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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Key Democrat: Announcement Tomorrow On Articles Of Impeachment; Dem Counsel: President Trump Is A "Clear And Present Danger To Our Free And Fair Elections And To Our National Security"; GOP Counsel: President Trump Had Legitimate Reasons To Be Concerned About Ukrainian Corruption; James Comey: What President Trump Said About FBI's Russia Probe Was "All Nonsense"; Judiciary Committee Concludes Impeachment Hearing; Justice Department IG Says No Political Bias In FBI Surveillance. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 9, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Washington.
Tonight, a stunning rebuttal of virtually everything that President Trump has said again and again for years about what he calls the Russia hoax. That and impeachment hearings today that's saw the president described as a clear and present danger of free and fair elections. It doesn't get much bigger than that.
We begin with a report from the Justice Department's inspector general that exposes the president of the United States as fundamentally dishonest about the Russian investigation and the people who conducted it. In a moment, I'll talk with one of those people, former FBI Director James Comey, whom the president fired and has attacked relentlessly ever since, along with the men and women who worked for him and continue to work in the bureau at the Justice Department and inside the intelligence community.
The inspector general's report also identified significant errors in how the FBI conducted what became known as a Crossfire Hurricane. We'll talk about that as well.
However, the headline is that it debunks allegations like these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was in a legal investigation. It was started illegally.
They were spying on my campaign it went right up to the top.
This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president.
This was spying on my campaign, something that has never been done in the history of our country. This was an overthrow attempt at the presidency.
Everything about it was crooked.
Comey lies and leaks. He's a liar and he's a leaker.
Some of the people at the top were rotten apples. James Comey was one of them.
The entire thing has been a witch hunt.
It's a total witch hunt.
It is one great hoax.
It's a Democrat hoax.
I call it the Russian hoax. One of the great hoaxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Keeping them honest, what he said is not true there. The report details the ways in which none of that is true. I just for the, record even after receiving the inspector general's report, the president has continued saying these things. He is mischaracterized what is in the actual report, painting it as a vindication, instead of the indictment, it actually is the indictment of what he has been saying.
Keeping them honest, the word for it is gaslighting. So, before going any further, I just want to read you some key passages from the report itself which again does identify significant problems with how the investigation was conducted. That said, the inspector general, after a two-year investigation, concluded, and I'm quoting now from the report, that the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane to obtain information about to protect against the national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity.
The report goes on to say that the decision to open the investigation, quote, was in compliance with department and FBI policies and we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influence his decision.
As for the spying allegations, inspector general writes, quote, we found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs, which are confidential sources, or UCEs, undercover employees, within the Trump campaign or task any CHSs or UCEs to report on the Trump campaign.
In short, no spying, no political bias, no which hunt, no traitors, just human beings doing their best and sometimes falling far short against what they have reasonably was a serious threats to the country. In the moment, we'll talk to former FBI Director James Comey for his take.
But, first, CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House right now.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. COOPER: Jim, the president has been pretty clear in trying to mischaracterize what was just published in this report.
ACOSTA: That's, right, Anderson. The White House, President Trump and even top officials over at the Justice Department have essentially been trying to say, do not read this report from the inspector general. They're essentially saying nothing to see here.
The same for the White House press secretary earlier this afternoon carried all of it because it is filled with a lot of an to go against what is in this report but it says the shocking reporting the inspector general shows it out of control FBI under President Obama and former Director James Comey. It ends by saying the American people should be outraged and terrified by this abuse of power.
Anderson, the inspector general report, as you were just mentioning a few moments ago, said that there was no political bias that influenced this investigation and while the report found that some of these FBI agents made some mistakes, and certainly committed some errors in seeking the wiretap of Carter Page, who is a top foreign policy adviser during the campaign for President Trump, for candidate Trump at the time, that essentially that this did not amount to this deep state conspiracy that the president has been talking about for the last three years.
And so, essentially, .what we saw today coming out of this report, was just much of the president has been talking about in terms of this deep state conspiracy, just being completely obliterated by inspector general of the Justice Department who, you know, in a painstaking process tried to go through many of these thorny issues.
Take, for example, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, two of the FBI agents that President Trump likes to talk about all the time. It turns out in this inspector general report, it wasn't found that they were key decision makers in all of this, and that there were other agents whose text were also revealed during the course of this investigation that showed bias against Hillary Clinton. And so, there is just not a whole lot here for the president or the White House to hang on to this report.
COOPER: Right. It says there is no evidence really of any of those biases or personal opinions actually impacting the investigation itself. You talked a little bit about what the president is saying, the present coming out today and saying essentially it is worse than even I anticipated, what -- you know, what is revealed in this report one in fact it is actually the opposite of what he has been saying.
Attorney General Barr also made a statement, as did the person he's appointed to have their own separate investigations.
ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson, and while the White House was essentially saying that this report was -- you know, that this report found all of this outrage an abuse and all of these abuses of power by the FBI, the attorney general was saying that he disagreed with what came out in this inspector general report and that he felt that according to the statement released by the attorney general earlier today, that essentially the origins of the Russian investigation he described as an intrusive investigation based on the thinnest of suspicions.
We should also point out, John Durham, who is a prosecutor who's been tapped by the administration to investigate all of this as well, he also released a statement saying that he disagreed with the inspector general.
And so, you have the attorney general and this prosecutor, John Durham, both saying they disagree with the inspector general's report, while the White House is clinging to it as some sort of vindication for what the president has been saying all along.
So, Anderson, they cannot even get their gaslighting straight tonight -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thanks, from the White House tonight.
My conversation just before air time with former FBI Director James Comey.
COOPER: When you heard what the report said, did you -- do you think this is vindication?
JIM COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It is. I mean, the FBI has had to wait two years while the president and his followers lied about the institution. Finally, the truth gets told. I hope it's not too late. But on all the important things, it tells the truth.
COOPER: Do you worry it's going to get sort of missed or re-character -- you know, characterized in a different way? Obviously, the White House has already made a statement which we'll talk about in a minute.
COMEY: I worry it's not only going to get distorted, it's going to get missed by people in the rush of the other news we have. People have internalized the lies they've heard.
Good people believe when a president says something. So, they've heard treason. They've heard spying. They've heard informants in the campaign for two years. Are they going to pay attention now is my great worry.
COOPER: I think I heard you -- I read that you'd said that your mother-in-law in a care facility was 89 believed you were going to jail --
COOPER: -- based on what she'd seen on television.
COMEY: Yes, every time we would visit, she would express that worry, and I would tell her, look, it's all made up. There is zero chance of that.
But she believes what she sees on television, and she's not unlike millions of others who have been drinking this in for two years. So, where does the FBI go to get its reputation back? We have to talk about this result.
COOPER: The inspector general report did find serious problem, 17 specific incidences, particularly about the FISA process. And from the report, it says that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked teams and one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expect it would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny raised significant questions regarding the FBI's chain of command's management and supervision of the FISA process.
COMEY: Yes, that's really concerning. You're right with the number. He found 17 significant errors in collecting information, sharing information, in checking information and that's a problem. That's one of the good things that comes out of I.G. reports is you find problems, and he found problems that have to be fixed.
COOPER: I mean, it also raises questions about, if this happens on the most high-profile thing the FBI is involved with, what happens on lower level investigations where there's not so much scrutiny?
COMEY: Yes, it does, and I can't answer that from this distance, but it's going to have to look at. He didn't conclude that the errors made any difference in the ultimate result, in the validity of the applications, but that doesn't matter. It ought (ph) to be taken seriously.
COOPER: He basically didn't weigh in on that at all.
COOPER: Do you think that those -- those errors made a difference?
COMEY: I can't tell. I mean, you'd have to ask the federal judges that scrutinized it. It may not have made a difference. It may have.
But you can't -- you can't let that steer you off of it. You've got to steer at those problems and try to fix them.
COOPER: You wrote a book about leadership. This says, you know, this raised significant questions regarding FBI chain of command's management and supervision of the FISA process. Do you take responsibility for these lower level issues?
COMEY: Oh, of course. Yes, as a leader you have to hold yourself accountable and offer transparency in connection with that accountability.
The director is responsible.
If I was still there, I'd be doing what Director Wray is doing, which is ordering a real scrub and a retraining to make sure that we wipe problems like this.
COOPER: Did you know about these 17 problems?
COMEY: No, I had no idea.
COOPER: It didn't rise to your level?
COMEY: No, they were all -- look, the director is responsible for them, but they're all happening at low level where people are assembling what they need to put together to go seek an electronic surveillance order from the court.
COOPER: The -- you know, it's hard to overstate just how full- throated a debunking of the conspiracy theory is, this inspector general report is. I mean, theories that the president has been pushing, his allies have been spreading for, for years and years and years. I mean, there's no truth to what they have been saying, according to this report.
COMEY: Yes, and there's a risk we've become so numb to the lying that we just move on to the next outrage, and we can't do that.
For two years, the president of the United States accused our premier law enforcement agency of treason, of trying to defeat him, of trying to stop him. And it turns out that was all nonsense. That was all lies.
We have to pause and think about that because we need this institution. Whether you're Republican or Democrat, you need the FBI, you need to see it clearly, and it's human. It makes mistakes, but it's not engaged in treason or a coup or politically-minded investigation. That's just a lie.
COOPER: It's interesting because the president continues to talk publicly about, you know, at least, Page and Strzok and the emails and the lovers, and he does dramatic readings. In this, in this -- in the inspector general report, they found no evidence that personal feelings of those two, or even other agents who were pro-Trump and were texting about Trump and things against Hillary Clinton, that they found no evidence that personal opinions had any implications for the actual investigation.
COMEY: Zero. And imagine you're those people. Look, I was the director and so a certain amount of fire directed at someone at my level is understandable. Take someone like Lisa Page -- the president has not only lied about her, but in a misogynistic way, attacked her, mocked her, belittled her over and over again, and it was all a lie.
So, where does she go to get that back? I don't know, but we have to talk about it.
COOPER: So, again, according to this -- the inspector general report because -- the kind of the details of it are really important. It said that information recently indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security or both may have occurred and maybe occurring -- which is what led to the investigation.
So, essentially saying that there was a reasonable basis for this investigation to -- to be undertaken.
COOPER: It had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.
The facts were there and we should have been fired if we didn't follow up on the facts that we received in late July. And we followed up, as you, know quietly. We didn't reveal to anyone. We didn't leak it to anyone.
We conducted a professional investigation, which is what the American people would have expected of us.
COOPER: Also, the allegations of FBI wiretapping Trump, of planting an informant in the Trump campaign. According inspector general, we found no evidence the FBI attempted to place any confidential or CHSs within the Trump campaign, recruit members to Trump campaign as CHSs or task CHSs to report on the Trump campaign, no confidential informants.
COMEY: It almost boggles the mind. The things the President Trump has been telling the country and been echoed by his followers all turned out to have been lies about people, about institution, about the techniques we use. It was all lies.
And I suppose he counts on the fact that we'll be overwhelmed by that tidal wave of lies, the institution needs to be understood by the American people, and it's fundamentally honest and independent.
COOPER: I'm wondering what you make a statements by obviously the attorney general, first of all, we should talk about, has come out and already kind of raised questions about this inspector general report, also U.S. Attorney John Durham who Attorney General Barr has tasked with his own investigation said, quote: Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside the U.S. We do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI's case was opened.
Do you think Durham knows more about what happened than the inspector general does?
COMEY: I have no idea. The whole statement mystifies me.
We have come to understand the attorney general, he envisions his role as being a spokesperson for the president, but John Durham is a professional and I hope he explains, what on earth are you doing talking about investigation like that in that manner that's still going on?
The Department Justice requires a compelling public interest to talk about a pending investigation. What exactly is that here? What are you doing, man? -- is the question I'd have for him.
COOPER: You're saying Durham should haven't made a statement, because their report, his investigation is not being completed or at least the report is not being released at all. You're saying he should have remained quiet.
COMEY: Well, unless there's some compelling public interest that justifies departing from the normal practice, but I can't imagine what that is here.
And so, I hope he completes whatever he's doing and offers transparency to the American people. I suspect he is not going to find what will satisfy the president's conspiracy theories. There'd probably be an investigation of Durham when this is over, but we need to know what he has done and what he found. We need transparency.
My worry is that this attorney general is going to kick it down the road, keep it alive until the election next November, and then we'll never hear another word about it. That's not acceptable.
COOPER: And you -- I mean, were you joking when you said you think Durham would be investigated, that essentially, that's the kind of thing that would happen in the Soviet Union of, you know, they investigate the investigators and they investigate the people who investigated investigators?
COMEY: I wish I was joking. Who would imagine a circumstance like this where the inspector general, an independent force that has been very tough on me, spends two years gathering facts, and the attorney general brushes off his shoulder and commissions a personal investigation to investigate again. I don't think it's a joke to think -- well, if that guy doesn't come up with what they need, they'll find another way.
COOPER: In -- from your experience in the Justice Department, in the FBI, I mean, is Attorney General Barr working as the -- in the role that he should be, in his constitutionally mandated role, or does -- do you believe he views himself and the president views him as the president's attorney?
COMEY: The attorney general has to be the steward of an organization that's apolitical. So, he has to be both a political appointee and a guardian of the apolitical nature of investigations. The justice statue wears a blindfold because you cannot be peeking at your political boss or your friends when you're making decisions.
It's certainly hard to explain a lot of his conduct over the last year. It's consistent with that role of balancing the political and apolitical. He seems to have leaned on the political entirely. COOPER: I mean, the only reason really for him to make a statement
and a commentary about the inspector general report, as with Durham, is really to send a message to the president that, you know, don't worry, we -- we're still on this.
COMEY: Yes, to his supporters, yes, I know it looks like that you told whoppers to the American people about a vital institution for two years, but I got this. We're going to find something. We'll keep digging until we find something that justifies what you've been saying for two years.
I don't think that's a role for the attorney general of the United States.
COOPER: I believe you said earlier that you've been scheduled to go on Fox and you were canceled? Is that right? What happened?
COMEY: Yes. Last night, my agents informed me that I was going on "Fox & Friends", which I really wanted to do at 8:00 a.m. this morning -- or tomorrow morning, sorry.
COOPER: Tomorrow morning to talk about the report.
COMEY: To talk about this, because I know I cannot change the views of the "Fox & Friends" audience about President Trump, but I hope I can change their view about the FBI by giving them facts. And then my agent got word after the report was out that they were going to -- they couldn't do it tomorrow. They would try again after the Durham investigation. They must have read the report.
COOPER: And meaning that they don't want or -- how did you interpret that?
COMEY: They don't want to talk about what we just talked, that the report is a complete vindication for the FBI against charges of treason, of spying, of planting informants in the camp (ph), of all the criminal conspiracy that was supposed to land all of us in jail turns out to be nonsense. That's not a message apparently they want to be spending the couch time talking about.
COOPER: Rudy Giuliani, you worked with him, wrote about him in your book. Can you ever have imagined the Rudy Giuliani who now currently exists today wandering around Ukraine, looking for business, doing the president's work against the Bidens and other things? I mean, does -- does it make any sense to you?
COMEY: It makes no sense. And in a way, it's sad because he's done such great service for the city of New York and the U.S. attorney's office that I worked in, and all that's washed away by this. And that's kind of sad.
COOPER: Would you be surprised if he was indicted?
COMEY: I don't know enough about the facts to have a view on that.
COOPER: All right. Director Comey, thank you very much for coming (ph).
COMEY: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: It bears repeating, whatever you may think of Director Comey or President Trump or the politics surrounding this, the inspector general's report lays down a clear set of facts.
Here to talk about them, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, Comey says this is a vindication.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He is right. I mean, he's absolutely right. This is such a -- I mean, the president has spent years, I mean, you did a montage a little bit of what he said, but years disparaging this investigation, disparaging the FBI, disparaging Comey and the people around him, as these masterminds of an illegitimate investigation, and what this report does at 500 pages is show how this investigation began.
You know, it began --
COOPER: I was not the Steele dossier.
TOOBIN: It was the Steele -- not only wasn't it the Steele dossier, but the Steele dossier wasn't even considered when it was open, with the way it open was that George Papadopoulos had a conversation with an Australian diplomat in London and he said, you know, the Russians -- I have heard that the Russians have Hillary Clinton's emails and they are about to release it.
He had that conversation in this spring. In July, the DNC hack happens.
WikiLeaks releases the DNC hacks, and the Australian goes to his American contacts and says look, I heard about this in advance. That's what open the investigation. It was perfectly legitimate.
COOPER: And there wasn't wiretapping in the Trump campaign. They weren't confidential informant inserted into the Trump campaign. None of that happened.
TOOBIN: None of that -- none of that happened. I mean, how many times did we talk about, you know, remember the famous tweet early in his presidency where the president -- where Trump said that President Obama had been wiretapping him, and we went through, you know, over and over again trying to prove and disapprove -- all lies, all untrue.
COOPER: And yet, there is now, Attorney General Barr and John Durham put out a statement which is, I mean, Director Comey was saying that is highly unusual, someone who made that statement but not going investigation. TOOBIN: I've got to say that was a certain richness in hearing it
from James Comey. He is exactly right. I mean, Durham, you know, set his own credibility on fire. I mean, he does have a good reputation as the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. How he was coerced to sacrifice his good reputation by going in the tank to Barr is a mystery to me.
Hearing that from James Comey, maybe he should have thought of that in October of 2016 when he interrupted -- he announced an unfinished investigation of Hillary Clinton and many people believe handed the election to Donald Trump.
COOPER: The -- but there are 17 important things that the FBI did wrong.
TOOBIN: And it is important, especially because in FISA, you don't have a defense attorney. You only have the government prosecutors and the judge, so it is very important that the prosecutors behave properly.
COOPER: Jeff is going to stick around and get his take on today's impeachment hearings, as we look at what could be the Democrat's final word on the subject before taking the final step. Yes, there is breaking news just in on that as well. Late word on how soon we could see articles of impeachment.
Joining us shortly as well, one of the lawmakers doing the questioning, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, in what comes next. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Late tonight, we got word from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He'd just come out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He told CNN's Manu Raju there will likely be a 9:00 a.m. announcement tomorrow that will lay out articles of impeachment of the president of the United States.
It caps the day that saw the House Judiciary Committee appeared to finish at the public side of its work. In a moment, we'll talk about what comes next.
But first, CNN's Alex Marquardt on today's impeachment hearing.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fireworks from the very start in the Judiciary Committee's latest hearing on impeaching the president. Republican members repeatedly interrupting the proceedings.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The gentleman will suspend.
(CROSSTALK) MARQUARDT: Hours of contentious back and forth as Democrats in the committee laid the groundwork for articles of impeachment, arguing that the president's abuse of power was a betrayal of a nation.
BARRY BERKE, COUNSEL FOR HOUSE DEMOCRATS: In this scheme by President Trump was so brazen, so clear, supported by documents, actions, sworn testimony, uncontradicted contemporaneous records, that it's hard to imagine that anybody could dispute those acts, let alone argue that that conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense or offences.
MARQUARDT: The main witnesses with a lawyers from the House Intelligence Committee. There to answer questions about their findings in the eight-week investigation into the president pressuring Ukraine.
STEVE CASTOR, COUNSEL FOR HOUSE REPUBLICANS: This unfair process reflects the degree to which Democrats are obsessed with impeaching the president. The Democrats went searching for a set of facts on which to impeach the president. The emoluments clause, the president's business and financial records, the Mueller report, allegations of obstruction, before landing on the Ukraine phone call.
MARQUARDT: The Democratic side, represented by former prosecutor Daniel Goldman arguing they have shown that the president's demand that Ukraine carry out investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election was a quid pro quo and a threat to national security.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL FOR HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: President Trump's persistent continuing effort to coerced a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections, and to our national security.
MARQUARDT: The Republican, side represented by GOP lawyer Steve Castor, argued that the infamous July 25th call in which the president asked Ukrainian Present Zelensky for favor and those investigations, was about corruption and not the 2020 election.
CASTOR: To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.
MARQUARDT: Castro continued to push the Republican talking point that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, a conspiracy theory shut down by the intelligence community which has repeatedly singled out Russia.
CASTOR: I'm saying that both countries can work to influence an election, a systemic coordinated Russian interference effort does not mean that some Ukrainian officials, saw Ukrainian officials, did not work to oppose President Trump's candidacy.
MARQUARDT: Chairman Jerry Nadler often struggled to maintain order, but argued there is no choice but to impeach Trump.
CASTOR: If he puts himself before the country in a matter that threatens our democracy then our oath, our promise to the American people requires us to come to the defense of the nation. MARQUARDT: Republicans insisting that Democrats are rushing the
process, trying to ram through impeachment ahead of the next presidential election.
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): And at the end of the day, all this is about is about a clock and a calendar because they can't get over the fact Donald Trump is President of the United States and they don't have a candidate that they think can beat him. It's all political. And as we have talked about before, this is a show.
MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's the backdrop, the end of another historic day. Here with their analysis, Elliot Williams, Carrie Cordero, Gloria Borger, Jeffrey Toobin is back, also with us, Kirsten Powers and Senator Rick Santorum.
Gloria, I mean, again, it seems like a tale of two hearings today.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It was. I mean, there was one side in which the Republicans portrayed the Democrats as completely obsessed with getting rid of Donald Trump from the day he took office, and this is about their obsession. And the Republican attorney was saying, you do this without the facts, you do this on hearsay, you do this without clear evidence.
On the Democratic side, they're saying, wait a minute, this is a President who is a clear and present danger to this country and that will continue unless he is stopped because what he did was abuse his power and try to fix this upcoming election by getting dirt on Joe Biden and asking a foreign leader to do it. So, you didn't see any agreement between them.
And in fact, the Republican counsel went further than the law professor last week. Republican counsel sounded like Donald Trump and said the call was great. The call was fine. Professor Turley, who was defending Republicans last week said, well, we need to see more facts. He didn't come out and say the call was great.
COOPER: Carrie, how did you see this?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I thought that the counsel for the Democrats, who is for the -- for Heapsey (ph), Mr. Goldman, I thought he did an effective job of really telling a story and summarizing what was in the House Intelligence Committee's report and telling the whole story of what started back earlier in the year with respect to the President trying to get the Ukraine government to conduct this investigation, all the back and forth. And he really walked through it very seriously, very methodically, and I thought he did an effective job doing so.
As the day went on, I thought the decorum, the lack of seriousness, I just thought by midday it just wasn't effective anymore. It wasn't useful. It wasn't helping the process. It just really needed to end because it wasn't moving the ball forward at all in terms of the committee considering the serious issues before it.
COOPER: Elliot, the Republican attorney essentially was saying, look, you can't -- you're trying to impeach a President based on a few lines in a telephone call. The Democrats are arguing, well, actually this was a coordinated campaign. This was a lengthy campaign. The call is just one aspect.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That started months before. Now, I think the bigger picture issue is that no one's mind was going to be changed by what happened today. And a quirk of the House Judiciary Committee, which is where it was today, compared to the House Intelligence Committee, it's just a wilder place. It's got a lot -- for lack of a better way to put it. It's got more members. It's got more partisan members. And what you were going to see today was just a more partisan hearing.
Now, there were a number of distractions that we saw, questions about Dan Goldman's political contributions and so on that really had nothing to do with the core question of, number one, did the President abuse or violate his oath of office, did he betray, you know, national security or electoral interests or corrupt our elections. That's what this is about.
And these questions about who's donating to whom simply are just a distraction and along the lines of the Republicans' playbook, which is a perfectly sound one, which is to distract from the substance.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It was such an ugly hearing that they actually had contested votes about whether to take bathroom breaks. Honest to God. There were -- and, you know, I'd never seen that before in a committee, maybe Rick has, but I don't
COOPER: Senator Santorum, did you see --
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No contested votes on bathrooms.
COOPER: No. I didn't feel the need to follow up on that, as interesting as it was.
TOOBIN: That's true. I just want to give everybody the news.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, do you see it differently?
SANTORUM: No, not really. I mean, I thought it was not a particularly fruitful day for either side. I mean, the thing that bothered me from the hearing was this whole meme now that the Democrats are using that the President must leave because he's an existential threat to the republic.
You know, I've always said this about my friends on the left. They always go one step too far that just get -- that makes people sort of scratch their head and say, well, you know, I may not like what he did but to call this an existential threat to the republic is just a little bit too far.
BORGER: Don't you think that answers the timing issue when, you know --
SANTORUM: No, no, I understand why they're doing it. They're trying to stoke it up and they're trying to get everything. I get why they're doing it. I just don't think it's very effective. It's too much.
COOPER: Kirsten, is that too far?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It doesn't seem too far to me. And I think, you know, if you listen to the legal scholars and the law professors, I mean, they were essentially saying the same thing. If we're not going to impeach someone for this, what are we going to impeach them for? I mean, if the President did do in fact what he's been accused of, I think that that is an existential threat to the country.
SANTORUM: So just so we get this, him dealing with an issue of foreign aid to Ukraine, which by the way the previous president didn't even wanting to give them, so let's set aside the policy for a second. So the President potentially, I mean, it's not -- you can say it's crystal clear. OK, even if it's clear, that makes him an existential threat to the republic? I'm sorry, it just doesn't go there.
POWERS: The President withholding a White House meeting possibly aid to get another --
SANTORUM: Possibly, possibly.
POWERS: -- to get another country do his dirty work to --
SANTORUM: To do an investigation, it's not a dirty work.
POWERS: -- interfere into the campaign is -- I just can't even believe that you're actually defending that.
SANTORUM: I am going to defend it, because I don't think it's nearly as --
COOPER: It's not actually to do an investigation. It's just to announce an investigation into --
SANTORUM: Well, OK, to announce an investigation.
BORGER: He didn't care about the investigation. He wanted the announcement.
COOPER: There's no evidence that he cared about corruption. SANTORUM: That's a lot of questions along that. And all I'm saying is, I think it's too far.
COOPER: Let's take a quick break. More to come, including the breaking news that we may get a better idea tomorrow morning about which articles of impeachment House Democrats intend to pursue. Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee who's on the judiciary committee will join us in a moment.
COOPER: Shortly after what may be the last public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, the leader of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, said there would be an announcement likely tomorrow morning to lay out the articles of impeachment. Democratic leaders would not elaborate on how many articles there would be and whether they would include allegations from the Mueller report.
Joining me now, member of the judiciary committee, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us. The announcement tomorrow regarding the articles of impeachment, is there anything else that you can tell us about it?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Well, what I can tell you is that the work is ongoing. The announcement that came is not reflective of the continued work and discussions, including meetings that I just came out of. As you well know, we were here during the weekend and spent a lot of time in discussion.
We reflected on the scholarly presentations from scholars, constitutional scholars last week, and I think it's important as well that we adhere to our commitment. We listen to the report on fact witnesses all day today. And I believe that we made a very strong argument, very strong presentation with Mr. Goldman on how fact based this particular impeachment inquiry is based upon.
And clearly all of this is tied directly to the behavior of the President of the United States. His choice, his choice to ask a foreign entity, a foreign country, a president of a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 elections or the upcoming elections, and as well to ask them to investigate his political opponent.
It's very interesting to note Mr. Goldman made the point that the idea of asking about Mr. Biden came because Mr. Biden sometime in the spring around April made his announcement that he was going to run for President of the United States.
It is interesting that the call that my questioning was about, the July 25th call, and I read it again, that right before the I need you to do me a favor was in essence Mr. Zelensky pleading, pleading with the President for defense support, thanking him for it, indicating he was going to buy javelins, that is a form of aircraft weapons. And then came, I need you to do me a favor, though. So, this is all about the President's behavior and his lack of concern for the national interests of the American people, his corrupting elections and betrayal of the American people.
COOPER: Let me ask you, just in terms of any impeachment articles, would you want to see anything from the Mueller report be drafted into articles of impeachment?
LEE: Well, what I'd like to say, Anderson, is that the discussions are ongoing. I don't want to predict what they're going to be, but I can assure you that the landscape of possibilities were discussed by the judiciary committee where input was given by judiciary committee. Our drafters are listening and we'll know late into the night, early morning, whether we have reached a consensus to be able to put out those noticed articles of impeachment.
LEE: But right now I just want to say that they're ongoing discussions. We're in discussions. We'll be getting engagement, if you will, into the evening. What we want to be able to do is to have articles that are constitutionally grounded and are solidified by facts.
We have a 300-page document produced by the House Intelligence Committee, Oversight and Foreign Affairs. We have a very strong document produced by the lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee. We think that we have the opportunity to match the constitution to the facts.
And we also want to make sure when we make that presentation on the floor of the House that we will have members who will be able to understand how we made that journey and how those articles of impeachment were drafted.
COOPER: Yes. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, appreciate your time. Thank you very much. We'll be watching tomorrow.
LEE: Thank you for having me.
COOPER: Back with us now to our team of political and legal folks. Jeffrey, what do you expect tomorrow?
TOOBIN: Abuse of power related to Ukraine, obstruction of Congress related to certainly Ukraine and perhaps also in the Mueller investigation, and obstruction of justice in connection with both Ukraine and Mueller. I do think there will be references to Mueller, although it will not be a focus of the articles.
WILLIAMS: So here's the thing, and this is in response to the senator's point earlier in the segment. So, this question of existential threat or long-term threat to the United States that the President presents. If this can -- if the President is not held accountable here, nothing stops a future president from soliciting the help of foreign governments. It would be foolish for a future president not to because it works and it --
SANTORUM: Oh, this really worked well for him. Oh, yes. I would say this is --
SANTORUM: -- that the President is going to walk away from this. This was a real winner for me. I'm sorry. And the simple fact --
WILLIAMS: No president --
SANTORUM: -- including this president is going to feel that.
WILLIAMS: If this --
COOPER: But he did ask to Chinese -- that he wants China to investigate the Bidens.
WILLIAMS: We are lowering the bar so far on the conduct of President and it's just resetting. Now the question is -- so even put it in terms that regular people can understand. If a governor were to say to the President, I need you to get disaster relief for my people and the President would say, whoa, whoa, I need you to open an investigation before I can send FEMA in, we would all think that is preposterous and a violation of his basic norms of how people should be govern. And it's the same thing happening.
COOPER: Carrie, how do you see this process? I mean, what is the timeline you see? What --
CORDERO: So, well, it looks like we're going to get articles of impeachment in the morning. I'm a little surprised to hear the congressman -- the congresswoman say that it seems like they're being written tonight. I'm not sure I really think that they're not already written and maybe some final decisions are being made.
TOOBIN: It's always the night before.
CORDERO: The reports have been written. The facts really haven't changed much in weeks since the fact witnesses and since the House Intelligence Committee released its report. So, I think we know -- Jeffrey just outlined what the articles are going to be. We know what the facts are. Perhaps they're debating over whether or not to include obstruction from the Mueller case.
There were numerous articles of obstruction of justice that could be drawn out from the Mueller investigation. But I think they need to move forward. If they're not going to wait for witnesses, like the Republicans want them to do and drag this out and see what the outcome of the court is, then we certainly don't need more House judiciary hearings like we had today and they need to just move forward.
BORGER: They're going to write these, if they haven't already written them. If I were Nancy Pelosi, and I -- I would not include -- make it broader than I need to. I would keep it narrow. And I think that's what her moderate Democrats are telling her because they didn't want to vote for impeachment after the Mueller investigation. They don't want to do it now.
And then they'll go to the full caucus, they'll have a discussion. They're supposed to have a meeting midweek with the entire Democratic caucus. They can talk about it a little more then. And then next week, put it on the floor.
SANTORUM: What happened during the Clinton impeachment was you had factions that wanted charges to be brought and Republicans brought charges. Not all of them were ratified. So, there's a strategy here for Nancy Pelosi internally is do I need to bring some charges to appeal to my really hard core left who really wants Mueller and everything else. OK, I know I'm going to lose them but at least I've satisfied them. I mean, there's all this things going on --
COOPER: Do you think it would be a mistake to bring Mueller into this in terms of the charges?
POWERS: I don't know. I mean, I don't -- at this point, I don't know that it really matters. I mean, I don't think that -- that's a distinction. I don't think the average voter is probably going to make.
TOOBIN: I think Rick has a real point here that the opportunity to vote against some impeachment resolution -- articles may be something moderates want.
BORGER: Maybe goods for some moderates, maybe good for moderates.
COOPER: We'll get a break. (INAUDIBLE) day on many fronts. Coming up, we're going to take a look at why former FBI Director James Comey believes today's inspector general's report is a vindication for his former agency. We'll be right back.
COOPER: We're now in what former FBI Director James Comey told me at the top of the broadcast tonight. He's leaving no doubt about his reaction to today's release of that inspector general's report. The report is a rejection, he says, of President Trump's lies about the agency he once headed. Here again is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: For two years the President of the United States accused our premier law enforcement agency of treason, of trying to defeat him, of trying to stop him. And it turns out that was all nonsense, that was all lies.
We have to pause and think about that because we need this institution. Whether you're Republican or Democrat, you need the FBI, you need to see it clearly. And it's human, it makes mistakes, but it's not engaged in treason or a coup or politically involved investigation. That's just a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Chris Cuomo joins me now. Chris, I know you're covering obviously the IG report tonight. Clearly, Comey is out going on television tonight because I think he's afraid that this is just going to get kind of buried in all the other coverage of, you know, the latest on the hearings.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know what his agenda is but, I mean, look, there's no hiding the IG report. We need it because the President has been spreading stink, Trump and co for two years, undermining confidence in the institution of the -- administration of justice in this country.
Now, we have the report. But you know, there is ugliness afoot. It's being spun. Barr came out and said things I've never heard an attorney general say. And then he had John Durham, a man he hand picked, to convince us that his ideas about spying are true. He pulled a Comey today. He came out and talked about an ongoing investigation. How convenient. And just to say the IG had it wrong who just put out his report tonight.
So we're going to look in what it says, what it doesn't, what it means. We've got McCabe and Baker, two of the people targeted by Trump and co about the FBI. We'll here what they have to say.
COOPER: All right, I look forward to that, Chris, about five minutes from now. I'll see you then. Just ahead, some final thoughts on another remarkable day here in Washington.
COOPER: Another significant day and night here in Washington. We learned that articles of impeachment will be unveiled tomorrow after witnessing a contentious final day of House hearings on the subject and allegations by one of the Democrat's counsels that President Trump was a threat to free elections.
Also today, the Justice Department inspector general's report, bottom line, serious errors in the Russia investigation but no bias at the heart of it, no spying on the Trump campaign, no hoax, as the President has been claiming over and over again.
Plenty more ground to cover. I'll return for a special edition -- live edition of "360" at 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Right, stay tune for more news. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now.
CUOMO: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time." The articles of impeachment are coming tomorrow, we are told.