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House Intel Members Get First Look at Dem Impeachment Report as GOP Rebuttal Defends President Trump Says No Quid Pro Quo or Threats; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is Interviewed About GOP Rebuttal to Dem Impeachment Report. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 20:00   ET




The start of a week filled with things we've simply never seen before including impeachment hearings with the target refusing to take part and that's not all. The House Judiciary Committee is out with a witness list of day one of proceedings.

Also late today, members of the House Intelligence Committee got a preview of that panel's majority report on the testimony that they've heard and House Republicans put out a 123-page rebuttal. It's sharply at odds with testimony so far as well as with the president's own words.

Plus, the Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana is repeating Russian talking points in defense of the president, again even after being told they are Russian talking points by intelligence officials and hearing this from the president's own former expert in the field.


DR. FIONA HILL, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISER: Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services does not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.


COOPER: We'll talk about that tonight.

Also, former FBI attorney Lisa Page breaking her silence, talking about being accused of treason by the leader of the free world.

And if that weren't enough or because it is too much, the "Ridiculist" is back.

But we begin right now, this hour, keeping them honest, with a president who claims to run the most transparent to run the most transparent administration ever, once again hiding behind a stonewall. The White House counsel late yesterday in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler called his committee proceeding's, quote, baseless and highly partisan, and saying, quote, accordingly under these current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.

The letter holds open the possibility of participation in future hearings but to be real, we've heard that song before. Whether it is about testifying into the impeachment hearings or releasing his taxes or talking to the Mueller investigation or having his top officials cooperate with the Ukraine probe, the president always sings the exact same tune with the exact same lyrics before doing the exact opposite.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me.

I'd love to have Mick go up frankly. I think he'd do great.

When the audit is complete, I'll release my returns. I have no problem with it. It doesn't matter.

I would love to speak. I would love to go. Nothing I want to do more.

It doesn't matter, but --


BILL O'REILLY, TV HOST: But the legal people say you could do it now --

TRUMP: In the meantime, Bill --

REPORTER: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of --

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it actually.

Let her release her emails and I'll release my tax returns immediately.

I like to have the people go up, except one thing. It validates a corrupt investigation.


COOPER: Love to but -- you left a pot on the stove and have a term paper to write. Ultimately, the answer is always no, which if he said so up front would at least be honest -- also at this point novel.

This evening, the president tweeted a kind of word salad on the impeachment inquiry, ending with, quote, shouldn't even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?

CNN's Jim Acosta is traveling with the president in London where that tweet originated, also where the president is meeting with NATO allies.

So, Jim, the president clearly seems focused on what is happening at home even though he's over there.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Definitely, Anderson, as the president was landing here in London for these meetings with NATO leaders, he did tweet out his support to that Republican prebuttal or rebuttal or whatever you want to call it to the House Democrats Intelligence Committee report on what happened with Ukraine. In addition to that, the president earlier on the day was latching on to these comments made by the Ukrainian president to "Time" magazine. In that interview, the Ukrainian president said that he felt like he was treated like a beggar almost in his dealings with the White House and trying to get that military aid.

The president went on to say that, oh, the president of Ukraine has said I didn't do anything wrong. That's not what he said. And then in addition to that, Anderson, he was accusing Democrats of trying to commit sabotage because they're holding this hearing on Wednesday as he's meeting with NATO leaders here in London.

So, yes, I would you say it is on his mind and under his skin.

COOPER: And talk what you've learned about the White House participation or lack thereof in the next phase of the impeachment proceedings. They're obviously not cooperating on Wednesday.

ACOSTA: Right, right. They're not going to be there on Wednesday. The president won't be there on Wednesday. He'll be here in London.

But, Anderson, I talked to a White House official earlier this evening who said essentially at this point, the Democrats are coming nowhere near meeting their demands when it comes to, you know, this criteria that they've laid out that would ensure White House participation.

Anderson, one of those criteria would be whether or not Republicans would be able to call witnesses that they want to see testify, which would include the whistle-blower who started all of this.


That's a nonstarter for Democrats. It is obviously not going to happen. And so, Anderson, at this point, the White House is not closed the door on participating in the house impeachment proceedings but it is open just a crack at this point. What they would rather see is the whole process move over to the Senate where the Republicans are in charge and can set the rules much more so than what they are doing in the House right now.

But clearly, the president is in no mood to cooperate and a lot of Democrats are saying, look, why would they cooperate at this point? That would undermine what the Republicans and what the president they've said all along which is that this impeachment proceeding is a hoax and not legitimate by participating, they would add legitimacy to the process -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, thanks very much.

Again, just to set the timetable, the Intelligence Committee, they're expected to vote on its report tomorrow. The Republican response or the rebuttal, that's out tonight. And proceedings in the Judiciary Committee that begin on Wednesday without presidential cooperation.

So, there is a lot to talk about with our first guest, Democratic congresswoman and Intelligence Committee member, Jackie Speier.

Congresswoman Speier, thanks for being with us.

This report from Republicans, now, they argue --


COOPER: -- that the pressure that President Trump put into the Democratic rivals stem from a, quote, deep-seated, genuine and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption.

What do you say to that?

SPEIER: I think it's poppycock. And I think it is once again an effort by the president and all of the members of the House and Senate on the Republican side to try and weave a falsehood into a truism.

It was very clear what the president wanted. And certainly, the hearings we had showed how much time and energy the tres amigos, Sondland and Perry and Volker had to tap dance around the meetings with the president of Ukraine because this investigation was critical to them getting aid or getting a meeting at the White House.

And it's very true that the president of the United States knew about the whistle-blower in August. And so, his lifting the hold on the aid in September was more related to the fact that there was a whistle- blower complaint and that the inspector general had identified it to the Intelligence Committee although he couldn't tell us what the whistle-blower complaint was about.

COOPER: The rebuttal also -- I mean, just completely ignores a lot of the evidence that witnesses testified to under oath. And it essentially -- I mean, they could have argued, well, you know, yes, it wasn't ideal for the president to mention the Bidens in that call, the call wasn't great, it wasn't perfect, but it is not impeachable. But they went lock step with the president demanding that they -- I mean, they're doing exactly what the president demanded.

SPEIER: You know, Ambassador Sondland sat in that hearing room and said, yes, there was a quid pro quo. That was their witness. The appointment by the president of Mr. Sondland to his post and he's saying there was a quid pro quo.

Sondland also said the only thing the president is interested in is something that will benefit himself. He doesn't care about Ukraine.

So, that's pretty damning. And yet the Republicans find a way to twist that into something that is once again a falsehood. And they say -- and the president does this too -- if you say something false often enough, it becomes true in their minds.


The Republican report, the -- it is coming out just as the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are finalizing their own report, which is expected to draw probably the exact opposite conclusion the Republicans. So, what are Americans, you know, who are watching this at home supposed to believe when you have two competing reports from Congress that draw completely contradictory conclusions?

SPEIER: Well, much like Attorney General Barr put out his summary before the Mueller report came out, the Republicans are putting out the rebuttal before the actual document comes out from the Intelligence Committee. It is intended to confuse the American public, so that they throw up their hands and say, I don't even want to deal with this. And their effective to a certain point but for persons who feel strongly that our democracy is at risk here, they're looking at this and realizing that this is quite dangerous.

And that's why you saw that there was an increase in support for impeachment by independents after we held the hearings by the Intelligence Committee and had all of those 12 witnesses come before us.


COOPER: It is -- I mean, it's kind of creepy that Republicans in lockstep would be so willing to essentially try to muddy the waters before this, you know, committee report comes out. I mean, you'd think there would be a way to have just one committee report that has some dissension in it without trying to just basically destroy sworn testimony.

SPEIER: Well, because the Republicans aren't acting independent of the president. They are basically taking his talking points and mouthing them and much like Devin Nunes was trying to create some falsehood by racing over to the White House with this information and racing back when, in fact, it was at the White House the whole time shows you that from the very beginning, this has been orchestrated by the president and the White House. And they are just following orders.

And you may ask, well, why are they doing it? Because they care more about being re-elected than they do about the state of the country.

COOPER: The --

SPEIER: And when our national security is at risk, as it is now, when the president can withhold aid like he did to Ukraine, again, doing the bidding for Russia, it's quite serious. COOPER: The inquiry now moves from the Intelligence Committee to the

Judiciary Committee. Judiciary is very different place than Intel. Some of the president's most ferocious defenders like Congressman Doug Collins, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, they all serve on Judiciary. How concerned are you about what happens there?

SPEIER: I think what will happen there is what happened really in the Intelligence Committee. You're going to have experts come forward. You're going to have constitutional scholars talk about whether or not this is an impeachable offense and how you would move forward with impeachment.

I mean, we do have the facts in front of us. We have a whistle-blower complaint that the president himself corroborated with the summary of the phone call that establishes that there was bribery. And so, at this point, the Republicans will make all of the noise that they are able to make but I think the facts speak for themselves. And I feel that it's incumbent on us to make sure that the law is followed here and not the law of Donald Trump.

COOPER: Congresswoman Speier, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SPEIER: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, speaking of constitutional scholars, perspective from one of the nation's top lawyers and recent author of a book on impeaching a president, his case for impeaching this one, Neat Katyal joins us.

And later, a profile of a woman who spent most of her career in quiet government service who now says this about the president, quote: My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he's tweeted about me again.

Lisa Page whose text messages belittling candidate Trump sparked a lot of conspiracy theories and ongoing attacks from the president. She's speaking out.



COOPER: We talked about it before the break with Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrats already are taking issue with the Republican rebuttal or the pre-buttal to the House Intelligence Committee's now completed Ukraine report. She called it poppycock.

Chairman Adam Schiff also weighing in, calling the GOP effort, quote, intended for an audience of one, meaning the president, saying it ignores the evidence presented of impeachable wrongdoing by the president.

Now, Republicans for their part writing and I quote: The Democrat's impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct. It is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system. The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected president based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump's policy initiatives and processes.

Let's get some perspective now from Neal Katyal, who also served as acting solicitor general during the Obama administration. He's just out with a book "Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump."

Neal, thanks for being with us.

So, the Republican's prebuttal report says there's no evidence of bribery, extortion or any high crime or misdemeanor. Your book says the opposite, that this is actually simple straightforward case here of a core impeachable offense.

NEAL KATYAL, AUTHOR, "IMPEACH: THE CASE AGAINST DONALD TRUMP": Exactly. So, Anderson, I wrote the book as a simple guide for Americans to understand what's going on.

And it begins by asking the question, why is impeachment in the Constitution? And a lot of our Founders like Elbridge Gerry said it shouldn't be in there at all because we have reelection campaigns and that should be enough to check an erring president. And then others like Madison and Hamilton said, oh, no, what if you have a president who is beholden to a foreign power? What if you have a president who tries to interfere with the reelection. That's the paradigmatic instance of our founding for what is an impeachable offense.

So, I don't quite understand the Republicans' report or their talking points to say there is zero evidence of this. I mean, the president's own transcript or fake transcript, whatever, or partial transcript itself says exactly that.

And I think the most important thing for everyone to understand is this is not about impeaching a president, because people have policy differences. Like for me, I'm aghast at the president's child separation policy, I find it so immoral and evil. But I don think that's an impeachable offense. Our Founders used the words high crimes and misdemeanors. And as the book explains, this Ukraine situation is exactly that.

COOPER: So, what exactly is a high crime or misdemeanor?

KATYAL: So, our Founders used the phrase treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. So bribery we know is one of them. And that is exactly -- what the president is alleged to have done here.

COOPER: That's what I was going to ask. You think this is a case of bribery?


KATYAL: I do. That is one of the three articles already proven by the hearings that we've had and the transcript that was released. The president was saying, look, I'll give you this goody, this aid that the taxpayers have appropriated and I'm holding up, but in exchange, you've got to do something for me first.

And the simplest way to understand, Anderson, what the president was asking for is this -- he was trying to cheat in the 2020 election. He was trying to get a leg up upon his political rival by having them announce that they were doing an investigation into Joseph Biden, the vice president.

Now, that is just -- I mean, you know, the Republican defense that we heard today in this 120 page report is oh, no, the president cared about corruption. That's what he was worried about. But if you -- he was convinced Ukraine was corrupt. If you are convinced Ukraine is corrupt then why do you ask the Ukraine government to investigate a United States citizen? It just doesn't make any sense at all.

What I think everyone knows and what was apparent in the last two weeks of hearings is that this was not about corruption, it was about one simple thing, the president wanted them to announce an investigation. Not even do it, the way the Justice Department investigations are done which is in secret. But announce an investigation.

COOPER: We should also point that, I mean, once one saw all of the testimony, not only of Ambassador Yovanovitch but others in the embassy, I mean, the U.S. policy was an anti-corruption policy in Ukraine. So, it is not as if President Trump is raising for the first time the idea of fighting corruption in Ukraine. This has been U.S. policy and it is something that the embassy was already doing, to the best they could or at least making efforts --


KATYAL: Absolutely. Nobody disputes the idea that Ukraine has corruption issues. But the president's own administration has certified just weeks before that Ukraine wasn't so corrupt that the aid couldn't flow. So, they've already signed off on that.

And, of course, then the president tried to cut funding for corruption efforts, anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. So, basically, they're left with the story they're trying to fight corruption when they have literally no example anywhere else in the world of the president caring about corruption. This is the one thing and it just happened to be magically this involves his chief political rival Joe Biden.

COOPER: What do you make of the White House strategy, A, its effectiveness and, B, legality in terms of not cooperating at all, no documents from the State Department, from the White House other than that rough transcript which they released early on?

KATYAL: Well, you know, I dedicated my life to the study of the Constitution and I didn't know that the president's strategy here was a thing. I didn't think it was possible. I mean, the idea that a president on his own can unilaterally say, oh, I'm not going to bother cooperating with an impeachment investigation, that is the essence of constitutional arrogance and the destruction of our separation of powers.

I think it is an impeachable offense just the way the president has acted toward this impeachment investigation. And we know this because yesterday, the president's lawyer, the White House counsel sent a letter to Congress saying that this is a ridiculous investigation involve one (ph), saying that presidents in the past have claimed executive privilege to not cooperate including he names Clinton.

Clinton never did that. I mean, Clinton never asserted executive privilege over the impeachment investigation. And indeed, past presidents like Polk said in 1846 said executive privilege has nothing to do with this. Impeachment is all about getting the truth out to the American people and all the information.

This president is afraid of the truth coming out in Congress. And so, he's tried to gag every executive branch employee, every document, every phone call, everything from being given to the Congress. I can't think of something that is more destructive to our Constitution.

COOPER: Neal Katyal, it's fascinating. Thank you very much. Again, the book is "Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump."

KATYAL: Thank you.

COOPER: It's good to see you again. Appreciate it.

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page routinely castigated by President Trump after text messages criticizing him became public breaks her silence. See what she's saying now and how the president is already reacting. That's next.



COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the program, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page is breaker her silence roughly two years after the public disclosure of the highly critical text messages expressing mutual dislike of President Trump between her and then senior FBI agent Peter Strzok. Page spoke to "The Daily Beast" and tweeted, quote: I'm done being quiet.

President Trump late today tweeting: When Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being crushed and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter's insurance policy text to her just in case Hillary loses. The president tweeted, he also added: Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller. Where are they, Lisa?

We'll have more on it from 360's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the moment former FBI lawyer Lisa Page realized she'd had enough.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love you, Peter. I love you, too, Lisa. Lisa, I love you. Lisa. Lisa, oh, god, I love you, Lisa.

KAYE: The president of the United States mimicking a sexually aroused Lisa Page texting her then lover FBI special agent Peter Strzok. The two were having an affair while Strzok was leading the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Page spoke with the Daily Beast, in her public interview since thousands of the couple's private text messages thousands of the couple's private text messages were made public. Saying the President's demeaning fake orgasm was the straw that broke the camel's back calling it a reprehensible, degrading stunt.

For two years Trump has been on a terror against Page and Strzok given the anti-Trump comments revealed in their text messages. In August of 2016 Page wrote, Trump's not ever going to become President, right? Right? Strzok answers no, no, he wouldn't. We'll stop it. And after Trump won the White House Strzok texted Page, OMG, I am so depressed, Page responded I don't know if I can eat, I'm very nauseous.

Still, despite the tone, there is no evidence as Trump and his allies have suggested that Page and Strzok were part of a conspiracy to bring down Trump's presidency. Page told the Daily Beast she doesn't use social media that her friends alert her to the President's digs. In August last year the President tweeted, will the FBI ever recover its once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, Mccabe, Peter S. And his lover the lovely Lisa Page. Adding, the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers.

In this tweet a month earlier, he refers to Lisa Page not as an FBI lawyer, but as an FBI lover. Page told the Daily Beast, it had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. Page said, it's like being punched in the gut. My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. She added, Trump is demeaning her and her career, calling it sickening.

Trump also accused Page of treason which is punishable by death. Page told the Daily Beast, it's intimidating insisting she didn't commit any crime, let alone treason, Page explained the President is still somebody in a position to actually do something about that. To try to further destroy my life.

Lisa Page who left the FBI last year said all she wants is her life back. But that's unlikely to happen any time soon. Next week the Justice Department inspector general report will be released. Detailing whether Trump was unfairly targeted by the intelligence community in the Russia probe.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach, Florida.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Perspective now from USA Today columnist and CNN's senior political analyst Kirsten Powers, as well as Susan Hennessey, a former lawyer for the National Security Agency and CNN national security and legal analyst, who's also a friend of Lisa Page.

Susan, I know you don't speak for Lisa Page but in your opinion how important is it for her to finally be speaking out? SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's incredibly important for her to be speaking out for a couple of reasons. One, I do think it's important that people understand the huge personal toll that the President degrading, demeaning disgusting attacks, you know, take on people. That these are real people. Some people who have served our country over a period of decades and to have him act like this in public, it has a real cost and the public needs to understand that.

Also I think it's significant that Page is telling her story now. About what DOJ did about their involvement in essentially selectively leaking text messages under circumstances that certainly raised the appearance that they were not doing so, because it was in the public interest. But instead that this was DOJ senior officials and DOJ spokespeople attempting to essentially give the President fodder to pick up this false and malicious narrative and really attempt to destroy these people's lives.

COOPER: Kirsten, I wonder what do you make of this. I mean she's remained silent for years as Randi pointed out in her piece, in her interview she talks about how the final straw was President Trump at that October rally, you know, seemingly, you know, sort of -- well reading the text as he did. What do you make of it?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think that what she did, in the text I think were inappropriate. But nothing that she did merits what happened to her. So especially because the inspector general found that there wasn't, you know, any bias. I mean she didn't -- there was nothing in her work that would suggest that she was doing anything, you know. And in fact even on the Hillary Clinton investigation, she was more aggressive than some of the other people in terms of pursuing Clinton.

So it doesn't seem to have impacted her work. And so people are just sort of selectively choosing the text which are just her expressing her personal opinions. I think they are in appropriate, but I don't think they that it gives the President the right to bully her which is what he is doing. I mean he is, he is destroying this woman's life. And she's still with her husband, I gather. She has children. She has every right to get on with her life. You know, she had an affair. That's a private issue. And certainly President Trump is in no position to be sitting in judgment of that.


COOPER: You know, I mean Susan, do you think that Page has been particularly targeted by the President because she's a woman?

HENNESSEY: I do. I think it's sort of indisputable that there is this clear misogynistic undertone, not just the fact that the President speaks about her sort of overtly sexualize terms or terms that discussed her physical appearance. He doesn't discuss other individuals involved in the stuff the same way. And so, I do think that's it's quite clear that the President is expressly targeting her for a particular type of really debasing, degrading comments that in part because she's a woman. Let's keep in mind, this is a serious seasoned national security professional. This is somebody who has a lot of substance, is a really, really serious person. And yet the only way that the President refers to her as the lovely Lisa Page, the lover. Right. He really does try to sort of degrade her and demean her and that's a trend we've seen him -- you know, that's a pattern we've seen from the President with regards to any woman who really would dare to speak out against him or challenge him in any way.

COOPER: Kirsten, do you agree with that? I mean do you see -- oh kind of a way he speaks about women that is different? I mean because obviously he, you know --


COOPER: -- degrades many people. But male and female. But does he speak about women in a different way that you notice?

POWERS: Yes, absolutely. I think that he -- you know, people can say oh, he's an equal opportunity offender because he also attacks men but Susan is exactly right there is a way that he attacks women that is different, that tends to be gendered in the way that he does it. And it's -- this is so disproportionate to what happened also. I mean I -- he -- there's so many tweets about this woman who, you know, has a family and a life and a career and the glee that he has, and not just with her, with other people and really like in trying to destroy people is so troubling.

And, you know, there was a time when we would say this is unpresidential but I guess people don't seem to care any more. His supporters don't care, you know, how unpresidential this is and how indecent it is. That this is not how we should treat people.

COOPER: Well, I mean the White House has said well, you know, it's presidential because the President does it so therefore this is now presidential.

POWERS: Yes. Well, I -- you know, I would say we have a lot of other Presidents and so we don't change the -- you know, our entire standard based on one person's behavior. I would look at the history of how people have typically behaved and this is unthinkable. It's absolutely unthinkable of any other president doing something like this.

COOPER: Yes, Kirsten Powers, Susan Hennessey, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, popular defense of President Trump just gone up in smoke according to a new report, I'll talking to former Republican congressman -- excuse me, Republican senator and congressman who also served as defense secretary about how his party has come to embrace conspiracy theories under this President.


[20:41:32] COOPER: Politico tonight is reporting a Republican led Senate Intelligence Committee has found no evidence so support a key claim by the President's top defenders on impeachment. The claim which is always been unfounded is that it wasn't just individual Ukrainians opposed to then Kennedy-Trump or his policies, it was a top down effort just like with Russia. Here is Republican Senator John Kennedy who already had to walk back a separate Ukrainian conspiracy theory making this other claim over the weekend.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko --


KENNEDY: -- actively worked for Secretary Clinton.


COOPER: Again, Politico reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate it were found no evidence, the Ukraine then leaders directed any effort against candidate Trump, none. Interestingly Senator Kennedy was asked in that same interview if he attended a recent intelligence briefing for U.S. senators and explained the Russia was using conspiracy theories to frame Ukraine, no, he said, he did not attend.

Joining us now, is former Republican Secretary William Cohen, who served as Defense Secretary under President Clinton.

Secretary Cohen, in a -- as a freshman member of the House during Watergate, you broke with Republicans and played a crucial role in the judiciary committees deliberations on impeaching Richard Nixon. When you see what is happening today when Republicans buy into conspiracy theories to back the President, I'm wondering what goes through your mind on where the Republican Party is at least in the House.

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well it's disappointing. I go back 40 years and look at the members of the committee, there were great differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. But there were Republicans on the committee who were willing to listen to the facts. And to follow where the facts would lead. And they led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon on abuse of power and obstruction of justice. There was another obstruction of Congress as well. I saw the same kind of Republican spirit of following the law during Iran contra. Once again the facts really mattered.

And now it seems that facts don't really matter. That they have the, quote, alternative fact mantra that is recited repeatedly. There is only one set of facts. You could have different opinions about what the facts mean. But only one set. And now I see as the equivalent of sort of pepper spray being used to blind the eyes of the people from seeing what the facts are.

I saw no evidence presented during any of the committee hearings and I believe that's the case with the Senate investigation as well that indicated that Ukraine had any organized attempt to interfere. What I do remember is President Clinton when he was candidate -- Trump, rather, when he said Russia, are you listening? Russia, are you listening? Well they were listening. Four hours after that he made that speech, the GRU got involved in trying to attack the Democratic headquarters and their campaign.

Now with the question of Ukraine, you better be listening and that is exactly what took place here. Quid pro quo people are tired of hearing it. But basically it is saying the President in essence was saying I have something that you need. You have something that I want. Let's make a deal. You go first. That is the essence of what has taken place with Ukraine.


COHEN: And so those are the facts. And I don't care what others say that the Ukrainians were somehow involved or Biden's son was somehow involved, the facts are very clear that the President invited another country to participate in our elector system. that to me is an impeachable offense.


COOPER: You're also obviously the former secretary of Defense. I mean, what does this say about the state of the Republican Party, and frankly National Security when Republicans claimed Ukrain interfered in 2016 election, which is a Russian conspiracy theory? I mean, you talked about the senators and Congress people in Watergate. I mean, I imagine those Republicans who you said, but then were listening to the facts, they must have been facing pressure in their home districts by people who supported Nixon, and didn't want to, you know, see Nixon go down.

How were they able to muster the courage to listen to facts when these folks don't seem to be?

COHEN: Well, it was a different world then. We didn't have social media. We didn't have one network devoted to defending the President. So, it was a different world, but nonetheless, they felt compelled to rise above their own party interest and put the country first. And that's really is what's at stake here.

This is about, yes, about Trump and the impeachment of Trump, but really what's at stake is the rule of law because the President has said, the rules don't apply to him, that he can't be charged with anything, that he can't even be investigated. So we're talking about is one man rule. That's not democracy. That is something closer to autocracy or certainly to a dictatorship.

I don't believe the American people once they listen to all of the facts, we'll say that's a standard we want. No rules apply to any President going forward. I don't believe the American people support that. I think it's incumbent upon the Democrats because the Republicans are not going to join in, incumbent on the Democrats to make the case that we don't want to throw away all that we have accumulated over the years.

The rule of law is what separates us from the law of rule. The law of the jungle, of might makes right. And if we succumb to this notion that the President is above the law, then I think we are sacrificing the Democratic system and America will not be the country we thought it is or should be.

COOPER: All right, Secretary Cohen, it's ominous. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

COHEN: My pleasure.

COOPER: Still ahead, something different. The Ridiculist looked at how devoted President Trump is to images of, guess who? President Trump. Be right back.



COOPER: Welcome back. Time to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time". Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to try to get inside the facts that show the obvious, that this President is peddling conspiracy theories to the American people just as a CYA. This stuff about Ukraine isn't new, it's never been real, and we have new reporting tonight that you know who came to exactly that conclusion, Senate Republicans. New reporting that shows that the GOP was telling the truth right before this process. Why?

COOPER: We'll watch Chris eight minutes from now. I'll see you then.

Coming up, something to make, well, make us all smile at the end of the day, The Ridiculist is next.



COOPER: Time now for the Ridiculist. And tonight not since narcissist got stuck staring on himself in a pool of water has a guy been so in love with his own image as President Trump. Today the President tweeted -- well, actually, it was more like a yell. Is there a word for that? Like a yell tweet. Like yelt. Maybe a twelt, a twell. I'll go with twell.

In between twelling today about impeachment and retwelling clips of his comrade enrage and (INAUDIBLE) Lou Dobbs, President Trump found time today to retweet a portrait of himself. Now, the portrait is actually really good, it's by an artist who spent 70 hours drawing only with ball point pen. The artist is really talented. He's from Nigeria, you know, which is the country where President Trump apologizes said people lived in huts. This Nigerian artist might actually be able to get a visa to America now since the President apparently like the portrait and not to retweet it. Maybe soon everyone who wants to visit America will have to draw a picture of our president or of Stephen Miller. Much had been made of President Trump's admiration of dictators and authoritarian figures. And like most of them, he does love a picture of himself.

Just last weeks days after falsely attacking former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch for not hanging up his portrait in the U.S. embassy, which is not at all what happened. Other way the President tweeted without any comment, this photoshopped image of him as Rocky, which is totally what his chest looks like. He is jacked and he's ripped. I've seen the photos of him playing tennis. He doesn't use screeding (ph) I've heard. By the way, do not Google Trump playing tennis. Just don't. It's like "The Ring," it's like that movie, you can't unsee it.

Anyway, it was just last month -- and yes, I put on my glasses mid Ridiculist. It was just last month that the President ordered -- or excuse me, it was just last month that a judge ordered Mr. Trump's debunk so-called foundation to pay some $2 million to charities as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General's Office because they have done all sort of shady things, including using charity funds to buy at least two giant portraits of Donald Trump. That's one of them. I believe that's the artist on the other side.

The charity -- the alleged charity supposedly paid $10,000 for that portrait and they hung up at the president's Doral Florida Golf Course. Not exactly Mother Theresa's orphanage. Not to be done, other portraits of Trump were hung up on some its other gold club including this phony "Time" magazine cover with Trump's face and a headline about how great "The Apprentice" was.

Now, it's not known who made this fake Trump covers but it's kind of hard to believe the idea didn't come from the big man himself in Trump Tower, which his kind of weird because it's kind of the thing a conman would do or someone would feel small and unimportant.

And I know Trump does have a fake masterpiece by the French artist Renoir hanging in his New York apartment. It's a bad copy of Renior's famous painting "Two Sisters." The real one, which is worth probably in the range of $100 million is actually in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mr. Trump has in the past insisted that his phony Renoir is the real deal, which maybe tells you something about how he views the entire deal making process and not in a good way. Maybe the President's interest of seeing his own face on magazines, in TV screens, maybe that's going to lessen in the coming years but then again how many other 73-year-old billionaires turned presidents do you know who's egos have shrunk over time? Yes, me neither.

[21:00:05] So take out your pens and pencils, paint a portrait of the president. It might get you on-tray into the United States or at least a quick cameo on the Ridiculist.

That's it for us. The news continues. I want to hand over to Chris for "Cuomo Primetime". Chris?