your life, Congressman. We understand that the house intelligence committee which you're a member of will spend the next week drafting this report which will go to the Judiciary Committee laying out what you have found as part of this inquiry. Will it stick to the testimony that you heard, what we all heard in the public hearings or will there be more we haven't seen?

HECK: Well, John, just to be clear the next week of my life is going to involve an awful lot of giving of thanks for the many blessings and sleep because the fact is it's been an incredibly long and arduous two weeks. Our able staff is in the process as you and I speak of drafting the report which will then be shared with the members and have an opportunity to review it at that point. And I am presuming but it has not yet been confirmed we will take it

up the week we get back and mark it up and the Intelligence Committee, which is a term that means we'll vote upon it.

BERMAN: The president said in an interview today that he doesn't expect to be impeached and White House officials in background briefings were claiming they didn't think that the president was going to be impeached.

Do you believe that's wishful thinking at this point?

HECK: So we have to clarify our terms here. For somebody to be impeached means for the House to pass it.


BERMAN: That's what I mean. That's what I mean. That's all I mean.

I mean that the House will vote to impeach the president. The president said he did not think the House would vote to impeach him and White House officials are suggesting the same thing. And my question to you is, are they deluded?


HECK: Well, TBD. The fact of the matter is, we haven't written the report yet. And there are a lot of members of the House who while many were paying close attention to the exceedingly dramatic events of the last two weeks, others were busy at work on their legislative business, so they're going to have to digest all this. We will transition this to the Judiciary Committee at some point in the near future where they will be responsible for crafting articles of impeachment should they decide to do that.

And in the meantime, John, let's not forget there can be other developments. Obviously, today, Ambassador Bolton felt as though he had an irresistible urge to tease the public through his Twitter account that he had information. I have called upon Ambassador Bolton time and time again, do your patriotic duty, come forward just like three other people who work for you did, Colonel Vindman, Dr. Hill and Tim Morrison.

Do what they did. Have the courage to put country first.

BERMAN: So far, it's just a tease, though.

Congressman Heck, thank you for being with us. We'll join you next week in giving thanks. Wish I could join you in getting some sleep. Appreciate you being with us tonight.

HECK: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: All right. A quick programming note. This Sunday, be sure to watch the special report "All The President's Lies" hosted by Jake Tapper. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, and it's just one hour. Still ahead, more on the next steps in the impeachment process and

what sources are telling CNN is one of the big unresolved questions about the potential vote on President Trump's fate.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Democratic sources tell CNN the impeachment of President Trump could come before Christmas. As we mentioned just moments ago, aides and leaders plan to hammer out a report next week to spell out the case for impeachment.

Back with me is Jeffrey Toobin, and joining us another CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers, also David Gergen, a CNN senior political analyst who has served four presidents, Republican and Democrat, including one who has been impeached and one who resigned, so knows a lot about this type of thing.

Jeffrey, I want --



BERMAN: Jeffrey, how do you see this process playing out? We know the Intelligence Committee is going to write this report. Then it goes to Judiciary. Do you think we'll still be getting new information as this goes on?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Probably some, but I think there's one big question that the Democrats have yet to resolve, which is how to structure the impeachment. There are really sort of two broad options. One is that it's just Ukraine, that it's just the abuse of power in connection with the president's interactions with Ukraine. The other option includes the obstruction of justice discussed in the Mueller report and the obstruction of Congress in terms of the failure to respond to subpoenas, allow witnesses to testify.

So a narrow impeachment based on Ukraine, a broader impeachment with obstruction, that's a question Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff largely are going to have to resolve.

BERMAN: And David Gergen, because I'm going to ask you, David, politically speaking, what's the wise move, do you think, from Democrats? More limited or broader as Jeffrey was just describing?

GERGEN: I used to think it would be the more limited option because that -- I thought that would be easier to understand. I think it's been harder to explain it to people. There are so many different figures who are introduced over these hearings. The Democrats did an awfully good job amassing the evidence but I'm not sure that they got through to the public on giving them a convincing narrative of what happened. Under those circumstances I would be exploring whether you bring in the obstruction questions as Jeffrey said or not and I would lean toward bringing in obstruction because I think there are additional elements that have been forgotten and there's a path -- there's a narrative about the president's entire activities as president.

The trail that we have seen, the amount of obstruction, the amount of dismissal of the rule of law. I think that's a pretty powerful case if you can make it simply and with simply -- with great clarity I would lean in that direction.

BERMAN: So procedurally, Jennifer, it's interesting, because the House Intelligence Committee is writing a report but it's the Judiciary Committee that will write the actual Articles of Impeachment. I was told by one member this morning they're going to hold hearings on what constitutes an impeachable offense. That's interesting.

The question is, when it gets to the Judiciary, the rules say that the president can have his own lawyers there. They can participate in those hearings if they're open hearings.

Do you think that the White House should do that? Do you think that would behoove the president to have his people there or should they hold their powder, hope -- you know, keep their powder dry until the Senate trial?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that they probably will participate but the rules also say that if they block witnesses and documents and information that the Democrats want to put on, then they might not be able to participate so we'll have to see how that all shakes out.

But I have yet to meet a lawyer and certainly this president isn't like this either who can stop talking so I think that they will want to go ahead and make their case whether it's through cross-examination or making speeches or something. I find it impossible to believe that they will just sit there quietly while this information comes in.

BERMAN: So, this Monday, just days from now, there is a ruling on Don McGahn, the president's former White House counsel, about whether he needs to comply to subpoenas, you know, from months and months and months ago having to do with the Mueller investigation back when we're all in our early 30s.

What happens there, Jennifer? And if, if this judge says McGahn has to testify, what does that mean for John Bolton or some of these other figures.

RODGERS: Well, I'm not exactly sure. That was a subpoena about testifying because of the Mueller investigation out of a different committee. You know, look, all of these cases, every time the administration or a witness who's, you know, complying with their stonewalling request loses in court it does send a message that other people will lose but it's not binding on those other people.

[20:35:09] So if McGahn is ordered to come testify in front of the Oversight Committee, presumably they'll set something up and he will do that but I don't know that Bolton will.

TOOBIN: I don't even think McGahn will do that. I think what will happen if Congress wins on Monday is the administration will appeal and they're entitled to appeal, and this thing is back on a slow boat to nowhere. And this is the reason why Adam Schiff decided in the Intelligence Committee that we're not going to court because we just don't have time.

Now that's a decision that I don't know that was correct, but it is true that the very act of going to court is a guarantee of a multi- month delay to a real resolution. So, yes, Monday will be important. But it certainly will not resolve this question once and for all.

BERMAN: If John Bolton, David, do you think that is a witness worth fighting for for the Democrats?

GERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's clear from the last few days that he has a story to tell. There's a part of him that would like to tell it. He's sort of dangling it in front of us. I think it's worth exploring. It may be a boat to nowhere Jeffrey says. It may not lead anywhere but I certainly think it's worth exploring because, listen, we've gone through this so many times that the president carries his stonewall. He refuses to let any of the star witnesses, people who really know him well, come testify and he's run over the committee like that and then they claim, well, the committee doesn't have enough direct evidence.

You know, the Republicans claim there's not enough direct evidence. John Bolton can provide the direct evidence and he may be the most honest man of all in this.

BERMAN: He can do it if he wanted to. He could do it if he wanted to and hasn't done it yet.

GERGEN: Right. Well, he may find it. Yes. But the McGahn, and people think that the McGahn result may influence Bolton's decision.

BERMAN: Yes. We'll see. We'll see. He wants to sell books. That much is clear.

David Gergen, Jennifer Rodgers, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for being with us.

Still to come --

GERGEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: The politics of all this, right or wrong, valid or not. How would the potential impeachment of President Trump affect voters' attitudes towards the two parties?



BERMAN: All right. We've been talking about the future of the impeachment proceedings with the Senate possibly holding a trial next year during the prime early months of 2020 campaigning. After the trial concludes, if the president is not removed, it will ultimately be the voters who have a final say in all this, not to mention those conspiracy theories about Ukraine that the president won't let go. Today President Trump said Democrats, quote, "look like fools." Democrats, however, clearly believe this is worth it.

Joining us today, "USA Today" columnist and CNN senior political analyst Kirsten Powers and CNN political commentator and former Ted Cruz communications director Amanda Carpenter, author of "Gaslighting America."

Kirsten, I want to start with you here. For Democrats, again, they think this is worth it. They made the decision after resisting this for a long time that they had to go through this process. But what do you see as the politics of this? Is this winning support for the Democratic Party?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's risky and I felt that way from the beginning. I think the Democrats did the right thing. I don't think you can ignore this kind of behavior. It absolutely required the hearings that we've had and I think that they're -- I think the Democrats have actually done a very good job with this.

The problem is, is that I think when there's chaos, that is where Donald Trump thrives, right? Chaos and disorder is really where he thrives and the Republicans have made it clear that they didn't have any interest in actually hearing any of the facts and actually holding him accountable for anything and instead they're also sowing chaos and discord, and so that does work to the president's advantage.

That doesn't mean -- we still don't know. There are some polls that have come out that have shown, you know, that independents aren't looking that kindly at this but, you know, we need to give it a little more time. We're not all the way through the process so I think it still remains to be seen how voters are going to react.

BERMAN: Amanda, do you recognize the Republican Party that you grew up in and that you worked in for a long time? Do you feel as if they are looking at the facts here?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, they've made a decision to get in line behind Trump. And, you know, in some ways I saw echoes of this when people got in line behind Bush in regard to the Iraq war, but this is totally different. This isn't to serve national security interests. This is to serve one person's ego, and so I am very interested to see how this will be handled in the Senate because you are moving from firmly Democratic territory into Trump's wheelhouse, so to speak.

Mitch McConnell is going to control this process and so this will be legacy-making stuff for Republican senators to take that vote for the lawyers who try it and how they prosecute and try that case. I mean I don't know how this is going to come out. What is Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi going to send over? Is it going to be something that's very narrowly tailored to what we heard presented in the impeachment hearings or is this going to be a kitchen sink and what happens when it gets into McConnell's hands?

Do they make it quick? Do they turn it inside out and try to call Hunter Biden to testify, and this becomes another one of Donald Trump's extended conspiracy extravaganzas? We have no idea. And so, you know, what happens there will determine how the 2020 election is handled, and if Trump wins re-election based on how this was handled that's how it's going to be for a long, long time.

BERMAN: But there is some risk for the Republicans, too, as you say, in how they handle it. And I think there is some risk in them looking at the facts right now and saying they don't care or it's not enough. It's not without risk for everyone.

Kirsten, there are a lot of Democratic senators. I think six but to be honest I've lost count. Democratic senators running for president who would have to leave the trail and participate in this impeachment trial. How will that affect them?


POWERS: That would be bad. I mean you want to be out on the trail obviously and I think that the timing of this just isn't great. The way this is, you know, coinciding when people would be out campaigning and also coinciding with debates. The Democratic debate the other night was completely overshadowed by the impeachment news, and so I think that while it's true, you know, for the early states you're going out and you're trying to reach people mostly through retail politic, you know, you also need to be in the -- in people's living rooms.

You know, people need to hear the Democrats are talking about more than just impeachment. You know, otherwise they get the sense that that's all they care about when, of course, they care about a lot of other issues. And the other thing is just to your sort of overall question is right now impeachment doesn't really rank very high in terms of what people are voting on so that's another thing to watch, you know, so people have feelings about it but is it going to be what's going to influence their vote?

BERMAN: And finally, Amanda, one of the things the Democrats will say in defense of the president, well, his behavior may have been bad, but it's not impeachable. Will Hurd said a version of that yesterday. Do they need -- Will Hurd, though, said that was not good foreign policy. He didn't say it's dangerous. Is there a way for Republicans who might not vote for impeachment to actually say something that has teeth critical enough to make an impact?

CARPENTER: Yes, I mean I guess there's a possibility of censure. I don't see that happening in the Senate, although that would certainly be history-making, but Republicans shouldn't be let off the hook on this question, if you believe it was bad but not impeachable, what are you willing to do to stop it from happening again in the 2020 election because we must always remember this is not the first but the second time that the president solicited foreign interference in election to benefit himself.

BERMAN: Yes, furrowed eyebrow and expressing concerns probably not enough to stop it the next time.

Amanda Carpenter and Kirsten Powers, great to see you tonight. Thanks so much for being with us.

POWERS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Still ahead the backstory of how Ukraine's president almost appeared on CNN and then didn't, and why it's a part of the impeachment inquiry.



BERMAN: Time to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": How are you, handsome?

BERMAN: I'm very handsome and very good.

CUOMO: You are good and a Happy Thanksgiving in advance in case I don't see you. I am thankful to have you in my life as always. You're a good man, a great journalist, and an even better friend and husband. So -- not to me, though.

BERMAN: What are you telling people?

CUOMO: So tonight we have two truth bombs, OK? The inspector general from the Department of Justice has their report out. Trump's defenders were jumping up and down, they made a mistake, we got them. They ignored what's in the rest of the report. They are not going to like what's in it but the American people should because if we don't have faith in our institutions, what the heck are we doing in a democracy in the first place?

Second, we have new information about Devin Nunes that is going to shock people regarding Ukraine.

BERMAN: I got to wait to see that. All right, Chris, looks very good. Nice to see you. Have a great weekend and a great Thanksgiving.

Up next, I'm going to speak with CNN's Fareed Zakaria about how he almost interviewed Ukraine's president and how it's a key part of the impeachment story.


[20:56:26] BERMAN: At the end of a long week, it's time to flush out the details of how and why CNN became involved in the impeachment inquiry. It centered on the push to somehow get Ukraine's president to publicly announce he was going to order investigations into whether there was Ukrainian influence in the 2016 election as well as looking into the Bidens. That's where CNN's Fareed Zakaria enters the picture and he joins us now.

And Fareed, it was going to be an interview with you where the second half of the quid pro quo was announced.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Right. We had been trying to get an interview with Zelensky anyway because he's this fascinating character, you know, complete newcomer, standup comic, sitcom actor, also a businessman, but a newcomer. Totally outside politics, sweeps the elections, sweeps the parliamentary elections, talks about making a deal with Russia, so fascinating character. We keep trying. We're getting somewhere. Not -- you know, I interviewed the previous president three times.

And then it gets very, very close and then I get there in early September for a conference that I happen to be going to, and I said, can I meet him to seal the deal? That's the September 13th meeting that apparently the U.S. embassy was frightened he was going to give the interview that day and do the second half of the quid pro quo, announce the investigations into Biden and Burisma.

They had not confirmed it with us. They were still playing, you know. But it looked very good. We were getting down to the logistics, when will he do it, New York, around the time of the U.N. General Assembly, which was 10 days later. And then the whistleblower story breaks. The whistleblower story actually breaks to Congress two days before I get to Kiev and of course the White House knew because the Republicans on the committee presumably told them.

Aid is released the day before I get there. And when you talked to Ukrainian officials, they were delighted but they were a little puzzled about it, they weren't quite sure what was happening. I'm now thinking back they were probably thinking to themselves, OK, do we still have to do the quid pro quo because, you know, we got the aid? Are we now meant to deliver? And then when it all blew wide open, "The Washington Post" reported it that they just -- they went radio silent for a few days and then they said there's no interview.

BERMAN: I think it's what the kids call ghosting. All of us --

ZAKARIA: Just for a while. They were actually very nice and very professional but for a few days they ghosted us and then they said it's off.

BERMAN: And then I want to ask you another thing which you have a particular expertise in, life experience, in which this week has been remarkable in that so many of these witnesses were not born in the United States. They're Americans and now working on behalf of America, Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, Fiona Hill. Americans by choice, as you are. What do you make of all this? ZAKARIA: Yes. I think it's something that people don't understand

enough. And I'm glad that Fiona Hill used that phrase, American by choice, because what she means is most people in America are American by accident or birth. That's not to say they're not wonderful, patriotic Americans, but, you know, you don't have much of a choice of it. Whereas an immigrant is choosing to come to America or to make America his or her home.

And you know, we sometimes celebrate immigration as this wonderful thing. It's all, you know, milk and honey. It's not. It's a very hard choice. You're leaving behind your family, your culture, lots of deep ties, and so, you know, the attraction to America is very deep and very profound, and I go one step further, then you have these immigrants who decide to make America their home and to make it the place that they're going to, you know, put their stake in but then they work for the American government.

So that's to my mind an even higher order of devotion to the United States. And to have these people have their patriotism, you know, criticized and to have right-winged talk show hosts saying when will some real American testify.

BERMAN: That's horrible. Fareed Zakaria, great to have you with us. We're glad you're American by choice. The news continues so I hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time."