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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

House Judiciary Approves Impeachment Articles, President Trump Calls it a "Hoax" and a "Sham"; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is Interviewed about Judiciary Committee Approving Articles of Impeachment against Trump; Giuliani Visits W.H. After Returning From Ukraine; WSJ: Giuliani Putting His Findings From Latest Ukraine Trip Into 20-Page Report; WSJ: Giuliani Has Traveled Extensively As President Trump's Personal Attorney, Or For His Business, Or Both; W.H. Refuses To Apologize For President Trump's Attack On 16-Year-Old Girl; Former Kentucky Governor Under Fire For Hundreds Of Pardons, Communications Before Leaving Office. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 13, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:21]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We're just days away from what will almost certainly be just the third impeachment of a U.S. president ever. And what is at issue tonight isn't just the propriety of what President Trump did, it's the trivialization and debasement of truth, what seems to be the most prominent defense the president and his defenders are using as of tonight.

I'm John Berman, in for Anderson.

Today, the president of the United States talked about this morning's vote in the Judiciary Committee, a party-line affair that sets up a final vote in the House that looks likely to happen on Wednesday. It is an historic moment with deep and important implications.

Yet the president could only say, it's a witch hunt. It's a sham. It's a hoax. You're trivializing impeachment, he said.

Then about 60 seconds later, the man so concerned with trivializing impeachment and the pursuit of facts and truth, laid a whopper. He claimed the favor he was asking of Ukraine in that July 25th phone call wasn't for him. No, the "us" he was referring to when he asked Ukraine's president to, quote, do us a favor was actually us, the country.

That's right. You and me.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You said, do me a favor. No, it didn't say that. It says do us a favor, our country, talking about the past election, talking about corruption. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Kind of tortured, don't you think? He wants you to believe he was putting country above self and pursuing a potential 2020 opponent for wholly patriotic reasons. Oh, and when he says he was talking about corruption, it's worth noting that in two phone conversations with President Zelensky, he never said the word "corruption," not once. Never said the word.

Incidentally, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that on this Friday the 13th, the day synonymous with bad luck and shady figures, that the man responsible for pursuing those Biden allegations, Rudy Giuliani, was back at the White House today. We'll have that story later in the program.

Right now, we want to stick with the trial ahead for Donald Trump because while this debasement of truth starts at the top, it doesn't end there. Listen to what Republican -- one Republican congresswoman told CNN's Manu Raju when he asked about the president wanting to investigate a foreign leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Why is it ever OK for an American president to ask a foreign power to investigate a political rival? Why do you think that's OK?

REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): He didn't do that.

REPORTER: He did ask the -- he did ask Zelensky --

LESKO: He did not do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: This is getting exhausting. He did ask.

From the rough transcript of the conversation with President Zelensky, quote, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.

Oh, yes, and if you don't believe the transcript, take this guy's word for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I wrote think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. And by the way, likewise China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And, by the way, that last line about China, he volunteered that. He was asked about Ukraine and the Bidens. He answered and later in his response, he just says basically, and China should too.

So it's not like you have to probe deep or in some cases even ask if he did it. He'll tell you he did it.

But while President Trump and the party try to twist and distort the facts into something they are not and while they try to escape their own words they said themselves on camera, there is one thing tonight President Trump cannot escape. He is the fourth person to have articles of impeachment get this far. Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and now Donald Trump.

With more, let's check in with the chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

So, Jim, the president not only weighed in on today's vote, but he also talked about a possible Senate trial. What did he have to say about that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John.

I think it's starting to sink in with the president that he is about to be impeached. Impeachment is coming. And he was asked about some of these issues earlier today over here at the White House, and he was asked about this prospect of a Senate trial. That obviously comes after he is impeached in the House. And there has been this debate going on back and forth between the White House and Republicans up on Capitol Hill as to whether or not a Senate trial is a good idea.

I will tell you, I talked to a source familiar with the discussions going on inside the White House, who said that the president is starting to listen to some of the counsel coming from his attorneys, saying that a shorter trial would be better, would obviously remove the possibility to some extent that there would be unforeseen bombshells emerging in a Senate trial.

[20:05:08]

And you heard the president sounding open to that idea. Here's what he had to say earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'll do whatever I want. Look, there is -- we did nothing wrong. So I'll do long or short. I've heard Mitch. I've heard Lindsey. I think they are very much in agreement on some concept.

I'll do whatever they want to do. It doesn't matter. I wouldn't mind a long process because I'd like to see the whistle-blower, who is a fraud. The whistle-blower wrote a false report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So you heard the president still pining over this idea that he'd like to have a trial, a lengthy trial in the Senate where he can bring in people like Hunter Biden and the whistle-blower and so on. But he is running up against a lot of opposition in the Senate, John. I tell you, I talked to a couple of Republican officials up on Capitol Hill. They're almost pleading with the president to go with a shorter trial, and according to one official, you can't find any senator right now who wants a lengthy trial in the Senate. They want to get this over with as soon as it gets out of the House.

BERMAN: Jim, even if the president is open to the idea of a short trial today and he sounded like it, there are several weeks to go, so he could change his mind roughly 516 times, couldn't he?

ACOSTA: That's right. He could do that by this weekend.

But I think at this point, here is the way it's playing out. I think you're going to have a conversation happen, and this is already starting to take place where the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is talking to the White House counsel's office, other officials inside the White House as to how this is all going to play out.

But listen, John, if he has Republican senators saying to him, do not have a lengthy trial in the Senate, do not bring out these witnesses that you might think will play well on Fox News, it may not play well with the rest of the country. And, you know, one of the things that the president has to entertain -- and I think this is an important point -- is that these Republican senators who are pleading with him to have a shorter trial are ultimately the ones who are going to have to decide his fate.

And so he's going to have to make this calculation over the next couple of weeks as to whether or not he wants to greatly disappoint the very senators who are telling him to keep it short, keep it brief. Not something he is prone to do.

But I will tell you, John, I talked to a Trump adviser earlier this evening who said, this is a president who will come out of this impeachment process, quote/unquote, unhinged. That this will be a very different president Trump. If you feel like he's, you know, bothered by his grievances now, wait until he's impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate. This adviser is saying get ready for a brand-new, even more aggrieved President Trump heading into the 2020 cycle as this process plays out, John.

BERMAN: Interesting that source felt that unhinged would be something different.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you for being with us tonight.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BERMAN: Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen who sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman Cohen, thanks so much for being with us.

Your chairman, Jerry Nadler, described today as, quote, a sad and solemn day. I wonder how you would describe it. REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, it is sad in terms that we have a

president who has committed offenses against the Constitution. The Constitution is our -- that's our guide. That's what we live by. That's our law.

It's 200 and something years old, and the Founding Fathers did a great job, and we're supposed to -- we take an oath to obey it, and we had a president who betrayed his oath and risked our national security and tried to corrupt our election process. And that's a sad day when a president does that and doesn't understand it, and it's even a sadder day when all of the Republicans went along with him and refused to see what was right before their faces that he did it.

BERMAN: Let me ask more about that because it does appear near certain that the articles of impeachment will pass the full House, but they'll pass the full House without any Republican votes there either. And I do wonder because there are a couple dozen, maybe more Republicans who aren't running for re-election. These are people who don't have to satisfy their base.

So what does it tell you that these retiring members, who don't necessarily have anything to gain, are going to vote against impeachment?

COHEN: Well, for one thing they have to live within the caucus for the rest of the time they're there. You know, Justin Amash came out against the president and said that he was for impeachment. They put him out of the caucus. They stripped him of his committees, and they put him out of the caucus.

So these people have got another year in the Republican House Caucus, and they probably don't want to get put out, stripped of their committees, and scorned. And then when they leave their job, some of them might have ambitions to get an appointment from this president, assuming he gets a second term. I don't think he will, but they probably think he might, and certainly that's a better ticket for them than a Democrat winning, and they don't want to be on the outs then.

But, you know, that's just two kind of craven political reasons why they may be there.

[20:10:05]

And then, you know, they just may -- I've never been in a Republican Caucus. They may just take Kool-Aid communion every day.

BERMAN: So Mitch McConnell, who is the Senate majority leader, spoke last night about the Senate trial. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with White House counsel. We'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president. I'm 'm going to coordinate with the president's lawyers, so there won't be any difference between us on how to do this. I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So some Democrats are raising red flags about this, saying that basically, you're having the jury coordinate with defense lawyers there. But Tom Daschle, who was the Senate Democratic leader, the minority leader during the Clinton impeachment trial, told CNN today that during the Clinton impeachment saga, his staff was in constant coordination with the White House.

So how is this any different?

COHEN: Well, I'm not sure exactly what it was, but I can guarantee Mitch McConnell stole a Supreme Court justice that Barack Obama should have had, Merrick Garland, from him, and who stole a whole bunch of district court judges and mine. I was -- my district court nominee, Ed Stanton Jr. -- who was Ed Stanton III, who's an outstanding, highly rated nominee, approve by the bar, a year out, he didn't approve a district court judge in Memphis and a bunch of people after him.

So, Mitch McConnell will do whatever he can do to manipulate the process to his advantage. And I would -- I would suspect that what he does will be different than what Daschle does, and they'll try to stack the deck.

And the whole idea of not calling witnesses, which I've heard is a possibility, having the case put on for a week and having a case put on by the other side for a week and then calling the question, getting the vote, and getting out is not right. They should have a trial. There should be witnesses. There should be the opportunity to see what you just told the people there of Trump getting on the White House lawn and going, I want Ukraine to investigate. They should investigate Joe Biden. China should investigate Hunter Biden or Joe Biden.

They should have those videos played in the Senate for the senators and for the public as well to remind them of what went on. Mulvaney, this is the way it is, get used to. They need to have all of that, and they should have more. They should have Fiona Hill, Dr. Hill, Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, have some of their testimony.

They were shocked. They are independent Foreign Service officials. They are American patriots. They had no political thing in this at all. They risked their careers to testify and to immediately say this was wrong.

BERMAN: Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks for joining us tonight. We always appreciate your time, sir.

COHEN: You're welcome. I saw you this morning. Nice to see you tonight.

BERMAN: We're working a long day but it's worth it. Appreciate it. Coming up, what will be the contours of President Trump's defense in

any Senate trial? I'm going to speak with Alan Dershowitz and Jeffrey Toobin about all that.

And later, tracking the elusive Rudy Giuliani. He actually showed up at the White House today days after his most recent trip to Ukraine, and there's a stunning report on what the president did as soon as Giuliani landed back in the United States. That's ahead tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:50]

BERMAN: As Jim Acosta reported earlier in the program, President Trump's lawyers have been trying to convince him a Senate trial of any considerable length is risky. But if recent history tells us anything, it's that the president can change his mind in a heartbeat in that he may not listen to all his advisers that closely anyway.

Joining me now is Alan Dershowitz. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that he, Dershowitz, is informally advising the president's legal team and is expected to handle some of the constitutional aspects of the defense in a Senate trial. He's also the author of "Guilt By Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo." In addition, he's a professor emeritus at Harvard.

And here with me, CNN senior legal analyst, chief legal analyst, in fact, Jeffrey Toobin, a former student of Professor Dershowitz.

Professor, just some housekeeping here. To the extent you can talk about it, can you clarify what if anything your role is, either formally or informally with the president's impeachment defense?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: No, I really can't talk about it at this point, but I can tell you that the advice I've given the president in public on television and in my op-eds is to go for a very short constitutional defense focusing on the inadequacies of the two charges. And particularly after today, the Supreme Court today granted cert in three cases, indicating that they're going to review the subpoena power of both Congress and the prosecutor.

And it seems to me that substantially undercuts the second article of impeachment that basically says you obstruct Congress if you refuse to comply with subpoenas absent a court order. So, I think the president's constitutional arguments were strengthened today, and he'd be well-advised, I believe, to limit himself to those constitutional arguments.

BERMAN: Number one, the court says they will rule in June. That's a long time from now. Number two, the president said something relatively unprecedented, which is that no one should cooperate in any way at all. Like zero cooperation, which is unprecedented.

That aside, Professor, you do have another defense too. You suggest that Congress is just making things up. [20:20:01]

What's your evidence for that?

DERSHOWITZ: The Constitution itself. There was at the Constitutional Convention a proposal to include maladministration as a ground for impeachment and led by Madison. It was rejected on the ground that it would make it too easy for Congress to have the president serve at the will of Congress and would turn us into a parliamentary democracy where a vote of no confidence is enough.

And so, instead, they put in fairly specific criteria -- treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, obviously the word "misdemeanors" has been subject to some debate, but you can't interpret misdemeanor to mean pretty much exactly what the Framers rejected at the Constitutional Convention. So I do think --

BERMAN: Well, says who?

DERSHOWITZ: They're trying to make it up as they go along.

BERMAN: Says who, because Jeffrey Toobin, high crimes and misdemeanors is taken by many to mean, including Alexander Hamilton, who was at that convention that Professor Dershowitz is talking about, taken to mean a violation of public trust.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, and the kind of offense that only a president can commit. That's why this misconduct is so much at the heart of what the framers meant by high crimes and misdemeanors because you or I, Alan, we can lie under oath. We can rob a bank. But we cannot withhold money from Ukraine in return for political help in our campaign.

The only person who can do that, who can violate his oath and violate the -- and abuse power is the president, and that's why this is so much at the heart of what the framers meant by a high crime and misdemeanor.

DERSHOWITZ: No, I disagree. I think what the framers did is they had a prerequisite. There had to be one of the four prerequisites, it's treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. After that, they could still decide not to impeach if they didn't think it was an abuse of power.

And if you read what Hamilton said in Federalist 65, he basically lists the criteria, and then he said, these are important criteria because they reflect an abuse of power. But abuse of power was rejected and terms like that as explicit grounds --

BERMAN: No, they weren't.

DERSHOWITZ: -- for impeachment.

TOOBIN: That's not -- abuse of power was not rejected.

DRESHOWITZ: Yes, they were. TOOBIN: And, Alan --

DERSHOWITZ: The word maladministration was rejected --

TOOBIN: Maladministration is a totally different thing. Maladministration is being a bad president, doing bad things and, you know, you're right. That is not a ground for impeachment.

But, you know, getting us into a bad war in Iraq is not a ground for impeachment. But if you withhold money that Congress has appropriated for the sole and exclusive reason of getting dirt on your political opponents, that is precisely an abuse of power.

DERSHOWITZ: But I can name you 20 presidents that have abused power under those criteria. President Kennedy going after people through the IRS. President Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus. President Roosevelt confining 110,000 Japanese-Americans.

Every controversial president has been accused by his political opponents of abuse of power. And if you give Congress the ability to impeach a president and remove him based on vague concepts like abuse of power, you're really turning us into a parliamentary democracy.

Look, these are the issues that are going to be debated, and there's no perfect answer. None of us can get into the minds of Framers. But I've read extensively in the history of the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers and it's certainly my considered view that the Framers wanted specific criteria, not open-ended ones like abuse of power.

BERMAN: That's not true.

DERSHOWITZ: Which can be weaponized by either party against the other.

BERMAN: That's not true.

DERSHOWITZ: You say it, and I say it is.

BERMAN: We also heard from three constitutional lawyers and even Jonathan Turley didn't suggest that the Framers of the constitution had an explicit list of crimes that you have to commit in order to be impeached. The phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" in fact does mean something specific at that time and it includes any violation or breach of public trust. That's why Alexander Hamilton talked about that in the Federalist Papers.

There's ample evidence of the fact that that's the case. There's also ample evidence of the fact -- and, Jeffrey, you can talk about this -- that one of the primary concerns that the Founders had in writing the constitution was undue foreign influence in U.S. elections. And this seems to be the invitation for such a thing.

TOOBIN: That's right. And, again, it's the kind of misconduct that only a president can commit. And that goes to count two as well, the obstruction of Congress. You know, yes, it is true if it were one subpoena that the president

did not comply with.

[20:25:03]

But to say to Congress, I will not cooperate at all. I will not give you one witness. I will not give you one piece of evidence, you know, email, document, I mean that is precisely the kind of blanket refusal that you can't say to the Congress, well, go sue me, and maybe it will be resolved sometime in 2020, 2021. Come on, Alan.

DERSHOWITZ: Yes, you can. In fact, I do that every day when I represent people, and I'm not the president.

What I say to prosecutors is, I'm not giving you one bit of evidence. I'm not cooperating. I'm not allowing my person to come in. The burden is on you. You have to prove your case.

And I don't obstruct justice by doing that. The president is entitled as head of the executive branch --

TOOBIN: Your clients take the Fifth. There is a separation of powers between coordinated branches of government.

DERSHOWITZ: There's executive privilege.

TOOBIN: It's an entirely different scenario.

DERSHOWITZ: I know, and it's much more powerful because the separation of powers is in the body of the Constitution itself.

TOOBIN: Right.

DERSHOWITZ: Not in the amending process. And the separation of powers crucially allows the head of the executive branch to challenge every legislative action and leave it to the courts to decide.

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78 said that the courts are the umpires between the two branches.

BERMAN: But --

DERSHOWITZ: And that's what President Trump --

BERMAN: But other than having the chief justice preside over a Senate trial, there is no role for the judiciary outlined in the impeachment process.

Jeffrey, very quick last word. Ten seconds.

TOOBIN: I'm looking forward to Alan defending the president on the floor of the Senate. Not exactly what I expected.

DERSHOWITZ: I'm not commenting on that.

TOOBIN: Not exactly what I expected in your criminal law class, that that's how you would culminate your career, but hey.

BERMAN: Professor Dershowitz, Professor Toobin, thank you very much for being with us.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: Up next, where in the world is President Trump's TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani? A new report on how he is escalating his push to investigate the Bidens and what he claims he's going to do after his trip last week to Ukraine. Giuliani has racked up a lot of sky miles on behalf of the president. We'll dig into all of this in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:31:31]

BERMAN: As we mentioned earlier, the President got into this mess in part due to his T.V. lawyer and bag man, Rudy Giuliani. And right on cue just before the House Judiciary Committee approved the articles of impeachment against President Trump, Giuliani showed up at the west- wing of the White House.

In fact, he just wrapped up another trip to Ukraine that he's touting as beneficial to the President. Seemingly unfazed by the impeachment fight, according to Giuliani himself, he and the President are still coordinating trying to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports that Giuliani is putting his findings from last week's trip into some 20-page report and he wants to brief lawmakers on it. It's unclear what if anything Giuliani truly found in his travels. The Bidens have denied any wrong doing.

Here is what we do know. Since President Trump was elected, Giuliani has traveled the world for his own consulting business or on behalf of the President, sometimes both. This map from "The Wall Street Journal" shows his stops that include three stops in Ukraine, also visit to Spain, Colombia, Bahrain and other destinations.

Joining for more on all of this is Rebecca Ballhaus. She shares the byline on this "Wall Street Journal" story.

So Rebecca, Rudy Giuliani at the White House today. You report that he says his relationship with the President rather than getting weaker has only grown stronger through all of this.

REBECCA BALLHAUS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": That's right. What he told us is he feels like their bond has strengthened in some ways because the President feels like the same thing has happened to him as has happened to Rudy.

Rudy is under investigation now by Manhattan federal prosecutors and he's also obviously a big part of the impeachment inquiry. And I think that the President feels like he's sort of gone through this before with Mueller and now again with the impeachment, and according to Rudy, sort of feels like they're in this together. BERMAN: You also have this terrific piece of reporting about the call that Giuliani says he received immediately after landing back in New York from his trip to Ukraine. What can you tell us about that?

BALLHAUS: That's right. So he says that as he was taxiing down the runway in New York on Saturday after a trip that included stops in Kiev, in Budapest, in Vienna and in Rome, that the President called him and said, what did you get. And Rudy told -- Rudy Giuliani told him, more than you can imagine.

And this was actually shortly before the President came out and talked to reporters on the south lawn of the White House that day and said that he heard that Rudy Giuliani had found plenty on his trip and that he would brief the attorney general and Congress on his findings.

BERMAN: Plenty and more than we can imagine. But how much do we actually know about this report that he's putting together in?

BALLHAUS: What we know is that he said it's going to be 20 pages long. We don't know what it will say. But I would expect it to say a lot of the sorts of things that Giuliani has said before.

We know that he spoke to several of the same officials or former officials that he spoken to previously, like the former Prosecutor General Lutsenko, another former Prosecutor Viktor Shokin. So, we don't know that he necessarily spoke to anybody new here and that he's necessarily going to back with different information that he's been saying so far.

BERMAN: And there's also a documentary, and I used that word loosely, about all of this that he's somehow involved in. What's going on there?

BALLHAUS: So he's filming a series with one America news network and that was part of his trip to Ukraine and Hungary last week was that he was filming these interviews with these former prosecutors for this network. And the point of this series is to sort of make the case for the investigations that he's been pushing for this whole time.

[20:35:01]

But he told us that in addition to doing interviews for that series, he also did a lot of interviews for his own investigative purposes on this trip.

BERMAN: So according to your reporting, friends of Giuliani have been advising him to keep a low profile during all the investigations. He doesn't seem to be taking that advice.

BALLHAUS: No. I think it's fair to say he is not taking that advice. And we did see there was a period, I would say for about a month in the middle of this where we did kind of see him quiet down. In the very beginning he was on Fox News every night. He was tweeting all the time. He's butt dialing reporters or intentionally dialing reporters. And then there was a time where he did get a little bit quieter and he stopped going on T.V. as much. And now I think we've seen him get right back into it where he sort of online all the time and you hear him everywhere.

BERMAN: And finally, what about the notion that the President could possibly push Giuliani aside. What does Giuliani have to say about that?

BALLHAUS: He's convinced it's not going to happen. He says the President never throw his people under the bus. He in fact has a hard time getting rid of people and that he's gotten no sign of that.

The one thing I would note is that while the President has been extremely heaping praise on his lawyer for the last couple of weeks, he did say one telling thing in an interview with Bill O'Reilly where he said that he didn't direct Giuliani to do any of this work or this effort to push for investigations in Ukraine that he's been doing.

So he's clearly is trying to distance himself in some ways from what Giuliani has done, but he hasn't parted ways with him or distanced himself fully yet.

BERMAN: Rebecca Ballhaus, great reporting. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

BALLHAUS: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Just ahead, the President yesterday attacks a 16-year-old girl online and this afternoon the White House finally tries to explain why, emphasis on tries. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:41:04]

BERMAN: Tonight, we've discussed the notion making clear errors and judgment than trying to trivialize the conduct. And that's exactly what the White House has done today in the wake of a controversial tweet that exposed a 16-year-old girl to the kind of conduct no self- respecting person least of all the President of the United States should perpetuate on a child.

It all began Thursday upon hearing climate activist Greta Thunberg was named "Time Magazine's" Person of the Year. President Trump responded with a petulant, some would say jealous tweet. "So ridiculous. Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old- fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, chill!"

Now, this is not first time the President has gone after Greta Thunberg. And keeping them honest, here are a few things to point out here. First, that anger management line is well-known that Greta Thunberg has Asperger syndrome, considered to be a less severe form of autism and something she calls "a gift."

Those with it are smart and eloquent as others but maybe obsessive on topics and basically the President, Donald Trump of all people, is accusing her of not handling her emotions well.

Second, it's simply an indecent way to respond to anyone. It's small and cruel, period.

Third, this tweet comes just over a week after he and the First Lady claimed outrage after they believed someone had mocked their child, Barron, also a teenager, after an impeachment witness made a pun involving Barron's name and not one at his expense, mind you, this is how the First Lady responded.

"A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it." Professor Karlan apologized that day.

No apology from the President, initially, only silence from the First Lady who, by the way, has allegedly made stopping cyberbullying one of her top priorities as First Lady. BeBest is the name of her campaign.

Instead, we now have this statement today via the White House press secretary, "BeBest is the First Lady's initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It's no secret that the President and First Lady often communicate differently as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy."

That's not even a non-apology apology. And in fact, there's no contrition at all in that statement. And of course, Barron Trump deserves privacy. But that doesn't mean Greta Thunberg deserves to be bullied by the President of the United States.

The previous First Lady, Michelle Obama, weighed in tweeting, "Greta Thunberg, don't let anyone dim your light. Like the girls I've met in Vietnam and all over the world, you have so much to offer us all. Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on."

And ignore the doubters she has. This is currently the bio on Greta Thunberg's Twitter page, "A teenager working on her anger management problem currently chilling and watching good old-fashioned movie with a friend." Proving that sometimes the best way to handle a bully is to take the high road and in doing so, make them look small.

Here with her take, "USA Today" columnist and CNN Senior Political Analyst Kirsten Powers. Kirsten, thank you so much for being with us. Still no official comment from the First Lady herself, but I wonder what you make of this statement from the White House.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I agree that her son should be given privacy but I don't think because anybody is an activist, frankly, that means that the President of the United States should be able to attack them in such personal terms. And so I would say regardless of her age that would be true but because she is a teenager, you know, I think that is extra true. And I also think the way that he attacked her -- I mean, you pointed out, you know, it was clearly an attack on her way of communicating which, you know, probably has something to do with her having Asperger's.

But also I think it has a lot to do with her being a girl or a young woman, because the complaint basically, and there's been more than one tweet against her, and the complaint seems to be that she's not cheerful enough or smiling enough, you know, that she's too angry, and you know, she is upset.

[20:45:10]

A lot of people are upset about climate change in the world and she has a right to be upset and there's this idea that nice girls just sit and smile and are compliant. That seems to be sort of the message that he's sending.

BERMAN: And again, you know, Barron deserves his privacy. No one is saying he doesn't. But just because Greta Thunberg gives public speeches doesn't give the President or anyone license to bully her, right?

POWERS: Exactly. I mean, I don't -- it's not -- I mean, he shouldn't bully anybody, right? I mean, he's the President of the United States that goes without saying. But I think there is, you know, something when you have, you know, a young activist who is speaking up that I think if you want to disagree with them -- I mean, I personally don't think the President should probably be getting in arguments with 16- year-olds.

But if he wanted to disagree with her on the merits of what she was saying, I think people would probably say, fine, as long as it's done in a respectful manner. But that's not what he's doing. You know, he's mocking her and he's ridiculing her and he's making fun of her. And it's just -- it's so beyond the pale of what any person should do, but he is the President of the United States.

BERMAN: It's cruel and it's small, period, coming from anybody, but especially the President. One of the questions is why you suggest sexist is --

POWERS: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: -- maybe at play here. But, another part of the why is that Thunberg was name the "Time Magazine" Person of the Year.

POWERS: Exactly.

BERMAN: That just seems to get under the President's skin, because this is a guy who made fake "Time Magazine" covers himself and put them up in at least five of his golf clubs, right?

POWERS: Yes. And again, you know, being jealous of a 16-year-old when you're the President of the United States is just -- it's pathetic, you know. It's really -- it's hard to imagine, frankly, when you've achieved that level of accomplishment of becoming the President of the United States and you're mad at a teenager for getting -- you know, for being on the cover of "Time Magazine" and getting, you know, Person of the Year. It's just -- I believe there's no question that that's what obviously got under his skin.

I mean, he already has tweeted against her because he doesn't like her cause. But I also -- like I said, I also do really think there's a sexist strain to it that he really -- you know, his tweets are very much been like, oh, it seems like really happy girl, right? It's like why should she be happy when she's talking about something that's, you know, a catastrophe, a global catastrophe. That's not what you would ever say about a 16-year-old boy who is speaking up on an issue.

BERMAN: And there's also some irony here of the President pointing out anger. He's not exactly known as a paragon of calmness, is he?

POWERS: Yes. Well, I mean, he's the sort of the king of projectors, right? So, he tends to accuse people of doing what he's doing. And so, you know, he sees anger because he's angry. I mean, I think that that's typically when he is telling us that, that he's angry, that she's been given an honor that he thinks he should get that.

Why he wants it? I don't know. Because he says all the media are, you know, fake and lying and so why do you really care what they think. But for some reason, he really does and he has always coveted that.

BERMAN: Kristen Powers, great to talk to you this evening.

POWERS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Have a great weekend.

So the former governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, ignites a big time controversy by pardoning or commuting the sentences of hundreds of prisoners. Some of them convicted of violent heinous crimes. The fall out when "360" continues.

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[20:52:44]

BERMAN: Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. CC, my man, what do you have?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Always a pleasure, JB. So the big question is, what was Rudy doing? I'm not talking about the substance. I'm not talking about what he has, because they don't seem to understand. The President was impeached for how it was done, not about the underlying substance, or the conspiracy notions, or anything about Burisma. But what is Rudy's role?

Is he really his lawyer, personal or campaign? Did he give away the work? OK. Did anybody file that? No. If it just a political operative, well then, what about the corruption bent? It all comes back to Rudy. Not that he's the problem, but he's a proof of what this President did.

And we're going to unpack it all tonight with a good friend of the President, with a Democrat who is trying to make the case for impeachment and we'll take you all the way through.

BERMAN: What message was he trying to send by walking publicly before the cameras today minutes before the impeachment vote of the judiciary committee?

CUOMO: We have the goods, but the problem is it was never about Biden being dirty or Ukraine being responsible, not Russia. It's about how you went about it. If you think those are illegitimate questions, have them handled legitimately. If you just don't want your hands on the stink, so you want Ukraine to carry the water, that's what this looks like, that's the impeachment.

BERMAN: All right. We will see you in a few minutes, Chris. Thanks very much.

So, Kentucky's former Republican Matt Governor Matt Bevin issued hundreds of pardons and commutations in his final days in office, including one for a man who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy, another who killed his parents, and a drunk driver who killed a pastor and his wife. The details and the outrage when "360" continues.

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[20:58:30]

BERMAN: The former governor of Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin, did not leave his office quietly. In his final days, he issued hundreds of pardon and commutations. Some of the people convicted of violent offenses. The total so far, according to Kentucky Secretary of State's Office, as many as 161 pardons and 419 commutations of sentences.

Tonight, Bevin defended his actions in a series of tweets saying he personally reviewed each case. More now from CNN's Natasha Chen.

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NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before walking out of the governor's mansion this week, Kentucky Republican Matt Bevin pardoned this man who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy, a drunk driver who killed a pastor and his wife, a man who decapitated a woman and left her body in a barrel, a woman who threw her newborn in a septic tank at a flea market, a man who at age 16 killed his parents and left their bodies in a basement, and this man who raped a 9-year- old girl and served less than 18 months out of his 23-year sentence. The victim's mother says it's a slap in the face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like we're going through it all over again. We just got to the point where we felt safe leaving the house.

CHEN: Kenton County prosecutor Rob Sanders told CNN the man hadn't served enough time to even begin sex offender treatment. ROB SANDERS, KENTON COUNTY COMMONWEALTH PROSECUTOR: It shocks the conscience. It's offensive. Its mind boggling how any governor could be this irresponsible.

CHEN: Now, there's also a question of political favoritism.

MORGAN MCGARVEY (D-KY): We have someone who was convicted of killing someone in front of his wife at his home who pulled the trigger.

CHEN: State lawmakers say they want to investigate this case because the family of the man pardoned raised more than $20,000 last year to help Bevin.

MCGARVEY: Bottom line, if it looks like a duck and talks like a duck, you got to look into whether or it's a duck.

CHEN: Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Natasha. The news continues. I will hand it offer to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time."